Thursday, April 21, 2011

What I've been reading: mini reviews

I was in the mood for romance and read:

The Next Best Thing, by Kristan Higgins
This is one of my favorite comfort-food-type romances: an engaging story, likable and well-drawn characters, fast-paced but not rushed, and plenty of romantic chemistry. Not over-the-top and not overly cheesy.

The Iron Duke, by Meljean Brooks
Brooks has built an interesting world in this book. It's an alternate history, somewhere between Edwardian and Victorian, but vastly different than the 17th and 18th century that we know about. The Mongol Horde has conquered Europe and England through the use of nanoagents -- tiny, mechanical bugs that can control a person's emotions and actions (although not their mind, which is doubly horrible. You're aware of doing the things you don't want to do). Although England is now free of Mongol rule, they are struggling with finding freedom after hundreds of years of oppressive rule. The story follows Mina Wentworth -- a detective with the Metropolitan Police Force in London as she solves a murder and unravels a conspiracy plot. Her duties force her to work with Rhys Trahearn, the Iron Duke and the man who effectively brought the Horde to destruction in England; and as they work together the two share a very intense romance. I'll admit, a bit too intense for me at times; I ended up skipping a few sections because things got a little too...vivid. And while the story and the setting were very interesting, the book was a bit too dark for my mood at the time.

Wise Man's Fear, Patrick Rothfuss
The second in a fantasy trilogy by a very gifted story-teller. Kvothe is telling us his life story, a story that is at times joyful, fantastical, hilarious, heartbreaking, angry and irreverant. If you like good stories, interesting characters and fantasy (or if you've thought about reading a fantasy novel but weren't sure where to start) do yourself a favor and go get Name of the Wind and Wise Man's Fear. And block off a couple of days in your schedule.

What happened to the last two weeks? and other random thoughts

The last two weeks have been busy and my schedule has been off -- I'm kind of like a toddler in that way. Give me a routine and I am happy. My motivation to do things with no real extrinsic consequences has waned. But you know...that's okay. Sometimes it's okay to push the snooze buttons a few more times and give yourself a break. We can't be "on" all the time.

One of the different things I've done lately is attend a mini-conference for public libraries hosted by our state library association. I really love conferences, even if the workshops are things I've heard before. Sometimes -- particularly when it comes to work -- I think it's good to hear the same or similar things more than once. Makes it stick better, you know? One of my favorite workshops was the one on Reader's Advisory. I love Reader's Advisory! A couple of years ago, I stumbled upon this blog: RA for All. I was first just impressed with the resources and information she made available for other librarians who help their patrons find books. And then I realized -- the author's job at her public library is Reader's Advisory! It's her whole job! Very cool. I'd considered my professional goal to be a reference librarian at a public library, but now...I'm thinking Reader's Advisory. Anyway, one of the pieces of the discussion in our workshop, was on judging a book by its cover. The speaker maintained that in general, you can tell basic characteristics of a book based on its cover -- especially in genre fiction. Is the book going to be dark, strange, edgy, sappy, cheesy, sweet, family-oriented, romantic, hot and steamy, funny...I've been thinking about this a lot since then, and while I have in the past been mislead by the cover of a book, I think in more cases than not this is true. And I think one thing is really true -- the cover is designed to appeal to the readers that the publisher thinks will want to read the book. And sometimes, that is actually the person who wants to read the book.

what do you think?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Review - Sean Griswold's Head

Sean Griswold's Head, by Lindsey Leavitt

Sean Griswold's Head is a totally adorable book, and it manages to be adorable while still having depth and heart.

Over Christmas break, high school freshman Payton Gritas accidentally discovers that her father has been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. This fact is shocking and upsetting enough on its own; but Payton becomes even more angry when she finds out her entire family -- dad, mom, two older brothers -- has been keeping this information from her for 6 months. Payton's mom asks her to see the school guidance counselor to help her deal with this information, and hopefully get Payton talking to her family again. As her first exercise, the guidance counselor tells Payton to find a Focus Object, something to help her focus and organize her thoughts on. As Payton sits in her next class, she thinks about the assignment while staring at the thing she stares at every day -- the back of Sean Griswold's head. Payton has been sitting behind Sean Griswold in the alphabetical world of school since 3rd grade; but for all the time she has known Sean, she doesn't really know him.

I like pretty much everything about this book. The characters are realistic and quirky, but not too quirky. Leavitt deftly explores many different kinds of relationships in the book -- friendship, family, and first crushes. I really enjoy all the different relationships in the book, and how each one is a vital part of the book. The book is really about Payton going through a major event in her life, and how it effects all of her relationships. And while this book could easily have been trite and cheesy, it isn't.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Review - StarCrossed

StarCrossed, by Elizabeth C. Bunce

I picked up Elizabeth C. Bunce's first book, A Curse Dark as Gold, partly because of the cool cover, and partly because she's a fellow Kansas City girl. I like to support the home team, if you will. I wasn't wowed by Curse, but enjoyed it enough to want to give Bunce's second book a chance. I'm certainly glad I did! StarCrossed is the story of a thief who disguises herself as a ladies' maid to escape punishment and certain death in her home city. She then finds herself caught up in political intrigue, forced to spy on people who she finds herself growing to care about -- people with whom she is forming attachments, despite her best efforts to remain emotionally distant. I really enjoyed watching Digger's character progress through the book, and hope that in the sequel some of the secondary characters develop as much as hers did.

Although the fantasy world that Digger lives in is the fairly typical medieval-Europe-but-with-magic type of world, that didn't bother me. The story and characters are what this world is really about, and that kept me invested and interested and entertained. And Bunce does a great job of throwing you right into the middle of a mess of secrets, then slowly unraveling the knot.

All in all, a fun adventure. I'm looking forward to the next book!