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

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

Lots of book reviews

I’ve reviewed a lot of books lately that I didn’t post here, so here’s a roundup of the latest ones. For each review, I grabbed the first couple paragraphs and then link out to the full review.

But warning: I didn’t really love any of these. I’m so happy that right now I’m almost finished with a book I absolutely love, because I was in slump.

theshiningirlsThe Shining Girls

I’ve had Lauren Beukes on my radar for awhile now, and I’ve even had a copy of Zoo City since the last Humble Bundle, but I knew I had to read The Shining Girls when I heard about its time traveling serial killer.

In The Shining Girls, Harper is a disturbing, terrifying hunter from the 1930s who stumbles upon a magical house that allows him to travel forward and backward in time. He goes through time to find “shining” girls, gives them a memento from a past kill, and tells them that he’ll see them again in the future. One of his shining girls is Kirby who he meets in 1974 and later tries to kill in the 1990s. Kirby drives this story as she tries to connect murders similar to her attack to find the culprit. …more

someday-someday-maybeSomeday, Someday, Maybe

I loved “The Gilmore Girls,” the smartly written series from the early 2000s featuring Lorelai Gilmore and her teenage daughter, Rory. Everyone watching the show wanted to be friends with this fast-talking duo and live in their quirky town of Stars Hollow. It was a charming show and I will never picture Lauren Graham as anything other than Lorelai Gilmore, which I’m sure she loves.

But if Lauren Graham wants to distance herself from Lorelai, she’s not doing so well by creating a character just as witty, sarcastic, funny, and charming as Lorelai. Franny is simply a younger Lorelai, minus the teenage pregnancy.

In Someday, Someday, Maybe, Franny Banks is a twenty-something struggling actress in New York in the mid-1990s. She’s working as a waitress, taking an acting class, trying to get an agent and auditions, dating the wrong guys, and hating on herself and her looks. This young-woman-trying-to-make-it story is one we’ve seen before, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t charmed by Franny. …more

maggot-moonMaggot Moon

Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner won the UK’s Costa Coffee Award and the Carnegie Medal, so I had to check out this alternate history about the boy with one brown eye and one blue.

It’s 1956 and Standish Treadwell is a dyslexic teen living in a totalitarian state in the UK, but an alternate universe UK where a Nazi-like group representing the Motherland rules with an iron fist. Anyone who questions the Motherland mysteriously vanishes, like Standish’s parents did years earlier. …more

lexiconLexicon

Wow, did I have a hard time with this book. I thought I would love it. I wanted to love it. I still think I’m supposed to love it. The premise is pretty amazing. The characters kind of fascinate me. So why did I moan every time I picked up the book to keep reading?

Max Berry’s Lexicon sounds like the coolest book. A secret society trains young people on a mysterious way to control others by using words. Not real words, a gobbledygook mishmash of sounds that are reminiscent of what an infant might express when trying to learn how to speak, but words nonetheless. I’m still not clear on why their gobbledygook can control minds, but just go with it, it can. …more

thespectacularnowThe Spectacular Now

The critics have been praising the movie “The Spectacular Now,” and after reading the book I have no idea why. I think this may be one of those rare times when the movie is better than the book.

The Spectacular Now is the story of popular teen Sutter Keely, the life of the party. He drinks daily, parties hard, gets along with everyone, is always looking to have fun, and seems like he doesn’t have a care in the world. Every guy wants to be his friend and every girl wants to be with him. …more

The 5th Wave

the 5th waveI’ve written in the past about my fascination of all things alien. I’m particularly infatuated with “Ancient Aliens,” the show where alien theorists cannot figure out how an ancient civilization did something, so they must’ve had help from aliens. I can sit and watch that show for hours. One moment I’ll think they have some good points, then I feel like they’re really stretching, and then I find myself laughing out loud.

What I find the most interesting about “Ancient Aliens” is that they always talk about the help aliens provided. They’re here to advance our society and if they visit us in the future it will be for that purpose. That’s hilarious. In the history of our world, when one civilization encountered another, it never ended well. What would really happen to us would be what happens in Rick Yancey’s The 5th Wave.

In The 5th Wave, a huge alien vessel, the mother ship, enters our atmosphere and starts attacking humanity in different waves. The first wave takes out the electricity, the second wipes out coastal areas, the third brings the plague, and in the fourth they start hunting us. These waves take out seven billion people, but with some left, what will the fifth wave bring?

We learn about these waves from Cassie, a teen on her own, living in the wild, trying to survive. She journals about what she’s doing and what has happened to her and her family. She talks about the alien drones that roam the skies, refugee camps, and a scary realization that the aliens are using our bodies to fight us in the fourth wave. When they look like us, who can you trust?

There are other people in The 5th Wave. The story gets told from other people’s perspectives in the second half of the book, but if I tell you about them I’ll give away the plot. There are a lot of twists and turns here. You may doubt what you think you know multiple times, so I’m going to stop describing plot and tell you what I thought.

I liked Cassie, for the most part. She trying to keep herself alive in dangerous circumstances and she knows how to handle an M-16. She reminded me somewhat of Katniss from The Hunger Games, though Cassie whines a little bit much for my taste. She whines and thinks about boys and how she was somewhat of a misfit in that area. She doesn’t do this all the time, but I suppose it was leading up to the little romance that happens.

The romance was not really a romance. I think I’m coming at this a bit biased because I just finished reading Eleanor & Park, a fabulous teen romance, and this was no where near as good. This also gave me the creeps, because it was sort of a Luke and Laura romance. Do you remember Luke and Laura? They were this supposed amazing couple on “General Hospital,” but before their fairytale wedding, on one of their first dates, Luke rapes Laura. This is why I couldn’t get into “General Hospital.” There is no rape in this scenario, but it’s the same sort of icky romance that I just didn’t buy. And I really hate the “you complete me” or “you saved me” kind of romances, which is the kind of crap we get here.

The romance really threw me off, because I loved everything else. I loved hearing about the alien attacks, the refugee camps, the military training, and what happens to a lot of other characters in this book. It was so gripping and much more plausible than the alien encounters from “Ancient Aliens.” I wanted more of that and less of the supposed romance. In fact, by the end, we’re left with a cliffhanger where we don’t know the fate of everyone, and I’m hoping for some characters it’s fatal. I know that’s not what Yancey wants me to hope for, but I do.

This is the first in a trilogy, so we’ll see what happens next, but I hope it’s more survival and less bad romance.

Reviewed at Minnesota Reads.

Under the Dome, the show

Wow. There are a lot of differences in the “Under the Dome” TV show.

In preparation for the show, I recently read Stephen King’s Under the Dome. It was 1072-page beast, but I raced through it, and while the ending wasn’t my favorite, the story as a whole was fabulous.

And I knew that they’d have to cut things and change some characters for the transition to the small screen, but I don’t think anyone is the same.

MAJOR SPOILERS AFTER THIS POINT (run away!).

First of all, Dale “Barbie” Barbara, what the hell? He’s supposed to be our savior, our ex-military man, our idealistic, never-do-wrong hero. Why was he burying someone at the beginning of the show? And not a nice burial in a cemetery with a clergy, family and friends, and flowers. He was in the woods burying someone on the down low.

And when he drove away (he’s not supposed to have a car), who was he talking to on the phone where he said, “Your guy, Smith, shows up. He doesn’t have the money. And then he tries to renegotiate, aggressively.” What?

At least the actor they got is delicious, because Barbie was delicious in my head, too.

As for Rose the diner owner, she’s Sabrina the Teenage Witch’s Aunt Zelda! There’s nothing majorly different about her, at least yet, but her voice is so distinctive that I instantly wondered what spell she was cooking.

And then there was the dome. I was so hoping for the perspective from the woodchuck, but alas, no woodchuck. Instead we get a cow sliced in half, the long way. It was gross. And funny. It probably shouldn’t have been funny. I’m not a serial killer, I promise.

And couldn’t they hear through the dome? Here they can’t. Maybe I’m remembering it wrong, but I thought they could speak to people on the other side. And they said it was 20,000 feet high, but in the book it’s 47,000 feet.

Julia Shumway is also different. I pictured her older with more balls. Maybe she’ll grow some as we go.

Oh, and she’s supposed to be single, but here she’s married to Peter the doctor, who’s supposed to survive for a long time, but he was actually the guy Barbie was burying.

My head is spinning.

There’s a lot more. Norrie doesn’t live in the town and she has lesbian parents. The radio station plays rock music instead of Christian music. Phil in the radio station isn’t crazy and Dodee is helping him. Angie and Dodee don’t get murdered by Junior, but Junior keeps Angie prisoner in a storm shelter. And Joe is apparently now Angie’s brother. And Duke was part of Big Jim’s drug trade.

Although I’m still not sure it is a drug trade. It seems like it will be what with the massive supply of propane tanks, but no one has mentioned drugs yet.

With all this being said, I actually really like the show. They set up the panic of the dome really well with the plane and car crashes into the dome, the silence from the outside world, and the subtle but fabulous story Angie tells about a goldfish trapped in a tank eating the other goldfish. That’s foreshadowing, folks!

I think from here on out I have to ignore the book. I kept comparing things while I watched it and tweeting the differences, but the show is really interesting. I kind of wish I hadn’t read the book because I would’ve loved the show. Right now I like it, I’m intrigued, and I’m going to keep watching.

One thing I was happy about was the ending of the episode where Duke’s pacemaker bursts out of his chest, killing him. I’m so glad they kept that from the book.

Really, I’m not a serial killer.