January: Monthly Round-Up
Outside the Reviews / January 31, 2018

It’s hard to believe we’re already a month into 2018! Of course, I spent the first two weeks of January in a fog – it was probably bronchitis – and I’m sure that’s contributing to how fast time seems to have gone. Mostly I’ve been readjusting to school. Did a bit of reading, a bit of crocheting; not very much writing. It’s been a very quiet month. I’m not particularly complaining about that, but hopefully I’ll get a bit more done in February. So just how much reading did I do? Well. Three adult books, all in completely different genres: The Princess Bride, We Have Always Lived in the Castle, and The Tea Master and the Detective. I’ve watched The Princess Bride before, of course; it’s a classic adventure-comedic-romance (yes, I know that’s not a genre) and while the book delves into backstories a bit more and has some more funny lines, overall I wasn’t hugely impressed. We Have Always Lived in the Castle is also considered rather a classic, in the horror genre, and I really enjoyed it! It’s about two sisters who live alone together, and it seems to move along pretty slowly on the surface, but there’s…

Comfort Books
Outside the Reviews / January 30, 2018

Some books just feel like home when I open them. A combination of familiarity, love, the story-atmosphere – I don’t know what all. But there’s something about these books, because the idea of having comfort books is not something I came up with; reaching for a well-read book came naturally when I was tired, or sick, or just not doing well that day. Right now, those books are The Hobbit, The Goose-Girl, The Last Unicorn, and A Tale of Two Cities for me. There are other books I’ve read again and again, other books I’ll read for certain moods or times; but these four are books where every word is familiar, and still I love reading them. The funny thing is that I haven’t read any of those all the way through very recently. I tend to read the first few chapters at night, or in a blank interval between work, and then put it back down. By the time I come back, weeks or months later, I start at the beginning again. When I do make my way all the way through one of them, that generally either means I have time on my hands and nothing in particular…

Everlost
Young Adult / January 28, 2018

Skinjacker #1. Author: Neal Shusterman. Summary: Nick and Allie don’t survive the car accident… …but their souls don’t exactly get where they’re supposed to get either. Instead, they’re caught halfway between life and death, in a sort of limbo known as Everlost: a shadow of the living world, filled with all the things and places that no longer exist. It’s a magical, yet dangerous place where bands of lost children run wild and anyone who stands in the same place too long sinks to the center of the Earth. When they find Mary, the self-proclaimed queen of lost kids, Nick feels like he he’s found a home, but Allie isn’t satisfied spending eternity between worlds. Against all warnings, Allie begins learning the “Criminal Art” of haunting, and ventures into dangerous territory, where a monster called the McGill threatens all the souls of Everlost. (Published Summary) My Thoughts: Everlost is a bit like Alice in Wonderland – if Wonderland made sense, in an internal self-contained way. I mean, our characters fall down a long hole into a strange, often whimsical, new land. A land where how you remember yourself determines your appearance, where falling straight to the center of the earth…

100 Cupboards
Middle Grade / Juvenile / January 24, 2018

  100 Cupboards #1. Author: N. D. Wilson. Summary: Twelve-year-old Henry York is going to sleep one night when he hears a bump on the attic wall above his head. It’s an unfamiliar house—Henry is staying with his aunt, uncle, and three cousins—so he tries to ignore it. But the next night he wakes up with bits of plaster in his hair. Two knobs have broken through the wall, and one of them is slowly turning… Henry scrapes the plaster off the wall and discovers doors—ninety-nine cupboards of all different sizes and shapes. Through one he can hear the sound of falling rain. Through another he sees a glowing room—with a man strolling back and forth! Henry and his cousin Henrietta soon understand that these are not just cupboards. They are, in fact, portals to other worlds. My Thoughts: Hovering right between 2.5 and 3 stars. The story takes a while to get going, and while Henry is fairly interesting as a withdrawn, sheltered protagonist his behavior also seems inconsistent. Sometimes he’s totally shy and polite, sometimes he’s scared stiff of adventure, and sometimes he strips the wall of his borrowed bedroom apart without a second thought? He seems like…

The Last Girl on Earth
Young Adult / January 18, 2018

Author: Alexandria Blogier. Summary: Raised among them.> Li has a father and a sister who love her. A best friend, Mirabae, to share things with. She goes to school and hangs out at the beach and carefully follows the rules. She has to. Everyone she knows–her family, her teachers, her friends–is an alien. And she is the only human left on Earth. A secret that could end her life. The Abdoloreans hijacked the planet sixteen years ago, destroying all human life. Li’s human-sympathizer father took her in as a baby and has trained her to pass as one of them. The Abdoloreans appear human. But they don’t think with human minds or feel with human hearts. And they have special abilities no human could ever have. Fit in or die. When Li meets Ryn, she’s swept up in a relationship that could have disastrous consequences. How far will Li go to stay alive? Will she save herself–and in turn, the human race–or will she be the final witness to humanity’s destruction? (Published Summary) My Thoughts: I have no idea how Li survived all seventeen years before the book opens. None. So she’s the last human, surrounded by aliens who’d kill…

The Tea Master and the Detective
Adult / January 15, 2018

Universe of Xuya. Author: Aliette de Bodard. Summary: Welcome to the Scattered Pearls Belt, a collection of ring habitats and orbitals ruled by exiled human scholars and powerful families, and held together by living mindships who carry people and freight between the stars. In this fluid society, human and mindship avatars mingle in corridors and in function rooms, and physical and virtual realities overlap, the appareance of environments easily modified and adapted to interlocutors or current mood. A transport ship discharged from military service after a traumatic injury, The Shadow’s Child now ekes out a precarious living as a brewer of mind-altering drugs for the comfort of space-travellers. Meanwhile, abrasive and eccentric scholar Long Chau wants to find a corpse for a scientific study. When Long Chau walks into her office, The Shadow’s Child expects an unpleasant but easy assignment. When the corpse turns out to have been murdered, Long Chau feels compelled to investigate, dragging The Shadow’s Child with her. As they dig deep into the victim’s past, The Shadow’s Child realises that the investigation points to Long Chau’s own murky past–and, ultimately, to the dark and unbearable void that lies between the stars… (Published Summary) My Thoughts: Some…

The Princess Bride
Adult / January 9, 2018

Author: William Goldman. Summary: What happens when the most beautiful girl in the world marries the handsomest prince of all time and he turns out to be…well…a lot less than the man of her dreams? As a boy, William Goldman claims, he loved to hear his father read the “S. Morgenstern classic, The Princess Bride. But as a grown-up he discovered that the boring parts were left out of good old Dad’s recitation, and only the “good parts” reached his ears. Now Goldman does Dad one better. He’s reconstructed the “Good Parts Version” to delight wise kids and wide-eyed grownups everywhere. What’s it about? Fencing. Fighting. True Love. Strong Hate. Harsh Revenge. A Few Giants. Lots of Bad Men. Lots of Good Men. Five or Six Beautiful Women. Beasties Monstrous and Gentle. Some Swell Escapes and Captures. Death, Lies, Truth, and Miracles. In short, it’s about everything. (Published Summary) My Thoughts: Do you know how long it took me to realize there is no “unabridged” version of this story? It was infuriating. Goldman claims to be writing the abridged version; indeed, this comes up again and again in the footnotes, as he comments on how many pages he cut out here…

Ghosts of Greenglass House
Middle Grade / Juvenile / January 8, 2018

Greenglass House #2. Author: Kate Milford. Summary: Welcome back to the irresistible world of Greenglass House where thirteen-year-old Milo is, once again, spending the winter holidays stuck in a house full of strange guests who are not what they seem. There are fresh clues to uncover as friends old and new join in his search for a mysterious map and a famous smuggler’s lost haul. (Published Summary) My Thoughts: I really love the author’s voice, which stays consistent from the last book. It’s straight-forward but well-crafted prose, with the third person view point sticking close to Milo, our protagonist, so everyone else is characterized through what he would notice first, then second, and on. Although Milo came to grips with his adopted identity last time, it’s not a struggle that can be resolved through The Power of Friendship or any such thing, and Kate Milford recognizes this. Milo is still very much working on growing up, and that includes such wide-ranging pursuits as learning to balance his emotions, learning to understand other people’s blunders, learning to retain his confidence in his own identity and background even when other people don’t understand. Spoilers for the previous book, Greenglass House: A solid,…

The Language of Thorns
Young Adult / January 6, 2018

Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic. Author: Leia Bardugo. Summary: Love speaks in flowers. Truth requires thorns. Travel to a world of dark bargains struck by moonlight, of haunted towns and hungry woods, of talking beasts and gingerbread golems, where a young mermaid’s voice can summon deadly storms and where a river might do a lovestruck boy’s bidding but only for a terrible price. (Published Summary) My Thoughts: Oh, this is very pretty. Each fairytale echoes an older, familiar tale, but they’re not retellings. Some of them are set before the story they echo, or after, and some of them just say what if. What if the girl realized that three impossible missions is an uncertain way to choose a husband, and said no? What if the stepmother wasn’t always evil, but assumptions were made and real culprits overlooked? What if the characters looked and saw the truth of life and didn’t believe in happily-ever-after, but still found a happily-right-now? Leigh Bardugo is intimately familiar with fairy tales, with their language and their rules, with their heroes and their villains, with their slide from whimsical to bloody and back again. Anyone can craft a clever what-if twist, can claim to re-write…

Invictus
Young Adult / January 5, 2018

Author: Ryan Graudin. Summary: Time flies when you’re plundering history. Farway Gaius McCarthy was born outside of time. The son of a time-traveling Recorder from 2354 AD and a gladiator living in Rome in 95 AD, Far’s birth defies the laws of nature. Exploring history himself is all he’s ever wanted, and after failing his final time-traveling exam, Far takes a position commanding a ship with a crew of his friends as part of a black market operation to steal valuables from the past. But during a heist on the sinking Titanic, Far meets a mysterious girl who always seems to be one step ahead of him. Armed with knowledge that will bring Far’s very existence into question, she will lead Far and his team on a race through time to discover a frightening truth: History is not as steady as it seems. (Published Summary) My Thoughts: Every bit the exciting romp it purports to be in the description. Now, I did come in with high expectations, because it’s Ryan Graudin, and those were rather disappointed. It’s nowhere near as good as Wolf by Wolf. I couldn’t figure out exactly what was missing until I saw someone else’s review where…