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Monthly Archives: March 2013

I was fortunate enough this year to be invited to the Tucson Festival of Books to give a talk on teen books. Actually, my friend and co-worker Mosylu was invited, and I just tagged along. But, since I don’t have much else to say for March, here’s the booktalks I wrote for that:

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
I could hardly put this book down. It’s a graphic novel that’s also the autobiography of a girl growing up in Iran. Comics aren’t just for super heroes and cartoons anymore. They’re simply a medium, another way to tell a story. This story is told in simple black and white images, and much of it with the detached simplicity of a child’s eye. Marjane remembers growing up in Iran before the Islamic Revolution, and after. After the revolution, all the women and even the little girls had to cover their hair. Parties with drinking and most kinds of music are banned. As a child, this a sudden and bewildering change. Violence becomes common place. But it’s funny too, painting a picture of what life was like; the ups, the downs, and the in-betweens. It’s made all the more compelling, touching, and appalling by the fact that it’s autobiographical. Marjane’s spare black and white cartoons show the world she saw just as she saw it. And now you can see it too.

 White Cat by Holly Black
Cassel Sharpe wakes up on the roof of his fancy high school dorm and nearly falls to his death. He’s been sleepwalking again, or was he cursed? He dreamed of following a white cat. . .

In Cassel’s world, working curses is real.   It was outlawed in the 1920s, meaning that most curse workers are employed by the mob. This is part mystery, part dark urban fantasy, and part mob story. At first, Cassel thinks he’s only got to solve the mystery of why he’s been sleep walking. But then, he begins to think that the girl he loved when he was fourteen, the girl he thought he killed, might still be alive. What’s more, there’s something weird going on with his two older brothers. Why can’t Cassel remember the murder or why he did it? Why does he keep having nightmares about a white cat? And what is the secret his brothers are trying to hide from him? To find out, he’ll have to find the white cat, and make a deal with a mobster. Only then, Cassel may find himself in even more danger than when he started. And he started on the edge of a roof, so that’s no saying much!

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
Do you like videogames? That’s good, because in the future, the internet is one big mashup of every videogame you’ve ever played, and then some. The internet has become one massively multiplayer online game, while the real world has fallen to pieces around it. When the most famous video game programmer to ever live dies, there is a huge fortune to be won in the greatest video game ever played…The prize? A controlling interest in the most powerful company on earth, and more money than someone like our hero, Wade, can imagine. He lives in a trailer with his family, stacked on top of more trailers full of other families: the slums of the future. His only relief is the game, and his only hope of ever getting out of the stacks is to win. But what chance does he have when literally most of the world is trying to win too? And more to the point, once he’s cracked the code and started the chase in earnest, what will those other people do to try and stop him?

Bones of Faerie by Janni Lee Simner
I love this book for so many reasons, not the least of which is that the author, Janni Lee Simner, is a local Tucsonan and all around lovely person. “I had a sister once… ” That’s the first line. The faerie war ended before Liza was born, but it seems the world will never recover. Faerie weapons have given the trees the ability to move and kill, ghosts to rise, and even some of children are born infected with magic. People who are touched by magic are even more dangerous than the trees, so when Liza suspects that she may be tainted, she flees from her village. The world is a dark, ferocious, and war ravaged place. But Liza finds that there is much about magic, herself, and her world, that she didn’t know. She must learn the truth about the faerie war, and find the strength to face everything she has been taught to fear.

Ash by Melinda Lo
This may be my favorite retelling of Cinderella since the faerie godmother is a dark faerie with ulterior motives, and there’s an unusual love triangle. When Ash’s widower father remarries, his new wife hopes to inherit his money. Only when her father dies, it turns out he didn’t have any, and Ash’s new mother expects Ash to work off his debt. Ash’s only escape are walks in the woods, where she does a very unwise thing: she befriends a faerie. And he’s not the Tinkerbell kind of faerie. Sidhean is tall, otherworldly and handsome, and he treats Ash with more kindness than her family. Ash feels a fierce longing for him, and hopes that someday he will steal her away from her cruel stepmother and stepsisters, just like in the faerie tales her mother used to read her. But she also befriends the King’s Huntress, Kaisa, who is everything Ash wishes she could be: strong, independent, warm and beautiful. She finds that her heart is drawn to both of them, though she can have neither. She does not belong in either the King’s lavish world with Kaisa, or the faerie’s ethereal one with Sidhean. Still, if she had to choose where her heart belonged, which one would it be?

The Fault in Our Stars

I talked this book up at the Festival, but I already talked about how much I loved The Fault in our Stars in a previous blog, so instead, here’s my reaction to a different John Green Book:

An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

Collin, semi-famous child prodigy, has been dumped by 19 girls named Katherine.  After Katherine the 19th dumps him the summer before college, Collin and his friend Hassan go on a road trip.  It’s full of much of the ridiculous comedy that I loved in The Fault in Our Stars, but without any cancer or death, which was nice.  I related a lot to Collin and his internal emptiness after being dumped.  Collin, being the erudite boy he is, tries to invent a theorem that will allow him to graph the future of all relationships.  It even inspired me to try to graph my previous relationships in the hopes of discovering what went wrong.  But as it turns out, I’m not a child prodigy, and I suck at math, so all I have are lists.  Sigh.  Anyway, An Abundance of Katherines is a fantastic book, and good pick me up if you are down.

World War Z by Max Brooks
If there was a real zombie apocalypse, I think it would look a lot like this. The story is told in a series of interviews with various survivors after the fact. It’s set up like a historical record. They are men and women, rich and poor, and people of all nationalities. The documentary style, and the great variety of people interviewed, make the story feel real. There’s the story of a patient zero in China, as told by a rural doctor. Some governments deny the existence of the new disease, some mobilize quickly to fight the zombie hoardes, and some governments simply leave their ill prepared citizens to fend for themselves. It also follows the very personal human interest stories of what people had to do to survive, and who they lost. And since the movie will be out soon, this might be a good pick for reluctant readers.

Nation by Terry Pratchett
Terry Pratchett is one of the best comedic authors out there. He’s most famous for his Discworld fantasies, but Nation is a stand alone. A tidal wave destroys the island Nation, leaving behind only one boy, Mau and a shipwrecked girl from England washed up by the wave, Daphne. Though they do not understand each other’s language, or ways, they are all the human life that is left on the island. So Daphne is left with the choice of keeping company with the indecently naked Mau, or with the parrot who survived the wreck and knows only curse words. Likewise, Mau must either be alone, or make friends with this strange ghost girl who appears to have no toes, or with the grandfather birds of the island who mostly eat until they throw up(which made me laugh because I’m twelve in my head). Though the beginning is tragic, the author’s quirky voice, and ridiculous details make the story a comedy that goes a little deeper than most. And just when Mau and Daphne are getting used to things, other survivors of the wave show up, including pirates.

Also, if you’re wondering how the books on a plane were, the only one I’ve finished at this point is Rachel Rising, and OMG SO GOOD! Need the next issue. Need it.

As for the others, well, Name of the Wind is long, okay!