Wednesday, February 25, 2015

What I've Been Reading Lately

I find the list of books I've read so far this year to be kind of an amusing hodge-podge, so I thought I'd share.

woman reading
Photo by Craig Sunter

Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne
I'll just be honest. This book was first published in 1873, and it dealt with a lot of other countries' customs and peoples. I was very pleasantly surprised that this book was not incredibly racist from a modern viewpoint. It's an interesting book. There's lots of action, and you get to see a the world as Verne saw it in the late 1800s. How Verne describes other races isn't necessarily how we'd describe them today, but I really didn't feel he was automatically thinking to himself, "We're better than them." In fact, the main love interest of Phileas Fogg (the ridiculously unflappable rich, English man who makes a bet at his club that he can travel around the world in 80 days) is an Indian woman. She is an Indian woman who was rescued from being sacrificed on her husband's funeral pyre, so Verne doesn't shy away from condemning some cultures' (pretty horrific) practices, but at no point do any of the characters think that a white man and an Indian woman should not be married. Keep in mind that interracial marriages were illegal in some U.S. states until 1967 (ahem, the South). So I got to take a tour of the world in the 1870s, and I got that tour from a very entertaining French man who, honestly, impressed me. 
Note: lots of means of travel were used in this story (even an elephant) but nobody ever travelled by balloon. Even though there was a hot air balloon on the cover of my book!
train travel
Photo by Gerry Balding

The Selection series by Kiera Cass
This is actually a trilogy, but I read all three, and the third book was my favorite, so I'm just going to wrap them all into one. This series has one of those premises that you can just tell teenage girls are going to love. The idea is that a future (dystopian) society, which seems to have taken over the current United States, selects its future princess by setting its prince up in a The Bachelor-type reality show. A girl is selected from each of the country's regions to compete to become the Princess. There's as caste system in the country, which seems a little weird but at least is an interested concept, and the books get a bit catty in the middle (especially book 2) but the third book deals with a lot of the politics and issues of the world, and was my favorite. They were a fun read.
princess painting
Photo by Pietro Izzo

James Herriot's Cat Stories by James Herriot, Illustrations by Lesley Holmes
For those who don't know, James Herriot was the pen name of a real, live vet in the U.K. in the 1940s through 1970s. He tells stories from his time as a vet, taking place in the Yorkshire countryside. It was an interesting time when cats weren't necessarily accepted as cosseted pets. I actually read this intending to have one of my characters read it, but that was for my abandoned project. I will say that Herriot has a real flare for making you smile.
cat on a stoop
Photo by Chau kar Man

Scarlet: The Lunar Chronicles, Book 2 by Marissa Meyer
I'm enjoying this series. I'm not one of those people who has to read a book the second it comes out, especially when I know the last book in the series isn't out yet. Meyer has created a really interesting twist on some classic fairytales. This one is based on Little Red Riding Hood, only the wolf is (sort of) a good guy, and the main character, Scarlet, meets up with cyborg-in-hiding Cinder from the last book. Then they're all on the run in a talking spaceship. Fun times!
Lunar Chronicles, Queen Levana, Fairest
This is the painting I did of the evil Queen Levana from the Lunar Chronicles.

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
A sort of Mean Girls meets Groundhog Day. I feel a little weird comparing a book to two movies, but that's the best description I've got. This book has been one of those Must Read YA books, so I figured I'd try it out. Oliver manages to take a truly unlikable main character and slowly make her likable. More importantly, she doesn't lose you along the way. Without giving away any spoilers, I'll just say that the person I felt the most for at the very end was the love interest.
Fallen leaf
I wasn't really sure what image to use for this book, so I went with a fallen leaf.
Photo by Ryan

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library by Chris Grabenstein
This book comes highly recommended to the Middle Grade crowd. I keep hearing comparisons to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, but it reminded me more of The Westing Game. Both were great books. In this book, Kyle Keeley manages to win a spot as one of the twelve twelve-year-olds to get to stay overnight in Mr. Lemoncello's brand new, high tech library. What they don't know yet is that their overnight lock-in will turn into a competitive game with a valuable prize. I personally loved that this book was set in a wacky library with all sorts of cool, book-related events.
cool library
Photo by Jon Westra

Behind the Scenes by Dahlia Adler
A fun, quick book. I mostly read it because I follow Dahlia's blog, but every now and again all I want is something nice and easy. It's about an ordinary girl falling for a movie star (both are teens). Sometimes the girl annoyed me, but, hey, she's going through some stuff, so I'll give her a pass, and it entertained me for one snowy weekend day. 
movie maker sculpture
Photo by Joe Penniston
(Honestly, I picked this photo mostly just because I liked it.)

There were probably a few other books (I've been doing a lot of reading since I'm in the in-between phase in writing), but these are the ones I came up with today.

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