Books read in January 2020

Picture Books

Oge Mara
Read for Librarian Book Group

A mother and daughter make the most of their Saturdays together despite whatever obstacles may get in their way.

I’ve been taking a deep breath and letting it out since I read this charming book.

Middle Grade

Free Lunch
Rex Ogle
Read for Librarian Book Group

One of the many things aspiring authors learn about writing novels is that often the book you write to teach a lesson is not a book that is very good. And so it was with this book.

I understand that Rex Ogle had it rough growing up. Clearly his early years were miserable, and I hope that he has escaped the demons that follow along with the grinding poverty and abuse that was his childhood.

However, the prose that he wrote about his childhood was clunky and the piling on of terrible stuff was unrelenting. The book wraps up in a way that is unbelievable, given what’s come before.

Young Adult

Look Both Ways
Jason Reynolds
Read for Librarian Book Group

10 short stories that show off Reynolds mastery of prose and had me marveling over his sentences. And there was one story (featuring the Low Cuts) that caused me to burst into tears.

Hello Girls
Cavallaro & Henry

Winona and Lucille come from different parts of town and have different terrible home lives. Their friendship is the thing that keeps them going.

There are some great observations about female bodies and class and landscape and I think I kept my distance from this book due to worry about the main characters.

The Loves and Lies of Rukhsana Ali
Sabina Khan

A good reminder that coming out isn’t always safe and sometimes lies about who you love are more important than the truth.

White Bird
R.J. Palacio

A graphic novel about the complexities of hiding during World War II. It was sad in parts (because war is hell) but there are some delights and a few twists I didn’t see coming.

Emergency Contact
H.K. Choi

Penny is my kind of prickly main character and her text-based relationship with a barista/aspiring documentarian had me turning pages. While on those pages, I delighted in some great writing. A certain subject was depicted in a way I think happens a lot, and I appreciate H.K. Choi for bringing that experience to light.

Also: gorgeous cover.

Young Nonfiction

They Called us Enemy
George Takei
Read for Librarian Book Group

This graphic novel does a good job showing the Japanese-American internment through a child’s eyes. It also puts this policy in perspective nationally and historically. I liked that the narrative continued on through Takei’s life so we could see the ramifications afterward.

The Toll
Neil Shusterman

This is a big, thick book that is third in a trilogy and Shusterman’s genius is that I was never confused about what was going on, even though there are multiple characters and I read the previous book last year.

All of the feelings are back and the tension is high. If you haven’t read this series, start with Scythe. If you have read Scythe and Thunderhead ——>GO!

Grownup Nonfiction

Change Your Habits, Change Your Life
Tom Corley

I wasn’t a fan of the repeated references to “self-made millionaires,” one of whom was Donald Trump who we know is not at all a self-made millionaire. However, a few things can be gleaned from this. For instance, don’t spend more than 5% of your annual income on vacation.

Grownup Fiction

Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts
Kate Racculia

Immensely readable! Tuesday Mooney is a compelling character. People in her life (Dex, Dorrie) are also interesting and the mystery/game was engrossing and complex.

It’s also a book set in Boston, so if you’ve spent time there, you will enjoy it in a geographical sense.

This Must Be the Place
Kate Racculia

This is a debut novel with some debut novel things, like the random flash forward when two people become friends. There are also some time shifts that had me confused. It didn’t help the library only had an electronic copy, which thwarts my paging through what I’ve read.

Still, I liked the characters, the writing and there were some really great passages about teen first love. (Debut love?)

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