The Accursed Vampire

by Madeline McGrane
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Content: There is some blood and gore (um, vampires!). It’s in the Middle Grade Graphic Novel section of the bookstore.

Dragoslava knows that being a vampire kid has its perks, but sometimes it’s not the greatest. Especially if you work for a demanding witch who sends you on her most unpleasant errands. The most recent being to fetch a grimoire from a former student and then curse the witch who stole it. So, off Dragoslava goes with their friends to do this job. What they find, though, is unexpected: a home and a family.

Oh this book was so charming! (I’m in the market for sweet, adorable, funny stories right now.) K heard about it on YouTube and asked me to pick it up, and I’m so glad I did. It’s sweet, it’s silly, it’s interesting, it’s well-told, the drawings are adorable, and I loved every moment reading this one. Drago and their friends are adorable and charming, and I adored the adult characters. It was a bit about finding confidence in yourself, a bit about found family, and a bit about being kind.

Exactly what I needed.

Go Tell it On the Mountain

by James Baldwin
First sentence: “Everyone had always said that John wold be a preacher when he grew up, just like his father.”
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Content: There is violence, some talk of sex, a liberal use of the n-word, and some swearing. It’s in the adult fiction section of the bookstore.

This one is difficult to describe plot-wise. It takes place over one night, as John, the son of a preacher in New York in 1935, goes to the church to clean and pray with his parents and other church-goers. Over the course of the prayers, we learn that John is not the biological son of his father, who resents his mother for not being more repentant for her sin of bearing John out of wedlock. We learn that John is conflicted about his stepfather, and the idea of church. We learn that John’s mother is just doing what she needs to do, and that his aunt — his stepfather’s sister — has held a lifelong grudge against her brother.

There isn’t much of a plot, it’s more of an exploration of the ways in which racism, enslavement, and patriarchy have affected the lives of these characters and the way they use religion to justify or explain or hide from the world. I’m not entirely sure it comes off as favorable to religious people; religion seems like a crutch to escape and a means of punishment rather than a means of worship and service. But that’s my white privilege talking; I have never been enslaved and I don’t know how religion works in that world. It was a fascinating read (possibly not one that I would recommend while on painkillers) and a complex one, even if it lacked plot.

The Summer of Lost Letters

by Hanna Reynolds
First sentence: “I am going to try to explain.”
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Content: There is some teenage drinking and a few swear words including a couple of f-bombs. It’s in the Teen section (grades 9+) of the bookstore.

Abby Shoenberg isn’t really looking forward to the summer — her best friends will be gone away to camps and she doesn’t want to bump into her now ex-boyfriend around their small Massachusetts town. Then a package of her recently passed grandmother’s letters arrives, and they’re juicy: a series of love letters from an Edward on Nantucket island. The thing is: her grandmother — who came to the US by herself in 1934 before the War, and whose parents didn’t survive the Holocaust — never mentioned this Edward, or that she had ever spent any time on Nantucket. And suddenly, Abby has a plan for the summer: find a job and go live on Nantucket, and do some digging. Maybe she could find not only this Edward but her grandmother’s family: with the war and being so young, she had completely lost track of everyone, especially after finding out her parents were killed.

The thing is: Edward is the head of a very rich business family, with a huge estate on Nantucket, and Abby finds herself reluctantly getting the assistance o his grandson, Nick. And the more they find out, the more time they spend together, the closer they become.

Oh this was just the smart, sweet, interesting teen romance I needed. I liked that while it dovetailed into World War II, it wasn’t set there, and while the war had an impact on the story, I’ m not sure it was the most important impact. I liked that the characters were Jewish, comfortable in their faith, but also honest about antisemitism. I liked the romance; Reynolds has a way with writing chemistry and tension, and I liked the push and pull between Nick and Abby. It felt real. I also liked Abby’s obsession with learning her history; she is right that our ancestors stories mean something, even if they are not always the best or most honorable.

It was an excellent YA romance, fluffy and fun but with depth as well. I loved it.

Ascendence of a Bookworm: Part 1, Vol 2-3

by Miya Kazuki
Illustrated by Suzuka
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there (vol 2, vol 3)!
Content: There is some violence and talk of death. It’s in the graphic novel section of the bookstore.
Others in the series: Part 1, Volume 1

We pick up where volume 1 left off: Myne is still trying to figure out how to make aper so she can make herself a book. She has got one of her father’s soldiers to teach her the alphabet, she tried making clay tablets but they exploded. She tried weaving paper but it took so much. So she focused on other things: being strong enough to walk to the forest. Heping her friend Lutz with his goals of being a merchant instead of a carpemnter. Figuring out the rules of this world she has found herself in.

It’s not easy: she is always rnning up against limitations with her body and the expectations of the adults around her. But she perseveres and keeps trying to achieve her goal.

It’s really a fun manga; I’m enjoying Myne and her story and the fish-out-of-water element as she brings the knowledge of her former life to this world. It’s a clever concept andit’s really well executed.

I can’t wait to read more!

State of the TBR Pile: August 2021

Someone tell me where the summer has gone? Last time I checked it was early June… but between recovering from two surgeries, I suppose I have lost the summer, or at the very least, not taken full advantage of it. Which makes me a little sad.

Anyway, here’s what the TBR pile looks like right now:

Life’s Too Short by Abby Jimenez
The Last Thing He Told Me by Larua Dave
The Bachelor by Andrew Palmer
The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris
Temple Alley Summer by Sashiko Kashiwaba
Six Crimson Cranes by Elizabeth Lim
Flash Fire by TJ Klune

What are you looking forward to on your TBR pile.

A Constellation of Roses

by Miranda Asebedo
First sentence: “My hand slips into the woman’s gaping purse like it’s my own.”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Content: There is some teenage drinking, talk of addiction, and three f-bombs. It’s in the teen section (grades 9+) of the bookstore.

Trix has been on her own for a while ever since her mother walked out on her. They weren’t exactly living in the best circumstances, wandering from hotel to hotel while Trix’s mom tried to scrape together money to keep them alive (and feed her addiction). Since she disappeared, Trix has been stealing and moving trying to stay alive. That is until the police catch up to her and give her an ultimatum: jail time or move in with an aunt Trix didn’t know she had in a small town in Kansas, and graduate. Trix takes the deal and heads to Rocksaw, Kansas to learn about this family she didn’t know she had.

It’s an adjustment: small-town life versus city life, a family, people who want her to participate instead of run away, and Trix isn’t always successful at making the adjustment.

It’s a sweet little book; the magic realism was light enough that it didn’t bother me, and I appreciated the way Asebeo revealed Trix’s and her mother’s past. It highlighted the good things about small towns, like how everyone cares a lot about each other (which can also be stifling). But mostly it’s a sweet little family drama about forgiveness, and one I liked a lot.

The Elephant in the Room

by Holly Goldberg Sloan
First sentence: “What SilaTekin would remember about that afternoon was that she had been wearing her favorite shirt.”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Content: It deals with heavy subjects, but on an accessible level. It’s in the middle grade (grades 3-5) section of the bookstore.

Sila Tekin has lived in Oregon all her life, but her parents are immigrants from Turkey. They’re in the United States legally, but one day, Sila’s mom gets deported because her paperwork is not “correct”. It was supposed to be short deportation, but turns into nearly a year as Sila and her dad become more and more depressed. Enter Gio – an older man whose wife passed four years earlier and who recently won the lottery. The three of them – and they add a school mate of Sila’s, Mateo, later – make a sort-of family, helping each other through the process of healing. And then there’s an elephant.

The elephant is a rescue from a family circus, and brings more healing for our characters. I think Sloan was trying to advocate not only against circuses but in favor of humane animal treatment in captivity. She also had a strong case for elephant-human bonding. I just think Sloan really likes elephants.

The story itself was… okay. I think it’s good for a picture of immigration — and as a reminder that not every immigrant comes through from the southern border — and to help kids deal with tough situations. I’m just not sure Sloan was the best person to tell this story. Sloan says she has been profoundly affected by her time in Turkey, but I think this story may have been told better by someone who has had the experience of being an immigrant.

It’s not a bad book, but not my favorite by her either.

Monthly Roundup: July 2021

I am currently recovering from surgery number two this summer. Hopefully, this will be the best thing for my overall health in the long run, but right now, it’s a lot.

That said, I did read a few books this month.

My favorite

Really and excellent collection of interconnected short stories. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

And the rest:

Middle Grade

Unsettled

YA

Rise to the Sun
The Extraordinaries

Graphic Novels:

The Leak
Ascendance of a Bookworm, Part 1

Adult Fiction

News of the World
One Last Stop (audio book )
Northanger Abbey (reread)

What was your favorite book this month?

Reread: Northanger Abbey

by Jane Austen
First sentence: “No one who had ever seen Catherine Morland in her infancy would have supposed her born to be an heroine.”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Content: It’s Jane Austen, which means it’s pretty tame, if you can get past the language. It’s in the Fiction section of the bookstore.

I’ve read and reviewed this a couple times before, so just some general thoughts:

It’s a very silly book. It’s supposed to be though, and that is part of its charms. You can really tell that Austen is trying to hone her style: sh has some pointed barbs and witticisms, but it lacks the refinement of her later books. That said, it is a parody, and it is a delight to read.

I was struck by the adults — the married people — in this book. They weren’t silly like in some of her others, and it’s only near the end that General Tilney becomes boorish. I feel like they were less important in Austen’s world than they are later. (Not that they are super important, but there are more memorable adult characters than in this book).

It’s a fun, fluffy read, but not really a lot more than that.

The Extraordinaries

by T. J. Klune
First sentence: “Nick Bell stared at his phone as he shifted on his bed in his room.”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Content: There is talk of sex, but none actual, and some mild swearing. It’s in the Teen section (grades 9+) of the bookstore, but I think it’d be suitable for younger readers.

Nick Bell is obsessed with Nova City’s “Extraordinaries” — read: superheroes — but especially Shadow Star. He daydreams about him, he writes fanfic about him, and Nick has decided that what he really wants is to be Extraordinary like him.

Nick’s friends Gabby, Jazz, and Seth all think this is a bad idea. However, that is not going to stop Nick from getting and becoming who he wants to be.

Okay, that’s very lame summary of a very good book.It’d hard to say what Klune’s books are really about; this one I would peg as a rom-com with superheroes. There’s some great tropes in it, from both the romance and superhero genres, but it’s got a sly sense of humor that makes these tropes fresh.

Nick has ADHD and is a very adorable hot mess. It’s really only his friends (well, and his father) that keep him together. He makes bad (well, mostly awkward) decisions that put him in awkward situations. And I adored every minute of it. It helps that the reader is a LOT more aware of situations than Nick is; I think we are meant to figure out things way before Nick does, mostly so we can shake our heads and say “Oh, Nick” at the book. It was delightful.

I think I have a new favorite author. Klune’s books are absolutely wonderful.