Thursday, February 24, 2011

January Books

Milton Fauster knows his sister, Marlo, is no saint. But when a marshmallow-bear explosion kills them both, he's horrified to wind up in Heck right next to her. An eternally horrible prep school, Heck has teachers like Lizzie Borden in cooking and Richard Nixon in ethics. Is there any way out? A younger YA full of classical allusions, black comedy, and details like toddlers being kept in gingerbread coffins and preschoolers forced to learn phonics.

EX LIBRIS/Anne Fadiman/A
A collection of essays on books and reading. I recognized myself in far too many of them: from grammar-policing menus to organizing personal libraries to daydreaming through catologues. Highly recommended for lovers of books.

DROOD/Dan Simmons/B+
It's been nearly a month since I finished this book, and I'm still not entirely certain how I feel about it. Simmons imagines an over-the-top inspiration for Dickens' last (and unfinished) novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood. The fantastic abounds--ritual killings, underground cities, secret murder and haunted houses. Or is it all in the twisted, envious, opium-addicted mind of narrator Wilkie Collins? Intriguing is the word I keep coming back to. Also creepy. And I never did find out what was behind the walls of the boarded-up staircase.

An excellent overview of how one man turned the steppe tribes of Mongolia into a feared and far-flung empire. The real interest in the book, though, is the details behind the armies. Genghis Khan was a visionary leader who practiced religious freedom, created outstanding trade routes, and fought to expand but never to wantonly destroy. His successors dwindled until the empire vanished, but not before leaving a legacy from Russia to India. Highly recommended.

SHIVER/Maggie Stiefvater/B+
Another YA paranormal romance, this one between Grace and 'her wolf' whom she has seen in the winter woods since she was a little girl. Now that wolf is a boy named Sam--but not for long. When the cold comes, he'll vanish into wolf form . . . this time, forever. The strengths of this book are the inner turmoil of Sam and his complicated relationship with Beck, the pack leader who raised him as both boy and wolf. I'll get around to reading the next in the series.

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