What Mia Has Been Reading

Ahoy, all! I’m going to copy Jessica and write a little bit about some of the books I’ve been reading lately in preparation for the Read-a-Thon. (It starts in six hours or so, folks!)

+ M.T. Anderson’s Thrilling Tales: Whales on Stilts! by M.T. Anderson:”Lily Gefelty is just an average twelve-year-old girl. But her dad–a normal-enough seeming guy–just so happens to work for an evil genius who plans to unleash an army of extremely cranky, stilt-walking, laser-beam-eyed whales upon the world. Lucky for Lily, her two best friends are anything but average. Both of them are famous for their adventures. Jasper Dash, Boy Technonaut, invents gadgets; Katie Mulligan spends her spare time fighting off zombies and were-goats. Surely they’ll know what to do. And if they don’t? Then it will be up to Lily–average, everyday Lily–to come up with a plan.”

I picked this up at the thrift store for thirty-nine cents because I recognized the name of the author–and, okay, because of the title. It looked like a fun, goofy middle-grade read. It wasn’t until I got it home that I realized that the author is none other than the M.T. Anderson who wrote The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation. “Holy crap,” quoth I, because, because it’s so easy to forget that authors capable of writing acts of great cruelty and pain may also author books for younger readers, and vice-versa. So, I did read it, and it is a fun, goofy middle-grade read that very successfully and in good humor parodies the kind of middle-grade reads that have been around since books started being written for young people. The narrator is delightfully intrusive and given to tangents, and when a joke is carried on, it’s carried just a bit father than you’d think was appropriate, but is given a twist that makes it ten times more hilarious. There’s one particular footnote that runs from page 173 to page 179 that, while unrelated to the main story, squeezes my heart in a very thoughtful sort of way. Just more proof that middle grade works can and mostly do be beautiful and nuanced and extremely funny at the same time, and that very, very good authors don’t have to dumb down their writing when they’re working for an audience of younger readers. Double extra points for the fake reading guide in the back.

+ Mendoza in Hollywood, by Kage Baker: I’m not going to quote a summary of this book, the third novel in the Company series, because they all contain spoilers for what happened in In the Garden of Iden, the first book–and as I am trying to get some friends to read the first one and get into the series (hint, hint), I don’t want to give anything away. Suffice to say that Mendoza, immortal cyborg botanist sent into the past by the mysterious Company, finds herself posted to Southern California in 1865, and despite her desire to avoid mortals she manages to get tangled up in some pretty nasty stuff. The stakes begin to rise for the reader about the Company’s true intentions, and I was so bloody hooked into this book, you don’t even know. In fact, I picked up the fourth book in the series, The Graveyard Game, immediately upon returning Mendoza in Hollywood to the library (thank the stars for a library that has the entire series stocked). I want to savor the books, since Kage Baker sadly passed away early last year and I want to make her writing last, but I just can’t–they’re stay-up-all-night-oh-my-god-did-that-really-happen kind of books–both character-driven and story-driven. It’s smart, funny, and exciting science fiction written by an extremely talented woman, and the world’s worse off to not have her in it anymore. Get thee hence and pick up a copy of In the Garden of Iden if time-traveling immortal cyborgs sound like your cup of tea, or even if they don’t.

+The Princess Diaries IV: Princess in Waiting and The Princess Diaries V: Princess in Pink, by Meg Cabot: What can I say about the Princess Diaries books? They’re such sweet, sweet candy crack. Mia is such a goofy worrywart, and the books are nice filler reads if you don’t want to get into anything heavy. I read these two back to back in a couple of hours, and they were just right for what I wanted. Anybody who’s got Queen Amidala panties is a literary friend of mine, and I’m always happy to support a Mia who’s got herself a Michael.

I think that’s it from me for now, folks, but Jessica and I will be back again soon, simply flooding you with our brilliance and Read-a-Thon antics. See y’all in a few hours!

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