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June 3rd, 2009 browsing by day


Reading Roundup

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009

And here we are, ready to review the week in books. It’s been a big week for both starts and finishes, and one of the titles holds a place near and dear to me so it gets a bit more air time, as it were. Trust me, it is deserving.

The Last Olympian, Rick Riordan

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I hate to end a series read on a sour note, but I think I found this to be the least inspired of the books in the Percy Jackson series. A big part of that may simply be that I read it after reading so many other YA fantasy series, and some of the premises are typical to the genre. However, I did feel as though a few key points were a bit too reminiscent of those in a certain very popular series about a certain other protagonist coming of age and facing a final battle.
I can only imagine that creating characters and prose that grow with your readers is something for which few adults have a natural talent. That being said, I enjoyed these books immensely for what they were: easy, engaging reads, with simple but well turned out plots, with characters to whom most readers can relate on some level. I may pick up others of Riordan’s novels to see if his adult books are as vastly superior writing-wise as Brandon Sanderson’s adult novels are in comparison to Alcatraz.

Herland, Charlotte Perkins Gilman

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I first read Gilman’s short story, “The Yellow Wallpaper,” and was captivated by it, and by her. Herland, the story of three young men who find themselves in a country that has been devoid of males for some two thousand years, is nearly a century old and still strikingly applicable in modern day society. It’s only a hundred and forty-some pages in the Dover Thrift, and a swift read – highly recommended for anyone with an anthropological/sociological bent, or feminist/women’s activism interests.

Lessons from the Fat-o-sphere, Kate Harding and Marianne Kirby


Marianne Kirby has been a LiveJournal friend of mine for several years, since I saw a photo shoot of her with long braids, a lacy black bra and panties set, a couple of fresh limes, and a coy smile. Doesn’t sound like a big deal (unless you have a citrus fetish), but here’s what really got me – she was fat. Not like, a little pudgy. Fat, like 5’4″, and three hundred pounds. Fat like me.

And she was HOT.

If that weren’t enough, she was also quirky, funny, and damn smart. After following her writing for a while, I knew it wouldn’t be long before she got a book deal if that’s what she wanted, and the result is every bit as good as her LiveJournal and her fat activist blog, The Rotund, led me to believe it would be.

The first few chapters of the book are full of true laugh-out-loud moments. If you’re familiar with either Kate’s or Marianne’s online personality, you can often tell whose words you’re reading. It’s like sitting down for a late lunch with your best girlfriends, with pitchers of margaritas kept full at all times.
Like that same late lunch where, once a few margaritas have been thrown back and the lighthearted catching up is out of the way, you get into the real nitty gritty of what’s going on in your lives, the book takes a turn for the more intense in the last third or so. I felt truly overwhelmed by much of what was discussed in the last few chapters in particular, and upon finishing, I wanted to go immediately back and begin again, annotating as I went.

This is not just an anti-diet book. This is not just a fat-positive book. This is not just a feminist book. This is a couple of best friends whispering everything you need to hear about your value as a person, in black and white in front of your face. You know that scene in Good Will Hunting where Robin Williams’s character says “It’s not your fault,” over and over and OVER until Will finally breaks down? That’s what this book is like. Highly recommended for anyone who has ever suffered from low self-image or self-worth because of body image issues. Otherwise known as “everyone.”

The Phantom Tollbooth, Norton Juster

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I read this in my youth, but didn’t appreciate it as fully as I did this time around. The wordplay is so much fun, and some of the descriptive passages are just wonderful. So many great characters – the Everpresent Wordsnatcher was my favorite, I think – and quirky adventures. I highly recommend this to anyone who is experiencing a reading rut; it’s a good funk breaker!

Oliver Twist, Charles Dickens


It’s so bittersweet when I discover an author I should have met so very long ago: wonderful to have found him now, but all those years NOT reading Dickens, WASTED!

OK, maybe that’s a bit dramatic, but really, I was in love with the language of this book from the very first sentence, far more than the story. I could – and probably will – read Dickens forever without tiring of his prose. The humor, what I would call “snark” today, is brilliant, and the descriptions of those moments in life which we all experience but can never quite capture – he does capture them, in such a way that makes you nod and say, “Yes! That’s exactly how it is!”


For books started this week, we’ve got Brandon Sanderson’s The Well of Ascension, book two in the Mistborn Trilogy; Susan Collins’s The Hunger Games, a Battle Royale/Lord of the Flies esque story; Magic Kingdom for Sale – SOLD!, the first book in Terry Brooks’s Landover series; and Arthur Conan Doyle’s A Study in Scarlet, my new e-read, as I’ve completed Oliver Twist.

How about you?