Bellweather Rhapsody, by Kate Racculia

Bellweather Rhapsody

by Kate Racculia

“A high school music festival goes awry when a young prodigy disappears from the most infamous room in the Bellweather Hotel, in a whip-smart novel sparkling with dark and giddy humor.

Fifteen years ago, a murder-suicide in room 712 rocked the grand old Bellweather Hotel and the young bridesmaid who witnessed it, Minnie Graves. Now hundreds of high school musicians, including quiet bassoonist Rabbit Hatmaker and his brassy diva twin, Alice, have gathered in its cavernous, crumbling halls for the annual Statewide festival; Minnie has returned to face her demons; and a colossal snowstorm is threatening to trap them all in the hotel. Then Alice’s roommate goes missing–from room 712. The search for her entwines an eccentric cast of characters: conductors and caretakers, failures and stars, teenagers on the verge and adults trapped in memories. For everyone has come to the Bellweather with a secret, and everyone is haunted.

Bellweather Rhapsody is a genre-bending page-turner, full of knowing nods to pop culture classics from The Shining to Agatha Christie to Glee. But its pleasures are beautifully deepened by Kate Racculia’s skill with her characters, her melancholy, affecting writing about music, and her fearlessness about the loss and darkness that underline the truest humor. This is a wholly winning new novel from a writer to watch.” (via Indiebound, minor edits for readability)

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Good Things: One of the things I liked best about Bellweather Rhapsody was how it covers a lot of literary ground without ever feeling spread too thin. It’s a murder mystery, it’s a study of grief and pain, it’s a coming-of-age story. It travels through the ensemble cast and makes them all important and worth caring about; the Hatmaker twins and Minnie were my favorites, no doubt, but I never resented spending time with Fisher or Natalie or Hastings, which usually happens when I’m reading a novel with so many characters involved. There’s a lot of drama and theatrically big emotions, many tense sequences, and plenty of personal secrets to go around, and I was in just the right mood to fall into it all happily and ride the drama waves with everyone in the story.

Besides, for all the big feelings and big moments, there are little nuggets of truth about people that can pop up on you when you aren’t expecting them: Minnie’s coping mechanisms, and Alice’s true self under all her flashiness, and Rabbit’s surprising moments of confidence. Those pieces are going to stick with me past everything else, I think, and bring me back to read it and feel understood in the future.

Also, the bit about the middle section of “Jupiter” from The Planets is absolutely real and true and maybe the best thing I’ve ever read about it:

He knows that “Jupiter” is divided into three sections–the first and third are quick and cheerful, allegro giocoso, the essence of jollity (which Fisher finds hard to believe is actually a word). The middle is not silly. The middle is not syncopated. After some leftover tootling in the winds, the middle begins with strings moving together as one sonorous beast, slowly, majestically. The theme is restated, picking up winds and brass and percussion. It soars higher and higher until all the orchestra is reaching the same climactic phrase, released from gravity for only a moment, and gently falling back to earth.

It is a hymn, a prayer.

It’s the sound of several dozen souls singing the same song, and Fisher isn’t leading them. Fisher is one of them, his skinny arms swooping of their own accord. The middle doesn’t end so much as pause thoughtfully; more ridiculous merry bullshit is coming, but this feeling, this true joy, is always there. [loc 3360-3368]

Bad Things: I can’t call anything in this book bad–there were a few things that tugged at the edge of my attention, but nothing that ever dragged it away entirely. The theatricality of the characters’ inner lives works best with the younger players, I think; it makes sense that Alice and Rabbit would be full of big feelings, but equally big feelings coming from Natalie and Fisher, who are supposed to be the adults in this scenario, do feel a little inappropriate. Of course, that’s not to say that this wasn’t intentional. After all, they both experienced some messy things in their childhoods that affected their core beliefs about themselves, and emotional immaturity is hardly restricted to the young. Still, I felt a little bad when Viola Fabian, the clearest villain of the story, told Natalie to get over herself and I caught myself thinking, yeah, seriously.

Speaking of Viola: there are obviously sociopaths in real life, but Viola felt a little flat to me, especially among the wonderfully-realized other characters. A little mustache-twirly, if you will. At times her actions felt more like a plot device to bring the other characters together, rather than the believable decisions of a real (if screwed-up) character in her own right.

Overall: I know some folks use the word “romp” to backhandedly compliment media, but I am not one of those people. This book is rompy and a little silly and a little serious, and I loved it. I’m already looking forward to reading it again in a year or two.

Full Disclosure: The author is an internet friend of mine. Nevertheless, I paid for my copy of the book with my own money (albeit on sale), and I told her in advance that I’d be objective in my review.

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The Secret Daughter of the Tsar, by Jennifer Laam (Plus Giveaway)

The Secret Daughter of the Tsar

by Jennifer Laam

“A compelling alternate history of the Romanov family in which a secret fifth daughter—smuggled out of Russia before the revolution—continues the royal lineage to dramatic consequences.

In her riveting debut novel, The Secret Daughter of the Tsar, Jennifer Laam seamlessly braids together the stories of three women: Veronica, Lena, and Charlotte. Veronica is an aspiring historian living in present-day Los Angeles when she meets a mysterious man who may be heir to the Russian throne. As she sets about investigating the legitimacy of his claim through a winding path of romance and deception, the ghosts of her own past begin to haunt her. Lena, a servant in the imperial Russian court of 1902, is approached by the desperate Empress Alexandra.  After conceiving four daughters, the Empress is determined to sire a son and believes Lena can help her. Once elevated to the Romanov’s treacherous inner circle, Lena finds herself under the watchful eye of the meddling Dowager Empress Marie. Charlotte, a former ballerina living in World War II occupied Paris, receives a surprise visit from a German officer. Determined to protect her son from the Nazis, Charlotte escapes the city, but not before learning that the officer’s interest in her stems from his longstanding obsession with the fate of the Russian monarchy. Then as Veronica’s passion intensifies, and her search for the true heir to the throne takes a dangerous turn, the reader learns just how these three vastly different women are connected. The Secret Daughter of the Tsar is thrilling from its first intense moments until its final, unexpected conclusion.” (via Goodreads)

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The Secret Daughter of the Tsar isn’t my typical reading fare–it’s not fantasy, sci-fi, or YA, which I’ll admit have made up most of my library lately. But then, I’m also hard-pressed to figure out exactly which category it falls into. Parts are historical, parts are contemporary; there’s some mystery and some thriller in there too, and also some romance. Plus, it’s technically an alternate-history novel, so you could also call it speculative fiction. I can’t help but be interested in books that fall between the borders of genre, so this one tickled my brain a while after I finished it.

There are three main timelines following three characters: Veronica, Charlotte, and Lena. Their stories are clearly delineated, although it’s not until the end that their threads become obviously interwoven. I found Veronica’s and Lena’s stories most compelling. Veronica is a wonderful contemporary protagonist; she’s smart but full of self-doubt, but she also doesn’t hesitate to communicate her wants in a relationship or ask for space if she needs it. Despite her doubts, she’s got strength, and it’s wonderful to read about an interesting, nuanced Chicana heroine! There are also some funny moments that–hand to heart–made me cackle aloud:

Except she had no clue how to signal what she wanted. A hand on his knee? A sly wink? She wanted to feel sexy and wild. If only she had something sexy and wild to say. “Where’s your bathroom?” she asked.

Lena’s story is also engaging. She’s a genuine, brave woman, and I enjoyed her relationships with the empress and her mother-in-law, as well as her chemistry with Paul, the Black American guard at the palace. There’s so much warmth and well-meaning in her friendship with Alexandra that I didn’t want anything bad to happen to either of them (poor hopes for a Romanov storyline, I kn0w).

I found the beginning of the book slightly uneven, but in the thick of things, the pacing is good, and the plot skips along. The stories switch back and forth at tense moments that made me want to keep reading long past the end of my lunch break (and the beginning of my bedtime–I ended up having to set it aside because it was too exciting for pre-sleep reading! Got my adrenaline all pumping and stuff.)

While I enjoyed Charlotte’s storyline too, anything involving Nazis makes me kind of anxious, so I was basically reading with my eyes half-covered. I didn’t quite get as strong a sense of the danger that Veronica experiences later in her storyline; the drama was there, but the threat didn’t feel as immediate or as possible as it did for Charlotte. Veronica’s villains are a little exaggerated, although I got notes of nuance that kept them from being complete Snidely Whiplashes. I also didn’t feel Veronica’s chemistry with Michael as strongly as I did Lena’s chemistry with Paul, but I appreciated Michael for the role he played, and I did feel things come together a little more at the end. (Which is not to say that their smooching scenes weren’t well-written. Get it, Veronica!)

I’ve seen that some other reviewers had a different experience than I did, but I absolutely did not see the ending coming until it was practically on top of me. I’ll keep this review spoiler-free, but suffice to say that I was surprised–not in a bad way, but just in an oh, DUH sort of way that actually made me happy that I didn’t figure things out earlier.

Overall: It’s a tightly-written, interesting story with great female characters and relationships, and I’d absolutely read a sequel. There’s so much more to hear about Veronica!

Full Disclosure: The author is a friend and former coworker of mine. Nevertheless, I paid for my copy of the book with my own money, and I told her in advance that I’d be objective in my review.

Now, here’s the GIVEAWAY part: leave a comment (with a valid email address attached–US entrants only, please!) by 11:59 pm on Monday, November 25th, and you’ll be entered to win a signed copy of The Secret Daughter of the Tsar. The winner will be randomly selected and announced on November 26th. Good luck!

Link Roundup 1/9/13

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image by Aimee Fleck

The slow death of Barnes & Noble.

A double-punch from The Awl: Twilight fanfiction (bear with me here), and young adult novelists talking about the first thing they shoplifted. (Best answer by Justine Larbalestier, obviously.)

Problems with food in 50 Shades of Gray.

The Bicholim Conflict and other Wikipedia-based hoaxes. Don’t use it to do your homework, kids! We know you do.

The Whole Story, a DRM-free collection of digital comics by Ryan Andrews, KC Green, Ryan Estrada, and Jang Young for as little as $1. I know what I’m doing with my milk money.

I fangirled over comicker and art student Aimee Fleck at Reading in Skirts today. Go read her comic Tomorrow! (No, don’t read it tomorrow, read it today.)

Wild Seed by Octavia Butler (A More Diverse Universe)

Like a couple of others, I decided to (re)read Wild Seed for Aarti & Co’s More Diverse Universe Blog Tour. Any regular reader of NBP knows that diverse reading is important to me, so signing up for the tour was a no-brainer. The real question was what to read. I have several SF&F books written by POC that have been on my TBR for a while (A Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, Who Fears Death, etc), but I’ve been meaning to reread Wild Seed for years so that I could continue on with the rest of the Patternmaster series which I haven’t read. Since it’s been on my TBR list for the longest, Wild Seed won.

Anyway, tl;dr for why I chose Wild Seed. Onto the book itself!

From Amazon (that link is to just Wild Seed, but I would recommend, if you are interested, in instead getting Seed to Harvest, the compilation of the four Patternmaster books): “Doro is an entity who changes bodies like clothes, killing his hosts by reflex — or design. He fears no one — until he meets Anyanwu. Anyanwu is a shapeshifter who can absorb bullets and heal with a kiss…and savage anyone who threatens those she loves. She fears no one — until she meets Doro. From African jungles to the colonies of America, Doro and Anyanwu weave together a pattern of destiny that not even immortals can imagine.”

The good: I love this book. It explores many of the same themes of other Butler novels: race, gender, sex, power. Butler also explores what it means to be truly immortal, in Doro’s case, or effectively immortal, in Anyanwu’s case. She explores the loneliness that each experience and their differing ways of dealing with it. She explores the relationship between morality and mortality. Wild Seed is about the relationship between Doro and Anyanwu, and is really a prequel to the rest of the series, so there isn’t an arcing plot. I’m fine with that, enjoy it even, but beware if you’re the type of reader who wants a big bad to fight or whatever. I should perhaps mention here that the next section will have spoilers, but given the not-so-plotful nature of the book, I don’t think it will ruin your experience. Still, don’t read the next section if you hate spoilers!

The rough: Many (most? all?) of Butler’s novels have an at least partially uncomfortable sexual and/or romantic relationship and this is no exception. Anyanwu and Doro are very different people and, truthfully, the one thing that keeps them together is that they are the only two immortal people they know of in the world. Doro’s lack of empathy, his obsession with his breeding program, and his ultimate power mean that he uses people, including Anyanwu, in very gross ways. I don’t blame Anyanwu for growing to hate him, and I don’t judge her for growing close to him again, in the end. If I was immortal in a world where almost everybody and everything is mortal, I don’t know that I could forever stay away from another immortal person. Anyanwu realizes this for herself and realizes that her only real choice is to either let herself die (which she can do, and which Doro cannot) or live with him. She chooses the latter and I refuse to belittle her choice. And I strongly disagree with Fangs for the Fantasy that that choice makes Anyanwu a long-suffering mammy. (I also disagree that Anyanwu and Doro’s ability to change sex, whilst still retaining their gender, and having relationships with women and men respectively is in any way excluding LGBT experiences and, in fact, is inclusive of trans* experiences. I do think Fangs for the Fantasy makes an important point about Anyanwu’s healing and what the books says about disability and the problems therein, but I do not think there is as much erasure/negativity as they are saying. I will have to think more on it. Anyway, head on over and see what they had to say!)

The bad/overall: For me, there is nothing, really, to say here. If you like book plots to have a distinct arc, you may have trouble. If you are sensitive to or triggered by race/gender/sex issues, I would recommend it only with extreme caution. Otherwise, I highly recommend it to everyone. If you haven’t read any Butler at all, you are seriously missing out! Get thee to the library/bookstore!

Beauty, by Robin McKinley

Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast

by Robin McKinley

“Beauty has never liked her nickname. She is thin and awkward; it is her two sisters who are the beautiful ones. But what she lacks in looks, she can perhaps make up for in courage.

When her father comes home with the tale of an enchanted castle in the forest and the terrible promise he had to make to the Beast who lives there, Beauty knows she must go to the castle, a prisoner of her own free will. Her father protests that he will not let her go, but she answers, “Cannot a Beast be tamed?”

Robin McKinley’s beloved telling illuminates the unusual love story of a most unlikely couple: Beauty and the Beast.” (via Amazon)

Good Things: Okay, you guys know the story. You probably even know Robin McKinley’s version of the story, if you’re the kind of person who reads book blogs. But, you guys!!! This is the fourth Robin McKinley book I’ve read, and she continues to impress me with her…her Robin McKinley-ness. I might even like Beauty better than I liked ChaliceDeerskin, or The Hero and the Crown. Let’s figure out why, shall we?

I think the most immediate thing is that Beauty has a waaaaay better support system at home than the heroines of the other three books I’ve read. Okay, so Aerin in The Hero and the Crown has her father and Tor, but she is also pretty much feared and/or hated by everybody else. Beauty, on the other hand, has a family that loves and supports her–a dead mother, of course, but a pretty stable father and two pretty stable sisters, and friendly, supportive townsfolk besides. Beauty works hard to support them in turn, not just out of duty but out of love. And, you know, it’s nice! Human relationships and simple interactions are one of McKinley’s (many) strengths, and they really shine through in Beauty–which isn’t to say that there aren’t some lovely interactions and relationships in her other novels, but Beauty is coming from a different place than Mirasol, Lissar, and Aerin do, and consequently has different strengths and challenges.

Beauty isn’t so different from McKinley’s other heroines, though. As with her other novels, a large portion of the story has to do with Beauty’s personal growth as she discovers hidden strengths inside herself and really comes into her own. She changes during her time living at the Beast’s enchanted castle, and that change benefits the Beast and ultimately breaks his curse, but in the end, she changes for herself. And that’s one of the things I love most about McKinley’s heroines.

Plus, I really liked the alternate history/future thing that McKinley let us onto with Beauty’s studying, and the not-yet-written books in the Beast’s castle. WHAT! I love the idea of Sophocles existing in the same world as magic and goblins and crap.

Bad Things: Do I sound incredibly suck-uppy if I can’t think of any? There’s a cat on my lap and she’s making it hard to type. It’s a bit short, and Beauty doesn’t quite have the bite of McKinley’s later books (Beauty being her first). The story is pretty quiet and gentle, and the ending, despite some of the drama, ends pretty quietly and gently–there aren’t any towering battles or end-of-the-world magical showdowns. Only a dubious Beauty, a troubled Beast, and a loving family.

Overall:  Sweet! Smart! Beauty is a heroine with punch and sass and I like the heck out of her and her family, and I even like the Beast too. McKinley fleshes the story out and makes it more complex, and I like that too. Go read it if you haven’t! It’ll only take an afternoon or so, and I don’t think you’ll regret it.

What I’ve Been Reading

Mia and I are going to be participating in Dewey’s Read-a-Thon again this weekend, which means a flurry of activity for Nisaba Be Praised. And I was just thinking that the poor dear has been so misused and neglected that to it would struggle under the pressure of a 24 hour read-a-thon. SO, following Miss Amelia’s wonderful review of Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes by Chris Crutcher last month, I’m gonna tell ya’ll what I’ve been reading. (The thought being that this will be like a warm-up or stretching routine for NBP, after months of sitting on its butt.)

I might miss some things, and this is going to be in no sort of order, b/c I’ve been terrible about keeping track:

1) Santa Olivia by Jacqueline Carey (ooo, bargain price at Amazon!) – “Carey sets this powerful near-future tale in Outpost 12, a small town trapped in a œbuffer zone shielding Texas from pandemic-stricken Mexico. Two half-siblings chafing under General Argyle’s military rule make very different plans to beat the status quo. Tom, the son of a soldier, lives at the gym, where he trains in boxing and hopes to win his freedom from the town by defeating the general’s boxing champion. Loup, who has inherited her escaped father’s oddly engineered genes, joins a group of church wards called the Santitos, a tight gang of vigilantes who masquerade as the local saint, Santa Olivia.”

I picked this up because I saw it on a list of gay characters in SF&F (which was in response to the recent Gay4YA kerfuffle – asking that people buy books with gay characters so that publishers will publish more of them). I haven’t read anything by Carey, though I’ve been meaning to read Kushiel’s Dart for years. Anyway, I ended up liking this a lot. I don’t want to describe it too much, really, but I loved the main character, the world and worldbuilding, and the supporting characters. The only major weakness for me was some unrealistic dialogue, aka things 17-year-olds would. not. say. Still, as solid a book as I think this is, and unusual enough that I’d like more people to read it, there’s something stopping me from wholeheartedly loving it. And I’m not sure what that is.

2) In the Bleak Midwinter by Julia Spencer-Fleming – “Russ Van Alstyne, police chief of Millers Kill, and Clare Fergusson, new-to-town Episcopal priest, first meet when she reports a baby abandoned at the church. The two later discover the body of the baby’s young mother. As the investigation progresses, Clare runs into opposition from staid church members, two of whom will do anything to adopt the child.”

I grabbed this as a free ebook a few months ago and when I got my nook (my beautiful and beloved nook!) for my birthday, this was one of the first things I read. It’s a mystery novel, which is not one of my usual genres. My mom reads them almost exclusively and so I’ve read plenty of them over the years. In some ways, they’re even more comfortable than books in my favorite genres. There’s just something about a mystery being solved that is so complete and satisfying. Time to get off my tangent: this was great. My favorite thing was the friendship between the two main characters who, shocker of all shockers, are a man and a woman! Oh, also, the woman is a priest! I’d love to read more of the series, because seriously this was great, but I am poor.

3) Swept Off Her Feet by Hester Browne (also bargain price on amazon!) – “Evie Nicholson is in love with the past. An antiques appraiser in a London shop, Evie spins fanciful attachments to Victorian picture frames, French champagne glasses, satin evening gloves, and tattered teddy bears—regardless of their monetary value. Her sister, Alice, is as clutter-free as Evie is a pack rat, and she has the perfect Scottish boyfriend, Fraser, to boot! As a favor to friends of Fraser’s family, Evie jumps at the chance to appraise a Scottish castle full of artifacts and heirlooms. What could be more thrilling than roaming the halls of Kettlesheer and uncovering the McAndrews’ family treasures—and dusty secrets?”

I bought this for my nook a week or two ago around nine o’clock in the evening and I finished it in the early hours of the morning. Seriously, this is one of the biggest strengths of ebooks and ereaders. Craving something at a time when bookstores are not open and getting instant gratification. So… this was a lot of fun. It’s a romance, possibly chick-lit. No, definitely chick-lit, but the sort with a romance. (What’s the difference, o ye of not genre fans? Romance is more focused on the couple, chick-lit is more focused on the woman. Also romance usually has quite a bit of sex and sexual tension, chick-lit does not.) It was exactly what I’d been craving and I’d recommend it in a heartbeat if you’re craving it, too!

4) The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie – “Sherman Alexie tells the story of Junior, a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Determined to take his future into his own hands, Junior leaves his troubled school on the rez to attend an all-white farm town high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot.”

Um, yeah. This was as amazing as everybody says. If you haven’t read it yet, please do.

5) Chalice by Robin McKinley – “Mirasol is a beekeeper, a honey-gatherer, with an ability to speak to the “earthlines” – the sentient parts of Willowlands, where she lives. The concerns of Master, Chalice, and Circle, who govern Willowlands, have nothing to do with her – until the current Master and Chalice die in a fire and leave no heirs to take their places. The Master’s closest relative has been a priest of Fire for the past seven years; he is not quite human anymore. And then the Circle comes to Marisol and tells her that she is the new Chalice, and it will be up to her to bind the land and its people with a Master, the touch of whose hand can burn human flesh to the bone. . . .”

I loved this. Go read it. It’s slow for YA fantasy and would be, I think, a good crossover for adult readers who aren’t sure about YA.

Short Reports 5/13

I know, I know, I haven’t been around here lately. You-all (our threes and fours of readers) have Mary and Jessica to thank for keeping this site fresh and full of wonderful poetry lately! I love poetry, but as a scholar of prose, poetry is still very mysterious to me. Good poetry is like a herd of ethereal and dainty unicorns, and all I understand are Nubian goats. That’s right, I just compared my literature degree to raising goats. AND I’M NOT SORRY.

Um, anyhow. As Jessica mentioned, I was gone last week in order to say goodbye to one of the people I was closest to in the world. I’m glad I could be with her family, and it was a very fitting farewell, but it’s left me with little energy for my usual hobbies. To wit: I’ve been reading, but haven’t been able to form a coherent thought when it comes time to REVIEW the books I’ve read. So I thought I would try to ease back into things by doing some short reports on what I’ve picked up (and put down again) in the past couple of weeks.

Dairy Queen, by Catherine Gilbert Murdock:

I LOVE YOU, D.J. SCHWENK. Okay, folks, if you’re at all a fan of YA, please go pick this up and read it. D.J. is a small-town Wisconsin girl who has been tasked with basically running her parents’ farm while her dad is out of commission. Tough stuff. Family politics and a growing sense of unhappiness with her lot in life don’t make it any easier. But, you guys–D.J. is so charming! Her voice is so honest and fresh and funny. I often feel dissatisfied with a lot of the YA I read because, while the side characters have gobs and gobs of personality, the narrator sometimes tends to be a little bit bland. Maybe so the reader can identify with her more? D.J. doesn’t suffer from Bland Hero Disorder, though; I felt that I got a very clear feeling of who she is, and who she’s trying to become through the course of the novel. And the person that she is, I want her to be my GOOD BUDDY FOR LIFE.

Bonus material (and SPOILERS, so cover your eyes if you haven’t read the novel!): I looked up Dairy Queen on Wikipedia because I cannot remember Catherine Gilbert Murdock’s name to save my life for some reason, and the summary of the novel has this AMAZING line of information:

Then Amber reveals, “You’re with me. You’re not with him. It’s the two of us. Don’t you see that?” It then occurs to D.J. that Amber is in love with her (Which is how you know that Amber is a lesbian.)

I love whichever fifteen-year-old wrote that. “Which is how you know” indeed.

(Okay, you can stop covering your eyes now.)

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie: I’m still boarding the YA train, so I haven’t had the chance to read many of the titles that have been raised on high as being The Young Adult Novels To Read. To that end, I picked this one up at the library, since it seems to turn lead to gold wherever it goes. Sadly, though, I can’t tell you whether I liked it or not, and I don’t think I will be able to for a long time: I read the first twenty pages, came across the part that has detailed descriptions of a dog getting sick and having to be put down, and was absolutely DESTROYED. It more or less turned me into a useless ball of sadness for the rest of the evening. I know it sounds silly, but there are boundaries I recognize in myself for what I can and cannot read at the moment, and that sort of thing is definitely not on the list to get into the club. This isn’t the fault of the book or the author, but I think I’ll be returning this unread and pick it up some other time.

Uglies, by Scott Westerfeld: Another DNF, although not for the same reasons. I just…I was bored, you guys! I don’t know, I just wasn’t compelled by the world or the story that is being told. I’d say it’s because I’m tired of dystopia in my reading material, but I recently read The Giver for the first time and was completely blown away by it, and Riddley Walker (which EVERYONE SHOULD READ STARTING RIGHT NOW. I’M SERIOUS. READY STEADY GO!) is still one of my favorite novels of all time, so, who knows? I put it down when I realized that I just didn’t care. While I can appreciate the message of loving yourself the way you are and not, you know, submitting teenagers to compulsory plastic surgery, I didn’t feel like it brought anything particularly new or interesting to the table.

The Old Kingdom Trilogy, by Garth Nix:

Whoa. Whoa whoa whoa. How did I not read these before? I want to go back in time and give these to twelve-year-old Mia so that she can spend less time idealizing vampires (yeah, that’s right, I was ahead of the trend by ten years, bitches!) and more time idealizing CRAZY AWESOME NECROMANCERS. Sabriel and Lirael are two of the bad-assin’-est main characters I’ve read about in years! And that’s saying something, because I recently read The Hunger Games and Catching Fire in two consecutive days. Forget Katniss, give me the Abhorsen! Although I have to admit that, at the beginning of her titular novel, Lirael was cracking me the heck up with her mopey-teenager-turned-up-to-11 behavior. NOBODY UNDERSTANDS ME, NOBODY LIKES ME, I’M GOING TO THROW MYSELF OFF OF THIS GLACIER. Um, Lirael, if you talked to people and opened yourself up a little bit, maybe it wouldn’t matter so much that you don’t have the Sight like the other Clayr? Then again, maybe she’s a teeny bit justified since she spent her entire life around people who can see the future when she couldn’t. I’m sure if I were a clairvoyant precognative I’d spend most of my waking hours talking about how awesome it was, too. Anyway: it’s got dead spirits, good and evil necromancy, amazing and thorough worldbuilding, a pseudo-England of the WWII era right across the wall from a magic-and-mayhem world, and the Disreputable Dog (oh my god do I love the Disreputable Dog). Good, good stuff. And all the titles have beautifully illustrated covers that capture well the feeling of the Old Kingdom.

What do y’all think? Have you read any of these? What did you think of them? Do you have any quick-fire capital-”O” Opinions on books you’ve read lately? Speak up!