Once again I'm behind in my book list--however, I've read some very excellent books this month.
1. Code Name Verity, by Elizabeth Wein. This has been my bedside book for several weeks because I could only read it in small doses. That said, it's a really terrific book--the writing is strong, the story itself is wrenching, and the historical details are fascinating. The story follows two girls: Julie (code name Verity) and Maddie (code name Kittyhawk), who are not only best friends, but wind up together in France on a secret operation. Maddie pilots their plane over the channel, but a crash landing leaves her stranded and separated from Julie (who parachuted out when the plane came down). The first half of the book is told from Julie's point of view, as she writes out a "confession" for the Nazi Gestapo leaders who catch her. The second half is from Maddie's POV. Overall, a lovely study of friendship--but, as I said, wrenching. (This isn't a spoiler--you can guess what Nazis do to spies).
2. Cinder by Marissa Meyer. This was an intriguing retelling of the Cinderella story--set in a futuristic world where the Moon has been colonized and it's inhabitants are no longer quite human. Cinder is a cyborg living in New Beijing with an adopted mother and two foster siblings. When the younger sister, Pearl, takes ill with the incurable disease that has been plaguing Earth for the last decade, Cinder's mother volunteers Cinder for a cyborg research study. At the same time, Cinder's work as a mechanic (her Cyborg systems give her a series advantage with machinery) brings her in contact with the prince, who is, not surprisingly, hosting a ball . . . this is the first book in a series, so it's obviously not finished, but I loved Cinder as a character and I'm interested to see where the series takes her. (Plus, you have to love a Cinderella story where she leaves not her shoe, but a mechanized foot behind her . . . )
3. Keeping the Castle, by Patrice Kindl. I picked this up because it was billed as I Capture the Castle meets Pride and Prejudice, and, while I don't think I'd rate it with either of those books, I did enjoy this a lot. This is a Regency era story about a young girl, 17-year-old Althea, who struggles to keep up the dilapidated castle that an eccentric ancestor built at the edge of a picturesque cliff. Althea has two step-sisters with money, but they refuse to contribute to the upkeep of the castle, so Althea knows that she has to marry money. When the wealthy Lord Boring arrives, she thinks he may be the answer--if only she can get rid of his pesky cousin-cum-business manager, Mr. Fredericks. The book was fairly predictable, but it was a fun play on Regency-style romances.
4. The Demon King, by Cinda Williams Chima. I'm not a big reader of high fantasy anymore (I used to be when I was younger), but I read good reviews of this and thought I'd try it. I really enjoyed Chima's Seven Realms world, where the young princess Raisa looks forward to her naming day and a long season of courting and flirting with various suitors. At the same time, Han Alister lives in a totally different world in the slum areas of Fellsmarch. When he can, he escapes to the mountains and the clans (an area of the Kingdom where the wizards are forbidden). The way their two lives join and interconnect is an interesting and complicated story (obviously, I'm not doing a good job summarizing it here). Suffice it to say, I really enjoyed this and look forward to the next books in the series.
Other recently read books:
Meg Cabot, Avalon High (re-read), and The Mediator (#1)
Helen Boswell's Mythology (this deserves a review at some point when my brain is less fried!)
Dee Ernst, Better off Without Him
Megan McDonald, The Sisters Club (cute MG story about three sisters)
Amy Garvey's Cold Kiss (interesting twist on a zombie story--a young girl with powers raises her boyfriend from the dead but doesn't anticipate the consequences. This was well-written, but the stakes in the story weren't convincingly high for me).
Julie Powell, Julie and Julia (interesting, but I liked the movie better simply because it had more of Julia's life in it).
I also started Lisa See's Peony in Love but was so irritated by an early plot twist that I couldn't keep reading it.