Wednesday, March 1, 2017

mostly journeys of all kinds

February was an extraordinary month of reading.  The best I can ask for, really, with such a variety of wonderful books that never stopped.  In fact I'm still listening to one that is really good so far, and will maybe end up on my March list.  

I read Bastards, which I've already reviewed and highly recommend.  In case it's on your list and you have piles to read before it gets to the top I'll give you another quote to hold you over: "There was an overgrown field behind the apartment complex. No one knew whom the field belonged to, it was fenced in, but the gate was never locked. The packed earth path down the center of the field was the best shortcut to get to Mr. Ed's corner Mart to stock up on Push Pops. This shortcut had been handed down from the older kids, and it was our job to tread it regularly to keep it clear for the ones who would come after us. It was the only heirloom we had, and this simple act made us part of something large, something important."

Here are the rest of my fabulous February reads:

The Creative Cottage by Steve Gross and Susan Daley

Eclectic, comfy, colorful and whimsical are four of my favorite words when it comes to interior design, and this book is all of those words! I love when interior design books use unique and lived-in spaces, sometimes cramped and oddly-shaped spaces at that, and show off all their homey splendor. I adored the sleigh sofas, beat-up floors, wooden beams galore (especially page 57), mismatched furniture and serene outdoor spaces. If I could take my coffee and stack of books and fall into this book to live for awhile I would happily do so.

Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch

I adored this book.  The writing is very fresh and young.  The characters stand out from each other, have a lot of depth and personality and are quite lovable.  And the story just gobbled me up.  I was shocked that Lina wasn't instantly in love with the idea of living in a cemetery in Italy with a stranger that she only recently found out was her father.  I mean talk about adventure.  But she had just lost her mom so maybe a cemetery was too much of a reminder of that.  And the whole father thing was just a tad on the scary side, so I get it.  I loved how Lina was given her mom's journal of her time spent in Italy (thus, Lina's existence), and how that gave Lina a way to get to know Italy and fall in love with it.  It helped that Lina was shown around by a cute and sincere boy, who happily took her to the places her mom wrote about in her journal.  I also really liked the relationships that slowly grew and strengthened - Lina and dad, Lina and cute sincere boy, Lina and new friends.  I admit that I was completely unprepared for the twist that happens about two-thirds of the way through the book.  I was shocked by it, but my feathers didn't stay ruffled for too long.  It was an incredibly delightful book about embracing life and those who want to share it with you. 

Show Time at the Ministry of Lost Causes by Cheryl Dumesnil

Full review coming soon!  Let's just say that Cheryl Dumesnil will punch you in the gut with her poetry and leave you asking questions that your dreams will answer.     

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate Dicamillo and illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline

Though I had some hang-ups about this book - its predictable ending, the creepy recurrence of grandma Pellegrina (who really was a hateful witch and flat character) and the strange and unnecessary dream, its strengths were too profound to dismiss. I thought both the storytelling and illustrations were dynamite. With the exception of Pellegrina, the characters were varied and multifaceted. And lastly, what really sticks with me is the long list of messages this book beautifully and sneakily gives, such as opening yourself up to all kinds of love, letting go of things out of your control but also hanging on to hope, dealing with a broken heart, loving again after loss, and putting the kibosh on bitterness. So, even though I roll my eyes at a few elements of Edward's story, I admit that I must be under some kind of spell because I am in love with this china rabbit.

A Perfect Day by Lane Smith

Lane Smith also wrote and illustrated It's a Book, which is one of my most favorite children's books. Just like It's a Book, A Perfect Day has that twist of humor that's a little tart and mean.  The ending made me guffaw loudly.  And its message - someone's bad day is another's good day, is really a brilliant message.  When my dress got caught in my bike recently and a child unabashedly laughed at me I was mortified, especially when his mother loudly scolded him.  But later I thought, how funny I must have looked, and I giggled too and thought about how it was worth it if I made that little boy laugh.  This book really embraces that message.  I also loved the easy-to-read text and repetition of lines.  

A Cat Named Swan by Holly Hobbie

This is one of those rare books where the writing and illustrations are equally beautiful. I loved how the family talked to Swan - "Who's going to get fat... Who's getting a big belly?" I love the journey of Swan and his family - "he learned that the people were his people and he was theirs," and how the illustrations reached out to me and made me feel like Swan's journey was a little bit mine too.

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