READING - July 2016

This round’s theme appears to be CLEARING OUT, as in clearing out the stacks. I’ll probably have more of these rather eclectic fiction weeks as time goes on, because my shelves are insane. Ladder of Souls Anne Tyler A woman just walks away from her vacation and her life and rebuilds in the first small town she comes to. How to be a Wildflower Katie Daisy Gorgeous illustrations and lists and recipes and such from Katie Daisy, who makes gouache look like heaven with seed pods. (Keeping.) The Imaginary A. F. Harrold Good premise, gorgeous illustrations, mediocre execution: An imaginary friend is hunted by an evil entity who eats imaginary friends. By the end, it’s evident this is written by a grown up with nostalgia issues. Had more fun looking at the pictures than reading the book. A Discovery of Witches Deborah Harkness An epic tale. Like really epic. Imagine if Outlander and Twilight had a love child that was written better than either of its parents. That’s this book. The only thing I didn’t like was the cliffhanger ending, since it’s means I’m obligated now to read the other two giant books in this series, so instead of just reducing my reading list by one, I’m increasing it by two, too. Insidious how that works. A Field Guide to Getting Lost Rebecca Solnit Beautiful prose in praise of taking the path of the unknown. Insider tip: get the book, not the audio version. Solnit reads her own work, and her voice is super soothing. Like, put you to sleep soothing that sounds more like a very earnest poet than an essayist. But the content is stellar. Peter Nimble and his Fantastic Eyes Jonathan Auxier Utterly enchanting adventure fairy tale about a blind, orphaned child thief who, after a seemingly-chance encounter with a haberdasher, finds himself in the middle of a grand adventure fraught with dangers...and crows. (Loved this one.) The New Bohemians Justina Blakeney Sometimes I read design books to get ideas for new color combinations or to spark ideas, since I’m completely hopeless when it comes to decorating anything other than a canvas. I thought this one might be quirky and fun, but it’s kind of just another look at all the free spirited young creatives with huge budgets who buy things that look like they’re pre-owned! book. Also, if I see another kilim rug again today, I might scream. :) (Library book that I need to return this week, so it jumped the line today ahead of more stack books.) The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out a Window and Disappeared Jonas Jonasson On the day of his hundredth birthday, Alan decides that he’s blowing this popsicle stand they call an old folks’ home. So that’s exactly what he does. Told in a series of present-day (mis)adventures and a fantastical past that reminded me a little of Forrest Gump, this one’s long but un-put-downable and hilarious in equal measures. The Wild Wood Charles de Lint Just before my weeklong retreat started, I finished reading The Wood Wife by Teri Windling. I bought this book, way back when, because I’d heard that one and this one were connected as part of a series based on Froud paintings of fairies, and wanted to read them all. (There were only three. I also have Hannah’s Garden, the third in the series, in my stack.) And this one did not disappoint. There’s even a moment of crossover in the Rincon mountains, with a neighbor named Maggie (the main character of The Wood Wife). It’s a quick read about an artist and her impact on the world, as small as it is, and I’m keeping this one. Sorry, LFL. :D Making Faces: Drawing Expressions for Comics and Cartoons 8Fish Again with the breaking of the fiction rule and the physical books rule. (I wanted to get this back to the library, though.) As far as drawing books go, it’s not bad. The exercises are good for cartoonish figures (thus, the name), and I really get a lot out of looking at other folks’ process. It does seem like it covers very, very basic topics, but the drawing itself is really advanced, so there’s a gap there that would probably alienate the audience they’re going for. I did get a bit out of it, though, so it’s time well spent. Raven Girl Audrey Niffenegger A brand new fairy tale about a postman who falls in love with a raven, who hatches a girl/raven child. It’s definitely not a book for children (there’s death and talk of stem cells and implied sex and murder), but it’s enchanting in its own way. As a story of transforming into who you really are, it’s a lovely little tale. The Insomniacs Karina Wolf A wonderfully-illustrated picture book about a family that moves 12 time zones from home and become creatures of the night, albeit first. The story is cute, but the drawings make the book. Red Knit Cap Girl and the Reading Tree Naoko Stoop I got this one in a bag of bargain books, and I know it has its fans. The series has a handful of books in it and the drawing is definitely cute. The story’s really thin, though, as picture books can sometimes be. (I’m still of the belief that even short stories should have a beginning, middle, and end, however, not just trailing off like the end of a bad sitcom.) It’ll be good for the Little Free Library, though, since it’s about, y’know, making a library. :) Agate: What Good Is A Moose? Joy Morgan Dey and Nikki Johnson From the very first paragraph, “What good is a moose? He looks like a Tinker Toy project gone wrong. He feels like a big brown mistake. He thinks of his friends as sparkling gems, beautiful, talented bright. Oh, how he’d love to shine like them. Agate sighs. It just isn’t right.”, the story here of noncomparison and finding your own strengths is accented by absolutely awesome watercolor artwork. I’m keeping this one, I think. It’s that good. (There’s also a bit in the back about birthstones and what traits each one has -- the animals in the book that Agate compares himself to are all gemstones. Ruby bears, Sapphire Hippos, etc. I love this book.) The Dark Lemony Snicket and Jon Klassen Okay. This is seriously adorable. A little boy goes to visit the dark every day to make sure it doesn’t visit him at night...until it does. The illustrations are amazing, full of ink splatter and textured gouache goodness, and the story is fantastic. Snicket knows kids, and knows how to write. How to Catch a Star Oliver Jeffers I want to be Oliver Jeffers when I grow up. (And since that’s never going to happen, Jeffers’ identity is safe.) This is a tiny little tale about a boy who wants to catch a star, and goes about doing that as best he can. The story is adorable, the illustrations make me want to draw all the things just so I can be half this good someday. Keeper. This Moose Belongs to Me Also Oliver Jeffers Another creative, cute, funny book by Jeffers. The main character is named Wilfred, which is close enough to Wilford to make me love it on principle, and, y’know, moose. I have a thing for moose. But anyway, Wilfred is teaching his moose the rules, some of which Marcel (the moose) follows, some not so much. But when Wilfred gets lost in the woods without Marcel, things get a little dicey. The illustrations are flippin’ amazeboobs, and many of them are done on top of vintage illustrations -- a technique I now HAVE TO TRY OMG. Keeper, too. The Sleeper and the Spindle Neil Gaiman This is not a children’s book, either. It’s a meticulously-rendered illustrated fairy tale that takes everything you think you know about the story of Sleeping Beauty and turns it on its ear. Because Neil, that’s why. Chris Riddell did an amazing job with the simple black and white illustrations with a touch of gold, and whoever it was that did the layout here should be winning awards. It’s really, really good. Bricking It Nick Spaulding If I had to pick a book to end this week, this would be the one. I seriously laughed so hard that I almost fell off my bike (I have the audiobook) in the middle of traffic. Seriously. A brother and sister inherit a dilapidated old farmhouse in the middle of nowhere from their sweet, doddering grandmother, and they decide to renovate it before selling it. From there, hilarity ensues -- from unexpected bomb removal costs (seriously) to Pat the Cow, it's all hilarious. (And when you get to the scene with the brush removal, do not drink anything. I nearly died, choking on some iced tea. You'l know the scene when you get there. Just trust me.)

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© G O * E X P L O R I N G Maira Gall.