Saturday, December 29, 2012

Other Books I Read This Year

Bitterblue. Kristin Cashore. 2012. Penguin. 563 pages.

I think I would like this one more if I had taken the time to reread Graceling and/or Fire. Or perhaps if I'd liked Graceling and Fire more than I did in the first place. (I remember wishing I'd read Graceling and Fire closer together. I definitely remember them both as being almost books for me. Almost as good as I'd expected based on what I'd read/heard.) The good news is that Bitterblue is a compelling read, once I began reading it I wanted to know what happened next. And I was intrigued with the mystery of it, the political intrigue going on, etc. But I never really came to "love" the characters. I liked the characters, the storytelling, the writing. I enjoyed it enough to keep reading, but I was never this-is-the-best-book-ever.

Eighth Grade is Making Me Sick: A Year in Stuff. Jennifer L. Holm. 2012. Random House. 128 pages.

This was a quick read, though it wasn't as quick as I initially thought it might be. It is a graphic novel, of sorts, starring a young eighth grader named Ginny Davis. She's just moved and she's getting ready to start a new year at school. She is nervous and hopeful, for the most part. And she definitely has plans and goals for what she wants to happen this year. Some of what does happen is COMPLETELY unexpected. Like what happens with her step-Bob and her mom... This one surprised me in places, and was predictable in other places. Overall, I did like it. It didn't wow me, but I wasn't expecting to be wowed.

The City of Ember: The Graphic Novel. Jeanne DuPrau. Dallas Middaugh, Niklas Asker illustrators. 2012. Random House. 144 pages.

I have always loved Jeanne DuPrau's City of Ember. I have read it multiple times, always enjoying and loving it. I love the premise, the story, the characters, the mystery, etc. I was so excited to read the graphic novel of this novel. I thought the adaptation was great. I thought it was a quick and compelling read. I thought the illustrations were great!!! I love seeing the contrast between Ember and the real world which they're discovering for the very first time. Of course, I'm always going to love the novel more than any adaptation of it--graphic novel or film. But. I think this is a lovely way to visit or revisit Ember!!!

Starry River of the Sky. Grace Lin. 2012. Little, Brown. 304 pages.

Part of me wishes I'd reread the first book, but, I suppose it's not too late to reread it now. This one certainly made me want to stay in that magical world. I definitely enjoyed this one very much, I'm not sure what more to say. I really enjoyed getting to know the characters, there was something wonderfully mysterious about most of the characters. And the mystery unfolds with each story that is told in the novel. I loved the role of stories and storytelling in this one. It really celebrates storytelling and shows how stories shape us and how stories and legends are formed. I thought the illustrations were lovely. It was a beautiful book.

Penny And Her Doll. Kevin Henkes. 2012. HarperCollins. 32 pages.

I definitely enjoyed reading Kevin Henkes' second Penny book. In this one, Penny receives a lovely doll from her grandmother. She LOVES her doll; she loves everything about her doll. The conflict in this one is that Penny cannot think of a good name, a proper name, a "just right" name for her new doll. She knows that her doll needs a name--after all everybody has a name. But how will she know which name is the RIGHT name for her doll? The story is told in short chapters. I loved the writing and the story.

Let's Go For A Drive. Mo Willems. 2012. Hyperion. 64 pages.

I've loved every Elephant & Piggie book, this one Let's Go For a Drive is no exception. I just LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Elephant and Piggie so much that it would be hard for me not to enjoy each adventure. I do like some books better than others, there will always be favorites for me within the series. This one probably won't make my favorite-from-this-series list. But I did enjoy it. With each rereading I enjoyed it a little more. Gerald, the elephant, is making plans, BIG PLANS for his drive with Piggie. They'll need...umbrellas, sunglasses, maps, bags, the list just goes on and on and takes a while for Gerald to think of the obvious--they'll need a car. Since it would just be silly for either friend to have a car, Gerald becomes distraught until Piggie finds a way to play together that doesn't require any plans!

I love Gerald. I do. I love how he's illustrated in this book. I love seeing his expressions, his emotions. His enthusiasm is lovable. I also love Piggie, of course. I love Piggie's solution to this problem. I just love, love, love the illustrations, they tell so much!!!!

A Heart for Milton. Trudy Brasure. 2011. Createspace. 398 pages.

For people who just loved the movie, this one may prove to be a satisfying read...especially if they also enjoy adult romance novels. (The scenes are mild in comparison to some, but this book is definitely not 'clean.') It is an adaptation or variation on Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South. This book has them marrying sooner, and it starts off with great promise. It follows their first year of marriage--for better or worse, a first year which also includes a pregnancy. This is a financially difficult year for the couple, and it's a year that readers of the classic novel only catch a glimpse or two of. John Thornton is struggling to keep his mill open, and he's facing financial ruin. In the classic by Gaskell, Margaret saves him in more ways than one. In this adaptation, she's right there by his side through it all believing and encouraging him. In some ways, I enjoyed seeing this adaptation, appreciated the changes to a certain extent. I also enjoyed getting the chance to know Mrs. Thornton (John's mother) much, much better. I really came to love her!

I don't read adult romance, for the most part, it's something I choose not to read. And I would have liked a cleaner adaptation of North and South. But I do think the author did some things well.

A Gentleman of Fortune. Anna Dean. (A Dido Kent Mystery #2) 2011. 336 pages.

I enjoyed this one. I think I enjoyed it even more than the first in the series. I loved the heroine, Miss Dido Kent. I thought she was great at playing detective and solving yet another mystery. I enjoyed the setting and liked getting the chance to meet new and interesting characters. It was fun to piece together the clues. I think my favorite parts are her letters to Eliza. I am glad this one wasn't focused too much on the "romance" of the heroine.

Gossamer. Lois Lowry. 2006. 176 pages.

I've been in the mood to read Lois Lowry lately, and this was a lovely reread for me. I just love Littlest (Gossamer). I think the premise is oh-so-magical and definitely imaginative. The writing is just what I've come to expect from Lowry. The storytelling was beautiful. I came to care for the characters as I read on in the book, and I liked how everything worked together.

The Humming of Numbers. Joni Sensel. 2008. 256 pages.

The first time I read this book, I loved it. I remember gushing about how amazing it was. So I decided to reread this one. I remembered it as being amazing and wonderful, but, this second reading didn't thrill me. It's a great reminder of just how subjective reading is and how mood factors into how much a person loves a book...or not. I did like it the second time, it's not that my opinion changed completely. It's just that it was definite like and not love. I think the first time through I focused on the adventure of it--the danger of it, the Vikings. The second time I wasn't worried about that threat, and I was able to see the rest of the story, and the "romance" didn't quite work for me.

© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


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Review Policy

I am interested in reviewing books and audio books. This blog focuses on books written for middle grade on up (essentially 10 to a 110). I review middle grade fiction and young adult fiction (aka tween and teen).

I also review adult books.

I read in a variety of genres including realistic fiction, historical fiction, mystery, romance, science fiction, fantasy, literary fiction, and chick lit. (I've read one western to date.)

I read a few poetry books, a few short story collections, a few graphic novels, a few nonfiction books.

I am especially fond of:

  • Regency romances (including Austen prequels/sequels)
  • Historical fiction set in the Tudor dynasty
  • Historical fiction and nonfiction set during World War II
  • Jewish fiction/nonfiction
  • dystopias
  • apocalyptic fiction
  • science fiction (especially if it involves time travel and alternate realities)
  • fantasy
  • multicultural books and international books

I am not a fan of:

  • sports books
  • horse books
  • dog books if the dog dies (same goes with most pets actually except maybe fish)
  • westerns (if it's a pioneer story with women and children, then maybe)
  • extremely violent books with blood, blood, and more blood

I am more interested in strong characters, well-written, fleshed-out, human characters. Plot is secondary to me in a way. I have to care about the characters in order to care about the plot. That being said, compelling storytelling is something that I love. I love to become absorbed in what I'm reading.

If you're interested in sending me a review copy of your book, I'm happy to hear from you. Email me at laney_po AT yahoo DOT com.

You should know several things before you contact me:

1) I do not guarantee a review of your book. I am just agreeing to consider it for review.
2) I give all books at least fifty pages.
3) I am not promising anyone (author or publisher) a positive review in exchange for a review copy. That's not how I work.
4) In all of my reviews I strive for honesty. My reviews are my opinions--so yes, they are subjective--you should know my blog will feature both negative and positive reviews.
5) I do not guarantee that I will get to your book immediately. I've got so many books I'm trying to read and review, I can't promise to get to any one book in a given time frame.
6) Emailing me every other week to see if I've read your book won't help me get to it any faster. Though if you want to email me to check and see if it arrived safely, then that's fine!

Authors, publishers. I am interested in interviewing authors and participating in blog tours. (All I ask is that I receive a review copy of the author's latest book beforehand so the interview will be productive. If the book is part of a series, I'd like to review the whole series.) Contact me if you're interested.

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