Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Sometimes it leads to awesome things, like Kirsten Miller hooking me up with my awesome Kiki Strike t-shirt.
And sometimes it leads to really awesome things. Yesterday, I reviewed The Diary of Ma Yan: The Struggles and Hopes of a Chinese Schoolgirl, which is edited by Pierre Haski.
Now, I'm sure you don't read my comments as obsessively as I do, but Haski commented on yesterday's post to update me on Ma Yan's situation. She has finished school in China and is about to arrive in France, to study there-- a very happy ending to her story.
Also, when talking to someone yesterday, I realized that I want to say more about Ma Yan and China in general.
As many of you know, I was in Beijing earlier this fall, and spent a semester studying n Nanjing. I commented on Ma Yan struggling with spending 50 fen (about 6 cents USD). I once had a beggar in Nanjing through 20 fen back in my face--in the cities it's useless. When briefing Dan on Chinese currency this fall, I had forgotten that fen existed, until it became an issue at the grocery store.
One term at elementary school in Ningxia costs $12. I spend more than that on coffee every week. That's about how much Dan and I spent on a super-tasty meal of Peking Duck at one of Beijing's most famous duck places. I spent that much getting up Taishan. I got bilked for more than that in the Great Wall adventure that will one day be funny, but isn't yet.
But, in the interior of the country, the new economy hasn't hit yet, and it never will if children cannot go to school.
The Diary of Ma Yan created such a stir, there is an organization to help the children of Ningxia. You can help. Click here to find out how.
Eileen Zhang (Zhang Aileen) has perfected the art of the novella and short story. Most of her work is set in pre-WWII/WWII era Shanghai and Hong Kong. Chang's characters are not the hard scrabble peasants of Mo Yan's Gaomi township. Chang focuses on the fading elite. Old families whose fortunes are made or waning. She focuses are modern, Western young adults, caught in the traditional lifestyles of their parents.
How can you not love such passages as:
When the drops of rain hit the cement and caught a bit of light, they twirled around and shot out beams of silver light--long, long beams of light, like the silver skirts of ballet dancers.
Her prose is full of beautiful and elegant metaphors and phrasing, but not so full of them that they weigh everything down.
Life was like the Bible, translated from Hebrew to Greek, from Greek to Latin, from Latin to English, from English to Mandarin Chinese. When Cuiyuan read it, she translated the Mandarin to Shanghaiese. Something did not come through.
Love in a Fallen City
This collection of novellas and short stories encapsulates her work well. These are short glimpses into brief encounters between men and women. Men in women in love, men and women in lust, men and women trapped by circumstance and time, thinking the other might be able to help them.
Plus, look at how she shifts in time in "The Golden Cangue"
The green bamboo curtain and a green and gold landscape scroll reflected in the mirrors went on swinging back and forth in the wind--one could get dizzy watching it for long. When she looked again, the green bamboo curtain had faded, the green and gold landscape was replaced by a photograph of her deceased husband, and the woman in the mirror was ten years older.
I could drown in Chang's prose. I get lost in it. It is evocative of an era. Her scenes are lush, her dialogue and plot are fraught and taut, without crossing that line into ick.
She never over explains things, if anything, she under-explains them.
I had to read the end three times before I fully understood what happened. For the first half of this novella, we see a young woman waiting for her old lover (both married.) She is nervous and tense, and the reader easily falls into the trap of believing her emotions are due to fear of being discovered.
And of course, they are. But not by her lover's wife. But rather, in this Japanese-occupied Shanghai because she is a Nationalist spy, the femme fatale, her lover a target that she is setting up.
And that's when the story turns. But all 57 pages hold tension, like a single plucked violin string.
Also, usually Wade-Giles transliterations bug me, so I loved the translator's note that she went with Wade-Giles over pinyin in order to keep the mood of the piece. I think it was a choice that really worked, and I'm happy that it was a conscious decision and that she included that information.
Monday, November 26, 2007
Yesterday afternoon, we were all sitting in the living room reading. Well, Dan was doing something on his laptop. I knew Mom was at the end of a spy novel. I was pretty into my book, too. Dad looked like he was into his.
Dan: So, what are we going to do all afternoon
Me: Um, I think we could just sit here in read, I know Mom's near the end of her book
Me: Dear, they are my parents. This pointing to them, and to my book is totally a learned behavior!
Also, while we were gorging ourselves on mashed potatoes and stuffing (ha ha, not me. Two things I don't like. I gorged on pie. And cranberry dressing.) Our fearless Cybils leaders were putting together the final long lists. CHECK THEM OUT!
So usually, when I post multiple reviews, there's some sort of theme or something. Today's theme is:
These books are all due back at the library TODAY. In order in which I liked them:
Confessions of a Blabbermouth Mike Carey, Louise Carey, illustrated by Aaron Alexovich
So, this is part of the Minx series of graphic novels. My favorite, up to this point, was Re-Gifters , but I think I like this one better. The good news is, they're both by Mike Carey, so now I have a new author to be on the look-out for!
Anyway, Tasha is an angry blogger whose mother has a knack for dating losers. This new one she's brought home? Takes the cake and thinks that Tasha just needs a strong father figure in her life. His own daughter, of course, is perfect. Too bad she's a grade-A stuck up bee-yotch. And every time Tasha thinks that Chloe might be human after all, Chloe writes something awful in her newspaper column.
Tasha is supposed to spend spring break in the US, off-line, with these freaks?! How will she survive?!
Hilarious. Carey obviously knows how to write for the medium of the graphic novel and Alexovich's depictions of the bully Big Sylvie? Excellent.
The Diary of Ma Yan: The Struggles and Hopes of a Chinese Schoolgirl Ma Yan Ed. by Pierre Haski. Trans. from the French by Lisa Appignanesi, originally trans. from the Mandarin by He Yanping
Ma Yan is a school girl from Ningxia province, in Central China. She is a member of the Muslim Hui minority. She, like many of her neighbors, is extremely poor. She struggles with spending 50 fen (which is about 6 US cents). All she wants is to go to school, to make her family proud, to get a good job so she can support her family. School is expensive and she's often pulled out so her brothers can go and she can work at home. Her father spends most of his time in Inner Mongolia, looking for work. Her mother is very ill and climbs mountains far away from home, picking fa cai to sell.
This is not so much a good book as an important one. Ma Yan's diary is written by the thirteen year old girl that she is. She's not writing for an audience. Her prose goes between matter-of-fact and very earnest. But what she does is paints a picture of modern day Chinese poverty that can get forgotten in all the coverage of China's booming economy. She paints a picture of hunger and parental sacrifice. And, above all, she paints a picture of hope and the strength of spirit. That sounds dumb, but it's true.
The photographs and Haski's information given valuable insight and background information.
I Am the Wallpaper Mark Peter Hughes
Floey Packer is sick of always being overlooked in favor of Lillian, her fabulous older sister. So, one summer, stuck at home with her two terrible cousins, she decides to make herself fabulous.
And she's getting the attention she wants. Until she finds out why. (Now, I think this is a bit of a spoiler, but it says so on the back cover so... her evil little cousin is posting her diary on the internet. No wonder her best friend is so pissed off!)
The problem with Floey is... Hughes has captured the voice of a 13 year old perfectly. The guy she likes called her and they talked for an hour! It doesn't matter that they're good friends, he obviously LIKES her! It's all going so well!
And, frankly, 13 year old girls? Are annoying. Oiy. So, Floey annoyed me. It's never good when your narrator annoys you. But, she annoyed me because Hughes is so good. Aiya.
Also, Floey writes a lot of haikus. Love. It's good while still sounding like it was actually written by a teen.
Blood Red Horse K. M. Grant
This is an excellent book for a teen who still loves horses.
Hosanna is the blood red horse of the title. A horse with mystical powers to bridge opposite sides of the Crusades.
Gavin and Will are brothers. Ellie's the girl that Will loves but is betrothed to Gavin.
Richard is the king that's dragging everyone (Well, not Ellie) off to the Holy Land.
La la la la la la.
This book took me a month and a half to read. I just couldn't get that into it. But, I was enough into it that I couldn't put it down, you know? I'm not that into horses anymore. And the crusade battle scenes? Kinda bored me. That's never a good thing.
Monday, November 19, 2007
But, here's my blog's reading level (link via Bookshelves of Doom)
So, overlap from the Best Books for Young Adults and Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers is:
Twisted Laurie Halse Anderson
Shark Girl Kelly Bingham
Almost Home Jessica Blank
The Nature of Jade Deb Caletti
Beige Cecil Castellucci
Naomi and Ely's No Kiss List Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
Deadline Chris Crutcher
This Is What I Did: Ann Dee Ellis
Blood Brothers S. A. Harazin
Split Screen: Attack of the Soul-Sucking Brain Zombies / Bride of the Soul-Sucking Brain Zombies by Brett Hartinger
Glass Ellen Hopkins
Chasing Tail Lights Patrick Jones
Strays Ron Koertge
Guyaholic Carolyn Mackler
What They Found: Love on 145th Street Walter Dean Myers
The Penalty Mal Peet
Harmless Dana Reinhardt
What My Girlfriend Doesn't Know Sonya Sones
Freak Show James St. James
7 Days at the Hot Corner Terry Trueman
Such a Pretty Girl Laura Wiess
Story of a Girl Sara Zarr
Best Books for Young Adults and Great Graphic Novels:
The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain Peter Sis
Houdini: The Handcuff King Jason Lutes and Nick Bertozzi
Malcolm X: A Graphic Biography Andrew Helfer and Randy DuBurke
Re-Gifters Mike Carey, Sonny Liew, and Marc Hempel
Notes for a War Story Gipi
Mouse Guard Volume 1: Fall 1152 David Peterson
Manga Shakespeare: Romeo and Juliet William Shakespeare, Richard Appignanesi, and Sonia Leong
Arrival Shaun Tan
Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers and Great Graphic Novels:
Inside Out: Portrait of an Eating Disorder Natalie Shivack
Avalon High: CoronationMeg Cabot and Jinky Coronado
Vampire Knight Matsuri Hino
Dead High Yearbook Ivan Velez
Have you read any of these? Tell me what you think!
Saturday, November 17, 2007
Today's song is Ingrid Michaelson's The Hat. (Napster, apparently, is no longer offering the option to blog music. :( )
The store for November is up. Check out some of my favorite things and help support my habit!
In interesting news, I tried something new for my 6-9 year old story time last week. I "read" them the wordless graphic novel, Robot Dreams, by Sara Varon. They sat still for the entire half hour while we went through each panel and told the story to each other. It was great. I've never seen them pay so much attention and they *loved* the story.
But, onto the books:
Into the Woods by Lyn Gardner, pictures by Mini Grey
This is not an old, unblogged book, but rather one I just finished. (I'm trying to keep on top of things, you know!)
When Storm's mother, Zella, dies, she leaves Storm an ordinary tin pipe, but tells her Look after it, Storm. Don't be careless with it. It's not a trinket. Whatever you do, don't let it fall into the wrong hands. If you do, you will regret it, for such an event would put you and your sisters into terrible danger. I have chosen you, Storm, because I know that you will not betray my trust.
But, of course, it does fall into the wrong hands and Storm and her sisters must go into the woods and to the mountains in order to save it. Using the tales of the Pied Piper of Hamlin, Hansel and Gretel, Rapunzel, and Sleeping Beauty, Gardner has spun a completely original tale about what happens with the piper tries to come back, and the people who remember what happened the first time around.
A great adventure with girls kicking some serious butt and the middle child as the leader. Mini Grey's large black-and-white pictures not only adorn the chapter pages, but also help break up the text and add to the spookiness of the tale.
A Company of Fools by Deborah Ellis
This is one that I read last November. What I remember most about it is the hope in times of despair and the friendship. I remember it being fantastic, though I only remembered the basics of the plot. (Funny how that works.) I had to look up some of the plot details.
It's 1348 and Henri is a choir boy in St. Luc's Abbey. Brother Bartholomew is always bringing weird things back from his travels and one day he brings back ragamuffin Micah. He has an angelic voice, but is mischievous. When the Plague comes to Paris, the boys form a comedy troupe to entertain the grieving masses, to offer an alternative to the endless funeral dirges. Surrounded by death, especially when the plague comes to the Abbey itself, Henri's tale stays strong. He doesn't waver into melodrama. I liked it.
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Fourth Comings: A Novel Megan McCafferty
In the fourth book that started with Sloppy Firsts, Marcus has given Jessica a notebook to write in, so he can read her thoughts. Then, he asks her to marry him. (Ok, when I read this in the plot descriptions I was all SPOILER! MEAN! but seriously, it happens on page 28.) Given that she was trying to dump Marcus when he asked, Jessica's first response is to say no. She promises to think about it for one week.
Over the course of two notebooks and one week, Jessica thinks. She thinks while babysitting her niece for too much money (but the only way she can afford to live) she thinks while living in a room called Cupcake with Hope. She thinks while attending high society events with Cinthia. She thinks while dealing with Manda and Bridget and Sara and Scotty. She thinks while trying to find a job.
Overall she thinks while making the same wry, hilarious observations about life, New York, and being in your early twenties at the moment.
If you like these books because you like the interplay between Marcus and Jessica, or because you like Bridget and Sara, then you'll be disappointed--none of these characters makes a big appearance. If you like these books because you think Jessica's sarcasm and skewered wit are pitch-perfect (like I do) then you're sure to love it. I think it's my favorite of the series...
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
I'm celebrating Vetran's Day over at Geek Buffet today with my list of recommened WWI reading.
But, let's get down to some books, ok? Earlier this summer, I blogged about DC Comics new imprint, Minx. I have now had the chance to read two more books in the series.
Clubbing Andi Watson and Josh Howard
Exiled to her grandparent's Lake District golf resor after a minor incident involving a club, a fake ID, the cops, and a school, night, Charlotte is set for a summer of drudgery. But then, a woman trying to tell her something is found murdered, drained of blood, with some weird symbol carved into her arm. The police rule it as suicide, the Charlotte and her friend Howard think differently.
Vaguely reminiscent of Hot Fuzz, the ending left me a big underwhelmed.
I really liked the drawing style of clear, bold lines, with lots of large blocks of space.
Re-Gifters by Mike Carey, Sonny Liew, and Marc Hempel
Dixie is hapkido (a Korean martial art) fanatic. Living on the edge of LA's Koreatown, she battles the usual high school crap of boys and the urban crap of which side the street it's ok for Koreans to walk on.
In a daring move to get the guy, she spends her tournament entry fee on a statue of a Korean warrior. The guy promptly gives it to the prettiest girl in school. Heart in the gutter, with no way to enter the tournament, Dixie needs to find her missing ki, and fast.
A most fantastic story, this is my favorite Minx title so far. Very well done. I love Dixie's prickly character and the very real story arc.
Friday, November 09, 2007
Me: Holy Cow! Molly's interviewing me for her blog!
Dan: Um, shouldn't you be interviewing her?
Me: Probably, but I'm saving that for when her book comes out and she's all famous and everyone wants a piece of her. Because they will. And then I can be all "Hey Molly! You interviewed me! My turn!"
And, now, onto the Poetry Friday portion of our event.
"Luke, you will find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view."-Obi wan Kenobi
When I lived in Manchester, I spent Guy Fawkes day in the Darwin Forest, drinking cider by a large bonfire and pretending I knew the words the various songs being sung around me. Living in the North, Guy Fawkes day was a day to celebrate "The last good man sent to Parliament." Whereas, traditionally, especially in the South, it is a day to celebrate catching a Catholic traitor who tried to blow up Parliament.
Harpers had an interesting article on Guy Fawkes and his modern role in Monday's Harpers.
Literary connections: I'm assuming that Fawkes the Phoenix in Harry Potter is named after Guy Fawkes. Also, the day play a big role in V for Vendetta. (Do I lose all street cred when I mention I haven't read this, but only seen the movie? The movie was pretty awesome!)
So, here I give you:
Remember, remember the fifth of November,
The gunpowder, treason and plot,
I know of no reason
Why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot
Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes, ’twas his intent
To blow up the King and Parliament.
Three score barrels of powder below,
Poor old England to overthrow;
By God’s providence he was catch’d
With a dark lantern and burning match.
Holloa boys, holloa boys, make the bells ring.
Holloa boys, holloa boys, God save the King!
Hip hip hoorah!
A penny loaf to feed the Pope.
A farthing o’ cheese to choke him.
A pint of beer to rinse it down.
A faggot of sticks to burn him.
Burn him in a tub of tar.
Burn him like a blazing star.
Burn his body from his head.
Then we’ll say ol’ Pope is dead.
Hip hip hoorah!
Hip hip hoorah hoorah!
Thursday, November 08, 2007
First off, woot! A new SASS book!
The Finnish Line by Linda Gerber
Mo is very glad to be escaping her Olympic-champion family to (hopefully) ski jump in peace while studying in Finland. While there, she realizes she can't escape her family's fame. She learns a lot of skiing history and tries to reconcile her feelings about her family with how her host sister is used as a commodity by her host parents.
We learn a lot about injustice--both in how the Roma are treated in current Finnish society and in how women can't compete in the Olympics for ski jumping.
One of the better titles in this series. I especially liked the examination of Roma/Finnish clashes and the history of skiing.
Then we have the sequel to The Salem Witch Tryouts
Competition's a Witch by Kelly McClymer
Pru may be on the cheerleading squad, but she's still stuck in remedial magic and can't cheer at any non-mortal games until then. She needs to study her cheer off if she's going to test out early. That might be a bit of a problem, as the super nosy (mortal) next door neighbor has a super hott son. And Pru's kewl status is hanging in the balance, especially with the squad's dismissal of all things mortal.
But if she can't get her squad to listen to her, how can she get them working together to win the regional cheer competition?
Gotta love a bubbly book about magic AND cheerleading. Lots of fun, but Pru's obsession with kewl is more annoying than ever. It' COOL! Not KEWL! "Kewl" is so "Cartman joins NAMBLA"
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
The October Issue of The Edge of the Forest is up. There are a TON of YA reviews and some great articles.
I personally review The Hollywood Sisters: Caught on Tape by Mary Wilcox and Keeping Corner by Kashmira Sheth.
Also, nominations are still open for the Cybils. I always like to wait until the end, because I can't figure out what to nominate (really? only one?!) so I wait and hope that most of my list is nominated by the time I get around to it. BUT! Time is running out. I've already nominated in some categories. You should too!
But, now onto some very old books for book reviews. Both of these titles are ones I read when I was a child and remembered fondly, so picked them up. Both of them were books that haunted me, as I remembered only the scantest of details and nothing as useful as, say, a title. But I tracked them both down...
The song of the day is Charlotte Sometimes by The Cure, because it's about the first book I'm talking about,
Charlotte Sometimes by Penelope Farmer
On that bleak track
(See the sun is gone again)
The tears were pouring down her face
She was crying and crying for a girl
Who died so many years before...
It's always dangerous to reread a childhood favorite. I've been burned in the past, but... I'm so glad I reread this one.
Charlotte goes to boarding school in mid-century England. The second day there, she wakes up to find she's gone back in time 50 years and changed places with a girl called Clare. Charlotte and Clare spend one day in their own time, one day in each other's, and then one day back in their own time and on and on until...
Charlotte is moved off campus, stuck in Clare's time. Trapped at the end of WWI, with a growing flu epidemic, she grows conflicted. Charlotte wonders where she ends and where Clare begins, and as memories of her real life fade, she wonders if she ever will go back, or even if she wants to.
This book was even better than I remembered it. Farmer really delves into some deep issues and she treats them well, but, at the same time, so light-handed that they're just left as a little niggling thought in the back of your head.
Now, the book I've pictured and linked to is a re-release, and I've heard they CHANGED THE ENDING. The book I just reread and reviewed is the original. I'm trying to get my hands on a copy of the new version. I'll let you know what I find out.
Little Witch by Anna Elizabeth Bennett.
I remembered this book as a mischievous little witch who invites her friends over to make cool potions.
Sigh. I know this is the book I was thinking of, I remember the cover exactly and when I re-read it, I was like, oh yeah, ok. Still, I think maybe I'll just write the story I remember as it's so much cooler.
Instead, we have a little girl who's mother is a witch and very mean. The little girl sneaks out to go to school and finally makes some friends. All she wants to do is a see a fairy, and, while her evil mother is off being evil, she and her friends sneak into the potion cupboard to try and make a fairy potion or something.
This book was originally written in the early 50s and smacks of the same overly cloying sentimentality of Dick and Jane readers. Puke.
That said, I don't know how many times I read this book in elementary school. I remember going to the library, picking all my books, and, while waiting for the rest of the family to finish up, pulling this book off the shelf and just randomly opening it up and re-reading until everyone else was ready. So... kids might still like it, but I'm not so sure about adults...
Monday, November 05, 2007
Wow. This book blows the others out of the water. A lot of the darker themes from the previous books (like the Scarlet Hand) really come to play here. Mayor Heart is taxing all non-Everafters (including the Grimms) out of Ferryport Landing. For, as Sheriff Nottingham says,
Ferryport Landing is an Everafter settlement... Too many outsiders have come in here, stealing our jobs, enjoying our hospitals and schools. But not for much longer. Mayor Heart has decreed, and I wholeheartedly agree, that Ferryport Landing is an Everafter town for Everafters!
Meanwhile, Charming is still missing and Snow White is heart broken. Baba Yaga, Glinda, and Morgen LeFey all have had something stolen, but Granny is too preoccupied with the taxes and leaves the case to Sabrina and Daphne.
Oh yeah, and Mr. Canis is having a harder and harder time controlling what literally is the beast within and there are some seriously odd rips in the space/time continuum.
The ending leaves a lot of answered questions and March seems too long to wait for Tales From the Hood
I have further, plot spoiling thoughts here.
Saturday, November 03, 2007
Anyway, here are some more graphic novels for you to look at.
So, earlier this year, I was quite taken with Mark Crilley's Miki Falls: Spring.
Miki Falls: Summer. Miki and Hiro are doing the brand-new couple thing, which has it's own issues. Then Miki learns that Hiro is about to take the love out of a relationship involving her best friend, so of course, she tries to stop it and makes a HUG MESS out of things. And then there's Reika, Hiro's ghost from the past who is making it very clear to Miki that Hiro is hers.
I was disappointed, but it turns out it was the perfect bridge novel to...
Miki Falls: Autumn (which is the best so far). Reika is going to tell the elders about Miki and Hiro. Once the elders know, they will do everything to keep them apart--forever. So, they run away. Once they're hiding out in the mountains, Miki discovers the awful truth that Hiro's hold spirit, Anra, sees Miki as a Neverfind-- someone who will never be able to hold on to true love. Should she go back to her safe life at home? Or should she stay and enjoy love while she has it?
Crilley has an interesting frame style. He uses a lot of trapezoids that often make the action look like it's taking place in a shattered mirror. He also will sometimes put several actions into one frame. I first really noticed this with Autumn, where it really ties in well with the tenseness of the situation and Miki's emotional state at the time. I love it.
So, it's just a few more months until Winter. I can't wait.
Death Note, Volume 7: Zero by Tsugumi Ohba.
Nothing startling or crazy about this one. If you liked the other previous 6, you'll like this.
We get a lot of the back story about what Light was thinking when he gave up his death note and volunteered for custody. Then, using Misa's eye power, he does what he always meant to do.
With that done, things don't get easier for Light--they get harder as new people come onto the scene. New people, who are taking hostages in exchange for information he's unwilling to give. Still looking forward to Book 8!