One of the perks of being a teacher is, of course, Christmas Break. I generously receive nearly three weeks of vacation time at Christmas, and then I received an additional week off of graduate school, essentially giving me an entire MONTH to rekindle my love with a certain electronic reading device (see what I did there?). I made it my personal goal to read as much mindless junk as I could. While I think I succeeded, I also managed to read several really great and thought-provoking books as well. It’s a win all the way around! Here are some quick thoughts on each book.
Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick
Jessica made me read this book, and I will never forgive her for it (kidding, kidding). It’s the first in a series about fallen angels, and I was hoping to really discover an enthralling series which I would devour. Instead I found a blatant rip-off of Twilight and Beautiful Creatures. That did make the book fairly interesting and entertaining, but at the end of the day I have to award no points for originality. Nothing made me really yearn to pick up the next book in the series any time soon, which is too bad, really.
Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
Jessica (do I talk about her too much? Probably. Ryan thinks I like her better than him, but I contend that a good reading partner is hard to come by!) has been telling me how good this book is for months, but I never could easily procure a copy, so I just kind of let it sit on my “To Read” list. Then, my fabulous husband ordered thousands of dollars worth of books for our school library, and this was one of them, so of course I snatched it up immediately. Everything that Hush Hush lacked, Daughter of Smoke and Bone provided. Score! This is the first in a series also, and it most definitely made me want to pick up book #2. It even concerned fallen angels, but not in a corny, rip-off way. I will admit that it took me several hundred pages to be totally sure about this one, but when it got good it really got good!
The Diviners by Libba Bray
I feel pos-i-tute-ly conflicted about this book! (Diviners joke, sorry) On the one hand, I really adored the setting: New York City in the 1920′s. I’m a sucker for anything 20′s, and Bray really pulled out all the stops in order to make this era come alive. The characters were also fabulous and very well done. However, I did have to find fault with a couple of aspects of the book. First, perhaps my fault, I had no idea this was the first in a series. The book is SIX HUNDRED PAGES LONG – way too long for a YA book in my opinion – and I felt like after sticking with it for 600 pages I deserved some kind of answers and reward. Nope. Nada. Nothing. Just a big cliffhanger to make you buy book number two. I was totally annoyed. Secondly, there is a good murder mystery which comprises the bulk of the novel, but by the time we actually got to the big climax, I was kind of over it (that’s what happens when you make your novel 600 pages). The climax just struck me as boring and corny. But I probably will read the next book simply because the characters were so fun.
Among Others by Jo Walton
I named this book one of my Top Five Most Influential Books of 2012, so suffice it to say, I loved it. I won’t repeat myself, just reiterate that it’s such a wonderful book (and totally not mindless junk!).
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Have you heard of this book? It’s only popping up on every single list of amazing books of 2012. I knew I had to read it, but I will also admit that because I’m so contrary, I was determined to not like it. I went into it thinking, “It can’t be that amazing…” I should have known better because I had already read Green’s superb novel Looking for Alaska. Yeah…I don’t think it’s possible to dislike The Fault in Our Stars. It is amazing and thought-provoking and perhaps even – dare I say it – life changing. I do want to clarify one thing: in a few reviews I read the sentence “This is not a cancer book.” Wrong. This is totally a cancer book, and I think that’s extremely important. Be prepared to cry. I had a nice 30-minute sob session on my in-laws’ couch. But that doesn’t detract at all from the amazing quality of the novel. The Fault in Our Stars and Among Others were definitely the high point of my reading hiatus.
Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
I tried to read a few other books after The Fault in Our Stars, but it was so freaking good that nothing could compare. So I instead picked something totally different, which was Shadow and Bone. I really was surprised by how much I liked this book. It is also the first in a series, and I am eager to read more. It’s a fantasy book which is set in Russia? Siberia? Somewhere. Anyway, I really liked that change of setting because I found it really unique. The romance could use a little more spice, but overall I’m eager for the next installment.
The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
Ugh. The Raven Boys. I think this book is a great example of a book which thinks it is way better than it actually is. I kept seeing this title pop up on lists of the best YA books of the year, so I expected something great. It didn’t deliver. I am kind of dying to discuss this book with somebody because I have that nagging feeling that maybe I just missed something and I’m being too hard on it? I don’t know. The mystery aspects of the storyline were fairly good – the only saving grace really – but they were also fairly predictable. The novel didn’t deliver much resolution at all because – wait for it – it’s apparently the first in a series. I had no idea that this was the case, so when the book ended with no answers, I was pissed. Pretty similar to The Diviners in that regard, except that the characters are not very interesting. The main character, Blue, fell particularly flat for me, which kind of killed the entire novel. I’m so used to strong female narrators, and she is not it.
Son by Lois Lowry
This book has me so confused. It’s the last installment in The Giver saga, but I don’t think you have to have read all (or any) of those books to enjoy Son. I have never read The Messenger, but I was not confused at all. I feel so conflicted about Son. In some ways it struck me as a much more advanced novel than it is given credit for. The descriptions and emotions associated with childbirth and then the subsequent giving up of a child were extremely mature and, to be honest, totally ripped me apart. I was tearing up every five pages or so. But then the second half of the novel really starts to feel juvenile. The BIG CLIMAX is totally lame, in the sense that it’s written so that it won’t be scary for a 4th grade reader. Fine, OK, just not what I’m looking for usually. But for every juvenile scene there was a comparable mature one, so I don’t know.
City of Dark Magic by Magnus Flyte
This book is crazy, ya’ll! For some reason I read a description of this book which led me to believe it was a really serious supernatural thriller set in Prague. Well, two out of three ain’t bad. Supernatural and Prague it will deliver, but not so much serious. In fact, the few times the novel tries to get serious just seemed weird to me because the entire thing is so nutso. If you are looking for a book about time travel, dwarfs, toenails (yes, I said toenails), crazy sex, and alchemy, then this is the book for you! If that’s not what you’re into, well, then I guess go read War and Peace or something. I think this would have been a really fun mindless summer read, but it was still an insane final read for my Christmas Break.
Now it’s back to the real world. Doing The Great Gatsby, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Fast Food Nation, and Into the Wild with my students. Reading, among other things, The Life of Pi (which I have never had a desire to read) and The Road (which totally intimidates me) for graduate school. Good times in the name of literature!