October 23, 2008

Borrower of the Night by Elizabeth Peters

I've been hearing about Elizabeth Peters' Vicky Bliss and Amelia Peabody books for quite awhile now and for some reason just haven't found my way to reading any of them until now. I noticed these re-issues of the Vicky Bliss series and decided to pick up the first one and see.

Vicky is an art historian with a delightful sense of humor and a certain dry acceptance of her statuesque stature and tendency to intimidate those around her. When we first meet Vicky, she is teaching at a college in the Midwest and maintaining a sort of on-again off-again relationship with her colleague Tony Lawrence. Tony is a hapless, hopeless, skinny version of Vicky who, failing to get her to marry him, decides he'll settle for besting her professionally. Ha. The two soon find themselves racing each other to Germany in search of a medieval artifact presumed missing for centuries.  

Here's the thing. I liked Vicky and Tony right off the bat. I liked the whole premise for the story. It seemed a recipe for mad medieval excitement. But once they got to Germany, things seemed to slow down for me. I'm not sure why. Blankenhagen was cool. Schmidt was intriguing. But Tony began to pall quickly and, after one too many of his petty outbursts, I just wanted Vicky to solve the dang mystery and leave these jokers in the dust. Which I'm assuming she does in the future. In fact, I'm kind of getting the feeling that I'll enjoy the rest of the books in the series more than this one. And I hear tell of someone named Smythe. He is someone I would enjoy meeting, no? So for all of you Vicky fans and afficionados out there, tell me what to do. Was my reaction to this one just a fluke? Should I get the next one and give it a try and see? I'm in need of your advice. Cause I really wanted to like this series.

Links

October 20, 2008

No Shame, No Fear by Ann Turnbull

I first came across No Shame, No Fear in Adele Gerasreview inThe Guardian. I read and loved Troy and was interested in reading a book Geras said, "Needs a trumpet to be blown for it." The narrative alternates between two points of view--that of Susanna, a young Quaker girl, and William, a young man just home from Oxford. Set in England in 1662 just as the Quaker Act is passed, Susanna takes a job as an apprentice in a print shop to help provide for her family since her father has been incarcerated. William is about to embark on a seven year apprenticship for a wealthy merchant in London. The two meet once on the road and again in the print shop and matters get thornier from there. William begins investigating the Quaker faith, expressly against his father's wishes, and the two find themselves drawn to each other at a time when such a connection could prove fatal to both. 

This short, simple tale held my interest easily and I found myself learning quite a bit about a time in history and a subset of the English population I was fairly unfamiliar with. Naturally, I found myself rooting for the starcrossed kids and was impressed when they both unexpectedly ended up displaying a bit more maturity than they could have given their youth and infatuation. The bad news is the ending does not resolve Susanna and Will's numerous problems. The good news is there's another book which, hopefully, does.

This is a scene early on in the book told from Susanna's perspective. Will comes into the print shop and finds Susanna reading a book called The Pious Prentice. 
"You should read poetry," he said, "not this stuff."
"Poetry?"
We stood, not touching now, but still breathless, aware of each other's bodies. 
"Poetry." He mimicked my suspicious tone. "Have you never read any? Is it frowned upon?"
"I think my father would feel it might. . .lead to unsuitable thought. It's a thing for scholars and gentlemen, is it not?"
"I'll lend you some," he said, "and you shall see for yourself. John Donne--no, George Herbert. Herbert was a godly man, a parish priest, much revered."
A priest. I felt I was entering dangerous lands. And yet I had been taught that the light was within everyone, that I should seek it and respond to it. Perhaps I should hear what this priest had to say.
Turnbull's writing style is so unobtrusive, it matches the simple, clean lines of the story very well. The pages fly by quickly and, as I said, the end leaves a few rather important issues unresolved so I recommend you have the sequel in hand when you sit down to read No Shame, No Fear. Sadly, I did not. I'll be remedying the situation shortly.

October 17, 2008

Paper Towns by John Green

John Green knows how to end a book. You always hear about killer first lines and great beginnings, but it has got to be harder to end a story well. To know what to do with and to the characters and story you've crafted. I thought Looking for Alaska had the most beautiful closing lines. The wrap up in An Abundance of Katherines was just right. And my favorite thing about Paper Townsis undoubtedly the ending. Kind of nice to hear going in, isn't it?

So the story follows Q (short for Quentin) in his life-long quest to love girl-next-door Margo Roth Spiegelman. The thing is, she's sort of too cool for school, let alone Q. But one night she climbs through his bedroom window and absconds with him on a night full of adventure, breaking, entering, and general tomfoolery. Next morning she's gone. Q, with the occasional help of his two band geek friends, Ben and Radar, embarks on a journey to find Margo. Little does he comprehend just what "finding" her will mean. If it sounds like a combination of his two previous books, it sort of is but sort of not. Q engages in quite a bit of philosophical questioning and yet he is, in all respects, pleasantly without distinction as high school seniors go. This made him rather innocuous and a bit hard to like as much as I'd like to have. He exists on the fringes of every kind of stereotypical teen and seems to be perpetually surprised and amused by them all. It is a very calm, almost low-key book and it was over before I was ready. I wouldn't mind hearing more about Margo and Q (and Radar!) because I felt as though I was only beginning to get a handle on them when the whole thing came to a close. But, as I said, it was a perfect kind of ending. 

It's hard including quotes because the humor is so much of the experience of reading a John Green book and you don't want to ruin anything. At the same time, you can't not include at least one or two because they are, well, made of awesome. So here's one:
Now, I'm not sure what you're supposed to say to the checkout woman at twelve-thirty in the morning when you put thirteen pounds of catfish, Veet, the fat-daddy-size tub of Vaseline, a six-pack of Mountain Dew, a can of blue spray paint, and a dozen tulips on the conveyor belt. But here's what I said: "This isn't as weird as it looks."
The woman cleared her throat but didn't look up. "Still weird," she muttered.
See? You know you wanna find out just what all those items are for. 

And here's two:
Radar was leaning against Ben's locker, typing into a handheld device.
"So you're going to prom," I said to him. He looked up, and then looked back down.
"I'm de-vandalizing the Omnictionary article about a former prime minister of France. Last night someone deleted the entire entry and then replaced it with the sentence 'Jacques Chirac is a gay,' which as it happens is incorrect both factually and grammatically." Radar is a big-time editor of this online user-created reference source called Omnictionary. His whole life is devoted to the maintenance and well-being of Omnictionary. This was but one of several reasons why his having a prom date was somewhat surprising.
"So you're going to prom," I repeated.
"Sorry," he said without looking up.

There. You love Radar already, don't you? As well you should. Go read the book.

October 15, 2008

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

I was lucky enough to win a copy of The Hunger Games in Cheryl Rainfield's giveaway not long ago. Thanks, Cheryl! I'd heard so much positive feedback on this one, that I went in with fairly high expectations. Fortunately, I was uninformed as to any particulars, so the entire premise was a surprise. All I knew was that it was dystopian. And that I liked the cover.

Katniss Everdeen lives in District 12--the furthest flung of the twelve districts of Panem--in what's left of North America. Every year the Capitol (the governing city of Panem) puts on the Hunger Games. The Games are a brutal reminder of the districts' failed rebellion. Each district is forced to offer up two of their youth as a tribute. Chosen by lottery, the 24 tributes are then forced to engage in a free-for-all battle to the death on live television. The victor wins fame, glory, and food and supplies for his or her district. This bloodbath is considered the height of entertainment in the Capitol. So far, so horrifying.

Sixteen-year-old Katniss is the sole provider for her family. With a mother barely able to go through the motions after her father died, and a younger sister who looks to her for everything, Katniss's days are consumed by hunting, trading, and bartering for their lives. Her one friend, a young man named Gale, leads a similar life and the two work as a team, eking out the bare essentials of existence for themselves and their families. Until the 74th Hunger Games roll around and Katniss's little sister is chosen for the tribute. Without a second thought, Katniss immediately volunteers to take her place. And just like that, the games are on. What I loved about this book was the grim world of Panem. Katniss's unenviable life goes from bleak to awful in the blink of an eye and the horror is never cut with cream. In fact, the creep factor only escalates with time and the whole thing ratchets up to a terrifying ending that I, for one, did not anticipate. Brava, Ms. Collins! Katniss herself grew on me until, by the end, I cared very much what happened to her and no longer blamed her so much for being quite so cold. Her situation is not (and never has been) conducive to warmth.

On a side note, this book reminded me quite a bit of Graceling by Kristin Cashore. Both have heroines with Kat names. Katniss and Katsa. Both girls are forced to kill to stay alive. Both are manipulated and lied to on a regular basis and, unsurprisingly, have difficulty sorting out their emotions and figuring out who to trust. Both of them find the possibility of eventual happiness an unlikely prospect at best. Both books built up to rather killer endings and, most frustratingly of all, both are the first books in a trilogy. I'm seriously going to have to go find myself a series entirely in print to help pass the time. I am always waiting for sequels...

October 13, 2008

It by Stephen King

I preface this review by stating (somewhat sheepishly) that this is my first horror novel. Honestly? I've always secretly longed to read a Stephen King book, but I never knew where to jump in. So I contented myself with reading On Writing and his book reviews, admiring the talent from afar, so to speak. Then the other day DHannounced the need for the King moratorium to end once and for all. After a brief but intense conference with a fellow connoisseur, he pronounced himself convinced that It was, without a doubt, the one for me. I took him at his word. 

It begins with a great first line: 
The terror, which would not end for another twenty-eight years--if it ever did end--began, so far as I know or can tell, with a boat made from a sheet of newspaper floating down a gutter swollen with rain.
We are soon introduced to a boy named Bill who stutters and his cute little brother Georgie who, even I can tell, doesn't have a snowball's chance in hell of making it out of this chapter alive. A few pages later I feel certain I should never have opened this book. There's a freaking clown in the storm drain and I find myself truly creeped out and begging Georgie not to go near the storm drain. Just let the paper boat go and walk away, Georgie! 

But he doesn't. 

I won't go into the plot too deeply except to say that the story alternates between a series of seminal events in 1958 and again in 1985. The first half depicts the cosmic coming together of seven eleven-year-old kids. Six boys and one girl, self-proclaimed Losers all of them. A stutterer, a wisecracker, a hypochondriac, a fatboy, a birder, a black kid, and a tough girl. These seven form a united front against a trio of unusually vicious bullies. But slowly, and with an almost spine tingling sense of inevitability, they realize they've been brought together for a larger purpose than warding off Henry Bowers and his cronies. Soon they're all in and there's no turning back. Not that any one of them would be able to turn their backs on Stuttering Bill anyway. He is the real heart of the story. The one who never backs down. The one the others would gladly walk through fire for. 

It's difficult for me to tell you how much I enjoyed this book. I was hoping I would like it, but, like a blind date, I was a little nervous. Merely crossing my fingers for a good time, you know? Out of nowhere, I fell in love. I mean these kids are So Cool. Work their way into your heart and break it sort of cool. They are outcasts struggling to avoid annihilation not only at the hands of their peers but at the clawlike hands of an apocalyptic evil that has held their town in its grasping grip since time immemorial. I didn't stand a chance. I fell in love with them, with their desperate jokes, with the summer of 1958, and with the interlocking charm and horror with which King shapes his tale. But most of all, I fell in love with Bill. Bill with his glorious silver bike and his burning determination to avenge his brother. I loved the quiet, unassuming way he gathered the other misfits together and made them a part of something important, something noble. One of the best passages in the book:
This section of Kansas Street was known as Up-Mile Hill. Bill took it at full speed, bent over Silver's handlebars to cut down the wind resistance, one hand poised over the cracked rubber bulb of his oogah-horn to warn the unwary, his red hair blowing back from his head in a rippling wave. The click of the playing cards had mounted to a steady roar. The effortful sneer had become a big goofball grin. The residences on the right had given way to business buildings (warehouses and meat-packing plants, most of them) which blurred by in a scary but satisfying rush. To his left the Canal was a wink of fire in the corner of his eye.
"HI-YO SILVER, AWAYYYY!" he screamed triumphantly.
Silver flew over the first curbing, and as they almost always did at that point, his feet lost contact with the pedals. He was freewheeling, now wholly in the lap of whatever god has been appointed the job of protecting small boys. He swerved into the street, doing maybe fifteen miles an hour over the posted speed of twenty-five.
It was all behind him now: his stutter, his dad's blank hurt eyes as he puttered around his garage workshop, the terrible sight of the dust on the closed piano cover upstairs--dusty because his mother didn't play anymore. The last time had been at George's funeral, three Methodist hymns. George going out into the rain, wearing his yellow slicker, carrying the newspaper boat with its glaze of parrafin; Mr. Gardener coming up the street twenty minutes later with his body wrapped in a bloodstained quilt; his mother's agonized shriek. All behind him. He was the Lone Ranger, he was John Wayne, he was Bo Diddley, he was anybody he wanted to be and nobody who cried and got scared and wanted his muh-muh-mother.
Silver flew and Stuttering Bill Denbrough flew with him; their gantry-like shadow fled behind them. They raced down Up-Mile Hill together; the playing cards roared. Bill's feet found the pedals again and he began to pump, wanting to go even faster, wanting to reach some hypothetical speed--not of sound but of memory--and crash through the pain barrier.
He raced on, bent over his handlebars; he raced to beat the devil.
If that scene doesn't get you in your gut, you might be dead inside. I can't believe I waited this long to read it. I stayed up nights reading, glancing over my shoulder every few seconds, looking for something orange and silver creeping up behind me, scared to the tips of my toes but unable to put it down. You were absolutely right, babe. It was the one for me.

October 7, 2008

Shh...Enjoy!

It's fall once more and I'm feeling that familiar cozy, the leaves are falling outside and it's time to read Sunshine again feeling. I tend to get fairly nostalgic when autumn comes around and find myself reliving past holidays, getogethers, trips, and wanting to reread old favorites no matter what enticing stack of new books I have on my nightstand. The other day I found myself remembering one day in particular a couple of years ago...

I wandered into the bookstore, fingers crossed. It had been an entire year since Sharon Shinn's Mystic and Rider came out and I was desperate to get my hands on the sequel The Thirteenth House. It was due out in a week and therefore not available online or in stores anywhere yet. But I'd checked this particular bookstore's stock online and it was listed as being In Stock. Oh, how I love those two words. So I drove down and wandered in, fingers crossed. After checking the shelves to no avail, I approached a tall, lanky, unsuspecting bookseller. 

"I'm looking for a book. Your computers show that you have it In Stock but I can't find it on the shelves," I said pleasantly.

"Let me check for you, miss," he said smiling, and then proceeded to the back room to check while I stood there grinning because he'd called me "miss." Some days I'm easily amused that way.

He returned a couple of minutes later with That Look on his face. The one booksellers wear when they have the book you're looking for but aren't able to sell it to you. A complicated mixture of comprehension, regret, and pity. They understand. They feel your pain. But you're still going home empty handed. 

"I'm sorry, miss. We have the book In Stock but we can't put it out on the shelves until its
 release date." He dressed That Look up with a sympathetic head tilt. 

I refused to be placated.

"So you're telling me you have the book but you won't sell it to me." I stated in quiet disbelief.

"That's right." No sign of the head tilt now.

"But I--," I flounder. "It's just sitting back there..."

"I'm really very--."

"Sorry. I know, " I finished and turned around and walked out empty handed. 

The following day I found myself back at the bookstore glumly wandering the aisles. When what to my wondering eyes did appear but a copy of The Thirteenth House sitting slyly on the shelf where it hadn't been before. Holding my breath, I reached out and silently slid it out. Afraid of being caught, I glanced quickly around and then opened it up. Stuck on the inside flap was this Post-It Note:


Tall, lanky, unsuspecting bookseller, it's two years later and I still love you.

October 6, 2008

BlogLove


Brie over at Musings of a Bibliophile and Thea and Ana of The Book Smugglers were cool enough to gift Angieville with its first award--the I Heart Your Blog award. I, in turn, am happy to pass on the BlogLove. The rules are that you need to:

1) Add the logo of the award to your blog
2) Add a link to the person who awarded it to you
3) Nominate at least 7 other blogs
4) Add links to those blogs on your blog
5) Leave a message for your nominees on their blogs!


I nominate: 

Kimberly of Darque Reviews
Li of Book Daze
Rachel of Rachel Reads
Emily of Las Risas

I read you every day.

October 4, 2008

Mercy Thompson Movie?


Now I hestitate to get my hopes up too high, but I couldn't not note that 50 Canon Entertainment has just optioned the film rights to Patricia Briggs' Mercy Thompson series! Press release found here. Now...who could play Adam?

October 3, 2008

Third Annual Cybils Awards


I can't believe it's been a year already and it's once again time for the Cybils Awards. I really had a ball last year serving on the Graphic Novels judging panel and I'm excited to head on over and nominate my favorite titles of 2008.  Nominations are open through October 15th and you can nominate one title per category. Hope to see you there!

October 2, 2008

Banned Books Week 2008 Meme


The Lovely Ladies at The Book Smugglers tagged me for this Banned Books Week 2008 Meme, so here goes. The following is the ALA list of100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990-2000.

How to Play:

1. Copy this list.
2. Highlight the ones you have read in RED.
3. Tag 5 people to play.

Angie's List:

 
  1. Scary Stories (Series) by Alvin Schwartz
  2. Daddy's Roommate by Michael Willhoite
  3. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
  4. The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
  5. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
  6. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
  7. Harry Potter (Series) by J.K. Rowling
  8. Forever by Judy Blume
  9. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
  10. Alice (Series) by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
  11. Heather Has Two Mommies by Leslea Newman
  12. My Brother Sam is Dead by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier
  13. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  14. The Giver by Lois Lowry
  15. It's Perfectly Normal by Robie Harris
  16. Goosebumps (Series) by R.L. Stine
  17. A Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Newton Peck
  18. The Color Purple by Alice Walker
  19. Sex by Madonna
  20. Earth's Children (Series) by Jean M. Auel
  21. The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson
  22. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
  23. Go Ask Alice by Anonymous
  24. Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers
  25. In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak
  26. The Stupids (Series) by Harry Allard
  27. The Witches by Roald Dahl
  28. The New Joy of Gay Sex by Charles Silverstein
  29. Anastasia Krupnik (Series) by Lois Lowry
  30. The Goats by Brock Cole
  31. Kaffir Boy by Mark Mathabane
  32. Blubber by Judy Blume
  33. Killing Mr. Griffin by Lois Duncan
  34. Halloween ABC by Eve Merriam
  35. We All Fall Down by Robert Cormier
  36. Final Exit by Derek Humphry
  37. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
  38. Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George
  39. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
  40. What's Happening to my Body? Book for Girls: A Growing-Up Guide for Parents & Daughters by Lynda Madaras
  41. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  42. Beloved by Toni Morrison
  43. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
  44. The Pigman by Paul Zindel
  45. Bumps in the Night by Harry Allard
  46. Deenie by Judy Blume
  47. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
  48. Annie on my Mind by Nancy Garden
  49. The Boy Who Lost His Face by Louis Sachar
  50. Cross Your Fingers, Spit in Your Hat by Alvin Schwartz
  51. A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein
  52. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  53. Sleeping Beauty Trilogy by A.N. Roquelaure (Anne Rice)
  54. Asking About Sex and Growing Up by Joanna Cole
  55. Cujo by Stephen King
  56. James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
  57. The Anarchist Cookbook by William Powell
  58. Boys and Sex by Wardell Pomeroy
  59. Ordinary People by Judith Guest
  60. American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
  61. What's Happening to my Body? Book for Boys: A Growing-Up Guide for Parents & Sons by Lynda Madaras
  62. Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
  63. Crazy Lady by Jane Conly
  64. Athletic Shorts by Chris Crutcher
  65. Fade by Robert Cormier
  66. Guess What? by Mem Fox
  67. The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende
  68. The Face on the Milk Carton by Caroline Cooney
  69. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
  70. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
  71. Native Son by Richard Wright
  72. Women on Top: How Real Life Has Changed Women's Fantasies by Nancy Friday
  73. Curses, Hexes and Spells by Daniel Cohen
  74. Jack by A.M. Homes
  75. Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo A. Anaya
  76. Where Did I Come From? by Peter Mayle
  77. Carrie by Stephen King
  78. Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume
  79. On My Honor by Marion Dane Bauer
  80. Arizona Kid by Ron Koertge
  81. Family Secrets by Norma Klein
  82. Mommy Laid An Egg by Babette Cole
  83. The Dead Zone by Stephen King
  84. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
  85. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
  86. Always Running by Luis Rodriguez
  87. Private Parts by Howard Stern
  88. Where's Waldo? by Martin Hanford
  89. Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene
  90. Little Black Sambo by Helen Bannerman
  91. Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
  92. Running Loose by Chris Crutcher
  93. Sex Education by Jenny Davis
  94. The Drowning of Stephen Jones by Bette Greene
  95. Girls and Sex by Wardell Pomeroy
  96. How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell
  97. View from the Cherry Tree by Willo Davis Roberts
  98. The Headless Cupid by Zilpha Keatley Snyder
  99. The Terrorist by Caroline Cooney
  100. Jump Ship to Freedom by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier
Hm. Looks like I've read just over a quarter of the 100 titles. 
Tag! You're It!