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Joyful Girl

Andrea Blythe's blog about writing, reading, and everything else


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Books Read in February
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1. The House on Mango Street, by Sandra Cisneros
2. Amulet, Book One: The Stonekeeper, by Kazu Kibuishi
3. Sophie's Choice (audio book), by William Styron
4. Great Classic Science Fiction (audio book)
5. The Probability of Miracles, by Wendy Wunder
6. Daytripper, by Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá
7. A Rope of Thorns, by Gemma Files

REVIEWS:

1. The House on Mango Street, by Sandra Cisneros
Young Esperanza shares her life as she grew up on Mango Street, sharing stories of her family and neighbors around her in a series short vignettes. There's no straightforward, chronological storyline, rather the novel is formed as a series of snapshots from a child's memories. Some are sweet and funny, others are sad, but an overall portrait of the street can be discovered by the time the story is done. And while there is no coherent overarching storyline, there is the thread of Esperanza's point of view and personal growth that holds the vignette's together. The 25th anniversary edition also has the bonus of an introduction by Cisneros, which tells how she came to write Mango Street and how she managed to eek out a personal space for herself, despite her Hispanic parents and heritage that tends to be protective of its women. The introduction, too, is written in the clean and sparse, and poetic style that offers an easy an enjoyable read.


2. Amulet, Book One: The Stonekeeper, by Kazu Kibuishi
Discussed elsewhere.


3. Sophie's Choice (audio book), by William Styron
So, I think Sophie's Choice (audio book) is DNF for now. I had to return it to the library after listening to 16 disks with ten discs left to listen to. There was no way I was going to finish it before it was overdue. Despite some great scenes here and there, I was kinda bored by this one. The book is loaded with unnecessary fluff and pomp and I just didn't love it enough to be willing to pay the late-fee fines in order to keep listening. I may come back to it at some point (I haven't gotten to the choosing part of Sophie's Choice and I am curious about it), but then again probably not.


4. Great Classic Science Fiction (audio book)
Just as the title says, this audio book included eight unabridged science fiction stories, all of which were rather fantastic. In "The Door in the Wall" by H. G. Wells, a gentleman relates the story of his friend, who wandered through a strange door in a wall as a child and discovered a magical garden and he spent the rest of his life desiring to go back. Not really scifi, but it was an enjoyable story.

"All Cats Are Gray" by Andre Norton, is about a woman known for always having the inside scoop. She tells a spacer at a bar one evening that she knows where a spaceship, thought to be haunted or cursed, is going to be. The two go to investigate. This story was by far my favorite in the set. I loved the tone and the main character, who is very catlike in manner herself, is rather awesome.

"Victory" by Lester del Rey presents a disturbing look at interplanetary war, showing just how ugly and how brutal war can be. It's very dark with not much light at the end of the tunnel. Even so, the way the story was told and the way the characters evolved in such a small space put this at the top of my list, too.

"A Martian Odyssey" by Stanley G. Weinbaum is about a spacer's adventures in the martian landscape after his ship crashes. The aliens in this are very alien to the point of being incomprehensible, and I like that the language barriers are an integral part of the story.

"The Moon Is Green" by Fritz Leiber is a strange and haunting tale about a post-apocalyptic world. A woman is trapped behind lead shutters with the rest of humanity, due to the radioactive fallout from nuclear war. I loved it, even though I hated the voice of the actress who read the story, who would go from talking very soft (forcing me to turn up the volume), to suddenly being very loud (and thus blowing out my ears).

"The Winds of Time" by James H. Schmitz is an adventure about a spaceship that is knocked out of regular space into the time stream. Lots of stereotypes abound -- mad scientist, strange and plucky and clever hero, woman who is only there to have someone for the hero to save and explain things to -- so not a great story, but was fun enough to keep me entertained.

In "The Defenders" by Philip K. Dick, the people of earth are stuck beneath the surface, hiding from the radiation as their robotic servants work above ground to continue the war. Still a good story about the harmful nature of war, despite the more obvious moralizing tone.

"Missing Link" by Frank Herbert was my least favorite of the collection. It involves the discovery of an alien race and how the humans approach them and tried to pull them into their federation. It annoyed me in the way humans come off as superior and how everyone interacts and all that. Only shrug-worthy.


5. The Probability of Miracles, by Wendy Wunder
When the bad news comes down that there is nothing more the doctors can do for Cam's cancer, her mom insists its not over and drags her daughter up to Promise, Maine, a mysterious town that is supposed to be capable of granting miracles. Though Cam is an avid disbeliever, certain that everything has a scientific explanation, she can't help but admit that strange things -- a field of purple daisies, flamingos well outside their natural ecosystem, a boy who seems to magically appear to help at the exact perfect moment -- do happen in Promise.

I love Cam. She has a snarky tone and always throws out random science facts, which was fun. She was sympathetic and had her down moment, but she's not a complainer or much of a moper. She's simply matter of fact about her situation and her reality.

I also really loved the mom, who was presented as a mom should be, very loving of her daughter and practical where practicality is needed. It's refreshing to see a parent in a YA novel not be absent or a complete idiot. She's a part of the story and a part of Cam. So is Cam's sister, who is cheerful and girly and wonderfully surprising at times.

I loved the mixture of miraculous and scientific in this book, which allows you to choose for yourself whether you believe the events can all be explained or if there is some mystical influence taking place. It's a wonderful, joyful, heartbreaking story, that will definitely go on my list of favorites.


6. Daytripper, by Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá
Brás de Oliva Domingos lives in the shadow a famous and renowned author in Brazil. He tries to find his own voice as a writer, as he works at the local paper writing obituaries. This graphic novel is a touching journey of one man's life, jumping back and forth from adulthood to childhood and back again.

One of the things I love about this book, in addition to the quiet tone and gorgeous art, is that each chapter ends with Brás's death along with his obituary as it would have read if his life ended at the moment. You get a sense of what he learned and what he would never learn, never get to do at that moment. It made me think of how life is like that sometimes, full of endings, everyday finalities, which allow us to open the door to new beginnings.


7. A Rope of Thorns, by Gemma Files
Discussed elsewhere.
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