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A Chair, A Fireplace & a Tea Cozy
Inside A Chair, A Fireplace & a Tea Cozy

Flashback November 2006

And now, a look at what I reviewed back in November 2006!

flashback 3 300x184 Flashback November 2006

Goodnight Nobody by Jennifer Weiner. From my review: “Kate used to have a job and a life. OK, it was as a glorified gossip columnist, but it was fun! Now she’s an at-home mom, stuck in the suburbs; but to make things oh so worse, everyone around her is a Martha Stewart mom (you know, hand made baby food, elaborate birthday parties, dress as if they are in a magazine.) Basically, she’s the Odd Girl Out in a land of Queen Bees. To make matters worse, her husband is convinced that Kate should be one of these Stepford moms and gets angry that Kate doesn’t try to “fit in.” Things get interesting when Kate finds one of those oh-so-perfect moms dead in her own kitchen; and Kate cannot help herself. She wants to find out who did it; and as she does so, she discovers the dark underside of the suburbs.”

Babymouse: Beach Babe and Babymouse: Rock Star by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm. From my review: “Babymouse has some of the best daydreams, ever.

Queen of Babble by Meg Cabot. From my review: “Lizzie has just graduated college and is off to spend an exciting summer with her boyfriend, Andrew. Except, well, sometimes, Lizzie sees things the way she wants to. For example, she hasn’t graduated because there’s one more major paper she needs to finish. And “boyfriend” seems to be a strong word for a guy she met the day before he returned to England. When reality intrudes on fantasy and Lizzie can no longer ignore that Andrew is just an Andy, she takes off to meet some friends in France. Upset, she babbles away to a stranger on a train, sharing all her troubles. Except the stranger? He’s the guy her friends are staying with. It’s a perfect college/ twenty-something book, and I am insanely jealous. Not that Meg Cabot wrote this and I did not (tho, yeah, that too) but that publishers are finally recognizing this demographic and publishing things just for this age group. I would have loved books like this in my 20s; and obviously, while I still read and enjoy them (and the books that involve romance for people closer to my age), it’s always nice to have a book that is about your stage of life. Here, the post-college questioning years, that will also be enjoyed by those still in school.”

The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume I: The Pox Party by M.T. Anderson. From my review: “Octavian is raised in an odd house where only he and his mother, a princess in exile, have names. He is educated and dressed in silks; but something odd is going on and he’s not sure what it is. There is a forbidden room, and once Octavian enters and learns of his true place in the world, he can never return to innocence. . . . I began with absolutely no spoilers, and for a while thought I was reading Gothic fantasy; after a few chapters I realized it was historical fiction set during the Revolutionary War, and that it was realistic fiction. Why fantasy? The fact that Octavian and his mother are royalty in exile; that there is a bit of the fantastic to their lush life; but that there is something horrible lurking in the corners.

The Magdalen Martyrs by Ken Bruen. From my review: “This is Bruen’s third book featuring Jack Taylor, a disgraced ex-cop living in Galway. When he is sober, he works as a private detective. When he isn’t sober, he works as a private detective…and he’s almost as good as when he’s sober. . . .  I love, love love these books featuring Jack Taylor. . . . This book is so harsh and uncompromising about Jack that “love” seems too soft a word to use. But I do; I love the harsh matter of factness; I love Jack’s love of drink and drugs and his total unrepentance. It’s refreshing, in its bleakness. Perhaps I have read one too many young adult issue books, where there are tears and rehab and a reason for the behavior (Mommy was mean, Daddy was overly nice, the mean girls are mean, my parents expected too much, no one understands….). Jack doesn’t hide behind excuses or reasons; he simply is what he is. A drunk, who will plan, this is when I need to be sober, and then this is when I can get so drunk I won’t know my own name.”

Snip Snap What’s That? by Mara Bergman, illustrated by Nick Maland. From my review: “An alligator chases kids; the kids are scared and run away; finally, there’s no place left to run.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. From my review: “Liesel’s foster father is Hans Huberman; and let me say, how nice it was to have a father figure who is a truly good man. Not a molester or monster or pedophile, but a good, kind man; maybe not very rich; maybe coarse; but good. Rosa, the mother, is almost more complex than Hans; someone who on the surface would be labelled as abusive, but is a caring woman who does not express it in the words we use today, but shows it again and again in her actions. And Liesel and Hans understand this about Rosa. There is no romance of childhood; no looking down at adulthood; it is also astonishing, in the way it portrays what would today be called abusive parents, as loving parents. Most modern books would equate Rosa’s roughness and hitting with no love; would equate it with hate; would say that only one type of parental love is acceptable. The Book Thief recognizes seeing where love is, in all its many places, both pretty and rough, expected and unexpected, rather than insisting love come in only one flavor, one emotion, one thought.

Drizzle of Yesteryears And Other Stories by M.K. Ajay. From my review: “This is a collection of short stories about people “from Pambunkavu, a fictional village situated in the Malabar region of Kerala, a southern Indian state,” and is divided into two parts: At Home and In Exile. . . . I enjoyed this collection of short stories. They were exactly that; short stories, glimpses into the lives of assorted men and women of different ages; some traditional, some modern, usually just a handful of pages long. Many had a twist or surprise ending. Yes, there were words I didn’t know; but it didn’t interfere with understanding these stories.

Peeps by Scott Westerfeld. From my review: “A modern look at vampires; Cal is affected, but as a carrier without any of the symptoms. Which meant he has infected others. And those infected ones are not as lucky as he is; meaning that they change, they hunt, they kill. And it’s up to Cal to find them; and stop them. And he also wants to find the woman who infected him. . . . Westerfeld’s take on vampires and vampirism is that it’s about parasites; and to prove his point the book contains a lot of real science about parasites. Let me just say: gross, gross, gross. Yet also very fascinating. After reading this book, I almost wanted to move into a bubble… but then came the part in the book about how escaping parasites can also kill you.”

Jingle Dancer by Cynthia Leitich Smith. From my review: “Jenna (a modern girl of Muscogee (Creek) and Ojibway (Chippewa/Anishinabe) descent) wishes she could be a jingle dancer like her grandmother. She studies a video of her grandmother dancing; and then, to get the jingles needed for her dress, visits various friends and relatives, asking for a few jingles. She borrows just a few from each, so that their own dresses remain able to jingle; and by borrowing from many, is able to make her own dress.

Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko. From my review: “It’s 1935, and Moose, 12, has just moved with his family. But this isn’t another new kid in town book, because Moose’s new town is Alcatraz. That’s right; the family has moved to the Island that houses the infamous prison. Moose’s father is a prison guard; and it’s prison policy that guards (and other employees), along with their families, live on the Island. Why move your family to a prison with murderers and criminals like Al Capone? It’s the Depression; so it’s not a bad job at all. Plus, there’s Moose’s sister Natalie. Something is wrong with Natalie, and it’s the last hope of Moose’s desperate mother that a school in nearby San Francisco will do something magical to make Natalie well.

Who Is Melvin Bubble? by Nick Bruel. From my review: “Who is Melvin Bubble? If you want plot-driven picture books, this is not for you. Jimmy asks the author to write a book about his friend, Melvin Bubble; and here, the assorted people in Melvin’s life answer the question: Who Is Melvin Bubble?”

Olivia Forms A Band by Ian Falconer. From my review: “Am I the only one who jumps for joy when there’s a new Olivia book?

Disney Cuties Project Bedroom by Apple Jordan. Random House. From my review: “It’s a pretty typical bedroom decorating book, aimed at children ages six and up. It’s short, with things like the “cuties quiz” to help create a “room that screams YOU.“”

Nancy Drew, Girl Detective: The Haunted Dollhouse graphic novel based on the series by Carolyn Keene, by Stefan Petrucha & Sho Murase. From my review: “Nancy Drew’s home town is celebrating “Nostalgia Week,” so they ‘re going to dress and party as if it were 1930. When crime scenes mysteriously appear in an antique dollhouse, and then come true, Nancy has a mystery to solve. Of course, a doll Nancy soon appears in peril in the haunted dollhouse. . . . The Haunted Dollhouse is a good place for an adult like myself to start, because it’s a celebration of Original Nancy. Since it’s Nostalgia Week, GN Nancy is decked out like Original Nancy, with roadster and vintage clothes. The book is also full of in-jokes and references that would only be known by someone who knows about Nancy; for example, there is a Stratemeyer Foundation. I loved it; and these types of references struck me as very typical of graphic novels. And it’s not just Nancy Drew History; there’s also references to prior female detectives such as Anne Rodway.

Peter Pan by James Barrie. From my review: “I loved reading this book as an adult; and I adore Peter. Not because he is adorable; but because he is so honest and brutal and self-involved. He is a real child, who hasn’t been glamorized or sanctified, at least not by Barrie. Peter is “gay and innocent and heartless.” And it is in that heartlessness that Peter is so such a wonderful creation, because I’m not sure how many books are so heartless themselves in viewing children. It is this heartlessness that I didn’t recognize as a child in my reading of the text, probably because of being heartless myself so not recognizing Peter as being anything other than a typical child; but I see it now. And think that it’s must reading as an adult. (Makes me think those who say Peter Pan is fun and uplifting haven’t read the book as a grownup.) Part of my adoring him includes, at times, being afraid of him and what he is capable of.”

The Sphere of Secrets, Book II of the Oracle Prophecies by Catherine Fisher. From my review: “In The Oracle Betrayed, Mirany, a priestess, and Seth, a scribe, managed to get the true Archon (the child Alexos). In this sequel, we find that getting the true Archon in power hasn’t solved all the problems; the political corruption that almost led to a false Archon remain, and a drought has led to instability and the possibility of invasion. Alexos/Archon decides he must go to the Well of Songs to restore order and save his people. . . .  As with any quest, Archon must go alone; but alone turns out to include Seth, Oblek (a drunken musician who helped last time), and the dangerous Jackal, a Egyptian lord and secret tomb thief. . . . Mirany, meanwhile, has to remain back home. Her hands are full, because while nine young women serve the Oracle, only Mirany appears to truly be in contact with the god and to have faith in Alexos. . . . Hey, it’s the Tolkien rule: split up your merry band in book two! So we get two stories: Road Trip with Action Boys, While Pretty Girl handles Politics.

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About Elizabeth Burns

Looking for a place to talk about young adult books? Pull up a chair, have a cup of tea, and let's chat. I am a New Jersey librarian. My opinions do not reflect those of my employer, SLJ, YALSA, or anyone else. On Twitter I'm @LizB; my email is lizzy.burns@gmail.com.

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