Reading Blitz

Those of you that know me know that a few years ago my health started to take a downturn. It's much better now, but still a little shakey - and Reno hasn't helped. Although I thought I was doing ok, the wine and champagne and coffee I had on Thursday led to massive dehydration on Friday. So, instead of killing myself at the conference, I tucked myself into bed and started to read the ARCs I'd picked up on the convention floor.

Wow. I have to say, this was one great group of reads. Usually, it's a crapshoot, but for some reason, these four books really worked for me. Ok, one was weaker than the rest, but still!

What did I read?

Big Fat Manifesto, by Susan Vaught. A HS senior, 300+ lbs, has to deal with not just the Senior Deadlines, but acting in a play and creating a column "Fat Girl" for the school newspaper. Then her Big Beautiful Boyfriend decides to get bariatric surgery, and her world starts to change. I'm not 300+, but I could definitely relate to the whole Fat Girl dilemma.

Pandora Gets Jealous, by Carolyn Hennesy. We all know how much I enjoy the Percy Jackson series. This is definitely in that category, and I predict will be a huge hit with my students. Yours, too.

Mysterious Case of the Allbright Academy, by Diane Stanley. A goodish mix of The Mysterious Benedict Society meets The Wright 3, with some Stepford Stuff thrown in. Middle Schoolers will love it.

Life on the Refrigerator Door, by Alice Kuipers. This was the weakest of the four, probably because it seems contrived. The entire book is a series of notes left on the refrigerator door, notes between Claire and her mother. There's a lot going on "off stage" and some of it is pretty heavy, while some (the boyfriend issues) is just alluded to but never really resolved. I'm never sure how I feel about device-driven books (like TTYL), so I'm on the fence about this. I also wasn't happy with the cover design, which looked too much like Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, but then, I wasn't happy when five of the MS-level books we got in over the summer clearly had the same girl model on them. I know certain designs and motifs are popular, but it doesn't help a book stand out in the punters minds!

So, there you have it. Current reading in a nutshell. And now, back to the conference!


Notable Quotes

Sometimes I try my own thought experiment, which goes as follows: what if everyone is actually right? Aristotle and Plato; David and Goliath; Hobbes and Locke; Hitler and Gandhi; Tom and Jerry. Could that ever make sense? And then I think about my mother and I think that no, not everyone is right. To paraphrase the physicist Wolfgang Pauli, she wasn't even wrong. Maybe that's where human society is right now, at the beginning of the twenty-first-century: not even wrong.

The End of Mr. Y, Scarlett Thomas


Post-Harry Potter

Ok, I confess I'm not the biggest HP fan. And I'm not a huge fan of fantasy (or "speculative fiction", which is apparently the new, in term). But even I knew better than the three speakers I heard Tuesday.

One claimed that the genre had only exploded with the publication of HP4. That prior to this, the only way fantasy books got published was to have orcs or troll-like creatures on the cover. That everything published was a bad copy of a bad copy of Tolkein, who created the genre. That almost no one was buying/reading Dianne Wynne Jones. That HP put paid to school stories, and that the stuff that's being published now is really good and experimental. That alternative history was coming into its own. That most of the stuff was being written by D&D players/lovers and is now being written by real authors.


I don't even know where to begin with this... H.G. Wells? Poe? Jules Verne? The Darkover series, sans trolls or orcs? Ditto Discworld (well, trolls, but no orcs)? Guy Gavriel Kay?

No school stories? Charlie Bone, anyone? It's not all good - and it's not all new. Paolini's Inheritance series is so clearly a rehash of both Tolkein and Donaldson. And what about the role of Fatherland in the development of alternative histories?

All this, off the top of my remarkably uninformed, usually uninterested head.

I left feeling depressed about the future of fantasy, post-Harry Potter.


Notable Quotes

I can't remember a time when I didn't know I was adopted. There was never a dramatic "we have something to tell you" talk. My adoption was simply another fact, like having dark hair or no siblings. I knew I was adopted even before I knew what that truly meant. Understanding adoption requires a basic understanding of sex, something I would not have until third grade when Gina Papadakis brought her grandparents' disturbingly dog-eared copy of The Joy of Sex to school.


Well, Duh

What Kind of Reader Are You?
Your Result: Dedicated Reader

You are always trying to find the time to get back to your book. You are convinced that the world would be a much better place if only everyone read more.

Obsessive-Compulsive Bookworm
Book Snob
Literate Good Citizen
Fad Reader
What Kind of Reader Are You?
Create Your Own Quiz

(รพ: Little Professor)



A while ago I read a book whose premise excited me: a boy, hockey player, gets a concussion and has to quit the team. Being a hockey player was his life, so there was a lot in the book about coming to grips with the change in "who am I" as well as the medical stuff. The problem was, the book wasn't quite right for school. There was "language", but more important, the use of the word Wop. As in, "The wop called me down to dinner." Who was this? The hero's father. Sorry, just couldn't put it on my shelves. (Besides, who uses this language nowadays? No one - particularly no child - I've ever met.)

The idea of a lead with amnesia intrigued me, though. I mean, I work at a school with a pretty heavy emphasis on sports - one of my summer workers can't play basketball because of repeated concussions. So it's an issue to be dealt with.

Then along came Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac. None of my worries about the previous book here. It's relatively well written, with teenage characters that ring pretty true to my ear. So it's going on my Big Book Order, and I can honestly recommend it to my 7-12 students. There was only one problem, and it's something I've noticed in several books I've read recently: the editing isn't what it should be. North Tarrytown became Sleepy Hollow in 1996. This book was written (and set in) 2006. Oops.


Notes from Mt. Bookpile

Children's/Young Adult
  • After The Leaves Fall, Nicole Baart A coming-of-age story that in some ways reminded me of Up a Road Slowlyand Plainsong.
  • Flight: A Novel, Sherman Alexie If you haven't discovered Alexie as an author, what are you waiting for?
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, J. K. Rowling The series ends. None too soon
  • In the Serpent's Coils, Tiffany Trent Eh. Again, nothing so new that I'm going to follow this series
  • Nightmare Academy, Dean Lorey Not a series I'd want to continue - seems to familiar, with little new to recommend it.
  • Oh No, Noah!, Johanna Hurwitz Noah's moved into a new neighborhood: can he make friends? will he survive in a new place (particularly since he's a real klutz and prone to trouble)?
  • Parade of Shadows, Gloria Whelan Interesting historical fiction set in the Levant. Only problem is that there's not enough depth for students that have an interest in the history behind the story
  • The Very Ordered Existence of Merilee Marvelous, Suzanne Crowley Merilee has Asperger's symptoms and lives a Very Ordered Existence; somehow she learns to let go just a little and live.
  • Where's My Cow?, Terry Pratchett Discworld for the teething set
  • Wicked Lovely, Melissa Marr Another formulaic trip down Faerie Lane

  • Not the End of the World, Kate Atkinson An oddly interwoven series of short stories - what's real? what's not? how do the stories relate?
  • The Maytrees: A Novel, Annie Dillard I didn't think it was as great as the reviews did, but it's a nice, quiet read that won't disappoint
  • Winnie and Wolf, A.N. Wilson Historical fiction about the relationship between Winifred Wagner and Adolph Hitler -- not quite a Wagner apology, but close
  • Whit, Iain Banks Banks is one of those great "undiscovered" writers and this book, about life in a religious cult, just screams out for more readers

  • The Alton Gift, Marion Zimmer Bradley Another Darkover novel, finished after MZB's death, and not a bad one.
  • Childe Morgan, Katherine Kurtz If you like the Deryni series, go for it. But if you're not familiar with the series, this isn't a good place to start.
  • Dragons Of The Highlord Skies: The Lost Chronicles, Margaret Weis Ugh. Ok, so I came in during the series, but the backstory/exposition was just too confusing.

  • The Book of Air and Shadows, Michael Gruber Yet another "who was WS" mystery/thriller set in the modern era and in Shakespearan times.
  • The Darkness and the Deep, Aline Templeton The mystery part wasn't easily solved, and the characters were well drawn and interesting. A new series to explore!
  • Saturday's Child, Ray Banks Not anything resembling a cozy, more like Lovejoy meets Rebus
  • Sweet Revenge, Diane Mott Davison My first Goldy Shultz. I like the characters enough to consider reading more, but I'll let them come to me.


Total removed from Mt. Bookpile this quarter: 26
New books added to Mt. Bookpile this quarter: 32
Net gain: 6
(not off to a good start on my "read don't add" project!)



As I was driving along Friday, listening to a radio station (WFAS, for those that care) I heard a story that made me think "Oh.My.God. - we're so doomed". What was this story? That there was a group, the Happy Endings Foundation, that wanted to ban/burn books with unhappy endings. You know: the majority of books kids have to read in school by authors as diverse as Shakespeare, Lowrey, Frank and Bronte.

I didn't spend too much time on this, sure it was some nutter Out There and that the idea would have few implications for my job and my life.

How right I was: according to Kelly (who got it from others), it was a hoax by the marketing firm charged with promoting A Series of Unfortunate Events.

Can't believe everything you hear on the radio, can you?


Plans for my day off

After an incredibly difficult week, I was thrilled to come home this morning to find Making Money and The Wit and Wisdom of Discworld on my doorstep. Perfect escape reading!