bookish posts monthly book list

May 2015 round up

Books I’ve already talked about
Gone Crazy in Alabama by Rita Williams-Garcia
Ms. Marvel vol. 2: Generation Why by G. Willow Wilson
Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
Born Confused by Tanuja Desai Hidier

Ravensbrück by Sarah Helm
Picture Book Monday
Murder is Bad Manners by Robin Stevens
Curse of the Iris by Jason Fry
Castle Hangnail by Ursula Vernon
The Detective’s Assistant by Kate Hannigan

Uprooted by Naomi Novik
Rose Under Fire: audiobook review
Once Upon a Rose by Laura Florand

Other books
House of Many Ways by Diana Wynne Jones: I do like this one, although I almost wish it weren’t connected to HMC at all, since I think I would enjoy it more on its own merits. But Howl as a toddler is pretty hilarious.

Infandous by Elana K. Arnold: Dark and layered. I loved the way myths & fairy tales were woven in, and I appreciated a lot about it. However, when I read it, I was burnt out on Important books, however well written and necessary. So I’m not sure how much that flavors my feelings of slight frustration with this one; I wanted it to be a little less slight, maybe?

Chasing Shadows by Swati Avasthi: Complex, interesting look at friendship and grief and what happens when we ask too much of each other. The text is interspersed with graphic novel panels, which worked a little less well for me than the standard narration. It wasn’t my favorite, but I’m glad I read it.

Lois Lane: Fallout by Gwenda Bond: I’m not a huge Superman fan (*ducks for cover*) but I really enjoyed this YA book focusing on Lois Lane in high school. Girl reporter! Trying to find out the truth and tangling with authority figures. It’s lots of fun.

Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson: Brandy mentioned that both she & her daughter loved this mg graphic novel about roller derbys, so when it came into my library I had to check it out. It’s a great look at growing up and friendships and roller derbys (!!). Also great for Raina Telgemeier fans–I know everyone is pitching it as this, but it fits so well.

NIMONA by Noelle Stevenson: I loved Nimona. It was originally posted as a webcomic and I started reading about 2/3 of the way through the series. I wasn’t sure how it would be to read it as a book, but the format worked really well and HarperCollins did a great job with the colors & quality. And I loved the characters & story just as much. (I’m a SHARK!)

Charmed Life by Diana Wynne Jones: I listened to this as an audiobook and am saving it for a Reluctant Listener review later.

All the Rage by Courtney Summers: Hard read, wonderfully written. I think Romy is the most tender & vulnerable of Summers’ characters (that I’ve read, anyway) and I found myself hurting so much for her. It’s really all about fallout and how you keep going. I think what I found most extraordinary was the way Summers gives us Romy’s point of view without justifying all her thoughts and actions, but also without condemning them.

The Snow Spider by Jenny Nimmo: This is a small, odd little middle grade fantasy. It’s set in Wales, which is totally catnip to me. However, I felt a bit distanced from all the characters–it was like emotional beats were set up but not fleshed out enough for me to buy them.

The Bell Family by Noel Streatfeild: This was a Streatfeild that I don’t think I’ve read before. It was reissued recently, and is a charming little book. Perfect for lying on a couch with a bad cold, although I think it lacks some of the texture of her best books.

A Volcano Beneath the Snow by Albert Marrin: A juvenile biography of John Brown. This one did a nice job of really focusing on the context, so it’s not simply telling the story of one individual. Also, imo, a nice example of showing individuals–including Brown, Lincoln, and Douglass–as complex and contradictory, without trying to smooth out their weaknesses and inconsistencies. (I’m less sure about the conclusion at the end.)

Most Likely to Succeed by Jennifer Echols: review coming closer to the release date

The End of the Sentence by Maria Dahvana Headley and Kat Howard: This is a weird little book and I’m still not sure if I actually liked it or not. I think maybe not? But I liked some of the echoes? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

This Side of Home by Renee Watson: I’d been hearing how excellent this one is for awhile, and it absolutely is. It takes a close look at universal issues of growing up and dealing with personal changes, while at the same time looking at wider changes of gentrification and racism. Maya is a thoughtful narrator, and the story doesn’t give any easy answers but treats a complex issue with the care it deserves.

Other posts
Links: 5-3-15
Authors I’d really like to meet
Made and Making: May 2015

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

bookish posts reviews

Recent Reading: Nye, McGowan, Partridge

turtle of omanThe Turtle of Oman by Naomi Shihab Nye: I loved this quiet, thoughtful book about a young boy from Oman who is moving with his professor parents to the US for three years. Set in the week before he leaves, it pays great attention to the emotional turmoil of moving as a child. Aref is a great character, and I think this would be great for fans of Kevin Henkes. I loved the description of the many things that Aref values about his home, and his wonderful relationship with his grandfather. This is truly a beautiful book and I intend to look up Nye’s other works.

maid of deceptionMaid of Deception by Jennifer McGowan: The second in the Maids of Honor series. These are one step more fanciful than, for instance, the Agency series, but they’re quite enjoyable if you’re able to put questions of historical accuracy aside. Personally, since they never pretend to be accurate, I’m quite willing to do so. I liked the book a lot, although I had some niggling questions about the portrayal of Beatrice’s mother. I think I mostly like how the relationship between the maids is shown: they’re not always united, but they clearly care about each other and that comes through. I will also say that the cover is pretty awful and the book is much better. (Who is this girl? Why are there anachronistically dressed young men lounging about? Who can say?)

Marching-for-FreedomMarching for Freedom by Elizabeth Partridge: This is an extremely timely book, especially if you have kids who are going to see Selma (which I haven’t yet but want to). It focuses on the role of young people in the Selma to Birmingham march, which reminded me a bit of We’ve Got a Job from a few years ago. Partridge’s concentration allows her to give a narrow, deep look at what was happening at that point. She clearly did a lot of work interviewing participants and researching the background and conditions in Selma at the time. At the same time, I will note that this is an outsider’s view. It definitely has value, especially as an introduction to the march and its background, but I would also love to hear more from the people who were there.

bookish posts

2015 reading goals

This is the first year I’ve set myself any kind of formal goals. But I’m finding these days that in the absence of some sort of structure to my reading, I read books I don’t really enjoy, read without much pleasure or purpose. So, here goes. We’ll see how it actually works.

* The middle school in the district where I work has been doing the 40 book challenge with their kids and I’m using it as an opportunity to bulk up my upper elementary RA skills. So, I want to finish that, which will involve a lot of juvenile non-fiction reading (I have…thoughts about what kind of reading we’re valuing when we create these challenges).

* Finish a couple of read-throughs, namely CJ Cherryh, Gillian Bradshaw, and Elizabeth Bear. (I just read all of Andrea K. Höst’s backlist, so that’s done!) (I figured out how to add the umlaut! hurrah!)

* Read at least 12 non-fiction books. This shouldn’t be hard if I pay attention, but I read very few last year.

* Read at least 12 ILL books. I have a bunch clogging up my TBR list and I just need to go through and request them.

* Read at least 20 diverse books. Probably the most important one on this list. The others are just for personal satisfaction; this one I need to do and will be disappointed in myself if I don’t. Again, this shouldn’t be hard. Based on my TBR alone, I should meet it easily, and there have been some great lists to look at if I need to.

* Re-read and write up posts for Ellis Peters’s Felse books and Patricia McKillip.

* Read Django Wexler’s books. JUST DO IT ALREADY.

* Read at least 12 books that have been languishing on my TBR for 3 years or more. I just went through and marked them off.

So–there are some goals, which seem in the rush of January excitement to be quite doable. Do you all set reading goals?