The Adventures of Superhero Girl by Faith Erin Hicks

[Hub reading challenge; Great Graphic Novels]

superheroI was about ready to throw in the towel with the challenge-my library system doesn’t have 3 of the good looking graphic novels, a lot of the other books are very long and frankly, depressing looking.  But then, to my surprise, Paul brought home Faith Erin Hicks’ The Adventures of Superhero Girl last night. I was surprised and assumed I must have asked him to look for it at his library, but no. In a wonderful coincidence he happened to see it at his library, recalled that we liked Faith Erin Hicks (Friends with Boys) and checked it out. He graciously let me read it first :)

This was super. I really loved it and am thinking that I will have to make an effort to get a hold of everything else she’s written (again, my library system only has one of her titles.) Not just funny and clever, but also rather sweet and relatable. Superhero Girl is a young woman just trying to make a go of being a superhero. She fights ninjas, helps people, but superheroing just doesn’t really pay. So she has trouble making the rent, and other troubles too-like a superhero big brother who everything thinks is terrific, trouble making small talk at parties, etc.  But really I just thought it was all so funny and delightful and expressive. I loved how being a superhero was a job-as best illustrated when she’s at the grocery store and sees a bad guy that she fights. They awkwardly say hello and then she mutters that she hates seeing people from work at the store. Because it’s weird! We all know that! And so funny to think they same would be true for them.

Oh how I hope there are future volumes of this. And I would consider adding this to our library just so that we don’t forget it and have it around for the kids to read when they are a bit older.

Belle Epoque by Elizabeth Ross

[Hub reading challenge; Morris award]

belleThis was a good book with a fascinating premise, but I just didn’t give it the attention it deserved. It took me forever to read and I read four other books in between starting and finishing it. I suppose that means that I just wan’t engaged enough in the story if I was so easily able to keep putting it down, but I would say I did like it.

Set in Paris in 1888 it made me want to take out Woody Allen’s marvelous film, Midnight in Paris, and watch it again.  Maude is a young woman who has escaped a dreary country life for the glamour of Paris. Unfortunately it’s not very glamorous when you are barely making a living. She is approached by a gentleman who runs a special agency and agrees to employment there. Maude is hired as a repouissoir-one who literally “repulses.” She and other plain (or homely) women are hired by aristocracy to attend social events with them. Their presence will make their clients shine and sparkle by comparison.  It’s a humiliating position, but it pays well.  When Maude is hired for the entire season by a countess she thinks she has hit gold.  She gets to dress up in beautiful clothes and is introduced to a luxurious world of wealth and culture she would never have been part of otherwise.  The countess has hired Maude in secret to accompany her daughter Isabelle, whom she would like to know Maude as just a friend.  Her further instructions to Maude are to help Isabelle become agreeable to a good marriage.  Unfortunately Maude becomes genuine friends with Isabelle, who is intelligent and wishes to attend the Sorbonne to study science, and is conflicted by loyalty, friendship, and finance.

I enjoyed the details of Paris, Maude’s mingling with the Bohemian set, and the details of luxury.  The repouissoir business was fascinating, too.

The Bride Wore Size 12 by Meg Cabot

brideAnd finally, the last of my week of reading fun fiction. I love Meg Cabot’s books. She’s a fun writer and her characters are always much more witty than any person could be in real life, yet they seem like they could be friends with you.  So, the thing about this book is that it’s the fifth Heather Wells book.  So not only did I miss #2,3, and 4 (having apparently only read the first one), but I also seemed to have forgotten a very large part of Heather’s story-that she was once a superstar singing sensation, alá Robin Sparkles. I also didn’t remember any boyfriends, ex or otherwise. I’ll bear in mind that I’ve got three unread books to choose from the next time I want a nice fun mystery.

So, Heather is a residence hall asst. director in NYC. She’s engaged and planning her wedding, but of course there’s a murder and she’s inclined to solve it.  I love the mix of residence hall stuff with her own adult life, plus the mystery. Though I will say that I think it’s time to lose “size 12/size 24″ titles.  The first one worked, but now it just seems silly and irrelevant.

The Here and Now by Ann Brashares

timeI’ve had a prepub of this for a while and been dying to read it. I finally got to pick it up yesterday and it’s an engrossing, zippy, not-too-long read, so I’ve already finished it.  Here’s the premise in a nutshell and you will see why I wanted to read this: time travelers escape a future that has been ravaged by global warming and pandemics by travelling to 2014, where despite strict rules, one of the teens falls for a time native.  It’s like Brashares just made a list of things I like and stuck them all together. And you know? That works for me.
An attempt to identify a pivotal moment and change the damned future? Check.
A realization that the pills you are made to take every day are not for your “health and safety”? Check. (Dude-NEVER take the health pills. They are always controlling you!)
Uncanny surveillance which makes your growing intimacy with another and realization that things are not as they seem quite dangerous? Check.
One day of happiness where you both get away from it all and pretend the world doesn’t hinge on your actions? Check.

I loved this. It reminds me of After Eden, The Clearing, and Across the Universe. I had forgotten (until I searched “time travel” among my books read) that Brashares had written My Name Is Memory, which I had liked as it was romantic and incorporated not exactly time travel, but reincarnation and a time travel feel.  Much as I loved all the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants books when they came out, I really love this direction she’s going in and hope she writes more stories like this.

The All You Can Dream Buffet by Barbara O’Neal

dreamImmediately after the feel-good Good Luck Girls book I started in on this one, also some feel-good women’s fiction.  The premise is that an old woman is nearing the end of her life and wants to see her organic farm/thriving business put in good hands after she’s gone.  Those hands would not be her greedy nephews, but she is sure one of three women would be perfect.  The four women became friends years ago online and have become very close.  Each of them has a thriving blog with a huge readership.  There’s Lavender, the 80-something year old owner of Lavender Honey Farm in Oregon.  Her organic farm is important to her, as is being close to the land.  Ruby is from California, and she’s a 20something vegan chef who survived childhood cancer.  She’s just ended a long relationship and feels adrift, though she is miraculously and happily pregnant.  Valerie is a retired ballerina and wine expert.  A few years ago her husband and two of her daughters were killed in a plane crash.  She’s trying to help her surviving daughter, but they are having a tough time. And finally, there’s Ginny.  I had mixed feelings about Ginny.  On the one hand I related to her because she loves to cook and photograph and that’s what her cake blog is all about.  On the other hand I found it unrelatable that she had been profiled by Martha Stewart, was blog-famous, making a good living off of it, and….her entire town shunned her because of it. She has lived in the same small Oklahoma town her whole life, her husband is kind of a jerk, and they haven’t had sex in 12 years.  Ginny, Ruby, and Valerie all have fantastically funky vintage Airstream trailers (of course they do, there’s a lot in here that’s just too good to be true, but just go with it) and the plan is to all go to Lavender’s for a big 85th birthday party (and unbeknownst to the Lavender hopes to choose an heir.)  For Ginny this is a huge deal. She’s never gone anywhere and people in her family tell her she’s bad to leave and go on a trip. (What?!)  The solo trip is a true challenge for Ginny as she’s been so squashed her whole life.  And wouldn’t you know, along the way she meets a sexy trucker who she’s undeniably attracted to.  There’s also a sexy farm manager for Ruby.

I really liked this-Ginny’s journey, the few scattered recipes, the Airstream descriptions, and the farm. There was even a strange (and wonderful) bit of magical realism in it.  A nice weekend read.

The Good Luck Girls of Shipwreck Lane by Kelly Harms

shipwreckRecently I was at the library and, shockingly, browsed the new adult fiction.  My to-read list is so long that most of my reading is done by putting books on hold and reading things I’ve read about, had on my list, anticipated, or my friends recommended.  It seemed like an indulgent treat to pick up some books that just sounded good. And you know what? It was the nicest week of reading I’ve had in a long time.  First up, The Good Luck Girls of Shipwreck Lane.  The premise is wonderful-two women with the same name, in the same Iowa city, watch the live announcement of a dream house giveaway (the sort of thing HGTV does) and hear her name as the winner.  One of the women has been desperate to win and sees it as her ticket out of a lifetime of foster care, bad choices, abusive boyfriends, and housing reliant on said boyfriends.  The other woman has social anxiety that is crippling, her only friend is her aged aunt, and she cooks elaborate meals that she basically ends up throwing away.  She has no idea her aunt entered her name.  Fortunately for the reader each woman goes by a nickname so we don’t have to read Janine 1 and Janine 2. Instead it’s Nean and Janey.  Both women pack up and leave Iowa, headed for the dream house on the coast of Maine, outfitted with every luxury you can imagine.  The legitimate winner is Janey (and her aunt), but when they arrive they find Nean is already squatting there.   Reluctantly they let her stay for a while and thus begins the healing, growing friendship, romance (there appear to be two eligible sexy bachelors in the vicinity and of course they each get one of them), and life changing.

I really enjoyed this, especially the food descriptions.  Pure fantasy with everything working out so well, but it was heart-warming and entertaining.  I would definitely read more by this author.

Hold Me Closer, Necromancer by Lish McBride

[Hub Reading Challenge, PPYA]

necromancerDespite being tickled pink by this title and hearing great things about this book, it’s yet another that I just never got around to reading before now. So thanks, reading challenge for having it be a title this year, because I’m so glad I read this finally.

Sam is living a typical unfocused young adult life-college didn’t work out, he’s working fast food, he has a dinky apartment, and some good friends (Brooke, Frank, and Ramon.)  But then one day a creepy guy exuding power walks into Plumpy’s and everything changes.  The sinister guy has his sights set on Sam, who can’t figure out why and ends up being attacked in the parking lot. As if that’s not enough, the following day Brooke’s beheaded talking head is delivered to him. For real.  Werewolves, necromancers, and other not quite human people apparently are a part of Seattle Sam never knew about and for good reason. His witch mother (what? My mom’s a witch?!) knew he was a necromancer and hid his magic from him. But now the evil guy, also a necromancer, has sensed Sam’s latent powers and wants to eliminate him.

This was smart, funny, creepy but not scary, and I just loved it.  An excellent several years pre-cursor to shows like Grimm (and reminds me a bit of the short-lived show Reaper.)

And, in a rare comment from me, I hope there’s a sequel because I’d love to read more about Sam and his friends! And since Goodreads calls this #1, I assume there is another for me to go put on hold right now.