Saturday, July 12, 2008

Vacation reading

Ah! We are back from two weeks in various cities and beaches in the American Southeast, and did we have time to read? We did!

I read:

So Yesterday by Scott Westerfeld
Loved it! The whole "cool hunter" thing is a bit nineties, but you gotta love a good mystery, and a good mystery that is full of cool stuff is even better. Also, Westerfeld's examination of the co-opting of youth trends for mass consumption is straight out of Commodify Your Dissent, a compendium by the folks at The Baffler that every teenager should read before cracking that next can of Monster Mixxd Energy Juice.

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow
(reviewed while I was on vacation in New Orleans, thank you very much)

Farthing by Jo Walton
Technically a grown-up book, I would recommend Farthing to any young adult reader interested in speculative fiction, history, or mystery. It's an illuminating "what-if" novel set in an England that has accepted Hitler's "Peace with Honor" - disguised as an old-fashioned English country house mystery: Gosford Park meets Brazil. There are many discussions involving sexuality, i.e. who is homosexual and who is not, but no sex.

The Nasty Bits: Collected Varietal Cuts, Usable Trim, Scraps, and Bones by Anthony Bourdain
Essays by the author of Kitchen Confidential and The Bobby Gold Stories. I recommend the crap out of Tony Bourdain - but not, typically, for kids. There's the language, not to mention the extremely frank talk about sex and drugs. There are some teenagers, though, especially the ones considering restaurant careers... hey, they should know what they're getting into!

My rising 2nd grader read:

Black Lagoon adventures, books 1-7 by Mike Thaler ; illustrated by Jared Lee
The kid is giggling to himself as he goes through and then reading passages out loud to his younger brother. I'm taking that as a thumbs-up.

My husband read:

How the States Got Their Shapes by Mark Stein
Recommended road trip reading. At every state border, as we hollered out "Good-bye, Georgia!" and "Hello, Alabama!" Bob would have some anecdotal treasure to relate about battles, topography, bureaucratic snafus, and the duplicitousness of Virginia. Luckily, he kept most of them to himself. (I kid! I kid!)

Also, he read The Economist. Also the newspaper. On the beach. I swear, one of these days I'm going to strap him to a chair and force Robert Ludlum down his throat. Or... eww.

On audio:
Our faithful minivan transported us a grand total of 2875 miles. And did we listen to books in the car? We did!

We spent most of our time in the car with Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan. We got through The Lightning Thief, The Sea of Monsters, and The Titan's Curse.

My boys, who are 5 and 6 years old, now know the traits and attributes of all the major Greek gods and a fair number of the minor ones. They cried out for "more Percy" every time we got into the car. Unfortunately for my husband and I, the narrator, Jesse Bernstein, is... well. In addition to a gritted-teeth Queens accent that would make Archie Bunker proud (shtreet, frushtrated, firmiliar, foward, bedgeroom), the guy continually misplaces the emphasis in sentences and phrases. Also? A word to audio book producers? When your narrator encounters the word "ichor" and pronounces it "icker"? Stop the tape and look it up. He does animal voices really well, though.

And at bedtime:
Since the boys share a room, I can read to them both at bedtime, usually a long chapter book, while they fall asleep in their beds. I have read Nurse Matilda, The True Meaning of Smekday, and A Hat Full of Sky in this way. My Boov voice was irresistable, as I predicted, but the Nac Mac Feegles nearly did me in.

On the road I started reading the second Skulduggery Pleasant book, Playing with Fire. I am pleased to report that it is starting out just as sardonic and action-packed as the first book, and I am proud to say that I am working Skulduggery's deep velvet voice almost as well as Rupert Degas, who read that first book so amazingly well that we replayed sections again and again.

Here's to beach chairs, lounge chairs by the pool, couches in shady living rooms. Anywhere you get a chance to just sit and read. That's vacation, baby.

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