Archive for September 2014
“Nikki and Deja are best friends.” Neighbors and classmates, they spend as much time as they can together. But when a new girl, Antonia, arrives and starts a club – one that only some people can join – Nikki and Deja’s friendship begins to look like it might not last, after all.
I feel guilty calling this merely a good chapter book, rather than using glowing superlatives to describe it. The truth is that most chapter books are so awful that this novel is absolutely wonderful and amazingly written by comparison. The characters have personality, with out feeling cartoonish, and their dilemmas are both realistic and age appropriate. English does a wonderful job of including the right kind of details, ones that give the story life without being overwhelming to new readers. The prose fails to be as memorable as the story, and I’d like better for new readers, but this is a chapter book after all – vocabulary limits make that incredibly difficult. It’s hardly a masterpiece, but it’s solid and I highly recommend it.
I am, however, slightly disappointed in the quality of the book design. With apologies to Freeman (whose interior illustrations are perfect) the cover just doesn’t work for me and I can’t see that it would be terribly appealing to kids either. All of which I wanted to point out not because I dislike it that much but because covers sell books. So I see passable but not brilliant covers as another weak link in the chain when it comes to promoting “diverse” authors and books, and I wanted to note that here for future conversations.
Moving back home means that Eleanor gets to see her siblings, that she can be there to take care of them. It also means watching what she does and says around her stepfather, and starting a new high school. Park doesn’t mean to take pity on the new – and very weird – girl on the bus, the last thing he needs is to commit social suicide. Yet he does so anyway. But he isn’t going to talk to her. Until he notices her glancing over at his comics as he reads them on the bus, and Park starts to make sure that she’s done with the page before he turns it. Soon, Park is making her mixed tapes and Eleanor is thinking that maybe some people can be trusted after all.
I devoured this book in one night, it was that good. Rowell has crafted a lovely story, full of stolen moments and the kinds of secrets that need to be told. It’s refreshing to see miscommunication in a romantic relationship that actually makes sense, and to see it being worked out rather than resolved by the plot. It should be noted that there have been complaints about Park, whose mother is from Vietnam, and how he and his family are described and portrayed. Rowell does an excellent job handling the Eleanor’s home life, however, and how she is affected by both poverty and abuse.
Candence spends every summer with her family on a private island off the coast of Masachusetts. And every summer she and her cousins run wild, unhampered by schoolwork or schedules or even neighbors. Every summer except the last one, which Cady spent in Europe with her father, hating ever minute of it, desperate for emails and texts from her cousins, which never came. When Cady arrives at the island this summer, she and her cousins pick up where they left off, as if nothing had ever happened. Only Cady knows that something did happen, something their last summer together that caused the headaches she’s had ever since. The problem is that Cady has no idea what it was; she’s been having trouble remembering things since that night as well.
I absolutely hated reading this book.
It’s not a terrible book, but my frustrations with it only increased with each page, making it not at all enjoyable to read. Much of the suspense rests on the reveal of the twist at the end, which I’d figured out early on. I think the book is supposed to work even if you know truth (much like Code Name Verity actually does) – that knowing the truth changes the experience rather than detracting from it . But for me, it didn’t succeed in doing this. Add to that the fact that it’s a book about privilege* which makes a really big mistake in terms of privilege, and I’m afraid to admit that the warmest response I can muster to this book is “meh.”
Which makes me sad because I usually love Lockhart’s books.
[The basic plot for this book is a spoiler for the entire first novel, so I’m putting it behind the cut.]
Despite the tragic events of her first expedition, Isabella remains determined to continue her study of dragons. In their natural habitat, if possible. Now there is an added urgency to her research, as Isabella – and her colleagues and sponsor – fear that new information about dragon skeletons may threaten their survival. When the crew set off to a spot in Eriga known as the Green Hell in search of the swamp-wryms who dwell there, they are forced to face not only inhospitable habitats, but dangerous politics as well.
As I said in my review of the first book in this series, Brennan is attempting to do a thing here that I appreciate but I’m not quite certain about: Lady Trent’s world is clearly a colonial one, with all the problems and attitudes that creates, and Isabella has not been immune to such conditioning. Her years of travel and research have taught her to view the world slightly differently, however, and so the Lady Trent that is narrating the expeditions has a less colonialist view than the Isabella whose actions we see. It often becomes a clever way to acknowledge the problems of colonialism while being realistic about the kind of views a woman of Isabella’s position would have. I’m just not sure that it always works.
That said, I still absolutely adore these books as they are full of wonderful things that I love to pieces. Dragons! of course. Interesting ones that are as varied as any other real genus. Clever women who do Science! You get the idea. And running through it all, Lady Trent’s engaging personality and the pleasure of reading about an accomplished woman with a full life.
Maia has lived his life in exile, cast out with his mother from his father’s court. Since her death he has been raised by a courtier who was more than happy to take his frustrations out on the friendless boy. With three older brothers, no one ever expected the half-Goblin Maia to ascend to the throne. But when a suspicious accident leaves the king and the elder princes dead, Maia is thrust into a dangerous and unfamiliar court. Ostensibly the most powerful person in the land, Maia nevertheless is as isolated as ever. Only now he’s trapped by custom and responsibility, and is almost certainly a target by those who covet his crown. Determined to do right by his people, Maia must somehow find a way to make allies and root out his enemies.
An absolute pleasure to read, The Goblin Emperor is a story of intrigue and suspense told on an intimate rather than epic scale. Maia’s desire to be just and competent, to be the kind of ruler his people deserve, despite his lack of training, has us rooting for him from the start. Don’t be fooled by this novel’s idealistic point of view and steady unfolding of events, there is plenty of nuance here, and the narrative’s affirmation of the value of humanity (and goblinkind) is one based on a spectrum of experiences, not a black and white view of Good versus Evil.
I sincerely hope there is a sequel coming (or, at the very least, that we get more books by Addison) and I suspect this will become one of my comfort reads in years to come.
Five year old Lily Lapp lives with her parents and younger brother on a farm in upstate New York. She loves helping her mother with chores around the house and looks forward to starting school. But even more changes are in store for Lily than just kindergarten, and Lily has lots to learn at home as well!
Just like the third book, A Big Year for Lily (which I read first), this is a rather sweet story about a little girl from an Amish family; it offers an interesting and different perspective from more typical contemporary children’s fiction, while also clearly drawing on the tradition of stories like Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie.
The reading level and Lily’s age are more mismatched in this book than the are in the third book, but it should still work well as a read aloud or for children that don’t mind reading about kids a bit younger than them. As with A Big Year for Lily, there are a few parts that made me go “wait, what?” and had me raising an eyebrow or two.* The gender segregation was thankfully much less noticeable in this book however, likely owing to Lily’s age, and none of the parts that caused raised eyebrows involve being disrespectful to other people. Overall, it was pleasant and intriguing read and I’d recommend it for library collections.
* I should clarify: my eyebrows were raised not at Amish customs, but more how the authors chose to present them. For example, recently on twitter someone noted that the Amish were usually nicer to her than most white people are, and that her parents had pointed out that this was because they don’t have televisions (and therefore don’t get daily installments of racism via mainstream shows). Kinsinger and Fisher instead frame it as because the Amish (or, at least, Lily’s family) are simply kinder than some people. Which may or may not be true, but that’s not really how racism works. And it’s harmful to teach children that it is. (That said, this is hardly an unusual way of talking about racism, so it’s also not a fault unique to these authors.)