Tag Archives: reading

Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King

Word Lily review

Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King (Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2010), 336 pages

please ignore vera dietzSummary
Her best friend, the boy next door, the guy she loved — *he* died. But maybe even worse, the friendship/relationship ended before he died. The title character goes through life, most days in a haze of grief, getting through her senior year of high school, working at the pizza place, and dealing with her dad. Mostly trying to avoid her destiny (of becoming her mom).

Just a touch of mystery pervades this book for most of its breadth. But for the most part it’s the story of how a girl deals with the grief and regret of losing her best friend.

It’s really readable. Good, but tragic, sad. I feel like it says good stuff about life, but maybe I was reading too fast to catch it? Maybe just too tired or racing through it too fast. I mean the underlying meaning stuff.

It reads a bit like Sara Zarr’s How to Save a Life. Except a bit more shallow. Which sounds bad, but I don’t mean it as an insult, exactly. It’s a little angry and rough. Vera is very real, in that she’s wounded, she makes mistakes.

Please Ignore Vera Dietz reads quickly. I liked how her history with Charlie is played out in History chapters, and how brief words from Charlie and her father are interspersed with the main, current-day, chronological text. My favorite aspect might well be how it dealt with the question of nature vs. nurture, or how one can avoid the path he/she is generally expected to walk in.

This was my first King, but I don’t intend for it to be my last. One of those hot YA authors I’m glad to have tried.

Please Ignore Vera Dietz is a Printz Honor book.

Rating: 3.5 stars

Other reviews
Book Addiction
The Englishist
Jenn’s Bookshelves
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Lilith by George MacDonald

lilithOnce upon a time, several years ago, when Amy and I made lists of books for ourselves and each other to read, there was one joint read on that list. Finally, at the end of 2012, we read it! That book? Lilith by George MacDonald (1895).

I think part of my motivation to read it stemmed from Hutchmoot that year, either the assigned reading leading up to it or something stated at the actual event. I read a couple other MacDonald books, and I quite liked them. (Phantastes (which I never got around to reviewing, but I took copious notes about) and At the Back of the North Wind)

My expectations going into this book were pretty high, I think, which ended up being a problem (as it so often is).

I found some bright spots in this story. The beginning was good, it started off well and my excitement continued to rise.

Several vignettes I quite liked. But as a whole, I didn’t really love it. For a very short book (236 pages in this edition), it took me nearly two weeks to get through, if I remember correctly.

I liked how MacDonald took the concept of growth (spiritual, emotional, whatever) and made it physically visible. That was kinda neat. But such a small piece of the story, it seemed. And there’s this dangerous area of the world/landscape that, at night, is filled with dangerous monsters, but certain characters simply *had* safe passage because of some aspect of their character, while others acted as a shield to a group. It was a really beautiful image, I thought, how that was worked out.

Now the not-so-good stuff. I really feel like the tagline :: A Romance is realllllllly misleading. I mean, there is a romance, and a Romance, I guess, but.

It read partly as allegory, but as soon as I decided what various characters were, it would totally fall apart. I never really felt like I understood fully what was going on. Some things I never figured out at all. This was a big one.

I seem to have such trouble finding nice (as in, not horribly done) versions of old books like this. Maybe I should just decide that just because there are cheap editions of books like this, doesn’t mean I should buy those ones. This edition wasn’t horrible, but I do think it detracted from my personal potential enjoyment of the story.

Lots of people love this book, but I wasn’t one of them. Maybe from now on I’ll stick to MacDonald’s works for young readers.

Here’s My Friend Amy’s post about Lilith.

Have you read it, or any of MacDonald’s work? What did you think?

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DNFing: A conversation

Word Lily thoughtsFor the past few years as part of my goal planning as it relates to books and reading, I’ve endeavored to abandon more books. My TBR shelves are heavy laden, there are just too many excellent books out there (or even in my own house!) to spend my time reading dreck. Or even just books I’m not enjoying or gaining valuable knowledge from.

I haven’t exactly succeeded, though. I start the year off mindful to my commitment but then somehow as the year progresses, I just don’t abandon any books. Well. Not *none*. In 2011 I set aside two books. In 2012 I abandoned one, according to my records. And while I am generally pleased with all that I read — especially last year — I become more convinced every year that I really should be walking away from more books. I don’t pick my reads perfectly (Who does? I want that skill!). My reading time has diminished.

And the answer to the question you’re asking yourself: I did just abandon a book. It’s so incredibly hard for me to walk away from a book, though! It’s a fine book, I know lots of people love it, but it’s slow-going, I just wasn’t looking forward to getting back to it, and I had other titles loudly calling my name. Right now I’m trying to convince myself that it’s OK to rid my shelves of this volume, that I won’t have a drastically better reading experience in a few months or a year. The book: The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop: A Memoir, a History by Lewis Buzbee.

Do you abandon books? What guidelines do you use to determine when a DNF [did not finish] is in order? Compared to how many books you complete, what percentage of your reads are abandoned? When you set a book down, is it relatively simple or hard to get rid of it, or do you keep it around, thinking next time might be different?

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Too Far to Say Far Enough by Nancy Rue

Word Lily review

Too Far to Say Far Enough by Nancy Rue, book 3 in The Reluctant Prophet series (October 1, 2012, David C. Cook), 512 pages

too far to say far enough

Allison picks up right where she left off, taking care of orphans and women in trouble, along with her unexpected but strong band of helpers who have all felt some form of a Nudge from God to do so.

It took me a little while to remember who everyone was and where we’d left everything when I first picked up Too Far to Say Enough, this third book in a series (trilogy?). I’ve loved this series from the very beginning, and this book is no exception.

I loved the surprises, the twists and turns, and how broken and human and real the characters are. No one is a type.

I loved how things were allowed to come almost full circle in some respects with this story but still not everything was neatly wrapped up. It had a couple of the super-happy, much longed-for moments the series has led up to, also, which is excellent.

But this one seemed a little more two-dimensional to me, somehow. Maybe I’d just gotten to know the characters well enough that it wasn’t as surprising or shocking? Or maybe it’s just part of the story/series reaching its logical end.

Still, these are excellent, well-written books and I’d recommend them to almost anyone. I’m saddened by how poorly they’ve sold, apparently. Why are so many of the best books not appreciated until too late? (Just like: Why are so many of the greatest TV shows cancelled before they can even get to the best parts?) I’m afraid, in this case, that the reason they haven’t sold all that well is that the target audience doesn’t want to be challenged to step out of their pew, doesn’t want to be made to feel uncomfortable or encouraged to really think things through (that working-out-of-their-faith thing, especially).

Rating: 4.5 stars

Here’s my review of book 2, Unexpected Dismounts, but I urge you to start the series with book 1, The Reluctant Prophet.

About the author
Nancy Rue has written tons of books. I love her blog, The Nudge.

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Lightning blogging

I saw the ladies at Mason-Dixon Knitting start the year with 15-minute-limited blog posts. I thought that I might actually be able to scrape together 15 minutes, and mused that even small posts of this sort might be an improvement over the not-posting I’ve been accomplishing lately, so here goes.

inspys logo

It’s the last day to nominate a book (one per category) for the INSPYs! Don’t let this opportunity pass you by. If you’re not aware, the @INSPYs are book awards that seek to award novels of great quality that have something to say about or that explore the Christian faith (whether from Christian publishers or not).

On the reading front, I’m gearing up for all my reading all the time to be INSPYs nominations for quite awhile. But in the meantime, I’ve just finished my 3rd book of the year (need to update the list here on the blog). Said list is at least as far up-to-date as through the end of last year: Books Read list.

On the knitting front, I’ve finished a couple quick-ish pieces (need to get them in the mail!) and have cast on for one major simple-knitting long-term piece. I’m thinking I might need to find something a little more challenging (not rocket science, but not miles of stockinette) as well.

I’m still thinking about my birthday (party), but I haven’t found a satisfying solution for the early days of February. The weather is too cold and unpredictable, there are potential scheduling conflicts out the wazoo, and the party wouldn’t be any fun without the right people there. Hrm. I’ve always loved February, mostly because it’s my birthday month, but I’m really stuck on this at this point. Anyone got ideas for me?

At some point I hope to get around to catching you all up with what I’ve been reading and what I’ve been making. I’ve got notes jotted and drafts started and photos saved (including an update on the babe). One substantive, overdue post actually started. Actual reviews might be a pipe dream, though.

And, apparently, 15 minutes is plenty of time for me to craft a blog post of this nature, at least when my brain is so completely full of random topics to toss out there. What say you of the 15-minute blogging? So far, I’m cautiously optimistic that the constraint will allow me to actually post instead of just think about posting. The real test will be when it comes to actual meaty(er) content, though, not silliness like this.

I’ve also wanted to post a goal-list of some sort, for the new year, but I haven’t even started thinking about that yet. I could, potentially, look back at my goals for 2012 and see how I did, though?

Time’s up!

First snow and leaps

We had the first significant snow of the year yesterday. It was so much fun to take Asa out in it! Sorry, no pics. We were kind of in a hurry.

I finally bought The Wonder Weeks last night, and then proceeded to read the beginning part and the chapter on the developmental leap we’re now entering (Leap number 6, Wonder Week 37). Asa will be 31 weeks on Saturday, but these leaps are calculated based on gestational age, so he’s 33.5 weeks now, which is when the fussy period for this leap usually starts. We’re right on schedule, except we’ve apparently missed the sunny period beforehand, which usually comes *after* they realize mom can leave them. We’re still not quite over this yet, I don’t think. Maybe this realization is tied more to actual age rather than gestational age? If so, that would explain the overlap of the two for us.

I’ve heard such good things about this book, how it’s helped moms understand and thus deal with the fussy phases that precede / accompany these leaps in neurological function, so I hope it helps us, too. It’s so hard to watch him struggle! So far, the book seems to have described my experience perfectly; I really hope that understanding will translate into a smoother transition for him and a less stressed-out mama. (Maybe I need to read that chapter again, while he’s still down for his nap …)

It’s so much fun to watch new skills emerge! I wonder which ones he’ll pursue first this time. 😀

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In the Woods by Tana French

Word Lily review

In the Woods by Tana French (Viking Penguin, 2007), 429 pages

In a small outlying Dublin neighborhood, three children hop the stone fence into their favorite woods. But then they don’t come home for tea, and they don’t come when their mothers call. Much later, police find only one of the tweens, terrified and with a complete block as to what filled the missing hours. Years later, that found boy is a detective on the Murder Squad. He’s changed his name and left the past buried. But when he and partner Cassie Maddox investigate the murder of a 12-year-old girl in those same woods, well, things get interesting.

I’d heard so many good things about this, I knew I wanted — needed, even? — to read it. I’m glad I finally got around to picking it off the shelf. The writing is superbly beautiful and filled with nuggets like this will still being accessible and readable.

The characters are definitely flawed, just the way I like them. Even when they disappoint me.

Haunting is a good word for In the Woods. Not that it scared me, but that it stayed with me in a somewhat uncomfortable way. It’s interesting to read the blurbs on the back cover, some call it a “hard-boiled police procedural” and others label it “psychological suspense.” Of course these aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive, but it does kind of show, I think, the limits of labels.

I think I might finally understand all the people who say they love sad books. Well. I’m not saying I love sad books to the extent that I’m going to seek them out, but this book is sad, and I [still] love it.

I was spoiled, I knew before I got to the end that it wasn’t all wrapped up neatly. But I don’t think it would have bothered me like it did some people, even if I hadn’t known. I should have suspected, anyway. I’m OK with ambiguity. The sadness was harder for me than the lack of closure.

In the Woods won an Edgar Award for best first novel.

Rating: 4.5 stars

I look forward to reading more from French. I’ll probably start with the follow-up to this one, The Likeness

About the author
Tana French grew up in Ireland, Italy, the US and Malawi, and has lived in Dublin since 1990. She trained as a professional actress at Trinity College, Dublin, and has worked in theater, film and voiceover.

Other reviews
Caribou’s Mom
Reading Matters
You’ve GOTTA Read This
Book Journey
Fyrefly Books
Farm Lane Books
Presenting Lenore
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Ten Rules for Living with My Sister by Ann M. Martin

Word Lily review

Ten Rules for Living with My Sister by Ann M. Martin (Feiwel & Friends, 2011), 240 pages

Pearl feels like the very uncool little sister, especially compared to the great life Lexie (eighth grade) has — with a boyfriend, tons of friends, great grades — while Pearl’s only boyfriend is the cat, Bitey (the name’s not ironic), and she doesn’t even have her own key to the apartment.

I picked this up because it’s by the Ann M. Martin, the author of the Baby-Sitters’ Club books, and I’d just had a conversation about reading those books and was feeling nostalgic. It also didn’t hurt that I knew it would be a quick read! 🙂

This was a fun story about starting to know yourself and growing up, grasping some self-control. I felt for the character, who was moved ahead in school based on academic testing but perhaps before she was ready for it socially.

The “hand-drawn” lists and charts are a definite plus.

It’s been a bit since I read a middle grade book, but this one felt like it skewed a bit younger than most/some. The protagonist is (just barely) 9 years old.

Rating: 3 stars

Other reviews
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