Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Hedgie's Must Reads: April 2014

We are almost done with spring and into summer, people! Give us a shout of triumph! I love spring, but I love summer more. I think. Maybe not. With summer, Hedgie and I have to move down into my library because it gets too hot up in my room for us. But there's worse things than camping out in a room full of books for the summer! April was a pretty even reading month. I had a bunch of good reads, some all right reads, and some bad reads. It seems like the bad reads all hit me at once, one after another, but I had a string of good ones to fortify me, and then another string of good ones for recovery. Hedgie and I had a hard time picking a best book of the month, and also a bit of trouble picking a worst book of the month, too. But we did it!

April Reading Wrap-Up

The Book of Lost Things by Cynthia Voigt (3/5)
Book #1 in the Mister Max series. Max Starling is the son of two very prestigious parents involved in the acting business. So it's little surprise when Max's parents invited by the Maharajah of Kashmir to India, to perform for him. However, the boat leaves before Max can join his parents, and even stranger yet - no one seems to have even heard of the boat his parents were supposed to be on! Now Max must find a way to live by himself on independent means - while hoping that his parents turn up eventually. This was an odd little book, and I'm still not entirely certain what I think of it. I liked Max and the little mysteries he solves, but this could have been a bit faster-paced.

Sunrise by Mike Mullin (3/5)
Book #3 in the Ashfall Trilogy. Almost a year has passed since the Yellowstone supervolcano erupted, and humanity is dangling by a thread. The volcano wiped out millions and shut down government. Now people are at war with each other, fighting for meager supplies. If Alex and Darla can't form something of sustainable and peaceful community, the last survivors may kill themselves off before the winter does. Sunrise went back to being good, and made slogging through Ashen Winter worth it. Stuff happens, Alex and Darla go back to being somewhat likable, and I enjoyed reading about the building of their little community. Girl-and-guy read, eighteen-and-up, great for fans of survival and post-apocalyptic novels.

West of the Moon by Margi Preus (3/5)
When Astri is sold to the goatman from the mountains to be his girl-of-all-work, she has no intention of staying. Like the heroines of the fairy tales she loves, she intends to escape with her little sister and run off to America, where their father is. This is more historical fiction that fairy tale retelling, but it was still a lot of fun. Astri is a quick-witted girl - and those quick wits save her sister more than once. I loved how the Author wove in several fairy tales, but kept the book realistic. Girl-read, fourteen-and-up, great for fans of historical fiction and more unique fairy tale retellings.

April Best Reads

Hero by Alethea Kontis (4/5)
Book #2 in The Woocutter Sisters series. Saturday is the one sister who doesn't have any magical ability, but she's also the one who longs for the most adventure. Then one day she accidentally causes a lake to appear in her family's backyard, and that's just the beginning. Before she knows it, Saturday is the captive of a blind demon witch and trying to save the world. Hero was much better thought-out than Enchanted, and it plays on a lesser-known - but very good - fairy tale. Saturday is a wonderfully strong female protagonist, and the romance is very sweet. Girl-read, fifteen-and-up, great for fans of fairy tale retellings!

The One Safe Place by Tania Unsworth (5/5)
Sometime in our future, on an Earth that is constantly scorched by the sun and where water is the most precious commodity, Devin and his grandfather live. But when Devin's grandfather dies, he has to leave the family farm and travel to the city, where he joins the other kids scraping by on the streets. Until he hears rumors of The Home - a place where kids can go and live in paradise; where there's regular meals and caring people and where you can play all day. But The Home isn't as wonderful as it seems, and Devin knows he has to leave before it's too late. This was absolutely creepy and awesome!

The Book of Ti'ana by Rand Miller (4/5)
Book #1 in the Myst Trilogy. When a young woman journeys from the surface down to the ancient and breath-taking caverns of D'Ni, the old civilization set in its ways for generations is about to change for life. As a Myst fan, it is hard for me to be critical of this book. But even after analyzing it with a critic's eye, I still maintain it to be a 4-strawberry book. The world of D'Ni is captivating, the plot is totally dependent on its villains, and it's a story of betrayal and revenge and fallen kingdoms and even love. A terrific book for girls and guys alike, and fans of Neo-Victorian, steampunk, science fiction, and villains.

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin (4/5)
A.J. Fikry is an unhappy widowed owner of a small - and failing - bookstore on sleepy Alice Island. He hates practically every genre out there, so when sales rep Amelia goes to sell the Knightely Press winter catalog, she soon realizes that she has her work cut out for her. Then, on the day that A.J.'s retirement plan - in the  form of a rare collection of E.A. Poe poems - is stolen, someone abandons a toddler in his store. And A.J.'s life is about to turn around. A "lifetime" story, I absolutely adored this adult novel. It's about bookish people and for bookish people. It's all things bookish. Girl-read, nineteen-and-up, fans of bookish books!

The Lost Stone by Jordan Quinn (5/5)
Prince Lucas is the son to the king and queen of the kingdom of Wrenly - a magical land full of adventure and fantastic creatures. But Lucas doesn't get to see much adventure, and being the prince, he has no friends. Until the day Queen Tasha loses her favorite emerald necklace - then it's up to Lucas and Clara to find it for her! This is the most adorable beginning readers' series I have ever read. It's fast, it's fun, and it's full of creatures like trolls and dragons and mermaids. Not only that, but each page is illustrated with gorgeous black-and-white illustrations. Girl-and-boy read, five-and-up.

The Scarlet Dragon by Jordan Quinn (5/5)
Book #2 in The Kingdom of Wrenly series. A scarlet dragon has hatched! Thought to once be a creature of legend, it's the first red dragon anyone has seen, and it's now been declared Prince Lucas's new pet. Lucas couldn't be more proud - but then the dragon falls ill, and not even the wizards know what to do. There's only one plant that can save the dragon, but it grows high up where no one can get it, and they're running out of time. Once again, it's up to Clara and Lucas to save the dragon - before it's too late. This may be my favorite one - if only because it has dragons. :-) Girl-and-boy read, five-and-up.

Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes by Jonathan Auxier (5/5)
Everyone knows that children make excellent thieves. And everyone knows that blind children make the best. Peter Nimble is the best of the best. And he leads the most miserable life a blind orphan boy can. Until he finds a box of Fantastic Eyes, that is, that transport him to a world he never knew existed, and he discovers that his destiny is to save a lost kingdom from an evil tyrant. This is a very weird book, but I loved it. I never knew where it was going to go, and it had a terrifically dark sense of humor. I was, in fact, rather surprised at how dark this book was. Filled with magic and wondrous worlds - and people you can't trust - this is great for girls and boys, ten-and-up.

April Worst Reads

Going Over by Beth Kephart (1/5)
Ada lives in West Berlin. And she's fallen in love with Stefan, who lives in East Berlin. By day, Ada works to educate young Turkish emigrant kids in a daycare, and at night she paints the Berlin wall with graffiti that gives her hope maybe Stefan will find the courage to escape East Berlin. A book about the Berlin Wall should not be as boring as this book was. But what really did me in was the narration, which was second person, present tense, and the Author chose some of the worst similes possible. Some people will like this book; others will find it as I did: painful. Girl-read, eighteen-and-up, fans of "unique" story telling devices (such as second person).

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell (1/5)
Cath is a Simon Snow fangirl, and fangirling is her life. It's what got her and her twin sister through their mom leaving. But now Cath and Wren are off to college, and Wren is falling away from the fandom, while Cath is deadset on clinging to it. I don't do chick-lit, so I'm not sure what made me think I would like this book. But I gave it a shot, and I didn't like it. None of the characters appealed to me, Simon Snow was such an obvious ripoff of Harry Potter (and not even in a clever way), and Cath reminded me of why I don't like fangirls. This is a book totally for chicks, eighteen-and-up, fans of chick-lit, and fangirls.

Northwood by Brian Falkner (2/5)
Northwood has always been a dark and mysterious place in Cynthia Undergarment's little community. But when she rescues a dog from its cruel owner - and her house floats away into Northwood - because of it, Cynthia is about to discover just how many secrets the dark woods holds. But Northwood has never seen the likes of Cynthia Undergarment, and she's determined to get home. The idea was charming, and the illustrations are fun. But the writing felt like it talked down to its audience, rather than to it, and the plot was far more simplified that it should have been, even for young kids. Girl-read, six-and-up.

The Best and Worst Book of the Month

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