Showing posts tagged lit

Doll Bones by Holly Black


5 stars

Growing Up, Adventure, Friendship, Ghosts

The elaborate stories that Zach, Poppy, and Alice create with their toys are nothing short of magic to them, so when Zach’s father throws his action figures away in a misguided attempt to force him into growing up, the friendship between the three is strained to a breaking point. In order to fix the rift, Poppy starts them on a real adventure to put the ghost of a murdered girl to rest. The trio is at the point toward the end of childhood where everything from expectations to emotions start to change and friendships either adapt or fall apart. Doll Bones is heartfelt and sincere about the difficulties of growing up and shows that you don’t have to lose the magic of childhood in the process. It also has a great touch of supernatural horror in the form of the ghost that haunts the china doll.

Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper

4 star

Children with Disabilities, Cerebral Palsy, Understanding, Family, Kindness

Melody has a photographic memory; loving, attentive parents; an amazing babysitter — and cerebral palsy. The book chronicles her struggles to communicate without being able to speak or even hold herself up, as well as her interest in music, her love of movies and her dog and baby sister, and her struggles with kids in school who don’t understand her and don’t want to. It is a powerful book that does an amazing job of showing that Melody has the same fears and dreams as anyone while portraying her relationships and illness with emotional resonance. I found it unrealistic that she only had a few words available to her on a talking board and it was not until most of the way through the story that she got a computer that could speak for her—couldn’t her parents have at least given her letters to spell things out that she needed since she was so smart? Overall, while the book does overly dramatize some things, it is a touching portrayal of a subject that is not often discussed.

Four: A Divergent Story Collection by Veronica Roth

3 star

Short Stories, Dystopian, Alternate POV

Four stories (ha) told from the perspective of Four from Divergent. These are very well-written and it was fun seeing Four’s life before Tris. I also really liked slipping back into the world of Divergent. But it didn’t add anything to the trilogy and it didn’t give me another plot or story; not enough to make it a full stand-alone hardback.

Cleopatra Rules!: The Amazing Life of the Original Teen Queen by Vicky Alvear Shecter

3 star

Biography, Cleopatra, Egypt, Rome, Girl Power

Shecter’s thesis is that Cleopatra was slandered and was not an evil seductress but instead an educated, brilliant, charismatic leader who went to any lengths necessary to strengthen Egypt. She does a great job of backing this up with facts, and the images throughout are well-placed, and the indices at the end are very helpful for anyone looking for more detail. The actual writing style, however, got old really fast (at one point she makes a metaphor that banishing Cleopatra and expecting her to stay banished was as likely as taking a cell phone from a teenage girl) as it was chock full of annoying stereotypes that counteracted the feminist positivity Shecter uses to describe Cleopatra. A quick and fun read for fans of Ancient Egypt, but not a must read for fans of history in general.

Bossypants by Tina Fey

4 star

Memoir, Essays, Humor, Life

Tina Fey recounts her life, from theater camp to improvisational comedy troupe to SNL writer to tv show creator and star. The book does a great job of telling stories of her life that are sometimes outrageous and sometimes relatable, but each time she makes it clear why she told that story and what she has learned from the experience. I also like that she is constantly championing women and feminism. I listened to the audiobook and highly recommend it; Fey narrates and has perfect comedic timing as it her book, and she does some impressions and plays clips from SNL.

Third Grave Dead Ahead by Darynda Jones

5 star

Grim Reaper, Murder Mystery, Adventure, Sex, Humor

I can’t get enough of this insane, stubborn, and outrageously charming grim reaper—and apparently neither can the bad guys, because in this volume she is up against new kinds of evil and learns more about herself and the world of angels and demons beyond her. Charley is ferocious in going after what she wants, but what is truly amazing is that she is always doing the right thing, even if that means hunting down people who are probably (definitely) going to try and murder her, and her passion inspires incredible loyalty in the cast of supporting characters (who are both well-crafted and just plain fun). Jones strikes a balance between humor and horror which makes this book suspenseful but not in the way that makes you want to skip to the end, because you know the ride is going to be worth it.

Previous books: First Grave on the RightSecond Grave on the Left
Later books: Fourth Grave Beneath My Feet, Fifth Grave Past the Light, Sixth Grave on the Edge, Seventh Grave and No Body, Eighth Grave After Dark

Railsea by China Miéville

5 star

Railroads, Steampunk Future, Something Like Moby Dick, Adventure

If you threw Moby Dick in the bathtub and said you know what actually, water is stupid, let’s take the basic structure of this book but make it about RAILROADS and GIANT MOLES and a kid who’s on this MOLETRAIN and secretly wants to discover what happens where all the railroads END—well, you would have Railsea. Miéville has built a society, a scenario, slang, and a whole bunch of jobs that don’t exist today and has spun them into a tale that is as amazing as it is unique. His style of writing is expressive and fanciful and his plot is engaging. Would recommend to everyone.

Transfixion by J. Giambrone


2 stars

Mind-Control, Mindless Fighting, Weird Protagonists, Teenagers, Survival

Kaylee’s journey starts when the TVs start broadcasting a signal that reprograms anyone who sees it into mindless soldiers bent on killing anyone who isn’t under the influence of the mind-control. Kaylee is mute for the first half of the book and a mute heroine struggling to make her ideas heard in the middle of a crisis has the potential to be great. However, she just doesn’t react to things in the way someone in her situation would— she barely reacts to the death of her mother in the initial onslaught and when her mind-controlled brother tries to break down the door to kill her, Kaylee just laments not being able to finish her book. Her unstable mindset and behavior is so bizarre it’s hard to care about her or anyone else. The war itself doesn’t make much sense either as the brainwashed “dupes” try to kill everyone instead of brainwashing them and the how and why of the TV signal is never explained (is it worldwide? countrywide? citywide? what’s the scale and purpose?).

Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley

2 star

Graphic Novel, Foodie, Memoir

Lucy recaps her young life with food-obsessed parents, up through their divorce and her food-obsessed teenage and adult years. She uses meals as metaphors and drops little recipes between chapters, but overall the whole thing seems very forced, like she is bored with her own subject matter and is trying to make herself seem more interesting through her relationship with food. Nothing interesting happens. The art is mediocre. Overall nothing special.

Wonderland by Tommy Kovac and illustrated by Sonny Liew

5 star

Graphic Novel, Wonderland, Fractured Fairy Tales, Whimsy

Wonderland without Alice, this graphic novel follows Maryann (the housemaid that Alice was mistaken for), a tidy perfectionist who is trying to keep it together in the aftermath of the Alice monster who has started a revolution that Maryann wants no part in. It is a delightful book that wastes no time because Maryann knows the rules of Wonderland. The art is fun and I would recommend to any Carroll fans.

Paperboy by Vince Vawter


4 star

Memphis in the Fifties, Stuttering, Paperboys, Growing Up, Self-Confidence

A book about a boy, a boy who delivers papers, a boy who stutters, a boy who is nervous about speaking words he can’t get out, a boy who loves his housekeeper, a boy who tries to understand his parents and his world—but really, it is a story about a boy growing up. Vawter based the story on his own life and this I think is what lends such a feeling of authenticity to the story and the boy’s struggles, though some of the more harrowing events are pretty nerve-wracking and as I was reading I kept thinking oh no, I hope these parts are made up. It is a well-written story of language and understanding.

Second Grave on the Left by Darynda Jones


5 star

Grim Reaper, Murder Mystery, Adventure, Sex, Humor

Charley may still be beat up from last week, but there’s nothing like a 2am wakeup call from her best friend and some coffee to keep her on her toes (and entertaining me). Charley is splitting her time looking for Reyes, the lost love of her life, and searching for Cookie’s missing best friend who just may be involved in more than anyone suspects. This volume is just as fast-paced, hilarious, and sexy as the first.

Previous book: First Grave on the Right
Later books: Third Grave Dead Ahead, Fourth Grave Beneath My Feet, Fifth Grave Past the Light, Sixth Grave on the Edge, Seventh Grave and No Body, Eighth Grave After Dark

Like China by Varley O’Connor

5 star

Life, Abuse, Growing Up, Relationships, Family

This is the story of 25-year-old Katha, an abused wife trying to find the courage to leave and stay gone, and 11-year-old Peter, the boy who lives down the street who mows her lawn and is being raised secretly by his two older brothers since his father ran out on them a month ago. This is a story of people, and relationships, and blame, and life. O’Connor’s first novel, it was written in 1991 but is still an incredibly powerful and realistic book that addresses very real issues in a way that makes you feel without preaching.

First Grave on the Right by Darynda Jones

5 star

Grim Reaper, Murder Mystery, Adventure, Sex, Humor

Charley Davidson is a grim reaper and she uses the ability to see the newly departed dead to run her PI business and help her uncle (a detective); a few people know about her abilities, but most people just know her as a sensual, sarcastic, willful 27-year-old. But now, in addition to her normal reaper duties, she is being followed by a shadow that has saved her life each time she was in danger since she was a child — and the shadow may actually be someone she has met. Charley is one of the few characters that has ever made me laugh out loud, and I devoured this story. It was funny and perfectly paced to build plot and characters and show off Charley’s smart mouth and fearless investigative abilities. Can’t recommend enough!

Later books: Second Grave on the Left, Third Grave Dead Ahead, Fourth Grave Beneath My Feet, Fifth Grave Past the Light, Sixth Grave on the Edge, Seventh Grave and No Body, Eighth Grave After Dark

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

5 star

Virtual Reality, Adventure, Thriller, Friendship, Culture

Wade escapes from his miserable life by slipping into the OASIS, a virtual reality universe that started as a video game and expanded to include shopping, adventure, gaming, lifestyle, and even Wade’s online high school. Wade is one of the nerds obsessed with Halliday, the man who created the OASIS, because whoever discovers his hidden game wins his entire fortune and control of the company — but when Wade finds the first clue a rival corporation tries to kill him for his knowledge and the race is on to find the clues before they do. It has a wacky start as Cline has to explain how shitty the world is and why everyone is so obsessed with this hunt for Halliday’s game, but it warms up quickly into one of the most action-packed and intense books I’ve read in a long time. It is hilarious and heart-pounding while managing to avoid those cringeworthy moments where the character does something dumb, and if you love the eighties you will adore all of the pop culture references that practically spill out of its pages. It is long enough to allow you to fully understand the world and keep you up two nights in a row and leave you sleep-deprived and short enough that the action never stops.