Thursday, February 28, 2013

a few words on February's reads...

So this was graphic novels theme month. And oh lordy, how I loved it! If I do themed reading months again next year (which I'm strongly leaning towards at this point), graphic novels will definitely get a month again. And it was super-duper extra fun because Chris and Lu read comics too! I already made posts about most of the graphic novels I read, but there were a few other books thrown in this month for various reasons, so here's a few words on those...

*Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol and Chiggers by Hope Larson and French Milk by Lucy Knisley and Same Difference by Derek Kirk Kim and Friends With Boys by Faith Erin Hicks. These first five I already half-assedly (that's a word, yes?) talked about here.

*The Pigman by Paul Zindel. An oldie, first published in 1968 I think--I actually could have read this book when I was a kid. Though if I did, I don't remember it. (And that is not a point against the book, it is a point against my brain and its powers, or lack thereof, of memory.) It's the story of two high school friends, sort of loner-ish except for each other. John and Lorraine. They would sometimes play a crank call game where the object was to keep the person on the line for as long as possible. And one day, they place a call that literally changes their lives. Lorraine calls a Mr. Pignati...and it marks the beginning of an odd, somewhat hard to navigate, friendship between these two teenagers and this lonely older man.

It's not as sweet as it sounds, however. I mean, it is beautiful watching the changes that come over all three of them. But there's a lot more going on here...and it's not all pretty. I hesitate to say much more, for fear of being spoilery.

Knowing very little about this book, I chose it for one of Gray's school reads. And yeah, I think it's a choice I'm happy about it. There are a few things that need to be discussed though. For one thing, the word "retard" is tossed around as an insult a few times. :( For another, there's a gag-worthy little sexist bit. I suspect that Gray will bring these both up with me, but if not, I will surely start those discussions.

*The Night Watch by Sarah Waters. Wow. Yeah, seriously, wow. I read this book for Long-Awaited-Reads-All-Because-of-Ana Month...just didn't quite finish it in January. I loved it from the second I opened its cover and started reading...and honestly, that sort of surprised me. I've wanted to read something by Sarah Waters for a long time, and yet was somewhat intimidated. Well, that was pure foolishness! There is nothing intimidating about her writing. It is beautiful and down-to-earth and just so damn honest. Beautiful seems an odd choice of words, in a way, because honestly, this book destroyed me.

The Night Watch follows four people's intertwined lives. Some of the connections are strong and obvious, but others are brief and yet powerful. The structure of the book is interesting, and I admit that I doubted I would "approve" as I began reading. There are three sections in the book--the first set in 1947, the second in 1944, and the third in 1941--and I just didn't believe it possible to pull off the storytelling so effectively in this manner. Oh but Sarah Waters, she proved me wrong but good!

It is set in London, and as you likely noticed, during and shortly after WWII. It is told with beauty and with brutality and with subtlety in somewhat equal shares. We witness some of the overwhelming sacrifices, pain, unfairness, oppression that war brings to everyone, not just the soldiers in the field. Yeah, I really just can't explain why it is that I love this book so, but I do. Deeply. I know I'm supposed to be keeping these short, but I just had to share one of the 50 or so quotes I marked in the book:

He lost his footing, then righted himself and went on without speaking. Partridge was coughing because of the dust. Mickey was rubbing grit from her eyes. The chaos was extraordinary. Every time Kay put down her feet, things cracked beneath them, or wrapped themselves around her ankles: broken window-glass mixed up with broken mirrors, crockery, chairs and tables, curtains, carpets, feathers from a cushion or a bed, great splinters of wood. The wood surprised Kay, even now: in the days before the war she'd imagined that houses were made more or less solidly, of stone--like the last Little Pig's in the fairy tale. What amazed her, too, was the smallness of the piles of dirt and rubble to which even large buildings could be reduced. This house had had three intact floors to it, an hour before; the heap of debris its front had become was no more than six or seven feet high. She supposed that house, after all--like the lives that were lived in them--were mostly made of space. It was the spaces, in fact, that counted, rather than the bricks.

*The Dead of the Night by John Marsden. Yep, Max and I finished up the second in the Tomorrow series. And yes, we're still loving it. Okay, in the interest of full disclosure, there was one chapter that Max did not love. And this is mildly spoiler-ish, so do stop reading if you'd prefer. One word: sex. Max was not impressed. :p

Anyway, this book picks up where the first left off. And the first ended with some pretty major it was nice to be able to pick up book two and find out what happened. But because this book does continue the overall story line, it's a bit difficult to talk about about and avoid spoiling the first book. Suffice it to say that Ellie and friends are still trying to navigate this new world that's been thrust upon them, still trying to hold onto their own sanity. I love it for not trying to sanitize the ugliness of war and not trying to make these characters perfect. As much as I'm hoping for the war to end (and I've honestly no idea if it does by the end of this series), I'm really going to miss these characters when we've finished all the books. Luckily that won't be for a while yet.

*Wandering Son Volume 3 by Takako Shimuri and Sita's Ramayana by Samhita Arni and Moyna Chitrakar and Tyranny by Lesley Fairfield were talked about here.

*A Game for Swallows: To Die, To Leave, To Return by Zeina Abirached and Castle Waiting by Linda Medley and The Lindbergh Child  and The Lives of Sacco and Vanzetti, both by Rick Geary, and Castle Waiting Volume Two by Linda Medley and Deogratias: A Tale of Rwanda by J.P. Stassen and Americus by MK Reed and Jonathan Hill and Page by Paige by Laura Lee Gulledge and Retrovirus by Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti, and Norberto Fernandez and Avatar: The Last Airbender The Promise Part Three by Gene Luen Yang and Gurihiru and Lola: A Ghost Story by J. Torres and Elbert Or and Revival Volume One: You're Among Friends by Tim Seeley and Mike Norton (whew!) were all blathered about here.

*The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi. The one graphic novel that didn't make it into one of the comics posts. I knew before I began that I would love this book--I mean, nearly everyone I know has already read it and loved it, so I pretty much knew I couldn't go wrong. And yet still I was slightly surprised by *how much* I loved it. And by how much I learned. (I swear I am amazed on a daily basis by the breadth of my ignorance!) Anyway, in case you've never heard of it, it's a coming of age sort of graphic memoir. Satrapi grows up in revolutionary Iran in a loving family, a family that believes strongly in freedom.

In the introduction, Satrapi writes:

...this old and great civilization has been discussed mostly in connection with fundamentalism, fanaticism, and terrorism. As an Iranian who has lived more than half my life in Iran, I know that this image is far from the truth. This is why writing Persepolis was so important to me. I believe that an entire nation should not be judged by the wrongdoings of a few extremists. I don't want those Iranians who lost their lives in prisons defending freedom, who died in the war against Iraq, who suffered under various repressive regimes, or who were forced to leave their families and flee their homeland to be forgotten.
Seems to me she did a beautiful job of doing what she set out to do.

*A Killing Frost by John Marsden. Max and I just finished this one. I really don't know what to say about it. Maybe if I had a little time to think about it, I could say something more helpful than it continues where the last one left off. Something more helpful than this series just seems to get better and better. Something more helpful than it, just as the others before it, kept the adrenaline pumping. But as I want to get this post up before March arrives, I guess this will have to do. I suppose I could mention that I'm feeling a bit shell-shocked. And that it got a bit tough reading this aloud through those final pages due to the tears and the snot and choking feeling in my throat. And that despite falling in love with so many characters throughout my life, I'm still sometimes surprised by how much fictional characters can burrow into my heart so deeply. I could just say that I really love this series. And so does Max. With a passion.

And with March arriving tomorrow, it's time for food and gardening theme month! I might just be a little too excited about it though. Here's a picture of my possibles pile:

And this was after several weedings...I just can't cut it down any further. Which is sort of silly, considering I'll likely only get four or five of them read. :P


Susan said...

The pile of your books made me smile. And laugh. And now I'm trying to read the titles! lol I like how you've weeded the pile down too, Debi :-) I'd say it's safe to say we both have an addiction to books, wouldn't you?

I LOVED Persepolis when I read it a few years ago too. It's an amazing, powerful graphic novel, and it lives on in my mind and heart - I find myself reliving parts of it, thinking it over, even now, a few years later. I am so glad I read it. I"m really happy you loved it too.

Happy graphic reading month for you! I look forward to how you're going to add to my gardening books this month! Have fun with them. I desperately need some green too. I was looking at seeds and nurseries online earlier this week, just to get the feeling of being in the garden in May. Two months to go!

Ali said...

Oh my.
Between "One word: sex. Max was not impressed," and the pile of food/gardening books? You just totally made my night.

I am still laughing.

Vasilly said...

I love your stack of books for March. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle along with Wicked Plants, and The American Way of Eating are all on my tbr list. Happy reading.

Buried In Print said...

What a great theme for February, and you picked some great books for it too! Oh my, The Pigman was such a favourite of mine...I still have my tattered old copy (I also loved his Pardon Me, You're Stepping on My Eyeball, but have no idea if it would stand up to a re-read so many years later!) Hope you have as many satisfying reads in March!