Books read January 2017

This was a big YA month, with all but two of the eleven books being YA.  It was a really good YA month two, which is going to influence my recommendations section.Picture:  A Greyhound, A Groundhog.
YA if you are looking for a romantic series:  Perfect Couple (note that it is #2 in the series. Biggest Flirts is #1.)
YA if you want to be in a band: For the Record
YA the looks at the place of girls in the world:  The Female of the Species

Radiant Child
Javaka Steptoe
Read for librarian book group
Picture book of Basquiat’s life.  It deals with his mother’s mental illness in age-appropriate ways and sidesteps the drug addition.  There are no photos or reproductions of Basquiat’s works, but the illustrations are inspired by the artist.

There were two instances of possible typographic errors. One was in the author’s note at the beginning.  The other was in the text and included two words that I think should be a compound.  Or possible a random capitalization that made no sense?  I’ve returned the book, and thus cannot give specific examples.

A Greyhound, A Groundhog
Read for librarian book group
Tongue-twister picture book, which I read aloud to the cats. I giggled throughout.

Perfect Couple
Jennifer Echols

Text message exchange between my friend SS and me:

  • Me: Back to this book.  I’m not buying this part where she wants to break up because the votes were tallied wring.  WTF?  Where is the logic there?
  • SS: I know!  She’s such a rule follower?  Not terribly logical.  I liked book three better.
  • Me: I do appreciate this author for normalizing healthy sexual behavior as well as enlightened male culture.  Sawyer just told Brody to back off of Harper because he’s taller and it looks bad.  I’ve got the third book on hold. Hopefully I will like it better.
  • SS: I agree that the author has found a pretty sweet balance there.
  • Me:  Oooo!  This girl just talked to her mom about getting on the pill!! So good!  And the last book had a girl character not-a-virgin while the boy character was a virgin.  That is INCREDIBLY rare
  • SS: I know.  I kind of felt like I hit the jackpot when I read the first one.  I just KNEW it was for you!!!  Oh, and drum corps!!  Oh and the female as the LEAD drummer.  What? What?
  • Me: The drum corps stuff was gold.  And it was a female band teacher too.
    [Includes picture of page where there is a daughter/mother conversation about the pill] Like these two paragraphs! Would that every female have this response to wanting to prepare for sex!
  • SS: And a pretty awesome mom response too.
  • Me: Right???
  • SS: Like seriously, these books would have been so good for teen SS
  • Me: Me too!
  • SS: Swoony and romantic to a point, but all of this other goodness too.
  • Me: She’s more explicit about the sex, too, without reinforcing traditional gender roles.
  • SS: I appreciate that she makes my toes curl when I read it.  Again.  Teen SS could have benefited from seeing good healthy and enjoyable sex that was good for the girl.  Admittedly, it is premarital, but still.
  • Me: Yup. I think this conversation is going in the Goodreads review.
  • SS: I think it’s important to note that while some of the characterization is flawed, the overall qualities of the book are great!
  • Me: Right?  Like overall, I would give this a two-star rating, because of weird and random character motivations.  But I like the other stuff she’s doing so much I’m bumping up the rating.

Philip Reeve
Read for Mock Printz
Solidly-written Sci-Fi book.  I liked the imagined future where inter-dimensional train travel is the way everyone travels.   There is an action scene was that was perfect: both vivid and horrible to read.  I also enjoyed that the main character is from the planet Cleave, which is my boyfriend’s favorite word.  Overall it was a very nicely-built world.

I didn’t love reading it, never really finding interest in the main character or his plight.  I also found the futuristic depictions of gender to not be different enough from 21st century gender to be believable.

Most Likely to Succeed
Jennifer Echols
More good stuff from Jennifer Echols.  I enjoyed both the depiction of Kaye’s terrible relationship with Aiden, as well as her interest in Sawyer, voted Most Likely to Go to Jail.  (An aside–what adult in charge is deciding that is an okay category?)  As per the rest of the series, this includes a healthy view of teen sexuality, as well as contraceptive mentions. (!!)  Another plus: of the three books in the series, two include a female orgasm.   Female orgasms, they’re a thing.  I’m glad Echols has included them.

(ps.  I loathe the covers to this series, but particularly this one, that has Sawyer’s hair color wrong)

For the Record
Charlotte Huang
Chelsea, a ninth place finisher in an American Idol-style show is recruited to be the new lead singer of the already established band Melbourne.  She spends the summer before her senior year of high school on tour.

Things that didn’t work:  All of the characters seemed older than their book ages.  Chelsea struck me as a mature high school graduate (she’s just finished her Junior year), and I don’t understand how the band could have become famous while at the same time spending their last two years of high school at a posh boarding school.   I suspect that the characters were written older, and ratcheted down for a YA audience.  Also, the opening scene is great, containing a make-out session between two characters, but I never felt like it was established why the two were drawn to each other, which becomes important later in the book.  Finally, I think it’s impossible in our celebrity-obsessed culture for someone to appear on a national TV show and not get a lot of positive attention for it at high school.  So I never really bought Chelsea’s loner/uncool status at high school.

Good stuff:  Lots of fun on-tour details.  Really good tension between band members, plus the thorough exploration of how hard it is to join an already established band, plus be the only girl, plus be the youngest.  The friendship between Chelsea and her only friend from high school was nuanced.  The book didn’t follow the conventional romance story, which was refreshing.  It was the kind of book where the details, good and bad, still made me want to be the singer in a rock band.

The Boys Next Door
Jennifer Echols
Lori, a wakeboarding tomboy who lives on a lake, sets her sights on Sean, the middle of the three boys next door.  She’s studied up on the best way to catch a boy by watching a lot of Mtv and investing in a great bikini.  When Sean steals his younger brother Adam’s girlfriend, Lori concocts a plan to win Sean by pretending to be in love with Adam, the boy she’s been friends with forever.

The plot goes exactly where you think it’s going to go, but spending time with Lori and her hairbrained plans is fun.  There’s also lots of good first kiss/first crush stuff and it’s fun to see a female character who is distracted by good looking guys as a teenage boy would be.  Plus: wakeboarding!  I also learned about bryoza, which lives in lakes and freaks Lori out.

Endless Summer
Jennifer Echols
This book suffered a little, having been packaged with its predecessor.  It’s hard to turn the page from the happy ending and launch right into the next novel, especially since this book recycled a lot of the plot from the first one.  It also trades back and forth between Adam and Lori’s point-of-view, which isn’t my favorite way to read books about couples. I think it kills the momentum, because just as you are wondering what the other character is thinking, the chapter turns and you get to hear what the other character is thinking.

Still, it was funny and sweet in places, and the early coupledom stuff is fun to read.

What Light
Jay Asher
Sierra spends every year from Thanksgiving to Christmas on a tree lot in southern California where her family sells trees from their Christmas Tree Farm in Oregon.  She is not interested in pursuing a relationship, due to the fact that her time in the town is brief.  Until, that is, a boy with a dimple stops by to purchase a tree.

Good YA-style conundrums consisting of romance, rumors and remote friendships.

The Passion of Dolssa
Julie Barry
Read for Mock Printz
I think the strength of this book lies in the three sisters’ relationship and I would have preferred the story be pared back to their experience, rather than expanding out to the (many) other voices included.  This is an uncomfortable book, as are all stories of the elimination of populations by institutions of power.  I also really liked the author’s note, and what she had to say about who writes history.

Unfortunately, overall I found this book to be a slog.  The many characters, multiple perspectives and a slow pace contributed to my dislike of this story.

The Female of the Species
Mindy McGinnis
I’ve been enjoying the recent spate of books that examine how we treat girls/young women/women in modern US society.  This is another one for that shelf.  It was an all-engrossing reading experience and a several-days processing experience.   I liked the pairing of attitudes towards females with attitudes towards animals (strays, animals we eat for food).  I have a minor complaint about voices. It wasn’t always clear from reading which narrator was talking.  This book is good fodder for discussion.  I’m especially interested in people’s reaction to Alex’s defense of her friend, as well as the community’s reaction to that defense.  I’m disappointed this didn’t garner a Printz award or honor.

Major Crush
Jennifer Echols
O! The marching band details!  So great!

4 thoughts on “Books read January 2017”

  1. I recently read a book that had a man with long, straight hair on the cover. Neither of the main characters (both male) had long, straight hair. One had straight, short hair; the other had curly hair of never-mentioned length. It bugged me the WHOLE ENTIRE BOOK. Who the hell is the guy on the cover supposed to be?!

    You read lots of Echols this month! You must really like her.

    1. I just discovered her and she was at the perfect reading juncture for that time of year. Namely, it’s freezing cold and Christmas is over and I don’t want to do anything but sit and read this uncomplicated story.

      RE: covers. I feel bad for authors who get stuck with bad covers. You know that the author of your book was similarly annoyed. Unless it was an e-pub and the author chose that cover? If so, what was s/he thinking?

  2. I LOVE HOW MUCH CROSSOVER WE HAVE THIS MONTH! I love it so much I had to yell it! We were chatting and exchanging commentary about all the books! It was Fab-U-Lous! And I say hee hee to that text convo! 🙂

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