31 July 2012

What I am Reading: July 2012

It's amazing how many books one can read when one is jetlagged. I'm working my way through a backlog of books some from BEA's of several years past, while trying to clear the shelves off (and waiting for the new Ilona Andrews to be out the 31st).

  1. Apocolypse to Go (A Nola O'Grady novel) (2012) by Katharine Kerr: It's been a while since I have read anything by Kerr- this is a paranormal with the "Apocolypse Squad", a group that interfaces with the parallel worlds that have been discovered (and are the current "hot" theme). Secret Agen Nola O'Grady and her Israeli seconded partner (also in life) Ari, need to rescue a family member in a parallel and danger SF. Fun read, not very deep. (DTB)
  2. Villain School: Good Curses Evil (2011) by Stephanie S. Sanders: This book is aimed at grades 3-6 and has been sitting on my shelf since I picked it up at a BEA some time ago. I read it to see whether it was appropriate for my soon-to-be fourth grader and it is (although since it is in English, I'll say there may be some words she won't understand).Rune is the son of the headmaster of a school for wayward villains (children that have done good deeds, rather than bad), but it seems like his father is stricter with him than with the other students. Rune is given the chance to run a Plot, an evil scheme quest, with two of his friends, against a team lead by his roommate. If he wins, he and his friends will be promoted: if he loses, exiled. A very enjoyable story with lots of character and world development and I think T1 will enjoy it very much (as will other children who like Monster High figurines). There's a second out and I will read it, even if T1 doesn't;-).(ARC)
  3. Life is not a Stage (2011) by Florence Henderson with Joel Brokaw: A memoir from Florence Henderson, obviously. Not very "tell all", though she had a brief wild period between two very long marriages (and though she is very kind and lays no blame, it is clear that the first marriage was not a physically satisfying one). Very interesting to see a glimpse into how people handled family planning as Catholics in the 20-60's, to see how the abuse of children was handled (that is, ignored)  and wonderful to read how Florence survived an abusive and neglectful childhood and became a warm and confident wman, with long and strong friendships and a close family. I enjoyed the book.(ARC)
  4. Tension City (2011) by Jim Lehrer: A memoir of (a part of) Jim Lehrer's long career: that of being the moderator of almost a dozen Presidential debates, in their varying (some successful and some not) formats. Very interesting to read how someone who was there felt and what he saw. I got this at a BEA breakfast, at which he chatted a bit about the writing: a very warm and intelligent man. (ARC)
  5. Wishing for tomorrow (the sequel to The Little Princess) (2009) by Hilary McKay:  I'll talk more about getting this book in another post. But the book itself is, as billed, a "sequel" to Frances Hodgson Burnett's 1905 A Little Princess. It picks up after Sara has left Miss Minchin's establishment, leaving behind girls who were friends and those who were not. The protagonist is Ermengard, Sara's closest friend among the girls, and the subject is the lives of those left behind. I enjoyed it very much and it will go to T1 next year, after I have read the original to her. I also very much enjoyed the illustrations by Nick Maland, and I felt they added much to the period charm of the book.(DTB)
  6. Shades of Milk and Honey (2010) by Mary Robinette Kowal: I've been reading about MRK for years, so I'm not certain why I have just now picked up (and enjoyed) this book. It's an Austen homage: the reviews call it a Pride and Prejudice, but it really does feel more like Sense and Sensibility in the interactions between Jane and her younger sister Melody. There are no other siblings and Jane's father is far more loving and sensible than Mr. Bennet. The world is one where "Glamour" is lady's art, rather like drawing or composition, with tutors and masters who have patrons. Jane excels at glamour, while her sister is flighty and beautiful. It's more interesting than that sounds and is a charming romance. I look forward to picking up the second novel next time I am in the US. (DTB)
  7. Artemis Fowl (2001) by Eoin Colfer: I was wandering through Publisher's Weekly and saw that the Artemis Fowl saga is drawing to an end, with its 8th and final novel being released this month. So I thought it was finally time to read the first, which someone gave me a few years ago. The story of a criminal prodigy, 12 year old Artemis Fowl and how he tracks down, researches Faery and then kidnaps a Fairy to get a ransom is... ok. I know many children who have adored this series, but like Riordan's novels, it just doesn't appeal to me enough to want to read the second in the series.(DTB)
  8. The Reluctant Vampire (2011) by Lynsay Sands: These are my popcorn paranormals. A series of interconnected romance/vampire novels where the vampires are a result of nanos created by Atlantean scientists shortly before the Deluge (and therefore not perfected). Since the scientists did not use themselves as guinea pigs, none survived and the nanos are passed through blood (of course) and passed through birth. A light and fluffy read.(DTB)
  9. Time Cat (1963) by Lloyd Alexander: I think this may be the first children's fantasy that I ever read (I started in the "A"s in my elementary school library. From there the molecules and stars on the spines of the books lead me through Asimov (Lucky Starr) and Heinlein (the juveniles) all the way to Zelazny (what were they thinking?). I'm ready for T1 to start reading behind me and I so hope that she starts loving the books that I loved. This was Alexander's first juvenile and this edition has a lovely foreword by him discussing how he came to write it. The story of Jason and his cat Gareth as they visit nine different lives also piqued my interest in the history they discuss, leading me to Treece and Rosemary Sutcliffe and stories of Japan and really: just opened my world. It was a truly wonderful library and I had a truly wonderful time reading my way through it. (DTB)
  10. Paris in Love (2012) by Eloisa James: As an expat, I often find myself drawn to other expat chronicles, although this one is not quite expat material: Ms.James (aka Mary Bly Vettori) spent a year in Paris with her family while she and her husband were both on sabbatical from their tenured professorships. A NYT best-selling romance author and Shakespearean scholar, Ms Bly worked on both sides of her literary career as well as writing a blog/journal while in Paris and then "novelized" the experience. I use quotes because the book is comprised of separate, non-connected paragraphs under headings. I enjoyed it, but wish I had read instead David Lebovitz' The Sweet Life in Paris, which would have, I think, been a more fulfilling read. (DTB)
  11. The Inquisitor's Apprentice (2011) by Chris Moriarty: This book is an absolutely exquisite read. I cannot sing its praises enough. In an alternate New York City in the early 1900's, a world where magic is strictly regulated by the Police Department's Inquisitorial branch and where "Wall Street Wizards" are exactly that (and have driven Teddy Roosevelt, former Police Commissioner out of town when he attempted to enforce the law, Sacha is discovered to have the ability to "see" Magic. A nice Jewish boy, from a Russian emigrant family on the Lower East Side, the Police Department is the domain of the Irish and he is not certain how he can fit in. Apprenticed, with the first girl apprentice Inquisitor (Lily Astral) to star Inquisitor Maximillian Wolf, Sacha meets the dangerous James Pierpont Morgaunt, Erich Weiss (aka Houdini), the antisemitic Thomas Alva Edison, and many others from our actual history, reflected through the alternate reality glass. From the Wiccanists to the Wobblies to the Pentacle Shirtwaist Factory, Ms Moriarty's research shines through and helps us believe her world is real. In interviews, Ms. Moriarty states that she wrote this book for her son, so he could have a fantasy where a Jewish boy was a hero and I will have my children read this book not only for that feeling— that a world where they exist is normal— but also to have a feel for New York at the turn of the last century, a world where so many Jews entered the United States and how they did so. This is an inclusive book, with its characters being as much a melting pot as NYC in the early 1900's was. Although there is closure to this novel, it leads clearly to what we can expect in the next: though I may expect to hear more of the kabbalah and the dybbuk, there may also be the famous Pentacle Fire to come, more interaction with the world of Chinatown or perhaps Upstate, the Harlem Renaissance and Roosevelt's attempt to regain power.... So many exciting opportunities are possible! Mark Edward Geyer's illustrations are appropriate and add value. I can't wait to read the next book (also illustrated by Mr. Geyer), The Watcher in the Shadows, which will be published in April 2013. (DTB)