Friday, June 24, 2016

Beastkeeper by Cat Hellisen

Beastkeeper by Cat Hellisen -- When Sarah's mother leaves, her father takes Sarah to the grandparents she never knew she had, where she learns that magic is real, and that her entire family is under a curse. Can Sarah break the curse before she, too, falls victim to it?

I liked the dark, atmospheric feel of this book, but I never really connected with the characters. Also, I'm not sure what I think of the ending -- it's a bit ambiguous, and some of the characters make decisions that don't make sense to me.

(Reviewed from a copy borrowed through my library system.)

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Awkward by Svetlana Chmakova

Awkward by Svetlana Chmakova -- On the first day of middle school, Peppi Torres tripped and dropped her books. When sweet, nerdy Jaime tried to help her, bullies started taunting both of them, and Peppi pushed Jaime away. She's regretted it ever since, but her attempts to apologize are complicated by the fact that she's a member of the art club and he's a member of the science club. Between the two clubs there is a fierce rivalry. Can Peppi and Jaime find a way to connect, before the competition between clubs leads to disaster?

This story is sure to appeal to fans of Raina Telgemeier's graphic novels -- I'm sure I will be recommending it to young readers often!

(Reviewed from a copy borrowed through my library system.)

Monday, June 13, 2016

Summer Days and Summer Nights, edited by Stephanie Perkins

Summer Days and Summer Nights, edited by Stephanie Perkins -- These twelve stories of summer love are (almost) as delightful as the first twelve collected in My True Love Gave to Me (almost, because there is no Rainbow Rowell story in this collection). As with any short story collection, there are high points and low points: I enjoyed Perkins' follow-up to her winter story, could have done without Francesca Lia Block's tale, I don't think Jon Skovron actually knows any women based on how he writes them, but I loved Lev Grossman's story and found that it ended the collection on just the right note. Fans of YA, of romance, and of short stories will enjoy these seasonal offerings.

(Reviewed from a copy borrowed through my library system.)

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Summerlost by Ally Condie

Summerlost by Ally Condie -- Still grieving over the recent deaths of her father and brother, twelve-year-old Cedar takes a summer job selling programs at a Shakespeare festival, makes a new friend, and searches for the solution to an old mystery.

This book exhibits strong character development, particularly in how Cedar and her family handle their grief. I also liked the setting, which was basically a fictionalization of the Utah Shakespeare Festival. However, I'm always bemused at otherwise realistic stories in which children as young as twelve find actual, formal jobs. Maybe I should give this book the benefit of the doubt -- after all, I've never looked into Utah's child labor laws. But it's a pet peeve that takes me right out of the story.

Pet peeves aside, there's plenty to like about this book, and I found it a good read for the start of summer.

(Reviewed from a copy borrowed through my library system.)

Friday, June 3, 2016

The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan

The Trials of Apollo: The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan -- Zeus needs someone to blame for the war with the giants, and his eye falls on Apollo. How do you punish a god? You make him mortal, of course. Apollo the scrawny teenager falls to earth in a New York City back alley, and immediately is set upon by thugs, then falls in with a young demigod who has some secrets she's not telling. Apollo wants nothing more than to regain his godly status, but how? He's got a sinking suspicion that it has to do with the Oracle of Delphi, which has been retaken by an old enemy of his. And, speaking of old enemies, some shadowy figures from the distant past seem to be making a bid for world domination. In fact, they may have been behind all of the troubles the demigods have faced thus far...

Just when I think Riordan has pretty much run through his source material, he manages to twist in a different direction and set off on a new course. Apollo's perspective is a lot of fun to read, what with the overweening egotism and all -- Riordan does make him somewhat sympathetic by the end of the book. And I'm intrigued by the new bad guys.

I didn't think this book was quite as action-packed as Riordan's other stuff, but it was doing a lot of work to set up the series. It was nice to go back to Camp Halfblood for a bit, and to see some old friends. I wouldn't recommend this as a starting point for readers new to Riordan, but fans of Percy Jackson should certainly take notice.

(Reviewed from my personally purchased copy.)

Ms. Rapscott's Girls by Elise Primavera

Ms. Rapscott's Girls by Elise Primavera -- Five daughters of extremely busy parents are sent to a most unusual boarding school, but one gets lost along the way.

Eh, it was okay. It's written in a style reminiscent of Lemony Snicket -- is there a word for that style? It's common enough among children's books that there ought to be. Kind of whimsical, bordering on absurd? Anyhow, there were adventures and lessons, but nothing in the story felt particularly fresh to me. Young readers who are not as jaded as I might enjoy it more. I listened to the audiobook, but even Katherine Kellgren couldn't manage to save this one from mediocrity for me.

(Reviewed from an e-audiobook borrowed through my library system.)

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Get Happy by Mary Amato

Get Happy by Mary Amato -- Sixteen-year-old Min wants a ukulele for her birthday, but she gets a sweater instead. She also gets a mysterious package from the father she doesn't remember, who left when she was two. This sets in motion a chain of events that leads to her learning more about her father, and in the meantime, she also gets a job, meets an intriguing boy, writes some songs, and engages in a bit of cyberbullying. Eventually, she confronts her father and her mother about what really happened when she was a toddler.

You know how, sometimes, you start out disliking a character, but grow to like them over the course of the story? The reverse happened to me with this book. I liked angsty song-writing Min with her wacky best friend and disastrous beauty product experiments, but I did not like deceptive cyberbullying Min spewing vitriol over everyone in her path. I guess my main problem here is that I don't think the resolution of the book was satisfactory. Yes, Min improves slightly after her meltdown at the book's climax, but the reader never gets to see her work through the issues with her parents -- nor does she seem remorseful for how she has treated other people in her life. Maybe I am too far from being a teenager to really appreciate this book, but it left a sour taste in my mouth.

However, I did read it all in one evening, so it was compelling and well-written enough to keep me reading. I think that, if the author had given us a bit more resolution, a little bit more dialogue, I would have been a lot happier with it.

(Reviewed from a copy borrowed through my library system.)

The Great American Whatever by Tim Federle

The Great American Whatever by Tim Federle -- In the six months since his sister died, Quinn has barely left his house. He has stopped working on his screenplay, and he has intentionally lost his cell phone. When his best friend drags him out to shop, get a haircut, and go to a party, it's the start of a crazy week, full of plot twists and revelations and even a little romance.

Federle has a keen ear for dialogue and a deft hand at character development. I didn't always like Quinn, but I always found myself rooting for him. I'd recommend this to readers who liked Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda and Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe.

(Reviewed from a copy borrowed through my library system.)

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Cici Reno: #middleschoolmatchmaker by Kristina Springer

Cici Reno: #MiddleSchoolMatchmaker by Kristina Springer -- A modern take on Cyrano de Bergerac. Cici's best friend has a crush on a guy, but is too shy to actually talk to him. Cici comes up with a plan: she will pretend to be her friend and chat with the guy online. Complications ensue as Cici realizes that she also likes the guy.

Cyrano is my favorite play, so I gravitate toward retellings and riffs on the theme. This one is cute and fluffy -- fun for the target audience, but not something I'd recommend across the board.

(Reviewed from an advance copy, courtesy of the publisher.)

Prudence by Gail Carriger

Prudence by Gail Carriger is the first book in a new series, set in the same world as the Parasol Protectorate, but about 20 years in the future.

I'm not sure why, but I can't seem to finish a series by Gail Carriger before starting reading another series. So far, I've read three of the Parasol Protectorate, two of the Finishing School, and now one of the Custard Protocol. It's not precisely that I get bored, but I do find I can't binge-read her books or the style begins to grate on my nerves. So I put down a series, meaning to pick it up again later, and then a new series comes along and, well...

I found this about on par with her other books, so fans of the author, take note. I also found Prudence to be similar in character to our girl Jacky, so fans of the Bloody Jack series might also want to take note. All in all, a fun romp. Maybe I will be able to stick with this series (it helps that the second book is not out yet)!

(Reviewed from an e-audiobook borrowed through my library system.)