Pages

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Currently Reading 2/8/16


Check out Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers for the roundups!

Finished some SERIOUSLY good books this past week that I'm very excited to share:

READ:
 
Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley
I'm going to say something about this book that I NEVER say about books: I wish it were longer. The comparisons to The Night Circus are apt, but what I adored in that adult title: the vivid imagery and insanely detailed descriptions of the circus, were not given as much time here (as is probably appropriate for a MG title, but still, I missed it). I actually found the characters in Circus Mirandus extremely compelling for the most part (I wish Micah had been a bit kinder and more patient with Jenny, though) but I wanted to know them much more deeply - Especially Victoria.  I felt that Aunt Gertrudis fell victim to my least favorite MG novel trope: the over-the-top-mustache-twirling villain.  Still, it's a lovely, magical story full of imagination. ***1/2

The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes
There are flaws aplenty, but the good is SO good that I can't not give this novel all the stars.  As many have said, the flashbacks could have been better integrated (there are such huge stretches where you get no answers that it can be trying) but it's still a heck of a page-turner.  I really wanted more of an examination into the appeal of cults, (I never understood the prophet's hold over these people), but the horror of cults is extremely (and appropriately) pronounced.  There were a few completely ridiculous coincidences that almost actually offended me in how unrealistic they were, but with such a vivid, prickly, questioning protagonist, subtle but strong feminist themes, a story that tackles belief and religion head-on (such a rarity in YA fiction!) and amazing writing that can be unbelievably gorgeous or frighteningly horrific in the same chapter, I can deal with the faults.  Definitely look up interviews with the author online to see how much thought and care she put into the depiction of many aspects of the characters and story. ****1/2

Audacity by Melanie Crowder
This is a very VERY strong story, but I think maybe it would have been even better had it been in prose instead of in verse.  The language and imagery are gorgeous, but the necessary brevity of the form keeps important supporting character details, plot points, and background information from receiving the focus I think they needed.  Clara is such a fantastic character, and her emotions, passions, and suffering are so vivid, but I was awfully confused about a lot of what was going on with the factories and strikes.  The authors note at the end is extensive and crucial.  ***1/2

Most Dangerous by Steve Sheinkin
Sure, ok, Steve Sheinkin doesn't compose the most beautiful sentences, but I'm not sure there's a writer working today with a more natural storyteller's instinct.  Time after time he takes historic subjects I have NO interest in (or even thought were kind of boring), and mines them for all their inherent drama, emotion, and relevance I never realized were there.  This story is clear, concise, obviously extremely well-researched, but most of all a riveting tale that's even more powerful because it just so happens to be true. *****

Ask the Passengers by A.S. King
I don't think I can honestly say that I *enjoyed* this novel, because each and every character was a rage-inducing jerk at one point or another (or, in some cases, at most points they were in the story), but every jerky act was, if not always justifiable, always understandable.  Characters with as many facets as actual-real-life-people, a crazy-yet-brilliant style that makes repetitive sentence structures a sort of Greek chorus of small town discouragement, a seemingly tired plot (small town girl is DIFFERENT, TRYING TO FIND HERSELF, and SURROUNDED BY BIGOTS) given new life through utter authenticity, I think this may be one of the most masterful YA novels I've ever read.  *****

Razorhurst by Justine Larbalestier
I LOVED this book.  I tend to always love Australian fiction for some reason, but this ghost story/historical fiction/uber-violent-crime-novel/girl friends power tale is something special.  The setting is practically a living being, the story (that mostly takes place in one day) is suspenseful, shocking, and fascinating, and the structure unique. Kelpie and Dymphna are the best duo since Code Name Verity's Julie and Maddie. So strange and so utterly original. *****
I Love, I Hate, I Miss My Sister by Amélie Sarn
Somehow one of the most powerful stories I've ever read is packed into a mere 150 pages.  Dealing with the MOST sensitive subjects (family, bigotry, feminism, bullying, religion, racism, terrorism, torture, murder) with a deft but sure hand, Sarn packs this emotionally brutal story of sisters drifting apart and becoming themselves, with understanding and insight.  *****

CURRENTLY READING:

The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz
Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Pérez
Dreamquake by Elizabeth Knox

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard
Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge
Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan

Mosquitoland by David Arnold
Shake Hands Forever by Ruth Rendell
Tighter by Adele Griffin

 TO READ:


   
We Are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson
Lock & Mori by Heather W. Petty
Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty

 
Of Metal and Wishes by Sarah Fine
Fake ID by Lamar Giles
An Unsuitable Job for a Woman by P. D. James

The Borden Murders Lizzie Borden & The Trial of the Century by Sarah Miller
The Ghosts of Heaven by Marcus Sedgwick

19 comments:

  1. Ah yes, Ask the Passengers is such a book. Full of characters not all that likeable. But such a book. I particularly despised the mother. A.S. King is a must read everything she writes author for me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The mother was certainly the most awful, but I thought all of Astrid's friends were pretty despicable too! SUCH a well-told (if at times infuriating) story though. I've read over half of King's novels now, thinking I'll pick up I Crawl Through It Next.

      Delete
  2. I just loved Circus Mirandus. It was so imaginative and magical. Night Circus was not a book I particularly liked - it did have vivid description, but the characters and plot didn't interest me much. I guess the magical circus works better for me in a children's book.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, I completely agree with you about the characters and plot of The Night Circus. I can't even remember anything about them. I just thought the setting was so strong and unique.

      Delete
  3. I love, I hate, I Miss my sister sounds like WOW! It might be uncomfortable but you've made me want to read it. I enjoyed Circus Mirandus very much, and hope you like The Hired Girl-fascinating time & then mixed with religion too, interesting. Thanks for all!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm enjoying The Hired Girl so far. I always find books that mix in religion extra fascinating!

      Delete
  4. I want to read Circus Mirandus (and The Night Circus). I've let them slip through for way too long. I am glad to see a new Steve Sheinkin title. I was slow to come around to nonfiction, but if I had read his books when I was a kid, I would have been hooked. He has a way of inviting readers into the drama of history.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, sometimes it's a hard sell to get kinds who don't usually like non-fiction to read Sheinkin, but they're never disappointed if they pick his books up!

      Delete
  5. I can understand what you are saying about Circus Mirandus. I actually liked the length because I found Night Circus too long, but maybe a nice medium would have been nice.
    And I agree about Ask the Passengers. They all made me so mad, but they were all so like real people!

    Happy reading this week! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, I think Circus Mirandus probably works well for a MG novel. *I* just wanted something more, but, at the same time, I doubt there are many readers in the book's target audience who are clamoring for more descriptions!

      Delete
  6. I am always amazed by the amount of reading you manage to do every week. Circus Mirandus left me feeling a bit unsatisfied - while I did enjoy it, I wanted something more, I thought. I have yet to read The Night Circus - I have a feeling it will find me at a time when I am ready for it. I think one of the GatheringBooks ladies, Iphigene, reviewed Ask the Passengers - and she has pretty much the same reaction as you did. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, I started most of these weeks ago, I just read SO many books at the same time that I often finish none for weeks, and then finish bunches all at the same time!

      Delete
  7. Holy crow this is a lot of books. Like Myra, I'm impressed as heck. I ended up loving Ask The Passengers. In fact I think I liked it more than Glory O'Brien. I also enjoyed Circus Mirandus and hope there will be a sequel.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think I *enjoyed* Glory O'Brien more, but I think Ask the Passengers is the better book maybe? I don't know for sure, but those are my two favorites of King's novels (I think!)

      Delete
  8. I really enjoyed Circus Mirandus, Audacity, and Ask the Passengers. All three books fit neatly into my heart. I am intrigued by The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly. I own it, so I better get to reading!!! Thanks for sharing all of these thoughtful reviews!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Minnow Bly is something of a tough read (she gets her hands chopped off, after all!) but I think it's worth the emotional turmoil. It's such an interesting story.

      Delete
  9. I will read anything Sheinkin writes. I agree he is an excellent storyteller. I loved Circus Mirandus. You are reading an amazing number of books simultaneously. Happy reading!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, Sheinkin has become a "Must read" author for me, no matter what the subject!

      Delete
  10. given new life through utter authenticity, I think this may be one of the most masterful YA novels I've ever read. -- I LOVE this description. Yes.

    I like Justine Larbeliester. I should give that book a go.

    ReplyDelete

Please use your first name or a username when commenting. The conversation will have an easier flow if we don't have a bunch of anonymous comments. Thank you!