Saturday, January 06, 2018

Barb's Best of 2017

Here are my favorite books of 2017. If you want all my stats and the list of every single thing I read - click here. If you just want to read about the best of the best - you've come to the right place.

Dear Farenheit 451 by Annie Spence - This is a series of letters a librarian has written to books that are important to her. It is hilariously funny and also emotionally wonderful. I wish I had written it.

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles – President Obama had it on his best of the year list so who I am to disagree? It starts slowly, but once you give in to the world it creates, it will break your heart in the best possible way.
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas – Thomas' first novel is on EVERY best of the year list and with good reason. It's a first person account of a BLM-inspired story that puts you in the shoes of a girl who is caught in the middle.
Spill Zone by Scott Westerfeld – Ooh, Scott, where have you been? This graphic novel makes me remember why I loved UGLIES so much. A weird world that has a fearless girl making her own decisions and taking chances.

Awkward Thoughts of W. Kamau Bell by W. Kamau Bell, Sleepwalk with Me by Mike Birbigli and We are Never Meeting in Real Life by Samantha Irby are all memoirs written by comedians that have just the right amount of pathos to make the laughts even more powerful.

Gather the Daughters by Jennie Melamed – The story of an island community, cut off from the outside world that has a terrifyingly disturbing secret really freaked me out. But I couldn't stop reading until I figured out the big picture.
Landscape with Invisible Hand by MT Anderson – When the aliens land on earth, the promise a life of ease to everyone. And yet, things go to hell anyway.
Thornhill by Pam Smy – I only gave this one 4 stars when I read it, but I keep thinking about it. It is the very evocative story of a bullied orphan who lives in a group home and the curious girl who moves in to the house next door years later and becomes obsessed with her story.

The Animators by Kayla Raw Whitaker – The story of two young women who meet in college and create an animated masterpiece takes you into their process and their lives in a fascinating way.
Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin – A Monica Lewinsky-type girl makes a mistake in judgement. The ripples go on and on. I enjoyed Zevin's YA books, but I adore her adult books.

Eddie and his Big Deals by Carolyn Haywood – The author of the lesser-Betsy books takes a look at childhood chauvinism in the 1950s. I don't think she meant it as a cautionary tale, but for the modern reader, it surely works that way.
I Go By Sea, I Go By Land by P.L. Travers – The author of MARY POPPINS wrote this story of a pair of siblings who emigrate to the US during WWII as the war was raging. It is touching, funny and an interesting slice of history.
Journey to an 800 Number by E.L. Konigsburg – Konigsburg had a great imagination. This story of a young boy going to live with his free-spirit father and his camel one summer was fascinating and odd.

War I Finally Won by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley – I didn't think I could love a book as much as Bradley's The War that Saved My Life, but the sequal comes pretty danged close!
The Inquisitor's Tale by Adam Gidwicz – This clever story about some magical children and a dog, set in the middle ages is historically interesting and a grand romp.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by JK Rowling – This was the same text that I practically have memorized, but the new illustrated edition (and those of the first two books in the series) add a richness that I didn't think was possible. Get them now!

Where's Walrus? by Stephen Savage – Did it have a plot? Perhaps... There was probably a missing walrus somwhere. I just remember being completely charmed by the illustrations.

Six of Crows, Crooked Kingdom and Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo – Bardugo is my favorite new fantasty writer. Her “Grisha-verse” novels feature young people with super-human powers in a beautifully drawn world based on Tsarist Russia. I read 6oC and CK first, although S&B (and it's two sequals) came first in her writing process. I love the world and the adventure is first rate.

Moxie and Devoted by Jennifer Mathieu – Mathieu has a great feminist perspective. She writes about girls who live in situations where their voices are not respected. The heroine in Devoted is in a “Quiver-Full” family and the protagonist of Moxie is stuck at a Texas high school where chauvenistic jocks rule the school. She shows how their dawning sense of self-worth makes them willing to question the way they have been minimized in a fascinating way.

Every Heart a Doorway and Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire - These companion books tell the story of what happens to young people who find doorways to other worlds that may not be as child-friendly as Oz or Narnia, but influence them nonetheless.

Don't Get Caught by Kurt Dinan – I tend to read female-perspective YA, but this story of a prank war and the way it influences a disperate group of high school kids has a male perspective and a humorous point of view.
Long Way Down by Jason Reynold – Man, the hits just keep coming for Reynolds. He has been on my best of list for the past 3 years. He doesn't disappoint with this small yet powerful story about a young man considering murder as revenge for his brother's death and the ghosts who help him decide what to do.

One of Us is Lying by Karen McManus – Five kids are in detention a la THE BREAKFAST CLUB. And then one of them dies. When the murder investigation starts, no one's secrets are safe!
When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon – Who knew a book about two kids whose parents are trying to arrange their marriage could be so funny and romantic. It's like a bollywood film set in San Francisco with a sassy girl who loves programming more than romance.
Amy, Chelsea, Stacey, Dee by Mary G. Thompson – Yes, it's a terrifying tale of child abduction, but when one of the girls comes back, the drawn-out process of finding the truth of what happened is just gripping.  


My 2017 Reading Stats

Well I just managed to scrape past 100 books. I had 102. This year I only counted books that I completed. This means that in February - June I only averaged 3.3 books a month because I started a ton of stuff that I then discarded. I give a book 30-50 pages and then it goes in the scrapper. Well, not really the scrapper - it just goes back to the library. But I promptly forget about it. Hence the not even bothering to try to keep track!

As usual, I read mostly YA - 38 titles. I read 26 books for adults, 15 middle grade, 12 children's books and 7 picture books.

And as usual, I mostly read fiction - 82 titles vs. 20 non-fiction titles. And most of my non-fiction were memoirs or essays. What can I say, I like a story...

I had a banner year for graphic reading! I read 18 graphic novels - eight of which were biographies or memoirs.

I read 27, 510 pages this year - 2,292 a month - 529 a week - 75 a day. Of course, this only counts the books I finished, so really, I am just a monster of reading.

And now - the actual books! They are all 4 or 5 stars. I will highlight my best of the year in the next post...


Solo – Kwame Alexander
Landscape with Invisible Hand - MT Anderson
Six of Crows - Leigh Bardugo
Crooked Kingdom - Leigh Bardugo
Shadow and Bone – Leigh Bardugo
Language of Thorns – Leigh Bardugo
I am Deborah Sampson – Patricia - Clapp
Constance: A Story of Early Plymouth - Patricia Clapp
Jane-Emily - Patricia Clapp
Don't Get Caught – Kurt Dinan
For the Record - Charlotte Huang
I Kill Giants - Joe Kelly
We are Okay - Nina LaCour
Like No Other - Una LaMarche
Outrun the Moon – Stacey Lee
Betsy was a Junior - Maud Hart Lovelace
Warcross – Marie Lu
Devoted - Jennifer Mathieu
Moxie - Jennifer Mathieu
Down Among the Sticks and Bones – Seanan McGuire
Every Heart a Doorway – Seanan McGuire
One of Us is Lying – Karen McManus
When Dimple Met Rishi – Sandhya Menon
Holding Up the Universe - Jennifer Niven
Lost at Sea - Bryan Lee O'Malley
Hanging Out With Cici - Francine Pascal
My First Love and Other Disasters - Francine Pascal
Long Way Down - Jason Reynold
Anna and the Swallow Man – Gavriel Savit
I Woke Up Dead at the Mall – Judy Sheehan
Thornhill – Pam Smy
Our Chemical Hearts – Krystal Sutherland
The Hate U Give - Angie Thomas
Amy, Chelsea, Stacey, Dee - Mary G. Thompson
Paper Girls - Brian K. Vaughn
Paper Girls 2 - Brian K. Vaughn
Paper Girls 3 Brian K. Vaughn
Love & Gelato - Jenna Evana Welch
Spill Zone – Scott Westerfeld
The Sun is Also a Star – Nicola Yoon

Menopause Confidential - Tara Allmen
California Dreamin' - Penelope Bagieu
Awkward Thoughts of W. Kamau Bell - W. Kamau Bell
Sleepwalk with Me - Mike Birbiglia
Tetris - Box Brown
Andre the Giant - Box Brown
I'll Have What She's Having - Erin Carlson
Going in to Town - Roz Chast
Al Franken, Giant of the Senate - Al Franken
Girl in Dior - Annie Goetzinger
Victoria - Daisy Goodwin
Homegoing - Yaa Gyasi
We are Never Meeting in Real Life - Samantha Irby
Anne Frank - Sid Jacobson
An Age of License - Lucy Knisley
Gather the Daughters - Jennie Melamed
How to Tell if Your Cat is Plotting to Kill You - Oatmeal
Prairie Song - Cheryl Ann Porter
The Alice Network - Kate Quinn
Dear Farenheit 451 – Annie Spence
The Fifth Beatle - Vivek Tiwary
A Gentleman in Moscow - Amor Towles
The Animators - Kayla Raw Whitaker
Flapper – Joshua Zeitz
Young Jane Young - Gabrielle Zevin
St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture 

War I Finally Won - Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
Girls: A History of Growing Up Female in America – Penny Colman
Inquisitor's Tale - Adam Gidwicz
Stepping on Cracks - Mary Downing Hahn
Journey to an 800 Number - E.L. Konigsburg
Compass South - Hope Larson
Snow White - Matt Phelan
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone - JK Rowling
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets - JK Rowling
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban - JK Rowling
Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire - J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix - J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince - J.K Rowling
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - J.K Rowling
On the Banks of Plum Creek - Laura Ingalls Wilder
Child Soldier - Jessica Dee Humphreys

Thumbelina - Hans Christian Andersen
Jorah's Journal - Judith Caseley
Mary's Star - Wilma Pitchford Hayes
Eddie and his Big Deals - Carolyn Haywood
Shrinking of Treehorn - Florence Parry Heide
Dinner at Alberta's - Russell Hoban
Pippi and the South Seas - Astrid Lindgren
Fanny's Sister - Penelope Lively
Betsy-Tacy - Maud Hart Lovelace
Betsy Tacy and Tib - Maud Hart Lovelace
Three by the Sea - Mildred Myrick
I Go By Sea, I Go By Land - P.L. Travers
Farmer Boy - Laura Ingalls Wilder

Hoop Genius – John Coy
The Boy Who Invented TV - Kathleen Krull
John Deere That's Who - Tracy Nelson Maurer
Pop: The Invention of Bubble Gum - Megan McCarthy
Where's Walrus? - Stephen Savage
The Dark - Lemony Snicket
Awesome Minds: The Creators of the iPhone – Marne Ventura

Saturday, February 04, 2017

Bring on the Fives!

Well, yes, it is February already, but I really don't think the year starts until mid-March, so this is a perfectly timely list. Of the books I read this year, these are the ones I had a hard time putting down. I don't have any real criteria for why these books made the cut, other than I looked forward to reading them whenever I wasn't reading them. Many of them are reviewed on Goodreads so feel free to take a look there if you want an actual review. These are mostly just blurbs to describe them in case you are curious. Just assume that the actual first line of every blurb is “I just LOVED this book!!” (My favorite in each category is emboldened.)

  • GEORGE by Alex Gino – A trans girl named Melissa is just starting to blossom from an elementary school boy named George. A stellar best friend, a bully and Charlotte's Web are pieces of this beautiful story.
  • ECHO by Pam Munoz Ryan – There is some subtle magic here in the three stories of mid 20th century kids and the harmonica that threads through their maturing.
  • ESPERANZA RISING by Pam Munoz Ryan – This story of a wealthy young girl from Mexico who undergoes tremendous changes when she and her mother emigrate to California is moving, informative and entertaining.
  • A COURT OF THORN AND ROSES by Sarah Maas – Okay, it claims to be a retelling of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST. Now, I love Robin McKinley's BEAUTY, but this is a close second in awesomeness. It helps that it is a completely different kind of retelling. Sex and violence and trust issues abound. My students were obsessed with this...
  • GIRLS LIKE US by Gail Giles – Two developmentally disabled girls try to make their way in the world. It took me a couple false starts to get into this amazing story, but it was totally worth it in the end.
  • DEATH COMING UP THE HILL by Chris Crowe – Hmmm... I seem to have given this 4 stars in goodreads, but 5 on my yearly list. It is the story of a kid deciding what to do with his life in the Vietnam war era. It has an interesting format – it is written in haiku with one syllable for each soldier killed in Vietnam. It packs a punch.
  • NOT IF I SEE YOU FIRST by Eric Lindstrom – The story is your basic blind girl trying to get over her dad's possible suicide while navigating boys and possibly trying out for the track team. Same old cliches... (heh) Great tone and characters who make all kinds of mistakes but refuse to be pitied.
  • ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES by Jennifer Niven – Manic depression and grief are explored in this gutting love story set in the great state of Indiana.
  • MONUMENT 14 by Emmy Laybourne – Kids wait out an apocalypse in a superstore and it is more gripping than it has a right to be.
  • FRONT LINES by Michael Grant – An alternative history of WWII where young women are also in combat. Three different perspectives make this north African theater story come to life.
  • THE FIRST TIME SHE DROWNED by Kerry Kletter – This one hurts – it is the story of a girl coming out of a mental institution into college. It is clear from the beginning that her toxic mother is the problem, but there is more to it than even that. It was not a fun read, but very powerful.
  • FANS OF THE IMPOSSIBLE LIFE by Kate Scelsa – A great friendship book featuring quiet Jeremy, depressed Mira and manic-pixie-gay-boy Sebby hits all the right notes as these three come together and make each other stronger than they are apart.
  • ALL AMERICAN BOYS by Jayson Reynolds & Brendan Kiley – In two voices, Reynolds and Kiley shine a light on an incident of clearly race-influenced police brutality and the fallout in the community where it happens.
  • THE GIRL IN THE BLUE COAT by Monica Hesse – In Amsterdam, a young woman who is trading in the black market to keep her family afloat gets pulled into the search for a missing Jewish girl.
  • EMMY & OLIVER by Robin Benway – Oliver was kidnapped when he and Emmy were small. Emmy's life is changed due to the fear that this instilled in her parents. When Oliver comes back, once again, everyone is impacted by the uproar.
  • UNDER A PAINTED SKY by Sherry Lee – Samantha and Annamae each escape a horrible fate to head to California in the gold rush disguised as boys in this spectacular female empowered western.
  • THE MEMORY BOOK by Laura Avery – Sammie has dementia. Her plan was to graduate and get out of new Hampshire to attend NYU. She has always been the smartest, and now she is not. And the disease that is causing this is terminal. Bring tissues.
  • DROWNED CITY by Don Brown [graphic novel] – This is a pretty minimalist telling of the Hurricane Katrina story. The line drawings are strangely moving and the factual text is heartbreaking even as is just tells the story straight.

  • WE SHOULD ALL BE FEMINISTS Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – Well, yes, we should. This slender volume leaves no room for argument.
  • PASTRIX Nadia Bolz-Weber – This grace-fueled story of NBW's journey from drugged out stand up comedian to Methodist minister is a liberating view of how to be a Christian and a proponent of social justice at the same time.
  • ON WRITING Stephen King – Well, he knows how to write, and he tells the rest of us what it is like. Thanks, Uncle Stevie!
  • LIFE MOVES PRETTY FAST Hadly Freeman – This love letter to '80s movies was a joy to read and influenced my re-watching profoundly!
  • I'M YOUR BIGGEST FAN Kate Coyne – Coyne is a celebrity journalist and this is the hilarious story of how she got that way.
  • HUNGRY HEART Jennifer Weiner – I love a fat girl book and have been surprised that I haven't really taken to Weiner's fiction. But her memoir is honest, beautifully written and fascinating.
  • BORN A CRIME Trevor Noah – Who knew that this handsome, funny fella could write like nobody's business? His story of being bi-racial in South Africa as apartheid is in its death throes is brilliant.
  • THE LIFE CHANGING MAGIC OF NOT GIVING A F*CK by Sarah Knight – I was raised to believe that being involved in the community is important for a rewarding life, but the sense of obligation that fueled some of my volunteer activities was not always healthy. This book helped me to determine what things I feel strongly about doing and what I was doing because I felt I should. It is an incredibly liberating read!

  • AFTER YOU by Jojos Moyes – After her boss/boyfriend/obsession dies, Louisa has to pull herself together. This sequel to ME BEFORE YOU was stronger than its predecessor in my opinion. In parts it was predictable, but the character of Louisa is compelling even when she is just treading water.
  • BE FRANK WITH ME Julia Claiborn Johnson – This is an adorable story about an assistant to a New York publisher who is sent to California to help a reclusive writer get some work done. She doesn't know that basically means being a nanny to the writer's unusually interesting son, Frank.
  • THE NEST Cynthia Sweeney – Four siblings have to deal with the fallout when the family fortune they have all been planning on to pull them out of their troubles is depleted in this whip-smart story.
  • THE SUMMER BEFORE THE WAR Helen Simonson – That would be WWI. Beatrice is a young woman teacher (or old maid depending on your viewpoint) who moves to a small British village just as everything is going kerflooey. Great characters and setting with a slow-burn story that unwinds just as it should.
  • THE OPPOSITE OF EVERYONE Joshilyn Jackson – I just love everything this woman writes. Paula is a lawyer who specializes in ugly divorces, when a young man enters her life it brings up memories of her strange childhood and forces her to deal with its fallout. It is the kind of book where I remember exactly where I was when I read every part of it.
  • THE GOLDFINCH Donna Tartt – It's super-long, almost too long, but I'm stumped as to what could have been left out. The first two thirds is one of the best books I have ever read. It's the story of a boy who goes through a horrible tragedy and steals a priceless painting. The last third, I just pushed through to get out the other side, but it was a great ride.
  • ANOTHER BROOKLYN Jacqueline Woodson – This book is so slight, yet a very powerful look at what it is is like to grow up a black girl in 1970s Brooklyn. It often felt more like poetry than prose to me which added to the emotional heft.
  • COMMONWEALTH Ann Patchett – So I ended up writing Ann Patchett ANOTHER fan letter, practically scrawled in crayon after I finished this family saga. Two marriages break up and a new family unit is cobbled together in this amazing story.
  • THE STAND: CAPTAIN TRIPS Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa [graphic novel] – I love THE STAND and I was nervous about how a graphic version would play. I shouldn't have worried. This version keeps the story cranking and the visuals are a huge improvement on the made for TV version that had superseded my own imaginary version.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Books Read in 2017 Part One

Looking at my reading stats this year, I did pretty well. I read 124 books all the way through. Now, because I am me, I probably started 248 books, read 20 pages and walked away. It is very liberating to walk away from a book! As a result, I don't have any books on my list to which I gave less than 3 stars. Not one book did I read out of a sense of obligation. Some of those books were, admittedly, rereads. I have my Betsy-Tacys and my Little Houses, I tend to revisit THE STAND and 84 CHARING CROSS ROAD with alarming frequency, but of my 124, 109 of them were brand new! (Well, new to me. I don't keep track of publication year for the books that I read, a flaw that I have fixed in the 2017 spreadsheet.)

When I look at the list I see that only one of my 3-star books was not a picture book! It was CON ACADEMY by Joe Schreiber, a perfectly acceptable book that I thought might be good for summer reading. It was a boarding school crime caper that was perfectly readable and about which I can remember virtually nothing. All my other 3-stars were picture books.

And now time for the dreadful confession. If you take away all the picture books on my list, I only read 66 new books. Gee, I was feeling so proud of my 124 books, but now that I have done the math. Yikes. I guess the reason that it feels like I am not reading much lately is because I am not reading much lately. Must do better. Must step away from the internet. Must stop binge watching.

Well, of those picture books, I gave out seven 5-star ratings:
  • DJANGO by Bonnie Christiansen – I love Django Reinhart and didn't know he had disability issues.
  • THE PRINTER by Myron Uhlberg – I could not love Myron Uhlber more, he writes beautful books about his dad who must have been amazing.
  • THE PIRATE OF KINDERGARTEN by George Ella Lyon – I feel like all kindergarteners are secretly pirates...
  • DAD, JACKIE AND ME by Myron Ulberg – Myron's dad, again!
  • A FINE DESSERT by Emily Jenkins & Sophie Blackall – Some controversy here, but and I think that in the hands of some revisionist history nuts, this book could be interpreted badly, but it is thoughtful and shows the humanity of enslaved people, albeit in a way that might not be clear to an audience of children without historical context.
  • FOR THE RIGHT TO LEARN by Rebecca Langston-George & Janna Bock – Who doesn't love a picture book where the heroine gets shot in the head? Um... everyone? Except the writers handle the more terrifying parts of the Malala Yousafa story delicately and make it work for young readers.
  • PIANO STARTS HERE by Robert Parker – First off, this is not the Robert Parker who wrote the Spenser books, so don't be disappointed. But it is a great story about a young boy, legally blind, who wants to play the piano, and does. I read a lot of books about kids with disabilities for a course I am teaching and this was one of my favorites.

Below you will find a list of my 4-star books. Some of them I did review on Goodreads before Goodreads began to feel like a job, some of them you are just going to have to look up for yourself if you are interested. These are all books that I enjoyed tremendously, I just didn't loooooooove them.

Adult Books -
  • ELIZABETH IS MISSING by Emma Healey [fiction]
  • WEEKENDERS by Mary Kay Andrews[fiction]
  • UNDERGROUND AIRLINES  by Ben H. Winters [fiction]
  • THE FORGOTTEN ROOM by Karen White, Beatriz Williams & Lauren Willig [fiction]
  • WINTER STREET by Eiln Hilderbrand [fiction]
  • THE STAND: AMERICAN NIGHTMARES by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa [graphic novel]
  • FILMISH by Edward Ross [graphic novel]
  • A LIFE IN PARTS by Bryan Cranston [memoir]
  • ROUTE 66 STILL KICKS by Rick Antonson [non-fiction]
  • UNMENTIONABLE by Therese Oneill [nonfiction]

Children's and Middle Grade non-fiction
  • JUDY BLUME by Kathleen Krull
  • TURNING 15 ON THE ROAD TO FREEDOM by Linda Blackmon Lowery
  • SALLY RIDE by Tam O'Shaughnessy
  • DOLLEY MADISON by Kathleen Krull
  • SONIA SOTOMAYOR by Kathleen Krull

YA [fiction unless otherwise noted]

  • THE DISTANCE FROM ME TO YOU by Marina Gessner
  • PAPER HEARTS by Meg Wiviott
  • KISSING IN AMERICA by Margot Rabb
  • THE UNLIKELY HERO OF ROOM 13B by Teresa Toten
  • THE YOUNG ELITES by Marie Lu
  • KILL THE BOY BAND by Goldy Moldavsky
  • DAN VS. NATURE by Dan Calame
  • EARTH GIRL by Janet Edwards
  • A STUDY IN CHARLOTTE by Brittany Cavallaro
  • WE SHOULD HANG OUT SOMETIME by Josh Sundquist [memoir]
  • A TYRANNY OF PETTICOATS by Jessica Spotswood
Next up is my five stars with blurbs!

Monday, June 13, 2016

Middle Aged Lady Summer Reading List

Okay, you don't have to be a middle aged lady to enjoy these books. But I am a middle aged lady (truthfully, I am on the shady side of middle age by now!) and I loved these. They are my favorite "adult" reads of the past year. I pasted my goodreads reviews when I have them or put a little blurb.

The RocksThis book moves backwards. Some old people you don't care about fall off a cliff and die. Then at the end, two people who have made it through world war two fall in love, marry and split up all in a short time, and you care deeply.
In between, their children's lives are interspersed and the island of Mallorca, where they live, becomes a character in itself. Which I usually hate. But not here.
Damn, this was good!

The Guest Cottage This is a feel good, Natucket-y "yeah, maybe my husband left me for another woman, but I've still got it" kind of book.

I Am Pilgrim (Pilgrim, #1)Dang! I usually hate this sort of book, the Bourne Colonoscopy and what have you. If I am going to be subjected to some confused white fella with mysterious secret organization ties fighting bad guys, it better be on screen with Matt Damon or someone of that ilk.
But I was pleasantly surprised by this. It cranks along, there aren't any gaping plot holes and all the characters are well drawn and realistic, even the completely indestructible bad guy. I could not put this thing down.

A God in Ruins This was wonderful. I loved LIFE AFTER LIFE so much and it took me awhile to appreciate the very different feel here. I loved the main character right out of the gate, but I found his daughter so insufferable I could barely read her parts. I should have trusted Atkinson, she wove the story together so beautifully, I want to start over and read it again. And while I am at it, pick up LIFE AFTER LIFE again, just for the hell of it. Not to be missed!

 American Gods There is a certain type of librarian who worships at the alter of Neal Gaiman. I am not that librarian. I usually have little patience for them. I liked CORALINE and THE GRAVEYARD BOOK just fine. He seems a likable sort. I just never understood the high fangirl index rating of the guy. Then I read AMERICAN GODS. Holy cow. This was brilliant. I laughed out loud, I read some passages over and over. I sat and stared into space thinking about possibilities in this world. The story is the buildup to a war and a man on a quest and a marriage that death can't quite split up and a million other details that just pulled me in. I loved this book.

In the Unlikely Event Well, she can still write! This is a great story, set in the 1950s, that feels fresh and of-the-time all at once. Planes fall from the sky, first love blooms, families fall apart, little girls get possessed by dead dancer - there's something for everyone.  

The Lake House  Kate Morton is pretty much a sure thing on several fronts. England between the wars, parallel time lines, different points of view - all things I love. This one is no exception. A little boy goes missing on midsummer's eve and everyone feels the ripples even 70 years later. Sure, you will probably figure it out a little early, but that doesn't take away from the pleasure of reading the details. And, as always, Morton's details are what make her books so appealing. There are three sisters, a police inspector who has made a lapse in judgement, an elderly writer with a secret, war, infidelity, first love and a lot of coincidences. A fun read that will make you neglect whatever you are supposed to be doing until you're finished!

Modern Romance This book was as fun to read as it was enlightening. I have been married since Hector was a pup. There wasn't internet when I got hitched! Ansari and his pal, sociologist Eric Klinenberg, take the reader through the maze that is modern dating They discuss the idea of soulmates vs. settling, cheating and snooping, and how technology has changed the way that single people looking for love or a reasonable facsimile thereof go about it.  

The War that Saved My Life  Full disclosure, this is actually a children's book. But it is so good, I think anyone with a soul would love it.  
All the reviews say the same thing - you have read this sort of thing before. Abused girl finds a parent-substitute in childless adult who has a private pain of their own. It is the details that make this so splendid.
It is set in the early days of WWII when Ada and her brother have been evacuated from their horrible life in London to Kent. Susan, who is mourning her partner (a sweet detail that is there for those who will see it and will be over the head of those who don't), has no intention of taking in evacuees, especially these two very damaged souls. Guess what?? They end up saving each other! Did you see that coming? Of course you did!
The writing is so so so so good. And all the characters, even the old fellow who takes care of the horses at the manor house, are fleshed out without that feeling of the writer trying too hard.
At the end of the book, there is enough left unresolved that I would love to follow these characters, well, for the rest of their lives!

After You (Me Before You, #2)Well, there's nothing so close to a sure thing as Jojo Moyes. She hits the funny bone and heart strings in equal measure with equal skill. This is the sequel to ME BEFORE YOU and I actually liked it better than its precursor. Which is crazy, because I really liked that one, too. There was one point where a "wacky misunderstanding" threatened to derail the whole relationship aspect and it was headed towards four-star territory (I HATE a wacky misunderstanding where simply uttering one honest phrase could make everything better, but no one is willing to utter it. Good grief, sack up...) but it was remedied fairly quickly. And the rest of the book was a treat. Yes, everything ends up fine. And Moyes doesn't wimp out at making her characters make hard choices. Very gratifying read.

We Should All Be Feminists  Damn right we should. This brief book, adapted from a TED talk, gives some pretty great reasoning on the topic. 

Elizabeth Is Missing This was a grippy little mystery. It was nearly a 5 star because it did keep my interest, but something about the way it went back and forth in time kept me from reading it obsessively. I loved the parallel stories and I particularly loved how Maud was shown to be declining as the book progressed. I don't know how accurate this look at Alzheimer's is, but it was very interesting. 

Be Frank With Me  Oh I just loved this one! It is funny, because it is a character driven books with some very irritating characters. But Johnson is magic in that she creates these kind of aggressively unpleasant characters and makes you fall in love with them anyway. M.M. Somebody or other is this reclusive writer who wrote one Harper-Lee-Salinger-esque book that everyone loves and thinks of as a touchstone of their lives and then she stopped writing. Well, she has lost all her money and must produce work again so her publisher sends his assistant out to L.A. to help her. The assistant, Alice, our first person narrator, is tasked mostly with taking care of Frank, Mimi's 10 year old son. There is something very off about Frank. He spouts facts and dresses like it is 1927, he loves movies and sometimes lies down on the ground completely stiff when life becomes too much for him. He is a royal pain in the ass, but he is unique and charming and Alice loves him. Then there is Xandar, super-hot handyman. Mimi is HORRIBLE. Truly a wretched person to deal with (unless you are Frank) and yet Johnson makes me care about even her.

The NestI haven't reviewed this yet, but I did like it a lot. There are 4 siblings who have been counting on an inheritance to fix the messes that they have made of their lives. Well, one of them screws it up for everyone and all hell breaks loose. I love a book where initially unappealing characters begin to show more depth and worm their way into my heart. This is just that sort of book. Did you like Downton Abbey? Well, you'll love this story of a independent minded school teacher who moves to a small English town the summer before...well, you know when...

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Goodreads Sparks My Action!

So I just found out that I can post my goodreads reviews here pretty easily. Now I suppose I could just copy and paste. And why have I not been doing this? I have no idea. But let's see what it looks like when I put the HTML in here. Because it makes me feel techy!

Alive (The Generations Trilogy, #1)Alive by Scott Sigler
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Okay, this is like a 3.5, but you know me - I round up. The story is great. Sigler describes the setting so well that you really can picture it - even if you are as setting-averse as I am. The story is clever and twisty and the reveal is smart. The problem is that I hate everyone. They all suck. I don't care if they live or they die. And the violence is ridiculous. Seriously, I have three words for you- Flesh.Eating.Pigs. Wilbur would never stoop so low. But I have to admit, I loved the plot and it is a rewarding reveal. I will read the next one. There had BETTER be a next one.

View all my reviews

Well, that looks slick! I'll be back posting my previous reviews! Thanks good reads! I give you FOUR exclamation points!

Saturday, August 29, 2015

United Books of America!

Entertainment Weekly, my favorite periodical, has come out with a list of representative books from each state and I am thrilled! These are the ones I have read, followed by those I intend to read very soon~

Alabama - TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD - Anyone past grade 11 at BHS has read this too and knows why it is so great!

Alaska - JULIE OF THE WOLVES - I read it as a kid and it is second only to Farley Mowat's NEVER CRY WOLF, it is my favorite wolf book.

Arizona - ANIMAL DREAMS - Sometimes Barbara Kingsolver makes me crazy, but usually she makes me look at the world differently. Thanks, Barbara!

Arkansas - TRUE GRIT - Okay, I only saw the movies, but I loved them both!

Connecticut - THE WITCH OF BLACKBIRD POND - I am not a witch! But I have been accused, not unlike Kit.

Florida - THE YEARLING - Again, the movie. But why would they make a movie out of a book if that didn't count?

Georgia - GONE WITH THE WIND - HA! I saw the movie once, couldn't stand it, but I must have read the book 12 times, cringing at the racism each time, but still loving the story.

Hawaii - THE DESCENDANTS - Fine, fine, I'll read the book. But I am going to think of how amazing George Clooney was in the movie the whole time.

Idaho - HOUSEKEEPING - Maybe I should be a film archivist instead of a librarian. I saw, didn't read, this one too. But I have to admit, the makers of the list are only listing books that were made into awesome movies, so I think they would give me the benefit of the doubt too!

Kentucky - IN COUNTRY - I loved this movie, but I read the hell out of this book too. And the movie didn't get great reviews, but I truly loved it. Not as much as the book, but still...

Maine - EMPIRE FALLS - This was an amazing book. I didn't see the movie. I think it was a cable miniseries back when they still called them cable miniseries. Usually I am not big on books that stress a feeling of place, but Russo is an astounding writer.

Maryland - THE ACCIDENTAL TOURIST - This was heartbreaking and a wonderful story. And I read it before the (wonderful) movie came out so I get extra credit.

Minnesota - THE BETSY TACY SERIES - Seriously?? My favorite books ever! I thank you EW for recognizing perfection!

Missouri - THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN - I really hate dialect, and Twain is always messing about with it. But it is still a spectacular cultural touchstone.

Nebraska - MY ANTONIA - I have called it LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE with sex and violence. It is tremendous.

Nevada - FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS - I really just read it to look cool in college. Thompson seems like the person I would most hate to take a road trip with, but the book pops.

New Hampshire - A PRAYER FOR OWEN MEANY - I never thought I would love an Irving book as much as GARP, but this one was spectacular.

North Carolina - JIM THE BOY - This was a quiet gem that took me completely by surprise.

Oklahoma - THE GRAPES OF WRATH - Yes, I threw it at the wall when I finished for its lack of hope, but it is still a book that sometimes sneaks into my brain and twists me around when I am not expecting it.

Oregon - GEEK LOVE - My mother recommended this to me. Which shocks me to this day. It is twisted, weird and wonderful.

South Carolina - THE PRINCE OF TIDES - I still remember the tree I was parked under when I read this book in my car back in 1988. Every time I drive by I think of it.

Texas - LONESOME DOVE - This is the first book I am going to read if I ever get the chance to retire. I surely will have forgotten most of it by then and can enjoy it with fresh old lady eyes. I can't wait!

Washington - THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART TIME INDIAN - Hey, this is on the summer reading list! It is the first book I put on twice. Funny and heartbreaking, who's to say I won't put it on again someday!

Okay, I have to read at least 2 more to have read half of them. I'm going to get:
California - PLAY IT AS IT LAYS

Because I love America!

Friday, May 15, 2015

2014 Stats

I read 97 books altogether: 16 – rereads, 29 YA, 7 children's books, 24 adult fiction, 8 graphic novels, 2 memoirs, 7 non-fiction titles, 2 books of short stories and 2 books of essays. This doesn't count the tons of books that I started and didn't finish. Because that would be wrong. 

As far as my rating system I read one one-star book, 10 three-star books, 44 four-star books and 42 five-star books.

My one one-star book this year was Not Cool: The Hipster Elite and Their War on You by Greg Gutfield who is actually a really interesting writer but a hateful human being. I can only hope that this is his schtick that he makes a living off of, because if he really feels this way – put upon by everyone with a college degree or an idea that differs in any way from his – his life must be a misery. I read this because a student asked if they could read it for summer reading and the rule is, if you let me know before vacation starts what you would like to read, I am happy to read it over vacation so we can discuss it in September. Hey, it was an interesting perspective – I never would have read it otherwise...

The three-star books are books that I read because I was obligated to due to outside forces, I was dying to find out what happened or they were so short I decided to see them through just because I could.

The had to finishers are:
Elusion by Claudia Gabel and Cheryl Klam - A Sci-fi story with an interesting premise that quickly got too convoluted. I reviewed it for VOYA.
Saints by Gene Luen Yang – The sequel to the much more intriguing Boxers, I used this in my YA class and felt obligated to finish. Nothing horrible, just bleak.

The must-find-out-what-happeneders are:
The Ax Man of New Orleans by Rick Geary – This graphic novel is about a guy who plays sax. And kills people with an ax – in New Orleans. How can I not need to know how it turns out?
Last Night at the Viper Room by Gavin Edwards – Okay - I knew that River Phoenix was going to die at the end, but he actually died at the beginning and we flashed back for the rest. This was actually a compelling read, but I was so sad all the way through and not in the good cathartic way. But I wanted to see the big picture.
Janis Joplin: Rise Up Singing by Ann Angel – Same as above but with Janis instead of River. Really well done but heartbreaking.
Not That Kind of Girl by Siobahn Vivian – So there was a big stink awhile back about how a main character doesn't have to be likeable (regarding Claire Messud's The Woman Upstairs which I never finished because I found the main character so un... nevermind why I stopped reading... move along...) and yet, I didn't like Natalie, the main character of this book. She was so rigid. And I liked Spencer, the secondary cautionary tale character. And I was curious to see what was going to happen to them, but I didn't ever feel swept away by their story. Although I think Siobahn Vivian has a strong grasp of a lot of aspects of the high school experience.
The Boyfriend App by Katie Sise – If I can't remember a single thing that happened then it gets three stars. A funny book, but so slight that it has completely fallen out of my brain.
Until You're Mine by Samantha Hayes – So close to four stars here. A compelling mystery with a terrific twist, but there were some aspects so improbable that I kept getting pulled out of the action. A pregnant woman who has a husband at sea hires a new nanny who may not be all she claims to be.

The shorties I just plugged away at:
Dear Luke, We Need to Talk, Darth by John Moe – This is such a cute idea – the communication behind pop culture touchstones. I kept waiting for it to get funny enough to make me laugh, and it never did.
Debutante Hill by Lois Duncan – Lizzie Skurnick has re-released a bunch of classic YA and I love the feel of this teen romance from the 1950s. The story is pretty predictable and a little preachy, but it did transport me back to that time.

Four Stars

It occurs to me that four stars are my default. That means that I really liked the book, it held my interest, but it tended not to stick with me. Looking back over this list there are a few that I thought, "Why didn't I give that 5 stars?" and I think the reason I didn't is because I truly can't remember much about it. All of my 5 star books, I remember exactly where I was when I read it and exactly how I felt when I finished. With these, not so much. Although they were all entertaining, they didn't stick to my ribs. And thus, no blurbs...

Boy Nobody by Allen Zadoff [YA, January]
If I Lie by Corrine Jackson [YA, January]
Winter Cottage by Carol Ryrie Brink [children, February]
Branded by the Pink Triangle by KenSetterington [nonfiction, February]
Roomies by Sarah Zarr and Tara Altebrando [YA, February]
Trafficked by Kim Purcell [YA, February]
Rules for Disappearing by Ashley Elson [YA, March]
In Search of Sarah Rector by Tonya Bolden [YA nonfiction, March]
The Bear by Clare Cameron [fiction, April]
The Year We Disappeared by Cylan & John Busby [nonfiction, April]
Unremembered by Jessica Brody [YA, April]
The Sound of Letting Go by Stasia Ward Kehoe [YA, April]
More Than This by Patrick Ness [YA. April]
Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaria [YA, May]
Boxers by Gene Luen Yang [graphic novel, May]
Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker by Patricia Powell [children's nonfiction, May]
Still Foolin' Em by Billy Crystal [memoir, May]
Cinderella by Charles Perrault & Roberto Innocenti [picture book, June]
Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos [children, June]
Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi [fiction, June]
Because I Said So by Ken Jennings [nonfiction, June]
Unfriended by Rachel Vail [YA reviewed for VOYA, June]
In Real Life by Cory Doctorow & Jen Wang [ [YA reviewed for VOYA, June]
Lyddie by Katherine Patterson [children, July]
Save the Date by Mary Kay Andrews [fiction, July]
Thousand Dollar Tan Line by Rob Thomas & Jennifer Graham [fiction, July]
Worthy Brown's Daughter by Phillip Margolin [fiction, July]
Pioneer Girl by Bich Minh Nguyen [fiction, July]
We've Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children's March by Cynthia Levinson [YA nonfiction, July]
Neptune Noir edited by RobThomas [nonfiction, July]
The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski [YA, July]
A Time to Dance by Padma Venkatraman [YA, July]
Murphy's Law by Rhys Bowen [fiction, August]
Boy Snow Bird by Helen Oyeyemi [fiction, August]
Her Royal Spyness by Rhys Bowen [fiction, August]
Tina's Mouth by Keshni Kashyap [graphic novel, August]
13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher [YA reread, August]
I am a Genius of Unspekable Evil and I Want to be Your Class President by Josh Lieb [YA, August]
The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes [fiction, September]
With or Without You by Dominca Ruta [memoir, September]
Young Pioneers by Rose Wilder Lane [fiction, October]
This One Summer byJillian and Mariko Tamaki [graphic novel, October]
Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay [essays, November]
Dogs of War by Sheila Keenan & Nathan Fox [graphic novel, December]
Hold Me Closer by David Levithan [YA reviewed for VOYA, December]
Some Boys by Patty Blount [YA, December]


Well, it is a banner year when I get my year end booklist up here by June first... Here are the books I loved in 2014 - MY BELOVED 5-STARS!

Now, I pretty much love everything I read because I don't keep reading if I don't like it. But these are the ones that I couldn't put down. And they are listed in chronological order. Not that it matters...

THE DAYS OF ANNA MADRIGAL by Armistead Maupin – This was a no brainer. While I didn't love the penultimate TALES OF THE CITY book, MARYANN IN AUTUMN, I did adore this flashback-laden look at Mrs. Madrigals youth as a boy growing up in a Nevada bordello as well as the way the former residents of Barbary Lane and their partners, friends, and children surrounded her at the end of her days. A perfect ending for a beloved series. [fiction]

MARCH by John Lewis – This graphic novel about Lewis' part in the Civil Rights Movement was very moving. The graphics were simple and evocative and the text was linear and strong. It had a great combination of humor and drama. [YA graphic memoir]

A LITTLE PRINCESS by Frances Hodgson Burnett – The story of Sara Crewe and her transformation from poor little rich girl to rich little poor girl is worth rereading every year! [children's book - reread]

MAYBE ONE DAY by Melissa Kantor – What looked at first glance like a teens with cancer weeper turned out to be a wonderful blend of dreams shattered and the power of friendship. Two best friends are asked to leave their dance academy – one vows to never dance again, the other goes on to teach dance to underprivileged kids. One of them gets cancer. [YA - reviewed for VOYA]

CHARM & STRANGE by Stephanie Kuehn – This is a BLEAK look at a kid who thinks he might be a werewolf. Which is why I refused to read it for so long. Sounds dumb as hell. It is so much more than that. And it will knock you right down. It is really stunning in both a good and a bad way. [YA]

THIS SONG WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE by Leila Sales – A girl who is bullied finds solace in DJ-ing at a local unlicensed club. The character is oddly appealing, the writing is stunning and the story is much more interesting than it appears at first. [YA]

IS EVERYONE HANGING OUT WITHOUT ME by Mindy Kaling – Mindy's autobiograpy/guide to life is just a hoot. It was a summer reading option this year and was quite popular. [memoir]

MR.PENUMBRA'S 24 HOUR BOOKSTORE by Robin Sloan – Is a story about, well, you can probably tell from the title. I didn't love it at first, but I had taken it out of the library and a previous borrower had written snarky comments about the quality of the writing in the margins, in a polite, light pencil, but still... The notes were enough to keep me reading until I fell in love. It was a nice, twisty, techie caper that was just a little magical. [novel]

ATTACHMENTS by Rainbow Rowell – I love this little slice of office life, female friendship and benign stalking. [novel - reread]

HUMAN.4 by Mike A. Lancaster – This was an odd little scifi book involving mind control in the digital age and the comfort of cassette tapes. Freaky, weird and very compelling. [YA]

CAN'T WE TALK ABOUT SOMETHING MORE PLEASANT by Roz Chast – This book got great press this year. I think of Chast as kind of emotionally distant and she didn't go obviously for the heartstrings in this story of her parents' final years, but she got them just the same. [graphic memoir]

ELEANOR & PARK by Rainbow Rowell – This is such a beautiful book. I adored both of these 1990s Omaha kids in love. [YA reread]

THUNDERSTRUCK by Elizabeth McCracken – Holy smokes! McCracken wrote one of my all time favorite novels – THE GIANT'S HOUSE and only for her would I read a collection of short stories. I was amply rewarded. These are crazy good, some touching, many creepy and twisty. [short stories]

WE WERE LIARS by E. Lockhart – Lockhart steps away from her usual sharp humor to explore some bleak family dynamics at a family's summer island compound. [YA]

CHEAP SHOT [A Spenser Mystery] by Ace Atkins – I have always been one of the people to mock those who write “from beyond the grave” like V.C. Andrews, but I have to say that the folks who are still churning out the late, great Robert B. Parker's detective novels are doing it right. They hired Atkins who has a great grasp of Parker's dialogue and action heavy style. All the mysteries smush together in my head, of course, but they are still a lot of fun to read. [mystery]

84 CHARING CROSS ROAD by Helene Hanff – I am a sucker for epistolary novels and this is a favorite that I reread nearly every year. Helene Hanff was a television writer in New York whose thirst for obscure classic literature led to a pen-pal-like relationship with the manager of a London bookshop in the years after WWII. Her sharp wit and brass bumps up against his amused reserve in the best possible way. [fiction - reread]

JELLICOE ROAD by Melina Marchetta – A friend has been touting the genius of this book since it won the Printz in 2009, but I could never get past page 20 or so. Well, I decided that if I taught it, I would have to read it so I assigned it for my YA class and dug in. It is simply amazing. It is beautifully written and falls together perfectly. [YA]

OPEN ROAD SUMMER by Emery Lord – If ever a novel cried out to be on the summer reading list, it is this one. Basically, imagine you are Taylor Swift's best friend back when she was 17 or so and you go on tour with her and fall in love with a cute guy who understands you and the reason for the walls you have put up to keep people at bay. Sure, it is a little predictable, but it is also adorable! [YA]

THE GREAT GILLY HOPKINS and THE BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA by Katherine Patterson – I realized this summer that I had never read any Katherine Patterson and chose to remedy this. I now understand why everyone gasped in horror when I said I had never read any Katherine Patterson! She is stunning. I regret that I didn't read these as a kid. I wonder if they would have been as heart-wrenching back then. [children's books]

THE MARTIAN by Andy Weir – “It is a great story and the science is so realistic!” is how this book was described to me. So of course I had no interest in reading it. But I always need science-y books for the SR list so I dove in. It was just fantastic! Mark Watney is a botanist/engineer who is left for dead during a mission on Mars. He has to survive until the next mission shows up in 4 years. Oh, and no one knows he is still alive. [science fiction]

ONE PLUS ONE by Jojo Moyes – A destitute family does everything it can to get the youngest daughter to a math meet. It involves roping a repressed millionaire into driving across England. It is funny and touching even (surprise!) romantic. [fiction]

THE TIME TRAVELER'S WIFE by Audrey Niffenegger – The first chapter of this book us my go-to when I just want to practically weep with happiness. Funny, because the rest of the book can be depressing as all get-out. Still, this is one that I go back to again and again for the swoony love story and the cleverly patchy chronology. [fiction – reread]

ZAC & MIA by AJ Betts – It's no THE FAULT IN OUR STARS, but this Australian “kids with cancer” story is compelling in its own way. Peppered with “of the moment' online references, it is hard to say if this will last, but the experiences of two very different teens dealing with cancer is much rougher around the edges than I expected. And I mean that in a good way. [YA]

LUCKY US by Amy Bloom – Amy Bloom is so odd. I loved the way this story slithered around itself and the way that it kind of clicked together at the end. Her writing is so good and while the characters don't end up feeling like friends (or even better, like I am living their life through the book) it still works as a picture of a family navigating through some bizarre events in the middle third of the 20th century. [fiction]

LANDLINE by Rainbow Rowell – Just to be clear, this is the worst thing that Rainbow Rowell has ever published. That being said, I still loved it! The story of a 30-something comedy writer and her marital troubles drags a bit and you will need to suspend a pretty significant amount of disbelief, but it is a lot of fun and I couldn't put it down. [fiction]

WHILE BEAUTY SLEPT by Elizabeth Blackwell – A retelling of The Sleeping Beauty, this is a rich, detailed and suspenseful story that pulls the magical aspect back into the real world with magnificent results. [fiction]

ME BEFORE YOU by Jojo Moyes – To say that I enjoyed this would be a lie, but I was compelled to read it and it was perfectly put together. It is the story of a underperforming young woman who gets a job as a caregiver to a recently paralyzed entrepreneur. [fiction]

SAY WHAT YOU WILL by Cammie McGovern – When a young man with a secret disability begins a volunteer project as a companion to a seriously physically disabled girl, both of their lives change. I loved the way that the book allowed you to hear Amy's inner life without being cloying. [YA]

MORE ALL OF A KIND FAMILY by Sydney Taylor – Five Jewish sisters growing up on the upper east side of New York at the turn of the century are the cast in an adorable series of books just rereleased by Lizzie Skurnick Publications after years out of print. [children's book – reread]

STATION ELEVEN by Emily St. James Mandel – A medetation on the beauty of the human experience set in pre- and post-apocalypse Toronto, LA and Great Lakes region featuring a present day paramedic, a movie star and an itinerant actress traveling through a landscape ravaged by plague. [fiction]

IN THE WOODS by Tana French – The murder of a young girl in a Dublin suburb harkens back to the disappeareance of some other children 20 years eariler in this compelling mystery. [mystery]

HEAVEN TO BETSY, BETSY IN SPITE OF HERSELF, BETSY WAS A JUNIOR, BETSY AND JOE, BETSY AND THE GREAT WORLD and BETSY'S WEDDING - by Maud Hart Lovelace – These are my favorites from way back and it is a rare year when I don't reread at least a few of them. This year I went hog wild and read them all over again! [YA, before YA was cool!]

THE STORIED LIFE OF A.J. VICKERY by Gabrielle Zevin – A.J. is a widower who finds a toddler in his bookstore and decides to raise her himself. The heartwarming and often very funny story is interspersed with his reviews of short stories. This inspired me to read all those short stories too, so thanks, Zevin! [fiction]

MY TRUE LOVE GAVE TO ME edited by Stephanie Perkins – This collection of holiday themed short stories was incredibly varied and just the perfect thing to read over Christmas vacation! [YA]