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Library Loot and Other Ramblings

July 7, 2010

I have been a bad reviewer and blogger.  I have a stack of three books waiting to be reviewed: Trouble by Jesse Kellerman, Numbers by Rachel Ward, and — my favorite of the trio — The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott by Kelly O’Connor McNees. There are also some movies I’d like to talk about, including The Visitor.

I could also be writing about some of the things that have been keeping me from blogging. Working through the aftermath of a crisis. Starting a new “school” year in our homeschool, even though the kids haven’t taken last year’s end-of-year achievement tests yet. The tests are lying around here somewhere, and the scores have to be submitted to the superintendent by August 1. Nothing like waiting ’til the last minute. The endless whirl of lessons, playdates, and other opportunities for kid-chauffeuring. Not to mention a rocking Fourth of July party, complete with a bonfire. I even had a Sangria — that constitutes BIG partying for me. 😀 And my son left both his shoes at our friends’ house when we left the party. Apparently he didn’t notice he was barefoot. And one of the shoes turned up in a tree. :-/ Don’t ask! I don’t plan to.

Overall life is good, despite temperatures hovering somewhere around 100. It’s sweltering and dry — everything is parched waiting for much needed rain. I abandoned my poor garden, and I’ve been staying in the house as much as possible, thanking all the powers that be in the universe that, thanks to the generosity of my dad, we were able to afford central air conditioning this year!

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Marg at The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader and Eva at a Striped Armchair that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library.

Lion’s Blood by Steven Barnes — I spotted this title at a post at Desert Book Chick — it was recommended by Mishalee at Stage and Canvas.

from Amazon.com: In the year 1863, a primitive village is raided, the men killed, and the women and children captured. The survivors find themselves chained in the dark, filthy hold of a ship crossing the ocean to the New World, where they are sold into slavery. The powerful master of a vast Southern plantation purchases the 11-year-old Irish lad Aidan O’Dere. Yes, you read that right–in this alternate America, the South was colonized by black Africans, and the North by Vikings, who sell abducted Celts and Franks to the Southerners. Through his brilliant inversion of our history, author Steven Barnes examines the complex evils of slavery in a new light with Lion’s Blood, an intelligent and exciting novel of freedom and bondage, battle and intrigue, sex and love, set in an America threatened by total war as Aztecs, Zulus, Moors, and whites clash.

Tomorrow River by Lesley Kagen — I was incited to read this by Susan at Bloggin’ bout Books.

from Publisher’s Weekly: Set during the summer of ’69 in rural Virginia, Kagen’s stellar third novel, her first in hardcover, chronicles the dramatic changes in the lives of 11-year-old Shenny Carmody and her twin sister, Woody, nearly a year after their mother’s disappearance. Woody hasn’t spoken since, and their father, a renowned judge, spends most of his nights in a drunken stupor at Lilyfield, their Rockbridge County estate, often turning violent and cruel toward his two daughters. Shenny, adventurous and bright, takes it upon herself to locate their beloved Mama and discover why she left them. In her quest for the truth, Shenny learns many heart-wrenching lessons, not least among them that first impressions can be dead wrong. Kagen (Whistling in the Dark) not only delivers a spellbinding story but also takes a deep look into the mores, values, and shams of a small Southern community in an era of change.

The Beekeeper’s Apprentice and A Monstrous Regiment of Women by Laurie R. King — I lay the blame for these at the feet of the fabulous Ana at Things Mean a Lot.

from Publisher’s Weekly: Sherlock Holmes takes on a young, female apprentice in this delightful and well-wrought addition to the master detective’s casework. In the early years of WW I, 15-year-old American Mary Russell encounters Holmes, retired in Sussex Downs where Conan Doyle left him raising bees. Mary, an orphan rebelling against her guardian aunt’s strictures, impresses the sleuth with her intelligence and acumen.

Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood and Chicken With Plums by Marjane Satrapi — again, inspired by Ana.

from Publisher’s Weekly: Satrapi’s autobiography is a timely and timeless story of a young girl’s life under the Islamic Revolution. Descended from the last Emperor of Iran, Satrapi is nine when fundamentalist rebels overthrow the Shah. While Satrapi’s radical parents and their community initially welcome the ouster, they soon learn a new brand of totalitarianism is taking over. Satrapi’s art is minimal and stark yet often charming and humorous as it depicts the madness around her. She idolizes those who were imprisoned by the Shah, fascinated by their tales of torture, and bonds with her Uncle Anoosh, only to see the new regime imprison and eventually kill him. Thanks to the Iran-Iraq war, neighbors’ homes are bombed, playmates are killed and parties are forbidden. Satrapi’s parents, who once lived in luxury despite their politics, struggle to educate their daughter. Her father briefly considers fleeing to America, only to realize the price would be too great. “I can become a taxi driver and you a cleaning lady?” he asks his wife. Iron Maiden, Nikes and Michael Jackson become precious symbols of freedom, and eventually Satrapi’s rebellious streak puts her in danger, as even educated women are threatened with beatings for improper attire. Despite the grimness, Satrapi never lapses into sensationalism or sentimentality. Skillfully presenting a child’s view of war and her own shifting ideals, she also shows quotidian life in Tehran and her family’s pride and love for their country despite the tumultuous times. Powerfully understated, this work joins other memoirs-Spiegelman’s Maus and Sacco’s Safe Area Goradze-that use comics to make the unthinkable familiar.

and

from Publisher’s Weekly: The question of what makes a life worth living has rarely been posed with as much poignancy and ambition as it is in Satrapi’s dazzling new effort. Satrapi’s talent for distilling complex personal histories into richly evocative vignettes made Persepolis a bestseller. Here she presents us with the story of her great-uncle Nasser Ali Khan, one of Iran’s most revered musicians, who takes to bed after realizing that he’ll never be able to find an instrument to replace his beloved, broken tar. Eight days later, he’s dead. These final eight days, which we’re taken through one by one, make up the bulk of this slim volume. While waiting for death, Nasser Ali is visited by family, memories and hallucinations. Because everything is being filtered through Satrapi’s formidable imagination, we are also treated to classical Persian poetry, bits of history, folk stories, as well as an occasional flash forward into lives Nasser Ali will never have a chance to see. Each episode is illustrated with Satrapi’s characteristic, almost childlike drawings, which take on the stark expressiveness of block prints. Clear and emotive, they bring surprising force and humor to this stunning tribute to a life whose worth can be measured in the questions it leaves.

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15 Comments leave one →
  1. July 7, 2010 3:21 am

    Chicken With Plums is so far my very favorite Satrapi. Each time I read her, I like her more. I read and liked Persepolis, I read and loved Embroideries, and then I read and cried to Chicken With Plums. I hope you love her!

    I can’t wait to hear your thoughts on The Visitor!

  2. July 7, 2010 11:27 am

    “Persepolis 1” I’m re-reading, and I like it very much, like I did the first time. Very well-done in how it uses the medium. Hope you enjoy it and “Chicken With Plums.”

  3. July 7, 2010 2:43 pm

    It sounds like you’ve been having a fun summer! Your son’s shoe was in a tree?! Hahah!

  4. July 7, 2010 8:31 pm

    I loved Persepolis – but I didn’t know about Chicken with Plums. Now I’ll have to check that out stat.

  5. July 7, 2010 8:49 pm

    I can’t wait to see what you think of Mary Russell, Stephanie! And I hope you’ll also enjoy Chicken With Plums 😀

  6. July 7, 2010 9:11 pm

    Some really interesting titles – I’ve never read Laurie King although I’ve seen her books in the library. Will look forward to hearing what you think of them.

    Happy reading!

  7. July 7, 2010 9:31 pm

    Great finds! Enjoy your loot!

  8. July 8, 2010 1:45 am

    I’ve been a bad blogger myself. I think you found a bunch of good reads…I especially want to read the Laurie King books myself and I’ve always wanted to read Persepolis. Enjoy all of these and I’ll be waiting for your reviews 🙂

  9. July 8, 2010 2:22 am

    I’m glad you picked up TOMORROW RIVER. I absolutely loved it – I hope you do, too. Can’t wait to hear your thoughts about it!

  10. July 8, 2010 12:35 pm

    I’ve read Persepolis. Having grown up during that period, I found I remembered a lot of the events she wrote about. It’s a powerful book.

    Not to add to your list, but if you are into audiobooks, there is a YA audiobook community offering two free downloads every week during the summer. I keep forgetting to write about it on my blog. It’s free to join, ages 14 and up. Here’s the link if you are interested:
    http://www.audiobookcommunity.com/group/sync

    I’m sorry I forgot to tell you sooner!
    Peace and Laughter!

  11. July 8, 2010 3:03 pm

    So glad to hear you are enjoying summer and finding a way to stay cool. It’s been warm here, 85 at 6am the other day. We have had temps at 100 this week. It’s hard for me to complain though – my husband is in Dubai this week – he said it’s cool there, just 120! He also told me that they stop publicly recording the temp at 140. If the temp passes 140 there are legal work labor restrictions (so he is told) and to avoid this the temp mysteriously never exceeds 140. Can you image this situation?!

    The cover for Tomorrow River is beautiful.

    Have fun testing and building next years school plan. Have a great week!

  12. July 8, 2010 5:15 pm

    Hi! Well you’re doing better than me. I have a stack of five books to be read and reviewed. I’m giving you an award. Please check my blog tomorrow (7/9/10), and take it. I love what you have to say about things. Thanks!

  13. July 9, 2010 1:36 am

    Persepolis was the first ever graphic novel that I read and I loved it! Enjoy your loot, and the rest of your summer.

  14. July 12, 2010 4:37 am

    Persepolis has long been on tbr list! Enjoy!

  15. July 14, 2010 7:46 pm

    I *love* Beekeeper’s Apprentice and Monstrous Regiment of Women! Good reads anytime, but enticing summer reads for sure!

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