Girls at Boarding School

Three books.

As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust, the latest Flavia de Luce novel from Alan Bradley.  I’ve missed a few things in not reading all of this series — I read the first 2-3 and then skipped some until this book.  But this one’s a hoot.  Flavia, now 12, unwillingly gets sent to boarding school where she discovers secrets, mystery, and a corpse in her chimney.

The School For Dangerous Girls by Eliot Schrefer.  It’s been a long while since I read this, but I still remember some scenes.  I don’t remember that much about it, but I remember liking it, and I think people should read it and find out whether they like it too.

The Secrets of Drearcliff Grange School by Kim Newman (argh, why are all these books by men?  Fail.).  This is a book that #2 should read!  On the first page of the book, Amy is unceremoniously packed off to boarding school when her mother finds her sleeping on the ceiling.  At school she meets many girls who are friends, enemies, acquaintances, co-conspirators, classmates, etc., as well as teachers with secrets.  Magic and saving the world from creepy danger.  I would read a sequel.

I know that “girls at boarding school” used to be a genre in, say, the 1940s and beforeDoes anyone have any good suggestions for recent books?

#2 has loved this genre forever.  She liked the worst witch series and carol beech york’s extended Miss Know it All/ good day mice series (Good Charlotte is a great one).  These series are both full of slim volumes with higher reading levels than such skinny books usually have.  She wishes that Diana Wynne Jones had written a book with Millie as the main character during her boarding school days instead of her just showing up as a supporting character in the chrestomanci series (we meet her in the Lives of Christopher Chant, but don’t see her again until she’s an adult).  Oh man, I loved boarding school stories so much, and it turns out I also loved boarding school!  These aren’t recent books, but the 70s/80s had a little middle-grade reader renaissance of boarding school for girls books.

Oh, and recently: GUNNERKRIGG COURT.  DC1 is also enjoying some fairy tale boarding school stories… um… what were they… Flunked was one.  The school for good and evil is another.  These tend to be coed but female protagonists.  (Just like Hermione should have been…)  Gotham Academy is also a good coed boarding school adventure.  (And if you want an all-girls summer camp, LumberJanes really is about “friendship to the max”.)  And I’m sure there’s more I’m not thinking of right now.  Maureen Johnson also has a series of boarding school murders, but it’s more of a library check-out rather than a purchase.

Library Haul

After talking with #2, I decided to reread My Antonia.  I’d forgotten about the racism (#2 has been having this problem with books she read as a child as well– how did I forget?).  Also, having grown up somewhere with hot summers, I completely don’t believe that whole “it’s hot but we didn’t really notice it, and summer is totally beautiful” bunk.  Heat stroke is real, and not fun.

Anno Dracula.  It was ok.  A little bit too proud of itself.  I wanted to know more about the 400-year-old female vampire.

The Lyttelton Hart-Davis Letters (vol. 1).  Just two English guys being nice to each other, gossiping, talking about books, and how much they like each other.  Soothing and cheerful.  A good read before bed.

The Gates of Sleep, one of Mercedes Lackey’s Elemental Masters series.  Turns out I had already read it and I just kept forgetting.  It’s the sleeping beauty retelling.  The heroine triumphs through her own internal fortitude, aided by love of her family and friends.  A good popcorn read with a happy ending.  Get it from the library.

The Anchoress by Robyn Cadwallader.  Took a chance on this one because it looked interesting.  (Was it worth it?)  Yes.

Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson.  Not just a description, a philosophy!  The Blogess deals with her mental illnesses by writing funny things.

#2 read um… some more Loretta Chase, which continues to be mixed.  She does recommend Last Night’s Scandal and so far she’s enjoying the Dressmakers series.  She found Balogh’s Simply Unforgettable to be irritating with one of those a single serious conversation would have  ended the book a lot earlier tropes.  So much dragging.  Also, the heroes’ persistence would be scary if he were the villain.  The other books in that series are great though.

Long-distance book and bonding club

My mother-in-law texted me that she loves me and misses me.  We both love to read, so she suggested that the two of us have a book club!  We could each read the same book and discuss it once a month.  I said that it would have to incorporate drinking wine, as that is a key feature of book club.  We agreed that we will both drink (possibly the same) wine while discussing.

We’re in different time zones, but we both have MLK day and Presidents’ Day off, so those will be our first two meetings.  Yay day-drinking for the two of us lightweights!  Well, it’s five o’clock somewhere, including possibly in one of our time zones.  Time is TBA.  The first book will be The Library at Mount Char.  She recently loved it and I’ve been wanting to read it, so we’ll discuss that in mid-January.  I’ve heard only great things about it.

I’ll update and let you know how it went!  She really is the sweetest.

 

What did we read over Thanksgiving?

Earlier I read A Darker Shade of Magic by V. S. Schwab.  I enjoyed it: YA fantasy about multiple Londons existing simultaneously.

I also liked Orbital Resonance by John Barnes:  teen nerds in space.

I’m loving the Cormoran Strike novels by Robert Galbraith (J. K. Rowling).  I can’t put them down and have stayed up way too late reading, also sometimes reading before work and almost being late.  Number two is The Silkworm.

Then we had a long weekend and I read a lot.

Mira Grant’s series about bloggers vs. zombies (Feed, Deadline, Blackout) are each around 600 pages in paperback.  I read the first two over Thanksgiving, along with some graphic novels.  I loved them, but they’re too violent for #2.  I still haven’t gotten to the third book in the series.

Lady Killer, continuing my trend of reading comics featuring strong women.

Lumberjanes #2, in which the girls earn their “Friendship to the Max!” badge.  Also dinosaurs.  You don’t need to have read the first volume to enjoy this one.

I really just love reading books very, very much.

#2 reread Seducing an Angel, not realizing she’d already read it even though she read the others in the series and was sure she hadn’t read the brother’s story yet when she most recently read the cousin’s story (in fairness I read the paperback ages ago not realizing/not caring it was part of a series and it looks nothing like the hardback).  It is sometimes fun to read books out of order and then you get a completely different feeling for them reading again them in chronological order when you know all of the characters.

Also, if you want a free kindle book, #2 enjoyed Daisy’s Aunt.  Yes, the plot is ridiculous (“Victorian melodrama”-lite), and if you’re looking for Mapp and Lucia you’re not going to find those levels of mean-spiritedness (even the villain is treated benevolently by the author), but E.F. Benson’s biting sense of humor definitely shows itself here and there, particularly in descriptions of the country estate.  And some of the main character’s dialogue, and some of the ridiculous minor characters.  Light and fun with little bits of devilish writing that make you take a second look and highlight with a little smirk.

What do you love doing very, very much?  Alternately, how do you approach series?

Books that foster a growth mindset in kids (and grownups)

We are totally into growth mindsets as a way to be.  In fact, we have blogged about growth mindsets at least a couple of times before.  And we’ve discussed Mindset by Carol Dweck here and there.  Here’s some additional resources for fostering growth mindsets in kids.  Some of them we’ve posted before, but some are new to us, thanks to #1’s sister who provided us with a list of resources (shoutout!)

You can learn anything: A cool video.

Here are some more books for kids of all ages, with brief commentary on the ones we’ve read:

Dream Big, Little Pig! by Kristi Yamaguchi. Companion: It’s a Big World, Little Pig!
The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper (we like this one, classic!)
The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes by Mark Pett and Gary Rubunstein
Your Fantastic Elastic Brain by JoAnn Deak, Ph.D.
Beautiful Oops! by Barney Saltzberg (big recommend!  So fun!)
A Little Bit of Oomph! by Barney Saltzberg
Ish by Peter H. Reynolds (#2 finds Peter H. Reynolds to be annoyingly preachy and especially dislikes So Few of Me, which seems to be digging at the parent reading the book rather than being for the kid)
The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires (HUGE recommend!  Describes the engineering process perfectly through the eyes of a budding young engineer and her dog.)
Flying! by Kevin Luthardt
Someday by Eileen Spinelli
The OK Book by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
The Mermaid and the Shoe by K G Campbell
Make Magic! Do Good! by Dallas Clayton
A Is for Awesome by Dallas Clayton
Miss Maple’s Seeds by Eliza Wheeler
Lily the Unicorn by Dallas Clayton
What Do You Do With an Idea? by Kobi Yamada
I Can Be Anything! by Jerry Spinelli
Almost by Richard Torrey
Mistakes That Worked by Charlotte Jones
Prudence Wants a Pet by Cathleen Daley (the illustrations are hilarious)
Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae (DC1 really liked this one back when zie was a toddler)

See anything you want for the people in your life this non-denominational holiday or birthday season?  Any other suggestions for great books that promote growth mindsets?

In which we read some more

What are we reading these days?

Heresy by S. J. Parris.  First in a series of historical mysteries starring (the later-burned-as-a-heretic) Giordano Bruno.

Paper Girls #1 by Brian K. Vaughan, Cliff Chiang, Matt Wilson, & Jared K. Fletcher.  You know how paper boys deliver the morning paper on their bikes?  Some of them are girls.  And some of those girls have seen some weird, creepy, unnatural stuff around their town.  Number two is out now!

Exquisite Corpse by Penelope Bagieu (incredibly excellent ending!).  Highly recommend, yes.

First Second Press (:01) is really killing it with their publications these days, I tell you what.  I also have The Undertaking of Lily Chen out from the library.  Unfortunately I ended up not liking any of the main characters very much.

What’s #2 reading?

Raising Steam by Terry Pratchett.  This one doesn’t flow as well as the general Discworld– it feels like it’s missing a final editing, which it most likely did.  Things that would, in previous volumes, be more subtle are a bit more heavy-handed and overt.  Things that would previously have been more streamlined stand out as clever short vignettes.  But I still like it very much.  The messages are good.  The commentary important.  And, importantly, I feel like it is a fitting ending for our relationship with Ankh-Morpork, as we usher it on into the next long-century saying our final good-byes to favorite characters.  Ankh-Morpork will move forward into the future, even if we are no longer watching.  If the last Tiffany Aching is as good, then I will be happy.

So we’ve got this Loretta Chase thing going, but we can’t really fully recommend her.  Like… Lord of Scoundrels was a little problematic but a huge page turner.  Mr. Impossible was entertaining and had a great pair of main characters… but… the author used every vaguely racist Empire Cliche when dealing with the people of Egypt; it’s painful to even think about listing them.  Knaves’ Wager was a disappointment– a hodgepodge of other romance novels and characters and tropes but still managing to be dull.  She relied on the tropes too much to fill in the romance without actually showing things (like the hero says, “you’re too X to be trapped in this kind of marriage” but nowhere in the book up to this point has she shown herself to be X to the hero, not once)– it was pretty weak tea and I wish I hadn’t succumbed to the $2.99 kindle fee.  Most of the rest of her work seems to rely on the hero not taking no for an answer.  Which the heroine is secretly fine with when he is rich and titled.  The only difference between the hero and the villain in one of her books is that the villain is bad with money!

Lame.

Two more quick ones from #1:  I finished Secondhand Souls from Christopher Moore.  You probably need to read the first book before you read it.  And I’m in the middle of The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow, which so far is excellent.  The very best part is the official Utterances from the AI.

Read, Grumpeteers, read!  What do you have on tap?

 

Book Review: Petunia, The Girl Who Was Not a Princess

Wow, this review has been a long time coming.

We received this book free from Wandering Scientist in exchange for, um, her being awesome, I guess?  (If it was in exchange for an unbiased review, we really should have gotten this post out the door a LOT sooner.)

Petunia, The Girl Who Was Not a Princess is a fun book with great illustrations.  It’s about a girl who isn’t into the princess thing and doesn’t, to paraphrase John Green, understand princess-loving girls complexly.  A princess-lover moves in next door, and it turns out that the new girl is just as complex as Petunia is herself, as are all the other neighborhood princesses (and princes) and they are able to have a lot of fun together.

Books in this genre of girls’ books come in two flavors.  There’s the type that tries really hard to be a feminist book and completely and totally fails because they shame a subset of women (ex. princesses) or provide the message that misogyny is normal in a way that shouldn’t yet be crossing a toddler’s mind.  Petunia is the other type– the kind that doesn’t shame even the youngest of choice feminists.  Especially terrific are Holly Liminton’s illustrations, which take great care to include a diverse cast of characters doing fun things.

Of course, this book isn’t for mommy– it’s for DC2.  So what is really important is the toddler test:  Does DC2 enjoy it?  Does zie request it?  Yes and yes.  Zie also gets really excited whenever I’m looking at Wandering Scientist’s webpage and zie sees the cover on the page, “I have that book!” (Usually followed by the sound of pounding feet to get said book, and then a demand to have it read.)  That’s still true after a year of ownership.

So if you’re holiday shopping take a look at this one.  Additionally, you cannot go wrong with Nelson’s other children’s book, The Zebra said Shhh.

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