Sunday, December 25, 2005

A Christmas Carol

In honor of the season, here is the text that is arguably responsible for my descent into English-major-hood. Damn you, Dickens!

Book: A Christmas Carol
Author: Charles Dickens
Originally Published: 1843

I trust I don't have to summarize this story. Nasty Scrooge (quick! what's his first name?), who doesn't care about anything but money, is visited by three ghosts who change his mind, and he transforms into a wonderful human being, literally overnight. It's been corrupted, raped, and despoiled in every way possible. From Sprint commercials to Mr. Magoo cartoons to, Dear God, the Muppet version (with Michael Caine, however, so all is not totally lost), this story is almost as well-known around this time of year as that one about some kid who was born in a stable.

Yet when you clear away all that adapted drek, the text itself is still a great read. Sure, it's Victoriana to the max - florid prose, unabashed sentimentalism, and angelic women. But it's also Charles Dickens at his most scathing, a bitter indictment of a society that does far too little for its most helpless. Tiny Tim, as nauseating as he is, stands in for the poor and helpless of England, doomed to a short life and painful death unless people like Scrooge open their hearts. It's not even about money; it's about love.

I first read this story in eighth grade, long before I could appreciate the nuances of social commentary or knew enough about Victorian history to get all the subtleties. Why I enjoyed it was the language. Dickens loves words. From the moment he pauses in his story to say thoughtfully,
"Mind! I don't mean to say that I know, of my own knowledge, what there is particularly dead about a door-nail. I might have been inclined, myself, to regard a coffin-nail as the deadest piece of ironmongery in the trade. But the wisdom of our ancestors is in the simile; and my unhallowed hands shall not disturb it, or the Country's done for. You will therefore permit me to repeat, emphatically, that Marley was as dead as a door-nail."

It was this combination of wordplay and tongue-in-cheek satire that first sucked me in. Since then, I've read it many times, and as with every true classic, I find something new every time.

"It's a good story about Victorian England, but it doesn't apply to 21st century USA," you say.

Oh, yeah? Look around.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Whales on Stilts! and Feed

Okay, I confess it, the Bibliovore has been on an itsy-bitsy hiatus. I blame finals. Yes, indeed, I blame finals for everything, including world hunger and the way you can never get the last maraschino cherry out of the jar without spilling radioactive red juice everywhere.

Finals doesn't mean I haven't been reading, though.

It's an M.T. Anderson Double Feature here at Confessions of a Bibliovore. I found these two very different books by the same author on the same day, in the same library. What are the odds?

Book: Whales on Stilts!
Author: M.T. Anderson
Published: 2005

Lily is a boring kid. She's quite sure of it. After all, her best friends, Katie and Jaspar have regular adventures, leading to book series, fan clubs, and tie-in products. What does Lily have? Not much, except an instinct that goes "Uh-oh" on the day she visits work with her dad. Maybe it's hearing about all those adventures from Jaspar and Katie, but something about the offices in an abandoned warehouse (with the sign warning of scorpions) and her dad's boss Larry (is she the only one who notices he's wearing a bag over his head?) just sets off her weird-o-meter. Then she discovers that Larry is planning to equip whales with lasers and stilts, for the express purpose of taking over the world.

This could be bad.

But the adults are completely oblivious. Obviously, it's up to the kids. Or more accurately, it's--urp!--up to Lily. Boring old Lily . . . who just may have what it takes to save the world.

This is M.T. Anderson's spoof on all those old adventure books from the 40's or so, not to mention B movies and bad cliches from everywhere. The exclamation point is a necessary part of the title, or else how would you know how desperately thrilling the whole business is? He had a whole lot of fun writing this book, throwing logic and reason out the window as he did so. Every five seconds, I looked up from the book and went "Huh?!??!" The rest of the time I was rolling around laughing.

If you like the Wayside School series and A Series of Unfortunate Events, go pick this book up. The plot dooesn't make much sense, but then it's not supposed to. If the banner across the top of the book ("M.T. Anderson's Thrilling Adventures!") is anything to go by, this may just become a regular series. I hope so. The world needs more books like this.

Book: Feed
Author: M.T. Anderson
Published: 2004

Like all his friends, Titus has always had a feed. It's a chip in his brain that delivers all the latest news, gossip, and ads. But during a vacation on the moon, he, all his friends, and the intriguing girl he has just met get hacked. The feed goes down, and he learns, briefly, what it's like to live inside his own head.

The feed goes back up, but Titus still remembers what it was like. When Violet, that intriguing girl, begins to question the feed, and by extension their entire society, Titus is at first entertained, then weirded out. He loves the feed. He can't live without it. But Violet can't live with it . . .

This is a completely different book from Whales on Stilts! Thoughtful and dystopic, it forces the reader to think about the many insidious ways in which media and big business influence our lives. There's a scene, both hilarious and stomach-turning, in which Violet attempts to get customer support for the feed and is urged to submit a customer profile so they can help her pick out products to buy.

I freely admit to being a complete internet junkie, and even I went, "I gotta get offline," after reading this book. (Obviously, that passed.) Possibly the most disturbing part (for me, at least) was the way that family bonds are completely lost in the shuffle. Anderson wisely leaves the fate of Titus and his dystopia open to interpretation, leaving us with only the fate of Violet to rattle around in our brains and make us get out a little more.

Sunday, October 16, 2005


I've been reading some good books lately. This one stands out.

Book: Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal
Author: Christopher Moore
Published: 2003

You know the drill. Christ was made flesh and came to earth in the form of a man, blah, blah, blah. What nobody's ever asked is, "How much like a man was Christ?" Enough to have a best friend. This is their story.

In a book that was probably challenged, protested, and censored even before it came out, the Son of God is called Joshua (his name in Hebrew), and his best friend is Levi, called Biff because that's the sound that was made when his mom smacked him upside the head. Which happens a lot, because even though Biff is best friends with the Messiah, he's got all the human frailties that Josh has escaped. Our intrepid narrator is obnoxious, perennially horny, disrespectful of just about everybody, and the best friend Josh could have had.

Of course, Biff knows Josh is the Son of God. He's just not that impressed. He's had to break this guy out of a wine amphora, after all. But he'd follow his friend anywhere, including to the East to find the Magi, back to Galilee, through the three years of preaching and meteoric fame, and to the foot of the cross itself.

What impressed me most about this book (besides the fact that it's hilarious) is that even though Christopher Moore has written what some would call a blasphemous and disrespectful book about a very human Jesus Christ, he doesn't descend into parody. There's a lot of slapstick and silliness, yes. But I got the impression that Moore has lot of love and reverence for his characters, which shines through and makes this not just a funny book, but a touching one as well.

The ending feels like a let-down, but it's not as if Moore could really deviate from the source material. Pick it up for the laughs, or the thoughtfulness, or just because it's so different.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

I Am the Messenger

It's been awhile, hasn't it? Like Counterfeit Son, this book has been hanging around waiting for me to blog it. Begging piteously, in fact.

Book: I am the Messenger
Author: Markus Zusak
Published: 2005

Ed Kennedy is pretty much a loser. Working as an underage cabbie, he goes home to a tiny shack and a really smelly dog. The love of his life prefers to be friends. Even his mom doesn't have much use for him.

Then one day he gets an ace of diamonds in the mail, marked with three addresses and times. His task--to go to those addresses at those times, meet the people there, and change their lives.

How he's going to do it is up to him.

This odd and thought-provoking book is structured around the four suits of playing cards. From the ace of diamonds, Ed goes on to clubs, spades, and hearts, each with a strange and nonsensical task that causes him to connect with at least three more people. From replacing lightbulbs in Christmas lights to sponsoring a meet-the-priest day for a struggling church (the key - free beer) to finally getting up the guts to face the love of his life, Ed's tasks ask more and more of him, in different ways. And from perfect strangers to his nearest and dearest (who may be the strangest of all), he gradually adds people to his lonely existence.

Gritty in patches, sweet in others, this book is very readable, if you don't mind some rough language. The ending, and the explanation for why and how Ed is getting all these cards, is a bit too clever, but the book's overall message about connecting to other people is well worth hearing.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

It's Banned Book Week, my fellow bibliovores! Check out this article for a quick discussion about banning with the author of the much-challenged Annie on My Mind.

Then go read something that would give the banners a heart attack. Try Fahrenheit 451, which has been banned itself for bad language. The irony is mind-boggling.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Counterfeit Son

Yes, indeed, it has been over two weeks since I posted. Not that I haven't been reading, it's just that I couldn't recommend my evolutionary psychology book to anybody, except maybe as an insomnia remedy.

I have had this book (and one other) sitting around on my "I should really return this to the library" shelf for awhile. I just didn't because I didn't want to do so before I blogged it. But the library wants it back, so here we go . . .

Book: Counterfeit Son
Author: Elaine Marie Alphin
Published: 2000

Six years after his sudden disappearance, Neil Lacey has returned to the bosom of his family. It's like a dream come true for the Laceys, except for one thing: he's not their son.

His name is Cameron Miller, and he's the son of a recently deceased serial killer. The same serial killer, in fact, that kidnapped and murdered the real Neil. All he wants is a regular life, a home and a family. He wants to be Neil, and forget he was ever Cameron.

But the deception is getting harder and harder to carry off. . . .

While Alphin doesn't go into graphic detail, she makes it clear that Cameron suffered physical and sexual abuse at the hands of his father for many years. Cameron's own reaction to this is almost more disturbing--he accepts it as normal and expects it from his new family. She also creates realistic and believable reactions, not only for Neil's parents, but for his sister and brother as they all have to work through the family tragedy turned upside-down.

As Cameron adjusts to having a family and people who care about him, his struggle between the desire to keep it and the growing realization that his actions are wrong intensifies. You're not sure until the very last moment which is going to win.

The ending feels just a little deus ex machina, but overall, this is a great book.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Owl in Love

I've been reading some good books lately. Here's one of them.

Book: Owl in Love
Author: Patrice Kindl
Published: 1993

Fourteen-year-old Owl is passionately in love--with her science teacher, Mr. Lindstrom. Oh, she knows what the magazines say about girls and crushes, but she knows it's more than that. And why? Because silly little crushes are for regular girls. She is a were-owl, and owls mate for life. Therefore, this is True Love. What's a slight species difference, not to mention an age gap of about twenty-five years, to Destined Mates?

Owl is confident that with enough patience, she and Mr. Lindstrom can be together. But then she starts encountering a weird, inept barn owl in her nightly flights, and a mysterious, wild boy living in the woods behind Mr. Lindstrom's house. And suddenly True Love doesn't seem so important anymore . . .

Fantasy author Holly Lisle says that every fantasy author gets one "gimme" per story--one element or event that's just utterly illogical, but that the audience will accept anyway. More than one gimme is pushing it pretty hard. Moreover, once that gimme is there, you have to proceed logically from that point. Owl in Love is a perfect example of this. Once you manage to accept the idea that a fourteen-year-old girl can turn into an owl at will, the rest of the book is meticulously logical and beautifully crafted.

This book has been called hilarious, weird, haunting, and original--all by the same reviewer. The great strength of this book is Owl herself. She watches regular people and their activities with detached puzzlement. Her comments on humanity are enough to make you roll on the floor, more so because they're delivered in such solemn and serious language. And it's obvious to everyone but Owl herself that she shares quite a lot with these nutty humans she holds herself separate from.

The minor characters (everyone seems minor next to Owl) are just as delightful. From sweet and unexpectedly crafty Dawn (who has proclaimed herself Owl's friend, somewhat to Owl's bafflement), to Owl's darling and somewhat daffy parents, to the object of passion himself, Mr. Lindstrom, and the weird and wild boy Houle, Kindl creates a cast worthy of the star of the show.

Owl's in love . . . and you will be too.

Friday, September 02, 2005

People all over the world are donating money to the Red Cross and similar immediate-relief efforts to aid the victims of the Katrina. By all means, do so. In fact, follow this link to do so. Agencies Supporting Hurricane Katrina Relief Efforts at MSN. You can take your pick of agencies.

Just please, think about giving your money to these people too.

The LLA Disaster Relief Fund is now accepting monetary donations to assist school, public, and academic library restoration efforts in southeastern Louisiana.
Please make checks payable to: LLA-Disaster Relief and mail to:
421 South 4th St
Eunice, LA 70535
from the Louisiana Library Association Homepage

What about after? What about when people come back to the places they lived? By that time, certainly many months in the future, the focus of the media will be diverted away from New Orleans and onto other things, but rebuilding money needs to come from somewhere.

School, public, and academic libraries have been devastated as surely as have private homes. Their facilities have been destroyed, their collections carried away or irretrievably damaged. But it's the nature of the beast that libraries come way down the list. Help make sure New Orleans and surrounding areas can rebuild their libraries as well as their homes.

And if you know or are anybody who worked for the New Orleans Public Library, please go to The NOPL Blog and post contact information.

A book rec tomorrow, I swear.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Adding another link:

This is an online book club where you can swap books with other members for the price of postage. It's great for people like me who a) have about five zillion books languishing around that used bookstores won't take and b) have a list as long as their own arm of older books they just can't find anywhere. Fix both problems at once.

Nicely browsable and searchable, with publishers' blurbs and reviews.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Here's an oldish favorite . . . I don't know how often I'll be updating, because the fall semester starts today. Oy! On the other hand, it's my last semester. Huzzah!

Book: Sorcery and Cecilia, or the Enchanted Chocolate Pot
Authors: Caroline Stevemer and Patricia C. Wrede
Originally Published: 1988

18-year-old cousins Kate and Cecilia thought that their lives were going to be dull this spring of 1817. Although Kate is in London for her first Season, her gorgeous sister is there too, pretty much ensuring nobody's going to look at Kate. Poor Cecy is stuck at home in Rushton, where nothing ever happens (except for that dust-up about Squire Bryant's goat). Their entertainment becomes writing long letters to each other.

Except all of a sudden, Kate and Cecy find themselves hip-deep in the doings of wizards in both London and Rushton . . . wizards who don't want to be interfered with. Why did an ominous woman try to serve Kate chocolate that burned a hole in her skirt? Who is the Mysterious Marquis, and why is he after that chocolate pot? Why does James Tarleton keep trying to sneak around, apparently spying on Cecy? (He's very bad at it, too.) And how the heck did their shy little friend Dorothea suddenly become the reigning belle of the neighborhood and then of London? Working together through their letters, Kate and Cecy are going to get to the bottom of this . . . hopefully before the wizards figure out what they're doing!

From the moment you meet Cecy (discussing a proposed visit to the oh-so-dull Reverend, she tells Kate that "I am determined to have the headache on Thursday if I have to hit myself with a rock to do it) and Kate (recounting a visit to the Elgin Marbles, she tells Cecy that listening to other people talk about them is enough "to make the eyes roll right back in your head with boredom"), you have to like them. Funny, caring, clever, and still just teenaged enough to be real, these are girls you want to have on your side in a battle against unscrupulous villains.

It takes a little while for the plot to get going, but when it does, readers discover a fast-paced and ofttimes hilarious magical adventure in an alternate Regency London where magic is accepted and wizards are commonplace. This book is often described as Jane Austen with a dash of magic, and I have to agree with that. Lively, ever-so-slightly screwball, and just romantic enough, this book is just plain old fun.

The story of this book is almost as interesting as the plot. Patricia C. Wrede convinced Caroline Stevemer to play the letter game, a writer's exercise in which letters are written in-character and neither player is allowed to tell the other what's going to happen next. At the end of it, being professional writers in their own rights, they realized they had a book, and thus Sorcery and Cecilia was shared with the world. Wrede (as Cecilia) and Stevemer (as Kate), luckily have similar enough styles that the switch is not jarring, as might be expected. A sequel, The Grand Tour, was published in 2004, and Wrede carried on with the idea of this alternate England in her two books Mairelon the Magician and The Magician's Ward. Go find them!

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Quick post in order to furnish y'all with a new website I've found.

Not, as far as I can tell, affiliated with the KIDLIT-L listserv (which by the way, can someone out there in BloggerLand tell me what the correct address is for that? I've been trying to subscribe for weeks, without success). This website was started by a mom looking for books for her kids. It features a database, which you can search by all sorts of different criteria, like the reader's age, gender, or reading level, and genre, keywords, and even ethnicity of the book's characters. Pretty handy. Plus you can look up particular books to see what real kids think of it, and whether you agree.

The database does not include picture books and concentrates mostly on chapter books for readers between 6-12 years. It does include YA books, but under the lump heading of "12+". Still, it's well worth putting on your favorites list, if you ask me.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Book: What Every Girl (Except Me) Knows
Author: Nora Raleigh Baskin
Published: 2001

Twelve-year-old Gabby doesn't get this whole "woman" thing. How is she supposed to know what it's all about? She hasn't had a mother since she was three. She does the best she can, keeping a list of all the things that are apparently necessary to being female, as best she can tell. These include: drinking gelatin to keep your nails strong, how to make veal scallopini, and putting lotion on your elbows. But she has the haunting feeling that's not all there is to it.

Then she meets Taylor Such, the new girl at school. As they become best friends, Gabby slowly learns that even girls with moms aren't too sure what they're doing on the best of days. Along with this knowledge, she gets the courage to confront the actual events surrounding her mother's death.

Baskin has a gift for mingling silly and significant with ease and without fear. Taylor and Gabby ring true as twelve-year-old best friends, with goofy in-jokes and believable rough spots, and Gabby's relationship with her brother Ian is also realistic--neither too close nor too antagonistic, but the blend of the two that exists between just about any siblings. There are some plot threads that seem to get lost, but Baskin thankfully avoids the sweeping happy ending in which all problems are miraculously fixed. Gabby remains somewhat uncertain about womanhood, but she's a little more comfortable with that uncertainty now.

Overall, this is a great, funny book for girls and women, with or without mothers. If you're twelve, this will seem like your life. If you passed that age a long time ago, reading this book will make you laugh and be grateful you're never going to be there again.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Go here to see the 2005 results of the world's favorite, and possibly only, bad-writing contest.

While the entries are deliberately awful, the site also features lines from published fiction by people who may have thought they were being deep and evocative, and just sound damn silly.

Bulwer-Lytton Contest Main Site

Because God knows we all need to laugh ourselves blue in the face every so often.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

It's new links day here at Confessions of a Bibliovore. Aren't y'all about to just expire with excitement?????

New Blogs

Dave Barry's Blog - If you, like me, miss Barry's weekly dose of ludicrosity, drop into his blog. He highlights everything we always loved, like weird headlines, proposed band names, and downright tastelessness. Ah, simple joys.

New Websites of Interest

History House - Nothing I like better than irreverence, as readers of this blog will know. But I also like carefully researched, accurate, and who-the-hell-knew-that??? history. Which is why History House is an old fave, because it combines the best of both worlds. Unfortunately dormant now (sob! sob!!) the columns archives is still good for some great time-wasting, justifiable because, hey, we're learning! Don't forget to check out (HAR!) their multitudinous reccommendations for history-type books. - We live in a stupid, stupid world. (unlike, say, NBC news) openly acknowledges this and invites you to enjoy the absurdities.

Richie's Picks - I actually get Richie's Picks in my email. He sporadically sends out emails with a chatty discussion of his latest book. I like it because they're not the ones that get all the press and hoo-ha. Check the website to browse for archived reviews.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled blog-slogging.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Quick post because I have been bad and not blogged for ten days. And I know you've just all been on tenterhooks, waiting for my next words of wisdom. Right? Right?? (Say yes.)

Book:The View From Saturday
Author: E.L. Konigsburg
Published: 1998, winner of the '98 Newbery

Take four extraordinary kids--Noah (fact: loves facts), Nadia (proud owner of a genius dog), Ethan (winner of the all-county Quietest Kid Competition), and Julian (sweet, perceptive, and of course picked-upon), and put them together with their brand-new teacher, the wheelchair-bound Mrs. Olinski. What do you get? A) The Souls, b) the first sixth-graders to compete in state Quiz Bowl c) a group of really good friends, d) all of the above.

I do hope you picked D.

E.L. Konigsberg has a certain dreamy, quirky style that not every kid will take to. If you recognize the name, she's the one who wrote From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (also a Newbery winner). What I love about her is that she's not afraid to weave in complex ideas and unusual characters. The way the novel is structured is also unexpected. Using the state Quiz Bowl finals as a framework, she takes the time to tell the intimate story of each one of the kids, and also Mrs. Olinski. How did they get where they are today? How did they become friends? Why the heck did Mrs. Olinski pick them? What exactly is the meaning of kindness and meanness, and what is their effect? You'll have to read and find out.

Like another favorite author of mine, Margaret Mahy, this book feels as if it should be pointless, but somehow isn't. It's not a sure-fire favorite for every kid, but try it and see. You might be surprised. Mrs. Olinski was.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Ha. You thought I was lying, didn't you? Confess! that when you read "I'll do a rec post soon I swear," you went, "Uh-huh Bibliovore, sure. Whatever."

O ye of little faith!

Movie: Charade
Director: Stanley Donen (who? yes, I know.)
Released: 1963

Regina Lampert (Audrey Hepburn) has decided to leave her husband. But when she gets home from a ski trip, she finds that he's left her first . . . the apartment is stripped to the walls. And then she finds out that not only has he left her, and Paris, he's left the land of the living, too.

But hubby did leave her something to liven up her days--a little matter of a lot of missing money, and some very nasty guys that want it back. Now the only person she can trust to help her out as she scrambles to find the money, evade the bad guys, and keep herself alive is the man played by Cary Grant.

Thanks a lot, hubby.

I saw this movie a few weeks back and just rolled on the floor. Sure, it's about spies, murders, and nasty stuff, but it's also hucking filarious. That being said, it's a great suspense movie, too. Like the title implies, you never really know who you can trust or what their motives are, even up to the last moment.

Audrey Hepburn, while initially wide-eyed and naive in that way she does so well, has smarts of her own to counter Cary Grant's dizzying shifts in character. I said "the man played by" up there because this fella changes names about as often as he changes pants--an element that contributes both to the humor and the suspense. Nice one!

Sure, it's a forty-year-old movie and at times shows it (they smoke like very elegant chimneys, for one thing) but it's also fabulously written and genuinely entertaining. If your local video store doesn't have it, tell them they suck and go find it at the library.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Of interest to me and anyone else who loves books, or for that matter, movies: Books vs. Movies

Check out the movie theater these days, folks. You might as well be at a bookstore. Although the last time I checked, Barnes and Noble doesn't sell Junior Mints at a 375% markup. I'm sure it's just a matter of time.

Witness some of these titles shared by celluloid and paperbacks:

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants
Howl's Moving Castle
War of the Worlds
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

. . . and that's just a list of the ones I've read.

This isn't a new trend. Hollywood has been doing this since basically the beginning of Hollywood. It's a great Blockbuster drinking game . . . walk down the aisles and take a chug for every movie that you know there's a book of. The drama section alone will put any self-respecting English major under the table. Of course, then you'll get kicked out of Blockbuster's for public drunkenness, but you should have known better than to take my advice about hot drinking spots. Sheesh.

What would happen if we all took a moment to read some of the books made into movies? That's my challenge to you. Liked the movie? Check Amazon, see if there's a book. (Tie-in novelizations don't count. Sorry. They just don't.) If you find an actual book, published before the movie came out, buy it or take it out of the library. Read, then report back. Over and out.

P.S. I swear I'll do a rec post soon. I sweeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaar. Honest!

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Another eensy update, this one somewhat less light-hearted:
37 Confirmed Dead in London Blasts

Why are people like this? Why do people do this? I've never understood. Least of all do I understand their belief that they're doing God's will. I've always believed that God goes by many different names in our world, but I have to say of this: that's not my God.

I lived near London for about four months, and I'm trying to picture the London I trundled around in, underground map and digital camera in hand, as Ground Zero. People I may have passed on the street are dead now. Britons I knew (and in some cases still correspond with) are reeling in shock and horror. Some of them may have lost friends or loved ones.

Why do people do this? How can they make this kind of choice?

If anyone's read Caroline B. Cooney's The Terrorist, about a young boy killed in a London subway, the victim of a terrorist bombing, please write in and let me know how it is.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Eensy update, because this made me giggle:

Handicapping the Great 20th Century Novels A tool to decide which door-stop, drinks-coaster, insomnia-curing tome to take out in public and pretend you're enjoying next. Although we all know that what's really on your nightstand is a well-worn copy of Searing Jungle Passion, Dead Before Dessert, or The Ultimate Spider-Man Showdown. Which is cool, as long as the damn TV is off.

Plus I really do think we need a variation of this concerning 19th century British literature.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Guess what! The long-awaited update is here!!

Book: Parsifal's Page
Author: Gerald Morris
Original Publication: 2001

Piers was born the son of a blacksmith, but secretly he dreams of the glitter of court, the majesty of chivalry, and the glory of knighthood. When a knight comes to his father's forge to get a suit of armor, Piers jumps at the chance to become his squire (changing his name to "Pierre" along the way). But he quickly finds out that not only is the life of a knight rather different than he was expecting, all the things he's ever heard about knighthood might not work so great in real life. But if knighthood isn't about chivalry, fair ladies, and glorious battles . . . well, what is it about then? From Arthur's Round Table to the land of Faerie and all the way back home again, Piers is going to have to figure it out on his own.

Gerald Morris has made a writing career out of retelling Arthurian romances, infusing them with an irreverence that helps readers explore past the surface glitter, just as Piers/Pierre does. Kids unfamiliar with either the original Arthurian stories or Morris's earlier books (Parsifal's Page is the fifth in the series, collectively called "The Squire's Tales"), may get slightly lost in the cast of thousands. However, Piers is the P.O.V. character for it all, and even though the actual events of the plot may seem slightly random, the focus on his maturation and deepening understanding remains consistent. Pick this book up for a blend of adventure, legend, fun, and thoughtfulness.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

I went to the American Library Association's Annual conference last week, and surely did have myself a blast. I've always been psyched about my choice of life's work, but I'm even more so after the conference. I know there are plenty of burnouts (I knew one, and it was a sad thing), but being around all these people who love what they do shows me that if you can tough out the rocky parts, the rewards are numerous.

In honor of the fun I had, here is a quick ALA 3BT in the tradition of Clare of Tunbridge Wells. Go see the original.

1. Librarians a couple of years away from retirement who were still genuinely and passionately interested in issues like censorship, emergent literacy, bilingualism, attracting kids to the library, and all sorts of other stuff. Show me where that happens in the business world. Yuh-huh. I thought so.

2. Eating lunch with Debbie of Akron, Ohio, who just got a shiny new young-adult librarian and doesn't know what to do with her, so she picked my brain, apparently on the assumption that being as close to young-adultness as I am, I'd have some idea. Also, on the strength of an hour's acquaintance, she gave me her card and said, "Contact me if you ever feel like working in Columbus (her old library system, and apparently a crackin' good one) and I'll get you connectd." Wowzers.

3. Walking into the expo center with a purse and walking out with two bags that bulged with posters, books, candy, pens, pencils, notepads, business cards . . . ALL FREE. Yeah, buddy, you heard it here, FREE BOOKS. Snazzy-cool advance reader copies, because if you get a regular person hooked on you, you've sold a few books max, but if you get a librarian hooked on you, they'll be pimpin' 'til the cows come home because we want the world to read.

I also met up with Beth, of Beth's Blog a.k.a. Sum of Me fame, and we went to see the Taste of Chicago, which is a big fest with all sorts of food from all over the city, from deep-dish pizza to hyper-spicified Indian food. If you're in Chi-town around this time of year and you don't go . . . well, you're just silly, that's all. We had some adventures, recounted here, but all in all it was a good time, and I wish I'd been able to shoehorn some more hangin' out time into my weekend. We got to talking about censorship, and stupid book-banning reasons, and I thought, "I need to do a blog entry about that!" But I won't just yet, because I still need to research. Just know it's coming up.

Also coming up: more recs! I promise! Besides another book about knights 'n' stuff, there's a movie and a TV series that I think everyone should be watching. Having tantalized you, I shall now sign off. Muaha.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

C'est moi! And that's about all the French I know, but that's okay, because this post's book comes from the U.K.

Book: Doing It
Author: Melvin Burgess
Published: 2004 (in the U.S.)

No, this is not a heartwarming history of the Nike Corporation. And don't we all thank God for that.

Meet Jon, Ben, and Dino. They are teenage boys, which means they have exactly one thing on their mind. But how . . . how . . . how to get it? Dino goes after Jackie, the most popular girl in school who unfortunately will do everything but it. Jon attempts to deny his attraction to his friend Deborah, for the basic reason that she's rather plump. And Ben's actually getting plenty . . . from a teacher. All together now . . . euwwwwwwwww.

As each boy sinks himself deeper in his own personal quicksand, they learn that there's a lot more to doing it than just . . . well . . . doing it.

This book has gotten a lot of negative press for its provocative title, graphic scenes, and what some people feel is an unsympathetic and one-dimensional portrayal of the teenage girls. My answer to one and two: Burgess is not attempting to titillate. Both stem from honesty. As for three, I was actually surprised at how that honesty extended to his female characters, even though he focuses mainly on the development of the blokes. This isn't a story just about sex, but about how sex (and dealing with its peripheries) affects teens and adults.

All the way from Ben's twisted and tangled relationship with Miss Young, to Dino's shooting himself in the foot, and Jon's desperate concern over Mr. Knobby Knobster (take three guesses), Burgess reveals a range of comedy and drama as well as a genuine understanding of, and compassion for, the sheer thorniness of emerging sexuality and oncoming adulthood. If you're not going through that process right now, take a moment and remember it before you pick up this book. Yes, the story is frankly X-rated, but wasn't high school?

Saturday, June 04, 2005

This post has very little to do with books either. Well . . . peripherally. (And now I'm looking at that wondering if it's spelt right.)

This is an idea I got from Beth's blog, to list your various links and why you linked them. Considering how new my links are, and how dreadfully random they are, as a group, I thought it would be a good thing to do.

My website - Like it says, shameless pimping. I just want more traffic. It's my webspace for the many fandoms for which I write fanfiction. Want to know which ones? Guess you'll just have to visit. See that there? That was sneaky, wasn't it?

The Feel-Good Librarian - As many of you may (or may not) know, I'm studying to be one of these. A librarian, that is. And this is the blog of a public librarian who loves to share stories of the reference desk. Some of them are hilarious, some are brain-boggling, and some are touching, but all are worth reading.

Three Beautiful Things - This blogger has taken it upon herself to note three things each day that give her pleasure, and to share them with the world, or at least that portion of it that visits her blog. Which you should do.

The Vampire Librarian - The blog of an academic librarian who works the graveyard shift at a big university, and consequently gets all the . . . errrr . . . interesting people.

The Laughing Librarian - Again with the librarian blogs. What can I say? I'm single-minded. Just library humor to give you a giggle.

Fetu's Lantern - My pal Andi's brand-new blog, in which she writes about writing. And Phantom of the Opera. But more about writing.

Sum of Me - Beth's blog about . . . stuff. Beth stuff. Another writing pal.

Romancing the Blog - A blog all about writing and reading within the romance genre. - A site that spotlights some of the best stuff around for teens these days. And there's a lot of good stuff. Bear in mind, folks, that you do not need to be currently undergoing puberty to enjoy YA fiction. You just need to remember it, even a little.

So now that you've seen what I like, do you all out there in blogland have any suggestions for me? I welcome them. The comments section works and everything.

Yes, that was shameless pimping again.

Friday, June 03, 2005

I did promise you knights 'n' stuff, didn't I?

Book: Pagan's Crusade
Author: Catherine Jinks
Published: 2003

The time: 1187. The place: Jerusalem. The events: the Crusades. Here comes Lord Roland Roucy de Bram, the dashing Knight Templar, one of the glorious and heroic guardians of the holy places and the pilgrims that come to see them . . . and here comes Lord Roland's squire, muttering and swearing and generally snarking on everything in sight. Meet Pagan Kidrouk, the most unlikely Monk of War since, well, ever.

From the moment I met sixteen-year-old Pagan, with his irreverence and determined cynicism, I had to keep reading. Note this exchange, early on when Pagan is signing up for the Knights Templar. "Birthplace." "Bethlehem. . . . Don't worry. It wasn't in a stable." Hehehe! And yet Pagan's not rock-hard, either. Even as he decries the unbelievable stupidity of what he's doing, he finds himself bonding with Lord Roland, who really is as good as he seems, and learning that there are some things worth laying down your life for. Just not the ones everyone says.

Like Pagan, the book itself is a strange blend of hilarity and seriousness, with Pagan's opinions on greedy pilgrims trying to make a buck off each other juxtaposed with graphic descriptions of siege warfare. Catherine Jinks is reportedly a medieval scholar, which I believe, because this is not a sweet and fuzzy, noble and heroic portrait of the times. It's gutsy, gritty, bloody, and confusing, with people who complain, steal, lie . . . actually, it feels a lot like today, except without indoor plumbing.

Jinks utilizes something close to a stream of consciousness technique, with first-person present tense, so it feels as if you're actually sitting in Pagan's head, listening to his thoughts. It may bother some hardcore nitpickers that Pagan and his companions have such modern sensibilities and speech, but for me, it made it more immediate and real.

Pagan stars in two more books, Pagan's Exile and Pagan's Vows, and appears in one more, Pagan's Scribe. Go out and find them!

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Okay, this isn't a proper booky post either. I have a literal backlog of good books, but for some reason haven't sat down to blog them.

Most of the reason is right here--my personal website. I've had a site dedicated to my fan writings on Angelfire for, oh, eons nows. It was only about half-built, and usually updated whenever I visited and went, "Geez, this is old!" Anyway, a few days ago, I decided that I was going to buy myself some webspace and not subject my readers to Angelfire's addy evilness anymore.

This I did. And this is also the reason why I've had time to read, but not to blog. Because, frankly folks, I would rather read than blog. I really truly would. There are just those times when I come across a book that turns me into a bibliovangelist for a short period of time, and that's when I post for you all.

Also check out my new fave links on the side there. My success with HTML on my own site went right to my head, and I got wacky with the HTML from Blogger.

Coming soon: Lots o' teen and kids' books, featuring knights 'n' stuff. I promise. Honest.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Of possible (nay, probable) interest to my readers, I have here a link passed on by Arleen, who swears she reads this blog.

Rex Murphy's Cross Country Checkup

It's apparently a biennial list of really good books from Listeners Like You. Suggested drinking game in honor of Arleen: take a slug every time you come across a book you've read, or even heard of.

I'm going to start doing stuff like this from now on, trying to update more often. Even I have a life beyond books, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

No, I'm not sick. I've just gotten the chance to read some great books lately. Also the free time to blog. Very important conjunction there.

Book: 24 Girls in 7 Days
Author: Alex Bradley
Published: 2005

With all the books out there about girls wigging out over prom, it's an unexpected and charming reversal to find one about a guy doing the same. Jack Grammar has been shot down by the one girl he got up the guts to ask, and is now convinced that the so-called best night of his life is going to be anything but. That's before his best friends put up a personal ad just for him on the school website, and suddenly he's the hottest commodity at his high school. With seven days to go until prom, he somehow has to pick one girl to go with, which means twenty-four dates to find the girl of his dreams. And who's this mysterious FancyPants who keeps emailing? Hope he took his vitamins.

While this seems like a dumb romantic comedy from the premise, Alex Bradley has put a lot of thought into his characters. Jack is probably the biggest sweetheart that it's possible for a senior in high school to be, and definitely the biggest one I've ever read. Thoughtful, intelligent, and (when it comes to girls) posessing all the finesse of a Hereford on acid, he's the kind of guy who was probably all over my high school, except I was too busy being a high school girl to notice. His two best friends are generous of heart and not too swift of mind (at least when it comes to their little plot) but really do mean well.

Our hero, searching for that one perfect girl, does not (as most romantic comedy writers would do) have a string of the worst dates known to man. Actually, many of them are pretty good. The focus is squarely on Jack, the development of his ideas about relationships, and his gradual understanding that he's the only one who can make prom night special. If he gets to share it with a really special girl, well, that's a bonus. For a book that's sweet, funny, and (most importantly) avoids or overturns expectations, pick up 24 Girls in 7 Days. You too, guys. You know you want to.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Look! Another update! Omygaw!!!!

Book: Coraline
Author: Neil Gaiman
Published: 2002

Books like Coraline regularly get banned for being too dark for young kids. Which is crap, because this is the kind of freaked-out, completely creepy book that kids eat up with a spoon. The problem is, it's too dark for their parents.

Coraline's got an okay life . . . not really ideal, though. She's just moved into a new flat (apartment, for us Yanks) and she doesn't know anyone but her parents and the neighbors. The two old ladies downstairs can't stop talking about their acting days, and the old man upstairs is training up a mouse circus. And they all insist on calling her "Caroline" . . . ugh. To make things worse, her parents (while affectionate) work at home all day long, and tell her to make her own fun. Sigh. So she explores.

The first time she opens the weird little door in the middle of the sitting room, it's bricked up. The second time, though, it's not. Instead, it leads to . . . somewhere else. Somewhere where there is another mother, and another father, who look just like hers but give her everything she wants. Normal food instead of her real father's weird recipes, all the coolest toys instead of "make your own fun." At first, the black buttons they have in place of eyes don't even bother her.

But soon she gets the feeling something's seriously wrong, especially when she goes back to the real world and discovers that her real mum and dad are missing. Who is the other mother? And why is she so insistent on keeping Coraline in the non-world, where everything beyond her house vanishes into mist?

Coraline doesn't know, nor does she know how she's going to beat the other mother and get her real parents back. But she's about to find out.

Coraline is the kind of no-nonsense, cool-headed kid we'd all love to be. Even though she initially follows the siren call of an ideal life, she's got the sense to see when things aren't what they seem, and to wonder why. The book is somewhat slow-moving, but that's deceptive. It's very hard to stop reading, mostly because of the creepy factor, which crawls up your spine and lodges itself in the deepest corner of your mind, the one that still knows there are things under your bed unless the lights are on. The angular pen-and-ink illustrations by Dave McKean help this along. I defy anyone not to be creeped out by the drawing of the other mother. Urrrgh!!

You have to read this book to the end. Don't put it down in the middle, or it will haunt you the rest of your life. Yes, it makes all the hairs on your body stand on end, but when you reach "THE END" you have the most incredibly satisfied feeling. Neil Gaiman is good at what he does.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Yes, I know. I am a rotten excuse for a blogger. I have not updated in two months. I prostrate myself in shame. Shame, shame, shame. I flay myself with wet noodles. Flay, flay, flay.

Okay, that's over with.

And so is my second semester of library school. Woohoo! It was one that just about killed me dead, for reasons I could not and cannot fathom. Anyhoo, it's over now. Not that I actually disliked reading all those kids' books, but the pressure's off.

So in celebration of having time to waste on fluff, here is some of my favorite fluff.

TV Show: Sex and the City
Creator: Darren Star
Airdates: 1998-2004

Darren Star did good when he named this show, because its two preoccupations literally are: sex, and New York City, and an unabashed enjoyment of both. This isn't thea-tah, folks, or avant-garde film. This is a fun, funny, frank show about sex and relationships that doesn't pretend to be great art, and thank god for it.

The premise is simple. Take four single gals, add them to New York City, and stir in men. Lots of men. Bake for six years. At the end, they're still almost as mixed up about life and relationships as they were in the beginning, but it's been a fun trip all the same, and one that strikes a lot of chords. Everyone's got their favorite SATC gal, and mine is cynical, take-no-shit Miranda. Bad-choice-poster-girl Carrie has her fans, as do slutty-and-proud-of-it Samantha, and prim, idealistic Charlotte.

It gets some flak for talking about *gasp!* sex, but come on, it's part of life, and women do talk about it. Sorry to burst your bubble. It also uses New York City as almost a fifth main character, highlighting her flaws and her charms evenhandedly. It almost makes me want to move there, but I don't have the money.

The show has its flaws, sure enough. Does anyone else regularly want to smack Carrie until her head spins? Uh-huh, raise those hands high. And there are some character continuity nitpicks I have that may drive me bananas. Still, this is a show with some incredibly quotable lines, like:

(upon seeing some naval fellows on the street)
Samantha: Ladies! Seamen, twelve o'clock!
Miranda: I pray when I turn around that there are sailors, because with her, you never know.

Talk all you want about Mr. Big, Steve Brady, Trey MacDougal, or any of the other guys that spin in and out of these womens' lives, but for my money, the most important love story in this show is the four-way relationship between the main characters. Even when they disagree (which happens plenty), they're there for each other with flowers, sympathy, alcohol, chocolate, and if need be, dildos.

I watch this show when I have some time to fill up and I just want to have fun. Sanitized episodes are airing on TBS, but go to your local library or Blockbuster to find the DVDs instead.

And I will try to update more often.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Okay, I don't have time to do a proper long-version post, but I do want to share some of the stuff I'm reading. Like I warned you, all of this is for my Children's Lit class. Okay, it's a lot of picture books, but heck, I had fun reading them even in the absence of rug rats! This is not in my usual format since I basically cut and pasted from the reading log I'm keeping.

Title - King and King and Family
Author - Linda de Haan and Stern Nijland
Culture/Country - homosexual characters
Age - Preschool to 2nd grade
Summary/Review - The two kings go on their honeymoon, seeing many animal families and hoping for one of their own someday, a dream they realize in an unexpected way. Cute art. The strength of this book in its simplicity - the story isn’t about homosexuality but about a fun trip and the ultimate goal of forming their own family. I'm told the prequel is better.

Title - Daughter of the Sea
Author - Berlie Doherty
Culture/Country - not stated but probably Scotland or Cornwall
Age - middle grades
Summary/Review - A middle-aged married couple has just about given up on children of their own when the husband finds a baby in the sea and brings her home. But they always know that someday she’ll have to return . . . It's a very short book, and I wish the author would have fleshed it out some. It may be confusing to kids who have never heard of selkies.

Title - The Tale of Despereaux
Author - Kate DiCamillo
Illustrator - Timothy Basil Ering
Culture/Country - unnamed fantasy land, somewhat English Medieval
Age - middle grades
Summary/Review - Desperaux, a mouse, has fallen in love with a human princess, and when she’s kidnapped by the evil Chirascuro, he’ll break every rule of mousedom to rescue her. A sweet book that draws heavily on chivalric ideals. Good illustrations, soft charcoal and line drawings. The POV jumps around considerable and the narrator speaks directly to reader, which may be annoying depending on your preference. I liked it. Short chewable chapters make it a fast read. The story encourages looking at things from different points of view. You even feel for the villain(s). The portrayal of women was a little 2-D, but not horribly so.

Title - The Divorce Express
Author - Paula Danziger
Culture/Country - America
Age - middle grades to early teens 6-9?
Summary/Review - A ninth-grade girl struggles to adjust to the new custody arrangements, where she has to leave New York City and all her friends behind to live in rural Woodstock for the week, and only visit the city on weekends. I like the inversion of divorce stereotypes; father has day-to-day custody and is an artist, mother is more focused on career and success. It's very short and funny. There's a neat B plot about replacing cafeteria food through civil disobedience. I do wish some parts were fleshed out.

Title - What Happened to Marion's Book?
Author - Brook Berg
Illustrator - Nathan Alberg
Culture/Country - America
Age - K-2
Summary/Review - Marion looooves books, but when she gets raspberry jam on a library book, she has to figure out how to clean it up so nobody finds out. Sweet, but a little preachy. Good for introducing kids to the library and responsibility towards books. Marion's gyrations trying to get the book clean are funny, especially since it's not hard to figure out what's going to happen.

Title - No, No, Titus!
Author - Claire Masurel
Illustrator - Shari Halpern
Culture/Country - America
Age - Pre-1
Summary/Review - Puppy Titus wants to be a good farm dog, but he doesn't know exactly what a farm dog does. Eventually he figures it out. The cut-paper illustrations are bright and colorful, and Titus is very cute.

Title - My Little Sister Ate One Hare
Author - Bill Grossman
Illustrator - Kevin Hawkes
Culture/Country - America
Age - K-3
Summary/Review - Hilarious! The narrator's little sister goes through all manner of animals, counting up from 1 to 9, always with the dire prediction that she would "throw up then and there. But she didn't." Ten peas, however, defeat her. The bright oil-crayon illustrations display the progress of the meal in energetic, tongue-in-cheek fashion.

Title - Beatrice Doesn't Want To
Author - Laura Numeroff
Illustrator - Lynn Munsinger
Culture/Country - America
Age - Pre-2
Summary/Review - A book to warm a librarian's heart. Beatrice has to tag along with big brother Henry to the library for three afternoons in a row, and she resists the whole way. On the third day, tired of her whining, Henry sends her to storytime, and she finally finds something to like at the library. The sibling relationship is realistic and funny, and the colored-pencil illustrations are whimsical, expressive, and detailed.

Title - The Caterpillar and the Polliwog
Author - Jack Kent
Illustrator - Jack Kent
Culture/Country - America
Age - K-2
Summary/Review - The caterpillar is very proud that she will turn into a butterfly someday, and brags about it to everybody. The polliwog, enchanted by the idea, determines that he will turn into a butterfly too. While watching to see how it's done, he turns into something else completely! Good to go along with a science unit. The simple, cartoonlike illustrations make it clear what's happening while the polliwog remains oblivious.

Title - Maybe My Baby
Author - Marilyn Janovitz
Illustrator - Marilyn Janovitz
Culture/Country - America
Age - Pre-1
Summary/Review - For the animal lovers in the crowd. Each page features a different parent/child couple from the animal kingdom, and various interactions. At the end is a human mother and her baby, finally asleep. Detailed, accurate, and lovely colored-pencil illustrations make this a great book to look at as well as read. Good for displaying that affection is not limited to humans.

Anyway, I've got a lot more, but I'll dole them out. It's a long semester yet . . .

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

It having been forever (okay, a month) since I updated, I decided I would rectify this by blogging an old favorite.

Book: So You Want to Be a Wizard
Author: Diane Duane
First Published: 1983

Thirteen-year-old Nita is absolutely sick of being beat up, but fighting back seems to help just about as much as doing nothing. Hiding out from her tormentors in the library one day, she finds a book titled So You Want to Be a Wizard. Joke, right? Wizardry doesn't exist.

Except that when Nita takes the Wizard's Oath, she finds out that--oops--it does. And being a wizard isn't just about waving wands and reciting spells to get those bullies off her back. It's about danger, responsibility, sacrifice, working with other wizards, and fighting the Power that wants to grind down the universe.

Hey, the book did warn her.

So You Want to Be a Wizard is the first in a series of seven (soon to be eight) books about Nita Callahan and her partner in wizarding, Kit Rodriguez. You can probably read them out of order--they're more or less standalone novels--but it's better to read them straight through.

I've loved these books for years. They're in the same vein of Diana Wynne Jones and Madeleine L'Engle, in that while magic exists, it's not fun and cute, but powerful and dangerous, even when it's good. And when it's bad . . . hooo boy. Duane pulls no punches--her characters face moral dilemmas and terrible choices, even as they're in the middle of regular growing-up traumas. Probably what I like best is that Kit's ethnicity is never a Big Huge Thing, but instead just another part of his identity. But that's just me.

Read them for the magic, the moral dilemmas, the warm and real (and not always simple) friendship between Nita and Kit, the humor, the strange and unexpected beings they encounter (sharks, sentient white holes, and mobile Christmas trees are just the beginning, trust me), the . . . oh, just read 'em.

Monday, January 24, 2005

I know, I usually don't update so quick, but I had to blog this one. Seriously. Just had to. I'm ignoring my other homework to do so. This means you have to go read it!

Book: Whale Rider
Author: Witi Ihimaera
Published: 2003 (in the U.S.)

You may have heard of the movie, which won all sorts of awards and stuff a few years ago. That's why I initially picked this up. I can't compare them, because I haven't seen the movie yet. But now I damn well want to.

Koro Apirana, a Maori chief in New Zealand, is horrified and disgusted when his first great-grandchild is born a girl. He needs a boy to carry on the chieftainship and preserve the swiftly-dying Maori traditions. Ignoring the multitude of signs that baby Kahu is exactly the one to carry on, he starts searching for a boy among the other families of the tribe, with little success, and rejects the love Kahu offers him every day. Lucky for little Kahu, she's got her Nanny Flowers and her uncle Rawiri to back her up. Still, all she wants is her great-grandfather's love and approval. Interwoven throughout is the story of an old bull whale, coming to the end of his life and still longing for the golden human master he knew in his youth. When Kahu and the old bull whale meet . . . well, you'll have to read it and find out.

This book reads more like a legend than your usual novel, with unexpected snippets of novelesque narration. Ihimaera doesn't pull any punches--he shows a brutal roadside accident and the death of hundreds of beached whales with the same matter-of-factness as he shows a school play that the great-grandfather (predictably) didn't show up for. The novel is mostly narrated by Kahu's uncle Rawiri, which allows us to see her birth and early years. Some parts switch to an italicised narration of the whales' experiences in the sea.

It's a little confusing at times, but the legendary feel and your immersion in Maori culture make this an addictive read. I closed the book with the feeling that Ihimaera no doubt wanted to evoke: that Kahu was destined for great things. I'm also extremely interested in finding out more about the Maori culture. Well, what are you waiting for? Go pick it up!

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Quick note to say that this blog is probably going to be very heavy on the children's books from now on. I'm taking a children's lit course in my master's program right now, and we have to read 115 (!) books. Gee, that's going to be a hardship for me, right?

Book: Away Laughing on a Fast Camel
Author: Louise Rennison
Release Year: 2004

A hoot. A hysteria-inducing lunatic farce of teenage girlhood. Bridget Jones without the cigarettes or the booze, not from lack of trying on Georgia's part.

Fourteen-year-old Georgia Nicolson is heartbroken. Her boyfriend, Robbie the Sex God, has gone away to Kiwi-a-gogoland (New Zealand), leaving her in crap old England with her parents, who don't even have the decency to be boring. Her dad has just bought a weird three-wheeled car, and insists on driving it. (!!) Her mum has the hots for a doctor and insists on using Georgia as an excuse to see him. Her baby sister Libby has just acquired a cat, Gordy the cross-eyed mad offspring of Georgia's own mad Angus. Euwwwwwwwwwww.

Luckily, even love and family can't get Georgia down for long. She, and all her fab mates, are up to all their usual lunacy in no time at all, like disco-dancing to break up the boredom in English class, rating their dates on the snogging scale, sticking their eyelids together with too much false-eyelash glue, and learning to fathom the minds of boys. (The secret, apparently, is that they're all quite mad. No argument here.)

Georgia is half a parody and half completely true to life. She's boy-crazy, self-absorbed, ditzy, and mouthy. She's also sweet to her baby sister, very very funny, and genuinely trying to figure this all out. I love Georgia because she reminds me of just why the teenage years sucked.

It's not especially deep or meaningful. It's just good clean fun. In fact, read the whole series, not necessarily for clarity (although it would help) but also because they're all this lunatic and delicious. Although I should insert a caveat--don't read them all in a row, or you'll stop laughing and start getting annoyed. Just have one on hand for those gloomy days when you really need to snort milk out your nose. Also, do not do NOT skip reading the glossary in the back of each book. It translates a lot of the slang and the references--not only for the American audience, but also for the audience that isn't, strictly speaking, Georgia Nicolson. Some unnecessarily, but most of it comes in handy.

Collectively, they're known as the Confessions of Georgia Nicolson series. It goes:
Angus, Thongs, and Full Frontal Snogging
On the Bright Side, I'm Now the Girlfriend of a Sex God
Knocked Out by My Nunga-Nungas
Dancing in My Nuddy-Pants
Away Laughing on a Fast Camel

Check out Louise Rennison's web site for excerpts, etc. The next one, Then He Ate My Boy Entrancers, is coming out in June of 2005. Fabulosity!!