The LJ/School Library Journal staff finds the wait—for a movie adaptation, the punch line, a recommended galley, a plot twist, the time when women will rule the world, a shark battle’s outcome—is definitely worth it in this week’s “What We’re Reading.”
Ian Chant, Associate Editor, News & Features, LJ
As of this morning, I’m taking advantage of the fact that our office has all sorts of weird books lying around and reading EJ Altbacker’s Shark Wars: The Battle of Riptide (Razorbill, 2011), the second in a “middle-grade adventure series that’s got the action of Star Wars and the intrigue of Warriors,” according to its back-cover text. As you may have gathered, this is a title that’s finally brave enough to answer the burning literary question: “What if a bunch of teenagers had to save the world from the forces of evil, but also everyone was a shark?”
I could tell you all sorts of things I’ve learned from paging through this title. For instance, humans are called “landsharks” and there is a shark royal court with a surprisingly intricate sense of decorum. But sometimes the best a reviewer can do is let a book speak for itself, so I present here some selections from it. Each of the following represents a reason to read this book, which, again, is an actual thing that I’m holding in my hand.
The Dialog Between These Shark Bros—Jaunt tail-slapped Xander on the flank. “Since when are you the sort of biter that swims away from a scrumble?”
Important Shark Proverbs—”Sometimes a fin has to swim out, snout to snout, and be counted.”
Shark Yoda Is a Fighting Fish, Because of Course He Is—The betta flicked his fins again as his eyes blazed. “You complain endlessly! You are soft and coddled, whining like a vain pufferfish at the merest discomfort.”
It Has Shark Kung Fu, Which Is Exactly What It Sounds Like: He rocketed at Lochlan, performing Cuttlefish Strike but was blocked when Lochlan countered the pectoral fin attack with Swordfish Parries. Grey feinted with Sunfish Greets the Morn and seamlessly moved into the dorsal attack, Topside Rip.
I Don’t Even Know, This Isn’t Actually Words Anymore—“Two things. First, Coral Shiver has formed a treaty with an old friend of yours, King Lochlan boola something-or-other and his AuzyAuzy Shiver.”
So, yeah, it was read this or revisit some Steinbeck this week. I stand by my decision.
Mahnaz Dar, Associate Editor, SLJ
Lately, I’ve been delving into the art world. I’m reading Pop Art: 50 Works of Art You Should Know by Gary Van Wyk (Prestel, 2013), checking out works by artists such as Andy Warhol or Wayne Thiebaud. Though Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Cans is an incredibly famous work, one that I’ve seen many times, I loved hearing about its origins. Apparently, Warhol was envious seeing other artists, such as Roy Lichtenstein and James Rosenquist, who he felt were inspired by him, take off. His friend Muriel Latow, a gallerist, told him that he had to find an everyday, recognizable object. Responding with, “‘Oh that sounds fabulous,” Warhol went to the supermarket the next day, and history was made.
And in a decidedly less cultural bent, I’m rekindling an old love: comedy! This weekend, I discovered the brilliance that is comedian Louis CK’s show Louie, and, with it, a slew of interesting articles. Louie’s daughter’s Jane’s insistence that she’s still in a dream (even after waking up from a nightmare) led to a piece in The Daily Beast about whether the character is in fact troubled. Meanwhile, both Time and Jezebel analyzed a disturbing scene, bordering on sexual assault, between Louie and longtime crush Pamela.
Liz French, Senior Editor, Reviews, LJ
Oh Gone Girl, Gone Girl, how I adored you. But oh boy, Girl, what you hath wrought. All the thrillers crowd around your locker, eyeing how you wear your hair and how you stack your bracelets, which iPhone cover you’re rocking this season. They used to wanna be Lisbeth Salander, and, sure, there’s still a contingent, but now it’s mostly you, Girl. And no doubt the leadup to the movie release (in October, here’s a trailer) will only spawn more wannabes. Even so, I had high hopes for Elizabeth Little’s debut novel (she’s written two nonfics) Dear Daughter (Viking, Jul.) after reading Robin Nesbitt’s starred review of the title in the June 15 issue of LJ. Robin said: “Fans of Tana French and Gillian Flynn are going to enjoy the smart narrator and the twists and turns in the case.” Okay. Tana French fan, check. Gillian Flynn fan, check. Smart narrator? Smart-mouthed maybe. Twists and turns? Some were good. Some were contrived as all get-out. I did enjoy the heroine’s aforementioned smart mouth and unremittingly snarky attitude even though I never felt any compassion for her at all. Not even a drop. But maybe that was Little’s intention all along.
Rebecca T. Miller, Editorial Director, LJ/SLJ
Every once in a while I ask Barbara Hoffert, editor of LJ’s Prepub Alert, for a good book to read—who wouldn’t? I did just that a few weeks ago and she searched her stacks for something particular she had already set aside for me, something based in 1950s Montana. Unfortunately, the galley she had in mind was at her home, so I had to wait. I am so glad I did. The book in question is Malcolm Brooks’s debut novel Painted Horses (Grove, Aug.). Here is a passage from the point of view of the young archeologist Catherine Lemay in the final hours of her cross-country train ride west for a first job—and adventure? I find it suggests the beauty and contrast of the West that all too few get to experience:
She watched the waning sun play with the colors of the rocks and the low broken hills, saw muted, shifting shades of green and gray. The sapphire sky went white, then pink in the west. By the time the train lurched forward, shadows crawled across the ground. Flecks of grit blasted against the glass.
Meredith Schwartz, Senior Editor, News & Features, LJ
In spite of the recent article in Slate declaring that adults should be ashamed of reading YA books, I will admit that I am nearly finished reading The Iron Trial (Doubleday), an ARC of a September release I picked up at BEA and the first in a YA series (Magisterium) cowritten by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare. It feels in some ways like a commentary on Harry Potter. There is a magical school and students from both legacy and mundane backgrounds, a long-awaited savior student, a dark lord who is also an alumnus, a rival, and a male and female set of best friends. But the elements don’t go together the way you might expect, and I didn’t see the big plot twist coming at all. I haven’t read the big finish yet. But so far I recommend it.
Ashleigh Williams, Editorial Assistant, SLJ
I’m reading Millennial Women (Dell, 1979), a collection edited by Virginia Kidd. I am fairly certain that, as wands to wizards, this incredible book chose me. The title font! The far-out cover! The shout-out to Ursula K. Le Guin! It screamed Seventies too much for me not to pick it up. This sf anthology sails blithely from campy to creepy (all with slightly dated language) but presents an abundance of fearless ladies tackling troubles from beyond the wildest dreams of 1978. In her introduction, Kidd asks: “Will the year 2000 free women to reclaim the earth and explore space?” It’s kind of a funny question, though the answer from this side of Y2K might be one worth contemplating.