I had put some thoughts together about what I've been reading lately for another board and thought I would share them here, too.
But first, I'm curious - does anyone else use Shelfari to track their reading? I like to track what I read, and have used Shelfari in the past, but my account is out of date at the moment while I consider several things.
Many readers I know use Goodreads. Anyone have any comment on the difference between them or an opinion over which is better? In parallel, I'm contemplating a move of this blog over to the wordpress blog I've stubbed out, you know, change of scenery and all. They do not appear to have a way to connect a Shelfari widget, which is one of the reasons I've stalled. Would appreciate any thoughts on goodreads vs. shelfari or if there's something else better out there. I've seen some people using a facebook widget, but I want something I can integrate on a blog.
Okay, here's the goods. In the interests of time and because I bought them from Barnes and Noble for my Nook, I'll include links there (I read most of these in ebook format) - but you know how it goes, you can get most at your local library, from Amazon, or better yet - your local bookseller. I hear Anderson's Booksellers in Naperville sells some ebooks, too. This represents, FYI, about 2 months of my reading.
I've been on a Diana Wynne Jones streak lately, and absolutely adore her books, every one of them, for the way she plays with magic, makes fun characters, and tells not big grand earth-shattering end-all battles between good and evil, but just nice stories with interesting magic.
The ones I've recently read include all of the books in the Chrestomanci series (In order, they go: A Charmed Life, The Magicians of Caprona, Witch Week, The Lives of Christopher Chant), plus a short story collection featuring the same characters (called Mixed Magics), and The Pinhoe Egg, which is set in the same universe and features the main character Eric Chant from the first Chrestomanci book (the characters overlap some throughout all four or five of those books.)
We also did the audio book of The House of Many Ways, very enjoyable voice talent, and audio of Enchanted Glass (library loans). My primary caution with her books, particularly evident in audio, is that they tend to be slow burns. They're not going to grab you by the throat, but they're lovely stories told in interesting ways with interesting magic and compelling characters. Just be patient with them and give them some time to warm up. If you can only spare time to read just one, read Howl's Moving Castle, which was not available in ebook form but is an astonishingly good book.
Next was I am Number Four, which is coming out in a movie soonish. It's an interesting sci-fi story. There's some online discussion/controversy about the book as it's written by someone then marketed through what some are calling a "scheme" - another author selling rights and supposedly paying the original author pennies. I have no idea, but it's a YA sci-fi and there's precious little of that so I read it. Nice story. Enough tension and interesting features, not too crazy on the action end. Reminded me of The Warrior Heir, but I liked the writing a little better in this book. We've started seeing trailers for the movie (main actor is the same one who played Alex Ryder in Stormbreaker) on TV so the 9 year old has asked to read it now. It's themes and content aren't too advanced, though there's a bit of kids drinking beer once and loads of kissing, but that's within our tolerances so I'm queing it up for him for his next read.
I read Life As We Knew It, by Susan Beth Pfeffer, which is a future dystopia about the moon being hit by an asteroid and coming closer in orbit to the earth, and the massive catastrophes that result. Very interesting story, told 100% first person journal-entry style. I loved the style, and enjoyed the story. It was a much smaller story than I figured, I kept expecting some big grand event to take place, but really it's also a small, close story about a teen and her family and how they survive in crazy circumstances. It's also YA Sci-fi. I recommend this one, but warning that the story is a bit of a downer, I found it tiring to read after a bit and am glad to have moved on, mostly just because it seemed so *real.* I suppose that's a sign of the writer's skill, eh? There are other books out in the series but I'll take a break before (if) reading them. Because it's a bit of a downer and there's a small section where the mom accuses the daughter of sleeping with someone and they throw around the term "make love" about a hundred times on one page, I'd recommend holding off for most non-teens.
I just finished The Comet's Curse by Dom Tesla, a radio personality in Colorado. It's a YA sci-fi, set on an "escape ship" leaving earth after a catastrophe (by this point I'm starting to wonder if there are ANY YA sci-fi books that aren't categorized as post-apocalyptic or disaster or dystopias. Sigh) has caused everyone on earth to be afflicted by a horrible disease that will kill them after age 18. So a crew of 251 15 and 16 year olds are sent into space to escape the disease and recolonize another planet. This is the first in a series.
I didn't love the storytelling style (interleaved narrative with present-day and flashbacks, quite a lot of "telling" to the audience. It felt like it was written in a style appropriate for a younger reader, telling us things that we could intuit from the text just fine. I think it's just the writer's style, though, as the choice of 15 and 16 year old protagonists puts it smack in the center of the YA genre.) Story was just so-so. I don't highly recommend it, but I'm glad I read it because I am certain my stories are at least as good as this one! As for reading level/age - while the story features older protagonists, I think this is a fine book for younger readers because the content is kept clean (a few crushes/what-does-she-think-of-me kinds of things but that's it.) The storytelling style might also work well for a younger reader (thinking 9-13, plus those in the 14+ YA age range, of course.)
I'm now just starting to read Shipbreaker, by Paolo Bacigalupi, which is up for some awards this year. It's another future dystopia (le sigh) set in coastal Florida where the main character is a boy who helps break down huge old rusty oil tankers to get their parts. The storytelling is EXCELLENT and is a fantastic study in how to communicate a lot about an unusual environment/different world via basic dialogue and narration, without resorting to blocks of exposition. He also uses a lot of slang and unusual terms, which makes it challenging to read but also interesting to see how the terms are introduced and how you can figure out what is meant by them.
So far I'm really impressed, but not far enough to say more than that. I think the writing is fantastic, though, so I'm glad even though it's another intense dark seemingly depressing future story. I'm about halfway through and the story gets pretty brutal, the main character's father is a problem, drug abuse is common, and even the kids pass around a bottle of alcohol one night and talk about hangovers. The whole story has you wondering whether the main character will survive the day, much less what will happen next. It's very compelling to read. Reminds me a lot of Hunger Games, but in a way it's even more brutal because this world that the main character lives in sounds like it could happen to us, given a little less luck with the environment and more global aggregation. Because of the slang, the drug and alcohol mentions (and some passing veiled references to prostitution) - I'd stick this with YA readers only, but your mileage may vary. In any event, it's a fantastic read and I'm finding myself coming up with all kinds of excuses to go read. Like now. Time to finish this blog post so I can finish the book, enjoy!