Book reccomendations: November and December 2012

I haven’t been home much, but thanks to my Ipad I have been reading up a storm!  These are the books I read in November and December.  Not all of them, mind, but the ones I enjoyed enough to recommend.  As always, I’m on goodreads here if you would like to be my friend or follow my reviews.

Best fiction:

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

There is so much fiction on the market right now being categorized as “young adult.”  Some of it seems very young, in both situation and characters, while other books seem to have been characterized that way only because YA is currently the hot market in publishing.  Seraphina is definitely the latter.  The main character, the eponymous Seraphina, is technically a teenager.  In this book she is living independently in a world that expects her to be independent.  The normal cliches and tropes of YA are almost entirely missing, so I would recommend this book to any fan of high fantasy or YA fantasy.

Seraphina has a secret (this is not a spoiler, it’s the premise of the book).  She is half dragon in a world where dragons and humans have the most fragile of political alliances.  To be the product of a human/dragon marriage is unheard of, and so Seraphina must hide her true identity.  She has taken a position as choir mistress and assistant to the court composer.  As a musician I must pause to say that all of the descriptions of music in the book are accurate.  The main character and others play instruments that would have been common in the renaissance, and all they play them accurately.  This is an accomplishment!  Most books gets the music wrong.

The dragons in this book are fascinating.  They can take human form at will, but claim to be creatures of logic (think Vulcans and you’ll be close.)  Someone, whether dragon or human, appears to be trying to upset the fragile peace that has been formed, and this conflict forms the basis of the plot.

Seraphina is a wonderful character, fully formed and real.  I loved all the other characters, from her composer boss to her dragon uncle.  They were all wonderful.  There is a romance, but it is not the focus of the plot.  I prefer this, as I read enough romance as is.  I don’t want too much in my fantasy, but this was just enough.  If you have any inclination at all towards fantasy I’d recommend this book – and even if you don’t, I think it would be enjoyable.

Best non-fiction:

Inferno: The World at War by Max Hastings

I have a difficult time reading books about war or military movements.  I find myself less interested in the chess game of war, and more interested in how the war affected the people experiencing it.  I want to know what happened, how they experienced it, and what we can learn.  This book is a history of World War II, told by the people who lived through it.  We see letters and interviews from solders, civilians, and all people who in any way touched the war on all sides.

Some reviews of this book mentioned that you needed to be familiar with the basic movements of the war before reading it.  I have a basic understanding of the chronology, mostly from watching documentaries on the subject, and I was fine.  I did learn a great deal, particularly concerning Russia and Japan.  I was never lost, and while I can’t say it was fun to read, it was engaging.  Highly recommended to anyone interested in a more personal look at WW II.

Also recommended:

Unspoken: The Lynburn Legacy by Sarah Rees Brennan

I hope I’m not the only one with an unholy addiction to gothic novels.  There are, of course, the classics: Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights etc.  I love them all, but I also love the more modern gothics, everything from the books of Mary Stewart to my most recent favorite The Thirteenth Tale.  Unspoken is a nice addition to the genre.  The novel is about Kami, a high school student with a secret (don’t they all start out that way?)  She has been speaking to a boy in her head her entire life.  She’s never been sure he’s real, but she’s learned to hide it from other people.  The Lynburns in the title are the ancestral family of the town where Kami lives.  They’ve been away for many years, but they have returned.  What secrets are hiding in this old manor house?  Ooooh… my kind of book.

It’s actually got a sense of humor.  Kami is funny, as are some of the other main characters.  There is a romance, but it isn’t the focus of the novel.  I have two complaints: first that the characters seem to have basically the same voice.  I would like to see more differences.  The second is that the novel ends on a cliffhanger.  I don’t mind a sequel, but I’d rather just a little more resolution per book.  But eh… the next is coming out, and I recommend this one!

Click over to Goodreads if you want to see what I didn’t love.  It seems I really can’t handle too much romance in a book lately.  I’m reading too many books that start out well, but then veer off into romance land the minute the main character meets a physically perfect, brooding specimen of the male gender.  Don’t get me wrong, I love actual romance (mostly historical) but I don’t really want too much in other genres.

Do you have any recommendations?  I’m always looking for something new to read!

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9 thoughts on “Book reccomendations: November and December 2012

  1. Kitten says:

    I want to thank you for these reviews and for accepting my friend request on Goodreads. I’m finding our taste in books is pretty closely aligned and it’s helping me find a few new good books. That said, I think I liked Unspoken a bit more than you. I didn’t mind the repetitive voice and I’m more excited for the sequel than not. (You should check out her prequel short stories available for free online.)

  2. Sue says:

    Have you read The School of Essential Ingredients or The Elegance of the Hedgehog?
    Also The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns (both of these books written by the same author).
    I also enjoyed The God of Small Things.
    I’m also on Goodreads and will add you as a friend, it’s always nice to meet fellow readers. :)

  3. Thank you for the book reviews! I have an audible subscription and I could only find Seraphina, but I’d also really like to read Unspoken as well! I absolutely love fantasy and gothic books, but I can’t seem to find the time to read books anymore. Thanks again for the reviews!

  4. Thank you for introducing me to goodreads. Your last book review post launched me back into reading with a fury (I even just purchased a kobo mini before Christmas). Thanks for the recommends!

  5. Margaret says:

    Hi,
    Thanks for your recommendations and for letting me know about goodreads. Lately, our book club has been reading a few about WWII — Unbroken, by Louis Zamperini, The Book Thief, and The Gift of Rain, by Tan. All good books, and all about the war, from the perspective of the characters and their different cultures.
    Am looking forward to seeing what you cook up in your sewing room this year, too!
    Margaret.

  6. A couple of YA recommendations:

    Flora Segunda by Ysabeau Wilce (more intricate than it appears on the surface, and talk about wars’ effects on people! If you try it and like it, I thought this series got even stronger as it went on.)

    Hold Me Closer, Necromancer by Lish McBride (extremely funny horror, with a strong focus on the protagonist’s community, which I find rarer in YA – reminded me a bit of the Graveyard Book in that way).

    Also, I see you have Graceling by Kristin Cashore and The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley on your list; I enjoyed both. Graceling because I found the heroine refreshingly different, and Sweetness because I am fascinated by the characters, especially Flavia and Dogger.

    And Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones is one of my favorite books of all time. (Also on your list already.)

    I think Eon by Alison Goodman may be next on my list.

  7. ZOMG I love book posts. I read Forever Young Adult regularly because I do love me some FYA, but ALL of the books in this post look look great. I love YA, books about WWII (generally, survivors of the Holocaust type stuff) AND gothic novels!
    You should totes read Codename: Verity by Elizabeth Wein. SO GOOD. SO MANY FEELS. Also, WWII historical fiction. Zing!

  8. The first two have made me curious! Also, you basically put in words the way I feel about books on war (actually movies too), I tend to loose interest in all the war strategy stuff and just want to read about the social implications…that’s why I’m putting that book on my list now!

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