Saturday, January 12, 2013

Why I Hate Book Reviews

Although I write reviews from time to time, I don't enjoy reading them. This may seem like an odd confession, considering that my blog professes to be about books. But unless I'm consulting a critical review for information about a not-for-pleasure book, I tend to avoid them. Book reviews, especially ones written from a more personal reader's perspective, tell too much. Even with spoiler alerts, they usually go way beyond a basic plot synopsis.

You might be thinking that an extensive discussion of a book is kind of the point of a review. But after I read one, I feel like I've practically read the book. I've learned the key elements of plot, setting, and characters. But worst of all, I've absorbed the reviewer's experience. The anticipation of reading the actual book has evaporated.

But I love talking about books. I love getting recommendations and giving them. I understand communities like Goodreads exist where that's what you do. But I'm scared of Goodreads.

So instead of reviewing amazing books, I'm just going to virtually hold them out to you, saying, "Oh my god this was awesome read it now" (All in one unpunctuated breath).

Megan Abbott's "Dare Me" is about the intensity of teenage female friendships and competitive cheerleading. If you're making a face about the cheerleading part, take a little leap of faith and check it out. It's one of the most real books about being a teenage girl I've ever read. It kept me up all night, which is the highest praise I can give.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New Year, New Project

Happy New Year! I hope everyone enjoyed themselves way too much and got to spend today relaxing. This is a resolution free space, but I do want to share something new that I'll be doing this year. Artist Patrick Artazu and I are collaborating on a series of graphic short stories. It's strange, challenging and fun for a writer like me who can't draw a straight line to try to marry words and images. Collaboration carries the added bonus of making writing a little less solitary. 

Watch this space in the upcoming weeks for our first graphic story, "Wet Spot." At left is a little teaser panel from the story featuring Anya, an au pair whose seduction by her employer has bizarre and unexpected consequences.

Tangentially related, I recently bought my first comic book as an adult. When I was very young, I loved listening to stories of Wonder Woman on my Fisher Price tape recorder. As a kid, I was very into "Betty & Veronica" (Team Veronica!), but my comic/graphic novel reading experience as an adult has been more "literary." Yes, this is a slippery descriptor that can evoke endless debate, but no one can argue that "Persepolis" is a very different beast than the works of DC and Marvel. 

In an effort to learn all things comic, I've been listening to the 3 Chicks podcasts. Their motto is "comics should be good," and they raved about "Ghost." I was sold. But when I read volume one, I was surprised by the huge gap in the quality of the art and the quality of the writing. I won't be buying any more of the "Ghost" series, since clunky, smug narrative voices make me want to tear my hair out.  But the art is so purty. Anyone have a recommendation for a comic that has art as good as Phil Noto's, with writing to match?

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Answering Questions from the Future #1

On the first day of 2012, I started a series of posts that asked questions of the future. Now that the year is almost over, I'm sharing the answers! Though some questions remain unanswered, others were as predicted. A few were a complete surprise. In the final tally, I think my almost 2013 self has far fewer answers than my past self wanted. But the questions are still a useful yearbook of bookish and cultural events of 2012.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

(Almost) Back From Summer Break


I've been on vacation from the blog for much of the summer. Like returning to school, I'm both dreading and excited about resuming my usual posting routine. But come Labor Day, I'll be back in my seat in Blogland.

I couldn't resist popping in to talk about NPR's Top 100 List of YA Books. Argument over the value of this list has been heated, and several have eloquently discussed it. I won't rehash the discussion here, but it's worth checking out

The most interesting thing about the list is how off some of the entries are. They're simply not YA. There are a number that are borderline: The Hobbit; Fahrenheit 451; To Kill A Mockingbird. I don't think they're YA, but an argument could be made about their audience. But the books below are unarguably children's books. And in a survey of over 2,000 people, a fair number voted for these books. Someone probably could approximate the statistics, but that someone is not me. Bottom line--people do not know what YA is. But don't ask me to define it. Like obscenity, I know it when I see it!

Without further ado, my top 10, next to the spot the book or series was given on the list:

1/100 The Betsy Tacy series

2/33 The Call Of The Wild

3/14 The Anne of Green Gable series

4/30 Tuck Everlasting

5/41 Dune 

6/51 Treasure Island 

7/44  The Dark Is Rising series

8/18  Lord Of The Flies

9/3 To Kill A Mockingbird

10/7 The Lord Of The Rings

There you have it, folks. The above are by and large awesome books, but they're not YA. Even worse, NPR actually made an attempt to weed out books meant for younger readers. If this sloppiness bugs you, consider the following: for all anyone knows, The Hungry Caterpillar and Good Night Moon could be in the mix, below the one hundred mark. Oy.