During this Lent, I’ve been reading a different type of book than I often do, focusing almost entirely on non-fiction and children’s books. While I may make an occasional exception, or re-read a favorite book, that’s the general idea. After May 5, I’m sure I’ll return to my normal YA & SFF fare, but at the moment that’s what to expect here.
Eighty Days: Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland’s Historic Race Around the World by Matthew Goodman: I knew a bit about Nellie Bly and her trip around the world, but nothing at all about Elizabeth Bisland, plus all the books I’d read about Nellie Bly were children’s biographies. So I was very interested in this adult non-fiction account of their race. Goodman weaves together the two stories nicely, highlighting the contrast between the races and the women’s characters, as well as a few similarities (both were self-made women who had risen from poor origins). His style is occasionally a little digressionary–did we really need the whole history of train travel in the US?–but overall is quite engaging. I did feel that the suggested conclusion at the end (Bly won the race but Bisland had a happier life) seemed a little thin on actual evidence rather than supposition.
Kiki Strike: Inside the Shadow City by Kirsten Miller: I know, I am so late to the game! But after Brandy recently read this and loved it, it convinced me that I really, really needed to just read it already, instead of letting it languish on my TBR list. And, yes, fine, everyone was right. Kiki Strike is a glorious book, funny and touching by turns, with a strong dose of a nice kind of girl power–each of the girls has her specific strengths, grown ups will underestimate girls but you can use that to your advantage, the whole book is very focused on the girls’ friendship.
Binny for Short by Hilary McKay: I love Hilary McKay, so when I saw this post, buying the oh-so-lovely UK edition was a no-brainer. I think it’s one of my favorites of her books–nothing can surpass the sheer hilarity of The Exiles, but Binny has a gravity and warmth to it that is entirely satisfying. McKay does families in an unparalleled fashion and that talent is on full display here; I loved the interactions between Clem, Binny, James, and their mum. Also, I thought I saw echoes of Rumer Godden in both style and the way time skips back and forward. Since I love Rumer Godden, this is all to the good.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows: I re-read this one last night, staying up far later than I meant to and weeping at various points. Sad, but so, SO good. Epistolary novel, WWII book, book about books, with a touch of romance and a delightful cast of characters. Juliet easily could have been a kind of background character to the rest, but the letters show her voice so clearly that she is just as alive as the rest of them. And they are marvelously alive, both the central group and the outlying characters. My only sorrow is that this is Mary Ann Shaffer’s only book.
The Dragon of Og by Rumer Godden: A delightful children’s book, telling the story of a dragon, a Scottish lord, and his English wife. It’s quite funny, in the way that a bookish child who has read lots of other English books would enjoy. And the illustrations are marvellous, sweeping across the page whether they’re in black-and-white or color. This is one I wish I had known about earlier, because I know I would have loved it just as much then. Nice, old-fashioned fun, if that’s the sort of thing you like.