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Suzanne Reads

I love books.

Hard Love - Ellen Wittlinger

Another new to me author, thanks to my self-appointed task of reading all of the Printz award winning and honored books. Published in 1999, this was an Honor Book in the first round of awards in 2000.

I flat-out LOVED this book. So much so, that as soon as I'm done with the year 2000 Printz books, I'm going to take a short detour to read the companion book, Love and Lies. I've had the window open to write this post since yesterday, but I can't think of anything to say, which is stupid, since I liked it so much. I feel like "gah....it was SOOOO good...." doesn't really do the trick when I'm trying to use this space to think and write critically.

I suspect that some readers might find the zine culture that informs the book to be dated. I think the experience of the characters is universal enough, that a smart reader ought to be able to get over that pretty quickly. I did find myself wondering, as I read all of these Printz books, about how different they'd be if they'd been written in the age of ubiquitous smartphones and social media.

This book, would probably be about Instagram and blogging (do kids even do that?), and Snapchat, and YouTube, I suppose. Oh wait -- I know --- TUMBLR.

I think what drew me in to this book was that right away on the first page, the main character said something that sounded like a lot of teenagers I know:

I didn't bother to remind him that I don't really go to this school. People think I do, but it's only my physical body, not me.

That snarky attitude made me want to know more about John, and I ended up caring quite a bit about what happened to him and to his friends. I watched him set himself up for a huge crash, and suffered with him when the inevitable happened. I am glad that the book didn't end up with a tied-up-in-a-bow happy ending, but it wasn't a sad end, either. He went on a journey and changed, and that's what we want from any book, isn't it?


Monster - Walter Dean Myers Monster is my first Walter Dean Myers. I read a lot of YA, but I trend more towards the SFF, and the occasional contemporary romance. I felt a little unsettled reading this book — when you read a romance, you know that in the end, the girl is going to end up with a guy, but the entire way through this novel, I wasn’t sure where it was going. Now that I’m done, I can look back and tell that part of that uneasiness was due to the very unreliable narrator, Steve. Was he or wasn’t he guilty? That was the question left for the reader to decide, regardless of how the jury voted and the final verdict.

The book was also unsettling because of the setting and subject matter, and even the format — Steve’s story is told primarily in the form of a screenplay, so it moves quickly, but you have to pay attention. There are very few spare words in this book. To some, this is probably a criticism — there is not a lot of character development, but it worked for me. It was easy for me to fill in the details of the lawyers and others.

One of the things I usually do after I read a book is go read other people’s reviews. As with any book, this has it’s supporters and it’s detractors. One of the criticisms I saw was that they didn’t like Steve very much. I find this interesting as a criticism, because I agree, I didn’t think he was very likeable — but I cared about him. I cared to find out what happened to him. Liking and caring aren’t really the same thing, and I’m not sure I’ve really read very many books before that made me realize that so completely.

Another interesting article I found was by a teacher titled "Against Walter Dean Myers and the dumbing down of literature: ‘Those kids’ can read Homer." Alexander Nazaryan’s argument seems to boil down to the idea that instead of letting his students read Myers, he should be been making them read “classics” instead — Virgil, Homer, and more. I’m probably oversimplifying, but I’m not sure I see his point. Why does it have to be an either/or choice? Why can’t kids (or anyone, really) do both? If an amazing teacher can get them to read Homer and love it, then I’m all for that, but how many people have had reading ruined for them in school?

The number of books that people read in a year is horrifying low (even with people like me reading upwards of 100 books a year…), and I think I have to come down on the side of “if this is all the read, then that’s all right with me.”

This probably won’t be my last Walter Dean Myers, but I have a fairly long list of other books to read first…

The Merry Wives of Windsor

The Merry Wives of Windsor - William Shakespeare I listened to the audio that is available here: http://youtu.be/2SUFy2q27N8 while reading along with the text. I know that a lot of this went right over my head, the puns, the word play, the joking, and etc, but I caught enough to follow the ludicrous story, and chuckled along. Hearing it, with inflection and in different voices was a vast improvement over attempting to puzzle it out on my own.

I don't know that this will be a favorite, but I definitely suspect that comedy over tragedy is more my thing...

Romeo and Juliet

Romeo and Juliet - William Shakespeare It's weird to give this a star rating. I just finished reading this, (er, listening, I have the Folger Luminary App on my iPad), and it's hard to say rate it on a scale of 1 to 5, as if that could say everything. I'm participating in an online course about Shakespeare, and this is the first play up for discussion. I read it a million years ago in high school, and remember hating the experience. Now that I'm an adult, and have read it...hrm. Listening to it being performed by actors vastly improved the experience and my comprehension, but I'm not sure what I think about the actual story. They were 13/14 for cripes sake. Love at first sight -- and when they run up against obstacles, their first thought is of suicide? I mean, yes, teenagers are prone to drama, but this is a little over the top.

I'm looking forward to the upcoming lectures in the online class, and discussions with others.

This Duchess of Mine (Desperate Duchesses)

This Duchess of Mine (Desperate Duchesses) - Eloisa James I should have checked to see if this was a series, and it was....book #5, in fact. I felt like I was missing something, and I can see now that I probably was -- I even checked to make sure that I had started with the first chapter.

Violet Eyes

Violet Eyes - Debbie Viguié I liked the tweaks to the story, but this was disappointing. It felt more like an outline of a book, rather than a fully realized novel.

Blood of Tyrants

Blood of Tyrants - Naomi Novik, Simon Vance I had nearly given up on Temeraire and Laurence after the last 2 books, but decided to give them another try, and am glad I did. This book reminded me of why I enjoyed the series to begin with, and I await the conclusion.

The Emerald Mile: The Epic Story of the Fastest Ride in History Through the Heart of the Grand Canyon

The Emerald Mile: The Epic Story of the Fastest Ride in History Through the Heart of the Grand Canyon - Kevin Fedarko What a great book about an amazing adventure!

I sometimes struggle with nonfiction, but this was not dry or boring, it read like an adventure novel. I think it helped that I have been on a Grand Canyon rafting trip, and desperately want to go back, so I was inclined to like this, but even saying that, I would recommend this book.

The Real Boy

The Real Boy - Erin Mcguire, Anne Ursu I spent a lot of this book wishing I had even a quarter of Anne Ursu's imagination and talent for writing. I flat out loved the language, the kitties, the main characters, and the magic.

Sometimes kids books are kind of preachy, you know, the ones that are supposed to be "good for you" and make you learn something (whether you want to or not...) -- yes, there are some things to think about: greed and differences and poverty, to name a few, but I didn't feel like I was reading a book with a "message" so much as I was ready a beautiful written story that made me care about the characters and situations and left me with themes to ponder now that I'm sitting back and reflecting.

The Martian

The Martian - Andy Weir Grabbed this at the library this morning and then binge read it. I laughed (often), I cried (more than once), and thoroughly enjoyed the heck out of this book.

I'm not saying it was perfect -- it could have used some additional characterization, but it is was an extremely entertaining read.


Austenland - Shannon Hale Rating books like this is weird. Four stars doesn't mean "this is great literature and is going to stand the test of time" -- four stars on this book means "I enjoyed reading this, it was the kind of light, fun Austen-related reading I needed today when I am not feeling well."

Honor's Knight

Honor's Knight - Rachel Bach I devoured this one last night. Stayed up WAY too late. Smart, funny, complex -- it's all shades of grey, no one is completely good or evil, and the twists and turns? Yikes. I'm so glad the 3rd book will be out in April, instead of having to wait years for this series to finish. (I preordered before I even finished this one....)

This author's books are going on my automatic-read list.

The Mad Scientist's Daughter

The Mad Scientist's Daughter - Cassandra Rose Clarke This was not exactly what I expected (I was thinking it was YA, and it's not), so I had to fight against my expectations: I kept thinking I was going to put it down, but I kept reading, because it was a fascinating concept, and I ended up really liking it.

Dorothy Must Die (Dorothy Must Die #1)

Dorothy Must Die (Dorothy Must Die #1) - Danielle  Paige I have read some poor reviews, and hoped that I might like this anyway, I mean, it's OZ for heaven's sake! Unfortunately, I am marking this DNF and moving on.

The story and characters didn't grab me at all, and the poor writing made me quit, finally.

This is the sentence that did me in (page 61 in my ebook edition). It was not the first example of what bothered me, and I am assuming it wasn't going to be the last.

"In desperation, knowing it would do me no good, I stood and banged my fist against the wall until it was throbbing with pain."

(a) "knowing it would do me no good" is what DESPERATION means.
(b) I didn't know walls could throb with pain.

How about this instead?
"In desperation, I stood and banged the wall with my fist until it was throbbing with pain."

Actually, I like this one better:
"In desperation, I stood and banged the wall until my fist was throbbing with pain."


Geekomancy - Michael R. Underwood Rounded up from 3.5 stars.

I wanted to like this one more. The beginning was pretty funny, but by the end I was a little weary of the whole thing and just wanted it to be over.

Cress (Lunar Chronicles, #3)

Cress (Lunar Chronicles, #3) - Marissa Meyer This series just keeps getting better and better. Love all the different relationships, and the twists on familiar tales. Can't believe we have to wait AGAIN, but I know it will be worth it.