|Friday, January 22nd, 2016|
1:11 am - books I loved in 2015
|Wednesday, January 20th, 2016|
11:55 pm - Last Umbrella Letter; Book Swallow Wire
The Umbrella, by Ingrid and Dieter Schubert|
The dog protagonist of this picture book was extremely winsome. The rest of it was pretty but ultimately forgettable.
A Letter for Leo, by Sergio Ruzzier
Ruzzier's first book and it kinda shows. The text and plot don't meet the high standard set by the illustrations.
The Heart Goes Last, by Margaret Atwood
A novel in chunks (originally serialized) that covers some very very dark stuff. Pretty much any button you might have around sexual betrayal (including child abuse) WILL be pushed. That said, as hard as it was to read, I also had trouble putting it down. Atwood's still got it.
How to Swallow a Pig, by Steve Jenkins
Neat info, excellent illustrations. It was a lot more factual and less playful than I'd been hoping for based on the title, though.
Book, by David W. Miles, illustrated by Natalie Hoopes
I swooned over the illustrations from the beginning and was hopeful about the story. Then he started in with the litany of "praises" of books that are really bitching about e-readers and other devices, and I was tempted to throw the book across the room. So tired of those. But the illustrations stayed just as amazing all the way through. I hope Hoopes finds lots more illustrating work.
Out on the Wire, by Jessica Abel
This was wicked! Graphic non-fiction book about how public radio (mostly) podcasters put together their stories, with info about the technical aspects but focusing on the story aspects. Easy to read, engaging, and full of points. Also sometimes funny or touching. Also also I found like 3 new podcasts to listen to.
And that is my last book of 2015! Phew. Stay tuned for more this week, as I get caught up on the nearly 50 books I've already read in 2016 :D.
current mood: accomplished
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11:21 pm - Missing Golden Reindeer; Jane Ghosts Lion; Fixing Old Christmastime Manners
The Little Reindeer, by Michael Foreman|
I didn't have any particular expectations for this book, but I was pleasantly surprised to discover it was adorable. And, if such a thing can be said of a picture book about one of Santa's reindeer, realistic :D.
The Question of the Missing Head, by E. J. Copperman and Jeff Cohen
Loved this mystery whose detective runs his own business called Questions Answered. Also he has Asperger's. Also the two authors are actually the same guy. The romantic subplot was a bit awkward, but so far it is endearingly rather than gratingly awkward. Super looking forward to the next in the series, which is currently languishing on my bedroom floor. (To write book commentary, or to read books - reading books usually wins... which is how I got this far behind in the first place!)
Everything I Need to Know About Christmas I Learned from a Little Golden Book, by Diane Muldrow
Man, the pictures were cool (from the LGB archives) but the text was saccharine and dull as ... as.. as... a very saccharine and dull thing! I was bummed.
Living with Ghosts, by Kari Sperring
I had put this on my must-read list based on a recommendation a few years ago, but had completely forgotten what it was about. So I was expecting contemporary urban fantasy, but instead I got dark secondary world fantasy set in a faux-Paris of the faux-Renaissance. Luckily there was nothing at all faux about the story, especially the characterizations. Well worth the read!
Jane on Her Own, by Ursula K. Le Guin
I thought I had read all these! But I had not. This was a Christmas gift, and I loved it. Just enough whimsy, just enough adventure, and a happy ending. What more does one need from a middle grade illustrated chapter book? Oh, right, it could be written by Le Guin so every word is the exact right word! That was nice too.
Lion and Bird, by Marianne Dubuc
More sweet and less busy than her other book that I've read, which sadly made me like it less (the other one had the Richard Scarry thing going on). C'est la vie.
Eloise at Christmastime, by Kay Thompson
Oh man. I had never read an Eloise book (or at least not since I was very very young, because I don't remember them at all) and I had underestimated how chaotic and playful they are. Or at least how chaotic and playful this one was! Really deserves its classic status, and I will be investigating to see if the others are equally delightful.
The Old Man and the Cat, by Nils Uddenberg
A funny and heartfelt little story about coming back to being a cat person late in life. The people and the cat are all charming. The illustrations (also by the author) show all the love and emotion the cat has, that the author doubts she has in the text, so they're a good complement.
Fixing Up the Farmhouse, by Dianne Hicks Morrow
I absolutely loved this memoir-in-essays-and-a-few-poems about an old country house and the people who've lived in it over the last 40 years - but since I had more than a few playdates in said house, I may be biased. (But even if I wasn't biased, I'd probably love it, she said stubbornly.)
Manners and Mutiny, by Gail Carriger
On the one hand, I DEVOURED this book, giggling, gasping, and smirking as appropriate. On the other hand, my coworker said, "So what did you think of it as an ending for the series?" and I said, "WHAT? It's THE ENDING OF THE SERIES?!?!?!?!" So, you know. NOFAIRWANTMORE. (And also, maybe it didn't have the right ending tone? But maybe I was just in denial.) I'm really hoping for a sequel series at some point. Or at least for the characters to recur.
current mood: sniffly
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10:20 pm - Vanishing Tangled Egg; Only Jedi Balloon; Madeline's Gnu
The Point of Vanishing, by Howard Axelrod|
A haunting and lyrical book about coming of age as a hermit in Vermont after a college basketball accident that left the author blind in one eye. Very internal, but worth it.
P. Zonka Lays an Egg, by Julie Paschkis
Such an incredibly vibrant picture book about a very special chicken. Turned out to be an Easter book. Good times.
Tangled Threads, by Jennifer Estep
Glad to be back into this series. For all its flawed popcorn aspects, it also has some very strong themes of family and loyalty. I like those parts a lot.
The Weapon of a Jedi, by Jason Fry
Luke Skywalker adventuring on a planet, in between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. Pretty predictable and workaday, but still fun. Gave it to my nephew, who was thrilled.
Madeline's Christmas, by Ludwig Bemelmans (reread)
I loved the Madeline books when I was a kid, so I thought I would reread this one. It was more chaotic and less appealing than I remembered... still good though.
Only Child, edited by Deborah Siegel and Daphne Uviller
A wide assortment of well-written essays on the topic of being an only child. Good range of subjects and tones. As the oldest of four siblings, I've always had a fascination with what being an only child is like.
Emily's Balloon, by Komako Sakai
Sweet, wistful (albeit with a happy ending). The titular kid has a different name than in the Japanese version, which I thought was a puzzling translation choice.
Yak and Gnu, by Juliette MacIver
SO fun. Quite nonsensical story about a yak and a gnu boating around and meeting up with various other animals. What made it remarkable was the perfect rhyme and meter - playful, predictable, and exciting. Like Edward Lear. Brilliant!
current mood: sick
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|Monday, January 18th, 2016|
10:42 pm - Wild Missing Wait; Beyond the Mousetropolis Pond; Amazing Art Blizzard
Wild Ideas, by Elin Kelsey|
I didn't care for the text at all (non-fiction about how to be creative using animal examples that were rather tenuous), but the pictures are very lovely.
Wait, by Antoinette Portis
A sweet and familiar story, well-illustrated, with an ending that little kids would love. I was pretty happy with it too.
The Case of the Missing Carrot Cake, by Robin Newman
Goofy PI-style mystery novel for 3rd-5th grade or so. Pretty funny, good pictures. I would read more.
Sometimes I Like to Curl Up in a Ball, by Vicki Churchill
A delightful book about all the things a young wombat likes to do. Brought the board book over to a friend's eighteen-month-old and almost lost it laughing because it was so funny how excited the little guy got about this one.
Mousetropolis, by R. Gregory Christie
I think this is my favorite of all the many versions of "Town Mouse and Country Mouse" that I've read. The illustrations are particularly vivid and it does a great job of balancing the appeals and downsides of both locales.
Beyond the Pond, by Joseph Kuefler
This picture book didn't have much of a plot, but I really enjoyed the creativity and beauty of the illustrations.
Blizzard, by John Rocco
This was a really fun, convincing story about kids in a Serious Blizzard, with great illustrations. It's semi-autobiographical and it shows (in the good way).
The Amazing Hamweenie, by Patty Bowman
A picture book about a cat escape artist. I thought it was hilarious. My husband (who also loves cats) thought it was dumb. Apparently HE is dumb when it comes to books about cat escape artists.
Body of Art, which is one of those Phaidon-edited-and-published thingers
Oooooooooooh, ahhhhhhhh. A thematic (rather than chronological) assortment of art that focuses on (or in some way relates to) the human body. Really lovely lovely stuff, beautifully printed, and I liked how the thematic arrangement juxtaposed artists I'd never thought of in concert before. Also, it is HUGEMONGOUS.
current mood: scratchy
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|Sunday, January 17th, 2016|
1:52 pm - Farmer Snow Pepper; Fly Oddrey Mice; Henrietta, Robot Cat by the Sea
The Farmer and the Clown, by Marla Frazee|
As you all may have gathered, I have become a fan of this illustrator. This wordless story carries many of the best qualities of her work, so I loved it even though I might not even have liked it in the hands of someone less gifted. It convinced me to love it, you know?
Pepper and Poe, by Frann Preston-Gannon
It makes me so happy when a picture book author/illustrator can *greatly* simplify complicated topics (like animals getting used to each other) without ever fudging or fibbing. Plus the illustrations and story are just so full of warm and fuzzy that my heart is still a bit melty around the edges.
Snow Day, by Lynn Plourde
Fun, enthusiastic story about the titular snow day. Pictures and text matched each other well. This is another story where there's an entire genre of these, I've been reading a lot of them, and just because this one isn't one of my most favorites doesn't mean it isn't pretty darn good. It is.
Oddrey, by Dave Whamond
Cute, goofy, earnest story about a kid who is different, learning that she doesn't have to become "normal" to be liked. Tried a bit too hard for my taste, but it was still really well-done.
Two Mice, by Sergio Ruzzier
Such a perfect counting book. Funny, sweet, unusual. Really great.
Super Fly, by Todd H. Doodler
Heavily illustrated middle grade book a la Wimpy Kid, except about a fly instead of a person. It was pretty funny, as these things go. (Ie, if you hate gross-out humor, I wouldn't recommend it.)
Written and Drawn by Henrietta, by Liniers
One of the things I most enjoyed about this book was how much you could tell the author loves kids by how he drew the "child" illustrations that were part of it. Turns out it's inspired by his own daughter. I was not surprised. I liked the whole book a lot, not just the kid-like parts.
Little Robot, by Ben Hatke
I may need to re-read this near-wordless comic book sometime, because I thought that I liked it really well but wasn't AMAZED by it .... except now it's been almost a month and I keep thinking about it. Hm. Amazement stealth attack?
Black Cat, White Cat, by Silvia Borando
A charming story, but not what the reviewers had hyped it up to be. Sometimes I think I should just quit reading picture book reviews, but then I realize how many truly stellar books I would never see if it weren't for the review that pointed me at them...
In a Village by the Sea, by Muon Van
This was a truly stellar picture book! Great structure, AMAZING illustrative work, and a touch of the fantastic to boot. There are a lot of different rhythms an excellent picture book can take, but it's still a huge relief when I can tell the author has found one of them, and the book won't be full of that jostly unintentionally-arhythmic business.
current mood: sleepy
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|Saturday, January 16th, 2016|
10:56 pm - Best Crenshaw Nature; Mister Stanley Quit; Dear Whisper Girl
The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2015, edited by Tim Folger and Rebecca Skloot|
NO content-less polemic! Only a BIT of content-full polemic (and it was good)! More nature writing than technology writing (O.O)!! I liked, or more than liked, every single essay!!! BEST AM SCI NAT EVER!!!!!
Third Grave Dead Ahead, by Darynda Jones
This series is getting a lot more tightly written and it's still just as funny. (I also think it's heating up, although that might have more to do with where in the hormonal cycle I am when I read one than anything else... *blushes*) Love it when I am sitting near the beginning of an urban fantasy series wishing there were MORE than 8 books already written ...
Crenshaw, by Katherine Applegate
The most charming and hopeful middle-grade problem novel I have ever read. Really well done, and I love the ambiguity about Crenshaw's reality juxtaposed with the stubborn, endearing realness of his character.
Loula and Mister the Monster, by Anne Villeneuve
This picture book is as playful and floppy as the titular monster (really a dog). Thumbs up.
It's Only Stanley, by Jon Agee
I wanted to love this scifi picture book, because it is so creative and funny (both text and drawings) and the story is neat. But we just never clicked that well. I did like it though.
The Day the Crayons Quit, by Drew Daywalt
I had been avoiding this picture book ever since it came out because it was SOOOOOOOO overhyped, but then the sequel came out and I wanted to read it. So, you know. It was actually pretty awesome! But not quite as awesome as the children's-book-reviewing community would lead one to believe. Fun pictures, funny epistolatory text, sly references from one to the other, kids no doubt dig it.
Dear Yeti, by James Kwan
ADORBS. I just want to pick this book up and squeeze it and kiss it on its dear little head. Pictures are adorable, story is adorable, messages are adorable. *beams*
The Girl Who Spun Gold, by Virginia Hamilton
A retelling of Rumpelstiltskin in the style of an African folktale, with vivid and suitably mythic illustrations. I like this BETTER than the usual version of Rumpelstiltskin. Which is surprising (I have been borderline obsessed with Rumpelstiltskin since small) - except that it's Virginia Hamilton, so, you know, not surprising.
The Whisper, by Pam Zagarenski
A strong contender for Favorite Picture Book of the Year. Not, this time, for what it does for my little-kid side (though she approves), but instead because it makes grown-up me so happy. Inspiring text that does not set off my cynic alarms, beautiful art that is delightfully strange and just a tiny bit uncomfortable. I checked it out from the library, read it twice, and then purchased one copy for me and one for my oldest niece.
current mood: slowing down
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9:21 pm - Ask Waiting Earmuffs; Postmouse's Wedding Pony; Mama's Pen Chomp
Waiting, by Kevin Henkes|
Cute but not super-memorable picture book. The situation was a lot more compelling than the plot. The illustrations were very pretty.
Ask Me, by Bernard Waber
This is a sweet, bright, and movingly illustrated story about a girl and her dad that I very much would not recommend to anyone who is estranged from their dad because of some really terrible stuff. Especially if some of the GOOD things they remember about their dad had to do with being out in nature together. Hooboy. *feels sad just remembering how sad and wistful she felt reading the book*
Earmuffs for Everyone!, by Meghan Mccarthy
A delightful nonfiction picture book biography about the guy who gets all the credit for inventing earmuffs. The pictures are funny and the text is thought-provoking. When I was a kid I went through an obsessed-with-the-processes-of-invention-and-being-famous-for-inventing phase and my head would've exploded over this book.
Mr. Postmouse's Rounds, by Marianne Dubuc
Absolutely lovely. Richard Scarry-esque, yet also quite clearly coming from the French rather than the American picture book tradition. I felt lighter after reading this book.
The Princess and the Pony, by Kate Beaton
I liked this! Quite a lot! Perhaps I have broken my weird aversion to Kate Beaton (who I really OUGHT to like as her stuff is right up the maribou alley) and I will now be able to appreciate her cartoons for grownups! We can only hope!
Sona and the Wedding Game, by Kashmira Sheth
I have no idea how I ended up reading this but it was really nice. A sympathetic main character, secondary characters that are fleshed out beyond one-dimensionality by pictures that make you feel like you're in the room with the people being portrayed, and a plot that is both funny and educational.
Mama's Nightingale, by Edwidge Danticat
This is a polemic in the clothing of a picture book and if it were written by anyone other than Edwidge Danticat it would probably fail miserably. Because she is an amazing writer (and found an excellent illustrator), it has loads of attractive personality and can get away with its polemic-ness. At least for those readers (like me) who agree with it. I feel a bit weird when picture books are so cheerfully banging kids over the head with a political message that is pretty darn upsetting, but in this case I think it walks the line well enough to school them without hurting them. Still, feels a bit weird.
My Pen, by Christopher Myers
A marvelous illustrator who is not so good at telling a story. But the illustrations were fabulous!
I Will Chomp You!, by Jory John
This is one of those break-the-fourth-wall picture books. At first I thought it was just another solid example of such with lots of repetition and bright colors, but then I ended up reading it aloud to some of my college-age student workers (long story) and it is AMAZING as a read aloud. They loved it, I loved it, my spouse and our friend who walked into the library in the middle loved it, random people in the library lobby loved it... score!
current mood: curious
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8:43 pm - Night Ball; Lucy Train Boots; Nueve Octopus Girl; Lizard Ghost Ants
On the Ball, by Brian Pinkney|
Picture book about a kid and his soccer ball. I know it was fun and well made but it was very much NOT memorable, ie I already don't remember anything else about it.
Night Animals, by Gianna Marino
Suuuuper cute picture book about night animals who are worried about Night Animals. Not very complex, but that's fine.
Lenny & Lucy, by Philip C. Stead, illustrated by Erin E. Stead
Sweet, slightly melancholy story with beautiful illustrations. Magical realist? I think?
A Mile in Her Boots, edited by Jennifer Bove
Ooh, this was a cracking read. A plethora of essays about working in the wild, all by women. You're probably either already investigating how to get your hands on this book, or already tuning me out, so I don't need to say more than that.
M Train, by Patti Smith
I absolutely loved this book. It's very internal, but also very interested in the world. She writes so sparingly, but every word is there for a reason. And her life has been rich, and full, and she skims around over top of it in a way that should be confusing but actually just helps you to pay closer attention. And it was so WORTH the attention I paid it. I'll definitely reread this some day, and I hope she writes another one this good soon.
The Octopus Scientists, by Sy Montgomery
Really cool YA nonfiction picture book, tons of very engaging andbut information-stuffed prose, tons of pictures, and I feel like I can take as long as I want to get around to the author's adult work Soul of an Octopus now, because I suspect this one might be better.
Drum Dream Girl, by Margarita Engle
Some pictures books just fly, you know? Everything comes together and the experience of reading them is a bit like listening to a poem while dreaming. Marvelous book.
Nueve Dias Para Navidad, by Marie Hall Ets
I wanted to learn more about traditional Mexican Christmas celebrations and this picture book from the 50s was the only book my library had. It's written at like a 2nd-grade level? I was pleased to still have at least enough Spanish to read it. Glad that stuck. The book itself is quite fun in that old-picture-book way.
Lizard from the Park, by Mark Pett
Very well made, did not blow me away as there is an entire genre of such books (SPOILER: kid discovers dinosaur), for many different age levels, and I read pretty much ALL of them as a kid (and still do for that matter, 'cause my niece likes dinosaurs too). So, you know, it's cool. But there weren't really any distinguishing features.
The Grasshopper and the Ants, by Jerry Pinkney
The art is the amazing beautiful Jerry Pinkney art, but I felt like his retelling really didn't have the power I was hoping for (based on my love for his book about the mouse and the lion). It's a perfectly *serviceable* retelling, but that's all. Good thing that art is so amazing.
Leo: A Ghost Story, by Mac Barnett
Probably my favorite of all the picture books I read this year. The illustrations and the text are very old-school but also very fresh and the story and the word choice are so darn good. Gnah! Why are the best picture books always the hardest to talk about? Even though it was published this year, I felt like I was discovering a lost classic from Crockett Johnson or something, like it had just been part of the Ursula Nordstrom canon since long before I was born and I had never happened to come across it before. LOVED it.
current mood: cosy
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8:12 pm - Perfectly Potato Dream; Scary Dreaming Away; Funny Owl Song
I was almost done writing this post and then Semagic ate my draft. For the first time in years. (It also reset itself in multiple other ways.) GRAAR. Here's take two.|
A Perfectly Messed-Up Story, by Patrick McDonnell
Cute story, charming illustrations, not nearly as good as the other picture book of his I'd read.
Dream On, Amber, by Emma Shevah
I really liked the parts of this middle-grade novel that were about interactions between the two sisters, and their relationship more generally. There was not a lot else that was remarkable in the book, other than its ease in reading. As a middle grade reader I read so voraciously that, while I did occasionally find Amazing Memorable Cherishable Books (eg the Green Howe series), when I was hearing about a book, I mostly wanted to know which of three categories it fell into: "Solid and Indvidual," "Weirdly Addictive Series [or Author] of Dubious Quality," or "UGH BORING SKIP IT." This one fits neatly into the first category.
The Potato King, by Christoph Neimann
UGH BORING SKIP IT ;). More specificallly, it's weirdly monarchist and anti-democratic in its implications, and I've seen better potato stamp pictures back when I was a kid making potato stamp pictures with my
friends. Not sure why this was so well-reviewed.
Blown Away, by Rob Biddulph
An elegant, stylized picture book with heart. Made me think of Mad Men aesthetically (and ONLY aesthetically). I was thoroughly won over.
Dreaming in Indian, edited by Lisa Charleyboy and Mary Leatherdale
A thought-provoking and well-designed anthology that showcases Native American writers. Aimed at young teens, enjoyable by everybody. Sometimes rather heart-breaking, but only in the service of more fully communicating some very rough experiences.
The Fun Book of Scary Stuff, by Emily Jenkins
It was fun! And full of monsters! Does what it says on the tin. (Though *I* wasn't scared ;).)
The Song Within My Heart, by David Bouchard, paintings by Allen Sapp
The paintings in this book are exquisite, and grounded. Unfortunately, I really didn't care for the accompanying text.
Funny Bones: Posada and His Day of the Dead Calaveras, by Duncan Tonatiuh
Perfectly balanced nonfiction picture book about the Mexican artist Posada and, well, you already read the subtitle. Anyway, the art is beautiful, the narrative is compelling but has lots of interesting factual stuff, and the whole thing fits together to be more than the sum of its parts. Nifty!
Hoot Owl, Master of Disguise, by Sean Taylor
Goofy, zippy picture book about a young owl who thinks very highly of himself. It made me giggle.
current mood: curious
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|Sunday, January 10th, 2016|
9:52 pm - Quick Splendid Inch; This Is King Yeti; Come Wolf-Birds World
Quick as a Cricket, by Audrey Wood|
I checked this out wondering if it was one I'd liked as a kid, because I vaguely remembered the title. BUT NO, it was one I thought was dead boring as a kid. Le sigh.
A Splendid Friend, Indeed, by Suzanne Bloom
Not much of a story, but what's there is quite cute, and the illustrations are adorable.
The King and the Sea, by Heinz Janisch
This is a wonderfully absurd and strange series of fables that manages to be koan-like for adults and also make sense for kids. Plus the illustrations are very perfectly child-like (which is harder than it sounds!).
Inch by Inch: The Garden Song, by David Mallett, illustrated by Ora Eitan
This was my favorite song as a little kid so I thought I would explore some different ways of enjoying it. This picture book was among my favorites. Bright, potent pictures accompany the text of the song, and then at the end there's a musical setting so folks can learn to play/sing it. Absolutely excellent.
No Yeti Yet, by Mary Ann Fraser
Pictures that buzz with affection and humor, and a text that shows the author is quite familiar with sibling dynamics. I really liked this, enough that I bought it to give to a little kid I know whose older brothers read to him a lot.
This Is Sadie, by Sara O'Leary
What a splendid, splendid book. The story is inspiring (which is what I call didactic stories which a) I like and b) I don't find heavy-handed) and the illustrations fly and sparkle. Bought a copy for each of my nieces for Christmas and the jury's still out on whether I will buy myself a copy too. I hope eventually I will get to read it to both of them.
The Wolf-Birds, by Willow Dawson
I very much enjoyed this story about the relationship between wolves and ravens, but the violence level and the apparent age level are... not terribly consonant. I mean, if *I* read it when I was the age the text is aimed at, I would've loved it, but I was a very odd child who watched a great deal of nature television.
The Night World, by Mordicai Gerstein
My inner 5-year-old informs me that this book is just a little bit scary but mostly it is very exciting and full of pretty things. Sounds about right to me.
Come On, Rain!, by Karen Hesse, illustrated by Jon J. Muth
I was wary of this book because most of Karen Hesse's YA/middle-grade books have depressing enough themes that I've avoided them. But it's not like that at all, it's an expression of pure joy. Beautiful. And of course Muth manages to match that joy in his illustrations.
current mood: thoughtful
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12:35 am - Friendship Kitten; Happiest Woundabout Color; Summer Raindrops Mess
Lumberjanes, vol. 1: Beware the Kitten Holy and vol. 2: Friendship to the Max, by Noelle Stevenson|
This series is marvelously FUN. I know I use that word a lot, but seriously. Kids running around having PARANORMAL scouting adventures and saving each other's bacon in clever and varied ways. And the characters are ALSO varied, every single one of them has some personality! What a hoot. I wish I could be 10 again just to read these.
A Brush Full of Color, by Margriet Ruurs
A beautiful picture book biography of Ted Harrison that reminded me how much I love his stuff and sent me on a bit of a tear.
Woundabout, by Lev A. C. Rosen
I was a bit cautious of this one because I really dug both of his adult novels for different reasons, and was worried he wouldn't successfully make the transition to upper-middle-grade. Silly me. This is a lovely book, only didactic in the way I *like* such books being didactic, and full of memorable ideas and images. Also has a sufficiently high excitement quotient.
When I Am Happiest, by Rose Lagercrantz, illustrated by Eva Eriksson
This series! How utterly charming and Scandinavian and humane it is! Possibly my favorite early reader series of all time (which puts it up against some VERY stiff competition!!!).
Mess, by Barry Yourgrau
This was hard to read, because I am always involved in a complicated dance with my own clutterbug tendencies, and some of my dear ones have it far worse than me in that department. But it was funny and honest and wry and, in the end, triumphant. More memoirs like this one, please.
Raindrops Roll, by April Pulley Sayre
Pretty but not otherwise memorable. I think very young kids would like the alliteration and the macros.
Summer Birds, by Margarita Engle
Such an incredibly beautiful book. Not only are the images astoundingly lovely, the story is written with care, delicacy, and verve. I think perhaps the writing evoked Merian even better than the pictures did. <3 <3 <3 <3.
current mood: sleepy
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|Saturday, January 9th, 2016|
11:45 pm - Good Home Writers; Drawing Chickens Reading; Zen Goodbye
Home, by Carson Ellis|
Liked the pictures a lot more than the story. Also it reminded me that I'd eventually like to finish reading the Wildwood Chronicles.
Reading Writers Reading, by Danielle Schaub
Such a very very splendid book. Coffee-table sized, with one page a photo of some or the other Canadian writer (ranging from the even-famous-in-the-US to the totally-obscure-everywhere-including-Canada) caught in the act of talking about writing and reading -- and the facing page an essay about a page long by that writer, discussing the impact that books had on their lives. I say essay, but a few of the entries are poems or short stories. I do so love it when the books my brain demands exist do, in fact, exist, and I can find them and read them.
Thank You and Good Night, by Patrick McDonnell
A charming, sweet bedtime story from the Mutts cartoonist.
Last Night's Reading, by Kate Gavino
This is really cool - every time Gavino goes to a reading, she draws a portrait of the reader and includes a quote from what they said. I couldn't get enough of them, so I dug up her tumblr of the same name, and it is also really cool :).
Drawing the Line, edited by Priya Kuriyan
An anthology of feminist comics drawn by Indian woman that I helped Kickstart. Some of the comics were absolutely brilliant, some were a bit rough, but still meaningful; all in all, I'm so very glad to own this book.
Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer, by Kelly Jones
Cute middle grade story, cute premise which I won't spoil because it's more fun to get the slow reveal. Not sure why I didn't love it, but I only liked it. C'est la vie.
Zen Socks, by Jon J. Muth
I so love these books about Stillwater the Panda, and this is definitely a major entry in the series. The books themselves create a zen space while you are reading them, in the way that the words and pictures and your heart combine into peaceful equanimity. It's quite glorious.
Goodbye Stranger, by Rebecca Stead (ARC)
I really liked this story of friendship turning slowly (though inexorably) into love, though not quite as much as her other book that I've read. Also, because her first book was clearly a wonderful riff on Madeleine L'Engle, and the second on Louise Fitzhugh, I spent way too much time trying to figure out who this one is a riff on. Judy Blume? M.E. Kerr? I'm still not sure. But I'm glad she wrote it.
(359, O78, A9)
current mood: sniffly
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|Thursday, January 7th, 2016|
8:32 am - Last Circle of Penderwicks; Baby Alice Zoo; Invincible Snow Garden
The Last Witness, by K. J. Parker|
Spooky good, and due to its novella status, clipped along at a much faster pace than I'm used to with this (beloved) author.
Circle of Stones, by Suzanne Alyssa Andrew
The sort of book that is not usually to my taste, but I read it because it was recommended to me by a student and I'm so glad I did. Super. (Experimental-ish fiction around a disappearing girlfriend, with art school students everywhere and weird crime underworld stuff.)
The Penderwicks in Spring, by Jeanne Birdsall
This is a bit more complicated than the previous volumes - a big plot point is waiting for someone to come home from the war - but still does the same deal, basically: difficult things addressed in a light and comforting tone, mixed with incidents that are smaller but still important to kids. And some funny stuff mixed in. If she writes more of these (or something else), I will no doubt find them just as soothing.
How Machines Work: Zoo Break!, by David Macauley
Oh my goodness! This book is AMAZING. On one level it is the story of many many escape attempts carried out by two zoo animals working together to outwit their keepers. On another, integrated level, it is a pop-up tutorial in the physics of different simple machines (levers, gears, etc.) So fun to play with (it even has a working teeter-totter), and easy to understand. My nephew who got it for Christmas really liked it. If I'd had a copy of it during my first college physics class, I might have done better than a C.
Baby Love, by Rebecca Walker
Not the classic that Black, White, and Jewish is, but still a very interesting memoir with much to mull over (and a happy ending).
After Alice, by Gregory Maguire
Odd and intriguing. Something of a return to form for Maguire, IMO, after the disappointment of Egg & Spoon. A bit breezier than his usual books, probably due to the short length, but still thought-provoking and hard to put down.
Hamster Princess: Harriet the Invincible, by Ursula Vernon
OMG I LOVED THIS BOOK SO MUCH. URSULA VERNON IS THE BEST. SO MUCH SO THAT I CAN'T STOP WRITING IN ALL CAPS. *deep breath* Seriously, I have recommended and given away this book so many times already, and I only read it this fall. The ONLY middle-grade novel I have found that challenges the *assumptions* of princess culture without denigrating princesses. The protagonist is perfectly happy being a princess, she just figures that if SHE likes doing something, it is thus included in the set of "things princesses like to do" and thus refuses to have limitations imposed upon her. But!! The book accomplishes this without being obnoxiously didactic. Mostly by being very funny. AND the illustrations are awesome, often doing that thing I particularly loved as a kid where they are commenting directly or indirectly on the text. AND the story is a ripping adventure yarn. Love love love.
Up in the Garden, Down in the Dirt and Over and Under the Snow by Kate Messner, illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal
Both of these stories tell kids what is going on above and below the titular substrate - at different times of year obviously. Both are beautifully illustrated and factually based, and both are a joy to read. I preferred the story of Up in the Garden, Down in the Dirt - there was more there there - but either one would make a great gift for a curious kid. I especially liked that they went further into the ecosystem than just the cheerfully bland part.
current mood: reluctant to get out of bed
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|Wednesday, January 6th, 2016|
11:57 pm - Sheep Honor Moletown; Sidewalk Meet Cute! Again!
Honor Girl, by Maggie Thrash|
Astoundingly good. A relatively quiet graphic novel memoir about summer camp and figuring out you might like like girls and growing up and ... wow. Seriously, I want to read everything Maggie Thrash ever publishes now.
Louis I, King of the Sheep, by Olivier Tallec
Cute. Cartoony. Not as awesome as I'd hoped.
Moletown, by Torben Kuhlmann
More awesome than I'd hoped. Intriguing nearly wordless story, intricate and grandiose illustrations.
I'm Not Cute!, by Jonathan Allen
Spoiler alert: the young owl protagonist of this story is, in fact, cute. Fun but slight.
Toys Meet Snow, by Emily Jenkins, illustrated by Paul Zelinsky
A bit over-self-serious, but generally lovely. Particularly the illustrations.
Again!, by Emily Gravett
I wanted something as ingenious as her book Wolves, which was GREAT. This is not great. Not bad, though.
Sidewalk Flowers, by JonArno Lawson, illustrated by Sidney Smith
Lovely, playful, energetic illustrations in this wordless story, which is a bit overly didactic but not so much so as to ruin things.
current mood: finally getting sleepy
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11:35 pm - Why Literature; Hairy Saga Guardians; Approximately A Hundred Worlds
Guardians of the Galaxy: Deluxe Edition, vol. 1, by Brian Michael Bendis et al|
I love how goofy this comic is. But at the same time I can't totally fall IN love with this comic because of how goofy it is. It's a thing. I'll eventually keep reading them but I'm not panting for the next one.
Ms. Marvel, vol. 2: Generation Why, by G. Willow Wilson et al
I enjoyed vol. 1 of this series but thought it was overhyped. Liked volume 2 MUCH better, lots more action and humor. Excited to read the third.
Essays on Literature and Life, by Arthur Clutton-Brock
A very odd little book, from the 20s, that I think was not odd at all back then. What I remember most about it is how utterly lovely the book design is - beautiful fonts, beautiful layout, lovely textual ornaments. A perfect size for the hand, and a beautiful binding. What I don't remember at all about it is why I got the notion to read it in the first place. It was quite charming, though, so I'm glad I did.
Hairy Maclary's Bone, Hairy Maclary Scattercat, Hairy Maclary's Caterwaul Caper, Hairy Maclary's Rumpus at the Vet, and Slinky Malinki (reread), by Lynley Dodd
For most of this series, I had the feeling that I'd read it before, but didn't really remember it. (This happens to me sometimes - I read A LOT as a kid.) Finally, with Slinky Malinki, I realized what was going on: I'd ONLY read Slinky Malinki, but the artwork is so adorable and lively and distinctive that reading other volumes by the same author in the same illustrative and poetic style somehow felt like rereading. Even though they were new to me. The story sometimes leaves something to be desired in these, but some of them are great both ways. Slinky Malinki was, unsurpisingly, my favorite.
(324, 352, 362, 383, 409)
King Dork, Approximately, by Frank Portman
This is more of the same that made King Dork so great. Except, unfortunately, without the driven sense of narrative need. It's just... kind of there. It was fine, I would read more like it (the voice is still spot on), but I wasn't in awe of it. If you want something like King Dork, I would actually go for Andromeda Klein first (I loved that one), and only then move on to this lesser work.
A Hundred Words for Hate, by Thomas Sniegoski
I keep checking out books in this urban theological fantasy series from the library and then returning them unread. Then when I finally DO read them, I really like them. Same goes for this one. Same will probably go for the next one. Wish I knew what my deal is with that. This one had some George C. Chesbro-style not-actually-science fiction bits, which in the wrong hands could be offputting, but, in Sniegoski's hands, was exciting, dramatic, and pulpy in the good way.
Sex Criminals, vol. 2: Two Worlds, One Cop, by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky
Hm. I know I liked this 2nd installment of Sex Criminals (albeit a bit less than the first installment), but I don't remember anything else about it. *peeks at summary* Oh right. The difference is that the first volume was mostly lighthearted and this volume is mostly depressing. If you want me to read about absurd sex-related scifi premises, you really do have to make it fun. The writing and art were still good enough to keep me interested, though, so I'll read the next one.
Saga, volume 4, by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
I loved this volume of Saga so much - my favorite in the series so far. The exact right mix of straightforwardness, absurdity, and realism. Starting to develop a real fondness for many of the characters. It's muscling its way toward the Fables/Unwritten/Sandman top tier, though it hasn't quite broken through the velvet rope yet. We'll see how volume 5 goes.
current mood: so many unfinished series in 2015
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|Tuesday, January 5th, 2016|
9:24 pm - Unbound Suffragette; True Born Libriomancer; Midnight Spud Books; Wish Rules
Libriomancer(reread), Codex Born, and Unbound by Jim C. Hines|
This was a really fun series - the central premise is that libriomancers can pull magical (or sfnal or prosaicly useful) objects out of books, and then it complicates itself from there. I really enjoyed each book, and all the characters, though none of them *quite* floated my boat like Hines' kickass princesses do.
(312, 314, 349)
Sally Heathcote: Suffragette, by Mary M. Talbot et al
Fictional but historically detailed story about a maid who becomes a suffragette. Lots of class stuff in here (unsurprising given authors). I liked it.
Author: A True Story, by Helen Lester
So cool! Nonfiction autobiography for kids by a well-known children's author, which really talked about what her life is like without glossing over her own faults and struggles. Would have LOVED this when I was a kid. Warm and fuzzy feelings for it now.
The Midnight Library, by Kazuno Kohara
Lovely illustrations with a very airy feeling, and a story to match. <3.
The Girl Who Hated Books, by Manjusha Pawagi, illustrated by Leanne Franson
This book was quite concretely illustrated, so that you get a real sense of how oppressive the books are in this young child's life - teetering piles of them everywhere, distracting her parents, etc. SPOILER: books turn out to be okay ;). And the journey to get there is credible. Not bad at all.
Eoin Colfer's Legend of Spud Murphy, by Eoin Colfer
Hilarious middle grade novel about a pair of brothers and their encounters with a dread librarian (aka Spud Murphy). I literally got the giggles, I literally laughed out loud, I literally slapped my thigh. Can't wait to see what the 10 year old I know thinks of it.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 10, vol. 1: New Rules and vol. 2: I Wish, by Joss Whedon et al
Season 10 is SOOOOOOOOOOO much better than Season 9 was. Thank you writers for pulling yourselves back together!! Now if I could just figure out which Angel & Faith volumes I *have* and which ones I need to buy, and then catch up on those, I would be all set.
current mood: crotchety
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|Monday, January 4th, 2016|
8:58 pm - Divine Old Sleeping People; Paper Dragon Days; East Bloomer on the Road;
My niece came to visit me in early October! So most (not all) of this post consists of the sort of books that 6-year-olds like read aloud to them.|
People I Sleep With, by Jill Fineberg
This is a lovely (grown-up) photo book of people sleeping with animals. Mostly their pets although there are a few others. Wide variety of animals and wide variety of people. Kind of new age-y backstory but in an interesting rather than an irritating way.
The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime, by Phyllis Tickle
So I've kind of sort of been doing fixed-hour prayer? I'm doing it more because I miss liturgy (and my paternal grandmother and maternal great-grandmother) than because I miss praying. (Not that there's a hard and fast division between liturgy and prayer in the Catholic tradition anyway.) I'm also extremely haphazard and do it when I am in the mood to do it which often is 4 times a day in a regular fashion for weeks but SOMETIMES means skipping for several days and then catching up all in a burst, or just skipping bits that are non-productively irritating instead of nostalgically and engagingly frustrating. In any case, if you are interested in such things you might like to request this volume; it's quite representative (though without the special sections for Lent/Easter and Advent/Christmas that the other 2 volumes have, obviously), and very well put together. The Compline sections in particular show Tickle's soul as well as the weight of tradition.
There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed Some Leaves, by Lucille Colandro
So if you know the old lady who swallowed a fly song, this is like that only seasonal. Apparently it is my niece's comfort reading book that comes with her everywhere. I found this highly amusing because I was obsessed with the original at her age. The illustrations are appropriately playful.
Sleeping Dragons All Around, by Sheree Fitch
One of my niece's current favorites, which I had never read, despite Sheree Fitch being a popular kids' author when I was growing up (in Canada). It's pretty cute. I can see why she loves it.
The Paper Bag Princess, by Robert Munsch, illustrated by Michael Martchenko (reread)
Still one of my favorites of all time, she said with relief. (I was afraid it wouldn't have aged well.). My niece likes it too, and was very surprised to find it on my shelf. "YOU have this TOO??" she said. "Oh yeah," her mom said, "Your auntie used to read that ALL THE TIME when she was your age."
There's No Such Thing as a Dragon, by Jack Kent (reread)
This was one of my husband's favorites as a kid. I liked it fine but there's a mystery to kids' favorites, you know? My inner kid thinks all my favorites are WAY better.
Leo the Late Bloomer, by Robert Kraus, illustrated by José Aruego (reread)
Another of my kid favorites that my niece really liked. I think as an adult the best part was the illustrations, but as a kid I freaking LOVED the story. Even though I was a bit of a prodigy, not a late bloomer, I still found it super reassuring.
East of the Sun and West of the Moon, by Mercer Mayer (reread)
This was a book I loved as a kid but had almost forgotten until I found it in a box of remainders at the bookstore where I used to work. Mayer's illustrative style here is VERY different than in the little critter books - lush, old-fashioned, and glowing. I grew progressively hesitant about reading it to my niece as I belatedly realized that it was a fairly dull and complicated storyline that I would think was more suited to 9 year olds... but then the next night it was the very FIRST thing she wanted to read, even before her own books. I think she was as entranced by the illustrations as I am.
Grasshopper on the Road, by Arnold Lobel (reread)
Another classic, this one wasn't one of my favorites as a kid, but I like it more every time I read it.
Days with Frog and Toad, by Arnold Lobel (reread)
This was a fun one to read aloud because my sister and I kept breaking off the story to tell my niece one or another anecdote about ways that this book had featured in our lives - trouble we got into, comfort we found, and the time my mom dragooned us to act it out for one of her lesson plan presentations when she was getting a certification. Good times.
current mood: a bit cold
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|Sunday, January 3rd, 2016|
11:05 pm - First Uprooted Shadowshaper; Secret Flash Parade; Weird Mix
Shadowshaper, by Daniel José Older|
This YA fantasy was incredibly well-done, warm and playful and pushing at the boundaries of things. I am not so MADLY in love with it as many of the other people on the internet seem to be, but I am in love with it enough that I wriggle just thinking about it, and about the fact that there are other books by this author that I have yet to read.
Uprooted, by Naomi Novik
Now this! This I am MADLY in love with. Start to finish, it could not have been more perfectly perfect for me. If I had to do the "it's like X and Y" thing, I would say it's like Lifelode mashed up with Wrede's Forest Chronicles with a dash of Zelazny's Amber thrown in for good measure, spiced by having had some of Theodora Goss' more folkloric writings waved in its general direction. But really it's not like any of those equally splendid things, it's its own, newish thing, that is also an oldish thing, and which (evidently) I loved so very much that I can't really explain my feelings.
The First Elizabeth, by Carolly Erickson
This was very spritely, except when it was so busy being thorough that it got bogged down a bit. I learned a lot about Elizabeth. (I find that getting most of my knowledge about British history from fictive sources causes some problems, and have slowly been working to remedy that; in fact, I started reading this book after I was watching some or other TV show about Henry VIII and was SCANDALIZED that they merged two of his sisters into one character! wtf??? you don't just MERGE princesses like that! *ahem* sorry, tangent.) I was irritated that the author's sympathies so clearly were more with the aristocratic class and not at all with the peasants and servants, about whom she was often snide, but that was a reasonably small quibble that may simply have been a side effect of immersing herself in her subjects.
Secret Coders, by Gene Luen Yang (ARC)
What a great idea this book was! It's basically a comic that teaches kids boolean logic and logo programming as puzzles, except it's all woven into an exciting story that I would have superdug as a kid. The only thing that made me mad is that it stopped on a HUGE cliffhanger! And since I was reading an advance reading copy the next book wasn't out yet. so I had no way to remedy my Need To Know What Happened. *twitches just remembering it* And even as of this writing, the 2nd book is still not out! *staples hand to forehead and assumes an attitude of despair* But, thinking back to how much fun I had tearing through series like this as a kid, I am hoping the rest of the volumes do come out, soonly, because then I would be more than willing to share them with the kids I know. Right now it would just be mean!
(296, O65, A8)
The Flash: A Celebration of 75 Years, by Gardner Fox et al
So I really love the Flash as a character but had only the spottiest context in terms of, you know, actually having read the comics in situations other than randomly-reading-comics-aloud-to-my-cousin-when-I-was-thirteen-and-babysitting-him. Now I have read lots of Flash comics! And his entire confusing backstory makes like 80 percent sense to me instead of 30 percent sense! Huzzah! Also it was interesting to watch how these comics changed stylistically over the decades.
Mix It Up!, by Hervé Tullet
Another charming kids' book with lovely pictures about which I don't have a whole lot to say. Think this would be especially fun for kids at the age where they have to think a lot in order to go from hearing someone tell them to do something to actually doing it. The things they are told to do are educational (teaching about color mixing) but not so much so as to get in the way of the silliness.
Tippy and the Night Parade, by Lilli Carré
This was cute - another one of those TOON books I was enthusing about a few posts back. Not my favorite of them, but still lovely.
You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost), by Felicia Day
I have no idea if this would be any good if you don't already know who Felicia Day is, or don't particularly care. As someone who leans toward fangirl but isn't ACTUALLY a fangirl of the author, and who is interested in how people deal with anxiety and other stressful life things generally, I enjoyed it very much. Funny, warm, endearing, insightful, honest.
current mood: sleepy
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9:29 pm - Beast Friday; California Dietland; Last High Marvel
Friday Night Lights, by Buzz Bissinger (reread)|
When I first read this it was only about 5 years old - now it's more than 20. The age shows, in places, but it's still a very solid and worthwhile nonfiction read about high school football in Texas. And especially about a few particular people involved, in the town of Odessa, and how football shaped their lives.
Ana of California, by Andi Teran
Oh, this was positively scrumptious! A retelling of Anne of Green Gables, only with various things changed to make it a story of its own; also set in modern-day California instead of ye olden PEI. Of course, Anne was not ye olden when Montgomery was writing. Anyway, it flows marvelously and most of the writing is excellent. There are some uneven bits, but I found they added to rather than detracted from its charms. This sort of homage becames rather hollow if too perfectly executed.
The Nature of the Beast, by Louise Penny
Another of Penny's excellent Armand Gamache novels. I would've liked this one better if a) the plot had been less over-the-top and more part-of-the-village, and b) (relatedly) we'd seen more of the characters that used to be part of an ensemble and now have become decidely bit parts. But a minor Gamache novel is still cause for excitation in my books, and I tore through this one.
Dietland, by Sarai Walker
This was excellent - it started as one of those parodies that is also a solid example of the thing it mocks, and then got weirder and even more interesting - kind of Matt-Ruff-esque, I guess, though similar to his later work which I like less than the earlier stuff. But in this context it worked great! And I laughed and growled and nodded my head in various places. Hope she writes more.
Captain Marvel, vol. 1: Higher, Faster, Further, More, Captain Marvel, vol. 1: In Pursuit of Flight, Captain Marvel, vol. 2: Down, and Captain Marvel, vol. 2: Stay Fly by Kelly DeConnick et al
I know the numbering is confusing on these, I found it confusing too, and read them all out of order. Anyway, someone (Reading the End podcast maybe? maybe not) mentioned how swell these are, and they are, in fact, swell! The tone varies widely as does the subgenre (frequently because of who her teammates are for any particular arc), but somehow it all comes together into a capable, amiable, bristly heroine and several pageturning adventures. Waiting eagerly for my hold on the next one to come in, though not quite at the point of buying them for myself.
(290, 298, 314, 394)
Last First Snow, by Max Gladstone
At last! At last! A Max Gladstone novel that I fell in love with before the last 80 pages. (It's quite awkward, you know, figuring out whether to recommend things that you trudge through until the end and then end up swooning over... ) I really enjoyed this one right from the start! I'm not sure why, but my working theory is that Gladstone, for all his virtues, is not very good at *introducing*. In this book many of the characters are familiar - intimately known from previous books - as is the setting. That's the only really difference I can find between this one and the others? I don't think it's that the writing has improved; it was already excellent and just hadn't mattered compared to my trudging. Hm. Is possible the rhythms are better, but I don't *think* that's it... anyway, it was so fun to read! I can't wait for another one! I still have no idea whether to recommend these to people!
From a High Tower, by Mercedes Lackey
Quick, fluffy fairy tale retelling around Rapunzel set in her Elemental Masters alternate history world. I liked how she worked this one to hook up (including an overlapping major character) with the Red Riding Hood one, while still telling a new story. Wish she would write another one with the depth that a couple of the early volumes have, but will keep enjoying this series regardless of deeper insight or lack thereof.
current mood: not ready for vacation to be over
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