Books Read in December 2013

Top reads in each category this month:
Picture:
Mr. Wuffles! (Funny picture book for cat lovers of all ages)
J-book:
Bluffton (Graphic novel with intriguing subject.  Also pretty.)
YA:
OCD Love Story (It was another good YA month, but this was weirdly delightful)
Grown-up fiction:
Glaciers (Spurned several times, without reading it.  Actually reading it was grand.)
Non-Fiction
The Cocktail Primer (Because a girl needs a solid cocktail book in her collection.)

Picture Books
Mr. Wuffles!
David Wiesner
Read for Library Book Group
I put off reading this, because I thought the title was dumb, but come to find out the title is all part of the author’s nefarious plot to write a hilarious picture book.  Minimal dialogue in English (though a goodly amount of alien dialogue as well as some “ant” and “ladybug” dialects) and very apt pictures of a cat on the prowl make this book a winner.

If You Want to See a Whale
Julie Fogliano, Erin Stead
Read for Librarian Book Group
Dreamy pictures, fun.

Year of the Jungle:  Memories From the Home Front
Suzanne Collins
Read for Librarian Book Group
In a strange bit of kismit, I happened to read this book the same day I watched the movie Platoon for the first time.  This book accurately captures the unknowing of a six-year-old with a father off to war for a year.  The photograph of Collins on the final page slew me.

J-Books
Flora and Ulysses
Kate DiCamello (sp)
Read for Library Book Group
This book had me from the first sentence of the first chapter.  It was hilarious and enjoyable, with just a bit of snark.

Bluffton
Matt Phelan
Read for Librarian Book Group
Solid graphic novel about a boy who befriends vaudevillians including a young Buster Keaton and his family.  An interesting story, and beautiful to look at.

The Real Boy
Anne Ursu
Read for Librarian Book Group
A quick reminder that j-chapter books are not my favorite.
This was okay.  I felt frustrated with the characters, the world building was a bit uneven and I thought the illustrations were rather poor.  That said, if you have an awkward boy who is into fantasy, this might just do the trick.

YA
Forgive me, Leonard Peacock
Matthew Quick
Read for Library Book Group
Why not spend a day with Leonard Peacock, a teenage boy who is planning on killing a kid at his school and then himself?  Well, probably because that sounds rather grim.  However, I would encourage you to actually read the book and spend the day, because Leonard Peacock is quite the interesting character and many things do not go according to plan.  A sweet, heartfelt book.

OCD Love Story
Corey Ann Haydu
Aside from a marvelous cover* this book has a crackling first chapter.  And then it’s just a good, solid read.  I especially appreciate how the adults grow and expand as the book goes on, though I have to wonder just why, exactly her parents let the main character drive.

*I KNOW!  But I can’t not judge a book by its cover, at least in part. I just can’t.

Bad Houses
Sara Ryan and Carla Speed McNeil
Great graphic novel that balances several plots with a deft hand.  Or rather, hands, as there is an author and an illustrator to think of.

All the Truth That’s In Me
Julie Berry
Read for Librarian Book Group
Captivating narrative of a teenage girl kidnapped from her village (though the time period and location flummoxed me) kept for two years, then returned, having had her tongue cut out.  I liked the narrative structure of short chapters addressing “you” with the you in question being Lucas, the boy she had a crush on.  I felt it meandered a bit in the middle and could use some tightening, but Berry kept dropping clues here and there like breadcrumbs which made for a very satisfying read when all was said and done.

Oh, but the cover!  I may have to do a blog post on horrible YA covers.  When the main character could be found guilty of “fornication,” there is no reason to depict her with her hair down in full sultry-eyed makeup.  It just doesn’t work.  At all.

Hostage Three
Nick Lake
Read for Librarian Book Group
I never really took a liking to the main character and thus this book was more of a slog than a gripping drama.  I also was not at all fond of the tricks the author used near the end of the novel.  Points for capturing the zeitgeist though. (Somali pirates.)

“Grown-up” books
Romeo and Juliet
Wm. Shakespeare
Why is this the easiest play to read?  Is it that we are all exposed to it so early and so often?  The explanatory notes for this play seem to be shorter and there are no expanded notes in the back.  This is the only Shakespeare I’ve ever whipped through.

Glaciers
Alexis M. Smith
Read for Kenton Library Book Group
This book was on the Lucky Day Cart at the library for some time and I always passed it by because the book itself is tiny and then, on top of that, the pages have huge margins.  For some reason, I decided that the book was not worth reading because of its small size.  Enter the January Book Group Selection.  Because I had to, I read it and it turned out I really liked it.  It was wonderful how the author managed to write such a complete story using so few words. Also, it’s set in Portland AND set in the Central Library. When I finished it, I almost started reading it again, it was that quietly delightful.  What a great find.

Nonfiction
March Book 1
John Lewis
Read for Library Book Group
Solid graphic novel with eyewitness testimony to the emerging Civil Rights Movement.

The Cocktail Primer
Eben Klemm
Here is what I was looking for in a cocktail book:  I wanted one with a list that basically said:  if you just want to have a basic setup at home, here is your list.  I wanted to learn about cocktails, what parts of them are important, how they relate.  I wanted a good, basic text.  You have no idea how few cocktail books fit this description.  Most of them have hundreds of cocktails in them and the organization is terrible.  There is no learning, just long, long lists of ingredients.

But this book was just what the doctor ordered.  There is  a very good “Getting Started” chapter that discusses how to set up your home bar, how to pour, shake, stir and serve. There is a breakdown of the essentials of a well-stocked bar, discussing which Whiskies and Tequilas etc. are important to have on hand. There is also a list of three different lists of liquor to have on hand from “Hey, I just got a cocktail book” to a more complete setup.  Klemm also walks through the list of equipment you need and gives a recipe for simple syrup and cocktail cherries.

After that comprehensive introduction, there are six more chapters each focusing on a drink and some offshoots from that drink.  We begin with the chapter on the Martini’s Children, and work our way to high balls.  Each chapter gives us the makeup, complexity, sweetness, acidity, strength and level of refreshment of each family of drinks.  There is also an explanation of when you might want to drink said drink.

All of this would have been enough, but the book is also rather droll and delights in details I, myself find important.  For example, when discussing shakers, Klemm writes, “The metal-on-metal set is a little more efficient for chilling drinks and makes a nicer shaking sound, depending on whether you prefer a heckita-heckita-heckita to a shooka-shooka-shooka, but the pint glass on metal is a bit better when you’re getting started because you learn how much you are pouring.”  He also takes a wry turn with the realities of home bartending.  On one way to make the Gimlet:  “It’s quite nice, actually, especially if you’ve run out of simple syrup.”

Now that I’ve bought the book, I will have to go about working my way through it.

Great American Dust Bowl
Don Brown
Read for Librarian Book Group
A concise explanation (with pictures and primary source documents) of what the Dust Bowl was and how it came about.  Good for younger children and lazy former History majors who don’t really enjoy wading through nonfiction.

One thought on “Books Read in December 2013”

  1. I love all of the YA and JLit on your list. Mr. Wuffles! Hee hee – I love that we both found it!!! I think it could get a Caldecott nod!

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