Friday, May 29, 2015

Review: The Great Good Summer

The Great Good Summer
By Liz Garton Scanlon
Published 2015 by Beach Lane Books

Ivy Green's mama is missing. She followed Hallelujah Dave to the Great Good Bible Church of Panhandle Florida and Ivy can't really understand why. So, when her new friend Paul says they should go find her, Ivy can't come up with a reason to disagree. But traveling from Texas to Florida with just your saved-up babysitting money and very little information is not quite so easy.

So, this month has been a bit crazy for me, both personally and professionally, and I haven't really gotten as much reading done as usual. Additionally, most of what I read hasn't really stuck with me - there have been a lot of just okay or disappointing reads for me this month. I'm afraid that The Great Good Summer was one of those books for me.

I'm going to go right ahead and admit that the reason I didn't enjoy this book all that much is entirely personal. I am not a religious person and I don't read books that focus much on religion all that often (despite a pretty deep interest in cults and fringe religions). Obviously, from the blurb, I knew this book was going to focus on religion pretty deeply. I was still willing to give it a shot, mostly because I wanted to see how this story would play out (though, as a side note, I find stories of mothers abandoning their children particularly heart-wrenching).

What I will give this book is that it highlights the life of a young person who is deeply religious in a way that one doesn't often see in mainstream fiction. The focus of the book is not on Ivy's religion or her struggle to figure out what she believes (which is often the case with what is typically considered religious fiction) - the focus of the book is Ivy's longing to understand why her mother left and how she can get her back.

But, there were points for me when Ivy's religion seemed like an excuse for her to willfully ignore the evidence and logical conclusions in front of her and that really frustrated me and hindered my enjoyment of the story. Additionally, as I said, stories in which the mother leaves her children behind are particularly difficult for me to read - not that I have personal experience with this kind of narrative but simply because it is very difficult for me to understand the mind of a mother who does so. This example was especially difficult because Ivy's mother leaves to follow an obvious charlatan and swindler with no explanation given to the child who adores her (not to mention the loving husband she also leaves behind).

Ivy's short temper and her reluctance to claim Paul as her friend were also extremely irritating aspects of this novel. I also struggled to believe the entire road trip aspect of the story - it was extremely uncharacteristic for Ivy (and likely Paul as well) and the lack of suspicion on the part of the adults was a bit unsettling.

Ultimately, this was a not a book for me, but I can see this appealing to a particular kind of reader.

Thanks to the publisher for a digital advance reader's copy, provided via Edelweiss.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Review: The Devil You Know

The Devil You Know
By Trish Doller
Expected publication June 2, 2015 by Bloomsbury USA Children's Books

Arcadia craves adventure. Since her mother died, it's been her, her father and her younger brother and guess who's been the one doing most of the parenting? So, when she meets a pair of good-looking cousins at a party, she sees the opportunity to let loose a little. And when they invite her and a friend on a spontaneous road trip, Cadie decides to seize the moment. Unfortunately, one of the guys is not who he seems - he might, in fact, be a killer.

This book has been getting quite a bit of buzz and I'd heard good things about Doller's previous novels so when I saw I was auto-approved for this on NetGalley, I downloaded and dived in right away.

I'm pretty conflicted about this one. On the positive side, I really liked Cadie and it was incredibly easy to relate to her struggles, even though I didn't go through anything quite like she did. I think a lot of teens these days will understand her desire to please everyone and the frustration that comes along with trying so hard to be perfect all the time. Cadie's mom has also instilled some great values in her and Cadie is not afraid to voice her opinions. This means, as a whole, the book is pretty feminist and sex-positive, which I think is absolutely what teens need to hear. Additionally, this book screams summer in the best way - campfire parties, a little misbehaving, steamy weather, refreshing water, spontaneous road trips. It made me miss my teenage summers. Another bonus is the awesome chemistry between Cadie and her mysterious men - this book is swoon-inducing and will definitely make you want to curl up with someone.

But, on the not so positive, this book is completely predictable. I mean, I am notoriously bad at guessing twists but I saw this one coming almost from the first instant the boys are introduced. Additionally, the thriller aspect of the story doesn't really kick into gear until the last 50 pages or thereabouts, so for readers looking forward to this aspect of the novel, they'll have to spend quite some time waiting on it. The good news is that this book is fast-paced and easy to devour, so it shouldn't take interested readers too long to get to the thriller part.

Ultimately, I enjoyed it, though I wish the twist had been a bit less obvious. I'm definitely interested in reading Doller's other books, particularly since I think the most successful parts of this one were in the first part of the book (the more contemporary realistic part).

Thanks to the publisher for a digital advance reader's copy, provided via NetGalley.

Review: All Unquiet Things

All Unquiet Things
By Anna Jarzab, read by Mike Chamberlain and Allyson Ryan
Published 2010 by Listening Library

Carly was one of the brightest stars at Brighton Day school. And then she was murdered. Now, her cousin Audrey - whose father is in prison for the murder - wants to find the truth of what happened to Carly. And the only one who can help her is Neily - Carly's ex-boyfriend, a boy who was under a great deal of suspicion himself. Can the two uncover whether the right man is in prison for the crime?

As I mentioned recently, I've gone back to the beginnings of my TBR whenever I need to download a new audiobook, so you'll be seeing quite a few older titles appearing on the blog (particularly as I get back into my long runs). This is one such title.

I really wanted to like this book. I enjoy a good mystery and, like most people, I have a bit of a fascination with private schools and the lives of the kids who attend them. But really, I didn't like this book very much. It's very slow to develop and this is basically a death knell for an audiobook. I actually feel like the entire first section of this book could be cut out and it would be a much more interesting story. I think the first section - part one of Neily's story - is meant to establish some background on the characters and Carly's murder before Neily and Audrey begin their amateur investigation. Unfortunately, it's really just kinda boring and annoying. It didn't put me in the right frame of mind when it came to Neily - I found him off-putting. I think it was supposed to show me how much he loved Carly, but I got more of an uncomfortable vibe about their relationship. Whatever this first section of the book was supposed to do, it didn't get me started on the right foot with this novel.

On the whole, I didn't much care about the characters here. Where I think this book succeeds is the mystery - I definitely didn't see the revelations surrounding the murder coming. As pieces were revealed, it was clear that Jarzab had really taken her time constructing this aspect of her novel (a fact made abundantly clear in the interview that followed the story) and I'm glad she did.

While I didn't particularly care for this book, I'd be interested in reading another of Jarzab's titles, this time in print and seeing how I feel about her writing then.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Review: The Improbable Theory of Ana and Zak

The Improbable Theory of Ana and Zak
By Brian Katcher
Published 2015 by Katherine Tegen Books

Zak Duquette is about to fail health (I know, right?!). In order to save his skin, he is forced to miss Washingcon, the one convention he looks forward to every year, and instead participate in Quiz Bowl. At least he can try to get to know Ana Watson this way. But when Ana's little brother sneaks out to Washingcon (Zak may have made it sound a little TOO epic), all bets are off. Now Ana and Zak must work together to find Clayton - before both of them are in serious trouble.

I'll admit that my primary interest in this book was because of the author. Katcher's Almost Perfect was one of my favorite books in grad school, so seeing his name attached to something new caught my attention immediately.

This book is similar in that it's mostly a romance between two quite dissimilar characters, but it's different by being a bit more conventional than his previous award-winning title. Unfortunately, I thought this one was not as good. I really wanted to like it, because, as I said, I adored the previous title by Katcher and couldn't wait to read another of his titles.

I feel like conventional is actually a pretty good descriptor for this book. It's not terrible - I enjoyed it while I was reading it and I think Katcher still has a way with words - but it's not really anything new or different either. Nerd culture is very in right now (at least, I would argue that) and I think Katcher capitalizes on that a bit with the character of Zak and the majority of events taking place at Washingcon - a big convention of all things nerd. Additionally, it's very much a conventional romance - a boy and a girl who don't think they have much in common at first discover their similarities and end up falling for each other (sorry if you think that's a spoiler, but I thought it was pretty obvious). Don't get me wrong - there are other things going on in this book, but if you're looking for a bare-bones plot, it's a star-crossed romance. Finally, the plot twist that the book takes toward the end was completely out of left field and didn't really work for me. It felt way too tacked on and ill-placed.

Where I think the book most succeeds is in the less conventional things - when Zak and Ana discover each other's loss and begin to wonder how that has shaped their present day selves. These parts of the story felt the most realistic and interesting, so I wish Katcher had focused a bit more on this instead of hijinks at the Con. Overall, the book was fun and entertaining, but not what I hoped for.

Thanks to the publisher for a digital advance reader's copy, provided via Edelweiss.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Review: Ms. Rapscott's Girls

Ms. Rapscott's Girls
By Elise Primavera
Published 2015 by Dial Books

Four young girls find themselves shipped off to the Great Rapscott School for Daughters of Busy Parents. There are supposed to be five. The four who arrive safely begin learning the lessons of Great Rapscott and soon, will venture out in hopes of finding the fifth girl.

This e-galley came to me as part of Penguin's Young Readers Author Program. I was excited because it sounded like it could be a quick and fun read.

Unfortunately, this book just wasn't my cup of tea. It is full of Capitalized Phrases that are supposed to Accentuate the Important Bits but really just annoyed me. It is twee as all get out - and if you'd asked me prior to reading to define twee, I couldn't have, but now I know - it is this book. It's fascinating because I can see what company this book should keep - Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, Mary Poppins, even a more upbeat version of Series of Unfortunate Events - and it's full of books I love and this one I just didn't.

The characters are never really differentiated, at least not in any truly meaningful way, which made it difficult for me to really care much about what happened to them or even feel much sympathy that they were packed off to Great Rapscott in the first place. I think we are supposed to believe that the girls grow up during the course of the story, but it felt very superficial to me. Additionally, the audience for this is a bit hard for me to peg down - strong new chapter book readers? It reads a bit too young for me to think middle-grade readers will really find it appealing, but perhaps a second or third-grader would enjoy it.

Thanks to the publisher for a digital advance reader's copy, provided via NetGalley.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Review: Redwall

Redwall (Redwall, book one)
By Brian Jacques, performed by a full cast
Published 2005 by Listening Library

Cluny the Scourge is about to lead an attack on Redwall Abbey and it is up to young Matthias, a mouse who longs to be a hero, to discover his birthright and protect the Abbey.

My fiance and I recently took a trip to Maine, planning to settle some details for our upcoming wedding. We also planned an excursion for a few days up the coast, a chance to take a small break. Both of these plans meant several hours in the car, so we decided we needed an audiobook to listen to. Since we were picking one at the last minute, it was a bit of a scramble. I stumbled upon this one and (jokingly) suggested it. I should have known better.

The Redwall series is one of his favorites from childhood - he actually met Brian Jacques in high school, I think. I have never read any of them - I'm not big into animal fantasy. But, it is a classic series, so I planned on reading it eventually, and I knew my fiance wanted to reread it as well. So I guess it was lucky for us that the downloadable audiobook was available when we needed something to listen to.

It's a pretty enjoyable story and I can definitely see the appealing factors - heroism, puzzles, quests, memorable characters, fierce battles. It has all the makings of an epic story (and I'm quite surprised that it's only been made into a film once). There were a few moments when the story lost my interest (though that may have had more to do with my travel fatigue than the story itself) but for the most part, the action kept moving nicely. I loved the riddles as Matthias tries to figure out where Martin the Warrior hid his great sword. What I think Jacques has done best is the creation of a plethora of fascinating characters. They are all unique and memorable and I really enjoyed getting to know each of them (though some I wish had been more clearly developed).

My main quibbles with this comes from the format. I think this actually works quite well as an audiobook - there is enough action to keep listeners engaged throughout, though the number of characters could be overwhelming. However, the version we listened to was performed by a full cast and it was a bit too much for me. In fact, it was extremely off-putting initially and, actually, we mostly made fun of the ridiculous accents throughout the story. Because each character is performed by a different actor (or simply a different voice), that certainly helps eliminate any confusion over the characters. But, as I said, most of them are given quite absurd accents (Cluny the Scourge being, by far, the worst), which actually makes the book difficult to listen to at times. When a listener is focusing more on how something is being said instead of what is actually being said, it's not really a good thing. Eventually, we were mostly able to ignore the accents and lose ourselves in the story, but it was pretty difficult at first.

Will I continue the series? I'd like to, but I've got several other things I'm much more excited about first, so we'll see when I can find time for it.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Review: Love, Aubrey

Love, Aubrey
By Suzanne LaFleur, read by Becca Battoe
Published 2009 by Listening Library

Aubrey's life hasn't been the same since the accident, but she never expected it to get this bad. She is all set to start a new life on her own, until her grandmother shows up with other plans. Now Aubrey is having to adjust to a new way of living and wondering if things will ever be the same again.

So, I decided to go way back to the beginning of my TBR when I needed a new audiobook to listen to. Unsurprisingly, most of the things on my TBR were not available as downloadable audiobooks, but I persevered, planning on downloading the first one I could find that was available. This book was the winner.

Unfortunately, I feel mostly ambivalent about this one. In the beginning, it reminded me of Summer of the Gypsy Moths (which was, of course, published much later than this one) and I struggled with the believability of the first part of this story. Thankfully, that didn't last terribly long before we are pushed into the main part of the story - Aubrey living with her grandmother and adjusting to the fact that life is going to be much different from now on. However, I struggled with this part as well. I realize, of course, that grief looks different on everyone and even on the same person in different situations. But Aubrey's form of grief was particularly upsetting to me. In fact, there is so much vomiting in this book that, at times, I began to feel ill just listening to it. Perhaps that's an overly sympathetic reaction from me, but I certainly didn't enjoy that aspect of the story.

Additionally, once Aubrey is taken in by her grandmother, things seem a bit too tidy - she makes a friend quite easily, one who happens to have a little sister and loving parents (who fulfill those roles for Aubrey as well). Though she is reluctant at first to cooperate with her new school counselor, it's pretty clear that she will and that things will work out for her when she does. Much like Gypsy Moths, I appreciated that Aubrey's happy ending was perhaps not the one that would be expected. I think it worked well and I would have been disappointed in a different ending, I think.

As an audio, this worked all right, though, as I said, all the vomiting was a bit difficult to listen to (not that there was actual vomiting noises - that would have been much worse). I thought Battoe did a lovely job distinguishing between characters - I particularly loved Gram and Bridget's younger sister's (whose name escapes me at the moment) voices.

Ultimately, an interesting read that is both quite sad but also shows a great amount of growth.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Review: 5 to 1

5 to 1
By Holly Bodger
Expected publication May 12, 2015 by Knopf Books for Young Readers

Sudasa lives in a world where women are highly valued; after all, there is only one of them for every five boys. Because of this, a series of tests has emerged, allowing each boy a chance to prove his worthiness for a wife. But Sudasa is not content with this version of her future. And neither is Kiran, one of the boys undergoing the tests for a chance to win her. Can they find a way to change the path that has been laid out for them?

My interest in this one was piqued by the premise, particularly when I thought of it in relation to countries that not only value men above women (which, I'm sorry, but that's the vast majority of them), but also institute policies like China's one-child policy. It wasn't hard for me to imagine the premise of this novel actually coming to pass in a not too distant future. I was even more intrigued by discovering this was partly in verse, a particular weakness of mine.

Despite my initial interest in this book, I find myself at a bit of a loss when it comes to pinpointing my feelings about it. I enjoyed the dual narration, and I liked the contrast of the verse and the prose. I liked that this book provided a glimpse into a future that truly seems possible - as unsettling as that may be to realize. And I was eager for a YA novel set in a culture we don't usually see a lot of in teen fiction.

But. I felt like there was a lot of missed opportunity here. The book doesn't focus on anything but the Tests that Sudasa and Kiran are participating in and takes place over the course of only a few days. I longed to see more of the culture and world. The explanation for how the Tests came to be is there, but I felt like it could have been fleshed out more fully, and could have highlighted even more of the important issues surrounding a practice such as the one described here. I wanted to know more about Sudasa's family's involvement in the creation of the state in which they live and I wanted to know more about Kiran's family as well.

Quite honestly, I didn't buy into the understanding that blossoms between Sudasa and Kiran either - they barely speak to each other, but seem to instantly know what the other is trying to subtly say or how the other feels. It just felt a bit too convenient and forced for me. Additionally, I felt the ending was a bit abrupt and unsatisfactory. It perhaps foretells a sequel, so I suppose I'll see if my inklings about that are accurate.

Overall, a quick and thought-provoking read, but I think it fell a bit short.

Thanks to the publisher for a digital advance reader's copy, provided via Edelweiss.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Review: Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer

Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer
By Kelly Jones, illustrated by Katie Kath
Expected publication May 12, 2015 by Knopf Books for Young Readers

Sophie is struggling to adjust to her new life on the farm - her mother is busy, her dad is out of work, and she misses Los Angeles. But when she discovers some unusual chickens hanging around, things start to get a bit more interesting - particularly as it seems someone intends to steal these chickens. What's so unusual about them? And how can Sophie protect them?

First, sorry about the lack of posts here over the past week or so - I was on vacation (you know, doing real life things) and didn't have things scheduled to run the whole time I was gone. Also, my reading has been bogged down for the last couple of weeks in my book club book (which I finally finished), so I didn't have much to review. Lucky for you all, I always read more than one book at a time, so I did finish up a couple of things recently. Anyway, on to the review.

I downloaded this e-galley because it sounded like it could be cute. Birds are definitely not my thing, but this looked like it might be a fun read. I really like epistolary novels, so that aspect definitely appealed to me, and I appreciated the person of color heroine.

This book was mostly just what I expected. It's a very fun and quick read, with very charming characters. Perhaps what I liked most was that this book addresses issues of race and poverty in a very straightforward and realistic way. I think it works exceptionally well here, and I'm pleased to see an author unafraid to tackle some of these issues in a book for middle-grade readers. This is Sophie's story, and I found her to be a very endearing heroine. Her sincere attempts at uncovering the mystery of the chickens while also trying to help out her parents felt truthful to me and it would be very difficult not to root for her. I think the epistolary style works well for this story - you really get a great sense of Sophie's voice through her letters. The only thing I didn't really love was the little twist at the end with the farm supply woman with whom Sophie has been corresponding. Everything else, though, was quite enjoyable. This will be a bit of a hard sell in my library, where books like Regarding the Fountain have been withdrawn due to low circulation, but I'll try to encourage readers to give this one a shot.

Thanks to the publisher for a digital advance reader's copy, provided via Edelweiss.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Review: Legends Begin

The Legends Begin (Darkmouth, book one)
By Shane Hegarty
Published 2015 by HarperCollins

Finn is the only son of the last remaining Legend Hunter. That means it's his dad's job to keep Legends (minotaurs and the like) from destroying the world we know. Soon, it will be Finn's job. Only one problem - he's terrible at it. Unfortunately, Finn doesn't have much time to improve - Darkmouth (where he lives) is the only place still plagued by Legends and they are about to plan a larger attack than ever before.

I downloaded this galley because it was a fantastical middle grade title - right in my wheelhouse. I didn't have a lot of expectations going in, which I think is sometimes best.

This is definitely a fun read - there are a lot of humorous interactions between the characters and I'm pretty sure I laughed out loud a number of times. My one quibble with the humor is that I think the relationship between Finn and his dad is supposed to be played for laughs, but it really just made me a bit sad. I wanted Finn to be able to talk to his parents about his wishes and it was disappointing that his dad seemed to be just another example of a not-great parent in a kid's book.

I think this book will definitely have fans - fantasy seems to be perennially popular with young people and this capitalizes on the current mythology craze by including some Legends kids will definitely have heard of. As I said, it's fun, and the chapters are short, so that keeps the action moving along quite nicely.

My own baggage as a reader made a lot of this pretty predictable - from the real story behind Emmie to the reveal of the bad guy to the prophecy bit to the ending. It's not a bad thing if readers can see some things coming (certainly, some readers find this kind of thing comforting), but perhaps I am just a bit worn out on this kind of speculative fiction. Additionally, the e-galley did not have the majority of the illustrations, which would have helped - some of the Legends described were very hard to picture. On a related note, I was a bit troubled that the setting of this wasn't clear until a few chapters in - Darkmouth is in Ireland and, though there are definite hints at a European setting, it's not made immediately clear. Something small, but it bothered me a bit. Finally, as this is merely book one of a series, there are many questions left to be answered in future volumes.

It was a fun and quick enough read that I'll probably read book two, but I don't feel overwhelmingly awed by this one.

Thanks to the publisher for a digital advance reader's copy, provided via Edelweiss.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Review: None of the Above

None of the Above
By I.W. Gregorio
Published 2015 by Balzer + Bray

Kristin's life is pretty great. She's an outstanding athlete, she's just been elected Homecoming Queen, and she's crazy about her boyfriend. So crazy, in fact, that she's decided it's finally time to take the next step. But her first time is not good - so not good that she suspects something is amiss. After a trip to the doctor, Kristin discovers the truth - she's intersex. But what does that even mean? She'll have to figure it out - and fast - particularly once her diagnosis is leaked to her entire school.

This book has been on my radar for a loooooong time - honestly, I can't even remember when I first heard about it. I am always intrigued when books cover a topic that is typically ignored, particularly for young people, and this book definitely fits the bill with its exploration of intersex. I immediately added it to my TBR and was pleased to see it available for download.

I pretty much flew through this book. It's a pretty fast-paced read and once I started, I didn't want to stop - I wanted to find out where Krissy's story was going to go and how it was going to end for her. I thought Krissy was a great character - she was pretty easy to relate to and her story was believable. I appreciated that this novel was about more than just her diagnosis - she is also still dealing with the loss of her mother and the changing nature of friendships and relationships. The overwhelming emotions she feels when her diagnosis is added to this list is definitely believable.

I also appreciated the pains Gregorio took to really explain intersex and how it differs from transgender or any other diagnosis. As noted, intersex is a catch-all term for a variety of chromosomal abnormalities and they are not all explained in this book, instead focusing on the one that Krissy is diagnosed with. I think it's great that the book makes this distinction and explains that every case of an intersex diagnosis is probably going to be a bit different - which really should surprise no one, as every person is a bit different, regardless of diagnosis or no. I think this book does a great job explaining a condition that is likely to be unfamiliar to many readers without feeling like a clinical textbook.

The book does stumble a bit for me. Yes, Krissy is on a continuing journey of self-acceptance (like pretty much all teenagers), but I never really felt like she gets there. And maybe she doesn't - another intersex character she meets explains that maybe she's still coming to terms with it, years after her diagnosis. Maybe Krissy's story is the same. But the romance that comes near the end of the book seems a bit ill-placed; in a small way, it feels like Krissy doesn't really move further in her self-acceptance until her sex appeal is validated for her by another person. Additionally, I found the romance exceedingly obvious - actually, from the first appearance of the character, I could tell that Krissy was going to end up with him. I would have preferred more subtlety or no romance at all.

Ultimately, though, this was a very enjoyable read and an important one for teens. I definitely recommend this one.

Thanks to the publisher for a digital advance reader's copy, provided via Edelweiss.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Non-fiction Picture Book Saturday

Neighborhood Sharks: Hunting with the Great Whites of California's Fallaron Islands
By Katherine Roy
Published 2014 by David Macaulay Studio
So, I don't think it's a big secret that shark books are exceedingly popular among young people. With a cover like this one, this book is sure to be popular. I loved it - I'm a big fan of non-fiction picture books in general, and this one is very well done. It's told in an interesting mix of narrative and straight out fact and I think it works really well, with the facts elucidating the narrative bits. I really like that this book brings sharks home to readers - literally. It's all about the sharks who live just near the Californian coast. Terrifying to some readers, exhilarating to others. To top it all off, the illustrations are absolutely stunning - they resemble photos enough to make sure you don't miss the realism but they are lovely enough to forget that you are watching a shark devour its prey. Awesome - or should I say, JAWsome?

Who Was Here? Discovering Wild Animal Tracks
By Mia Posada
Published 2014 by Millbrook Press
I think learning about animal tracks is a fanatic phase that many children go through, imagining themselves traipsing through the wild in pursuit of some awesome creature. This book will help them on their way, by introducing a variety of animals and their tracks. I liked that the book highlighted animals in all kinds of environments, as well as showcased familiar and less common animals. I think this book is a great example of non-fiction you could use in storytime - each track is introduced in a way that invites readers to guess which animal is belongs to. The facts are easy to understand and clear, so I definitely think this could be incorporated in a storytime. The illustrations are lovely as well. I enjoyed this one.

Creature Features: Twenty-Five Animals Explain Why They Look the Way They Do
By Steve Jenkins and Robin Page
Published 2014 by HMH Books for Young Readers
Jenkins' books are almost always a hit with young readers and it's not difficult to see why. He (and his collaborators) usually pick unique and fascinating subjects and then present them in extremely eye-catching and easily understandable ways. This book is no exception. It's exactly what it sounds like: a question is presented to a particular animal about some aspect of their appearance and the animal explains why they look that way. Once again, the animals range from the familiar to the more unusual (how many books feature axolotls?) and the book is richer for this diversity. I love the animals staring straight out of the page - it really makes you feel like you could have a conversation with them. Another one I loved.

Grandfather Gandhi
By Arun Gandhi and Bethany Hegedus, illustrated by Evan Turk
Published 2014 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers
I feel a bit like I'm on my own island when it comes to this one. It had been getting tons of positive buzz and reviews, so I looked forward to picking it up for myself. When it finally arrived at my library, I read it immediately. And was underwhelmed. I really appreciate that this is a personal story about one of the most famous men in the world - you don't really get a lot of those and even less geared toward children. But it felt a bit of a put-upon that this was his most angry moment. Maybe I'm just a much angrier person, but it was hard to believe. Additionally, I was not a fan of the illustration style but, again, I seem to be alone in that opinion. Just not my favorite.

Friday, May 1, 2015

April Check-In

Once again, it's time to see what I've been reading this month!

Early-chapter: 0

Middle-grade: 11

Teen: 8

Adult: 1

Picture books: 10

Library books: 20

Books owned: 10

A decent-ish month for me, though I got slogged down on my book club book (The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova - it's almost 700 pages long and I still haven't finished it!). I also fell a bit out of my routine of alternating library books with books from home, partially because of the slog. I'm pleased that I haven't really seen a drop in my reading even with all the wedding planning and other things I've got going on, but the wedding looms ever closer and we're planning a lot of DIY elements, so we'll see how it goes in the next few months. I still need to make a bigger dent on the books I've got in the house - I'd like to at least clear out the boxes before we start getting serious about moving. But how do I resist the lovely library books? Here's hoping I can exert more willpower soon!