Review: Still Points North by Leigh Newman

Still Points North
by Leigh Newman
Rating: ***
Read 5/31/2013

An interesting, involving memoir of a chaotic childhood full of dysfunctional adults, disintegrating relationships, strange relatives and the odd bear. The POV is insanely tight, almost claustrophobic. The writing is pure but the feelings are muddy, full of quicksand. The ending came too soon, the story wrapped up in an endearing but still jarring epilogue. My review copy courtesy of ALA Midwinter.


Review: The Boy by Lara Santoro

The Boy
by Lara Santoro
Rating: *
Read 6/5/2013
I hated the protagonist, but I suspect I was meant to. I didn’t like the writing style, I didn’t like any of the characters, I didn’t like the message. I couldn’t care about anyone in the story, which was about how lust can ruin your life and your motherhood and your kid. Blah. My free review copy came from ALA Midwinter.

Review: The Absolute Value of Mike by Kathryn Erskine

The Absolute Value of Mike
by Kathryn Erskine
Rating: ****
Read 5/26/2013
Credulity-straining but oh-so-cute. Clever bits are designed to appeal to middle grade boys, I think. And I think they will do so. This is compulsively readable, nearly impossible to put down. Dyscalculia, a dad on the spectrum, acres of dead people and an improbably competent kid all combine to make a really fun, really engaging story.

Review: Chance of Sun by Kim Cooper Findling


Chance of Sun
by Kim Cooper Findling
Rating: **
Read 5/26/2013
Slight and sweet, this memoir hints at the depths but never truly plumbs them. Riddled with editing errors  including “creole” for “creel” and others equally mind-bending. It had a lot of potential but it never really got off the ground for me. I never felt like I got to know Findling, except just for a second there at the very end. I was left wanting so much more than I got.

Review: Fiend by Peter Stenson

by Peter Stenson
Rating: zero stars
Read 5/25/2013
Oh my god I hated this book so, so, so much. I thought it was going to be dystopia with drug addicts, and I was thrilled. Then I found out it was dystopia with drug addicts AND ZOMBIES and I was annoyed. As I kept reading I was repelled and horrified and oh let me count the ways this book was not for me. Ewww. No one here to like, no one here to identify with, no one here to be redeemed. Also? Zombies. Ptui! My free review copy came from ALA Midwinter.

Review: Gorgeous by Paul Rudnik


by Paul Rudnik
Rating: ***
Read 5/25/2013

“Her face was rigid with diligence and dignity, which are English Botox.”

Hilarious. Frothy romp, not at all my usual fare, but oh how perfect it was for me now.  The plot was sort of silly but sort of magical too. I wasn’t at all sure at first. I was soon hooked but good, and it kept getting funnier and more absurd as it went along. Requires a total suspension of disbelief but is totally worth it. This is my first Rudnik and I enjoyed his sure hand with dialogue. I liked the characters, too. My free review copy came from ALA Midwinter.

Review: Saffy’s Angel by Hilary McKay


Saffy’s Angel
by Hilary McKay
Rating: ****
Read 5/25/2013
I fell in love with Saffy’s delightful, goofy family. I hope there are more books about them. It’s a book positively infused with gentleness, a bemused goodwill, and love. So much love on every page. No surprises, no tears. I left it in the observation car on the train and was happy to see a young girl engrossed in it the very next day. A sheer delight.

Review: Out Here by Ursula K. Le Guin and Roger Dorband

Out Here: Poems and Images from Steens Mountain Country
Poems and Drawings by Ursula K. Le Guin
Photography by Roger Dorband
Rating: ****
Read 5/13/2013

I’ve been dipping into a fair bit of poetry lately, mostly revisiting favorites here and there, but rarely reading a books straight through. This book is the exception. I went last year to see Le Guin and Dorband at Powell’s books when this first came out, and Le Guin read several of the poems, which were stellar. Her poetry has resonated only intermittently with me throughout the years, and this collection works better for me than the ones which have come before. Or perhaps I’m older now. With Le Guin, it’s always safer to assume that the fault lies with the self rather than the writing.

Dorband’s photos are lovely. I would that the book were much larger format so I might examine them more minutely. I can’t wait to go to see this country with my own eyes.

Here’s my favorite poem from the book:


The hawk
I see you but I do not notice you,
a little dusky scurrying of fur.
I ply a hard trade, and I take my due.

The vole
To me you are a shadow from the blue,
and I am gone before you can appear.
I see it, but I do not notice you.

The hawk
I see my shadow flying as I do
but on the ground; sky is my kingdom, where
I soar and only stoop to take my due.

The vole
Rich with the gathered grain, I tunnel through
a darkness kinder than the light by far,
those shadows where there is no trace of you.

The hawk
Owl owns the shadows, for I never flew
but in the shining of the sunlit air.
I live by light and blood, and pay my due:
I am your death. It will be quick and true.

The vole
I am your life, and your immortal share.

We are and shape each other, I and you.
We ply a hard trade, and we take our due.

-Ursula K. Le Guin

Review: A Part of the Sky by Robert Newton Peck


A Part of the Sky
by Robert Newton Peck
Rating: ****
Read 5/12/2013

The sequel to A Day No Pigs Would Die is worthy. There’s some harking back to the original book, and there are not a lot of laughs to be had. The Depression is looming on the horizon, and there’s a 13 year old boy and 2 old women trying to run a subsistence farm. There’s a heap of dying in this book, be warned. There’s also a lot of hope, a lot of tenderness, and some plain speaking. I really enjoyed it, and I think from now on, I will read the two back to back.