The Red Notebook by Antoine Laurain

I really enjoyed The President’s Hat and this delivered more of the same: a charming French story with different moving parts working out just right.  One thing about this book-it reinforces my idea that French women carry marvelous things in their beautiful handbags. When he finds a handbag and concludes it’s been stolen from a woman, he attempts to turn it in to the police, but then ends up keeping it and trying to track down the owner. He uses the contents of the bag as clues, but ends up creating this picture of a woman from all those pieces. It’s a lovely concept-if someone looked at all your bits and bobs what would they conclude about you?

This was extremely satisfying and charming.


Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson

I loved this until I got to the last page. WTF, Maureen Johnson? Why is this “to be continued”?  This was a super exciting classic mystery with nods to Agatha Christie and Sherlock Holmes, with flashbacks to a crime in the 1930s meshed with a present day situation in the same location, which happens to be an eccentric and elite boarding school for brilliant teens. I mean, it’s great right? Not unlike Johnson’s Jack the Ripper boarding school awesome story. But things were rolling right along with a good level of excitement and tension, everything about to be solved when… the end. Seriously, this book could have just used 20 more pages to finish everything up and I would have given it 5 stars. Instead it’s being strung out into a trilogy, which is ridiculous. As you can tell I became quite enraged at the end.

The Thing about Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin

I basically read this because I wanted to add it to the school collection. Tabby was also reading it. I really liked this and will definitely recommend it to people who like Olive’s Ocean, Summer of the Gypsy Moths, Love Aubrey, and other books of that ilk.
Suzanne’s friend dies by drowning over the summer. Since school started Suzanne hasn’t spoken and is, of course, in therapy. In flashbacks we find out that it’s not just that she is grieving Franny’s death-she’s also grieving Franny’s friendship. Before Franny died things were not good between the two of them. In fact, I was pretty shocked at how awful Franny turned out to be. And equally shocked by Suzanne’s response. But Suzanne was more understandable-she’s a quirky girl and that does not go over well with mean girl types. My heart was truly breaking for Suzanne. There are definitely some typical story elements here–the kind understanding teacher, the other outsider who turns into a friend, etc. What I liked so much in this story were the slightly different elements-Suzanne’s fixation on jellyfish, her research, and her ultimate (misguided, sad) plan.

You Think It, I’ll Say It by Curtis Sittenfeld

I have loved most of Sittenfeld’s novels so couldn’t wait to read this newest offering from her, although it is a short story collection. I read it straight through, as if each story was a chapter (but the stories are not connected.)
I enjoyed this because she is a good writer and the stories are solid and the writing is great. However,  with the exception of one or two stories I found that I disliked most of the characters. It wasn’t just that they were realistic people with realistic flaws, it was that they were uncomfortably not likable. And while I think there are plenty of characters in her novels like that-where you cringe or enjoy reading them about them but think “man in real life I’d never hang out with that person, they’re an ass”, the strength of the overall story makes the unlikable person or actions just a part of that. Reading short story after short story where I was really focused on those characters without the meandering of a novel, really hammered in how much I didn’t like some of them.  I would not call these fun stories. In a few of the stories I really enjoyed the satisfaction of the speaker telling the story from the future (that is, looking back) so that you do know long term results. The one story I especially enjoyed was about the “Prairie Wife” because it was so clearly modeled on the real life Pioneer Woman tv show/cookbook.  And of course, there was plenty of boarding school/prep school/Prep details throughout to satisfy me.
Overall good, but looking forward more to her next novel.

All Summer Long by Hope Larson

I love the cover of this graphic novel-just right for a summer story.

I feel like possibly more often in books than in real life are there these amazing boy-girl friendships. They struggle a bit during adolescence, but soldier on even when they boy or girl gets a boyfriend/girlfriend. They seem so prevalent that I was always surprised I didn’t have an amazing boy best friend.
Things I liked about this: the way it’s set up into weeks. They way small panels conveyed how bored Bina was without her next door/best friend forever/Austin.  The way Bina knows she is not longing to fit in, but is feeling a certain 13 year old itchiness. I also really liked how her family was so easily conveyed by small scenes.

One things I did not care for was the style of drawings of the people.
Overall good, and Tabby read it first and told me she really liked it.

Luvvy and the Girls by Natalie Savage Carlson

Yesterday afternoon I had a friend over and we were looking at some of my old cherished children’s books. I told her all about this one, as it was one of the first boarding school books I read and I loved it very much. After she went home I picked it up and ended up just quickly reading the whole thing. Guess what? Just as good as I remembered. And I’m going to say, although I often laugh at the old fashioned books, I can see from my adult point of view that it was a really good book. Although it’s set in 1915 it was written in 1971.
The things I so vividly remembered about the book were all there–fascinating cloistered nuns, strict rules, a poor homely orphan, and a goody goody.  Objectively speaking, it’s a good story about a girl going away to school, being homesick, figuring out who her friends are.
One thing I think I had not noticed until yesterday is that the girls in the story have the last name Savage and the dedication is to the Pupils of the Frederick Academy of Visitation, which is the convent school in the story and Savage is the author’s middle name. So now I’m convinced that her family really did go to this school and it’s not entirely fictitious but based on family stories and actual events. Perhaps the girls really did march by two on a long trek to a cemetery to gather violets. Perhaps they were allowed to spend a nickel each Saturday on ice cream cones and pickles (Pickles really seem to have been a popular snack in the olden days. At least according to this and All of a Kind Family.)

Pleased to say this held up and was just as enjoyable.

UPDATE! As I wrote this and then logged it on to Goodreads my mind has been blown. Because of the way Goodreads identifies things as part of a series they are calling this The Half Sisters #2.  That means there were MORE BOOKS ABOUT LUVVY (and her half sisters.)  What a shame I never knew this as a child (and how would I? the books weren’t labeled on the cover as part of a series and if it wasn’t on the shelf at my library I didn’t know about it. No following of authors on social media. Forthcoming new titles were not promoted. If it wasn’t at our library, I didn’t know about it.) Obviously I will be looking for the other titles now.

Calypso by David Sedaris

I have one expectation with a David Sedaris book and it is this–to laugh out loud while reading it, possibly in public and unable to stop.
Expectation met!
Even though my husband was all “oh I already read most of the stories in The New Yorker” I never read the New Yorker and they were all new to me. So there. Pretty much every store made me laugh out loud at something-I just love the things he says, the way he writes. But in this collection I also found a certain sweetness or poignancy. Although you can tell that events in stories span a few years by references to his niece’s age, most of the stories are about his whole family being together at the beach house he and Hugh bought in South Carolina. (I suppose reading them all together, rather than spaced out in the magazine makes it all seem like everything happens in one year.) There’s always been stuff about his family, but his youngest sister’s suicide is what really brings out the stories about how much he and his siblings really get each other and love each other, how much they loved their mother, and how they are with his now pretty elderly father. They’re a weird and funny family and I love reading about them.

I probably laughed the most reading about the Japanese stores he and his sisters can’t resist shopping at.