Thursday, May 30, 2013

Voice of the Fire

Written by: Alan Moore

First line: A-hind of hill, ways off to sun-set-down, is sky come like as fire, and walk I up in way of this, all hard of breath, where is grass coldling on I's feet and wetting they not.

Why you should read this book: Problematic despite its stunning concept, this novel-in-short-stories carries the reader through six thousand years of historical fiction (think Maxine Hong Kingston: nobody can say what was, so please accept this interpretation of legend with what-might-have-been as an agreed-upon truth) localized to the small town of Northampton, where the author has spent most of his life. Incomplete burials, heads and legs separated physically or spiritually from their bodies, fathers separated from their families, crematory fires rife with transformative meaning, spirit dogs, madmen, liars, thieves, and magic are the unifying themes of these dozen tales. People fail to be redeemed, to get what they deserve, to find solace or relief in magic or relationships; magic, if anything, is an explanation for darkness, not a path to the light.

Why you shouldn't read this book: All possible worlds herein presented are extremely bleak, the most sympathetic characters are the mentally ill ones, and the author makes no apology for anything; everything in this town, he seems to say, is dark and false and hateful. I really, really wanted to enjoy this book, but I'm left with a sorrow for the knowledge gleaned herein.

Tuesdays at the Castle

Written by: Jessica Day George

First line: Whenever Castle Glower became bored, it would grow a room or two.

Why you should read this book: The charming and not-at-all helpless Princess Celie has a better relationship with her magical castle home than anyone else in the family; it's Celie who tends to discover new rooms, secret passages, and better shortcuts, and Celie who tirelessly compiles the atlas that allows maids and guests to find their way around the new additions. Celie's knowledge and understanding of her home comes in handy when her parents are waylaid on their journey back from her older brother's graduation from magic school, and their not-so-faithful advisors sell the kids and their birthright out to a foreign prince. Can Celie; her heir-to-the-throne brother, Rolf; her perfect sister, Lilah; and Lilah's stalwart suitor, Pogue, team up with the castle to defeat the interlopers, or is the unbroken reign of the Glowers to end  with the wonderful castle's ignominious defeat?

Why you shouldn't read this book: You expect your room to stay in exactly the same place where you left it.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Over Sea, Under Stone

Written by: Susan Cooper

First line: "Where is he?"

Why you should read this book: In the first book of the Dark is Rising Sequence, Simon, Jane, and Barney anticipate an exciting holiday in Cornwall with their mysterious Great-Uncle Merry, but when they find an ancient map in a hidden room in the attic, they have no idea what kind of adventure they've stumbled into. According to their uncle, it's a map to the grail, an even more ancient artifact that belongs to the forces of Light, and must be uncovered and wielded against the forces of Dark. It might sound like a fun expedition, but the forces of Dark are already on their trail, and snapping at their heels, and the Dark bites.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You're rooting for the Dark.

Heart-Shaped Box

Written by: Joe Hill

First line: Jude had a private collection.

Why you should read this book: Jude Coyne has all the right credentials for an aging rock star with a blasphemous heavy-metal catalog: a couple dead band mates, a comfortable country estate, a stunning girlfriend half his age, and a collection of unusual death-themed memorabilia, so it makes sense for him to buy a haunted suit off the Internet. The website may be a third-rate Ebay knockoff, but the merchandise is grade-A, top-notch, five-star quality ghost, and that's a lot more than Judas Coyne ever bargained for. This ghost doesn't bother rattling chains in the attic or wailing at the windows; the ghost is out for blood.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You are alone, at night, in a dark house, in a deserted area, without even a good dog for company. Seriously, this book is scary as hell, and I don't scare easy.

Juniper Berry

Written by: M.P. Kozlowsky

First line: The house was a mansion, the lake was a pool, Kitty was a dog, and Juniper Berry was an eleven-year-old girl.

Why you should read this book: Ever since they've made it big in Hollywood and achieved all their dreams, Juniper's parents seem to have forgotten completely about her, about everything besides their next role, their next review. This is no ordinary narcissism: the boy down the road, Giles, has the exact same problem, and together they figure out where grown-ups  are going to buy their hearts' desires, and the price they're paying. A nice tale about temptation and values.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You'd sell your soul to the devil to make it in this business.

The Book of One Hundred Truths

Written by: Julie Schumacher

First line: Probably because they didn't trust me, my parents were grilling me at the airport in Minneapolis, asking all the usual travel questions.

Why you should read this book: No one told Thea she'd have to spent the entire summer babysitting her inquisitive cousin Jocelyn, but Thea hasn't exactly been telling anyone the truth herself. She was hoping that a vacation at her grandparents' house by the Jersey Shore would help her get away from all the secrets and lies she's spun around herself at home, but Jocelyn has a nose for secrets, and will drag Thea into the thick of the family's deception whether she likes it or not. A book about confronting reality and facing the hard facts dead on.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You suspect that everyone is up to something.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Out of My Mind

Written by: Sharon M. Draper

First line: Words.

Why you should read this book: Born with an extreme form of cerebral palsy, which renders her incapable of walking or talking or even feeding herself, Melody is trapped inside her eidetic memory with no more than a baby's symbol board to communicate the complex nuances of her thought processes. When the school finally decides to mainstream some of the special ed kids in her class, Melody manages to express her need for a computer that will speak for her, and finds herself navigating the social world that had always excluded her, joining the school's quiz team and helping the group win a slot in the national competition in Washington, DC. With passion and pathos, she tells the story of her life in a way that wins the reader's admiration but never asks for sympathy.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You can't stop talking.

11 Birthdays

Written by: Wendy Mass

First line: The oddest thing about Angelina D'Angelo was that no one could remember a time when she didn't live in Willow Falls.

Why you should read this book: Amanda and Leo have always celebrated their birthdays together, but this year is different: Amanda hasn't spoken to Leo since she heard him talking smack about her at their tenth birthday party, and her eleventh birthday is looking like the most horrible one ever. What's worse is that every time the day finally ends, it starts over again when she wakes up in the morning, so that Amanda is trapped in the worst day of her life, celebrating an awful eleventh birthday over and over again. When she realizes that Leo is trapped in the same nightmare, they must resolve their differences and delve into the history of their town and their respective families to learn how to escape the loop and get on with their eleventh year.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You've been feuding with your former best friend, and it's going to take a lot more than divine intervention for you to forgive them.


Written by: Joe Hill

First line: Ignatius Martin Perrish spent the night drunk and doing terrible things.

Why you should read this book: Powerfully written and executed, this wonderful novel transcends horror themes and the very nature of good and evil to present an eminently satisfying story about love and the sentiments left unsaid. Ig wakes up one morning, hung over, with the nagging suspicion that he did something unspeakable the night before, and having sprouted in the night a pair of slightly painful and fairly prominent horns, which give him the power to see others' worst secrets, persuade them to act on their most inappropriate desires, and inspire them to tell him exactly what's on their mind, whether he wants to hear it or not. The first thing he learns is that everyone, including his family, holds him responsible for the brutal rape and murder of his girlfriend a year earlier, and Ig suddenly finds himself on a painful, horrible, and ultimately enlightening journey of discovery and revenge against those who wronged him and his beloved.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You're the type of person who frequently finds things blasphemous.

Lily Brown's Paintings

Written by: Angela Johnson

First line: Lily Brown loves her mama, daddy, and baby brother and the world they live in.

Why you should read this book: In a story about the power of art and imagination, Lily Brown transforms her world into a magical place. Her paintings portray skill, whimsy, and wonder, and transport her, and the reader, to a place of fantasy and surprise. But Lily Brown always returns at the end of the day to the real world, which is just as amazing as her imagination.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You fear your child's fantasy world.

Calvin Can't Fly: The Story of a Bookworm Birdie

Written by: Jennifer Berne

First line: Calvin is a starling.

Why you should read this book: From the moment they first leave the nest, Calvin is different from his siblings and cousins. While they discover worms and grass and dirt, Calvin discovers books and words and libraries (and finds himself labeled a nerd). They all fly off for the winter, and Calvin, who has not learned to fly, must be towed beneath them, until his superior knowledge saves his family and eventually leads to his acceptance.

Why you shouldn't read this book: Your kid refuses to participate in P.E.

The Dark Is Rising

Written by: Susan Cooper

First line: "Too many!" James shouted, and slammed the door behind him.

Why you should read this book: Mixing pagan tropes into a prosaic English village in the middle of the twentieth century, this magical tale is a battle between the forces of dark and the forces of light, with young Will Stanton caught in the middle. On this eleventh birthday, he learns that he, the seventh son of a seventh son, is an "Old One," charged with uncovering and reuniting the six signs. The forces of darkness will do everything in their power to prevent him from reaching his goal, while the forces of light working to support his efforts.

Why you shouldn't read this book: Even though this is one of the better known volumes in this five-book series, it is actually book two, and, unlike me, you probably should start with book one.

Y The Last Man: Safeword

Written by: Brian K. Vaughan

First line: Yorick always gets to be last.

Why you should read this book: Agent 355 leaves Yorick with her old friend, Agent 711, while she and Dr. Mann seek out medicine for Yorick's horrible monkey. Agent 711 subjects Yorick to the world's most inappropriate BDSM scenario, revealed after the fact to be the world's most inappropriate (but successful) suicide intervention. The group reunites in time to get into a lethal firefight with the tattered remnants of a border-guarding militia in Arizona.

Why you shouldn't read this book: Seriously, where is all this going? This volume seems pretty gratuitous.