Monday, March 5, 2012

Books read recently

1. Sweetly, Jackson Pearce. Well-done re-imagining of Hansel and Gretel, paranormal creature style. I liked how the “witch” was a person we could see a lot of good in. And I liked setting it in South Carolina! YA

2. The Girl of Fire and Thorns, Rae Carson. This was a really interesting book. I liked the main character, and how she grew more healthy (feelings about herself, as well as her physical health), and how she ended up stronger than anyone else she worked with. It was interesting how Elisa viewed certain people at the beginning (kind and strong, in one case) and how her perception changed at the end, after she'd grown up a bit (the same character seems weak at the end). I’d like to see a sequel, because Elisa sure gave up a lot in this book, and I want to see her get something in the end. The story: Elisa is the chosen one, with a Godstone in her navel, and that means she is to do a great work for her people. But the Invierno—the evil, sorcerous nation to the north—is trying to take over. And a lot of people would love to have just her stone, who cares about her. She marries the king of a neighboring country as a political move to ally and fight together, but is kidnapped midway through and becomes truly a queen with the desert people. It’s only with her faith and power that she is able to destroy the sorcerers of the Invierno and turn the tide on the war. YA

3. The Swan Kingdom, Zoe Marriott. A retelling of the swan fairy tale, where the brothers turned into swans and the sister has to make the tunics for them to turn them back. Nicely done; I think I'll look up more of her books. YA

4. The Alloy of Law, Brandon Sanderson. Fun fantasy-western cross. I especially liked the banter between Wax and Wayne—so often, characters are alone in books, and I loved the best friend element. But—it’s not a stand-alone! I went into the book thinking it was, and then there are developments in the very last chapter that make me go--what?! So I'm looking forward to another book with these guys. (BTW--if you've watched any of The Piano Guys videos on YouTube--Jon Schmidt and Steven Sharp Nelson--the way they interact reminds me huge amounts of Wax and Wayne. Or any Sanderson duo, actually. They all live in Utah--maybe it's something in the water??) Adult

5. Inventing Elliot, Graham Gardener. Chilling story of a boy who is bullied—violently—and changes schools. Turns himself into someone else, and the bullies want to admit him to their group. And he has to decide what he’s going to do. Author handled things well so the boy didn’t seem weak or whiny—we saw what happened to him, how violently he was bullied, and then had an echo in the gang that jumped his dad. And there were frequent recurring visions of the initial bullying thing, so that we felt his fear over standing up to the Guardians. Sometimes when your character is making a wrong choice because they’re too afraid to make the right one, you have to let your reader live through some of their fear so they believe and have sympathy. YA

6. Wisdom’s Kiss, Catherine Gilbert Murdock. It was light and fun, but also unusual with all the different narrators and playbills and letters and stuff. Some kids love this, though. Her two different styles are interesting. I wonder if readers feel attached to either the realistic or the fantasy books more than the other, depending on which they read first (she also wrote Dairy Queen). Upper MG

7. Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell. Interesting adult NF book about how people who are extraordinarily successful got there. A lot of it is about opportunities they got that other people didn’t—the reason being, it gave them a chance to get more practice than anyone else. If you need 10,000 hours of practice at something, but you don’t get the chance to do that, you won’t get as far. Cultural issues can be a help (you know how to navigate interpersonal situations and feel you have some degree of power in a situation to mitigate things for your good) or a hindrance (you don’t speak up when you should, you get thwarted because nobody at home cares enough to encourage you and look for opportunities for you).

Recently read to my girls:

1. Sorcery and Cecelia, or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot, by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer. It's their first book of an Austen flavor. They enjoyed it, despite the fact that I keep having to explain terms and cultural issues to them.

2. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, JK Rowling. My older daughter has already read them, but my younger one wanted me to read them, as she was too small last time we did a read-aloud to remember anything. The books have obviously sucked her into the story more than the films, because even though she's seen bits of the last film, she was still really worried when Hagrid shows up with his motorcycle at the beginning of book 7: "Oh, no. Hagrid's going to die!"

3. Howl's Moving Castle, Diana Wynne Jones. I would hate to be married to Howl, but he is so fun to read about! Especially aloud. Green slime! Enchanted suits! Guitars he can't really play, but which make a good show! Yeah. BTW, if you love Howl, might I recommend Alexandra Bracken's Brightly Woven? Or Deva Fagan's Circus Galacticus? There's no green slime in either one--but some of the feeling you get when you read Howl's Moving Castle is in both of those as well.

No comments: