Reading Updates #22 & 23

SGF Reading

Reading Update: Today is Thursday, June 12. It is summer break and I have completely forgotten to do my reading updates for the past week and a half. Take me out of the school and my internal calendar completely breaks down! As of today I have read 59 books toward my new goal of 100 books.

Since last time, I’ve read the following three books:


Crown of Midnight is book two in a series and manages a rare feat: it is a rare sequel that greatly surpasses the first book! I thought book 1 was sort of meh, but something about the story brought me back for book 2. Now I’m aggravated that I have to wait for book 3 (and am planning to read the prequel collection pretty soon here). I’m also a little disturbed about this book’s popularity with preteen boys; they DEFINITELY warrant a YA sticker by the time we get to Crown!

Finally finished up volume 1 of The Absolute Sandman.  I feel like it’s kind of wrong to rate it because I’m caught mid-story, so I don’t really know how the whole thing will fall together. At this stage I ended up giving it a 4 of 5, just because it hadn’t yet earned that fifth star for me (unfinished story) and because I still, as always, struggle with the visual format. I’m just such a wordie, and I don’t find it easy to read a narrative with so much left unsaid. Comic books (which this is, really, as opposed to a graphic novel) always leave me a little disoriented.

I picked up Affliction because I had to. I’m a devotee of this series even though it has started to SUCK (and not in a vampire way). To my complete and utter glee, this was actually a good book! It had a plot! Things happened! Not just things, but things OTHER THAN sexcapades and long philosophical conversations! Yeah, there was a zombie apocalypse, and I’m not much of a zombie person, but this book was good old-fashioned classic Anita Blake and I loved it. Here’s hoping Hamilton has more like it in mind for books 23+.

Currently Reading: Right now I’m s-l-o-w-l-y reading an issue of Mental Floss, because that’s about where my ability to focus is these days.

Looking Ahead: The Maas prequels, maybe?

Reading Update #11

SGF Reading SPD

Reading Update: It is Monday, March 17 — St. Patrick’s Day! I’m wearing green but sadly am not reading a green book, although we did make a green book display for the library. As of today, I have read 26 books toward my goal of 52 and am, evidently, halfway there. The four most recent books are a baby book (Fox Makes Friends), a kid’s book (Odd and the Frost Giants), an adult anthology of fantasy, science fiction, and paranormal fiction (Strange Candy), and an adult horror-parody (Paul is Undead: The British Zombie Invasion).


What shall I say about Paul is Undead? It was clever, funny, and a pretty nicely done zombie parody. It was also gross and full of zombies, which for me is not a recommendation. That said, I read the entire thing — and I’m not known to finish books unless I want to. I recommended it to a few different zombiephiles but didn’t care to keep it after I finished reading.

Fox Makes Friends is a prettily illustrated book about how we can’t force friendships, but that friendships grow naturally out of doing things together. Very cute. Definitely a good one for the preschool/kindergarten set.

I’m addicted to Laurell K. Hamilton (or at least her Anita books) in much the same way one is addicted to junk food. I know it’s not good, but I just can’t help myself. I hadn’t yet read this collection of her short fiction, and was pretty excited to get a copy of it for fifty cents. As it turns out, the collection is pretty hit-and-miss. Her introductory notes are often bitter, making me wonder how many professional bridges she’s burned down. Some of the stories suffered from insufficient editing, and several were forgettable, but many of them were captivating enough that their worlds and characters are still occupying space in my brain and making me crave another installment.

And then Odd and the Frost Giants. I fear I feel that Neil Gaiman can do no wrong, so I’m hardly an unbiased judge of this book. I got it at the used book sale and was surprised to find that it was a book written at the older elementary/early middle school level; I’d been under the impression that it was a picture book, hence having not yet read it. Odd is a little story about a twelve-year-old Viking boy who falls in with some down-on-their-luck Norse gods just in time to save the universe. It will be surprising to no one that the book was reminiscent to me of American Gods, and I’ll have to be forgiven if it also made me think about the recent Thor movies; although I wasn’t picturing Hemsworth and Hiddleston in their Odd roles, I definitely imagined Gaiman’s Odin being played by Hopkins. I was also reminded of an old childhood favorite of mine, Ludo and the Star Horse, which I would like to find and bring to our library at some point.

Currently Reading: I’m not exactly sure I’m actively reading anything. I feel like I ought to finish City of Dark Magic, but it’s not exactly calling to me, so we’ll see. I’m not giving up on the others yet, either (Book of Deadly Animals and Far from the Tree) but don’t exactly expect to make any progress on those in the next few days. Really, I need something light right now. Something easy and fun to read for those of us whose infant sons are on a sleep strike.

Looking Ahead: I need to start (and finish) Let the Great World Spin for book club, but I’m feeling a smidgen intimidated by it right now; it looks as though I’m going to have to pay attention to it, and I’m a wee bit sleep deprived for that. I’ve also got Made in the U.S.A. on standby. We’ll see what I actually accomplish by next Monday….


Reading Update #10

SGF Reading



Reading Update: It is Monday, March 10, and as of today I have read 22 books toward my goal of 52. Yep — one book in a whole week, and it was a graphic novel (Saints). I am On A Roll.

So. Saints.


Saints is the second act (companion piece? flip side of the coin?) of Boxers, which I’d read and commented on last week. Ultimately, I was disappointed by Saints; it was noticeably shorter and, IMHO, lesser than its other half. My perspective of self, faith, history, etc., was challenged by the first book, but the second merely seemed like a story. I wanted to be shaken up all over again, y’know? Sooooo… final verdict is, definitely read these. But read them back-to-back, without a delay in between, and don’t expect Saints to be as devastating and groundbreaking as Boxers. Everyone needs to read BoxersSaints — well, it probably didn’t need to be written, honestly. Boxers would be just about as good without it. But that’s just my opinion, and I know it won’t be shared by a lot of readers/reviewers, so take it or leave it.

Currently Reading: Last week I got less reading accomplished because I was setting up and running a used book sale in our library, which made for a great deal of dangerous temptations for the impulsive book-collector. I bought a lot of fascinating looking books.

Of those, I’ve started reading City of Dark Magic by Magnus Flyte and Paul is Undead: The British Zombie Invasion by Alan Goldsher. Strictly speaking, I am not loving either one — but I’m reading them, and that counts for something.

Looking Ahead: A sampling of the intriguing orphaned books I’ve adopted and may be picking up in the near future:

click to embiggen

click to embiggen

Review: Zombie Baseball Beatdown

Zombie-Baseball-Beatdown-by-Paolo-BacigalupiThis review originally posted at Guys Lit Wire.

Recently, I ordered several books for our school library, including this much-hyped middle grade novel about immigration reform. I mean, about conditions in the meat processing industry. No! It’s about corruption in the legal system based on the evils of money. Ack! What I am trying to say is, a novel about ZOMBIES. Yeah, that’s right! It’s about zombies, and baseball. Or so I am reminded, when I look at the cover….

Okay, I should be fair. This was actually a pretty darn good book for what it is, and even though I’m about to point out its weaknesses, it overall gets a thumbs-up from me. Zombie Baseball Beatdown by Paolo Bacigalupi is a grody, funny adventure story of the classic “groups of kids running around with curiously little parental supervision” sub-genre. It’s a buddy story, written in an accessible style, with plenty of the stuff that middle school boys like: slapstick, comic books, sports, video games, cars, oblivious adults, crazy heroics, poop. You know: the good stuff. I found myself smiling, compulsively turning pages, reading choice bits aloud, and rooting for the good guys. It was a fun read.

On the other hand, Zombie Baseball Beatdown is also a not-at-all veiled polemic against racism, the meat industry, American immigration policy, and big business. As my husband, who is an expert in such things, reminds me, zombies are always political metaphors. And of course, subtlety isn’t really in order when you’re writing middle grade literature. That said, ZBB really lays it on thick. My personal politics weren’t offended by the book, but it didn’t take much imagination to realize that plenty of readers would be completely turned off by the story’s message and end up walking away from what was otherwise a fun story. Obviously the use of fiction to promulgate ideology is nothing new (hello, pretty much everything you ever had to read for a high school English class) but a lighter hand with the vituperation might not have been uncalled-for here.

As an adult reader of a kid’s book, I was uncomfortable with the violent ideation. It bothered me that almost all of the protagonists’ (adult) nemeses conveniently got zombified, providing the kids with ample excuse to beat them up with baseball bats. I mean, I’m not so far gone that I can’t see how this would appeal to a middle schooler’s sense of justice; heck, some of these adults were so rotten before become zombies that I wanted to smack them myself. But there are a few violent (for a middle grade novel) moments where the kids get to deliver what ought to have been fatal beatings to adults in their lives, and they left me feeling a little disturbed. The inevitable zombie apocalypse scene blithely glosses over the fact that the kids are bludgeoning their erstwhile parents and neighbors.

Looking back on the novel, I realize that there are really no positive adults in this book, and ZBB fails the Bechdel Test big time. I’m not really counting that as a flaw here; it’s clearly a book intended for young guys, and the characters are pretty awesome. Our main character is a smart (but not caricature-smart) Indian-American boy who isn’t much of a baseball player but has a good head for stats. One of his friends is a courageous, big-hearted Mexican-American boy from a family of illegal immigrants, and the other is a Martin Riggs type with a rough home life. Together, the trio face enemies small, large, bovine, and undead. The ending is deliberately untidy, in such a way that felt exactly right to me and will frustrate the heck out of its target demographic.

Ultimately, this is a book that I’ll still sincerely recommend to kids who will either gloss over the politics or not mind them, and it’ll have a prominent place in our Halloween book display next October. It may make Cory Doctorow’s YA lit look subtle in comparison, but Zombie Baseball Beatdown is also a zombie-infested revenge fantasy filled with lots of cow poop — what’s not to love?