Friday, May 27, 2011

The City of Ember

by Jeanne DuPrau

Grade: Good
Story: Lina and Doon live in a city lit only by electricity, and the lights keep going out.

Ooo, claustrophobic! Dark, underground, fear. Not a good combination.
But then the description of above the ground--once they got there in the end--was so wonderful and relieving and beautiful.

However, even though I'm curious about the people they meet above ground, I'm not sure if I'll read the rest for a while. Mostly because it was so much for younger people, I think. I'm pretty sure I've said this before, but I love children's books quite a lot. But sometimes the style is simply too young for me, as with this book. I think I'll give it my sister C.M.D. though. I think she'd like it.

LATER: She did. And now she's read all three sequels too.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Singing the Dogstar Blues

by Alison Goodman

Grade: Good
Story: Aliens! Time Travel! Blues Singing! Friendship! Cool Computers!

Well this was great! You can tell by the "Story" description. Exclamation marks are always good things.

So let's reiterate what I liked about this book.
Aliens! Aliens are cool. And I liked the way they were presented in this book. Rather like District 9, actually, except not bug-like. In other words, the book started with first contact having already come, and everbody is used to the fact.  (Except the protesters, of course. But even the fact that there are protesters is evidence that it's normal now.) And this is true of the next point which is ...

Time Travel! I always love Time Travel. And this also was treated as a normal everyday thing, which things do become very quickly in this world. In fact, it was almost treated too normally. The climax seemed a bit short in some ways, because the time travel aspect was treated so lightly.

Blues Singing! I don't know much about Blues, but I know about music and singing, and the part where Mav sings was cool.

Friendship! I love it, and far too few books dwell on deep friendships. Only deep Romances.

Cool Computers! Yeah! My favourite part! And they just fed into the whole atmosphere of this future world Goodman has created. Future worlds are cool, but so often authors seem to spend all the time building up details of their world, and not on the story or characters. But Goodman plops you in the middle and explains nothing, and there's tons of slang, and it's awesome. Now I may have thought some of the slang was futuristic stuff when it was actually just Australian. But I have read quite a few Australian books before, and never not understood the slang. So I think it was futuristic. But whatever it was, it was cool.

Nevertheless, this book should not be thought of as among the ranks of the other books whose "Story" style is similar (i.e. multiple exclamation points). Such as Going Postal, which is one of my favourite books ever. Mostly I think because books like Going Postal have amazing, amazing characters who I totally fall in love with. (Think Moist and Vetinari, mostly, but others too.) This one not as much. Not that the characters were bad, or not unique or anything. They were rather good. And I loved Mav. But I didn't fall in love with Mav. (Not that I fell in love in the Romantic sense with all the characters in Going Postal. I meant fall in love in a slightly different sense which I'm not going to define here, because I can't be bothered at the moment, and because I already accidentally posted this, so now I have to finish fast before anyone reads the unfinished version. ANYWAY.) I also quite liked Joseph Camden-Stone's story line. It was very sad.

P.S. Goodman also wrote Eon. Which is weird. I never would have thought. (Not that I've read Eon or anything--just heard of it a whole lot. It was just unexpected, so I thought I'd write it here. I seem to be in a somewhat loquacious mood.)

P.P.S. About elevators: "Riding one of these boxes takes a lot of trust. For all you know, you could be falling to your death or about to be launched through the roof. So you put all your belief in those little numbers marching across the top of the doors." pg.38
Sounds rather Chestertonian to me. It reminds me about what he says about how going on a train is an adventure, because you could end up anywhere. Except it was something way more profound than that.

Other Australian authors: Catherine Jinks, of Evil Genius and the Pagan books fame; Garth Nix of the Sabriel and The Keys to the Kingdom series; Markus Zusak of The Book Thief; Justine Larbalestier of the Magic or Madness trilogy and Liar. And I'm sure there's more. If you, my non-existent readers, can think of any I've missed, you have my permission to tell me.
Australian authors are awesome, aren't they?
See: Top Ten (Or So): Australian Authors and Books.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


by Kate Brian

Grade: Good
Story: Reed Brennan has decided (for some reason) to join an elite school.

This book is so TOTALLY not the type of book I'd usually pick up, simply because of it's cover, and it's title, and the fact that it has a million sequels. And it's about mean, privileged girls who look down on anyone who isn't mean and fashion conscious.
But bookshelvesofdoom has remarkable powers of persuasion. So I picked it up.

It was good enough. I actually rather liked it a fair bit, in some ways. I greatly love school stories, and I don't care if the school is mean and privileged, so long as the characters aren't. And the main character isn't, actually. But she so desperately wants to be that it drove me rather batty. I mean, how desperate can someone get? But I speak from ignorance. So I should stop.

In fact, I think it was mostly how much Reed wanted to be with the mean girls that bothered me, not the mean girls themselves. They were rather interesting, actually, in a mean kind of way.

Finally, and perhaps the main reason why I didn't love it, there were Secrets--which I normally love. But it ended on an inconclusive, and not entirely satisfactory note. So in other words, I'd have to read the sequels to find out what's going on. But because I didn't love the book, I can't be bothered to read the sequels, which means I'll never find out the Secrets unless I do some hard researching. Which is way too much effort. I may as well just read the sequels as do that.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Guardian of the Dead

by Karen Healey

Grade: Good
Story: Ellie Spencer discovers that the world is a much weirder and more dangerous place than she thought. Plus there are demons and gods and earthquakes and Romance.

Well, I think I'm over my all-too-short loving-almost-every-Romance-I-read-about stage. Because I didn't care for this one too much. Nothing against it particularly, which is why I think it's all my fault. Well, except there was the fact that Mark was described as so terribly attractive all the time. Yes, actually, now that I think of it, I'm almost sure that's the reason why I didn't care for the Romance. Which means I didn't find the end particularly bittersweet, like I think it was supposed to be. (And it was a good ending, I think. It's the best way I can think of for it to end.)

Also, I didn't love the mythology. There was that element of relative truth which I never enjoy reading. I suppose the mythology itself was pretty cool, and I wouldn't mind reading more about Maori mythology.

That is the one thing I did like. The Maori stuff, the New Zealand culture--not many YA fantasy books I know of are set in New Zealand. And I also liked Kevin. Except that he was hardly in it, and really, apart from his BIG SECRET (which was kind of cool), he was really mostly just a nice guy.
Ok, now make it three things I liked--because I loved Ellie. She was awesome. I loved that she was on the large side (Although some of that could be her imagination of herself--I'm realizing how many girls really think that they are fat when they're NOT AT ALL. But I don't think it is. She's sensible enough to not get too freaked out about her size.), that she was a martial artist, and her whole blunt personality. She was one of those feisty, yet somehow very original, and thus not annoying, heroines.

So why is it "Good" instead of "All right"? I'm not really sure, actually. I guess because I read it quickly--except I didn't really. It took me about four days. So I guess it was mostly Ellie. She was cool. That's it.

Monday, May 9, 2011

A Stranger to Command

by Sherwood Smith

Grade: Unfinished
Read: Practically none of it. The first two pages, maybe?

Coming soon to a blog near you: RED herself reads all of A Stranger to Command! Yes, I really am going to read it. I am DETERMINED. Note the capital letters. Just...not yet. Once C.H. gets a better looking copy, because BOY I hate this cover.

Song of the Sparrow

by Lisa Ann Sandell

Grade: Unfinished
Read: Bits of all of it, but not enough to say that I've actually read it.

So...why did I get a book about Elaine? I knew I didn't like her much, and I like the love-of-her-life Sir Lancelot even less.

(Now, SPOILERS! But it turns out that she falls for Sir Tristan at the end of this one. I like Sir Tristan well enough, but I found this slightly weird.)

Plus--it's in verse! I'm not a huge poetry reader anyway, but the poetry I do like is either rambunctious and exhilarating, like Chesterton and Belloc, or strange and subtle, like Eliot and that whatever-his-name-was Da Todi guy that B. P. L. showed me recently. And not ... this.

So I decided I must have got it from the library anyway in the faint, faint hope that Sir Gawain and his family would be mentioned in a semi-positive manner. And they were! Well, semi-positive. Still not exactly bright, but it's better than their portrayal in many a Arthurian retelling.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Story Time

by Edward Bloor

Grade: All right/Unfinished
Read: To page 196, plus a bunch of the end (enough that I think it can be "All right" instead of "Unfinished").
Story: Kate and George are sent to a school where tests are the teaching style, and ghosts and weird things abound.

I was rather disappointed in this one. The cover was great, the title was great, it was about a weird school and its awful tests, and there was an uncle who was younger than his niece.

But it didn't quite do it for me. I generally like stereotypes that are funny or awesome, but not humiliating, like the parents, or evil, like Cornelia and her children. It quite bugs me actually. Especially the parents. I mean, how do the kids possibly get so intelligent with such dumb parents? It doesn't really make sense. And I don't mean intelligent as in IQ, I mean intelligent as in social awareness.

I probably could have got around it if something else grabbed me enough, but nothing else did. I don't really know why.

Monday, May 2, 2011

White Cat

by Holly Black

Grade: Good
Story: Cassel is part of a family of criminals. Kind of like The Godfather, except I haven't seen The Godfather, so I'm only guessing. Anyway. He starts having nightmares about a white cat, and soon his whole world starts falling apart.

This has bunches of my favourite things in it: brothers, con men, cool magic systems, high-end schools, and unreliable narrators. I especially like the first and the last of these.

So I really liked it. But somehow...I don't know. It wasn't quite as good as I expected. I think I was expecting more from his brothers, because I do so like book siblings.

But enough on the negative. I really liked it, I read it in one night, and I'm looking forward to the sequel.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Last Unicorn

by Peter S. Beagle

Grade: Good
Story: All the unicorns are gone except one, who goes off in search of the rest, along with a rather hopeless magician and not-exactly-young ex-outlaw woman.

Well, I rather liked this one. It was not terribly similar to the short story in The Dragon Book, which was slightly disappointing. But maybe I just haven't caught on to Peter S. Beagle's style yet. I want to, though, so when I'm done this, I'm going to the library website to order some more of his books.

It was essentially a fable. So the characters were intriguing, but there wasn't quite as much fleshing out as I usually like. That makes them sound like they weren't deep, but I think they were incredibly deep in some ways. Think--The Lord of the Rings, maybe. I'm not totally sure what I'm trying to say here, but I'm utterly exhausted, so at least it's excusable.