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.

https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1443294379l/25776122.jpg 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
Massachusetts - THE WAPSHOT CHRONICAL
Ohio - WINESBURG, OHIO
Vermont - SONGS IN ORDINARY TIME

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]

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

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]

Friday, July 04, 2014

OPEN ROAD SUMMER Makes My Summer Awesome!

Oh Emery Lord. thank you for writing OPEN ROAD SUMMER! It is such a feel-good summer read that I actually tried to slow down so I wouldn't finish it to quickly.

I wrote Emery Lord a fan letter when I was on page 29 and considered sending occasional updates but did not on account of not wanting to appear to stalker-y.

The book is the story of two best friends. Reagan, a girl who is acting out with reckless behavior and her best friend Lilah (or Dee) who is a country music sweetheart teen-queen reminiscent of Taylor Swift. Not Taylor Swift, of course, but one does kind of have to make the connection.

Anyway, the book focuses on their friendship as the Lilah Montgomery Tour takes them around the country for the summer.

When opening act Matt Finch joins the tour, he and Reagan dance around starting a relationship in an adorable way.

The book is a terrific look at a strong friendship and the start of a sweet romance set in a fascinating world. A no-brainer for summer reading for next year!

So Many Books in June!


Here is a not very well focused picture of all the books I took out of the BHS library for the summer. The top shelf are things that are new purchases that I want to take a look at either for summer reading next year or for my own interests. The bottom shelf are selections from the Barnico Collection which is a large collection of books, mostly technology and history based, donated by a Beverly family in honor of their parents. What a nice gesture!

My reading in June and July (as of the fourth) has been far more impressive than earlier in the year. I only read 2 books in March! That is shocking! Well, I did some rereads, but I don't count those unless I haven't read the book in over 5 years and I have to read the whole thing.

I started out with NOT THAT KIND OF GIRL by Siobahn Vivian and UNTIL YOU'RE MINE by Samantha Hayes. NTKOG is a YA romance with a prickly heroine who doesn't have a realistic picture of her own best interests. It was mostly something I read while waiting for stuff to happen.

UNTIL YOU'RE MINE is a British mystery about pregnancy and babies and murder and while I was intrigued with the mystery and figured it out at the last minute, it never really came alive for me.

JELLICOE ROAD!! JELLICOE ROAD!! (by Melina Marchetta) I just loved this. Kate from the Beverly Public Library has been talking about this since it came out and won the Printz. I assigned it to my students in the YA course I am teaching this summer, so I had to finally read it. It is just magnificent. I had given up on it a couple times because it is so twisty and doesn't make sense until you are well into it, but oh is the confusion worth it! Students at a boarding school in Australia are in a war with townies and military school cadets and it all harkens back to a group of kids from 20 years earlier who met in tragic circumstances. I LOVED it!

BECAUSE I SAID SO is one of the summer reading books that I really should have finished earlier. Ken Jennings, former Jeopardy champ and all-round hilarious guy, breaks down the old wives tales we have always believed to be true. Or not. I just finished the last third that I never got around to. And it was a hoot!

DEAD END IN NORVELT by Jack Gantos was another one that I assigned to my class so that I would finish it. I love Jack Gantos. I stalked him at MSLA a couple years ago. He is such a compelling speaker. I had read A HOLE IN MY LIFE which I found fascinating. But I just couldn't get off the ground in Norvelt. It was an interesting story about a town that was established by Eleanor Roosevelt and a bizarre family (Jack, his tightly-wound Mom and his jack-ass Dad) who live there. The one character I loved was Miss Volker, the elderly medical examiner who also writes lyrical obituaries for the deceased. She is a great character.

DEAR LUKE, WE NEED TO TALK, DARTH by John Moe was such a cute idea. Background sketches from famous pop-cultural characters. I read it quick, because there was no other way to do it. Funny, but ultimately not that great.

OPEN ROAD SUMMER, I am going to have to do a full post on this one.

CINDERELLA by Charles Perrault, illustrated by Roberto Innocenti was just beautiful! It is the story we all know and love, but illustrated as if it happened during the roaring twenties. It is one of the picture books that the Dohertys donated. Just lovely.

CHEAP SHOT by Ace Atkins is the newest Spencer novels created by Robert B. Parker. I am usually not a fan of dead writers continuing to publish, but Atkins is doing a terrific job of keeping Spencer viable. It still feels Boston-y, Spencer, Hawk and Susan retain the characteristics that make them so appealing - except Susan's bizarre eating issues. The mystery centers around a New England Patriot whose son is abducted. The mystery is twisty and the payoff excellent, as always.

Finally, I read UNFRIENDED by Rachel Vail and IN REAL LIFE by Cory Doctorow, illustrated by Jen Wang. They are both ARCs that I reviewed for VOYA with my beloved goddaughter and I can't really talk about them until the reviews are published. But suffice to say that I enjoyed them both.

So that's June. All I have read in July are grown-up books, shockingly although it is 9 am on the fourth and i have read 4 books. So, dang, I am reading a lot!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

WHAT THEY FOUND: LOVE ON 145th STREET by Walter Dean Myers

I have only read Walter Dean Myers war books. They are excellent and he has been writing forever. I chose this one for my YA class thinking it was straight up love stories, but it was much richer than that. All the stories, which are somewhat interconnected, touch on love, not always romantic. Some stories are purely comic, some are sad, some are wise. They show an interesting slice of life that keeps coming back to characters that we grow to love. I want to know more about these characters, mostly the daughters of Mama Evans who runs the local beauty parlor.

DEAD END IN NORVELT by Jack Gantos

So before I talk about the books, I will just say that the only thing I had read by Jack Gantos previous to the pathetic photobombing you see in the picture was A HOLE IN MY LIFE which was a very bleak look at the time Gantos spent in the pokey after a drug smuggling conviction when he was 19 or 20. It is a great book, but it in no way prepared me for how hilarious I found him to be as a speaker at the MSLA convention two years ago.

Well, I expected to fall in love with DEAD END in no time. It had nostalgia, mischief and Eleanor Roosevelt - what's not to love? But it took me some time to get really into it.

However, but the end I had come around. I will say that I couldn't stand his parents. They were annoying at best, mean at worst. Of course Jack was kind of a pain so I could see their issues. I loved the character of Miss Volker who soaks her hands in wax, performs questionable medical experiments on Jack's nose and keeps track of the town's dead as the medical examiner and obituary writer. She is unequivocally a hoot. This was a slow starter for me, but I ended up smiling through.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta


Wow, I have tried to start Jellico Road so many times and I just get confused or bored or distracted by some shinier, sexier book and move on. But my pal Kate says it is one of her all time favorites and she as excellent taste so I knew I would eventually succumb.
As it turns out, it took me assigning it to the YA literature course I am teaching to make me finally commit and was it ever worth it!
This book is amazing. It is two stories - five friends who meet on Jellico Road twenty years ago under horrible circumstances are somehow connected to the story of an isolated girl who lives at a boarding school and is embroiled in a territorial war between school kids, townies and some military cadets.
It is so weird.
And it is so magnificent.
There was all this brouhaha on the internet about how adults should not read YA because it is simplistic tripe and this book is the one I would choose to throw at the heads of those who try to make that tired argument.
I'm going to go read it again!