sprite writes
broodings from the burrow

July 19, 2017

into the stacks 2017: march
posted by soe 1:34 am

March was a slow reading month, with only three books finished, so I thought I’d get the books reviewed before any more time had elapsed:

The Harlem Charade, by Natasha Tarpley

As Jin is trying to figure out an aspect of the Harlem Renaissance to cover for her Harlem-themed class project, a local kid digs up a painting believed to be by an artist of that time period in a community garden and then an old man is attacked in the same vicinity. Teaming up with her philanthropic, but mysterious, classmate Alex and Elvin, who’s been living on the streets for a few days since his grandfather was attacked (and with help from BFF fashionista Rose), Jin feels she must unravel a mystery that seems to be at the heart of her neighborhood, even as her community is threatened by gentrification in the form of a developer who wants to build a Harlem World theme park in the very blocks where Jin’s grandparents’ bodega now sits.

This had the same feel as Chris Grabenstein’s Mr. Lemoncello’s Library, Jennifer Chambliss Bertman’s The Book Scavenger, and Trenton Lee Stewart’s The Mysterious Benedict Society, as well as older books like The Westing Game and The Egypt Game, but with a historical twist to the urban mystery and considering bigger questions about gentrification, voice, art, and community. If your middle-grade reader enjoys mysteries, I definitely recommend this one.

Pages: 320. Library copy.

The Job, by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg

After master thief Nicolas Fox is framed for some art thefts, his partner and FBI handler Kate O’Hare must help figure out who’s behind them, which leads to the need to take down the world’s biggest drug kingpin. The only problem? No one knows what he looks like after he had major plastic surgery. But Nick knows his favorite brand of rare chocolates, so it’s just a matter of following the trail back to a mystery man and his murderous henchwoman. Oh, and then taking them down, which involves getting the gang of Kate’s retired black-ops dad, actor Boyd, and driver Willie (among others) back together to procure a boat and mock up a sunken treasure. Ridiculous? Certainly! A fun romp? Most definitely!

Pages: 289. Library audiobook copy, borrowed via Overdrive.

Lowriders to the Center of the Earth, by Cathy Camper, with artwork by Raúl Gonzalez III

Lupe Impala (a wolf), Elirio Malaria (a mosquito), and El Chavo Octopus (obviously) must leave their garage in search of their cat, Genie, being held in the center of the earth by the Aztec god Mictlantecuhtli himself. There’s a tricked out ride, a luchador match, a whole lot of animated skeletons, and a run-in with La Llorona, a Latinx ghost mother, who mistakes El Chavo for one of her drowned children. This Cybils-winning graphic novel for middle-graders sprinkles Spanish generously throughout, as well as providing information on folklore, and a little bit of geology for good measure. I could see it being an excellent fit with upper elementary and middle school reluctant readers, the sort of kids at whom the Wimpy Kid books are aimed at. It offers a lot of action and humor, but has some substance to back it up.

Pages: 128. Library copy.

Book stats:
3 books
737 pages
2 print, 1 audiobook
3 library copies, 1 owned
All fiction
Diverse main character(s): 2
Audience: 1 adult, 2 MG

Author stats:
3 women, 1 man (+1 male artist)
Own voices: 2 (including the artist of the graphic novel)
Country of residence: All American

Category: books. There is/are 2 Comments.

July 13, 2017

into the stacks 2017: february
posted by soe 1:41 am

Half-Finished Blanket and Finished Novel

Instead of telling you what I’m still reading and knitting now (Book: finished tonight; excellent. Knitting: just past the halfway done point before the borders; baby arrived last week) for Kat’s Unraveled Wednesday, I’ll show you a photo and move on to reviews of the four books I read way back in February: (more…)

Category: books,knitting. There is/are 4 Comments.

June 27, 2017

best books and summer tbr
posted by soe 6:59 pm

I don’t usually do a mid-year ranking, but in the interest of sharing (particularly since Top Ten Tuesday is going on maternity leave), let me tell you the three books I’ve given 5-star ratings to on Goodreads so far this year:

  • The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon. Let’s just say this story of star-crossed NYC teens falling in love has the best final chapter I’ve read in a long time. I read this so long ago, I actually wrote a review for it, which you can read here (Scroll down; it’s the last review of the three).

  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. This was perhaps the most talked about book in YA this spring, and for good reason. A Black teen witnesses her childhood best friend being shot by a white cop in Everytown, USA. The reverberations touch every aspect of her life: school, friends, community, and family. There are no easy answers here, except that one person taking that scary first step can lead to others taking their own, which can lead — eventually, to change. I don’t care if you don’t normally read YA; read this book.
  • Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries by Kory Stamper. Admittedly, a five-star nonfiction review is different from one given to fiction. In fiction, it means I should probably buy it and will most certainly be reading it again. In non-fiction, it more means that I was fascinated by the subject as written and even read the foot-/endnotes. I don’t know that I’d re-read this book on the various aspects that go into making a dictionary again, but I wouldn’t rule it out. A truly interesting topic, tackled with knowledge and humor by one of the Merriam Webster folks.

I’ve read a bunch of four-star books, but am not sure it’s worth ranking them at this point.

Also, I wanted to share 10 of the books I’m hoping to tackle this summer, since we’re now officially into the season:

  1. The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albartelli: Yes, this was on my spring list, but the library only got print copies last week. It’s set in D.C.
  2. The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher: I’ve been on the wait list for her books since her death, and listening to her Star Wars journals/commentary seem like a summery thing to do.
  3. Eggshells by Catriona Lally: My BFF, Karen, gave me this book back in the spring as a belated birthday gift, and I’m looking forward to starting it finally. A quirky woman places an ad seeking a friend named Penelope.
  4. When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon: Indian-American YA rom-com. Need I say more?
  5. The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley by Hannah Tinti: I started this title from a woman I went to college with in the spring, but only got as far as the first chapter before my other books and the due date got in the way.
  6. Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo: Due out in August, this title combines the mythology of Diana of the Amazons with Helen of Troy.
  7. All Grown Up by Jami Attenburg: Short. And one of those popular authors I never seem to get
  8. The Book Jumper by Mechthild Gläser: The cover is really pretty. And it reminds me of Thursday Next.
  9. Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterley: My coworker lent me her copy of the book back at the start of the year and it’s time to give it back.
  10. The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi: Because I’ve had that the same amount of time and the library wants it back.

How about you? What have been your favorite reads of the first half of the year? And what are you looking forward to reading this summer?

Category: books. There is/are 4 Comments.

June 23, 2017

getting literary, this bike’s the (yarn) bomb, and awesome (plus, unraveling!)
posted by soe 1:15 am

Before we get going on today’s topic, I wanted to share my unraveled photo for yesterday, because book and project coordinate so well today:

Blue Unravelings

The knitting is the baby blanket, which is noticeably longer than last week (although still a substantial ways from being large enough to cover a baby). The book is Julie Murphy’s Ramona Blue, which I’m just a couple chapters into. I’m also a little ways into The Princess Diarist, Carrie Fisher’s final book, on audio. So far, so funny.

Three beautiful things from my past week:

Solstice Sunset

1. The library hosted Roxane Gay for a sold-out, rock-star event of an evening. I’d procured two tickets, so Julia was able to go with me. Because I wasn’t attending alone, I’d made sure to get moving early, which was crucial, since they’d overbooked the venue and later line-goers were turned away. Roxane was as thoughtful, brutal, and funny as her work would lead you to expect.

2. Knitters especially will want to click over to Flickr to look at the original-sized photo of this bike, which does not, in fact, have an ombré-colored frame, but a ombré-covered frame, in one of the most impressive DIY bike fancifying I’ve ever seen.

Yarn-Bombed Bike

3. I had to work last Sunday at Awesome Con, a fan-going convention in the tradition of Comic Con. We had a very specific dress code, which ruled out costumes, but I really enjoyed the work and unabashed enthusiasm that others put into theirs. We had a photo booth area set up and two ’40s-inspired cosplayers stopped by. “He’s Captain America, so does that make you Agent Carter?” “In the flesh, ma’am.” We bantered for a bit, before she broke character to thank me for recognizing her. “I’d worked out a whole back story and then no one asked, so thanks for letting me use it.” Later on, a boy of eight or so gently put his costumed hand on my arm to ask about our (family-friendly) props of “f” words: “What does ‘foxy’ mean?” I paused to come up with an age-appropriate answer: “It means cute.” “Oh.”

How about you? What’s been beautiful in your world recently?

June 21, 2017

top ten series i’ve been meaning to start
posted by soe 2:10 am

Today’s Top Ten Tuesday at The Broke and the Bookish asks us about the Top Ten Series I’ve Been Meaning to Start but Haven’t:

  1. Earthly Delights by Kerry Greenwood (You know her for her Miss Fisher books, but she also has this series about baker Corinna Chapman, which my dad highly recommends.)
  2. The Magicians by Lev Grossman (I started the first one once, but put it down. I own the third book and really should just start the series once more.)
  3. Make Lemonade by Virginia Euwer Wolff (A YA verse series my dad recommended to me seven years ago.)
  4. Kopp Sisters by Amy Stewart (Another book I picked up and then had to return to the library before finishing. The third book in the series is due out this September.)
  5. Goldie Vance by Hope Larson and Brittney Williams (This graphic novel series just released Vol. 2 last month.)
  6. Kick Keswick by Marne Davis Kellogg (I think I have to go join the Alexandria library to get a copy of this one.)
  7. The Great Shelby Holmes by Elizabeth Eulberg (I’ve read adult retellings and YA retellings; now it’s time for one for the middle grades.)
  8. Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor (My Twitter feed has been very excited about this new series.)
  9. Inspector Morse by Colin Dexter (Because I’ve loved the Inspector Lewis series.)
  10. The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi (I actually have the first book of this series in hand right now!)

How about you? What series do you enjoy? Which do you mean to pick up?

Category: books. There is/are 6 Comments.

June 15, 2017

mid-june unraveling (with actual tinking!)
posted by soe 1:09 am

Mid-June Unraveling

What you see there, folks, is a baby blanket that’s only slightly longer than it was the last time you saw it. Is that because I’ve been slacking off and not knitting when I should? Well, yes, somewhat. However, it’s also because I was knitting on it during jury duty and made a key mistake that became obvious when I looked at it and then I had to rip back to before where I’d been to fix it. So I’ll be doubling down over the next week in order to make some serious progress.

Just before snapping this shot, I finished Phillip Pullman’s The Ruby in the Smoke, the first in a historical mystery series I picked up at our local Little Free Library earlier this year. I had watched the BBC adaptation of at least part of the series when it came out a decade ago, didn’t realize it had been a book first, and then a couple years later happened upon the Maisie Dobbs books, which I mistakenly thought was the same thing. (I am not the only person on the internet to have made this error, by the way.) I also forgot the adaptation starred Billie Piper, whom I didn’t yet know from Dr. Who or Mansfield Park, until a librarian pal in my book group reminded me. The library has the dvds; I may borrow them at some point…

I also began David Arnold’s Kids of Appetite while on jury duty, but either my headspace in that setting was wrong for the book or the style didn’t lend itself to the situation. In either case, I hope to give it another shot this weekend.

I’m about to start Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan, a friend of my friend Sarah, in honor of Ramadan. It’s gotten a great reception, so I’m looking forward to this middle-grade novel.

None of the audio books currently in my collection appealed, so I downloaded Exit, Pursued by a Bear last night thinking it was The Bear and the Nightingale. I do not know if it’s the same bear (the titles smack of wanting to be picture books in a similar vein to Jon Klassen’s Hat books), but since they’re different authors and story lines, I’m pretty sure we’re talking two different bears. Anyway, I’ll probably delete Exit, Pursued by a Bear from my phone and see if something else is available. I should get The Princess Diarist, Carrie Fisher’s final book, within the next week or so.

How about you? What are you reading? Head over to Kat’s to see other folks’ books and knitting…

Category: books,knitting. There is/are 4 Comments.