The Overdue Life of Amy Byler by Kelly Harms

This book gave me SO. MANY. MIXED. FEELINGS.  On the one hand, it’s about a woman close to my age, who is also a school librarian. And it seemed like a lot of that professional stuff was totally spot on. But then some of it seemed to not make sense to me (Why was she creating literature units? Was she teaching an English class? Why weren’t the English teachers doing that?) It created turmoil in me and made me too introspective about my own career: “She seems so passionate, why am I not passionate? Am I passionate enough about my career?” Ditto all the stuff about being a mom. I don’t think anyone would ever say that I’ve so given myself over to my children’s needs that I need the central story point of the momspringa. So am I a lazy mom? a balanced mom?

As a story itself I loved the fantasy of having a magazine assistant to dress you up and pay for it all. I mean, it really is a fantasy of running away and having it all paid for and managed. And of course that is the great conflict of the story. Is she running away? Or running to? Does she need balance or a break?  I was sometimes in total agreement and other times totally annoyed.

Also, her daughter was just too clever by half. I hate fictional teens like that.

p.s. this book had an erroneous call label on it FIC BYARS.  hee hee. I meant to remark upon it when I returned it, but forgot to.

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Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie

I read this back in the winter, but I guess didn’t ever write anything here….

Catching up:

For my second foray into Agatha Christie mysteries I tried a Poirot. I liked it very much (though I think I might prefer Miss Marple) and I particularly enjoyed the Nile cruise aspect of it. Did I figure out whodunnit? I had some ideas but couldn’t really figure it out.

Gospel According to Larry by Janet Tashjian

I loved this book when it came out, back in the day when I was a YA librarian. Now I’m a librarian for 4th and 5th graders and when I booked Janet Tashjian to visit our school this spring everyone was excited to meet the author of the My Life as a.. series. But I was not so secretly excited to meet the author of one of my favorite YA novels.  Before she arrived I reread it and I have to say, for a book published in 2001 talking about online activities, social celebrities, and movements-this has aged really well. Obviously if it was written today Josh Swensen would have a huge Instagram/Twitter presence instead of his site, but it all still held up and was very believable. I loved it all over again. And now my copy is autographed and extra precious 🙂

Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos

I’ve read this before but this time listened to the audiobook. We started it as a family but ended with just me and Tabby listening as the boys didn’t like it that much. I enjoyed that this was read by Jack Gantos himself. I think that overall it’s a terrific story, but does take a bit of time to get into. The ending is certainly more exciting than the beginning, but a lot of that might have been the downside of listening to an audiobook–you only go as fast as the person reads. No skimming or racing to get to a good part!

I still think the bizarre history of the town is fascinating and loved the details about the old woman’s hands and “cooking” them and all the people dying.

Shouting at the Rain by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

I was very excited to read this because I thought Fish in a Tree was very good and this seemed like it would be equally good, i.e. great to recommend to my students.  And yes, it was good, though it suffered through no fault of its own from me starting to read it and then stopping to read several other books and then finally just quickly finishing it the other day. So I didn’t really give it the reading it deserved, though on the other hand perhaps it wasn’t compelling enough for me to feel the need to finish it right away??

Some things I liked: this is set on Cape Cod and the main character is a year round local, i.e. not rich. She has a summer friend and this year things are different. Her friend has changed, made a new friend, and it has not worked out well. She’s downright mean, leaving our character (whose name I forgot already) sad, out of sorts, etc. On top of that she lives with her grandma because her mom was a drug addict who left her. So there’s a bit of a misfit cast in the street where she lives. There’s a new boy who also has parental abandonment.

I liked all those things, but never felt like there was one big story pulling me through the book. The friendship and family themes were strong, though, and I liked those.

Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy: A Graphic Novel: A Modern Retelling of Little Women by Rey Terciero and

True confession: I’ve never actually read Little Women! Which is crazy because it sure seems right up my alley when I was a teen (and now.) I have a fond memory of going to see the film version with Winona Ryder on a snowy day in Pittsburgh (I could walk to the movie theater, which I loved.) And I know what happens in it, I just never really read it. Fortunately I know enough to have known what was updated in this modern retelling and see how it worked. I got this for Tabby and she read it first and really liked it. Now that I’ve read it and really liked it I’m thinking it would be fun for us to read the original and then watch the movie. (and there’ll be a new movie soon enough, too.)

Although I felt that the characters retained their essence in this modern version, I found that I liked them better. Sure, Amy is still a brat, but I didn’t think anyone was simpering or drippy. They were a lovely tight knit family. I liked how in this update they are a blended family. I thought that the letters written to their dad were a bit expository, but hey sometimes that happens when you need to get info to the reader.  Tabby and I especially loved the last page, truly making this a new Little Women for our times.

The Humans by Matt Haig

This book was great. Although I’m giving it a science-fiction tag because it is about an alien coming to Earth to complete a mission of eradicating recently discovered knowledge and anyone who knows about, it really ends up being a lot of thoughtful observation and pondering of the human existence and humanity.

The one thing I can’t get behind (the aliens would say I just cannot comprehend it) is that entire premise that mathematics is the key to everything, even cell regeneration and mind control. But I don’t need to believe that or understand it.

While it’s not a surprising concept that the alien, once here, discovers a bit of empathy for humans and is touched by music and poetry (how much fun to be an author and get to pick what you want to be the thing that unlocks emotion and empathy in an alien) it is awfully fun to watch that process happen.
I really enjoyed everything about this-from the alien trying to assimilate to the use of Emily Dickinson to the acknowledgement of dogs as hairy deities to the thoughts about how humans use their time and that universal question of whether we are just a violent race. I especially enjoyed when they talked about why they wanted to halt our progress and remarked that all of our technological advances have gone more rapidly than our psychological advances, causing no end of problems.