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

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

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

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.

More Than This & other book reviews

I reviewed a lot of books lately, my favorite being More Than This by Patrick Ness. He has solidified his place as an author I will automatically read, without even knowing a thing about the book. If his name is attached, I’m reading it.

Some other books in this group I definitely didn’t like as much as More Than This. Two of them completely disappointed me.

More-Than-ThisMore Than This by Patrick Ness

I read this book in a day.

That could be my whole review, because even though I read a lot, I don’t often finish a book in one sitting, so you know it has to be good. Although now that I think about it, this is the third Patrick Ness book I have finished in a day. I just can’t put his books down.

More Than This opens with a death. Seth is in the ocean, off the coast in Washington state, waves throwing him against the rocks, and his skull fractures. He dies. It’s when Seth wakes up that the story begins. …more

days blood starlightDays of Blood & Starlight by Laini Taylor

Last year I read and loved Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke & Bone. The story followed Karou, a human raised by chimera, creatures from Eretz that have animal and human attributes. In Eretz, the chimera are at war with beautiful seraphim (or angels), one of whom Karou falls in love with, which becomes an issue when Karou discovers she’s a reincarnated chimera. Brimstone, the chimera who raised her, uses the teeth of humans and animals to reincarnate fallen chimera and he has been hiding Karou in our world.

When we last saw Karou, she and Akiva (the beautiful angel) are on the outs, Brimstone is missing, humans are made aware of angels, and Karou decides to enter Eretz to search for her family. Days of Blood & Starlight picks up right where Daughter of Smoke & Bone ended and we get the full picture of what has happened in Eretz. …more

BestOfConnieWillisThe Best of Connie Willis: Award-Winning Short Stories

I’ve been reading The Best of Connie Willis: Award-Winning Stories for a couple months now. This isn’t because it’s bad; it’s because it’s so good. Each of these stories is award winning, so there really isn’t a bad story here, and I wanted to savor them. And even though there isn’t a bad story in these ten, I do have my favorites.

A Letter from the Clearys, a 1983 Nebula award winner, is a quiet yet powerful look at life after a nuclear war. A girl and her dog walk back to their home after visiting the post office to announce that they received a letter from the Clearys, but the letter was clearly written before it all happened. …more

sex and violenceSex & Violence by Carrie Mesorobian

Evan Carter is used to being the Eternal New Guy. Moved from school to school because of his father’s work schedule, Evan is never around long enough to make friends. He’s also not interested in relationships with women, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t hook up. He knows how to find women for flings, and at his latest boarding school it’s no different. But this time, he runs into a problem – the ex-boyfriend. After he’s beaten to a pulp, Evan and his father move to a family lake cabin in Minnesota so Evan can heal, both physically and emotionally. …more

FangirlFangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Fangirl: a nice book about nice students doing nice things at a nice college. They have nice families, too.

That really sums up Fangirl, the book that was the biggest disappointment for me this year.

Maybe I put too much pressure on Fangirl. I had high expectations considering everyone was praising it and it comes from Rainbow Rowell, the author behind Eleanor & Park, one of the best books I read this year. I assumed Fangirl couldn’t be bad because Eleanor & Park was so good, but Fangirl isn’t. It’s so incredibly boring. …more

Bellman blackBellman & Black by Diane Setterfield

I absolutely loved Diane Setterfield’s The Thirteenth Tale, a great gothic mystery surrounding the details of a reclusive author’s life. I still recommend that book to people, so I was excited to finally have another book by Setterfield that I hoped would be just as fabulous.

Unfortunately, Bellman & Black completely let me down. I don’t know what happened between the The Thirteenth Tale and the release of Bellman & Black, but Setterfield lost her strong storytelling.

Bellman & Black follows the life of William Bellman and I loved how the story began with a young Will playing with three boys in the fields behind his house. …more

The Ocean at the End of the Lane

oceanThe Ocean at the End of the Lane is the first adult novel Neil Gaiman has written since 2005, and it’s very different from his previous works for adults. I was expecting more American Gods and Good Omens but I got a grown-up Coraline. I really liked Coraline, and this is better, but it was definitely different than I expected. I think the difference is that this is such a quiet, intimate story, more so than what I’m used to from the creator of The Sandman.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane is narrated by a man who returned to his childhood home for a funeral. For reasons he can’t explain, he goes on a drive through the country and is drawn to the farm at the end of the lane where odd Lettie Hempstock used to live.

He knew Lettie, didn’t he? There was a pond at the back of their farmhouse that she called an ocean, right? As he stares at Lettie’s ocean, memories from forty years earlier wash over him and he remembers: the opal miner who committed suicide in the Hempstock’s driveway; Ursula Monkton, the spirit who followed him from the Hempstock farm and tore apart his world; and the three Hempstock women – Lettie, her mother, and Old Mrs. Hempstock – and how they tried to help protect him.

If you’ve read or seen the movie Coraline, the story the man recalls from when he was seven is quite similar. A child discovers a scary world and a terrifying spirit, and his parents don’t believe him, leaving him to fight the evil spirit on his own. This base tale is the same as Coraline, but Coraline was written for children and is treated as such, while here the dangers are more pronounced and an older man’s recollection of how he views it now and how it changed him is what’s key.

I went back and forth with my feelings on this. While reading it, I kept wondering why this was on the shelf next to American Gods and not Coraline. We hear mostly from the 7-year-old, so why is this billed as an adult novel?

But then I realized that many soft spoken, quiet observations may not be understood by young children. Sure, young kids can read this book and find a lot of enjoyment in it, I know I would’ve loved it as a kid, but would I have understood it all? Probably not. It would be like how I watched “Dirty Dancing” as a kid and I just thought she had a really bad stomach ache.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane is more than a kid fighting a spirit. What we get here is a man reflecting on his life, piecing together how he is where he is, trying to understand why, and contemplating his worth. We get the impression that this is also how he felt when he was a child, how we all feel, and that these feelings are always prevalent in our lives, though may manifest in different ways. This is much more subtle, peaceful, and quiet than I’m used to with Gaiman, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad. It’s different, but good different. I loved it.

Reviewed at Minnesota Reads.