30 December 2005

Reads & Listens, December 2005

Only You Can Save Mankind by Terry Pratchett
Johnny Maxwell, twelve year old luser, gets into a bit of a sticky situation when the aliens in his video game surrender to him. Set during the (first) Gulf War this is a timely novel with a good moral and lots of funny bits.

Only You Can Save Mankind is promoted as the first book in the "Johnny Maxwell Trilogy," but it has a tidy ending and all, so don't worry about having to read the "sequels." (You'll probably want to.)

Mouthing the Words by Camilla Gibb
Darkly funny, repulsive, confusing, compelling, and wonderful. What a complete mindfuck.

The Singer's Crown by Elaine Isaak
I wanted to like this book -- I really did -- and it had all the indications of being something I would like, but I didn't like it at all. Mostly, I hated Melisade and wished most of the characters were less stupid and the plot developments less obvious.

Home to Harmony by Philip Gulley
Recommended by one of my library cronies. Reads a bit like Garrison Keillor crossed with Jan Karon. Collection of stories (some sweet, some sad) from a Quaker minister's life in a small town called Harmony.

Pay the Piper: A Rock'n'Roll Fairy Tale by Jane Yolen & Adam Stemple
First in their "Rock 'n' Roll Fairy Tales" series. An interesting interpretation of the Pied Piper story, but it seems (especially toward the end) that a lot of story was passed over in order to hurry the book along. However, it was still a good read and I'd happily recommend it to the Tithe or de Lint crowd.

The Bar Code Tattoo by Suzanne Weyn
Meh. Evil government-controlling corporation attempts to have everyone coded so it might control who succeeds and who fails (based largely on subject's ethnicity and genetic history). It's an interesting YA novel covering everything from individualism vs conformity to medical ethics, but the story gets stretched a little thin toward the end.

The Toy Collector by James Gunn
One of the most fucked up stories I have ever read.

Three French Hens by Margie Palatini (Illus. by Richard Egielski)
One of the best holiday picture books I've ever giggled my way through. The illustrations are clever, the text is amusing as all get out, and who can knock three kosher hens from Paree?

N is for Nutmeg: A Connecticut Alphabet by Elissa Grodin (illus by Maureen Brookfield)
The rhyming poems can be a bit labored at times, but the watercolor illustrations and factoids are very good. Reminded me of the state folklore I knew as a child, but had since forgotten (like Prudence Crandall may be the state heroine, but she really got screwed over).

Elf Elementary written & illus by Edward Miller
Adore the flocked cover and the retro illustrations. Doesn't avoid the religious meaning of Christmas, but doesn't presume the readers are Christian (uses "they" instead of "we"). Funny and informative -- what more could you want? (Am embarrassed to realize I've spent my whole life thinking the Twelve Days of Christmas preceded Christmas when they actually fall between Christmas and the Feast of the Epiphany).

Od Magic by Patricia McKillip
An altogether pleasing Christmas present from The Husband that I shall have to read again. Lyrical, vibrant, funny, and smart.

Zoo by Graham Marks
Why was Cameron kidnapped? What secrets do his parents keep from him? What's with the computer chip in his shoulder? An okayish book -- the epilogue is way too pat and the pacing is a bit annoying (too fast/too slow).

Siberia by Ann Halam
Fabulous little tale set in a futuristic world that, yes, bears some similarity to a 20th century Soviet Siberian gulag. Rosita/Sloe will put her life on the line to protect the Lindquist kits (wildlife DNA kits she inherited from her parents) and get them to a safer a place. Some amazing world building going on here. Nice cover art, too.

Under the Persimmon Tree by Suzanne Fisher Staples
After Najmah's brother and father are taken away by the Taliban and her mother and sister are killed by a bomb, she disguises herself as a boy and travels to a refugee camp in Pakistan. There she meets an American convert to Islam, Nusrat, who teaches refugee children while she waits for her husband who went off to open medical clinics and never came back. A beautiful and heart breaking story which promises no happy endings, but allows for hope.