30 August 2004

Reads & Listens, August 2004


Herb the Vegetarian Dragon by Jules Bass & illus. Debbie Harter
Doesn't cover the whys and wherefores of vegetarianism, but is more a story about tolerance and peaceful coexistence. Text is, maybe, too complicated, but that shouldn't be such a problem if it's read aloud with lots of side conversation about the pictures, vegetarianism, and whatnot. Anyway, it's not like there are a lot of picture books covering vegetarianism out there. Illustrations are very bright and amusing.

Goddesses: A World of Myth and Magic by Burleigh Mutén & illus. by Rebecca Guay
The illustrations are gorgeous, but the goddesses all lean toward the classic Western definition of beauty and the brief descriptions of each goddess are really shallow (or just plain wrong).

A Catch of Consequence by Diana Norman
Excellent historical fiction about a young Puritan woman in pre-Revolutionary Boston who rescues some drowning English git and ends up losing her livelihood because of it. I picked this book up a couple times before I finally decided to read it -- the back blurb made the story sound rather more fluffy and romantic than it turned out to be. I was really pleased that Makepeace was such a strong and interesting character who lived life on her own terms.

Brown Bear Gets in Shape by Alan Durant & illus. by Annabel Hudson
Easy reader consisting of two stories: Brown Bear in the Dark and Brown Bear Gets in Shape. First story is fairly forgettable tale about not jumping to conclusions or thinking the worst of things. Second story covers body image -- we all have our own shape, love your body, blah, blah, blah. Illustrations are soft and complement the story.

Black Bird House by Alice Hoffman
Series of twelve interconnected stories all centered around a white farm house on Cape Cod. Haunting, lyrical, mystical standard Hoffman. I read it all in one go and perhaps that was a mistake as, by the time I got to the end, I felt bludgeoned by symbolism and metaphor. Whack! The white crow! Whack! The sweet peas! Whack! Tangled, bittersweet love! Whack! Whack! Whack!

The Cat's Vacation written & illus. by Irene Schoch
From the reviews I read, this sounded like a very cute story. Who hasn't wondered what kind of mischief their cat gets up to when the humans are away? (And anything that involves penguins is bound to be pleasing). However, the story seemed rather flat and lacking the silliness suggested in several reviews. The illustrations were unappealing and even a little nauseating -- although that may have less to do with the colors used and more to do with my copy smelling like acetone.

The Village Bride of Beverly Hills by Kavita Daswani
Better than For Matrimonial Purposes, but still a bit of a let down. Too much seemed contrived and many of the characters where just broad stereotypes and the ending! WTF?

Slightly Dangerous by Mary Balogh
Forced to attend a house party, the Widow Derrick is introduced to Wulfric, Duke of Bewcastle. She's not his type and he's not hers, but they're both fascinated by each other. Much verbal fencing and sexual tension later, everyone lives happily ever after. While much of the dialogue (and some of the plot) owes a great deal to Pride and Prejudice this novel is not some pale Austen-wannabee. The characters are, for the most part, well drawn and quite compelling. I like that the protagonists' familial relationships were all made much of in this novel, but I fear that will amount to a bunch of spin off novels. For a romance novel, there wasn't all that much sex and what there was was very good -- just two similarly minded adults having a really nice time. No weird hang-ups or seductions, thank you very much.

A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray
Gemma is sixteen and wants nothing more than to get the hell out of India and experience the England of her grandmother's letters. After her mother is murdered by some mysterious evil being and her father breaks down, Gemma is sent to a finishing school in London where things are not as they appear. Lots of detail about Victorian class structure, a bit of romance, oodles of mystery and supernatural oddness make this an excellent (if unsatisfying) read. It seems obvious there will be a sequel or two, but that seems to be the way they write books these days. Goshdarnit.


On the Bright Side, I'm now the Girlfriend of a Sex God by Louise Rennison (read by Stina Nielsen)
Pretty much the same plot as the first, but not very funny, and Georgia is a complete bitch.

Feed by M. T. Anderson (read by David Aaron Baker)
Set in a dying America where 75% of the population is physically hardwired into the "Feed" (the Internet meets the Home Shopping Network meets Fox News on steroids) which is controlled by a few select corporations. We've pretty much destroyed the world, but seem oblivious to what that means. As long as there's stuff to buy and the Feed is telling us it's all okay, we're a happy bunch. All the reviews bandied around words like "chilling satire" and "dystopian" and "Orwellian." Well, I guess it was rather creepy and chilling if you don't already have paranoid fantasies about the probable future of a nation driven by consumption. Listening to Feed was much easier than reading it (couldn't get through the language barrier) and came with bonus ads which gave me a good feel for the Feed.