Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Teen Survey: Calvin

It's time for another reader survey! It's all well and good for me to post about a book I've read and enjoyed, but here's some input from an actual teen.

Name: Calvin



Books recently read for fun: Fall of Giants by Ken Follett - It took me a while, but it was a fantastic read and ultimately awesome! - and Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell - heart-wrenching, and you really want the main characters to get together.

Books recently read for class: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Books you want to read: Winter of the World and Edge of Eternity, the second and third books in the Century Trilogy by Ken Follett.

Books you read as a kid: Harry Potter! Book of choice; just great. My sister read the 7th book 13 times.

Why you like to read: I can't stop reading; it's a passion, and it takes my mind off school.

Favorite book genres/topics: Sci-fi/historical fantasy. Fantasy books transport me into new worlds (so) it's hard to stop reading.

Favorite authors: Ken Follett

Favorite playwrights and plays: West Side Story

Favorite movies: Airplane! My favorite movie by far. I love comedy movies.

Favorite musicians/music genres: Jazz

Anything else you want to say: Reading is awesome!

Monday, December 28, 2015

Five of my favorite books from 2015 (and six 2016 books I'm looking forward to)

It's that time of year for bloggers to make some lists. So, with the caveat that there are a lot of 2015 books that I haven't gotten to yet, like Thing Explainer, here are my five favorites from this year.

It’s What I Do: A Photographer’s Life of Love and War by Lynsey Addario
Lynsey Addario is now an acclaimed, award-winning photojournalist and combat photographer who has worked in Afghanistan, Iraq, Sudan, and Libya (where she and several colleagues were kidnapped). But though she began taking pictures as a teenager, she never considered photography as a career until after graduating from college. At first, photography was something she did to earn money to travel around the world. Then, as she increasingly ventured into dangerous regions despite the risks and the effects on her personal life, it became her job and her calling. It’s What I Do, featuring some of Addario’s photographs, is an eye-opening memoir exploring how she became a photographer and why she continues to venture around the world to document war and injustice.

Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad by M.T. Anderson
Here in the U.S., when we think of 20th century Russia/Soviet Union, things like the fall of the Romanovs, communism, and the Cold War come to mind, not World War II. As M. T. Anderson demonstrates, in order to understand what happened during the war, we do need some understanding of the Romanovs, communism, and the Cold War, but it’s also worth noting what we’re ignoring by overlooking the Soviet role in World War II: it “eventually suffered 95 percent of the military casualties inflicted on the major Allied powers (the U.S., the U.K., and the USSR)—and 90 percent of Germans killed in combat died fighting them.” An estimated 27 million Soviets, both military and civilian, died during the war, over 15% of the USSR’s population. The city of Leningrad (formerly Petrograd, formerly and now once again St. Petersburg) suffered under a German siege lasting 900 days; a million people died, and a million others went to desperate lengths to survive the freezing cold and starvation. It is in this context—the instability of the last days of the Romanovs, the rise of the Communists, then the treacherous consolidation of power by Joseph Stalin, and the suffering of World War II—that the famous composer Dmitri Shostakovich, who was alternately honored and denounced by the authorities, wrote his Seventh Symphony during the siege of Leningrad in honor of his beloved birthplace. (See also Colleen's review from earlier this year.)

Monday, December 21, 2015

The Way Home Looks Now by Wendy Wan-Long Shang

Family and loss are themes that are not usually the themes in jfic books and when one does encounter one such book it is hard not to feel depressed upon completion of the book. This novel is different however, so light is the author's touch (it is no wonder she has won awards for her writing) that the book is a page turner despite the heavy subject matter.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Witch Hunter by Virginia Boecker

Elizabeth Grey is a witch hunter. No, she's not chasing down bed knobs and broom sticks, she's the real deal. Her work includes taking down dangerous wizards & necromancers that summon ghouls, impose curses and generally wreck havoc in their city.

One day, after a long shift of crushing evil, Elizabeth and her partner Caleb go for a drink at the local watering hole. One thing leads to another and Elizabeth finds herself disoriented, confused and frightened.

In her delirium, she finds herself in possession of illegal substances and in a cruel twist of irony is accused of witchcraft and sentenced to death.

Waiting to die in a freezing jail cell, abandoned by her friends and sick with fever, Elizabeth is offered salvation from an unlikely source, a notoriously dangerous wizard named Nicholas Perevil.

Saved by the enemy, she's asked to perform a deadly task as payment: Find and destroy the source of the life-draining curse that's been thrust upon Nicholas by an unknown adversary.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin

Back in the fall, The New York Times Magazine asked its readers whether they would go back in time and kill baby Hitler if such a possibility existed. And because we are heading into an election year in America, and because the twenty-four-hour news cycle must be constantly fed, and because the Internet and any mention of Hitler is a toxic combination, the question went viral.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

A CHRISTMAS CAROL by Charles Dickens

Who says a book needs to be a new release? Certainly not those of us at Guys Lit Wire.

This one has the benefit of being out of copyright and therefore available for free download on pretty much every platform you can think of, though being a bit of a traditionalist, I prefer an actual book. There's a lovely, slim, leather-clad volume available quite reasonably at Barnes & Noble, but today, I'm going with the Candlewick Press edition illustrated by P.J. Lynch, since it was close at hand.

Perhaps you've seen one of the (many) film versions of this story, from the Muppets to Patrick Stewart to Vanessa Williams to Bill Murray (in Scrooged) to musical versions and animated versions (including Mr. Magoo, Mickey Mouse, and one with Jim Carrey). They are all good, in their ways, but nothing comes close to the humor of Dickens's writing, and the conversational tone of the narrator.

Here, for instance, is the start of the story, from "Stave One: Marley's Ghost":

Marley was dead, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner. Scrooge signed it. And Scrooge's name was good upon 'Change, for anything he chose to put his hand to. Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail.

Mind! I don't mean to say that I know, of my own knowledge, what there is particularly dead about a door-nail. I might have been inclined, myself, to regard a coffin-nail as the deadest piece of ironmongery in the trade. But the wisdom of our ancestors is in the simile; and my unhallowed hands shall not disturb it, or the Country's done for. You will therefore permit me to repeat, emphatically, that Marley was as dead as a door-nail.

Scrooge knew he was dead? Of course he did. How could it be otherwise? Scrooge and he were partners for I don't know how many years. Scrooge was his sole executor, his sole administrator, his sole assign, his sole residuary legatee, his sole friend, and sole mourner. And even Scrooge was not so dreadfully cut up by the sad event, but that he was an excellent man of business on the very day of the funeral, and solemnised it with an undoubted bargain.

The mention of Marley's funeral brings me back to the point I started from. There is no doubt that Marley was dead.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

FUZZY MUD by Louis Sachar

Fuzzy Mud

Author Louis Sachar, famous for HOLES, is back with a new release called FUZZY MUD. 

Tamaya and Marshall attend Woodridge Academy.  Tamaya is in fifth grade and her mother insists that she not walk to and from school alone.  Since Marshall, a seventh grader, lives nearby, he is Tamaya's companion twice a day.  Years have gone by uneventfully, but that is about to change.

Marshall is the victim of school bully Chad Hilligas.  When Chad threatens to beat Marshall up on the way home, Marshall insists he and Tamaya take what he calls a "shortcut."  The supposed shortcut takes the two through the woods and makes Tamaya very uncomfortable.

The two soon become separated in the dense woods.  Sure that she has heard Chad following closely, Tamaya trips in her rush to escape.  She feels her hand sink into something she describes as "fuzzy mud."  When she hears footsteps coming closer, she clutches a handful and flings it at the noise.  The mud hits Chad full in the face allowing Tamaya to make her escape.

Overnight Tamaya's hand develops an unusual rash which develops into bleeding blisters.  The condition worsens throughout the next day, and she begins to wonder what happened to Chad.  That worry deepens when it is announced at school that Chad has been reported missing.  After that the plot (and the mud) thickens.

This frightening tale is perfect for middle grade readers.  Many of them may have not even heard of HOLES or Sachar's other books, but FUZZY MUD is sure to earn fans who can then be pointed in the direction of his earlier books.

Previously posted at readingjunky.blogspot.com

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Reading Without Reading: Dramatic Audio from LATW

Some literature—novels, short stories, essays—you are meant to read, silently, to yourself. But some—spoken word poetry, play scripts, film scripts—have to be performed to be complete. You can read them, sure, but you're truly only getting a fraction of the picture.

LA Theatre Works is a loosely affiliated group of actors who perform audio-only productions of many of our finest theatrical works. The casts are often composed of well-known tv and movie actors like John Lithgow, Hilary Swank, Neal Patrick Harris and many many others. Most of their plays are from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. They run the gamut from recent Broadway dramas by the likes of John Guare and Wendy Wasserstein to classics like Arthur Miller’s a Death of Salesman. They do, however, have a number of productions by Shakespeare and Sophocles. Here’s a hint: If you’re struggling to read Hamlet or Romeo and Juliet or Julius Caesar for English class, try to listening to a professional production instead. It will do wonders to clear up the language. And it’s not cheating, I swear!