Book Review: The Hazel Wood

The Hazel Wood (The Hazel Wood, #1)The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“Life never turns out how you imagine it will when you’re young. Everything is smaller than you think, or too big. It all smells a little funny and fits like somebody else’s shirt.”

I received this book as a part of my Owlcrate subscription and at first, it didn’t really seem to be my cup of tea. I generally like fantasy, but YA fantasy tends to be a little … too much for me. I considered just shelving this in my classroom and calling it a day.

Man, am I glad I didn’t.

First of all, Melissa Albert’s prose is enchanting. Her style grabbed me and wrapped me in a giant fluffy body pillow. I had thought that book might be pure fluff, but when Alice starts off the book by talking about her near-kidnapping, I knew this would be more of the darker side of fantasy, and when Twice-Killed Katherine appeared, I knew that this was the book for me.

I had just finished reading Get in Trouble, and this was the perfect YA follow-up to Link’s dark magic realism, with Albert adding a little bit more magic to the realism. I wanted more of the Hinterland, and when I discovered it was a series, I was very excited. I cannot wait to read the rest!

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Book Review: Scythe

Scythe (Arc of a Scythe, #1)Scythe by Neal Shusterman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I picked up this book primarily because the art on it is simply amazing. I know this book has been popular with the YA crowd, but I didn’t pick it up until it was on my school’s list for Battle of the Books.
The synopsis had me rolling my eyes a little bit – teenagers acting as death? I wasn’t so sure about it. I read it anyway. After the first couple of chapters, I still wasn’t quite convinced. It seems as though there would be a better way of controlling a population boom than government (or Thunderhead, as it may be) condoned murder.
However, this book did end up better than I anticipated. I still have problems with the premise – I have questions about how exactly the population is staying under control if the Scythes are not murdering people every second.
I did feel as though Rowan and Citra were fully realized characters, and I appreciated the twists and turns of the story. However, I am not entirely sure I was sold enough to read the rest of the series.

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An Optimist Deals with Death

I’ve been a positive person my entire life – not because I believe that everything will work out in the end, or that “things happen for a reason,” but because in this short life, there is, in my purview, no reason to go through it sad. I enjoy moments, find joy in them, save them for another time when I need them. I am Billy Pilgrim, returning to a sun-soaked snooze in a wheelbarrow during my time of strife.

But there are times when it seems like all the positive attitude I can muster is not enough to battle the very real monsters knocking on my door. Yesterday, four hours from my home, my work, my school, another angry, violent white male decided that it was his right to take the lives of seventeen others.

Yesterday was Valentine’s Day. I watched as young boys struggled to hoist teddy bears taller than themselves through the gates of the parking lot, hoping to catch their girlfriends (how long has it been? a week, a month, a year? All an eternity to them) before they get to class so they don’t have to carry it around all day. Girls decked out in pinks and reds, and even I got into the spirit, donning a cream dress embroidered with red hearts.

When I got home, my husband and daughter greeted me with love, arms outstretched to welcome me home after a cheerful day of happy students, happy teachers, happy classrooms.

Then the news came. Instead of students walking home with outlandish Valentine’s gifts, I imagined abandoned stuffed animals strewn across classroom floors, left behind after the SWAT teams evacuated their would-be recipients. Balloons tied to lockers meant as a celebration of life and love, now macabre markers, alerting authorities as to where they should be looking for the bodies.

It’s hard to be an optimist on a normal day. On a day like this, it’s impossible – I know that nothing will come of this. In a year there will be a memorial. A pro-gun control group will remind us what happened, but others will have forgotten. But it will happen again, because nothing will be done to stop it.

As I watch my students come through my doors today, they will know that I love them, that I see them, that they matter to me. I will find joy in them, in my work. I will find joy with my family, with my home. But I will not be optimistic for a future that I cannot believe in.

Book Review: A Constellation of Vital Phenomena

9780385363563A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

So let’s get this out of the way. One of the worst lines I have ever read in a novel resides in this book. It is:
“Akhmed’s head hummed with the shock of how not shocked he was.”

Yep. That’s there.

Thankfully, that was the outlier. The story of this book started like a slow boil, and became so enchanting that by the end, I couldn’t wait to read it. I still can’t think of those last few pages without crying, and I’m still affected by it a week later.

Best dollar store purchase yet.

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Book Review – Ship Breaker

ShipBreakerPaoloBacigalupiShip Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is my third Bacigalupi novel and so far they all follow the same pattern. Male protagonist lives in a not too distant future where everything has gone to shit (lack of water, genetic modifications, climate change) and works at some unusual post-apocalyptic job (water knife, whatever the dude from windup girl did, ship breaker) and falls in love with a mysterious girl from a different social class (poor desert girl, wind up girl, swank) and must decide if he should leave the world he knows out of love of this girl.
And the title is the job of one of the main characters.

There, now you don’t have to read any of them.

Just kidding, I loved “The Water Knife.”

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Book Review – The Life and Death of Sophie Stark by Anna North
















The Life and Death of Sophie Stark by Anna North

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Man. This one got me. There were a couple times where a sentence was just so good I had to put the book down because I thought, “well, it’s not going to get any better than that.” But then it did.

This book talks around and about the titular Sophie Stark, and she is a bit of a mystery. The strength of this novel is the treatment of grief, the stories that the people we know tell when we are gone. How what we do stays with them, and what parts of us they remember.

Sophie is manipulative, but she is also manipulated by the people in her life. She is by no means faultless character through most of the story, though she is someone we can sympathize with.

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Book Review – Walkaway by Cory Doctorow


Walkaway by Cory Doctorow

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Sometimes I feel like Cory Doctorow is too clever for his own good. Some of the references in here were a bit too much, particularly when he made the reference a couple times and THEN felt the need to explain it, though his target audience probably knows exactly what he’s talking about.

There are some concepts in here that appear in his other works, like deadheading, singularities, and of course, anarcho-communist ideas, but overall, there was just WAY TOO MUCH world building in here for me. I wanted the story, and Gretyl and Iceweasel’s story was far more entertaining than all the lead up about the walkaways. The last 2 sections of the book were the best for me personally.

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