Tuesday, August 23, 2011

What I'm Reading Wednesdays: Aug. 24

For the WWW weekly blog meme:

What I finished reading:

"My Life, the Theater and Other Tragedies" by Allen Zadoff: This backstage novel uses some conventional YA riffs to tell a story about a teenager in love with the theater -- particularly in lighting design -- who must prevail over depression (the result of his father's death), his mother's grief, high school cliques and love. The novel has something of a cardboard bad guy, and the line between techie and cast member is a little too neat -- certainly not my experience in high school. Zadoff's prose is serviceable, and the main character feels genuine pain. Also, I liked the chapter heading references to Shakespeare (it's four days to a potentially disastrous production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream"). An Amazon Vine offering.

"The Magicians" by Lev Grossman: Another "guy novel," one that merges the struggle of not knowing who you are (a problem that seems to afflict high-achieving Brooklyn students quite a bit) set amid a reference-laden world of magic. Grossman's flights of fancy are numerous and spectacular (one set piece turns his characters into geese for a spectacular flight), and he layers the action with  a great deal of young-adult angst, sex and gritty, realistic characters. What if you're aiming for Princeton but end up at an upstate school for magicians? What if you were doing magic tricks that turn out to have real magic in them? What if magic enables you to get everything you want? And what if the fantasy world you dreamed of visiting turned out to be tainted? The central character is highly sympathetic, even as he makes mistakes and a does lot of unsympathetic things. The key here is that these characters re steeped in fantasy fiction, and their knowledge of that fiction (particularly Harry Potter) sometimes gets in the way of their objectives, or even their perception of reality. This novel is extremely exciting; I'm looking forward to the sequel.

"Language of Others" by Clare Morrall: I've been listening to the book for some time on my MP3 player in the car. It took me a long time to get through most of it; then I had to reload it, and for some reason I wasn't able to get NetLibrary's download to work. So I requested the novel from ILL, and I was able to pick up where I had left off listening and finish the book. That said, this novel looks at a girl, a skilled musician, who is shut off from other people (knowledgeable readers will know why, although she doesn't) and how she grows up to deal with a bad marriage (to a narcissistic ex-violinist) and a troubled son. The novel is set partly at Audlands, a falling-down stately home of England where the main character grew up. For Jessie, the main character, the novel depicts a triumph of connecting with other people in her life in spite of her differences. Each human interaction, which she approaches with supreme self-consciousness, becomes a little victory as she learns to assert herself. It's a good novel, and the author is quite skilled in offering us telling images, such as the busts of the Caesars that line the Long Gallery at Audlands.

What I'm reading: "Zone One" by Colson Whitehead: I'm not a huge fan of zombie fiction, but Whitehead is a noted author, and I've procrastinated in reading any of his books. So I'm reading this for Amazon Vine. I'm also listening to "Supreme Courtship" by Christopher Buckley, although Anne Heche can't seem to pronounce "Nevada" correctly.

What I think I'll read next: I think I'll go back to reading "The Indian Clerk."


Niina said...

I haven't yet read any zombiew books ( mainly cause zombies really freak me out) but I have one zombie hacking book on my TBR pile. ;)

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Cristina said...

I am a fan of zombies. How are you finding this one to be? Interesting picks.

Hope you stop by! http://alaskanbookcafe.blogspot.com

Anya Millar said...

Never been overly into zombies but might just have to give it a try again. Thanks for the ideas.

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Susan Oloier said...

It's fun to see what the guys are reading. I have not read any of those on your list this week.

Dead Trees and Silver Screens said...

I'm not a zombie fan iether but I like hearing what a guy has to say.