Salutations, blogging world!
As much as I love watching movies, there is something about reading books that nothing else can compare to. Sometimes it boggles me how little black marks on a piece of paper can invade my soul so much more effectively than all the special effects in the world.
In the past however-long-it’s-been-since-I-last-did-a-book-review-post, I have started ten books, finished eight of them, and discovered at least two new children. Let’s take a look, shall we?
The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope
This was a reread, so obviously its excellence has been established.
Kate Sutton has been sent to the remote Perilous Gard to keep her out of trouble, but the old fortress has plenty of trouble of its own. The history of the place runs deep in the land, and its inhabitants have secrets that Kate might do better not to get tangled up in. But of course she does anyway because otherwise it wouldn’t be very interesting, now would it?
Filled with myth, legend, and fairy magic, this book is a mysterious adventure with a dark side. The characters are unique, the dialogue is quick and witty, and the plot involves human sacrifice, so clearly it’s wholesome.
The Boy Who Steals Houses by C.G. Drews
Fifteen-year-old Sam doesn’t have a home to call his own. He is constantly worrying about his older brother Avery, who he feels a fierce responsibility for. He tries to convince himself that they don’t need anyone else. But he knows they do. And then Sam gets mixed up with the De Laineys and he doesn’t quite know how to handle it.
My heart went out to Sam’s tormented soul, and the way the De Lainey family embraces him is truly powerful. I wasn’t big on the romance, but Sam and Moxie are still dear to me. Also Mr. De Lainey and the florist are saints, bless them. And THE END. I LOVE the end.
The Missing Piece of Charlie O’Reilly by Rebecca K.S. Ansari
This book surprised me. Which is weird.
Charlie has a little brother named Liam that disappeared a year ago. The thing is, Charlie is the only person who remembers that Liam ever existed.
This is a fantasy set in modern times and it deals with this question: What if when you wished you’d never been born, that wish came true? It also deals with the power of both consequences and forgiveness, the importance of working through things instead of pretending they didn’t happen, and all of my FAVORITE THINGS.
I actually read this twice because right after I finished it I did it as a read aloud with my sisters and that was really fun. Jonathon is the universal favorite.
Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli
Another reread. This little story has a special place in my heart.
Jefferey Magee is an oddball. He’s scarily good at sports. He can untie any knot. He’s allergic to pizza. And he treats the people on the east side and the west side the same, even though one side is white and the other side is black. He just doesn’t see things the same way that other people do. And he is always running.
I like the way this book is written. Everything is understated and the imagery is unique and striking. It’s like poetry. And of course I am all for stories about lost, broken boys. Jeffery needs to find his way home.
Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli
Leo is a normal kid in a normal high school. Then Stargirl, a previously homeschooled eccentricity, waltzes into his life and changes everything. Sort of.
For some reason I could not get into this book. I get tired of the same old high school scene, with the popular vs. unpopular disaster, and though I think it’s important for kids to be themselves and not cave to peer pressure, I totally knew that before I read this book and reading the book didn’t give me any new perspectives on it. I had a hard time relating to either Stargirl or Leo, so overall the whole thing just kind of fell flat for me.
That said, I still like Jerry Spinelli’s writing style, and the way Stargirl spent so much time thinking about other people was cool. We all like to be seen, and she tried to be the person who did the seeing.
The Boy on the Porch by Sharon Creech
Short, simple, sweet. These kinds of books are nice, even if they don’t end up stabbing me in the heart.
Basically this young couple wake up one day to find a child sleeping on their porch. They don’t know who he is or where he came from. But he ends up having a significant impact on their lives.
Overall, this book was nothing to sneeze at. (I don’t exactly know what that expression means, but I wanted to say it.) I liked it well enough, and there were a few striking moments, but it didn’t make a huge impression on me.
The Glass Sentence by S.E. Grove
This is one of the books I did not finish.
I got 240 pages in. And I wanted to like it. But it was…boring.
Sophia lives with her cartologer uncle Shadrack in Boston. Years ago, the world was shattered into several different Ages by a mysterious event called the Disruption, and time and maps are what anchor people in reality. When her uncle is kidnapped, Sophia and her new friend Theo go on a quest to rescue him.
I like the idea of the world being split up into different temporal zones based on geographic location (like Boston is in the 19th century or thereabouts and Egypt is in ancient times, etc.), so the setting is cool, but I couldn’t connect with the characters. The focus was more on the maps and the plot I guess, but if you want me to read a book this long, you need to have riveting characters. Also a lot of the dialogue felt rather stilted to me. I like the idea, but it wasn’t engaging enough to keep me reading.
The Sword in the Stone by T.H. White
This is the other book I did not finish. I like the Disney cartoon, okay?
Arthur, or the Wart, as he is called, is being raised by Sir Ector along with Sir Ector’s son Kay, and after stumbling across Merlyn in the forest, the bizarre old wizard becomes his tutor.
This book is extremely episodic. Kind of like the movie. I thought it would be funny, and it is. But not as funny as Charles Dickens or A.A. Milne, and episodic stories are hard for me to handle at the best of times. I just couldn’t get into it. ‘Twasn’t quite uproariously witty enough for me.
The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm
Finally, a book small enough for me to handle.
Ellie is twelve and her parents are into theatre. She isn’t, which is super weird, but that is neither here nor there. Her grandfather is into science. And he’s good at it. In fact, he is so good at it that he ends up inventing a way to make himself turn back into a teenager.
This story is strange in the best way and it contains burritos. Sometimes it lacked subtlety, but overall it was fun.
The Glass Town Game by Catherynne M. Valente
Charlotte, Branwell, Emily, and Anne Brontë spend hours creating elaborate games for their toy soldiers in the room at the top of the stairs. But what would happen if their make-believe world came to life and got carried away?
“Wouldn’t you feel it happening, if you made a whole world?” Emily said softly.
–The Glass Town Game, p. 156
The four children end up being swept into their own fantastical world of pretend and meeting all sorts of outlandish people, both ones they have invented and ones they haven’t. This world is just a little wilder than the one they thought they were making.
As a writer, as an admirer of Charlotte and Emily Brontë’s works, as a fan of The Wizard of Oz, The Phantom Tollbooth, and other such whimsical tales, I found numerous things about this book to enjoy. The writing style was glorious and made me forget that the book was 530 pages long. The characters were not as complex as they could have been, but they were relatable enough and at moments actually made me Feel Things. Also the illustrations added splendidly to the overall charm of the book.
I did go through a little slump with The Glass Sentence and The Sword in the Stone in which I got rather dramatic and thought I would never read a good book again, but there is always another delightful story to get us out of those. I just needed some goldfish and some Brontës. Overall, I am fairly happy with my recent reading, and for that I am grateful.
What have you been reading lately? How often do you reread your old favorites? Do you get discouraged if you read multiple not-awesome books in a row? Have you ever read a fantasy book based on actual historical humans? Tell me all your bookish news!