I hit a big milestone this week: I finished unpacking! Yaaaaay!
However, as I unpacked, I sorted our books into boxes of their own, so I could sift through them all and decide which ones get shelf space right away. We have sixteen 50qt. boxes full of books--that's 200 gallons of books! I kind of want to build a fort out of them and just live in there. I am absolutely, positively starting the new year with some kind of read-what-I-own challenge. (But I can name at least fifty books I've been meaning to buy. I blame you guys: it's a total peer-pressure, all-the-cool-kids-are-reading-it kind of thing! This is the best problem anyone has ever had.) So hopefully next week I will have some shiny new bookshelf pictures to share!
We had a really nice weekend visiting my mom and step-dad, with the added treat of my step-sister and her 16-month-old daughter for a few hours yesterday. She is a real cutie (and, I'm told, loves to read already! My immediate reaction when she was born was, "I get to buy this kid books for her whole life, this is awesome.") And on the ride back, I finally had the uninterrupted time I needed to finish reading Railsea! I checked on Goodreads, and it's actually not even in the top ten longest books I read this year. But it's one of those books that moves slowly (in a way that I wound up really liking) and so it felt like a real accomplishment to finish. (The end made me really happy, too. This was a good week of reading.)
What I Read This Week:
The Cavendish Home For Boys and Girls by Claire Legrand
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Calling all middle school teachers: this book may be the world's greatest Halloween-time readaloud. The writing just begs to be read aloud, with a style reminiscent of Roald Dahl and an action-packed ending that surpasses even his supreme creepiness. There is one chapter in particular that ends with a revelation that I know would have had my sixth graders from last year FREAKING OUT. Now, maybe you don't want a readaloud that will make kids jump out of their seats and scream and fall down on the floor (I promise you that's what would have happened if I read this to my former students) but those are my favorite moments. This book is SEVERELY creepy and a lot of fun to read. Just a tip: don't read it over meals. Or in the dark. Basically, you want to sit in the middle of a bright, uncluttered room, where you won't have any reason to think you see anything moving out of the corner of your eye. But definitely find a room like that, because you want to read this creeptastic story of shiny, perfect Belleville, and shiny, perfect Victoria Wright, and what happens when her skunk-haired, messy, musical friend Lawrence disappears into the shiny, perfect Home run by the shiny, perfect Mrs. Cavendish. [Spoiler Alert: not everything is as shiny and perfect as it seems. But you probably figured that out from all the roaches sprinkled across the margins of the pages and throughout Belleville.] Now is the perfect time for a delightfully, revoltingly horrifying read like this one--check it out!
Railsea by China Miéville
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Despite the fact that I adored China Mieville's other YA novel, Un Lun Dun, I was nervous about this one. A YA riff on Moby Dick? Friends, I can't even tell you how much I hated Moby Dick in high school, but let me try: our teacher had us all draw characters out of a bowl, to make things more fun. Then for the rest of the book, we "were" that character. I was the whale. Truly, when I find the words to adequately convey how much I loathed the whole Moby Dick experience, I will feel like I have arrived as a writer. In the meantime, please just think of the thing you hated the most in high school, and imagine someone told you you would really love this new YA novel that was based on that thing.
So you can understand how much work this book had to do to get five stars out of me.
The thing is, Mieville is just such a good storyteller. Sham ap Soorap, the protagonist, is one of those characters who slowly, slowly wins your heart and suddenly you realize you'll never get it back. And there are like six other characters who quietly do the same thing. This book didn't grab me right off the bat, and I can't even begin to summarize the plot (Questing? Self-discovery? Adventure? Evading almost certain death at every turn? I mean, yeah, totally. But I would have to read it eighty more times to be able to really give you a brief overview that's more detailed than that.) It's a story that's just as concerned with the telling as with what's actually happening, and while I kept wanting to roll my eyes at the interchapters full of information or meta-data or whatever, I couldn't because the sly narrative voice was too much fun. So I'll just say: if you like adventure, try this. If you like to read about journeys (literal as well as internal), give it a shot. If you grin your face off at stories where loyalty to one's mates knows no bounds, you want to pick this one up. If you're in the mood for something vastly different from anything you've read lately, here's your book. You might not even want to read it all at once--I read three other books in the middle of reading this one intermittently--but do give it a shot, and do stick it out. It's a really rewarding read.
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