Book reviews (while I can still read)

I’m still reading like crazy, since I can’t do very much else (including sleep at the moment). It’s all good, because soon enough I suspect stealing a few minutes to read here and there is going to be nothing but a pleasant memory. I have no idea how people take care of two kids at the same time. Like, I’m actually a little scared. I’ve been encouraged by many, including my pediatrician, to spend as much time at the hospital as possible, before coming home to the chaos that I will find as the mother and primary caregiver of a two-year-old and a brand new infant. Oh dear god.

Anyway, here’s what I’ve been reading.

Fablehaven, by Brandon Mull

Book description: For centuries mystical creatures of all description were gathered into a hidden refuge called Fablehaven to prevent their extinction. The sanctuary survives today as one of the last strongholds of true magic. Enchanting? Absolutely. Exciting? You bet. Safe? Well, actually, quite the opposite.

Kendra and her brother, Seth, have no idea that their grandfather is the current caretaker of Fablehaven. Inside the gated woods, ancient laws keep relative order among greedy trolls, mischievous satyrs, plotting witches, spiteful imps, and jealous fairies. However, when the rules get broken — Seth is a bit too curious and reckless for his own good — powerful forces of evil are unleashed, and Kendra and her brother face the greatest challenge of their lives. To save their family, Fablehaven, and perhaps even the world, Kendra and Seth must find the courage to do what they fear most.

Reading Challenge category: A trilogy

My review: Okay, so technically at five books, this series is longer than a trilogy. But surely I deserve the credit for having read the entire series, yes? I probably wouldn’t have, if the ebook I loaned from the library didn’t include the entire series in one document, but as it was, it did and so I did. And I loved it. This is a great children’s series, one that I think a lot of grown ups can get into as well. It’s exciting and fun, and I love the world that Mull created here.

I think it might be especially good to encourage pre-teen boys to read, as the main boy character is a pretty kick-ass, brave eleven/twelve year old who gets into all kinds of trouble but manages to make things work out in the end. I’m not sure if trying to get boys to read is still a difficult thing, but I would have these books stored next to the Harry Potters to help get kids enjoying reading. They really are that fun. The girls get lots of unicorns and faery stuff too, so I think everyone should come away happy.

Heat Stroke, by Rachel Caine

Book description: Mistaken for a murderer, Weather Warden Joanne Baldwin is hunted down and killed by her colleagues. Reborn as a Djinn, she senses something sinister entering earth’s atmosphere-something that makes tomorrow’s forecast look deadly.

My review: This is the second book in the Weather Warden series, which is about people who can control the weather and djinns. The books are kind of sexy, and I saw I could easily download the second book of the series and had been spending a lot of time reading about middle-school age fantasy adventures. So I needed something different. I is fun that it was also light and easy and I could read it in close to a day.

This is also the first book I’ve read this year that I couldn’t make work with my Ultimate Reading challenge. I’ll have to start actually making an effort to find books that work within the categories. But it was going to happen one of these days. And sometimes you just need an easy read. If you’ve read the first in the series, then by all means continue if you want, but to be honest the book didn’t really do much for me.

I’ll Give You The Sun, by Jandy Nelson

Book description: Jude and her twin brother, Noah, are incredibly close. At thirteen, isolated Noah draws constantly and is falling in love with the charismatic boy next door, while daredevil Jude cliff-dives and wears red-red lipstick and does the talking for both of them. But three years later, Jude and Noah are barely speaking. Something has happened to wreck the twins in different and dramatic ways . . . until Jude meets a cocky, broken, beautiful boy, as well as someone else—an even more unpredictable new force in her life. The early years are Noah’s story to tell. The later years are Jude’s. What the twins don’t realize is that they each have only half the story, and if they could just find their way back to one another, they’d have a chance to remake their world.

Reading Challenge category: A book by a female author

My review: I honestly thought this would be falling under the “book that made you cry” category. I’ve heard really good things about the book, and usually teen angst + dead parents + pregnancy hormones is a surefire bet on ugly sobbing. But I was not moved to tears by it. Not to say I didn’t like it. It was a really well done book. I began reading disliking both the main characters, then vacillated between which of the two I liked the least, and ended liking both of them as their stories and their reasons are revealed. I would definitely recommend this book for anyone, but I remember seeing this in a list to recommend for teens going through issues and overcoming them, including about sexuality and sexual assault, so there’s that.

I had to settle for “a book by a female author.” This category seems odd to me – do people normally not read books by women? Like, do you pick up a book and think “Nah, written by a woman, not my scene?” I feel like we should be beyond this by now, but maybe it’s an ingrained thing? I don’t ever think about whether the author is male or female before I begin a book. I want to keep it that way, but at the end of this challenge I want to tally how many women vs. men’s books I read. I suspect I read more women than men, without meaning too, so it will be interesting to see.

Unholy Magic, by Stacia Kane

Book description: For Chess Putnam, finding herself near-fatally poisoned by a con psychic and then stopping a murderous ghost is just another day on the job. As an agent of the Church of Real Truth, Chess must expose those looking to profit from the world’s unpleasant little poltergeist problem–humans filing false claims of hauntings–all while staving off any undead who really are looking for a kill. But Chess has been extra busy these days, coping with a new “celebrity” assignment while trying on her own time to help some desperate prostitutes.
Someone’s taking out the hookers of Downside in the most gruesome way, and Chess is sure the rumors that it’s the work of a ghost are way off base. But proving herself right means walking in the path of a maniac, not to mention standing between the two men in her life just as they–along with their ruthless employers–are moving closer to a catastrophic showdown. Someone is dealing in murder, sex, and the supernatural, and once again Chess finds herself right in the crossfire.

Reading Challenge category: A book with antonyms in the title

My review: The antonyms thing is a bit of a stretch, I’ll admit, but I don’t care. I sort of works so deal with it. This was another rather light book, a second in a series where I kind of liked the first one. That was kind of sexy. As with Heat Stroke, the second book wasn’t as good as the first, and also LESS sexy, so I doubt I’ll read the next one in the series. Anyway, reading with greater diversity is turning me into a book snob, which I don’t entirely love. I mean, I still want to be able to enjoy the occasional trashy novel or beach read, you know? Anyone have any recommendations on GOOD trashy books? I feel I could use them soon, what with baby hormones about to take over.

The Color Purple, by Alice Walker

Book description: Taking place mostly in rural Georgia, the story focuses on the life of women of color in the southern United States in the 1930s, addressing numerous issues including their exceedingly low position in American social culture. The novel has been the frequent target of censors and appears on the American Library Association list of the 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 2000-2009 at number seventeen because of the sometimes explicit content, particularly in terms of violence.

Reading Challenge category: A book published the year you were born

My review: I didn’t really know what to expect with this book. I assumed that it would be mainly a book about race. And yet, I found that while race certainly played a part in the novel, other issues were explored in much greater detail, including those of religion and sexual orientation/sexuality. Alice Walker explains in the foreword that the book had everything to do with personal connections with God, as well as the cultural viewpoint of blacks in America’s relationship with Christian religion. And the book kept on coming back to this, especially through the eyes of the main character’s sister, Nettie, working as a missionary in Africa.

The sexuality stuff sort of spun me a bit, as it was unexpected, but I loved how it wasn’t that huge of a deal that main character Celie was a lesbian and it didn’t really make anyone stop and judge, especially in the 1930s. This is a gorgeous book about forgiveness, and empowerment, and overcoming, and I absolutely loved it.

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