Monday, September 29, 2008

The House on First Street, by Julia Reed

Marie Antoinette-ish nonfic. Julia Reed's book gives a tantalizing taste of what pre-Katrina New Orleans must have been like for the very very wealthy and well connected. Her memories of champagne and oysters and divine decadance are lovely and all, but even she herself admits it's all a bit Marie Antoinette. Post-Katrina, her home-renovation saga really lost any flavor. In light of all those who died, and who have lost so much in the aftermath of the storm, Vogue writer Julia Reed's flagstone steps seem hideously selfish- although, I suppose in a way, at least she is working to preserve some historic architecture. Ugh. I don't know.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Diamond of Darkhold, by Jeanne Du Prau

Well, it was better than The Prophet of Yonwood.

Lina and Doon are such great characters that it's hard to knock a book about them, but...

Solar cells as society's only gift to the future?

I don't know.

What with the crashing banks, disastrous politics, global storming and the hey hey, maybe I'm just in a grim mood, but I sure hope that when our world comes down around our ears, we have a better plan for what we leave our underground-dwelling survivors when they emerge from the darkness.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Nancy Drew

This was a delightful surprise!

I was expecting it to be terrible, but it was really lovely. Nancy was still as perfect as could be, (I LOVED the woodshop scene!) but her character was presented so empathetically, it was obvious that she couldn't stop sleuthing if she tried, and even though it was a mite heavily done, the bit about the mother was actually a little tear-jerky.

Great job!

Not In The Flesh, by Ruth Rendell

Another wonderful Rendell. Again the issues of race, immigration, class status, PC-ness, women's rights, and age all swirl up into creating such a unique mood. Martha Grimes' books have a mood that comes close, sometimes, but not quite this dark.
The only quibble I ever have with Rendell is why her characters are all such bad drivers. Or, the ones who aren't terrible drivers are always described as being "skillful', like, (totally fake example) 'Lyn skilfully parked the car'. Why is it considered so impressive to get down the road without smashing into things? Is this an American thing, to take for granted that everyone can drive and had better be pretty good at it or we all die?

End In Tears, by Ruth Rendell

As always, a meticulously plotted out Wexford mystery from Rendell. What is there to say? The relationships between Wexford, Burden, Hannah, Dora, Sylvia, Sheila, these are such well written characters. So good.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

House of Daughters, by Sarah-Kate Lynch

Really lovely book about three sisters trying to make their family champagne estate survive.

You could taste the bubbles, and oh, the food, and oh, the house! And there was a surprisingly meaty, well-told story behind all the deliciousness of it all.

Good read. I'll be looking for her other books!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Leisureville: Adventures in America's Retirement Utopias, by Andrew Blechman

Wow. I just have to say wow, I had no idea.
This was fascinating. Andrew Blechman's New England neighbors announce their decision to move to The Villages, Florida- an age-segregated gated, golf-cart community, and he visits them to research both the insane tax loopholes available for developers and corporations in Florida like the Chapter 190, which has allowed developments as large, resource-draining, and isolated as The Villages, Disneyworld, and Seaside to be formed independently of state government and oversight, and the people who move to places where children are, necessarily, outlaws.
Amazing, fun, surprisingly dirty (!), and just gripping, this was an awesome quick read.

The Geography of Nowhere:The Rise and Decline of America's Man-Made Landscape, by James Howard Kunstler


Excellent book about American community planning, from the organic early cities to the (as envisioned) park-like suburbs to inner city project housing to gentrification. Kunstler's excellent writing and doom-like vibe really make even some of the drier issues (road widths, frontage limits, etc) really intriguing, and when he's on the juicy stuff, there's no putting it down.
I know I didn't even have a wrod to say about his novel- and it was one that I was so excited about for so long, but I've been thinking about it, and realized that there was a lot I just didn't like about it.
In his novel, women are relegated to almost an early 20th century level in society- well, they are pretty much living in a post energy-crisis/economic collapse agrarian near future America, and society has become in many ways feudal. Kunstler does, in fact, predict a return to a more feudalistic society in the deep South of America in his fantastic, addictive read-in-one-sitting The Long Emergency, but for New England, where the novel is based, he was more hopeful. It upset me while reading the novel, at least, and the kind of graphic violence in it wasn't my cup of tea either. (Seriously, Kunstler- I did NOT need that Catherine Wheel shit in my head!)
BUT. I can love the guy's non-fiction and entirely loathe his fiction, and I think that's ok.
So yeah.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Climbing the Stairs, by Padma Venkatraman

A very thoughtful YA book set in India during WWII and the Indian revolution against British colonial rule.

15 year old Vidya feels responsible when her father is injured at a protest, and the family must move in with relatives who despise them. Her brother Kitta is worried by the Japanese invasion of Burma and wants to join the British Army, although it was a British policeman who injured their father. A love interest named Raman offers Vidya a chance to escape to America with him, but her grandfather saves the day by offering to send her to college.

It was good, and interesting as an adult, but I think maybe not terrifically appealing to most teens.

Lost on Planet China, by J. Maarten Troost

This was fantastic travel writing! Funny, informative, and fascinating. Made me want more than ever to visit China.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Gossip Girl: The Carlyles, by Cecily von Ziegesar

Well, I hate to say it but I didn't LOVE this.
Baby, Avery, and Owen Carlyle have just moved to NYC from Nantucket, into Blair Waldorf's old apartment, and shenanigans ensue.
I don't know- the characters didn't interest me, and there just wasn't the sense of reality that somehow (improbably) made the original series so addictive and just damn good. I'm sure I'll read the sequels, but it just didn't grab me.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Cheater, by Michael Laser

Wow, I really didn't think that this book had a lot going for it. The characters seemed very unrealistic to me, from the Vice Principal straight out of Breakfast Club/Ferris Bueller to the absurd and two dimensional Cara. I also was kind of put off by what I read as if not actually homophobic, the really insulting idea that Karl (and everybody else) decided Lizette was a lesbian because she didn't wear makeup and tight clothes like Cara. Blaine (? That's not a name, that's a major appliance!) was also so 2D and unreal - ugh!Also, the great mysterious project unveiled in the last scene? Um, I think you can get it from SkyMall. Mostly though, the book was morally ambigious, absurd plotwise, insulting to women, and demeaning to teens in that it denies them any complexity or depth at all.

So Sexy So Soon: The New Sexualized Childhood and What Parents Can Do to Protect Their Kids, by Diane E. Levin and Jean Kilbourne

Yet another book about the lolita-ization of girlhood, and how parents and teachers (and librarians?) can help counteract the societal pressures.

A bit blah, but I think I've overloaded on this topic.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, by E. Lockhart

Fantastic, intelligent, feminist YA.

I loved this book. So much better than Dramarama, but even in Dramarama, I could see a thoughtfulness in the narrator that really shone through here. The setting was perfect too, all the details were dead on, and the whole thing rang true.