Books read in July 2016

17 books this month.  It seems I’m back in the groove.  And there were even books I really liked.  Perhaps the reading slump is over?Lie Treerecommended

Picture Book: Thunder Boy, Jr.
Middle Grade:  Wolf Hollow
Young Adult:  The Lie Tree, American Girls
Young Nonfiction: We Will Not Be Silent
Smart Smut:  After Hours
picture books

Thunder Boy, Jr.
Sherman Alexie/Yuyi Morales
Read for Librarian Book Group
Thunder Boy, Jr. wants a new name in this gorgeously illustrated picture book.

School’s First Day of School
Read for Librarian Book Group
It seems that not only students get nervous for the first day.

Steamboat School
Read for Librarian Book Group
This was an interesting story based on historical fact.  I was down for that.  The illustrations troubled me, reminding me of stereotypical Jim Crow-era illustrations of Black people.

I’ve heard that Ron Husband, the illustrator, is thrilled to have this story go forward and I can see he’s had great success as an animator.  Is he “reclaiming” the style?  Does my white-lady discomfort matter? I look forward to the discussion at book group.

Frank & Lucky Get Schooled
Read for Librarian Book Group
I’m tardy in writing this review and have sent the book back to the library so I’m fuzzy on the details, but something about this story bugged me.  I also remember being delighted by the explanation of fractions by showing the dog and the boy on the bed.  But it was only that page I liked.

Echo Echo
Marilyn Singer, Josee Masse
Read for Librarian Book Group
Ms. Singer has invented a type of poetry where lines can be read both forward and backward and the poem will make sense. About this type of poetry I can say that it is mostly kind of pedantic and occasionally magical.

I enjoyed the color palette and the illustrations.

middle grade

As Brave As You
Jason Reynolds
Read for Librarian Book Group
Oh, Jason Reynolds, when will you adopt a standard plot arc?  Your characters are interesting, your settings are interesting, your episodes are interesting and unfortunately, there isn’t anything that compels me to keep reading.

If you are looking for a nice meander through rural Virginia with two boys from Brooklyn staying with their grandparents for a few weeks in the summer this is your book.  Stuff happens.  And then some other stuff happens.  And then the book is over.

Wolf Hollow
Lauren Wolk
Read for Librarian Book Group
It’s quite nice when poets write prose as all that poetry stuff tends to carry over in a good way with the whole word choice thing.  This book is beautifully written.  The middle-grade specific dilemma is spot-on (and super frustrating) and the characters are nicely realized.  I enjoyed the historical time period of the 1930s also.  If someone has ever moved to town and upended your life, this is probably the book for you.

young adult

Weetzie Bat
Fancesca Lia Block
I’d heard of these books, though I’m not sure how.  Much like I’ve always known that Darth Vader is Luke Skywalker’s Father, so I’ve known of Weetize Bat’s existence. (Well, not always, because this book was published in 1989, but you know what I’m saying.) But I didn’t know what a Weetize Bat was.  Luckily, a slow day at work and an ebook copy from the Multnomah County Library caught me up.

Dammit!  Why did I not know of these books when I was a YA?  I would have loved their not-quite-grounded-in-reality punk rock, ‘zine ethos.  As I work more and more with stellar youth librarians, I mourn the fact that I had no such librarian fairy godmother figure in my own youth.  This book is a short read, and completely captures the turn of the 80s into the 90s.

Burn Baby Burn
Meg Medina
Nora just wants to get through high school, celebrate her 18th birthday with her best friend by dancing all night, and keep out of the way of her increasingly volatile little brother.  Plus, there’s this guy at work…  It’s 1977, Nora lives in New York City and young couples keep getting murdered.

Medina (author of the super awesome Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass) captures the fear and feminism of 1977 while exploring the topics of post-high school plans, inter-sibling violence, falling in love and serial killer spree.

The Lie Tree
Frances Hardinge
Read for Librarian Book Group
It’s nice to be reminded, every once in a while, that smart women used to have to play dumb.  It’s good to remember that women and girls interested in science were actively discouraged from the pursuit of knowledge.

We join Faith, our Victorian-era hero, as her family is fleeing to a remote English island to attempt to escape the scandal her father has brought upon the family, as well as to visit an archaeological dig.  Things go downhill from there, but as her life falls to shreds around her, Faith’s feelings and relationships evolve.

This story is masterfully layered.  I loved it.

“This is a battlefield, Faith!  We are given no weapons, and cannot be seen to fight.  But fight we must, or perish!”

If I Was Your Girl
Meredith Russo
The story of a teenage girl starting over in a new town.  She’s living with her father, making new friends and a boy likes her.  But this new start is her first time experiencing high school as a girl.  Navigating all these new things is complicated, not to mention trying to figure out when to tell the new people in her current life about her previous life.

Break My Heart 1,000 Times
Daniel Waters
This was one of those books that arrived on hold at the library and I had no idea how it had made its way onto my list.  However!  I loved the premise: the everyday common occurrence of ghosts.  These ghosts don’t harm, or scare, they just hang around, due to the Event, which is some tragic thing that caused massive death and destruction.

There’s mystery in this post-event life, and love, and scary situations.  It was a good summer read.

Highly Illogical Behavior
John Corey Whaley
Read for Librarian Book Group
JCW writes yet another book with engaging characters that pull me right into the narrative.  What happens when a “project” turns into a “friendship”?  How do you tell your new friend this whole thing started from a false place?

Good stuff here not only about the above, but about M/F relationships, specifically of the high school variety.  It’s nice to see the sexual pressure coming from the female side and the reasons the male is demurring.

American Girls
Alison Umminger
Read for Librarian Book Group
Excellent nuanced portrayal of an American girl.  So nuanced it’s hard to get into in a brief review.  Essentially, a fifteen-year-old girl partially runs away and is partially exiled to LA to live with her older sister for the summer.  There, she does some research, hangs out on the set of a terrible TV show, researches the Manson Girls, develops a crush and tries to understand her sister’s life.

You can read it on that level and this would be a good book. But there’s a lot more than that going on.  Also, it’s amusing, and the prose is quite lovely.

Young nonficiton

We Will Not Be Silent
Russell Freedman
Read for Librarian Book Group
A concise history of the White Rose Student Movement and a very nice example of nonfiction for youth that has been published of late.

smart smut

Willing Victim: Remastered
Cara McKenna
Amy Jo Cousins is to blame for this plunge down a rabbit hole.  I’ve loved everything she’s written and when she recommended this book, commenting that it was “hella dirty, funny, wicked smart, and the reason I will forever hear the name Laurel in my head growled with a Boston accent”.  I wasted no time one-clicking my way to my own copy and said goodbye to my reasonable bedtime.

This book is the least vanilla of the smart smut books I’ve read and it was fabulous!  McKenna went places my feminist self has always found off-putting and what I found was illuminating.  Also, it scratched a very specific Masshole itch I didn’t know I had.

After Hours
Cara McKenna
After reading Willing Victim (twice) I moved onto this gem, which I enjoyed even more.  Again, McKenna explored submission through a feminist lens.  On the first read-though I found myself skimming through the plot parts for the action, of which there was plenty.  A second reading gave me time to appreciate the stellar character development.

Someday, someone’s going ask me for a list of really good Smart Smut books and this will be in the top five.

2 thoughts on “Books read in July 2016”

  1. Yay! I know a lot of these books! I haven’t read any of them yet, though. Many are on my to read list. Woot!

    Way to get your groove back!

  2. Wow, and I was patting myself on the back for finally getting back on track by reading 5 books last month. Lol. 17? Well done!

    Some of these sound really interesting. Will save the page to add to my reading list later.

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