Saturday, September 26, 2015

A book to read, a book to avoid, and a book to revisit...

I haven't done as much reading in the last month as I usually do. No excuses, really. I'm busy with getting my work published and this semester I am teaching quite a bit. There have been three books I've read recently that deserve discussion, however.
A book to read....
The advent of Sage by Scott Newman
You may recall I reviewed Newman's first book, Draco, here. This second book of the series finds Draco going to Japan to fight the Yakuza, the evil criminal empire that killed his friends and the love of his life. With great battle scenes, and martial arts sequences, this book often reads like a graphic novel. I particularly enjoyed the X-Men like special school that Draco has clearly been chosen for, through his discovery of the book that started it all in the first novel.  Of course, Draco is the most talented student since Sage, who becomes part of the Yazuka, and Draco is pitted against him in several fights, including the climatic battle. Poignant in imagery is one of these first fights atop a snowy mountain.
My favorite part about this book, however, is the character development of Kat, Draco's partner who not only saves him in several situations, but most importantly, grounds Draco in his self discovery.
Newman's writing style is clearly an homage to martial arts films and Japanese animation, and his dialogue and character development have improved in this second novel. Frequently, authors find their voice and flow with additional publications, and Newman fits in this category. We are left eagerly awaiting the next adventures.  I had a chance to ask Scott about his next book, which is currently being written.  He said that Draco's adventures would continue in the next book with a super Martial Arts tournament.  This new book, he says will have more action and that the characters will be more diverse and philosophical. I look forward to future books in this series!

A book to avoid.....
Go set a Watchman by Harper Lee
I loved To kill a mockingbird, so when I heard that Lee's first book featuring Scout was going to be published, I pre-ordered it. At first, it was okay. This book started with 20-something Scout returning to Maycomb from New York, for a vacation. I could picture Scout growing up to be this Jean-Louise, and it was fun to think about how these characters would have evolved. However, it quickly soured. First of all, Jem is dead, and this issue is never resolved. Secondly, the pseudo-romance between Scout and Hank is tedious. There is one major issue with this book that should cause any potential reader to have second thoughts. Racism.
After I'd ordered the book, I read the initial reviews of this book, several people noted that some readers may be disappointed in finding out that Atticus was a racist. I wondered how terrible it could be. IT WAS TERRIBLE.Holy goodness, bad. Scout finds out upon her return that not only is racism rampant in Maycomb, but her father, Atticus, and her maybe fiance Henry are members of the Klan. The second half of this book is dedicated to arguments and conversations in which both try to justify themselves to Scout. I couldn't wait for it to just be over, and I'm not only sad that I spent money on this book, but  I may never be able to read Mockingbird again.

 A book to revisit....
The Time Traveler's wife by Audrey Niffenger
Sometimes, like above, a book is so terrible that I am dissuaded from reading anything at all. So I revisited one of my top-ten favorite books, a story about a chrono-displaced man and the woman he loves. Re-reading favorite books is soothing, like hearing a beloved song on the radio, or wearing an old, worn t-shirt. It is comfortable and fits right. I love re-reading a favorite book, because each time I find something new to love about the book.
This time around, I have been really entranced by how Niffenger chose to order the book.  Really, she could have told the story from the point of view of Claire- meeting Henry at age 6, and her acceptance of Henry's comings and goings, or it could have been told in Henry's order, can you imagine meeting someone at age 20 who has known you for years? I've also been fascinated with the idea that this story could also have been told from Alba's eyes.  I could see how a sequel to this book all about Alba would have done well, but I am so glad it wasn't written.  That would have cheapened the love story here.

This week, I am looking forward to the new releases of The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood and Free Country: The Children's Crusade by Neil Gaiman.  Ahh, fall. Bring me cool weather, warm coffee, and some lovely books to read.

Happy reading, friends!

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