The Wedding Bees: A Novel of Honey, Love, and Manners by Sarah-Kate Lynch

After a pretty depressing book I needed something sweet fun and this was just the ticket. I came across it as a Goodreads recommendation if I liked Sarah Addison Allen, and indeed it had a similar tone and flavor. (and btw, there were a million recommendations in this vein, so apparently I could read magical sweet books from here until the end of the year.)
Sugar moves every spring to a new place in the U.S. and starts anew. The one constant is her bees, including a queen that is descended from her grandfather’s original queen.  Her sweet and friendly way and strict adherence to Southern charm and manners have made it easy for her to make new friends every place she goes.  She’s practically like a Mary Poppins what with how she touches people’s lives and changes them.  You can tell that this time it will be the same.  She moves into an apartment building in the Alphabet City part of NYC and promptly meets the other tenants, also known as the colorful secondary characters.  Two grouchy old people, a shy chef, an anorexic, and a crass single mom.  You know Sugar’s unrelenting cheerfulness and honey will somehow fix up all these people. Sugar’s bees have a special connection to her that is, if not magical, definitely special (and anthropomorphic). But what about Sugar herself? What happened in her past that has made her never return home? Why is she so reluctant to give her heart to Theo, whom she meets her first day in NYC and immediately feels an electric connection to him?

Charming and sweet as golden honey itself.

The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer Holm

I’d heard something good about this and when my son said he wanted to read it I was so pleased I got it right away. He doesn’t usually gravitate towards realistic fiction that is not diary/funny/gross so I was so pleased that he wanted to read this. He read it and said he liked it, and then I read it. I liked it very much, though was surprised at the non-realistic element of the story. Ellie’s grandfather shows up one day but guess what? He’s not an old man anymore, he’s discovered something and tested it on himself successfully and has turned back into a teenager. There are some funny elements, such as teenage Melvin clashing with his adult daughter (Ellie’s mom) and attempts to break back into the lab to get his research.
The thoughtful message of the book seemed to beyond my son, who remarked “I don’t know why it was called that, it doesn’t have anything to do with goldfish.” Well, the goldfish connection and theme seemed very obvious to me, so I explained it and we talked about it and I hope he can improve his deeper connection to reading.

The Grimm Conclusion by Adam Gidwitz

I wasn’t even sure if I’d read this one or not, and at times I thought “maybe I did read this?” because it is quite similar to the previous two books. It’s got the same wonderful style, gleeful delight in the gore of Grimm, and absolutely engaging storytelling. And then a wonderful meta-surprise that did indeed make this a wonderful conclusion to the other two books.
I would love to share these with my 4th grader, but honestly even though the gore and and violence is tempered by the humor, I think it may actually be too much for him. I thought this was funny, touching, and clever.
This final installment is about Jorinda and Joringel, whom I vaguely remember from the Andrew Lang fairy tale collections. It doesn’t matter what you remember about the original Grimm tale, though, because in the must-read afterward Gidwitz tells you that it was mostly their names that he liked and used.

Replay by Ken Grimwood

Awesome. And apparently this has been around for a long time and I somehow never read it (even though when I enthused about it both my brothers and my mother all were like “oh yeah, that’s a great book, I loved it.”)
This is a time-loop novel, one of my favorite premises. What makes this so interesting is that it’s not a time loop of a day, but TWENTY-FIVE years. A man at age 43 dies of a heart attack and wakes up when he is 18. He figures out what’s going on and continues to live his life all over again, trying to use his knowledge of the future to have a different outcome. But again he dies at 43. Over and over again!! Can you even imagine having to live a whole 25 years over and over? And the 25 year period is from the 60s to the 80s, so it was fascinatingly historical. (Note: this book is from the 80s so it was really just contemporary, not historically fascinating. Also, my friend tells me that the author was going to write a sequel but died of a heart attack quite young. So clearly the author himself was a replayer because that coincidence is too freaky.)

I found the whole story riveting and surprisingly thoughtful. My one issue with it is that a replayer manages to have several different very successful careers, and I just don’t believe that most individuals have it in them to be so many varied types of people.

Girls Like Us by Gail Giles

girlsThis book saddened me so much that I had to turn to something light and fluffy afterward. Which is not to say it wasn’t good. In fact, I checked it out to read specifically because it had won an award. It is heartwarming-two young women, both “Speddies” (special education) graduate out of school and also foster care. Their caseworker (?) arranges for them to share an apartment and have a job caring for an older lady (who is really not that old!) Quincy and Biddy take turns telling their story of making their way in their own voices. It really was warm and uplifting, but each girl has (or had) something terrible happen to her which I honestly found difficult to read and I felt bruised from knowing such terrible inhumane things can occur.

This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki

summerThis book got a ton of buzz because it received a Printz honor and a Caldecott honor. Say what? a young adult award and a picture book award? Yes. And yeah, the Caldecott guidelines are for illustration, not technically a picture book, which is why they are giving it to this book, but I say rewrite those guidelines and stop giving what I believe is meant to be a picture book award to a young adult coming of age graphic novel that is quite mature. But, I think this is a good book and am delighted for the author, illustrator, and publisher (First Second, of course!).
Anyway, the book itself. It is indeed about one summer and two friends, one of whom, Windy, is a bit younger. This summer feels different for Rose for a lot of reasons. Her parents seem to be struggling over possibly grief and/or disagreement, Windy’s immaturity and free-spirit are occasionally unwelcome, and she is somewhat attracted to somewhat unsavory older teens.
I loved the illustration style and the blue palette. I especially enjoyed the character of Windy and the contrast between her and Rose. Windy is still on the side of childhood, filled with exuberance, self-confidence, and fun. Poor Rose has crossed the line into adolescence and all the burden of angst that comes with that.

The Terrible Two by Mac Barnett

terribleWe are big fans of Mac Barnett in our house and when I saw this I knew we’d have to read it. Since our library was slow to get it I spontaneously bought it at the bookstore as a nice treat. As usual, Barnett did not disappoint.  Miles is a new kid at school, while Niles is the class goody-goody assigned to help him navigate the school.  Problem is Miles is pegged on the first day as a troublemaker, accused of parking the principal’s car on the front steps.  Miles actually loves being a prankster and had planned on having that be his “thing” at this new school, but he didn’t do it.

Funny, silly, outlandish, this was lots of fun and a very quick read.  I am hoping there will be some more installments.