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.

Goodreads commenter Rick makes a point


I did not love The Inexplicable Logic of My Life, but I appreciated Goodreads Member Rick’s response to the “homosexual activity” question posed. It reminded me to be grateful that we’re moving on from the view that things that certain kind of people do is “activity” instead just of living their lives like the rest of us.

Books read in January 2018

There were a few last gasps of reading for the Mock Printz. (An activity which I had to miss due to the flu, alas.)  Plus some non-assigned reading of the non-fiction sort.
Picture Books: A Different Pond
Middle Grade: No recommendation
Young Adult: Dear Martin & Saints & Misfits
Young Nonfiction: The 57 Bus
Nonfiction: The Simple Path to Wealth

A Different Pond
Phi/Bui
Read for Librarian Book Group
A father/son tale about fishing, which is also about being an immigrant and about the country left behind.

Before she was Harriet
Cline-Ransome/Ransome
Read for Librarian Book Group
Clear text and good illustrations trace Harriet Tubman’s life.

Mr. Benjamin’s Suitcase of Secrets
Chang
Read for Librarian Book Group
I didn’t love this picture book. I think details regarding circumstances were too few, and I expect picture books to have a certain type of ending, which this didn’t.

Where’s Halmoni
Julie Kim
Read for Librarian Book Group
Two children looking for their grandmother go on an adventure.


The Wild Book
Juan Villoro
Read for Librarian Book Group
Odd little story about a boy who goes to live in his Uncle’s book-stuffed mansion for a summer.  The translation felt heavy; it weighed this magical realism story down.

Boys Don’t Knit (in Public)
T.S. Easton
Read for Family Book Group
Reading this a second time, I worried that it wasn’t the greatest choice for sixth/seventh grade book group.  I remembered the parents’ double entendres, but they weren’t quite as amusing picturing at 12-year-old reading them.  Plus, there was a 50 Shade of Grey send-up, I had completely forgotten about.

The group was fair-to-middlin’ about the story, but had fun talking about what did and didn’t work.

Dear Martin
Nic Stone
Read for Librarian Book Group
A good kid named Justyce, who goes to the right school and is doing the right thing gets handcuffed because the cop sees him as a black guy in a hoodie, trying to assault a white woman.  This incident frames Justyce’s senior year of high school.

This is a short book, and tells a worthy story while examining the entrenched racism in school, society and friendships.

Saints & Misfits
S.K. Ali
Read for Librarian Book Group
A really great book depicting Janna Yusef’s life as a young Muslim girl. Janna is driven, friendly, and has a lot going on.  Her brother has moved back home, she’s excelling in school, taking part in the activities of her mosque, hanging out with her friends.  She also has a crush on a non-Muslim boy, and is dealing with the aftermath of a sexual assault.

While the sexual assault casts a pall over the story, and there is a lot to be worked through on that front, this book isn’t a grim and gripping march; it’s full of humor, amusing conundrums, interesting characters and so many different kinds of friendship.

There was a lot to love about this book, though I did find that many characters were introduced superficially and mostly all at once.  They would then disappear for many pages.  This lead to me constantly asking “now who is this person?” as the story unfolded.  There were also some first-novel-type problems, but I have greatest confidence that S.K. Ali will get all those things worked out for any subsequent novels, and I hope there are many.

Well, That was Awkward
Rachel Vail
Read for Family Book Group
That time in your life when suddenly the people you’ve gone to school with for some time are–what is this feeling? Attractive?  And maybe someone likes you likes you?  That is this book.  With texting.

Aside from that whole early relationship stuff, there are friendship things and parental role things.  Gracie, the main character has an older sister, but the older sister died before Gracie was born.  Being the living sibling of a sister she’s never met has shaped her, and her parents.  Their changing relationship takes up a goodly part of this book.

The Whydah
Martin W. Sandler
Read for Librarian Book Group
Unlike most nonfiction books, I looked forward to reading. Sandler’s writing was engaging and zipped right along. It was also fun to learn about a pirate’s life, and to understand why one would become a pirate.

I did feel that the negative actions of pirates were downplayed, and there was little examination from an environmental perspective of the process of hunting for sunken ships.  I would have also liked a map that more clearly showed where the wreck of the Whydah is.

The 57 Bus
Daska Slater
Read for Librarian Book Group
Sasha is a an agender teen in Oakland who likes to wear skirts.  Richard is another Oakland teenager. They were on the same city bus one afternoon, when Richard set Sasha’s skirt on fire.  His actions changed both teenagers’ lives.  Slater invites us to get to know the families of Sasha and Richard and see what lead up to that fateful day, as well as the consequences.


The Simple Path to Wealth
JL Collins
Mr. Collins (we are perhaps related, if you trace the tree far enough back?) writes in an easy and understandable style about how to build wealth.  The number one thing from this book I wished someone had told me in 1997?  Live on 50% of your salary.  Even if I hadn’t been able to achieve that right away, I would have benefited from striving toward that goal.

The Subversive Copy editor
Carol Fisher Saller
Advice for copy editors and those aspiring to be, written by the woman who supplies answers to the Chicago Manual of Style’s Q&A portion of their website.  Warm and funny, this book gives a sense of the work of the copy editor, and was quite enjoyable reading.

Books read in December 2017

It was a low-read month.  We bought a TV at the end of November and some amount of hours have been wiled away catching up on Netflix stuff I’ve missed.  I also purposely didn’t read a bunch of picture books when they came in at the end of the month because I wanted my book reviews for 2017 to be done in 2017. There also weren’t a lot of books I was eager to keep reading this month.  When faced with the prospect of slogging through another few pages or seeing how the 13 Reasons Why adaptation was, well, the TV was the winner.

First Rule of Punk.  I didn’t fully latch in, but it did all the things a good middle grade book should.
Far From the Tree. The book that made me aware I wasn’t loving the other books I had read, as this pulled me right in.
We Are Okay. Also not one to joyfully plunge into, but I’m recommending it because the story is interesting and the writing is divine.

After the Fall: How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again
Dan Santant
I know you’ve been kept up nights wondering about Humpty Dumpty’s life after falling off the wall. Now you can sleep again.  And enjoy these delightful illustrations, too.

(Since the rhyme ends with Humpty not being put back together again, this is an alternative version where he is fixed.)

The First Rule of Punk
Celia C. Perez
Read for Librarian Book Group
Malu moves from Florida to Chicago with her mom, leaving  behind her dad and all that is familiar.  In her new city, she applies lessons learned from her punk-rock heritage to make friends, and deal with unkind people.

This book is chock full of early adolescent quandaries including being annoyed with your mom, making new friends, forging an artistic path, and dealing with the label of “coconut” (brown on the outside, white on the inside.)

The War I Finally Won
Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
I did not first read The War That Saved my Life (though I’ve only heard good things about it) and thus, a lot of the reading of this book was me being told what happened in the first installment. This, however, is not the fault of the author.

I can see that, had I read the previous story, I would have a deep understanding of the amount of trauma Ada endured. This book tells the worthy tale of her new life.

They Both Die at the End
Adam Silvera
Read for Mock Printz
In this alternative present book, people who are going to die get a call telling them so.  This is handy, as they can get their affairs in order in whatever way is best for them. It’s also tragic. Mateo and Rufus get the call and meet each other through an app.  They spend their last day together.

I suspect the title put a healthy amount of distance between myself and the characters.  And then, the day left to live was a very. long. day.  By the end, I was more than ready for them to die, which is too bad, because a character has a big personal milestone at the end that by the time it happened, I did not care about.  Also, I feel like there wasn’t enough leading up to that milestone, making it seem as if it came out of left field.

Far From the Tree
Robin Benway
This book alerted me to the fact that the reason I haven’t been reading as much this month is not because of the new Netflix subscription (okay, maybe that’s 20%) but because the books I’ve been reading this month have not been very interesting to me. Within the first few pages I was reminded that stories are fun and that I enjoy reading. And the first two pages of this book have the kind of opening that makes me want to just keep reading and reading.

I enjoyed the plot device of siblings surrendered to the state reuniting. But mostly, it was a pleasure to read: the characters were engaging, the action dribbled out in an attention-holding way, the backstories engaging.

We are Okay
Nina LaCour
Marin–named after the county–is finishing up her senior year of high school in San Francisco.  She hangs out with her friend Mabel, and lives with her grandfather, who has taken care of her since her mother died when she was three.

Marin also is spending Christmas break living alone in the dorms.  She’s run off to college with her phone, her wallet and a photo of her mother. She hasn’t spoken to anyone from her old life since the summer.

The past and the present are woven together in a beautifully written novel Marin and the people she loves.


A Dog in the Cave
Kay Frydenborg
Read for Family Book Group
Solid nonfiction examining the way humans and dogs have co-evolved. While the writing was good, the book’s layout was maddening, inserting pages of focused information right in the middle of sentences.

One Story: The Crazies & Bulletin Board Dragon

I will probably always think of Roxane Gay’s description of the kind of short story she doesn’t want to read: “white people in sad marriages.”  This is one of those stories, even to the point of including a white character with an inheritance.  Aside from being one of those stories, I found it enjoyable, but I did notice that this is the second short story this year set in Montana.  Could the New York City-based editors be longing for wide open spaces?


A girl suffering from agoraphobia. Her neighbor, a boy with schizophrenia. It would be a nice setup for a Romeo and Juliet-style story, and the two do come together.  But star-crossed love doesn’t bring them together.  A dragon does.

This is the second One Teen Story issue with an author named after a particular flower.  Is there Lily/Lilly bias going on at One Story, or was their a run on that name in the early 2000s?

One Story: Are You Mine and No One Else’s?


A meeting at a party, a new couple, some choices made.  The narrative seemed removed from the emotional states of the characters in a way that was dissatisfying.

I’ve just read the interview with the author and it seems that Mr. Lorberbaum thinks this story is Tony’s, not Rhoda’s.  Whereas I thought the opposite.  Perhaps that’s the reason for the disconnect.

Books read in October, 2017

Nary a “grownup book” in sight this month

Picture books: Stay: A girl, a dog, a bucket list
Middle grade: All’s Faire in Middle School
Young adult: Jane, Unlimited
Young nonfiction: How to be an elephant


Stay: A Girl, a Dog, a Bucket List
Klise/Klise
Read for Librarian Book Group
For everyone who has had an old dog in their life.

I love you like a pig
Barnett/Pizzoli
Read for Librarian Book Group
Neither the writing, nor the art spoke to me in this book.

Rain
Sam Usher
Read for Librarian Book Group
It’s raining. Will Sam get to go outside?

Bertolt
Jaques Goldstyn
Read for Librarian Book Group
A boy in a town hangs out with a tree.


The Only Road
Alexandra Diaz
Read for Family Book Group
Just as gripping the second time around.

It All Comes Down to This
Karen English
Read for Librarian Book Group
Once you get past the forgettable title, you will find a nice little gem of a historical fiction book.  1960s Los Angeles is our setting, and Sophie is getting used to her new neighborhood. Her family is black, and there aren’t many other black kids in the neighborhood. It’s summer and  Sophie busies herself with writing a book, making a friend or two, keeping track of her sister’s antics and trying out for a play.  It’s not the most plot-driven novel, but it’s a good glimpse into a specific experience of the past.

All’s Faire in Middle School
Victoria Jameson
Read for Librarian Book Group
Renaissance Faires and middle school come together in this story of Impy (Imogene,) who has been home schooled by her parents.  They are active in the yearly Renaissance Faire, and it’s a second home for Imogene.

Jameson perfectly captures all of the middle school feelings.  Aside from that particular pot of angst, this book is also funny.

Swing it, Sunny
Holm & Holm
Read for Librarian Book Group
Accurately captures an awkward time, both in growing up, but also the everyday life of when one member of the family is going through some troubled times.

Jane, Unlimited
Kristen Cashore
There were many things to love about this book, which is currently in the running for best book of 2017.  First thing to love? The structure, which is a brilliant fun surprise once you figure out what is happening.  I loved that Jane, the main character, was a bit prickly and on the far side of likable. Books with maps in the the front?  Win!  Books set in huge mansions?  Win! Learning random stuff about umbrellas?  Win! Overall, a quality book from an author I already appreciate. (Graceling!)

ps:  You might not catch the excellent structure thing if you listen to this book, rather than read it.

That Inevitable Victorian Thing
E.K. Johnston.
Ah, E.K. Johnston, how your thought-process-turned-book delights me.  What if, instead of marrying her many children off to European princes and princesses, Queen Victoria had married them off to royal families within the empire?  In Johnston’s world this would have resulted in an incredibly diverse–and much stronger and peaceful–empire.

That past leads us to the nearby present and Canada, where Victoria-Margaret, heir to the throne, has gone incognito for her debut.  There are parties and new friends to make, and even some traveling to a summer house.

I loved this book for a few reasons.  It was such a fun premise.  E.K. Johnston is Canadian, and her books are so firmly Canadian, which is fun. I love future-set stories where the kids are all right.  I also watched the movie “The Reluctant Debutante” at an impressionable age, which made me very interested in the whole debutante thing. Plus, there’s a great and complex love story in these pages.
How to be an elephant
Katherine Ron
Read for Librarian Book Group
Very well done nonfiction text about elephants.  The drawings are beautiful and every kid will enjoy discovering what baby elephants eat.

Dazzle Ships
Barton/Nagi
Read for Librarian Book Group
Random facts about history!  Score!  From World War I comes a story of an attempt to confuse enemy torpedoes by painting the ships in a crazy fashion.  The illustrations were not to my taste, but fit nicely with the period.

John & Hank Green, on tour.

Thanks to Kelly, I got to experience John and Hank Green on John’s book tour for Turtles All the Way Down. (When you are a successful YouTuber with your brother, you BOTH go on book tour, even if only one of you wrote the book.)

Here’s John reading from the book.  When I read the book later, I realized he read from two different sections.
We had a visit from Hank disguised as Dr. Lawrence Turtleman. He taught us about tuataras, which are reptiles from New Zealand which are NOT lizards.  Unfortunately, Dr. Turtleman’s PowerPoint wasn’t working, so the good doctor did the PowerPoint from memory.  We had partially obstructed seats which gave us a view of the various people working backstage to try and get the PowerPoint to work.

Hank did some singing and we got our own personal Dear Hank and John Podcast (parts of which made it on the Dear Hank & John episode #114 that compiled this segment from several cities).  We finished the night with a lusty rendition of the Mountain Goats’ “This Year” as sung by the crowd, John, and played and sung by Hank.

Last time, when Matt and I saw John and Hank on book tour, they had a van.  Things have changed.

Here we are, fourth from the end.
It was a fun night. Thanks, Kelly.

One Story: Toby and A Month on Greene Street

A story of loss, written by a student at Portland’s own Grant High School.

Tom Hanks has a successful career as an actor, director and producer. Plus a book deal for his short stories. He’s probably got enough money to start his own literary magazine.  Thus, it bugs me that he’s taking up space in the One Story lineup.  That said, I quite enjoyed this story.

Books read in September 2017

Schooling is over for the summer.  Time to return to the regular reading schedule.


Picture Books: When’s My Birthday?
Middle Grade: Ashes to Asheville
Young Adult: Genuine Fraud (thought see the picture accompanying this post for my other favorite)
Adult Fiction: The Beautiful Land
Young Nonfiction: Take a Picture of Me, James Van Der Zee

When’s My Birthday?
Fogliano/Rubinson
Read for Librarian Book Group
As a person who enjoys her birthday, I enjoyed this book.


Ashes to Asheville
Sarah Dooley
Read for Librarian Book Group

When Fella’s mother, Mama Lacy died, Fella could have gone on living with Mama Shannon and her sister Zaney.  But Fella’s grandmother Mrs. Madison thinks Fella should live “with her blood.” She goes to court, and wins, so Fella lives with Mrs. Madison, and only sees Mama Shannon and Zaney for church.

One night, Fella catches Zaney breaking into Mrs. Madison’s house.  Zaney’s goal?  To steal Mama Lacy’s ashes, drive to Asheville to scatter them, and be back before anyone knows she’s gone.  Fella comes along, as does Mrs. Madison’s dog.

The plan to drive hundreds of miles in an old car in the middle of the night without detection falls apart quickly, and this book is full of misadventures.  It’s also full of heartbreak, while managing to be quite funny.  Some plot points are convenient, but overall, this book is worth reading for the love, humor and even class issues, as well as LGBTQ custody issues.


When Dimple Met Rishi
Sandhya Menon

Sandhya Menon sets up a great “meet cute” by having Dimple fully focused on her education and career, and not at all interested in being matched with a husband by her Indian family.  Meanwhile, unbeknownst to Dimple,  Rishi has been matched with her and is excited to begin their lives together, first by getting to know each other, then after they are married which Rishi guesses will happen after they finish college and before he goes to graduate school.

The opposite of sparks fly.  Or maybe, sparks fly in one direction and are then repelled and sent right back to a surprised Rishi. This sets the stage for a delightful little reverse romance that also includes class and friendship issues, parental and sibling relations and a satisfying ending.

Genuine Fraud
E.K. Lockhart
This is Jule’s story, but her story can’t be told without also telling Imogen’s story.  E.K. Lockhart lets us in on both stories as this book unfolds.  A fun read, and best when one can read a large chunk at the beginning.  If read in bits, this book might be confusing.  Memorable characters, plus class issues.  Nicely done.

The Epic Crush of Genie Lo
F.C. Yee
Read for Librarian Book Group
This book is hilarious and the kind of outsized, bombastic story that I enjoy. It also hooked me up with some Chinese folklore, and has a punny title.  Big win!

Words in Deep Blue
Cath Crowley
Read for Librarian Book Group ????
Let’s imagine that a boy goes to school in a town until he is well into middle school.  Then he moves away.  A few years later, he drowns.  In this modern world, where we are all connected via social media, what are the chances that no one in the old town will hear of this boy’s death?

If you think the chances are zero that not one person would catch wind of this boy’s passing, you are going to have the same problem with this book as I did.  The entire premise of the book rests on the dead boy’s older sister moving back to their old town, yet not a single person she encounters (except for her aunt) knows about her brother’s death.  Even the friends she has kept in touch with during the years she has moved elsewhere.

There was a lot to like in this book.  The friendships and romantic relationships were well developed and there was good stuff around mourning and losing things (brothers, bookshops.) However, my reading experience was marred by the continuing confusion as to why no one even mentions the dead brother and then the increasing skepticism that they wouldn’t have heard about the dead brother.  I’m not sure how this book made it into publication with that largest of plot hole.


The Beautiful Land
Alan Averill

Takahiro is a washed-up American-born Japanese reality star when he goes to work for the Axon Corporation. Samira is an Iraq War veteran, crippled from PTSD.  They have their Seattle childhood in common, and their friendship that never developed into something more.

Tak’s job at Axon is to explore parallel universes, which is not your normal kind of job.  When it turns out that someone has other plans for parallel universes, Tak and Sam must work together to save the world.  And also figure out that whole latent romance thing.

Averill balances the parallel universe and the relationships with flair.  This book is high-stakes, high-action and also funny.


Take a Picture of Me, James Van Der Zee
Loney/Mallett
Read for Librarian Book Group
Picture book story of James Van Der Zee, who took portraits of people in Harlem during the 20th Century.  Likable illustrations, plus actual examples of Mr. Van Der Zee’s work at the end of the book.