What I’ve Been Reading

Life in a Fishbowl

For young adult readers:

Life in a Fishbowl
Len Vlahos

Certain to be controversial, this novel tackles life and death, euthanasia, celebrity, reality television, religion, cancer, oh, most everything. Even Jared Stone’s brain tumor had a voice and a point of view, and I found myself feeling sorry for it. How can you top that? Sad and funny and insightful, this is a tour de force.

What I’ve Been Reading

Beauty Queen of JerusalemA book I’ve read recently that other adults will enjoy is The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem, written by Sarit Yishal-Levi. Rich novel about secrets, love, and forgiveness. It drew me fully into the daily lives, hopes, and sufferings of four generations of women in a Sephardic Jewish family in Jerusalem from the Turkish occupation of Palestine through the British Mandate, the Arab-Israeli War, and the 1970s.

A list of fantasy books, part six

The Last UnicornAnother of my favorite fantasy novels, No. 6. The Last Unicorn—Peter Beagle.

Probably the first fantasy I ever read.  Schmendrick the magician captured my heart.

We’ve been celebrating fantasy novels because I’ve delved into that genre.

Here’s an insightful review of the book on The Mountain Echo.

What I’m reading now

I was recently asked what I was reading, so I thought I’d share here as well. On my reading table (or iPad) now: Mary Carr, The Art of Memoir; William Saroyan, The Human Comedy;  Annie Barrows, The Truth According to Us; Judy Brown, This is Not a Love Story; Erin Bowman, Vengeance Road. Have you read any of these books? Let me know what you think.

What I'm reading now

So many books, so little time

I have been reading a lot lately since I don’t have a new book in the hopper and here are my favorites from the first half of this year.

Thanks to the generosity of the publishers, I read these first three in advanced readers copies:

Recommended books

Circling the Sun (adult), Paula McLain, Ballantine Books, July 28, 2015: an engrossing novel about Beryl Markham, aviator and lover of Denys Finch Hatton, who was the lover of Karen Blixen, who was Isak Dinesen. Fascinating.

The Hired Girl, Laura Amy Schlitz (MG), Candlewick,September 8, 2015: diary of a girl in 1911 who runs away to find a new, better life for herself. I got swept up in Joan’s search for adventure, meaning, and a promising future and finished the book in a day.

These Shallow Graves (YA), Jennifer Donnelly, Random House, October 27, 2015: mystery set in 19th century New York about love, lies, and dark secrets. How much is Jo Montfort willing to risk to find answers?

A Prince to Be Feared by Mary Lancaster, Amazon Digital, has been out since 2013 and how did I miss it until now? Vlad Dracula, Prince of Wallachia, the Lord Impaler, as a romantic hero? Yes! A Dracula story with plenty of love, war, revenge, and intrigue but no vampires? Yes! I climbed into the book and stayed there, alternately touched and frightened and angry, for days. I recommend it.

Favorite Books about Museums II

museum booksEarlier I noted my favorite books about museums for adult readers. For young readers, I particularly enjoy Masterpiece by Elise Broach, in which James and a beetle named Marvin prevent a crime at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City and, of course, everyone’s favorite museum novel, E.L Konigsburg’s From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankenweller, also set at the Met.

Books set in California

Question: You grew up in California and two of your books are set there, The Ballad of Lucy Whipple and The Loud Silence of Francine Green. Do you have favorite books written about the state?

A Room Made of Windows, Eleanor Cameron—part of a series about Julia Redfern who lives in Berkeley in the 1920s.

We Were Here, Matt de la Pena—YA that “follows a journey of self-discovery by a boy who is trying to forgive himself in an unforgiving world.”

The Al Capone books by Gennifer Choldenko

Island of the Blue Dolphins, Scott O’Dell


Is this historical fiction?

The Meaning of MaggieIs a novel set in 1988 a historical novel? I’m sure every ten-year-old would say yes although I think of 1988 as just yesterday. Megan Jean Sovern’sThe Meaning of Maggie is set in 1988. I didn’t even think of it as historical until days later. I just thought it a terrific book, charming and touching. Smart, funny, stubborn Maggie deals with her father’s incurable illness as well as all the other vicissitudes of being eleven. The characters are appealing, the situations believable, and the ending realistic but filled with hope. I recommend it to you and all the eleven-year-olds in your life.

Meanwhile, at a school for gladiators in Pompeii

Curses and SmokeCurses and Smoke by Vicky Alvear Schecter introduces us to Lucia, the daughter of the owner of a gladiatorial school in Pompeii, and her childhood friend, Tag, a slave who tends to the wounds of injured gladiators. Lucia is unwillingly betrothed to an older man who will invest in her father’s school, and Tag hopes to become a gladiator and buy his freedom. Mount Etna however  has other plans for them. The historical setting is compelling and the story suspenseful. I’d especially recommend it for young readers not familiar with the tragedy of Pompeii.