Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Reading Roundup

Before I get to the books I’ve read in the past month, a note on what I consider a book and what I consider a manuscript: This is a question I deal with a lot when putting together reading roundups. I read a lot of "stuff."  Partial manuscripts, full manuscripts, first drafts, final drafts, galleys (or ARCs), books. But when I read a final manuscript- that is, nearly the exact same material that will be in the galleys and books- do I consider it a manuscript or a book?  I've decided to go with 'manuscript' because that story isn't yet available to the public. But galleys (to some extent) and books can (and should!) be read by the public, so once a book has reached that stage, I'll put it in the 'book' category. Does that make sense? Hope so!

I have to admit, I’ve never read anything by Terry Pratchett before.  But the combination of 1) I Shall Wear Midnight regularly making “Top Books of 2010” lists 2) One of my bosses (Terry Pratchett’s US editor) leaving The Wee Free Men: The Beginning on my desk with the note “I highly recommend you read this in the upcoming weeks (for pleasure)” 3) The CBBC recognizing Terry Pratchett and the Tiffany Aching series as one of the best series of the decade and 4) Terry Pratchett wining the Edwards Award at ALA, basically meant I HAD to read these books.  And, my goodness, I am so glad I did!  I devoured the Tiffany Aching books with laugh-out-loud moments, great world building and a strong female heroine.  What more could you want from a book? I highly recommend you read this series.  Right now.  Go.

Pink (ARC 2/8) by Lili Wilkinson
Australian author Lili Wilkinson is making her US debut with a story of Ava, a lesbian and daughter of radical parents who decides that maybe, just maybe, she wants to be ‘normal,’ wear pink and date a boy.  Leaving her girlfriend in public school and transferring to a preppy private school, Ava is desperate to fit in with the popular crowd but still finds herself with the stage crew (“screw”) rejects as she explores who she truly is.  While I am unabashedly ‘pink’, the characterizations of different types of people were authentic (not insulting, as they could have potentially been) and the discussion of what feminism means today is very relevant.  My one concern is that Ava, her parents and girlfriend Chloe are so academic (throwing around words like “mise-en-scene” and comparing Ava’s actions to those of Emma Woodhouse), that most teen readers might not be able to follow everything (I know I wouldn’t have been able to!).  But isn’t the cover fantastic?

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
This was FP-NC’s December Book Club pick, but because of that whole get-a-job-thing, I never read the book/didn’t attend the discussion for it.  But because the book is getting fantastic reviews, it still made it on to my TBR list.  And those reviews were right!  The basic plot of the story is that Clay’s crush committee suicide and then leaves cassette tapes detailing the thirteen people who impacted her decision to kill herself, and he’s on there.  Sounds horrific, right?  It is, but fascinatingly so.  In narrative that goes back and forth between Hannah’s tapes and Clay’s reaction, it becomes clear how events can snowball.  The one downside is that my eyes couldn’t keep up with my brain in always distinguishing who was speaking (they alternated between normal and italic text), but overall, a great read.  And make sure you get the hardcopy; I had started reading this as a library eBook but it expired so I just went out and bought a copy…the dust jacket is a creative extra that would be a shame to miss.

Teeth: Vampire Tales (ARC, 4/5) edited Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling
This star-studded anthology takes a look at paranormal romance’s favorite love interest.  A great introduction by the editors tracing the history of vampire literature is a must read, as are stories by Melissa Marr, Garth Nix and Neil Gaiman, to name a few.  I have to admit, I haven’t read all the stories yet, but that’s one of the best things about anthologies; you can read a story here and there, and discover fantastic new authors, until you’ve read the whole thing!

When I Grow Up  by Al Yankovic and illustrated by Wes Hargis
It’s hard to figure out when to include picture books on my ‘read’ list. After all, a quick skim of a picture book more or less can cover it (although a more lengthy read, especially to a child, makes the experience fuller). I think I’ve forgotten to include many picture books I’ve read throughout the fall and winter, including the amazing It’s A Book by Lane Smith. Anyways, I’m mentioning When I Grow Up right now because its publication date was February 1st and to publicize the book, “Weird Al” was around and about HarperCollins and New York this week. He was very genuine and gracious when an unexpectedly large number of HC staff came to get their books signed. The book is fantastic- creative and playful (of course!), and Wes Hargis’ illustrations are the perfect complement to the text.

Manuscripts: 4 

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