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May Booklist

1. The Weed that Strings the Hangman's Bag, Alan Bradley
2. A Red Herring Without Mustard, Alan Bradle

I'll review these two together - 11-year-old chemist Flavia remains a charming narrator, both far too old for her years and yet retaining some of the unique fears of the young. The actual mysteries are rather secondary to me, but they're good puzzlers in their own right. I'm a bit sad there's only one more in the series left to read...at least so far.

3. A Breath of Eyre, Eve Marie Mont

Oh dear. The real-world parts of this tried to mimic Jane Eyre but with teenagers and school drama, while the Jane-Eyre-world parts were just boring until our narrator starts changing the original story, which is when it just gets irritating. And that, folks, is what I get for being drawn in by the prettiful cover.

Also she calls Rochester "handsome," and two underage teenagers walk into a sushi restaurant and order sake.

4. Enna Burning, Shannon Hale
5. River Secrets, Shannon Hale
6. Forest Born, Shannon Hale

<3 <3 <3 Of these three, I probably liked Forest Born the most (Oh, Rin, *I relate*), but honestly, they're all so good.

7. Catching Fire, Suzanne Collins

A re-read, because after watching Hunger Games I realized I had forgotten so much of what happened next.

8. Packing for Mars, Mary Roach

Mary Roach is so great at taking the little-talked about side of well-known subjects and then writing about them in witty and inventive ways. So, there's space. It's awesome and wonderful to be an astronaut ... but what about bathing in space? Eating? The actual logistics of going to the bathroom? That's what Mary Roach is interested in, and she makes it interesting for the rest of us, too.

9. The Grimm Legacy, Polly Shulman

Imagine that the magical objects from fairytales are real, and then imagine there's a lending library where you can check out a talking mirror or a genie in a lamp or seven-league boots. Of course there's danger and menace and a giant looming bird and abductions and whatnot, but I think I've already told you enough to convince you that this is a pretty neat book.

10. Simply Great Breads, Daniel Leader

A quick poll on Twitter informed me that if I read a recipe book cover-to-cover, I get to count it on my monthly list, so here it is. I recommend this to bready people - it's based on the idea that artisan bread can be pretty good without taking three days and fifteen hundred steps. Occasionally I'll go for the three-day process, but a shorter version certainly does come in handy. I haven't tried any of the recipes yet, but they look generally accessible and quite tasty.

11. Insurgent, Veronica Roth

I loved the world-building of Divergent, and here in the second book it's all old hat to us now, so the novelty was gone. So too was much of Four's mysteriousness, which was his main draw in the first book. So no, I wasn't totally into this book, but I don't really think it was the book's fault. It's me, not you, Insurgent.

12. Forgotten, Cat Patrick

I was skeptical, but what a happy surprise to find that this was a top-notch teen lit book! Well, okay, the last fourth seemed really rushed, but still. Basic premise: the main character remembers forwards; that is, she can't remember what happened yesterday, but 'remembers' things that will happen in the future. So every day her boyfriend is all new to her, but she already knows her best friend's new relationship ends in disaster.

13. Cinderella Ate My Daughter, Peggy Orenstein

This is about feminism, girly-girl culture, Disney princesses, and raising little girls.

I agreed with quite a bit of it. I disagreed with quite a bit, too. After all, feminism tells girls that "you can be anything you want to be" but then often gets mad if you choose frufru girlishness or being homemaker. I'm not at all convinced that little girls choosing to play princess, dress up in frilly costumes, and like pink is a thing to be avoided. On the other hand, a lot of these same girly pastimes encourage body image issues, vanity, and a tendency to think that your worth lies largely in what you look like. So. I'm rather glad I don't have daughters to worry about.

I did think it was rather hilarious that Orenstein was all up in arms that Thomas The Tank Engine's female counterpart is smaller than Thomas. Well, news flash: in GENERAL, most women are smaller than most men. It's a biological fact, folks. I don't see a reason in the world to get mad about that.

[But I was not happy with] ...the stacks of revisionist, modern-day princess books I had checked out of the library. Anyway, most of them seem to equate "pro-girl" with "anti-boy," which does not strike me as an improvement. Take The Paper Bag Princess, a staple of kindergarten classrooms everywhere. The Heroine outwits a dragon that has kidnapped her prince, but not before the beast's fiery breath frizzles her hair and destroys her dress, forcing her to don a paper bag. The ungrateful prince then rejects her, telling her to come back when she is "dressed like  a real princess." She summarily dumps him and skips off into the sunset happily ever after, alone.

To me, that is Thelma & Louise all over again. Step out of line, and you end up solo, or, worse, sailing crazily over a cliff to your doom. I may want my girl to do and be whatever she dreams of as an adult, but I always hope she will find her Prince Charming and make me a grandma. I do not want her to be a fish without a bicycle; I want her to be a fish with another fish. Preferably, a fish who loves and respects her and also does the dishes, his share of the laundry, and half the child care. Yet the typical "feminist alternative" to the marry-the-prince ending either portrays men as simpletons or implies that the roles traditionally ascribed to women are worthless. Thus you get Princess Smartypants, in which our heroine, uninterested in marriage, bestows a chaste smooch on the prince who has won her hand in a contest sponsored by her father, the king; the prince promptly turns into a frog, and she is freed to live contentedly with her pets. To me, that's not progress; it's payback.

14. Mockingjay, Suzanne Collins

Another re-read. I'd forgotten even more of this one; I think in self-defense. So good, but so heartbreaking.

15. The Family Corleone, Ed Falco

Godfather prequel! More or less much better than expected! Though to be honest, my expectations were very low. The strongest bits are with Vito (Dear Falco: more Vito, less Sonny, pls), and I could *hear* his voice in my head as I read his dialog. For being what it is, it was surprisingly restrained as far as sex and violence* and I felt it got the characters right.

*don't get me wrong, there's some. And one particular bit of violence is pretty horrific. I just expected worse, based on the original book

16. The Birth Order Book, Kevin Leman

So not only am I a first born, I'm a super first born, since my formative years were spent without siblings. Yay me! =P

17. Little Women and Me, Lauren Baratz-Logsted

See my review for A Breath of Eyre and substitute "Little Women" for "Jane Eyre." Just ... mostly not good, guys. Could have been worse, and there were some redeeming parts, but mostly not good.

18. Code Name Verity, Elizabeth Wein

I finished this at five minutes 'til midnight on May the 31st, just so I wouldn't have to wait a month to review it.

This book is about friendship and unbelievable bravery.

elvenjaneite and then flowershopgirl and countless people on teh internets had hyped this book so much that I was afraid I just wouldn't have the same emotional reaction to it because I expected too much. And then there's the fact that I just don't generally get all weepy over books... But it didn't disappoint. Based on friend's reactions I felt like I had a pretty good handle on what to expect, even though I didn't know specific spoilers - and sure, I knew better than to expect a happily-ever-after ending, so in that sense I was prepared. But there were other things for which I was Not Prepared.

Specifically awesome things: Wein is a pilot herself, so all the aviation bits are super realistic. I think this helps make those parts more interesting to non-aviators, just because she really knows what she's writing about.

The intricacy/duel nature of the plot (and the subject matter, of course) reminds me a great deal of Willis' work in Blackout/All Clear. Once you get to the end you'll want to go back and read it again to see how all the puzzle pieces fit together.

And my plug for why Twitter Is Awesome: while reading Code Name Verity, I followed Wein on Twitter and struck up a conversation with her about cats. Yay accessible authors! And also squee and stuff.

And yes, I did cry.

Ebooks: 5
Audiobooks: 2
From the stack: 0



( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 4th, 2012 11:18 am (UTC)
I am a sucker for any kind of WWII fiction, so I immediately stuck Code Name Verity on the top of my to-read list after reading the plot summary, and then found out that since I offered to host book club this month, they were letting me pick the book. So we are finally reading something with more substance than Nicholas Sparks or erotica. =P Yay!

I want to check out the Cinderella book too. Thanks for the review!
Jun. 4th, 2012 11:20 am (UTC)
Oh, this is great! There will be plenty to discuss with Verity. Do let me know what you - and they - think!
Jun. 4th, 2012 11:22 am (UTC)
Will do! I'll have a lot of time on my hands this week so I bet I'll have it read in a couple days. lol
Jun. 4th, 2012 01:59 pm (UTC)
I was able to hear Peggy Orenstein speak, and in her speaking and addressing questions, she seemed more balanced--more like your second quoted paragraph, and also recognizing that it is a difficult real-life balance. I believe she said she didn't mind girls playing dress-up "princess," but it was the pervasive marketing and how it was presented that she felt had gotten out of hand and skewed concerning the lessons implied, particularly with regard to development of self-image. She was asked some questions and told some stories about real-life issues with her own daughter, how she handled well-meant gifts, parties, things her daughter saw while shopping, etc. She admitted that you couldn't totally get away from it and had to make judicious decisions. It's all a tough balance. (I got the feeling even then that I got a more balanced sense of the situation and her own views from hearing her presentation versus reading the book.)
Jun. 4th, 2012 05:41 pm (UTC)
Oh, I bet she's a great speaker. I would like to hear her someday. I was pleased that the book was as balanced as it was, and in such a tricky subject I certainly don't fault her for where it might have been unbalanced.
Jun. 5th, 2012 02:19 am (UTC)
So adding "Code Name Verity" to my to-read list. You're the second person who's mentioned loving it in as many days! :-)
Jun. 6th, 2012 10:45 pm (UTC)
Excellent. I can really see you loving Verity. Not that I'd be offended if you don't, of course. :)
Jun. 5th, 2012 04:01 pm (UTC)
One more adding "Verity" to my list!

I really like the section you quoted from "Cinderella Ate My Daughter." So true!
Jun. 6th, 2012 10:44 pm (UTC)
yaaaay! I don't very often go around telling people "You should read this!" because reading is such a personal thing, but Verity is truly something special.
Jun. 5th, 2012 05:53 pm (UTC)
Wow, I think I need to read that last one!

I LOVE the Birth Order Book! I didn't even think it was in print anymore - my copy is super old. :)
Jun. 6th, 2012 10:43 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I think they reprinted it somewhere in the early 2000s, maybe? I think it has a new prologue or something, too.
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )