bookish posts monthly book list reviews

February 2015 round up

Books I’ve already talked about
Code Name Verity: audiobook review
The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black
The Sand-Reckoner by Gillian Bradshaw
Perfect Couple by Jennifer Echols
A Stranger in Olondria by Sofia Samatar

Once Upon a Rose by Laura Florand
The Bell at Sealey Head by Patricia McKillip

Other books
Third Girl (audio) by Agatha Christie: Another Poirot mystery. This isn’t a huge favorite, in that it’s a later Christie and she is quite…odd about Young People and Drugs, etc. But it is interesting that it’s one of several Christie books to feature gaslighting, in one form or another, which makes me curious about that aspect.

The Secret of the Yellow Death by Suzanne Jurmain: Juvenile non-fiction account of the American doctors who were attempting to discover how yellow fever is spread. I found it informative, but wished that Jurmain had taken a harder look at the issues of imperialism & race which I felt lurking just behind the story.

The Just City by Jo Walton: Much like My Real Children, I have a hard time pinning down my reaction to The Just City. Thought-provoking, well-written, but for me ultimately not very satisfying. That being said, I was not aware that it is apparently the first book of a trilogy, so I don’t know the extent to which my reaction is simply confounded expectations–that is, I was looking for a story that wrapped up in one volume. I will definitely be reading at least the second book, and we’ll see where I am after that.

Above World by Jenn Reese: Interesting middle-grade SF, which was recommended by several trusted sources. I enjoyed it, although I didn’t completely love it. I’ve heard that the second book is really good, so I’m looking forward to that.

Perfectly Good White Boy by Carrie Mesrobian: I loved Mesrobian’s debut, so I was looking forward to her second (unconnected) book. Sean is a fascinating character, and it’s a quick, tight read that doesn’t sacrifice depth. I liked the portrayal of Sean’s decision to go into the military, which seemed thoughtful and nuanced from my outsider’s perspective. I think Sex & Violence hit me harder emotionally, but this one is very good.

The Shape of Desire by Sharon Shinn: I had an interesting reaction to this one in that I read it really quickly and read the second as soon as I could. And yet, I struggle with how much of Maria’s life, from start to finish, revolves around Dante and how little I could understand what she got from that relationship. I do know & believe that people do sacrifice things for those they love, and that’s not in itself unhealthy. But I never quite bought it in this instance.

Kissing Ted Callahan and Other Guys by Amy Spalding: Review coming closer to the release date.

Saint Louis Armstrong Beach by Brenda Woods: I read The Blossoming Universe of Violet Diamond last year and really liked it, so I decided to try some of Woods’s other books. Saint Louis Armstrong Beach is set in New Orleans before and during Hurricane Katrina. Like Violet Diamond, Saint is a compelling character who Woods shows with a lot of depth and care.

Moon Called by Patricia Briggs: Urban fantasy hasn’t really clicked with me in the past, but I really enjoyed the first book in the Mercy Thompson series. I have a couple of niggling questions about a couple of portrayals, but in general, I really liked the story and the characters.

Barbed Wire Baseball by Marissa Moss: Moss’s juvenile biography of Kenichi Zenimura does a nice job of presenting his life, while focusing on the baseball diamond he created while in a US internment camp during WWII. I really liked Yuko Shimizu’s art as well. I suspect this might work a bit better for kids who already know about the internment camps, but it’s definitely one to recommend to young sports fans.

Wildlife by Fiona Wood: I really loved this Australian YA. It’s told from two perspectives, Lou and Sibylla, as they go with their class on a wilderness term. While I often don’t find that multiple perspectives work that well, Wood absolutely nails it here. Lou’s diary especially reminded me so much of myself at that age: a little self-absorbed, a little pretentious, but also full of emotion. In Lou’s case, there’s some solid reasons for that. I also like the way the friendship between Lou and Sib is shown, tenuous and fraught.

Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear: A rollicking steampunk Wild West adventure featuring authentically diverse characters, including BASS REEVES, aka the coolest person ever. I thoroughly enjoyed this one, and Karen’s voice. It’s funny and sad and serious all at the same time. I thought the mystery aspect was fairly well done, although I did see the solution a bit earlier than the characters. All in all, if you want the feel of a Wild West yarn without getting metaphorically punched in the face, this is a good one.

The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place by Julie Berry: It’s sounds a bit odd to call a book that opens with a double murder hilarious, but this one is. Berry situates herself a little more firmly in history than she has previously done (although significant suspension of disbelief is required). I loved the humor, and the way the girls stuck up for each other even while disagreeing and arguing.

Bone Gap by Laura Ruby: Review coming later this week! (Spoiler: It’s SO GOOD.)

Still Life with Shapeshifter by Sharon Shinn: My objection to the first book is not exactly here, because the relationship is between sisters in this instance. But some of it still stands; the way Amy is absolutely the center of Melanie’s life seems to push Melanie to the edges of the story, even though it’s nominally hers. Despite all these frustrations, I do have a hold on the third book, so.

Blood Bound by Patricia Briggs: Second Mercy Thompson. I liked some of the developments in this one; I think Briggs does a decent job of conveying the creepy inhumanness of the vampires, which I imagine could easily fall flat.

Village of Secrets by Caroline Moorehead: Moorehead examines the history and myths of the Vivarais Plateau during World War II, including the most famous village, Le Chambon. I first read about Le Chambon and the Trocmés in middle school and found them thrilling. However, Moorehead’s careful scholarship shows a much more complex and fascinating situation. Without lessening any of the heroism involved, she clarifies some of the more exaggerated stories and claims and examines how the post-war years still cast a long shadow in the area.

How to Be a Victorian
by Ruth Goodman: Goodman looks at Victorian daily life from dawn to dusk. It’s not an entirely novel concept, but where this book really stands out is in Goodman’s experience actually trying the things she talks about. She’s done an extraordinary number of Victorian activities, from washing clothes to washing herself. And I found that overall, she is able to set aside modern preconceptions and note where the Victorian way worked very well in their context, and where it didn’t (laundry being the most notable one). I did find the last chapter, on sex, interesting but an abrupt ending to the book. Then again, I wanted to know about Victorian beds, so perhaps it’s just me (did they really all wear nightcaps?). Throughout, Goodman does a nice job differentiating between early and late in the era, and the wildly varying experiences of different classes (race is another matter, as I can’t remember it being mentioned at all). This would be a great reference for writing in the period, and is a really enjoyable read.

Other posts
Links from February 6
Links from February 20
Ten things I like in fictional romances
Fifteen of my favorite heroines
Melina Marchetta is a favorite author
Recap of ALA Midwinter, part 1 and part 2
Picture Book Monday
Library displays from Jan-Feb
Made & Making

TV & movies
The Scapegoat
Pitch Perfect
The Decoy Bride
Miss Fisher

By Maureen LaFerney

My name is Maureen. I currently work as a library assistant in a public library in the Indianapolis area, and also just so happen to be a voracious reader. I frequently end up under a cat.

2 replies on “February 2015 round up”

The Just City was strange — I didn’t really feel invested or emotional about any of the characters, but I did finish reading it. I found Apollo really annoying, especially how he kept banging on about how ugly Simmea is and how he could never be attracted to her. I know the book is trying to explore sexism and racism and morality etc, but maybe it’s too theoretical for me? And I was frustrated that nothing happened about the rape, even though I know that in real life it happens like that all the time. I don’t know. I’ll probably read the second one, but I can’t say I enjoyed the first.

Too theoretical–that’s a nice way of putting it! It all felt very much like a thought-experiment somehow. Which is in keeping with the idea of the book, but didn’t make for my favorite reading experience.

Like I said, I also didn’t know it was the first book of a trilogy, so I don’t know! Maybe the resolution will have me cheering.

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