May. 4th, 2013
07:03 am - Books: Akata Witch
I'm so glad that there's sports in Akata Witch! Seriously, yay to Nnedi Okorafor, because back when I was a bookseller this is definitely a book I would have cross-marketed to a good chunk of folks who liked Harry Potter, and it would have been because it has magic school stuff and sports stuff. More books should have both, liking magic does not automatically mean you don't like anything else.
Part of me wondered how much this book might be in conscious dialogue with Nancy Farmer's The Ear, the Eye, and the Arm, which we read in library school YA lit class and which I've never been entirely comfortable with. There was something about the ways in which disability, the city, and the kidnappings were discussed that made me wonder this, but I can't quite pin it down.
I liked all the quests and the different types of magic and the slow accretion of many different community mentors and how the teen characters balance family stuff, magic society stuff, and the actual social dynamics of life in school and among their magic using peers. The hardest part for me in recommending this book as a bookseller or librarian would have been that the cover, while beautiful, well-designed, and accurate to the text, makes the story look a lot softer-edged and more abstract than the text felt. It's a good cover for this book, I think, but it almost makes me miss the days of ugly collage-scened covers for kids books so we could see them playing soccer and maybe some magic creatures.
Jan. 19th, 2013
09:21 pm - Caring
Oct. 27th, 2012
09:22 am - Point of Order re "young adult"
Just as a point of order, since it has crossed my reading list in ways that prickle my back at least three times this week alone:
Yes, Young Adult sells well right now, but that doesn't mean everything is going to fit the label "Young Adult."
I do understand the difficulty of deciding, since young adult is used as a label for at least two things: books teens would want to read, and books specifically written and/or marketed for teens.
But specifically, I'd like to note:
1) If the main characters are all under the age of 12, the odds are pretty good the book is not young adult.
2) If the main characters are all over the age of 25, the odds are likewise pretty good the book is not young adult.
3) Not everything teens enjoy reading is "young adult" and, vice versa, not every book published as "young adult" is one that teens will enjoy reading.
And I get that often young adult is currently being used to describe books whose main characters are teenaged, but I object. Sometimes a bildungsroman is just a bildungsroman. So, I add:
4) The mere presence of teenaged or young adult main characters does not automatically mean a book's main audience is teenage or young adult people.
Ok, I'm less cranky now. Please return to your regularly scheduled programming. Thanks.
Oct. 24th, 2012
Here and there I've heard people be disappointed by the trend in fantasy to make popular monsters less monster-ish. Zombies looking for a nice apartment to rent instead of brains to eat. Middle-aged vampires awkwardly raising human kids. Vampire romance, shifter romance, zombie romance, etc. "Oh," folks say, "how I pine for the olden days when monsters were monsters and monster-hunters killed them. When horror was horrifying."
While I can understand that this sort of thing is not everyone's cup of tea, I think the new, less monstrous monsters are a wonderful sign culturally. My vague lit-crit impression is that there's a lot of conversation in analytical circles about how old horror / monster fiction played on a metaphorical level with cultural fears - something about Dracula and early vampire lit saying a lot about the time period's discomfort with women's sexuality, etc. The monster as Other, with writers and readers projecting all sorts of uncomfortable feelings onto the monster. If there's anything to that theory, then I think we ought to be delighted that so many of the monsters in fiction have gotten so cozy. I think that it says something really promising about our shifting cultural attitudes towards not just "the Other," but lots and lots of groups that have been "othered."
Aug. 21st, 2012
09:45 pm - Cooking / baking - random notes
Jul. 20th, 2012
07:32 pm - Me, Reading, Shame.
So I have this dictionary of humorous quotations. It was a prize when I was a kid, which means I've read the whole thing cover to cover a few times.
There's a quote in it attributed to G. K. Chesterton that runs "There is a great deal of difference between the eager man who wants to read a book and the tired man who wants a book to read."
And y'know, in fiction, I'm very often the tired man. In nonfiction, by all means, bring on the hard stuff. I find case law hilarious. I can laugh myself silly over the way clauses in a loan document line up. I'm perfectly willing, on a good day, to read a plain text version of the whole WTO treaty, or The Golden Bough, or what have you. Look at me, marching out my intellectual credit because I do feel a bit of pressure about it. Like I have to justify it.
I would like to live in a world where no one, not booksellers, not book reviewers, and not librarians, ever made people feel that they should be, in their own pleasure reading, the eager guy who wants to read a book. It's pointlessly shaming.
(This is related to the strange belief some librarians have that a person who only reads nonfiction, or only reads adult fiction, or whatever it is, has to be coaxed to See the Merits of novels / great children's picture books / what have you. No, they really don't. Just find them some nice new car manuals and let it be. Unless they ask otherwise.)
There is absolutely nothing wrong with being the eager guy who wants to read a book. Go you, eager dude. Sometimes, go me. But honest to goodness, there's nothing wrong with being the guy who wants a book to read.
Jun. 17th, 2012
May. 12th, 2012
My gram, who is super supportive of my writing desires (she always asks if I've been writing and stuff when she calls, and nags me if I don't finish things, and reminds me of the artists we know who are successful and how what they all have in common is doing it every day and so forth) asked me if I'd been writing.
I said yes. I know I should have stopped there, but she called while I was writing, darn it. So I'm all, "werewolves, gram, jumping from airship to airship at the birthday part of an island countess!" And she's sort of, "I guess that's nice, dear."
[edited to add]
The above is unfair to my gram. She actually said, "wouldn't it hurt when they fall?" and I said "that's why islands, so they can land in the water" and she said, "they'd need to watch out for sharks," because my gram is AWESOME and would never say something passive aggressive like "I guess that's nice dear." The problem is that no matter how awesome my gram is, I am internally editing what she says, and my internal editor is not as nice as she is, and translates the gram coolness into the "I guess that's nice, dear."
[thus ends the edit]
Apr. 26th, 2012
08:20 pm - Books - question
Dear Friends who May Have Already Read Throne of the Crescent Moon:
Can anyone tell me a little about the overall balance of torture and tea in Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed? Because I am about three chapters in, and my overall reaction is that the writing is lovely and the characters seem interesting, but if it's going to be mostly torture and only occasional tea, I'm just not up for that at the moment and will try again another month.
On the other hand, if the torture and tea episodes are roughly equal in quantity, I will by all means continue reading.
Thanks for any thoughts.
Apr. 1st, 2012
Every now and then someone starts talking near me in public about the lowered modern tone of civil discourse and I have a hard time not laughing so hard up my sleeve that I choke.
C'mon people. Really? We are So Much Nicer Now Than We Were Then. Just for example, nowadays we hardly ever have one Senator beating the other with a stick on the senate floor and then challenging him to a duel. If you like American humorous political anecdote, and you enjoy light popular history, may I commend Barbara Holland to your attention? In addition to the stellar "Hail To The Chiefs" she is also the author of the charming "Gentlemen's Blood: A history of dueling from swords at dawn to pistols at dusk."
( She has some choice things to say about senators and duelling...Collapse )
I think I've burbled about Holland before, but every time I re-read her books I burble again. What can you do.
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