Category Archives: recent reads

Reading Roundup

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It’s not that I have not been reading… I stopped writing reviews when it got to be three weeks before my wedding with much left to do!

I went on an Elin Hilderbrand kick as the weather warmed while waiting for her new novel to come out (yes I re-read The Blue Bistro), re-read a Wrinkle in Time and A Wind in the Door with my daughter Josie, and we are a quarter of the way through A Swiftly Tilting Planet, all childhood favorites of mine the late, great Madeleine L’Engle.

And in other news, we are working on installing a Little Free Library outside of our house in Arlington MA.

I will link to these as I add the reviews; from April to August, I read:

The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America by Richard Rothstein

Dinner for One: How Cooking in Paris Saved Me by Sutanya Dacres

Ship Wrecked by Olivia Dade

A Very Merry Bromance by Lyssa Kay Adams

Witcha Gonna Do by Avery Flynn

28 Disastrous Dates A (Mostly True) Humorous Memoir by Poppy Mortimer

No Funny Business by Amanda Askel

A Cosmic Kind of Love by Samantha Young

The Rom Com Agenda by Jayne Denker

One Night Stand After Another by Amanda Osen

The Getaway by Emily March (Lake in the Clouds #1)

Meet Me Under the Mistletoe by Jenny Bayliss

Long Story Short by Serena Kaylor

Room and Board by Miriam Parker

For the Love of the Bard by Jessica Martin

A Lady for a Duke by Alexis Hall

The Reunion by Elizabeth Drummond

Luck and Last Resorts by Sarah Grunder Ruiz

Husband Material by Alexis Hall

Just Another Love Song by Kelly Winfrey

The Wedding Season by Katy Birchall

Built to Last by Erin Hahn

In Case You Missed It by Lindsay Kelk

The League of Extraordinary Funny Women by Sheila Moeschen

The Romance Recipe by Ruby Barrett (#netgalley)

Not Your Basic Love Story by Lindsay Maple (#netgalley)

Luck and Last Resorts by Sarah Grunder Ruiz

The Wedding Season by Katy Birchall

Sea Glass Summer by Miranda Liason

The Life We Almost Had by Amelia Henry

The Suite Spot by Trish Doller

Drunk on Love by Jasmine Guillory

All Fired Up by Dylan Newton

The Hotel Nantucket by Elin Hilderbrand

Barefoot by Elin Hilderbrand

Nantucket Nights by Elin Hilderbrand

The Island by Elin Hilderbrand

The Matchmaker by Elin Hilderbrand

Golden Girl by Elin Hilderbrand

Silver Girl by Elin Hilderbrand

A Summer Affair by Elin Hilderbrand

Summer People by Elin Hilderbrand

The Pilot’s Wife (re-read) by Anita Shreve
Mystery/Suspense. Not my usual fare, but it’s set in the same home as Fortune’s Rocks, and is connected to two other novels in Shreve’s desire to tell a story about a house and generations of inhabitants.

Fortune’s Rocks by Anita Shreve
Historical. May/December romance set in a large summer home on the NH coastline.

Big Summer by Jennifer Weiner
What I thought was going to be a Nantucket wedding hook-up romance featuring a plus-sized influencer turned into a murder mystery — but I loved the writing and voice enough to keep going.

Booked on a Feeling by Jayci Lee
Romance. I keep opening this egalley, but it scrolls down instead of page to page and I cannot make the print larger so keep closing it to try later.

To Get to the Other Side by Kelly Ohlert
Romance. I keep opening this egalley, but it scrolls down instead of page to page and I cannot make the print larger so keep closing it to try later.

Under the Influence
Romance. I keep opening this egalley, but it scrolls down instead of page to page and I cannot make the print larger so keep closing it to try later.

2020 Reading Roundup

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After my now-husband shared a “no-cleaning-more-reading” post on Facebook, I visited GoodReads and on a related note, learned I hit my 200 book reading goal with 42 days to spare (and I’m sure I missed tracking some). I still haven’t folded the laundry, love. #sorrynotsorry

I read romance unashamedly, and this year needed it more than ever — to escape into happily ever after stories (even though I’m living mine, the world around me is such a mess).

I am so happy with the trends of celebrating geek girls, celebrating body positivity, gender non-conformity, insecure men who have their own body issues/emotional abuse, strong woman, romance featuring people with disabilities, romance featuring people of color and multicultural relationships, and GLBTQIA+ romance. If you want to read some nerdy queer stories that feature many of these marginalized populations, look no further than Xan West, who sadly passed away this year, leaving us with untold stories I’m sure! about characters with chronic illness, gaming, D&D, and being Jewish and/or poly, non-binary in their romance, erotica and novels.

I did not write many (if any!) reviews in 2020 (maybe I’ll go back and add some notes) but my top five reads of 2020 (so far!) are:

5. The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang

A prince angsts over his family’s demand that he find a bride while he moonlights in ladies clothing. Only his talented dressmaker knows his secret… (Beautifully drawn graphic novel! Fairy tale-ish! Gender-bending! Identity issues! Sweet romance! Fashion! Courtly life!). I bought this to own and I think everyone in the house except Aaron Mylott has read it.

4. Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert

Tired of succumbing to her chronic illness, a socialite and website designer makes a bucket list and then enlists the help of her building supervisor/tortured artist to accomplish camping, ride a motorcycle, and experience meaningless (but thoroughly enjoyable) sex. (Fibromyalgia! Plus-size! Art! Technology! Glamping!) Loved Take a Hint, Dani Brown, too and can’t wait for the third book in the series.

3. Well Met by Jen DeLuca

A new-to-Ren-Faire girl falls for pirate alter-ego of Faire-obsessed local English teacher. (Shakespeare! Cosplay! Battle Chess! Corsets!). Well Played was also excellent and can’t wait for the third book in the series.

2. Spoiler Alert by Olivia Dade

A TV star’s best acting job is playing a dumb blonde in RL – but online he writes fanfic as a way rectify the wrongs made by the show’s producers, preferring the book canon. He falls for a fellow writer and plus size cosplayer who doesn’t know he is her online beta reader and BFF… (Fanfic! More cosplay! Dyslexia! Body image! The Twitterverse!). Dade has a great romance series set in a library, for those of you who entertain such fantasies, and per Aimee Bender, y’all have them (from The Girl in the Flammable Skirt‘s story “Quiet, Please:” “She has her hair back and the glasses on but everyone has a librarian fantasy, and she is truly a babe beneath.”)

1. Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

I have been looking for something as good as The Royal We for years, and sorry, Heir Affair did not match up. BUT RW&RB might have surpassed The Royal We in writing, plot and snark. The American President’s Mexican American son with drive to become the youngest US senator ever falls for the England’s closeted spare heir and THEN figures out he’s bi. (White House & royal life tidbits! Emails and letters! Millennial angst! Politics!) I bought the book, the ebook, and have read it a half dozen times.

Honorable Mentions:

Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano, a contemporary novel about grief, loss, obligation and responsibility in being the sole survivor of an airplane crash;

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens about escaping a cultist, abusive family;

19 Love Songs by David Levithan, whose memoirs and short stories on themes of love, identity, religion and young adult themes had me reading elegant, emotional passages out loud to my partner;

Oona Out of Order by Margarita Montimore, a wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey sort of tale;

The Two Lives of Lydia Bird by Josie Silver, a laugh-out-loud, tear-jerker modern science fiction novel about magical sleeping pills that help a grieving woman revisit her unexpectedly deceased fiancé and their ongoing life together in her dreams… but at some point she needs to flush those pills down the toilet and move on…. doesn’t she?

Visualising the Beatles by John Pring, & Rob Thomas an infographic biography and discography of the Fab Four;

Yes, I’m Hot in This and That Can Be Arranged both by Huda Fahmy, who sheds light on the Muslim American experience with snark and humor;

Wilde Life (Volume One) by Pascalle Lepas, a paranormal (werewolves! witches! ghosts! spirit bears!) graphic novel set in the Midwest that may appeal to fans of Stranger Things (and which you can read online! https://www.wildelifecomic.com);

and

Waves by Ingrid Chabbert and illustrated by Carole Maurel (illustration) an absolutely luminous, throat-choking-up graphic novel about miscarriage and devastating loss.

I also read every graphic novel by the amazing Lucy Knisley I could get my hands on re-read a bunch of Roald Dahl and Beverly Cleary books with Josie; re-read Little Women—the Annotated Version– by Louisa May Alcott (and then Jo & Laurie, the March Sisters, and Meg & Jo, and saw the movie, and toured Orchard House before it closed due to the pandemic, I might be obsessed with this book), Maggie Stiefvater’s the Raven Cycle, and Ellen Emerson White‘s The President’s Daughter series, and finally moved beyond Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell to read Carry On and Wayward Son (better than Harry Potter by she-who-must-not-be-named).

And in recounting this, it looks like I forgot to record some of my reading. Will do that, and check back December 31 to see if I have anything to add.

And now, I’m going to have lunch (mmm sammiches!) and finish reading The Matrimonial Advertisement, by Mimi Matthews!.

Recent Reads from Colorado

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Recent Reads from Colorado

Kantner, Seth. Ordinary Wolves. Milkweed, 2005. ISBN 978-1571310477 344 pp. $16

Meet a boy, Cutuk, who has grown up in the Alaskan wilderness with his Dad in an igloo living in the traditional way of the Inuit People. Despite Cutuk’s white skin, he’s more Inuit than the majority of native people that live in the village near his wilderness igloo home. As a young adult he goes to Anchorage to work. Fitting in there is difficult. His connection to the land and the snow and ice and the wolves lives deep inside of him. The waste and ruination of land that he sees in Anchorage is appalling. This coming of age novel is a slow read, but in a good way. The main character is a thinker and I found that I was doing as much soul searching within myself as Cutuk did trying to find his own way in the world.

Mikaelsen, Ben. Tree Girl. Harper Teen, 2005 (reprint). ISBN 978-0060090067 pp. $10.99

Tree Girl has always loved climbing trees. Her mother encouraged her to do so because the higher she was in a tree, the closer she was to heaven. Her Dad’s advice was to always be prepared for change because that’s what life is. Well, when the soldiers in Guatemala start murdering the native Indio people, Tree Girl begins to see her entire life change. On the night of her Quinceanera, her fifteenth birthday, things begin to change and her simple village life with her close family will never be the same again.

Soon after, Tree Girl witnesses an entire village murdered while she perches in the highest branches of a tree for two days straight. This novel is based on the true story of a young woman from Guatemala. Mikaelsen met this girl, heard her story and wrote it as fiction. It is a powerful story about courage, hope and survival.

Lawrence, Michael. Crack in the Line. Harper Teen, 2005. ISBN 978-0060724771 336 pp. $

Alternate realities. Time travel. A fatal train accident. A batty old Aunt with a lot more wisdom than anyone will give her credit for. Alaric and Naia find each other when Alaric travels through a decorative folly to Naia’s home. Their homes are identical and their lives are close to identical, except for some small, and some huge differences.

Recent Reads

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Recent Reads

Brooks, Martha. True Confessions of a Heartless Girl. Harper Teen, 2004. ISBN 978-0060594978 216 pp. $

True Confessions of a Heartless Girl by Martha Brooks is one of Allison’s favorite books. And now it is one of mine. The story of Noreen, the heartless girl, is one you immediately get lost in. I feel like I am part of this small town, wrapped up in everyone else’s heartache … and joy. So many rotten things happen in this book but the writing is so brilliant you never feel like it is too much or too intense. Noreen is just 17 but her life has been a hard one and it doesn’t get any easier in this story. Running away is all she knows how to do but now she’s got no where else to go. The people in Pembina Lake take her under their wings…a hodgepodge of family figures … Dolores the grannie, Del the strong & silent father, Lynda the tired and nagging mother, Seth an adorable and sometimes annoying little brother… like Noreen, they really have no where else to go but because of her they realize they don’t have to.

I had a hard time putting this one down but I also didn’t want it to end. I’ll be wondering about Noreen for awhile, who really isn’t so heartless after all.

Philbrick, Rodman. Freak the Mighty. Scholastic, 2001. ISBN 978-0439286060 192 pp. $7.99

Pam recommended Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick to me. Like True Confessions, this story flies by because it is so hard to put down. Though you can anticipate a not-so-happy ending you race to finish to see how it all turns out. You may recall the movie version, The Mighty (with Sharon Stone) which I don’t think I saw but Pam said was pretty weak. I think because of that I was never really interested in reading the book …I guess I felt like I already knew the story (even without actually having seen the movie). But she loved it so much and I trust her and I’m glad I did. This is really a book worth reading.

Kevin, the Freak, is growing inside faster than his body while Max is as big as a man at only 12 years old. He is also the spitting image of his father, Killer Kane. Together, Max and Kevin are Freak the Mighty and they are invincible. They battle dragons both in their imaginations and in real life. For both of them their freakish natures disappear when they are together and their friendship helps them confront an often cruel world.

Recent Reads

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Recent Reads

Recent picture book favorite:

Hest, Amy. Mr. George Baker. Candlewick, 2007. ISBN 978-0763633080 32 pp. $

Whimsical, descriptive language tells the story of a 100 year-old-man, Mr. Baker, and a young boy who wait for the bus together. They are both learning to read.

Recent chapter book favorite:

Munoz Ryan, Pam. Becoming Naomi Leon. Scholastic, 2005 (reprint). ISBN 978-0439269971 272 pp. $7.99

Munoz Ryan never disappoints. Naomi is a soft-spoken, thoughtful, clever little girl with a talent for carving. Owen, her younger brother, has been diagnosed by Doctors as an FLK, “funny looking kid” because of his physical disabilities. That doesn’t stop him though, Owen’s the smartest kid in his class. Gram is Naomi and Owen’s great-grandmother, and their guardian for about seven years. She loves and treasures them and takes care of them like they were her own children. They are a happy family in a trailer park in the town of Lemon Tree until the day that Naomi and Owen’s problem Mom shows up and wants to take Naomi away. Read the story of an unusual family’s struggles and travels to keep things together.

Recent grown-up stuff:

Sedaris, David. Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim. Back Bay Books, 2005 (reprint). ISBN 978-0316010795 257 pp. $17.99

It amazes me that one write manages to make me laugh until my guts are about to burst and in the next paragraph cry like a baby. Sedaris’s poignant stories about life, love, family, Christmas celebrations, gun laws and much more have a way of piercing the most tender part of your heart and then hammering on your funny bone.

Recent Reads: Graphic Novels

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I have been reading lots of graphic novels lately; here are a few short reviews:

The life cycle of a salmon serves as a metaphor for the human condition in Salmon Doubts (Alternative Press, 2004) by Adam Sacks. Fish struggle to survive hatching, make connections, be unique, explore the world around them, hit puberty, try to fit in, find a mate and return home to die. Focusing on basic questions such as “Why am I here?” this philosophical tale with its themes of identity and purpose in life will have special appeal to teens.

Conveyed entirely through images and dialogue, Ninety Candles (Rant Comics, 2004) is an experiment, begun when author Neil Kleid challenged himself to create a panel a day, unscripted, for three months. This sequential tale follows the life of a child who loves to draw, discovers comics, and takes the leap from aficionado to artist. Unconventional circular panels act as peepholes into pivotal moments of protagonist Kevin Hall’s life, illustrated with soft edges. Ninety Candles is a perfect introduction to the graphic novel genre because it is easy to follow and explains a lot about the business of making comics. This is a fantastic and inexpensive add that will add depth to manga and superhero collections and appeal to a broad readership.

In Jeff  Orff’s Waterwise (Alternative Comics, 2004), two childhood companions reconnect in the woods on the lake where one has a family cabin. Ambitious Emily is just coming off a divorce and newly-single Jim is sketching his ex-girlfriend. Just as Emily comments on the surreal-ness of reconnecting another, the comics becomes surreal as we slip without warning into a variety of flashbacks, pivotal moments from their shared history. The thick-lined artwork is dominated by of solid black backgrounds of sky and water, making the subjects stand out.  Some scenes have a woodcut or batik look them. Short on plot but beautifully told, Waterwise is a worthy addition for most public library collections.

Graham Annable’s Further Grickle (Alternative Comics, 2003 is a stand-alone companion to Grickle (Alternative, 2001), consisting of a series of tragi-comics featuring the difficulties of various types of relationships: neighbors, co-workers, friends and lovers. Ultimately, readers will recognize themselves and see the futility and humor in struggling to hold a job, have a life, and make connections with others. The stick figure style art manages to be energetic and expressive in spite of the economy of line. Suitable for most public library collections with strong appeal for twenty-somethings. 

James Kochalka’s Peanut Butter and Jeremy’s Best Book Ever (Alternative Comics, 2003) is a whimsical collection of the adventures of a naive workaholic cat (who thinks he is an office employee) named Peanut Butter and a sarcastic trickster crow named Jeremy. Peanut Butter, who takes himself much too seriously, needs a nemesis-pal like Jeremy around to bring him back down to earth. Character development here is excellent – the two epitomize their species and display charmingly human affectations as well. The art is smooth, featuring simple lines and velvety black backgrounds. Appropriate for children in that the themes, dialogue and artwork are easily comprehended, some of the plots and jokes may go over their heads. Saavy teens and collegiate intern-types will probably get the most out of Peanut Butter’s career track and Jeremy’s meanness. Some parents of young children may object to the name-calling and threats of violence throughout, but they are true to Jeremy’s character and should be taken lightly.

Recent Reads

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Recent Reads

I haven’t posted in forever because I’ve been reading a grown-up book for my new book club. We just read Empire Falls by Richard Russo. It is an excellent novel about a small town in Maine and the so-called small town life happening there.

I’ve been enjoying some shorter juvenile fiction books since then. I loved The Misfits by James Howe. A group of friends, all considered misfits, form a new political party at their school to represent all those who aren’t well represented. What a great cast of characters!

Eoin Colfer’s new book, The Legend of Spud Murphy is about some boys whose parents force them to spend a couple of hours a day at the library over the summer. Oh, horror of horrors! The boys hate the idea of doing something educational, but they are even more repelled by the idea of having to spend time with the librarian, Spud Murphy. Does the evil librarian really shoot spuds at her patrons? What does she do with all those rubber stamps? Will the boys really have to sit on the one tiny rug in the children’s area while at the library? How will they go to the bathroom if they can’t move off the rug? Librarians will love this! Teachers will love this! Kids and parents will love this too. The book has funny illustrations and is perfect for reluctant readers.

Recent Reads

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Klise, Kate illus by M. Sarah Klise. Shall I Knit You a Hat? A Christmas Yarn. Square Fish, 2007. ISBN  978-0312371395 32 pp. $

And speaking of great new picture books, my Christmas orders came in earlier this week and you all must buy Shall I Knit You a Hat?: A Christmas Yarn by Kate Klise. Because of an impending blizzard, Mother Rabbit knits a hat for Little Rabbit. He likes it so much that he asks his mother to knit hats for all their friends for Christmas so they won’t be cold in the snow. What makes this so adorable is the hats themselves. Little Rabbit’s hat is fitted to his ears – kind of like toe socks. The other animal’s hats are giant and bizzare-looking (bells hanging off and the like). The expressions on their faces wearing their new hats for the first time is priceless as is Deer saying “My antlers have never been drier.”

Shusterman, Neal. The Schwa was Here. Puffin, 2006. ISBN 978-0142405772 pp. $9.99

I also read The Schwa was Here by Neal Shusterman. What an odd little gem. Anthony “Antsy” Bonano first notices the Schwa while attempting to destroy an indestructible plastic mannequin. The Schwa is Calvin Schwa, a young man who is “visibly challenged” as in no one notices him to the point that Antsy’s mother repeatedly hits him in the face while talking with her hands because she doesn’t see him there. There’s a lot going on in this book: Calvin’s story and that of his mother who disappeared nearly a decade earlier and Antsy’s relationship with his family. There’s also a cranky old man and his blind grand-daughter, 14 Afgan dogs, and a butcher with a tale to tell. Definitely one worth picking up.

Recent Reads

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New picture books that I love:

Wallace’s Lists by Barbara Bottner

Doodler Doodling by Rita Golden Gelman

Knuffle Bunny: a Cautionary Tale by Mo Willems

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Am I an athiest? Maybe. I think that’s what drew me to Pete Hautman’s novel, godless. Am I ready to convert to Chutengodianism? Not quite. It’s hard to believe that a group of kids would start worshipping a water tower. But they do. Jason Bock’s disgust at the church in his town and all its followers gives him an idea and he starts his own religion. But what does one do when the few followers a religious leader has decide to break the rules of the religion and go their own way? What does a religious leader do when one member takes the religion to the extreme…fundamentalist? What does a religious leader do to increase membership of the church? All interesting questions to ponder in this time, when a kind of fundamentalism is sweeping over our country. I don’t know who I would recommend this book to, perhaps a patron who really liked Armageddon Summer by Jane Yolen and Bruce Coville.

Sequels!

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Just read the sequel to Philip Reeve’s Mortal Engines. Predator’s Gold is amazing. Set in a future where cities are mobile and prowl the landscapes searching for others to “eat” for resources and slave labor, Tom and Hester have left the ruins of London and eventually end up crash landed on Anchorage, a traction city in the Ice Wastes region. What follows is action, betrayal, theft, mystery, more betrayal, death, resurrection of a kind, and races through the Ice Wastes.

Other recent sequels: Gregor and the Prophecy of Bane by Suzanne Collins was a great follow up to Gregor the Overlander. And it looks like there will be a third on its way. Amelia Atwater-Rhodes’ Snakecharm is the sequel to Hawksong, which dealt with races of human-animal shapeshifters working out an uneasy peace between two warring groups. The story is good but I wasn’t as into it as the first. Maybe I’ve just been reading to much fantasy.

My new favorite series to plug to teens is Watching Alice by Daniel Parker and Lee Miller. The first book (there’s only 2 so far) is Break the Surface. It’s the journal of Tom Sinclair. A new senior in a Manhattan high school, Tom has a secret and plans to do everything he can to keep it. Though he tries to be aloof, he attracts the attention of Alice, a fellow senior with some intrigue of her own. At the book’s conclusion, Alice has disappeared without a trace and Tom is determined to find her. The second installment, Walk on the Water is Alice’s diary dating from just before she met Tom to hours before her disappearance. You learn more about the strange group (cult?) Alice is trying to break free of and for the rest readers are forced to wait for the next book due in January.

Eoin Colfer’s “The Legend of Spud Murphy” is a great one for those reluctant readers out there. Unable to handle the havoc wreaked each day by their large family of rambunctious boys, the parents of Will and Marty decide to leave them at the library each afternoon where the spud gun-toting librarian, Spud Murphy, keeps a watchful eye on the two. Illustrations are found throughout the book. My favorite shows Spud holding up a sign reading “Shhh”.