Book review roundup

Another roundup of my latest book reviews, and all I can say about this bunch is: we need more Lumberjanes in our lives!

NimonaNimona by Noelle Stevenson

A few months ago Jodi praised Nimona by Noelle Stevenson and I kept hearing about it from other people, too. I finally read it and I’m happy to say the praise is well deserved. Nimona is a damn good time.

I loved Nimona by the end of chapter one, which is actually only two pages. No exaggeration, two pages was…continue reading

All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Andersallthebirdsinthesky

I started reading All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders while I was getting new tires put on my car and when they finished in under an hour, I was annoyed. I loved the 50some pages I had read and didn’t want to stop. I felt that giddy excitement as I continued with the story, but midway through it slowly started going downhill. I still don’t quite know how I feel about it, but maybe when I finish writing this I’ll have a better idea. …continue reading

thefloodgirls-185x280The Flood Girls by Richard Fifield

I grew up on a farm, near very small towns, and small towns have their good and bad. We often hear about the bad, like gossip running rampant, but the good outshines that, like when people brought us weeks of food, pop, and supplies after my dad recently passed. That sort of goodness is why I’m drawn to stories about small towns, like The Flood Girls by Richard Fifield.

In The Flood Girls, Rachel Flood has returned to Quinn, Montana to make amends. …continue reading

Lumberjanes by Shannon Watters, Grace Ellis, and Noelle Stevensonlumberjanes-vol-1-185x280

I wish I had the Lumberjanes when I was young. Following five girls – Jo, April, Molly, Mal, and Ripley – at Miss Quinzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s Camp for Hardcore Lady-Types, Lumberjanes is a female-centric, girl-power, fantasy romp that is so much fun it’s ridiculous.

At camp, the girls continually sneak out of their cabin, and away from their uptight scout leader Jen, to have adventures in the nearby forest. They save…continue reading

thereadersofbrokenwheelrecommend-185x280The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald is a sweet, small town story filled with secrets, romance, and a bunch of books.

Sara, a young, twenty-something bookseller from Sweden, has been carrying on a correspondence with Amy, an old, retired woman from a small town in Iowa, for years. Their correspondence started when one sold a book to the other and they have been writing letters to each other ever since, letters filled with book love…continue reading

The Girl in the Well is Me by Karen Riversthegirlinthewellisme-185x280

Taking place almost entirely inside the well where Kammie Summers is stuck, The Girl in the Well Is Me by Karen Rivers is a great middle grade novel about bullying, family, friends, and being true to oneself.

11-year-old Kammie and her family moved to be closer to her dad, who is in prison. We don’t see this, but we learn about it after Kammie gets stuck in a well as part of an initiation gone wrong. …continue reading

theimitationgame-185x280The Imitation Game: Alan Turing Decoded by Jim Ottavani

I recently watched the movie “The Imitation Game,” and it’s a great movie, even if it’s not very accurate. For instance, did Alan Turing name his decoding computer Christopher after a childhood friend he crushed on? Nope. Did Joan enter Bletchley Park after solving Turing’s crossword puzzle? Another big nope. How about Turing proposing to Joan so she could stay at Bletchley? No again. They were engaged, sure, but that’s not why or how it happened. And did Turing know the Soviet spy at Bletchley? Another no-no. It’s still a great movie, but there’s a lot of Hollywood shine added to it.

I say all of this to tell you that if you want to know the true story of Turing and his computer (named Bombe), then you might want to start with the graphic nonfiction The Imitation Game: Alan Turing Decoded by Jim Ottaviani. …continue reading

Jane Steele by Lyndsay Fayejane-steele-185x280

Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye is being called a retelling of Jane Eyre, and in this retelling Jane is a serial killer. But I don’t think either of these things is completely true.

In Jane Steele we follow the Jane from the title. She has read and is a fan of Jane Eyre. Looking back on her life she makes comparisons between herself and Jane Eyre, quoting the book throughout the story. …continue reading

Advertisements

Book review roundup

Here are some of my most recent book reviews. There are some great books here and some that everyone besides me seems to love.

life-after-life-185x280Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

I just finished Life After Life by Kate Atkinson and now I’m sitting here saying, “So what? What was the point of that?” You’re forewarned: this contains a lot of spoilers.

Life After Life follows the many lives of Ursula Todd, and when I say “many” I mean many. Does she die 30 times? 40? …continue reading

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay KristoffIlluminae Ray V6FrontOnlyA2A_V3.indd

I absolutely love well done epistolary novels, those told through letters, reports, chat transcripts, newspaper clippings, etc. Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff is one of these novels.

The year is 2575 and widespread space travel, through the use of black holes, is commonplace. …continue reading

undermajordomominor-185x280Undermajordomo Minor by Patrick deWitt

I have been staring at a blank screen for fifteen minutes, not knowing how to start writing about Undermajordomo Minor by Patrick deWitt. I loved deWitt’s The Sisters Brothers, a fabulous western with a riveting main character, and though Undermajordomo Minor had a completely different setting, I hoped to read another unforgettable story. What I didn’t expect to find was a lack of character development and a colossal jump the shark moment that ruined everything. …continue reading

undertowmichaelbuckleyUndertow by Michael Buckley

Undertow: racism and segregation through the lens of merpeople.

Okay, it’s not that profound, but one can’t help but think of Civil Rights-era school segregation while reading Michael Buckley’s Undertow.

Lyric Walker was a typical teenager until the Alphas moved to town. …continue reading

thelibraryatmountchar-185x280The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins

I tend to devour any book that includes librarian characters, but the librarians in The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins are nothing like my kind of librarian. These librarians devour literature, but the kind that teaches them to bend time, bring people back from the dead, and engage in military strategy. …continue reading

welcometonightvale-185x280

 

Welcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor

Full disclosure: I have never listened to the Welcome to Night Vale podcast. I tune out things like podcasts, talk radio, and audiobooks, so I’m not part of Serial and Welcome to Night Vale obsessions. After reading the Welcome to Night Vale book, I’m completely content not being part of the obsession.

Welcome to Night Vale is simply a mish mash of idiotic, ridiculous situations in a southwest town. …continue reading

2016 books

The Readers’ Advisory course I’ve taught for the last three years is moving to every other year, so the course won’t be offered this year but will be back in 2017. While I love teaching this course, by not teaching it this year do you know what that means? I can read whatever the hell I want this year.

I read a lot of what I want even when I do teach the course, but I always have to read more in genres that aren’t my favorite. See ya later romance and detective mysteries.

So with me diving into books I’m excited about, these are the ones coming out in 2016 that I’ve got my eye on.

BOOKS IN A SERIES

cityofmirrosThe City of Mirrors by Justin Cronin

This is the final book in The Passage trilogy that I have loved. I wrote about book one and book two in the past and I’ve been patiently awaiting this book for four years. I’m really looking forward to this one, even though I’m kind of hazy on the previous two. I’ll have to find a good synopsis to catch me up again. Damn those series.

A Gathering of Shadows by V. E. SchwabA Gathering of Shadows Final

This is the second book in V. E. Schwab’s A Darker Shade of Magic series. I never wrote about A Darker Shade of Magic, but it’s a fabulous book involving four different Londons and magical people who can move between all four worlds. There’s fun magic in the book, great power struggles between worlds, and some serious attitude. I can’t wait to see what happens in this one.

laststarThe Last Star by Rick Yancey

Another series finale I’m really looking forward to is the last in the 5th Wave series. I liked the first book, but I loved the second book. I never wrote about the second book but it was way better than the first, probably because it didn’t follow Cassie as much in the second. Secondary characters became more pronounced and they were way more intriguing. I have no idea where this one will end.

Stiletto by Daniel O’Malleystiletto

This is the second book in The Checquy Files and I loved the first book. I described the first book as if Mulder and Scully had a baby with Jason Bourne and the X-Men. Myfawny Thomas is the main character who woke up not knowing who she is but soon finding out she works in a secret society that tracks down supernatural creatures in the UK. It was just so much fun and I’m thrilled we’ll be able to visit this world again.

morningstarMorning Star by Pierce Brown

This is the final book in the Red Rising trilogy. I really liked the first two books, and I’m in awe of the fabulous world building, so what I’m most looking forward to is to find out what this war will do to this world and who will come out on top. I have my fingers crossed for Darrow, our bottom dweller Red who’s sticking it to the Golds.


ALL THE OTHER BOOKS

And now, for books that I know nothing about but that sound super good.

Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvelsleepinggiants

This is an epistolary book, the first in a series, and I’m totally intrigued. Just check out this from the description:

A girl named Rose is riding her new bike near her home in Deadwood, South Dakota, when she falls through the earth. She wakes up at the bottom of a square hole, its walls glowing with intricate carvings. But the firemen who come to save her peer down upon something even stranger: a little girl in the palm of a giant metal hand.

Seventeen years later, the mystery of the bizarre artifact remains unsolved—its origins, architects, and purpose unknown. Its carbon dating defies belief; military reports are redacted; theories are floated, then rejected.

But some can never stop searching for answers.

Rose Franklin is now a highly trained physicist leading a top secret team to crack the hand’s code.

Yes, please!

fellsideFellside by M. R. Carey

I loved Carey’s 2014 debut The Girl with All the Gifts, so no matter what this story is about I’m in. Although it sounds good, too:

Fellside is a maximum security prison on the edge of the Yorkshire Moors. It’s not the kind of place you’d want to end up. But it’s where Jess Moulson could be spending the rest of her life.

It’s a place where even the walls whisper.

And one voice belongs to a little boy with a message for Jess.

What’s the message?! We’ll have to wait for April to find out.

All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Andersallthebirds

From the editor-in-chief of io9 comes an apocalyptic tale that includes magic of some sort? There is a time machine at some point, then later there is the global climate crisis and magicians who want to help solve it? I don’t fully understand the description, but I do love a good apocalyptic story.

everyheartEvery Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

This description also is a little vague, but it involves an underground world that sucks up children, magic, and a girl who comes back from the world and wants to go back, but there’s trouble all around her. It’s something like that. I don’t know a lot about it, but I’ve heard a lot of buzz, so I want to check it out.

Hex by Thomas Olde Heuvelthex

I ran across this book on a Barnes & Noble list of 2016 releases, and I laughed when I read that a 17th century witch holds a town hostage. That’s pretty much all I had read to know I wanted to check it out, but it also didn’t hurt to know that this was a bestseller in the Netherlands and is finally being translated for us. I’m interested to see if I agree with the Dutch.

So, yes, that’s a lot of sci-fi and fantasy, with a little bit of horror, but I said I wanted to read 76 books this year for the Goodreads Reading Challenge, so there will be plenty of other books, too. I really need to catch up on a lot of things I missed in the last few years, but these are the ones I won’t miss in 2016.

Happy reading!

Couple of reviews

I reviewed a couple of books lately, both which were a disappointment. One I can still say I liked because there were many redeeming qualities, but the other was just pure crap.

crane wifeThe Crane Wife by Patrick Ness

The Crane Wife is Patrick Ness’ return to adult fiction after writing some amazing young adult fiction I have loved.

In The Crane Wife, Ness updates the old Japanese folktale of a crane returning a favor to a helpful man. You can read a summary of the old folktale on Wikipedia, but I suggest you ignore it and dive into Ness’ novel because it is richer than the tale, even if it doesn’t completely come together.

In Ness’ version, shop owner George, an American living in London, is awoken late one evening to a strange cry coming from his garden. Upon investigating, …more

thecircleThe Circle by Dave Eggers

The Circle by Dave Eggers reminds me of Albert Brooks’ 2030 – a soapbox set around flat characters.

In Eggers’ novel we follow Mae, a young, new employee at The Circle, a technology company that’s pretty much like Google, Facebook, PayPal, and Wikileaks in one. We’re told at the beginning that The Circle has actually put companies like that out of business, so think of them as even larger than Google and a permanent staple in everyday life.

At The Circle, transparency is a big deal. …more

Doctor Sleep

Doctor SleepDoctor Sleep is the sequel I never thought I wanted.

I was a teenager, somewhere around fourteen, when I read The Shining. I was on a Dean Koontz teen horror kick and I figured I better try the so-called King of horror. The Shining was way scarier than anything I read by Koontz. The idea of being snowed in and unable to leave an old, haunted, abandoned hotel, the gruesome ghosts, the topiary that moved, the dad turning against the family, all of this scared the crap out of me.

Another scary thing was the son, Danny. Danny was a five-year-old who had secret psychic powers, the shine, that made him very intriguing to the hotel’s ghosts. Through Danny is where we see the brunt of the supernatural beings and this poor little kid has to fight them and then eventually his dad.

Doctor Sleep is all about grown-up Danny, or Dan as he’s known in his thirties, and Dan’s not doing too well. A full-blown alcoholic and one step away from being homeless, Dan seems hopeless until he hits a really low point in a cocaine-induced haze. Scared with what he did, Dan moves to a different part of the country and gets help from some new friends, one of them being a 12-year-old girl, Abra, who has the same psychic powers he does, though hers are much more powerful.

But Doctor Sleep isn’t all about Dan and Abra. There’s also the True Knot, a group of traveling vampire-like gypsies who have been around for centuries feasting on the souls, or the steam, of the shining. When these gypsies set their sights on Abra, Dan once again has to fight.

This was a great sequel, but even with a spooky band of soul-sucking gypsies, Doctor Sleep is not as scary as The Shining. It’s really not scary at all. People expecting as much terror as in The Shining will not find it, but what they will find is a fabulous character-driven thriller, with a splash of the supernatural, that is really emotional and moving at times.

The moving parts come with Dan, both when he’s overcoming his alcoholism and when he’s working in hospice care. Part of Dan’s sobriety is how he channels his shine. Instead of drinking it away, Dan uses it to help comfort the dying. Some of these scenes are incredibly touching and not what I expected with a sequel to The Shining.

When it comes to horror novels, I prefer The Shining to Doctor Sleep, but Doctor Sleep has a leg up on character development and compassion where we can really see where King has grown. Some of the scariest things in life aren’t the supernatural, but are in purely human moments, like death and the way we handle relationships and problems put in our path. This is where Doctor Sleep shines and why I would recommend this book. I liked the True Knot and the clever ways Dan and Abra fight against them, but it’s not why this was so good. This was good because it was an intimate, well-developed look at Dan and who he has become.

This was the sequel I didn’t need but I’m so glad I got.

Originally reviewed at Minnesota Reads.

Cracked

crackedCracked by Eliza Crewe is an urban paranormal fantasy with a snarky main character who is the reason to read this book. Meda is feisty, self-centered, sarcastic, witty, and hilarious, and she just happens to eat human souls in order to live. She was raised believing she was the only one, a special being who needed to eat souls, but this facade is shattered in a dark opening scene in an asylum.

In the asylum, where Meda eats the soul of a disgusting human being, she is interrupted by demons and saved by a Templar, the humans fighting against the demons. Meda discovers she is half-demon half-human and the rest of the book follows Meda as she struggles to figure out where she belongs.

Meda is why this book was so much fun. She tells the story and I loved her voice. She’s pretty biting in her commentary, making witty observations about the people and situations she gets into that had me laughing out loud. But Meda also kicks some ass, and there is a lot of ass kicking that goes on. This is a fast-paced, action-packed adventure which has Meda choosing sides and taking a stand.

The supporting characters are also pretty great, but make up a peculiar cast. Meda befriends Chi, an alpha male who believes he’s unstoppable, Jo, a disabled, angry-at-the-world girl, and Uri, an utterly delightful ray of sunshine. With this cast, Meda has a lot of ammunition to fuel her snark, but she also has friends for the first time in her life, and this is where we see that Meda is more than the self-centered girl we get at the beginning. This really is a coming-of-age story for this half-demon and it’s a great ride.

This book isn’t a literary, award-winning masterpiece, but it was really fun. There are good characters, bad characters, fight scenes, magic, and some secrets revealed, and I was thoroughly entertained, which is sometimes all you need.

Reviewed at Minnesota Reads.

I also read this book while I curled up with a new blanket my cousin made me and I have to share. I love it!

blanket

Every Day

every dayI loved the hell out of Every Day by David Levithan. The premise is bizarre and completely unique and the questions it raises are provocative and may make you examine what you think about gender and love.

To put the premise simply: Every Day is about A, a genderless, bodiless being who wakes up each day in a stranger’s body. Every chapter is a different day in A’s life and who A is for that day.

But the premise really isn’t simple. I call A a “being,” but I don’t really know what A is. A doesn’t know what A is. A has just always woken up in a different body every morning, encompassing the world of that person for just one day. Sometimes A wakes up as a boy, sometimes a girl, sometimes a transgender individual. A may be a straight white girl, a bisexual black guy, or an Asian lesbian, it really doesn’t matter. The only thing A knows for sure is that the body will always be someone of the same age. 16-year-old A will never wake up inside a 60-year-old.

A struggles with the body of the day and with not wanting to disrupt that person’s life, but when A wakes up in Justin’s body, Justin’s girlfriend changes everything. A is captivated by Rhiannon and needs to see her again, so instead of being respectful of bodies A encompasses, A tries to track down Rhiannon. But when the bodies are different every day, this really can’t work, can it?

This premise charmed me instantly. I don’t know why or how A exists, but I was along for the ride and I loved hearing about each person A became. Many of them were so well developed. I wanted to know more about them, but alas, as the chapter ends, so does A’s time and my time with that person. Except Rhiannon and Nathan, a boy A took over who starts remembering things, questioning A’s existence, and demanding answers. Nathan was probably one of my favorite things about this because he’s a great, impressionable, religious character, quick to judge and go to the extreme. He was a good juxtaposition to the open-minded Rhiannon.

So the plot was great, but the questions this book raises really drew me in. What does gender really matter when it’s the person you’re in love with? Does it matter that the person is a boy? A girl? Someone overweight? Someone really short? And what does it mean to be sexy or sexual?

Or what about morally right and wrong? Is A waking up in these bodies and living these lives morally right? Or is it giving A a better understanding of humanity when viewed from multiple perspectives? But to what end? There really aren’t answers in this book, though you will definitely think about these questions and more as you follow A’s journey, and I loved that.

This is a great book and a quick read, so take some time out of your day to devour this one. You won’t be disappointed.

Reviewed at Minnesota Reads.