The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Squirrel Meets World by Shannon & Dean Hale

squirrelI’ve really enjoyed the Unbeatable Squirrel Girl comics, so I was SUPER PSYCHED when I saw that Shannon and Dean Hale were writing a sanctioned novel about Squirrel Girl. I love all of Shannon Hale’s works, including Rapunzel’s Revenge and Calamity Jack (graphic novel fractured fairy tale retelling), and I knew that she would be the perfect author to write a full novel of Squirrel Girl.
This did. not. disappoint.  SG was witty and charming and so funny and eager. I loved how much backstory this novel gave me and how it really flushed out the character for me. A great origin story, if you will. And explaining her tail and everything I’d wondered about.
I had truly forgotten that as she’s part of Marvel there is some funny interplay with the Avengers. SG’s texts with them and fandom (Thor! Black Widow!) are hilarious.
So here in this novel we have SG, new in town, meeting her new bff, Ana Sofia, and  doing some sleuthing to find out what was up with all the bad stuff happening in town, and coming into her own as a superhero.
This was just all around terrific good fun and I sure hope they are working on more.

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Mosquitoland by David Arnold

mosquitoA solid YA novel with a road trip, mental illness, interesting characters picked up along the way, a possibly unreliable narrator, family drama and a lot of emotion. I liked this very much.
Mim is, well not running away, but off to find her mother who we don’t know too much about why she’s not there. Her journey begins on a Greyhound bus and just gets wilder and wilder.
I’m not convinced I loved the ending. Mim convinced me so much that I needed to hate her stepmother that I had a hard time coming around to her. On the other hand, I loved the resolution of the Walt, Beck, and Mim storyline. And as for Walt and Beck? Marvelous companions and characters with their own dramatic backstories.
I know I’ll be thinking about various parts of this for a few days.
In addition to the story content, I thought this was really well written. Great sentences, great structure.

Close Enough to Touch by Colleen Oakley

touchThis book had so much going on in that was directly appealing to me. A young woman has been a recluse for 9 years, she is literally allergic to other human beings and touching someone can cause anaphylactic shock, there’s a library job with lots of references to books, a child with some mental health issues, and a divorced dad just trying to do his best. And a growing and unlikely love between him and the allergic woman. What’s not to love?

I liked how there was a rational explanation for her very rare allergy and I liked Jubilee as a person-she was funny and smart and not unaware of her issues. There were bits of humor and also real grief and pathos. Not even so much from the little boy, Aja, who lost both his parents, but from reading what the absence of human touch has done to her and meant to her. And then, when there is a growing attraction and they can’t act on it-so much tension!

I really enjoyed this a lot and also the structure-having the New York Times articles interspersed. This would get 4 1/2 stars from me. The one thing that didn’t ring true for me was in the epilogue. So spoiler alert!! Stop reading now if you haven’t read this, because I’m about to give away the whole ending…

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I just don’t believe that they way the last chapter ended, with them ready to take a chance and make it work,with their love and friendship so believable, that they would have just not seen each other or talked to each other once he moved back to NH. 7 years?! That just seemed to not match at all. Especially since she remained in contact with Aja (whom I would have liked a little more epilogue info about, and also what about Ellie? How did she turn out? Was the relationship with her dad repaired?) I was glad to see that she had built a family of close friends around her and her life was good, but I just didn’t believe Eric wouldn’t have been a part of it.
Also, according to the final article the gene stuff didn’t work, but it took at least 5 years to find out. And then they did try the herbal medicine stuff which the dr said had about an 80% success rate with her other allergy patients, and then that worked and cured her. Wasn’t that the same technique that, when Jubilee first met with her, she said wouldn’t be worth trying and they should do the gene stuff instead? Isn’t Jubilee infuriated that she just spent over 5 years trying something that didn’t work (and apparently cost 100s of thousands of dollars) when the 18 month treatment completely cured her? But no mention of that.
And one last dig, from a librarian. Please tell me where this library is that people just get jobs because someone asked for them to be hired. Recluses who are well read but have no library experience. And then get referred to as “librarian” all throughout the rest of the book. Because she wasn’t.

The Girls in the Garden by Lisa Jewell

I really like Lisa Jewell-I think she’s a smart writer weaving interesting stories that draw you in and simultaneously repel you a little bit as they delve into negative character traits, possibly unseemly choices or secrets,  and an atmosphere of general unease and suspense. Kind of like Tom Perrotta! Or Liane Moriarty, but with a bit less humor.
I liked the structure of this story-showing us an event, then the bulk of the book is going back and leading up to that event, and then some more after the event. That structure really builds suspense for me and creates so many questions: how did everyone get to that point? what’s the timeline? Is it almost time for the event? How is the story going to get there from here?
So this story is set in London with a variety of characters who all live around a private park. I don’t know if that is common in London, but I had a hard time imagining this. Well, that’s not true. I did create a picture in my head, but i have no idea if it’s accurate. So that right there was a novel setting and I loved how it was such an important part of the atmosphere and the influence it had on the characters. It was like this bubble in the city where characters’ best and worst traits were amplified.
I was most intrigued the character Adele. Was she a good mother? Doing the best she could? Too hands off? Judgmental? I liked seeing her from Clare’s point of view.

One of the most interesting things about this whole story was that there were both adult characters and their points of view, and the children of the story and their points of view. A fully adult story with the plot mostly being about the wild children in the park and their actions.

This was a pretty solid story. Would recommend.

 

Snow White by Matt Phelan

A perfect lunchtime length read. I’ve really enjoyed Phelan’s work in the past and this latest graphic novel is no exception. A retelling of Snow White set in NYC in the 1920s. Snow White not only as not a magical fairy tale, but as historical fiction! In graphic novel format! I really liked this a lot. It felt like watching a film, perhaps a silent black and white film (much like reading Hugo Cabret, though in this case I want Baz Luhrmann to come make this a film). The illustrations are soft black and white, with occasional spots of pink/red (Snow’s bright cheeks, the heart). The evil stepmother is marvelously portrayed. The fashion of the time and her Ziegfield girl rich socialite suited this role perfectly. She was wonderfully rich, evil, and deranged. Snow was perfectly beautiful. I loved the historical and real details, such as Hooverville, the Macy’s windows, and the hairstyles.

An absolutely terrific new take on a classic fairy tale.

The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir by Jennifer Ryan

choirAdd this to the list of my favorite WWII, set in England, historical fiction novels. This was marvelous. I felt like it started off with me thinking it was going to be a sweet story about women coming together in their village during the war, combined with gossipy town stories. And while it was that, I felt it really grew into something more.

The story is told through journal entries, occasional notices, and letters. The characters include a widow whose son is off fighting, the manor house family with snotty rich older daughter who toys with men, the younger sister who wants to be more grown up, the lovely new choirmistress and some other standard fare village characters. But throw in the completely unethical blackmailing midwife and suddenly everything got more complicated-bribes, spies, secret identities, etc. I really enjoyed how this story had plenty of that “plucky women get stuff done during the war” that I like so much, but what I especially liked was that none of the women saw that ability in themselves and it was a pleasure to see them come to recognize their strengths.
While it seemed, at first, that this would be mostly light, there was plenty of realistic sorrow. I also thought all the parts about the women singing were woven in very beautifully.

I loved this and could so easily visualize everything. Absolutely charming, winning, historical fiction.

The Impossible Fortress by Jason Rekulak

jason1st book of 2017! And a nice way to kick off the year. This was a prepub that I got for Paul and he read it first and liked it very much. Teenage boys and video games in the 1980s-right up his alley.

This was a nice way to kick off a new year-a quick read, totally entertaining, and quite unexpected. Obviously I loved that this was set in the 1980s in a year I clearly recall, as well as set in NJ. (Though I could never quite figure out what town “Wetbridge” was supposed to be, or where St. Agatha’s was supposed to be. Perhaps they were combinations of other real life places. They were both easy for me to imagine.)
I thought this was a great story-I really enjoyed the look at early video game programming and the structure of the story. There was a big section I was very tense reading-I thought I could see the whole way the story was going and didn’t want to put myself through reading about the main character making Terrible Choices. However, I kept going and I was really pleased with how the author did not do exactly as I thought he would.
I’m not sure if this is being published as adult or ya, but definitely teenagers would enjoy it. And hey, you get to visit his site and play the video game, too!