Beck by Mal Peet and Meg Rosoff
267 pages / Terrible Meaningless Fiction / 1 out of 5 dim, smog-obscured stars
The main character in this book is a happen-to instead of a happen-because-of character. A good character needs to make decisions that shape the plot. This character just kind of blunders from one interesting situation to the next, but it’s hard to care because he’s just a quiet observer, a passive participant, instead of a moving force in the story. This is the worst book I’ve read all year!
The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill
400 pages / Fantasy / 5 out of 5 stars
Simple yet vivid world building, well-defined characters making decisions that shape the plot, eloquent wording, and a good backstory. The narrative was a little slow, mostly in the middle, but I was willing to overlook the pacing because I enjoyed the overall story and the resolution so much. This is one of the more enjoyable books I’ve read so far this year!
What I read:
The October Country by Ray Bradbury
306 pages / Speculative fiction / 3 out 5 stars
How it starts and How it gets complicated: The October Country is a collection of short stories, so I can’t really describe a central plot, but I can give a little information about some of the stories I enjoyed the most. “The Dwarf” is about a dwarf who returns to a carnival fun-house every night after the crowds have gone home to view himself in a mirror that stretches his image so that he sees himself as a man of average stature. The plot thickens when the carny running the fun-house becomes jealous because of the interest one of his female coworkers has taken in the little man. “The Scythe” is about a man and his family who inherit a farm from a dead stranger. The new owner of the farm begins reaping farms great wheat field only to discover that each stalk of wheat represents a real living person, and he’s been cutting them down indiscriminately. So where is his family in that vast field of wheat? “The Small Assassin” is about a feeling with which all new parents are familiar–“Is this baby trying to kill me?” There are 19 stories in this collection in all that represent some of Ray Bradbury’s earliest published fiction.
What I liked: I always enjoy Ray Bradbury’s writing. I particularly enjoy his mid-century brand of speculative fiction. His stories are simple snapshots of different worlds or otherworldly situations rather than long, drawn-out descriptions of fully developed worlds, which I have never really been a fan of. I love Bradbury’s use of vocabulary. There are plenty of words I don’t already know, but Bradbury is able to write in a way that it is still easy to understand his meaning, even if I don’t know every word.
What I disliked: There were a few stories that I found a little goofy. “There Was an Old Woman” is about an old woman who refuses to die and goes so far as to demand her body back. The story itself was not so bad, but the old woman’s characterization and dialogue irritated me. There were a few other stories that didn’t really grab my attention. That’s why I gave this book a 3 star rating instead of a 4 or 5 star rating.
Recommendation: I would recommend this book to anyone who doesn’t have the patience to read a full novel. A collection of short stories is easy to read without having to stick with a single story for a long time.
Riverkeep by Martin Stewart
416 pages / Crappy fantasy / 1 out 5 stars
I hated this book. I read it because it was written by the same author that wrote The Sacrifice Box. This was his first book and that one is his second. Although I loved The Sacrifice Box, Riverkeep did not share any of it’s winning characteristics. I didn’t like the characters, the story, or the world the author created.
If you are interested in seeing just how bad this book was, however, we do have a copy in the school library. Who knows? Maybe you’ll like it anyway.