What I’m Reading

To encourage discussion, and to keep track of this year’s reading pursuits, I’ll post periodically about what I’ve been reading lately. I’ll write a bit about what I thought of each work; please share your thoughts, too!

So far in January, I’ve read (and not reviewed)…

“Mortal Engines” and “Predator’s Gold” by Philip Reeve: The story and characters didn’t grab me until about 100 pages into “Mortal Engines,” but once they did, they didn’t let go. I have “Infernal Devices” at home, begging to be read. I was a little alarmed by the body count, but in the fierce and unforgiving world that Reeve has built, the risks of being human are innumerable. I was also impressed that the female protagonist is capable, chock full o’ agency, and not a conventional beauty. Hand this page-turner of a steampunk series to fans of Scott Westerfeld’s “Leviathan.”

“Tantalize” by Cynthia Leitich Smith: “Hope Was Here” meets “Twilight” in Austin, Texas. The plot takes a while to get its legs under it, and once it does, it’s still not in any hurry. If I had to sum this book up in one word, it would be “uneven.” Quincie is worldly and naive; Ruby is a flaky vamp wannabe and terrifyingly savvy. Some things, like the menu items at Sanguini’s, are approached with close attention to sensory detail. Other things, like action scenes, happen in a confusing and distant haze. Also, I was uncomfortable with the constant theme of adults keeping the underage Quincie inebriated. Teens may read it differently, but as an adult, it gave me a case of the yucks. Fans of “Blood and Chocolate” and “Twilight” might want to check this out.

“Living Dead Girl” by Elizabeth Scott: Crushingly sad. Scott does a pitch-perfect job here, and she leaves the reader feeling as broken and hollow as Alice. Her descriptions of hunger are particularly heart-wrenching and spot-on. Ray might be the villain-est villain in all of YA lit. Readers who thought Norma Fox Mazer’s “The Missing Girl” was too uplifting will love this book.

“When You Reach Me” by Rebecca Stead: This book is shelved in the Children’s Department at our library, so it slipped under my radar until now. It is beautiful. It is subtle. It is funny. It is sob-inducing. It handles ethnicity well, though I can’t say that I was a fan of Stead’s perpetuation of the “describe the skin of people of color in terms of food” cliche. As novelist Tayari Jones taught our Intermediate Fiction class, “No more edible black people!” Aside from that gripe, however, this book is stunning. Fans of “A Wrinkle In Time,” “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,” or “The Time Traveler’s Wife” will want to read it, although its appeal transcends a sci-fi audience.

“Scarlet and the White Wolf” by Kirby Crow: Kirby Crow needs an editor. She can create vibrant, believable fantasy worlds, and her characters are whole and sympathetic, but somebody somewhere told her that beta-ing her work on LiveJournal was equivalent to hiring a proper editor. That somebody lied. Also, the age gap between Romantic Lead #1 and Romantic Lead #2 reminded me of the one between Bella and Edward: I’m not sure why it doesn’t come off as creepy. Elizabeth A. Lynn fans and yaoi readers might want to give this book a try.

Did you read any of these titles? What did you think? I look forward to hearing from you!


6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Ari
    Jan 14, 2010 @ 19:46:27

    I agree that in Tantalize the fact that adults were constantly giving her alchol was a bit creepy. I haven’t read anything else oyu’ve listed here, I don’t think I could handle Living Dead Girl without bursting into tears.


  2. Jessica Neiweem
    Jan 15, 2010 @ 10:05:06

    Hi Ari! “Living Dead Girl” is definitely a tear-jerker. I read it since there was so much debate over what the ending meant that I wanted to look at the evidence and decide for myself. It’s a painful read, but a quick one.


  3. laura
    Jan 15, 2010 @ 11:46:02

    I loved, loved, loved When You Reach Me, and while part of me is sad that more older people won’t find it, since it’s generally in the children’s room, part of me is equally happy about that, because there are kids who need to find that book, too.


  4. Jessica Neiweem
    Jan 15, 2010 @ 13:10:08

    So true, Laura. It’s a tough book to shelve, since the protag is a bit young to interest most readers of YA, but the themes are a bit old for most of the readers in Children’s. Still, YA services staff can suggest it to the readers who wouldn’t find it by serendipity.


  5. Barb
    Jan 16, 2010 @ 20:16:44

    I’ve been on Kirby’s Livejournal friends list for years, and she has never posted any of her original fiction on Livejournal for beta-ing. She (and those of us working toward publication) know that posting something is publishing it. It costs us the sale of first rights.

    Also, remember that not all editors are created equal. ^_^


  6. Jessica Neiweem
    Jan 17, 2010 @ 18:34:26

    Thanks for visiting, Barb! I must have misunderstood the acknowledgements in “Scarlet”; Ms. Crow specifically thanks several LiveJournal friends for their help with critiques, and it is my understanding that the process of submitting one’s work to critiques on LiveJournal is beta-ing. Perhaps the critiques took place elsewhere, and so don’t count as betas? Regardless, thank you for setting me straight.

    Thank you also for the gentle reminder that posting is publishing. I did not mean to imply otherwise.


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