Curse of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutz (4 stars)
This series is quickly becoming a favorite of mine, particularly when I want something that I can move through in just a couple of days, dipping in and out of in little bits and pieces without losing the threads of the story. Izzy and the rest of the Spellmans are dysfunctional, but in a harmless way, not in a heavy or dark way -- and that makes a difference. Great voice here, although I had a little issue with the organization on this one (I thought all the rehashing of events from the first book was way too heavy-handed). Just an enjoyable read without doubt.
Beautiful Days by Anna Godbersen (2 stars)
Pretty much the same as book #1 in the series -- lots of time spent describing the outfits and the settings, but very little time spent developing the characters beyond the expected stereotype.
The Piper's Son by Melina Marchetta (5 stars)
I just can't be unbiased when it comes to a Marchetta novel. What I love is how she just brings you into the lives of her characters so completely, and you end up just rooting for them. I particularly loved how this novel really tackled the more "adult" end of the YA spectrum. Marchetta's characters are so compelling, so real, and Marchetta again gives us a story full of heartbreak and hope -- a combination she is particularly adept at.
The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin (3 stars)
I'm of two minds about this book. The first half of the story is really mostly romance, and I'm just annoyed by a number of things about it: Mara and Noah seem like just another version of Edward and Bella, and I get so tired of female characters that are so down on themselves all the time and of male characters that are just out-of-this-world amazing. However, Noah's amazingness was a good way to show off Hodkin's writing chops; the passages between Mara and Noah have some of the best writing in the book, and there were some turns-of-phrase that took my breath. I think, though, that Hodkin could work on improving the writing elsewhere, since Mara's thoughts ramble TOO much, and some of the descriptions just feel jumbled and incomplete.
I really enjoyed the second half of the book, and I can't really talk about it too much without giving a lot away -- but let's just say that there's a lot of potential with this particular character development. I just hope Hodkin can deliver and not get bogged down too much in the romance; I think there needs to be a careful balance between the two. And the plot twist at the end? Totally saw it coming but that's okay. I had plans to read #2 to see what happens as these characters "evolve" anyway.
Summer Morning Summer Night by Ray Bradbury (5 stars)
It's Bradbury -- there's no way I can be objective. Perfect for summer reading, savoring little bits of Green Town like sips of cool lemonade.
Discord's Apple by Carrie Vaughn (2 stars)
There's a lot of promise to the original concept here but it quickly turns into a hot jumbled mess with too many plotlines and overlapping stories, subpar writing, and little character development.
Tessa Masterson Will Go To Prom by Brendan Halpin and Emily Franklin (3 stars)
I loved what this book was about -- even though it ended up not completely being about what I thought it was going to be about. It's written from alternating perspectives, and I think Halpern's character Luke had the stronger chapters. There was just something about Franklin's writing and Tessa's character that didn't click with me. Tessa came more to life through Luke's description of her than she did through her own thoughts and actions.
In the end, although it still is the story of Tessa's struggle to just be her own person and enjoy prom like any other teenager, regardless of her sexual orientation, the book really ended up being more about how Tessa's best friend deals with this entire situation -- and that's what I really liked. There have been lots and lots of coming out stories, and while this one was timely in a "ripped-from-the-headlines" sense regarding the prom issue, the coming out part didn't really cover new ground. But Luke's struggles were realistic and didn't feel like something I'd read so many times before.
Beauty Queens by Libba Bray (3 stars)
I'm really torn on this one. One the one hand, I really enjoy Libba Bray's sense of humor and intelligence -- and that just shines through. I follow her on Twitter, and she's got just the right combination of snark and seriousness; her comments are intended to carry a little bite, but they are also insightful and honest. I like that about her, and it really comes through in her writing, particularly when she's creating a satire, which is what Beauty Queens so obviously is. This book has more than a touch of reality TV to it, and it's perhaps the limitations of that genre itself that limit the book; there were lots of places where the pacing felt odd, or where some details were just glossed over and others really drawn out, and I couldn't see the point. But sometimes, as others have noted, it seemed as though the satire was just too much -- cleverness for the sake of being clever. I was willing to suspend belief to an extent, but sometimes this pushed it. In the end, this just ended up being okay, which really disappointed me, because I think Libba Bray is a talented writer.
Welcome to Bordertown edited by Holly Black and Ellen Kushner (4 stars)
Nicely balanced -- a good mix of new and old Bordertown authors. Some of the poetry was weak, but that was rounded out by some really fantastic short stories. It's always nice to see an author still play to their own strengths and interests within the shared world of the Bordertown series, and that's what the best stories did here (McKillip, Hopkinson, Barzak, Pratt). Plus, any chance to get back to Bordertown is a chance I'll take.
The Rook by Daniel O'Malley (5 stars)
I thoroughly enjoyed this -- Myfanwy made me laugh out loud multiple times, and the plot was exciting and suspenseful. I didn't mind the "info dumps" at all, because I was completely intrigued by this agency and wanted to know as much about them as I could. I'm really hoping this is a series, because I'm definitely looking forward to more.
Bright Young Things by Anna Godbersen (2 stars)
This was just okay. If as much attention had been given to the characters as was given to the setting, then it might've been better. Then again, with descriptions like "Her eyes looked like two blue planets in the pale oval of her face," maybe not.
Entwined by Heather Dixon (4 stars)
I really enjoyed this retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses. I thought the romance was well-done, the relationships between the various girls and their father was interesting to watch progress, and the magic made sense. The writing was really lovely in places, and I just found myself completely caught up in this. It's different enough from the original to make me feel like I'm not reading something I've already read, but it still retains that fairytale feeling.