I’ve always been an avid reader, but I don’t do so well in documenting what I’ve read and what I liked about it. I thought I might try to write reviews of three of my favorite books from this month. (The e-reader in the stack is standing in for the cozy mystery e-book I borrowed from the Brooklyn Public library. 😉 )
Every Single Second
This book came at the exact second I needed it most. These past few months have been difficult to make sense of. All of the terrorist attacks and the shootings of young, black men have created a ravenous fear-induced panic in the media and in our country. These past few months have been hard, because it just feels like we’re doing a horrible job of understanding and caring for one another as human beings. Every Single Second is the kind of book that makes you believe we’re better than that, that if we try, we can strive for and make it better. Every Single Second is about a young girl trying to make sense of a shooting that happens in her neighborhood and brings racist and classist tensions to a fever-pitch among people she thought she knew.
Twelve-year-old Nella Sabatini was best friends with Angela. Angela who’s mom disappeared. Angela who’s dad came back from the war and was never quite right. Angela who’s older brother is kind, caring, and also a criminal. In a second, everything can change. In a second, Nella can decide what kind of friend she’ll be. In a second, Nella can choose to abandon her responsibilities. In a second, Nella can learn her father’s dark secret. In a second, Nella can forgive, but in every moment, every single moment, she will be building up her world with both good and bad seconds. It’s impossible to deny the accumulation of time, as it rushes on, even when we most need it to stop so we can calm ourselves.
This novel races along full of tension, a startling awareness of the complexity of children’s emotions, and a sense of the weight that guilt can have on us all. It’s one of those books that makes you believe in better outcomes, in resolutions that benefit everyone, not just a select few.
Curiosity Thrilled the Cat
A Magical Cats Mystery #1
To say I’ve been obsessed with cozy mysteries this past year would be an understatement.
I just love how unabashedly fun they are!
I would hardly have considered a series title like “Magical Cats Mystery” to be for adults before I learned about cozies, but I’ve since come to embrace the whimsy of the genre.
Kathleen Paulsen has just moved to the small town of Mayville Heights, Minnesota to take the position of head librarian at the historically important and under-renovation library there. When she first moved there, she acquired two feral cats from an abandoned estate nearby who took a liking to her and followed her home. Soon she realizes her fluffy friends, Hercules and Owen, aren’t your average house cats…they have inexplicable magical abilities. While Kathleen tries to manage her new friendships, new job, and newfound feline secret, she unfortunately happens upon the dead body of a visiting conductor in the town music hall. When the detective begins to question her and her friends about the death, she realizes it will be up to her and her magical cats to get to the bottom of the mystery before someone is wrongly accused.
While certainly not the most well written of cozy mysteries, I like the supernatural element of this series. Also, the Minnesota mentions get me nostalgic, and it’s hard not to love a cozy series that focuses on cats. I’m always excited to see what kind of trouble Owen and Hercules will get Kathleen into and then out of. (I’m on book 3 of the series now, so you know it’s addictive!)
Beautiful Blue World
This book took me by surprise. I had read Suzanne Lafleur’s Listening to Lucca earlier in the year and been very intrigued by Lafleur’s ability to mix premonitions, memories, and dream trips to the past in a sensibly real story about the complex relationships siblings have. I loved the suspense in the cover of Beautiful Blue World and thought from the cover that it would be a novel about friendship during World War II. However, the story is a little more fantastical than that. It begins with Mathilde, a 12-year old girl and her friend, Megs, having to take shelter during air raids. Sofarende, their country, is in danger of losing the war and being incorporated by its neighbor and wartime enemy, Tyssia.
As a last ditch effort, the government is rounding up 12-year olds who succeed in meeting the requirements of a test and sending them to a safe place where they can work on a secret mission to protect their country. Mathilde, though convinced she’ll fail the test and scared to leave her family behind, decides to take the test due to the money reward her parents would earn if she is chosen by the government. Shockingly, Mathilde is chosen and Megs is not. Sent to a secret base, Mathilde tries to discover the reason she was chosen and how she can help, among many other students will more obvious and special abilities.
It’s hard to be succinct about a book that twists and turns so much, incorporating elements of The Mysterious Benedict Society whimsy and smarts with the emotional weight of darker wartime titles. Mathilde is a compelling character, but the narration during her time at the secret camp somehow feels like it weakens her. I read this book very fast and was disappointed as I began to reach the end and realized it was part of a series of books, not a stand-alone novel. I hadn’t felt that was clearly addressed on the cover or in the description. It was frustrating, but I’m also grateful that we may have a chance yet to see Mathilde and Megs characters really come through and shine in the end.