Greetings, blogger compatriots!
Books. That is why we are here. I read books in January and February, and I am here to tell you all about them. Or something like that.
As ever, I will endeavor to make some sense, but I won’t make any promises.
Let’s get to it.
The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge
Upon her father’s death, thirteen-year-old Maria Merryweather is sent from London to live with her relative Sir Benjamin Merryweather at Moonacre Manor. Her new home in the country is delightful, but it is also shrouded in mystery- and possibly magic. There is unrest in the valley, caused by events buried in the Merryweathers’ past, and Maria makes up her mind to get to the bottom of it
This children’s novel, published in 1946, is charming… if a bit bland. While the characters (including Maria’s governess, a Dickon-like boy named Robin, and some assorted animal companions) were somewhat likable and the plot marginally entertaining, there was nothing about this book that really stood out to me. Honestly I felt a bit bored most of the time I was reading it. I’m really not sure why, so you’re not going to get much insight out of me today on that.
It was by no means a poor book- in fact it was, overall, pleasant. Reading this book felt like I was looking at an extremely detailed oil painting. On every single page. By that, I mean that it was SUPER descriptive. And the descriptions were beautifully composed. But I found it a little bit overwhelming. Sure, you want the colors and shapes of the surroundings to come alive, but at the same time you don’t really need to know the exact shade and texture of every item in every room they ever enter and every landscape they encounter in the whole story. I was impressed that the author could pull that off, but that the same time it didn’t make this one of my favorite books.
Also (spoiler) at the end a fourteen and fifteen year old get married and…well, that kind of weirded me out a little bit.
The Promised Neverland volumes 10-18 by Kaiu Shirai and Posuka Demizu
Well…yeah, I am still in love.
This manga series follows a group of determined children trying to survive in a nightmarish world that seems to be endlessly against them. It has strong characters, plot and world-building. Is there a downside? No, not really.
This series has undergone a plethora of genre shifts. This is a risky move and threatens to make a story feel disjointed, yet the author seems to be handling it quite well.
Here are some of the genres we’ve gotten so far: psychological thriller, mystery, whimsical/dark fantasy, action/adventure, science fiction, drama, high/quest fantasy, political/war fantasy (that’s a thing, right?), superhero story, horror, mythology, mystical/metaphysical, survival story, and reality cooking show.
(I am only half kidding about the last one. There was an actual scene in that style and it was beautiful.)
I would never have thought this would work. But it does. It totally works. THIS STORY, GUYS.
I have a few quibbles about pacing, and sometimes I miss the times before action became so prominent (I mean, the battling makes sense and some of it is great, but I do love how there is essentially no action in the first four volumes), but overall I am sort of stunned that 18 volumes in I am still as excited as I was at the beginning. I have so many feelings and I have adopted so many kids it’s kind of ridiculous. But wonderful.
I am definitely not impatient for the last two volumes to come out.
Not at all.
The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner
This book is gold.
The thief Gen has been plucked from the dungeon by the king’s magus and forced into a quest with an unclear goal. Odds are they’re going to want him to steal something. He just hasn’t been told what yet.
Set in a Greek-inspired fantasy world, this YA novel is book #1 in The Queen’s Thief series. It follows Gen and his companions (the magus, his two apprentices Ambiades and Sophos, and a soldier named Pol) on a journey through the kingdoms of Sounis, Eddis and Attolia- three small neighboring countries that are always on the brink of war with one another.
I found this book to be truly enjoyable. Gen is hilarious, always loudly complaining and making himself obnoxious to his companions, and the other characters are wonderful as well (especially Sophos and Pol, I love them dearly). The world is well developed, and I liked how the author incorporated the world’s mythology in a way that felt natural with the storytelling. The plot was satisfying as well, though I did see the most major plot twist coming. I didn’t mind, it was still good.
Also important to note, this book stands well on its own…. And the sequels get kind of weird.
The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner
Yup, so I don’t like the queen of Attolia. Sorry.
(This review contains spoilers for book #1.)
#2 in The Queen’s Thief series, this book continues the story of Eugenides, our aggravating but lovable thief. Back home in Eddis, he only makes good decisions and always takes the good advice of his cousin.
Okay, that last sentence was a complete lie.
I’m actually not sure how to talk about this book without giving anything away, but overall I didn’t like this one as much as the first one. I enjoyed getting to read about Eugenides again and more of Eddis was FANTASTIC. I loved the parts with Eddis. She is the best.
But do I like Attolia? At all? No. And since she was kind of a big deal in this one, being the title character and all, that put a significant damper on my enjoyment of it.
The plot twists were a bit stilted. Possibly because Attolia as a character feels a bit stilted to me. She felt too much like a type of character and not enough like a human being. (And I know that is horrendously subjective and you could make the same argument about any number of characters that I love to death, so yeah, I have no clue how this works.)
Not to mention the way it ended.
The King of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner
This book is (you guessed it) #3 in The Queen’s Thief series.
(This review contains spoilers for books #1 and #2.)
First of all, I am that person who despises pretty much everything about Eugenides and the Attolia’s relationship. So at this point the series is just kind of going downhill for me.
I honestly found the plot of this one to be kind of… boring.
Mostly from the perspective of palace guard Costis (a fairly likable character, I will admit), the issue is, most of the stuff he is slowly figuring out throughout the book is stuff we already know. Since we read the previous books. He is trying to figure out Eugenides, his new king, and while it’s sort of interesting to see Eugenides from this random guard’s perspective, at the same time we already know Eugenides and all the mystery just isn’t there.
And shall I rant about the romance?
I will be brief(ish).
It bothers me that Eugenides and Attolia’s relationship is so obviously unhealthy, and yet at this point that’s just kind of glossed over. The fact that he fell in love with her through sneaking into her palace and spying on her? Not romantic. CREEPY. The fact that she had his hand cut off and he still has nightmares about this and is kind of terrified of her? NOT ROMANTIC. JUST CREEPY. Then when they first actually started talking to each other, they were lying to each other with every word. What a way to begin a relationship. So…the fact that we’ve gone from that to whatever is going on in this one just feels…off to me.
I kind of wanted to feel bad for Eugenides but at the same time I was still just furious at him for getting himself into this situation in the first place.
A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner
Book #4 in The Queen’s Thief series.
(This review contains spoilers for books #1, #2, and #3.)
I love Sophos and I was very happy to see him again. Though radically different from Eugenides, Sophos (heir to the throne of Sounis) is a compelling character and sometimes painfully relatable (I find that I relate to Sophos much more than Eugenides). Especially considering his anxieties over decision making. It’s too real.
Caught in the middle of a rebellion, assassination attempts, and other such wholesome activities, Sophos is forced to figure out what kind of a king he will become- if he ever gets to that point.
I was disappointed by the way this book turned out. I liked the first half quite a bit, but then it took a turn for the worse and the climax was…not to my liking. The character development was excellent until the last several scenes when for whatever reason everything fell flat on its face.
Also, I’m not a huge fan of the romance in this one either. I love them both, but separately.
So overall, this series has disappointed me, and I don’t think I will be reading the final two installments. (Mostly because they are long and I’m too lazy, not because they are so horrible that I wouldn’t read them on principle or something.)
The Wind Singer (#1 of the Wind on Fire trilogy) by William Nicholson
In the city of Aramanth, everything is about achievement and hierarchy. From a young age, every person in the city begins taking tests that determine status. A family’s cumulative score determines in which tier of the city they will live. Twins Kestrel and Bowman Hath have always been fairly average students, with average scores. But an impulsive act of rebellion will put the Hath family in a very compromised situation. Clearly a good old-fashioned fetch-quest is the only way to solve this.
This is a fun, imaginative adventure with no major surprises. The characters are simple but endearing (think a good old-fashioned Star Wars movie or something, I don’t know), and I am always here for siblings. The world is decently built and just a little bizarre. Overall it was a fun read, without ever getting deep enough to threaten my sanity. It was just a good old-fashioned adventure story with enough imaginative weirdness to keep it interesting. Seriously though, I am here for the imaginative weirdness.
Just Like That by Gary D. Schmidt
Why, Gary. Just why.
It’s 1968. In the wake of a sudden loss, Meryl Lee Kowalski is starting at a new boarding school for girls. Matt Coffin, a lonely boy without a home, is hoping that his past doesn’t catch up to him.
The characters are certainly lovable, and the plot is both emotional and compelling- even though at times it teeters on the edge of unbelievable. It can’t always decide if it’s an every-day story about kids living their lives or a thriller. Also, I’m really not a fan of the romance (have you noticed that me not being a fan of the romance is kind of a thing?). They are CHILDREN and there was too much kissing for that.
Okay. So, as books go, this one was pretty good overall. But by Gary D. Schmidt standards, I would say it’s sub-par.
Mostly I just haven’t forgiven him for killing my boy. You can’t just do that, Gary. Not after all these years. It’s cheating. We’ve gone literal years thinking this kid grew up and lived his life and then you kill him off mere MONTHS (if that) after the end of his book. YOU CANNOT DO THIS TO US.
I might have forgiven him this atrocity if the book he had written a) was pure gold, and b) needed this particular person’s death in the story to work. Neither of these things are true. Yes, the fact that Meryl Lee is grieving is a big part of the story, but she could have been grieving about SOMETHING ELSE.
Yeah, I liked the book. But I would have enjoyed it more if it hadn’t been connected to previous Gary D. Schmidt books. By which I mean if he hadn’t KILLED MY SON.
The Home Ranch by Ralph Moody
So many cows. SO MANY.
The man of his family by age twelve, Ralph is hired to work for rancher Mr. Bachlett for the summer. This book is an autobiographical account written by Ralph Moody. There are others (I don’t know how many) and this isn’t the first, but they don’t have to be read it order.
This book felt wholesome but also kind of bland. Ralph is a likable kid, and his adventures were mildly interesting to read about. Mostly, working as a cowhand sounds like an insane amount of work and I would keel over if I tried it. Sometimes I would get a tiny bit bogged down by the amount of detail, but at the same time it really paints a good picture of all the work and skill that goes into maintaining a cattle ranch. There were so many cows. You kind of have to admire these people for how they can handle cows. That being said, I only have so much interest in cows. So.
Also for whatever reason I loved Zeb. He’s not a huge character, but he’s great.
All Systems Red (Murderbot Diaries #1) by Martha Wells
I love Murderbot. Sarah Seele said that Murderbot was relatable. My sister said that Murderbot was relatable. And believe it or not, Muderbot IS relatable.
Weird how that works out sometimes.
I am unsure as to whether this is YA or adult, but anyhow…told entirely from the perspective of a weaponized bot/human clone construct, this novella will give you feelings.
Or just make you really, really confused.
In a world where bots and constructs (part bot part human) are integral in everyday life, privacy doesn’t actually exist anymore, intergalactic space travel is the norm, and marriage always seems to involve more than two people (yeah, just…no), Murderbot is trying to keep a group of scientists (its current clients) from getting themselves killed. It’s also trying to watch serials every spare moment it gets. And avoid talking to humans. And avoid humans in general. And avoid talking about its Feelings.
AVOID AVOID AVOID THIS IS HEALTHY RIGHT? OH WAIT I’M A MURDERBOT SO WHO NEEDS HEALTH ANYWAY???
I’m totally paraphrasing here. I don’t even think Murderbot realizes the extent of the Unhealth happening. In fact I know that Murderbot does not realize the extent of the Unhealth happening. Which I love. BRING ON THE UNRELIABLE NARRATORS.
So the past two months have been kind of a mixed bag as far as books go, but overall I think there has been a lot of interesting discoveries. I may have had my heart brutally maimed a handful of times, but at least some of the times I actually enjoyed it.
What have you been reading recently? Have you ever read a book that prominently features cows? Have you ever refused to forgive an author for killing a character? Can a book be too description heavy? Have I convinced any of you to read The Promised Neverland yet? Are you rolling over in your grave because of what I said about the Queen’s Thief series? (Please share your righteous indignation!) Tell me all of your bookish news!