The DNFs for 2019: On to 2020 books!

I am finally done reviewing books read in 2019. Not to worry, though! I have read 15 books so far this year and am reading two others. It’s been a little harder to listen to audiobooks due to COVID-19, since now we’re all in closer quarters, and I don’t want to bug my family. I still listen when I’m in the car, when I’m in a room by myself doing dishes or folding laundry, or when I’m out in my garden pulling weeds.

I have said before that I generally don’t review books that I don’t finish, since I don’t feel like I’ve given them a fair shake. But sometimes I have so many thoughts about a book, or I think it’s good but not for me, that I have to share them anyway.

Two books that fit in this category are Percy Jackson: The Lightning Thief and The Light between Worlds.

The Lightning Thief cover (link to Goodreads)

First, Percy Jackson. It’s so popular that I felt obligated to give it a try, at least so I could know what it was all about. From the beginning I knew exactly what it was that kids liked about it. Percy’s voice is snarky, funny, perfectly middle grade. The plot clipped along, and Percy was always an active player in it. So far so good.

But there were things about it that MAJORLY annoyed me, to the point where even though I was mostly enjoying the book, I had to put it down. One was the premise that Olympus moves to where the center of human advancement is. This really rubbed me the wrong way, to say that Greece was the pinnacle of humanity at the time, when China, Egypt, and the Mayans gave the Greeks a run for their money in 800-700 BC.

I was also annoyed with the fact that Percy was dealt a HUGE blow early in the book and then got swept up in mysteries and adventures and barely processed it for more than a few pages. That rang false to me.

And when all the adults in Percy’s life basically told him, “Yeah, we have big secrets, but we’re not going to tell you for reasons,” I got bored.

Abandoned a little over a quarter of the way in.

The Light Between Worlds cover (link to Goodreads)

The Light Between Worlds is an entirely different story. The premise is that two sisters have come back from a world like Narnia and are adapting to normal life, each in her own way. One sister is really, really struggling. Nothing seems to matter. She can’t connect with people who don’t know what she’s been through, and she lives in memory most of the time. The other sister is doing better but almost going too far the other direction, with university, makeup, young men, etc.

Honestly, it was beautifully written. But I read it in the fall, and I tend to struggle with seasonal blues in the fall, and it was just so, so depressing. I think that’s what Laura Weymouth was going for (an honest look at depression). But I couldn’t do it at that time. Abandoned at about the 2/3 mark.

Review: Pi in the Sky by Wendy Mass

2 stars (It was okay)

Okay, I kind of lied. I put this book on my read-in-2019 list because I started reading it around Christmas, and I figured, hey, it’s a short book. I’ll finish it by the new year for sure.

I didn’t. Honestly, while I didn’t mind reading it while I was doing so, I never got sucked in. This surprised me. My oldest son (now 14) loved this book, so I bought it for his birthday a few years ago, and then my second son (soon to be 12) read it and liked it too, so I thought I would. Plus, I’ve read other books by Wendy Mass that I’ve liked.

Maybe it’s the sort of book that adults just don’t get. It was zany. It was bizarre. Every sentence seemed to be crafted to surprise you with its weirdness. There are quotes about the universe and about quantum physics at the beginning of each chapter, and then there are houses that change shape, girls who need to be encased in a bubble of water to breathe, pies that contain gravity–I mean, it’s weird.

I couldn’t really relate to the main character because he was just so other. But my boys liked it, so yours might too.

I probably would have rated this one star, except the ending redeemed it a little.

Review: Wundersmith: The Calling of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend

5 stars (It was amazing!)

Wundersmith cover (link to Goodreads)

I honestly liked this one even better than the first in the series, which I also loved enough to put it right into the hands of my 11yo son. It has just as much magic, wonder, and fun as the first, but it starts asking some important questions about destiny, good and evil, the obligation to teach someone who might be dangerous, loyalty, etc.

I continue to love the giant talking cat, and the supporting characters just keep getting more interesting. Really, really good series. I can’t wait to read the third.

Review: Liesl and Po by Lauren Oliver

4 stars (I really liked it).

Liesl & Po cover (link to Goodreads)

I don’t know if any of you have seen the movie The Box Trolls, but this reminded me of it in ways. Mainly the setting and the feel: vaguely Victorian England, where almost all the adults are horrid, almost everything is bleak and gray and depressing, but the children are bright lights in all of it, plucky and courageous and smart and wise.

Liesl is a little girl who is locked in her room by her evil stepmother. Po is the ghost who haunts and then befriends her. Meanwhile, an alchemist’s apprentice, who is being terribly abused as well, makes a big mistake, and things start to unravel for all of them. It’s twisty and darkly humorous and well written, and I did enjoy it a lot. This isn’t my favorite setting, honestly, but the story sucked me in despite that.

Planet Earth is Blue by Nicole Panteleakos

5 stars (This was amazing!)

Planet Earth Is Blue cover (link to Goodreads)

I’d seen this book in lots of “Best of” lists and had it on my wish list in my library app already when a friend of mine, Heather Clark, was chosen to be Nicole’s Pitch Wars mentor. Pitch Wars is a contest on Twitter where aspiring authors submit their books to mentors–usually other published or agented authors. The mentors may get dozens or even hundreds of submissions, and they pick one person to work with for two months to help them get their book as close to perfect as possible.

I’ve read Heather’s book, Lemon Drop Falls, and it’s amazing. I was not surprised it was picked. But when I found out Nicole was her mentor, I knew I had to bump Planet Earth Is Blue to the top of my to-read pile. I’m SO glad I did. This book is unlike anything else I’ve ever read. The main character is utterly unique. She’s almost nonverbal, for one. She’s severely autistic. But her thoughts are beautiful and utterly engaging.

Nova is obsessed with space and knows lots about it, and there are sciency facts dropped throughout, which was fun. She’s looking forward to watching the Challenger launch with her sister, who has promised she’ll be back by then.

The book is funny, heartwarming, sad, hopeful, eye-opening, and overall magical. I’d compare it to books like Wonder and Out of My Mind, but it’s better than either (even though I also rated Wonder 5 stars), so I can’t compare them. My 11 year old son is reading it and enjoying it too.