Wednesday, July 20, 2016

book review: miss peregrine's home for peculiar children by ransom riggs.

I know I was supposed to read another classic for my Classics Catch-Up next, but I went ahead and hopped into Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs because I've been meaning to for awhile, and I wanted to make sure I knew what was up since the movie is coming out in September. I'm sure glad I picked this one up! So good!

It wasn't quite what I expected. I was imagining a much more horror-heavy, stylized, Victorian-esque dark horror fantasy. It was nothing of the sort, really. It was more like a good episode of Doctor Who (think Tennant) mixed with Series of Unfortunate Events (sort of) and the X-men, with a splash of Neil Gaiman, perhaps? But the narrative was pretty unfussy and straightforward. It read like a lot of YA I've read in that sense.

The concept of this story being built around all these eerie old photos is pretty novel and intriguing, but I think the thing that really drew me in was the story. It had its moments and parts were a bit underdeveloped, but in all it was just a good story that drew me in. I liked Jacob, the main character, and found his narrative to be well-paced and easy to get drawn into. The story of a boy discovering his grandfather's tall tales were true, and that he was a part of a time travel / WWII / dark fantasy / monster fairy tale type story in ways he couldn't have even imagined, kept me interested.

The story follows Jacob as he tracks clues left by his grandfather, who died a disturbing death, to discover the home for "peculiar children" he told tales of through Jacob's childhood was real. Then Jacob gets caught up in friendship, romance, adventure, danger, and makes shocking discoveries about himself and the world around him. Vague, I know, but to explain it in more detail would ruin it! The plot has enough twists and turns that you'll want to see for yourself.

I liked the vibe--dark, but not too dark, more historical fantasy fiction than anything. My biggest complaint is, again, that some of the story's threads seemed a little thin, and could have strengthened the story if they had been woven a big tighter and fleshed out more.

But, yeah, I really enjoyed it! Enough that I had to pick up the next book, Hollow City, right away. Looking forward to the movie this fall!

Sunday, July 17, 2016

double book review: smile and sisters by raina telgemeier.

Double graphic novel book review time! I devoured both of these graphic novels by Raina Telgemeier so quickly, and they were so closely tied together, there was no reason not to combine their reviews. Kind of how sisters get stuck sharing a bedroom? Ha.

I read both of these children's / YA (depends on where your library shelves it) graphic novels for my reader's advisory goal at work. I have seen so many young girls pick up copies of these two, I thought I should see what the fuss was about. I'm so glad I did!

Smile is the autobiographical story of Raina's pre-teen and early-teen years, centering around the ordeals she went through with her teeth and orthodontic work. Sounds like kind of odd, mundane subject matter, but it was far from it. On the contrary--Raina went through a lot of harrowing drama when it came to her teeth, which had a huge impact on her coming-of-age in that awkward stage of life we all go through. We follow her ups and downs, as she faces troubles and learns more about herself in the process. It's really a well-told story, the art is great, and the '90s references are the icing on the cake!

Sisters is the follow-up to Smile, illustrating Raina's relationship with her younger sister Amara through a series of flashbacks laced throughout a particularly dramatic episode in their lives as they braved a family trip together. Smile was my favorite of the two, but Sisters makes a great companion read and adds more background and depth to supplement the story you just didn't want to end in Smile.

These were both great reads! I'm pretty new to graphic novels, and these two were a great place to get my feet wet. I will certainly be recommending them to library patrons, and anyone looking for a good coming-of-age story!

Saturday, July 16, 2016

book review: hello, bicycle by anna brones.

I have loved bike-riding since I was a kid. I've never been a great cyclist, but I do love riding casually for fun and for exercise. It's one of those few physical activities I don't see as a chore! I haven't had the time or means to ride my bike much in the last few years, but I've had it on my mind for awhile to get my bike back in working order and get back into riding. Cue Hello, Bicycle by Anna Brones! The quirky, cute cover art and subject matter quickly caught my eye, so I had to grab a copy. Just glancing at the cover and at the illustrations throughout made visions of being a cute little hipster bike lady cycle through my head. ;)

Brones' book is dense and comprehensive, but well-organized and very readable. It stirred up my excitement to get back in the saddle. It covers everything from the rules of the road and safety, bicycle purchasing and maintenance, history, gear and accessories, information for cyclists with all sorts of levels of enthusiasm and purposes for riding in mind, bike culture, and even recipes for snacks to take along and some nifty bike DIYs. Again, this is a fairly intense and information-packed book, but there's something for every kind of cyclist in there, and I think just about anyone could skip around and find useful info in there. My only wish is that there was more extensive info and tips for riding with small children or pets in a bike trailer--I'm interested in purchasing one, but would like to research more before making that plunge. My area is growing up quickly and becoming more urban, so riding with my kiddo in tow to run an errand or do something fun is looking like more of a possibility for the future. But, regardless of the lack of info on towing a tot, there's plenty of other good stuff to dig into here.

For more on Anna Brones and her new book, check out the following links:
Happy riding & reading!

**Disclaimer: I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review. However, all opinions are my own!

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

book review: vinegar girl by anne tyler.

I usually don't stray too far from my favorites: kid lit, fantasy, sci-fi. But I decided I should start diversifying a bit. Enter: Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler! I caught the NPR review and was intrigued, especially by the comparison to Jane Austen. The idea of a fresh take on a Shakespeare classic by an acclaimed author piqued my interest, as well. And the pretty cover didn't hurt, either!

So, basically, Vinegar Girl is a modern take on The Taming of the Shrew. It follows Kate Battista, the April Ludgate-esque daughter of scientist Louis Battista, whose treasured lab assistant Pyotr faces impending deportation. Hijinks ensues, as you might imagine. To go into further detail would spoil the fun of this brief novel, so, go read it yourself!

This one took awhile to win me over, in spite of its brevity. I felt like Kate started out a bit disappointingly two-dimensional, and took awhile to feel like a fleshed-out character. The dialogue was also a bit old-fashioned and off for a modern 29-year-old and those around her. If you took out the cell phones, the novel could've easily taken place in the '60s or '70s. 

All that said...Vinegar Girl took awhile to draw me in, but draw me in it did. I don't know, I guess what seemed like sloppy threads at first sort of sorted themselves out and were woven into a compelling arc that ended up totally hooking me. By the end, my biggest complaint was that the last act ended well, but not in the way I wanted. I wanted a satisfying spelling-out of some of what Tyler employed as negative space instead. She did the less-is-more thing with tying things up, which I can respect, but by then I was emotionally invested enough to want more juicy details! Good problem to have, though, no?

So. This was a good one! Yay for reading a grown up book with no magic or spaceships and liking it! 

For more on Vinegar Girl and Anne Tyler:

**Disclaimer: I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review. However, all opinions are my own!