Books read in February 2018

Lotta picture books, read in a clump.  Then I struggled to remember which was which for reviews.  Oh, awards season.  And I also read a lot of other things too, some of them rather obsessively.

Picture books: All Around Us
Middle grade: The Stars Beneath our Feet
Young adult: The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue. But also: Truly Devious
Young nonfiction: Sea Otter Heroes. But also: Chef Roy Choi and the Street Food Remix
Adult fiction: We Were Eight Years in Power
Smart smut: Brutal Game.  But only if you’ve read Willing Victim.  If not, then: Thank You For Riding

All Around Us
Gonzalez and Garcia
Read for Librarian Book Group
I loved the different kind of circles in this book and the illustrations were particularly excellent.

Side note that has nothing to do with this book: in Portland, Oregon the words of the title are used to promote the surround-sound environment at the St. Johns Theater.  Which meant that every time I encountered the title I heard the power chord, mentally saw the balls bouncing, and then whispered “All. Around. Us.”

Effective marketing.  It’s a thing.

La Princesa and the Pea
Elya & Martinze Neal
A retelling of the Princess and the Pea.  The story rhymes, and some of the rhymes use Spanish words.  It was easy to understand the meanings of the words from context, and there was a glossary in the back.  I found the use of Spanish words completing the rhyme scheme to be delightful.

My Kite is stuck and other stories
Salina Yoon
Read for Librarian Book Group
What happens when a kite gets stuck in a tree?  Some ineffective (and funny) problem solving.

Snail and Worm Again
Tina Kugler
Read for Librarian Book Group
Is is a mirror, or is it a penny?

I See a Cat
Paul Meisel
Read for Librarian Book Group
What does the dog see through the sliding glass door?  Good repetition.

The Stars Beneath our Feet
David Barclay Moore
Read for Librarian Book Group
Sheesh, there’s a lot going on in this book.  Should I start with Lolly’s love of LEGO? Or the fact that his brother was killed a few months earlier? Or the pressure to join a “crew”?  Or his changing friendships?  Or all the interesting things that happen at the after school club?  All of these things flow through this novel in a masterful way that leaves me surprised to learn this is David Barclay Moore’s first novel.

Lucky Broken Girl
Ruther Behar
Read for Librarian Book Group
This is a great slice-of-life book for anyone looking for insight into the 1960’s New York City Cuban expat community, or what it’s like to spend a year in bed healing from two broken legs. There’s a lot of good detail, especially about the time as an invalid.  (Maybe slightly too much detail in some places.)

Meet Cute
Various Authors
Various YA authors bring their best “meet cute” short stories in this winning collection. There were no duds.

Truly Devious
Maureen Johnson
This mystery has it all: boarding school environment, map, remote location, plucky heroine, a mystery in the past, a mystery in the present, a rhyming riddle, those magazine cutout messages, friendships made and strained, plus a brooding potential love interest.  The worst part?  It ends.  The second worse part? It’s a cliffhanger ending and book two (of three) is not due until next year.

Truly Devious
Maureen Johnson
Sometimes, when I read a very good book and get to the end, I must then turn to the first page and begin again.  Well done, Maureen Johnson.  Well done.

Suite Scarlett
Maureen Johnson
Sometimes, when you read a really good book, you pick up another of the author’s books in an attempt to keep the magic going. While this is no Truly Devious, it was fun to experience the life of a daughter of New York City Hotel owners.

The Inexplicable Logic of my Life
Benjamin Alire Sanez
Read for Librarian Book Group
I found parts of this novel to be clunky. For example, there’s a point where the main character runs into his friend and the friend gives us a monologued paragraph with his entire life story–something that would not happen in real life.  The plot tends to wander hither and yon, and two characters experience the same type of loss within a few months of each other, something I found to be unbelievable, especially since the main character has also experienced that same loss in his past.

None of these things on their own sank the book, but they contributed to me finding it to be a slog.  Here’s hoping for a tighter narrative for the next book.

As the Crow Flies
Melanie Gillman
Read for Librarian Book Group
This book left me with a lot of questions.  It was never explained to my satisfaction why such a secular person was going on such a religious pilgrimage-type hiking trip.  The structure of the book set me up to be very interested in what happened when the hiking group got to the top of the mountain, but then the book ended before they got there.  Is this a deliberate technique, or just poor storytelling?

Good stuff: the uncomfortable feelings of being an outsider, in this case, the only person of color among white people and a queer person among (presumably) straight people. The dichotomy of an all-women, Christian hike was interesting.

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue
Mackenzi Lee
A rollicking eighteenth century adventure of a tour of the Continent gone wrong. This book is full of many emotional highs and lows and is great fun all around.

Frida Kahlo and her Animalitos
Brown/Parra
Read for Librarian Book Group
Picture book about what the title says.  (Aside: I heard a picture book author talk recently, and he said, “This isn’t independent cinema.  We know what the ending will be.”)

I liked the use of color, and the age-appropriate version of Kahlo’s biography.

Chef Roy Choi and the Street Food Remix
Martin, Lee, Man One
Read for Librarian Book Group
The story, the text, and the illustrations all came together in the story of Chef Roi Choi and his food truck.

Mama Africa! How Miriam Makeba Spread Hope with Her Song
Erskine & Palmer
Read for Librarian Book Group
South Africa.  Apartheid.  One woman and song.

Malala: Activist for Girl’s Education
Frier & Fronty
Read for Librarian Book Group
Picture book story of Malala.  Bold color used in the illustrations.

Not so Different: What You Really Want to Ask About Having a Disability
Shane Burcaw
Read for Librarian Book Group
A nonfiction picture book about Burcaw’s life and questions children (and adults) might want to ask him.  There are clear photo illustrations throughout and overall, the layout is great.

Sea Otter Heroes
Patricia Newman
Read for Librarian Book Group
This is the kind of book that makes me glad that Librarian Book Group feeds me a steady supply of nonfiction picture books.  I wouldn’t be up for reading an entire nonfiction book about Sea Otters and their effects on a slough, but this was exactly the amount of cool information I wanted to take in.  It’s also very informative in not very many words.

We Were Eight Years in Power
Ta-Nehisi Coates
If I had my druthers, everyone in America over the age of sixteen would read Coates’ article “A Case for Reparations” and then follow that up by reading “The Black Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration.”  If you missed those particular articles in The Atlantic, happily, they are contained in this volume, along with six other essays, plus material that introduces each articles.

Aside from being an excellent “Public Intellectual” and his words being worth your time, this book has awesome end papers.

After Hours
Cara McKenna
I’m pretty tired–kind of worn down from accumulated work stuff.  I’ve realized that when there is undue stress, illness or exhaustion in my life, I turn to my Smart Smut books.  And so it was time for a re-read of this novel.

Brutal Game
Cara McKenna
Holy cats, there has been a sequel to Willing Victim out for more than a year and I didn’t know?  What a terrible oversight.  This picks up Flynn and Laurel’s story eight months after Willing Victim ends.  Stuff happens to complicate things.  The feelings are real.  It’s a hot, worthy second book.

Willing Victim
Cara McKenna
Having read Brutal Game four days ago, I decide that it’s time to re-read this, just to make sure I hadn’t forgotten anything.  I hadn’t.  It was still good.

Brutal Game
Cara McKenna
And having finished my re-read of Willing Victim, why not see how the two books flow?  Very well, it turns out.

Thank You for Riding
Cara McKenna
While some of McKenna’s opening novels of her series are prohibitively expensive, even in Kindle form, this is a mere ninety-nine cents right now. It’s a quick short story where the action takes place on the Orange Line of the T and as a former rider of Boston’s MTA, I applaud this story.

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