sprite writes
broodings from the burrow

October 3, 2016

into the stacks: may 2016
posted by soe 3:21 am

I read five books in May, which was, I know, five months ago.

We’ve got one comic collection/graphic novel (YA/adult), one classic, one contemporary adult fiction, one YA contemporary, and one middle-grade historical fiction (it pains me greatly to classify a book set in the 1970s as such, but it is):

Paper Girls, Vol. 1, by Brian Vaughan, with illustrations by Cliff Chiang and Matthew Wilson
Set in the early morning of Nov. 1, 1988, the first five issues of the Paper Girls comic book examine what happens when four paper girls head out to deliver their morning Cleveland Plain-Dealer papers before dawn the day after Halloween. They have to deal with weirdos still out in costume, jerks who want to harass them, and, it turns out, time travelers and aliens (who are harder to tell from the other two categories on this one morning than they might otherwise be). As someone who was a papergirl at that time, these girls were edgier than I or any of the other kids I knew who had paper routes, but maybe that comes from not having to battle aliens at any point. Or maybe Connecticut towns were just less edgy than Ohio towns. Enjoyable nonetheless, but I probably would have liked it more without its veering into sci-fi. If you liked Heathers or The Goonies or Stand by Me, you may want to give this a shot.

Pages: 144. Personal copy (bought on Comic Book Day).

All Fall Down, by Ally Carter
Grace has moved to the European nation of Adria to live with her ambassador grandfather while her father does a tour in a war zone and her brother attends West Point. Where’s her mom, you ask? According to most people, she died in a tragic fire at the bookstore where she worked three years earlier. Grace, however, swears her mother was murdered, and that it was done by a scarred man she saw but that no one or thing else witnessed. This was such a traumatic event that Grace has spent time in mental hospitals recuperating and dealing with a fuzzy memory of that day’s events. She’s been sent to live with her mom’s father, where Grace used to spend summers as a kid and where she’ll reconnect with kids she used to know, like Alexei, the son of the Russian ambassador, and Megan, the prissy daughter of one of the embassy workers. She also gets to meet Noah and his popular twin sister Lila, the children of the Spanish and Israeli diplomats, and Rosie, who lives in the German embassy. When Grace discovers that the scarred man is on Adria, she must decide who to trust and how much, including herself.

Pages: 310. Audiobook via the library’s Overdrive copy.

Mansfield Park, by Jane Austen
I don’t know exactly what to say about this Austen novel, the last of her completed works I hadn’t read. I didn’t like it, but I suppose it could grow on me if I were to read it again a decade from now. I’d seen a film version before reading the novel, so I knew the basic premise and players going in, which probably didn’t make me in any hurry to read it. The story, generally: Fanny Price is the eldest daughter of the poorest of three sisters. The busybody middle sister convinces the richest sister and her husband to take the child in and raise her, but they all want to be sure she realizes she’s not being raised to be at the same social status as her four cousins. Cousin Edmund Bertram is the kindest of the four (or, really of anyone) to her, so she falls in love with him. When the busybody aunt’s husband dies, leaving the estate’s vicarage open, it’s filled by a couple and, soon, her two siblings, the Crawfords. Edmund falls in love with Mary Crawford, and Henry woos the elder Bertram sister, despite her being engaged to a bland, but well-off fellow. For whatever reason, Fanny is the only person who can see everyone’s character clearly and she piously and repeatedly suggests (in her own head, if not actually aloud) that everyone ought to just behave better. The novel picks up when Lord Bertram returns from several years of doing business in Antigua, but it’s a slow slog for the first half. Austen is usually reliable in comedies of manners, and you get some of that here, but it’s hidden beneath a lot of religious claptrap that probably played better back when it was written and a lot of moaning and mooning on the part of the heroine, with whom, despite being put in trying circumstances, it’s remarkably hard to sympathize. You know it’s been a rough book when you get to the end and the character you like best is a secondary one who’s only appeared occasionally. I’d probably only recommend this to Austen completists unless you really like reading books with lead characters you’d like to shake.

Pages: 507. Personal copy.

Raymie Nightingale, by Kate DiCamillo
Raymie’s father has moved out and, in order to win him back, she’s decided she needs to win a local children’s beauty pageant. But first, in order to do that, she needs to learn how to twirl baton, so she signs up for classes with two other girls who’ll also be competing: furious Beverly, who wants to sabotage the entire event to get back at her mother, herself a former pageant winner, and fainting Louisiana, who lives with her eccentric grandmother in the woods and whose parents, she tells her competitors, were circus performers. Set in 1975 Florida, this book (long listed for the National Book Award) had charm and sadness and lovely turns of phrases, but, unlike many of DiCamillo’s previous works, still didn’t win me over in the end.

Pages: 272. Personal copy.

A Man Called Ove, by Frederik Backman (translated by Henning Koch)
Ove is a cantankerous old man. He likes for there to be rules and for everyone to abide by them, and he has no qualms about telling you when you’ve violated them. He’s the guy out yelling at the neighbors for having slightly too long grass and for not cleaning up after their dog and for repairing bicycles in the common green space instead of a garage. First, a cat shows up, and we all know what cats think of rules. Then new neighbors move in next door, and they seem inclined to be amused by Ove, instead of put off by him. But Ove has a plan, and neither a prescient feline, nor a savvy neighbor is going to stop him from enacting it. This book, translated from the Swedish, is a gem, and you’ll find yourself crying and laughing from both joy and sadness as it progresses. I’ll give you no more than that, except to say I highly recommend reading it, particularly before the film (in Swedish, with subtitles) is released in the U.S. this month.

Pages: 337. Library copy.

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