|Elisabeth is our events coordinator. Her literary tastes tend towards humor, fantasy, and young adult and children's literature. She also enjoys the occasional self-betterment book, although her husband tells her that she can't really combine all of their techniques into one lifestyle...|
Elisabeth's September 2015 pick
The Cinder Spires: The Aeronaut's Windlass, by Jim Butcher
I challenged a co-worker to a cage match in order to get this Advance Reading Copy. (She declined. The publisher's rep had two copies.)
Reading a new Butcher book is always an emotional experience, in that you early want to suck down the pages, to find out WHAT HAPPENS NEXT, but each page consumed brings you another page closer to the dreaded end of the book, and it will be at least a year before another new volume arrives to thrill you. I rejoiced with each page turn, and mourned as the unread section of pages got slimmer and slimmer.
This was a lovely new offering from Butcher, new series that has it all. Sky pirates (ahem, privateers), cats, sword fights, espionage, war, world building, genial wizards (of a sort) whose brains are too full of the magic of the ether to remember mundane things like how to work a doorknob or wear pants, sky battles, a subtle romance, politics, humor, and cats. Did I mention cats? Rowl is my favorite character. Butcher writes a cat's perspective very well.
An ensemble cast of characters provides chapters from multiple perspectives, even some from the (surprisingly sympathetic) enemy, and keeps the story moving without bogging down. As you observed each character from their companion's perspective and from their own thoughts, it was easy to get attached.
Did I mention the cats? Seriously one of the best parts. (I'm leaving out something very big here, so you can have the delight of discovery that I did when they appear about 20 pages into the book.)
Elisabeth's November 2013 pick
The Rosie Project, by Graeme Simsion
A hilarious romp narrated by Simon, a brilliant geneticist who, despite his lack of understanding social cues, embarks on a scientific campaign to find a wife, reasoning that companionship would be practical and convenient. His method of evaluating candidates, a lengthy questionnaire to ensure compatibility before investing time and effort, turns away several fantastic candidates, and his inability to pick up on social cues turns away several beautiful and brilliant and definitely interested women.
It is Rosie, a wholly inappropriate candidate (according to his questionnaire) who begins to mold Simon in to regular life as they work towards solving the mystery of Rosie's father (he's a geneticist, remember?).
The author is very careful not to label Simon as autistic, although autism and Asperger's Syndrome are mentioned, because the label would flatten this rich character into a two dimensional figure. Simon does have many characteristics that only he does not seem to notice, and has a very particular way of viewing the world that makes for a fascinating narrative, and it makes him a sympathetic and likeable character even as you scream at him to notice what is going on around him.
Elisabeth's May 2013 pick
Sanderson's worldbuilding ability shines in this novel, a first YA offering from this fantasy giant. An alternate earth contains just enough place names and events to provide a sense of familiarity to ground the alternate history and the fantastical events of this novel, and the physics and math based magic provides a credibility that "Abracadabra" just can't match. The characters of this novel suit the late middle school crowd of readers, but the serious tones of the novel will still hold the interest of a high schooler.
Elisabeth's January 2013 pick
A fascinating look into the ways our cultures have shaped the way we handle and interact with food. The tools are and technologies we use are just as influenced by our societies as our societies are influenced by our tools.
Particularly fascinating is how different things were 500, 100, even 20 years ago. Women were rarely the cooks for large houses or castles back in the days of open hearths, due to the danger of death from skirts catching fire. Forks were considered effeminate until about 200 years ago. The modern potato peeler, now an indispensable tool, only appeared in the 1990's!
Elisabeth's June 2012 review
Ruby and Simon, twelve-year-old twins, are passing their first summer at their family's new farm in Wisconsin, when a mysterious man shows up to explain that the strange weather they've been having is attached to Simon's mood and that Simon is the youngest (and potentially the most powerful) Storm Maker the world has ever seen.
A delightful middle-grade reader with a girl narrator telling the story, but centered around her twin brother (thus making it palatable for readers of either sex).
It is a delight to read a book that has average protagonists. Normal teens with normal tantrums and intelligences, confusions, and fears. Thrust into overwhelming and frightening situations, they act like twelve-year-olds, not politically saavy adults or exceptionally gifted and talented wonder-kids. It is no mysterious family secret or hidden bloodline, just chance that gifts Simon with his powers.
Written well for the age group, not dumbed down ("for kids") but rather written with an age-empathic vocabulary and sentence structure.
Elisabeth's March 2012 pick
Delightful! An awkward boy and an awkward friendship with the already heroic preteen Prince Achilles, and its organic growth into the magnificence that steals the stage in the Iliad. What a wonderful side to the epic, that at last receives the attention it deserves. Bravo to Ms. Miller is her tender and sympathetic treatment of these two heroes.
Elisabeth's February 2012 pick
I wept and I would still read it again. I am tempted to leave the review at that. "I wept." This book is wonderful and terrible, and well-written. John Green has the singular ability to write like people (teenagers especially) feel, to distill into words a feeling, an impression, in a very non-literary sort of way. He is also excellent at sympathetically channeling the singular misery and drama that teenagers feel. Give this to the teenager in your life who might also like Jodi Picoult.
Elisabeth's January 2012 pick
Cinderella set after World War IV, in New Beijing, with the protagonist as a cyborg (and thus a second-rate citizen). Throw in a deadly and very contagious plague reminiscent of the Black Death, and inter-galactic political difficulty between the Earth and the independent Moon. Instead of a glass slipper, the heroine accidentally leaves behind her cybernetic left foot.
I loved this book. I confess that when I picked it up, and even after I read the back cover, I wasn't expecting much. Too weird, I thought. How do you translate Cinderella into such a strange setting? Well, I read it in one evening. I couldn't put it down. The characters are three dimensional and interesting, and inspired emotional reactions (I wanted to shake the step-mother for being such a petty, horrible person). The love story was sweet and unforced. The heroine was no Mary Sue! The writing style was light and easy to read, making this a quick read. Entirely enjoyable, I would definitely recommend this book for someone who liked The Hunger Games for its downtrodden, flawed heroine in tough life-or-death political circumstances, but who is looking for something less bloody and gory to read.
King Hugo's Huge Ego is a delight! Written in rhyming quatrains, each page has the bouncing, contagious feel of a limerick (not a dirty one, thank you very much) which trips and rolls off the tongue. This story was a lot of fun to read to children.
This book may be classified as a YA novel, but I've definitely recommended it to just about every adult I know. An excellent pick for young adult reluctant readers, because the story really is that engaging. Chosen by lottery to compete in an annual televised battle royale, where the winner is taken care of for life and the losers are brutally slaughtered by other contestants for the viewers' cruel amusement in the Capitol, Katniss Everdeen just hopes to survive long enough to make it home, and to avoid becoming one of the human monsters she is fighting against. The story is horrifying and shocking, but I couldn't put it down, wondering what would happen next. I made the mistake of bringing this book on my honeymoon, thinking to read it on the beach. My husband had to threaten to hide it in order for us to go snorkeling.
Preorder your copy of Fairest: Levana's Story today to receive a Fairest hidden-message pocket mirror and a limited edition poster while supplies last! (On Sale January 27, 2015)
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