April 2020 Books

Steal Like an Artist, by Austin Kleon

This is a fun series of books/ collages about art, being creative, and an affirmation that artists steal stuff from influences they love, then remix them in ways unique to themselves. Basically, it’s trying to let you off the hook from thinking you need to be “completely original” to matter. Artists steal inspiration from everywhere (not to be confused with plagiarism, which is bad and should be avoided).

★ ★ ★ ★

The Blue Castle, by Lucy Maud Montgomery

A sweet story: part romance, part self-discovery, part appreciation of nature. Valancy Stirling is a quiet, unhappy young woman in her late-20’s. She lives quietly at home, doing everything she’s supposed to, and hating all of it. Her family overlooks her and considers her an Old Maid. When she receives a medical diagnosis, she decides to live her remaining life the way she wants to, with surprising and happy results.

Montgomery’s descriptions of Canada are beautiful, as always (I think my very favorite part was in the middle when Montgomery describes time passing by telling us about the beauties of each season), and the story gentle, which was a welcome relief in a time when real life was a bit…much.

★ ★ ★ ★

The Toll, by Neal Shusterman

This is the final installment of the Scythe trilogy. It’s hard to talk about the plot without spoilers for previous books, but the scope continues to widen, as a third installments usually does. Things look dire for our heroes.

Generally I liked this and thought it brought the series to an interesting conclusion, but I found the ending a little abrupt — there were lots of characters by the end and while we check in with most of the main ones left, what happens to the larger society and where a couple of the characters go next was left a little hazy. I understand this, but it felt a little…unfinished, or maybe unpolished.

But if you’re looking for a YA dystopian series to fill the Hunger Games sized hole in your heart, this may be just what you’re looking for.

★ ★ ★

Maisie Dobbs, by Jacqueline Winspear

We open with Miss Dobbs opening a private investigation business. Her first case is a possible marital infidelity, proving to me that this is the main reason to hire a PI, even in the 1920’s.

Most of this book is told in flashbacks of Maisie’s early life and how she went from housemaid to PI (well, the link between the end of the war and wanting to become an investigator is not fleshed out, but ok). It’s an interesting origin story for a female investigator after World War I, and the book is full of interesting historical detail.

The opening mystery itself seems more of a setup for dealing with the aftermath of WWI — there are interesting questions of how to deal with collective grief due to a traumatic worldwide event (this seems a little more relevant these days…).

Overall this was an enjoyable light touch look at post-WWI England and an introduction to a character who, I assume, has more adventures in psychology and detection in later books.

★ ★ ★

I’ve found it hard to focus the past couple months, so I’m surprised I read this much in April. I’m letting myself off the hook for trying to read anything difficult right now, and will get back to some of the tomes I want to read at a later date, maybe when we aren’t in the middle of a pandemic?

What have you been reading lately? Or have you been able to read much?

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