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Any Questions?, by Marie-Louise Gay
A completely delightful picture book FAQ by a widely beloved Quebecois writer. Lots of anecdote and side funny bits and even a complete example story that is a very fine story all on its own merits. I was surprised by how great this book is!
(21)

The Wonder Garden, by Jenny Broom, illlustrated by Kristjana S. Williams
Now this one is gilt-laden and ENORMOUS (width/height, not thickness), so it was no surprise at all that it was lovely and well made. The illustrations, which predominate, weirdly manage to be both Victorian AND hypermodern at once, which continues to puzzle and fascinate me, and the accompanying text is very factual without being dry. 9 year old me would've been attached at the hip to this book.
(22)

The Wicked + The Divine, vol. 1: The Faust Act and vol. 2: Fandemonium, by Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie et al
The only thing better than falling madly in love with a new comic book series, is doing so and then finding out that you like the second volume even better than the first. Has entered the pantheon of Maribou-approved comics. (It's a very small pantheon that doesn't include many of the titles I am currently enjoying - it may eventuallly, but then again it may not - so this is a Big Deal.) MORE PLEASE.
(23, 73)

Nebula Awards Showcase 2014, edited by Kij Johnson
I wanted to start getting back into these with the volume edited by Kij Johnson, because I was quite sure that her additional selections would be very readable and interesting. And they were! Hurrah. Backstory: when I lived in a small place growing up, our unusually large-for-its-population-base library had just about EVERY volume of Nebula, Hugo, etc., award winners. And I read just about EVERY volume they had. Realized during last year's Hugo business that I missed reading those, as well as the Year's Bests that I started reading mostly in college. (Think I read some *really old* Year's Bests as a kid, but nothing contemporary.) Such anthologies used to be the 2nd most common way I had of finding new non-YA authors to devour. (The first way was randomly pulling things off the SF paperback rack without paying attention to series order, cover art, or blurbs, then reading the first few pages and a middle page to see if I felt interested. It worked better than you might think.)
(24)

How to Live Well with Chronic Pain and Illness: A Mindful Guide, by Toni Bernhard
No such book is ever going to be perfectly pitched to teach me only the things I need to know (or need reminding of) without talking about other stuff that I either already knew or feel decidedly skeptical about. That said! This had a positive, gentle, helpful and non-saccharine tone that I really appreciate. It was frank about the author's own struggles. The chapters are pleasingly short, which demonstrates the author's practical insight into what chronically ill people need out of a self-help book. And I learned stuff. Actually, sometimes now when I get stressed out about medical things, I hear my own version of stuff the author said, pointing out a different perspective. Which is so far more helpful than annoying, if only just. So I think some other people might also find it helpful? I'm always so hesitant to recommend this sort of book because I dread other people forcing self-help books on me. But I'm glad I read it. If nothing else, hearing that lots of the things I've figured out on my own are ALSO the opinion of someone who sells books on the subject? Allows me to feel smug;).
(25, O2)

A Very Southern Christmas, edited by Charline R. McCord and Judy H. Tucker
These were friendly, warmhearted stories and I at least mildly enjoyed all of them. A few were downright excellent. However, I never really stopped being annoyed that when they say "Holiday Stories from the South's Best Writers" in the subtitle, what they MEAN is "the South's Best White Writers." I think it was probably a bad marketing decision, but regardless, the hyperbole inadvertantly underlined the samey-ness of the stories and left a bad taste in my mouth about how sometimes racism can be as simple as ignoring what should stare you in the face. Too bad. As I said, the stories were good to excellent. (And I do realize that if I go back and reread a bunch of old SF best of anthologies, similar sorts of sameyness will rear their heads from time to time. But I'll be *ready* for those...)
(26)

Poems in the Attic, by Nikki Grimes
A charming story, well-illustrated, that is probably my least favorite set of Nikki Grimes poems ever. Whenever I'm unimpressed by a book from an author I like, I feel like the fault must be in me, not them.
(27)

In the House of the Wicked, by Thomas E. Sniegoski
*sings the tasty tasty theological urban fantasy song* The stakes are really ramping up here, and this was one of the best books in the series. Really looking forward to the rest.
(28)

Santa's Favorite Story, by Hisako Aoki, illustrated by Ivan Gantchev
This was some illustrator's favorite Christmas story, and the illustrations are impressively magical. (I'll probably go on a Gantchev binge at some point.) The story is fine, but did not catch my heart.
(29)

Rabbit Ears, by Amber Stewart, illustrated by Laura Rankin
This OUGHT to be the sort of didactic story I don't care for, given that the entire point of the book is to get kids to be less avoidy about bathtime, which isn't even the sort of goal that I care about. So that's TWO strikes (one for being didactic and one for not choosing something that matters to me personally to be didactic about). However, the book is so darn cute (both illustrations and words), and the emotional give and take so realistic (I mean, for human kids, not for bunnies :D), and the solution to the dilemma so plausible - that I loved it! I'm always extra pleased when that happens. I'm not sure it would actually convince any little kids to do what the author wants them to do, but I think they might enjoy the story and then be sneakily tricked into lowering their defenses on the topic of washing, generally. Unless they were rotten little cynics like I was at that age, in which case they would probably deconstruct the rhetorical traps used by the story and drive their mothers up a wall! But grown up me is nonetheless all aswoon over TEH CUTE.
(30)
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