Jenny's Library

Posts Tagged ‘war

cover image for Razor's EdgeRazor’s Edge by Martha Wells

When a deal to obtain supplies for a new Rebel base goes awry, Leia and Han – and crew – find themselves attempting to rescue a merchant ship from pirates.  While the rebels fight and scheme for their lives, Leia also attempts to convince one particular band of pirates, refugees from Alderaan, to give up their mercenary ways and join the Alliance instead.

Can Wells write more Star Wars novels? please? pretty please?

I’m not going to pretend that this is a Hugo worthy novel, but it was fun. And managed to have a bit of depth in addition to being tons of fun.  Best of all, Wells’ take on the characters must be very close to my own, because everything about them – Leia and Han in particular – was just spot on.

I’ve tried a few Star Wars novels before, and bounced off all but Zahn’s.  But this is one of the rare titles that I’ve gotten through Netgalley that I’ve not only finished but immediately put on my list of books to buy.

cover image for Kami and the YaksKami and the Yaks written by Andrea Stenn Stryer and illustrated by Bert Dodson

Early one morning, Kami watches as his father and older brother prepare for the day. The climbers are coming soon, and Norgay and father have been hired act as their guides.  But the family’s yaks are nowhere to be found.  Can Kami find the yaks and save the day before it’s too late?

The story was nice and the illustrations were gorgeous, but unfortunately I was extremely distracted by the badly designed layout on some of the pages, which left a significant amount of the text hard to read.

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cover image for Rose Under FireRose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein

Rose Moyer Justice and her friend Maddie have just come back from the funeral of Celia Forester, a fellow pilot in the Air Transport Auxiliary and a quiet girl they barely knew.  It’s Rose’s job to write up a report on Celia’s final flight – and the speculation is that Celia lost control of her plane while trying to take down one of Germany’s flying bombs. Leaving Rose to wonder what she would do when faced with a similar choice. What kind of sacrifices would she make for others? How far would she go to ensure her own survival?  Questions she’ll have to answer several times over when her own service in the war effort finds her trapped behind enemy lines – and sent to the Ravensbrück concentration camp.

The problem with talking about how amazing Wein’s books are is that I hate giving out spoilers.  Rose Under Fire doesn’t have quite the same kind of twists that Code Name Verity does, but I still find myself wanting to say that it was brilliant the way that Wein…and then I have to stop because I don’t know how to explain it without giving to much away.  Not of the plot, precisely, but of the experience of reading the book and traveling on Rose’s journey with her.

What I will say: you should read this. Yes, that means you.  Also, I loved the way that poetry was used throughout the book: to connect Rose to the life she used to have, as currency in the camp, and as a way for her to process what was happening to her – to all of them.

cover image for Team HumanTeam Human by Justine Larbalestier and Sarah Rees Brennan

“Friends don’t let friends date vampires.”

Mel lives in New Whitby, a town whose bragging rights include being the first city in America to welcome vampires. For the most part, they stay on their side of town, and humans stay on the other, and that’s just the way Mel likes it.  But paths are bound to cross sometimes, like when a friend’s father, a psychologist who treats both humans and vampires, runs off with a vampire patient.  Still, it’s very much NOT normal for a centuries old vampire to decide that he’s interested in attending high school, of all things.  So Mel has her suspicions about Francis from the start.  And then he starts showing an interest in her best friend, Cathy…

This book is definitely different, but in a good way.  A clever and funny way.  I like how wrong Mel gets things sometimes – and the fact that she’s not the only one making mistakes.  It’s also nice to see so many different family dynamics being explored.  It’s a wonderful story about friendship and family and community – and I want more!

Speaking of, weren’t we supposed to get a sequel?

cover image for A Big Year for LilyA Big Year for Lily by Suzanne Woods Fisher and Mary Ann Kinsinger

Lily Lapp loves the long days of summer, but she can’t wait for school to start again so that she can play with her friends at recess. In the Amish town Lily and her friends live in, everyone’s houses are too far apart for little girls to go by themselves to play at each others houses – and besides, it’s not like she minds the schoolwork.  Until then, at least she still gets to see everyone on Sunday, at church, and there’s plenty of adventures to be had at home with her brothers.

A Big Year for Lily is a nicely written tale about school and friends and family, along the lines of Ramona Quimbly, Betsy and Tacy, or Little House on the Prairie – only this time the story is about a little girl who happens to be Amish.  The chapters don’t always seem connected to each other – except that they do go in chronological order – but it works well for the book because Lily, at age nine going on ten, is still rather distractable.

For the most part reading about Amish life was merely interesting, and Lily’s life didn’t seem all that different from the lives of most other little girls in other parts of the US.  While the chores that Lily and her brother are responsible for are highly gendered, that sadly isn’t all that different from the rest of the country – it’s just more noticeable in the book because the chores are different and because the chores being gendered is condoned rather than ignored.

That said, I was taken a bit aback when Lily switched to women’s clothing at age ten and her first comment about wearing her new dresses while playing was that getting stuck by the straight pins used to hold them together would take some getting used to.  Perhaps there was simply something wrong with how Lily’s pins had been put into her dress? But I got the impression that instead it was more how Lily was moving (and amateur internet research backs that up) – which is just rather awful if it’s true, as that sounds like that would be rather restrictive of girls’ and women’s movements.  Not that there aren’t plenty of really crappy things the rest of us make ten year old girls do, but…still. ugh.

cover image for Magic StepsMagic Steps by Tamora Pierce

It’s been over four years since Sandry first came to live at Summersea.  Her friends – Triss, Daja, and Briar – have all left with their teachers on travels that will keep them away from Winding Circle for years.  Although she misses them, Sandry has plenty to keep her busy.  Not just keeping up with her own studies, but also looking after her Uncle, who refuses the get the rest he needs to recover from a recent heart attack.  Soon Sandry has has even more to take care of: a pupil of her own to teach and a mystery to solve.

The premise of this quartet – that Sandry, Briar, Daja, and Triss are responsible for teaching the mages they find, no matter how young they are themselves – is not the most credulous.  (And yes, I realize I just said that about a book that centers around magic.)  It is fun to watch though, and I always appreciate the way that Pierce centers craft – particularly “womanly” ones like textile arts – in these books.

cover image for Paper DaughterPaper Daughter by Jeanette Ingold

The death of someone you love is supposed to turn your life upside down, but not quite like this.  When Maggie Chen’s father is killed in an accident, she and her mother struggle to carry on with out him.  But while going through his papers – clippings of articles he’s written, notes for future stories, mementos of a life he’s no longer there to live – Maggie discovers that her father’s life might never hav been his to begin with. That her father may have lied about who he was from the moment he met Maggie’s mother.

Although interesting at times and clearly well researched in terms of the history of Chinese immigration to America, Paper Daughter is also a good example of why authenticity is important.  Rudine Simms Bishop talks about the difference between books that are intended to be read by children of color, versus books that are about children of color but intended more for white audiences – and the way that the latter tend to define racism as requiring active malice and often include “lessons” for the characters of color about not expecting all whites to be racist.  Unfortunately, this book definitely fits in that category.

It’s not an awful book, and as I said, includes fascinating bits of history and culture.  It also has engaging characters  and – the problem mentioned above notwithstanding – thoughtful and poignant moments.  Recommended, but with reservations.

cover image for grl2grlgrl2grl by Julie Anne Peters

In ten short stories, Peters shares with readers significant moments in the lives of a variety queer youth.

I think what I like best about this collection is the way that it doesn’t try to provide readers with any solutions or answers. Novel length stories about queer youth are so often about dealing with the baggage that tends to come with being queer in a heteronormative society, and thus even when well written usually come to “it gets better” type resolutions. This collection is made up of only glimpses into people’s lives, and the length of the stories precludes any kind of universally uplifting resolution.  Peters is also not afraid to be honest here, and shows us not only heartbreak but the joy of discovery and hate motivated violence as well.  The end result is a collection that’s not only honest and real, but complete in a way that happy endings aren’t.

cover image for Cold SteelCold Steel by Kate Elliot

The conclusion of Elliot’s Spiritwalker trilogy.  In which there are more “Revolutions to plot. Enemies to crush. Handsome men to rescue.” I’d tell you more, except that I would have to include spoilers for the first two books.

There are so many things that I love about this series, but Cat and Bee’s relationship is definitely my favorite.  Closely followed by Cat’s refusal to just sit and let Vai take care of everything, no matter how much she loves him. Also, all of the details about food and clothes and language and customs that make this alternate Earth so real and tangible.

cover image for Code Name VerityCode Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

I never know what to say about the plot of Code Name Verity because I’m always afraid I’ll reveal too much or color people’s perceptions more then I ought to. So instead I’ll just say that it’s a book about friendship. And war.  About courage and loyalty and so much more.  It’s one of the best books that I’ve read and I want everyone ever to read it too and tell me what they think. So much so that I gave three different people their own copies this Christmas.

(Yes, I’m skipping around and there are some weeks missing.  During weeks 28, 31, 32, and 34 through 37, I didn’t manage to finish any books, so there won’t be any posts for those weeks.  Week 38 is forthcoming, and after that I will be back on track.)

cover image for Treason's ShoreTreason’s Shore by Sherwood Smith

The Venn have retreated from Iasca Leror, but it won’t be long before they return, and stronger than ever.  Inda’s homeland has no hope of defeating the Venn’s mighty navy, Iasca Leror’s military strength lies with their cavalry, not ships.  So Inda, the King’s Shield, is sent to find the pirate fleet he once commanded and recruit them for the cause.  But Inda will need more than that to defeat the Venn, he’ll need to find a way to convince Iasca Leror’s neighbors that it’s in their best interest to work together.

I really wasn’t expecting Iasca Leror to fall to the Venn, so the tension instead came from wondering how Inda was going to manage this particular victory, and at what cost.  A question that Smith makes wonderfully complicated and emotional by presenting Inda with a solution that  gives Iasca Leror a fighting chance, but puts Inda himself in conflict with the king he has sworn to obey.

cover image for King's ShieldKing’s Shield by Sherwood Smith

After years of exile, Inda has returned home to Iasca Leror.  His fears of being treated as a traitor are unfounded and Evred, his childhood friend and now king, not only welcomes him with open arms but also with a request that Inda serve him as King’s Shield – the king’s war leader.  Inda, still adjusting to being home, as well the tragic news of his brother’s death, is torn between wanting to serve his king and country, fear that he won’t measure up to expectations, and wanting to spend time with the family he hasn’t seen in years.

There’s always so much going on these books that I’m never quite sure where to begin.  King’s Shield felt a bit slower than the previous two books, I think because so much of the time was spent waiting for the war to begin, and having Inda find out things we already knew.  That said, I loved seeing how both Inda andTau adjusted to life in Iasca Leror and the scenes with the children hiding in the mountains from the Venn were incredibly well done.

cover image for Being Henry DavidBeing Henry David by Cal Armistead

A teenager wakes up a train station with no memory of who he is or why he’s there, with only $15 in his pocket and a copy of On Walden Pond in his hand. After falling in with some “street kids” and escaping from their unsavory “protector,” the boy with no name heads for the woods, hoping to find some answers at Henry David Thoreau’s cabin.

I’m not entirely certain why authors/publishers keep making books about middle class white kids having meaningful experiences when circumstances force them to slum it, but they do. Again and again. Verdict: skippable, very skippable.

cover image for The GiverThe Giver by Lois Lowry

Jonas’ world is comfortable and orderly.  Like all other children in The Community he got his front-buttoned jacket when he was seven, and his bicycle when he was nine, and now that he’s becoming a twelve, he’ll be assigned an occupation.  But when Jonas isn’t picked to be an Engineer or a Nurturer or any of the other typical occupations, but instead is chosen to be the next Receiver of Memories, his world is turned upside with the truth that his training reveals.

The world-building here is rather sparse, leaving more than a few holes, but it works for the intended audience.  It’s definitely a child’s point of view that we get of this dystopian world, which actually makes a certain amount of the opaqueness not only believable but necessary.  It’s clearly meant to raise questions more than answer them, and does a good job of that.  Lowry does an excellent job here of not only slowing revealing the communities secrets but also pacing out reader’s exposure to customs that will seem strange to them, encouraging children to get to connect to Jonas and his family despite their differences.

What fascinated me the most while reading The Giver was how clearly you can see traces of Lowry’s modern classic in so many of the currently popular young adult dystopias.  It makes me want to spend the next few months just writing about the influences of modern science fiction for middle grades and young adults, and most particularly the extent to which the latter is dictated by readers experiences with the former, as opposed to being shaped by trend in adult genre novels.

cover image for Betsy and Tacy Go DowntownBetsy and Tacy Go Downtown by Maud Hart Lovelace

Betsy, Tacy, and Tib are now twelve, which means they are finally old enough to do things like walk downtown by themselves and go sledding after supper – in the dark!  The whole world seems to be growing up as well, now that the first horseless carriage has come to town.  But are Betsy, Tacy, and Tib quite as ready for all these grown-up adventures as they think they are?

I will always remember this as the book in which the girls go to the Opera House. To see Uncle Tom’s Cabin.  Which meant that blackfaced minstrelers provided the entertainment during intermission. (One assumes the actors in the play were in blackface as well.)  Other than that, it’s just as lovely as it’s predecessors. But, well…that’s not precisely a small thing to overlook.

cover image for Keeping the MoonKeeping the Moon by Sarah Dessen

Colby, North Carolina isn’t where Colie Sparks expected to spend her summer. She was supposed to spend it at home, with her friends. Instead, her mother has shipped Colie off to spend the summer with her aunt, Mira, while Kiki Sparks tours Europe selling her multitude of fitness products. But could Colby be just what Colie needs?

(hint: this is a Dessen novel, so the answer, of course, is yes)

Small town. Quirky characters. Wisecracks followed by heart to heart conversations. Just what you’d expect from a Dessen novel. This isn’t my favorite of hers (it didn’t click for me the way others have, and parts of it rubbed me the wrong way), but it was a light, quick read.

cover image for BarrayarBarrayar by Lois McMaster Bujold

Cordelia Naismith never thought that marrying Aral Vorkosigan would be without its ups and downs, but neither did she expect to end up married to the Regent for Barrayar’s four year old Emperor.  Risking her own life is nothing new for Cordelia, but when her family is threatened as well she decides that she may have had just enough of Barrayan politics.

How much do I love this book? Too much to write a proper review for it.  It’s just excellent. If for some reason who haven’t read this series yet, you need to do so now. Also, I want more books about Cordelia and more heroines like Cordelia.