Saturday, April 7, 2012

From Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter to Prayers for Sale

I've certainly read a wide variety of books these past few weeks.  It is amazing what an inner ear infection can do to squander all other productiveness.  Painted picnic table, ripped off wall paper, torn out carpet, and home sewn Easter dress be darned.  There are books to be read!

First, I finished Prayers for Sale  by Sandra Dallas.  This is a story about an elderly woman who lives in a small mining town in Colorado during the 1930s.  She befriends a young mining wife and their friendship is built on the old woman's stories and their love of quilts.


Meh.  It was overly folksy for my taste, and the author continually makes the overdone, cliche connections of how quilts are like life in any and every way you can conceive.  I'm even a quilter and this, along with the folksiness, came across as trying too hard.  

By the way, this was the book club selection for April.  I think I am going to get kicked out of book club.  I've said this before.

So my darling husband said that I've read too many books laden with charming wisdom so why didn't I try Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith.

 What a clever idea.  The lost colony of Roanoke? Vampires.  Causing the death of Abraham's mother? Vampires. Keeping the slave trade alive? Vampires. Causing the Civil War? You guessed it, vampires. John Wilkes Booth? It goes without saying.

This is an incredibly clever and well-written pseudo-biography that includes real as well as made up journal entries.  However, by the time I reached the Battle of Bull Run, which, by the way, was won by the South because they sent those pesky old vampires as soldiers, I had grown weary of heads being ripped off, axes thrown expertly into the chest, and necks being torn open. The blood and gore were just too much (hello--book about vampires--to be expected), and I longed for the Ten-Mile Range of Prayers For Sale filled with flowers and quilts and babies and pies.

I guess it goes without saying that the camaraderie of women is better than that of vampires. 

Speaking of violence, I decided to read The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins again before the movie came out. 

I loved this young adult novel as much as I did the first time.  Yes, it is violent, not as bad as Old Abe, but still not for the faint of heart.  I loved the main characters and thought the themes of survival and oppression lent themselves well to a great post-apocalyptic story. 

I haven't seen the movie yet but am planning on it.

Let's get back to realism here. One of my favorite young adult novelists is Jordan Sonnenblick. I've read four of the following novels he has written.

Recently, I finished reading Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie with some of my students.  It is a story about a typically nerdy, musically talented middle school student who deals with his 5 year old brother's struggle with leukemia.  Sounds a little too heavy for a middle school topic, but it is not.  The voice of this teenager is so well written, it is just as if you were talking to a sarcastic, confused fourteen year old.  The topic is handled with all the humor, embarrassment, struggle and success that you would encounter in a teen going through this ordeal.  I loved all the music and jazz references as well.  My students loved it. They laughed out loud and tried not to cry.  And I loved it again. 

Why is it that some young-adult novels are so much better than novels written for adults?  

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