In a post-nano flurry of holiday decorating and catching up on dishes, I’ve somehow found myself reading through stacks of books. I tend to avoid reading too much because when I get going I tend to do little else. The thing is, formatting an e-book is rather tedious, and nanowrimo was grueling, so I’ve allowed myself a few library books. So here’s what I’ve read in the last couple of weeks with a mini-review:
Rodzina by Karen Cushman — an orphan train era book. I actually liked it better than the classic “Orphan Train Quartet.” Rodzina is appealing and her journey of self-discovery solid. This felt like a great classic middle grade book.
Bread and Roses, Too by Katherine Paterson — a rather typical historical fiction middle grade novel. It wasn’t my favorite work by this author, but it did paint quite well what living in the middle of union riots would be like. The characters were interesting enough to carry me through it, but it definitely felt educational. I could see it as a typical sort of book teachers might have a class read.
Shield of Stars by Hilari Bell — recommended to me by a friend as an author, I thought I’d see what the library had of Bell’s. It wasn’t the book recommended to me originally, but “Shield of Stars” was great fun. It felt like a cross between “The Queen of Attolia” and a Lloyd Alexander book, a great combination.
The Sword of Waters by Hilari Bell — I dived right into book 2 of the series. I didn’t like the girl warrior as much as the thief boy as a MC, but it was still a strong book and a solid follow up to book 1. My only annoyance is it ended on a cliffhanger this time, and the library doesn’t own book 3! Ugh.
The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan — My sister got into these recently and hooked on them, so at her prodding I finally cracked open the first one. I read it in line on Black Friday actually, and enjoyed myself. It was amusing but also felt a bit plastic, like it was designed to be a best seller rather than to have any real substance. Despite that, the main character was likable so I resolved to read more of them.
The Son of Neptune by Rick Roirdan — When I went looking for book 2 at the library, I accidentally grabbed book 2 of the second series. It was the only book 2 currently checked in at the library, and in a hurry I didn’t notice. I thought of waiting, but after burning through the rest of my library books I ended up reading it. Since Percy has lost his memory of the first series, it actually worked out just fine. Neither did I feel I missed much by missing book one. It wasn’t anywhere near as good as the first book and even more plastic, but enjoyable, putting it in the fun trash category I have for things like Jedi Apprentice or Dragonriders of Pern. I’ll read the rest eventually, they’re fun, but I’m not in a hurry to get to it like the Bell series.
The Song of the Lioness Quartet by Tamora Pierce — I recently received several boxes of books from one of my aunts as she is moving and paring down. Alanna’s four books were among them and as I’ve written my own girl dressed as a boy story I was eager to reread them. I found book 1 faster paced than I remembered, but book 2 slower. Must we really spend so much time agonizing over which boy Alanna likes or doesn’t? But overall enjoyed the books more now than the first time I read them. I do feel they aren’t actually appropriate to be called middle grade novels due to the sexual content though, despite the narrative tone not feeling quite as mature as YA tends to be now days. Perhaps that’s for them being older books.
A Confusion of Princes by Garth Nix — I saw this one in the library when I was helping a friend find a Nix book she hadn’t gotten around to finishing. The cover looked a bit like a Jedi rip-off so I thought I might like it. I wasn’t disappointed Nix’s galactic empire full of war-like “princes” who run it is different enough from Star Wars to not feel like it’s blatantly stolen, but enough similar you get the same feel. The princes are a fun combination of being jedi-like and sith-like. It combines loads of typical ideas from popular SF, but originality is not what makes it enjoyable, but rather a great lead character and narrative voice.
Princess Nevermore by Dian Curtis Regan— This book I grabbed because the title and blurb sounded interesting. Sadly, the writing is not that great. The story is alright, a rather classic story of a princess from a magic kingdom traveling to our world, and it does pull itself out of its slump halfway through, but the main problem (besides bad writing) is that the magical kingdom she comes from isn’t real believable or compelling.
Westmark by Lloyd Alexander — A huge fan of the Prydain books as a kid, I was severely disappointed with his Vesper Holly stories, and so didn’t read the Westmark trilogy. Having come back to Alexander’s later work with enthusiasm, I decided to take a deep breath, get over the ugly cover, and try it. While darker than Prydain, it’s far more like it than Vesper Holly, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s probably actually one of his better books. I’m glad I’m no longer missing out.
The Kestrel by Lloyd Alexander — I grabbed book 2 at the same time as book 1 and was glad I did. This is probably Alexander’s darkest book I’ve read yet, painting a grim and realistic picture of war, but very well done. It’s a shame book 3 was not in the library, I have no idea if its checked out or if they don’t have it, sigh. What is it with this library and 2 out of 3 books in a series?
The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: the Mysterious Howling by Maryrose Wood — This was a quick amusing read. Cute and funny, it was highly enjoyable. My only annoyance was that a climax is supposed to conclude a book. Instead, it introduced a bunch of mysteries near the end to leave them all unresolved. I wasn’t shocked, but disappointed to notice the reviews on book 2 and 3 of the series complain none of these mysteries are solved two books later either. Sigh. This book could have been solid children’s literature with depth, but looks to be shaping up to only slightly a class above Goosebumps, using cheap hooks to keep young kids reading. But I guess there’s a place for that. If I were 7 or 8 I’d be in love with these for their fun tone.
The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey — I found this in the free book bin at the library and since I never actually read it, I thought I’d give it a try. While Covey is long-winded and often vague, I can see why this book was a pivotal force in the early nineties. Some of the social comments are now out-dated, but things like doing first things first and seeing all situations with others as win/win is timeless.
I’ve got three library books left. I’m rereading “Writing the Breakout Novel” and then have “The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents” and “Doomwyte” both on recommendation, and Marva sent me a copy of her book, “Bad Spelling,” that I’ll reread. After all that, I’ll get back to writing “Much Ado About Villains”… eventually.
Also, I’ve added an actual email subscription that works (thanks to my site master, Wulfie). RSS has been moved to the bottom on the right hand side.