I know, I know, I haven’t been around here lately. You-all (our threes and fours of readers) have Mary and Jessica to thank for keeping this site fresh and full of wonderful poetry lately! I love poetry, but as a scholar of prose, poetry is still very mysterious to me. Good poetry is like a herd of ethereal and dainty unicorns, and all I understand are Nubian goats. That’s right, I just compared my literature degree to raising goats. AND I’M NOT SORRY.
Um, anyhow. As Jessica mentioned, I was gone last week in order to say goodbye to one of the people I was closest to in the world. I’m glad I could be with her family, and it was a very fitting farewell, but it’s left me with little energy for my usual hobbies. To wit: I’ve been reading, but haven’t been able to form a coherent thought when it comes time to REVIEW the books I’ve read. So I thought I would try to ease back into things by doing some short reports on what I’ve picked up (and put down again) in the past couple of weeks.
–Dairy Queen, by Catherine Gilbert Murdock:
I LOVE YOU, D.J. SCHWENK. Okay, folks, if you’re at all a fan of YA, please go pick this up and read it. D.J. is a small-town Wisconsin girl who has been tasked with basically running her parents’ farm while her dad is out of commission. Tough stuff. Family politics and a growing sense of unhappiness with her lot in life don’t make it any easier. But, you guys–D.J. is so charming! Her voice is so honest and fresh and funny. I often feel dissatisfied with a lot of the YA I read because, while the side characters have gobs and gobs of personality, the narrator sometimes tends to be a little bit bland. Maybe so the reader can identify with her more? D.J. doesn’t suffer from Bland Hero Disorder, though; I felt that I got a very clear feeling of who she is, and who she’s trying to become through the course of the novel. And the person that she is, I want her to be my GOOD BUDDY FOR LIFE.
Bonus material (and SPOILERS, so cover your eyes if you haven’t read the novel!): I looked up Dairy Queen on Wikipedia because I cannot remember Catherine Gilbert Murdock’s name to save my life for some reason, and the summary of the novel has this AMAZING line of information:
Then Amber reveals, “You’re with me. You’re not with him. It’s the two of us. Don’t you see that?” It then occurs to D.J. that Amber is in love with her (Which is how you know that Amber is a lesbian.)
I love whichever fifteen-year-old wrote that. “Which is how you know” indeed.
(Okay, you can stop covering your eyes now.)
– The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie: I’m still boarding the YA train, so I haven’t had the chance to read many of the titles that have been raised on high as being The Young Adult Novels To Read. To that end, I picked this one up at the library, since it seems to turn lead to gold wherever it goes. Sadly, though, I can’t tell you whether I liked it or not, and I don’t think I will be able to for a long time: I read the first twenty pages, came across the part that has detailed descriptions of a dog getting sick and having to be put down, and was absolutely DESTROYED. It more or less turned me into a useless ball of sadness for the rest of the evening. I know it sounds silly, but there are boundaries I recognize in myself for what I can and cannot read at the moment, and that sort of thing is definitely not on the list to get into the club. This isn’t the fault of the book or the author, but I think I’ll be returning this unread and pick it up some other time.
– Uglies, by Scott Westerfeld: Another DNF, although not for the same reasons. I just…I was bored, you guys! I don’t know, I just wasn’t compelled by the world or the story that is being told. I’d say it’s because I’m tired of dystopia in my reading material, but I recently read The Giver for the first time and was completely blown away by it, and Riddley Walker (which EVERYONE SHOULD READ STARTING RIGHT NOW. I’M SERIOUS. READY STEADY GO!) is still one of my favorite novels of all time, so, who knows? I put it down when I realized that I just didn’t care. While I can appreciate the message of loving yourself the way you are and not, you know, submitting teenagers to compulsory plastic surgery, I didn’t feel like it brought anything particularly new or interesting to the table.
– The Old Kingdom Trilogy, by Garth Nix:
Whoa. Whoa whoa whoa. How did I not read these before? I want to go back in time and give these to twelve-year-old Mia so that she can spend less time idealizing vampires (yeah, that’s right, I was ahead of the trend by ten years, bitches!) and more time idealizing CRAZY AWESOME NECROMANCERS. Sabriel and Lirael are two of the bad-assin’-est main characters I’ve read about in years! And that’s saying something, because I recently read The Hunger Games and Catching Fire in two consecutive days. Forget Katniss, give me the Abhorsen! Although I have to admit that, at the beginning of her titular novel, Lirael was cracking me the heck up with her mopey-teenager-turned-up-to-11 behavior. NOBODY UNDERSTANDS ME, NOBODY LIKES ME, I’M GOING TO THROW MYSELF OFF OF THIS GLACIER. Um, Lirael, if you talked to people and opened yourself up a little bit, maybe it wouldn’t matter so much that you don’t have the Sight like the other Clayr? Then again, maybe she’s a teeny bit justified since she spent her entire life around people who can see the future when she couldn’t. I’m sure if I were a clairvoyant precognative I’d spend most of my waking hours talking about how awesome it was, too. Anyway: it’s got dead spirits, good and evil necromancy, amazing and thorough worldbuilding, a pseudo-England of the WWII era right across the wall from a magic-and-mayhem world, and the Disreputable Dog (oh my god do I love the Disreputable Dog). Good, good stuff. And all the titles have beautifully illustrated covers that capture well the feeling of the Old Kingdom.
What do y’all think? Have you read any of these? What did you think of them? Do you have any quick-fire capital-”O” Opinions on books you’ve read lately? Speak up!