Books read in March 2016

exit pursued by a bearAh picture books.  Boosting the Number of Books Read (NBR) of readers around the world.  If you are falling down on your reading goal, go find some picture books. Possibly even the ones I list here as it was a pretty good month for picture books.  Also, my favorite Smart Smut author Amy Jo Cousins released two more books in her Bend or Break series.  And she recommended another author who had a free book on Amazon and I got sucked into that one and the sequel and then the free bonus book.   It was a great month of book reading, but I missed a few newspaper days.

recommended

Picture books: Jazz Day
Middle grade: The Turn of the Tide
Young adult: Exit, Pursued by a Bear
Young nonfiction: The Borden Murders
Grownup nonfiction: Basic Map and Compass Skills
Smart Smut: Hard Candy

picture books

Freedom in Congo Square
Weatherford
Read for librarian book group.
There was an entire page of introductory text and then the word choices in the book skewed to the complex.  The art was good, but this is a book to be read to children, not for children to read.

The Secret Subway
Corey
Read for librarian book group.
I appreciated the unique form of illustration, while also not really liking the art itself.  I was very interested in this secret subway as I am a fan of pneumatic tubes.

Emma & Julia Love Ballet
McClintock
Read for librarian book group.
Great illustrations.  Cute story.  A hell of a lot of pink.

Jazz Day
Orgill
Read for librarian book group.
I was all in, because I love that picture of  “A Great Day in Harlem,” and I’m a sucker for behind-the-scenes information.  And then the story was told in poetry!  And it was good poetry!  This is one of the books I would have spent a lot of time looking at as a child.

Ida, Always
Levis
Read for librarian book group.
Sweet story about loss, in this case, the loss of a polar bear companion.  It made me teary, though, so perhaps a pre-read is in order before plunging into it with a child.

The Night Gardener
The Fan Brothers
Read for librarian book group
It was very fun to see what shapes the Night Gardener pruned the trees of the town into.  And I also read this book with a growing sense of horror at what sort of permanent damage was caused by some random dude who came through town and hacked up the trees. Pruning like that takes follow-up and who is going to keep up the maintenance? Also, if someone turned my tree into an owl without asking me first, I would not be thrilled. However, most children will not have spent much time pruning trees, and will not be so unsettled.

(Early graphic novel-type picture book:)
The Great Pet Escape

Victoria Jamison
Read for librarian book group.
Many chuckles abounded.

middle grade

The Turn of the Tide
Roseanne Parry
Read for librarian book group.
Yet another quality middle-grade fiction book!  Set in Astoria, this is the story of a girl who longs to be a bar pilot and her cousin, who is spending the summer in Astoria after a Tsunami kills his grandparents and devastates his town.  There is sailing, adventure and tough choices.

Bramblehart
Henry Cole
Read for librarian book group.
Talking animals aren’t usually my thing, and so it was for this novel. Also, an adversary suddenly became an ally with no explanation.  How did that get by the people who are supposed to be putting out quality books?

young adult

The Boy in the Black Suit
Jason Reynolds
The is the second book by Reynolds I’ve read that completely disregards the adage that a YA story must be All About Plot.  Unlike the knitting one, I did not get bored and enjoyed wandering through these character’s lives, and especially liked attending so many interesting funerals.

Unbecoming
Jenny Downham
Read for Librarian Book Group
I shall begin by discussing the thing that distracted me throughout the entire novel:  the timeline.  The grandmother gave birth to the mother in 1954.  And the mother’s daughter is a contemporary teenager.  Wait.  What?  Really?  And there is also a younger brother?  How old was she when she gave birth?

I can’t tell you how many times I counted forward from 1954 trying to make the timeline sensible.  A sixteen-year-old today would have to have been born in 1999 or 2000 which would make her mother forty five?  And forty seven when she had the younger brother?  You could maybe subtract five years and have the story set in 2011–but probably not many more than that due to phone technology–but even being a forty-two-year-old first-time mother might bring up some commentary very early on during the book.  For instance, would her daughter attribute the mother’s insistence on safety and sensible choices to the fact that she was so old* when she became a mother?  If there had been just one sentence early on–“my mother was so much older than all the other mothers”–I could have stopped my endless counting.  The age thing is finally addressed near the end of the book, but by then I’d exhausted myself with different decade permutations.

Setting aside the (rather large) issue of timeline, I loved the stories of these three women.  The grandmother’s memory loss was terrifying to read about, but such a good way to tell her story.  And the mother and the daughter’s stories were also compelling.

*Note that I realize there are women who are first-time mothers in their forties (though forty-five and forty-seven is unusual) and I don’t think forty itself is old.

Hour of the Bees
Lindsay Eager
Read for librarian book group.
After a while the story that grandfather was telling seemed like a ham-fisted respect-the-planet kind of environmental tale.  This didn’t trouble me overly.  It’s a first novel and it’s a long one and something has to get a little out of control.  I thought the capture of emotions was very well done and it was kind of fun to see a bratty older teenager through the eyes of her younger sister.  I feel like there isn’t enough of that in the fiction I come across.  Probably because I mostly read books from the bratty older sister’s perspective.

Exit, Pursued by a Bear
E.K. Johnston
Read for librarian book group.
This has become top book of the year.  Is there nothing E.K. Johnston can’t do?  The repeated unfairness of the situation drove me crazy and kept me reading as things worked their way back to the new normal.  As usual, the prose was excellent.  Three quotes from the book have made their way to my quotes page.

I also greatly enjoyed the couple of pages of chatter about which Canadian University people were attending. Especially because I had no idea what was going on.

Young nonficiton

The Borden Murders
Sarah Miller
Read for librarian book group.
I have two main problems with this book.  The first is that the author sets us up by saying that what we know about Lizzie Borden–for most of us gleaned from the rhyme–is wrong.  Then she does nothing to prove that the rhyme is wrong.  With the evidence Miller presents, I’m convinced that Lizzie Borden was the person giving the whacks.

Secondly, Lizzie Borden was thirty years old and unmarried at the time of the murder.  Her spinster status must have been something people commented on, and regularly, yet Miller never unpacks anything about what it meant to be an unmarried woman at that time.  I see this as a large oversight.

Though I was constantly irritated by the above two things, this was a very readable (though the prose was sometimes clunky) engrossing book.  I enjoyed Miller’s inclusion of the way the three (three!) different Fall River newspapers covered the sensational event, as well as the coverage in the national press.

Grownup Nonfiction

Basic Essentials: Map and Compass
Cliff Jacobsen
Read for librarian book group.
Exactly what the title says it is.
smart smut

Love me like a rock
Amy Jo Cousins
We continue to work our way through the rowers of the Ivy League-like college.  First there were Tom and Reese, then Tom’s friend Cash and after that came Cash’s cousin Denny, which lead us to Raffi and here we have Raffi’s roommate Austin.  I could draw you a schema, but really you should just go read the series, because Ms. Cousins knows how to write good characters.

So Austin has this friends-with-benefits thing with roommate Vinne, and it’s working okay.  But then, there’s a life drawing class and this very hirsute model named Sean catches Austin’s eye.  Things progress from there.  Unlike other books in the series, there isn’t much keeping Austin and Sean apart–Austin’s fairly trauma-free.  But it’s fun to watch someone who has always been on the sidelines find himself front and center of someone’s attention.  Plus, the Austin/Sean relationship upends things with Vinnie, which leads us right into the next book in the series, Hard Candy.

Hard Candy
Amy Jo Cousins
There’s something about watching an uptight person learn to chill out.  And when Vinnie, Austin and Raffi’s uptight out-but-straight-and-narrow roommate, finds himself in the path of very flamboyant Bryan things get interesting.

I’m hoping we haven’t exhausted all our characters in this series, but aside from straight roommate Bob, there doesn’t seem to be anyone left.  Which would be a shame, although I’m pretty sure I’ll enjoy whatever Amy Jo Cousins thinks up next.

The Year We Fell Down
Sarina Brown
Amy Jo Cousins recommended this author and the book was free via Kindle promotion, and thus I read it.  I found the repeated references to the “hope fairy” (or whatever it was) really annoying and this was yet another M/F romance where the M is experienced and the F is not at all.

Aside from that, I found that both characters were dealing with new disabilities (one temporary, one permanent) interesting and not often a topic explored.  And I couldn’t put it down, so that’s saying something.

The Year We Hid Away
Sarina Brown
Book Two brings us back to a secondary character from The Year We Fell Down–Bridger McCaulley, massive slut and good guy.  He’s got a different plan this year, which is thrown asunder when he meets Scarlet Crowley, new freshman hiding from her father’s misdeeds.  Good examination of the complexities of hiding things.  Again we have a M/F romance with the very experienced M and the not at all experienced F.

Blonde Date
Sarina Brown
This novella was free when I subscribed to Sarina Brown’s newsletter.  One of my favorite things about it was that it is the first in the series to have a M/F romance with the F having substantially more experience than the M.  Finally!

HOWEVER.  I think it’s important to state that if a person consents to a sex act, and doesn’t know the other person involved in the sex act has set it up so people could watch said sex act she has not consented and she should turn those motherfuckers in.  The workaround solution in this book was all well and good, but it doesn’t take away from the fact she didn’t give consent.  Which is creepy and gross and needs to be dealt with, possibly legally.

3 thoughts on “Books read in March 2016”

  1. Oh man, I had a book like that recently, where people’s ages, and lack of clarity about when they were born, drove me nuts. In the end, everyone’s age made sense, but I spent way too much time thinking about it, when a simple sentence or two would have prevented that. Something to remember when doing my own writing!

  2. 1) I like the new category of smart smut – its alliterative quality alone is quite nice

    2) Just read 4 picturebooks last night and upped my read account – which is significantly smaller than I wold like it to be (now at 39)

    3) I always enjoy when there are some items on your list that I have read as well. This time it was only The Hour of Bees (but I have quite a few of the otehrs on my TBR list).

    1. When I went to publish my review of Hour of Bees I was quite excited that not only had you read it, but we had a whole exchange. It’s quite fun to cross-read!

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