"Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested." (Francis Bacon)

Monday, July 14, 2014

Do You Tumblr?

This list of book-related Tumblrs is awesome. If I followed half of them, I wouldn't ever move away from my computer.

I don't post much on Tumblr, mostly just read, but my Tumblr is Random Shelly.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Blood-Dimmed Tide

TITLE: The Blood-Dimmed Tide
AUTHOR: Rennie Airth

The second historical mystery featuring John Madden, now retired from Scotland Yard. The first, River of Darkness, took place in England in the years just after World War I. This book jumps to 1932. Madden is retired and living the life of a gentleman farmer with his doctor wife and their two children when a girl in the area goes missing. Joining the search for her, Madden is the one who discovers her brutalized body. Much as he knows his wife would prefer he leave detecting to the official authorities, he can't leave the investigation alone, but the book is told from multiple perspectives, including Madden's former Scotland Yard colleagues. The Whodunit is established fairly early on, a man well-trained in disguises, deceit, and losing himself who also possesses the urge to savage adolescent girls. The book is more than a mystery, being as much character studies and a look at the times as Europe faces troubling events occurring in Germany that could spill across those borders. Airth's writing is simple, yet elegant, and despite a penchant for telling his tale in what feels like forced flashbacks within each scene -- a chapter will start at point B, then quickly fill in info from point A -- that stylistic narrative choice didn't hinder my enjoyment. On to book three, The Dead of Winter!

Friday, June 06, 2014

Book Shaming

So, someone on Slate named Ruth Graham tried to shame adults for reading YA novels. It's editorials like that that make me think Slate is overrated. I tried to read the article, but it goes on and on, mostly about "The Fault in Our Stars," book and movie. There was too much about the story than I wanted to know -- I don't like spoilers -- and because the author was irritating me. How dare someone tell anyone what they should be ashamed of. Well, if someone was telling someone he or she should be ashamed of mugging old people, or otherwise doing nasty things to others, yeah, that's fine. But to try to shame people over their choice of reading material? In the word of a native New Yorker: Fuhgeddaboutit.

I left a comment on the io9.com article about it that was written in opposition to the Slate editorial. I said:
"I was a YA librarian for 8 years. And for those 8 years, part of my job was to read and review and booktalk books geared toward a teen audience. Some of my favorite books are among those YA novels. 
It's not just a marketing term. It's also irrelevant. People should read what they want to read. It doesn't matter what age level the books are written for or marketed to. The Harry Potter series is a children's series, yet people from 6 or 7 to 100 or so read them. Superhero comics have traditionally been marketed to boys but that didn't stop me from reading them, starting in 1960. I read adult books when I was a kid, adult and kid books in my teens, and as an adult, I read every age level book I want. One of the best books I've ever read was a children's book: Holes by Louis Sachar. I read it as a middle-aged adult. Other than authors and publishers wanting people to read their books, no one should care what other people are reading. As a retired librarian, I'm just happy people are reading." 
I really was bothered by the author of the article defending adults reading YA novels by calling YA lit a marketing term. Which it is, of course, along with genre labels and even the decision to dispense with genre labels when they think an author can break out to a wider audience. But YA novels are written in a certain way. They focus on teen characters, with strong pov that keeps the focus on the particular issues teens deal with, like puberty and acceptance, even while dealing with the larger realm they live in. Sometimes, it's the conflict of trying to be an adult as their realm requires vs their struggle to mature, deal with hormones, and so on. You'd be more likely to find adults eager to read about characters ranging from childhood to old age. Teens are more likely to want to read about characters their age and a few years older. It's the rare YA novel that would be focused on an 80-year-old. Or an 8-year-old.

YA novels tend to not have digressions into rhetoric or authorial editorializing. And since they cover readers from 12 through 19, they vary in their vocabulary. They also don't feel the need to toss in an obligatory sex scene, though they might cover sexual experiences. I'd say they tend to be shorter than adult literature, but there are so many exceptions these days, starting with the Harry Potter books, which were written for children, covering a lot of YA fantasy and science fiction. One reason I love YA fiction is how, when good, it tends to get to the heart of a story and not meander. Character development tends to be strong and the writing clear.

Bottom line: read what you want. And don't let anyone make you feel bad about it.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

The World at Night

TITLE: The World at Night
AUTHOR: Alan Furst

I've read many books by Alan Furst -- and plan to read them all -- and have become addicted to the details he puts into his World War II-era novels set in Europe. Many of them, as does this one, is set in France, and this one focuses on Parisian Jean Claude Casson, a film producer who gets caught up in the affairs of war, resistance, and spycraft despite his best efforts to be left alone to work and love in the manner he did both before the Germans came.

This is the first of Furst's books to feature Casson; unfortunately, not realizing it at the time, I'd read the second one (Red Gold) years ago, and now, finally, have read this one. Despite knowing how it ends, this was an exciting read. First, recalled to active duty to fight the invading Germans, Casson spends a few harrowing weeks with a unit filming the war for newsreel footage. The French are overwhelmed, German occupation begins, and back in Paris, Casson is approached by contacts from the film industry, one who wants him to continue making movies and another who asks him to participate in a scheme against the Germans. Reluctantly, Casson agrees to both; the former reunites him with the actress he loves and the latter puts them both in danger.

The beauty of Furst's books is his ability to realistically recreate time and place, putting the reader into the story. I hope there's a third book featuring Casson because I really want to know what happens to him.