Posts from the ‘Adult Literature’ Category

Robopocalypse

Title: Robopocalypse
Author: Daniel H. Wilson
ISBN: 9780385533850
Pages: 347 pages
Publisher/Date: Doubleday, a division of Random House, Inc. c2011.

“Stop. You have to stop. You’re making a mistake. We’ll never give up, Archos. We’ll destroy you.”
“A threat?”
The professor stops pushing buttons and glances over to the computer screen. “A warning. We aren’t what we seem. Human beings will do anything to live. Anything.”
The hissing increases in intensity. Face twisted in concentration, the professor staggers toward the door. He falls against it, pushes it, pounds on it.
He stops; takes short gasping breaths.
“Against the wall, Archos”–he pants–”against the wall, a human being becomes a different animal.”
“Perhaps. But you are animals just the same.” [...]
His breathing is shallow. His words are faint. “We’re more than animals.”
The professor’s chest heaves. His skin is swollen. Bubbles have collected around his mouth and eyes. He gasps for a final lungful of air. In a last wheezing sigh, he says: “You must fear us.” [..]
This is the first known fatality of the New War. (19-20)

After this initial uprising, it takes this highly intelligent and adaptable robot a year to hack into the computers governing every robot on the planet and coordinate a highly effective plan of attack. The robotic aids for the elderly, the computerized auto pilot cars, the military machines and computer controlled weapon systems, even the mechanized elevators and mail delivery systems, all systematically and simultaneously turn on their owners and controllers. Some survive the initial attack, either fleeing into the wilderness away from civilization or burrowing into what remains of the city, fighting for survival and standing against the machines. But with these scattered groups of resistance fighters unable to communicate with each other and barely able to move, it’s going to take all their ingenuity, unpredictability, and human spirit to fight off machines that can think, learn, and evolve.

This book is eye-opening and fear inducing, simply because it’s portrays something that could happen in the not so distance future. This isn’t just Star Trek’s Data going haywire and revolting. This book’s concept is so scary because it’s not just humanoid robots, it’s every computerized mechanism in the world that communicates with other things. Think about that for a second, because Wilson sure did. The smart cars of the future (Or even of today!) that can drive themselves start running over their owners and crashing into things, killing the occupants. The planes that talk to the tower and even today contain autopilot also take over the controls. Keypads on doors can lock people in or out of areas. Water and air purification and filtration systems can malfunction at a moments notice. Even houses today have computers where the lights, locks, mechanicals, and even your fridge can talk to each other and be controlled remotely. We saw a brief glimpse of what could happen during the 2003 Northeast Blackout that affected eight US states and people in Canada, and that was just an inconvenience. What if robots had gained control of the facilities and withheld the electricity for over two years?

The presentation of the story as collected flashbacks gives readers a vision of this war from the beginning to the climatic end. It also however proves to be a little choppy, and I found myself flipping through to read the accounts and actions of specific characters, rather than from the beginning to the end for a more well-rounded view. However, it gets better when the counter assault gets underway, as the various perspectives give you a clear view of how the war effort is progressing.

I’m presenting a review of this book during Banned Book Week because it’s inclusion on a summer reading list this year for a STEM-based class at Hardin Valley Academy in Tennessee was challenged by a parent for language. I’m actually somewhat surprised that language was the only complaint behind Mr. Lee and his wife’s objection to the book, although their counting the number of f-words (93 according to this article) leads me to believe that they did not read the entire book and simply searched for the objectionable word. There are some rather graphic descriptions of people getting injured and/or killed throughout the war that I would think some parents might find more objectionable than the language. If their excuse for the violence falls under the reasoning of “Well, that’s what happens when robots and humans enter all out war,” then I would think strong language would be just as justified by that reasoning. Ironically enough, this book is one of four choices that students at a local high school can read for required reading. We’ll have to see if they are faced by the same challenges and objections.

One of ten books to receive the Alex Award from YALSA for “books written for adults that have special appeal to young adults, ages 12 through 18″, Robopocalype is an involving read and I can see the comparisons between Wilson’s writing and that of Michael Crichton in weaving science and scary together. But where Crichton had tension, Wilson relies heavily on action, technical details, and coincidences. I can see the appeal as the story because the fear it generates and questions it raises stay with you, but ultimately this is yet another robots take over the world tale similar to Transformers. The unique aspects of the story is the insidious nature and patience involved in getting to that point.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Title: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Author: Jonathan Safran Foer
ISBN: 9781419328794
Pages: 326 pages
Discs/Cds: 10 CDs,11 hours
Publisher/Date: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, c2005.

Sometimes I think it would be weird if there were a skyscraper that moved up and down while its elevator stayed in place. So if you wanted to go to the ninety-fifth floor, you’d just press the 95 button and the ninety-fifth floor would come to you. Also, that could be extremely useful, because if you’re on the ninety-fifth floor, and a plane hits below you, the building could take you to the ground, and everyone could be safe [...] (3)

Nine-year-old Oscar lost his dad in the World Trade Center attacks on September 11th. When he came home that day, he found several messages from his father that he has since hidden from everyone, including his mother. He’s also hiding from his mother a key that he found hidden in the apartment. The only clue as to what lock the key opens is the word “Black” scribbled on the envelope, which prompts Oscar to start visiting every person named Black in New York City. Along the way, Oscar is forced to confront his fears about life, death, and love.

I’m not quite sure what the critical acclaim is for this book. While there were some notable and quotable lines and some thought-provoking discussion about death, loneliness, and guilt, the story dragged. Oscar’s search for the key seemed highly unrealistic, and his mother’s reaction to it even more unrealistic, even with the weak explanation at the end of the book. The breaks in narration and expositions from an older woman and man were also jarring, as you don’t know who they are until later in the novel. The man spends most of his adult life communicating through writing, primarily with tattoos of yes and no on his hands (hence the cover of the book), after he becomes a mute with no real explanation of the cause.

The open-ended conclusion strikes me as intentional, since there really isn’t any life altering event at the end of the book. The change in their existence happened when Oscar’s father died, and we are merely observers of the aftermath. It seems almost voyeuristic in listening to the audiobook, as we observe Oscar visiting one Black residence after another. After looking at the print version of the book, I think I would have been just as … unimpressed as listening to the audiobook, as the formatting of the vignettes from the older woman and man are intentionally formatted in a way that I think would drive most English teachers nuts. The whole story just seemed pointless to me, and maybe that was Foer’s point was to express the pointlessness of life, or maybe the pointlessness of life that you feel after losing someone you care about, like Oscar does without his father. But I would have enjoyed a little more explanation and action instead of the stagnant nature of the novel.

Ready Player One

Title: Ready Player One
Author: Ernest Cline
ISBN: 9780307913142
CDs/Discs: 13 CDs, 15.5 hours
Pages: 374 pages
Publisher/Date: Crown Publishers, Random House Audio, c2011.
Awards: 2012 Alex Awards

“You’re first instinct right now might be to log out and make a run for it,” Sorrento said. “I urge you not to make that mistake. Your trailer is currently wired with a large quantity of high explosives.” He pulled something that looked like a remote control out of his pocket and held it up. “And my finger is on the detonator. If you log out of this chatlink session, you will die within a few seconds. Do you understand what I’m saying to you, Mr. Watts?” (142)

In the year 2044, humanity escapes from what is left of the world by plugging int the OASIS, a virtual utopia similar to the Sims where people can be anything and do almost anything. It’s here we meet Wade Watts, a seventeen-year-old who has been competing against millions of other people in the biggest scavenger hunt ever created. The massive fortune of the creator of the OASIS, James Halliday, has been put up for grabs for the first person to complete a series of challenges and puzzles that range throughout the virtual OASIS. Based on aspects of 1980s pop culture, including movies, music, books, and especially video games, the hunt has gone on for five long years, and quite a few players have lost hope. Then Wade stumbles upon the first puzzle, and the frenzy of the hunt resumes. Wade must outwit and outplay the entire world in order to win, but he’s especially worried about the Nolan Sorrento, the CEO of a conglomerate company who’s only goal is to monopolize and monetize the free virtual escape.

Full disclosure: I was not a teenager in the 1980s like James Halliday was, but I still throughly enjoyed listening to Ready Player One. I was yelling at my speakers, laughing along at Wade’s exploits, and was pleasantly pleased at how many references to 1980s culture I was already familiar with, including Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Star Wars and Star Trex, Pacman, and Dungeons and Dragons. Some of the more obscure trivia I think would have even people who lived during that era scratching their heads, unless they are well versed in hacking history.

While the start is somewhat slow as Cline takes the time to explain his world building and the background behind the events, it quickly escalates after the first clue is found. Geeks might actually enjoy knowing the ins and outs of the OASIS, although non-geeks might get turned off by the technical talk. The characters are all most certainly grandiose geeks, and while there are some spots where the information is repeated, in my opinion it’s better to have a refresher of the information than not receive it at all. I think the action moved a little too quickly for my tastes towards the end, as clues are deciphered very quickly by multiple players, when the first clue took everyone five years to figure out, but listeners get caught up in the excitement and the hunt and really don’t have time or an inclination to quibble about the breakneck, escalating frenetic pace and epic battle at the end.

Wade is a likeable enough character, participating in the competition as an underdog since he has almost no experience points, financial assistance, or even a secure physical home where he can reside. Sorrento, the head of the commercial conglomerate (the company is nicknamed the Sixers in the book due to their avatars six digit identification numbers) is a stagnant and one-dimensional, stereotypical greedy bad-guy type character. Wade’s four top human competitors are a little more three-dimensional, although still stereotypical in certain ways.

Although Wil Wheaton struggles with female voices, most of the narration is first person from Wade’s perspective, which allows him the ability to really develop Wade and delve into his role. It’s an added nod to the 1980s culture to have him narrate, since Wheaton portrayed Wesley Crusher in the Star Trek: The Next Generation television show in the 1980s and 1990s. I can definitely see geeks and gamers of both genders gobbling up this book.

The Night Circus

Title: The Night Circus
Author: Erin Morgenstern
Narrator: Jim Dale
ISBN: 9780307938909
Pages: 387 pages
Dics/Cds: 13.5 hours, 11 CDs
Publisher/Date: Doubleday, c2011.
Publication Date: Sept. 13, 2011

The circus arrives without warning.
No announcements precede it, no paper notices on downtown posts and billboards, no mentions or advertisements in local newspapers. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not.
The towering tents are striped in white and black, no golds and crimsons to be seen. No color at all, save for the neighboring trees and the grass of the surrounding fields. Black-and-white stripes on grey sky; countless tents of varying shapes and sizes, with an elaborate wrought-iron fence encasing them in a colorless world. Even what little ground is visible from outside is black or white, painted or powdered, or treated with some other circus trick.
But it is not open for business. Not just yet.(3)

Celia Bowen is apprenticed to her magician father. Marco has been adopted from an orphanage by a competing magician. While they both are separately aware that they are being prepared for a “game”, neither one of them are knowledgable about the rules. When they finally meet through their roles in the formation of a circus, Le Cirque des Reves, Marco realizes instantly that this is the woman he’s been training to beat. But as the years pass with no clear winner or end in sight, both Celia and Marco become tired and press for more information from their mentors. When the rules of the game finally become clear, they realize that they and the circus might have more to lose than they originally thought.

You just can’t go wrong with Jim Dale as a narrator! His voice is seductive when describing the love that two of the characters share. The scenes where he takes on the voice of the reader visiting the circus is also perfectly pitched, making the writing sound like a Choose Your Own Adventure Novel rather than a regular book. Picking up the printed copy and reading those opening lines months later, I still hear his voice and narration, drawing readers into the mystery and magic that make up the circus.

It helps that he has amazing writing to fall back on. It’s no wonder that everyone is clamoring to claim a copy of this debut novel by Erin Morgenstern. The descriptions of the circus include not just the sights and sounds but the tastes and textures. Circus tents and their contents play a massive role in the tale, and Morgenstern intersperses the tale with second person point of view narration detailing their make and design, which range from the more conventional fortune-teller, magician, and suspended acrobats to a fantastical library of memories triggered by smells and a wishing tree lit by candles. The magic and amazement are palatable, and I was left wishing that such a circus truly existed just so that I could see it for myself.

The publishers tip the author’s hat a little too early in my opinion, because based on the jacket copy readers go into the book knowing that Marco and Celia are going to fall in love. How the competition plays out is a series of interrelated and complicated actions that leave not one person responsible, but also prevents everyone from being wholly knowledgeable about what exactly happened. The mystery, intrigue, and romance dance around each other, until they draw to a climatic yet satisfying conclusion.

One of ten books chosen for the Alex Award, which is given to an adult book that has special appeal to young adults, this is a fascinating read for teens, and a patron I recommended it to raves about it months after the fact. You can contribute to the experience by listening to Erin Morgenstern’s playlist, which she lists in an interview with Largehearted Boy and makes available on her own website.

Sarah’s Key

Title: Sarah’s Key
Author: Tatiana De Rosnay
Narrator: Polly Stone
ISBN: 9780312370848
Pages: 293 pages
CDs/Discs: 8 CDs, 10 hours
Publisher/Date: St. Martin’s Griffin, c2007.

“I’m going to our secret place,” he whispered.
“No!” she urged. “You’re coming with us, you must.
She grabbed him, but he wriggled out of her grasp and slithered into the long, deep cupboard hidden in the surface of the wall of their bedroom. The one they played hide-and-seek in. They hid there all the time, locked themselves in, and it was like their own little house. [...]
The girl could see her brother’s small face peeking out at her from the darkness. [...] Maybe he’d be safe there, after all. [...] Maybe she should leave him there for the moment. The men would never find him. She would come back to get him later in the day when they were allowed to go home again. And Papa, still in the cellar, would know where the boy was hiding, if ever he came up. [...]
She closed the door on the little white face, turned the key in the lock. Then she slipped the key into her pocket. The lock was hidden by a pivoting device shaped like a light switch. It was impossible to see the outline of the cupboard in the paneling of the wall. Yes, he’d be safe there. She was sure of it.
The girl murmured his name and laid her palm flat on the wooden panel.
“I’ll come back for you later. I promise.”(8-9)

Ten-year-old Sarah is awoken one night during the summer of 1942 by the French police at her door. Her father had expected that they’d come for him, so he had hidden in the cellar of their home. Instead, they are rounding up whole families of Jewish citizens. Sarah locks her brother in the hidden cupboard, intent on keeping him safe from these strange men, and promises to return. Sixty years later, an American journalist named Julia Jarmond is investigating the details of the round-up, and stumbles upon Sarah’s story during her research. Little does she know the link that exists between Sarah and the secrets that have stayed hidden and locked away, just waiting for the right person to let them out.

It’s a Holocaust novel, and with any novel that deals with the Holocaust, you start it expecting hardships, sadness, and death. In that respect, the novel delivers, as Sarah looses her old life, the life she used to know, in heart-breaking circumstances that can never be reversed. The descriptions and human emotion are really what grabs readers interest, as opposed to the action. It’s like reading a human interest story in the newspaper, the ones where high school sweethearts end up getting together 30 years later, or when twins discover each other during a chance encounter. So in a way it’s very predictable, and while predictability isn’t necessarily a bad thing, you somehow know that things will happen the way they end up happening.

But it’s also about life, as Julia is a vibrant woman, living in France with her family as they renovate an apartment that has been in the family for years. Julia has come to the realization that life is precious, and she’s taking steps to improve the quality of her life. While her revelations about her relationship with her husband seemed to cut in at odd moments and drag me away from the central plot, I understand what de Rosnay was trying to do in showing Julia’s life outside of her research about the roundup.

I’m glad I listened to the audiobook as opposed to reading it, because I think my unfamiliarity with French terms would have made my reading falter. Narrator Polly Stone does a great job with the different accents and tones, distinguishing from Julia and Sarah’s story so readers know instantly whose story is being told. I wish there were some longer transitions, because when revelations arrive I would have liked time to process them instead of getting wrenched to the other person’s story so quickly. But I’m not blaming the narrator for that, who really transports you to France with her narration. I’m curious how the shifts in perspective translated in the movie by the same name that’s based on the book.

I think the biggest impact this book had on me was learning about the Vel’ d’Hiv’ roundup. It’s brought up time and time again in the book that no one learned about it, no one talked about it, and no one wanted to remember it. I have to wonder if anything has changed since de Rosnay wrote the book, and I find myself comparing it to the US roundup of the Japanese into Internment camps. Now don’t misunderstand me, I realize that the US didn’t then send them off to execution, but we seem to have developed the same attitude in that we know it happened but don’t talk about it. de Rosnay quotes a 1995 speech given by then President Jacques Chirac, where he summarizes the events very succinctly:

“These black hours will stain our history for ever and are an injury to our past and our traditions. Yes, the criminal madness of the occupant was supported by the French, by the French state. Fifty-three years ago, on 16 July 1942, 450 policemen and gendarmes, French, under the authority of their leaders, obeyed the demands of the Nazis. That day, in the capital and the Paris region, nearly 10,000 Jewish men, women, and children were arrested at home, in the early hours of the morning, and assembled at police stations. . . .France, home of the Enlightenment and the Rights of Man, land of welcome and asylum, France committed that day the irreparable. Breaking its word, it delivered those it protected to their executioners.”

I’m left wondering what other stories from history we are loosing as the people who lived through it begin to disappear without sharing their story. Will we be as dedicated as Julia in finding them again?

BBAW — Forgotten Treasure

Day four of Book Blogger Appreciation Week is here.

The BBAW Content Development Team is proud to announce our theme for 2010: A Treasure Chest of Infinite Books and Infinite Blogs. You’ll probably be stuffing your google reader with the new blogs you discover next week and piling onto your bookshelves with all the great books we’ll be talking about!

Thursday—Forgotten Treasure
Sure we’ve all read about Freedom and Mockingjay but we likely have a book we wish would get more attention by book bloggers, whether it’s a forgotten classic or under marketed contemporary fiction.  This is your chance to tell the community why they should consider reading this book!

I had trouble with this one, because I’ve been so much current young adult fiction recently, which gets reviewed everywhere. The book that finally popped into my mind was Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn. According to Amazon, the novel was originally published as Ella Minnow Pea: A Progressively Lipogrammatic Epistolary Fable in Oct. 2001. Understandably, I’m very greatful that the subtitle was later shortened to Ella Minnow Pea: A Novel in Letters.

The book tells the story of Ella, who lives on the island of Nollop, located off the coast of South Carolina and home to the writer of “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.” The whole island idolizes this legacy, so when the letters from the sentence begin to fall off a statue containing the sentence, the citizens take it as a sign that they should no longer use the letters. That’s inconvienent in the beginning with one or two letters, but it becomes downright impossible as more letters fall off the statue. The government begins to police the community, banishing those who use words containing those letters.

It’s a thought-provoking novel to say the least. I first came across this book in high school as required reading, and was impressed with the author’s conveyance of ideas. In writing that starts out sounding like stilted, very formal English and degrades into a version of text speak as the letters fall. Readers are forced to interpret these intentional mispellings and alternative phonetic spellings, which might hamper some but it’s a welcome and challenging brain teaser for others. Encouraging discussion about a multitude of topics, the book addresses the issue of government control and censorship, as well as blind acceptance by the masses.

Another great series with off the wall humor and some light-hearted religion is the Mitford Series by Jan Karon. Beginning with At Home in Mitford, the series follow Father Tim, an Episcopalian rector who lives in a small North Carolina town. (And no, I didn’t intentionally set out to recommend two books that both take place in the Carolinas, that’s just how cool I am.) In this town of excentric characters, Father Tim finds himself caring for three new members; an overly-friendly dog who only responds to quoted scripture, a young boy and a children’s book author who moves in next door. While some people might not see this as very eventful, I always encourage them to give it a try. Picture Gilmore Girls town charm mixed in with Asop fable type lessons in life and love. The religion and lessons aren’t hammered over your head though, so for those of you who aren’t religious, I wouldn’t worry too much. There’s about a dozen books in the series now, with a new one being published October 19th according to Jan Karon’s website.

Both of these are older books that I think everyone — maybe even myself — need to revisit.

The Help

Title: The Help
Author: Kathryn Stockett
Narrators: Jenna Lamia, Bahni Turpin, Octavia Spencer, and Cassandra Campbell
ISBN: 9780143144182
Pages: 451 pages
Discs: 15 CDs, about 18 hours
Publisher/Date: Amy Einhorn Books, (Penguin Audio) c2009.

“I want to interview you. About what it’s like to work as a maid.” [...]
I turn and look at her. This what she been trying to ask me the past two weeks in Miss Leefolt kitchen. “You think Miss Leefolt gone agree to that? Me telling stories about her?”
Miss Skeeter’s eyes drop down some. “Well, no. I was thinking we wouldn’t tell her. I’ll have to make sure the other maids will agree to keep it secret, too.”
I scrunch up my forehead, just starting to get what she’s asking. “Other maids?”
“I was hoping to get four or five. To really show what it’s like to be a maid in Jackson.” [...]
I just stare at her. Is she crazy? “Did you hear about the colored boy this morning? One they beat with a tire iron for accidentally using the white bathroom?”
She just look at me, blink a little. “I know things are unstable but this is–”
“And my cousin Shinelle in Cauter County? They burn up her car cause she went down to the voting station.”
“No one’s ever written a book like this,” she say, finally whispering, finally starting to understand, I guess. (102-103)

Aibileen and Minny are best friends, comparing notes about the women they work for as maids in 1962 Jackson, Mississippi. Things aren’t great, what with Hilly Holbrook pushing the issue of building a separate toilet in every home for the help to use, and Minny loosing her job and being black-listed due to accusations of theft. But what are they supposed to do to change that, since this is the way things are. Then 22-year-old Miss Skeeter returns from college in the hopes of securing a writing career, only to be granted a house-care column in the local paper. She’s told to write about something she knows and is passionate about, so she pairs up with Minny and Aibileen to write an examination of “domestic helpers” in the south. But can this controversial subject stay a secret from everyone else, especially from Miss Holbrook in high society south, where everybody’s business is her business?

This book was recommended to me by my supervisor. Because the wait at the time was shorter for the audiobook, I requested that instead of the printed copy. I am so glad for that happy accident. These four ladies do a superb job, and I could just picture Miss Skeeter, Minny and Aibileen striving to keep their secret safe from everyone else. There were lines delivered where I could picture the maids, hands on their hips, or heads cocked, or eyes downcast as was appropriate. Their pacing was appropriate, and I’m so glad I took the time to listen to it because I know I would have read this book too fast and missed some of the nuances and intricacies. The audiobook forced me to slow down and really listen to what was being said and absorb what it meant.

I feel like this could be in the teen section, and it could replace some of the required reading that is shoved down throats at the high school level. The writing was gorgeous, eloquent, and lyrical, drawing readers in with that slow southern drawl and keeping them hooked with tight dialogue and narration. The book would be ambling along, and then something shocking would happen that just sticks in your gut and stops your heart because you feel for these women. They have been brought to life.

These maids have attitude. Aibileen is the more patient and practical of the two. In addition to the house, Aibileen takes care of white children, moving on before the children reach double digits and they lose their unconditional love. Aibileen knows that once they hit double digits, they start learning how things really are in the world, instead of how they should be, and her heart breaks when the children learn the racism their parents and community encourage them to develop. The care these children receive in Aibileen’s hands is often better than what their own parents provide them, with the mother being apathetic at best about her daughter’s care and well-being.

In contrast, Minny seems especially suited to handle the elderly. Minny is the one who lands into trouble running off her mouth, but older people either don’t hear or don’t remember her sarcastic and abrasive quips. She’s the one I liked the most, and I kept picturing someone similar to Mammee from Gone with the Wind, regardless of her description. Each of these maids have their own hardships to overcome, with Aibileen suffering alone after her son passes away and Minny’s home is overrun by children and a husband. When revelations regarding her home life come to light, I grow even more impressed by her character.

Miss Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan evolves from this timid follower to a strong and opinionated woman, even if she doesn’t always voice them to other people. I was pleased with how her budding romantic relationship eventually ended up, although I was yelling at my radio at some parts because of the route she took to get there. What started off as a selfish endeavor to get writing experience becomes so much more. I seriously believe that in a different decade, Skeeter, Minny, and Aibileen could become life-long friends. Because of the year, and the environment of that time period, we’re not 100% sure that’s really going to happen. But it’s amazing what is accomplished between these three ladies in such a short time frame, and the effect they have on the community. They don’t change everyone, but they bring exposure to feelings that were, and still are, considered taboo.

To be perfectly honest, there were two very minor things that disappointed me. The first was that Skeeter’s ending is the only “happy” one. Oh sure, there is change in the wind for the two maids, and it obviously wouldn’t have been true to the time period if there weren’t any consequences, which the maids suffer from more acutely than Miss Skeeter. But the shift that happens to both Minny and Aibileen are heart-breaking, although portrayed with a note of optimism.

The second disappointment was that the “Afterword” by the author was not included in the audiobook. Kathryn Stockett provides perspective regarding her writing process and her first-hand experience with maids in Mississippi during that time period. It lends authenticity, and just as Skeeter’s editor Miss Stein encouraged Skeeter to include her story about her own maid in the fictionalized book, I feel Stockett’s reminiscence, however brief it is, should have been included in the audio.

Can you believe that the book is already being made into a movie? Here’s the Internet Movie Database entry and here’s an article that reveals a little bit about the collaboration between author and long time friends producer/director/writer Tate Taylor and Tate’s partner Brunson Green. And I’m absolutely thrilled to see Octavia Spencer, who I’m pretty sure was Minny in the audiobook, reprise her role for the movie. As I said before, she’s my favorite.

Making Mischief: A Maurice Sendak Appreciation

Making MischiefTitle: Making Mischief: A Maurice Sendak Appreciation
Author: Gregory Maguire
ISBN:9780061689161
Pages: 200 pages
Publisher/Date: William Morrow, c2009.

“I won’t attempt to name Sendak’s theme. I will look at the body of his work casually, colloquially, admiringly, from several different approaches in order to show you what I see, and why I think the word genius isn’t grade inflation.” (4)

If you’re looking for a comprehensive, unbiased review and critique of Sendak’s work, you won’t find it here. Author Gregory Maguire, of Wicked fame, sets out to show the world his long withheld appreciation of the work of Maurice Sendak. In Making Mischief, Maguire compares his art not only against other works of his own art, but also to such classics as William Blake and Chuck Jones and lesser known artists like Iona and Peter Opie and William Nicholson. While people familiar with art will probably get the most out of this book, the last chapters are the ones I found the most enjoyable. In chapter three, Maguire showcases the four popular categories (flying, reading, children, and monsters) that are noticably recurring in Maurice Sendak’s works. As an English major in college, I’m familiar with the idea of recuring motifs, and appreciated Maguire’s organization that made it easy to compare illustrations. In chapter four, Maguire picks his top ten pictures from Sendak’s body of work. With each picture, Maguire goes into more detail analyzing Sendak’s use of space, allignment, and color. Finally, and probably the most eye-opening, is chapter five, which collects a hodge podge of Sendak’s illustrations to retell the Caldecot winning story of Where the Wild Things Are. Fans of Sendak will be interested in the title, but references to other works of art are lost on the uninformed, even when the work in question is provided. Citations alongside the artwork would have helped the reader tremendously, especially for readers unfamiliar with Sendak’s complete body of work and the obscure artists used for comparison, although the accompanying credits are beneficial for those looking for other information.

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