Friday, February 12, 2010

Apologies, and a large number of things to find

Firstly, I'd like to apologize for the infrequency with which I post. This blog is currently secondary to my illustration one, and to a number of things I'm currently working on. I wish this were not the case, but so is life.
Secondly, books!

I've been trying to catch up on recent teen fiction. Last night I had to force myself to put down Catching Fire and go to bed. I devoured The Hunger Games last week and couldn't wait to get my mitts on the sequel (a search reveals the 3rd is soon to come!). My mom says the local school used it in reading classes this year as a follow up to The Giver. I'd like to take a moment to give my whole-hearted approval to teaching dystopian sci-fi in schools. While reading a book in class may ruin it for a select few, these people will probably find themselves picking it up at an earlier date anyway. I think science-fiction, particularly the dystopian novel, desperately wants to be discussed politically, socially, religiously, and economically. Discussing these aspects of a fictional narrative introduces students to viewpoints they may not see at home, or in the community in which they live. It also gives thoughtful students a lens through which to view their own society. So, though I never ever ever thought I'd say this, good job, Glens Falls Middle School. But don't think this book is just for the preteen and teen crowd- there is crossover potential here.
That being said, The Hunger Games and Catching Fire have much more to offer than the possibility of good discussion. The story will pull you in. Even thought you know there's a sequel, you will worry for the safety of the characters, rushing through the book to make sure they'll survive to the end. The Hunger Games are held once a year in the Capitol. Each of twelve districts is required to send one girl and one boy to participate. Everyone of a certain age has their name entered to be selected to go, but individuals may opt to enter their name again and, in return, will receive meager food for their family. Now these games are not along the lines of go fish, but more gladiatorial; those sent must fight one another to the death and the sole survivor receives food for their impoverished district. And now, as there are startling and wonderful surprises within the first few chapters, I will end, telling you to take this pause to reserve it at your library.
I've been listening to a number of audio books of late as I can do artwork and listen at the same time. I picked up some of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, and thoroughly enjoyed them. Also, as a friend said, British accents make listening most enjoyable. This is the sort of recording I'd recommend for a group trip or car ride as a range of people will enjoy it.
Terry Prachett. Also British, yes, but probably not who you expected to follow Holmes. I've spent most of my life not being a Prachett fan. Before you yell at me for this, hear me out. In a fictional world, the author must make you believe, without question, that the world and what happens in it are beyond a doubt. The author should not have to go off on frequent and lengthy tangents to explain why the world is how it is. Furthermore, a reader should not wish for this! Details and explanations should be woven into the narrative in such a way that the reader does not doubt the plausibility of of the world. And, as with art, vital symbols in the narrative should not require a symbolic dictionary written by the same author. Now that you have heard me out, I will go on to say some nice things about Terry Prachett, so there is no need to post those harsh comments you were composing.
Terry Prachett Audio Books. I loved listening to The Carpet People when I was little, never knowing it was a Prachett. I recently picked up Hat Made of Sky at the library and also enjoyed it. My friend Sarah, a Prachett fan, said that his young adult books are a good place to start, as falling headlong into Discworld may be a harrowing experience that only results in confusion. But I also managed to pick up an adult Discworld novel on audio, Unseen Academicals. And you know, I liked it. Yes, it was obvious what would happen in the end, but it was entertaining to listen to while my hands were occupied with sculpting and sewing (if I hadn't been otherwise engaged while listening, or had been reading it in it's novel form instead, it may not have gone down so well).

And now for something completely different!
The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing
- I know you weren't expecting that. This book has been sitting on my shelf for a few months now, but I've never gotten around to actually reading it. So when I ran across the audio book, I resolved to listen to it while working. I didn't enjoy it, but I think it is brilliant. First of all, though this book won a number of awards, it just doesn't strike me as something that would fly as a teen novel. I think Candlewick Press should have released it as adult fiction, for while teens will check the adult shelves, adults don't check the teen shelves as often. I can see why it was published as teen, the narrative is a coming of age story, but I think it might do better if it were shelved differently. Listening to the philosophic lectures, Revolutionary war stories, and racial and political discussions, it struck me that this would be a perfect book club book (adults or teens, but specifically adults) or teaching aid. For while it is fiction, M.T. Anderson worked to make the syntax, events, and ideas era-appropriate.

And back to books not listened to! Graceling is Kristin Cashore's debut novel. It's a quick, enjoyable read, but contains nothing surprising (to me). It would be a good romp for Tamora Pierce lovers, and the equivalent of a nice cup of hot cocoa on a cold day to fantasy lovers.

Now go to your local library or independent bookstore! Make a cup of tea! Dig out your chocolate stash! Read and prosper!

1 comment:

  1. From what you say, you will love Pratchett's "The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents", which assumes Discworld but doesn't give any background on it. If you're looking for good teen fiction, you make like my new release. I won't plug it here. Those interested please click on my name and follow the link to my website.