Moving Target by Christina Diaz Gonzalez

This was highly recommended to me by a student and I can see why she loved it, though I did not find it great. Kind of a DaVinci code for kids. I do love historical secrets and secret society stuff and I did enjoy this, though to be honest not nearly as much as, say, Charlie Thorne. That said, I’ll probably read the sequel because I am curious to find out what happens next. I could see the “twist” coming a mile away.

Sophie Go’s Lonely Hearts Club by Roselle Kim

Thank you Net Galley, for the copy of this!

I really liked this a lot. There were a lot of different aspects-romance (Sophie finding a match for herself despite herself), the emotional abuse Sophie received from her family, career, and friendship. I loved it that the story started with Sophie’s big leap to starting her business and moving into her home (really nice) apartment. It’s not until details start to come out a little later that you realized just what a huge deal that was. And what at first might seem like just mother daughter conflict becomes clear that her family is completely abusive. It was fascinating. I loved it that Sophie’s professional foray into matchmaking lands with her senior citizens. And I adored watching her become friends with these elderly people. I also really liked how easily some of the matches were heterosexual and some homosexual.

I very much enjoyed this book, though I had one stumbling block–I honestly didn’t know if this was magical realism, or more of a metaphor-a way she described how she felt about the matchmaking. I haven’t read any of her other books so I didn’t know if she always wrote this way. It didn’t really make a difference to the story, but I genuinely couldn’t tell if this was set in a world where matchmakers legit saw strings, had strings, had strings cut, etc. (nothing else in the world indicated that it was a fantasy world.)

Very enjoyable and would definitely read more by Kim.

The Secret Life of Albert Entwhistle by Matt Cain

First, Thank you to NetGalley for the advance reading copy of this. This was a 5 star read for me-absolutely delightful. It was like Man Called Ove meets, well, I forget what else.

A man who’s spent his whole career (since he was a teenager) being a postman is told he must retire. Without the routine of that his life looks pretty empty. His crippling shyness has always prevented him from making friends or really any personal connections. The impending retirement seems like a life ender but then in the most heartwarming of ways he begins to make connections. Most importantly, he opens up about who he actually is (it’s not really a surprise) and sees the possibility for love and happiness. Realistically this may not have been the most realistic story. Everyone always says the right thing? Just open up a little and wonderful things happen? But really it was so touching and sweet and you really root for Albert (and rage against the terrible behaviors of the past.) And speaking of the past, don’t skip the afterword with older men recalling gay history. It’s heartbreaking and eye opening and really so recent.

Highly recommend.

Search by Michelle Huneven

Thank you to NetGalley for the advance copy of this book!

I have not read anything else by Huneven, but I think I have to. This was a solid 5 stars for me-I absolutely loved it. I read it pretty quickly because I found it not just engrossing, but hard to put down. I couldn’t wait to see what happened next. Which is a really weird thing to say (and I kept thinking this) about a book that didn’t really have plot twists, adventure, enormous drama or suspense (though there is a suspenseful element, just kind of a long one-what will happen at the end?) and whose subject matter was about a church selection committee.

Dana is a food writer and long time member of a Unitarian Universalist church in California. This is her story of being on a search committee for a new minister for their church. It’s an intense commitment but she is ready to be devoted to choosing the perfect new spiritual leader for their community. The committee is made up of a variety of characters, including the thorn in Dana and the reader’s side–a young woman who is just awful. Oh I just wanted to smack her!

Quite a bit of the book is Dana’s fairly thoughtful reflections on the church, religion, spirituality, etc. and honestly those parts were truly interesting. [If nothing else this book made me take a hard look at my own beliefs and realize that really a UU church would be a way better fit for me than my current practice.] The insights into the UU people were fascinating, particularly when they interviewed the different candidates.

I loved the storytelling style-Dana is telling us this story from some point in the future when all is said and done, so she knows the outcome. I am fond of books that just tell you what happened, and this is one of them. And despite what I said in the beginning-there definitely is drama and suspense. Like Dana you become really invested in this process and really angry with people who hinder and thwart it.

Definitely one of my top books so far this year. I predict it’ll be on my top ten of 2022.

*One funny thing about this–because I got this based on a friend’s recommendation and hadn’t seen it on Goodreads or read a description and read it on my Kindle, so didn’t have a back cover to look at, I wasn’t really sure the context of this book. So when I read the “author’s note” (or prologue, I forget what it was) at the beginning, I thought it was true and thought it was nonfiction for the first two chapters and didn’t really absorb the prologue or remember it. When I got to the end of the book I went back and read the prologue again, which made a lot more sense to me then, and also fit in pretty well as another ending.

The Wedding Dress Sewing Circle by Jennifer Ryan

I loved Ryan’s other books so much, so I was really excited to see she had a new one. And many thanks to NetGalley for the advance copy!
Although this wasn’t my favorite one of her books so far, it was still good. In fact, really good. I found all the information about clothing designing, the fashion industry during the war, and the wedding dress exchanges so interesting. It’s an aspect of WWII that I really hadn’t encountered in any of the historical fiction I’ve read. As for the stories of each of the main characters, they were romantic and feel good. This was really a story of transformation as each of the three main characters really undergoes a personal crisis (brought on by the war) that helps her find her true self, what she wants out of life, and how to reconcile that with her past. In all of Ryan’s books she truly shows how the ordinary British citizen found the extraordinary in themselves as they did their part for the war.
The one thing I didn’t love about this, compared to her others, was that I found the historical details and information a bit clunky. Too much information delivered through dialogue in a way that seemed very unnatural and only existed to educate the reader.

Bad Sister by Charise Mericle Harper

I love Harper’s Craft Cat books, but this one is different-based on her own life (so a memoir, like Real Friends or Smile). I had read in reviews that indeed she is a bad sister, so I was looking forward to finding out if that’s the case. And guess what? She is not kidding about being a bad sister!  You see all the awful things she does to her younger brother-outright mean, sometimes manipulative, sometimes lying. You do have a lot of sympathy for her though because sometimes it seems she just can’t manage her feelings and that’s why things happen and also some things really aren’t her fault. Also, it’s all interspersed with some great sibling bonding times. Very enjoyable. I did find myself wondering what her now grown up brother thinks of all this. Did he think she was a bad as she thought she was? I mean on the one hand it skews as kind of funny. But on the other hand it also feels (maybe this is a parental point of view) pretty sad to think of these two kids going through their childhoods the way they did.

Very appealing cover.

Too Bright to See by Kyle Lukoff

One of this year’s Newbery honor books and also a Stonewall Award winner. I gave this one 4 stars over on Goodreads. It was a quick read and just a really nice book. The main character is matter of factly haunted by an uncle who has recently died. But it’s not a scary ghost story! Just a dead uncle trying to send a reassuring message about finding oneself.
You know what was really fascinating about this story? That they lived in such a rural town in Vermont. I mean, that right there was fascinating. I think a lot of kids could relate not necessarily to that but of being friends with certain people due to circumstance or necessity. And then what if those friends start to change? Or you do. And you don’t have a lot of other options. I thought some things worked out a little too easily, but on the other hand I’m also critical of tv and movies making people bully and say things that I don’t really see in real life (I think the character even said something about that!)

The Thief of Always by Clive Barker

Ugh. I came to read this book in a weird way. It’s nothing I would choose on my own, but once I started it I wanted to finish it because I was hooked on the story and was interested to see how it would play out. The basic premise is that a boy is lured away from home by a creepy guy to a mysterious enchanted house. In the course of one day the house goes through all four seasons and they are perfect and beautiful and amazing. The boy lacks for nothing and, like he’s in a Greek story, he loses track of time in this perfect place. But there are hints of frightening things, things not being what they seem, and possibly being unable to leave. That outline sounds pretty good so if this story was written by someone else I might have enjoyed it. But, it’s written by master horror writer, Clive Barker. And even though this is a book for children, it was still way too much Clive for me. I hated the gruesome descriptions and the scary scenes. I have kids in my 4th and 5th grade library ask me every year for It (really? a. why are your parents letting you watch that movie and b. there’s no way you’d read a book that long and c. get over yourself and read an age appropriate horror book.) and this would be a great choice for them. But not for me–I actually had a nightmare while I was reading this!

Teen Titans: vol 1 and 3 by Kami Garcia

Volume 1: Raven, Volume 3: Beast Boy Loves Raven

Teen Titans Go was a cartoon we loved watching as a family-I think it’s hilarious- so when I saw that a hot YA graphic novel was about the Titans, I had to read it. I really enjoyed Raven’s story and the whole premise-amnesia and her demon father. When I got to the end I couldn’t wait to read the next one and belatedly realized I’d gotten #3. Oh well, I figured out what was going on well enough (though I’m guessing volume 2 will fill in Beast Boy’s story a lot more.) and when I get around to it I’ll read the other volume. One of the things I really liked about these is the overall look-how the characters are drawn. I love Raven’s style and found the whole thing super appealing.

The Genius Under the Table by Eugene Yelchin

Subtitle: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain.

I thought this was terrific. My only complaint is that it was too short and I wanted more! I haven’t read Yelchin’s other books, but I know he is an esteemed author who has won a Newbery Honor award. And I know the criteria for being a Newbery winner is being an American author, so I automatically knew that his story would end eventually with him moving here and becoming a citizen at some point.
Everything about this was SO fascinating. It’s just hard to believe that people lived like that and that they thought it was ok. Or, if they didn’t think it was ok, they couldn’t do anything about it.  Before the Berlin Wall came down I was pretty fascinated to imagine life in Communist countries and would have absolutely loved to read this book about someone around my age at the same time.