June 17th, 2010


Books 28-30

28. Tunneling to the Center of the Earth, by Kevin Wilson. 2010 Alex Award. This is a collection of short stories, each seemingly in a mundane setting, but with an added twist. For example, my favorite, Grand Stand-In, you have scenes of people talking, and occasionally complaining about their jobs. Sounds normal -- except their jobs are as a sort of "replacement" grandparent that families can hire. The main protagonist is quite comfortable with her job, comfortable with balancing several of her families and distancing herself emotionally. But then she is given an assignment that sorely tests her ability to remain detached: a family whose grandmother is still alive wants to hire her. The story made me thing of "The Giver" by Lois Lowry. All the stories are good, for high school and up. The stories are quick, but thought-provoking. I like the Q&A with the author, and informational tidbits on the stories included at the end.

29. Big Wolf and Little Wolf: The Leaf That Wouldn't Fall, written by Nadine Brun-Cosme, illustrated by Olivier Tallec. 2010 Batchelder Honor Book. A very charming picture book with an excellent and surprisingly layered message about friendship. Little Wolf spies an especially sweet, green leaf high on a tree and immediately wants it. Big Wolf tells his friend to be patient, but when time passes and the leaf still doesn't fall, Big Wolf goes to get it. The climb is dangerous, and Little Wolf begins to question putting his friend at such risk for a leaf.

30. “Eidi,” written by Bodil Bredsdorff. 2010 Batchelder Honor Book. The sequel to "The Crow-Girl." Those who haven't read "The Crow-Girl" (or who haven't read it in a while) may find the first chapter or two a bit hard to follow. Not a lot of background is covered in "Eidi." But after that, the story finds its own path as Eidi journeys from Crow Cove to make her own way into the world. Her mother has just had a baby, and Eidi fears there is no place for her. This is a good coming-of-age story, and Eidi not only gets to spin wool and knit -- something she's already competent at -- but she learns to bargain and to think on her feet. She learns to take a stand as she helps and nurtures Tink, a boy who has been abused by his adoptive father.
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Title: Goth Girl Rising
Author: Barry Lyga
Year of Publication: 2009
Genre: YA
Pages: 388
First Line: "My mother and I both spent a lot of time in hospitals."

Summary: After six months in the Maryland Mental Health Unit, Kyra Sellars, a.k.a. Goth Girl, is going home. Unfortunately, she's about to find out that while she was away, she lost track of more than time.

Things seem normal at first. Roger's his typical pain-in-the-ass, fatherly self. Jecca and Simone and the rest of the goth crowd still do their thing. And Kyra is back in black, feeling good, and ready to make up with the only person who's ever appreciated her for who she really is.

But then she sees him. Fanboy. Transcended from everything he was into someone she barely recognizes.

And the anger and memories come rushing back.

Fanboy. The Spermling. Miss Powell. Roger.

Her mother.

There's so much to do to people when you're angry.

Kyra's about to get very busy.

Source: Back of book

Review: Another fantastic book by Barry Lyga. A great and realistic story with a plot that is more real-life than fiction. I say that because Lyga focuses on a string of problems and every day life, rather than just one large conflict. One large conflict IS in the book, but it sort of lingers in the background as it builds up. I loved this book and I feel reading it again would be like reading an entirely different book. Definitely worth checking out.

Worst part: I'm not sure Lyga does a spectacular job getting the female voice right.

Best part: Aside from the femininity question (or getting the female voice "right") of Lyga's voice, I love KYRA'S voice. I can't quite explain it. It felt like she was actually talking to you. Lyga does a great job with keeping a consistent conversational tone, diction, etc.

Grade: A-

Other Books by This Author: The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl, Hero-Type, and Boy Toy.

Other Notes: 1. Some pretty mature themes, but nothing extremely graphic.

2. This is a sequel to The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl. Despite this, it may be possible to read GGR without reading tAAoFaGG. It wouldn't be easy, and I certainly recommend reading tAAoFaGG if only for the fact that it's awesome by itself, but it is possible.

3. I recently read two graphic novels. Do you guys include those on your lists for 50? I'm considering counting them as .5 each. These are the first graphic novels I've ever read, so . . . Let me know your opinions!

43 / 50 books. 86% done!

Unbounded Talk About Frightened Willoughby; Returned God Lion; Just American Devil

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Just Kids, by Patti Smith
This was a fun book. And it led me off in all sorts of other musical and thinky-thought directions, which is always a nifty thing. Patti Smith remains awesome. Robert Mapplethorpe, I am reminded, was complicated and sometimes lovely.

Best American Comics 2009, edited by Charles Burns, series editors Jessica Abel and Matt Madden
I think my favorite years of this are the ones where I absolutely hate some of the stuff included. So this would be one of those years. Some really neat stuff, too, and I'm always really glad they excerpt books as well as using shorter stuff...

Skim, by Jillian and Mariko Tamaki
Exhibit A as to why I'm glad BAC excerpts books ... this was already on my reading list, but the chunk in BAC 2009 skipped it up to the top. Elegant, deceptively simple art and pitch-perfect storytelling. The kind that leaves you feeling like you knew that girl once. Or maybe that you wished you did.

Devil in the White City, by Erik Larson
Read this for my book club. I spent the first half of the book thoroughly enjoying the Burnham/Olmsted/fairmaking parts and sighing every time I got to a chunk about Holmes (a serial killer). I eventually came to terms with why it made sense to tell the serial murderer story too, and ended up quite liking the overall effect of the book even though the style occasionally irritated me. But, you know, still don't so much like thinking about real-life serial killers. As that kind of book goes, it's top-flight. Mostly it made me really want to read the copy of A Clearing In The Distance: Frederick Law Olmsted and America in the 19th Century that's been sitting on my bookshelf since 2003. Which is a good thing, I suspect.
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John Avlon's Wingnuts: How the Lunatic Fringe is Hijacking America is clearly a polemic, and its principal focus is on more vocal circles of opposition to Our President. Chapters with titles such as Obama Derangement Syndrome, The Birth of White Minority Politics, Sarah Palin and the Limbaugh Brigades, and The Hatriots: Armed and Dangerous identify what Mr Avlon sees as the scariest parts of the various strands of conservatism, libertarianism, and on occasion white supremacy. [His presentation is not as hysterical as Chris Matthew's recent "The Rise of the New Right," smacked down by Hot Air.] Other chapters, however, make it clear that True Believers have all manner of beliefs, noted in Polarizing for Profit, Hunting for Heretics, and The Big Lie: Birthers and Truthers. The opening parts, A Wingnut Glossary and Introducing the Wingnuts, introduce all manner of True Believers, and the author chooses to use the word wingnut to describe any True Believer whose Beliefs are too remote from the Vital Center. The distinction between wingnuts (the left's pejorative) and moonbats (the right's pejorative) adds notation without clarity.

Book Review No. 11 notes Wingnuts's unusual endnotes, in which almost all the references are to web sites ... your library at home, forsooth, although some Ronald Reagan speeches have not yet been encoded. Substantively, the author notes that in his view, most people hold enough beliefs in the Vital Center so as to be able to resist the arguments from the extremes (this is the median voter argument, with voter preferences that do not invalidate minimum differentiation). He suggests that Congress change the apportionment formula to produce districts with more viewpoint diversity rather than creating safe districts for both parties. Although such a change has the potential both to favor candidates that cater to the median voter and to upset the conditions favorable to maximum differentiation in the primaries, where the True Believers are more likely to vote, it presupposes more racial comity than may currently exist. Those safe districts are the bipartisan implementation of the Voting Rights Act in such a way as to create majority-minority districts by clustering primarily poor Americans with African roots together to elect Democrats, and at the same time creating Republican districts, often by clustering primarily poor Americans with European roots together. Tradeoffs again: does a Congress that approximates the ethnic mix of the country matter more, or does a Congress that approximates the viewpoint mix?

(Cross-posted to Cold Spring Shops.)