So this will probably wind up going up late between the end of year book survey and reading resolution posts and Bout of Books 12, but let’s relive the warm, joyful glow of the holiday season by reminiscing about what I read last month. I usually don’t go for “holiday” fiction, but I got into it this year and picked up the two best-known YA holiday compendiums. I also read some other YA novels, and a couple of TV tie-in graphic novels. It was a good month:
It (was) The Most Wonderful Time of The Year
Let It Snow by Maureen Johnson, John Green, and Lauren Myracle
I had fun with this set of three interconnected holiday stories, but it didn’t blow me away. Maureen Johnson’s story was full of her trademark quirk and I enjoyed it the most of the three. John Green’s story had his usual road trip and empowering statement of teenage-boundlessness and it was okay too. I’ve never read a Lauren Myracle novel so I can’t make a generalization about her, but I can say her story fell the most flat to me, it was the weirdest and the least romantic. It was fun to get into the holidays with a book about a Christmas snowstorm, but ultimately my overall reaction to this can be summed up with an indifferent shoulder shrug.
My True Love Gave to Me by Various Authors (Edited by Stephanie Perkins)
This collection contains 12 holiday themed romance stories by a slew of YA authors (Rainbow Rowell, Gayle Foreman, David Levithan, Holly Black and the like) As in any collection of short works, there were ups and downs, but I don’t think any of the stories were particularly awful. There was some diversity in the type of story told: Kelly Link, Holly Black, and Laini Taylor had heavy fantasy elements. As did Jenny Han, setting hers at the North Pole. The one thing I wish this had more of was the exploration of a relationship beyond the beginning stages. David Levithan came closest to this, but the vast majority of these stories are centered around some chance meeting leading to romantic encounter and some of them started to blur together a bit. That said, however, if you’re in the market for a bit of light, fun, holiday reading, this isn’t bad to pick up.
How Lovely Are Thy Branches (Young Wizards #9.5) by Diane Duane
A Wizard of Mars, book 9 in the Young Wizards series, was released almost 5 years ago and book 10 is still just over a year away from publication, so the pure fact that this novella between the two existed had me over the moon. (P.S. I think the only place to buy it is on Diane Duane’s independent ebook shop, if you’re interested.) And then, of course, this didn’t disappoint. It’s full of the humor of the Young Wizards books, more so than the sci-fi drama, this had one brief conflict, but was really just a fun Christmas extra. And that was ok by me. I was far from disappointed.
Novels and Novellas of the Non-Festive Variety
Wild Rover No More by L.A. Meyer
This twelfth and final book in the Jacky Faber series was not spectacular, but it was satisfying. Like any sitcom or other formulaic TV show, this series had its strongest moments early and then faded toward the end, but overall I can’t say enough good things about Jacky and her unconventional brash tenacity. I’m so glad she got to accompany through my adolescence and beyond and that she got the farewell she deserved.
The False Prince by Jennifer Nielsen
This middle-grade (non-magical, chiefly political) fantasy follows orphan Sage as he competes with three other boys to be chosen in a life or death contest to masquerade as the long-lost prince of a newly monarch-less nation.
I heard that the plot twist at the end of this was insanely good and then I predicted it ridiculously early on, on something like page 4. So I was a little disappointed right off the bat. I also thought that the characterization was a bit inconsistent, but overall, it was a decent read. There’s a lot of tension in the plot, Sage is a pretty interesting, lively character and the premise was great with solid prose. It was good. It just did not meet expectations for me.
Onyx by Jennifer L. Armentrout
It had been almost a year since I finished Obsidian, book one in the Lux series, and it took me a bit to get back into the plot, but I got it figured out and quickly started having fun again. Katy and Daemon have a good dynamic, and there are more characters than the central couple, the plot moves well. Overall, I am really enjoying this series so far.
I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
This seems to have been hyped up quite a lot. Got me to pick it up, at least. I’m not in raptures over it, but I thought it was very good. The characters are strong; unique, not quite stereotyped, overall just solidly constructed characters with an interesting story to tell. Family relationships are central to the story, which was refreshing. Romantic relationships abound too, which are all fun on their own, but also interconnect with the central family story. It’s definitely worth the read if you’ve heard about it and think it sounds at all interesting, just be a little wary of the hype.
Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbit
I never read this as a kid, but I obtained an old used copy and thought to check it out at as quick read during a busy time of the year. I don’t have too much to say about it though. It was good. It had that purposefully-dated timeless feel that makes it good as a classic. It explores a mature theme; the positive nature of change and eventual death, in a simple story that children can digest. I get why it’s stayed popular for so many years and I enjoyed it.
The Slow Regard of Silent Things (The Kingkiller Chronicle #2.5) by Patrick Rothfuss
There’s an author’s note at the front of this that warns that you may not like it. That it’s weird. And I’m glad that note was there, because then I knew to expect the weirdness and enjoy the experience of it. And then I wound up loving it. The prose in this was what made it. There was no plot, but the character, Auri, is so strange and fascinating in how she sees the world and Rothfuss absolutely nailed it in setting the atmosphere with his writing. For all that there’s only a handful of sentences of actual sorcery in this, it was pretty magical.
Graphic Novels (a.k.a That show’s not over ’til I say it’s over!)
Avatar: The Rift-Part 3 by Gene Luen Yang
This was the conclusion to this story arc and overall, I really enjoyed the story. I think it got a little rushed and random in the action at the end, with rapidly shifting alliances. But once again, the writers for Avatar really proved that media for kids need not necessarily be simplistic in theme. The Rift did an excellent job of exploring the balance between technological progress and environment, and bridged the story gap between Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra.
Serenity: Those Left Behind by Joss Whedon, Brett Matthews, and Will Conrad
This graphic novel is the first of three (I think, correct me if I’m wrong) installments set between the events of the TV show Firefly and Serenity, the subsequent movie. I am a massive fan of the show and I was super excited to discover the books in the comic book store. I really enjoyed the further exploration of the characters and the fact that this falls in the months between the show and the movie. I remember this time gap totally throwing me off when I jumped straight from Objects in Space to Serenity the movie when I was first watching the series a few years ago, and I now I know it’s because I was supposed to read these first. My one complaint is that I had a hard time following the action scenes, but that’s probably due in part to my comic reading inexperience and my bitterness over the fact that this wasn’t live action television instead. Anyway, if you’re like I was, a Firefly fan who didn’t know these existed even though they’ve been out for nine years, definitely check them out. And if you’re not a Firefly fan, I don’t know if we can be friends anymore.