Category Archives: reviews

April 2017 round up

Well, I read so many books and talked about almost none of them. Also, it is May 16. Here we are.

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl by Shannon and Dean Hale: I love the Squirrel Girl comics, and I enjoyed this middle grade chapter book about Doreen Green. I will say, though, that I didn’t find the story worked quite as well when translated to words instead of comics. I’m not sure exactly why this is, except maybe that part of Squirrel Girl’s charm is her very normal appearance (except for the tail) and that visual shortcut isn’t possible in a chapter book.

All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders: So, I had a really erroneous notion of what this book was going to be, and I struggled with the gap between my expectation and the book as it is. I mean, the idea that one character is in a SF book and the other is in a fantasy book is neat, but in the end the themes and love story didn’t feel super new. I feel a bit churlish for not loving it as much as others did–and I do think it’s very well written from a craft perspective.

Alone Atop the Hill by Alice Dunnigan: Kate recommended this one when I asked about biographies of women of color–and I’m glad she did. Alice Dunnigan was the first Black woman to be a Capitol Hill reporter and this book excerpts her biography in a way that gives us a sense of what she had to struggle with to make that possible.

Piecing Me Together by Renée Watson: I loved this one so, so much and wanted to write a whole post about it, but I’m not sure when I’ll get to it. So for now, I’ll just say that just like This Side of Home, Watson’s second YA book is incredibly thoughtful and complex, and so strong on character and relationships. I appreciated how layered it is in terms of the different intersections of identity shown.

Keeping Hope Alive by Dr. Hawa Abdi: The memoir of a female doctor in Somalia, who semi-accidentally became a leader of a whole community. The story sometimes jumps unexpectedly, but it’s clearly personal and vivid, so I didn’t mind that here. It’s an interesting look at how to keep going in the face of really horrifying situations.

Elizabeth’s Women by Tracey Borman: This had been on my TBR list literally for years, so I finally checked it out. I liked it, generally speaking, though somehow the men just kept creeping back in. (#misandryalert) But Borman is a good historian and a decent writer and the idea of looking at Elizabeth’s life through her many complicated relationships with other women is a great lens to examine an already much-examined subject.

The Buccaneers’ Code by Caroline Carlson (audiobook): Third in the Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates trilogy. This one had been on my to-read list since it came out and I finally used an e-audiobook as a way to get through it. Which makes it sound like I didn’t like it–I did enjoy it quite a bit, though I think that at least for an adult listener, the pacing was a bit slow and the characterization a bit uneven.

Savage Beauty by Nancy Milford: Weirdly, reading this biography of Edna St. Vincent Millay made it much easier for me to understand what Amy Gary was trying to do with In the Great Green Room: the brilliant woman with a troubled love life and a sister who outlived her, and who the author had unique access to. The fact remains that Milford has the sensitivity and contextual ability to succeed where Gary doesn’t. While this left me feeling more sad about Millay than anything else, I do think it’s worth reading if you’re interested in her or her era.

Iris and the Tiger by Leanne Hall: reviewed here!

The Copper Gauntlet by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare: Book 2 in a planned…six book series, I believe? On the one hand, it’s really not doing anything incredibly new, but it does have just enough interest in the conflict and the characters to keep me interested while I’m reading it.

Beacon at Alexandria by Gillian Bradshaw (reread): It had been a bit since I revisited any of Bradshaw’s work and now I’m kind of wanting to do some focused rereading of her books. I think this one is probably still my favorite–or at least very close–mostly because Charis is such a great character. The degree to which this is kind of three separate books in one is pretty fascinating to me, though.

Seal Up the Thunder by Erin Noteboom: So, I love Erin Bow’s prose books and she mentioned on Twitter that she had a poetry collection–which I knew and had forgotten! I ordered it promptly and really liked it. The poems are sly, witty, and warm, treating their Biblical themes with respect and affection. My favorites were “oh the gates” and “Resurrection” (which I’d already read but which worked even better for me in context). If religious poetry can be too sentimental for you, this is a great antidote.

The Inquisitor’s Tale by Adam Gidwitz: Historical fantasy loosely inspired by real French historical figures. I really liked this one–maybe more than I expected to–and found that it was a deep and thoughtful look at different marginalized experiences. It was also a more emotional read than I expected, so all in all, I can really understand why this one has received so much acclaim.

Miss Ellicott’s School for the Magically Minded by Sage Blackwood: This is a very delightful book about fighting the patriarchy and hatred, also a dragon. I really liked the main character, and the interactions between the older and younger generations was fascinating. Plus, I hope I mentioned the dragon? I will say that I don’t think the tone of the cover art particularly fits the book, which is both more serious and richer than the kids on an adventure suggests.

Bandette v. 3: House of the Green Mask: Bandette! I do really like this series, though I’m starting to feel the desire for a slightly more resolved arc. However, the art and storyline, plus the low key romance is keeping me invested in this one.

In Darkling Wood by Emma Carroll: There’s been an interesting mini-trend recently of middle grade books that hearken back to WWI in some way. (Hilary McKay’s Binny Bewitched is one, and I swear I thought of another one but of course didn’t write it down!) In Darkling Wood is quite sad–sadder than I was expecting, even once I figured out some of what was going on. The historical bits are pretty unrelenting, which made me perhaps not enjoy this one, or believe in the current-day resolution as much as I wanted to.

Lumberjanes v. 6: Sink or Swim: FRIENDSHIP TO THE MAX–no but really, one of the things I loved about this one is the way it shows that you can mess up and still have friends at the end of the day. Also, there are some Revelations about the world that are exciting! I’ve heard the next arc is fantastic & I can’t waiiiiiit.

Wintersmith by Terry Pratchett (reread): My least favorite Tiffany Aching, BUT even my least favorite is still pretty marvelous.

The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi: Scalzi is a fluffy sci-fi writer–the kind I reach for when I want something that will entertain while taking almost no brain power. This is a fun little conceit and I may well read the rest of the series when it comes out. (I don’t feel like I need to over-praise Scalzi, because he gets plenty already.)

The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander (reread): I hadn’t reread any of the Prydain books in a really long time, and I thought it would be a nice time to do that. I do really like The Book of Three, which is funnier and fresher, and also much, much shorter than I remembered. However, the treatment of Gurgi seems like the worst kind of paternalistic racism, so that’s…not great.

Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie (reread): Leckie is so good at building up emotion over the course of the three books so that by this one she doesn’t even have to say it, just telegraph it and let us fill in the rest. And the part when [spoiler redacted] asks if they can be a Cousin & the answer is just too much. I’m going to have to lie down just thinking about it.

The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner (reread): The number of lines that have second or even third layers to them on rereading is truly impressive–even more so when you know those were built in after the fact! (THICK AS THIEVES COMES OUT NEXT WEEK!)

 

4 Comments

Filed under book lists, monthly book list, reviews

Iris and the Tiger by Leanne Hall

I actually can’t remember exactly how I ended up with Iris and the Tiger on my to-read bookshelf. I’m not sure, in fact, that I know anyone else who’s read it. And that’s a pity, because it’s a delightful book: a marvelous little surreal fantasy that I enjoyed very much and highly recommend.

Iris Chen-Taylor has been sent by her parents from her home in Australia to her great-aunt’s house in Spain. Sadly, their motives are not pure: they are hoping to convince her aunt to leave Iris her house once and for all. So Iris is supposed to be agreeable and charm Aunt Urusla. But when she arrives at Bosque de Nubes, all her expectations are turned upside down and things take several dramatic turns.

Despite her parents’ machinations, Iris is a sympathetic character, who quickly becomes attached to the house, her aunt, and her new friend Jordi. She’s certainly conflicted, but Hall does a nice job of making her struggle believable while also reassuring young readers that things will probably turn out okay.

I also absolutely loved the descriptions of the house and its environs–Hall really has a gift for showing the magical and conveying Iris’s wonder and the enchanting and terrifying aspects of Basque de Nubes. Although I saw a comp to Elizabeth Goudge’s Little White Horse–and that does make sense–I also thought of Lucy Boston’s Green Knowe series, which I think is slightly closer in the real sense of danger pervading the book.

Finally, I’ll mention that Iris’s dad is from Hong Kong and that Iris deals with some casual racism in very realistic ways (I believe Hall is herself Asian-Australian). It’s nice to see a book with both a wonderful sense of magic and adventure, and a more diverse cast. All in all, this is just a lovely middle grade fantasy/mystery. And now I want to check out Hall’s backlist, as she’s apparently written a couple of YA in Australia!

Book source: public library

Book information: 2016; middle grade fantasy

3 Comments

Filed under bookish posts, reviews

Favorite books from the beginning of 2017

I’ve been reading a lot more than I’ve been writing here, so I thought I’d do a round up of my favorite books from the first quarter of 2017. These are just books I read in January-March.

middle grade

Ratpunzel by Ursula Vernon: Harriet Hamsterbone continues to basically be the best. Mother Goethel here was genuinely creepy (something I feel Rapunzel retellings often fail to pull off). This series really manages to tackle some big, complicated issues in thoughtful and kid-appropriate ways. So good!

Lumberjanes vol. 5: Band Together: FRIENDSHIP TO THE MAX! (someday I will start a Lumberjanes review with something else) (jk, that will never happen) Look, this volume has mermaids, and also lots of confusion about how an underwater mermaid rock band is even possible, and it contains the immortal line, “I don’t want to die confused” so yes.

Dragon with a Chocolate Heart by Stephanie Burgis: This book is just so comforting (much like a cup of chocolate). While this might sound like faint praise, it’s really not–comforting things are really necessary, and books that lie at the crossroads of smart and comforting are harder to pull off than they look. It’s a unique take on dragons, and I loved Aventurine and her determination.

YA

We Are Okay by Nina LaCour: Okay, I will say upfront that the premise of this book is a bit implausible, BUT please accept it and move on because it is full of LaCour’s most mature, rich writing to date and so many feelings. There’s this feeling that’s common to many young adults of being out of place, of not knowing who you are or how exactly to find out. This book is quiet and specific in its characters and setting and it feels so textured and beautiful.

The Hate U Give by A.C. Thomas: Any praise I have here will be slightly superfluous, but oh this book. I wanted to reread it as soon as I finished. It is so amazing on so many levels, but Starr herself really stood out for me. This is a book about her finding her voice, but at the same time, even on the first page she shines.

The Swan Riders by Erin Bow: To be honest, I delayed reading this one at first because even though I trust Bow, I wasn’t sure how anything could follow The Scorpion Rules. But this one did. It starts small and quiet, but the tension and the implications build until it becomes an incredibly heartbreaking exploration of identity and love and what it means to be a person. I love sequels that dig deeper into the world of the first book, and that’s just what this one does.

Chime by Franny Billingsley: I reread this one at the beginning of the year, and it was just what I needed. Learning to tread new brain paths, learning to love and be loved. Living in the tension between the old and the new. This book is just a LOT in all the best possible ways.

Lucy & Linh by Alice Pung: I realized as I was typing this up that Lucy & Linh (aka Laurinda in its native Australia) has a lot in common thematically with We Are Okay: growing up and moving to a new place, complicated friendships, feeling unsure of yourself and who you are. But Lucy also deals with class and privilege and race, which tie back into the theme of identity and friendship in really interesting ways.

adult

The Spy Who Loved by Clare Mulley: I’ve discovered that I love good biographies of complex, difficult women, and this one is a great example. “Christine Granville” and her life make for an incredible, infuriating, and achingly sad story.

A Crown of Bitter Orange by Laura Florand: While I basically just love all of Laura Florand’s books, this one really hit me in a personal place. It’s a quieter story, more intimate, full of the weight of the past–both family history and historical events. It’s about learning to acknowledge that weight without letting it bind you. And, on a lighter note, I really enjoy the setting and descriptions of the countryside as well.

Everfair by Nisi Shawl: I talked about this one quite a lot already, but I’ve found myself thinking about it regularly ever since I read it. The approach to the story is so inventive and thought-provoking, and the sense of what-might-have-been is both inspiring and heartwrenching.

Binti by Nnedi Okorafor: Math and magic IN SPACE, and family, and culture, and diplomacy, and explosions, all in one short novella that doesn’t have that frustrating too-short-and-too-long feeling that some novellas do. It just makes me happy whenever I think about it, and I can’t wait to read Home.

3 Comments

Filed under bookish posts, reviews

In the Great Green Room: The Bold and Brilliant Life of Margaret Wise Brown by Amy Gary

After finishing Amy Gary’s biography of Margaret Wise Brown, In the Great Green Room, I have two major conclusions. 1) Margaret Wise Brown was clearly a brilliant, complex, fascinating character who would benefit from a great biography about her. 2) This is, sadly, not that biography. While I’m glad to have read more about Wise Brown and her life, this book suffers from a couple of huge flaws that made it intensely frustrating as a reading experience.

What we’re given here is a recounting of the events of Margaret Wise Brown’s life. This is done in a narrative style, which results in a rather breezy read, organized by years. Unfortunately, that same style also lends itself to the lack of contextualizing and critical thought which hampers the biography in several ways.

First, there is the absence of sourcing and citation. There are no footnotes or proper endnotes in this book. We are given a list of sources in the backmatter, separated by chapter, but they are not explicitly linked to any specific line or claim in the text itself. Nor are there any actual quotations within the text. It is a stream of assertions–Margaret said this, thought this, did this–with no background. Are these based on memories from her friends and family? Published or unpublished memoirs? Newspaper articles? Are the sources trustworthy or biased? It’s impossible to say.

I am writing this review having just read several excellent biographies of challenging and complex women, whose authors took great care in approaching source material and presenting it in a helpful context. I recognize that this has perhaps spoiled me, but the absence of that care made me send furious text messages to friends. (You know who you are, sorry not sorry.)

Gary’s biography seems curiously immune to any attempt to locate Wise Brown within her familial, social, or historical background. We are given the bones of her relationship with her parents–with a bonus shaming of both her mother and sister for their mental illnesses–but Gary doesn’t even try to look at why Margaret might have felt so estranged from Maude, what social pressures might have been weighing on Maude herself, or what wider cultural patterns are reproduced in Margaret’s warmer feelings for her brother and father as opposed to her mother and sister.

While this is generally annoying, on occasion it leads the book to repeat wholesale some really harmful attitudes. As I mentioned above, the characterization of both Maude and Roberta Brown as people who enjoyed using their depression to make those around them miserable shows up several times. (“At first, Margaret attempted to cheer her sister, but saw that, like their mother, Roberta relished layering a foul mood over happy occasions.”) It shows up again in Margaret’s sexism towards Bill Gaston’s other lovers (“Margaret’s name for women like this one was Slitch”). It is possible to show a person’s problematic attitudes while also making it clear that they are in fact problems. But this never happens–both of these attitudes are simply stated as if they are true, and without any primary source quotes to give them background, they weigh the text down with their casual cruelty.

Even a look at Margaret’s emotional state with regards to her own personal life and sexuality barely appears, aside from a factual recounting of her affairs with Bill Gaston and Blanche Oelrichs/Michael Strange. The historical context of queer relationships in the 1930s and 40s apparently isn’t relevant. Her last romance with Jim Rockefeller Jr, just at the end of her all-too-brief life, is given a total of about 20 pages, despite the fact that he wrote the forward for the book.

The lack of depth holds true for issues of class, as the emotional and social implications of the Brown family’s place on the edge of high society (connected to but not part of the Carnegie/Rockefeller clan) only comes up to contrast Margaret’s positive feelings towards the Carnegies with her attitude towards her own family. Further, the biography barely even attempts to trace the impact of Margaret Wise Brown on children’s literature, even though ostensibly this is one of the major threads of the book.

There’s an odd lack of connection within the text itself. Moments which should have been linked, either in reinforcement or in contrast, are left to stand on their own. For instance, at one point Gary tells a story about Margaret’s bungled reaction to learning that Esphyr Slobodkina (her friend and frequent collaborator) was Jewish, and her subsequent regret and attempted apology. Then, a bare four pages later, we’re introduced to Margaret’s eventual lover, Michael Strange, who was a prominent isolationist and vocal member of the America First Committee. It’s not that Gary dismisses the tension between these two moments; it’s quite simply that she doesn’t seem to think there is any tension there to dismiss.  What are we to make of Margaret Wise Brown’s complicated and contradictory self? This biography doesn’t seem to ask this question, let alone try to answer it.

In fact, because we only see Wise Brown at second hand, she remains a curiously opaque figure. At the very end of the book, Gary quotes a brief passage from one of Margaret Wise Brown’s journals–the only direct quotation from anyone in 240 pages–and that moment shines the brightest for me in memory. For the first and only time in the entire biography, I felt I had a sense of who Margaret Wise Brown was and how she thought. Had her words been allowed to tell her story, it would have been so much more powerful.

A good biography tells the story of its subject, fully and accurately. A great biography not only does that well; it also contextualizes and illuminates that subject. It presents a deeper understanding of the person, their life, and their world. And so, in reading, a great biography gives also a deeper understanding of ourselves. I hope that someday one is written about Margaret Wise Brown.

_________

Other reviews:

Biographies I do recommend:

  • James Tiptree Jr: The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon by Julie Phillips
  • A Life in Secrets: Vera Atkins and the Missing Agents of WWII by Sarah Helm
  • The Spy Who Loved by Clare Mulley
  • Lady Byron and Her Daughters by Julia Markus

 

Save

1 Comment

Filed under bookish posts, reviews

Everfair by Nisi Shawl

everfairEverfair is a story that spans decades and continents. It tells the history of a country that never was, one where “Fabian Socialists from Great Britian join forces with African-American missionaries to purchase land from the Belgian Congo’s “owner,” King Leopold II. This land, named Everfair, is set aside as a safe haven, an imaginary Utopia for native populations of the Congo as well as escaped slaves returning from America and other places where African natives were being mistreated.” (source) It lies across blurred genre lines, at the meeting point of steampunk, historical fantasy, and alternate history.

Everfair is told through a multitude of voices, from King Mwende to Lisette Toutournier, Reverend Thomas Jefferson Wilson to Martha Hunter. It is in a sense the story of an idea, a different kind of grand experiment, more than one person or their personal experience. At first this was disorienting for me–I’m very much a character-based reader. But I realized that in fact that this is the point: that Everfair the country is herself the main character, and that the patchwork of people who make up her history are telling her story, rather than their own. So, the main emotional arc is not exactly that of Lisette, or of Daisy, or any of the others. It is of their collective experiences, their various viewpoints, coming from different backgrounds, races, beliefs, and genders.

This approach also lets Shawl resist flattening any one character into a type. Each of the sympathetic characters shows flaws as well as greatness; each of the less sympathetic characters shows greatness as well as flaws. Although the characters are in some ways secondary to the history of what they made, they are not comforting. They also challenge the reader and the reader’s assumptions. We see Daisy’s limits when she cannot look beyond her own whiteness. We also see Martha’s real care and worry for George later in the story. Neither the country nor the characters are held to an impossible perfection; it is through the contradictions and flaws that both become real.

After finishing the book, I kept thinking about the image of prosthetics that appears throughout the book. It’s one of the most steampunk-y elements: the beautiful, deadly mechanical hands that are made for the survivors of King Leopold’s regime whose hands were cut off. It’s an image that seems to underscore the heart of the book: that the history and trauma that have passed cannot be undone, and yet that the story does not have to end there. That another story, with dirigibles and steam-powered hands, with heartache and work and courage is also possible.

In short, I found Everfair to be a reimaging of the past that thinks deeply about implications and patterns. It takes people as they are, and shows the weight and burden of leadership. It is too clear-sighted to truly be a utopia, but it is also hopeful. The ending, full of possibilities, asks us to take up the task of reimagining the world–by both acknowledging the real traumas and looking for the rest of the story.

Other reviews: Amal El-Mohtar at NPR; Jenny at Reading the End; Jaymee Goh at Strange Horizons

 

Save

5 Comments

Filed under bookish posts, reviews

January 2017 round up

Books already talked about

Dared & Done by Julia Markus

The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord

The Reek of Red Herring by Catriona McPherson

Return Fire by Christina Diaz Gonzalez

Other books
A Little Taste of Poison by RJ Anderson: This one is the follow up to one of my favorite books from 2015, A Pocket Full of Magic. It was delightful to be back with Isaveth and Quiz, and I enjoyed the school setting of this book as well as the complications that arose from the resolution of the first book. I do think the set up portion took longer than I expected it to, and I wished for more of Isaveth’s family, because I think they’re delightful. But overall, this is another solid middle grade mystery.

Chime by Franny Billingsley: This was a reread, the first book I finished this year. It’s one of my favorites (the humor! the language and word-play! BRYONY!) and it fit especially well with some things I’ve been thinking about in regards to my personal life and this year. But mostly, I just love Billingsley’s books and especially this one: a story about a prickly, unkind girl whose voice shines from the very first page.

Bandette v. 2: This series manages to be incredibly charming and incredibly menacing somehow at exactly the same time. The tone is light and cheerful and the storyline flows along merrily until you realize that actually the villains are pretty terrifying. It’s a very weird mental adjustment, but I like it.

Princess Princess Ever After by Katie O’Neill: This is one where my personal reaction and my professional reaction are totally different. Personally, it just didn’t resonate for me–the story is a little too condensed, and we don’t spend enough time seeing the characters get to know and appreciate each other. However, I absolutely see the value in it, even though it didn’t quite work for me as an adult reader, and I’m glad I know about it and can recommend it to the readers who need it.

A Crown of Bitter Orange by Laura Florand: Florand’s latest release in her Provence series is absolutely lovely. Tristan hasn’t been my favorite character in the previous books, but as usually happens with Florand, I wound up really appreciating him in a new way. And Malorie won my heart almost from the first page. This is one that meant a lot to me personally, which is really why I haven’t written a longer review–I think I have too many feelings about it to do it justice! Beautiful, as usual.

Everfair by Nisi Shawl: reviewed here

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard: review coming soon

Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie: Continuing my Ann Leckie reread and ooohhhhhhhh, I have so many thoughts and emotions and reactions to this book. It manages to do so many things so well, and there are moments that are just so beautifully written. Leckie’s control of Breq’s voice is fabulous. But perhaps one of my favorite things is the way we begin to see what Breq can’t, reading other characters’ reactions differently. I can’t wait to reread the third one and have lots more feelings about what it means to be human + found families + surviving trauma.

Binti by Nnedi Okorafor: I can’t BELIEVE I waited this long to read Binti, because it is outrageously beautiful and amazing. I really like Okorafor’s work in general, and this one is just great. It’s a novella, and the first of at least two, so there’s a slightness to it. But there’s also a lot packed into the pages: family and culture, diplomacy and building trust, math as–religion? experience? Plus spaaaace. Most of all, though, Binti’s voice is so clear and vivid right from the first sentence. I can’t wait for the next one!

Let Evening Come – Jane Kenyon: I recently discovered Kenyon’s poetry and wanted to check out a collection. Overall, this is a powerful set poems, though there are a few that certainly stand out more than the rest. I loved the juxtaposition of nature imagery with a kind of rejection of sentimentality that runs throughout.

The Smaller Evil by Stephanie Kuehn: I loved Kuehn’s first book, Charm & Strange, but haven’t actually read any of her subsequent work. This one, dealing with a cult in California, was a little bit difficult because my adult brain with a lot of experience reading and thinking about cults was yelling things the whole time. Certainly, the ending wasn’t a surprise to me. However, that isn’t to say that  teen reader won’t like this a lot and find that the ending works for them.

Other posts
Favorite children’s & YA read in 2016

Favorite adult books and reading notes in 2016

2017 releases I’m excited about

Currently reading: 1-19

Books that have been helping me lately

Newsletter + news

I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned here that I’m writing a newsletter now! It goes out monthly, with reflections, recipes, interesting links, and whatever else I’m interested in when I sit down to write it. You can check out the first two and sign up right here.

2 Comments

Filed under bookish posts, monthly book list, reviews

Recent Reading: Markus, Lord, McPherson, Gonzalez

Photo of Return Fire by Christina Diaz Gonzalez on a wooden background

Dared & Done by Julia Markus: After having a months-long thing about Markus’s biography of Annabella Milbanke Byron (Ada Lovelace’s mother), I definitely had to read her first biography about the marriage of Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning. I have a lot of feelings about Elizabeth Barrett Browning–mostly due to the fact that I wrote part of a senior thesis on the Sonnets from the Portuguese. In fact, Markus’s look at the Browning’s marriage as it relates to the sonnet sequence was probably the strongest part of the book for me. It’s very solidly researched and does a nice job of teasing out the circumstances of the Browning’s marriage in particular as opposed to Victorian marriage in general, and contrasting it with some of their friends who were less conventional. However, there were times when the organization was a bit confusing–jumps in chronology that muddled rather than clarified–and I found it less emotionally affective than I expected.

The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord: I’ve been hearing good things about Lord’s books for a couple of years now and finally actually read one! Oddly enough, this is set in a suburb of Indianapolis, with a setting that felt very much like the suburb of Indianapolis where I work. Both setting and voice are an interesting contrast with The Fault in Our Stars; perhaps unsurprisingly, I vastly prefer The Start of Me and You. Paige’s story is thoughtful and nuanced, with a lot of care shown for all the characters. Plus, Paige has a strong group of girl friends, and I loved they way they interact and grow together. Add in a slow, careful romance, and a quiet and realistic depiction of healing from trauma. I will definitely be looking for more of Emery Lord’s books!

The Reek of Red Herring by Catriona McPherson: This is book 9 in the Dandy Gilver series, and it’s a strong entry. I have to admit that I find Alec a good deal more annoying than Dandy seems to. He certainly doesn’t add much to the story for me. Nonetheless, there’s a lot of interesting stuff about local folk traditions, and a nice creepy factor to the solution to the mystery. As usual, this is right at the line of cozy vs not, which is one of the things I appreciate about the series.

Return Fire by Christina Diaz Gonzalez: After Moving Target, Cassie Arroyo and her friends pick up right where they left off. This is a fun middle grade adventure/fantasy. It’s quite fast-paced, with a lot of excitement and even an explosion or two. But there are also some deeper questions about family, and destiny, that add some weight to the story. I’m not sure whether this is the last installment, but it ends on a satisfying note.

Save

3 Comments

Filed under bookish posts, reviews