Friday’s Radar Recommendations

 A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy : The Vietnam books by Ellen Emerson White,

Big A, little a : to The Deep by Helen Dunmore,

Bildungsroman : the May Bird Trilogy by Jodi Lynn Anderson

Not Your Mother’s Bookclub takes a look at some recently revised classics,

Fuse Number 8 : Stoneflight by George McHarque

lectitans: Gentle’s Holler and Louisiana Song both by Kerry Madden

Chasing Ray fini: Kipling’s Choice by Geert Spillebeen,

Interactive Reader : A Plague of Sorcerers by Mary Frances Zambreno,

The YA YA YAs : Resurrection Men by TK Welsh

Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast : Such a Pretty Face: Short Stories About Beauty edited by Ann Angel 

Recommendations from Under the Radar: Kerry Madden’s Maggie Valley Trilogy

You can’t feed a family of ten or eleven with just love and music, but they sure do make life more bearable.

In Kerry Madden’s Maggie Valley Trilogy, Olivia “Livy Two” Weems narrates the ups and downs of her mountain family life.  The first book in the trilogy is Gentle’s Holler.  Livy Two’s Daddy is a songwriter and traveling salesman, waiting for that big banjo hit.  Mama has two babies (Cyrus and Caroline) sleeping in the dresser drawer and one in the cradle (Appelonia).  Emmett, Livy Two’s elder brother, has dreams of running off to work at Ghost Town in the Sky, a new amusement park with an Old West theme.  (The book is set in the 1960s.)  Becksie, Livy Two’s older sister, is bossy as can be, and Jitters, one of Livy Two’s younger sisters, idolizes her, copying her every move.  Louise, another sister, is a talented visual artist.  And Livy Two herself is a songwriter like her Daddy, composing on the theme of family life, with titles like “Daddy’s Roasted Peanuts” and “Grandma’s Glass Eye.”

Livy Two’s three year old sister, Gentle, doesn’t seem to see very well, but the whole family is in denial of it.  Until the appearance of the fearsome Grandma Horace, that is.  Grandma Horace comes to Maggie Valley from her home in “Enka-Stinka” (the town of Enka, NC, a town previously known to me only for its top-notch Latin students) and starts setting things to rights.  Soon, Livy Two is teaching Gentle how to read Braille and training Uncle Hazard, the family dog, to work as a seeing eye dog.

I’m afraid to say much about the plot of Louisiana’s Song, the second book in the trilogy, because I don’t want to spoil the ending of Gentle’s Holler.  The two books flow very naturally together, seamlessly telling one story.  At the same time, a reader could easily pick up Louisiana’s Song and jump right in without any confusion; the characters develop and shine in both books, and Madden manages to explain the background of the story without making it tedious for those who read the first book.

The greatest strength in these books, and what has made me fall in love with them, is the distinctness and authenticity of each character.  I come from mountain stock, and these people feel as though they could be my relatives.  Daddy reminds me of my grandfather, and I see a lot of myself in Becksie.  Gentle, with her sweetness and beautiful voice, reminds me of my own little sister.  Caroline and Cyrus, the twins, are delightful in their obsessions with fairies and mummies, respectively.  Grandma Horace is the kind of woman you have to fear and respect, a matriarch who, despite her criticisms, clearly loves her family.  Even Uncle Buddy, Grandma Horace’s gambler runaway brother, is charming.  I love the Weems family.  I want to spend some time with them, even if it does mean going hungry or being overrun by so many children.

There’s something magical and beautiful about the North Carolina mountains, and Kerry Madden captures it in both novels.  This is a place where if you look hard enough you just might see a mountain fairy, where the autumn leaves blaze orange, red, brown and gold, where the smell of honeysuckle can run away with your imagination.  Livy Two and her siblings have a great respect for and love of nature that endears them to me all the more.

The third book in the trilogy, Jessie’s Mountain, will be released February 14, 2008, and I can’t wait.  I love Livy Two Weems and her whole family, and I look forward to their next adventure.

Thursday’s Radar Recommendations

In case you missed them, here they are!

A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy :Friends for Life and Life Without Friends, companion books continuing with the author celebration for Ellen Emerson White,

Shaken & Stirred: The Changeover and Catalogue of the Universe, both by Margaret Mahy,

Big A, little a: an interview with Helen Dunmore!

Jen Robinson’s Book Page : The Treasures of Weatherby by Zilpha Keatley Snyder,

Bildungsroman: Swollen by Melissa Lion;

Miss Erin: Erec Rex: The Dragon’s Eye by Kaza Kingsley,

Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast: Billie Standish Was Here by Nancy Crocker,

Fuse Number 8 : The Noisy Counting Book by Susan Schade,

Chasing Ray Juniper, Genetian and Rosemary by  Pamela Dean,

lectitans : Who Pppplugged Roger Rabbit? by Gary K. Wolf,

Writing and Ruminating : Hugging the Rock, by Susan Taylor Brown.

Recommendations from Under the Radar: Who P-P-P-Plugged Roger Rabbit? by Gary K. Wolf

It’s especially fitting that I’m bringing this book to your attention on the ninth anniversary of my first date with my boyfriend, because our love of the entire Roger Rabbit mythos is a large part of what has kept us together all these years (that, The Phantom of the Opera, Piers Anthony, and Ferris Bueller).  But let me take you back to a long time ago, almost twenty years ago, to 1988…

I was six years old, and my aunt worked for a major advertising firm.  (She still does.)  At the time, this firm had a big Disney account, which came with lots of perks for employees – promotional materials like posters, and pins.  My bedroom from ages five through twelve was decorated primarily with my aunt’s Disney promo cast-offs.  Another perk she received from the company was preview screenings.  So before the movie was released to the general public, I got to see "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?"

I loved it so much.  So much I can’t even explain how much.  The world was enchanting, the characters were charming, and Judge Doom was about the scariest villain ever conceived in my book (and remains so to this day).  I loved the movie so much that when it was released on video, watching it was a daily ritual, and I would recite the lines along with it.  It was in my top five favorite movies ever.  (It probably still sits there, too, only behind other 80s classics like "Ferris Bueller’s Day Off" and "The Princess Bride.")

I was ecstatic a few years later, when I was old enough to appreciate much of the humor that had been lost on me in that first viewing, to discover a literary sequel to the film.  (Reading reviews now I see it is not an actual sequel to the movie or to the book upon which the movie was based, Who Censored Roger Rabbit?  But we’ll pretend it is anyway.)

Who P-P-P-Plugged Roger Rabbit? does all that a sequel really requires: it takes favorite characters and puts them in new and exciting situations.  The book takes us back to old Hollywood, where director David O. Selznick is auditioning three actors for the role of Rhett Butler in his musical comedy "Gone with the Wind": Clark Gable, Baby Herman, and Roger Rabbit himself.  Ever jealous, Roger suspects his buxom wife Jessica may be fooling around with Gable, and hires Eddie to find out if his suspicions are grounded in fact and what his standing is with Selznick.  There are a few conflicts of interest, though, as Selznick himself wants Eddie to find out who stole a box from his office; Roger is one of the suspects.  Clark Gable wants Eddie to ascertain the identity of the individual claiming Gable is gay in the tabloids.  To make matters worse, a toon named Kirk Enigman is murdered with Eddie’s gun.  Add in the search for Toon Tonic, which turns people into toons and toons into people, and encounters with Jessica Rabbit’s twin Joellyn, a five-inch tall vixen, enormous amounts of punnery, and you have an incredibly entertaining book.

I would recommend Who P-P-P-Plugged Roger Rabbit? to fans of the film, but also to fans of comic mysteries.  This is hard-boiled detective hilarity.  It holds a special place in my heart because of my love for the film and the characters, but it will entertain anyone who prizes silliness above all.

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Wednesday’s Radar Recommendations

A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy: The President’s Daughter series by Ellen Emerson White

Big A, little a: The Tide Knot by Helen Dunmore

Jen Robinson’s Book Page: The Zilpha Keatley Snyder Green Sky trilogy

Bildungsroman: Innocence by Jane Mendelsohn: A Discussion Part 1

Chasing Ray: Innocence by Jane Mendelsohn: A Discussion Part 2

lectitans: Innocence by Jane Mendelsohn: A Discussion Part 3

Miss Erin: The Reb & Redcoats and Enemy Brothers, both by Constance Savery

Bookshelves of Doom: Harry Sue by Sue Stauffacher

Interactive Reader: Shake Down the Stars by Frances Donnelly

Chicken Spaghetti: Pooja Makhijani guest blogs with Romina’s Rangoli

Shaken & Stirred: Elizabeth Knox’s Dreamhunter Duet

Writing & Ruminating: Dear Mr. Rosenwald by Carole Weatherford

Recommendations from Under the Radar: Innocence by Jane Mendelsohn

If I explain to you how I first encountered Innocence, then I’ll ruin the ending for you.  So instead, I will simply state that it was recommended to me by Little Willow of Bildungsroman.  LW, Colleen of Chasing Ray, and myself discussed the book.  This is part three of that discussion.  You can read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

Throughout the novel, there are allusions to classic literary and mythological characters.  This is our discussion of those allusions.

Why was I running? I was running from images: a sneaker, a mirror, two words. I remember blood hanging in strings off the bottom of a shoe like gum. I remember two words scrawled across a mirror. Two words: ‘Drink Me’. – Page 4

CM: Right at the beginning, as Beckett is running from the suicides, she remembers two words scrawled on a mirror in blood: “Drink me”. This has got to be an Alice in Wonderland allusion – thoughts on that or am I way off base?

LW: There are Oz references as well, with one less meaningful describing the steam that surrounds her father’s head as he places a hot bowl of food on the table, (page 42) and a few with substance and purpose:

 Beckett mentioning Dorothy alongside Persephone and the Final Girl, the wizard on the computer(page 124 and forward, page 166 and forward, page 178, page 190), and the final line:

And you were there. And you, and you, and you. (Page 199)

CM: Oh crap – how did I miss that final line?

Okay then, let’s look at the bigger picture of what Mendelsohn was doing here. Is Innocence then a salute to several of the final girls in literature – the ones who knew the truth but were discounted or  dismissed? (No one ever believed Dorothy or Alice that’s for sure).

Interesting aside – I know that Looking Glass Wars is a love it or hate it book but one thing that is prevalent in there is Alice’s hatred of Lewis Carroll for turning her life into a story and for everyone thinking it is just hat – no one believes her anymore about where she really came from.

And no one, of course, will believe Beckett. Which makes her wonder if she’s really crazy or not.

 What about all the ‘Drink Me’ mentions in the text – which go beyond the words in Alice to something more as the story progresses. Also Beckett is given the pills to take as Alice must constantly eat and drink to transform herself to fit into Wonderland. Is this all about transformation from innocence?

At the sound of a scream, I was standing in a dark alley, looking at Sunday, Morgan, and Myrrh. This time, a fourth body lay with theirs. It was mine. And a paper label with the words DRINK ME printed on it in beautiful letters was tied around my neck. – Page 45

She made it look like a suicide. She left the pink plastic razor. She arranged the bodies. When she finished, she wrote two words on the mirror. Two words in blood: DRINK ME. – Page 151

CM: Not sure how Persephone fits into this though – thoughts?

You know, there’s all kinds of crazy stuff out there. You can’t just wander around out there and believe what you read. It’s like walking out into the street and talking to just anybody. You wouldn’t do that, would you? – Page 129

LW: I don’t really understand why Persephone was included. When I think of Persephone, I think of the seasons, and of her mother, who wept and waited and wanted for her daughter to return, and her love, who wanted Her to stay in the underworld, not to make her evil but to have her standing beside him.

Innocence lacks the true mother – she’s mentioned at times, but not invoked as a ghost or a guiding force, not Beckett’s role model, no flashbacks used as a narrative tool, etc – and is much more about the evil stepmother. I haven’t done extensive Persephone research, so please tell me if I’m overlooking something!

Another thing: Ladies, if you’re ever in the underworld or in a fairy land, DO NOT EAT THE FOOD!

KH: I think the way Persephone might figure in is that the notion is once innocence is lost, it can’t be regained.  Persephone eats those pomegranate seeds and is forever changed.  Even though she does negotiate a return to the world above ground, she doesn’t get to stay there, and she has seen what it’s like in the world below.  So perhaps that’s how it fits in: Beckett, unlike so many around her, is aware of scarier underpinnings to the world, and can’t forget them.

LW: I wouldn’t really put Dorothy in with Beckettt – not with her character directly, that is. The stories, the disbelief, the characters she “knows” being different, the obvious wizard bits – that all makes sense, but I see Dorothy and Beckett as very different characters, with different circumstances and motivations.

Of all of the characters Beckett ‘speaks’ to and relates to, the Final Girl and Alice make the most sense to me.

It was a mad tea party. The entire room seemed transformed [. . . ] When I opened the door I was on the other side, over the rainbow, down the rabbit hole, into the woods. – Page 182

CM: I put Dorothy in as someone who loses her innocence in OZ. In Kansas she is sad and missing her parents (fitting with Beckett and her lost mother) and so she runs away to that “over the rainbow” place where she thinks everything will be better but in OZ she finds a darker world then she ever imagined…and of course when she gets back she knows that no one will believe her, which is another major theme in the book.

We haven’t mentioned Lolita in here but Mendelsohn brings her up as well. Of course her story is pretty much the ultimate loss of innocence story and it is still being debated on that score today.

[END OF DISCUSSION]

I hope this is not the last discussion of the book I will have with these women.  It is a novel that bears multiple re-reads.  Go to your library now!

Recommendations Under the Radar: Tuesday Recap

I missed posting this yesterday thanks to the day job, so if you missed it like me, here were yesterday’s recommendations from under the radar:

A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy: A discussion of author Ellen Emerson White and why she is “under the radar”

Jen Robinson’s Book Page: The Changeling and The Velvet Room both by Zilpha Keatley Snyder

Bildungsroman: Girl in a Box by Ouida Sebestyen

Finding Wonderland: A Door Near Here by Heather Quarles

Miss Erin: Girl With a Pen and Princess of Orange, both by Elisabeth Kyle

Fuse Number 8: The Winged Girl of Knossos by Erick Berry

Bookshelves of Doom: The Olivia Kidney series by Ellen Potter

Chicken Spaghetti: Natural History of Uncas Metcalf by Betsy Osborne

Writing and Ruminating: Jazz ABC by Wynton Marsalis

Semicolon: Today’s topic is middle grade fiction.

The YA YA YAs: Massive by Julia Bell

Christopher Barzak at Chasing Ray

Recommendations Under the Radar: The Angel of the Opera

When I was nine years old, I took a class on the fine art of lip synching. Yes, it was a class, for school. I love gifted education in Leon County, Florida. At the end of this class, we each had to perform a song of our choosing, in costume. I performed Madonna’s “Material Girl.” The best among us went on to perform solo at an actual concert, in front of parents. I wasn’t one of those; there was, however, a young man who performed “Music of the Night” from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera, in full costume, complete with mask, hat, and cape. This was my introduction to the Opera Ghost, and I was in love immediately.

I don’t know at what point mild interest in that musical became complete obsession, but in the intervening time I have read every Phantom-related item I could get my hands on, including Gaston Leroux’s original novel and several stories inspired by it. That’s the wonderful thing about works in the public domain, you see; you can publish and sell your fanfiction.

Basil of Baker Street in The Great Mouse Detective had kindled an interest in me in Sherlock Holmes, and I grew to find him immensely attractive as well.

Yes, I love fictional characters, perhaps more than real people. It was with great glee that I checked out from my public library The Angel of the Opera: Sherlock Holmes Meets the Phantom of the Opera.  There’s not a great deal of plot that is new to the story; this is Leroux’s book with just a few new characters added in.  What makes it so fascinating is the interplay of two of the greatest minds in fiction: Erik and Holmes.  The actions Holmes takes in solving the mystery of the Opera Ghost keep the story moving forward, and it is this interaction between the two that makes the book worth reading.

Also, look at that cover art.  How can you not love Erik dressed as The Red Death, sweeping down the stairs towards Sherlock Holmes?

If you like mysteries, gothic horror, the Victorian era, Sherlock Holmes, or the Phantom of the Opera, you should give this book a go.  It provides certain entertainment.  And not to spoil the ending, but those who were always upset with the raw treatment Erik got from Christine Daae may find some consolation in the way Siciliano wraps up Erik’s story.


 

Under Radar Recommendations are books that we have read and loved. Period.
They’re not necessarily new. They’re not necessarily old.
They’re books we think you’d love, ’cause we do.

There is, elsewhere, more of the usual awesomeness of the kidlitosphere. Fans of the under-read should also, check out:

Chasing Ray writing on Dorothy of Oz from Illusive Arts Entertainment (the Dorothy comic she says we should all be reading!),

Bildungsroman revisits Christopher Golden’s Body of Evidence series,

Interactive Reader, a new convert to the Christopher Golden Body of Evidence fan club, provides more love,

At Not Your Mother’s Bookclub: An interview with Robert Sharenow, author of My Mother the Cheerleader,

Bookshelves of Doom is all about The God Beneath the Sea, Black Jack & Jack Holburn all by Leon Garfield,

Writing and Ruminating has an interview with Tony Mitton and a review of his book, Plum ,

The YA YA YAs spread the love on I Rode a Horse of Milk White Jade by Diane Lee Wilson (And I can attest: awesome book, folks.),

A late inclusion from Semicolon on unbeatable picture books.

And Chicken Spaghetti wraps up Monday with The Illustrator’s Notebook by Mohieddin Ellabad.

More Under Radar Goodness All Week Long: Stay tuned!

Recommendations from Under the Radar

 I love books, and some of them are ones you haven’t heard of. I’m not the only one feeling this way, which is why I’m participating this week in a multiblog event called “Recommendations from Under the Radar.” You can read all about it over at Chasing Ray.

Here’s my schedule:
Monday: The Angel of the Opera: Sherlock Holmes Meets the Phantom of the Opera by Sam Siciliano
Wednesday: Innocence by Jane Mendelsohn, in conjunction with Bildungsroman and Chasing Ray
Thursday: Who P-p-p-p-plugged Roger Rabbit? by Gary K. Wolf
Friday: Gentle’s Holler and Louisiana’s Song by Kerry Madden

Each day I’ll be linking to everyone else’s posts.  We’re reviewing more than fifty books!  In October, we’ll be hosting a one shot event called “Bradbury Season,” and in November, we’ll present the Winter Blog Blast Tour!