Wednesday, December 25, 2013

December Reading

Even though I haven't been posting I've been reading. Since the last post I've finished Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson, The Silent Wife by A. Harrison, Wisp of a Thing by Alex Bledsoe, Brilliance by Marcus Sakey, The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer, The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert, The Chance by Robyn Carr, With Autumn's Return by Amanda Cabot, The Sentinels of Andersonville, by Tracy Groot, Runner by Patrick Lee, Reality Boy by A.S. King, The Accidental Highwayman by Ben Tripp, and The Anxiety of Kalix the Werewolf by Martin Millar.

Running out of battery  right now so I'll talk about these later. Definitely some worthwhile and entertaining reads.

Quick run down on the aforementioned -- Steelheart. It's by Brandon Sanderson. Ok, even though for folks who've read his books before that was enough to make them want it, I'll elaborate just a little for those new to to him. When people with super powers turn up some folks think that super heroes will appear. Unfortunately those with powers turn into super villains, ruling ordinary people but a boy whose father was killed in a bank by one of these supernatural characters joins up with a secret army intent on saving humanity.

Wisp of a Thing, Alex Bledsoe's second novel depicting the Tufa people of the Smokey Mountains, takes a bereaved musical star into their midst in search of a lost song who finds a mystery among magical, mythical folks.

Marcus Sakey's  Brilliance, is an entertaining read set in a world that diverged from ours when people with extraordinary gifts began to be born in the 1980s. Our hero is the divorced dad of one normal and one "abnormal" child. He works for the government agency that keeps the gifted in check and uncovers an unpleasant truth about the boarding schools gifted children are sent to. Going undercover to catch gifted terrorists, he discovers more than he bargained for.

Seems to be a month for stories of people with super talents.  Runner by
Patrick Lee is the first in the Sam Dryden series coming from Minotaur in February. Sam, a formerly military special ops, is not doing too well trying to survive the emotional wallop of his wife's death. Out running one night he is run into by Rachel, a twelve-year-old girl who has a murderous assassination team on her tail. This fast paced thriller is a great combination of action and suspense.

Reality Boy by A.S. King has been getting lots of well deserved attention. The protagonist is bedeviled by his past when, at age five, he was dubbed "The Crapper" because of his propensity to defecate in inappropriate places when he was on a reality show about dysfunctional families. His family is definitely dysfunctional, everyone made miserable by his seriously psychopathic sister who lives in the basement and basically holds the family hostage to her anger.

The Grand Sophy is grand indeed. It is one of Heyer's books that I had missed when reading every book of hers I could find in the 1970s and 80s so I was doubly glad to find it. Heyer's books are always a treat and a comfort read with her feisty heroines and witty repartee.

I was pleasantly surprised by The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert. I liked historical details and the botanical information but the characters weren't all that appealing and it dragged on toward the end.

The Accidental Highwayman by Ben Tripp, a forthcoming book from Tor Teen is a delightful romp featuring wonderful characters, rip-roaring adventure, and a lovely blend of faerie fantasy and young love.

Read my review of The Chance by Robyn Carr, With Autumn's Return by Amanda Cabot, The Sentinels of Andersonville, by Tracy Groot, and The Anxiety of Kalix the Werewolf by Martin Millar in Booklist.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Reading Plan - Non-Fiction - Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin

As part of my reading plan I try to read widely in many different genres. I look for titles that I think may be popular and under recognized. I'm not looking for best sellers but for the next surprising read. Yesterday I received a package of forthcoming books from Candlewick and Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kulkin caught my eye. I've long been fascinated by questions of gender.

When I was in first grade I spent a long time in the pediatric surgical ward of Fitzsimmons Army Hospital. I had appendicitis that was initially diagnosed as "the flu" and ended up at death's door until my mom called a civilian pediatrician who was willing to see me on a Sunday. He sent me to the hospital, with a police escort who met us en route, as he didn't think I should wait for an ambulance. At the hospital, a surgeon who had operated on Dwight D. Eisenhower removed my ruptured appendix. Then, I ended up with peritonitis and developed a nearly fatal penicillin allergy. I was there for what I remember as months but was probably only weeks. There was a boy there who had been operated on to turn him into a girl. It was horrifying. After that experience I had recurring nightmares for more than three decades. I often thought about that boy who had been turned into a girl and wondered what had happened to him.

Because of this experience I was fascinated by stories of transgender people. Luna, an outstanding novel  by Julie Anne Peters was the first book dealing with the issue I found. I also found great empathy in reading Parrotfish by Ellen Wittlinger and I am J by Cris Beam.

For me, I think the appeal of these stories is seeing into the lives of people who feel different, who don't fit into the narrow roles sometimes assigned to us and deciding to claim who they are.

Beyond Magenta does a terrific job of this. Kulkin has entered the lives of seven very diverse teens to tell their stories. Some are people born in the wrong bodies, or born with indeterminable genders (I think that was probably the deal with the boy I met in the hospital who has so haunted me), or are a a little of both commonly recognized genders, or a person who doesn't want to be identified by a gender at all. Kulkin's striking and insightful photographs add another dimension to the stories of these young people who are figuring out who they are in a world that is not always friendly to them.

This compelling book is a sensitive and fascinating look into the lives of these teens.

As part of a readers'  advisor reading plan, non-fiction is important because sometimes readers become fascinated by a topic and want more information, it gives the readers' advisor concrete information on the topic helping to discern the best or most reliable fiction on a topic. It also gives on a broader knowledge base.

This book will be out in February 2014. ISBN: 978-0-7636-5611-9.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Happy Book Birthdays The Hanging Judge by Michael Ponsor and City of Lost Dreams by Magnus Flyte

Didn't realize I had reviewed this one, as a Book of the Week, back in October, somehow missing that it wouldn't be out until now. It is a really good sign when I can remember a book well after reading 30 or so books between when I read it and now. If you or someone you know likes legal thrillers, check out the just released The Hanging Judge by Michael Ponsor

City of Lost Dreams by Magnus Flyte, a terrific contemporary fantasy, came out last week just before Thanksgiving so I missed getting out the birthday announcement. I honestly think mentioning it today is a better time because I know last week went by in a happy blur with lots of family, food, and good times for many of us.

Now is the time to be picking books to read when traveling for Christmas or to give as gifts.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Book of the Week - City of Lost Dreams by Magnus Flyte

City of Lost Dreams by Magnus Flyte
Penguin 978-0-14-312327-9
2013 - December

This stands-on-its-own sequel to City of Dark Magic is so good readers will want to read more from Flyte. Sarah Weston, armed with a PhD in neuromusicology has traveled from Boston to Prague where her young friend, Pols, a blind twelve-year-old prodigy is dying due to a genetic defect. Before leaving for Vienna to try to convince a nanobiologist to try to help Pols, Sarah dines with her friend Nico, a 400 year old dwarf, and Max, her princely ex. Sarah sees a man flailing about in the cold water and jumps in to save him. Her efforts lead to gunshots and the man she cannot save turns out to be John of Nepomuk, a martyred saint from the 14th century. Rich with history, alchemy, romance, drug infused time travel, and mystery, this tale is wonderfully amusing and satisfying. It goes onto my list of best of 2013.