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Only books that are first reads for me.

The Gate Thief (Orson Scott Card) This is a second book in a projected-to-be-three-book series, and managed better than most to be a standalone book with it's own story arc. The first chapter did a good job of basic recap without feeling too much like "the story until now", with the rest of the book focusing on what Danny and Wad choose to do next. The gate thief's actions make much more sense as the story continues (designed to hold $PlotPoint at bay, rather than doing it as an end of itself, thereby changing the perception of being the antagonist), and the political situations play out in both worlds (against the unpleasant queen in one, and the war likely to be spawned by the Families sending people through gates on the other).

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore (Robin Sloan) I couldn't resist a title like that (How awesome would it be to have a 24-hour used bookstore around, anyway? About a million percent awesome!), and this was a fun read, a novel of a guy stumbling into what might be a book cult, and harnessing the computing power of Google (at company headquarters), as well as a variety of intense characters and puzzles along the way. (Puzzles in the books in this book, not puzzles in the book itself. If that makes sense :-).

Until It Hurts to Stop (Jennifer Hubbard) A novel of a highschooler who was bullied in middle school, and discovers that her internal view of everyone else being fine but her is wrong; everyone has a misery, and it's not always about her. Well done, though.

Dead Ends (Erin Jade Lange) This was an interesting novel about two boys changing through their short friendship with each other. One had Down's, while the other was a bully, though he did not see himself that way. I don't think all bullies are like this, but it was interesting to see how he saw himself, and his views of himself changed, and his actions with it.

A Moment Comes (Jennifer Bradbury) A novel told in three voices, teens from different backgrounds at the time of Partition in northern India near Pakistan: one the daughter of a British cartographer, one a Hindu girl who'd already been hurt in the violence, and a Muslim boy who wants to go to Oxford. Tumultuous times, and they were together under one roof, having to deal with the violence outside the compound.

Cities of Empire: The British Colonies and the Creation of the Urban World (Tristram Hunt) This book looks at ten cities founded by or seriously modified by the British, looking not only at architecture and geography but also about the ideas behind each city, whether the British were interested in trade, or colonialism, or empire-building, and so on. It was an interesting book, but felt a bit weighed down by lots of descriptions of architecture when it felt like a few images might have carried the point more succinctly, leaving the author more time to discuss less superficial aspects. Also, it would have been helpful to have maps at a level between the world map at the front and the part-of-city map in each chapter. Otherwise, an informative read, ranging from Boston, to Cape Town, Barbados, a number of cities in India, Hong Kong, Australia, and back to Liverpool, whose fortunes rose, then fell, mirroring the rest of the empire (and now, in turn, may be colonized itself, economically at least, by Chinese and other interests).

Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? (Jeanette Winterson) is a memoir of a rather bizarre English childhood and how it affected her adulthood, escaping her Pentecostal adoptive mother who did not approve of lesbians, among many, many other things. Apparently, she's a well-known author; I hadn't heard of her before, so have no context from her fiction. It was an engaging, well-written read, though sometimes frustrating too, with her writing style always being in fairly short chunks.

My Father's Paradise (Ariel Sabar) is about an American-born son looking into his father's life. His father was born in northern Iraq, in a Jewish community that still spoke Aramaic. The family moved to Israel with the rest of the community; his father eventually overcame a lot of obstacles to become an Aramaic scholar, eventually becoming tenured at a university in CA. Interesting read, all around.

Knish (Laura Silver) is a lot of anecdotes around the history and culture of the knish, especially as it was evoked in NYC in the mid 20th century. It tries to be history, but never really succeeds at that, stringing together stories that never quite form a coherent whole, yet still enjoyable.

Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! (Laura Amy Schiltz) is a series of monologues and a few dialogues of teenagers in a medieval English town from all social strata. Interesting, sometimes interlocking, stories, with informational pages on topics like the Crusades or the three-field system. I enjoyed this a lot, plus learned two new words (friants are boar droppings, and a sniggler catches eels and frogs).

The Invention of Hugo Cabret (Brian Selznick) is sort of a picture novella about the early movies made in France, also clockwork automatons, magic, and loss.

Wonder (RJ Palacio) is a novel about a boy going to school for the first time in fifth grade. He was born with massive medical issues, and after years and years of surgery, still looks horrific. The story is told from a number of points of view, changing infrequently enough that it isn't exhausting. I liked this, but found it a bit predictable in its outline.


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