February 2, 2007

A Month of Reading: January

Best reads of the past month:

Eva Underground
by Dandi Daley Mackall
Until I read this book, I knew next to nothing about the modern-day Communist occupation of Poland. Mackall's book takes place the year I was born and it follows a young woman named Eva who leaves her home and friends in Chicago to follow her father to Poland where he joins the underground movement. Sharing a tiny room with her father in a house full of rebels, Eva learns that sometimes life takes you by the throat and hurls you bodily into the middle of a war zone. She learns there are things in that war zone worth fighting for, that her life can be bigger than it was, that the seed of a plum can hold the spirit of a nation. A wonderful read about a harrowing and fascinating period in history.

Star of the Morning by Lynn Kurland
I came across Kurland in a collection of short stories including a favorite of mine--Sharon Shinn. Up till now, she's written mostly romance novels (not my cup of tea) so I approached her high fantasy crossover with understandable caution. Once I'd read enough reviews to convince me it wasn't going to descend into corset-ripping and bare-chestedness, I gave it a shot and was pleasantly surprised. Kurland's sword-for-hire heroine is joined on her quest by a motley cast of companions, each with enough depth and quirk to endear them to you. The first in a planned trilogy, be warned: it ends at the worst possible moment. Nothing is resolved and the threads of the tale are flung far and wide across the whole of the Nine Kingdoms.

The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things by Carolyn Mackler
Last month I read Mackler's Vegan Virgin Valentine and it was so good I picked up a second Mackler based on the title alone. That and the fact that it was a Printz Honor book in 2004. The Printz books tend to have a weight to them I like (past examples include Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak, Garret Freymann-Weyr's My Heartbeat, and Meg Rosoff's How I Live Now). Though I didn't enjoy it quite as much as Vegan Virgin Valentine, Virginia was a compelling narrator with her "Fat Girl Code of Conduct" and her refusal to starve herself to change who she is. Plus, she has a friend named Froggy Welsh the Fourth. How's that for awesome?

A True and Faithful Narrative by Katherine Sturtevant
And for my second historical fiction of the month, Katherine Sturtevant takes us back to Meg Moore and the Sign of the Star bookshop. The best part about this book was the glimpse it gives us of 17th century London. Having recently returned from North Africa, I also appreciated the descriptions of Algeria and Islam as told by Edward Gosse, who is captured by Barbary pirates and subsequently sold into slavery. Meg raises the ransom and, upon his return, records Edward's story.

Best rereads of the past month:

The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley
I don't think I've ever gone this long in between readings of The Hero and the Crown. It's one of the books of my life, so it just comes up more often than others. The last read was with Aaron (and very fun it was), then we moved and my copy was put in storage, then this month, a beautiful new edition comes out as part of Ace's reprinting McKinley books and marketing them for adults so anyone who's missed the wonderfulness can get a clue. So I had to buy it and read it again. It was wonderful again. And I marveled at how Aerin and Tor (and Luthe, of course) haven't changed. And yet they seemed older than last time, just as I am.

Lady of the Forest by Jennifer Roberson
Because I read Outlaws of Sherwood last month and was in the Robin Hood mood. And because I like Roberson's more brittle Robin and her Marian who grows a spine.