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bookish posts reviews

Recent Reading: Black, Bradshaw, Echols, Samatar

darkest part of the forestThe Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black: This really should be its own post, if post length were an indication of how much I love a book. After not quite loving The Coldest Girl in Coldtown (I know. I’m sorry.), I am happy to say that The Darkest Part of the Forest hit all the right notes for me. Siblings trying to save each other? Scary fairies? Fairy tale tropes being played with lovingly? Awesome characters? Yes to all of these things! I also appreciated that there’s diversity on several different fronts. But mostly I just loved Hazel and Jack and Ben and the horned prince. Lovely, lovely book.

sand reckonerThe Sand-Reckoner by Gillian Bradshaw: A couple of people have said how much they liked this Bradshaw book, and having read it I can totally see why. It’s a little sadder than most of her others, a little less clear-cut in terms of good vs. bad. While I’m not enamored of the male genius figures in fiction right now, I will make an exception for Bradshaw’s Archimedes, because he’s so sensitively drawn. And we do see him from other perspectives which I think helps balance that trope out. This has some of Bradshaw’s more lovely writing too. While I doubt any book will ever be quite as beloved for me as The Beacon at Alexandria, this is definitely one I can see myself re-reading.

perfect couplePerfect Couple by Jennifer Echols: I really like Jennifer Echols. When I’m in a certain mood, she’s one of the authors I always reach for. Her books are light without being thoughtless and she often draws in some social commentary. Plus, I really enjoy her characters, who always read to me as actual teens, without losing any of the romance. Perfect Couple is the second book in her latest YA series, The Superlatives. Harper is a photographer; Brody is the school quarterback. They aren’t really alike at all. But when the school votes them “Perfect Couple That Never Was,” Harper starts to wonder if they’re more similar than she thought. One of the things I appreciate about Echols’s books is the variety of experience in her characters and Perfect Couple is no exception. While the conceit of the book may stretch the bounds of believability a tad, I really didn’t care. It’s a smart, well written teen romance, and just what I needed.

stranger in olondriaA Stranger in Olondria by Sofia Samatar: I’ve been meaning to read Samatar’s debut since it came out two years ago. It’s a really engrossing book, which probably deserves more space than I can give it here. It’s about family and myth and home, about history and colonialism. But most of all it’s about books, and a relationship with books. Samatar’s language is dense and beautiful, with occasional moments of iridescent beauty. I thought for awhile about why it’s adult rather than YA, since I can easily read Jevick as in his late teens (I can’t remember how clearly his age is given). But in that nebulous “you’ll know it when you see it way,” it does seem quite clearly adult. I think there’s a lack of immediacy to the story–it’s so clearly Jevick looking back over his past–and that’s the closest I can come to saying what I mean. Regardless, it was a fascinating book, and I’m still mulling over it several days later.

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bookish posts

January releases I’m excited about

juna's jar

Most of these have piqued my interest because I’ve read a book or books by the same author and liked them, or they’re sequels to books I’ve already read. The exception is Juna’s Jar, which just looks like a lovely picture book from Lee & Low.

darkest part of the forestchosen princethe just city

The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black
The Chosen Prince by Diane Stanley
The Just City by Jo Walton
Perfect Couple by Jennifer Echols
Searching for Super by Marion Jensen
First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen
Juna’s Jar by Jane Bahk, illustrated by Felicia Hoshino

perfect couplesearching for superfirst frost

What January releases are you excited about?

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bookish posts reviews

December 2013 reading list

Books I’ve already talked about
Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance by Lois McMaster Bujold
Going Too Far by Jennifer Echols
Night Watch by Terry Pratchett
Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong by Prudence Shen and Faith Erin Hicks

All the other books
This is How I Find Her by Sara Polsky: I found this one to be a touching, tender look at families and identity, and what it means when a parent struggles with mental health. Sophie was a sympathetic protagonist, and I found a lot to like here.

United We Spy by Ally Carter: Perhaps it’s because I came to Carter’s writing via the Heist books, but the Gallagher Girls don’t have the same deep appeal for me that they do for many others. That said, I do think this was one of the weaker books in the series; despite a relatively strong resolution, it just bounced all over the place.

The Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth LaBan: For me, this one was a classic case of English majors run amok. It has a lot of separate elements which are really interesting, but taken as a whole, the symbolism came across as very heavy-handed, and both characters and plot failed to convince me that they were worth taking seriously.

Wise Young Fool by Sean Beaudoin: My reading experience for this title was probably marred by the fact that it included both a forward and afterword purporting to be from the editor and claiming that this manuscript ‘mysteriously appeared in their offices’ and since I hate that kind of intrusion with a BURNING PASSION, it really messed up the rest of the book for me. But also, I had trouble with Ritchie and buying his transformation. I wanted to, but it just didn’t work for me.

Forget You by Jennifer Echols: An enjoyable read, but my favorites are still Such a Rush and Going Too Far.

The Spirit Thief by Rachel Aaron: I was hoping to really like this one; I enjoyed it, but it was a bit more stereotypically high fantasy than I was expecting and it never really wowed me. I do plan to read the next book or two, to see if the series as a whole delivers on the promise of what it could be.

Nine Tailors by Dorothy Sayers: I tried re-reading this one to see if I liked it any better. I didn’t, though possibly for different reasons than when I was younger.

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie: I’d been hearing rave reviews of this title even before I managed to get my hands on a copy and WOW. Yes, they were all right. This is a stunner of a book, with a wonderful world and narrator. I loved how much Leckie trusted her readers–there was never a moment when I felt hammered over the head with anything. This would absolutely have been a favorite book of 2013 if I had finished in time.

Above by Leah Bobet: This is a very difficult book to describe, so I won’t try. But I was seriously impressed by the world, by the writing, by the characters. Bobet shows people making hard choices, but does it with a lot of understanding and grace. I never quite tipped over into absolute love, but I really respected what the story did.

Bad Houses by Sara Ryan and Carla Speed McNeil
All The Truth That’s In Me by Julie Berry
Openly Straight by Bill Konigsberg
Death, Dickinson and the Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia by Jenny Torres Sanchez
If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch
Nowhere But Home by Liza Palmer

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bookish posts reviews

Quick Review: Dirty Little Secret by Jennifer Echols

dirtylittlesecret Jennifer Echols’ YA books are a slightly guilty pleasure of mine, and I’ve been looking forward to her latest, Dirty Little Secret.* I read it last night, and wanted to stick up a short review today. So, pros and cons.

PROS:
– Loved Bailey and her voice. I connected with her instantly, despite the fact that we’re very different personalities
– Loved the complicated ways that families are shown here, and especially the way that this connects both Sam and Bailey
– Loved Bailey’s relationship with music; I’m not a musician particularly, so I can’t say how accurate it is, but it definitely felt more integral to her character than in some YA books, where music seems to function as “Oh, this character needs a hobby!”
– Liked the relationship between Sam and Bailey generally. It’s fairly quiet, but I did feel that they both genuinely cared about each other, despite their differences and misunderstandings. Also, I felt like Echols was very conscious of setting up tropes–the handsome devil–and also of subverting them, which is cool

CONS:
– Wasn’t super wild about the way the book depicted Charlotte. Something about the description of her, plus the way that Bailey interacts with her grated on my nerves. Even the big resolution at the end made me side-eye a bit. I know we’re seeing her through Bailey’s eyes, but still.
– In general, I really really enjoyed the book, but it wasn’t my favorite Echols–that would probably be Such a Rush. I didn’t have quite the same emotional connection to Bailey that I have had to Echols’ other main characters

* Sidenote: I’m not a huge fan of this title, which sounds a lot more scandalous than the book actually is; also, I kind of get where they were going with it, in that Bailey is her family’s secret, but really she’s never shown as fulfilling that expectation.

(I’m not sure if this counts for the August TBR challenge or not…it was on my TBR, but not on my original list. I’ll probably go ahead and count it anyway.)