30 July 2004

Reads & Listens, July 2004

Reads:

Yossel: April 19, 1943 by Joe Kubert
In this compelling graphic novel, Kubert explores what might have happened if his family hadn't migrated from Poland in 1926. The rough penciled illustrations and the overall sketchbook feel of this book make reading it a very intimate experience. While I knew very well there could be no happy ever after, the ending hurt, anyway.

Thinner Than Thou by Kit Reed
In Reed's near future America Beauty is God and if you don't fit the accepted mold then there are ways of making you fit. For your own good, of course. Supposedly, a chilling satire, but the novel just seemed kind-of sucky to me. I know, not very erudite, but I'm not Booklist or Publisher's Weekly, now am I?

War of the Flowers by Tad Williams
Failed rock star wannabee is sucked into Fairy Land ... too long and pretty unspectacular. I don't know ... it seemed like Stephenson's Diamond Age crossed with Gaiman's Stardust and then extra bits whacked on to thicken it up.

Kill Your Boyfriend by Grant Morrison, Philip Bond, D'Israeli, and Daniel Vozzo.
Girl, seeing the dead-end life she's headed for, meets an unsuitable lad and goes on a crime spree which culminates in a showdown at Blackpool Tower (I mean, who hasn't fantasized about blowing that sucker up?). A fast paced, funny, and deliciously twisted read. My only real disappoint was the end -- it came too soon and left me with too many questions.

Jane Austen: A Life by Claire Tomalin
A witty and intelligent response to those claims that Austen's life was one of little incident. Full of deliciously gossipy details about Austen's family and neighbors. Wonderful.

The Singer of All Songs (Book One of the Chanters of Tremaris Trilogy) by Kate Constable
Priestess runs off with mysterious wounded stranger after evil dude comes to her land to kill him and master her group's particular kind of magic. Most of the story centers around trying to outwit and destroy the evil dude (he wants to become the "Singer of All Songs" and rule the world). Although the world building was pretty good, the people in it seemed like stock characters and it was hard to muster up any real concern for them. I'm guessing that the priestess will be revealed as the real Singer in later books and save the world. Or something.

Inventing Elliot by Graham Gardner
After having the crap beat out of him at his old school, Elliott is desperate to fit in at his new one. Ironically, he does such a good job of "standing out in the right way" that he attracts the interest of The Guardians -- 1984 inspired student organization that runs the school ... Creepy little book well worth reading by any adult who thinks school's all sweetness and light. The plot does take a while to get going (Elliot's crisis of conscious doesn't come for ages and when it does, it's not as compelling as I expected) and sometimes it is too heavy handed in its usage of elements from 1984, but then the YA audience this book is targeted at may never have ready Orwell. If you read The Chocolate War, you might like reading this.

Listens:

Angus, Thongs, and Full Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison (read by Stina Nielsen)
Double plus good with knobs on. Story is extremely funny, but also extremely "young Bridget Jones." Nielson does an excellent job narrating this novel -- she has just the right tone.

The Paid Companion by Amanda Quick (read by Michael Page) 
Ruined by her stepfather's failed investments, Elenora Lodge sets out to experience the world on her own terms. Along the way, she meets an Earl looking for a paid companion to act as his fiance while he hunts down his great-uncle's murderer (trust me, it sounds more complicated than it is). A pretty good story overall with none of the annoying Vanza rubbish found in other Quick books. Page does a good job handling descriptions, but his dialoging isn't brilliant. The voice for the Earl, in particular, is very nasal and unattractive.