This month I had planned on reading less so I could write more—well, I finished my writing goals (hooray!) but didn’t read any less (not that I really thought I would…).
Fire by Kristin Cashore
I read Kristin Cashore's first book, Graceling, a few months ago. Everyone I shared this with was so excited for me, and most followed up by saying "I think I liked Fire even better." I disagree a tiny bit, but that only shows the strength of Cashore's writing. I adored Graceling; I enjoyed Fire. But I found Fire to be too meandering, full of too many “she remembered when”s and Fire was a less likeable character than Katsa. But the graceful way in which Cashore handles mature topics in YA--the male gaze, lust, the consequences of sex--was admirable. I give her so much credit. My paperback edition of Fire also included a reprinted article from the Horn Book that Cashore had written on creating her fantasy world. My goodness it was so good and helpful! Since Graceling and Fire are some of the closest comparative titles to my own WIP it was invaluable to read what Kristin Cashore had to say about her craft. Those ten pages gave me so much to think about! I look forward to reading the next book set in this world, Bitterblue.
Forever (ARC) by Maggie Stiefvater
When I snatched up a copy of this ARC at 9:30am on Tuesday of BEA, I knew my goals for the day had been achieved. I needed to read this book. Lately I’ve realized two things: 1) I don’t love paranormal novels. 2) I don’t read YA for the love story. Well, the Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy, which Forever, wraps up, is a werewolf romance. And I adore it. Maggie Stiefvater’s last words in the author’s note sum up my feelings well: “Many, many readers have written me asking wistfully about the nature of Sam and Grace’s relationship, and I can assure you, that sort is absolutely read. Mutual, respectful, enduring love is completely attainable as long as you swear you won’t settle for less.” Sam and Grace’s love for each other is achingly powerful, and Sam, especially, is a much-needed male figure in YA: sweet, shy, with room to grow. He might be ‘damaged’ but he isn’t a bad boy. He is good and real. I was very happy with the way Forever ends the series.
The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: The Mysterious Howling by Maryrose Wood
I love the beginning of the description for this middle grade adventure: “Of especially naughty children, it is sometime said: ‘They must have been raised by wolves.’ The Incorrigible Children actually were.” With a little mystery, a lot of adventure, plenty of laughs and a bit of Victorian charm, this book was everything I hoped it would be. The occasional illustrations are a nice touch.
Chime by Franny Billingsley
In this book set in nineteenth century Wales, eighteen year old Briony deals with the death of her beloved stepmother and the mental illness of her sister, both of which she believes is her fault. Because she’s a witch. Various supernatural events occur, but a charming boy from London eventually helps Briony see the truth. I’m a bit confused about how I feel about this book. I’ve heard nothing but rave reviews and it has won honors, but I didn’t love it. The reasons, though, stem from my personal leaning towards straightforward books. Nothing about Chime was simple and that’s a very good thing in a world where so many books seem mass produced. The language, although convoluted, was beautiful and brilliantly captured Briony’s confusion and the ease in which witch hunts historically occurred. The overarching plot was entertaining and clever, although halfway through the book I had figured out most of the big reveal that happened at the end. Although not my favorite novel, it’s nice to read a novel that breaks the typical boundaries of YA and fantasy, and Chime does that exceedingly well. (Historical Book Challenge #4)
Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
The basic plot is simple: Anna, a girl from Atlanta, is sent by her father to a fancy boarding school in Paris against her will. But then she finds a group of friends, including British-American cutie St. Clair, and discovers that Paris isn’t so bad after all. I found page 1 amusing and observant enough to share with my boyfriend; I was hooked by the Harry Potter reference on page 5. And so it went…witty dialogue, hilarious observations, a sweet and realistic romance. This is one of the best contemporary teen books I’ve read in a long time. A highly recommended read (and my favorite for June!). I’m dying to get my hands on the companion novel/sequel, Lola and the Boy Next Door.
Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson
It was probably foolish of me to read this right after Anna and the French Kiss, 1) because I WANT TO GO BACK TO EUROPE SO BAD and 2) it begs for comparison. Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes is the story of Ginny who is sent on a wild adventure through Europe based in the instructions her beloved dead aunt left for her. It’s kookier than Anna and takes more risks. I really enjoyed it, but had several plausibility issues, the primary being: why did Ginny’s follow-the-rules Mom let her seventeen-year-old daughter traipse through Europe by herself? Ignoring that, it’s a fun romp through Europe that has more emotional depth than I initially expected. I’m going to pick up the sequel The Last Little Blue Envelope really soon.