Sunday, April 15, 2012

Reading list: April 15

I'm going to give up on the week count, since I can't keep track of the weeks now anyway.

Here's my book list for the last two weeks:

1. Seeing Cinderella, by Jenny Lundquist (also edited by Alyson Heller, whom I met last spring at WIFYR and who I would love, someday, to work with). This was a charming book--it just came out and I've seen nothing but good reviews for it. In the story, Calliope (goes by Callie) dreads eighth grade, particularly after her optometrist gives her a particularly ugly pair of glasses to wear while she waits for her real glasses to come in. Only, the glasses aren't normal glasses. Not only do they help her see, but they let her see what people are actually thinking. As the weeks progress, Callie begins to learn that few people (her best friend, her crush, her nasty locker partner) are exactly what they seem. This was the kind of MG book I love: relatable characters and a fun plot, but an ultimately realistic view of junior high life.

2. May B., by Caroline Starr Rose. I'd seen reviews of this book some time ago, so when I finally saw it on the shelf at the library, I snatched it up. And read it in about an hour. This particular novel is a novel in verse, which I wasn't initially sure about (sometimes novels in verse feel too cryptic for me). However, it didn't take long to get drawn into the story of May B., a twelve-year old girl who gets sent to live with a newlywed family to earn some extra money for her own family. The move sends her to the edge of the Kansas prairie, farther than she's ever been before. She soon realizes that her new mistress is depressed, but she does the best she can to keep her head down and do her job. That is, until the wife disappears, the husband goes after her, and May B. finds herself abandoned in a sod house on the edge of the prairie, a good fifteen miles from home. She doesn't worry particularly until summer edges into fall, and then the first snow falls. Somehow, May B. has to find the resources within herself to survive the winter and make it back to her family. I was surprised at how gripping the story was, since for much of the book May B. is alone with her memories. But her voice is so vivid that it was impossible not to care what happened to her.

3. Kathryn Lasky, Daughters of the Sea: Lucy. To be fair, I didn't realize when I picked this up that it was the third book of a series (although I didn't have any trouble picking up the story line, as these books seem to be essentially companion books to a point). In this story, Lucy chafes against the social restraints of her upper-class life and her parents' relentless ambitions (her father is a clergyman who'd like to become bishop; both her parents would like to see her married into a wealthy family). When her father's work takes them to Maine for the summer, Lucy falls in love with the sea, begins to fall for a totally unsuitable shipbuilder, and discovers that she's not entirely human, but mer. I had a hard time getting into this book, although the writing was fine. The characters felt a little shallow to me, and towards the end the plot takes a twist that struck me as, frankly, a little silly and over-dramatic.

4. Timeless, Gail Carriger. This was the fifth installment of the Parasol Protectorate and felt like a fitting conclusion to the series. In it, Alexia and her daughter Prudence (the former "infant inconvenience") are bidden to Egypt by the oldest vampire queen in the world. Since Alexia is nothing if not curious, she follows the summons, hoping at the same time to get to the bottom of the God-Breaker Plague. To disguise the purpose of her trip, she brings along her best friend Ivy Tunstell and Ivy's acting troupe. Of course, various disasters ensue, but Alexia manages everything just fine. I think the appeal of this series is not necessarily in the mysteries of the plots (although this one managed a few twists I didn't quite anticipate), but just in the sheer fun of being part of Alexia's paranormal/Victorian world.

5. Spell Bound, by Rachel Hawkins. This is the final book of Hawkins' delightful Hex Hall series. While I've enjoyed the series as a whole, this one wasn't quite as much, well, fun as the other books, although Sophie Mercer retains much of her spunk. I suppose that's natural, since the conclusion of this kind of trilogy usually involves some kind of great and final battle, and it's not quite as much fun to prepare for that as it is to spend a summer near London (book #2) or find yourself in a boarding school for students with magical abilities (#1). The book does a good job of resolving some of the loose ends of the series, but I suppose my main issue with it is a personal problem: I always seem to root for the wrong side of a love trilogy, so of course I was disappointed in the way Hawkins ended the book here (and no, I'm not going to spoil the book by saying who).

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