I know I’m late with my update, but somebody has to make the pie! (Please help me convince Suzanne to do a special Library Chicken update focusing on Jane Austen fan fiction because she has been reading some TRULY TERRIBLE stuff, and she is the funniest when she is complaining about terrible stuff.)
Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente
So earlier this fall, I told Suzanne that I needed to read something that would just make me happy, and she suggested this space saga. NEVER DOUBT SUZANNE. This zany, Douglas Adams-ish (and I don’t throw that around lightly) story centers around an intergalactic version of American Idol, in which planets compete not for record deals but for the right for their species to be considered sentient by the rest of the universe. All newly space-faring species must compete to prove their sentience — and if they come in last, their whole species will be wiped right out of existence. Now that Earth is in the space game, and the future of humanity is in the hands of aging 70s rocker Decibel Jones. It sounds wacky and all over the place because it is wacky and all over the place — but in a way that made me really happy. I am not going to claim this is the greatest book I’ve ever read, but it was absolutely the book I needed. THANK YOU, SUZANNE. (I loved the cat!)
Victoria the Queen: An Intimate Biography by Julia Baird
I know I have mentioned my love of Sunfire’s YA historical romances before, and I feel that this biography of Queen Victoria is a worthy successor — okay, there are fewer detailed dress descriptions and no romantic tug-of-war (Albert is the clear choice), but Baird’s book definitely focuses on the personalities and stories that make history so interesting. Happily, Baird also manages to elucidate the major events of the Victorian age so that you feel totally virtuous while reading this very entertaining tome.
The Light Years by Elizabeth Jane Howard
This first book in the Cazalet Chronicles follows the titular family through 1937: the Duchy and the Brig have brought their sprawling, very British family together for the summer holidays: Handsome, philandering Edward and his uber competent wife Villy; Hugh, who is still recovering from his experiences in World War I, and his pregnant wife Sybil; artist Rupert and his young, beautiful second wife Zoe; and sister Rachel, who has never married, all converge for one of the last happy summers before the war. You know I love big, sprawling British families who are polite and plucky, and the Cazalets deliver big time. I would jump right into the second in the series, but I want these to last, so I’m reading The Light Years again. (I am solidly in favor of the back-to-back read.)
(+0, read it on my Kindle)
Love à la Mode by Stephanie Kate Strohm
I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this frothy little book — I passed it right on to my teenager, who loves cooking shows and Paris boarding schools as much as I do. Henry and Rosie have both won spots a competitive cooking school in Paris, and they can’t wait to hone their cooking skills under the tutelage of a famous celebrity chef. There’s a little too much artificial stuff getting in the way of their romance in an attempt to keep the will-they-or-won’t-they going (why do YA books do this?), but it’s a sweet story with lots of descriptions of eating and cooking, so it’s on my nice list.
(+0, advance copy)
The Camelot Code, Book #1 The Once and Future Geek by Mari Mancusi
A computer game pulls Sophie and her best friend Stu back to the time of King Arthur — while King Arthur ends up the cool kid in Sophie’s high school in this middle grades fantasy. While Arthur’s working on scoring the winning touchdown, Sophie and Stu are trying to get history back on track with a little help from Merlin: pulling the sword out of the stone, winning the jousting competition, and preparing for the war that will make King Arthur a hero. This is a fun, upbeat take on the King Arthur story, though there are places where the writing and plotting feel a little forced.
(+0, advance copy)
Charlie and Frog by Karen Kane
All Charlie wants is to have his parents spend time with him instead of dumping him at his grandparents’ house. All Frog (Francine on her birth certificate) wants is to be a detective. Together, they’ll team up to solve a mystery signed to Charlie by a stranger on his first day in town. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that treated deafness so deftly — Frog happens to be deaf, and her parents run a school for the deaf, and sign language figures into the mystery, but none of these things feels forced at all. Charlie and Frog’s friendship develops naturally over the course of the story — sometimes they click like best friends, and sometimes they annoy each other — and the droll humor reminded me a little bit of David Walliams and Roald Dahl. For a middle grades novel that’s half mystery, half comedy, this little gem really delivers.
(+0, advance copy)
This Week: +2
Running Score: +8