January 22, 2015

Catching Up: Book Blurbs of Fall/Winter, Pt. 1

I've gotten incredibly far behind on my reviewing, so it's that time again: time to cut to the chase and offer quick, no-nonsense book reviews before I completely forget everything about these stories. This past fall was a real bear as far as staying caught up on ANYTHING, so I read a lot of books (for relaxation/escape) but lacked either the time or energy for my reviewing to keep up with my reading. I tried to temper this by reading some adult books here and there, but I nevertheless got very behind, and some of these books date back to about mid-September in terms of when I added them to my Goodreads. Anyway, some quick impressions:

All the Truth That's In Me by Julie Berry. This one held a lot of surprises. From the cover--both artwork and blurb--I had assumed it was a contemporary YA, but it turned out to be a sort of unspecified historical setting (could be anywhere colonial/pioneer-ish). That was my first shock, but it was a positive thing for this story. The tension created by the gritty, bare setting makes narrator Judith's situation all the more horrific as the mystery unfolds. After Judith's return from a two-year abduction, her tongue cut out, her own mother forbids her to expose her shame to their small, judgmental village by speaking. But Judith still has allies as well as enemies, and soon, the twin forces--equally powerful--of love and war force the village to recognize the inevitable changes that are already occurring in their midst. This one held a surprising amount of suspense, along with plenty of redemption to balance the terrible wrongs that pile up in the earlier parts of the story. Quite a powerful book, all in all.

I received my copy of this book courtesy of my library's ebook collection. You can find ALL THE TRUTH THAT'S IN ME by Julie Berry at an online e-tailer, or at a real life, independent bookstore near you!

The Iron Trial (Magisterium, Book 1) by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare. This is one that will surely satisfy and entertain anyone going through Harry Potter withdrawal. Of course, the story is rollicking and fun and much more than simply "Harry Potter American style." It's full of interesting and diverse characters, including narrator Callum Hunt, who has been warned away from magic at all costs by his father. Unfortunately, Call is summoned to take the entrance exams for the magical Magisterium, and despite his attempts to deliberately botch it up, he is admitted as an apprentice to the great (and enigmatic, and sometimes infuriating) Master Rufus. Along with two fellow apprentices, Call is plunged into the fantastical and dangerous underground lair of the magical school, which is peopled with wildly imaginative creatures and intriguing forms of magic that are quite distinct from Harry Potter. Master Rufus tasks them with seemingly endless zen-monk-like challenges to hone their magical skill, which of course makes his students desperately impatient and drives them out to explore on their own--and get into trouble. I don't read a ton of middle grade fiction, but this was a wonderful first book in a new series, and I'm eager to read more.

I received my copy of this book courtesy of my library's ebook collection. You can find THE IRON TRIAL by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare at an online e-tailer, or at a real life, independent bookstore near you!

Lemonade Mouth by Mark Peter Hughes. This was another surprise title for me, and a fun, funny take on the whole "Battle of the Bands" idea. The band Lemonade Mouth forms, Breakfast-Club style, in detention, when five completely unlikely bandmates are stuck together and end up in an impromptu jam-out with a radio commercial. When supervising teacher Mrs. Reznik (who is, in fact, the music teacher) encourages them to actually meet up and try playing some music, at first it seems like a ridiculous, horrible, doomed plan. Five losers? New kid, nerd, social outcast, fat guy, daughter of a convict? Until they decide to have a little fun, and they end up becoming the voice for all the misfits of the school. Music just might change their lives for the better...but can they challenge Mudslide Crush, the school's current most popular student band? And can they succeed in bringing back the basement lemonade machine? There's a wonderful combination of the ludicrous and serious in this book, and that rings true. The story is told from the alternating viewpoints of each of the five characters, and each one is a unique individual with a fascinating backstory who brings something different and entirely themselves to the band. I didn't realize until partway through this book that the Disney Channel made a movie out of this one, and I still haven't seen the movie, but I can see why it was chosen--it has that heartwarming/funny/caper/success-against-impossible-odds feel, and has fun with many of the tropes of teen movies without taking itself too seriously--yet the characters, again, are three-dimensional and feel real. This ended up being one of those "gee, I wish I'd written that" titles.

I received my copy of this book courtesy of my library's ebook collection. You can find LEMONADE MOUTH by Mark Peter Hughes at an online e-tailer, or at a real life, independent bookstore near you!


tanita✿davis said...

I enjoyed The Iron Trial as well, and felt that the authors have something worth pursuing here. A lot of harsh criticism has been leveled against them because the book reminded people of Potterdom, but honestly, is every novel containing magic, a school, and children going to be tagged with that and forthwith prohibited? This is a good book and has such nicely original content, AS WELL AS the familiar things that we get starry-eyed over.

Sarah Stevenson said...

Ditto on all that. The characters and writing style were distinct, and the resemblances superficial. It unfortunately suffered from being lumped in with a rather populous category...But this one was so well done. Two veteran authors whose work I enjoy, so I figured I couldn't lose!

Gail Gauthier said...

I liked "All The Truth That's In Me," too. Haven't read the others.

Sarah Stevenson said...

These were all fun library surprises, which is one of my favorite ways to discover new books. :)