November in Review

15 books read this month!

30256686Hexbound by Bec McMaster

4 cups of tea.

McMaster has always been wonderful at plotting and characters, I just wish that she had a solid editor to help her smooth off some of the straggly bits where there are small issues with language use.

I’m also having to face the reality that while I love the worlds she builds, they are sadly not diverse, which is an issue that is very close to my heart.  We see our first queer characters in this her 9th book, and still no characters of color.  I know that her series are mostly set in Victorian London, which has been well and truly white-washed as historical location, but I’m disappointed that McMaster hasn’t gotten on to the train for diverse representation in romance stories.  (I’m trying to remember if Hadley Monroe was a POC.  She def wasn’t on the cover.)  I am no where near being ready to quit her books, but I’m feeling disappointed and hoping that we will see some improvement by McMaster in the future.

6201556Hooray for Anna Hibiscus! by Atinuke

4 cups of tea.  I read this with my kids, and we all loved it.  Anna Hibiscus is sweet, the situations are both tough and lovely.  Anna shows us what life is like in a middle class Africa, showing both the connections and the differences for American children.

 

 

 

7327327The Secret of WondLa by Tony Diterlizzi

3 cups of tea.  This was for a class, my selection for a children’s science fiction chapter book.  It was. . .fine.  I found Eva 9 a little annoying (I suppose she will develop out of it later), part of this might have been the narrator’s poor reading.  Seriously, she said the main character’s name three different ways with no rhyme or reason to it.  I found the first part of the book a little dull, but survival stories are not my thing.  I liked Rovender, and I thought MUTHR was a cool addition.  The use of microscopic sea creatures as inspiration for aliens was really great, but overall I just felt a bit meh.  Maybe I’m too old for the book, and it doesn’t have broad appeal.  I didn’t really see that it was supposed to parallel The Wizard of Oz very much, but I do think it had potential and I would definitely encourage anyone interested (esp of the right age) to give it a read.  I might read the next one.  At some point.

27015399Promise of Fire by Amanda Bouchet

4 cups of tea.  Whew!  This one was HARD to put down.  I bought it because it was $5 and I needed to buy a birthday present for my kids’ friend.  This one has glowing reviews, and a starred review on Kirkus. *whistle*  The library hold list is epically long, and I have the second book from NetGalley and it comes out in January.  So, I bought it, planning to read it when I wanted to read something that wasn’t for homework, except that it took over my life until I finished reading it.  Cat is a Kingmaker, a super powerful magic-wielder only born every 200 years.  She is taken under duress from the circus where she has been in hiding by a warlord and his band of merry men.  The plotting is stellar, and the characters and speech is awesome.  Bouchet did a great job making the speech sound casual, dodging that stilted feeling a lot of historical set books have.  I could imagine Roman-esque people talking to each other in this quick bantery way.  Cat is fun, a wildcard, and still learning how her magic works which felt very genuine.  Griffin is a little more I think they are a good balance on each other, but I’m not into possessive heroes and Griffin’s coming on to Cat without outward encouragement (though we can see the internal encouragement) is not my favorite.  But, I am hopeful the next book will sort that out, and we can all have a wack-a-doodle magic time.

8520610Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain

4.5 cups of tea.  I am trying to convince my husband to read this book.  I am an introvert, he’s an extravert, and the jury is out on the kids so far.  But, I think it’s super important for everyone who interacts with other people to have a gander at the book for themselves and others.  It pushes us to balance the two rather than prioritizing the extravert ideal, and recognize the ways introverts are powerful and what they contribute.  That said, I am always a little hesitant of popular non-fiction books by non-experts in the field, because when I have expert knowledge, I know that they are lacking.  So, I have taken this book with a grain of salt in terms of the concrete things Cain says, but I really appreciate the ideas on how to look at self and parenting, etc with regard to introverts.  And I finally understand why I find my husband’s quintessentially extraverted friend super off-putting. 😉

10128428Wonderstruck by Brian Selznik

3.5 cups of tea.  An assigned read for class.  A book that explored deafness.  The connections between the two stories happening at two different times was fun, but the story itself didn’t wow me or draw me in.  I loved the representation, the play with a wordless story to simulate the experience of a deaf person.

 

 

 

703292The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare

3.5 cups of tea.  The Witch of Blackbird Pond follows young Kit who travels from Barbados to Puritan New England after the death of her father. Kit is used to money and freedom, and finds the Puritanical community oppressive. I can certainly see why this book won an award, but it definitely seems dated in a few senses. First was the “pretty and mean girl” in Kit’s cousin Judith, as well as the way everybody ended up paired off with a husband by the end. I also found some of Kit’s speech patterns to be a bit more gushing Nancy Drew than early colonial Americas, which was a little bit irritating. But, overall, I liked it and found Kit’s disinterest in religion a very interesting point given the American’s public’s general outlook on religion at time that the book was written and published.

7846109Hint Fiction edited by Robert Smartwood

2 cups of tea.  Meh.  I love the idea of this book, stories hinted at in 25 words or less.  But these stories were more in the vein of depressing literary fiction.  Not my thing.

 

 

 

 

 

24612624George by Alex Gino

4 cups of tea.  Another book for class.  Lovely book about the experience of a transgender child coming out to her family and friends.  Totally sweet, not violent, and the friends and family have realistic, but ultimately supportive responses.

 

 

 

 

902816The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich

4.5 cups of tea.  The Birchbark House has worked as a good counter balance to the widely popular Little House books. Set approximately 10 years early, we get to know Omakayas, a young Anishaabe girl living on what is now Lake Superior with her family. Erdrich, known for her literary works on Indigenous peoples in the upper Midwest, shows us the details of life and the mishaps an adventurous 8-year-old can get into. She takes readers where Wilder doesn’t, including the death of a baby brother (something which happened to Wilder) and shows a flawed, humorous mother in Yellow Kettle, as opposed to the stiff and restrictive Ma of Wilder’s stories. I realize that the books were written at very different times, but I think that they offer a lot of good conversations and contrasts as a pairing.

24795887In the Footsteps of Crazy Horse by Joseph Marshall III

5 cups of tea.  An assigned read for class.  I loved this.  Very reminiscent of oral storytelling, with Grandpa Nyles driving Jimmy around to places important in the life of Crazy Horse.  I loved getting to learn about Crazy Horse, about the way Grandpa Nyles connects modern day with the history of the Lakota people.  And I LOVED that Grandpa Nyles provides Lakota cultural outlooks on things like men crying (it’s a good thing, when it is a time to cry), and acknowledging that an enemy’s death is still a sad thing for their family.  I want this in hardcopy someday.

 

1321314The Wright Sister by Richard Maurer

3.5 cups of tea.  The Wright Sister details the life of Katherine Wright, the younger sister of the famous Wright brothers, Orville and Wilbur. The book is set up as a narrative, presenting Katherine’s thoughts, sights, and experiences to the best of the author’s ability given the material of letters. When I was partway through the book, I was surprised that the book seemed to merely be presenting Katherine as a woman of her time, supporting her famous brothers by taking care of the home, making dinners, hosting visitors, etc. It wasn’t until the author’s note at the end that I found out that there had been rumors circulating for decades that Katherine was the real brains behind the Wright brothers flight success, which this book was meant to lay to rest. I think this information would have been better presented at the beginning for unenlightened readers. Overall, the book was an informative book about the life of a middle class American woman at the end of the 19th Century and the beginning of the 20th Century, but the connection to the Wright brothers seems to provide little overall in the story.

472392Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos by R.L. LaFevers 

3.5 cups of tea.  Overall, meh.  The narrator was terrible and used British baby voice which was SUPER grating, especially because it has a soft r.  I had to switch back to the paper version, which was better, but I had some issues with the colonial attitudes, the

 

 

 

20821284Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

4.5 cups of tea.  Lovely read, that I think should be required reading for all school kids in the U.S.  You see Woodson’s experience with family whose experience was as black people in the North, her mother’s family as black people in the rural South, and their move to New York City.  Woodson makes poetry non-threatening, but beautiful.  Her experience as a black girl in the 1960’s is real, but not scary.  As a reader, I never questioned whether the adults in her life loved her completely, and that made the whole story a lot less threatening, even knowing all of frightening things that did happen to African-Americans living at that time.  I loved it.

783738The Human Story: Our Evolution from Prehistoric Ancestors to Today by Christopher Sloan

3.5 cups of tea.  Another book for class.  It was ok, but somehow both not comprehensive and too complex for kids.  Although, I do now wonder if Europeans have big noses from Neanderthals.

 

 

 

Currently Reading:

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

Spindle by E.K. Johnson

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