Saturday, April 23, 2011

Speed Reviews: The Class Edition

Now nearly 17 books behind in my review, things have gotten so far out of control I must categorize my speed reviews. This week I finished the last of the reading for my YA Literature class. 1 book review, 1 defense paper, 1 discussion and I'm done with school (until I prep for my summer class that I'm teaching and start my LIS summer classes. . . and finish grading the class I'm teaching. It's a good thing I like school.) So to finish up here are the books that I read for class and my thoughts about them:

A Curse as Dark as Gold
The assigned reading for retold fairy tales week. Loved it. The tale of Rumpelstiltskin in expanded and detailed form. Rumpelstiltskin is one of those semi-overlooked fairy tales. Everyone kind of knows it but it's not been made into a Disney classic or anything so it's still really fresh. This version sticks the story in old world not quite industrialized Europe, but could be America, and then spins it out of control with curses and forces beyond our understanding. Sometimes crazy stuff just happens and science and reason can't explain it. This story deals with that. It's good.

Fun Home
Not my cup of tea. Don't read in public. (It has a couple of explicit pages.) I think in general the graphic novel/memoir genre is geared toward the dark comedy. There are mildly humorous parts but a lot of it is depressing and this one in particular just didn't suit.

Toads and Diamonds
Another retold fairy tale for discussion this time. The fairy tale about one sister who speaks jewels and flowers and another who speaks various forms of reptiles is not one who is widely known. It was vaguely familiar to me, but I didn't know much of the story. But this was an interesting variation nonetheless. Setting in an India-like country, the gifts are bestowed by the goddess, Naghali, and can be good. The native culture honors snakes for their ability to keep away rodents while the invading culture of a different religion despises them. It really brings a post-modern, girl power light to general traditional fairy tales.

Every Bone Tells a Story
I totally don't get YA non-fiction. It has some value in the classroom, but I think in general high school students don't need non-fiction at "their level." Books that are particularly aimed at YA interests also make some sense. But I think a general introduction to anthropology would be just as good. As it stands, this book is fine--a nice introduction to four of the skeletons used to understand early hominins.

Young Adult Literature: From Romance to Realism

This was our YA Lit text. While I think the author refers to his own work a little too much, I suppose he really does have some clout to do so it must be excusable. This covers much of the history of YA lit from SE Hinton to present day favs and special topics within the field. It's a good overview, but pricey...

The Rise and Fall of Senator Joe McCarthy
Sigh. Joe McCarthy wasn't a good person. I understand him better from this book, but still...
Also, the guy cites Wikipedia as his sources. He uses lots of other good resources too, but still Wikipedia and a print encyclopedia? Explained the right way, it makes some sense, but he doesn't do that. And if this is for YA in an educational setting, I wouldn't encourage youth to use it for a source.

The Adoration of Jenna Fox
Jenna wakes up from an 18 month coma and tries to make sense of her life. She has no memory of her life before, but her parents have given her all the videos of her life up until the accident. As Jenna tries to piece her life together she discovers all sorts of secrets about her parents, her neighbors, her friends, and herself. While Feed was science-scary, this is science-thought provoking. Pearson allows the reader to come to their own conclusions about the science in the novel. That was a very refreshing take on the sci-fi novel.

And thus ends the 24 books I read over this semester. Looking for Alaska and The Hunger Games were also assigned but since I has such vivid memories of those novels, I wrote the reviews from memory. And I still have 9 reviews to do... :-)

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