Monday, September 07, 2009

Hooray for Holidays

A few weeks ago, I cleaned out my book shelves. This pile (pictured, left) is all my ARCs: 60 books (including the 3 I read this weekend), plus 2 little postcards to access ARCs online. Daunted by my pile, I have returned nearly all of my library books (there's a small stack of nonfiction on my nightstand I still want, and I'm not turning in Mercy Watson without finishing them all) and attacked the stack. The ones I've read I'm largely giving away, so just email or comment. Dragon Spear, by Jessica Day George. ARC--Chicago. This item is part of a 3-book series; it's the last one, of course, and I'd not even heard of the other 2, much less read them. It doesn't stand up very well on its own, so I certainly can't recommend it as a solo novel. The book was fair: Creel is a strong female character, but she could be anywhere between 12 and 20-- it doesn't say in the book, and her actions are kind of all over the place and not a good indicator of her age. My library has all 3 books in Children's Services. We used to have the first two in the YA Room, but those have been weeded; why, I could not say, since I don't think I did it. The ending is twee and sappy, all nicely wrapped with pink ribbons, which is no good. I don't like stories that end on a cliff hanger, but endings like this are right out of romance novels and just as realistic. It seems to me that people who read stories with dragons in them want the stories to be *about* dragons, not just feature them as secondary characters and include little information on them. They are part of a whole world unlike ours, and they are like nothing we have. Readers need more information. In terms of print-readiness, I've read ARCs from all over the spectrum. This one has a lot of surface errors, typo-type stuff like having open quotes instead of closed quotes, or the comma on the wrong side of the quotation mark, etc. I think the care with which an item is proofread says alot. If the first two novels circulate at your library, buy this book: it doesn't suck. If you have not yet purchased the two, there is nothing about this book that compels you to do so now. Messed Up, by Janet Nichols Lynch. ARC--Denver. What a great book for reluctant readers! If I have any budget left, I'll buy it for my collection. I tried to get into Response, but just couldn't. This book, however, has just the right balance of the urban and the literary-- " 'I don't wanna make no babies,' I sez" (p. 120)-- balancing some slang (mostly altered verb forms) and fragmented dialogue with full sentences in R.D.'s narration. It doesn't shy away from hard topics (alcohol abuse, gangs, violence), but those aren't the focus of the book; they are just elements of R.D.'s life and he deals with them the best he can. It's first person, present tense, which I usually don't like but which works well with R.D.'s voice behind it. I know alot of people, personally and by acquaintance, who couldn't or haven't grown up as much as this character. Without any prodding from adults, R.D. figures out what he needs to do to stay at home and he does it. Runner, by Carl Deuker. ARC--ancient. Several years ago, before I started library school, I started finding ARCs at the lending library in the Daily Grind. I thought it was amazing! I figured one of the English faculty were somehow getting these marvelous things and wasn't I lucky to be the one to find them! Then I started grad school and found out that, though coveted, they aren't so special. A significant portion of my stack are these ARCs that amazed me, but which then got lost in the move(s) and pushed aside by the homework. Still, they deserve to be read. Ignoring the rest of the content, I enjoyed reading the book because the main character lives on the waterfront in Seattle. It was nice to be reminded of the salty stench of the docks, and hear the nicknames of the colleges in the region. I haven't actually spent so much time in Seattle myself-- I much prefer the rain forest--that I recognize the specific venues and can picture the streets, but it's close enough to home to make me like it just for that. Beginning this, you'd think it's actually a lot like Messed Up: a mid-teens boy is faced with tough decisions, and makes the best of a bad situation. The ending, though, comes way out of left field. While I suppose I can imagine something like this happening, it seems so unlikely that it's nearly preposterous. A less far-fetched but equally dramatic ending would have worked better, I feel. The book also ends with very little resolution: the main character finds no answers as to why these events happened (I think you aren't supposed to notice that, since he doesn't ask), and, while the character has options at the end, he has very little sense of hope for the future. Reluctant boy readers who are maybe a shade young for Messed Up may like this one: the character is slightly older, but it doesn't have some of the difficult themes (sex, gangs) as other books. There are still difficult questions posed to the reader, but this book might get less flack from parents.

1 comment:

Ms. Yingling said...

Runner is hugely popular in my library. Both of my copies are almost worn out.