Monday, September 17, 2012

33 Snowfish, by Adam Rapp

Again, I don't know why I got this one out of the library. Someone recommended it somewhere along the way. It's pretty amazing. Published by Candlewick Press, which is really the main clue to it being not a book for adults. That, and it's about teenagers--which didn't used to mean a novel wasn't written for an adult audience.

The Library of Congress summary on the page with the publication info says: "Summary: A homeless boy, running from the police with a fifteen-year-old, drug-addicted prostitute, her boyfriend who just killed his own parents, and a baby, gets the chance to make a better life for himself."

Gregory Maguire describes it on the back cover as "a brutal poetic caw."

It's an intense, strange little book. Powerful characters, strange adventures, and somehow it really works.


Sunday, September 9, 2012

James Tiptree, Jr.; The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon--by Julie Phillips

This is a biography of Alice Sheldon, who wrote science fiction under the name James Tiptree, Junior. It's a fabulous book--I read it before reading any of James Tiptree's work, and I'm currently working my way through Her Smoke Rose Up Forever, a "best of" short story collection. So far, I'm not as into the stories as I was into the biography, oddly. But the biography is a well-written book, about a fascinating woman. Sheldon (Tiptree) doesn't even start writing sci-fi until page 209 of this 396 page book. When Alice starts reading sci-fi magazines in the early 1930's, as a teenager, it's because her "uncle" Harry shares them with her when they go to their summer lodge. But "by the late 1930's, tribes of awkward, self-conscious youths--Alice's contemporaries, later Tiptree's editors and friends--were meeting in national science fiction conventions." But Alice wasn't a part of this world of conventions... "If she was going to be unconventional at all, she intended to be charismatic, discerning, and bohemian, not scruffy, opinionated, and weird." I love reading about her friendship with Ursula K. LeGuin. And about her friendship with Joanna Russ, whose work I don't know, but need to check out! I'm not much of a reader of biographies. This book is pretty great, though.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

The Shell Collector, by Anthony Doerr

After reading About Grace, by Anthony Doerr, I couldn't wait to read this collection of stories. I'm excited now to read his second collection of stories. He also has a recent memoir, but I'm not nearly as excited about a memoir. So we'll see. But these stories were great. More science-based stuff, and stories set in so many different settings, so many places, and it all feels true.

Camilla, by Madeline L'Engle

As a kid, I read A Wrinkle in Time about eighty thousand times. I also read two of the four sequels, A Wind in the Door, and A Swiftly Tilting Planet, many times. I was given the three books by my Aunt Mary when I was maybe ten. I only just learned that in fact there was a quintet of books about the Murry family, not a trilogy. Maybe I'll read the other two--but maybe it's too late. (The other two are Many Waters and An Acceptable Time.) As it was, I was iffy about reading Camilla, which I picked up at a library book sale for a dollar. The cover is lovely. But it was a good read--published in 1951, it's the story of Camilla Dickinson, a Park Avenue, private school girl, whose best friend lives in Greenwich Village. Said best friend, Luisa Rowan, happens to have an older brother, Frank, and this book is really the story of Camilla and Frank.

Riding Freedom, by Pam Munoz Ryan

This little book has been sitting on my "books to read" shelf--honestly, bookshelf--for a long time. So long that I didn't realize it was there, though I must have known. Apparently I got it at Goodwill for .99. A good buy, E. I'll be passing this one along, for sure. So, yeah. Published in 1989. Munoz Ryan's first novel--she'd written picture books before, but nothing this sustained. And Brian Selznick illustrated it--this of course is years before Hugo, which is why I love him so much--but it's also years before he'd really made his name as an illustrator. Anyway. I guess this is a middle grade book--maybe third through sixth? I'm always terrible with that, honestly. And I could have read it as a first or second grader, but I have students who wouldn't've been ready for it till high school. But at that point, maybe if they'd had Esperanza Rising or Becoming Naomi Leon read to them... anyway. People are reading at so many different levels. And I think this book would be okay, story-wise, for a wide range of ages. It's based on a true story, apparently, about a girl who grows up in an orphanage, and runs away at age 12 and dresses like a boy so she can get work in a stable with horses. She keeps passing--apparently the person the book is based on passed his whole life. Voted, too! Loved this. A quick read--started it yesterday, and had to finish it yesterday. So I did. Stayed up.