These are the books I’ll be adding to my Librarything collection this year, along with the description I jotted down for each one when I put it on my running list of books read. They’ll bring the collection to 99 books I love–although more are represented, because I let one book stand for a series and sometimes for a whole author.
- Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, by Jesse Andrews. Profane, funny book about kids making bad films, having inappropriate thoughts, and having different connections with each other than the adults think they do. Love Earl’s black-Pittsburgh language.
- Winterbound, by Margery Bianco. 1936 novel of siblings navigating a country winter in New England. By the author of The Velveteen Rabbit, incidentally. Not much happens, but I liked the characters and the details of day-to-day life.
- A Little Princess, by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Ridiculous yet addictive. Oh, Sara Crewe!
- Charlotte Sometimes, by Penelope Farmer. 1969 novel of a girl at boarding school who wakes up as another girl in 1918, and they switch each night. A time-travel story that raises questions about identity and whether the people around you see the “real you.”
- Fangirl, by Rainbow Rowell. Cath and her twin are both freshmen at UN Lincoln; she’s the shy, anxious one and is also semi-secretly a top fanfic author. Romance, friendship, and family drama ensue. (Note: I only just finished this before the end of the year. Curious to see if it stays prominent in my memory or fades.)
- The Gentrification of the Mind, by Sarah Schulman. The interrelation of the AIDS epidemic and its fallout with the gentrification of New York City, followed by ruminations on what has been displaced, forgotten, and lost in gay culture and politics. Outstanding, with personal stories about her choices as a teacher and her interactions with Kathy Acker and other icons.
- Among Others, by Jo Walton. A Welsh girl goes to English boarding school after her twin dies in an auto wreck. The fairies she knew in Wales, are they real or part of her psyche? Many SF and fantasy book shout-outs.
- The Lake, by Banana Yoshimoto, trans. Michael Emmerich. An art student in Tokyo falls for her neighbor, but he has heavy secrets in his past. Liked the even-toned writing style and subtle emotions; my opinion kept flip-flopping on whether this romance was advisable or not.
What my LibraryThing additions don’t reflect is that this was a wonderful year for rereading. Lots of Mary Stoltz. The Ramona books plus Henry and Beezus and Henry Huggins. His Dark Materials. Zahrah the Windseeker. The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks. The Essential Dykes to Watch Out For.
Also, I combined picture books, poetry, comics, and graphic novels into one category, 22 books (including rereads), yet no new Librarything additions are in that category.
Last weekend I took Friday and Monday off work, and Sang and I drove out to Stub Stewart State Park to stay in a one-room cabin, sans internet. The plan was for Sang to study for her comps and me to do my thing of reading, writing, and looking out the window. There were enough trails around that we could also get out for walks as the weather allowed– for example, the bike path where we walked our marathon last month!
We turned on the heat and lights when we arrived at our cozy little cabin. The heater got right to work raising the temperature from 40 degrees to 70, but man, the lights. The lights worked, but they consisted of one small overhead fixture, probably with compact fluorescents inside, and it was DEPRESSING AS HELL.
Sang could see my mental health unraveling as we sat there. At her urging we got back in the car and drove toward Forest Grove, looking for a big-box store that might sell us a couple of lamps for cheap. We walked into the Walmart in Cornelius and Sang started laughing. We were turning to soul-sucking Walmart to stabilize my mood?
So now we are the proud owners of a five-dollar desk lamp and a plastic screw-together floor lamp, and with their help the cabin was cheery and snug for the rest of the weekend! We drank many hot beverages and Sang studied stats like a champ. I read four books:
- To Tell Your Love, by Mary Stolz. Her first YA novel, published in 1950. I’m going to read them all; there’s something I love about her style. I do notice lots of Madeleine-L’Engle-style quoting of literature by the characters to endear them to us bookish artsy types. The book’s prescription: go to college instead of marrying right out of high school. But if you’re pushing 27 or 28, grab your man and no matter if you met him four days ago!
- Charlotte Sometimes, by Penelope Farmer, a 1969 children’s novel of boarding school and time travel. I guess it’s a classic, as everyone I mentioned it to said they’d read it. I liked the spooky identity questions about how to stay yourself and whether anyone but your sister will even notice if you become another person.
- The Residue Years, by Mitchell S. Jackson. Portland setting by an African-American writer from Portland who got his MFA at PSU (but now lives in Brooklyn), a novel about a mother and son fighting poverty and addiction. It had a tragic quality to it that made me think it could be transposed to opera.
- Ask the Passengers, by A.S. King. I had very high expectations for this YA novel, and they were disappointed a little. The characters’ changes did not seem to be believably driven by the events in the story, for me; they seemed to be driven by it being that time in the page-count of the book for them to change. Then again, school bullying and gay-bashing are on my Not Favorite list of topics, and King seems to write about bullying a lot.
And on Monday I started my reread of The Subtle Knife. Boy, he doesn’t worry about explicating via discussion and conversation, does he? And I didn’t remember Will being such a little hardass at the beginning in Cittagazze. There is something about this series that makes me miss my bus stop while reading it, even when I hadn’t thought I was all that absorbed.
Oh, and when we got home I opened the crisper drawer in the fridge and the Cider Fairy had visited and stuffed it full of bottles of delicious Spire Mountain cider! It’s not every day that happens.
I signed up for my first fic exchange, The Exchange at Fic Corner 2013! About a hundred people signed up, and assignments will come out tomorrow. The fandoms I requested are:
Ramona Series – Beverly Clearly
The Melendy Quartet – Elizabeth Enright
Harriet the Spy – Louise Fitzhugh
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler – E. L. Konigsburg
Zahrah the Windseeker – Nnedi Okorafor
His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman
Arlene Sardine – Chris Raschka
The President’s Daughter Series – Ellen Emerson White
As you can probably tell, it’s a kidlit and YA exchange. My letter here has more of my thoughts about these fandoms and what I like and what I wonder.
So I’ve been keeping the Melendy Quartet by my bedside (I like syndicated comic strips or many-times-reread children’s books for bedtime) and reading the chapters all out of order. I wish there were a Great Brain at the Academy type book about Rush at boarding school. That’s the kind of book you dream about reading and then wake up and feel so disappointed that it doesn’t exist after all.
Things I was surprised did not get nominated for The Exchange at Fic Corner: anything by Daniel Pinkwater, The Westing Game, Jean Little’s books about Kate and Emily, the Little House series, and The Hunger Games.
Meanwhile, I read the first book in the British YA adventure series about Alex Rider– Stormbreaker, by Anthony Horowitz. Oh, it reminded me so much of reading Nancy Drew books! Better prose, but since I didn’t notice the bad prose in Nancy Drew as a kid, that felt the same too. Our hero is fourteen and always knows how to land the necessary karate kick, except when he doesn’t and gets tied up. So much aplomb, plus spy toys and a giant Portuguese Man o’ War! There was a movie version, but it got a whopping 33% on Rotten Tomatoes.
ALL I wanted my dad to do was sign the Reba McIntyre CD so I could send it in and get… um, I don’t remember now. But he wouldn’t, suddenly he was saying it was like prostitution and pot-smoking. “It is NOT,” I said, thinking, how are those two things even alike except that they are illegal, which Reba’s disc deal clearly is not, and the only reason you’re conflating them is you’re a RULES-FOLLOWER. DAD.
And then the cat was licking my armpit so we got up to start another long day of thwarting and oppressing her.
I’m rereading The Golden Compass, and relishing the feeling of going slowly, and thinking and looking back at who said what in previous scenes, now that I don’t have to vicariously solve the plot right now by reading. I’m especially taken with the witches so far this time around, particularly in contrast to the daemons. I don’t remember it bothering me before, but the way the unsettled daemons have no conservation of mass (Pantalaimon is sometimes a moth, sometimes a porpoise) tips them too far away from actual animals for me. Then I start thinking about how they don’t interact like animals, and certainly don’t have social groups. Is an animal without its family group or ecosystem really truly that animal? Not quite, for me. It’s all a bit decorative.
The witches, however, are presented as not all one group, and they seem less of a foil to humans than the bears do. I sense complexity in the way they conduct their lives and politics in the natural world. Perhaps it’s this underlying connection that allows them to send their daemons farther away? I haven’t been in the north very long, so there is lots more to reread about them.
omg you guys, there’s a new documentary about Andre Gregory and it’s playing at the art museum on Friday night!