Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Judging books by their covers

Here's a little more of the YA books I've been reading and listening to lately, but for a slightly younger crowd:

Milo Pine and his parents run the Greenglass House, a place that has historically been used by smugglers and still attracts an interesting and not always lawful clientele.  Normally Milo has the place and his parents all to himself at Christmas, but this year they're surprised with an eclectic group of lodgers.  And when it turns out there's a thief among them, Milo decides to investigate and find the culprit.

I love love love the cover of Kate Milford's book – the artwork reminds me of books I read as a kid.  But it started very slowly for me, and I didn't get interested in the story until nearly halfway through.  In the end I honestly liked it, I just didn't love it.  First of all, time and place in the novel are very loose.  To me a smugglers inn lends itself to an earlier time period, yet it's set in a modern time (although no cell phones).  And the town of Nagspeake is fictional but very confusing as to where it might be located.  There's also a lot of talk about role-playing games and the dual-identity thing for Milo was kind of annoying (although I played a bit of D&D as a kid, it wasn't something that I felt any connection with).  Milford tries to tie the dual-identity theme to the idea that Milo was adopted by the Pines, but it felt flat to me.  The mystery of the story was what made it interesting, but too often a clue would pop up only to be immediately resolved.  There's plenty going on in the story but it never blended well for me (plus, one main character was kinda obvious).  Still, it wasn't a long read and it was kind of fun – even made me wish to spend Christmas time somewhere in the snow.

In Hope Was Here by Joan Bauer, Hope Yancey leaves Brooklyn with her aunt Addie for Wisconsin where her aunt has accepted a job as a chef in a small town.  Hope has a lot of baggage – as nearly every single NYC young person in novels seems to have.  Her mother didn't want her and she never knew her father.  But she deals with it well and tries to make the best of every situation.  She's 16 years old and gets to work in the restaurant as a waitress – a job she takes very seriously.  But the owner of the restaurant is battling leukemia, so it's a surprise when he enters the political fray against a crooked mayor. 

The cover of the edition I listened to is a bit misleading.  It shows a car with a U-Haul trailer and NYC in the background.  And while Hope's life in Brooklyn provides a backdrop for the story, it's not a NYC story.  It's more about family relationships – dysfunctional and broken – and the ugly side of small town politics.  Yet it's also a very nice story, with a kind and likeable protagonist who is nicer and more positive than she has any reason to be and makes the best of her situation while longing for a father figure.  The reader of the audiobook made Hope sound much younger than 16 which is probably more in line with the intended middle grade audience.  It's kind of a teary-eyed ending, but it's a nice story.

1 comment:

  1. Hi John!

    I've enjoyed looking over your blog. I see that you reviewed the book American Creation by Joseph J. Ellis on Amazon. I have written a book that is similar to that. Would you be willing to let me provide you with a free copy in the hopes that you would consider reviewing my book on Amazon as well?

    My name is Tracy Lawson and my book is Fips, Bots, Doggeries, and More: Explorations of Henry Rogers' 1838 Journal of Travel from Southwestern Ohio to New York City. You can find a link to it here:, and here is a link to my website: Tracy Lawson Books.

    I'd be happy to mail you a free copy of my book to review if you provide a mailing address. Of course, I understand you are under zero obligation to review my book, and if you do review it, you can leave a good or a bad review. I am simply looking for the opportunity to have you consider it.

    Now that I've seen the books you've reviewed here, I wonder if you might be interested in my YA dystopian books as well? The same goes for Counteract and Resist I can provide you with either print or electronic copies of the YA books.

    Thank you very much for your time. I look forward to your response.

    Warmest regards,

    Tracy Lawson