Books Read in October 2013

I’m thinking October 2013 will go down in the annals of reading history as an incredibly spectacular month.  Because it was this month that I discovered Gayle Forman. I not only devoured four of her books, (one of them twice) but also passed them along to five, yes five, people.  Plus, there was a new Rainbow Rowell book that was a fabulous fun read–that one was also passed along–and other good YA.  This includes one YA with, well, a lot of what we think those YA kids are up to all the time.  And I read some great picture books and a solid Book Club Book.  I read a lot this month.  And it was good.

Picture Books
Aaron Becker
Read for Librarian Book Group
Picture-only book of a girl with a red crayon who draws a door in her bedroom wall and escapes into another world.  She explores a forest, city, the air and encounters mildly troubling pirates, of a sort.  Beautiful, soft-focused landscapes.  I had some problem with some of the city pictures.  The close-up views didn’t seem to match the macro views.  People not as picky as me might not even notice.

A Big Guy Took My Ball
Mo Willems
Read for Librarian Book Group
Elephant Gerald and Piggy learn about relative size.  Funny interactions.

Brian Floca
Read for Librarian Book Group
Take a ride on one of the first steam engines to cross the country.  Pictures are quaint, in that comfortable Garth-Williams-Laura-Ingalls-Wilder style and the historical information is interesting, as are the workings of the machine.  I even found my self exclaiming aloud, “ah” at least once as some bit of knowledge was passed on to me.  I found the “verse” (if that’s what it was?) a bit distracting, but not overly so.  For what it’s worth, the Librarians reported it was a fabulous read-aloud.

Xander’s Panda Party
Read for Librarian Book Group
The kind of rhyming prose that inspires glee in me, rather than a chugga-chugga-sing-song thing.  Very darling illustrations.  I felt for that Panda, man. I’ve thrown parties. I know how it goes.

Daisy Gets Lost
Chris Raschka
Read for Librarian Book Group
I wasn’t much of a fan of the blurry watercolor style, but laughed aloud at some points.

How to Train a Train
Jason Carter Eaton
Read for Librarian Book Group
Whimsical illustrations of how to choose and capture a train of one’s own.

The Thing About Luck
Cynthia Kadohata
Read for Librarian Book Group
Summer is 12, was born in Kansas, still lives in Kansas, and travels the combine circuit with her Japanese grandparents and her brother.  Excellent characters, amusing throughout and quite educational, if one does not know the ways of the combine circuit.

YA Novels
Lola and the Boy Next Door
Stephanie Perkins
If you remember the friends we made in Perkins’s earlier book, Anna and the French Kiss, they appear as minor characters here, which I find fun.  Lola is a girl who likes to make an impression.  She likes clothing, movies and her rocker boyfriend.  She navigates her last year of high school as best she can, with the support of her best friend and her two dads.  Then the boy next door moves back next door after a hiatus and things go haywire.

Good adolescent uncertainty, fun urban setting, excellent descriptors of heartbreak.  I sometimes found the plot details a bit too convenient, but not overly distracting.

Just One Day
Gayle Forman
I could make some new shelves on Goodreads for this book.  How about these:
read in fewer than 12 hours
read everything by the author immediately afterward

Maybe it could go on a shelf called,
bought the book, bought the sequel IN HARDCOVER then checked two additional copies out of the library to lend out.

Or maybe
passed on to five people within a month

All of those descriptors would work.

Take the Before Sunrise concept, but set it in Paris with an 18- and 20-year-old.  That is plenty pleasant enough, but then Ms. Forman takes an amazing turn and the book becomes about identity and Shakespeare and how we make choices in our lives.  There’s great friendship stuff in here, and incredible characters and I just want you to set down what you are reading and pick up this book.  It’s that good.  Really.

Did I mention there was a sequel?

Just One Year
Gayle Forman
We’ve spent time with Allison in Just One Day, now let’s see what’s going on with Willem’s story.  Forman is in fine form, and it’s fun to see the story from Willem’s perspective and follow on his journey.  When I have both books back in my possession–they’ve been lent out for more reading–maybe I’ll comb through the books and set the story in chronological order, from a her-and-his perspective.

That’s all I probably need to say, because if you’ve read the first book, there is no way you can’t read this one.

Just One Day
Gayle Forman
I read it again.  Yes.

Rainbow Rowell
I read a lot of YA fiction in the years I was actually a YA (which in the book world means “teenager”, not Young Adult, which I place in the 18-24 category.)  Anyway, even with my copious amount of reading YA novels, by the time I left for college I can only recall reading two books set in a college setting.  One was a novel set at Smith that made me want to attend a women’s college. (Which I did.) The other was the story of a couple and the only other fact about that book I can recall was that the female protagonist did not live in the dorms because she had to take her cat with her to school and no cats were allowed in the dorms.  (I left my cat at home.)

The point is that, when I left for college, I had no idea what “college” was because no one wrote about what it was like to be in college.

Enter this book, which I would love to whisk back to 1993 and hand to myself.  Though I would be confused by many things in this book–Who is Harry Potter?  What is this fan fiction thing they speak of?–Rainbow Rowell captures the awkwardness of being a college freshman.

I loved this book, though I never really loved the Simon Snow (think Harry Potter and you’ve got the gist of Simon Snow) fan fiction.  I loved Cath’s awkwardness, the pain of separating from her twin sister, and the trouble managing a new environment.  This book is funny and tender and gets points for being set in Nebraska.

Catching Jordan
Miranda Kenneally
I’ve been reading A LOT of incredibly outstanding YA Fiction.  Which is very good, but can also be bad for the psyche.  How will I ever manage to write something as good as, well, pretty much every YA I read this month?  So it was wonderful to read this, which I found pretty awful.  I feel bad saying it so plainly, because I enjoyed seeing Kenneally at Wordstock.  And I want to read a few more of her books, because I sense they are better.  This was a great concept–girl high school football quarterback and her dreams–executed almost entirely with torturous declaratory dialogue.  It made me feel so much better about my own fumbling on the page.  This is not the review I would want to read as an author, but hey, what can I say?

If I stay
Gayle Forman
This is an incredibly moving book and you will do yourself a favor if you just pick it up and begin reading.  Don’t read what it’s about, just read.  Mind where you will be when you finish reading it, though.  I don’t recommend the Max Train.

Bonus Portland setting, if you are a fan of that.

Where She Went
Gayle Forman
Were you wanting more from If I Stay?  Here’s your second book.  As with the first, I recommend picking it up and reading.  Don’t read what it’s about. Just read.

The Infinite Moment of Us
Lauren Myriacle
Read for Librarian Book Group
Holy shit!  There is a lot of well-described sex in this book.  And I love it!  I’ve been frustrated with YA’s usual tactic of fading to black as things really get going, because I think well-written sex scenes are what teenagers need. Otherwise we are leaving them with either trashy romances or porn as their guiding stars.  And both of those are horrible guiding stars.  Myracle manages to capture a range of emotions: joy, exploration, confusion, worry, physical yearning.  There was even a horribly sexual relationship to compare and contrast with.  The book also comes with strong characters and also a goodly amount of tension that is not sexual.  Very well done.

(psst. the horrible Boston accent of a minor character was incredibly distracting.  The Boston accent is something that all writers–and actors,* for that matter–should stay away from.  We know what it sounds like.  We don’t need for your to try to get all Zora Neale Hurston on us with it.)

*natives are exempted.  I’m looking at you Damon, Affleck (Ben,) & Affleck (Casey.)

“Grownup” Books
The Secrets of Mary Bowser
Lois Lavine
Read for Kenton Book Group
Interesting historical fiction about a slave who was freed, sent North to Philadelphia to be educated and then slipped back South to be a spy during the Civil War.  Good details, and overall a solid book that goes on a bit too long.


Gene Luen Yang
Read for Librarian Book Group
At book group, we were all in the same boat.  Saints had come in, but no Boxers.  So all of us pretty much agreed that we were clearly missing whatever Boxers provides.

I would love if all of human history was so ably translated into graphic novel form.  People would be a lot more interested in history.

Good book, though depressing.  I look forward to filling in the holes with Boxers.

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