Review: The Penderwicks at Point Mouette, Jeanne Birdsall

Oh, the Penderwicks. Jeanne Birdsall has said that she wrote the sort of book she liked to read when she was a girl, by which I must assume that Jeanne Birdsall and I had vastly similar reading tastes. When I read one of the now three books in the Penderwicks series, it makes me feel like I am about ten years old and back in southern Maine, curled up reading on the attic bed in the little cottage we rented every summer. This, presumably, is exactly what Jeanne Birdsall intended.

The Penderwicks books are about four sisters (I am one of four sisters too!): responsible Rosalind, outspoken Skye, aspiring author Jane (oh how I would have identified with Jane when I was little), and shy little Batty. Their mother died shortly after having Batty, and they have been raised by their kind, clever professor of a father. In the first book, they went on vacation and made friends with a lovely boy called Jeffrey; and in the second they sorted their father’s life out for him; and in this one, poor long-suffering Rosalind gets a break from them all. She goes off to the beach, and the younger girls go vacationing in Maine (in Maine!) with their aunt Claire. I missed Rosalind but it turned out to be just as fun spending time with the younger three girls.

What can I say? Jeanne Birdsall’s Penderwicks books are reliably wonderful, and this the third is no exception. I just can’t say enough good things about this author and this series. They are funny and smart and self-aware. They do that thing where the kids have not quite picked up on what’s going on with the adults, but the way the kids view the story is enough to tell the reader what’s going on (I love that thing). They do that thing where the kids figure out everything because the adults aren’t paying attention. The sisters love each other but they don’t always get along and they frequently drive each other crazy. At the climactic moments, this book shines. I cried at the end of The Penderwicks at Point Mouette. My eyes filled all full of tears and I read this one scene like four times.

It is not that Point Mouette (or the foregoing Penderwicks books) are perfect. Some characters are drawn too broadly. Some plot points are telegraphed far, far in advance. I always wonder if I’d have picked up on this as a kid, or if I really was ever young enough not to know that there aren’t that many plots out there to be used and authors consequently use the same ones over and over. But somehow these things don’t seem like flaws. They seem like the way childhood really feels in my memory: some people were caricatures, and the things that happened were things I expected to have happen. And besides, although you can see the plot points coming, they are still paid out in such an incredibly satisfying, non-simplistic way, that you do not mind that you knew what was coming. At least I don’t.

Don’t start with this. Read The Penderwicks first, and then The Penderwicks on Gardam Street, and then, subsequently, The Penderwicks at Point Mouette. You will feel all warm and happy inside when you read them. Promise. They are that kind of book.

Other reviews:

Jen Robinson’s Book Page
Library Chicken

Any others? No? No more? This is it?

Review: The Rock and the River, Kekla Magoon

If I may borrow a phrase from Renay, this book punched me in the soul. I have a thing where anything about slavery and civil rights struggles and that business immediately makes my heart hurt and then when the inevitable family member dies or gets sold or whatever, I cry and cry, and that’s why I don’t really read that many historical fiction books from those periods. But Jill said The Rock and the River was good, and I happened to see it at the library, so there you go. I had the hugest lump in my throat from page 3 onward, and towards the end of the book I was bawling messily.

(My puppy came into my bedroom while I was crying and rested her head on the side of my bed. And I thought, Oh, Jazz is worried about me, what a good dog; so I got off my bed and put her in my lap and snuggled her, and after about two seconds of this she ran away and got her tennis ball and spat it onto my lap. After that I had a hard time not suspecting her motives.)

The Rock and the River is about two brothers, Sam and Stick, the sons of prominent (but fictional) civil rights figure Roland Childs. When one of the boys’ friends is brutally beaten by the cops, Stick becomes involved with the Black Panther movement. He has to do this more or less covertly, because his father is part of the nonviolent peace movement and disagrees with the Panthers’ aims. In the midst of all kinds of 1968 racial violence, Sam is trying to figure out who he is and what he stands for.

In the afterword to this book, Magoon notes that schools tend to lionize Martin Luther King’s nonviolent approach to attaining civil rights while criticizing the Black Panthers for violence and general unruliness. This, um, happened in my education. So for that alone, I’m really glad I read this book, which casts a critical eye on gun violence while still spending time on the social activism of the Black Panthers (opening health clinics, working as advocates for black people accused of crimes, etc.). I shall now go forth and read more about the Black Panthers and then presumably have a less cartoony view of how they worked.

What a great book. The relationship between the brothers (I have a thing for sibling relationships too) is so strong and moving. Good sibling relationships in books reduce me to mush, and I want to run around flailing my arms and sobbing “They love each other! They want to protect each other!” Basically, Kekla Magoon should write lots more books, which I will only read when I am willing to have my soul punched.

Other people who read it:

Rhapsody in Books (thanks for the recommendation!)
Page 247
Maw Books
bookshelves of doom
The Happy Nappy Bookseller
Readingjunky’s Reading Roost

Anyone else?

Suite Scarlett, Maureen Johnson

When I got home from my internship, I went to the library and basically checked out all the books Memory has read over the last year or so that sounded awesome. What can I say? The girl’s persuasive, and she’s been reading a lot of fantasy while I’ve been away, and I’ve been hungry–starved–for fantasy. I checked out Ship of Magic (which, alas, I couldn’t get into), Purple and Black (blew my mind), Jo Walton’s Farthing and Ha’Penny, and Suite Scarlett. (Okay, I guess it was not all the books Memory has read over the last year. It is just the books Memory has mentioned recently that I wanted the most.)

I…thought Suite Scarlett was going to be quite different. Or really I thought it was going to be quite like it was, but I thought it was going to have magic in it. I thought Scarlett was the third of fourth siblings whose parents own a failing hotel, and on each child’s fifteenth birthday they become primarily responsible for a particular suite in the hotel. And right after Scarlett turns fifteen, a rich crazy woman moves into her suite, the Empire Suite. And the woman turns out to be magic, and makes a big magic mess, and the four siblings (but mainly Scarlett because she is eponymous) have to clean up after her magical mess, and then in the end the magic woman would do something magical to help them.

That’s how I thought the book went. I was almost completely right. I was only wrong about there being magic.

In spite of the disparity between my expectations and reality, I still enjoyed Suite Scarlett. Yes, I wanted magic. I kept waiting for Mrs. Amberson to reveal her magical powers, but that never happened. There were times at which I felt the narration jumped the rails a little, at the beginning, before the book settled down to being properly from Scarlett’s perspective. There were times at which the plot was predictable and I knew what was going to happen.

On the other hand, I like siblings. I like my siblings, and I like siblings in books. I like it when they have their differences but all pull together in the end, because they are siblings, and blood is thicker than water. Not to spoil things for you, but that is what happens in Suite Scarlett. It distracted me from the book’s other flaws. It was sweet. (THAT WAS NOT A PUN.) I shall read more Maureen Johnson books hereafter, particularly as Amanda has said that Johnson has written other books that are better.

Other reviews:

Stella Matutina (thanks for the recommendation!)
The Zen Leaf
Care’s Online Book Club
Angieville
bookshelves of doom
GAL Novelty
Fluttering Butterflies
The Happy Nappy Bookseller
Book Nut
Teen Book Review
The Book Smugglers
Bildungsroman
YA Fabulous
Reading Rants
Shelf Elf
Abby (the) Librarian
Becky’s Book Reviews
Miss Erin
Reading Keeps You Sane
Alison’s Book Marks
Welcome to My Den
YAnnabe
Dear Author
Stop, Drop, & Read
Reviewer X
Write Meg
The Reading Zone

Did I miss yours? I will add a link if so!

Review: A Conspiracy of Kings, Megan Whalen Turner

When I was a little girl, I used to finish a book and turn around and read it all over again.  The Little Princess, The Scarlet Pimpernel, Travel Far, Pay No Fare.  I’m not talking about rereading (I still do loads of rereading), but finishing a book and flipping it over and starting all over again, because you can’t stand the idea of leaving it behind right away.  And look, I was serious about Megan Whalen Turner before.  I loved those books.  When I finished the first three and got the fourth from my ever-obliging big sister, I left the fourth one lying around for several days while I reread the first three.  All of them.  In order.  Picking up on details I hadn’t noticed the first time through.  Only then did I carry on with A Conspiracy of Kings.

A Conspiracy of Kings is about Sophos – remember Sophos?  Darling studious bookworm Sophos from The Thief?  Don’t keep reading this review right now, if you haven’t read the foregoing three books, because I can’t really talk about A Conspiracy of Kings without spoiling the books that have come before.  Again I say unto you, stop reading this review and go do something else, if you have not read Megan Whalen Turner’s other books.

Are you gone?

Okay then.  So Sophos, heir to the king of Sounis, is on the run.  The barons of Sounis and the ambassadors of the Mede are making trouble for Sophos, necessitating a flight to Attolia, where his old friend Gen is now the King.  The book opens with Sophos, whom Gen has believed dead, finally reaching the sanctuary of Attolia – well, relative sanctuary, given that the country of which Sophos is king is at war with the country of which Gen is king.

I’ve read several reviews of A Conspiracy of Kings that expressed regret at the way the narrative shifts away from Gen.  Now look, I enjoy spending time with Gen as much as anybody, but I thought Sophos was a splendid point-of-view character.  In this book, Turner deals with the question of choosing the sort of person you want to be: Sophos has the opportunity to decide whether he wants to go back to his old life.  Or in fact he has several opportunities, and until he’s practically forced by circumstance, he doesn’t step up and take responsibility.  It’s only when he’s got his back against the wall that he makes the decision to grow up.  Sophos.  Bless him.

(Anyway, there’s plenty of Gen.)

What can I say?  Everything I loved about the foregoing books, I loved about this one.  I loved seeing Sophos grow up, especially because he comes to terms with doing things he’d rather not do for the sake of his country, without losing his (can I say this and not make you gag? Only I can’t think of any other way of putting it) sweetness of spirit.  There were further political machinations, and a gaining-the-throne scene that pleased me by being quite unlike Sophos and yet perfectly in line with the arc of his character development.

Have you read this yet?  Do you think it would be a good thing to have one of the queens narrate the fifth book that Megan Whalen Turner is undoubtedly engaged in writing at this very moment so that she can release it tomorrow and fill my life with yet more joy?  I suppose it would be tricky to have Attolia as a POV character, given that she’s so buttoned up, but I think Eddis would be an interesting narrator.

Other reviews:

Book Lust & The Written World
Stella Matutina
Charlotte’s Library (incidentally expresses exactly how I felt when I started reading this book!)
Book Nut
Angieville
A Chair, A Fireplace, & A Tea Cozy
Truth, Beauty, Freedom, and Books
Dear Author
One Librarian’s Book Reviews

Did I miss yours?  Tell me if so, and I will add a link!

Immoderately gushing about Megan Whalen Turner

May I begin in justifying myself slightly for the fact that I have not read these books until now although my sister read and recommended them, like, a decade ago?

When I really love a book, I want everyone who I think would like it to read it so that they can love it also.  To this end, I will wheedle and cajole and sometimes manipulatively give the book to them as a gift so they will feel guilty for not reading it.  It’s for their own good.  In short, I cannot rest until the joy has been spread.  I am an evangelist for the books (and films and TV shows) that I love.  I know that marketing principle where you have to remind people a whole bunch of times before you can expect them to take action, and I do it.  Only because I want my loved ones to have the same joyous reading experiences that I have had.

My big sister does not operate quite in the same way.  From what I can observe, she has a more live and let live philosophy.  If she tells me a book is good, and I then don’t read it, it’s possible she may never bring it up again.  If she tells me a book is good, and I start it and don’t like it, she will probably leave it at that.  SO NOT LIKE ME!  I will pester the crap out of people until they give my books another chance.  Her, not so much.  So I can’t always tell from her recommendations the difference between a book that is good and my life is empty without it, and a book that is, you know, fine.

(Or else possibly she and I act the exact same way in regard to books we love madly, and I am making up a lot of self-justifying claptrap because I feel that without a reason for my not having read these books years ago the universe is too bleak and wretched to be bothered with.)

I do not necessarily know that your life is empty without Megan Whalen Turner’s Queen’s Thief series.  But mine was.  These books – The Thief, The Queen of Attolia, The King of Attolia, and A Conspiracy of Kings, which I have not yet read – are set in an ancient-Greece-like (but not ancient Greece) fantasy world with religion and mythology and politics.  They are made up of pure win.  They make me want to stride up and down gesturing energetically and shouting about how good they are.  The politics are twisty and complex and feel realistic but do not bore me to tears.  The characters grow and change, and when they interact with each other, there is all this boilingly tense subtext underneath the actual words that they are saying.

A very true story about me: I love subtext.  I’m mad for subtext.  Considering the epic crush I have on words, I am mighty appreciative of things left unsaid.  Subtext.  The simmery-er, the better.  When I find an author who can make me quiver with tension during a scene where it’s just two people sitting around talking, I’m hers for life.  (Or his, of course!)  I will overlook a lot of flaws in a book that knows how to play its subtext.

Take, for example, Mary Renault’s The Charioteer, a very imperfect book, God knows, but I love it quite passionately for its dialogue, every line of which means at least one thing other than the actual words being said.  Or take nearly any scene between Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane in Dorothy Sayers’s mysteries, and you will see it is rife with beautiful, crackling subtext: see in particular the scene by the riverbank in Gaudy Night.  You know that one?  Damn good scene.

Megan Whalen Turner is also very good at this, so I may have been too high on subtext to spot any flaws.  I have seen reviews that found the plots of (some of) the books in this series slow, but I didn’t mind.  I was too busy enjoying the lovely character interactions.  The central character is a person with a tendency towards self-concealment, and many of the twists in the plot arise from your (or other characters’) (or both) not knowing him as well as you think you do.  This is a very cool kind of plot twist – the kind that makes you go back and reevaluate actions and words that you thought you understood the first time around but you really did not.  (Unless you’re me.  If you’re me, you did. I sneakily find out plot twists ahead of time by causing my sister to tell them to me.)

(While I’m gushing, can I get some love for the phrase “plot twist”? I dunno who came up with that, but that’s a brilliant phrase for it!  It makes a wonderful image in my mind!  TWIST.)

I guess since I have gone on and on about them, I should briefly say what these books are about. They are in a series, and since I know other people who are not me dislike spoilers, I don’t want to say too much about any one book and spoil the ones that came before it.  Very vaguely then: The Queen’s Thief books are about a thief called Eugenides (Gen), who lives in a section of the world that is not altogether unlike ancient Greece (before Alexander the Great, this would be).  For one reason and another, Gen finds himself mixed up with people in high places, and political turmoil, of varying scope and consequence throughout the several books, ensues.

I gobbled up The Thief, The Queen of Attolia, and The King of Attolia this weekend all in one mighty gobble, and then I had to wait and borrow A Conspiracy of Kings from my sister.  I hope the fourth book lives up to the previous ones and does not wrap up everything up tidily but rather leaves many things open for future books that Megan Whalen Turner is going to write swiftly and release promptly.  Thanks to Memory for reading these recently – your reviews tipped me over the edge!

Once again there are too many other reviews of these books for my slow old computer to load and then link to, plus I am tired and want to go to bed early tonight, so if you are yearning to see what the blogosphere thinks of Megan Whalen Turner I refer you to the glorious and oft-consulted-by-me Book Blogs Search Engine.

Because it is rich with mythology and features the gods, I am counting these books towards the Once Upon a Time Challenge, yet another challenge about which I have in no way forgotten.  How could I?  It has such a pretty button!

So how about it, everyone?  Are you a book evangelist?  Once you have made your initial recommendation to your loved ones about a book you adored, do you keep knocking on their doors in suits with copies of the book in your hands, or do you shut up and leave them alone to read whatever they darn well feel like reading?  How good is the phrase “plot twist”?  Are you, too, a subtext junkie?

An Abundance of Katherines, John Green

Colin Singleton, who is growing out of being a child prodigy and becoming just a normal smart kid, has been dumped by no fewer than nineteen girls called Katherine, the first one when he was eight years old, and the last only very recently, the day that he graduated from high school.  He and his friend Hassan decide to go on a road trip across the country, and Colin decides he is going to create a mathematical formula to determine the path and outcome of any romantic relationship.

Pleasingly geeky premise, isn’t it?  And if there are elements of the story that are predictable (like, you know Colin’s going to learn useful life lessons and take steps along the road to recovering from this most recent Katherine dumping), and if certain plot points (like the premise) strain one’s credulity a smidge, I was by and large okay with it.  John Green, YA rock star, has other gifts as a writer that cover for him when realism and credibility fail him.  (Ooh, that sounded so mean!  There are lots of things that are credible and realistic, and the premise is of course tongue-in-cheek.)

Chief amongst these other gifts being: Characters.  The characters in An Abundance of Katherines are complex and surprising and very much themselves.  I was sorry for Colin, but the book manages, without getting real obvious about it, to convey his own part in the Katherine break-up debacles.  The reader sees where Colin is coming from and appreciates his maturing over the course of the book, even if he is not spotting the changes in himself every time.  Accomplishing this with a first-person narrator can be tricky, but it’s managed well here.

The supporting characters are arguably even better.  They aren’t just filling shoes; they aren’t the center of Colin’s story, but they aren’t just satellites for him either.  They are plainly the stars of stories in which Colin is a supporting actor, and some major parts of those stories are happening around the edges of Colin’s search for happiness and enlightenment.  And there is a road trip!  Well, part of a road trip.  I wouldn’t have minded more road trip, though.  I love a good road trip.

Other reviews: My laptop is six years old, and I am having internet issues, so I will simply refer you to the ever-useful Book Blogs Search Engine for other reviews.  If you have written a review of An Abundance of Katherines, and it doesn’t show up in this search, contact Nicki and ask her to add you to her Master List (once she has finished with her dissertation) (dissertations should always have priority).

Life Stuff: The first week of my shiny new internship was smashing.  I edited notes and indexes and learned the difference between word-by-word and letter-by-letter alphabetization.  This was good in a way, but it also made me worry about the index I made one time when I was in college and working for the English Department.  I did not really know how to make indexes, and I fear I caused difficulties for the people who had to edit it.

Dear manuscript editorial department of Cambridge University Press,

I am sorry about that index.  I did not know any better.

Kisses, Jenny.

A serious issue: What is the best way to spell Catherine/Kathryn/Katharine, etc.?  And do you have a favorite nickname for the name Katherine?

A discontented blog post about quite a quantity of books

My sister kindly met me at the public library on Saturday and lent me her library card.  She also gave me a baseball cap, which she assures me I should use any time I visit the public library because it will ward off the attentions of creepy old dudes.  I did not take the baseball cap, nor was I bothered by creepy old dudes, but I mostly frequented the children & YA sections, which maybe is not where the creepy old dudes hang out.  I checked out loads of books, and none of the ones I have read so far have filled me with joy.  I am plainly reading the wrong books.

Hilary McKay’s The Exiles and The Exiles at Home

Not as good as the Casson books.  In particular, The Exiles was not as good as the Casson books.  The eponymous kids are not as fun and sympathetic as the Cassons, and I identified passionately with the paucity of books the poor girls were experiencing, though not to the enhanced enjoyment of the Exiles books themselves.  Only two books each for a summer vacation, they had.  It’s iniquitous to deprive children of books to that extent.  The Exiles at Home was touching, because the protagonists wanted something I also wanted them to have, and it made me cry.

Noel Streatfeild’s When The Sirens Wailed

Merciful God, this book was depressing.  Normally Noel Streatfeild’s books have fully realized children characters, but this did not.  Normally they allow a certain degree of stability for the children as far as housing is concerned, but this did not.  It was a vivid depiction of England’s suffering during World War II, and it made my heart sad.  Except occasionally there would be a particular detail that charmed me, like when all the boys in the village where the kids got evacuated were told to turn the street signs in the wrong directions, and the girls in the village were taught to tell Germans lies about how to get to London.  That sounds awesome.

Carrie Ryan’s The Forest of Hands and Teeth

The conclusion is inevitable.  Zombies are not for me.  Here I have seen all these reviews all over the blogosphere in love with The Forest of Hands and Teeth.  If I do not love it, what conclusion can be drawn?  Only that zombies, they are not for me.  Zombiepocalypses.  I do not love them.  Zombies are not all about redemption.  Dystopia and branding of sentient aliens and human women, I’m all over that (that was spoilers for something but I’m not saying what and thus it doesn’t count).  Zombies, no.

Trying to Get Some Dignity: Stories of Triumph Over Childhood Abuse, Richard & Ginger Rhodes

Yeah, I know.  There was no way this was going to be not depressing.  I was reading it for research, and it didn’t even tell me anything I didn’t already know.  I should have confined this weekend’s research to books about gender roles in fairy tales.  Because there is nothing at all depressing about gender roles in fairy tales.  If there’s one uplifting subject of study in this world, it’s gender roles in fairy tales.

Brian Boyd’s On the Origin of Stories

Oh yes, and I read this as research too, not at the library but at Bongs & Noodles, in a comfy armchair in the Christian Inspiration section because it was the only free chair, and not really read it but more zipped through looking for things that I would find useful.  For a book about evolutionary psychology, I found this book to be surprisingly understandable, and of all the books herein mentioned, On the Origin of Stories is the one with which I was least discontented (by far).  My favorite thing that I wrote down for myself to remember from this book is that people find stories most memorable when the characters of the stories cross ontological boundaries.  That is an interesting fact.

Noel Streatfeild’s Tennis Shoes

I read this the night before leaving home, and I stomped around the house for a while carrying on about how disappointing I found it. I did find it extremely disappointing.  The father pressures his kids into playing tennis because he wants them to be tennis champions for the glory of England, and none of them are particularly fantastic at it.  There is no excuse for such blatant badness as there was in Tennis Shoes!  She wrote it in between two of her most excellent books, Ballet Shoes and Circus Shoes (or The Circus is Coming as it was also titled)!  Why, Noel Streatfeild?  Why?

Does it count as a reading slump if you are reading loads of things, and they are simply failing to satisfy you?  Also: Given my extreme dissatisfaction, might it not make sense to order Monsters of Men after all from England?  And just buy it again when it comes out here in the fall so that I will have matching copies of the whole series?

Review: House of Many Ways & Enchanted Glass, Diana Wynne Jones

I love Diana Wynne Jones, and because I have not told you why I love her with sufficient vehemence or frequency, I will tell you why right now.  It is because her characters discover things about themselves!  They discover things, and they learn!  Glorious!  People in her books proceed by instinct and guesswork, and although these are not my own preferred means of proceeding, I like it that Diana Wynne Jones’s characters succeed.  Their approach to magic is beautifully matter-of-fact.  People can learn to do magic better, or more specifically, from teachers; but at a fundamental level, and often very successfully, they do it by instinct.  Charmain in House of Many Ways says “Pipes!  Freeze!”, and they do it.

House of Many Ways is about a sheltered girl called Charmain who only wants to sit and read.  Her family sends her to care for the house of her grandfather while he goes away to be healed by the elves.  There are piles and piles of dirty laundry there, and a kitchen full of dirty dishes, and Charmain, without the first idea of how to do regular household chores, settles for reading books and learning how to do magic and helping the king and princess organize their library.  Unlike in most books where the protagonist likes to read and her parents wish she would desist, Charmain’s reading has served her ill in some ways (well, that and her mother’s determination that she should be Privileged).  She’s incapable of doing regular chores like laundry and dishes and cooking, which gives rise to much mockery by a boy called Peter who comes to stay at her grandfather’s house to be his apprentice.

Oh, and Howl and Sophie make an appearance.  And Calcifer.  Howl and Sophie and Calcifer and Morgan all make an appearance.  Though the book is not about them, and I do not feel there is enough of them, they are their usual delightful selves.  More Sophie!  More Sophie and Howl!

Other reviews:

Birdbrain(ed) Book Blog
Becky’s Book Reviews

In more recent news, Enchanted Glass is about a professor called Andrew who inherits a house from HIS grandfather.  Having failed to reach his grandfather in time to get instructions as to how to care for the magical area over which his grandfather held dominion, Andrew has to figure out how to care for it his own self.  His memory is helped by the arrival of a young boy called Aidan, who is running away from Social Workers and scary magical monsters.  There is a cantankerous old neighbor who seems obsessed with barbed-wire fences, Security, and what he calls “counterparts”.  I could have done with more cool glass-related magic, but otherwise I was very happy with it.  The glass is plainly the glass from Deep Secret, by the way – I’m glad she found a use for that glass, which did not get any real (as opposed to theoretical) play in Deep Secret.

Diana Wynne Jones!  I love you!  Live forever!

Other reviews:

Charlotte’s Library

Did I miss yours?  Surely I missed some reviews of Enchanted Glass!  Tell me if I missed yours!

Review: If You Come Softly, Jacqueline Woodson

Meh.

I HATE TO SAY MEH.

I particularly hate to say meh when it’s a young-adult book to which I am saying it, because I feel like if I say meh to a young-adult book, I am becoming one of those people who turn up their noses at young adult books and do not pay any attention to YA rock stars like Laurie Halse Anderson and Patrick Ness and, well, and Jacqueline Woodson.  I am not one of those people!  Except that I have only read one of Jacqueline Woodson’s books after hearing about her all over the place, and it was If You Come Softly, and I could have lived without it.

It’s about a Jewish girl and a black boy at a fancy private school, and they fall in love.  There was no single aspect of the book that I disliked.  I thought it was great that Woodson didn’t dive into the pool of forbidden love clichés, with raging, unreasonable parents.  Miah and Ellie were both fully realized characters with fully realized family backgrounds and problems in their lives.  Woodson touches on a lot of YA staples – race, gay characters, divorce, abandonment – without turning the book into a by-the-numbers YA Issue Book.

Still, though: Meh.  Turns out, avoiding pitfalls is not enough to make a book awesome.  I like it that Woodson didn’t get all Romeo-and-Juliet melodrama on us, but I got a bit bored with the quiet, peaceful tone.  I wanted some ACTION.  And when something finally did happen, it was, let us say, unsatisfactory to me.

I have not been reading very much lately.  I reread the first through third Harry Potter books, and I’ve been reading this one book about modern India, but I am stressed about moving, and when I’m stressed, I read fewer new books.  I watched The Bourne Identity and The Bourne Supremacy and then I saw this interview where Matt Damon called James Bond an imperialist misogynistic sociopath, so then I watched him on Inside the Actors Studio to see what other awesome things he would say.  And you know, when I watch one episode of Inside the Actors Studio, I have to watch ten more.  So I have been doing that too.

Other reviews:

Regular Rumination
Rhapsody in Books
Book Addiction
My Friend Amy
Reading in Color
Maw Books Blog
One Librarian’s Book Reviews
You’ve GOTTA Read This!
InkweaverReview

Tell me if I missed yours!

Review: The Wee Free Men, Terry Pratchett

You know how sometimes you really, really want to like a book?  Because maybe people have suggested it to you with great enthusiasm, and you think they are lovely people, and you don’t want to hurt their feelings by disliking their book?  And also it is a book by a British author full of British humo(u)r, and when you were in England maybe several different people told you that Americans have bad senses of humo(u)r and don’t understand irony, and even though you know those people were absurd and Alanis Morrisette is Canadian, there is still a tiny portion of your brain that wants to continue to prove them wrong by appreciating British humo(u)r wherever you encounter it, even if in this case you find it self-conscious and prone to telegraphing its punch lines a bit?  And you spend maybe half of the book feeling frustrated because it’s not enjoyable in exactly the way you expected it to be not enjoyable, but then after a while you start liking it a bit better and at the end you feel perhaps a little fond of its heroine and you think you might read another?  And you wonder if it’s the same sort of “think you might have another” that happens when you encounter a new cookie that proves ultimately to be addictive and before you know it you’ve eaten twenty of them, or the sort of “think you might have another” where you want to want another so you go ahead and have another even though you are not sure you really want one?

Well, that’s where I’m at on this book.  The Once Upon a Time Challenge this year is turning into the Deeply Ambivalent Challenge for me here.

Reviews by people not overwhelmed by conflicting motives:

Book Lust
Fyrefly’s Book Blog
The Written World WITH Stephanie’s Confessions of a Book-a-holic
Valentina’s Room
Adventures in Reading

Tell me if I missed yours!