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Trisha’s May roundup

June 10, 2008

in which I only read one YA novel. Two, if you count manga, since I did read Yakitate!! Japan vol. 10 (and is it just me, or did anyone else really want to try Azuma’s kamaboko bread?). All the other books I read were non-fiction and adult fiction. The rest of the month I spent watching sports on TV while I was sick and repeatedly listening to Bon Iver (to say I love For Emma, Forever Ago would be an understatement), Frightened Rabbit, and Santogold, with some Gutter Twins thrown in.

cover of The Juliet Club by Suzanne HarperThe Juliet Club by Suzanne Harper
The plot didn’t sound that interesting to me, but I decided to give it a try after realizing it was by the same author as The Secret Life of Sparrow Delaney. Kate wins a Shakespeare essay contest, enabling her to spend part of her summer in Verona studying Shakespeare. There are only five other teens in the program, the two other American essay winners and three Italian teens, and their professor feels that answering letters that teens have written to Juliet (as in Romeo and Juliet) would be a better way of studying the play than, you know, actually studying the play. A predictable, if enjoyable, book that reads a lot faster than its 400+ page length may initially lead you to believe.

A History Beyond Black and White by Marc AronsonRace: A History Beyond Black and White by Marc Aronson
I read this at the beginning of the month the night before it was due, so here’s what I can remember: Aronson attempts to explain the origins of the concept of race and how racism emerged from it. He definitely takes a historiographical view, with practically no psychological or anthropological perspective (okay, as someone who majored in psychology and anthropology, I’m biased), but I appreciated how he discussed his reasons for this early on in the book. While Aronson never convinced me of the relationship between anti-Semitism and racism, I still found his discussions of anti-Semitism extremely interesting. And I highly recommend this book. It covers an important topic in a conversational way, includes lots of pictures, and is meticulously footnoted (and the footnotes include Aronson’s thoughts on the works he’s citing and recommendations of which books are suitable for teens).

cover of The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam by Ann-Marie FlemingThe Magical Life of Long Tack Sam by Ann-Marie Fleming
I first learned of this book from Chasing Ray. I think it was the Chinese magician bit that initially drew my interest, but once I started reading, I was hooked. Ann-Marie Fleming discovers an old 16 mm film of her great-grandfather, Long Tack Sam. To Fleming’s amazement, she discovers Long Tack Sam was a famous magician. At a magic collector’s convention, she meets magicians who had seen Long Tack Sam perform, who had performed with him. As she puts it, “I didn’t know anything about that world, and suddenly, I’m introduced to all these magicians, who want to help me find the history of my great-grandfather, and their own history before it slips away.”

Fleming turned her search for information about Long Tack Sam into a documentary film. Using illustrations, photographs, and what I assume are stills from the documentary, she’s created a funny, fascinating, and touching memoir. More than just a compelling investigation into life of Long Tack Sam, it’s also a thoughtful examination of family and race. I rarely read memoirs, but really enjoyed this. Between the graphic format and the themes of family and identity running through the book, it will definitely appeal to teens. I don’t have a copy of it in my library yet, but I’m planning on buying one. I have a feeling it’d get lost on the shelves since it’s cataloged with books on magic in the 793s, but it has so much appeal to both adults and teens (it would be excellent for booktalking) that you would just need to briefly talk it up to people to get it into the hands of readers.

The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein
Definitely not a teen book, but readable and accessible enough for teens interested in the topic, including those who may have read Klein’s article in Rolling Stone. Klein’s thesis is that free market capitalism has used, and sometimes created, disasters to take advantage of shocked populations who would otherwise oppose the loss of land, public services and utilities, and nationalized industries to privatization. Hence Klein’s term “disaster capitalism.” Powerful and provoking stuff. I think the paperback is coming out this month, and I might just have to get a copy of it for myself because I didn’t have the time to reread it like I wanted to. (I was on the waiting list for months for this.)

Another Thing to Fall by Laura Lippman
I was originally going to write about this with my April roundup, even though I read it in May, because of Yrsa Sigurdadóttir’s Last Rituals, which I read in April. But that roundup started to get really long, so I cut the adult books. Anyway, a TV show that will air on basic cable is being produced in Baltimore. Tess is asked to watch the lead actress when the actress is not on set because of pranks that have occurred and, later, the murder of a producer’s assistant. I said last year that part of what makes Lippman so great is that she is so consistently good. I think if almost any other author had written this, I would have said it’s a really good book, but as it is, I consider it an average (though better than a lot of what else is out there) Tess book. Judging by reviews at online bookstores, I’m in the minority who thinks What the Dead Know was better than Another Thing to Fall. Though I do hope we see Mrs. Blossom in future books.

The reason I was going to write about it last month is that Yrsa Sigurdadóttir has written five children’s books, and in Publishers Weekly, Lippman said, “I sometimes think that I’m just a YA writer who lost my way.” She should totally write a YA book! I can’t be the only person who would read it. And teenage characters are an important part of a lot of her books already.

Nightkeepers by Jessica Andersen
I believe this is Andersen’s first single title, which makes it even more impressive. It’s long, but doesn’t feel padded. There’s a lot of plot and backstory, but it wasn’t overwhelming. It’s the first in a series, so while Andersen obviously lays the groundwork for future books in terms of the overarching plot, as far as the supporting characters go, there was not much sequel-baiting. And if I didn’t completely buy into Strike and Leah’s relationship (at least, not enough for Strike to risk such, well, apocalyptic catastrophe for it), I still finished the book exhilarated and feeling more excited about a romance novel than I’ve been in a while. I’ve already recommended this to a romance-reading library patron, which is something I never do. You know, because of that have not been very excited about any romance in ages thing. Now I just have to wait until NEXT YEAR! for the next book.

The Lost Duke of Wyndham by Julia Quinn
The thing about me and Julia Quinn is that, while I haven’t read all of her books and while I do tend to like the ones I’ve read, I never seem to like them as much as everyone else. So although I did enjoy The Lost Duke of Wyndham and felt that it was, in a way, her most mature book yet (though the most recent of her books I’ve read are Hyacinth’s and Colin/Penelope’s, so I could be wrong), I never moved beyond liking into really liking, or more, the book. Yes, Jack was charming. And, yes, Grace was admirable. But I found Thomas the most interesting. This is not so much a criticism of JQ’s writing as it is Thomas’ situation intriguing me. After all, Jack is not the first missing nobleman to be found, nor the first charming highwayman. But I can’t recall reading a romance about a displaced Duke before, especially one who was so prominent a part of a previous book.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. June 11, 2008 7:06 am

    Oh, I would totally read a Laura Lippman YA book!

  2. June 11, 2008 7:23 pm

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  3. June 12, 2008 3:07 am

    I loved What the Dead Know, so even though I have read Another Thing to Fall, based on your review, I think once I do, I will still like What the Dead Know better.

  4. June 12, 2008 3:08 am

    I meant have NOT read…

  5. June 15, 2008 8:02 pm

    Angie – glad I’m not the only one!

    Lenore – yeah, it’s not that Another Thing to Fall was bad or even mediocre. It’s not. I think it’s an above average book. I just didn’t think it was as good as some of her previous books.

  6. June 22, 2008 10:37 am

    I’ve been meaning to read Laura Lippmann so thanks for the reminder.

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