Friday, November 15, 2013

Fourth Grad School Reading List of Third Semester

Only six more packets until I graduate...

Only six more packets until I graduate...

Only six more packets until I graduate...

United We Spy by Ally Carter: I'll be honest, the writing just wasn't up to par on this one. It seemed to fall flat when compared to the previous two books, which makes for a rather disappointing end to a fun and beloved series. Instead of building on Cammie's emotional arc, her motivations and decisions seem to fall into old habits. In turn, that makes her feel like a 15-year-old kid rather than an 18-year-old super spy. But the girls are still kick ass, the guys are still hot, and the action will still keep you on the edge of your seat.

The Enchanter Heir by Cinda Williams Chima: Really wanted to give this five stars, but I HATE cliffhanger endings to books. It's really a personal style thing, but I firmly believe each book in a series should have its own complete story arc, even if some elements are left open-ended for the next book. I'm a total supporter of episodic rather than epiphanic plots.

Seventeenth Summer by Maureen Daly: I was kind of shocked by reading what some people call the “first young adult book.” I think this is far from the first young adult book—Jane Eyre is more likely deserving of that title, or even A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. But putting that issue aside, it really is amazing, the marked jump in formatting and style between this book and the ones that came before. It’s told in first person with an incredible conversational style, and it addresses some interesting issues what are kind of unique to the YA market.

Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama, narrated by Katherine Kellgren: This book very much reminded me of Impossible by Nancy Werlin, and I’m not sure that’s really a good thing. I’m fascinated by urban fantasy, especially those that use folklore as a foundation for the fantasy, but I’ve found very few that do it well. They tend to be unnecessarily dark—with a bit of a gothic quality—with overly inflated stakes. I can’t exactly pinpoint what I’m looking for in this type of book, but I know it when I find it. It tends to work really well in middle grade (e.g. Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin and A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz), but it’s harder to find in YA (e.g. Briar Rose by Jane Yolen). This book also has horrible chapter breaks. Like, seriously, just horrible.

Making Faces by Amy Harmon: The premise of this book is wonderful, and the story is pretty moving as well. While a duel third-person close POV is fairly standard for a romance novel, this one adds a third POV, which I thought was a great choice as Bailey's voice (the only non-romantic lead) kind of makes the story. But the author chose an incredibly difficult narrative perspective. She shifts between childhood, adolescence and adulthood in a nonlinear plot, and she gets mired in the character development somewhere in the teenage years. I didn't buy Fern as an overly innocent teenage ugly duckling. The time shifting got confusing as the date-stamps weren't consistently used. I also had issues with the four friends seemingly instantaneous decision to join the military, blindly following Ambrose into a hell hole.

The Crazy Man by Pamela Porter: If there is a book I wish I had written, it would be Porter’s I’ll Be Watching. This book I didn’t love so much, mostly because the language of the poetry was lacking in comparison to her other book. However, Porter is brilliant at caring a plot from one poem to the next. I’ve always thought of poems in a novel in verse as being both episodic and epiphanic, but there are also poems that seem to be completely removed from the timeline but still move the arc forward.

The Hungry Ghost of Rue Orleans by Mary Quattlebaum, illustrated by Patricia Castelao: I had a couple of issues with this book, mostly because I lived in Louisiana for a few years, so when the culture is used as a trope and the heritage plays into stereotypes, I notice. Calling beignets cream puffs and having a piano-playing restaurant owner who’s haunted by a’s not exactly a unique or accurate story. Luckily, Mary is a poetic wordsmith with a sweet, easy style that makes her books wonderful for read alouds.

Monologue of a Dog by Wisława Szymborska, translated by Clare Cavanagh and Stanisław Barańczak: I specifically looked at beginnings and endings of poems, especially as one of the poems was reported to have “no last line.” It’s interesting how the poems often start with a specific image that seems almost abstract—a picture with no context. But by the end you know exactly what Szymborska is talking about, even if the concept is totally abstract.

Nothing by Janne Teller, translated by Martin Aitken: Nihilism at its best. I’ve kind of gotten over the political commentary books, probably because I had to read so many of them in middle school and high school. I know this book was supposed to leave me empty, but I came away resenting the book for that reason. Books like this are manipulative, but they are purposefully manipulative, so you have to respect an author that accomplishes exactly what she set out to do.