Quick Book Thoughts: Recent Reads

I started January off with a bang! In the first nine days, I read four books. Now, the book I’m reading it taking a bit more focus, attention, and time (all deserved! I’m reading Becoming by Michelle Obama), so my speed is slowing down some, but I thought I should pop in here and tell you some quick thoughts I had about my first four books of 2019:

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

This is the book that caused me to break my rule. (I mean, let’s face it, we know I’m terrible about keeping book-related rules, but I’d done good for a whole…seven-ish months on this one!) Last summer, I read The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton and was obsessed with it. It was stunning and exciting and fantastic…and the first book in a series that I now have to wait an impossibly long time for until book two is published. So I swore – SWORE, I TELL YOU – that I wouldn’t read another series unless I knew all the books had come out already.

And then I read Children of Blood and Bone. Damn it.

(I mean that in a good way.)

This book was absolutely breathtaking. The world-building in it is phenomenal. It’s painful and it’s heart-wrenching, and it’s also hopeful. There’s the perfect blend of action, adventure, and romance, which basically makes it idyllic in the Y.A. world.

And it’s the first book in a trilogy.

And books two and three aren’t out yet.

ARGH.

Choose Your Own Autobiography by Neil Patrick Harris

NPH’s book has sat on my shelf for far longer than I anticipated it would. I bought it basically the instant it was released and then…just…didn’t…read it. No good reason, seeing as I’ve been in love with NPH since the first time I flipped on my grandmother’s TV and heard the opening theme music to Doogie Howser, M.D. But it languished amidst my other memoirs for nearly two years before I finally dusted it off and gave it a go.

Now, I’m going to admit right away that I cheated. I did not read this book the way Neil and his editors intended. I didn’t follow the path suggestions at the bottom of the pages — I just read the book straight through. This is how I discovered…well, things. Let’s just say things. 😉

I do think I missed some of the fun and magic of the book and its form, and I could see re-reading it down the road and actually playing along with the adventure of it all, but I was just so worried about missing something that I could’t commit to the form.

Still, I had fun reading it. And I cried a little when he referred to Alyson Hannigan as “Aunt Alyson” to his twins, Gideon and Harper. I like knowing the cast of a TV show I enjoyed maintain real-world friendships after the cameras stop rolling.

Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon

As I mentioned in my recap, last year I had the pleasure of meeting Nicola Yoon when she was in the closing keynote speaker at the Writer’s Digest conference. During the Q&A portion of her keynote, I asked her why she liked writing Young Adult novels. She said it’s because young people are still open to the questions of the universe…and she likes to write about kissing. I was completely endeared with her response (and her, frankly) and was excited to read both of her novels (I’ve only read the first one thus far).

Everything Everything was everything (ha!) I like in a Y.A. novel. The intensity of first love, the rebellion of adolescence, and the seeming impossibility of figuring it all out…with a good measure of impossible circumstances and obstacles thrown in. I loved the main character, and was thrilled to spend time in her head.

If you’ve read this book (or seen the movie!), you know there’s a pretty big twist at the end which felt…strange, but not entirely unexpected, but I’m also still not sure how I totally feel about it. Part of me wishes that there was more time to devote to it, but part of me knows it’s not actually what the story was about, so… I dunno. If you’ve read it, what did you think?

Pandas on the Eastside by Gabrielle Prendergast

This book also came into my life courtesy of the #WDNWC18. I attended a panel on writing for Middle Grade and Young Adult audiences, and Gabrielle Prendergast (who also writes/publishes as G.S. Prendergast) was one of the panelists. In fact, after that panel, I went and bought a book by every one of the authors who spoke. Anyway! Pandas on the Eastside is considered a “middle grade” novel, which means it’s geared at the pre-YA-but-definitely-post-early-reader-starting-chapter-books audience. Not to get too specific, or anything.

Pandas on the Eastside follows ten-year-old Journey Song on a fictional “what-if…” about the arrival of the gift of two pandas from China to the United States during the Vietnam War. (The panda part is real – what happens in this book, and to the pandas in this book, is fictional).

As an adult-non-parent, I really enjoyed this book. It was a quick read (again, the writing is aimed at younger elementary-age children) and a very compelling story. As one of the book blurb reviews says, it’s a great “be the change you want to see in the world” moral tale. But, as an adult-non-parent, I’m not sure how a middle grade reader might take to the book, solely because I think the Vietnam War is a bit removed from their consciousness at this point. Granted, I don’t have kids nor do I work with elementary school kids, so I don’t know. Were I guessing, I’d say a pretty precocious 8- or 9-year-old could probably grasp what was going on, but it’d likely resonate a bit more with middle schoolers, and as far as I understand it, most middle schoolers are reading YA and not MG and… I don’t really know. But again, as an adult, I liked it, so I say give it a whirl!