Does My Head Look Big In This?

This is a frequently funny, occasionally poignant story about an Arab-Australian teenager who decides she’s going to start wearing the hijab full-time (including to her private school.)  It dives right into serious issues without making them seem at all heavy (faith, women’s rights, cross-cultural communication, the immigrant experience, getting along in families).  It also touches on lots of lighter teenage experiences.  It was a fun, worthwhile read.

Dragon of Ash and Stars

This was a Bookbub title I picked up for free, but it was worth so much  more than the nonexistent price I paid.  This is one of only a couple of ebook titles I’ve read that I may try to obtain in actual paper (the others are Audacity and The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay).

Dragon of Ash and Stars is a beautifully written coming of age story, with a unique voice (the narrator is a dragon).  The world building is rich, the details exquisite, and the story reminiscent of Black Beauty.  The main character is complex, realistically flawed, and extraordinarily sympathetic despite (or perhaps as a result of) feeling distinctly not-human.

If you’re into fantasy, I’d strongly recommend this book.

Fledgling

I enjoyed this story about a young woman with a serious medical problem and the young man who befriends her at her new school even though it could have used a better copy edit.  It also leaned a bit too heavily on Twilight for my taste.

Still, a fun read with some interesting characters.

The Mind Readers

I enjoyed this dip into the life of a young woman who can tell what everyone around her is thinking.  I did find myself wondering why her grandma didn’t prepare her better for the world she was getting into, and why she was so quick to trust a pretty face–though that was explained (but not entirely to my satisfaction) later.

Still, it’s a fun, almost light–if any dystopian novel could be called light–read.  I may try to pick up the sequel if I get past my frustration with an ending that’s a blatant ad for the next book.

Sticks and Stones

Mandy, the heroine in this book, manages to work through an overwhelming burden of grief and guilt without that burden overwhelming the reader–or becoming trivialized. Granted, she’s got magical help, but still, it’s an impressive feat.

I’ll definitely be picking up more of Shawn Mcguire’s books in the future.

Trickster’s Girl

Another gift from the RMFW conference. This was well written and engaging. I enjoyed Ms. Bell’s Goblin War piece more, but I suspect that has less to do with the books themselves and more to do with my own preference for straight up fantasy than for Native-American-religion-tinged urban stuff. I also tend to get turned off by preachiness of any variety, and the environmental message here bordered on that a few times–not enough to make me dislike the book, but enough that I noticed it. Still, well worth the reading.

An Acceptable Time

A nice enough story about Polly, one of Meg and Calvin’s kids, but it doesn’t have quite the magic of A Wrinkle in Time or the other books in that series.  I’m not entirely sure what makes the difference.  It might be that the science is more fantasy than science.  It might be that the world-building relies a bit too much on the reader having read the other books–I didn’t feel as fully immersed in the story here.

However, if I weren’t comparing it to the amazing experience of Wrinkle, this book would do quite well.  It’s well written, with great characters and complex problems that come to a satisfying, not too simplistic, resolution.  A good book.  Not, perhaps, one I’ll keep coming back to, but one I’m glad I read.

Writing Stories

This slim little volume packs a lot of good advice, and it contains a fair few writing exercises that would seem like good ways to get going on a story if I didn’t have a plethora of stories I’m already going on.

It focuses a bit too much on journaling (an occupation that I’ve never found productive), and on getting ideas (a part of writing I’ve never had problems with), and it’s a touch too patronizing (as if the author doesn’t realize that young people are even more sensitive to that kind of thing than older ones.  As a writer for young people, doesn’t he know better?)

Still, there’s lots of good solid stuff on how to make memories into more; how to show not tell, and how to do the important stuff, like characters and setting and plot, well.  I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it as a good starting place for someone who wants to get into story-writing.  Especially if they do have trouble coming up with ideas.

The Goblin War

As I’ve probably mentioned before, one of the great things about RMFW conferences is the number of books we get in the swag bag. I love, love, love going home with enough to keep me busy–for a bit anyway.

The Goblin War is one of these.  I certainly never would have picked up only book three of a series if I’d been choosing the book myself.

All the same, I wasn’t too lost when I got dropped into the middle of a story that follows trio of young people and their goblin friends as they tramp through a couple of connected worlds, restoring balance and justice. In fact, I was interested enough that I’ll probably try to track down the first couple of books, so I can get a better idea of the whole picture.