Books & More
"For my totem, the alley cat. We share the situation of small predators who easily become prey. I have my equivalent of claws and teeth, and indeed my arched back and loud hiss are my best defenses. When I need to hide my size and weakness, I can look fiercer than I am, but when I cannot talk or threaten or argue my way out of trouble, then I am in a lot of trouble. We are scavengers in the alleys and streets of a society we do not control and scarcely influence. We survive and perish both by taking lovers. Freedom is a daily necessity like water, and we love most loyally and longest those who allow us at least occasionally to vanish and wander the curious night. To them we always return from the eight deaths before the last."
from Braided Lives by Marge Piercy
Thursday, April 6, 2017
History is complicated
Title: Dreamland Burning
By: Jennifer Latham
Rowan Chase lives with her parents in Tulsa, Oklahoma. When her parents decide to do some renovations on their house, they run into a problem—construction workers find a skeleton buried in the backyard. When it’s discovered that the body has probably been there since the early 1920s and it’s that of a young man, Rowan decides to find out the truth about what really happened. The truth leads to the events leading up to the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot, when, over a two day period, the African American section of the city had been burned nearly to the ground. Rowanvaguely remembers learning about the riots in history class, but now it’s real. From a receipt found in the pocket of the dead man’s clothing, Rowan gets a name: William Tillman, a young man the same age as Rowan. Now, the story is told in two perspectives, Rowan’s investigation in the present day and William’s life in the days before the riot. At the end, will Rowan like the answers she finds? And will William survive the events of the riot?
Dreamland Burning shows us that history is complicated. There’s always more than one side to
Monday, March 13, 2017
I, too, dislike "Year of Reading This, Year of Reading That" memoirs. This one is actually good. It's hard to resist a literary tour guide who pits Moby-Dick against The Da Vinci Code (in the chapter "Whale vs. Grail"). Also, one has to like an author who includes the titles he considered, but, decided against, giving his book: The Miller's Tales; Up From Sloth; The Body In The Library.
The books Andy Miller reads in the course of his dangerous year range from fairly highbrow -- The Master And Margarita; Middlemarch; War And Peace; Under The Volcano -- to a Silver Age pop culture comic book (Silver Surfer, from the pages of The Fantastic Four)*. Regardless of the literary reputation of the book in question, he remains a diverting raconteur. About midway into his Year, he folds in some poignant memories of reading as a kid: a suburban children's library, no toys, just a smaller version of the main library with the same parquet floor with its perfume of polish. He then pivots to his own young son's burgeoning love of books. This deepens the book's emotional pull.
Miller also partakes of the enthusiasm of Krautrocksampler, an ecstatic survey of German psychedelic rock of the 70s ("It [Funken] achieved!"), and regards solemnly The Tiger Who Came To Tea, a picture book which seems bizarre in its own unique way, beyond the prevailing oddities of 1968 British kids' books.
Plus, how can you gainsay a writer who includes this Book Group Discussion Question about his own book: "Andy Miller obviously has a unique mind and a fierce intelligence. But would you want to go down the pub with him?"
*Truly, bristlingly highbrow, in my opinion, would be Finnegans Wake, or Gravity's Rainbow . . .
Saturday, October 29, 2016
Title: Twelve kinds of ice
By: Ellen Bryan Obed
This beautiful little book will capture the imagination of children and adults who haven’t experienced snowy, icy winters, and will bring back frosty memories to those who have. It starts with the first ice of the season: a sheer layer covering the sheep’s pail, so delicate that it breaks when you touch it. As the cold weather sets in, family members explore frozen streams, skate on glassy ponds, and create their own backyard skating rink. Finally, the last ice of the winter disappears, only to live on in the dreams of the children. Barbara McClintock’s charming illustrations complement the text perfectly.
Monday, October 3, 2016
Do you know why french fries are dangerous to werewolves?
By: Stephen Graham Jones
This is a doozy of a werewolf tale. It’s not a fantasy; it could have been written about any other kid from a troubled background, treated like a second class citizen. At a critical juncture, someone says to the unnamed 8-year-old protagonist, "being a werewolf isn’t just teeth and claws, it’s inside. It’s how you look at the world. It’s how the world looks back at you." In spite of the challenges of living in the modern world while concealing one’s wolf nature, the protagonist idolizes his grandpa and his Aunt Libby and Uncle Darren (werewolves all), the only family he has left. He yearns for the day when he will finally begin turning into a wolf himself. He hopes he will change at puberty, but there’s no telling for certain.
Do you know why french fries are dangerous to werewolves? Read this violent, desperate, and poignant coming of age story, and you’ll find out.
Monday, September 19, 2016
Different, modern, and a little dark
Title: I am Princess X
By: Cherie Priest
Having already read and enjoyed Cherie Priest’s Boneshaker and Dreadnought (very steampunky and dark books), I was a little uncertain as I approached her first young adult novel, I am Princess X. As it turned out, though my concern about it being too dark was somewhat well founded, I really enjoyed the book. Of course, I personally prefer a bit of darkness to my plots. And this book had just enough to make you care a lot about the characters and what they were/had been going through, but not so much that you would be particularly uncomfortable.
The subjects Cherie Priest addresses are the loss of close friends and children at a young age, the risks of the deeper and darker parts of the internet, and cybersecurity in general. So yeah, very mature and relevant topics going on in this book.
A slow and somewhat sad start leads the reader into a fast-paced scavenger hunt, as May and her new friend Trick hunt for clues about the mysterious accident that took May's friend Libby from her five years earlier. Snippets of the the webcomic about Princess X, the character that May and Libby made up when they were kids, are interspersed among the text. These pages dole out the clues that only May—and the reader—can recognize making for a unique read.
I highly recommend this book for readers ages 16 and up who are looking for something different, modern, and a little dark. It could also be a great stepping stone into reading graphic novels in general. Give this teen read a try and see what you think about its unconventional and very refreshing format.