sprite writes
broodings from the burrow

November 12, 2017

into the stacks: april 2017
posted by soe 1:50 am

I put this off last Saturday (and, you know, for months and months now), because it was too much work. Time to suck it up…

A Study in Scarlet Women, by Sherry Thomas

As you might guess from the title, this is a retelling of Arthur Conan Doyle’s A Study in Scarlet, the first Sherlock Holmes story. In this version, Lady Charlotte Holmes, cast out by her family after being caught in flagrante delicto with a married man. Mind you, she was only caught because she was the one to raise the alarm, hoping to free herself both from her troublesome family and the virginity they are so eager to protect. But after her father and sister fall under suspicion for killing the man’s mother, Charlotte must find a way to make the nom de plume, Sherlock, she uses in correspondence with the police work in real life in a society prejudiced against women to clear the family she still loves. I can think of at least four series in which Sherlock has been remained as a woman, and this is probably the strongest of the bunch, so if you’re only looking for one, pick this one (although I recommend them all.)

Pages: 323. Library copy.

Grief Is the Thing with Feathers, by Max Porter

An homage to the Emily Dickinson poem, but with a twist, since it is not hope that perches in this family’s souls, but grief. And quite literally moves into their London flat, since a six-foot-tall crow shows up at the door to greet a man (a poetry scholar) and his two sons in the quiet after everyone has left following the funeral of his wife/their mother. And perch he does, for months, caring for the boys, keeping the man company in the horrifically painful wee smalls, until they are able to begin to function once more. Told in verse from alternating points of view, this is a solid relating of the process of grief. Recommended for those who’ve lost a loved one and who are open to a touch of whimsy in their healing.

Pages: 114. Library copy.

Change Places with Me, by Lois Metzger

Rose lives in the New York City of the near future with her step-mother. She awakens one day and decides she needs to change things up … get some new clothes, try a new shampoo, throw a party, get a job … all normal things for a teenager to do. Except they aren’t normal for her, as she’s only got one friend, she hated her step-mom’s bath products and fashion sense, she’s terrified of dogs, and she’s been mourning her dad’s death for a while. As she moves forward with building this new life for herself, she finds that maybe some of her old self isn’t as far gone as she — and others — might have expected. Obviously that last bit gives away a (hopefully very little) bit about the type of book you’ll be getting into. If you don’t like unreliable narrators (even ones who are unreliable not through their own fault), skip this one.

Pages: 224. Library copy.

I’ll Give You the Sun, by Jandy Nelson

Jude and Noah are inseparable twins, but vastly different. In the first part of the story, Noah, who narrates, is closeted and loves to draw, something that makes him very close to their art historian mother. Jude is bold and fearless and sporty, but also likes making her own clothing and has taken some of her grandmother’s unique spiritual outlooks as her own. A few years pass and, after the death of their mother, things change. Jude tells us that she’s in art school (although in danger of flunking out because her mother’s spirit keeps ruining her art) and that Noah never draws anymore. He’s too busy playing football and dating a girl and taking insane risks. Noah’s story moves mostly forward linearly, while Jude’s backtracks into the intervening cavern of time to help find the true story of what’s happened.

People loved this book, which gave me high hopes when I began it two Christmases ago in print, but I just wasn’t in the right place for it at the time. I downloaded it as part of the YA Sync audiobook program that summer, and finally listened to it last winter and spring. It took me ages to listen to and in the end I just wasn’t wowed. I suspect it needed some additional editing to slim it down a bit. While I did love the cover, I found the story itself was just fine. If you give it a shot and don’t find the first part works for you, the rest probably won’t, either.

Pages: 384 pages. Listened to the audiobook version of a personal copy.

The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary, by Laura Shovan

On the first day of school, Ms. Hill tells her class of 18 Maryland 5th-graders that they’re going to write a poem every day and that at the end of the year, they’ll include a book with the best one from each day in a time capsule being made to mark the final school year. Some kids love the assignment. Others hate it. Some write long poems. Others as short as they can get away with. Some write in their native languages, others share what amount to songs. They deal with deceased parents, puberty, petty rivalries, loneliness, friendship, happiness about a new school being built, sadness about an old school going away. You follow along with a whole class as they come together to fight for their community, while also watching individuals grow on their own. And each kid has their own voice, so that after a while you don’t need to look to see whose poem you’re reading; you know it from the poem itself. The winner of the Cybils poetry category last year, this was a solid middle-grade novel, poetry or no poetry. Highly recommended.

Pages: 227. Library copy.

The Rose and the Dagger, by Renée Ahdieh

The sequel to The Wrath and the Dawn, a retelling of Shahrazad story. In the conclusion to the tale of the fierce young woman and her cursed prince, Shahrzad finds herself and her magic carpet in the desert with her devoted sister, her childhood sweetheart who is out for revenge, her crazed father (who has just created an epic storm that killed hundreds in Khalid’s city), and a growing army getting ready to attack. If she can get the book that taught her father that epic spell, Khalid may be able to free himself from the curse and he, Shazi, and the citizens of Rey may be able to move forward once more. We add a genie, complex female friendships, and a lot of tears to the sequel, a fitting conclusion to the first book. I may not have loved it as much, but I couldn’t tell you what I’d change. (Well, I’d change one thing, but that wouldn’t improve the story.) And if I could hand this quote out to every person in a relationship, I totally would:

They were two parts of a whole. He did not belong to her. And she did not belong to him. It was never about belonging to someone. It was about belonging together.

Pages: 416. Library copy.

Paris for One and Other Stories, by Jojo Moyes

In this book of one novella and eight stories (mostly romantic in nature, mostly troubled, all narrated by the women in them), the novella, Paris for One, is the strongest of the bunch. In it, a woman books a romantic Parisian trip for her and her boyfriend only to get to Paris and find he’s blown her off. And she and another woman are double-booked into the only room left in the hotel. Instead of doing what she might have expected of herself (to mope in the room until her train home), instead she sets off to a restaurant and, later, an art show, where she ends up giving a ticket to the waiter whose shirt she’d accidentally ruined the night before. You know where the story is going from there, but that doesn’t mean you don’t want to be there for every minute of it. Of the eight stories, I only remember bits. There’s one about a gym bag that gets switched, leaving the recipient forced to wear a sexy pair of crocodile pumps; another involves an anonymous Tweeter making allegations about a politician and the detective agency he hires to find out about the mystery person; and a third focuses on a jewelry store clerk who’s held up in a robbery of the shop. None I recalled at all except once I saw the titles, and I can tell you even less about the other five. It was a fine collection and good for listening to on a long, solo drive (I’ll always associate it with New Jersey), but only the novella has really stuck with me.

Pages: 336. Listened to an audiobook copy through the library’s Overdrive system.

Book stats:
7 books
2,024 pages
5 print, 2 audio
6 library copies, 1 owned
All fiction (2 verse novels)
Diverse main character(s): 10 (9 of whom are narrators in a multi-perspective verse novel)
Audience: 3 adult, 3 YA, 1 MG

Author stats:
6 women, 1 man
Own voices: 2 (although one is writing from the perspective of a white character)
Country of residence: 6 American, 1 English

Category: books. There is/are 2 Comments.

Love the layout of your reviews! The Last 5th Grade sounds like one I’d definitely enjoy.. 🙂

Comment by Kathleen 11.12.17 @ 10:27 am

@Kathleen: Thank you! I was surprised by how many of the kids’ stories I could remember after all this time.

Comment by soe 11.14.17 @ 2:52 am