Sunday, July 17, 2011

Catch Up

Well, I seem to have taken a blog vacation.  I have no idea why.  To catch up on my Summer book-a-day program, here are the seven books I meant to be recording last week:

Monday: Spilling Ink: A Young Writer's Handbook, by Anne Mazer and Ellen Potter.  This Cybils Nonfiction finalist prompts young creative writers to put pen to paper and write.  It is written for the enthusiast, the kid who wants to write stories but maybe worries that no one wants to read them or that it's just too hard.  Each chapter has writing prompts or exercises to help get the ink flowing, and the authors share from their own experience about facing problems or overcoming inertia or handling feedback, wanted or not.  I don't think it will get far with my writing-phobic boys, although I'll certainly try to get them to read it in hopes they conquer some of their fear.

Bad AppleTuesday: Bad Apple, by Laura Ruby.  This story of family trust and loss is told through the lens of a girl made notorious for a teacher/student love affair because of the web shenanigans of an ex-friend.  She narrates chapters detailing her isolation and loneliness, with breaks in-between for magazine-style quotes from the other characters.  Since I never found Tola authentic, I had trouble connecting with her problems or her quirky ways of dealing with them.  The family members' diverse emotional journeys seemed scripted rather than natural.

The Battle For AzerothWednesday: The Battle for Azeroth: Adventure, Alliance, And Addiction Insights into the World of Warcraft (Smart Pop series), edited by Bill Fawcett.  Taking a break from my Buffy studies, I read a book of essays about the online adventure game World of Warcraft, which I, my brother, and my sons all play.  Writers looked at their own experiences playing the game, from wholesome family fun through life-changing obsession, at the social dynamics in many games, with role playing or gender politics considered of particular interest, and at the technical details that go into making the game fun, addictive, and playable.  I didn't learn anything of deep interest, although I was surprised to find that people identify so deeply with their avatars -- I suspect this is more of a role-playing thing.  X also found it interesting, although the fact that the book was written pre-expansions made it seem old-timey to him.

Moonshine Web 187x300 The CAL LEANDROS Novels
Thursday: Moonshine (Cal Leandros, Book 2), by Rob Thurman. I picked the next installment of the Cal and Niko series for one of my non-electronic travel books on my vacation.  I wanted something fairly shallow that would chill my vacation buzz.  This wasn't exact the right flavor, since Cal's voice is really whiny and sometimes annoying; yes, he's polluted and demonic and should never touch the hand of the pure and sweet girl who gets kidnapped anyway, but really, how about having some fun?   But it wasn't hard to finish, and I'll probably eventually read some more; I like the stories and the plots and I think Cal grows up a bit in later books.

In the Teeth of the Evidence (Lord Peter Wimsey Mysteries (Paperback))Friday: In the Teeth of the Evidence, by Dorothy Sayers.  A group of mystery stories, including two Lord Peters and a handful of Montague Eggs, most of which were fun and tricky.  The rest were a mixed bag, dated without the pleasure of a recurring character, with strange people from the distant past doing strange things.  Several stories involved someone suspicion a crime because of obvious reason but an innocent explanation appears too late to save them from a horrendous mistake.  I probably won't keep the book around, but I liked the first few bits.  Also, it was a reread, so I got to solve most of the mysteries, which made it a non-stressful experience.

Saturday: Pod, by Stephen Wallenfels.  An unexplained catastrophe sets the stage for two horrifying situations.  Aliens prevent people from going outside, so a boy and his dad try to stretch supplies at home as long as possible.  Meanwhile a younger girl watches from the parking garage as thugs in a hotel peel off layer after layer of civilization.  The two stories gave different grim difficulties, but didn't really parallel each other in a way that added to both.  I found each engrossing as a short story, yet was only annoyed by the attempt to connect them at the end, especially as I felt that it gave a bad ending while pretending it was a note of hope.  I like the story better if the two halves aren't connected at all.  This Cybils  Fantasy and Science Fiction (YA) finalist is very graphic and depressing -- people die, horrors happen in front of our characters, and it's fairly clear that at least one main character doesn't survive much past the end of the book.  Just a warning for squeamish types; the grimness helped keep the story real.

Perfectly Princess: Green Princess Saves the DaySunday: Perfectly Princess: Green Princess Saves the Day, by Alyssa Crowne (I knew that was a pseudonym!).  Another reading-my-library selection from the series shelves teaches me more about "girl books."  The book packaging includes green pages, a leaf-polka-dotted cover, and a girl who not only draws strengths from her dreams of being a princess but who needs to learn the feminine talents of cohesion and team-building during her quest to save her park.

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