Books Read in May 2020

Middle Grade

The List of Things That Will Not Change
Rebecca Stead
Read for Librarian Book Group

Good gravy, can Rebecca Steed write! She is excellent at capturing character and the nuances of daily life. The setup of this book (brothers hearing corn grow) didn’t pay off for me at the end, but the writing was so good and the main character so memorable that I overlooked it.

The Only Black Girls in Town
Brandy Colbert
Read for Librarian Book Group

Amelia is the only Black girl in her grade until Edie’s mom buys the B&B across the street. There’s good friendship transitions and bonus diary entries from “long ago” (the 1950s.)

Young Adult

I Kissed Alice
Anna Birch

Alabama boarding school setting! But also duel perspectives, my least favorite way to tell a story. Rhodes and Iliana hate each other, but they are linked through their friendships with Sara and also in a way they both don’t know.

This was a book where I struggled to find someone to like and also struggled to find a reason to keep reading.

The How and the Why
Cynthia Hand

Boise! Letters!

The letters are written by a pregnant teenager living at Booth Memorial Home. She writes them to her daughter because there used to be a program in Idaho where mothers giving up their child for adoption could do that. (!)

The other part of the story is that baby who was given up for adoption and is now turning 18. Though her life is a bit topsy-turvy, she’s curious about her biological mother.

Aside from including many southern Idaho landmarks, this book was hilarious in places, and also very sad.

This Light Between Us
Andrew Fukuda

In the mid-1930s Alex, a Japanese-American strawberry farmer’s son from Bainbridge Island, Washington and the daughter of a wealthy Parisian merchant became pen pals.

Change is on the horizon for both of them and the story follows Alex as his world turns upside down. It’s a book of letters (yay!) but also of the complications and choices made when everything you once were is taken from you.

Goodbye From Nowhere
Sara Zarr

An examination of how parents’ choices affect their kids, and one kid in particular.

It’s also a tale of the things that come with loss.

There were a lot of characters to keep track of and I had to make a family tree. You might also benefit from this process.

Not Another Love Song
Olivia Wildenstein

The cover does not match the book! This is highly irritating.

Angie lives in Nashville and her only focus is to be just like her favorite singer Mona Stone.

But when a new guy moves into town, things are a jumble.

I give this book points for the main character ebiking everywhere.

Be Not Far From Me
Mindy McGinnis

Man vs. Nature! But with a teenage girl!

The Friend Scheme
Cale Deitrich

A promising start: Romeo & Juliet-style story but set in Miami and with two guys.

Unfortunately, that strong start is sunk by too many single-sentence paragraphs and a lack of dialog tags.

On the one hand, it’s a YA M/M romance, on the other, I think we can do better than this.

The Blackbird Girls
Anne Blankman
Read for Librarian Book Group

Chernobyl with a sprinkling of WWII.

It was interesting to see the nuclear meltdown from the standpoint of people living in Ukraine. I also enjoyed the recovery arc (there was abuse) and the friendship. The grandmother! So good! Too good?

Most Likely
Sarah Watson

A great hook: It’s 2049 and a woman is about to be sworn in as president. We learn that she and her husband met in high school.

We then travel back to present day and follow four friends as they navigate through their senior year. Which of them is the future president? Sara Watson makes it hard to tell (because we only know the future First Husband’s last name), but it’s fun to speculate.

Tigers Not Daughters
Samantha Mabry
Read for Librarian Book Group

This was a very atmospheric novel about four sisters. It was told in alternating sister perspectives plus an outside observer. For me, the narrative sunk under its collective misery and didn’t deliver enough of a payout at the end.

Grownup Fiction

The Secrets She Keeps
Deb Caletti

Alternating perspectives between a young woman in 1951 living on a divorce ranch in Nevada and her modern-day niece who flees to the ranch when her marriage hits a snag.

Good characterization and the twists happened in ways I wasn’t expecting.

He’s Gone
Deb Caletti

What if you woke up one morning and your husband wasn’t there? That’s what happens to Dani, a graphic designer who lives in a houseboat in Seattle. As we try to figure out what’s become of her husband, we learn more about the complexities of her life.

I enjoyed piecing the story together as it unfolded.

Young Nonfiction

The (Other) F Word
Edited by Angie Manfredi

A series of essays written to fat teenagers from fat adults who were once fact teenagers. The book has a great design and a list of places to find clothing. Portland’s Fat Fancy gets a mention!

Grownup Nonfiction

The Big Leap
Gay Hendricks

Maybe you are lucky enough to escape self-sabotage, but if not, this book is for you. Hendricks is a terrible name dropper, but if you can look past that (I did) this book is a primer on getting past your ULP (upper limit problem) and getting you living in your Zone of Genius.

It’s a little woo-woo, but if you’re fine with that, it’s worth checking out.

A Few Missing Flags

Do you notice that there is one flag to the left of the plaque and six flags to the right of it?

I did not notice this either. That is until I noticed a car stop and take one of the flags from the left side of the plaque.

From there I surmised that perhaps at the beginning of the weekend there were more flags on display, but they were spirited away to adorn other graves.

The things we encounter on Dead Relatives Tour.

SKS Dreams Plus a Postcard From Texas

My nitpicky nature has me immediately saying, “but what if you need a person to achieve your dream?????”

Sara says, “These were a few ‘I can’t send that to my students’ duds in this set of postcards I gave Jeff Bezos money for. You get to enjoy their just-off sentiment. I mean, do you feel encouraged by this? What does it even mean really?”

Clearly we are in agreement.

Rachel sent me this postcard so she could show me where she lives. It appears “Austin” has a lot of extra named towns that are part of it.

I think my favorite on this map is Pflugerville.

More Plexiglass at Fred Meyer

Recently, Fred Meyer revamped their check stands in a way I find ridiculous. The checkers can no longer bag at their stations. Instead they must put everything on the conveyor belt to the end. This would be fine if 100% of the time there was a bagger, but in reality 95% of the time I’m in the store, there is no bagger.

In that case, the checker must walk around to the end and bag all the items. (I just bag my own, but not everyone does that.) Then they must walk back to their area. It’s a stupid, inefficient waste of time and clearly no one asked the people working what would make sense for them.

They also made it so the back half of the check stand is open, where once it was not. This also turns out to be dumb because: global pandemic. And so now we have these plexiglass structures.

I Make Crazy Bread

When I started high school band there were so many fundraisers. One of them was Crazy Bread.

“What’s crazy bread?” I remember asking, when it was announced we would be selling it at lunch next Friday.

I soon found out. And found out how good it was. I haven’t had any in years, but it’s a pandemic and I got a hankering and the internet provided me with a recipe.

It was pretty easy to make, though not a true reflection because I can never bring myself at home to add enough butter and cheese as they do at the store.