Friday, June 28, 2013

The Magician King

Written by: Lev Grossman

First line: Quentin rode a gray horse with white socks named Dauntless.

Why you should read this book: Being the king of a magical land is boring and Quentin thirsts for adventure, for something bigger than what he has, and for some way to help Julia, who's turned into a real black-clad gothic witch queen, and probably isn't quite right in the head, even if she is insanely powerful. This fast-paced sequel offers up the sumptuous detail and reframing of worlds (both real and imaginary) that made the original such a luscious read, but it refuses to offer anything predictable, or easy, or even necessarily happy. With its backstory of Julia's indoctrination into the world of magic, it's a hard-knocks counterpoint to the cheerful, theory-based education Quentin received in the first book, one that doesn't even recognize the phrase "happily ever after," and forces the reader to accept that magic is the hardest reality.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You already know how you want it to end.

Y: The Last Man—Paper Dolls

Written by: Brian K. Vaughan

First line: Have I seen any men?

Why you should read this book: Yorick has finally made it to Australia, almost by accident, but he's only got a few hours to search for Beth before 355 and Dr. Mann drag him on to look for Ampersand. A muckraking reporter is on his case, and his (nude) picture ends up in the newspaper. Dr. Mann makes a special friend while Hero and the other Beth go on an adventure, and flashbacks reveals new information about 355's past.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You resent the servitude imposed upon capuchin monkeys.


Written by: Laurence Yep

First line: Ever since I can remember, I had wanted to know about the Land of the Golden Mountain, but my mother never wanted to talk about it.

Why you should read this book: Yep set out to revise the American narrative of Chinese-American in the earliest part of the twentieth century, and did so by creating an intelligent, thoughtful, and realistic narrator, giving him an interesting family, and setting him down in an exciting time and place. Moon Shadow comes to America to meet the father he has never known, and to work for the company comprised of his male relatives, everything he's always wanted to do. Meanwhile, his father has his own dream, one that inspires the imagination but sets him apart from the rest of the world, and Moon Shadow's adolescence takes place against a backdrop of impossible innovation.

Why you shouldn't read this book: Your dreams are so much more important to you than your family.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Lizzie the Sweet Treats Fairy

Written by: Daisy Meadows

First line: "Having a tea party in the Orangery is going to be really fun!" Rachel exclaimed to her best friend Kirsty.

Why you should read this book: If you are little girl who loves everything as long as it involves rainbows, fairies, sparkles, cute animals, beautiful flowers, and tiny cakes, you may appreciate the prosaic adventure of Rainbow Magic, a seemingly endless series of books all featuring nearly identical plots, sadly predictable conflicts, and zero character development. Rachel and Kirsty are the undifferentiated BFFs who are friends with the fairies; the fairies are basically incompetent creatures who each depend on a magical artifact to perform their only task in life (in this case, Lizzie the Sweet Treats fairy needs her magical tiara or else no cook will ever be able to make a souffle rise or a tray of Jello set ever again) but are constantly foiled by incompetent goblins who keep stealing these artifacts. Although the goblins are total imbeciles who are completely harmless, easily distracted, and frequently working against their own self-interests, the fairies are unable to protect their all-important treasures from them or to reclaim the objects without help from a pair of elementary school girls who think a tea party in the Orangery is going to be really fun, and can only be made more enjoyable by an exciting table-setting class followed by an exciting voluntary silverware polishing session.

Why you shouldn't read this book: Do you like protagonists in novels to learn, grow, and change? Do you think antagonists should pose some sort of actual threat to the characters achieving their goals? Do you want the climax of a story to come as some sort of surprise? Do you own clothes that are neither pink nor sparkly? If so, Rainbow Magic may not be for you.

Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret.

Written by: Judy Blume

First line: Are you there God?

Why you should read this book: Despite the fact that it's over 40 years old and discusses defunct technology (menstrual belts) and outdated medical advice (that only adult women should use tampons) this book remains the best beloved novel addressing the preadolescent girl's thoughts and anxieties surrounding getting her first period (as of this writing, its Amazon Sales Rank is 1647). Margaret, new to town, joins a club of other girls who are fixated on their own physical development, led by the dominant personality of her neighbor, Nancy, a girl who acts like she knows everything and isn't afraid to talk about it. Although it's the arc about menarche that most people take away from the story, in rereading this book, I was most captivated with the subplot about Laura Denker, the girl who is ostracized because her pubescence is much further along than that of her classmates, and the way the Margaret becomes more empathetic toward others, more critical of her own shortcomings, and more skeptical of her friends after interacting with Laura.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You can't even read the word "menstruation" without wincing.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Y: The Last Man—Girl on Girl

Written by: Brian K Vaughan

First line: Yorick? Yorick, where are you…?

Why you should read this book: Yorick and company, having booked passage on a cargo ship, find themselves in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, on the wrong side of a firefight between heroin smugglers and the Australian Navy. Dr. Mann and 355 get to know each other a little better, the Israelis continue to do whatever it is that they’ve been doing, and Beth, somewhere in the Australian Outback, is still alive, and not having a really enjoyable time of it. The story progresses sl-lo-ow-wl-ly.

Why you shouldn’t read this book: You're one of those people who's not interested in lesbian sex. Also, the repetition of Yorick meeting and liking girls who like him back and then die horribly is getting a little silly.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Grimm Legacy

Written by: Polly Shulman

First line: Snow fell hard: big stick flakes that got under my coat collar where the top button was missing.

Why you should read this book: Since her widower father remarried a woman with two greedy daughters, her best friend moved far away, and she was forced to change schools and quit dance lessons, Elizabeth feels like nothing so much as Cinderella without a fairy godmother, until her favorite history teacher recommends her for a job at the New-York Circulating Material Repository. The Repository, a massive lending collection of museum quality objects, becomes a haven of delight, where Elizabeth makes friends with the other pages, and discovers a series of mysteries, all of which seem to lead back to the mysterious Grimm Collection, where truly magical fairy tale objects are kept under lock and key. The kids all have their own theories about what's going on, and their alliances are uneasy and full of suspicion, but Elizabeth has plenty of motivation for searching out the truth, not the least of which is that she's sort of traded something that turned out to be a lot more valuable than she thought it was for a magic comb to make her prettier, and if she can't solve all these thefts and disappearances, she'll never recover in integral piece of herself.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You hate little siblings, your own or other people's.

Wednesdays in the Tower

Written by: Jessica Day George

First line: There are a lot of things that can hatch out of an egg.

Why you should read this book: The irrepressible Princess Celie is back, her atlas as complete as it can ever be, but her beloved Castle Glower seems to be going crazy, adding entire towers, halls, and even stables, mostly full of improbable and possibly dangerous objects. It all starts when she finds an obviously magical egg, which hatches into an energetic griffin whose presence she's forced to keep secret. There's a not-entirely-forthcoming wizard poking around where it's most inconvenient to Celie, and whole eons of lost history to recover in a fun, fast-paced adventure.

Why you shouldn't read this book: Freaking CLIFFHANGER ending!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013


Written by: Joe Hill

First line: Nurse Thornton dropped into the long-term-care ward a little before eight with a hot bag of blood for Charlie Manx.

Why you should read this book: Another powerhouse of a novel from author Joe Hill, with a strong but troubled female protagonist, a worthy villain, and a fresh new take on vampires, the theater of the imagination, and the determination of the human spirit in the face of the worst kind of physical and emotional pain. Vic has a talent for finding things, as long as her beloved bicycle can carry her to the magic bridge that takes her where she needs to be while Charlie Manx uses a similar skill to locate unhappy children and suck their essence out of them through the medium of his 1938 Rolls Royce Wraith. A rich landscape (inner and outer) along with a fantastic cast of supporting characters, combined with the fascinating depictions of protagonist and antagonist bring this gristly horror novel to life.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You're dreaming of a white Christmas.

Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture

Written by: Peggy Orenstein

First line: Here is my dirty little secret: as a journalist I have spent nearly two decades writing about girls, thinking about girls, talking about how girls should be raised.

Why you should read this book: Like many modern mamas, Orenstein thought she could shield her daughter from the pernicious effects of gender-based body and education issues, only to find that there is no escaping the culture at large and that her daughter would admire the Disney princesses without ever having watched a Disney film. She embarks on an in-depth examination of the commercialization of childhood, particularly as it pertains to girls' concepts of agency, self-image, achievement, and sexuality. From the Disney marketing machine and the American Girl flagship to toddler beauty pageants and social networking, Orenstein observes the way little girls are marketed to and (if the parents don't express their own values) molded by a materialist culture that seeks to commodify their innocence and profit from their insecurities.

Why you shouldn't read this book: Your job involves figuring out how to make money from the natural proclivities of children.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Y: The Last Man 5 -- Ring of Truth

Written by: Brian K. Vaughan

First line: Hello...? Are you there, God? I'm me, Margaret.

Why you should read this book: More death and mayhem, lots of flashback, Yorick gets laid by the wrong Beth and she doesn't even die. Hero is either more or less crazy than in previous volumes, Ampersand is the key to something, and Yorick's ring is a red herring. All kinds of girl on girl violence.

Why you shouldn't read this book: Maybe it's just me, but the story seems to unfold very slowly, and with a lot of repetition.