Friday, October 26, 2018

Coco for Grownups

href="" style="float: left; padding-right: 20px">Open Mic Night at Westminster Cemetery
Open Mic Night at Westminster Cemetery by Mary Amato
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Dear reader, I did not want to like this book, but I ended up loving it. I didn’t know its structure when I ordered it, just the plot: a young girl wakes up dead in Poe’s graveyard. I must admit it’s been years since I read a play, let alone a novel written as a play. I doubted. I didn’t want to do the conceptual work of reading. But what is drama but the exploration of character, and these characters (though dead) live on the page. What the book pulls off is Coco for grownups. I laughed, I cried, I was won over. Definitely not for middle grade in America, with swearing and sex topics, but its honest portrayals of the shared difficulties of diverse people of different eras and cultures is both nuanced and impactful.
Introduced the right way, I think even whole classrooms of teens would love this book—as a read-aloud or acted-out serial. Perfect for All Souls season!

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Sunday, October 7, 2018

Perestroika and Prophecy

Nine Layers of SkyNine Layers of Sky by Liz Williams
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I kept this book from 2003 because it had a big impact on me; I remembered it had something to do with technology and environmentalism. I re-read it this week. One of those sci-fi prophecy books, evidently. It takes place in post-Gorbachev Russia and an alternate world (aliens, indigenes, or elves included), and the entire “real-world” emotions of a woman space scientist who’s cleaning for a living, and the despair and particularly the government sound just like America today. Putin is even mentioned as one of Russia’s Great Men at the time and I have to say he has achieved his revenge here in 2018, just 15 years on. Every tactic of propaganda and gaslighting, used in the recent/current American political scene—every tried and true tactic of totalitarianism is part of the background of the story...also how much women have to fight for respect and make do without it. It is kind of awkward and a the author writing nowadays probably wouldn't have written such sexist scenes--but it's Russia, paternalistic Russia. And as we've been made aware, not much has changed since the 1970s in many countries for many men and women in the real world. And not much in the way of politics has changed in all human history, either.
It’s a good book and offers up for hope dreams, change, science, and alternate worlds. For our dreams, we should look both to the past and the future. But please not the Russia or the America of today.
I recommend the book, especially as a re-read.

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Thursday, October 4, 2018

Afterglow for Aftertaste

Aftertaste: A Novel in Five CoursesAftertaste: A Novel in Five Courses by Meredith Mileti
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I would love to read more from this author. The most important thing for a novel for foodies is obviously that the author can transport you to kitchen or dining table and inspire you to cook or eat. that's what elevates a novel whose basic plot has been done and done and overdone in movies and other books. It's knowing where to highlight flavors, hurry up the service, let your diners linger, provide the perfect bite; a novel is a meal to be savored and remembered, and you'll remember the food.

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