When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

I’m glad I finally read this (recommended to me quite a while ago, checked out, returned unread, finally read this time) because it was a delightful and sunny and somewhat different YA romance.  Dimple heads off to an awesome summer program at a San Francisco university with the hopes of developing an app and getting a head start on college in the fall. Rishi heads off to the same place knowing Dimple will be there and that their parents would like them to meet. Rishi is extremely respectful of his heritage and parents. Dimple might be, too, but she has her eyes on a bright academic future and career and is not looking for an arranged marriage. There’s quite a meet cute and surprise! they really are perfect for each other.

I enjoyed this very much, the ups and down and back forth point of view. As usual I couldn’t but think that every single character in a YA novel is always SO smart and successful and talented and if I was a teenager I’d want to punch these characters.  Metaphorically, of course.  One of the things I also liked about the book was that it is set after high school, with older teens who are focused on thinking of the next step.

 

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The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang

I loved this! I was initially excited about it, but then I think I read a not great review of it, but I say that review was bunk because I really enjoyed this. Graphic novel: premise is that a prince loves to dress in women’s attire (wigs/gowns) and push the envelope in women’s fashion and he hires a new seamstress and shares his secret with her and they become tremendous friends. I really enjoyed this so much. I loved the fashion-the sketches, her designs, and also the bit of historical concept in there of a department store and ready to wear to clothes being a new modern idea. I enjoyed the Prince’s expressions of how he was a boy and just sometimes loved feeling like a woman. I loved his family’s responses. As for the drawings, they were pleasing to me. The prince has such a sharp triangular nose-he reminded me very much of Howl in the Studio Ghibli film version of Howl’s Moving Castle.

So, all in all –a good story, a good message without feeling didactic, and characters I really liked.

Revenge of the Evil Librarian by Michelle Knudsen

Every time I stop doing this blog there’s some day where I find myself dipping back in,reading something I wrote, and being led to something new, in a way that doesn’t quite happen with Goodreads. It’s happened again, which is all the impetus I need to stick with my renewed plan to keep it up. I happened upon my review of Evil Librarian, which mentioned a forthcoming sequel, and how thrilled was I to a)be reminded of that and b)have it available in just a couple days?
As with the first book this was a delight to read over the weekend. It felt like watching several Buffy episodes all together. This time the setting is theater camp, and we are introduced to a new demon, Peter. Peter is a terrific character-a demon obsessed with the human world’s theater. Fast paced and fun, I definitely recommend this and am looking forward to another book.

The Last Girl on Earth by Alexandra Blogier

I really enjoyed this a lot, even if I found it very similar to other YA sci-fi, especially that book about the girl who lives with the special tribe in the arctic and it turns out that the rest of the world was still existing and they didn’t know it (*After the Beginning and Until the End by Amy Plum.) Or Beth Revis’s Across the Universe.

I enjoyed the vision of the future, but as a human on Earth did find it troubling that basically aliens eradicated us because we were so awful and then used our planet for themselves. I liked that conflict of them being so advanced and intelligent and wise, and yet they also were kind of space thugs and colonists. I’d like to hear from life on the other planets and see what they thought of these people.

I liked the ending and the setup for the sequel

Top Ten Books of 2017

It’s not quite the 31st but I’m going to start this post today because 1. I’m not sure I’ll read another book in the next 2 days and 2. Even if I do what are the chances that it would make it in to the top 10?
As noted on last year’s top 10 post, I haven’t been keeping up here. Last post was in February! And I do feel bad about that, especially because I categorize my books here way better than I do on Goodreads (and it’s easier for me to vaguely recall a book and look it up here.) Perhaps a resolution for 2018 is to do a better job about posting here first? One reading change I made this fall that I’m having a hard enough time keeping up with is that I started a second Goodreads account just for school for students to follow.
So how did I do with my goals? First, I set a goal of 85 books, and as of today have completed 122. As usual this includes all adult and children’s titles, graphic novels, and audiobooks, but not picture books. I’m pleased with smashing that goal-this might be my highest number in years! But also, I kind of don’t care about the number-it’s more important to me that I found and enjoyed lots of stories. As in the past two years another reading goal was to reread old favorites. This year that included Sushi for Beginners by Marian Keyes, Wild Designs by Katie Fforde, Where the Heart Is by Billie Letts, Adopted Jane by Helen Daringer, and Anne of the Island by L.M. Montgomery. Fforde and Keyes were authors I used to adore and read everything by. I have to admit I didn’t love rereading Sushi for Beginners. On the other hand Where the Heart Is was wonderful. Apparently I didn’t remember very many details and was surprised by some of the very dark and sad parts, and thoroughly enjoyed the overall warm and emotional story. Adopted Jane was a beloved childhood book that I read aloud with Tabby and it retained its charm. And of course, Anne is perfect.

In audiobook listening Clark and I finished the Gregor the Overlander series, which I have to say was good but nothing I’d ever reread. Man, was it dark. A long drive and back to New Hampshire for vacation afforded many hours for the whole family.  A childhood favorite-Half Magic by Edgar Eager-was an absolute delight on audio. And we all liked a weird Swedish gem called Adventures with Waffles.  The absolute best was The War I Finally Won, which you will see on my list.

When I look at my 5 star ratings for the year, it seems like most of them were children’s books. I read some really great ones, especially some anticipated graphic novels–Real Friends, Swing It Sunny, I Love You Michael Collins, Dragon with a Chocolate Heart, Confessions of an Imaginary Friend (a French delight! )and many others. I also read my very first actual Nancy Drew book!

**If you (me) read through all that, thanks. And now for the main event….**
The Top 10 Books of 2017 (in no particular order):

The War I Finally Won by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley: I was so excited by the arrival of this sequel. I listened to this on audio with both kids, as they were also invested in the story and we thought the reader, Jayne Entwhistle, was phenomenal. Both Bradley and Entwhistle did not disappointment. Again, top notch historical fiction, details sprinkled throughout to make us realize how the start of Ada’s life left her at such a disadvantage (knowledge-wise particularly). Lesser storylines pulled forward in this sequel to shine and be expanded on. Emotional, thoughtful, compelling–I can’t say enough good things about this. I feel like I’ll never forget these characters and what they lived through.
Zenn Diagram by Wendy Brant: A clever premise, a clever title, and a great story all around. A girl who has a touch-psychic ability, falls for a boy who gives her a vision of something “dark”. Why this is and how it works out made a thoughtful and interesting story.

Saints for All Occasions by J. Courtney Sullivan: I think we all knew this would end up on my list way back when I read it in the early spring. This reminded me very much of Maine, which was another favorite of hers. A good long satisfying story, with a bit of regretful history (That I hope angers and perplexes modern readers), and some super fascinating nuns (always of high appeal to me.) This book hit all the marks for me.

The Jane Austen Project by Kathleen Flynn: Two time travel books make it on the list this year, both brought something new and interesting to time travel stories for me. Beginning with the premise that Jane Austen is even more of an icon than she is today and that scholarly time travelers are going to infiltrate her world so that they can recover a lost manuscript, there is plenty of fascinating Jane Austen stuff, as well as the usual time travel delights.

Time and Time Again by Ben Elton: This time travel book Blew. My. Mind.  After I read it I relished telling the entire story to a few people (who were never going to read it) and found even that super satisfying. This is a book I have thought of off and on all year since reading it (and I honestly thought I read it last year.) Basic premise is “if you could stop one event that ended up being the downfall of the 20th century what would it be?” and then going back to try to stop WWI. But. But. It’s wrapped up in a fascinating set-up. And then stuff gets crazy. I’ll say no more. But do let me know if you read it and love it!

The Flower Arrangement by Ella Griffin: I read a lot of cozy, fluffy, charming books this year, but this is one that stood out as cozy and charming, yes, but also really good, a good story, and well written. A flower shop on a street with regular and not-so-regular customers. The proprietress going through a rough time, but still able to select the just right flowers for her customers–and then we see the effects those flowers have. And it all ends up tying together beautifully.

Dear Fahrenheit 451 by Annie Spence: I enjoyed this book so much I gave it as a Christmas gift (and might purchase it for myself.) Perfect for librarians, but even if you’re not, if you’re a reader you’ll enjoy these letters to books. Gentle humor and sharp commentaries are spot on. A quick read. And bonus–you’ll end up with a list of books you want to read!

Standard Deviation by Katherine Heiny: Oh wow did I love this. It was funny, it was awkward, it was touching. I really found so many parts laugh out loud funny, but I was also really touched by the frank difficulties the parents of an autistic child faced and how they dealt with it (some of which was very funny.) The “talk to everyone” younger wife cracked me up. I really cared for the imperfect characters and Heiny is a great writer.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman: No surprises here-I’m sure this is on many a top 10 list this year. I adored this. It had the laugh out loud funny parts that reminded me of The Rosie Project, but then it went deep. Honeyman sucks you in with ‘oh funny quirky” and then has your heart breaking for Eleanor. This was just a great solid read.

The Chilbury Ladies Choir by Jennifer Ryan: some seriously fine WWII historical fiction. I can’t believe this was Ryan’s first novel! And while it seemed it would be a “rah rah the women step up while the men are away type of war story”, it went far beyond that. Told in letters, journals, and ephemera the village characters tell a story of blackmail and spies, set among WWII.  This was riveting and like all good WWII fiction, there were a few scenes/incidents that stuck with me for their casual tragedy.

Runners Up: OK, I know this extends the list, but here are some other titles that I wouldn’t bump any of the top 10 for, but I really enjoyed and would recommend.

I Found You by Lisa Jewell: I really like Lisa Jewell and I preferred this to the Girls in the Garden, which I’d read earlier in the year. This had a little more of a cozy factor added to it.
Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan: There was no way this wouldn’t show up somehow! I thought this was a really satisfying end to a trilogy, very well done, and had plenty of those juicy details about the crazy rich Asians, that I so loved in his first book.
The Arrangement by Sarah Dunn: This book made me laugh a lot, which I liked.
Spill Zone by Scott Westerfeld: I usually prefer realistic fiction graphic novels, but this bizarre tale had me hooked (and left hanging–where’s the sequel??). Very creative and creepy.
Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley: beautiful story, well written, emphasis on books. One of several bookshop set stories I read this year
Arabella of Mars by David Levine: This just had all the makings of a great story-Mars, regency, woman stowaway on ship, but the ship sails to space, not on the water. All around terrific and I hope I can remember to look for a sequel.
March: Book Three by John Lewis: This trilogy is absolutely incredible. Painful to read, heartbreaking, and very important.
Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill: Newbery winner. I avoided reading (cover and title didn’t draw me in) and I’m so glad I read it because it turned out to be an incredible fantasy magical fairy tale adventure with amazing themes and threads. Barnhill is quite a storyteller.
Unbeatable Squirrel Girl by Shannon Hale: Oh, Squirrel Girl. You’re a hoot. After loving the comic books I was so excited to see a novel written by the great Shannon Hale. This cracked me up, so funny and delightful.
Venturess by Betsy Cornwall: This was absolutely terrific and best of all, a true great sequel furthering the story from book one, taking it and making something new. I loved the steampunky magic details as well as the unique-in-fiction take on love.

Happy Reading for 2018!
Sarah

 

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.

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.