Books Read in April 2020

Middle Grade

P.S. I Miss You
Jen Petro-Roy

Letters! I’m always in. These are letters from a 7th grade girl to her older sister who has gone to live with their great aunt for the duration of her pregnancy.

The mechanics of this book worked well, though the story seemed to be trying to lead me away from the conclusion I’d drawn. My conclusion turned out to be correct, which caused some annoyance at the leading-astray shenanigans.

Young Adult

By the Book
Amanda Sellet

Things I don’t usually see in debut novels: Big families; Gaggles of friends.

Those tend to fall in the “too much to deal with” category and people trim things back. Not here!

Aside from a fun hook (girl steeped in 19th century literature enters public high school; uses her skills to navigate 21st century high school) this also has a protagonist with four sibings and two parents. In her new school, she makes friends with three girls and the four of them try to figure out love.

There’s a good romance subplot too, but this book is worth reading for its lit references, family and friendships.

Now That I’ve Found You
Kristina Forest

On the plus side: Famous!

Well, the main character, Evie, isn’t famous yet, but she wants to be and her grandmother is a reclusive famous actress.

On the minus side: I found Evie to be too self-centered for my full sympathy, but I enjoyed watching her navigate through this sticking point in her nascent career.

Almost American Girl
Robin Ha
Read for Librarian Book Group

In this graphic novel memoir (read via Kindle via the library—a mostly smooth reading experience) Robin Ha illustrates her life from the point where she moves from Korea to Huntsville, Alabama at age fourteen. Gripping setting, great illustrations!

This is All Your Fault
Aminah Mae Safi

A beloved independent Chicago bookstore is the setting of this novel, which was so very good, I checked to see if I’d read the author’s other books. (I had not! Lucky me!)

The prologue is from the perspective of Eli, who is the first to discover the bookstore’s secret. Eli makes a bad decision, which sets off the rest of the book, which is written in alternating perspectives. Daniella, an angry secret poet; Imogen, who just broke up with her girlfriend, and Rinn, a high-school-aged Instagram influencer.

Aminah Mae Safi reveals the hidden faces of the girls, ratchets up a tense situation, and writes many memorable scenes. I loved this book!

Not the Girls You’re Looking For
Amirah Mae Safi

I read this and immediately reread it because I wanted to see if the things that seemed wobbly had to do with me reading in an ebook format. Re-reading told me that the format was the problem. I skim (even more than I usually do) with ebooks.

This book is doing a lot, especially for a first novel. Friendship with three different friends, difficulties with being half Arab, boys. I loved that Lulu spent her time trying to take back a smidgen of what boys have (the ability to make out without consequences, the ability to be the subject and not the object. )

But mostly, I love that Safi examines fully the attraction to someone who is bad for you.

There’s a lot of great writing in this. Amirah Mae Safi is really great at capturing agency and how things can go wrong.

99 Days
Katie Cotugo

The one-chapter-per-day format means you always know how far along in this story you are—a plus when reading via ebook, where there are no pages for me to tap my measuring finger.

I’m all in on love triangles, and the setup for this had a delicious component of a mother’s betrayal. Still, there was that point where I didn’t really buy a turn of plot and the story was annoyingly opaque about consummation, which, given the setup, doesn’t really seem fair.

Last Chance Summer
Shanon Klare

This book’s setup is good. Pressed into work as a summer counselor at a camp for troubled youth, Alex is attracted too and repelled by Grant, her co-counselor. What it lacked was a rich back story.

  • Who was Marcus and what was their relationship like?
  • What about flashbacks with her friend?
  • Why did her aunt think she could handle being a counselor?

Without a window into Alex’s past, we’re adrift and left with Grant saying too many times, “You’re not qualified!” (Which she totally wasn’t!)

Virtually Yours
Sarvenaz Tash

A virtual dating experience is the setup for this romance which is a fun twist on the genre. The author did a great job keeping me guessing as to what would happen.

What I Carry
Jennifer Longo

Murial was dropped off at a hospital as an infant and never adopted. She’s eleven months from aging out of foster care. She knows how to navigate the foster system and knows how not to get attached.

Then she gets a placement with Francine on Bainbridge Island and plans get upended.

Tell Me How You Really Feel
Aminah Mae Safi

Dual perspective of two driven girls at an elite private high school. They haven’t been friends for the four years they have attended the school, but the last month before a May first deadline will throw them together.

Grownup Fiction

Call Me By Your Name
André Aciman

This book completely immersed me in Elio’s head which was a big change from the movie. A lot of the prose seemed like a swirling mass of thoughts. As evidenced by the star rating, I found this enjoyable.

Young People’s Nonfiction

The Fire Never Goes Out
Noelle Stevenson

A graphic memoir (with very tiny print in places) of the years of Noelle Stevenson’s life where a lot of things happened. You know, she went to college, developed a big fan following, started her career before she finished school, and became the showrunner for She-ra Princesses of Power

It was hard not to feel jealous, but Stevenson kept us appraised of her rough spots. And the visual part makes for a fun read.

Grownup Nonfiction

Manuscript Makeover
Elizabeth Lyon

A section-by-section guide to improving your manuscript. The edition I read had out-of-date information (courier as a font to use when submitting) but the revisions techniques seemed tried and true.

Save the Cat! Writes a Novel
Jessica Brody

This takes the beat sheet idea of the original screenplay book and applies it to novels.

I especially liked the refashioning of genres to cross all types of novels.

Signs of Support on Watts Street

This section of Watts Street has been featured before on this blog. It’s the street of cascading house renovations. I’m not sure if the residents of this street coordinated their sign creation efforts, or if they fed off of each other. But either way, most houses on this streets have put up signs of support for essential workers. Let’s take a tour!

I’ve always liked this house, both the shape and the color. I like how the “thank you” has a slant like their roofline does.

I like this sign with printed coloring sheets. The house is cute too. They always have nice lights up in December.

I appreciate how many groups are included in this sign.

This also has a similar amount of people, and I like the “no COVID 19” symbol. Plus the general “all those helping”

This is a great use of markers and polka dots.

There were more, but my camera battery died. Alas.

Postcard Changeover

Here’s the before picture. These postcards have been up for quite some time. But now I have time to put up the new postcards that have been waiting in the wings.

Here’s the new batch. These are pretty old. I actually have enough postcards to do a new round tomorrow. But I like how even though postcards are mostly pretty standard thing (a rectangle with a picture on one side) they still manage to be different sizes.

Will it be years or months before these cards are changed? Stay tuned.

SKS Postcard: Lion Puns

While this may have been in a postcard package meant for Sara’s students, there’s no way I wasn’t going to receive it. The reason? Our high school mascot was the lion.

And while the tiger is affirming that it isn’t a lion, Sara spent the back of the postcard affirming that Lions are king. Because that’s what the cheer taught us 20+ years ago.

Day 30: It’s Been a Month of Thriving During a Pandemic

May 2022. This is a post from the beginning of the pandemic. It’s been sitting in my draft folder for more than two years now. I am publishing it without revising, so please excuse its first-draft form.

I know that a lot of people are having a hard time. I know that staying at home is hard for some people and going to work without the proper gear is hard for others. I know that people aren’t receiving unemployment checks and that makes them make terrible choices. I know that a lot of kids aren’t learning a lot of things right now.

But me? I haven’t had this good of a month in ages. Possibly decades.

I get to stay in my home, which I love. I get to structure my own time. There is enough time to do the things I want to do during the day. There is enough time to rest. I can really focus in on building my businesses. I don’t have a lot of (or any) outside demands on my time.

This pandemic has taught me that I don’t think I can go back to the way I was living. Shoving in my W-9 work after a long day of W-2 work. Constantly exhausted. Always feeling like I don’t spend enough time at home.

As with everything there’s a rub. Going to work every day let me keep living in this house, pay my bills and save money. I have to figure out how to do those things without going to work.

That said, I found a job to apply for at Reed college that excites me. If I get it, it will mean jumping back on that treadmill. It’s something to consider if I do get it.

Day 29 Afternoon Bike Rides Help

May 2022. This is a post from the beginning of the pandemic. It’s been sitting in my draft folder for more than two years now. I am publishing it without revising, so please excuse its first-draft form.

I feel better today, maybe because of the afternoon bike ride, maybe because I only worked 7 hours.

Even with all my structure, time is somewhat amorphous. I went to log on to the 11:30 Zoom workshop on revision and discovered that today is Wednesday, not Tuesday. The workshop had come and gone.

I arranged a 4 pm call this morning with the editor of the journal where I am volunteering and the confusedly looked at my phone at 4 pm wondering who was calling me.

Still, things are well. I’m about to do some homework for the Timothée Chalamet list. Hopefully this movie will be better than the one I watched last night.

Day 28 Jesus, Why am I so Tired?

May 2022. This is a post from the beginning of the pandemic. It’s been sitting in my draft folder for more than two years now. I am publishing it without revising, so please excuse its first-draft form.

When I had my full-time job, I sat down at my desk at eight a.m., had a half hour lunch around noon, and then closed everything down at 4:30. There was a half hour commute each way, I ate dinner, and most nights sat back down at my desk at home at 6:30 and worked on my W-9 work for two hours.

Right now I have no commute, I sit down at eight am, have been gardening for 30 minutes at 10:00, sit down for an hour lunch at noon or 12:30, and work until five pm. That’s not even eight hours!

So why am I so tired?

I’ve given this a good twenty minutes worth of thought and here’s what I’ve come up with. I’m totally focused for the hours I work at home, in a way that I wasn’t at work.

At work there were people to talk to, mindless meeting to attend, errands to run. Plus, most of my work was stuff I didn’t have to think much about for long periods of time. Writing the weekly checks? Took focus, but not much brain power. Number checking an annotated document? Took focus, but not brain power. Copyediting did take brain power, but that was a smaller segment of my week.

Right now I’m creating all sorts of new neural pathways around everything. Even 3SMReviews, where I have a good routine down for making posts, I am also spending my time writing content for fun lists, and learning how to up my newsletter game which takes reading, taking notes, and thinking.

There’s not really anyone to chat with at home though Matt and I do exchange words throughout the day.

I’m immersed in this new world I am creating and that, I think, is taking a lot out of me.

What to do?

I think first of all, I will rotate around what starts the day. I’ve been shortchanging the writing part of my day (the writing part that is not writing movie reviews, or writing a new copyediting service I’m providing) and I think whatever ended the day the previous day will start the day the next day.

Today I ran out of steam before I could work on the current novel. That means tomorrow my 8 am task will be that.

I also might start going for a bike ride around 3pm. That’s always been a low energy point to my day and I’d like to get out and get some sun on my face. I also miss biking. Though not the same commute up and down Interstate.

So a rotation of job duties, gardening at 10, an hour lunch and a 3pm bike outing.

Might that help?

We shall see.