Recommendation Wednesday: Princeless

About 3/4 of the way through Princeless by Jeremy Whitley (illustrated by M. Goodwin), I could not stop smiling. Then, when I finished the book, I closed it with a satisfying “YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSS.”

(Or YAAAAAAAAAAAAS as the youngers say.)

There is so much to dig about this book. Let’s start here:

Princeless by Jeremy Whitley

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Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, Who’s the Craziest One of All?

If you guessed Levana from the Lunar Chronicles, you guessed right! Homegirl is CRAY. Like, certifiably so. And we get to find out just how much in Fairest: Levana’s Story by Marissa Meyer.

Fairest by Marissa Meyer

Before I get into the (non-spoilery) review, I just want to say I wish all of my students would read this because it has one of the best examples of tragic irony I have read in a long, long time. I mean, seriously. It is super great. In that horrible tragedy way. You know what I mean.

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Recommendation Wednesday (on a Monday): Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

Let me just start by saying that I was going to recommend the WHOLE SERIES, but since I haven’t read the other books yet (except Cinder, of course), I don’t think that’d be prudent. I mean, there are five of them after all. But this book has effectively made me want to read every single word that Marissa Meyer writes in The Lunar Chronicles (and possibly beyond), so take that as you will.

Scarlet by Marissa MeyerNow. Let’s talk about Scarlet.

SCARLET. Oh, man. This book.

I honestly don’t know where to begin. So, a (non-spoilery) list.

1. The characters are so great. SO GREAT.

I found Scarlet herself infuriating in the best possible way. She’s so headstrong and determined and desperate, but she is also so caring and honest and FIERCE.

Cinder and Kai show up in this one, and they are just as delightful as they were in the first book. Also, [spoiler] Iko is back, and she is THE BEST, and I love her, so obviously that made me happy. [/spoiler]

Scarlet’s grandmére is so badass and amazing. She was a pilot in the military! She chases people away from her door with a shotgun! Also, she is the kind of person her granddaughter would absolutely die for, and she raised a complete badass, so, you know. Grandmothers, man. Also, I kind of love badass old people (see also: Grandpa Noirtier from The Count of Monte Cristo).

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Book Review: The Blood of Olympus

The Blood of Olympus by Rick RiordanWell, that was just delightful.

The Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan is the last book in the Heroes of Olympus/Percy Jackson series, and while I will miss the characters, I did enjoy this last installment.

There was much to like here! BUT. I will concede that the final battle was a smidge rushed, and I do wish we had seen a little bit more from all of the narrators. However, I know the latter would have been pretty impossible, and I do feel as though all of the characters’ journeys/narrative arcs were sufficiently wrapped up and satisfactory.

So, here is what I did like a lot:

– Reyna. I love her. She is proud and strong but also a little lonely.

– Leo. Of course. I love him. This is well-documented.

– Piper. GUYS. THIS IS HUGE. I spent most of the books in this series totally annoyed by Piper, and I actually really liked her in this book. I LIKE PIPER NOW. I am confused but also happy.

– Annabeth and Piper’s relationship. There’s a whole scene about how sometimes logic is best and other times going with your gut/feelings is best, and so the two girls learn to work together and trust one another and then they’re FRIENDS and COMRADES, and it gives me a happy.

– Oh, and also Reyna, Annabeth, and Piper get to pow wow and be amazing together as well. YAY FOR FEMALE FRIENDSHIPS! Yay for varied levels of badassery and acknowledgement of the different ways one can be a total badass.

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Recommendation Wednesday: The Colors of Madeleine Trilogy

The Colors of Madeleine

Okay, it’s a bit presumptuous of me to recommend an entire trilogy when only two-thirds of the books are available to read, but I really liked A Corner of White and Cracks in the Kingdom absolutely DELIGHTED me. I was delighted! I mean, I seriously read the last third or so of the book with a smile on my face because it was making me so happy.

That almost never happens.

I loved the second book so much, and I don’t even know if I can articulate why. I think, mostly, it has to do with the fact that the book is fanciful and full of fantastical elements, but there’s this edge of sadness and melancholy to all the events. Characters are in denial or they’re a bit lost or they’re trying so hard to make things right or everything’s falling part. And at the same time there’s this wonderful relationship between Elliot and Madeleine developing that’s kind of flirtatious but not really but also kind of really but mostly just both of them finding someone they can talk to about the insane things that are happening in their lives.

Did I mention that Madeleine lives in England (aka the World) and Elliot lives in the Kingdom of Cello, and they communicate via letters through a parking meter?

I mean, of course they communicate via letters (this is Jaclyn Moriarty after all, queen of the epistolary novel), but they communicate through the parking meter because there’s an illegal crack open between the two worlds.

I know. I can’t believe I like it either.

Except I can.

(I should point out that these are not epistolary novels, though the reader does see some of the letters the two characters send back and forth.)

Some of my favorite moments are the ones with Princess Ko’s family (LOVE HER. She is super clever and smart and brave) as well as Elliot’s interactions with the princess. And everything with Madeleine and her friends, of course. (Of course.)

I cannot wait for the third book. Cannot wait.

Source: Library

Book Review: The Quantum League #1: Spell Robbers

Quantum League #1: Spell Robbers by Matthew J. KirbyI didn’t much care for Matthew J. Kirby‘s middle grade novel, Spell Robbers. There’s a stunning lack of diversity, and I didn’t find the characters that interesting. However, Kirby does add a wrinkle to his narrative by having main character Ben engage in a process I don’t see a lot of in these types of stories: skepticism.

Ben is never 100% convinced that he can trust the grown-ups around him. He considers why and how they may be lying, and he doesn’t willingly accept what they say as truth. It’s really quite fascinating.

A brief plot synopsis: Ben is an actuator who can manipulate reality. (This practice is connected to quantum physics in the story, which is actually a clever way to introduce advanced science to kids.) One day, the teacher he’s working with is kidnapped, and he and his friend Peter are whisked off to this training camp for actuators so they can be turned into, well, superheroes, basically.

So, Ben’s teacher is kidnapped by the bad guys. Then, Ben and Peter are saved by the good guys. BUT. Ben doesn’t think that just because the good guys (The Quantum League) call themselves good guys and that the so-called good guys saved him and Peter from the bad guys means the good guys are actually good. He stipulates that The Quantum League may not be as bad as the kidnappers, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re good by default.

I love that.

Part of what makes Ben question The Quantum League is (a) their motives and (b) their methods. As is usual in a good v. evil story, the League wants to keep the bad guys from having the teacher and the technology because the bad guys want to do bad stuff with it. But the League is never clear about what they want to do with the technology themselves. Not to mention, part of bringing Ben and Peter into the league means the boys severing ties with their families against their will–something Ben is totally not down with.

Which, come to think of it, is also interesting. Normally, a boy like Peter–one who feels alienated by his family or doesn’t have one, even–would be the typical hero in this type of story. Unlike Ben, Peter does welcome the new life and enters it with no resistance whatsoever. Ben, however, loves his mother and doesn’t want this new life. Though he struggles with where he fits with his classmates, he knows he is loved by his mom and is pretty secure in his identity as such.

So Ben remains skeptical. The grown-ups in the story treat him like a pawn, and he’s aware of that, which makes him wary. He never fully buys what they’re selling, even if he has no real choice but to go along with what they ask of him.

While the story as a whole didn’t work for me, I did appreciate that one element. And that Ben’s mom is in grad school. That was pretty cool, too.

Adventures through Awkwardness: 2/12

Source: Library

End of Year Mini Reviews: Saints, Aya, and The House of Hades

I haven’t written a proper review since October?! That’s just not on. Especially considering I have read a ton of books since then. Me and this blog have a lot to hash out in the next few days/weeks. In the meantime, here are some mini reviews.

Saints by Gene Luen Yang

1. Saints by Gene Luen Yang – This is half of a two-part series about the Boxer Rebellion in China. I thought the two books would come in together, but I guess whoever had the first book wasn’t done with it. I was planning to read them as a set, though.

What I liked about this book is how small in scale it is, even though it deals with a huge conflict. Saints follows Four-Girl as she discovers Christianity and leaves her family’s home. I really liked that she is not really directly engaged with the rebellion and is instead just trying to figure out her place in the world. The rebellion does directly touch her life, but the focus of the novel is on her day-to-day struggle to fit in with her family and community. So often stories about war are, you know, about war, so that was a pleasant surprise. Another unexpected and interesting approach Yang takes is with regards to Four-Girl’s conversion to Christianity. It’s less about spirituality and more about protection and rebellion. As far as the art goes, the graphics are delightful as usual. I love Yang’s artistic style.

 

Aya in Yop City by Marguerite Abouet

2. Aya: Life in Yop City by Marguerite Abouet (illustrated by Clément Oubrerie) – It took me a little while to get into this slice of life graphic novel set in the Ivory Coast during the late 1970s–mostly because the artwork inside the novel isn’t quite as detailed as the cover, so that was disappointing. The novel also doesn’t really have a clear plot right away; it mostly establishes the setting and relationships in the beginning. Once the relationships and setting are established, the drama starts to pick up, and I became much more interested. The main takeaway of course is that people are the same everywhere. Some of the cultural mores are different, yes, but, in general, Aya and her friends/family deal with family, work, and societal drama. There’s a “who’s the daddy?” plot, a plot about a boy who disappoints his father, several plots about infidelity, etc. I mean, you know, the usual. By the end I was engaged, but I’m not necessarily interested in picking up the next part of the collection.

 

House of Hades by Rick Riordan

3. The House of Hades by Rick Riordan – I continue to be delighted by this series and by Rick Riordan. The best part of this book is that all of the demigods get a chance to narrate so the story feels more balanced, and a lot of character development happens. I have to give Riordan props for anticipating my needs/wants as a reader as well. At one point, I found myself thinking, “Man, I really miss [specific character]” and then that character showed up within a couple of chapters. I also started getting annoyed with how heteronormative all of the characters/relationships are, and then he introduced a gay character. So I have much respect for Riordan as an author based on those two instances alone. Also: plot, characters, etc. I’m also starting to warm up a lot more to the characters I didn’t feel a proclivity towards, so that’s nice as well. I’m looking forward to seeing how everything shakes out.

I did read more books than the three featured here, but I’m trying to figure out the best way to discuss them. Mostly, with them, I’m concerned with certain patterns or trends I noticed, so they aren’t really fit for typical reviews, I think. We shall see.

One Sentence Book Reviews

I am so, so, so far behind on reviews. Trying something new to get caught up.

Also Known As by Robin Benway: This book was fun to read, but I honestly cannot even remember how it ends.

Burn for Burn by Jenny Han & Siobhan VivianAsh by Malinda Lo: Who knew a lesbian retelling of Cinderella with so many fascinating elements could be so boring?

Period 8 by Chris Crutcher: Chris Crutcher writes a mystery and still manages to incorporate every single one of his tropes into the story.

Burn for Burn by Jenny Han & Siobhan Vivian: Three girls—who clearly need lessons from Emily Thorne—try to get revenge on their classmates, which leads to the stupidest cliffhanger ever.

Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah: If the author had spent half as much time developing the characters as she did describing their decade-appropriate fashion, I probably would have liked this book a lot more.

The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl by Barry Lyga: An author embeds a meta-narrative on how to avoid writing predictable female lead characters in his novel and then proceeds to write a completely predictable female lead character.

The Friendship Matchmaker by Randa Abdel-Fattah: In a cute retelling of Jane Austen’s Emma (according to the Goodreads summary) (oh, and !!!!), a girl writes and lives the middle school version of How to Win Friends and Influence People to an entirely predictable end.

Deadly Pink by Vivian Vande Velde: I don’t remember much about this book except cheaters suck and sooner or later they have to face the consequences for their actions.

Source: I got all of these books from the library.

Book Review: The Mark of Athena

Seriously, these monsters and gods were thousands of years old. Couldn’t they take a few decades off and let Percy live his life?

Mark of Athena by Rick RiordanI’m saying, though. Poor Percy. Finally reunited with Annabeth and, of course, the stupid gods and monsters are ruining everything. Typical.

So, Mark of Athena! Third book in The Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan! In list form!

  1. The title is an obvious tip-off that this book would heavily feature Annabeth and feature her it did. It was so, so nice to get a glimpse inside of her head. I love Annabeth. She’s so great.
  2. LEO! Leo is one of the point of view characters. As has been well-established, I love Leo. A lot. He’s underage, but since he’s fictional, I am upgrading him from cute adorable kid whose cheeks I want to pinch to literary boyfriend. Because if I were a 15/16-year-old girl, I would be so in love with Leo. Therefore, he is now a literary boyfriend.
  3. Leo’s interactions with Annabeth are A+. First, he thinks of her as the scary blond girl, which is just fantastic. Because we all know you don’t want to mess with Annabeth. Second, they get along well with their love of gadgetry and figuring things out. So even though Annabeth is the scary blond girl, they are actually friends.
  4. I liked the focus on the gifts the kids have that aren’t superpowers. I mean, yes, Jason can fly, Percy can manipulate water, Leo, Frank, Hazel, etc. But Annabeth’s mother is the goddess of wisdom and military victory. Sooooo, no superpowers there. Same with Piper. Her mom is the goddess of love and beauty. Sure, she can charmspeak, but she can’t talk her way out of everything. So Riordan shows how Annabeth and Piper can use their gifts (wisdom and love, respectively) to their advantage in battle. A nice touch and a way to remind kids that you don’t have to have superpowers to win or be effective.
  5. Okay I had a whole bunch written up about how annoying Piper is but WordPress ATE IT, and I don’t have it in me to recreate all that awesome commentary. So suffice it to say that Piper is still annoying, and my daughter and her friend agree with me.

In conclusion, this book is a solid entry in the series. I’m interested to see what happens next.

Book Review: As You Wish

“Well, it’s just that it’s impossible to be a broken or whole person. You can only be a person. You can only exist, you can only belong to yourself, and you can only be responsible for your own happiness or belonging or whatever. That broken-part-piece-whole thing is just a trick of the mortal mind.”

As You Wish by Jackson PearceAs You Wish by Jackson Pearce is a cute, fun romance about a girl, her gay ex-boyfriend/best friend, and a genie. Since Viola is trying desperately to get over the heartbreak of losing Lawrence as a boyfriend, she inadvertently summons Jinn, who has to grant her three wishes.

Like I said, the story is cute and fun. It’s not entirely predictable–I mean, sure, Jinn was obviously going to fall in love with Viola and vice versa. But what keeps the story from being predictable and rote are the three main characters: Viola, Jinn, and Lawrence.

What I like the most about Viola is that she’s smart and thoughtful. She’s very careful with her wishes, not wanting to wish for something she knows she needs to change within herself nor does she want to wish for anything that could hurt someone else. That carefulness creates excellent conflict for her relationship with Jinn who wants to do nothing more than grant her three wishes quickly so he can get home. He doesn’t understand her thoughtfulness because he’s used to dealing with shallow people. More importantly, he doesn’t understand what it means to be human. Where he comes from conflict has mostly been removed, days blur into each other, and time mostly stands still. There is no heartache, no love, no deep longing for anyone or anything. Everything just is.

And then there’s Lawrence. Lawrence who regrets hurting Viola and wants nothing more than for her to be happy again. He has new found popularity now that he’s out and thoroughly himself, but that also means Viola is mostly excluded from his world. She isolates herself and is unhappy, and Lawrence feels responsible for her happiness in a way that’s not entirely fair for him but makes them very believable friends.

So, yeah, I liked the characters. In fact, the characters are what will stick with me about this book. That, and it’s like a fun take on Aladdin. You know how Aladdin’s all, “What would you wish for?” and Genie’s all, “To be free.” Well, Jinn is like, “For you to hurry up so I can go home and stop getting old.” Hahahaha.

I don’t know. It amuses me.

Source: Library