Teatime: Group Reads

Growing up, I always thought of reading as a solitary activity. It was what I did at recess instead of playing with the other kids, my escape from the homework I didn’t want to do, and my excuse not to take up a sport. (Who needed adventures of your own when you had books?) And beyond needing my parents to take me to the library, it was yet another thing that I could do independently from a young age. 

But over the years I found through in-class “book groups” — and more importantly, online fandom activity, i.e. Tumblr and Goodreads — that I actually quite enjoy discussing books that I’ve read or am currently reading. (Blogging is a social activity, of course, but there’s some degree of removal: comments on your review, or even your periodic GR updates, don’t tend to lead to in-depth discussion.)

So I recently joined the YA Buddy Readers’ Corner on Goodreads, and I’ve been a member of Howl’s Moving Book Club since its inception last November. Having spent the past few months doing a mix of group and solitary reads, I have a lot of thoughts on how they compare.

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REVIEW: Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

Summary: Miryem is the daughter and granddaughter of moneylenders … but her father isn’t a very good one. Free to lend and reluctant to collect, he has loaned out most of his wife’s dowry and left the family on the edge of poverty — until Miryem steps in. Hardening her heart against her fellow villagers’ pleas, she sets out to collect what is owed — and finds herself more than up to the task. When her grandfather loans her a pouch of silver pennies, she brings it back full of gold.

But having the reputation of being able to change silver to gold can be more trouble than it’s worth — especially when her fate becomes tangled with the cold creatures that haunt the wood, and whose king has learned of her reputation and wants to exploit it for reasons Miryem cannot understand. 

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REVIEW: Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones

Summary: Polly has two sets of memories …

One is normal: school, home, friends. The other, stranger memories begin nine years ago, when she was ten and gate-crashed an odd funeral in the mansion near her grandmother’s house. Polly’s just beginning to recall the sometimes marvelous, sometimes frightening adventures she embarked on with Tom Lynn after that. And then she did something terrible, and everything changed.

But what did she do? Why can’t she remember? Polly must uncover the secret, or her true love — and perhaps Polly herself — will be lost.

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