The Girl of Fire and Thorns

Rae Carson’s debut novel is a great start to a writing career. It was published in 2011, and she’s got at least 20 books now, so apparently the promise has panned out, but for now The Girl of Fire and Thorns is all I’ve got to go on. And it definitely has me ready to leap onto book two of the Fire and Thorns series, The Crown of Embers. And most of that has to do with the girl herself, Elisa, the second princess of Oravelle and chosen bearer of the Godstone, who has grown up with the unrelenting fear the she will fail to live up to the glorious destiny that she has been singled out for.

There are flaws to this book. I’m not going to pretend that it is a masterpiece. But I do try to cut authors a break on their first book, and the premise shows a lot of promise, even if the delivery didn’t always follow through.

For example, I love that Elisa is fat. I like that she deals with her insecurities by eating, even while she knows that her weight is one of the main causes of her insecurity. It’s a vicious cycle that many people really are caught in, and you hardly ever see it in a character who is the central heroine of a book.

The fact that most of Elisa’s problems go away when she loses weight is kind of problematic. I think the idea was supposed to be that as she got skinnier, Elisa grew more confident and her lack of belief in herself was her central problem all along. However, in execution what really came across was that Elisa’s biggest character flaw was that she was fat and once she lost the weight, everything magically resolved itself.

A lot of readers criticize this book for being overly religious, but I for one was glad to see religion take such a central role in a plot. Atheism is, as far as I know without doing any actual research on the subject, a fairly modern thing. Pretty much every culture around the globe throughout history has developed some sort of religion. It might take the form of monotheism, ancestral spirits, animism, a pantheon of deities, or something else entirely, but there’s almost always a spiritual aspect to a culture. So it’s nice to see a fantasy world so crucially rooted in conflicting spiritual beliefs, even amongst people who are allies.

There was a lot of telling going on in this book, instead of characters being explored through their actions. But I can forgive that in a new novelist, provided her future books show improvement on that front. But the biggest deal breaker for me was the constant focus on the handsome men around Elisa.

The book opens with Elisa’s arranged marriage to Alejandro, the king of a neighboring country who needs an alliance with her father to help him win a war. Alejandro is older, very handsome, and her husband, so it’s no surprise that Elisa swoons over him, even if he does have some pretty major character flaws. But then Elisa gets kidnapped, by a young, also very handsome man, who doesn’t have any major character flaws. It doesn’t take her long to start comparing the two men and deciding which one she likes better. This isn’t a bad story line as far as it goes, but it takes up way too much of the book. There are so many interesting relationships in this book I would love to see developed, but instead we spend entirely too much time getting lost in Humberto’s dark eyes.

Cosmé, for example, deserves to have her own book. She’s an illegitimate daughter who was forced to be a servant to her own half-sister, an incredibly competent ladies’ maid, a terrifyingly fearless spy, an intrepid desert traveler, and probably half a dozen more things I’ve left out. Her developing relationships with Elisa is a strong part of this book, and it could have done with a lot more developing.

Or Ximena, the nurse who used to be a scribe who is actually a guardian capable of taking out threats with a hair pin. More of her backstory, please! Of course, there’s also the issue of how much of her devotion to Elisa is true love (a great deal of it, I believe) and how much is really religious fervor. Let’s explore that instead of teenage love dilemmas, eh?

And we can’t forget little Rosario, even though almost everybody does. The poor little prince is in danger of becoming a spoiled brat because nobody keeps their word to him, whether it’s a promise or a threat. The courageous little guy wants so much to help the cause, but he’s constantly sidelined until Elisa takes him under her wing, painfully familiar with the feeling of being shunted aside.

There’s also Alodia, Elisa’s older sister who is confident and poised and perfectly capable of running a country. How much of her disdain for Elisa is real and how much it is Elisa projecting her own insecure opinions about herself on to other people? Alodia wasn’t a big part of this book, but I’ll be very disappointed if this relationship isn’t explored further in future installations.

As you can see, this book has no shortage of fascinating characters to be explored, including Lord Hector, the ever-loyal royal guard who is, unfortunately, also being developed into a love interest.

Objectively, I’d say this book gets 3 out of 5 stars. It was a fun and engrossing enough read, I think I’d bump it up to 4. But Carson’s going to have to step it up to keep this rating on her future books, being especially vigilant to not let teen romance drama completely eclipse the far more interesting sidelines running through the story.


P.S. Don’t forget to comment on Saturday’s post with your idea for a writing prompt!



An Update from the Meerkat

It’s been a busy front half of 2018, what with me working crazy hours, taking online graduate classes, and then switching jobs. I’m really enjoying my new job, particularly as it leaves me with much more time for reading and writing! As I settle into my new schedule, the Meerkat is going to be making some changes which I hope you’ll enjoy. In the meantime, I need to get you caught up on what I’ve been reading. I’m not going to try to review all the books I’ve read since the last time I posted (in March!!!) but I will give you monster list of books with my snapshot opinion of them.

The Night Bookmobile by Audrey Niffenegger 3 out of 5 stars
This is a graphic novel about a mysterious bookmobile that contains everything you’ve ever read. It had some good moments and something of a surprise ending that I did manage to guess, but overall I just felt like it was trying to say something and I couldn’t figure out what.

Snoopy and “It Was a Dark and Stormy Night” by Charles Schulz 5 out of 5 stars
I loved this little gem of a book that my brother found for my birthday. I’m somewhat obsessed with a certain literary beagle, and it’s like this book was made for me. Mixed in with the fun is some great writing advice, and I highly recommend it to all aspiring authors. You can read it in under 5 minutes.

Secrets in Death by J. D. Robb 3 out of 5 stars
I’ve been a longtime fan of the In Death series, but I feel like it reached its peak a while ago. The characters aren’t really going anywhere anymore. And yet I continue to collect them and probably will as long as Robb continues to write them.

Tower of Dawn by Sarah J Maas 4 out of 5 stars
I wasn’t really looking forward to this book because I’m more interested in what is happening with the rest of the crew in the Throne of Glass series, but this was a really good way to bring Chaol out of disgrace without ignoring his past mistakes. I’m glad to see him get some beautiful character development and there are plenty of tie-ins to the larger story which I can’t wait to get back to in Kingdom of Ash, which I believe is coming out in October.

The Assassin’s Blade by Sarah J Maas 2 out of 5 stars
In an attempt to stem my Maas addiction while waiting for the next release, I read her collection of short stories about Celeana’s life as the most feared assassin in Adarlan. It didn’t really satisfy. The stories were okay, there just wasn’t enough meat there to dig into.

Heart on Fire by Amanda Bouchet 2 out of 5 stars
The Kingmaker Chronicles started out so strong, but the end was just as disappointing as the middle. The third book seemed repetitive and anticlimactic. There were a few things left dangling that might become the subject for future books, that I would be willing to read, but they won’t be top priority.

A Court of Frost and Starlight by Sarah J Maas 3 out of 5 stars
Another collection of short stories from Maas, this time following her Court of Thorns and Roses series. The stories were fine, but I honestly would have preferred for her to spend her time writing her next novel. Stop teasing me and write, Sarah!

The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa 4 out of 5 stars
This story is about a math professor with short term memory loss and his relationship with his housekeeper and her son. There’s a lot of math involved. I should not have enjoyed it as much as I did, but oddly enough I really liked it. If nothing else, I think we need more books that focus on platonic relationships.

Lord of Shadows by Cassandra Clare 3 out of 5 stars
I really enjoyed Mortal Instruments and absolutely loved Infernal Devices, but Dark Artifices is not doing it for me. I like Emma okay, but I think the supporting characters are far more interesting and Julian is ruining the whole series for me.

Lumberjanes Vol. 2 by Noelle Stevenson 3 out of 5 stars
This graphic novel had one or two great lines, but it didn’t live up to volume one.

Girl in Disguise by Greer Macallister 4 out of 5 stars
This book is loosely based on a true story, because fittingly enough it is very difficult to find details about the first female Pinkerton’s personal life. I think I liked The Magician’s Lie better, but this was a very solid, enjoyable book.

The Apothecary by Maile Meloy 3 out of 5 stars
This was a fun young adult adventure with plenty of magic sprinkled throughout. It’s the first book in a series, but even though I enjoyed it, it didn’t leave me rushing for book 2.

The Cruel Prince by Holly Black 4 out of 5 stars
It took me a little while to get into this book because I think I overdid the fairies reading Cassandra Clare, but I ended up really enjoying it. I didn’t realize book 2 isn’t out yet, which was very disappointing to discover, but such is life.

The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson 4 out of 5 stars
For a book that mainly revolves around made up geometry, this was really good. I devoured it. I didn’t figure out the mystery (I thought I had) and I really liked the characters. It’s looking like book 2 is going to come out sometime between now and never, but things are more or less wrapped up at the end if you want to pretend it’s a stand-alone, which it may very well be forever.

Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo 4 out of 5 stars
I really enjoyed this story about a bunch of teens from the seedy side of town more or less trying to do the right thing. Six of Crows was a little better, in my opinion, but Crooked Kingdom was still good. I don’t know if Bardugo is planning to use these characters some more or not, but I would definitely read it if she did.

Revolution in World Missions by K. P. Yohannan 4 out of 5 stars
This book is about the founding of Gospel for Asia and gives a look at the history of the native missionary movement. It really challenged me as someone who doesn’t think of herself as materialistic but definitely is compared to large chunks of the world.

Choose Your Own Autobiography by Neil Patrick Harris 4 out of 5 stars
NPH liked the Choose Your Own Adventure books so much as a kid, he decided to pattern his autobiography after them. It’s a fun idea, and well done, but I was never that much of a fan of that series. I made it through to his happy ending with only one misstep, but by nature of the format you miss pages, so I went back and read them all straight through, which put everything out of order and made it hard to follow. If you like this format, I could see this getting 5 stars, but even with me not loving it, it’s well-written enough to get a solid 4.

The Accidental Afterlife of Thomas Marsden

How can you not read a book with a title like that? Unfortunately, as books like The Badass Librarians of Timbuktu prove, books don’t always live up to their title. Emma Trevayne’s story of a young boy who helps support his family by robbing graves did not disappoint.

This book was written for 8 to 12 year olds, and I think it would capture that audience perfectly. The villain is suitably villainous the hero isn’t overly heroic and everyone gets the ending they deserve. The characters are developed well, the plot paces itself out perfectly and my only real complaint is that I wanted more of it.

Legends about fairies vary so much you can do just about anything you want with them. Trevayne juggles the mythology deftly, weaving it seamlessly into her story. That’s not always easy to do, but it flows so smoothly here, it seems effortless.

As an adult reader, I would have liked a little more depth to the story. Everything wrapped up a little too quickly and neatly to leave me really satisfied. On that basis, I’d give it a solid four stars. For the intended audience, an argument could be made for five out of five.

Lumberjanes Vol. 1

I’m in the middle of a fairly intense online class, which means my recreational reading has been cut to the bone. It seemed like a good time to revisit graphic novels. I got out Noelle Stevenson’s Lumberjanes Vol. 1 because I loved Nimona so much.

Lumberjanes are no Nimona, but I still really liked the book. I felt like I was jumping into the middle of the story, and I’d appreciate a little back story about what this camp is, what brought our cast of characters there and so on, but I’m still hoping some of that comes up in later volumes. I thought the characters had a good mix of different but complementary personalities and styles. I liked the story and the pacing and one of my favorite lines ever now has to be “I AM GOING TO CATCH A FISH BY WRESTLING IT AWAY FROM A BEAR!”

Like the pilot episode of a tv show, this volume whetted my appetite for more of the story, which should be the main purpose of any first installment, whatever medium we’re talking about. Even though it doesn’t rate Nimona’s five stars, I could gush about it for a while and really want to give it four stars.


Those field manual inserts at the beginning of each chapter were awful. They were boring and full of typos and by the third one I was skipping them. The fact that I could skip them means there was no reason to include them at all. If you want to do something like this, do it well. Throw in some jokes or some foreshadowing or at the very least proofread them.

I almost want to pretend the inserts weren’t there and give this book four stars, but they were there, and they drag the rating down to three stars. Most definitely worth reading but also most definitely room for improvement.

The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt

I don’t know if the gaps in my history education are common across America’s public school system or if it’s a weakness unique to my alma mater, but I know far more about the ancient Egyptians and the Medieval serf system than I do about, say the Cold War. (My mom gets really upset when I call the Cold War history, by the way.)

My point is, my history knowledge is pretty spotty, and gets spottier the closer we get to current events. (Where is the line for that, anyways? Who decides?) I have a pretty fair grasp of the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, but my understanding of World War I is sketchy and most of what I know about World War II can be learned from The Diary of Anne Frank and Schindler’s List.

So I set out to correct this with books, starting with the much-acclaimed biography of Theodore Roosevelt by Edmund Morris. The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt covers everything between his birth and his presidency. And I do mean everything. While I appreciate a thorough biography, I did not need an exact list of all of his kills on his extensive hunting trips.

It took my over a year to read this book, but only because I put it down for about ten months. I really had to slog through his childhood. Roosevelt was a sickly child, and Morris delivers a minute account of his illnesses, treatments, relapses, and everything else you never wanted to know. By the time I was reading about his courtship of his first wife, I was bored with him, which is not something I ever expected from the man who led the Rough Riders in their famous charge up San Juan Hill.

After my ten-month hiatus, I picked the book back up and finished it in about two weeks. Once his political career gets moving, everything becomes exponentially more interesting. The book ends with McKinley’s assassination and I’m looking forward to Theodore Rex, which covers Roosevelt’s time in the White House.

Morris writes a very fair and balanced biography. Roosevelt accomplishes extraordinary things, mostly through being an overly opinionated workaholic. His more questionable decisions, like his support of James Blaine’s presidential run despite his moral objections to the man, are left to stand on their own, without condemnation or excuse.

One criticism I read of the book was that it didn’t give a very good overview of the time period. If you want to know everything that happened to Roosevelt in the Spanish-American War, for instance, this book will tell you all about it. If you were hoping for an explanation of what exactly prompted the war, it’s a little more vague.

This is true enough, but my rebuttal would be that this is Roosevelt’s biography, not a history of the Spanish-American War. If that’s what you want, I’m sure there are books out there for you. Also, I think reading about Roosevelt’s political battles did leave me with a pretty good understanding of expansionism and what the political climate of the time was and how this all erupted into fighting in Cuba.

Overall, I give this book 4 out of 5 stars. If you start about 150 pages in, it might even rate a full five.

News of the World

Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd makes a living by travelling through the small towns of Texas, reading newspapers to audiences for a dime a person. It took me a little while to get my head wrapped around this, considering our news-saturated world, but in 1870 many people couldn’t read and those who could often had difficulty getting their hands on a paper. So it makes sense.

Captain Kidd is a great character. At 71, he really is getting too old for this, but that doesn’t stop him from agreeing to take Johanna Leonburger back to her family after she is rescued from the Kiowa raiders who killed her family and kidnapped the girl four years ago. Kidd doesn’t exactly have a destination, so taking a 400-mile detour isn’t that big of a problem. Corrupt officials, road bandits and Indian raiders make the journey a little more interesting, but I get the impression there’s nowhere really safe to travel in Texas.

The bigger problem is that Johanna never wanted to be “rescued” from her new family, isn’t thrilled to be delivered to an aunt and uncle she doesn’t remember, and has forgotten all but a handful of English and German words. Somehow, despite all this, she and Kidd bond beautifully on their journey south.

I’ve never read any of Paulette Jiles’ books before this, so I don’t know if she habitually refuses to use quotation marks, but the dialogue did throw me off for a bit. Usually I absolutely hate when authors do things like this, but the story flowed so smoothly I ended up adjusting to it quickly. There’s an odd style to the story that I don’t know how to describe, except that a bunch of unconnected details somehow weave together to form a coherent picture of Texas. I would not try to write like this, nor would I recommend anyone else attempt it either, but Jiles makes it work.

This book sort of reminded me of A Man Called Ove. Captain Kidd is a likable and admirable character who does what needs done and doesn’t complain about it. His relationship with a bloodthirsty little savage who starts to call him grandfather is absolutely perfect. (I would call it heart-warming, but that doesn’t usually apply in situations where a little girl needs to be told that she can’t scalp people.)

The more I think about this book, the more I like it. Everything about it so understated and subtle that the full power of the story is sort of elusive. The more I try to nail it down, the more it slips through my fingers, but one thing I can state definitely is that this book deserves a full five stars.

Dear Fahrenheit 451

Annie Spence’s collection of letter to books might be considered strange to some people, but anyone who loves to read will understand it perfectly. There are books you love, books you hate, and books you’ve simply drifted away from over the years. Spence addresses them all as she encounters books in the stacks at her library, in her personal collection, and in strangers’ houses as she tags along to parties.

Spence’s sense of humor runs along the same lines as mine, meaning I really enjoyed her snarky jokes. I feel like I am, in every way, the target audience for this book. Also, I’m considering going back to school for my Library Science degree, and Spence really makes me want to follow through on that, if for no other reason than to shout “I dispense information to the masses!”

There are things I didn’t love about the book. There are a few spoilers thrown in here and there, mostly minor ones, and probably for books you’ve already read, but still. It’s the principle, Spence. You’ve gotta warn people about things like that.

The second thing, which is in no way Spence’s fault, is that I get the sense that our taste in books is just different enough that I’m not sure how applicable her recommendations are to me. That’s not to say that I didn’t find my fair share of titles to add to my to-read list, but I’m a little uncertain of how they’re going to turn out for me.

I’d give this book a very solid four out of five stars. It misses out on five mostly because, as much as I enjoyed reading it, I don’t think it will be as enjoyable the second time around.

Reading People

Anne Bogel’s book on personalities is an excellent book to read at the beginning of the year. It motivated me to be a better version of myself, and should also give you some insight into your own brain to make unlocking that better version easier. Understanding your personality type means a lot more than figuring out which Harry Potter character you are. It means understanding why you act and react the way you do. Once you see what’s happening, you’ll be better equipped to modify behavior you don’t like and also become more understanding of yourself and the people around you. If you have New Year’s resolutions you’re hoping to stick to, this book might help you figure out what is most likely to work for you.

I found this book interesting, though not life-changing. Part of that is, I think I know myself pretty well. I understand my strengths and weaknesses, and I think I’ve accounted for them reasonably well. If you don’t understand yourself, this book might help point you in the right direction. Even if you don’t like what you learn, remember, it’s not your fault that you’re wired the way you are. and there are no “bad” personality types, though society does tend to value some over others.

What this book really did for me was make me more understanding of others. In particular, I don’t see eye to eye with some of my fellow Governing Board members at my church. While reading through the different cognitive functions in chapter 7, some of them jumped out at me. “Ah! That’s Steve!” (His name’s not really Steve.) And even though I still don’t agree with him, I now understand that he is thinking the way he is wired. It’s not his fault, and it’s not a bad thing. It’s just not how I work.

Bogel makes the argument, and I agree with her, that a diverse group is a strong group. So wherever you work with people, on the job, in the community, at home, we all bring different perspectives to the table, and we’ll work better together once we understand and appreciate how those different perspectives work.

She did sort of lose me in the last two chapters. I think that’s largely because the frameworks she covers throughout the book gradually became more complex and less familiar to me. This is only intended to be a brief overview of the frameworks that she has found most useful. She includes suggestions for further reading if you want to really did into any of them.

I’d give this book four out of five stars. I found it pretty useful. You probably will to, and even if you don’t, it will still be well written and interesting.

P.S. Anne Bogel runs a blog, Modern Mrs. Darcy, which covers all sorts of topics, including book recommendations. It’s worth checking out.

Annual 2017 Book Review

Happy New Year! I’ve got a long list of books to work through for 2018, but first my sister and I started a lovely little tradition we are calling the Annual 2017 Book Review. We chose 5 categories and each came with our picks from the books we read this past year.

Side note: this would not have been possible without Goodreads. This is the first year I really tracked my reading, and I highly recommend it. Goodreads is what I use, but there are other apps out there, or you could use an Excel spreadsheet, or there’s this quaint little thing called a notebook that I hear works well. Whatever you use, I think tracking your reading is an excellent 2018 resolution.

On to the categories!

Most Surprising

Are’s Pick: Where the Light Falls by Allison and Owen Pataki
This is the historical novel of the French Revolution that I highly recommended. My sister wouldn’t have read it if I hadn’t gotten it for her, but once she did she liked it more than she thought she would and, as she said, found herself thinking about it after she read it, which I always think is a mark of an excellent book.

Michele’s Pick: A Man Called Ove by Frederik Backman
I picked this book for almost the exact same reasons my sister picked hers. She got it first, told me I simply had to read it, and even though I hate taking orders from my sister, I’m glad I followed this one. I never would have picked it on my own, but it was one of the best books I read this year. If there had been a Most Heartwarming category, we both agreed this would have won hands down.

Most Disappointing

We actually spent more time on this category than any other, and even though we left it as one big group, I’m going to break this into two sub-groups, the first simply being the Most Disappointing.

Are’s Pick: The Storyteller by Antonia Michaelis
I didn’t read this book, and after my sister’s review of it, I doubt I ever will. The main character is apparently trying to give his little sister a better life than he ever had, but he supposedly accomplishes this by being in the most dysfunctional relationship imaginable and then (SPOILER ALERT) committing suicide right in front of his sister and his girlfriend. In my sister’s words: “A truly awful book.”

Michele’s Pick: The Regional Office Is Under Attack by Manuel Gonzales
Cinnamon and Gunpowder by Eli Brown
So I cheated and had two picks for this category, but they’re both here for the same reason. I actually liked both of these books, but I thought they were going to be fun reads, and they weren’t. I enjoyed reading them, for the most part, but not for the reasons I thought I would and I was disappointed in the lack of fun in both of them. Gonzales’ book started out much more serious than I thought it would be, but Brown’s beginning was just as much fun as I thought it would be before taking a serious and, for me, very unexpected turn in tone towards the end.

So Disappointing I Didn’t Even Finish

We talked about making this the name of the Most Disappointing category, and even though we didn’t, I’m still going to include it here.

Are’s Pick: Lost City of the Monkey God by Douglas Preston
This book is about a rumored lost city deep in the Honduran interior surrounded by legends and mystery. And the best part is, it’s non-fiction. But somehow Preston takes what should be one of the most fascinating journeys ever and makes it boring. His biggest problem is an excessive use of detail. My sister got so bogged down in the minute descriptions of the rainforest flora and fauna she never made it the rest of the way through.

Michele’s Pick: The Badass Librarians of Timbuktu by Joshua Hammer
Once again proving that my sister and I share a hive mind, I picked a different book for the exact same reasons for this category. Just look at that title. This is the true story of how the librarians of Timbuktu smuggled rare Islamic manuscripts out of the city before Al Qaeda could destroy them. I wanted so badly to love this book. And I couldn’t even finish it. Like Preston, Hammer goes into way too much detail, especially about the origins of the manuscripts. I just wasn’t following a lot of it, and I really don’t think I’m the only one. So close but so, so far.

Best Non-Fiction

Are’s Pick: Dear Fahrenheit 451 by Annie Spence
Annie Spence is a librarian who has written a collection of letters to the books in her library. Some of the are breakup letters, some are love letters, they’re all pretty fantastic. At least of the ones my sister read out loud to me between chuckles. I haven’t read it yet, but it’s very high on my to-read list, and I suggest you put it on yours too. The best part? It will furnish many more titles to add to your to-read list, though if you’re anything like us, that’s not usually a problem for you.

Michele’s Pick: The Mother Tongue by Bill Bryson
Etymology is endlessly fascinating to me, and this book could not have delivered better. Even though I read it at the very beginning of 2017, it remained at the top of my list for the entire year. If you ever wonder how this crazy language of ours became what it is, this is the book for you.


By unanimous vote: Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
Despite some other strong contenders, we both agreed that Stevenson’s graphic novel reigns supreme here. The story of Ballister Blackheart and his demented little sidekick took a lot of unexpected turns, but it remained solidly entertaining the whole time. It is a bit violent, but my sister and I both have rather dark senses of humor, so it appealed to us.

Best Book of the Year

A Man Called Ove by Frederik Backman
Funny, heartwarming, thought-provoking, relatable, this book didn’t quite reach my very favorite of the year, but it was in the running and I certainly understand why my sister placed it here. It has reached new prominence with the release of the movie based on it, which I think is a very good thing. Everyone should read this book.

Michele’s Pick: Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye
I cannot articulate how much I liked this book. I told my sister I’m not sure what I love so much about this book, to which she replied, “Everything,” and that’s pretty accurate. I realize not everyone loves the classics as much as I do, but you just might after reading this book. It’s fantastic, and you need to go read it.

Honorable Mention

These are for those books that didn’t quite make it into one of the categories, but should have if the competition wasn’t so tight.

Are’s Pick: The Passage by Justin Cronin
This is the first book in a trilogy about the end of the world, via a virus that turns people into zombies. Zombies aren’t really my thing, so I don’t see myself reading these books, but my sister loved them.

Michele’s Pick: I’m Just No Good at Rhyming by Chris Harris.
This should have been the funniest book, and for most people it would have been, but Nimona’s dark edge played just a little more to my tastes. It also could have been the most unexpected, as I don’t usually enjoy poetry this much, but I thought Ove deserved the top spot rather than an Honorable Mention. Of course, Nimona was also unexpected because I don’t usually like graphic novels either. So this was a really tough choice for me and even though Harris got bumped down here, it’s still one of the very best books I’ve read in the past several years, and I recommend it very highly.

So that’s 2017 in a nutshell for us. What do you think of our picks? Love them? Hate them? Have your own books you want to put into the categories? Have any category suggestions you think need to be included? I’d love to hear all this and more in the comments!

I Guess I’m An Immature Grown-Up

Chris Harris’s book of poems, I’m Just No Good at Rhyming, is specifically for “mischievous kids and immature grown-ups.” And I absolutely loved it. If it means I get to enjoy masterpieces like this, I will happily own the title of immature.

Harris put together an excellent mix of poems for all ages. Some of them are the type of sheer ridiculousness that will have kids howling. Others contain more subtle jokes adults will find hilarious. As with any collection, I didn’t love all of them, but it was pretty darn close.

My favorites (it was a hard choice, but if I had to choose) were “I’m Just No Good At Rhyming” and “Two Roads.” I really liked “Rhyming” because it’s my favorite kind of poetry. There are lots of ways to make words dance along in a poem without making them rhyme, and I’m glad he took a whole poem to point that out. And I loved “Two Roads” because it’s a really funny joke involving one of the most popular poems out there.

Lots of people are comparing this book to Shel Silverstein’s works. I suppose it’s apt, except I was never that big a fan of Silverstein (sorry Shel!) and I loved this book, in case you haven’t figured that out yet.

One of the things I most appreciated about this book was the number of times Harris inserted a more profound message into a poem without ever killing the mood. When you’re done laughing, you’ll realize that there’s some good food for thought in there.

While I’m gushing over Harris, it’s only fair to take some time out to acknowledge the brilliance of Lane Smith, the illustrator. The drawings complement the poems perfectly, and there’s some excellent back-and-forth between the two minds behind this project.

As a final note, take some time to read through everything. The front cover, author’s note, acknowledgements…everything is entertaining. I actually think the acknowledgements were my favorite part of the book.

If you’ve read it, how long did it take you to figure out what was going on with the page numbers? It took me far longer than it should have.

Five out of five stars. Read this book and then badger everyone you know to do the same.