I know I keep griping about the weather but I can’t help it, it’s just so stupidly cold. It’s been 30 below and sunny all week so while it’s beautiful it’s sooo deceiving. I had morning bus duty for fifteen minutes and by the end of it my thighs felt like they were being stabbed and ice burned by Jack Frost. I really need to start wearing long johns because regular old pants aren’t really cutting the mustard.
Since outside is sometimes a painful place to be, I tend to finish heaps and heaps of books over the winter months.
I read quite a few over the holidays and because so many of the books I read were good but not amazing I’ve decided to briefly review them all together.
The False Prince
This book is really great middle grade fiction that can be read and enjoyed by anyone north of 10. So often middle grade books fall into the super girly category (Mindy is best friends with Jenny but when Patricia moves to town Jenny starts to play with her. Can their friendship survive?! And the cover is obviously pink and covered in lollipops or unicorns) or very middle school boy (think Doctor Proctor’s Fart Powder). This is fine except for when you work at a bookstore and you feel obligated to read some of what’s out there so you know what you’re talking about but you just…can’t. No disrespect to Jenny, Mindy and Patricia.
The False Prince, written by Jennifer A. Nielsen, thankfully falls into neither of the aforementioned categories. It’s about Sage, an orphan boy, who bears a striking resemblance to a long missing (and presumed dead) prince of the realm. He is scooped out of his orphanage by a man who seeks to overtake the throne by using the puppet prince. Sage is chosen along with two other boys and is basically forced to prove that he can become the lost prince. It’s that or die so he obviously chooses to prince-ify himself.
What I liked so much about this book was that it was narrated by Sage and in being a shifty orphan/thief/beggar, it feels like we never really get the whole story from him. As readers we are treated with as much distrust as Connor, the man who bought him and orchestrated the whole plan.
It is only at the end of the book that we get the whole picture and while I saw it coming, it didn’t make the journey toward or arrival at the truth any less enjoyable. This would be a great book to read to or as a class when discussing unreliable narrators or story telling in general.
Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon, has been around for quite some time. I’ve walked past it at the bookstore and I’ve seen people reading it on the subway but the cover didn’t really call to me so I never entertained it as a book I’d enjoy.
Over the holidays, a friend recommended it saying there was a steamy love story, time travel and Scottish Highlands.
To be very brief (the book is seriously a door stop)– A woman from 1945 travels back in time to 18th century Scotland, falls in love and has many adventures.
While reading it, I had to roll my eyes at some of the writing and heavy-handed way in which Gabaldon treats history– Claire is there for a year and manages to touch on the potato famine, Bonny Prince Charlie, witch trials and a bunch of other things. I mean I like history too but seriously, relax. Nonetheless, it was enjoyable at the time.
It was looking back that I was like ‘wait a minute– I think that book was terrible?’ See, I’m still confused. It was good and it was bad. The jury’s still out on the final verdict.
For those interested, they’re also making it into a television series:
Woah, buddy was this book ever bad. At one point I stopped reading and skimmed until the end because I wanted to know what happened.
It’s a retelling on Robin Hood from the point of view of Will Scarlet, who is actually a girl posing as a boy.
What I couldn’t stand about this book was the over simplification of all of the characters and the over dramatization of all of their feelings. It was alot of wounded glances and hidden feeling and love triangles and “I’m unlovable so I’m going to run away–they’ll be better off without me, sob” but over, and over, and over again. I GET IT, THEY’RE ANGSTY, geez. The story wasn’t terrible but I couldn’t get past the fact the I wanted to shake all the characters and tell them to get a grip.
And to think the I picked the book up because another blogger loved it. Different strokes, I guess.
On more positive note, depending on how you look at it, the book has ended my YA binge for a while becasue I just can’t with the angst sometimes.
Whistling Past the Graveyard
I read this book over Thanksgiving and I really, really enjoyed it.
The story is set in 1960′s Mississippi and is told from the perspective of nine-year-old Starla. She lives with her strict and often cruel grandmother and she wants nothing more than to have her parents back and be a proper family. You learn that Starla’s parents were unwed high school sweethearts and that her existence wasn’t exactly planned. Her mother is off to Nashville trying to become a star and her father works on a rig in Florida (don’t quote me on that detail, I think it was Florida and the book has long since been returned, so I can’t really check:) to be able to send money home to Starla and his mother.
The story’s catalyst is Starla sneaking out to attend the Fourth of July parade (even though she’s grounded) and getting caught by a neighbour. Being so terrified that her grandmother will send her away to reform school, she decides to run away to Nashville to find her mother. Along the way she is picked up by a black woman with a white baby and together they embark on a journey to find Starla’s mother but what they really find is love and understanding in unexpected places.
The best part of this book was that Starla was so well written. Sometimes when adult writers write as children, they don’t fully commit and it ends up sounding like…an adult pretending to be a child. Susan Crandall commits. Starla is sassy, obnoxious, fearless (in the worst way), innocent and so, so loveable.
It was interesting to see love, racism and friendship through the eyes of a child. Also, this was one of those books that was so well researched that it felt like you were there.
This is definitely one that I’d recommend.