Sunday, October 10, 2010

An addendum and what I read last summer

So yesterday I talked about ZOMBIES VS UNICORNS and I kind of called Alaya Dawn Johnson a pottymouth perv. Well, I still went back to finish the story she wrote "Love Will Tear Us Apart" and it was AMAZING! I might even go read her series (even though in my equation of what interests me in YA magic+the Pacific Ocean=snore) because her writing is great. One of the things that I don't like in non-realistic fiction is that sometimes the background details are shoddy. This story was tight. And her characters were so fascinating. And she made a very unsympathetic (zombie) protagonist very sympathetic.

Okay, and now I am on to what I read this summer. A surprising amount of it was not YA, but what can I say. Sometimes a middle aged matron must read like a middle aged matron. (Don't you love the word matron? It brings together a delightful combination of Mrs. Oleson from LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE -the show, not the books- and Queen Latifah in CHICAGO leavened with Donna Reed and Harriet Nelson. If you are under the age of 40, just keep reading and don't look back...)

But I digress -  so here is the list with mini-blurbs.

The Leisure Seeker: A NovelTHE LEISURE SEEKER by Michael Zadoorian is about two old people, one with terminal cancer, one with Alzheimer's who drive Route 66 to Disneyland in a last ditch effort to enjoy life. I laughed, I cried. Thanks, Mom, for recommending it!
Sophomore SwitchSOPHOMORE SWITCH by Abby McDonald is about two girls, one a soCal blond, the other an English intellectual who do a college exchange. I am sure you will be surprised to find out that their expectations are entirely different from what they end up with! Hilarity ensues, and just because you pretty much see every plot point before it hits, doesn't mean that this isn't a fun ride.
Sisters RedIf Jackson Pearce would write faster, I would really appreciate it. SISTERS RED is, I believe, her second book and it is a great, non-cliched werewolf story that will certainly be short-listed for BHS summer reading as soon as she deigns to get it out in paperback!
Is It Night or Day?In IS IT NIGHT OR DAY, Fran Schumer Chapman tells a fictionalized version of her mother's story of escaping Germany at the beginning of the holocaust and her painful story of her first years in the United States. You won't find any "America is great country!" immigrant story, but rather the moving story of a young girl having to navigate a new world alone.
Sorta Like a Rock StarMatthew Quick's SORTA LIKE A ROCK STAR is wonderful, funny, touching and sure to be on summer reading next year. Amber Appleton has a life that any normal person would consider a poop sandwich, but her amazing positivity is her salvation as she navigates her life bringing joy to others. Until she doesn't. AMAZING book.
The PassageTHE PASSAGE is Brendan Cronin's beast of a doorstop. It just kept going and going and I just kept reading and reading. There is a military experiment that results in a race of zombie/vampire/scary creatures that terrify everyone. Me included. It jumps 100 years and races from place to place deliciously. I believe that it is the first in an intended trilogy. I hope I don't forget everything before the next one comes out!

Prairie Tale: A MemoirConfessions of a Prairie Bitch: How I Survived Nellie Oleson and Learned to Love Being HatedYou can't read one without the other! Melissa Gilbert's PRAIRIE TALE and Alison Angrim's CONFESSIONS OF A PRAIRIE BITCH are both fun reads. The former is a little more delicate but still honest and fun. The latter is far deeper than I expected. Both were well written and both made me feel like I could be besties with either of these prairie icons of my childhood.
Extra Lives: Why Video Games MatterI ripped through EXTRA LIVES: WHY VIDEOGAMES MATTER by Tom Bissell. Trying to understand why my children were such huge fans. I finished with a pretty good idea. This would be an excellent summer reading book, except the author is recalcitrant in his unrepentant attitude towards his recreational drug use. But he has a fascinating perspective.

Okay, that takes me through July 12. I'll finish up later!

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Back in the Saddle Again...

So summer was nice. I read a lot. Some books for grown-ups even! At some point I will share what they were. I finally read THE GIRL WITH THE HORNET DRAGON KICKING FIRE NEST KICKING. It was interesting but made me feel like I should have been paying more attention to Sweden.

So we are back in school. It was a great fall. This year's summer reading was splendid. Ms Woznick and I put up an art show at the public library that was spectacularly attended. Nancy Werlin came to the discussion of her book IMPOSSIBLE and had lunch with some students (and teachers). She was lovely and so willing to share her experience and encourage others in their writing.

It is my favorite time of year when standardized testing allows me to  start cranking through some of the things I have been meaning to read. I hit nine titles today and really liked all but one of them!

Funny and clever - FAT VAMPIRE by Adam Rex is about a pudgy, lonely, hungry vampire looking for a girl to call his own. The first 3 chapters had me shaking with laughter. There is also a parallel story about an exchange student from India who seems to be destined to be his pal.

I hate the cover and I am slightly put off by the America-first tone (don't get me wrong, I love America, but it isn't nice to brag...) but I am dying to find out what the heck is going on in THE LAST THING I REMEMBER by Andrew Klavan. This page turner that had me reading way to fast through the flashback sections to get to the part where they are going to finally explain it to me. Eighty-six pages in 20 minutes - a new personal record! And I still don't know where Charlie West is and why people seem determined to kill him and neither does he!

Not much is happening yet in ROSE SEES RED by Cecil Castelucci, but it appears to be taking place during the cold war and our heroine is attending the New York High School for the Performing Arts. So am I going to finish it? Does Coco want to live forever???

The titular GIRL STOLEN by April Henry, is not just an heiress, with a bad case of pneumonia - she is also blind! And spunky as all get-out. I love her, but I am also kind of feeling a pang for the poor misunderstood son-of-a-bastard who accidentally kidnapped her and is now in way over his head. The closest thing to a summer reading sure thing I have seen in awhile!

STOP ME IF YOU'VE HEARD THIS ONE BEFORE by David Yoo made me so happy in the first 30 pages that I could just spit! It has several of my favorite YA conventions - summer jobs, uneven love affairs (fat girl + jock, rich girl + poor boy, in this case Asian outcast + high school princess) and according to the jacket flap, it is going to be a "handsome young boy with cancer" book too! Oh happy day. I was laughing out loud and annoying my test takers. I hope it stays this painfully good.

I only read the first story in BEFORE YOU SUFFOCATE YOUR OWN FOOL SELF by Danielle Evans, but it has started breaking my heart. It is a collection of short stories, not usually my favorite. But the first one, about two black high school girls who sneak into the city to go clubbing, was so vivid and beautifully written, I am not going to be able to stop there. It is the kind of book that both makes me want to write and convinces me that there are very few people who CAN actually write like that. 

This is my second time taking NUMBERS by Rachel Ward out of the library. The first time I returned it uncracked. The creepy red eyeball just gave me the wiggins. But this time I started it and wow, I am hooked! Our (anti?)heroine is an orphan who can see everyone's numbers - the date of their death. So far, a sad backstory and a bunch of ripping foreshadowing has me unable to put it in the return pile.

ZOMBIES VS UNICORNS is a collection of stories edited by the amazing Justine Larbalestier and Holly Black (who may very well be amazing as well, although I don't really know at this juncture).  The idea is that they are trying to determine who is better - zombies or unicorns. (Unicorns, obviously. Oh...spoiler.)  I like the conciet and I loved the first story by Garth Nix. Thankfully Alaya Dawn Johnson is proving to be something of a pottymouth perv (or at least her undead protagonist is) and so I don't feel the need to keep reading for summer reading purposes. (Not going to get fired for this, no matter how much he wants things to his macaroni and cheese.) But I am looking forward to picking up her MOONSHINE, which looks splendid. And also, I shall be reading "The Care and Feeding of Your Baby Killer Unicorn" by Diana Peterfreund, because the title is thirty-one-derful flavors of awesome!

The last book I picked at today was A HEARTBREAKING WORK OF STAGGERING GENIUS by Dave Eggars, which annoyed me to no end. I think if I had read it when it first came out and it was all barrier breaking, I would have loved it. The story is moving, the writing is beautiful, but I have slogged through 10 years of self-referential navel gazing wrought by this book and I am no longer impressed. I am going to have to invoke the Elvis rule for this one. My beloved husband hates Elvis, but has been forced to admit that he is, in fact, the King because he brought country-western, church music and black traditional music together to create whatever the heck became rock and roll. So congratulations, Dave Eggars, you are the father of the annoyingly twisty, slightly-mocking memoir. (That being said, ZEITOUN? Beautiful, stunning, huzzah!)

So there you have it - another bunch of winners that I don't currently have the time to read. I am going to have to give up something. And I have already gotten rid of house cleaning! Dang...

Next week the ACTs!