Can't Stop Reading

Lucky for me I get a hefty discount at work, because I just can't seem to stop myself!

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Today is more of a lazy day, since I'm not at work. Which means I finished a book I've been reading for a week or so now. My teen book club chose Cameron Dokey's Beauty Sleep for our next meeting. Dokey has retold several fairy tales as novels, and this one is the story of Sleeping Beauty. I've also read her Storyteller's Daughter, which is the story of Sheherazade and the thousand and one Arabian nights. It was gorgeous. That is really the only way I can think to describe it. Sort of in the same vein, is Sunlight and Shadow, which is Mozart's Magic Flute . I didn't love that one, but maybe that's because I don't really know that story, having only heard the music. Lastly, I just looked it up, and it seems that Dokey has Golden (looks like Rapunzel) coming out this month. I will definitely be ordering that one in. It also looks like the publisher will be putting out a version of Snow White by a different author (Snow by Tracy Lynn).

I have always loved these kinds of retellings, because fairy tales are such good stories, that they make for great novels. Beauty Sleep is no exception. Aurore is born in a kingdom where magic is commonplace, and so the spells that have been cast on her are not that unusual, really. But she grows up to be unusual in other ways. Her parents encourage her curiosity about the outside world, thinking that it will make her less vulnerable once she turns sixteen. However, once that time does come, various catastrophes befall the kingdom, forcing Aurore to flee to the nearby enchanted forest. I think if I say much more it'll spoil the story, so I'll leave it at that. But this truly is a great version. Aurore is a real girl, and not at all the fussy princess that you might imagine. Dokey's plot twists are so well done, that when Aurore does find true love, its not at all where you were expecting it to be.

Beauty Sleep
by Cameron Dokey
ISBN 074342221X
187 pages

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Today was not so productive on the reading front. I only read a crappy chick lit book, which I will not bore y'all with. However, I almost sold someone a copy of Clara and Asha by Eric Rohmann. Rohmann won the Caldecott recently (last year? two years ago?) for his book My Friend Rabbit. However, I think Clara and Asha is better. Clara is a little girl with a crazy imagination. Asha, her friend is a giant fish. They met at the park, where Asha is part of a fountain. The book chronicles some of their adventures together, including some of the most beautiful illustrations of a girl and a giant fish flying through the night sky you will ever see. Rohmann's illustrations make me want to live in his books. Have you seen The Cinder-Eyed Cats? Eric Rohmann, take me away!

Next up, my good friend Kim needs a recommendation for her little sister. Kristen is 13, and so far Kim has Are You There God, It's Me, Margaret lined up. Loved that book, though I remember being really confused about the importance of religion, having grown up in a totally secular house. There has been some interesting discussion of this one here on the internet recently because Judy Blume has decided to update it a bit by changing the sanitary belt to pads or tampons or some such. Blume says she is not changing the story at all, so its no biggie. I tend to agree with her. However, someone pointed out that (insert classic children's novel here) has not been changed to be more modern, and learning about sanitary belts won't hurt anyone. Which is also a good point. The thing about Margaret though, is that it really is a modern novel. And the only things keeping it from being totally contemporary are the little details, like sanitary napkins (and how old are those things!?). That's my opinion on the whole thing. And also, Judy Blume wrote it, shouldn't she be able to do whatever she wants with it? I suppose that opens a whole can of worms about whom a book belongs to after it has been published and read by millions, though, eh?

Rant, much? Moving on: for Kristen, there are a few books that I could recommend. On the fantasy end of things (and apparently she's reading A Wrinkle in Time), I am gonna have to say: Garth Nix. Specifically I would recommend the Sabriel series, which are phenomenal. Really. They are stories set in The Kingdom, a country where magic exists, and there is an official necromancer (known as the Abhorsen). Sabriel is the daughter of the Abhorsen, and must save her father, and have various adventures with evil necromancers, as well as maybe fall in love with a prince. The follow up novels, Lirael and Abhorsen follow future generations of women doing the same job. Nix has done an amazing job of creating this whole world, and so many real characters that live in it. I've also recently been reading his new series, called The Keys to the Kingdom. They are a bit younger, and the protagonist is a boy, but still super super good. My only complaint is that there are seven in the series, and only four have been published so far. Write faster Garth Nix!!

Also in the fantasy vein, one of my favourite novels this year was I, Coriander by Sally Gardner, who has written quite a few books for younger readers (The Countess' Calamity is a really great early chapter book). Coriander lives in England during the time of the civil war. Turns out, her mother was a fairy, and her father, in danger of being seen as a royalist, is forced to marry an awful Puritan woman. Coriander ends up in Faery, having to face off against the fairy queen, who, let me tell you, is not such a nice lady. The way Gardner has mixed history and fantasy is downright, well, magical!

Just so that we're not all fantasy, all the time over here, A Mango Shaped Space is the winner of the 2004 Schneider Family Book Award in the middle-grade category by the American Library Association. This award recognizes books that discuss disabilities. However, author Wendy Mass has written not about a girl who is disabled, but a girl who really is differently abled. And if you are anything like me, you generally roll your eyes when you hear terms like that (okay, I'm a terrible person, yada yada yada). But Mia has Synesthesia, which means that sounds and letters and numbers have colours for her. The story of this novel is the story of Mia's diagnosis, and the story of her coming into her own. I read this book with my teen book club, and everyone really seemed to enjoy it. There is a little reading group guide at the back, which I suppose could be helpful. We just made fun of it though. The first question was something like, "Have you ever felt that you had a problem you couldn't confide to a teacher or parent, like Mia?" Seriously.

Okay, so that is all I'm going to get in tonight. Hope that helped, Kim!

Clara and Asha written and illustrated by Eric Rohmann
ISBN 1596430311
40 pages

The Cinder-Eyed Cats written and illustrated by Eric Rohmann
ISBN 0440417430
40 pages

My Friend Rabbit written and illustrated by Eric Rohmann
ISBN 159643080X
32 pages

Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
ISBN 0440404193
160 pages

Sabriel by Garth Nix
ISBN 0064471837
496 pages

Lirael by Garth Nix
ISBN 0060005424
705 pages

Abhorsen by Garth Nix
ISBN 0060528737
518 pages

Mister Monday by Garth Nix
ISBN 0439551234
361 pages

Grim Tuesday by Garth Nix
ISBN 0439436559
336 pages

Drowned Wednesday by Garth Nix
ISBN 0439436567
389 pages

Sir Thursday by Garth Nix
ISBN 0439700876
344 pages

I, Coriander by Sally Gardner
ISBN 1842552902
272 pages

A Mango Shaped Space by Wendy Mass
ISBN 0316523887
224 pages

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Note to self: when a book features a quote from "Kevin Williamson, creator, Dawson's Creek TV series; writer, Scream movies" on the back, do not pick it up! Today I read Bass Ackwards and Belly Up by Elizabeth Craft and Sarah Fain. Great title, eh? Too bad even two writers couldn't make this one work. The story begins in Boulder, Colorado, with four girls who have been friends forever. They are preparing to go their separate ways, to colleges all over the US. However, one of the friends, Harper, drops a bombshell: she's not going to NYU, she's going to stay in Boulder and work on the next Great American Novel (question: when did the last Great American Novel come out? Have I missed it?!). Long story short, three of the four end up dropping their college plans to follow their dreams. Harper stays home to write, Sophie moves to LA to pursue her acting career, and Kate decides to backpack around the world. There is much falling in love with both the right guys, and the wrong throughout. The biggest problem I had with this book was how unrealistic it seemed. Maybe I've always just been too practical, but to drop out of college a week before it starts seems like the kind of thing your parents wouldn't really go along with. I especially hated the way Kate went to Europe with approximately $3000 US. At the rate she was spending, she should have been broke about a month into the trip. And I know that is a silly detail to get caught up on, but I couldn't help it! I always have a hard time distinguishing between characters being flaky teens or whatever, and being just stupid, unrealistic characters. So yeah, didn't like this one so much.

Bass Ackwards and Belly Up by Elizabeth Craft and Sarah Fain
ISBN 0316059732
386 pages

Lauren Child's new book, The Princess and the Pea came in today. I was super pumped, because I love her Charlie & Lola books, and Hubert Horatio Bartle Bobton-Trent was also fabulous. I can't figure out why, but this one just doesn't do it for me. The illustrations are a super cool collaboration between Child and photographer Polly Borland, and if nothing else, it's worth taking a look at the book for them alone. But the book kinda left me cold. I'm wondering if it might be that this is one of my least favourite fairy tales, because I always thought it was kind of stupid. Either way, cool illustrations, but just not doing it for me.

I spent most of yesterday reading an ARC that I picked up at a bookfair in February. This one is called Nothing but the Truth (and a few white lies), and its by first time author Justina Chen Headley. The book follows a very important summer in the life of Patty Ho, a half white, half Taiwanese American. Patty lives in a small town near Seattle, where there are only a handful of minorities. Thanks to a belly button-reading fortune teller, Patty gets shipped off to math camp at Stanford for most of the summer. Little does she know that this is the best thing that could happen to her. While in California, Patty begins to realize that being a visible minority is not a bad thing, and that being half & half makes her even more unique, in a good way.

What I really enjoyed about this book is that Headley really brought the reader into Patty's head. I have never been a visible minority, or had an identity crisis about being not quite one thing, or not quite another, but I really got where Patty was coming from. And seeing her realize the good things about herself, and her family was really wonderful. I think this would be a great book for any biracial teens, or even anyone who doesn't fit the mould in a small town. By far the best parts of the book are when Patty is seeing how much bigger the world is than her small close-minded town. When she returns triumphantly to her hometown, she is determined to not just be the quiet, studious Asian girl, but to stand up to her tormentors, and even the unintentional racism of her friends' parents.

In the last few years there have been a lot more kids novels with Asian-American characters being published. I'm hoping this trend will continue into Canada, where we seem to have only picture books underway so far. I would definitely recommend anybody interested in these issues pick this one up, and I will definitely be keeping an eye on Justina Chen Headley.

The Princess and the Pea
written by Lauren Child illustrated by Lauren Child & Polly Borland
ISBN 0141381388
48 pages

Nothing but the Truth (and a Few White Lies) by Justina Chen Headley
ISBN 0316011282
256 pages

Monday, March 27, 2006

Okay, so I haven't done any picture books yet, and a few brand-new ones came in today, so I'll talk about those ones.

First off is Mabel's Magical Garden by Paula Metcalf. It is one of those messagey books about sharing that I generally loathe. However, Metcalf is a great illustrator, so I will only say that I rather disliked it. Mabel has a garden of beautiful flowers, and a couple of great friends to share it with (Nigel, a blue . . . wombat? I'm not really sure what he is, and George, a lovely looking giraffe). Mabel gets jealous when the same flowers spontaneously grow chez Nigel and George's place. So she gets all paranoid and builds a huge wall, and predictably, the flowers suffer. All ends well, like I said, and the friends enjoy "the most delicious picnic Nigel and George had ever tasted." Like I said, it's a little sick-making, but the illustrations really are great.

Next up is Waking Day a poem by Constance Morgenstern (with fine art by Monet and friends). I loved this book the first time I read it. It takes a poem about, well, duh, the waking day, and pairs each line of the poem with a gorgeously reproduced impressionist painting that suits it. However, the book also includes the poem all together on one page, and yech is it bad! But so good when all separated! So just avoid that page and you'll be all set. The end of the book also features mini-biographies of all the artists whose works are included. It also features the worst author's photo I've ever seen! Get some new clothes, Constance! This one would be great to read with just one child methinks; it is a bit too slow moving to read to a group, but definitely a gorgeous edition.

Wing Nuts: Screwy Haiku by Paul B. Janeczko is third. Let me just say, Janeczko could write a grocery list and I would love it. I wish that I had been able to read something like this when I was younger, as it might have prevented a life-long aversion to poetry. What I really enjoy about this book is that it does a good job of introducing the form of the haiku to aspiring poets, without the boring nature themes usually associated with it. My favourite is "Irksome mosquito/ Kindly sing your evening song/ in my brother's ear"! How cool is that?! When I was in school we were writing about leaves and stuff. I also have to give props to illustrator Tricia Tusa. She does a fabulous job of drawing exactly the words in hilarious pen and watercolour illustrations. I know its in hardcover still, but go out and buy this book!

Last today is Art by Patrick McDonnell, he of the Muts comic strip fame. This book is a hilarious (though not as hilarious as Jon Scieszka's Seen Art?) play on words as the little boy Art creates lots of art. "He draws scribbles that squiggle" don't you know? McDonnell has created a wonderfully simple book, by using only red, yellow and blue watercolours, and keeping the background a stark white throughout. Frankly, though I really liked the book, and I think a lot of kids would get a kick out of the world play, the thick white paper is maybe just too nice for grubby hands? The theme of the book encourages kids to get creative, but I think the book itself would have parents shouting gentle! gentle! But that could just be me.

So that should tide you over for a bit anyways.

Mabel's Magical Garden written and illustrated by Paula Metcalf
ISBN 1405047771
32 pages

Waking Day written by Constance Morgenstern illustrated by "Monet and Friends"
ISBN 1559719192
32 pages

Wing Nuts: Screwy Haiku written by Paul B. Janeczko & J. Patrick Lewis illustrated by Tricia Tusa
ISBN 0316607312
32 pages

Art written and illustrated by Patrick McDonnell
ISBN 031611491X
48 pages

Sunday, March 26, 2006

This evening was my once monthly adult book club. We were reading the Imagined London book I talked about earlier. Not really a great turnout, but since I love all the women in my bookclub, I don't really care who all shows up, 'cause I am bound to have a good time.

After a rousing discussion of paint colours (Dana is now on the third colour in her bedroom), we moved into the book. We both agreed that Quindlen's book choice was lacking, and that it was weird that her son's first name is Quindlen. We also agreed that though we might read one of her novels, we would probably not pay full price for it. Dana thought it would be interesting to hear what someone who had read the books Quindlen refers to has to say. Unfortunately, that is neither or us. The only Dickens I have read is A Tale of Two Cities, which I loved as a teenager. Whatevs. I have also never read any Virginia Woolf or Thackeray. Though I saw the movie of Vanity Fair with Reese Witherspoon. Oh philistine, thy name is me!

Last year the bookclub read Reading Lolita in Tehran which I really didn't enjoy, however, it inspired us to read Lolita (so good! Go read it right now!!!). Somehow I don't get the impression that we will be picking up Mrs. Dalloway or Tom Jones (which I was forced to read during my undergrad, and if I never have to look at it again it will be too soon) anytime soon. This paragraph is getting a little parentheses heavy . . .

So, we ended with choosing John LeCarre's Constant Gardener for next month. I've read it before, but ages ago, and now there's a lovely new edition out with pictures from the Major Motion Picture on the cover, so there you go.

Okay, so enough with the grown up stuff! I've been catching up on my newspaper reading this evening, and I came across a NYTimes Books article by Naomi Wolf. She writes about how awful and mysogynistic all those Gossip Girls, Clique, etc. books are. Which I suppose they are. But there also a lot of fun; I mean, they're Jackie Collins for teens, really. I don't want to be plagiarizing here, but I loved the sentiment that I read somewhere recently that teenage girls love trashy novels, and that if they aren't reading trashy teen novels, they will be reading trashy adult novels. So true! I am all about the trashy novels. Sorry Naomi Wolf, they may be misogynistic, but they are way too much fun to give up!

Constant Gardener by John Le Carre
ISBN 1416503900
560 pages

Gossip Girl by Cecily Von Ziegesar
ISBN 0316910333
224 pages

Saturday, March 25, 2006


Okay, so... I have decided to write my own blog, focussing mainly on kids books, because that's what I'm into. And also, frankly, I have found a few great sites, and a few not so great ones, but there is just not enough out there for me! The added bonus is I can practice up my reviewing skills.

Speaking of which, here is what I read today:

First off, Anna Quindlen's Imagined London, which is not a kid's book, I know, but I *did* read it, and its my blog, so there you go. Mostly I enjoyed this one, as her feelings are similar to mine. The book talks about how Quindlen had read so many books set in London over her lifetime, that the city felt like a place she had been, even though she didn't travel there until she was in her forties. She's a wonderful writer (she has several novels under her belt, none of which I have read), and really evokes the London of so many of her favourite novels. That was my big problem with this book. It seemed to me that she only referred to about four novels, plus all of Dickens. She briefly mentioned Brick Lane by Monica Ali, and White Teeth by Zadie Smith, but most of her material came from 19th century books. Which is fine, but my impression was that this was going to be a complete picture. Which I know would be a lot of work, but Peter Ackroyd did it!

Anyways, despite a few reservations, I definitely enjoyed it. I loved reading about how on her first trip she spent the whole time wandering around, basically with her mouth open. Because that's exactly how I felt when I was there. All in all, a decent book, and I will definitely try and find the time to pick up one of her novels.

The other book I read today is part of a series called S.A.S.S. I can't remember exactly what it stands for something about students studying abroad. The premise for this series is there is this program for American high school students to go abroad to study for a few months. So far in the series, they have only gone to Europe, but the beauty for the publisher is that they can keep churning them out for just about every country on earth. And churning is the key word. Today I read the German one, called The Sound of Munich. Yeah, they all have titles like that.

Our protaganist is a ridiculously stereotypical girl named Siena from Southern California. She can't move without checking her horoscope, and one of the first things she does upon arriving in Munich is rearrange her furniture for better chi flow. Anyways, the books all follow an exceedingly predictable plot that I won't bore you with. She writes, despite the fact that this is I think the fifth of these that I have read! What can I say, I am a sucker for a bad teen novel. However, I will say that The Sound of Munich was the best in the series so far. And that is because all the other books have featured heroines who are so utterly ignorant of the world outside of their hometowns that I have been wanting to slap them upside the head. At least Siena is open to new experiences, and also not obsessed with finding a new boyfriend. Basically I would recommend these books only to a certain kind of teenage girl, and gluttons for punishment in the form of bad teen novels, like myself.

So, there it is, my first post!

Imagined London
by Anna Quindlen
ISBN 0792242076
192 pages

S.A.S.S. Sound of Munich by Suzanne Nelson
ISBN 0142405760
224 pages