Book Review: This is What Happy Looks Like

Jennifer E. Smith's teen fiction This is What Happy Looks Like | book review by @SheilaRCraigThis Is What Happy Looks LikeThis Is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith by Jennifer E. Smith.

Last week I mentioned that some of the hardest sorts of books to review for me are the 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 star ones. They aren’t so great that I can’t wait to share about them, and they aren’t so bad that I can’t wait to share why I didn’t like it in hopes of saving someone else some reading time.

And just like last week’s meh book, Smith’s book is right in that range, so forgive me if the review lacks enthusiasm. I lack enthusiasm for the book.

Things I enjoyed about the book:
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Book Review: Out of the Easy

Out of the EasyOut of The EasyOut of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys by Ruta Sepetys.

There was a point towards the end of reading Out of the Easy where I had to put the book aside – I was so invested in the main character and liked her so much, that I was nervous/scared for her and what was possibly happening to her.

That’s always a good sign that a book has pulled me into its world. Eventually I couldn’t avoid the unknown any longer and finished the book, and was left wishing for more. Not in a “the book needed more” way, but in a “where is the sequel” way. I’d love to find out the rest of Josie’s story, and what happens to her next.

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Book Review: Code Name Verity

Code Name VerityCode Name VerityCode Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein by Elizabeth Wein.

Wein’s book should have been one I’d love – the story is told via journal entries, and it’s set in World War II, both elements that I loved in the book A Brief History of Montmaray. It’s received lots of glowing reviews, and the story-telling is compelling.

I was still frustrated by it and ultimately disappointed in it. Verity’s voice is so strong and appealing in many ways, but so not at all believable for the era and setting. She’s absurdly flippant and her supposed confession is ridiculous.

Maybe I’ve simply read too many nonfiction accounts of events in World War II to appreciate this one that wants to set itself up as could-have-happened, but gets so much wrong. The author explains her research at the end, and claims some of the supposedly unbelievable things really did happen. Unfortunately, none of what she thought of as so remarkable surprised me, and those weren’t the details I questioned (thinking of specifics like females in service and flying).

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Book Review: A Brief History of Montmaray

A Brief History of MontmarayA Brief History of MontmarayA Brief History of Montmaray (The Montmaray Journals, Book 1) by Michelle Cooper by Michelle Cooper

If there’s a true term for this sort of historical fiction, I don’t know what it is. Imaginative history perhaps? What I mean is, it’s not fantasy, because it’s set in a real time and sort-of place: Europe, 1937. What’s made-up is the specific location. There is no island kingdom of Montmaray, so that is all fiction. If you want your historical fiction to be grounded in completely real times and places, this book isn’t for you.

I’m not that picky. Historical fiction is, well, fiction, and so setting something in an invented kingdom doesn’t bother me any more than setting it in an invented town. I do understand why it would bother some readers, but if you can just accept that as an element of this world, then you’re good to go for the book.

The book is told through the main character’s journal entries, and it works well. Her voice is appealing, and her maturation over the course of the book is well-done and believable.

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Book Review: This Dark Endeavour

This Dark EndeavourThis Dark Endeavor: The Apprenticeship of Victor FrankensteinBook Review: This Dark Endeavor by Kenneth Oppel

There are very few genres which I give a blanket “no, I don’t read that” response. Horror is one such genre. I don’t like it, and I don’t like how it lingers in my brain.

So what was I doing even trying the first of Oppel’s pair of prequels to Frankenstein?? Amy recommended it. I thought that “prequel” would mean just backstory and wouldn’t involve anything too gruesome, plus the suggested age range I found for it said 12 and up. I can handle that, right?

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Trickster’s Choice and Trickster’s Queen by Tamora Pierce

Trickster's ChoiceTrickster’s ChoiceBook Review: Trickster's Choice and Trickster’s QueenBook Review: Trickster's Queen by Tamora Pierce

Reviewing them together because if you read and like the first, you’ll want to read the second. And you’ll enjoy the second a lot more if you’ve read the first.

I’m a big fan of Tamora Pierce’s fantasy sagas, and she didn’t disappoint in this pair. If you’ve never read her Song of the Lioness quartetTamora Pierce Song of the Lioness quartet, the Trickster’s books are sequels to those. It’s not essential that you read the other series first, but these do end up spoiling some events from the first series if that’s an issue for you.

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Book Review: When You Reach Me

When You Reach MeWhen You Reach MeBook Review: When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

I picked up When You Reach MeBook Review: When You Reach Me because I’m trying to get caught up on all the Newbery winners and nominees, and it won for 2010. The start felt somewhat slow, and it had a much more deliberate pace than some of the other children’s/young adult books I’ve read lately.

That’s not a criticism, simply a comment. If you’ve gotten used to the rush-rush-action pace of a lot of kid lit lately, it feels slower and quieter. Once you get used to the pacing, it’s a lovely book, with engaging characters and thought-provoking themes and ideas.

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Book Review: Like Moonlight at Low Tide

Like Moonlight at Low Tide Like Moonlight at Low Tide: Sometimes the Current Is the Only Thing that Saves You by Nicole Quigley

I’m not entirely sure how to fairly review Quigley’s book. Missy, the main character, is compelling and I really cared about her. Her depictions of life in Florida rang true for me (I grew up there, although not in an island community as Missy does). Some aspects of the story felt incomplete, and Missy frustrated me at times with some of her decisions and actions. Were those really issues with the book, or were they merely issues for me because of my emotions when reading it?

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What I’m Looking Forward to Reading in 2013

This doesn’t just include books to be published in 2013. My list includes books that I’m waiting on the library holds list because they’re still fairly new and popular. It also includes books that are new to me. And it also includes books that I simply haven’t gotten to, because my to be read list is out of control, but I am very excited to finally have a chance to read them.

So, in random order, my most anticipated books to read in 2013:

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Favorite Children’s Historical Fiction Books

Favorite Young Adult or Children's Historical Fiction books The Linden Tree by Ellie MathewsThe Linden TreeFavorite Young Adult or Children's Historical Fiction books The Linden Tree by Ellie Mathews by Ellie Mathews

Set in the 1940s on a rural farm, I loved this gentle story of 11-year old Katy Sue as she struggles to adapt to life after her mother’s death. There is an understandable undercurrent of sadness and grief (how could there not be with the setup for the story), but it’s handled delicately and the family’s healing is believable.

The characters are likeable and while the ending is predictable, I didn’t mind the way Mathews handled matters. I keep looking to see if Mathews has written another children’s book because I enjoyed this one so much, but so far this is the only one.

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