Monday, May 29, 2023

108. A Vanishing of Griffins

A Vanishing of Griffins. (Songs of Magic) S.A. Patrick. 2021/2023. 400 pages. [Source: Library] [Link to cover image]

First sentence: Erner woke, as he did every morning, from a nightmare: being pushed off the back of a dracogriff, into a cold lake far below.

 Premise/plot: A Vanishing of Griffins is the second book in a trilogy of MG fantasy inspired by the Piper of Hamelyn. (Darkening of Dragons was the first book in this trilogy.) The first third of this one wraps up some of the drama from book one. (Erner is reunited with his former friends/companions. Wren is no longer cursed. One of the leaders (I forgot his name) has been healed.) The remainder of the book is essentially a new action-adventure fantasy story. New characters. New main story. Big battle. Huge battle. Way more action than character development. (They are facing off against the same villain.)

My thoughts: I really LOVED A Darkening of Dragons. Or at least I remember really, really liking it. I don't recall off hand if it was four stars or five stars.) I loved the storytelling, the characterization. Everything I loved about the first novel in the series seems to be absent in the second. It might be mostly me. It might not be either. I did read the first third of the book in one sitting. Took one day off of the book. Came back and discovered that there were a thousand and one new characters and a big shift in story. It might just be that I blanked out on the transition and some key moments where those new characters are introduced. This one has a LOT of action. At least twice the action. So for readers who enjoy action-packed fantasy, this one may appeal. I like a little more characterization. (Which I got for the first third.)

© 2023 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Saturday, May 27, 2023

Sunday Salon: Why Do I Read?

Does the world need this post? No. Definitely no. Do I sometimes feel the need to reassure myself and reassess by writing such a post? Yes. 

Reading is a habit. Reading is a choice. Reading is deliberate and intentional. Reading is spontaneous and fun. 

I think reading, for me, has become so embedded in a BRAID of reading-reviewing-blogging, that it can be a bit messy to separate it all out again. 

Would I still read books if I never wrote another review? 

Would I still read books if I retired from blogging? 

If I never once wrote about books again, would I still be a reader? 

Would I still choose to read books each and every day? 

How long would I go between books? Would I approach reading books the same way? 

Would I choose different books? Is my reading taste really different if I'm reading 100% for me? Should it be? 

If I am reading for me, why do I write reviews? Are reviews more for me or for others? Is there a right answer to this question?

Would I keep reading (and reviewing) even if my reviews are only seen and read by less than a dozen people? less than a handful? Do I need *any* validation to keep reading?

Am I looking for validation? for appreciation? for bragging rights? Am I reading for the right reasons? Is there a wrong reason to read? Is reading its own reward?

What is most satisfying...reading the book...or posting a review???

Would I still be a reader if I wasn't also a reviewer? a blogger? 

Is reading still my "first love"? Or has it become mechanical, just something I can do so I can keep on keeping on with the blog?

Do I want to finish a certain number of books per week because I genuinely love reading? Or am I thinking about the rankings on GoodReads? Is it wrong to want to move up the list? 

These are the questions that I don't know if I can ever fully answer--internally. Definitely not going to try in this post.

I want to read for the right reasons. I want reading to be first and foremost. I want to care more about reading than I do about the rest of it, the trappings, the byproducts. I want to be madly in love with reading without getting caught up and overwhelmed in the other stuff. 

© 2023 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Friday, May 26, 2023

107. An Ocean of Stars

An Ocean of Stars. Becca Mionis. 2023. 421 pages. [Source: Library] [Link to cover image]

First sentence: "Xanorra Nepier, the council will see you now."

Premise/plot: The synopsis from GoodReads starts off strong, "Girl, meet boy. He’s the reason you’re lost in space." The heroine, Xan (or Xanorra), is the "sole survivor" (so she thinks) of a "space pirate" attack. Her escape pod was damaged and--for better or worse--she was rescued by the attacking ship. Captain Omen (his first name is literally Captain) has been raised by A.I. robots. At least within his own memory, he's never seen--or interacted with--another human being. (His birthday messages from his parents do reveal that his parents did hold him as a baby--before shipping him off into space.) So Captain and Xan are the sole humans on board this vessel. And the ship's A.I. robots are one-minded. MISSION, MISSION, MUST FULFILL THE MISSION. And the mission doesn't include Xan. At all. Not even a little bit. Xan's presence on the ship distracts Captain, to say the least. Can she teach him to be human and less robotic? What will the come to mean to one another?

My thoughts: Science Fiction. Set in space. Some romance. What's not to love? This one started off strong, in my opinion, the hero was giving off a mix of Sheldon Cooper and Beast (from Beauty and the). The banter was of decent quality. There was some suspense and tension. But the more I read, the more disappointed I ultimately became. (I am not saying all readers will.) As the story progressed, my vibes switched from Beauty and the Beast to Isaac Asimov...and while I appreciate some of his work...I didn't really want super-creepy-robots intruding on the story. But ultimately, I think I was mainly disappointed by the lack of ending. It didn't even particularly end in a dramatic cliff-hanger way. It just ended with a whimper. 

I liked some things. I didn't like other things. I think it depends on your expectations on if this one is for you.

© 2023 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

106. Hidden Hope

Hidden Hope: How a Toy and a Hero Saved Lives During the Holocaust. Elisa Boxer. Illustrated by Amy June Bates. 2023. [March] 48 pages. [Source: Library] [Link to Cover Image]

 First sentence: "Hide! Quick!"
Hearts pounding,
breath quickening,
feet scrambling.
Down into damp basements,
up into old attics,
crammed into dark closets.

Premise/plot: Nonfiction title for upper elementary on up. This picture book for older readers is set in France during the Second World War. The focus is on a young girl--a young woman--who smuggles false identity papers to Jews by using a TOY DUCK. (Yes, a toy duck). Her name is Jacqueline Gauthier. This is her story of how she (and the duck) helped save two hundred lives. It is written in verse. 

My thoughts: I loved this one so much. I absolutely love hearing new stories. I love continuing to learn about the war, about the Holocaust, about these experiences. Every voice matters. Every story is worthy of an audience. I'd never heard of this story! And it was such a great story! I loved learning about this young woman and the creative way a TOY DUCK was used to smuggle papers. I loved the gumption and bravery. 

The narrative and illustrations are SO good. Definitely recommend it.

© 2023 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

105. The Woman in the Moon

The Woman in the Moon: How Margaret Hamilton Helped Fly the First Astronauts to the Moon. Richard Maurer. 2023. 272 pages. [Source: Library] [Link to cover image]

First sentence: One evening in the late 1950s, Massachusetts senator John F. Kennedy and his brother Robert were enjoying a relaxing dinner with their companion, a brilliant, eccentric inventor named Charles Stark "Doc" Draper.

Premise/plot:  The Woman in the Moon by Richard Maurer is a biography of Margaret Hamilton, a mathematician who 'helped fly the first astronauts to the moon.' That is the sum of it; Margaret Hamilton wrote computer codes--routines and subroutines, the software that was integral to the space program.  

My thoughts: When I saw the cover (linked above), I initially thought I was committing to a smaller book--not physically smaller--but a picture book. This is a biography for upper elementary OR middle school OR possibly high school. I think it is not so much the complexity of the subject matter that determines the ideal audience as it is the interest level of the reader. In other words, the more you are interested in math, science, history--the space race--the better this one will "read." If you have zero interest in the subject, then chances are you'll find it 'dull' and 'dry.' 

I do have an interest in history and the space race. I just don't have an interest in math and science. I found this to be a little too technical for me. Reading is subjective and if my mind was wired differently--to appreciate more technical sciences--then perhaps I would have found it fascinating. It is not the fault of the author. 

My favorite bits were the sections that focused on her personal life.

© 2023 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews