Monday, September 12, 2016

What I Read in September 2015

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I didn't realize it, but all I read in September 2015 were two books in Kristin Cashore's Graceling Realm series. I was pretty busy this month - not only was it my birthday (yay!) but my wedding is in a little less than a year and Curtis and I really started the planning process. Who knew how much time that would take up?


Graceling by Kristin Cashore
Katsa must use her Grace - ultimate fighting power - to rescue her kingdom from its king.

Graceling has a lot of the elements I love: adventure, strong female characters, an interesting and unique magic system (that doesn't dominate the story to the point of making it boring), political intrigue, and an understated love story. I rarely read a series back-to-back, but I immediately sought out the next book I enjoyed Graceling so much.

Fire by Kristin Cashore
With the ability to tap into and control the minds of those around her, the beautiful half-monster Fire teeters on the may have the ability to save the Dells or let herself be destroyed by those around her.

After loving Graceling so much, Fire was a bit of a let down. Fire, the name of the main character, is a human monster of exceptional beauty and drives men wild. There are so many icky encounters with men that Fire neither shuts down or deals with in any way or ever seems to really process internally that it makes it hard for me to accept her as the strong character she is meant to be. Katsa, the protagonist in Graceling, had more depth and complexity in my opinion.

Both books feature fantastic world building with a fascinating history and magic system. The characters that populate the stories are interesting -- even when I find them frustrating -- and their stories intertwine in such a way that they build on each other, but are not dependent on the reader knowing the other books. If I'd read Fire independent of Graceling, I think I would have enjoyed it quite a bit more - I just expected it to be something different.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

What I Read in August 2015

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The Masque of the Black Tulip by Lauren Willig
Adventure Historical Fiction
Historian Eloise Kelly continues her research into the Napoleonic espionage society around the Pink Carnation and finds herself swept up into a historical romp and possibly starting a present day romance.

This is the second in the Pink Carnation series and I enjoyed it just as much as the first. These books are silly and exciting and romantic and should definitely be read in order.

The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving by Jonathan Evison
After reaching a crisis point in his life, an aimless Ben Benjamin trains as a caregiver and begins working with a sexually frustrated teenager with muscular dystrophy and a wicked sense of humor.

I spent an entire month (or more) promoting this book as part of my Library's community read and speaking about the positives of this book. It boasts a strong sense of place that if you live on Bainbridge Island, Washington you will sincerely appreciate; everywhere is recognizable. Trevor, the teenager who at first resents Ben, feels very real and though I personally found many of his jokes disagreeable, like an honest and true representation of a nineteen year old boy struggling to come to terms with his situation.

The Manual of Detection of Jedediah Berry
A lowly clerk at the Detective Agency gets an off-the-books promotion when his supervisor gets murdered and a famous detective goes missing.

What a strange book. My whole reading experience with this was entirely surreal. It was challenging to keep track of what was real and what was just a paranoid construction and what was part of the magical realism of this fantastically mundane universe. A little unsettling and required attention while reading, this reminded me of Paul Auster's New York trilogy and The City & The City by China Mieville. Both are also mysteries (sort of, more or less) and have fluid definitions of reality.
The Reader's Advisory Guide to Street Literature by Vanessa Irvin Morris
Whether you are new to Street Lit or looking for expert information on what's new in the genre as well as insight into cornerstone works, Morris' engaging voice provides context, insight, and guidance for readers and reader advisers alike.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Death is kept quite busy during World War II, but a German foster child with a penchant for petty theft and a warm heart catches his attention.

I didn't expect this book to be quite so funny -- it is a Holocaust story after all -- and was pleasantly surprised. I listened to this as an audio and the narrator, Allan Corduner, did an excellent job capturing the humor in Death's voice. This is a great book club read.

Doll Bones by Holly Black
When Zach's father tells him that he can no longer play the games of make believe with his two best friends, they set out on one last adventure to lay the china bones of a haunted doll to rest in this eerie tale of young friendship.

I'd heard so many wonderful things about Holly Black - so atmospheric and creepy - but I thought Doll Bones was underwhelming. It was too scary for the age group it targets and by the time you're "old enough" to read it, the plot feels too juvenile and that's the feedback that I get from Library patrons too. Parts of it reminded me a lot of The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley Snyder, like the relationship dynamic the kids have based on games of make-believe. It was definitely strange and I wouldn't avoid it, but if you want to start dive into Holly Black novels, this isn't the one I would suggest starting with. For young readers, try The Field Guide (book one of The Spiderwick Chronicles). For teens or adults, try The Darkest Part of the Forest.

The Young Elites by Marie Lu
A survivor of an epidemic that claimed her mother and hundreds of others across the country, Adelina now possesses mystical, otherworldly powers that make her of interest to a secret society bent on overturning the corrupt government.

The magic system in this series is interesting and I hope it is further developed later in the series - a lot was left up to the reader to fill in. For another dark series fill with undertones of political unrest and one of the most interesting magic systems I've ever encountered, check out the Abhorsen series by Garth Nix (start with Sabriel -- the audiobook is narrated by Tim Curry and he does a marvelous job).
 
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