Some weeks, I go to the library and lament the lack of interesting offerings. Some weeks, I'm literally overwhelmed by them. (This week was one of those bountiful weeks--and I read some great stuff).
12. Running Barefoot, Amy Harmon. This book started slowly and felt like it could benefit from some pruning; despite that, there was a lot that I loved about the book. I loved the setting in rural Levan, Utah. Harmon's descriptions were so vivid that I could easily imagine myself there. I loved her honest portrayal of the predominantly Mormon society that lived there; she was neither condescending nor preachy. I also loved the complex relationship between Josie Jensen, who's trying to keep her family intact after her mother's death, and Samuel, the half-Navajo grandson of Josie's neighbors. At thirteen, Josie forms an unlikely bond with Samuel (he's eighteen, a senior looking to enter the Marine Corps) through classical music. When Samuel leaves for the military, Josie is lonely but continues to write him. It's not until years later, and following a personal tragedy in Josie's life, that Samuel returns to Levan and the two reconnect. Although what follows isn't necessarily surprising, Harmon kept things interesting by layering their relationship with depth. And her prose was generally simple and lovely.
13. Reasons I Fell For the Ugly Fat Friend, by Rebecca Ann. I wanted to like this book more than I actually did--I'd heard great things about it and I respect what I know of the author. The author does a nice job with a realistic boy voice (I never once felt like I was listening to a girl), and the book had a lot of humor. I also definitely related to the love interest, an interesting teenage girl with a less than perfect figure. There were two things that I didn't love about the book: 1) it was a little steamier than I like with YA (I realize not everyone has this objection!). 2) It felt just a little shallow--so much of the novel was just about the boy getting the girl to believe that he really cared about her; I felt like the book could have used the added depth of some additional sub-plots.
14. The Ugly Stepsister Strikes Back, by Sariah Wilson. This story follows quirky Mattie Lowe, a girl in love with her step-sister's boyfriend, Jake Harmon. Unfortunately for her, her step-sister is too nice for her to hate, or to try to steal her boyfriend (even if she thought she could). However, when she and Jake get assigned to the same English project, they start to form an actual friendship--one that's tested when Mattie decides to run against Jake for student body president to bolster her college applications. There's plenty of subplots here (Mattie's relationship with her sister and her absentee mom; her fear that her artistic parents will reject her interest in drawing manga; her step-sister's romance), but they all add to the main plot. I thought this was really cute--despite the plot hole in Mattie's run for student government--most schools hold elections for senior officers during the junior year, not during the fall of senior year.
15. The Raven Boys, by Maggie Stiefvater. I've been looking for this at my
library forever and was so excited to finally see it in stock! I enjoyed
this book. While it didn't have the breathtaking beauty of Scorpio
Races, it did have her trademark lovely writing. The premise itself is awesome: Blue Sargent has been raised in a house full of women, all of whom have varying psychic powers. Blue's only power is as an amplifier of their powers. However, on St. Mark's Eve, while helping her aunt record the spirits of the dead (those who will die in the next twelve months), Blue actually sees one of the spirits--a Raven boy, one of the kids who attends the posh boy's school in town. Her aunt tells her there's only two reasons why she would see him: either he's her true love, or she killed him. (Or perhaps both, as Blue has known for years that if she kissed her true love, he would die). It's not surprising, then, that within a couple of weeks Blue has actually met this boy, Gansey, who's obsessed with finding the ley lines in the valley, as he thinks they will lead him to the spirit of a long-vanished Welsh King (akin to Arthur). Faster than she could have expected, Blue finds herself enmeshed in Gansey's life, and befriending his quirky circle of friends: Adam, with his strange fragility, Noah, who sometimes hardly seems there, and Ronan, who hates almost everyone. The characters were fascinating to me, and I can't wait to see what happens next in the series.
16. Seraphina, by Rachel Hartman. Two days after finishing this book, I still feel like I'm half inhabiting Hartman's world, which is a clear sign of a successful novel for me. Seraphina has a secret, one that may make her an outcast among her people if it gets out. The secret means that she protects her privacy, though she desperately wants to make friends at the palace where she works (assistant music master). Seraphina's world is a tense one, on the eve of the arrival of the Ardmagar, the old dragon who helped negotiate a truce between humans and dragons with the old queen. Too many humans think the treaty was a mistake; the older generation of dragons believes this as well. Seraphina's unique gifts may enable her to save her world by preserving this fragile peace, but only at great personal cost.