Rearview Mirror: June 2015

So June – I finally feel like I am back in the swing of reading!  While April, May, and June were insanely busy around this little homestead (you should totally check out the house blog – all those posts under May and June??  I wrote them ALL over the weekend!  Just writing about all our projects wore me out!), the last two weeks have been basically solid rain.  That’s actually been nice because (a) it means I don’t have to spend 1-2 hours every evening watering gardens (which, when you don’t get home until 6, and then cook, consume, and clean up after supper, means that by the time you’re done in the gardens, it’s already 9:00, dark, and time for this earlybird to get to bed!) and (b) I’ve finally been able to catch up on some inside projects – including blogging!

I know the big question on everyone’s minds is – Is Waylon even cuter than the last time you posted a picture of him?  Answer – Yes!

002!!!!!!!!!!!!  I can’t hardly stand living with this much adorableness, guys.  Oh. My. Gosh.  So cute.  Wow.  So cute that I’m going to post more pictures of him.  Because obviously what this blog needs is MORE WAYLON.

013002Waylon’s big news for June, by the way, is that he is working on being a Frisbee dog.  :-D

In other random news, we got chickens, planted vegetables, made a blueberry patch, and painted our floors.  And that, my friends, is just the tip of the iceberg.  Team Awesome has been super busy lately!

It’s been a good busy, though, you know?  The kind that lets you go to  bed content because you’ve put in a good day’s work doing some actual things that you can see.

So yes.  I was too busy to do a lot of quality reading there for a while, but thanks to the rain, to projects shifting from the start up stage to the maintenance stage, and just an overall calming down (ha!) of life, I am back in the groove.

Favorite June Read:  Okay, so this was a month where I read several books that gave me happy feelings, but nothing that really filled me with passion like OH MY GOSH SO AMAZING YOU MUST READ THIS RIGHT NOW.  So…………..  actually, I think maybe Dragonsong?  I don’t know if it was because it was a reread, or just because the world of Pern makes so much sense in context (or maybe both!), but this time around Dragonsong went from being so-so to highly enjoyable.  I just really felt like McCaffrey was hitting her stride with Pern in this book, pulling together a lot of social/cultural threads within the world she’s creating – so, weirdly, the reasons I didn’t really like it the first time around were the reasons I really enjoyed it a lot the second!

Most Disappointing June Read:  So yeah, see above!  I didn’t have a lot of negatively emotional reads this month, either!  I think in the end, probably Heart’s Blood.  I really love fairy tales, and this book started really strong, but in the end it just felt too long and too complicated, and the story did nothing to get me on board with the primary romance, which left me skeptical of the entire rest of the story.  It was one of those books that I really, really wanted to like but just couldn’t.

Other June Reads:

  • Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell – 4/5 – definitely my favorite of the three Rowell novels I’ve read, this one was just so fun, yet handled some deeper topics with grace.  I also felt like this one wasn’t as dated/striving for nostalgia as Eleanor & Park and Landline, which made it more enjoyable to me.  There are only so many 80’s references I can take in one novel.
  • Sinner by Maggie Stiefvater – 4/5 – the four book in the Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy (yeah), I’m embarrassed to admit that it was a close contender for Favorite June Read – I have no idea why I enjoyed these books about werewolves so much, but they were completely engaging, and Sinner was a super fun read.
  • Dragonquest by Anne McCaffrey – Second Pern book – 4/5 – brilliant writing.  I am so enjoying these books now that I’ve started at the beginning!
  • Dressed for Death by Donna Leon – 4/5- the third book in the Commissario Guido Brunetti series – I’ve actually read the first two in May and June as well, but this was the first I reviewed – this whole series is just getting better as it goes along (I’m halfway through the fourth book) with Brunetti a delightful protagonist and the mysteries engaging without being so intense that I can’t sleep at night!
  • Haunt Fox by Jim Kjelgaard – 4/5 – a childhood favorite that stood up to an adult-perspective reread quite well.  Kjelgaard is an excellent place to start if you are trying to introduce young people in your life to the concepts of conservation and self-sufficiency in the package of an engaging story.
  • If I Have a Wicked Stepmother, Where’s My Prince? by Melissa Kantor – 3/5 – a fun but ultimately so-so little contemporary YA read.

See all those 4/5s??  See why I had trouble choosing a favorite this month?!

Added to the TBR:

Okay, so I just want to take a moment to say that because I have been so behind on, well, life, I haven’t really been able to visit was many posts as I like to do.  I subscribe to basically every WordPress blog I follow via email, so I read virtually every post, but for some reason WordPress and my phone don’t get along very well, so I can’t “like” posts from my phone, and that happens to be where I do most of my email-reading soooo all that to say – I like all your posts!  Everyone’s posts!  They’re brilliant!  Pretend I have clicked “Like” on all of them, because I’ve been reading them!  :-D

As you can tell from the TBR additions this month…!!!!!!

  • Cleopatra Loves Books always tempts me, and this month was no exception.  Thanks to her – THREE new titles!
    • I’m always up for a psychological thriller that is “clever but not too complex” – actually, those are my favorites!  A Game for All the Family sounds like it may fit the bill!
    • While Cleo said that this was a bit outside her usual penchant for books with a darker edge, The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets sounded like a historical fiction I would really enjoy – especially since I’m slowly moving out of my World War II reading (haha, not that I’ve been doing much!) and into the 1950’s.
    • Finally, to get back to that darker edge, First One Missing sounds properly disturbing without being too gruesome, and I always enjoy a thriller along those lines!
  • But don’t think that Cleopatra was alone in her attempts to keep my TBR at a level of complete unattainableness (I’m working on expanding my vocabulary by creating my own words these days) – Reading, Writing & Riesling is always right there, throwing books on as well, like these FIVE titles!
    • Okay, so I’m a little terrified of reading The Killing Lessons…  but I still want to!!!
    • On a completely different note, The Soldier’s Wife sounds like an engaging read – I am way into reading historical fiction set in countries other than the US (so if you have some others – especially set in the 20th century – let me know!!).
    • I’m not always into domestic noir, but Carol made The Bones of You sound so appealing that I couldn’t resist adding it.
    • While After the Crash sounds like a bit out of my normal parameters, I am willing to be stretched a bit!
    • Finally, Carol snuck one last title on at the last minute (although I think it’s technically already July in Australia!) – Limbo sounds absolutely ridiculous, like nothing ever read before, and completely engaging.
  • Tales of the Marvelous tempted me with two fairytales, by different authors but from the same post
    • The Last Dragonslayer
    • The Sleeper & the Spindle
  • Stephanie usually has reading tastes similar to mine, so when she said that she never wanted The Fill-In Boyfriend to end, I decided it was quite likely to be a lighthearted romance that I would enjoy as well!
  • Bibliobeth’s review of Gretel and the Dark sounded completely engaging – magic and World War II??  Yes, please!
  • FictionFan’s post about Dark Matter convinced me that I definitely wanted to read this book with its “brilliantly executed build-up of psychological terror” – who doesn’t want that on their TBR?!

Do you want to know a secret?  Those are only some of the books I added!  So, yet another sign that I am out of my reading slump – books are clamoring to be added!  :-D

Thanks to everyone for all your awesome reviews – even when they are of books I know I’ll never read, I still greatly enjoy reading the reviews!

Here’s to a happy July!!

Dragonsong // by Anne McCaffrey

So I’ve mentioned that I’m trying to read all of the Pern novels in publication order.  But when I started to read The White Dragon, which my list listed as the third book, I recognized a lot of characters from the original trilogy I read (the Harper Hall trilogy), which felt weird, since they, according to my list, were published after The White Dragon.  So I did some more research and guess what!  The White Dragon was published after the first two books in the Harper Hall trilogy.  Go figure.  Apparently, whoever compiled my original list felt like the two trilogies in the Pern books should be together (The White Dragon is the third in the Dragonriders trilogy), even though they were actually published (1) Book 1 of Dragonriders, (2), Book 2 of Dragonriders, (3) Book 1 of Harper Hall, (4) Book 2 of Harper Hall, (5) Book 3 of Dragonriders, (6) Book 3 of Harper Hall.  Okay, first off, why?!  Secondly, that meant I was stranded without a book for the day because I really didn’t want to read The White Dragon until rereading those first two Harper Hall books!  Tragedy!  Thank goodness for the Kindle app on my phone….

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//published 1976// (1976, by the way, comes ::before:: 1978, which is when ‘The White Dragon’ was published)

This was my second time reading Dragonsong.  I read it for the first time a little over a year ago, and while I enjoyed it just fine, I found it a bit confusing.  When I read Dragonflight, McCaffrey’s first Pern novel, a few weeks ago, I immediately realized that Dragonsong and its sequels were going to make so much more sense the second time around.  McCaffrey does a lot of world-building in her first two Pern novels, plus Dragonsong actually takes place at the same (Pern) time as Dragonflight and Dragonquestexcept from the perspective of a different character, so the whole entire story of Dragonsong suddenly made WAY more sense.

All that to say, Dragonsong was much more enjoyable this time around.  It was actually providing background and insight for events I had already read about in the first two books, and those first two books did the same for this one.  They really wove together to give me a much better picture of the story than I got the first time I read this book.

I liked Menolly, the main character, a lot the first time around, and liked her even better this time.  She is intelligent and determined, and even though a lot of things happen to her that she doesn’t understand, she takes them in stride and then finds ways to make sense of them.  I’m already excited about reading more of the Pern books to see how her story continues (especially since I know she’s at least mentioned in The White Dragon!)

I’m greatly enjoying these books on the whole, especially as I get more into the series – McCaffrey spent less time explaining things in this book, which made it go faster (although made it more complicated when I read it the first time!), and kept it as an overall very engaging read.  Definitely recommend!

If I Have a Wicked Stepmother, Where’s My Prince? // by Melissa Kantor

I don’t really know how this little tale got added to my TBR, but there it was, waiting to be read.  While it was a decent read, some of it was a little too cliche for my tastes, leaving me with an overall 3/5.

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//published 2005//

 

Lucy, who tells the story (thankfully in past tense), is living in Long Island with  her new stepmother and twin stepsisters.  Her dad is still spending most of his time back in San Francisco, finishing up his job, so Lucy feels lonely and out of place in her new house.  She thinks her stepmother is shallow and unfair, and that her stepsisters are spoiled and annoying.  Starting sophomore year in a new high school also means that she’s having trouble adjusting there – it’s never easy to find friends when everyone else found their friends the year before.

So, things I liked about this book (fyi, mild spoilers, but on the other hand, it’s not like this book was full of unexpected twists) –

First off, I actually did like Lucy.  While she was a little annoying sometimes (most 16-year-olds are) and a little unreasonable sometimes (which most 16-year-olds are), overall she was a likable protagonist who was just trying to adjust to her new life.

Another thing I liked was that Kantor didn’t make the popular kids automatically horrible.  The two girls who befriend Lucy actually end up being really nice, and the basketball star she dates is just a typical high school guy – not super introspective, perhaps, but not a total jerk.

Lucy loves basketball, and is knowledgeable about it, but at the same time she is also a really good artist and really into that.  This was maybe my favorite concept of this book – I really, really liked the fact that Kantor portrayed someone who could like two really different things: sports and art.  So often, authors act as those these are opposing hobbies, and that if you like both, you must be lying about one of them.  The fact that Lucy was into both of these things gave her more depth as a person and made her more realistic.  In real life, most people like a lot of things, and they are frequently things that other people wouldn’t automatically put together.

But while all of these things were good, it almost felt like Kantor was afraid to follow through on them.  It was as though she got partway through the book and then began to get nervous that people wouldn’t like the way she was straying from the typical YA path.  So we end up with Lucy not being able to date the basketball star any more, because the “only” thing he likes about Lucy is that she likes basketball.  Instead, she ends up with the artsy dude.  And yeah, artsy dude was a nice guy, but as far as I could tell, the “only” thing he liked about Lucy was that she was into art, so how does that make the artsy dude better than the basketball dude?  Apparently, though, if you like someone because they like art, you are liking the “real” person, while if you like someone because they like sports, you are only liking the “shallow/not real” person.  That kind of annoyed me.  To me, either both of these guys don’t completely understand Lucy (because artsy dude knows absolutely nothing about basketball and thinks it’s kind of stupid), or Kantor should have found another reason to make it reasonable for Lucy to switch her allegiance to artsy dude.  I think Kantor was trying to avoid making basketball dude a villain (which was a nice change of pace from most YA), but in the end she made basketball dude look like a douche for doing the exact thing that artsy dude was doing, and I didn’t like the double standard.

I also didn’t completely buy the sudden change of heart of Lucy’s stepmother, although I do think that Kantor was trying to portray that it wasn’t just a change on the stepmother’s end – that Lucy was also becoming more accepting of her situation and her new family.  However, that wasn’t really very explicit, so it felt like suddenly, magically, the stepmother was this nice lady.  And I just find it really hard to believe that Lucy’s dad, who is supposed to be super fond of her, would really find Lucy’s complete lack of furniture in her bedroom for months to be acceptable.

While there were some fun moments in this book and it was a fine one-off read, nothing about it thrilled me or made me yearn to seek out more of Kantor’s work.  A moderately good YA read, but nothing magical.

Haunt Fox // by Jim Kjelgaard

After Lion Hound and Wild Trek, I believe Haunt Fox was the next Jim Kjelgaard book that I read.  My name and phone number are still inscribed inside the battered Bantam-Skylark paperback that I own, but no date, although from my handwriting I would guess somewhere around 10 or 11.  (Mainly because I remember learning to write my name in cursive sometime around that time so that I could get a library card!)

HauntFox

//published 1954//

 

This story is mostly about a fox named Star.  We meet him as he is experiencing the first snowfall of his life, and follow him through the raising of his first litter.  Parallel to Star’s story is that of Jack Crowley and Jack’s foxhound, Thunder.  Throughout the book, all three youngsters learn, in their own way, what it means to be an adult.

My handwriting has only improved moderately over the years.

My handwriting has only improved moderately over the years.

Like most of Kjelgaard’s books, this is not a tale of great depth and intrigue.  However, it has those gentle life-lessons that seem to so frequently be lacking in children’s books these days – the importance of honesty, hard-work, frugality, honor, loyalty, and compassion.  Jack’s parents are portrayed as simple, kind, honest people, and Jack wants to be just like them.  He sees their good, solid, respectable life and wants the same thing for himself.  He doesn’t spend the entire book carrying on an internal  monologue about how out-dated his dad is, or how he doesn’t understand what Jack is going through.  Instead, he looks to his dad as a role model – someone he loves and trusts.  Jack’s dad, in turn, gives Jack opportunities to prove himself.  Some of those Jack fails, but ultimately he succeeds in learning the rather vague lesson of what makes a man a good man – something that cannot really be described in so many words, but is known when someone is.

In the meantime, we have the story of Star.  The fox learns many lessons as he grows, for Mother Nature is a harsh taskmaster as well, leaving little room for mistakes.  Star finds a mate, defeats his arch-enemy, learns to run from the hounds, out-thinks the hunter, and raises a family.  Kjelgaard paints a simple yet complex picture of wilderness life.  He always does an excellent job catching essence of animals – he doesn’t try to make them have actual conversations with words, but describes an animal’s more simplistic way of viewing life in a way that makes the animals more real – not only are we learning about Star, we are learning about foxes in general, including foxes I may see in my own woods.

Haunt Fox is one of my favorite Kjelgaard books, and an easy 4/5.  If you have animal-loving children in your life, I highly recommend this book.  There is some violence and some death, yes, but that is the way of nature.  Kjelgaard balances this with the importance of thoughtful hunting and trapping as a means of preserving a natural balance of life.  A truly great conservationist, Kjelgaard shows rather than tells how critical it is for humans to take responsibility for the nature upon which they have infringed, to preserve and protect it, not just for the sake of nature, but for the sake of ourselves as well.

Heart’s Blood // by Juliet Marillier

This was a book that I really, really wanted to like, but, in the end, felt quite meh about it – 3/5.

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//published 2009//

The story starts strong, with Caitrin, who tells her own story, fleeing into a dark and creepy countryside and being taken in by nervous and suspicious villagers.  We come to find Caitrin’s story slowly, but it is obvious from the beginning that she is running away from a bad home life and hoping to make her own way as a scribe, a trade she learned from her now-deceased father.

There isn’t much business for a scribe in the wilds, and one begins to wonder why Caitrin would flee there instead of to a city of some sort, but, luckily for her, the lord of the area just so happens to need a scribe for the summer.  The catch?  Everyone is terrified of Lord Anluan, who is cursed and lives on a cursed hill with his demons.  Caitrin decides beggars can’t be choosers and heads up the hill the next day anyway.

The story is a rough retelling of Beauty & the Beast, but lacks many of the basic elements (the fact that Caitrin’s father is dead and has nothing to do with the situation being one).  One of the keys, though, to successfully recapturing the essence of Beauty & the Beast is that Beauty is able to look beyond the Beast’s exterior to love, cherish, and appreciate who he actually is.  (And, actually, Beast does the same for Beauty.)  But in Heart’s Blood, I just never got that feeling.  Yes, Anulan is crippled and not very good looking, and yes, Caitrin falls in love with him – but I never believed the love story.  There were never scenes of Caitrin and Anulan having real conversations, or learning that they both really loved something, or just enjoying each other’s company.  Their conversations always seemed to end in misunderstand or in Anulan getting angry, or whatever.  We went from Caitrin being scared of him and uncomfortable in his presence, to her suddenly not being able to live without him, being “filled with desire”, etc.

Beyond that, the book just went on for too long.  Instead of focusing on Anulan’s home, his curse, the dangers threatening him and his people, we had to deal with this really long section of Caitrin basically “discovering herself” and learning to be strong by going home to face her own problems and get them all taken care of.  Nice sentiment, except it really just threw off the whole groove of the story.  Marillier manages to make it sound like Caitrin going home to face up to an abusive family and claim her rightful inheritance was at the same level of importance and difficulty as Anulan facing an entire invading Norman army while at the same time dealing with a century-old curse.  I am not at any level belittling the suffering and difficulties people face at the hands of abusive relatives, but it just really didn’t fit in with this story, and it really felt like the whole side-story with Caitrin going home was merely being used to add another hundred pages to the book.

Heart’s Blood had its strong moments, with some good characters and intriguing premises, but overall I just couldn’t get behind the love story, which felt stilted and forced.  And since the love story is really the crux of Beauty & the Beast, the whole book ended up a bit meh for me.

Dressed for Death // by Donna Leon

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//published 1994//also published as The Anonymous Venetian//

In this, the third installment of the Commissario Guido Brunetti series, Brunetti finds himself investigating an unusual death.  While I have read the first two books in the series, Death at La Fenice and Death in a Strange Country, it was last month when my reviewing at low ebb.  These books are quite popular at the library, so I had to return them before reviewing them.  While solid, enjoyable mysteries (first brought to my attention by FictionFan, of course), they were nothing so brilliant that I felt the urge to re-check out the books just to review them.

Set in Venice, the series follows a policeman by the name of Guido Brunetti.  Brunetti is a delightfully normal man.  He has a wife and two children, all of whom he loves and who love him.  He enjoys his job, but has an irritating supervisor.  Some of this coworkers are intelligent and helpful, while others are lazy and annoying.  Brunetti is intelligent, but not a genius.  He does not spend his spare time getting drunk, and he does not think that he is a god among men and thus above the law.

Despite all this (ha ha), these books are a pleasure to read.  Leon leads the reader through the story at a comfortable pace.  While these books have yet to keep me up at night, I definitely am engaged while reading them.  The author does an excellent job of providing the reader with some grey situations, leaving food for thought even after the book is finished.

My only personal problem with these books is my own lacking – I don’t really know much about Italian culture, government, or law enforcement.  Overall, though, I have still been able to understand and enjoy the books.

Dressed for Death seemed like the type of story that should irritate me, focusing on the death of a transvestite whore, yet somehow Leon manages to avoid making the entire story a political issue.  Instead, she prevents us with gay people who are kind, hardworking, and overall positive characters, and also gay people who are liars, sneaks, and overall negative characters.  She does the same with straight people – in short, she writes very realistically, reminder her readers that “good” and “bad” people are not defined by any single aspect of their lifestyle.

I don’t have a good place to insert this quote into this review, but it just really stuck with me, so I will finish with it.  I think that it illustrates the way that Leon manages to advocate a sensible, balanced approach to many of the issues that arise in her books.

“I always think of Savonarola,” he said.  “He started by wanting to make things better, but the only way he could think of to do that was to destroy anything he disapproved of.  In the end, I suspect zealots are all like him, even the ecologisti and the feministi.  They start out wanting a better world, but they end up wanting to get it by removing anything in the world around them that doesn’t correspond to their idea of what the world should be.”

With 24 books (and counting), this is another series I will be reading through for quite a while, so stay tuned for further reviews!

Dragonquest//by Anne McCaffrey

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//published 1971//

Book II in the Dragonriders of Pern series was another solid outing for McCaffrey.  Her world-building is excellent, her characters believable, the story engaging, and conclusion satisfying.

As I mentioned when I reviewed the first book, Dragonflight, I originally read another trilogy from the chronicles of Pern.  While moderately enjoyable, there were many aspects of those books that seemed abrupt or poorly explained.  However, they are already making more sense when viewed from the perspective of a second trilogy – McCaffrey goes into much greater detail about the Dragonriders, Dragons, fire lizards, the hierarchy of Pern’s society, etc., in this first set of books.  I am already anticipating rereading the second trilogy.  I think that they are really going to be way more enjoyable now that I have a better grasp on the word of Pern.

McCaffrey does an excellent job of writing a story that builds on the last book, but still stands as its own story.  While it would probably be difficult to understand some of it out of context, Dragonquest has a satisfying beginning, middle, and conclusion, while still leaving plenty of potential directions for the next story.  These first two books have really set a firm foundation of a different world, doing an excellent job of creating characters where another book could pick up following any of them and be engaging.

However, in some ways, that is also the book’s weakness.  There are so many people, PLUS there are dragons and fire lizards.  When the people talk about each other, they usually talk using people names, while when the dragons talk, they refer to people by their dragon’s names, so you have to remember not just F’nor, but the fact that F’nor rides the dragon Canth and owns the fire lizard Grall, because at any point in the story, McCaffrey may reintroduce F’nor to the story by his, Canth’s, or Grall’s names.  Although there is a list of characters in the back, constantly flipping to it can interrupt the flow the of the story.  While it’s fairly easy to remember the main players, there are not only Dragonriders, but also Mastercraftsmen, Craftmasters, and their apprentices; lords of various Holds (and the names of the Holds, and the names of the lord’s ladies), and then the names of the Weyrs (where the dragons and their riders live), plus the principal Weyrleaders and their women.  Tied in with an incredibly involved socioeconomic world, the story borders on being too detailed, but, for the most part, manages to avoid getting completely bogged down.

The only aspect of this society that still seems really weird to me is the connection between the mating of the dragons and their riders.  Because each dragon imprints with its rider when the dragon hatches, their minds are connected at a very deep level, allowing them to communicate telepathically and to share, sometimes involuntarily, intense feelings and emotions.  Thus, when a queen dragon rises to mate, her rider is also overwhelmed with lust, and the rider of whichever dragon mates with the queen has sex with the queen’s rider.  It’s really weird to me, and it’s actually a critical part of this story, as apparently dragon-induced sex is pretty awesome, so the one Weyrwoman causes all sorts of trouble.  It’s not ever graphic or anything, it’s just that the whole concept is strange.  However, McCaffrey uses it as an important tool in the hierarchy of the Weyrs, as the strongest queen is automatically the high queen of the Weyr, thus making her rider the top Weyrwoman.  The rider of whatever dragon mates the queen becomes the Weyrleader.  Riders do not marry, or partner for life (necessarily), because they are tied to the strengths and lusts of their dragons.  The dragon mating can be an intense power struggle and can cause changes in the leadership of the Weyr.

ANYWAY all that to say it’s just a super weird part of the story, but McCaffrey makes it work.  Her whole world is pretty awesome, and I am actually thoroughly enjoying her books.  The best part?  There are something like 25 books set in Pern, so I have plenty of reading ahead!

Sinner // by Maggie Stiefvater

After racing through the Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy, I found myself reluctant to read Sinner, mostly because it meant I would be finished with these surprisingly engaging books!

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//published 2014//

 

In Sinner we only have two viewpoints – those of Cole and Isabel.  Isabel has moved to California, and Cole follows her there.  Since Cole somehow became my favorite character in the trilogy, I was happy to be back with him.  He’s just a really enjoyable character, and I loved the way he interacted with people around him.

Sinner was definitely more of an angsty YA romance than it was paranormal, and there were times that I got really aggravated with Isabel especially, but overall I have no idea why I enjoyed this book, but I did.  It was one of those books that even the parts I didn’t like I still liked, I think maybe because I really liked both Cole and Isabel’s voices.

My only beef with this book was that I felt like we spent way more time on why a relationship was not going to work than we did being convinced that it was.  So in the end, while I was definitely behind them as a pair, I still had a lot of misgivings about all the issues they had had throughout the book, because I felt like their solutions were just basically that they decided those weren’t issues any more so they would just go away.  And while that sounds like it (kinda) works, things like substance abuse and an inherent distrust of relationships because of your emotionally abusive family don’t just fade away into the sunset.

Still, this was still a fun read, although one I wouldn’t recommend outside of the context of the trilogy.  It left me hoping that Stiefvater would revisit these characters again someday, and kinda sorta wishing that my husband was a werewolf.  ;-)

Fangirl

//by Rainbow Rowell//published 2013//

fangirl-rowell

So this is my third Rowell book.  Landline, which I never got around to reviewing, was the first.  Then, not long ago, I read Eleanor & Parkwhich, unexpectedly, I actually enjoyed.

Fangirl wasn’t like either of those.  It was more lighthearted.  There were some genuinely funny characters, some fantastic dialogue, and some solid conversations/themes underneath.

The main character is Cath.  A college freshman, Cath is nervous about being on her own for all the usual reasons, and some that aren’t so usual.  She can’t believe that she is going to be rooming with another random student in the dorm – she’s always shared a room with her twin sister, Wren, but Wren has shown a spark of independence by declaring that it’s time to meet new people, have new experiences, and embrace life – which means having a new roommate in a different dormitory.

Cath is a huge fan of Simon Snow.  As Rowell explains to us via an “Encyclowikia” entry at the beginning of the book, Simon Snow is the main character of a fantasy series that sounds a great deal like Harry Potter.  Cath isn’t just a fan, though – she writes fanfiction about Simon Snow, and her stories are immensely popular.

Throughout the story, Cath adjusts to her new life, and we learn more about her old life, and why she is the way that she is.  Cath is an incredibly relatable and likable heroine, and I really enjoyed reading about her ups and downs of college life.  There is plenty of good stuff about family, relationships, friendships, and just overall becoming-an-adult stuff, and Rowell handles it all well.  I really loved watching Cath’s relationships with her dad and her sister transition from relating as a child to relating as an adult.  It’s one of those weird things about growing up that people don’t really talk about – while you’ll never be a contemporary of your parents, you do become an equal.

Eleanor & Park was about a pair of high schoolers; Landline is about a middle-aged couple; but I really felt that Fangirl was where Rowell belongs – she brought life to her college characters incredibly well, capturing that awkward whoa-we’re-adults-except-we-have-no-idea-how-to-adult feeling perfectly.

Fangirl was a super fun read.  I could have done without some of the passages of Cath’s fanfiction, but overall the story moved well, the characters were both likable and believable, and the story was adorable.  4/5.

Rearview Mirror: May 2015

Okay, okay, I know it’s the middle of June, but we’re just going to pretend that waiting this long to do the May Rearview has just given me a better, more holistic picture of my reading habits in May.  :-D

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But the truth of the matter is that we are still doing tons of stuff around the house – incidentally, I also have about 59 posts for the house  blog that need written – while having tons of other adventures.  Plus we got a puppy!!!!!  Is he like whoa cute or what!?  He’s a border collie and his name is Waylon, and he also has his own blog (that I’m behind on updating) if you’re interested in seeing a ridiculous number of pictures of him being ADORABLE.

Anyway, May review!

So I haven’t been reading a great deal, just so many other things to do.  I am outside ALL THE TIME these days… even a lot of my reading is outside!  We have a much bigger garden than we should, chickens, puppy, chaos.  My reading schedule reflects that.  I’ve been reading snatches here and there, not making very fast progress through anything.  I’m slowing getting back into the groove.  The madness of spring is over, and things are starting to settle out into their maintenance schedule, so that’s good!

Favorite May Read:

Embarrassingly, it was probably the last book in the Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy, Forever.   Stiefvater did a great job pulling things together, and I loved the perspectives from all the different characters, each one with a different back story, perspective, situation, and goal.  While a bit angsty, it still had some lighter, happier moments, and overall left me with the feeling that these characters – especially Sam and Grace – were going to be okay.

Most Disappointing May Read:

Ummm honestly I didn’t read a lot of books, and everything was pretty solid.  I guess I would go with Girl Missingwhich was, for me, a rather ambivalent thriller/mystery.  While fine for a once-over, it wasn’t a book that I wanted to read again, or a book that inspired me to find any of Gerritsen’s other books.

Other May Reviews:

  • French Leave by P.G. Wodehouse – 4/5 – typical Wodehouse chaos and froth – every page was absolutely delightful.
  • Golden by Cameron Dokey – 4/5 – a retelling of Rapunzel with some hidden depths.
  • Shiver and Linger by Maggie Stiefvater – 4/5 – the other two books from the Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy.
  • Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey – 3/5 – the first book about Pern…  I just finished the second, and I am really engaging in the incredibly intricate world McCaffrey builds.
  • Hidden Trail by Jim Kjelgaard – 3/5 – average Kjelgaard tale of outdoors adventure with some conservation rhetoric mixed in.

Added to the TBR:

As I have said before, when I’m not reading much, I don’t tend to add as much. So those of you who made it on the TBR this month should be quite flattered – I am way pickier about adding books in warm weather than I am during the eternal winter!  :-D

  • Cleopatra Reads Books convinced me to try The Lost Garden by reassuring me that this historical fiction is a “gentle story … with the echo of The Secret Garden”.  Can’t go wrong with that, can you??
  • She also added another book, that sounds completely different from The Lost Garden – a crime fiction called All the Little Pieces.  Cleo says “The moral dilemmas posed by this novel present the reader with a superb premise and this promise is realised in the execution.”  The haunting question of whether or not you would let someone in your car, possibly endangering your child, sounds completely engaging.
  • While I’ve heard some mixed reviews about The Girl on the TrainReading, Writing & Reisling ultimately convinced me to add this thriller to the TBR.
  • Stephanie said that Eeny Meeny kept her completely engaged, with 3rd-person POV and short chapters…  sounds like my kind of thriller!!
  • Somehow, FictionFan managed to weave her magic and convince me to read a book told in 2nd-person POV!?!?  While You objectively sounds horrible (which she admits she thought, too), she claims that it actually did manage to draw her in completely, pulling off the unique perspective with class.
  • FictionFan was also responsible for adding A Good Way to Go to the list, with the recommendation that if anyone is in the market for a new author, Peter Helton may be one to try.  (And who isn’t always in the market for someone new??)
  • Even though Songs of Willow Frost doesn’t sound completely like my type of book, Bibiobeth’s review still convinced me to read it.  I am still really engaged in reading historical fiction from the early part of the 20th century, and this story that alternates between stories in the 20’s and the Great Depression sounded engaging.

So that pretty much sums up May…  I’m already doing better in June…  four books sitting in the Need Reviewed pile!!!!