Categories
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.

Categories
bookish posts monthly book list reviews

December 2014 round-up

Books I’ve already talked about
Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater
Terror of the Southlands by Caroline Carlson
Killer Instinct by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Illusions of Fate by Kiersten White

Gabi, A Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero

Other books
Space Case by Stuart Gibbs: A Cybils book. A mystery set in the first colony on the moon, in 2060. It’s kind of a locked-room mystery, and the set-up is fun. But I was vaguely annoyed with a few things: the fact that there’s no way to deduce the solution, and the fact that twenty-four years from today, almost everyone is mixed race and people of northern European descent are very rare, which seems implausibly utopian for a generation and a half from now. While neither of these things completely ruined the book for me, they did keep me from enjoying it as thoroughly as I otherwise might have.

Ambassador by William Alexander: A Cybils book. I read Space Case and Ambassador back to back, which was an interesting experience. While they have some outward similarities, they’re quite different in intent and tone. I loved Gabriel Fuentes, who is definitely an 11-year-old boy but who is also a peacemaker, who as child of immigrants has a foot in two worlds, and who is chosen as Earth’s ambassador to a galactic embassy. I appreciated the way Gabe’s family and culture were woven into the story, and the way Alexander makes the real-life situation just as tense and important as the save-the-Earth strand. A lovely, thoughtful piece of science fiction.

The Witch’s Boy by Kelly Barnhill: A Cybils book. I had tried one of Barnhill’s other books and didn’t get through it for reasons that I don’t quite remember. This one I found to be really beautiful. It’s a sad book in many ways, but ultimately I felt a hopeful one (I know there are others that disagree with me here). What I remember most about this one is the particular sense of place and character that Barnhill conveys in not that many words.

City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett: This one is in some ways a bit standard, but I really liked the main character and the worldbuilding is fairly intriguing. There’s a nice sense of depth to it, although I felt it paled in comparison to The Goblin Emperor. But then, most fantasy this year paled in comparison to The Goblin Emperor

Children Who Are Not Yet Peaceful by Donna Bryant Goertz: An interesting book written by a veteran Montessori teacher about her philosophy in dealing with difficult children. I found her point of view thought-provoking and challenging, but I also found myself feeling a little unimpressed with how much her position is defined by being against certain things. I don’t disagree with some of her conclusions, but they are presented in a very hard-line way that I don’t really like.

Intruder by CJ Cherryh: Thirteenth Foreigner book! I liked this one especially for Cajieri, who has to deal with the very different situation in Shejidan after being returned to his parents. In addition, those parents are in the midst of turmoil themselves, which makes things even trickier. Bren, meanwhile, has to deal with the aftermath of his decisions in the Marid.

Poisoned Apples by Christine Heppermann: A poetry collection that’s also feminist fairy-tale retellings with a curated selection of photographs. I know of several people who I respect who really loved this one. For me it didn’t quite work and I’m struggling to say way. I think I found the fairy tales too much in service to the feminism, and at the same time found that the feminism was hitting a couple of notes very hard and not touching on others. I think there’s value in this approach, but for me the specific notes didn’t resonate and so I didn’t love it in the same way that other readers do.

Black Dove, White Raven by Elizabeth Wein: More coming closer to the release date, but I loved Teo!

Wondrous Beauty by Carol Berkin: A biography of Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte, the American girl who briefly married one of Napoleon’s brothers. Berkin comes down a little strongly on how unique Betsy was, but all in all this is an interesting look at a fascinating life and time period.

Paladin by CJ Cherryh: Non-Foreigner universe Cherryh. Alternate universe China, if I’m reading it right (also, I think I saw someone say this was historical fantasy, but literally nothing fantastic happened so??). I enjoyed it quite a bit, especially the end. The beginning took awhile to get to where I was hoping it would end up, but ultimately this was a fun one.

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson: Beautiful. I don’t think the poetry in and of itself is quite as strong as The Crossover, but I also don’t think the value of this one lies in the poetry. It’s in the stories, the creation of identity through family history, through memory.

Into the Grey by Celine Kiernan: Don’t do what I did and start this one just before going to bed! It’s terrifically creepy, and I don’t consider myself someone who’s easily affected by creepiness. This would make an interesting pairing with Frances Hardinge’s Cuckoo Song (<3) which is telling a similar story but from a very different point of view. I liked this one, which was thoughtful and atmospheric, although I felt it got a bit bogged down in the middle.

Hunting by Andrea K Host: I really loved this one–it’s already one of my favorites by Host. It’s perhaps a bit more predictable, especially if you’ve been reading through all of her backlist as I have, but in a comforting way. It’s a rare girl-pretending-to-be-a-boy story that will grab my attention anymore, but this one did. My only complaint is that I want to know more about what happens to Kiri, but hey, maybe she’ll end up with her own book.

A Spy Among Friends by Ben Macintrye: I really liked Macintyre’s Double Cross a few years ago, and this one about Kim Philby and his relationships with his fellow spies sounded intriguing. There wasn’t the innate interest that WWII holds for me, but Macintyre is a compelling writer and I ended up liking it a lot.

Stained Glass Monsters by Andrea K Host: Another one I liked quite a bit, although perhaps not quite as strongly as Hunting. The worldbuilding was very interesting, but I occasionally found the magic a bit confusing (on the other hand, I was reading it late at night, so it could easily have been Lack of Brain). However, I really liked the characters, especially Rennyn, and found the resolution pretty satisfying.

A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd
The Orphan and the Mouse by Martha Freeman
The Boundless by Kenneth Oppel
Ninja Librarians: The Accidental Keyhand by Jen Swann Downey
Spirit’s Key by Edith Cohn

Other posts
Making a display for Hobbit read-alikes
Links I found interesting
2014 favorites

TV and movies
The Hobbit As I’ve said several time, if the hour+ battle scene had been edited down significantly, I would have liked this movie quite a bit. It’s funny to look back and remember how dubious I was about Richard Armitage playing Thorin. He did a great job, I thought (aside from the hilaribad gold-sickness sequence, which isn’t his fault, I suppose). I thought the costume designers did a nice, if slightly obvious, transition for him into this increasingly isolated and formal figure and back into Thorin Oakenshield. If the movie had been edited to be the Tragedy of Thorin, King Under the Mountain, it would have been great.

Poirot: I’ve been having fun this month watching through old Poirot episodes. I’ve seen a great many of them and read nearly all the books/stories they’re based on, but I have never gone through and watched them sequentially. Thanks to the magic of Netflix, I can do so now. And my major goal in life is now to become more like Miss Lemon.

Person of Interest: I’ve started watching the third series and I am distressed at a certain character’s death. Not so much the way it was handled as the clumsy attempt at romance which came right before. Regardless, I still enjoy this one quite a bit and intend to finish out the season soon.

Elementary: I started the second season and really liked it–I like this Holmes so much better than the Moffat/Gatiss version, which I know is terrible but there it is. And I think the writers are doing interesting things with the Holmes canon in a way that I’m happy with.

Catching Fire & Mockingjay Part 1: As previously discussed, these were favorites for the year. They’re really effective movies, which so many book to screen adaptations aren’t. And Jennifer Lawrence is absolutely superb as Katniss.

Categories
bookish posts

2014: Non-fiction, blog series, and more

I’m finally starting to dig into books now, I promise.

Non-fiction
everlasting mealTo be honest, this has not been a good year for me in terms of non-fiction. I didn’t read much, and I didn’t finish one of the most lauded books out there (Family Romanov by Candace Fleming). I’m going to try to balance this out a bit more in the coming year.

So, the only non-fiction book that even comes close to being a favorite is Tamar Adler’s An Everlasting Meal, which I read with great enjoyment. It’s not often that a book about food makes me laugh out loud or want to quote pages, but this is more a book of essays than a cookbook. Adler is not very interested in recipes, although there are some, but instead aims to lay out her principles of cooking. While she occasionally veers into “all-natural is the best”* territory, her voice is also clear and empowering in a way that left me feeling inspired rather than annoyed. I have felt much more free to cook the way I want to, with or without a recipe, with the ingredients that I have.

Blog series
Back in January, I put together a series of in-depth posts about Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan Saga. It was a lot of fun to go back and look at these books, some of which I had read and re-read several times, and others I had only read once. I’d like to do this again with a few more authors at some point this year–I’m thinking maybe Ellis Peters and Patricia McKillip, but if you all have suggestions, I will take them! The posts from the Bujold Week series are:
Shards of Honor
Barrayar
Brothers in Arms
Mirror Dance

Other posts
There were also some other posts I wrote that I’m proud of, looking back at them:

– In February, I highlighted some fairy tales and retellings for Fairy Tale Day.
– By far the most popular post I wrote this year was “Maurice Sendak’s Little Bear” and the disappearance of Else Homelund Minarik
– While The Winner’s Curse was not my favorite book this year, I was happy with my review
– Chachic has put together some awesome blogging events over the past few years. She invited me to write a guest post for her Laura Florand event this year, and this was the result. (There’s no title because I couldn’t think of one)
– I also put together a list of resources about Noor Inayat Khan and the SOE
– And finally, I wrote a personal post about my middle school library and its importance in my life

And to those of you who are celebrating Christmas today, Merry Christmas!

* It’s not that I disagree exactly, but these sorts of statements often come with a whole boatload of unexamined privilege

Categories
bookish posts monthly book list reviews

May and June 2014 reading list

Books I’ve already talked about
The Story of Owen by E.K. Johnston
Destroyer by C.J. Cherryh
The Wolf Hunt by Gillian Bradshaw
Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge
Sun-kissed by Laura Florand
Conservation of Shadows by Yoon Ha Lee
Clair-de-Lune by Cassandra Golds
The Wall and the Wing by Laura Ruby
The Great Greene Heist by Varian Johnson
The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison
My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick
Torn Away by Jennifer Brown
Pretender by C.J.Cherryh
A Creature of Moonlight by Rebecca Hahn
The Grand Plan to Fix Everything by Uma Kirshnaswami
Sister Mine by Nalo Hopkinson
Pointe by Brandy Colbert
A Bride’s Story, vol 2 by Kaoru Mori
Range of Ghosts by Elizabeth Bear
Tin Star by Cecil Castellucci
Flygirl by Sherri Smith
My Neighbor Totoro
Ninth Ward by Jewell Parker Rhodes
Melusine by Sarah Monette
Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong by Prudence Shen and Faith Erin Hicks

Other books
Blood Royal by Eric Jager: Non-fiction account of the murder and aftermath of Louis of Orleans. It’s an interesting book, engagingly written, and Jager manages to make his points without hammering them home too often. It’s also a slightly depressing story; justice was never really done, and the man who pursued it the most lost a lot because of it.

Team Human by Justine Larbalestier and Sarah Rees Brennan: I enjoyed my re-read of this a LOT, and yet I can’t help feeling that it’s fundamentally the first half of a story, that it needed the unwritten second book to really round it out. As it is, Mel is only just beginning to change, and I can’t quite see where that journey will take her. I know that things happen, and I do very much enjoy what we do have. Especially Kit.

Cleopatra’s Heir by Gillian Bradshaw: Bradshaw takes a what-if–what if Cleopatra’s son had survived the Roman invasion of Egypt–and weaves a very compelling story from it. The sense of a young man who has been used to complete privilege and who must now find his way in the world isn’t a new one, but Bradshaw treats it deftly, with both affection and enough distance to be convincing.

Hunting Eichmann by Neal Bascomb: I read the YA version of this last year and I wanted to see if the adult version presented a more complex version of events. It did and it didn’t–I certainly understood more of what was happening, but that’s simply because it’s a longer book with more information. For me, the most powerful moment is still Gideon Hausner’s spine-tingling speech at Eichmann’s trial.

Hild by Nicola Griffiths: Hild is a much more fascinating and complex book than I can convey here. I may have to come back to it, because I keep musing about a particular aspect. But for now, I’ll just say that it provides a marvelous counterpoint to certain fantasy sub-genres, and does so in a way that doesn’t refute so much as stand outside a certain viewpoint. I loved the first three-quarters unreservedly; the last quarter didn’t quite have the same weight for me, although I wound up still liking the book a great deal. There’s so much more I want to say, but I’ll just leave it at this: if pseudo-medieval fantasy epics always strike you as lacking specificity and reality, this is a book you’ll like.

Sekret by Lindsay Smith: For a book about psychic KGB spies, I found this one a bit tedious. Smith has done her research, but there were a few awkward moments that bounced me out of the narrative (as when Yulia mentions that Masha means Maria, a fact she would certainly know). I wonder if this would have worked better for me if it hadn’t been first person, if we had a little more narrative distance from Yulia’s perspective. Still, it’s overall fairly enjoyable.

Die For Love by Elizabeth Peters: I normally like Elizabeth Peters, but this one came across as less “loving spoof on romance readers and writers” and more “caricature of romance readers and writers.” Compared to, say, Diana Wynne Jones’s Deep Secret, which lovingly and accurately sends up scifi conventions, this one seemed a bit petty and unkind.

Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman: I wasn’t quite sure how I would like this one when I started reading, but I ended up liking it a lot. Gretchen came across to me as a young woman very much in her elders’ shadows–both her father, her brother, and her uncle Dolf–and her journey read as believable to me. It did happen very quickly, and I wished there had been a way to slow that down a bit, but overall I found it an interesting and engrossing book.

The Islands of Chaldea by Diana Wynne Jones and Ursula Jones: Last Diana Wynne Jones book ever, I am so sad. I did like it, which I had worried I wouldn’t; I’m not terribly fond of Earwig. This felt like a return to classic Jones in a lot of ways, and while I wish she had been able to finish it, I am happy with what we got. Did anyone spot the join? I wasn’t quite sure where it came in.

Delancey by Molly Wizenberg: Perhaps because it’s a bit more focused, I enjoyed Delancey more than Wizenberg’s first book. While I did occasionally mutter about getting the point already, it is one that shows how we can have a changing relationship even to things we love, and have to re-find our way to them.

Swift by R.J. Anderson: The last in Anderson’s Knife series. I’ve really enjoyed these books, and I’m so sad they’re not being published over here. Swift seems especially complex and interesting. And I loved that a particular character quotes from Richard III–it fits so well with how {spoiler} is portrayed, as well as being a nice reference.

Curse of the Team Spirit by John Allison: I had read this before, when it was published on the Bad Machinery website, but it was so fun to see the little detectives in their infancy! And while it’s one of the weirder mysteries, it wasn’t at all annoying, which sometimes things are when you revisit them.

The China Garden by Liz Berry: My main reaction to this one was to feel a bit dated. It came out in 1994, when I was seven, but it feels very old-fashioned, in the romance and the attitudes about the world and environmentalism especially. It’s an extremely atmospheric read, but I didn’t find myself really liking it, or the characters very much. Not sure if the fault lies in me or the book–I suspect me as I probably would have loved it in middle school.

Render Unto Caesar by Gillian Bradshaw: I liked this one perhaps a little less than most Bradshaw books; it lacks some of the clear plotting that distinguishes the others, I think. But the setting and characters are, as always, compelling, and she remains practically unequaled in her ability to paint a picture of the ancient world.

The Bride’s Story, vol. 1 by Kaoru Mori
Lulu and the Mysterious Mission by Judith Viorst
Saga, vol 2 by Brian Vaughan and Fiona Staples
The Woken Gods by Gwenda Bond
Blackwood by Gwenda Bond
Forget You by Jennifer Echols
The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E Smith

Categories
bookish posts monthly book list

April 2014 reading list

Oh, such a thin one this month! Trying to comfort myself with the knowledge that there have been lots of other good things going on.

Books I’ve already talked about
Precursor by C.J. Cherryh
Defender by C.J. Cherryh
Explorer by C.J. Cherryh
The Princess Tales by Gail Carson Levine
Serpent’s Egg by Caroline Stevermer
Death Sworn by Leah Cypress

Other books
The Everlasting Meal by Tamar Adler: I loved this collection of essays and recipes on food, cooking, and the way we think about both. The prose is also a joy to read, to the point that I was posting quotes on my (sporadically used) tumblr. Lovely boo, and one that will definitely inform how I approach food and cooking in the future.

The Seven Sorcerers by Caro King: A middle grade fantasy. I liked the characters a lot, and the world, and the motivation for the main characters, but I found that the pacing was kind of draggy, especially towards the end. I kept waiting for something to happen.

Not a Creature Was Stirring
Act of Darkness
Quoth the Raven
A Great Day for the Deadly
by Jane Haddam: I wasn’t feel well and inhaled several of these while lying on my bed, the couch, and my bed again. They’re lightish mysteries, with a somewhat old fashioned feel and a nice detective. Occasionally the holiday-related aspect seemed a little forced, and the descriptions of characters a little cruel (there was one in the first book that really made me wince), but overall they’re the perfect sick day reading.

Saga, Vol. 1 by Brian Vaughan and Fiona Staples: I’ve been hearing good things about this graphic novel and they are definitely deserved. An epic story with a fun, slightly snarky voice and great visuals. Note that it is definitely more of an adult comic book–there’s some violence and sexual content, for people who want to avoid such things.

The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski: I have a great many thoughts about this one, so I will try to come up with an actual post soon. Suffice it to say that there’s a lot to like about it, and some aspects I quibble with a bit.

Categories
bookish posts monthly book list reviews

January 2014 reading list

Books already discussed:
Magic Marks the Spot by Caroline Carlson
The Nazi Hunters by Neal Bascomb
Magic Under Glass by Jaclyn Dolamore
Night at the Vulcan by Ngaio Marsh
The Chocolate Temptation by Laura Florand
Arrow by R.J. Anderson
Magic Most Deadly by E.L. Bates
Jinx’s Magic by Sage Blackwood
Shards of Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold
Barrayar by Lois McMaster Bujold
Brothers in Arms by Lois McMaster Bujold
Mirror Dance by Lois McMaster Bujold
Thud! by Terry Pratchett
Scepter of the Ancients by Derek Landy
The Mysterious Disappearance of Leon (I Mean Noel) by Ellen Raskin

Other Books
The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester: Adult non-fiction, about two of the men behind the creation of the Oxford English Dictionary. It’s a fascinating story and Winchester tells it well, although sometimes with unsubtle foreshadowing. It’s also fundamentally a pretty sad story.

Black Dog by Rachel Neumeier–review coming tomorrow!

Palace of Spies by Sarah Zettel: I just flat-out adored this book–it reminded me of Y.S. Lee’s Agency series in its combination of strong heroine, mystery, and historical hijinks. Plus, it was a ton of fun to read, especially when I wasn’t feeling that well. Love, love, love, and I hope there are more to come!

Ink is Thicker Than Water by Amy Spalding: I truly enjoyed Spalding’s debut, The Reece Malcolm List, and Ink is Thicker Than Water hits several of the same places: complicated family dynamics, a main character who is flawed but awesome, understated romance. I liked it quite a bit, although I think I prefer The Reece Malcolm List and I’m not sure exactly why that is.

Categories
bookish posts reviews

Recent reading: early January edition

Magic Marks the Spot by Caroline Carlson: This is an extremely enchanting middle grade book. I liked the main character, Hilary Westfield, a lot–she wants to be a pirate and practices knots, etc, but she’s also good at waltzing and she never comes across as a Strong Female Character. The plot is generally a bit ridiculous, but you know, pirates! Sensible plots need not apply. 11-year-old Maureen would have enjoyed this book immensely.

The Nazi Hunters by Neal Bascomb: The story of the hunt for Aldof Eichmann following WWII. It’s a fascinating story, well told here (although there were occasionally time jumps that I found a little confusing). Apparently, it’s the YA version of an adult title, and I did find places where I felt a lack of complexity and detail showed that it was an adaptation rather than the original. On the plus side, now I want to read Hunting Eichmann. But for me, the moment of greatest power was the quote from the Israeli Attorney General at Eichmann’s trial.

Magic Under Glass by Jaclyn Dolamore: I had been meaning to read this one for ages (since it first came out) and I finally just snapped and requested it. It’s a nice YA and would probably be great for some upper mg readers as well. With almost-echoes of Jane Eyre and a world where fairies are real, it’s also a great historical fantasy. AND Nimira, our heroine, is a WOC (I couldn’t quite figure out the real-world analogue to her culture) and a lot of what happens relates to her experience as an immigrant and a member of a marginalized culture.

Night at the Vulcan by Ngaio Marsh: I’ve really enjoyed this one in the past, but for whatever reason, on this re-read I found almost all the characters unsympathetic. Somehow the whole thing just seemed rather sad and tawdry. However, Mike Lamprey remains my favorite! Perhaps re-reading A Surfeit of Lampreys is in order.

Categories
bookish posts monthly book list reviews

October 2013 book list

Books I’ve already talked about
The Caged Graves by Dianne Salerni
Belle Epoque by Elizabeth Ross
Charm & Strange by Stephanie Kuehn
Prep School Confidential by Anne Dowling
The Distance Between Us by Kasie West
Uses for Boys by Erica Lorraine Scheidt
The Lightning Dreamer by Margarita Engle
September Girls by Bennett Madison
Love and Other Perishable Items by Laura Buzo
Victoria Rebels by Carolyn Meyer
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
The Summer I Became a Nerd by Leah Rae Miller
Golden Boy by Tara Sullivan
The Boy on the Bridge by Natalie Standisford

Others
Shadows by Robin McKinley: A new McKinley book is always a joyful event! And yet, slightly nerve-wracking, because what if it’s not good? I’m happy to say that I thoroughly enjoyed Shadows. The resolution is perhaps a bit hand-wavey, but I’m quite willing to live with that, because the rest of the book is so strong, and also that does tend to be the type of resolution McKinley writes. I very much appreciated the subtle-but-present diversity of the world, and I loved the shadows. However, I wish SO MUCH that the book had a different cover, and I even know exactly what it should be: one of the origami creatures that Maggie folds, with its shadow projected behind it, except that the shadow is real. Why don’t they hire me?

Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick: A Cybils contender, as well as one that was featured on the Printz Blog. The central conceit of this one was interesting, but I thought there were way too many things going on technically–the framing narrative of the four gifts and the four goodbyes, the letters from the future, the footnotes, the semi-poetic shifting of text during key moments. One or two of those, well developed, would have served the story a lot better. I’m still not sure whether my visceral personal reaction was due to being in Leonard’s head and not liking what I saw there (i.e., effective writing) or reliance on sloppy characterizations. Perhaps it’s some complicated combination of both. I still don’t know. In the end, I think it’s a gutsy book, but a flawed one.

Nobody’s Secret by Michael MacColl: I really liked the historical mystery aspect of this book–a young girl has a brief encounter with a stranger, whose body then turns up in her family’s pond. The adults seem to not care whether his murder is solved, so she takes it on herself. The problem is, the young girl is supposed to be Emily Dickinson. This creates two issues for me. First, I simply didn’t buy that the Emily of the book was Emily Dickinson, even a younger version. Second, the process of writing poetry that was shown in the book did not ring true to me; poems which are dated years later apparently are springing fully-formed from a much younger girl’s mind.

Lulu and the Dog From the Sea by Hilary McKay: I love Hilary McKay, and I’ve been really enjoying this younger chapter book series. In this one, Lulu and family go to the sea, where Lulu encounters a wild dog and, naturally, wants to save him. I liked this one a lot, although I was personally less wild about the sections from the dog’s point of view.

Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant by Tony Cliff: This is a wonderfully fun graphic novel, full of hijinks and adventures. I loved the story and the art. And huge bonus points for the historical setting, Delilah’s awesomeness, and the humor. Anyone who thinks mad-cap adventures with a sword-wielding lady sounds fun should check it out.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black: This is a case of wanting to like a book more than I actually did. I loved the world and the set-up, and I really liked Tana. But…something about it just left me cold–I was never fully engrossed in the story. The closest I can come is to say that the romance really didn’t work for me because I did not understand what Tana saw in Gabriel. I did like the relationship between Tana and Adrian, which seemed complex and complicated and interesting. This is one I suspect will work for a lot of people, and I’m glad that it does. It just didn’t work for me, and again, I’m still struggling to say why.

Between the Forest and the Hills by Ann Lawrence: Charlotte mentioned this one at some point and I got it from inter-library loan. I’m really glad I did! It’s a lovely, quiet, old-fashioned middle grade book, about a small Roman-British town in the days after Rome has left. I loved the characters, and the setting, and the humor, and just the flavor of it. If you’re looking for something a little slower and quieter, I highly recommend this historical fiction.

Men at Arms by Terry Pratchett: I still missed the competent and resourceful Captain Vimes. But I did like the developing relationships between the different Watchmen (and Watchwomen).

Kingdom of Summer by Gillian Bradshaw: The second in Bradshaw’s Arthurian trilogy. It’s told from the point of view of Rhys, Gwalchmai’s servant. I thought the point of view shift was interesting; in some ways I missed the immediacy of Gwalchmai’s narration, but I liked seeing the point of view of someone different, and of a different class. The fact that the names are the same as in Elizabeth Wein’s Arthurian books continues to mess with my head. (I keep expecting Medraut to be, you know, Medraut. And he’s really really not.)

Rogue by Lyn Miller-Lachmann: Another Cybils book. I appreciated the intent of this one, but it really didn’t work for me. Too many Issues, and not enough complexity. On the most simple level, a picture of a young girl on the autistic spectrum, it does work, but the other characters weren’t convincing. I’m sure there are readers who will really connect with this book, but for me it isn’t one I could whole-heartedly love.

Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman: A very cute story from Gaiman, with a wild, building on itself plot. Lots of fun, and one I expect will be enjoyed by many a child (it seems like the most child-friendly of any of Gaiman’s kids books to date).

Her Mother’s Secret by Barbara Polikoff: A Cybils book. Historical fiction, based on the life of one of the author’s relatives. The details of 1890s life in Chicago were interesting, as were the details of the Jewish immigrant experience. But it never completely gripped me, and the writing was occasionally shaky enough to be a problem. I would say that if you’re interested in the time or setting, or Jane Addams and Hull House, it would be worth reading.

Saints and Boxers by Gene Luen Yang: I read these two-volume set because it’s on the Printz Blog’s longlist. Gene Luen Yang does a wonderful job of setting up the story, telling it from two points of view and valuing them both. We can understand and sympathize with the motives of both main characters. I do think that, from the Printz perspective, it suffers from being split into two separate books, even though I actually love the format simply as a reader.

Sex & Violence by Carrie Mesrobian: A Cybils book. In some ways, I wish that this book had a different title, because I suspect it has turned off some readers who would otherwise try it. And it’s well worth a try. Evan’s narration is fantastic–the layers of it, the way he is struggling to rebuild his life, the fact that he is both open and closed off, both hurtful and hurting. He’s a wonderfully complex character, as are most of the other characters in the book. It’s a very strong title, and I’d encourage those of you who like contemporary books that take on hard things to give this one a try.

Life in Outer Space by Melissa Keil: Another Cybils book. I very much enjoyed this contemporary Australian title. (Are they just exporting the good ones to the US, or are Australian writers all excellent?) The story was fresh and funny, and I did buy the nerdiness of the characters (sometimes I am a little more dubious when this kind of plotline comes up). It wasn’t a hugely deep book, but I do think it’s one a lot of readers will enjoy.

Categories
bookish posts monthly book list reviews

September 2013 book list

Books I’ve already talked about
The Lost Kingdom by Matthew Kirby
the entire Dark is Rising series by Susan Cooper
Picture Book Monday
Island of Ghosts and Hawk of May by Gillian Bradshaw
The Pale Horse by Agatha Christie
Thomas the Rhymer by Ellen Kushner
Echo by Alicia Wright Brewster
Handbook for Dragon Slayers by Merrie Haskell
Far Far Away by Tom McNeal
Starglass by Phoebe North
The Different Girl by Gordon Dahlquist
Black Helicopters by Blythe Woolston
Shadowcry by Jenna Burtenshaw
Relish by Lucy Knisley
Night Watch by Terry Pratchett
Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner

Others
Sorrow’s Knot by Erin Bow: Review here.

26 Women Aviators by Karen Bush Gibson: This was a nice introduction to a number of pioneering women aviators. I’d recommend it for upper elementary school/middle school kids. I did have a sense that some things were a bit glossed over, which is natural, I suppose.

Sailing to Sarantium by Guy Gavriel Kay: Tori recommended this one, and I’m really glad I picked it up! Great historical fantasy, set in a world based on the Byzantine Empire, with a fascinating cast of characters. I can’t wait to see what happens in the sequel!

Untold by Sarah Rees Brennan: I’m not going to do this one justice in this small space, but basically I thought I was prepared for the worst that could happen. I really wasn’t. Like The Dream Thieves, I finished the book and immediately wanted to throw it across the room, not because I disliked it, but because I couldn’t handle my feeelllllinnnnngssss. What’s with this year-between-books business, anyway?

Secret of the Mansion by Julie Campbell: The first Trixie Belden book. This book is wild. Within about 200 pgs, we have concussion, multiple snake bits, people falling off of horses, fires, broken ankles, and lost treasure. It was something to marvel at, if not exactly admire.

Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett: I didn’t like this one nearly as well as Night Watch–I missed competant and resourceful Captain Vimes. But I definitely like it more than most of the other Discworld books (always barring Tiffany Aching, which I adore!).

Course of Honor by Lindsey Davis: Amanda McCrina recommended this one to me–historical fiction based in ancient Rome, which could be described as historical romance except that the romantic plot is so utterly unlike anything else I can think of. It takes place over a long period of time–nearly forty years, if I’m remembering correctly–and the characters spend quite a bit of time apart. And yet, it’s totally real and wonderful. Lovely writing as well; I definitely recommend this to anyone who’s looking for politics and understated romance.

Categories
bookish posts reviews

June 2013 reading list

Books I’ve already talked about
The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson
In Pursuit of the Green Lion by Judith Merkle Riley
The Human Division
The Chocolate Rose
Quintana of Charyn by Melina Marchetta
Picture Book Monday
Escape from the Pipe Men by Mary G. Thompson
Angel with the Sword by C.J. Cherryh
Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen
The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen
Demon’s Surrender by Sarah Rees Brennan

Other books
Keeping Safe the Stars by Sheila O’Connor: I have a weakness for books like Homecoming and Where the Lilies Bloom, where resourceful kids have to take care of themselves when adults have left them. Keeping Safe the Stars is in that vein, and quite charming. While I think enjoyment of it may depend on your tolerance for whimsey, I did like it a lot.

The Queen’s Agent by John Cooper: A biography of Francis Walsingham, which ought to have been fascinating, because WALSINGHAM. Unfortunately, Cooper’s style jumped all over the place chronologically, making it very difficult to figure out what was happening when. Has anyone read other biographies of Walsingham? If so, any suggestions for good ones?

I Start Counting by Audrey Erskine Lindop: Coworker M, who is being forced to read all the books I love because I know she’ll love them too, returned the favor with this one. Since unreliable narrators are the BEST THING EVER, I did love this one. It is really weird, and uncomfortable, and atmospheric. Highly recommended for fans of Gothic mysteries, or teen mysteries, or odd romances.

Going Vintage by Lindsey Leavitt: This is a fun, lightish contemporary YA. I enjoyed it, but I did feel a little distant from the main character. I think this had something to do with her upper-middle-class sensibilities, even though a lot of the book revolves around her family’s loss of income. This is such a small thing in a certain way, but it threw me out of the story because I’ve never been part of that class and it’s a bit alien to me.

The Chocolate Touch by Laura Florand: I will totally be a tease and tell you that this book is awesome, and Laura Florand’s best yet. It’s out in July (I’m 98% sure) and I’ll have a longer review then.

The Gate of Gods by Martha Wells: The last book in the Fall of Ile-Rien series and AAAGHHHH, so good. I love the mixture of cultures, and the way it almost echoes WWII, and the romance, and Tremaine, and everything. Okay, Nicholas is frustratingly distant if you’ve read Death of the Necromancer, but it is Tremaine’s story and not his.

Mort by Terry Pratchett: I tried Pratchett a few years ago and bounced off his wit. Then I read and completely loved the Tiffany Aching books, so I thought I would try the earlier ones again. Nope. Still bouncing. (I will give the guards books a try, though.)

Kiki Strike: Darkness Dwellers by Kirsten Miller: The last in the Kiki Strike books. I liked it, but I found it a bit hard to get into. What was fresh and enchanting in the first book, and even the second, seemed a bit forced here, I thought. I think a lot of other people loved it, so it’s ENTIRELY possible that it just wasn’t the book for me.

The Watcher in the Shadows by Chris Moriarty: If I had to pitch this to a classic kid lit lover, I would say that this series is All of a Kind Family with magic. It just keeps getting better. I love how developed all the characters are. And I kind of want Inspector Wolf to have his own series, except that I love the MG aspect of it too. Basically, this is just all kinds of awesome.

Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George: This is one of those books that makes me wish I had a teleport to deliver it to younger Maureen. I would have LOVED it at a certain age. As an adult reader, I found it a bit unsatisfying, although I appreciated the sibling relationships and loved the way the castle was a character in its own right.