sprite writes
broodings from the burrow

November 15, 2015

february 2015 reads
posted by soe 2:43 am

Seven books finished back in February — two middle-grade, two YA, and three adult titles. (Please be warned: I tried to balance not giving away plot spoilers with offering trigger warnings in the final review. I’m not sure I was successful with either.)

The Meaning of Maggie, by Megan Jean Sovern. 220 pages.
A perfectly serviceable middle-grade novel about Maggie, who turns 11 at the outset of this work of historical fiction (sad to say that about the late 1980s…) and receives a diary in which to keep her thoughts. This future president shares her thoughts about her school year, her friends, and her family, which includes two older sisters, a mom who’s recently started working to support the family, and a dad who’s recently stopped. Because he’s now home when she gets in from school, they spend a lot of time together listening to classic rock and eating snacks, but not talking about the fact that he’s now in a wheelchair because his legs keep falling asleep and won’t wake up. So Maggie, being a precocious kid, decides to focus her science fair project on learning about and working on finding him a cure for the illness that’s affecting him, which she learns is called multiple sclerosis. It’s going to be tough getting started, though, because the “M” volume of their encyclopedia has been misplaced.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, by J.K. Rowling. 734 pages.
This was an on-again, off-again re-listen to the audiobook version over the course of eight months via Overdrive (which is why it took so long). I don’t know that I get anything new out of the books anymore at this point, although I’m always interested in noticing where the film version has edged out the book version of events or characters. Always enjoyable.

Practically Perfect, by Katie Fforde. 400 pages.
A sweet find at the library. Fforde (who is related by marriage to one of my favorite authors) writes cozy British romances, and this was just what I wanted around Valentine’s Day. The main character, Anna, is five years out from her interior design (not decorating, thank you very much) degree and has flipped her first apartment with the help of her sister. She’s taken the proceeds from that to strike out on her own and purchased a commuter cottage in the Cotswolds, which she’s going to live in while she fixes it up. In her downtime, she gets to know her neighbor, a young frazzled mother of three boys, who leads her into a variety of adventures, including adopting a rescued Greyhound, cleaning out the shed of the mother of the guy she had a crush on in university, and modeling a bathtub at a DIY fair. Because of her grayhound, she also gets to know Rob, who stops her dog from running away one afternoon and gives her an earful about its care. While she hopes the encounter is just a one-off, it turns out she’s going to spend a lot more time with Rob than she expects. Will it be a problem when the guy she had a crush on in college comes back into her life? Practically perfect if you’re looking for an inoffensive romantic read.

Texts from Jane Eyre, by Mallory Ortberg. 226 pages.
Have you ever wondered what your favorite characters from classic literature and history would have said to one another if text messaging and email had been invented during their time (or sometimes if they were transported forward to our time)? Wonder no more because editor of online magazine, The Toast, Mallory Ortberg, has filled us in on the exchanges between Jo and Laurie, Watson and Sherlock, and Elizabeth and Mrs. Bennet, William Blake and a friend, among others. Appearing on a lot of best-of humor lists from 2014, I’d hoped it would make this English major laugh. I did chuckle quite a few times, but found I enjoyed it more when just reading one or two exchanges at a time, rather than in large chunks. I found the same to be true of Kate Beaton’s cartoons, which I’d pair this with. That said, if they made a page-a-day calendar out of this or a sequel, I’d totally buy it, because wouldn’t this be an awesome way to start the workday?




The Lover’s Dictionary, by David Levithan. 211 pages.
I’d been looking forward to reading this collection of short dictionary entries about love since it came out. Since I’d enjoyed everything else I’d read by Levithan, who also is one of the most prolific YA editors out there, I figured it would be a perfect read for the month of Valentine’s Day. Not so, at least in my case. Sadly, I think it’s one of those cases where my expectations of what the book would be didn’t actually line up with what the book was. (This is not the fault of the book, but did taint my reading experience beyond salvage.) Turns out it was much more about a specific relationship and less about a general one, and that its story was not as happy-go-lucky as I’d thought it would be. That said, if you are one of the many people who liked Jenny Offill’s Dept. of Speculation (which I absolutely despised), you might also enjoy this.

El Deafo, by Cece Bell. 248 pages.
A middle-grade graphic novel/memoir about Cece’s experiences as a young girl (depicted as a rabbit) who became hearing-impaired after a sudden illness when she was four. Through elementary school, she struggles with people’s judgments about her, from her friends to her siblings, with lip-reading (it’s really hard when people think they’re being helpful and slow down what they’re saying to an exaggerated degree), and with her hearing aid (her teacher wears a microphone, but doesn’t realize it’ll broadcast not only her classroom lectures, but also her bathroom visits). Some of her problematic interactions with people come from her disability, but some of them come with just getting older and the weirdness that happens as girls start to hit puberty, making her character — and her struggles — instantly and universally relatable. A Newbery Honor Book, I’d recommend it for anyone struggling through the mires of late-elementary/early-middle school.

Girls like Us, by Gail Giles. 210 pages.
Two young women from a special ed class age out of the foster system and graduate, but are not yet ready to face the world on their own. A caseworker helps find them an apartment where they can live in exchange for helping Miss Lizzy, its elderly owner (who lives in an adjacent house), with chores. What starts out as an antagonistic experience for Quincy, who considers Biddy stupid and has a chip on her shoulder about being considered a servant, turns out to be just what was needed for all three women, who help each other overcome well-intentioned missteps, the terrible moments of their past, and a horrifying experience Quincy survives at her job at the local grocery store. These three women go from having no one to realizing family is more than just kin. Told in alternating points of view from Biddy and Quincy, this is a powerful story. (It does, however, contain graphic situations that may be difficult for some readers. If you’re concerned about what they might be, leave a comment and I’d be happy to share what they are with you in an email.)

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