Meg

megby  Steve Alten
First sentence: “From the moment the early morning fog had begun to lift, the sensed they were being watched.”
Content: There’s a handful (a dozen or so) s-words, and damns, and some inferences to sex. It would be in the science fiction/fantasy section if we had it in the bookstore.

Jonas Taylor was a hot shot navy submarine pilot, until, down in the depths of the ocean, he encountered something rare and horrifying. It cost the lives of two men, and a dishonorable discharge for Jonas. But he was certain: he saw a Crcharodon megalodon, a prehistoric shark. He dedicated his life to researching the meg, as he calls it, to the exclusion of everything else. It cost him his marriage, it made him a joke, but he became the expert. And now, there’s another expedition into the depths, and he’s been called on board: there’s something odd down there and Jonas is called back into service. No, he wasn’t crazy: there was a megalodon down there, and it’s awake and terrorizing the waters.

This is definitely not my usual reading; I picked it up because I was asked to be on a review board for a challenge on this book. (It’s being challenged for the swearing and the inferences to sex.) I accepted before I knew what this book was, and I have to say, content-wise, it’s not that bad. (I suppose, if it was being read to 6th graders, I suppose I’d balk.) But, it’s not a great book. Sure it’s got action (the body count is way high), but it’s pulpy, and the writing pedantic. And maybe just prehistoric sharks aren’t my thing, but I never really liked it. I have issues with the way he treated women — there were two; one was a “bitch” and “deserved” to die, the other the love interest who was never given much of anything to do. And Jonas, I think was supposed to be “troubled” and edgy, but mostly came off as insecure and whiny. You know when you’re rooting for the shark that things are bad.

So, no, I don’t think it should have been challenged for content. But, there are definitely better books out there.

We Are Okay

weareokayby Nina LaCour
First sentence: “Before Hannah left, she asked if I was sure I’d be okay.”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Release date: February 14, 2017
Review copy sent by the publisher’s rep, who is my favorite.
Content: There’s one f-bomb, some inferences to sex and a scene where the main character gets drunk. It’ll be in the Teen Section (grades 9+) section of the bookstore.

I know from the outset that I’m not going to do this book justice. Partially because the plot is simple: it’s Christmas break, and college freshman Marin doesn’t want to go home for lots of reasons. The chief one being that right before she left for college, her grandfather — her only living family — died. So her best friend (the one who has been texting and calling and Marin’s not answering) comes to see her. And over the next few days before Christmas, and through a series of flashbacks, we find out the depths of Marin’s grief.

Which is really what this book is “about”: the varied ways we all deal with loss, heartbreak, lonliness, and grief. Some ways are healthier than others. Some have friends who are willing to put in the work to rescue them. And sometimes, distance and time can be both the best and the worst thing.

And LaCour gets all those difficult emotions beautifully. The story unfolds bit by bit, giving us small slices at a time, until we see the whole, heartbreaking picture. It’s a remarkable moment, one which brought tears to my eye. And it’s a universal feeling: we have all wanted to be loved, we have all had heartbreak, we have all had grief and been lonely. It’s beautiful and moving and heartbreaking all at once.

Perfect.

First Sunday Daughter Reviews: December 2016

The semester is winding down, the kids are tucked away doing homework, and yet they, unlike me, find time to read (mostly). Here’s what they’re reading:

I threw this at C

caravaland told her she’d like it. She didn’t pick it up for ages, mostly (as she told me) because I didn’t do a very good job of pitching it. But when she picked it up, she plowed through it and loved it. It really is that good.

A is working her way through these again

boxset

She’s already on Goblet of Fire. The one thing she said she didn’t remember? That Harry was incredibly sassy in the first few books.

And K is still working on Story Thieves from last month but has also discovered our World Book Christmas Collection. I don’t have the picture of the Scotland one that she’s been poring through, but she’s enjoying it immensely.

I’m just glad they’re still making time to read!

Proxy

proxyby Alex London
First sentence: “Even a perfect machine wasn’t built to go this fast.”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Content: There’s a lot of violence, including several deaths that, while not graphic, are a bit shocking. There’s also some futuristic drug use. It’s in the YA section (grades 6-8) of the bookstore.

In this vision of the future, there are those who have and those who have not. Syd is one of those who have not; in order to pay for the debt in incurred by being alive, he was forced to become a proxy for the child of a rich man. It works like this: the rich man takes on Syd’s debt, and in return, Syd takes on the punishments every time the child — Knox — gets in trouble. Seems fair, right? Except, it’s not that simple. It’s people’s lives they’re casually playing with, and Knox is exceptionally reckless. And when he accidentally kills a girl and Syd is condemned to die, Syd’s had enough: he’s going to escape this hellhole. But things aren’t as straight-forward as Syd thinks, either. And soon, Syd and Knox are on the run from a lot of people, and end up way over their heads.

I liked this one. It’s a smart vision of the future — dystopian, yes, but it’s the capitalistic system that’s become the cruel overlord rather than the government. He’s playing with class and debt and the relationships between the two. There’s a bit of chosen-one-ness going on here as well, but I thought London resolved it in a unexpected way. He definitely kept me turning pages, and I found that even the more annoying characters (Knox…) had layers to them. I hadn’t read anything by London before, and this was a great starting place.

And the best thing? I don’t have to wait for the sequel to come out!

Monthly Round Up: November 2016

So, my reading completely and utterly slowed down in November. And I really didn’t have a favorite this month; it’s all kind of a blur.  I suspect I’m not the only one in this situation…

That said, here’s what I did get read. And here’s hoping December (with all its busy) will be a better reading month.

YA

threedarkcrowns jacobhaveiloved fallingoversideways crookedkingdom
Three Dark Crowns (audio)
Jacob Have I Loved
Falling Over Sideways
Crooked Kingdom

Middle Grade
whenthesea journeysend
When the Sea Turned to Silver
Journey’s End

Non-Fiction
voracious searchingfor
Voracious
Searching for John Hughes (DNF)

Graphic Novel
razzledazzle
Razzle Dazzle Unicorn

Razzle Dazzle Unicorn

razzledazzleby Dana Simpson
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Others in the Series: Phoebe and her Unicorn, Unicorn on a Roll, Unicorn vs. Goblins
Content: Simple, fun, colorful, and funny, these are perfect for kids in 3-5th grade. They are also perfect for anyone who likes a little silliness in their life.

I feel a little silly still writing reviews of these; it’s not a story (really; though there is a bit of an arc, it’s more like Calvin and Hobbes than an actual story) that needs to be updated. But every time I see a new Phoebe and Marigold collection, I pick it up, because I can’t get enough of them.

It’s a lot like the other ones: there’s holiday magic, there’s struggles at school (the best is when Phoebe gets in trouble for taking journaling a little too seriously), there’s summertime fun, Phoebe goes to music camp again. It’s silly, it’s funny, it’s pure delight.

If you’re not reading these, you are missing out.

Audiobook: Three Dark Crowns

threedarkcrownsby Kendare Blake
Read by: Amy Landon
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Content: There’s some off-screen sex, and lots and lots of violence. It’s in the Teen section (grades 9+) of the bookstore.

The premise of this one is weird and awesome: on the island of Fennbirn, every generation there is born a set of triplet queens. They are fostered out, according to their “powers”, and each one has an equal chance at becoming queen. The catch? The one who becomes queen has to kill her sisters.

Our queens are Arsinoe, a naturalist, said to have power over nature; Katharine, a poisoner, who can ingest the most lethal poisons and not die; and Mirabella, an elemental, who has control over the weather. Except, things aren’t always as they seem. And those who the queens have been fostered to have much more power than the queens.

It had a really slow start to it; there was a lot of exposition about the magic (which I didn’t mind) and the characters (I liked some better than others). There were a couple of love stories, and a love triangle (of sorts). (I kept rooting for one of the queens to be lesbian; I think one is, but not the one I suspected.) It took a long time to get going, and the only thing that kept me listening was the narrator, who was quite spellbinding. For one, there’s a lot of weird names of people and places in this, and it was nice to have someone else pronounce Arsinoe (ar-sin-oye) and Katharine (cat-er-eene), instead of trying to figure it out on my own. I think Blake tried to balance all three queens’ stories, but she ended up focusing more on Arsinoe more than others. (Or at least I felt she did.)

It wasn’t a stand-alone, as I had hoped. And I called one of the major twists fairly early on. But were a couple of things that surprised me, and I have hopes for the direction that the sequel should go (we’ll see). It wasn’t the best fantasy I’ve read, but it wasn’t bad either.