Posted by: Sally Ingraham | March 10, 2013

Playing Catch-up: from McKinley to Garcia Marquez

I’ve been doing a bit of this…! (Image: Raquel Marin)

It’s been a very bookish couple of months. In fact, according to Goodreads I am 9 books ahead of schedule, regarding my goal of reading 50 books this year. I set this goal based on the fact that I came nowhere near that number during the busy days of 2012, but hoped to read more in 2013. So far so good I guess.

As often happens when I go through a reading lull and then hit a surge, the majority of the books I’ve read recently have been YA Fantasy. I am beginning to sense that this will always be my favorite genre, and fortunately for me the creativity among YA authors and the quality of their writing seems to be ever increasing – once you dig the good stuff out of a whole lot of rubbishy paranormal romances and their ilk. (Although I do like a good vampire or werewolf now and then…)

Given that I fall behind on recent publications all the time, I am grateful for friends and bloggers like Leila of bookshelves of doom, L of omphaloskepsis, Ana of things mean a lot, and my little sister (from whom I regularly demand good recommendations), for staying on task and sorting out the good from the mediocre and telling me which are which! This means that in a run of 15 YA Fantasy books read so far this year there were only 3 or so that I really wasn’t totally sold on. Pretty good odds!

I’ve reached my saturation point for the moment I think, though, and am starting to introduce some non-fiction, adult literary fiction, and translated fiction back into my diet. A good mix of that and my beloved YA Fantasy makes me a healthy, happy bookworm.

I’m not going to properly review any of the books I’ve read so far this year, beyond a quick run down of some of the list (baring a few rereads, the duds, and a book by Diana Wynn Jones that I’ll talk about separately) as a sort of bookmark for myself. There may be an excessive use of exclamation points coming up…

  • Hale, Shannon. Book of a Thousand Days. New York: Bloomsbury U.S.A Children’s Books, 2007. 306 pages. Decent retelling of a classic Grimm fairy tale (like many of her books), but not a new favorite. (Incidentally, I can’t wait to get my mitts on the sequel to Princess Academy!)
  • Cashore, Kristin. Bitterblue. New York: The Penguin Group, 2012. 547 pages. A companion to Graceling and Fire (two spectacular books!), Bitterblue didn’t quite measure up and had some plot devices that I found hard to believe, but I was still entertained and enjoyed revisiting Cashore’s world and some favorite characters from the earlier books.
  • McKinley, Robin. Pegasus. New York: The Penguin Group, 2010. 404 pages. McKinley is a favorite author (The Blue Sword is in my top 5 and Rose Daughter is in my top 10) and her latest book didn’t disappoint, AT ALL. I loved it. I mean, Pegasi! Horses that FLY!! And make friends with humans!!! Pretty good stuff. The cliff-hanger ending made me screech and pull my hair, and 2014 with the promised sequel is soooo far away… Boo.
  • Carson, Rae. The Girl of Fire and Thorns. New York: Greenwillow Books, 2011. 423 pages. An excellent first novel from Rae Carson. I’m a sucker for desert stories, and this had a bit of that and a whole lot of other awesome in it too (magical jewels! castle political intrigue! prophesies!) Quite an original premise too. I timed my reading of this one right – the sequel was recently published. Thank goodness. 🙂
  • Bacigalupi, Paolo. Ship Breaker. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2010. 323 pages. An interesting, thought-provoking, and extremely well written post-Apocalypse story. I should really say more about it, but I’ll let L fill you in. Her review is here.
  • Stiefvater, Maggie. The Raven Boys. New York: Scholastic Press, 2012. 408 pages. Stiefvater hasn’t written a bad book yet, and each of her books is better than the last – with the exception of this one. It didn’t surpass The Scorpio Races, which is hands down my favorite of her books, but it was certainly just as brilliant and original and delightful. The awesome includes: Clairvoyants! Buried kings! Enchanted glades! Fast cars! I can’t wait for the sequel. (And can I just add that Stiefvater is THE CUTEST? Check out her blog sometime. She’s another one of my go-tos for book recommendations, incidentally.)
  • Hartman, Rachel. Seraphina. New York: Random House, 2012. 464 pages. DRAGONS! Done in a new and interesting way, in an intriguing and well crafted world. This book is brilliant. It is Hartman’s first, and I very much hope she gets round to writing something else soon.
  • Thal, Lilli. Mimus. Translated from the German by John Brownjohn. New York: Annick Press, 2005. 394 pages. Set in a medieval world, this follows the adventures of a prince turned jester. It was lively and clever but failed to totally engage me. Still, I would read another book by Thal if I came across one.
  • Yovanoff, Brenna. The Replacement. New York: The Penguin Group, 2010. 343 pages. An unusual and excellent take on the fairy left in the cradle in place of a human child story – and fairies in general. I really liked this one and am pleased to have discovered a new author who has written quite a few other well reviewed books. The dark, creepy atmosphere of this story is great, and while the ending was a little bit off, the rest of the book more than made up for it.
  • Smith, Jennifer E. The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2012. 236 pages. Cute, but not excessively so. The ‘love at first sight’ bit is nothing remarkable, although it’s tolerably well done. There is a decent exploration of a teen dealing with the breakup of her parents – no startling insights. Overall a fun, and not totally fluffy, book.
  • Taylor, Laini. Daughter of Smoke and Bone. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2011. 418 pages. At first I was thinking, “Angels…? Are you kidding me?” but then I got over it because these are some bad ass angels. And the so-called “demons” or really cool too. And the writing is excellent. And the book is SPLENDID. And thank goodness the sequel was just published! A win all round. I’m looking forward to reading everything else Taylor has written asap.
  • Fforde, Jasper. The Last Dragonslayer. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012. 287 pages. Fforde has written some extremely funny, copiously clever books for adults, my favorite of which is The Eyre Affair, the first of the Thursday Next literary mysteries. The Last Dragonslayer is aimed at a younger audience, and it is a fun book (featuring dragons, YES!) but nothing exceptional. It seemed a bit tame, actually. And who likes a tame dragon, really? Nevertheless, I did laugh out loud a few times and that never hurts anyone.

Last but not least, here’s a few books from outside the YA genre that I read and enjoyed earlier this year:

  • Marquez, Gabriel Garcia. One Hundred Years of Solitude. Translated from the Spanish by Gregory Rabassa. New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1970. Originally published 1967. 448 pages. I’ve taken my time getting round to reading this extremely hyped up and loved by millions book. It’s been on my TBR list for about 11 years, ever since my then 13 year old cousin first told me about it. A fellow I met last November told me it was his favorite book besides The Lord of the Rings, and then insisted on giving me his copy. In February I finally checked it off my list. I thought it was entertaining, somewhat hilarious at times, deliciously weird throughout, and definitely NOT my favorite book besides LOTR…! I just can’t seem to be overly impressed by Garcia Marquez. I keep trying, but I’ve yet to read a book of his that I really liked. There is no doubt that he is an inventive writer who is a master of the craft, but this story just never got ahold of me. And yet I’ll probably try again with him, just because. Love in a Time of Cholera…? Maybe that’ll be the one…

  • Abbey, Edward. Fire on the Mountain. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1962. 181 pages. I wanted to read The Monkey Wrench Gang but found this one at the library instead. Set in New Mexico (yay!) it tells the tale of a tough old rancher and his grandson, who try to take on the US government and military, who want to fold the family ranch into their White Sands Missile Range…with the inevitable result. It’s a book about brave, stubborn people, which left me heavy-hearted but not totally depressed. Abbey writes with equal care about the weathered old man and the scrubby drying out landscape, and finds painful beauty in both. I’m still thinking about the story weeks later. It’s good to have discovered Abbey. I look forward to reading more of his work.

And there you have it. I should have proper reviews from now on (more or less…) Feel free to ask me for more details about any of these books if you want them. 🙂

What’s YOUR favorite book from the first few months of this year?


  1. […] all this in mind, as I was writing my post on books earlier today I was struck by how many were by female authors and featured interesting, strong, […]

  2. I liked The Raven Boys better! Just saying. 😉

    • Cool! I’m just a sucker for horses… 😛 But actually I think the character development was more complex and some of the issues that were a focus were fleshed out better in The Raven Boys. Again, can’t wait to see where Maggie takes the story!

  3. looking forward to getting around to Stiefvater; Scorpio Races and Raven Boys are on the list. I just couldn’t get excited about werewolf novels before. I adore Laini Taylor’s DreamDark series… Will be looking into that Rae Carson book.

    I took an Eco-Crit course and we read Abbey’s Desert Solitaire; afterward you begin to see his influences in other work. And you see strong traces of Thoreau’s Walden in Abbey’s work. have been intending to read Monkey Wrench gang, too.

    glad you liked Seraphina and Shipbreaker (I started its sequel/companion but lost time for it); Bacigalupi’s Wind-Up Girl is pretty good, too, I hear.

    my appreciation of Marquez is in his short story work, so I am less eager to read longer pieces. I think he is harder to love for me because I read Italo Calvino first.

    • Interesting about Calvino/Marquez for you. I need to finish If On a Winter’s Night a Traveler one if these days…

      I think you’ll enjoy The Raven Boys and The Scorpio Races – they seem like your style. 🙂 And I really should have said more about The Girl of Fire and Thorns – it features such a satisfying (and unusual) character. That artwork I found of her is SPLENDID and so much better than all the somewhat whitewashed cover art I’ve seen…

  4. I’ve read (and liked) several García Márquez books, Sarah, but I’ve never been able to get into his most famous one for some reason. Will likely try it again later this year, but I kind of understand your reaction to it. Anyway, good to see you blogging regularly again (even though I’m behind on your posts, sorry) and nice to see this Edward Abbey review from you. I was thinking of reading a different book by him later in the year if things work out. Cheers!

    • I’ll look forward to your Abbey review, whatever book it turns out to be. I have plans to read more by him myself before the year is out.

      Strange about One Hundred Years of Solitude. I AM still thinking about it, so that’s something, even if I didn’t totally connect with it. It took me three tries to finish it, so maybe this will be the year for you! Good luck. 🙂

      And thanks for continuing to read my stuff!

  5. […] the first few months of this year I read in rapid succession 15 books that fall into the YA Fantasy slot. I got a great deal of pleasure out […]

  6. […] to this time last year, I began catching up on new(ish) YA releases, knocking Rebel Heart by Moira Young, Code Name […]

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