Books read in October 2020

Picture Books

Hike
Pete Oswald
Read for Librarian Book Group

I’m so-so on hiking, but Pete Oswald’s drawings of a parent and child hiking compel me to find some landscapes for a day in the woods.

Middle Grade

When Stars are Scattered
Omar Mohamed & Victoria Jamieson
Read for Librarian Book Group

Spend years in a refugee camp with Omar and his brother.

This story completely drives home life as a refugee and includes a wonderful author’s note at the end.

A Gathering of Days
Joan W. Bos

As a Newbery and National Book Award winner in 1980, I was surprised to find I hadn’t read this as a child as I enjoyed diary formats and “olden days” material.

I loved the detail in this book and that the old-timey people were full of humor.

Trowbridge Road
Marcella Pixley
Read for Librarian Book Group

On the one hand, the writing in this is gorgeous. On the other hand, the drama is turned up so high I found myself sighing when it was time to read. There’s a lot of crying in this book. Like crying done by the characters. They cry all the time. It makes sense for what’s going on, but after a point it felt like a crutch. Plus there’s child abuse, plus mental illness, plus ramifications of a fatal illness.

Young Adult

Smash It
Francina Simone

Liv is not the outgoing one in her trio of friends. When she decides to change things up she makes a list. That list leads to many new experiences for Liv.

I loved how this book explored fluctuations in friendship and navigating crushes and milestone experiences. Liv was a great character and she for sure goes on a journey.

Stay Gold
Tobley McSmith
Read for Librarian Book Group

Ninety percent of this book was a solid story of Pony’s life at a new high school and Georgia’s questioning her cheerleader lifestyle/image.

The last 10% is a poorly written conclusion to the story. It begins at an After-School-Special level and goes downhill from there. Hopefully, future novels from McSmith will be stellar throughout.

King and the Dragonflies
Kacen Callender
Read for Librarian Book Group

Set in swampy, steamy, Louisiana, King and the Dragonflies is King’s story of a time of mourning and transition. He’s coming to terms with his older brother’s sudden death while also negotiating friendships and parent expectations.

Another Brooklyn
Jacqueline Woodson

The dedication: “For Bushwick (1970–1990) In memory.” And this is a great example of Woodson’s economy with language. We know that the place that was during that time is gone, but that we are going to get to experience it.

Woodson’s novel about four friends in Brooklyn is a picture of a neighborhood and a time. As usual with Woodson, the language is beautiful.

Dragon Hoops
Gene Luen Yang
Read for Librarian Book Group

Like Gene Luen Yang at the start of this book, I don’t care about basketball. Unlike Gene Luen Yang, by the time the book ended I still didn’t care about basketball. I really enjoyed the bits of basketball history (Invented by a Canadian! First woman to dunk!) but I found the notes more interesting than the story itself.

Young Nonfiction

Lifting as We Climb
Evette Dionne
Read for Librarian Book Group

An easy-to-digest history of the work Black women did to get the vote. There are many examples of how they kept working even as they were being thwarted by white women. (And all men.)

This is Your Brain on Stereotypes
Tanay Lloyd Kyi & Drew Shannon
Read for Librarian Book Group

An excellent intro into science and unconscious bias with illustrations that strike the right balance of serious and fun. The use of the phrase “write a test” rather than “take a test” on page 42 had me checking the author bios to discover that this is a Canadian book. I think that phrasing will confuse children from the USA, but other than that potential wrinkle, this was a great book.

Grownup Nonfiction

Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression and the Unexpected Solutions
Johann Hari

Thanks to Goodreads, I get to keep an eye on my friend Jan’s reading habits, even though she moved away years ago. This was a recent read by her that caught my eye and I’m glad I found my way to it.

Johann Hari experienced depression throughout his life and treated it for years with antidepressants. After 13 years, he started looking into the conventional wisdom that brain chemistry is the cause of depression. Turns out, not so much.

Hari outlines nine lost connections and seven ways to reconnect that might help people grappling with depression or the blues.

Grownup Fiction

The Lager Queen of Minnesota
J. Ryan Stradal

Not the LARGER Queen of Minnesota, as I kept reading the title, but LAGER. As in beer. Edith is an amazing character and I loved this series of interlocking stories about Edith, her sister, and her granddaughter.

If we were a country of Ediths, we’d all be better for it.

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue
V.E. Schwab

Yeesh. This book went on for much too long. I mean sure, Addie has been alive for 300+ years, but the pacing is such that we seem to be experiencing each year. When I finally sloshed to the end, I found an unsatisfying conclusion. And thanks to the e-reader, I know that’s eight hours of my life I won’t get back.

Ghost Wall
Sarah Moss

I found this novel to be unpleasant because of the subject matter, but do appreciate the author’s use of words in an economical way. Abusive fathers can be a third rail for me, but the language in this book managed to overcome.

The Life and Death of Sophie Stark
Anna North

This manages to be a book I liked quite a bit while also intensely disliking the title character. Possibly it was the interview format that hooked me. At any rate, I loved how real these characters felt and it was great to get a glimpse of a memorable time in their lives.

One thought on “Books read in October 2020”

  1. Another great series of quick reviews. I enjoy getting to see them compiled together. Great comment about Jacqueline Woodson’s economy of words.

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