Sunday, January 20, 2013

Steampunk, Romance, Middle-Grade fiction (not all in the same book, obviously!)

7. Cassandra Clare, Clockwork Angel. I picked this up on the recommendation of my sister-in-law, who said she preferred this series to the Mortal Instruments series, and I wanted to see what Clare's world was about. I'm a sucker for 19th century British stuff, in general, and alternate histories/worlds in particular, so this was right up my alley. The plot itself didn't wow me, but I enjoyed Clare's swift-paced writing style and the characters were fascinating.

8. Janette Rallison, Masquerade. Let me just say, I love most of Rallison's books. This was not one of my favorites--possibly because it was a novel about adults and I prefer her YA stuff. Clarissa is a single mom still reeling from the aftershocks of her divorce. She's working two jobs to support her daughter, so when she gets a job offer as a nanny for a big Hollywood star, Slade Jacobson, she jumps at it. Thing is, Slade thinks she's married--and prefers it that way, as he knows she doesn't have any ulterior motives for taking the job. So Clarissa isn't lying, exactly, just not correcting his misapprehension. But when her nanny job takes her to Hawaii for a week, she finds herself struggling to deal with Slade's temperamental daughter and with her growing attraction to Slade himself.   (NB: I read the new edition, edited for Kindle. Searching for it on Goodreads, I see that it was originally published under her pseudonym Sierra St. James, and the characters involved were all LDS. This does read much more in the vein of her Sierra St. James stuff than her Janette Rallison YA books).

9. Rebecca Stead, Liar and Spy. While this wasn't as high concept as either of her previous books (When You Reach Me, First Light), it was still a heart-warming, well-executed middle grade novel about a boy named Georges (after Georges Seurat, whose paintings play a minor role in the story) who moves into a new apartment after his dad loses his job, and who meets a strange boy named Safer, who induces him to (reluctantly) help spy on their neighbor. What I liked about this book was Steads deft ability to characterize young kids--they're smart, funny, but still believable 12-year-olds.

10. Sophie Kinsella, I've Got Your Number. I always enjoy Kinsella's books--they're light and fun. This was no exception. Poppy Wyatt thinks she has everything--a dreamy fiance, a gorgeous ring, a job she loves. Then she loses the ring at a hotel, her cell phone gets stolen, and she has to face her fiance's disapproving parents sans ring. The latter she deals with by wrapping bandages around her hand and pretending she has a burn. But the loss of her cell phone is a disaster. Luckily, she finds an abandoned cell phone in a recycling bin and claims it for her own--unfortunately, the phone belongs to Sam Roxton's former PA and he demands she return it. Poppy needs the phone and its contacts so she works out a deal--she'll forward all his calls if he lets her keep the phone a little longer. Before long, Poppy and Sam are more involved in each other's lives than they anticipated--and, as per usual with Kinsella, funny hijinks ensue.

11. R. J. Palacio, Wonder. One of the best books I've read in some time, this story follows August (Auggie) Pullman during his fifth grade year. For most kids, fifth grade is mildly painful--but for Auggie, fifth grade means going to school for the first time ever and dealing with the ramifications of his cranio-facial deformities. Palacio tells the story through a number of different voices--Auggie's, his sister, his sister's boyfriend, and some kids he befriends along the way. The book has been called a "meditation on kindness" and besides being beautifully written, the story makes a powerful case for the virtue of kindness.

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