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Monday, October 12, 2015

Things I've Read Recently (21)

If you're new around here, Things I've Read Recently is a series of posts I do that are basically mini-reviews of books that I either forgot to review, didn't have enough to say for a full review, or just didn't want to do a full post about for whatever reason.

The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken

Published: December 18th, 2012 by Disney Hyperion
Genre: Dystopian YA
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 488 plus excerpts and such
Part of a series? Yes, there are like 2 more full books, and a couple of ebook novella things.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): When Ruby woke up on her tenth birthday, something about her had changed. Something alarming enough to make her parents lock her in the garage and call the police. Something that gets her sent to Thurmond, a brutal government “rehabilitation camp.” She might have survived the mysterious disease that’s killed most of America’s children, but she and the others have emerged with something far worse: frightening abilities they cannot control.

Now sixteen, Ruby is one of the dangerous ones.

When the truth comes out, Ruby barely escapes Thurmond with her life. Now she’s on the run, desperate to find the one safe haven left for kids like her—East River. She joins a group of kids who escaped their own camp. Liam, their brave leader, is falling hard for Ruby. But no matter how much she aches for him, Ruby can’t risk getting close. Not after what happened to her parents.

When they arrive at East River, nothing is as it seems, least of all its mysterious leader. But there are other forces at work, people who will stop at nothing to use Ruby in their fight against the government. Ruby will be faced with a terrible choice, one that may mean giving up her only chance at a life worth living.

Thoughts: I got this a few others at the library as options for my final project in my English class (got 30/30 on that project, and a 96% final grade in the class, FYI) and since I've written so much about it for school, frankly, the idea of writing a review for it exhausts me. I enjoyed it a lot, but there's only so much you can write about one book.

My basic thoughts are that the writing and voice are very inviting, and the premise was something I enjoyed a lot. It was kind of skimpy on women, but I really like all of Ruby's band of friends. Two out of three were boys and boys are icky, obviously, but they were decent boys. The writing could be somewhat predictable, but I enjoyed it, and I will be seeking out the second and third books as soon as I remember to grab my library card. There are some sexual violence undertones that could be triggering to some, so be wary of that if you need to, but otherwise I enjoyed this one.

Small Damages by Beth Kephart

Published: July 19th, 2012 by Philomel
Genre: Contemporary YA
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 288 + acknowledgments
Part of a series? Nope.
Got via: Again, the library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): It’s senior year, and while Kenzie should be looking forward to prom and starting college in the fall, she is mourning the loss of her father. She finds solace in the one person she trusts, her boyfriend, and she soon finds herself pregnant. Kenzie’s boyfriend and mother do not understand her determination to keep the baby. She is sent to southern Spain for the summer, where she will live out her pregnancy as a cook’s assistant on a bull ranch, and her baby will be adopted by a Spanish couple.

Alone and resentful in a foreign country, Kenzie is at first sullen and difficult. She begins to open her eyes and her heart to the beauty that is all around her and inside of her.

Thoughts: I got this as a possibility for the English project, too, but I'm glad I didn't choose it because I just don't know how I feel about this. The writing is gorgeous, I will say that. The descriptions of Spain honestly do feel so vibrant and real that I kind of want a really big glass of water and I start feeling like I've got prairie mouth (the feel of dust on your mouth on a hot, dry day, FYI).

But there's something about this that just never really did it for me. I even did a reviewer's sin and went and read Goodreads reviews after finishing the book, but before writing the review, and I still can't place my finger on just what doesn't work for me. (Although I did learn this is apparently set in 1995. What? Why is this book set 20 years ago and how did I not notice?) While the writing was beautiful, it was also really slow, and I don't feel like I really connected to the characters. I also didn't really understand the ending and it felt really abrupt. Also, the whole book was kind of weird on the adoption issue, and I think people who were adopted or adopted children or placed a child for adoption would have a hard time reading it.

I hate reviews like this. It's just so meh! I liked the writing, but I also thought it could be very slow at times. I liked some of the relationships (women bonding always), but the anti-abortion/anti-adoption slant of things annoyed me (everyone who suggests abortion is bad or wrong in some way, adopting out a child leaves the birth parent permanently damaged, adopted parents are not "real" parents - these things aren't said explicitly, obviously, but they are implied through the actions of Kenzie and those around her, and there's nothing to counter them). I just... *sigh* I don't know. Check this one out if you like really lyrical books, maybe, but it just isn't for me.

Did I talk about this next book? I don't think I did, and I might as well, because I did read it.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Published: September 2005, I believe, by an Australian publisher, and Knopf books in the US. I don't know what edition I had.
Genre: Historical YA with some fantasy elements.
Binding: Paperback and Kindle.
Page Count: 550, I think.
Part of a series? Nope.
Got via: I borrowed a copy from the library, and also bought a Kindle copy.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will be busier still.

By her brother's graveside, Liesel's life is changed when she picks up a single object, partially hidden in the snow. It is The Gravedigger's Handbook, left behind there by accident, and it is her first act of book thievery. So begins a love affair with books and words, as Liesel, with the help of her accordion-playing foster father, learns to read. Soon she is stealing books from Nazi book-burnings, the mayor's wife's library, wherever there are books to be found.

But these are dangerous times. When Liesel's foster family hides a Jew in their basement, Liesel's world is both opened up, and closed down.

Thoughts: We used this in my English class as our teacher-directed novel study, which is why I got both a physical copy and a Kindle copy. It made life easier. It's been like two months now since I read this so I'm not going to go into too much detail because I wasn't planning on doing anything review-like for it. Plus, you guys have probably read this one. It's kind of famous, and for a reason! This is one of those books that emotionally destroys you. I think I described it to my English teacher as a book hangover, because wow.

I cried so hard, guys. This was so good. No words, just recommends.

Texas Gothic by Rosemary Clement-Moore

Published: July 7th by Corgi Children's, but the edition I bought is from Delacorte Press.
Genre: Paranormal YA
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: 404 plus the acknowledgements.
Part of a series? Not strictly - there's a companion book from Amy's cousin's POV, but you can apparently read them in basically any order.
Got via: I bought it from somewhere. Chapters and Indigo, maybe, when I had that giftcard.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Amy Goodnight knows that the world isn't as simple as it seems—she grew up surrounded by household spells and benevolent ghosts. But she also understands that "normal" doesn't mix with magic, and she's worked hard to build a wall between the two worlds. Not only to protect any hope of ever having a normal life.

Ranch-sitting for her aunt in Texas should be exactly that. Good old ordinary, uneventful hard work. Only, Amy and her sister, Phin, aren't alone. There's someone in the house with them—and it's not the living, breathing, amazingly hot cowboy from the ranch next door.

It's a ghost, and it's more powerful than the Goodnights and all their protective spells combined. It wants something from Amy, and none of her carefully built defenses can hold it back.

This is the summer when the wall between Amy's worlds is going to come crashing down.

Thoughts: This is a lovely book. I'm just going to put it out there that it took me quite a bit longer than it usually would to read this, and I really don't think that's the fault of the book at all. I've been in a little bit of a reading slump because I've been under a lot of stress. Every time I picked this up, I enjoyed it, but finding the motivation to pick it up was hard because of my mood. That is not the fault of the book, though, okay?

The book is really fun. There's a lot of humour, a "I hate you I hate you oh hey now we're kissing" romance which I'm a sucker for, and the ghost angle was really cool. I also really appreciated the Goodnight family in general, but especially because of how strong family bonds are, and how strong the presence of women is in the book. There's also a little bit of mystery, too, which is cool.

I really liked this, in the end, and I'm very interested in the companion book. It's a really good book when you don't want something that will, like, kill you emotionally. It's not shallow or anything, but you're not gonna be crying at the end, which you need sometimes! While my fickle reading mood betrayed me a little, it was a good book to have going during that, because I was never bored by it, and whenever I did pick it up, I immediately enjoyed what I read. It's a good summer book - and it is one of those not-too-common summer-before-college books that I think tend to bleed into NA now, but still doesn't seem NA to me. Does that make sense?

Hey, and that's four! So that's the post!

Peace and cookies,

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