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The books read at a certain age, for me between 10 and 13 years old, can be permanently stamped on your psyche.  I became a real reader at this age, with the loving and supportive help of two very literary teachers. Interestingly these fine ladies, upon retirement, took jobs at the local library.  I can’t think of a better suited job for either of them, seeing as they introduced me to my own love of reading. 

As a young girl I read everything I could get my hands on (sound familiar?) and read at the speed of lightning (again, any surprises there?).  In my opinion reading begets reading.  It’s The Neverending Story come to life – as soon as you finish one there is another hovering in the wings.  You don’t want to stop, you might missing the next adventure.  This is also the place in my life where reading became how I made sense of the world.  When you are a young adult, navigating the confusing new currents of adolescence, processing the end of childhood and the anticipating the looming seriousness of the world of adults, fantasy has special something to offer.  At a time when you feel most impotent and insignificant, confused and lost, stories of seemingly ordinary kids doing extraordinary things is a welcome escape.  Who can forget poor Wart, who doesn’t even know that underneath all those skinny limbs and dirty clothes he’s a KING!  It doesn’t get any better.

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 I was in a chain bookstore the other day and walked through the YA section, as is my wont, when I saw this heading on a shelf  – “YA Paranormal Romance.”  Well, it’s been quite a while, but I’m pretty sure that all teenage romance is paranormal, so it seems to me a bit redundant.  We can probably thank, for lack of a better word, the Twi-hards for this.  Anything dealing with vampires, werewolves, dragons, and zombies is hip right now, as long as it involves some heavy sighing from lovelorn girls and the breathtakingly beautiful young men who inspire such, ahem, expiration (that’s one chock-full, respiratory metaphor right there).

Aprilynne Pike has her own version of this, but hers is about fairies.  This would be a hard sell if not for her ingenious vision of fairies – they are actually plants, not little flying humanoids like Tinkerbell.  They are human sized, they have human habits and they are – male and female – exceptionally beautiful.  Sounds like a winner for sure. 

There are some obvious parallels between Ms. Pike’s books and the Twilight series, which is to say that all teenage romances are the same formula – girl meets boy and likes boy a lot, girl meets other boy and also likes him a lot.  Boy fights boy over girl.  Sexual tension ensues.  Only now there are the added bonuses – someone gets bitten, someone shape shifts, someone tries really hard not to eat his girlfriend.   But the Laurel Series in many (many) ways are not even in the same category as those vampire books.

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“I’m not a Starcatcher anymore, James.  I’m a mother of three and the wife of a prominent barrister who does not approve of talk of starstuff and evil creatures and the like.  Childhood fantasies, he calls them.”

These are the words of Molly Darling, nee Molly Aster, a hero in the previous Peter installment, Peter and the Secret of Rundoon.  Now, I’m not here to disparage wives and mothers, especially now that I’m both of those things.  But I reserve the right to mock a formerly powerful girl who not only worries about, but abides by what her uptight, self-righteous husband “approves” of.

Thankfully the lady doth protest too much and by the beginning of the next chapter has embroiled herself in the dangerous adventure that threads through the book.

But Wendy, she’s another story.

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twilightWith some extreme exceptions (Harry Potter for one), I’m generally opposed to book “phenomenons.”  If I see everyone reading it on the subway I like to flatter myself that I’m above it all.  I tell myself that I read “real” books (which as any reader of this blog can see, is not entirely true).  I hate when non readers tell me I *HAVE* to read such and such book.  It irritates me.   Worse yet are the books that are made into movies, causing an explosion of books into the population, mostly non readers.

The Twilight series is one of those phenomenons, tween girls are crazed about these books (and the subsequent movie).  But it’s not just kids, plenty of young adult women have been trying to push the series on me.  I successfully resisted, until one of my best reading friends literally put the stack in my hand and said, “Read them, they’re fun.”

I think it was the fact that she didn’t fly into rhapsodies about how amazing and impressive they were that made me take them from her.  Still, they sat on my bookshelf. I had no intention of reading them, I figured I would just hold them for an appropriate amount of time and then return them with a disclaimer that I was “too busy” to get to them.

But what I didn’t count on was that my foray into British history was coming to an abrupt halt with Roy Jenkins’ Churchill.  That book was painful; somehow he made Winston Churchill seem boring.  I had to give up, only halfway through.   It was disheartening, and  I just didn’t have it in me to start anything even remotely challenging. 

“They’re fun,” she had said, and so I reached for Twilight.

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Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan: Book CoverI admit the title got me on this one.  And I still think the title is good, probably the best part of the book.

In the beginning this book promised a lot:  mysteries & conspiracies, action & adventure, love and even a little sex (it is a YA novel after all).

In the end I was left unsatisfied and totally disappointed.  None of the promise was fulfilled.

I don’t have a huge problem with zombie stories, though as a germ-phobe I always get distracted about where such epidemic zombie infections come from.  I think that lately though, zombies are a bit overdone.  I mean look at some recent movies: 28 Days Later, I am Legend, and even Shaun of the Dead.   These are just some mainstream movies, I haven’t even delved into the “horror” movies.  Basically the undead are everywhere. 

Still this book could have capitalized on the current (and probably persistent) zombie-philia. 

It didn’t. 

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spiderwick

I was looking forward to Christmas this year, unlike many years past. It is a children’s holiday after all, and this is the first year I had children in my life (small ones, not the tweens who don’t give a shit unless you give them electronics).  The spirit of giving was certainly overflowing, and I enjoyed every new gift (I mean, book, since, as Jesse noted, they make the best presents).  So what if I was buying them for babies, they need to get started on the right foot. Yes, even my unborn niece got some, the biggest stack in fact! 

Due to some health issues (mental and physical) I wasn’t up for huge amounts of family this year.  So despite my new found love for the holiday, Tim and I escaped to Vermont.  As I’ve mentioned before, whenever I travel it’s hard to know what books to bring.  I’ve been on a historical biography kick lately, but that isn’t very, well, Christmasy.  Perhaps it was all the time spent in the children’s section buying for the babies, but I wanted storybooks to read on my mini vacation.  But where to find just the right stories?  I had a tall order: they had to be  1) smart 2) funny and 3) engaging.   That just about rules out all adult books, so off to the YA section I went.

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Details

I’ve written before about how I develop ( oftentimes extreme)  author crushes.  Chabon and Maguire are two of the my biggest.  They make me want to a be better writer (which is to say a good writer), they make me feel ashamed that I  have never created the kind of sentences they do, seemingly effortlessly.  I often stop and reread, particularly in Chabon’s case, a phrase that is a brain teaser, something you have to really sit and ponder before you really get it.

Suffice to say, I love these guys.  I adore them.  If I were a worshipful person, I might even deify them. 

Which is why these two books were such a fist-in-the-gut disappointment. 

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I read an article this morning in the latest Horn Book Magazine about Peter Pan.  In the article, Peter Pan. I am he. I am not, the author, Emily Jenkins, mourns the fact that while the stage version of the story allows for girls to imagine they are Peter Pan, the book and Disney movie version did not.  This saddens her.  She describes her extreme dislike of Wendy and her love for Peter thus:

“I couldn’t bear to be boxed in as Wendy boxes herself, with Peter’s complicity: she sews on pockets and prepares meal in the underground lair, spending her Neverland time playing Edwardian household rather than having adventures.  I didn’t want to be her, I wanted to be Peter.  And therefore I wanted to be a boy.”

When I was younger I thought I was the only little girl to feel this way.  To be indignant that the boys got the snakes and snails and puppy dog’s tails (the greatest injustice, for I loved puppies) and girls were left with sugar and spice and everything nice (yes, I loved sugar, but as much as puppies? No way!).  I now know many women who felt that way.  To know that it’s not weird and that these are the women I tend to respect more anyway is a a great validation. 

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I have a really hard time choosing books for trips.   What you may ask, just take one of the three books you are currently reading!  Ah, but you would be quite mistaken.  First, I am very likely (unless I just started it) to finish any of them while in the middle of the trip (or worse, halfway through a plane flight).  Second, especially on a vacation, I want to bring something new and potentially exciting.  I don’t want the same old book I’ve been reading before bed.  I want a vacation book!

So alright, I’ll bring an entirely new book.  Except well, that too leaves me open to problems.  What if, on the plane on the way there, I decide I’m not really that “into” the book I brought.  Perhaps I brought the wrong book for the mood (often a hard thing to gauge when one embarks on a journey) or maybe the book just stinks.  Then what?

Let me try this again. Clearly new books are the way to go, but I’ll need a backup.  To be safe probably two backups.  Of course if I’m going on a trip of more than a few days, one with some downtime for reading, I will likely read one book at least, so to be quite certain I’ll need three backups. 

OK got it.  Four new books. Read the rest of this entry »

I’ve been reading superhero comics since I knew how to read, but it’s only recently that I’ve started to wonder why. For the most part they’re garbage. Today’s more literary-minded super-books are as junky and disposable as they were when the genre was invented in the late 1930s, only today’s stories lack the ridiculous fun and surprise that made the older ones so enjoyable. Yet I keep going back to that comic book store every week or so.

It might be nostalgia, or habit, but I think it’s mostly hope — hope for an immersive reading experience as awesome as Runaways, the ongoing super-book created by Brian K. Vaughan and mostly drawn by Adrian Alphona (NB: Brian recently handed over the writing reins to my personal hero Joss Whedon but I’m not up to those issues yet!)

Whenever a new volume of Runaways comes out (and by that I mean the paperback collections — you can’t beat that “6 Issues for 8 Bucks” bargain, kids!) I’m totally gonzo giddy until I get it home and start ripping through it. I just noticed this for the first time last week when I picked up “Parental Guidance” (Volume 6), and I also noticed how little I look forward to any other superhero comic by contrast. It set my mind to wondering what happened to those days of my youth when every comic brought that same feeling.

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Jessica’s Reading

Jesse’s Reading

Jesse and Jessica are Both Reading

Devin’s Reading

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