Far Far Away by Tom McNeal: There were many things I liked about this book, from the readability to the characters. However, the combination of the fairy tales and real life events didn’t work so well for me, especially the quiz show subplot which seemed plopped down in the middle without enough connection either thematically or character-wise. I also largely agree with the points that Mark Flowers makes here. However, I know there are several fans for this one, so I’ll be really interested in the discussions for this title.
Starglass by Phoebe North: I loved the idea of the culture behind this book, but it felt quite bloated, and yet not detailed enough. I wanted more everyday scenes, instead of the “And then Mara taught me about botany” gloss that we got. Terra’s conflict was nicely done, but the foundation of the different factions on the ships was too obscured at the beginning, I thought. It took her too long to realize what was happening. So, definite mixed feelings on this one, but for fresh take on sci-fi cultures and long-term ship life, check it out.
The Different Girl by Gordon Dahlquist: This is a pretty impressive book in a lot of ways. I loved the presence of voice and setting–I felt like I was living in Veronika’s head. And I loved the little details that contributed to the overall sense of something being different. I did think that the ending passed over the practical in favor of the cathartic, which made it harder for me to believe in the resolution. There’s a discussion about this one at the Printz Blog with some interesting comments.
Black Helicopters by Blythe Woolston: To be honest, my reading of this book probably suffers from the fact that I read it immediately after The Different Girl. Which begs the question, if I had read in a different order, if I had read other books in between, would I feel differently? Although the voice is strong, it doesn’t quite come together for me in terms of character and motivation–I never felt that Valley was a real person, rather than a Point.
Shadowcry by Jenna Burtenshaw: The beginning of this read was frustrating for me because I kept trying to fit the setting into some version of our world, and it doesn’t quite go. So I won’t be adding this to the historical fantasy page because, although the world looks slightly Victorian, the history doesn’t work. Generally speaking, felt like Burtenshaw had an interesting concept, but it never got to that next level which would have wowed me. And generally speaking, I had a hard time believing in the world; I didn’t buy that people would react in the way they supposedly did. It was strong enough that I’ll probably read the second book, to see where the story goes.
Relish by Lucy Knisley: This is a lovely graphic novel memoir about a young woman’s growing up with food. Knisley’s artwork is lovely and vibrant and I myself wondered if her illustrated recipes were a bit of an homage to the original Moosewood Cookbook. It also has a great sense of adolescence and early adulthood, which I think will make it a natural recommendation for teen and New Adult readers. I did feel that the themes were sometimes a bit less than subtle, but overall this is one to treasure and even relish. (Ba dum dum.)
Night Watch by Terry Pratchett: Pratchett doesn’t always work for me, notably in most of the Discworld books. (I know I am deprived. I wish I could be different.) But Rachel Neumeier suggested trying this one in a comment, and I’m glad I listened. I loved Sam Vimes and the rest of the cast, and the impossible situation he’s thrust into, and the fact that the plot loops around on itself in a marvelous and sob-inducing manner. I finished and immediately went back to read the beginning again and started crying. It’s brilliant the way Pratchett turns us from the onlookers who weren’t there into the veterans who were. I’ve been informed that I should read the rest of the Vimes sequence, and I have Guards! Guards! checked out right now.
Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner: I’ll be quite honest–I mostly read this one because it’s on the Printz Blog’s longlist. While I normally like after-the-war stories, something about this one turned me off. I think it’s partly that the contrast between the setting and the Technicolor land is too great–1950s-60s America was not all Coca-Cola and Lucille Ball, and I felt like setting up that false dichotomy really messed up the rest of the book for me. Also, I didn’t understand why Croca-Cola? A misreading on Standish’s part? An attempt to set the world apart from ours? I think overall, it was just a bunch of little cracks in the windshield that added up to me feeling disconnected from the story and like I couldn’t trust it.