Book Review: The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet

The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet
By Becky Chambers

My Edition:
E-book, 476 pages
2015, Harper Voyager
ISBN: 9780062444134

Rosemary has used up her savings to hide her past and leave her home planet of Mars. She joins the multi-species crew of a ship whose job it is to punch wormholes through space. Rosemary is finally free to explore the galaxy and finds unexpected friendships among the diverse crew. Among adventure and danger Rosemary learns that there’s more to family than blood.

I don’t know how to talk about this book, but it’s so, so, so good. One of those books where I knew from the first few pages that I was going to love it. Again, credit goes to Chelsea for talking about this book on her channel (and slightly to Amazon for having the e-book on sale for $1.99) and I can’t wait to buy a physical copy and the sequel/companion.

Angry Planet is a fabulously character driven sci-fi. The characters are everything and I love them. But! Don’t be alarmed! There’s still a plot (a good one, I think) and plenty of cool future-tech and science techno-babble. I really enjoyed the way Chambers handled the science aspects. I’m in no way classified to talk about the realism or potential of the future and technology she created, but I found it convincing. It wasn’t overbearing or confusing and blended into the story and the lives of her characters very well.

I, just, I don’t know. This book is a bit of a slow burn but before you know it you’re loving all the characters and their histories and their relationships and then things happen and you’re like, “ah!” and you have feelings and then you love this book! Right?

This is by far the most diverse sci-fi (or…any genre probably) book I’ve ever read. I don’t consciously seek out diversity in my reads, but I love it. Angry Planet has a variety of religions/life outlooks, species, interspecies relationships, LGBT characters and even the (incredibly interesting) subject of AI sentience and their rights. I even encountered the term ‘xyr’ for the first time. Chambers has created a vast and varied universe and feeds you little tidbits until you’re starving for more.

Hmm, ok that’s a terrible analogy, but I’m going to keep it because this book is too good and I can’t think of anything clever or helpful to say, so why not just go with whatever comes out?

If you like character driven sci-fi, diversity, AI and books that are just plain good, definitely pick this up. I can’t wait to grab the UK copies of this and the next book because they’re gorgeous and I might even re-read Angry Planet as soon as I get my hands on it! It might be the best sci-fi book I’ve ever read!

Becky’s site.

Book Review: The Serpent King

It’s like a snake in the grass…..get it? Hahaha. Right???!

The Serpent King
By Jeff Zentner

My Edition:
Paperback, 372 pages
Andersen Press, 2016
ISBN: 9781783443819

Dill’s snake-handling, priest father is in prison and he’s become a pariah at school, so he clings to the little moments he has with his two friends, Travis and Lydia. But their senior year of high school is starting and Lydia’s dreams of leaving their small town in Tennessee are making Dill realize how dark his life will become without her. Feeling trapped and left behind, the darkness from Dill’s past threatens to overwhelm him.

As part of my genre switch up challenge (I really need to come up with a more concise name for this damn thing – any suggestions?) I asked my friend Chels to recommend a YA contemporary  with NO LOVE TRIANGLES (I don’t have time for that shit, bro) and this is what she sent me for Christmas. If there’s anyone I trust to recommend YA based on my stipulations, it’s her. This book did not disappoint!

I really had no clue what I was getting into and I came out of this book-loving two of the three main characters. Dill’s life is a hard one and he’s frustrated that Lydia is escaping their little town and moving on to better things, without him. He feels that he can’t leave home because of the massive debt he and his mother are left struggling to pay off while his father is in prison. He begins to resent Lydia’s opportunities and his semi-destructive attitude actually made me relate to him, rather than hate him. If I was his age in his position, the threat of losing a friend might have made me lash out as well. I also thought his struggle to find his own faith, rather than what his parents tried to force on him, was well-written and realistic. I also didn’t feel overwhelmed or ostracized whenever Dill thought about God (though his parents were the ‘religious nutjob’ type and could have been portrayed less stereotypically, but whatever).

Travis is the “gentle giant” type, who is also dealing with a rough home life. Unlike Dill, however, he doesn’t wish to leave town – he could be happy once out from underneath his domineering father’s thumb. He finds refuge in a popular fantasy series and the online forums where he holds detailed discussions with other book lovers because Lydia and Dill don’t read the series. I related to him too, at least in regards to finding an online community to talk about books to and writing fantasy novels in my head. Travis is the peacemaker and I found him very charming. He’s by far my favorite character – he seems simple at the start of the story but as the book continues there’s a lot of depth to his character.

Then there’s Lydia. She was my main issue with the story (along with some clunky dialog, which I’ll get to in a moment.) I found her dangerously close to Manic Pixie Dream Girl status, though not quite there. I find it hard to describe, but I disliked her attitude most of the time. I was also tired of constantly being reminded of how alternative she is. Throughout the book, we’re given little details about the music she listens to and the book she reads and the celebrities she admires so that we can remember how truly different and special and alternative she is compared to her classmates and even Dill and Travis. There are no little details and tidbits like this given for the boys, so it stood out more. I get it, she’s different. I don’t care. I did enjoy her drive and motivation, as she is a successful fashion/lifestyle blogger, as well as her confidence in the face of spiteful classmates.

My other main issue with the book is the sometimes clunky dialogue. It’s not all bad by any means, but there were moments where I was thinking that teens, and friends in general, don’t talk like that. I’ll just give one example because it’s the most glaring issue I found:

“[…] and get ready for my interview with Laydee.”

“You’re interviewing Laydee, the singer?” Dill asked.

“Yep.”

“Wow. That’s awesome. She’s pretty much our age and her songs are all over the radio.”

Really? That’s the only way you could convey that Laydee is a young and popular singer? I think could easily write two or three variants of that conversation that would be less blatantly awkward.

Not a huge problem but that bit really had me laughing. There is also some romance in this story, but it was low key and natural enough that I didn’t mind. And I didn’t stipulate that there was to be no romance (I mean, is there even a YA book that exists with no romance?), just that there was no love triangle. I’m not griping about the romance here, it just didn’t interest me.

Now, for the most important part of this review:

THIS BOOK GAVE ME SUCH FEELS, YOU GUYS.

I was totally not expecting it! And not because this is a YA book (because most of them leave me only feeling disappointed or angry) but because I didn’t know there was an emotional element to this story. I was actually in public when the big scene hit me and I was SO UPSET and had to bottle it up because I couldn’t bring myself to sob in the corner of the waiting room of my local Mineke while my car was getting an oil change. UGH.

So I tweeted:

When ur terrible, horrible, no good, very bad friend @chelseadolling tells u to read a book that makes you wanna cry in public & u can’t!! 😢

Then I texted Chels (spoilers removed):

NO FUCKING WAY DID………………………….

OHGHGEMMMMGEEEE

CURSE YOU

I hate (love) you

Durrrrrrrr

Auuuuughghhhh

If that’s not evidence enough that I have feelings, I don’t know what is. I did cry a little when I was safe at home, in my bed. But I’m mad that life and timing cheated me out of my initial urge to cry about this book.

Well, this review turned out longer than I thought it would. Clearly, I enjoyed this book. I’m so happy I asked Chels for a rec because I never would have picked up this book on my own. If you’re someone who’s not big on YA and you’re looking for a contemporary read about friendship, family, longing, loss, depression, and achieving your goals, definitely pick this up. If you’re like me and not big on the romance aspect, I think the relationship in this book is toned down enough that it doesn’t swallow the rest of the story whole. If you like romance, well, there is some!

Jeff’s site (with a  brooding, very Dill-esque photo of himself on the main page)

Book Review: Bad Monkeys

Bad Monkeys
By Matt Ruff

Not My Edition:
Paperback, 227 pages
2007, Harper
ISBN: 9780061240423

Jane Charlotte sits in a white room telling a psychiatrist her story of how she was recruited by a secret organization whose mission is to rid the world of evil. Her story is unbelievable and action-packed, but is it only a story, or is there something to it?

I really knew nothing about this book going in and that’s probably best (I mean, I kinda think that’s best with most books honestly, but whatever) because the less you know about the plot in this book the more likely you are to be surprised by it (wow, again, feel like that’s almost every book).

This book was so fun and had me hooked so hard from page one that I read it all in one sitting (much to the detriment of Future Millie who still had to get up and go to work after a sad five hours of sleep), which is a rarity for me (excepting graphic novels or something).

Jane works for a group called the Bad Monkeys which is just one of many sections of “the organization” that works to eradicate evil from the world. There are several other departments like Good Samaritans, Scary Clowns, Malfeasance and Cost/Benefits and they work in specialized areas to take out those who are truly committing what they deem as evil. As Jane bumbles through recruitment it becomes clear there’s a counterpart to the organization; one trying to cause evil in the world.

I found Jane to be an incredibly likable character. She’s smart, bold, bull-headed, smarmy and…let’s say…questionable. “Questionable, Millie?” you ask. “What even does that mean?” Look, I hate the term “unreliable narrator” because I think it scares people away from books (kinda including myself in that group). Jane is the narrator but I don’t feel that she’s unreliable so much as unwilling to reveal all her cards from the get-go (getgo? Get go? I’ve never typed that before…). Take that as you will.

After perusing some reviews on Goodreads I can understand the problems people have with this book, but I don’t share the same outlook. I do think the ending was a little over-complicated (mentally I was whipping my head from side to side going, “he what?” “she who?” “wait, what?”) and maybe predictable for people who pay more attention than I do when reading. But I don’t think it detracted from how fun the rest of the story was, nor do I think it weakened the whole book.

I highly recommend this book for fans of the super-spy/agent tales that have some humor and especially fans of The Regional Office is Under Attack. Wow, this might be the first time I’ve ever done an “if you like this book, check out that book” type thing. Normally I’m really bad at that. But the whole badass female character, what the hell is going on plot, and shadowy supergroup with ultra-technology thing was really making me want to reread Regional Office.

Matt’s site.

Book Review: The Girl With the Ghost Machine

pic from NetGalley

The Girl With the Ghost Machine
By Lauren DeStefano

My Edition:
ARC ebook, 224 pages
2017, Bloomsbury
ISBN: 9781681194448 (hardcover)
Expected Publication Date: June 6

After the loss of her mother, Emmaline’s father begins tinkering with a strange contraption that he believes will bring back the ghost of his wife. Still suffering from the loss of her mother, Emmaline now feels she’s losing her father to his work on the machine. When confronted with proof that the machine works, Emmaline must battle with how she feels the machine should be used and if the cost is even worth it.

I’m going to come right out and say that I found this book underwhelming and forgettable. I love the concept and how thought-provoking it was, but the characters were weak and I couldn’t connect to the story because of that.

Nothing about Emmaline’s personality stood out to me. Her situation was sad and I enjoyed the way she approached the idea of the ghost machine and how she struggled with her feelings upon discovering it works. For each visit with a ghost, the person using the machine would have to give up a memory attached to the person they’re bringing back. Emmaline was wary of the cost immediately and she posed very thoughtful arguments to her father as to why this machine shouldn’t be used. But her personality didn’t come through so I didn’t really feel for her, more for the situation itself.

The rest of the characters made even less of an impression on me and it caused what I believe should have been an emotional and pivotal part of the book to fall so flat that I found myself wishing I could force myself to react appropriately. I wanted this scene to evoke some emotion in me other than “huh,” but I just couldn’t muster up more than that. I know page counts in middle grade are often on the short end and I think this stopped the characters from feeling developed.

This is still a good book to broach the subject of the loss of loved ones and what we would sacrifice to see them again – and if we should even be allowed to make that choice. Younger readers might find this book more moving and I would still recommend it even though I didn’t get the feels I was looking for.

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. All opinions in this post are my own.
Check out Lauren’s site.

Book Review: The Bone Witch

pic from NetGalley

The Bone Witch
By Rin Chupeco

My Edition:
ARC ebook, 432 pages
2017, Sourcebooks Fire
ISBN: 9781492635826 (hardcover)

Tea discovers she has the power to raise the dead when her older brother crawls out of his grave during his funeral. While many people of her land have magic, including some of her sisters, few have Tea’s abilities as a bone witch (or dark asha) and the people of her town are both awed and scornful. Tea leaves home with her reanimated brother in tow to join an academy for asha and starts on the rough road to mastering her powers.

Let it be known that despite the fact that young adult books disappoint me more often than they impress me, I continue to give them a chance (and will continue to do so, because I’m a sucker for punishment). Unfortunately, this book fell into the former category and I stopped reading at about 75%. I wanted to post my thoughts on why I stopped reading because I did actually request the book.

The very first page of this book had me rolling my eyes. There are two perspectives in this book, one from young Tea as she tells her tale of how she started her journey as a witch and the other from some bard who seeks her out when she’s seventeen, living in exile on some beach (in a nicely furnished cave.) The book starts out with the bard glorifying her beauty (including her “pert nose”…), her incredible power and her special snowflakeness all before she turned eighteen. So basically, I hated Tea from the start. I know plenty of other genres have clichés like this, but they seem to manage to pull it off with more subtlety.

Despite wanting to chuck Tea off a cliff (also, come on, her sisters are all named for flowers and her brother is Fox, but she’s Tea?!) I did my best to keep an open mind as I dove into the seemingly complex magical world Chupeco created. But while Chupeco created a vast world with culturally diverse countries and what’s probably a lot of history, I found the world and the characters boring as all hell.

When Tea raises her brother from the dead it was pretty low impact, but the fact that this was her type of magic held some potential for me. Fox is the most human zombie I’ve ever encountered and also the most uninteresting one. Neither he nor Tea seemed to suffer any hardship despite Tea’s young age and ignorance to her own powers at the time. An older witch just comes along and takes them away so Tea can start her geisha-er-asha training. Also reanimated corpses cast no shadows…because reasons (like what even? Actual dead bodies would cast a shadow…). Maybe the last 25% of the book gave some explanation for this, but I doubt it.

Anyway, there’s very little of Tea’s cool powers in this book. It’s mostly her training to become an asha, who is really just a geisha with magic powers that no one ever seems to use. They dress in complicated clothing very much like kimonos (we hear endlessly about what everyone is wearing down to fabric colors and trim and stitching and other super special details and omg shut up), even down to the artwork and fabric choices being intentional and meaningful (granted, I don’t truly understand how asha clothing was meaningful in this book or how it impacted their powers or the plot or anything). They have singing, dancing and instrument lessons, on top of magical fighting classes. They entertain rich people in tea houses and show off their witty banter and political knowledge and they even have patrons. I actually just wanted to stop reading the book and re-read Memoirs of a Geisha because it’s more interesting.

But before Tea can practice becoming a geisha-er-asha, she’s forced to be a common maid in the house of one of the powerful old asha, because even though Tea’s powers are rare and useful, she is despised for no reason and must be punished for existing. Essentially everything I read was her being a maid or training, with little interludes from the bard talking about how sexy and dark and unusual and awesome and different and special older Tea is.

The other significant part of this story revolves around the heartstones everyone wears. I really have no friggen clue what they are. But everyone wears them around their necks and they change colors with their feelings. But you can give yours to the one you love (and receive them as well) but then that could give them control over you? And one of Tea’s sisters keeps giving hers away to different boys and so gets new ones and that seems to be no big deal, but then Heartforgers have to make new ones for people and they require random memories from other people and they’re expensive? So then where is Tea’s sister getting her new hearts? Witches have different hearts and falling in love can be dangerous but then, YOUR ACTUAL HEART DOESN’T CONTAIN OR CONTROL YOUR FEELINGS so why aren’t they brainstones? Ugh.

I’ll end this rant with some descriptions (remember Tea’s “pert nose!”) that had me groaning:

“She was young, in the way a woman of 60 might carefully tuck away the years around her to appear 20.” What!?

Our handsome prince has eyes like “gentle emeralds.” What even?

A monster was “fat and corpulent.” LOL

Something else (I forget if it was a monster or her dress or what) was “as black as shadows, as bright as stars.” K, thanks, bye.

Finally, I could take no more of boring Tea and her boring training and the vague hints of her supposedly awesome powers from our buddy the bard. I wanted more dead things coming back to life and a dark, troubled heroine who actually proved how cool she was. I’ve changed how I feel about DNFing books and I’ve found that it’s liberating to be free of a book that’s not giving me an ounce of enjoyment. At least Throne of (Gl)Ass was fun to make fun of! I have too many books to read and too little time to waste on ones I don’t enjoy. Sadly the premise didn’t live up to my expectations and after taking a peek at some of the reviews on Goodreads, it seems that FOR ONCE I’m not alone in this!

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. All opinions in this post are my own.
Rin does have a very pretty website.

Book Review: The Gunslinger

The Gunslinger (Dark Tower I)
By Stephen King

My Edition:
Paperback, 330 pages
2016, Pocket Books
ISBN: 9781501161803

Roland is chasing the man in black across an endless desert. The man has answers and Roland will do whatever it takes to get them so he can get to The Tower and save his world.

You guys, sorry, but I really can’t describe this book without like…giving away every detail in the story. This book is WEIRD. I’m going to assume most of you have at least heard of the series, if not already read it, but if not, the internet could probably give you a much better description.

I picked this book up because I saw the movie trailer (-yelling- Idriiiiisssssss!) and thought, “Hey, I need to read the series so I can properly hate the movie!” I already have opinions on what I think my opinion of the movie will be, but that’s not really relevant to this post, I suppose.

Let’s see if any of my notes on this story can be formed into a review and not spoil anything for those of you who still haven’t read this series (are you out there?) because I knew literally nothing going into it and I’m sure that’s best.

My favorite part of the whole book was how atmospheric it is. The desert Roland is trudging across, the small pockets of society he encounters, his flashbacks to his childhood – I felt like I was at every location. However, I was thoroughly confused when trying to build the rules of Roland’s childhood world (not the desert) in my head, because I felt the need to figure out whether it was its own point in time or perhaps some sort of dystopian future or even an alternate version of our own world. Once I told myself to let go of this habit and take things page for page, I was less lost, though still pretty puzzled.

The characters were less endearing. Roland is a weird mix of emotionally detached and fond of reminiscing about his childhood. He’s also apparently the only sexy guy left in the desert because the few females he encounters totally want to bone him. He also has a quirky language that only makes itself apparent occasionally. He mentions High Speech and Low Speech and sometimes sounds ye-olde-y and then also uses words like ‘ka’ which I haven’t quite figured out the meaning of (fate perhaps?). also he says ‘yar’ sometimes instead of ‘yes’ and all I could think of was Michael from Hot Fuzz (anyone?!) The man in black was intriguing but we don’t get a lot of information about him, so I’m hoping future books shed more light on the subject.

I’m in the middle of the road when it comes to my overall feelings on the book. I thought I would be more impressed or whatever and less confused.

If you’re interested in a high fantasy style quest, set in a semi-medieval desert (where people wear jeans and corduroys and sing Beatles songs) with a gun-slinging protagonist who is incredibly single-minded and near magically gifted at shooting the shit out of everything, then you may enjoy at least the first book in this series. I’m partway through the second book as I write this and I’m not sure what my overall opinion will be, but if you’re interested in the Dark Tower series, it’s probably worth checking out.

Bonus review:

As it turns out, my friend Melissa and I happened to read this at the same time without planning it. So she’s given her thoughts on the book as well!

“This book reminded me of The Stand, lots of walking. I enjoyed the flashbacks and backstory building, but am still left with a lot of questions and theories. I look forward to seeing how everything comes together in future books. It’s definitely a ‘Stephen King’ book because of the nature of some of the more graphic and sexual scenes; they aren’t usually my style so I could do without those parts. 3.5 stars because of all the questions I have.”

Book Review: Sophie Someone

Sophie Someone
By Hayley Long

My Edition:
Hardcover, 258 pages
2017, Candlewick Press
ISBN: 9780763689957

Fourteen-year-old Sophie Nieuwenleven has lived in Belgium for almost as long as she can remember, though she knows her family left England. As the past begins to catch up with them, Sophie starts piecing together details from her past until her family’s terrible secret is revealed and it changes everything she thinks she knows about herself. So Sophie tells her story, but in the only way she feels comfortable – in her own language.

I wasn’t expecting the writing to be so stylized, so right off the bat I was confused. Sure, the back of the book mentions Sophie telling her story in the only way she knows how, but I wasn’t paying attention to the back of the book, was I? (No. No I wasn’t.)

So we have a sort of…modified English where certain words are swapped out for completely different (yet for the most part, essentially similar and mostly coherent) words, creating what appears to be gibberish at first. Examples include “hashtag” for hand, “quibble” for question, “Mambo and Donny” for Mom and Dad, “pigeon” for person, and “supernova” for suitcase. My first thought was that I was just reading a bunch of nonsense and it was frustrating.

However, as I made my way through the book, Sophie’s words, while still silly sounding, started to make a weird sort of sense to me. It’s clear that Long put a lot of thought into her…er…translations. There were still some words that threw me and I did spend the whole book mentally translating each replacement word I encountered. Had I been able to let go of that, I might have had an easier time reading, but I just HAD to know what the words really meant. At times this probably took me away from the story, but that’s just how my mind works.

This is a great story if you can get past the language and Sophie was funny and endearing. This is among the more original contemporary middle-grade novels I’ve encountered and if you’re looking for something different, I highly suggest this.

Also, the cover art is beautiful, see pictures below!

I received this book for free from LibraryThing in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. All opinions in this post are my own.
Hayley is super adorable and has a cute little site.

Book Review: The Bedlam Stacks

The Bedlam Stacks
By Natasha Pulley

My Edition:
ARC Paperback, 324 pages
2017, Bloomsbury
ISBN: 9781620409671 (hardcover)
Expected Publication Date: August 2017

Merrick Tremayne is an ex-smuggler trapped with his stodgy brother in their old family home as it literally falls apart around them. His brother is ready to ship Merrick off to a small town and force him into being a pastor when Merrick’s old friend and army buddy, Clem shows up. Clem proposes Merrick join him and his wife on a risky quinine-stealing expedition. Merrick’s old leg wound has handicapped him some, but his knowledge of plants is indispensable. Merrick soon finds the expedition is anything but routine as they camp amongst locals who won’t cross a salt line in the woods for fear of what lurks in the woods beyond and living statues.

I loooooved Pulley’s first book, The Watchmaker of Filigree Street, so I practically jumped for joy when Bloomsbury asked me if I’d like a copy of The Bedlam Stacks to review.

Here’s another book that I find myself struggling to describe (“Like basically every book you read?” you think to yourself) and it’s because until about the last fifth of the book, I had no clue what the hell was going on. This is the good kind of clueless though. Not the kind that frustrates you because you don’t have enough information or the writing doesn’t make sense. This book has a very surreal vibe and it took me a while to get used to the atmosphere. Because of that, I was like ??!? but still very interested while reading.

I did fail at the mental imagery though. Bedlam, the mystical little clifftop town Merrick finds himself in, is built on some sort of salt cliffs that have turned to glass? And there’s a forest (that I totally pictured as a rainforest but I’m pretty sure that’s wrong because it was like always cold and sometimes snowing) with these trees that are so light and airy that they can float and also they explode in a fire? And there are moving statues that are much more than they seem (no question marks here because I actually understood that part). And also there’s a sort of glowing pollen everywhere that can be used in lamps and also leaves light trails when you walk? If any of this sounds even remotely interesting to you, you’ll probably like this book.

Yes, I’m aware that my weird questions don’t make a review. Anyway, that’s some of what goes on in this book and I really wasn’t picturing much in the way of a setting. However, I was absorbed in the characters, especially Merrick and Raphael, his guide through Bedlam and to the quinine trees. I’ve already learned that Pulley is a master at crafting characters, especially male ones. Bedlam is yet another book that is heavily character-driven and normally that’s not what I prefer to read, but I will eat up anything this woman writes. There’s even a little cameo from one of the characters from Watchmaker that I think strengthens their backstory and serves as a nice reminder of Pulley’s other novel for those of us who friggen love it.

I loved the weird, mystical feel of the book and Merrick’s sense of humor and sadness. I loved his conversations with Raphael. I loved the final chapters when things got intense and the magic was more prevalent. The ending was totally unsatisfactory and realistic and I don’t think it could have ended any other way but damnit, I wanted it to!

If you like heavy character development, male relationships, the mid-1800s, surreal magic and the feeling of desperately wanting two people to just be together forever, then I highly suggest both Watchmaker and Bedlam. I can’t say I loved Bedlam as much as I loved Watchmaker (it’s not far behind though!), but once more these characters slowly curled their way around my heart and then at the end of the book squeezed the hell out of it. I will absolutely be buying the hardcover once it releases because this book is bound to be as beautiful as Watchmaker if the design of this ARC is anything to go by. I’m fully ready for whatever she writes next and NEED IT ASAP.

I received this book for free from the publisher and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. All opinions in this post are my own.
Natasha tweets!

Book Review: Bridge to Terabithia

The Bridge to Terabithia
By Katherine Paterson

My Edition:
Paperback (40th Anniversary), 179 pages
1977, Harper
ISBN: 9780064401845

Jess Aarons works hard on his family farm – with his father working long hours and his four sisters nearly useless, Jess is constantly harangued by his mother. To distract himself, he’s been practicing running and hopes to be the fastest runner in 5th grade. When Leslie Burke, the new girl in town, easily beats him in a race, he finds he’s not nearly as fast as he thought, but more importantly, he finds the beginning of a strong friendship.

UGH THIS BOOK.

Disclaimer: I’ve never seen the movie, but I was aware of the most significant plot point going in to this book. I still think the book is incredibly emotional and powerful, so even if you’ve seen the movie or you know the plot, I think you should read this book.

Also, from what I can tell from movie trailers (I’ve no desire to watch the movie), there’s a big fantasy element in there that really isn’t found in the book. Yes, Jess and Leslie create a magical world named Terabithia and they go there to hang out, but this isn’t a fantasy novel. If you’re looking for middle-grade fantasy, Terabithia is not the place to find it.

It is, however, the place to find FEELS.

Jess is the sort of kid that you feel for, even before his blossoming friendship with Leslie. He can’t seem to catch a break, but he doesn’t let himself get too down about it. He has a semi-secret passion for drawing – his father would see it as weak and his classmates at school would tease him, but he continues to draw and imagine what he would draw despite all that. Leslie has pluck and she’s incredibly intelligent and does a little gender-bending given that the book is set in the 1970s.

There are not a lot of pages in this book, so I feel a little constrained in regards to what I say because really you should just read this book (AND FEEL THE FEELS) for yourself, if you haven’t yet. I don’t know why I didn’t pick it up sooner, honestly. This is easily one of my top middle-grade books and I highly recommend it if you’re looking for a contemporary tale of friendship and loss. Also, my cover is gorgeous.

Paterson’s website

Book Review: Hyperbole and a Half

Hyperbole and a Half
By Allie Brosh

My Edition:
Paperback, 369 pages
2013, Touchstone
ISBN: 9781451666175

Do you like funny stories about dogs, goose attacks, lies about how much someone enjoys hot sauce, identity, depression, getting lost in the woods and more dogs? Then you will probably like this book. Allie Brosh, from the blog Hyperbole and a Half, gives readers cleverly worded and charmingly illustrated anecdotes from both her childhood and adult life.

This was recommended to me by a friend when I asked her for a humor suggestion for my genre switch-up challenge. When I added this blog to my list I hadn’t ever read Brosh’s blog (and it doesn’t appear to be active anymore? And as funny as her work is, I’d prefer to read it in a book than stare at a computer screen for hours) though I had heard of it and seen her self-portrait before. Boy am I glad I picked up this book.

First off, it’s full color (most of the pages even have a solid background color!) and printed on nice glossy stock, so it’s also very heavy and could be used a weapon if necessary. I love the simplicity and MS Paint vibes of Brosh’s work and I know from browsing her (extensive!) FAQ page on her blog that she spends a lot of time on these drawings, calling it a “very precise crudeness” so if you think her work looks like shit, it’s on purpose!

More important than how this book looks, is how funny it is. Brosh tells incredible stories ranging from the strange things she did as a child (like lying about how much she liked hot sauce and eating her grandfather’s birthday cake – the entire thing), to her two hilarious (and terribly behaved) dogs, to how she deals with depression and self-identity. Most of these stories had me laughing out loud and even the way she speaks about depression, while meaningful and relatable, is also lighthearted to some degree.

I thought about quoting this book, but then I wanted to quote all of it, and then I realized that the pictures really do help emphasize her stories and I can’t quote those, so really, if you like to laugh, you should buy this book. It desperately makes me wish I was funny and that I’d done more strange things as a child so I could tell amusing stories and illustrate them. Basically, I need Brosh to write at least five more books, or publish her whole blog in book format or something because her work is awesome and I need more of it right now.

Check out her blog!