Sunday, October 10, 2010

What I've Been Reading

Been awhile since I did a post. I have been furiously reading for the Lone Star Committee, the Texas Library Association reading list for middle schoolers. And of course, I had to read Mockingjay when it came out.

Anyway, here are a few of the really good books I have read recently...

The Boneshaker by Kate Milford
The town of Arcane, Missouri sits near a crossroads where strange things are known to happen and the Devil is said to walk. When a creepy medicine show comes to town, it's up to thirteen-year-old Natalie to save not just her family but the whole town. Reminiscent of Bradbury, Sterling, and King, the Boneshaker conjures a world of wonder, evil, and great strength. Natalie is a great protagonist and Milford weaves a dark mystery that is not quickly or easily resolved. It's really hard to believe that this is her first book!

I really liked the characters, especially the supporting ones. Old Tom is fascinating; at first he seems one dimensional, but as you read the story, he becomes more than you expected. Even Natalie's parents and friends (except maybe the boys) develop and change. The "villain" turns out to be much more nuanced than just a con artist or evil person who consorts with demons; you eventually discover that even he has reasonable motivations and desires.

Countdown by Deborah Wiles
In the Fall of 1962, in the midst of the Cuban Missile Crisis, Franny Chapman struggles to understand herself, her family and friends, and the whole crazy world.

The main buzz on this books seems to be about the pictures and nonfiction bits scattered throughout. Some people have found it distracting; some love the integration of information. I myself really enjoyed it. Much of the information was things I would have looked up while reading this story anyway. And I always like pictures from the time period when I am reading historical fiction. I found this device to be atmospheric, helpful, and a great tension-releaser at times.

Both The Boneshaker and Countdown have gotten Newbery buzz...

Okay, I really needed a graphic novel fix, um break. So I read this...

Beasts of Burden: Animal Rites by Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson
In Burden Hill, strange things keep happening and the only ones to notice are the dogs and cats of the neighborhood. So, of course, they are the ones who are trying to stop it. Zombies, ghosts, witches, giant killer frogs--you name it, it is coming to Burden Hill.

Beasts of Burden features a small cast of dogs and one cat, all pets, who are just doing there best to keep their neighborhood safe. Ace is the leader, a calm and resourceful husky with a small wild streak. Jack is level-headed and kind, while Rex may look large and dependable, but is actually a coward. Whitey is a bit spastic and Pugsley is the continual voice of desent and complaint, yet always seems to join in and help out. Orphan is the cat, a stray whom the dogs take in, with a rough past and an interesting set of skills and connections.

Oh, and don't miss the beautiful artwork. Full color paintings and good attention to the details of how animals move and look make the pictures a pleasure to read as well. Thompson is best known for her work in The Sandman, Scary Godmother, and Magic Trixie. Once again, her talent and sense of color shine through.
Check it out while I eagerly await the next volume!

Birthmarked by Caragh O'Brien
Gaia Stone has just delivered her first baby and taken it to the city to become part of a wealthy family, when she discovers that her parents have been arrested for keeping records of births. Now she must infiltrate a structured and controlled caste society to save them or die trying. More dystopian fiction. Deals with reproductive rights and the question of the good of the one vs the good of the many.

I'll admit, it took me awhile to get into this one. It starts a bit slow, but once it picks up, it's pretty intriguing. I like that there were no easy answers, no definite good or bad, and that the characters, at least most of them, continually question themselves, their motives, and the system.

I am very eager to read the sequel.

Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld
I reviewed Leviathan, the predecessor to Behemoth, last year and I wasn't that sure about it. Review is here. However, on rereading (well, listening to the excellent Alan Cummings audiobook) I kind of fell in love with the whole world of it.

So when I read Behemoth, it swept me up. The crew of the Leviathan, including Deryn/Dylan and Alek and his Austrians, arrive in Constantinople (hereon referred to as Istanbul). Unfortunately, Austria-Hungary is now at war with Brittain, so the captain has effectively placed the Austrians in captivity. So they escape, or at least half do. And join in the Ottoman revolution...

The relationship between Alek and Deryn slowly develops and a couple people do discover both their secrets (well lots discover Alek's). Politics, intrigue, and lots of walker battles make this episode of the story fast-paced and full of revelations. We finally find out what is in the eggs! Not what I expected, but I love it!

Westerfeld's masterful, slow revelation of character and his fabulous fight and chase scenes make this a fun read. I got to the end and screamed with joy to find out where the crew is headed next. Can't wait a whole year for Goliath!!!!!

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