Monday, September 21, 2009

after long radio silence...

Alas, I am terrible at keeping up with this blog. But, fortunately, I'm better at reading than I am at writing, and so I have plenty of books to write about! For today, I'll start with these 3:

I Am Apache, by Tanya Landman: A YA book meant for readers age 12 and up (but that I have already recommend to mature 10 year old readers), I Am Apache is an elegantly written story about an Apache (duh) woman who decides, after the untimely and violent death of her younger brother, to follow the path to become a warrior. All my ra-ra-ra feminism aside, it's an psychologically compelling read, if not a little heavy-handed. One of the things I've found myself wondering as I read it was (since Landman is British, and hence has not been subjected to all the PA announcement tropes including Native Americans and the environment, you know the one, with the one tear) if some of the language choices were a little stale. A "heart soaring like an eagle over the plain" for example, did not feel particularly fresh. But other than moments like that (of which there were relatively few) it's a wonderful read for those who want to be a tough woman, who are tough women already, or just love tough women on principle.

Jasper Dash and the Flame-Pits of Delaware by MT Anderson: Anderson is always my favorite. Even when he's writing silly stories in a fictional Delaware, complete with kangaroo-riding cannibals, he's always the best. In this case for the motherly advice not to fall in love with boys whose names are like boarding schools (Choate, Thatcher, etc) because they'll just break your heart. Sound advice, Mrs. Mulligan. Sound advice. Jasper Dash is the third book in the Pals in Peril Series (previous MT Anderson's Thrilling Tales), a middle grade series in which each book is a satire of a particular genre-- the first was an alien invasion story, the second a mystery. This newest installment is an adventure story, akin to Tarzan, but with way more silliness. It's by far the longest volume in the series, and there are some parts where it gets a little long. But I could see why. I probably wouldn't want to edit anything out either, even if not doing so is to the detriment of the flow. Anderson's fictitious Delaware is so much fun, so absurd, so silly, that I for one couldn't pick anything that had to go.

The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor: My favorite adult-who-reads-kids-books customer recommended this book to me, and I have long since learned that ignoring her recommendations is done at my own peril. So I bought my copy and started reading it. Four months ago. And just now finished it. At first I was really into it-- Wonderland as a more science-fiction like landscape was an exciting prospect. Plus, the cover art and interior illustrations (there's a little section in the middle) are pleasingly stylish. And even the story (Princess Alyss of Wonderland stranded in the real world, Queen Redd wreaking havoc) was fun. In theory. But I never felt myself compelled the keep reading once I'd picked up the book. The narrative voice is scattered since POV changes all the time. I felt like the story might have been better served by a more limited scope of point of view characters, to focus the story a bit more. While Hatter might be the most badass body guard to pop up in kids lit in a while, there's not much psychological depth to him (or many of the other secondary characters). But reading it, I could see that there was a lot this book had to offer, especially for kids who love the dystopian aesthetic. There's action, intrigue, and a tough female lead, and it is a very NEW take on Wonderland. All things I always like. But it still wasn't my favorite.

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