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My second day home from vacation – a week in California with friends – and I’m having a lazy Saturday and enjoying my weekend before heading back to work Monday.  I managed to pack exactly the right amount of books for the trip, which is a minor miracle.  Usually I completely overpack, or I stash books in a bag that I can’t access during the plane ride.

I was about halfway through S.A. Bodeen’s The Compound before leaving last week, and I hate to bring a short, half-finished book, but I needed to find out how things ended.  I got it on Kitri’s recommendation, and it’s a good fast-paced, tense YA novel.  Some plot elements I guessed at – the narrator’s family has been living in an elaborate bomb shelter for something like six years, following a nuclear attack on the country – but others, like the Supplements, surprised me.  It’s not really dystopian novel in a strict sense, but it really has that feel, especially once you get into it.  It’s like the father has created a mini-dystopia in the compound.  I finished that one up waiting at the gate at PDX.

Then I breezed through Ann Brashares’ adult novel, The Last Summer (of You and Me), which wasn’t anything remarkable but made for a good airplane book.  It’s interesting to see YA authors in a different genre – the story had a different tone from the Traveling Pants books and 3 Willows, but the characters were still young (early 20’s) and there was a recognizable feel to it.  A bit more melodramatic, and primarily following one character, it still dealt with relationships between a group of people in an interesting way.  Teens who enjoyed Brashares other books and want some slightly more adult themes could definitely pick this one up.  It wasn’t as funny as her YA books, though, which seemed like a shame.

Then I completely switched gears and started Andrea Barrett’s The Voyage of the Narwhal, which I picked up on a recent trip to Powell’s. I’m sensing the beginning of an Andrea Barrett kick – I love the way she recycles minor characters between books – it makes me want to read them all, and then go back and reread so I understand all the connections.  I’m reading her books out of publication order, too (I started with The Air We Breathe, which I think is her newest).  Plus, the characters all feel so real – there was one character who I suspected would be unlikeable, and did turn out to be a pretty terrible person, and I kept wondering if he would have a redeeming moment (pretty much not).  Other characters struggled to come into themselves in a way that was fascinating and slightly painful, but ultimately rewarding.  This would’ve made a good addition to the college class I took on “Travel and the Literary Imagination,” which interestingly enough came up in conversation with Bronwen on our mini-break.

On the way home, I started Michael Ondaatje’s Divisadero, which demands careful reading, but like Anil’s Ghost seems like it will be worth it.  Like the other one, I don’t really know where the plot is going, but it’s so carefully crafted and the characters are heartbreaking (in the best sense of the word).

I worked at the library yesterday, and forgot to bring Divisadero with me, so I started reading one of my holds* on my lunch break, and am now back in the land of YA with Justina Chen Headley’s North of Beautiful, which is absolutely compelling.  Terra’s interest in maps and collage art doesn’t feel like it’s there to make her seem more well-rounded – her interests are really crucial to her character and are working well with the plot.  And speaking of jerk-tastic characters, I’m really loathing her father and wondering what will happen with that storyline.

*Possibly one of the best things about working at a library is that it’s not the end of the work when you forget to pack a book, or if you finish one on a break.  I always have a few holds waiting to be picked up, and if not there’s a whole library to choose from.  No lunch break is every spent in book-less misery.  Plus if I see something good, I can put it on hold right from my desk or immediately check it out to myself.

Now it’s time to go spend some quality time with that perennial favorite, the cookbook.  I’m thinking dark chocolate cream pie.

February 2023

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