books books books

Just finished …

Quitter by Jon Acuff | I don’t review a lot of non-fiction on this blog, but this book was fantastic.  It’s about how to turn your day job into your dream job, and it was very wise … and funny.  Jon Acuff is the man behind the hilarious Stuff Christians Like blog!  If you’re in a funk at your day job, you should definitely pick up this book.  Acuff spoke at the university where I work this past fall and was wonderful, so when NoiseTrade gave a free audio download of Quitter, I jumped at the opportunity (even though I’m actually not in a funk at my day job … but I wish I’d read this book last summer!).

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness | I was excited to read another Patrick Ness book, since I liked A Monster Calls so much!  The Knife of Never Letting Go features protagonists a little younger than I usually like (Todd is about 13-14 … their years have 13 months, sooooo …), but I really loved it.  Todd lives on New World in a place called Prentisstown, where men can hear each others’ thoughts.  There are no women or girls; the plague that made men’s thoughts into noise killed off the females, Todd is told.  There’s a dark secret to Prentisstown, and as Todd approaches becoming a man, he finds himself on the run from a savage army.  Along with a girl, because, yup, they’re not actually all gone.  I’ve already started the second Chaos Walking book, The Ask and the Answerand I’m loving that one as well!

Across the Universe by Beth Revis | This book got rave reviews from teens, who chose it as a YALSA Teens Top Ten Book for 212.  It’s about a girl named Amy, who is cryogenically frozen with her family, who are all to be unfrozen when they reach Centuri-Earth, about 350 years later.  But Amy is unfrozen early and finds herself on spaceship run by lies.  It was interesting, for sure, and I’m intrigued to find out what happens in the rest of this trilogy, but I have to say that I wasn’t terribly impressed with the writing.  Also, it kinda features an annoying insta-love, leaving me wondering if Elder likes Amy for anything more than her amazing red hair.  Sigh.  Still, I think I’ll tarry on.  Just got the second book, A Million Suns, from the library.

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker | A little different from my normal YA, this book is an adult novel about 12-year-old Julia, set in a time when the rotation of the earth began to slow.  It’s a very interesting take on the “disaster book”: instead of some calamitous event like a giant asteroid smacking into earth, what if the disaster is tiny and slow-going?  At first, the slowing of the earth only adds a couple extra minutes onto each day, but over the course of a year, daylight (and nighttime) stretch out much longer.  Great writing.  Fascinating concept.  A little slower than my usual, but that’s okay.  I still recommend it!

Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris | I love David Sedaris so freakin’ much.  The only book of his I didn’t really love was his one book of fiction, but I adore all his memoir!  This book doesn’t fail to delight as readers are treated to Sedaris’s dry and incredible humor as well as stories about the hilarious Sedaris family.  I recommend!

Chopsticks by Jessica Anthony and Rodrigo Corral | This book was fascinating because it wasn’t made of text but of photos and paraphernalia such as music programs, text messages, and postcards.  From that, I learned the love story of Glory and Frank.  I can’t wait for another friend of mine to “read” it so that we can compare stories and see if our interpretations were the same!

Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi | Okay, so I read this one in 19 hours, and that included 11 of them sleeping, ha!  So, yeah, I tore through this one.  It’s about a girl named Juliette whose touch is lethal.  This has always made her a freak, an outcast, and the story starts with her locked up in an asylum.  When a corrupt new government decides to use her power as a weapon, Juliette is thrown into a new world where it’s hard to know whom to trust.  But there is Adam.  Yeah.  He’s awesome.  The book is not without its faults though.  It’s distracting to always have her use actual numbers instead of spelling them out (3 vs. three), and I don’t love how she repeats repeats repeats words quite often.  Everything is a metaphor (I didn’t know there could be too many, but yes, I guess there can!).  There’s a lot of sexual energy in the book, as you might imagine would be true for a 17-year-old girl who can’t be touched.  All said, it’s not a perfect book, but it did draw me in– and quickly!  I can’t wait to read the next book, Unravel Me.  The third book doesn’t come out till February 2014 though!

David Small and Sarah Stewart were keynote speakers at a Children’s and YA Writing Conference I recently attended, and so sparked an interest in me for picture books.  I was quite pleased and impressed with Extra Yarn (written by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Jon Klassen), One Cool Friend (written by Toni Buzzeo and illustrated by David Small), and The Friend (written by Sarah Stewart and illustrated by David Small).  And it was a joy to re-read Imogen’s Antlers, written and illustrated by David Small, so many years after I’d originally read it.  I have a new appreciation for picture books and all the steps it takes to pull text and illustrations together into a beautiful, cohesive unit!

I also just finished reading through The Chronicles of Narnia.  Mmm, always Narnia.

Currently reading:

The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness

A Million Suns by Beth Revis

books books books

Just finished …

Stupid Fast by Geoff Herbach | The subtitle on this novel is “The summer I went from a joke to a jock.”  Felton Reinstein has gotten tall and fast, and suddenly his high school football team wants to recruit him to play.  In the same summer, his best friend leaves to spend the summer in South America, a beautiful young pianist moves into town, and Felton’s mother ceases acting like a mother.  This is his story, and I rather enjoyed it, even though it felt more geared toward boys.  That said, I loved Herbach’s great VOICE in this story, and it was a lot deeper and more serious than I thought it was going to be (the back cover copy made it sound like it was all going to be about becoming a jock, but really it was more about his family issues and going through big changes).  Bravo!  And Herbach is from Minnesota– he teaches at MSU-Mankato!

Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets by Evan Roskos | James Whitman is not related to Walt Whitman, but he is obsessed with him.  He’s also depressed, thinks a lot about suicide, and is trying to piece together why his older sister Jorie was expelled from their high school and kicked out of their family home.  A very impressive debut by Evan Roskos!  Yawp!!

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell | After devouring Eleanor and Park last month, I was desperate to get my hands on anything else written by Rowell.  She has another new book in the works, but her only other publication is Attachments, an adult novel, which was a nice change of pace for me!  This book is set during the Y2K scare, when the internet was still a new commodity.  Lincoln’s job is to monitor the interoffice emails to make sure that people are following company policies.  But Beth and Jennifer’s emails are so hilarious that he doesn’t send out a warning … and instead, he keeps reading their emails, simultaneously falling in love with Beth through her emails.  This book was incredibly well-written and very funny.  I really enjoyed it and highly recommend it.  I was trying not to be too jealous of Rowell’s spot-on humor and description, as well as her incredible characterization.  It was definitely different to read a book where the main characters actually don’t interact throughout most of it; in fact, you don’t even know what Beth looks like for a lot of the book!  But quite fascinating.  Highly recommend.  And I will definitely be buying Rowell’s Fangirl, coming out September 2013.

The Last Unicorn by Peter Beagle | Brilliant and beautiful. Every. Single. Time.  (More on this tomorrow!)

Plus a bunch of Narnia (as always!) and Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows.

Currently reading …

Quitter by Jon Acuff

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

Bonus …

Found out Billy Collins is publishing Aimless Love: New and Collected Poems in October 2013!  So excited!

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Jackie’s Book Awards

Inspired by Tara, The Librarian Who Doesn’t Say Shhh, and her end-of-the-year Superlatives Awards.

I. Books

Book I’m always recommending: Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

Best re-telling of a popular story: Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson (it’s a fresh look at Peter Pan)

Best companion book: Fire by Kristin Cashore (companion to Graceling, but it works as a standalone)

Most original and imaginative: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Biggest tear-jerker: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, followed closely by A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

Like reading my own biography: Kissing Doorknobs by Terri Spencer Hesser

Most interesting premise: Every Day by David Levithan and Life of Pi by Yann Martel

Deepest meaning: The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis

Best prose: three-way tie between The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson and Peace Like a River by Leif Enger and The Last Unicorn by Peter Beagle

Best story arc in a series: Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

Everything-Falls-Into-Place Award: When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead and HP & the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling and Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

Creepiest: This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers

Best book for boys: tie between Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card and Wrestling Sturbridge by Rich Wallace

Hard book to get into but totally worth it: That Hideous Strength by C.S. Lewis

Best short stories: The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios by Yann Martel and The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien

II. Characters

Most different character: tie between Stargirl Carraway of Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli and Quintana of Froi of the Exiles and Quintana of Charyn by Melina Marchetta

Best boyfriend: three-way tie between Augustus Waters (The Fault in Our Stars), Jonah Griggs (Jellicoe Road), and Will Trombal (Saving Francesca)

Most chilling: Mr. Loomis in Z for Zachariah

Best best friends: Taylor and Raffy in Jellicoe Road and Harry, Ron, and Hermione in Harry Potter

Best animal character: Charlotte A. Cavatica in Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White

Best narrator: Death in The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Sweetest child: Eva in Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe

Most changed character: Jean Valjean in Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

Character I want to be friends with: Rae in Rosie by Anne Lamott

Character I love to hate: Dolores Umbridge in HP & the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling

Character I just plain hate: Simon Price in The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

Character you want to live next door to: Sam Hamilton in East of Eden by John Steinbeck and Chaz Santangelo in Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

III. Scenes

Best theological discussion in fiction: a large portion of Perelandra by C.S. Lewis and East of Eden by John Steinbeck

Most intense scene: Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis

Steamiest scene: Jace and Clary, all the time, but especially in City of Glass and City of Lost Souls by Cassandra Clare

Best sexual tension: Perry and Aria while he teaches her how to tell if berries are poisonous (yes, really!) in Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi

Sweetest: when Eleanor and Park hold hands for the first time in Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

Most disturbing: you’ll know it when you read it in Unwind by Neal Shusterman (I thought I was going to throw up)

Most fascinating conversation in the face of great danger: walking through the Red Bull’s lair in The Last Unicorn by Peter Beagle

Best opening line: “What can you say about a twenty-five-year-old girl who died?” in Love Story by Erich Segal

Biggest cliffhanger: Froi of the Exiles by Melina Marchetta

girl reading