Read in November 2014

3 12 2014

I didn’t read as much as I would have liked to in November. I also don’t have the time right now for more than sketchy impressions of the books I read, rather than the full reviews they rightfully deserve. So here goes nothing…

Power books by power women, or also: books that will kick your ass as they rightly should:

GloryOBrien

 1) Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future (by A.S. King aka the most missed author at NCTE/ALAN 2014)

I really hope to write a longer review of this, because this book and this author so deserves all the praise! This is a veritable horror story too. And can I be shallow and say how much I love my signed copy? Look at it!! But seriously. Read this!ASKingNCTE2014

4 stars (but really, it already has 6 starred reviews!)

2) The Truth about Alice (by Jennifer Mathieu)

There’s definitely an overarching theme in my November reads and that is cruelty. In this particular case, it’s cruelty in the guise of ‘slut shaming’. The Truth about Alice is Jennifer Mathieu’s debut YA novel and I was completely and shamelessly sucked in by it.

I “loved” every bit of this book: the multiple perspectives, the ruthless investigation of stereotyping people (and characters in a book), the way it unflinchingly shows how boys and girls are seen and judged in a completely different light. I also “hated” everything about this book: the way the boys and girls are shown and how stereotypes are reinforced. How some people have (too) loud voices and others don’t have a voice at all.

This is such an important book. For boys and for girls. And not in the least: for the adults raising those boys and those girls.

4 stars

3) Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass (by Meg Medina)

This is a book from the heart. It’s not a ‘nice’ story, though. On the contrary, Meg Medina wrote a harsh psychologically layered story about bullying and female relationships. It’s edgy – and I’m not even talking about that title (which, by the way kicks so much ass 😉 – and I’m sure not just girls will identify with Piddy Sanchez or possibly even the mysterious Yaqui Delgado. If there’s one thing that’s abudantly clear after reading this provocative little book then it’s that everyone has a story: the victim, but also the bully, even if we don’t know what that story is, as is the case with Yaqui Delgado. And more than being ‘just another bullying book’, what really stands out is Medina’s great rendering of female relationships.

3.5 stars

Power books by power men

1) Knockout Games (by G.Neri)

Based on true events, comes G. Neri’s Knockout Games. I read this one right before Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass and what the two definitely have in common is the violence. This one is a ruthless book. Set in St. Louis it’s all about a knockout club, a group of middle and high school kids who basically get into random violence (knocking out random people on the street for the fun and thrill of it). When Erica is uprooted to St. Louis after her parents’ divorce, she gets mixed up with the game (she’s good with a camera) and its leader, K (Kalvin), the Knockout King.

The narrative and the language are very straightforward. There’s no needless fancy talk, which wouldn’t really fit with the book’s topic anyway. Also like Yaqui Delgado, I see this being liked by a younger audience (Yes, yes, I know: there’s violence. And sex. Bite me). There’s also the same trope of the outsider trying to fit in, which that age group really seems to appreciate a lot. In this case, the protagonist is the white Erica who moves to a predominantly African American neighborhood and who’s trying to keep her head above water after her parents’ divorce.

3 stars

nctereads1

2) He Said, She Said (by Kwame Alexander)

This is described as a ‘hip hop’ novel and the language use of esp. the male protagonist Omar or T-Diddy (I did the same eye-rolling as the female protagonist!) in the book also reflects this. However, I can’t really say I was into it all that much. I also don’t like hip hop, so maybe it’s that. The story is too stereotypical for my taste: a good looking star football player (a real “player” too, of course) and a studious and responsible girl. Of course they’re destined to meet. Mixed in with this tale of destined yet too good to be true romance is a fight for social justice at the local high school.

I don’t know, it’s all very much in your face. I just couldn’t see past the shallowness of it all (maybe that’s the point?) and I just like my stories more nuanced and my characters with a lot more depth.

2.5 stars

Graphic novels:

1)  The Silence of our Friends (by Mark Long)

This graphic novel – also drawn by Nate Powell – is another (historical) graphic novel/memoir in the same vein as March Book One. It’s not quite as powerful as March Book One, but I can see this being liked a lot by my reluctant readers who’re really into history and the Civil Rights Movement.

3 stars

2) The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil (by Stephen Collins)

GET THIS BOOK NOW. GET IT! NOW! Absolutely brilliant graphic novel. What can I say? There’s the neat and orderly island of Here. The threat of a chaotic There. And there’s a *gigantic beard*. I repeat: there’s a gigantic beard. What more do you need? Brilliant artwork? It’s all there.

Gigantic Beard 1

Gigantic Beard 2

It’s the ultimate surrealist and eerily honest truth metaphor about the state of man in our current society (unfortunately it’s probably also the ultimate hipster book). This book is  awesome. Did I mention there’s a gigantic beard? That is evil?

5 stars

 

Up next: photo impression of NCTE/ALAN 2014

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Read in October 2014…

27 10 2014

Wolf in White VanWolf in White Van (by John Darnielle)

This book is easily going to make my top 10 of the year. I haven’t read any of the other books of the National Book Award long list, but they must be darn good for this one not to be a finalist, because, holy crap, this is a damn fine piece of writing. Strongly recommended to people who like good shit.

4 whole stars

WeWereLiarsWe Were Liars (by e. Lockhart)

I admit to finally having given in to the hype (my first mistake, given my not so good track record with e. Lockhart’s books). Admittedly,the “mystery” kept me going until the end, and makes this a short little pageturner. But now I can say also once and for all that e. Lockhart’s books are just not for me. I absolutely hate the white privilege ‘woe is me’ rants of most of her main characters I have read. I have no sympathy for the main characters whatsoever and the literary techniques used by Lockhart here feel very try-hardy… It’s not about ‘sympathetic characters’ at all (I could care less about nice or not in a book, I don’t even care for nice in real life), I just find no connection between myself and this book…at all…ever. And I want to read books that *I* connect to, in whatever form: characters, style, world, anything…but here’s it’s just not there. I recognize that Lockhart can write a book, but they’re just not for me.

3 stars objectively / 2 stars for me

Out of the pocket (by Bill Konigsberg)

I think this is an incredibly important book content-wise but I was really disappointed with the execution of it. Konigsberg ‘s sophomore novel Openly Straight is in that respect clearly a step up from this debut novel.Out of the pocket

3.5 stars for story / 2 stars for style

Not exactly a love story (by Audrey Couloumbis)

Cutesy love/friendship love story set in the 1970s, which reminded me a lot of Natalie Standiford’s How to Say Goodbye in Robot for some reason. It has the same vibe going on, only a little more stalkerish… (that sounded worse than it was!)

3 stars

She is not invisible (by Marcus Sedgwick)SINI_CVR_FINAL

This is an ‘I liked it’ Sedgwick novel and not an ‘I loved it Sedgwick’ novel. There’s no denying that Sedgwick has talent coming out of his ears and is great at multiple genres over the age-ranges (I mean Revolver and The Raven Mysteries are so different and yet so very typically Sedgwick at the same time…)… but for some reason, I love Sedgwick a whole lot more when he does the whole ‘atmosphere’ thing, rather than the somewhat meager ‘whodunnit’ thing like we get in She is not invisible, especially when the plot is well…rather thin.

3 stars.

 

 

What is worth reading:

  • The piece A.S. King wrote for the ALAN Review:

2014-10-20 18.33.31

 

  • And look here:

Glory

 

Still in the pipeline: a review for Andrew Smith’s 100 Sideways Miles.








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