July Mini Reviews 2014

Mini Reviews
Mini Reviews

Since I don’t always have a full page of thoughts about a book I’ve finished, I like to do a post each month where I share mini reviews of these books. This way I can still share my thoughts about them, without dedicating an entire post to, like, on paragraph. This doesn’t mean that my mini reviews are only for books I didn’t like — quite the contrary! Usually it’s books I read for book club (which I often don’t have much of an opinion about, or obligation to write a full review), or books I LOVED and therefore can’t think coherently enough about to write lots of words. Here’s what I’ve got for books I read in July.


Full Books & Audiobooks


The Map Thief by Michael Blanding

The Map Thief by Michael Blanding3 Stars
I don’t read a lot of nonfiction these days, but when I saw this up on Edelweiss, I couldn’t help myself. I’m a huge map fan (in case that wasn’t obvious), and this seemed like a book that would be a lot of fun. Silly me, I didn’t realize it was nonfiction until I started reading it, but the good thing is that Blanding makes this story come alive for the reader quite well. I really enjoyed getting to know the history of mapmaking threaded in with the story of Smiley, what drove him to become a map dealer, and how he ended up becoming one of the most notorious map thieves in history. The alternating between historical information, keeping up with Smiley, and Blanding’s adventures in tracking down this information was well done, and kept me interested in reading. If you’re curious about the dealings of map collectors, or the history of mapmaking, I would definitely recommend this book!


Maphead by Ken Jennings

Maphead: Charting the Wide, Weird World of Geography Wonks by Ken Jennings 5 Stars
Leanne gave this to me as a birthday gift last year, and my map-themed month of July was the perfect time to read it! I read it partially at the same time as The Map Thief, which led to some information overlap in terms of the history of mapmaking, but that’s okay. This book was SO MUCH FUN. Even if you’re not a map geek (or maphead, as Jennings says), I think you would still enjoy this book. Jennings has a brilliant sense of humor, which really appealed to me in not only his general writing, but in his footnotes as well (which were laced with all kinds of additional trivia that I highly enjoyed). I learned about all different kinds of map people, how they engage with maps, why they like maps, and what makes this interesting and fun for them. I was inspired by this book in so many ways, and it’s so far the ONLY book I’ve allowed myself to write and highlight in, because I just couldn’t help but add my commentary at the point of reference! LOVED IT!


Under the Wide and Starry Sky by Nancy Horan

Under the Wide and Starry Sky by Nancy Horan 2 Stars
This book was a bit of a struggle for me. I think I’ve concluded that I just don’t generally enjoy reading novels based upon actual historical figures. I don’t like the idea that (even though much of it comes from historical documentation) a lot of it was fictionalized. I have no idea what’s true and what isn’t, and that dampens my enjoyment of the book. In this book’s case, it moved very slowly. I enjoyed some parts — especially the bits that explored relationships (marriages in particular) — but I felt as if I was being dragged through every single minuscule detail of their lives (and yet not gaining much from it), which made it less fun to read. It took me a long time to get through, and by the end, it felt like a bit of a chore. :(


The Door to Time (Ulysses Moore #1) by Pierdomenico Baccalario

The Door to Time by Pierdomenico Baccalario 2.5 Stars
I grabbed this book off the $1 shelf at a local bookshop because OMG it’s hardcover, illustrated, and in PERFECT condition! I picked it up off my shelf in July on a pure whim, because I thought it might fit my map theme — and it did (sort of). This was a light and fun middle grade adventure about a family who moves into a mysterious mansion in a new place. I really enjoyed the mystery, which involved several little puzzles they needed to solve. The characters were distinct and vibrant, and I breezed my way through the book. I was a bit disappointed that by the end of it, it was clear that things were *just beginning* but I suppose that is sort of the nature of middle grade chapter books. There WAS a bit of mapmaking involved, which made me happy, and I’ve been scouring online shops to get my hands on the next book.


Novellas, Short Stories & Comics


Rocket Girl, vol. 1 by Brandon Montclare & Amy Reeder

Rocket Girl Volume 1: Times Squared by Brandon Montclare, Amy Reeder4 Stars
I remember seeing Rocket Girl on Kickstarter and thinking that I should probably back the project, but for some silly reason I didn’t. I think it’s because I’m still not truly all that into comics. But when I saw this on NetGalley, and realized it was free to read immediately, I nabbed it and read it right away. Rocket Girl is so much fun, and it’s filled with the nostalgia of science fiction comics and anime from my childhood. The setting was an interesting juxtaposition of the 1980s and 2013, and the time travel + rocket technology was super cool to see in action. I loved that in such a short volume, I got so much action, though-provoking conversation, and gorgeous artwork to drool over! I can’t wait for volume 2, if it’s in the works.


Hana Doki Kira by The Year 85 Group

Hana Doki Kira by The Year 85 Group5 Stars
This was a reward from the Hana Doki Kira kickstarter project, and I am so glad that I backed it! I adore comics, manga, and anime — especially the shoujo kind, which is what this book is a big tribute to! This volume combines art from a variety of different contributors, each with her/his own unique style that was wonderful to look at, fun to read, and clearly a heartfelt tribute to the shoujo genre of manga and anime. The overall design is beautiful: black-and-white with a seafoam accent color threaded throughout every page. The cover is pretty, simple, and interesting. I devoured this book way too quickly and was already looking online for the next volume (hint: yes, there will be another one. hint: the accent color is going to be hot pink!).


Have you read any of these books? What did you think?

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