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book lists bookish posts monthly book list

March 2018 reading

 

The Cruel Prince Holly Black 3.11

Pashmina by Nidhi Chanani 3.19

American Panda Gloria Chao 3.3

Emergence CJ Cherryh 3.10

The Belles Dhonielle Clayton 3.13

The Disorderly Knights Dorothy Dunnett 3.12

As the Crow Flies Melanie Gillman 3.26

Leia, Princess of Alderaan Claudia Grey 3.1

Garvey’s Choice Nikki Grimes 3.24

The Wedding Date Jasmine Guillory 3.1

All’s Faire in Middle School Victoria Jamieson 3.14

A Wrinkle in Time Madeleine L’Engle 3.8

H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald 3.19

Wonder Woman: The True Amazon Jill Thompson 3. 23

Spinning Tillie Walden 3.12

 

Total books read: 15

Total rereads: 1 (A Wrinkle in Time)

Favorites:

  • Spinning
  • Leia, Princess of Alderaan
  • A Wrinkle in Time
  • The Wedding Date
  • The Belles
  • As the Crow Flies
Categories
bookish posts monthly book list reviews

March 2015 round-up

Books I’ve already talked about
Black Dove, White Raven by Elizabeth Wein
Jinx’s Fire by Sage Blackwood
A Fistful of Sky by Nina Kiriki Hoffman
Bad Luck Girl by Sarah Zettel
Persona by Genevieve Valentine
The Penderwicks in Spring by Jeanne Birdsall
The Port Chicago 50 by Steve Sheinkin
Death Marked by Leah Cypess
Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
Lord of the Changing Winds by Rachel Neumeier
Bone Gap by Laura Ruby
I Shall Wear Midnight by Terry Pratchett (such a bittersweet read)
Hunting by Andrea K. Höst

Other books
Displacement by Lucy Knisley: I found myself disquieted by this one, but couldn’t quite put my finger on why.

Land of the Burning Sands by Rachel Neumeier: Second in the Griffin Mage trilogy. At first I was a bit taken aback by the change in point of view, but I really liked the characters and the story, and the way we saw a different side to the countries than in the first book.

Ms. Marvel, vol. 1 by G. Willow Wilson: I absolutely adored this one. Smart, fun, filled with a YA sensibility. I also loved the way Kamala’s family and faith and culture are woven into the story, how they’re both frustrations and sources of strength. I can’t wait for the second collection!

Texts from Jane Eyre by Mallory Ortberg: The titular essay is one of my favorite things EVER. As a whole the book is enjoyable, but also tends to repeat itself a bit. Still, it’s short and tight enough that this didn’t bother me too much.

How I Discovered Poetry by Marilyn Nelson: Nelson’s poetic memoir of growing up black in the 1950s. She uses the sonnet’s snapshort form to great effect. This perhaps doesn’t have the same overview as Brown Girl Dreaming, but it’s likewise an important and powerful story. Its aims are, I think, somewhat different and achieved beautifully. I hope people looking for readalikes for Woodson’s book find it.

Dangerous Deceptions by Sarah Zettel: Second Peggy Fitzroy book. I enjoy these Georgian spy mysteries quite a bit, although this one seemed a bit long (middle book syndrome, maybe?). I do really like the way Peggy’s relationship with Matthew is depicted, and her valiant attempts to keep juggling all her plates.

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab: Fun, angsty fantasy (not a contradiction!). I liked the concept and worldbuilding a LOT, and the way the magic has a price. I was less connected to the characters than I perhaps wanted to be. There were a few niggling historical details that bothered me, because I am the person who can’t let go of the fact that there were no abundant skirts in 1819. However, it’s a really enjoyable book and I’m looking forward to the rest of the series.

Beastkeeper by Cat Hellisen: Darker middle grade retelling of Beauty and the Beast. Gorgeous language and a pleasingly spare book. I found the characters and the way the story plays with the original to be fresh and engaging, despite a few niggling questions about the resolution.

All Our Pretty Songs by Sarah McCarry: I’ve been hearing good things about McCarry’s writing ever since All Our Pretty Songs came out, and I finally picked it up. SO GOOD. Complex characters, a wonderful narrator, outstanding prose, layers of myths that add a lot of depth. Definitely recommended if you loved Bone Gap–I would love to see someone look at the way the two books engage with the story they have in common.

Iron Kissed by Patricia Briggs
Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews
The Iron Wyrm Affair by Lilith Saintcrow

Other posts
Favorite books from the last three years
Favorite authors: Terry Pratchett
Spring TBR list
Library displays
Books I want to revisit
Links 3-11
Links 3-26
Recent additions to my TBR
Links to two tumblr posts

TV & movies
Poirot. I’ve been watching a lot of Poirot. I find the fact that the stories are transported to the 1930s sometimes a little jarring, and I recently watched “The Murder of Roger Ackroyd” which is just a study in how NOT to adapt that book. (What is the whole point? Christie playing with narrative. What do they ruin? The game she’s playing.) Still, I love the main actors and it’s lots of fun to spot people who would later become famous (or famous for British actors, anyway).

Also watched “Belle”, a beautiful period movie based on the life of Dido Elizabeth Belle. I loved the movie as a story, and the acting was wonderful. It does bother me to a certain extent that the John Davinier of the movie is so obviously not the John Davinier of history, which undercuts the story a bit. But as a story based on Dido Belle’s life, it’s wonderful, and it’s a powerful and important piece of representation.

Finally, I watched Sense & Sensibility (1995) with the Two Bossy Dames crowd. Despite some technical glitches on my end (Netflix, why must you fail me?!), it was an extremely enjoyable evening; there’s definitely something to be said for watching a movie in good company. It’s been awhile since I had seen this one and it ages quite well. I will admit that the climactic scene when Elinor begs Marianne not to leave her had me crying and then texting my sister.

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 reviews

2014: Favorite middle grade books

Cuckoo-Song-Frances-Hardingejinx's magic
Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge: I bought this one from the UK, believing that it wasn’t going to be published over here. But I was wrong! And you should all buy it when it comes out next year, because it is one of Hardinge’s best books: eerie, beautiful, and haunted by history’s ghosts. Hardinge writes some of the most complex middle grade books out there but what I love most are her strong characters and this one is no exception.

Jinx’s Magic by Sage Blackwood: A welcome sequel to Jinx, this one continues the story and characters but adds new complications. It’s a book that’s thoughtful without being preachy, and exciting without being thoughtless. I liked it quite a bit and can’t wait for the third book to come out next year (what is happening to Simon? inquiring minds wish to know!). [Full disclosure–Sage Blackwood is a Twitter friend and a lovely person, but I liked her books before I knew her.]

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor: I loved Cassie Logan’s story and its complexities. I wish it didn’t seem quite so prescient (I read it in March, long before August and Michael Brown’s murder), but I am glad to have read it and grateful for its hardness and its beauty both.

rollofthunderHIBAG - dustcover FINAL MAR192013.indd

How I Became a Ghost by Tim Tingle: How I Became a Ghost is a heart-wrenching book, but a wonderful one. It brings a tragic period of history to life and at the same time, it refuses to be defined by that sadness. It’s also an unexpectedly funny book and I loved Isaac and his voice.

Grand Plan to Fix Everything by Uma Krishnaswami: This book and its sequel are some of the most delightful I’ve read all year. I loved Dini and her transition from America to India, and how it feels to leave your best friend behind. I loved Dolly and the slightly-larger-than life plot that seemed really perfect for the Bollywood echoes. Most of all, this is a book that I really enjoyed reading and I’m hoping for more of Dini’s adventures.

The Lulu series by Hilary McKay: Hilary McKay’s Lulu books are a bit like Krishnaswami’s in that they are completely delightful books about a young girl with a strong interest. In Lulu’s case, it is animals, a love which leads her into (and out of) many sticky situations. I love the gentleness of these books, and of course they are hilarious because they’re written by Hilary McKay!

greenglass housethe crossover

Greenglass House by Kate Milford: This is partly one of my favorite books of the year because I had almost a perfect reading experience with it. But it’s also a lovely book–I called it elegant in my original review and I think that’s still true. I loved the descriptions of Greenglass House itself, and the puzzle of the plot and characters. It’s a bit Westing Game, a bit RPG, a bit locked room mystery, but it’s also greater than the sum of its parts.

The Crossover by Kwame Alexander: I’m often wary of novels-in-verse, but Alexander’s is wonderful. Short poems–some of which are lyrical and somber, some of which are bubbling over with enjoyment. I found myself genuinely moved at Josh’s voice and story and I thought the ending was beautiful.

* Disclaimer: my discussion of the Cybils-nominated books on this list should be taken as my personal opinion only

Categories
bookish posts reviews

Recent Reading: 11-28-14

this one summerThis One Summer by Jillian and Mariko Tamaki: A gorgeous graphic novel, which I appreciated very much in terms of artistry, storytelling, and thoughtfulness, but which never entirely grabbed me emotionally. I’m not sure how much of this is due to reading experience (I read it in two chunks) and how much is due to the fact that it was much more of a window book for me than a mirror one. That is, I experienced that age very differently and while I liked how true it seemed to a certain experience of teenage girl life, it didn’t quite resonate with me in the way I imagine it might for other readers. I did love the wordlessness of some of the panels, how the authors relied on these beats of silence to evoke the languid feeling of summer and the tense moments of a struggling family. (Kelly Jensen also has a really nice review of this one, which is worth checking out.)

octobia mayThe Unstoppable Octobia May by Sharon Flake: I’ve been looking forward to this one for a few months, ever since I saw the awesome cover art and premise on Edelweiss. Octobia May is a stubborn, curious girl, who believes that one of the lodgers at her aunt’s house is a vampire. When she attempts to prove this, she uncovers a far different, but equally sinister, state of affairs. I liked this one, although I find it a bit hard to grapple with in a certain way. There’s a lot about being black, being a black woman and therefore unable to get a loan from a bank, and Octobia May’s desire to circumvent all of these rules. In the end, I think, she comes to understand that it’s more complicated than that. And yet, I struggle with how to characterize the book’s larger message, which I only say because I felt that there was one and I didn’t quite get it. Maybe that’s just fine and it’s not a book that in that sense is meant for me (I still loved the mystery and Octobia May herself, so it worked for me on that level). I also want to know more about Octobia May’s family and her somewhat mysterious illness. Hopefully there will be more from Flake about these characters.

the crossoverThe Crossover by Kwame Alexander: I’m not normally a big fan of basketball books, and this is a book “about” basketball. I’m not normally a fan of books in free verse–too often I just don’t see the form justified. But I can’t imagine The Crossover as anything but poetry. Alexander writing as Josh is by turns thoughtful, lyrical, hilarious, and heartbreaking. Some of the poems are bubbling over with effervescence, some are somber and quiet. All of them feel like a teenage boy, grappling with some of the biggest changes he will ever face. Basketball is Josh’s love, and that shows in several of the poems, but it’s not really what the book is about: it’s about family and love and forgiveness and growing up. And it’s the first book in quite some time that made me just full-on cry. I can’t recommend it enough.

el deafoEl Deafo by Cece Bell: A graphic memoir by Cece Bell, showing her childhood after she suddenly went deaf following an illness. I really liked it, especially the way it showed how she navigates the world with the help of lip reading and other artificial aids, but never let that be the only point of the story. It’s clear and funny, and I think a lot of kids will get Cece’s desire to find a best friend, and the journey that desire takes her on. There are also some fun interludes as she imagines herself as a superhero (the titular El Deafo). I also really appreciated the afterword, which goes a bit more into the deaf/Deaf culture and how her experience was perhaps a bit different than many others.

magic thief homeThe Magic Thief: Home by Sarah Prineas: Fourth book in the Magic Thief series, and a Cybils nominee. Conn and his friends are faced with a new issue as someone is stealing the locus stones of all the magicians in the city. Meanwhile, Rowan as the duchess has named Conn the ducal magister, which he is not happy about at all. (Nor are most of the other magisters, to be fair.) This one is perhaps best for readers who have finished the other books in the series, but it’s just as delightful. Conn is of the plucky slightly-amoral type of character, but at the same time he has a good heart and part of his journey is learning to trust others. A great one for the kid who will love The Thief in a few years.

Categories
bookish posts reviews

The Lightning Dreamer by Margarita Engle

lightning dreamerMy reaction to this book is a bit complicated. First, we have my bias against a lot of modern blank verse which usually (in my oh so humble opinion) fails to justify its existence as poetry. Second, we have the fact that I’ve never felt that Engle’s poetry has done a lot for me personally. The Lightning Dreamer had that working against it from the beginning.

In The Lighting Dreamer, we meet a young Cuban girl, Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda, who through most of the book is referred to by her nickname, Tula. She is a dreamer and a poet, usually in conflict with her mother who wishes for a docile and respectable daughter. When she begins to read the work of a banned abolitionist, her soul catches fire and she begins to write about slavery and injustice.

This is obviously a really important story about a place and people who are often overlooked. I knew nothing about Cuba’s abolitionist movement, let alone Tula. Obviously, this is a failing, and The Lightning Dreamer addresses an important lack of books on this subject for younger readers. I would like to read a good biography of Avellaneda, because she sounds like a fascinating person in her own right.

So that is all to the good. However, as I hinted above, I had real problems with most of the poems. The only one I really loved was an early poem about her father’s death. Partly, I really didn’t see that the form was justified by the writing. Although poetry is sometimes described as lines-that-don’t-go-all-the-way-across, few poets would (I think) actually argue that’s the case. Poetry, whether it’s written for children or not, does have a different quality to it than prose. The poems here failed to deliver on that promise.

Moreover, the poems are in the voices of different characters, from Tula to her family and her family’s cook. And yet, all of the separate voices–people of varying backgrounds and ages–read as exactly the same. Is Tula speaking, or is it her brother? The only distinction is the name at the top and what the person is concerned with.

Also, the characters seemed oddly flat and one-note. Tula wants to be free, she wants to write, she burns against injustice. Her brother loves his sister but worries about her activities. Her mother can’t understand how she produced such a willful daughter and worries that she will never be respectable and therefore never happy. In poem after poem, we only see the most simplistic version of the speaker. There’s a chance for real depth in what I understood of the family background, but it’s passed over in favor of a heavy-handed message.

In the end, I worry that I am missing something and not being fair to this book. And I am glad that it exists. I hope it sparks some interest in the subject. For me, however, it did not work, except as a gateway into history I previously didn’t know about. That’s something, but considering what could have been, it’s not enough.

Book source: public library
Book information: HMH Books for Young Readers, 2013; YA/upper middle grade

I read this book for the 2013 Cybils. You’ll be able to see all of my Cybils reviews by clicking here.

Categories
bookish posts poetry

Dirge Without Music

I wanted to do something to mark the US release date of Rose Under Fire, Elizabeth Wein’s new book. But I posted my review back in June. So instead I am giving you the full text of Edna St. Vincent Millay’s “Dirge Without Music.” This will mean more if you’ve already read the book, but regardless, it’s a wonderful poem.

Dirge Without Music

I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground.
So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind:
Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely. Crowned
With lilies and with laurel they go: but I am not resigned.

Lovers and thinkers, into the earth with you.
Be one with the dull, the indiscriminate dust.
A fragment of what you felt, of what you knew,
A formula, a phrase remains,–but the best is lost.

The answers quick and keen, the honest look, the laughter, the love00
They are gone. They are gone to feed the roses. Elegant and curled
Is the blossom. Fragrant is the blossom. I know. But I do not approve.
More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses in the world.

Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave
Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.

rufus

Categories
bookish posts monthly book list reviews

August 2013 book list

Books I’ve already talked about
The Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carson
Dirty Little Secret by Jennifer Echols
Rusalka by CJ Cherryh
The Lost Kingdom by Matthew Kirby, very briefly
Pure by Julianna Baggott
Tortilla Sun by Jennifer Cervantes
The Pirate’s Wish by Cassandra Rose Clarke
Berlin Boxing Club by Robert Sharenow
The Chaos of Stars by Kiersten White
P.S. Be Eleven by Rita Williams-Garcia
The Princess Curse by Merrie Haskell
Golden Girl by Sarah Zettel
Cotillion by Georgette Heyer
The Quiet Gentleman

Other books read
Daydreams of a Solitary Hamster by Astrid Desbordes: A nice juvenile graphic novel with a wry tone to it. I kind of expected it to have a more messagey resolution, but I was glad it didn’t. And I really liked the interactions between the different animals, and the way we see different sides to each.

The Amazing Mrs. Pollifax
The Elusive Mrs. Pollifax
Palms for Mrs. Pollifax
Mrs. Pollifax on Safari
Mrs. Pollifax on the China Station
by Dorothy Gilman: What can I say? I went on a bit of a Mrs. Pollifax binge this month. In some ways, the closest I can come to fulfilling the vain desire for another Agatha Christie book; perfect when you want to be entertained and not think too hard.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz: So much to love here! I can’t believe it took me this long to actually read this book, but I’m glad I did. Ari’s voice is really strong, and although at first I kept noticing the style, eventually I settled in and stopped noticing it. There’s so much depth and complexity in its depictions of both characters and their differences as well as connections.

The Beacon at Alexandria by Gillian Bradshaw: Rachel Neumeier recommended this one on my Historical Fantasy post (Bradshaw is straight historical fiction, to be clear), and I’m really glad she did! Lovely, lovely writing–the kind of historical fiction that looks completely effortless, which means it’s not. The funny part is that apparently my mom and sister have been reading Bradshaw’s books for years and have no idea how I missed her. I don’t know either, but I’m going to be catching up.

London in Chains by Gillian Bradshaw: I borrowed this one from my mom while I was in Connecticut; it’s not as good as Beacon, in my opinion. It’s not quite Bradshaw’s period somehow and the background gets a bit confused. However, I love how she treated Lucy’s character and her history.

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan: There was so much about this book I enjoyed–the quirky cast of characters, the bookstore itself, the secret society. However, I generally liked the set up portion of the book much more than the resolution, and I really wasn’t convinced that the story managed the synthesis of love of books and love of technology that it was reaching for. I suspect others disagree with me, although this isn’t one I’ve seen many reviews for. Probably worth picking up just for the book bits, if you’re so inclined.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern: I read most of this on the plane coming home from CT. Gorgeous writing, with beautiful, dreamlike descriptions of the circus and its inhabitants. I loved most of, but found myself slightly confused and distanced by the ending, which was a little too coy in places for me to follow.

The Ides of April by Lindsey Davis: A Roman mystery with a female protagonist/detective. I liked it a lot, in a mild kind of way, and will probably read the next one, as it seemed to be the first in a series.

The Mighty Miss Malone by Christopher Paul Curtis: This book was unexpectedly harrowing! The Malones are a determined, brave, and resourceful family, but the world they live in is hard. I loved Deza’s voice, which managed at once to be wise beyond its years and naively young. That contrast worked really well for how I read her character. Heartbreaking and bittersweet.

Poems of Akhmatova, trans. by Stanley Kunitz: These were decent translations, but in some cases I was puzzled by the way the translation didn’t follow the original structure (parallel structures, which Akhmatova seems to have been very fond of) when it seemed fairly simple to me to do so. I’m glad at least that this was a side-by-side version, with the original Russian first.

Our Hearts Were Young and Gay by Cornelia Otis Skinner and Emily Kimborough
Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper