Dear Genius: The Letters of Ursula Nordstrom collected and edited by Leonard S. Marcus
I received this book from HarperCollins when I started my job since Ursula Nordstrom was the legendary head of Harper Books for Boys and Girls from 1940-1971. Normally, I’m not one to enjoy nonfiction. But there are three reasons why this book resonated with me 1) It’s fascinating to see how HarperCollins was run ‘way back then’ and awesome to read letters from Ursula to classic children’s book authors and illustrators: E.B. White, Garth Williams, Margaret Wise Brown, Maurice Sendak, etc. 2) Ursula Nordstrom had spunk and it clearly comes through in her personable letters. Some of her one-liners literally made me laugh aloud as I was reading the book on the subway. 3) My great-aunt (who worked at Horn Book but I don’t know much about her career) is thanked in the acknowledgements, giving the book an even more personal touch. This is a recommended read for anyone who works in publishing.
Emily the Strange: The Lost Days and Emily the Strange: Stranger and Stranger by Rob Reger and Jessica Gruner, illustrations by Rob Reger and Buzz Parker
The Emily the Strange series is one of my boss’s favorite projects and because she works exclusively on it it wasn’t necessary for me to read the series right away. But on the other hand, because this series is so important to her, I wanted to read it and find out why. The answer is simple: Emily is awesome. Quirky, crazy, gothic…who goes on absurd aventures. In addition to this, the Emily books are actually Emily’s journals and are illustrated in black and red with her drawings, scribbles and Top 13 lists. There is so much spunk and personality in this series you can’t help but fall in love with Emily. I look forward to continuing the adventures with Emily the Strange: Dark Times and the soon-to-be-published Emily the Strange: Piece of Mind.
Bright Young Things by Anna Gobersen
I really loved Anna Gobsersen’s first historical fiction series, which started with Luxe. The first book in this series takes country girls Cordelia and Letty to 1920s New York City, where they get tangled up in illegal speakeasies, mobsters and lecherous Broadway producers. The plotting is predictable, but the characters are interesting and the Roaring Twenties really comes to life. The next book, Beautiful Days, comes out in September. (Historical Fiction Challenge Book #2)
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
I had heard so many good things about this book and as it turns out it completely deserves the praise. Set outside of Munich during World War II, Liesel has a tough but enjoyable life, full of adventures including beating her best friend, Rudy, in soccer, and stealing fruit when the family’s rations aren’t enough. But when her foster family starts hiding a Jew in their basement, Liesel uses her newly acquired reading skills to bring hope to the entire village…even if that means stealing a few books in the process. The ending is heartbreaking, but luckily the unusual narrator, Death, likes to heavily foreshadow the events so readers know what to expect. And although Liesel is a young (13 years old) protagonist for a YA novel her story is so powerful and she’s amazing new addition to teen literature. A recommended read. (Historical Fiction Book Challenge #3)
Nightshade by Andrea Cremer
I’ve been wanting to read this book ever since hearing Andrea Cremer speak at Books of Wonder in late March. Her ‘day job’ is a history professor at a college in Minnesota where she specializes in one of my favorite times: The Early Modern Period. This means she’s an expert in witch hunts and medieval war craft. Pretty cool, huh? And when she explained that that background went into the fantastical world she created for Nightshade, I was hooked. Overall, I liked the story but had a little bit of difficulty understanding the world. So many names were introduced without explanation and I couldn’t wrap my mind around the differences between Guardians and Keepers and Searchers for the longest time. The biggest downside-although this is silly one-is that Penguin is releasing all future books (the sequels, Wolfsbane and Bloodrose, as well as paperbacks for all the books) with a new cover image. I personally really like the original artwork, but even more to the point…now my series won’t match. L Oh well…I might just have to buy the first book again with the new cover!
Entwined by Heather Dixon
This fairytale retelling is exactly what I want fairytale retellings to be: fantastical yet realistic, familiar yet original. I had previously mentioned this book and I’m so glad that I had that reason to push Entwined to the top of my TBR pile. The world Heather Dixon created is fabulous (I still don’t know if the dances she mentions are all real or not…but I believe in them!) and I particularly like some of the characterizations: Azalea, as the main character, is so relatable; her sister Bramble is so fun and her vocabulary is hilarious (she reminded me of a pants-wearing British woman from the 1920s if that makes any sense at all); and the King, their father, definitely grows the most and it was so nice to see him begin to care deeply for his daughters. Great retelling! A recommended read.