Thursday, August 2, 2012

Throwdown Update: Six...

It's been a busy few days around the old Throwdown. A huge effort sent Team Everyone Else surging into the lead, leaving me to battle my way back. Team Everyone Else is sitting pretty at 138.84 books read, while I am almost exactly 10 books behind at 128.8. They'll never defeat me. NEVER!

I've been reading an odd amalgamation of books (which is par for the course for me) beginning with The Sugar Barons: Family, Corruption, Empire, and War in the West Indies by Matthew Parker. I've long been fascinated by the history of how one seemingly ordinary product can effect global changes (see Cod, or Salt, or The Scents of Eden), and given that this book promised to marry that to corruption and piracy, it sounded like a fun time. It delivers what it promised: a history of a product coming out of some of the most corrupt circumstances imaginable. There is history, both of families and Empire. There is drunkenness, licentiousness, rum, and piracy. There is slavery and inhumanity of many kinds. Sadly, the story is more compelling than the telling of it. Interesting information, just not an exciting read.

Then there was James Renner's The Man From Primrose Lane, a story about missing girls and suspicious characters that takes some really unexpected twists and turns. It's well-grounded, moves quickly and goes places I guarantee you won't expect.

Then I spent some time with Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling's anthology Teeth: Vampire Tales. (I like vampire stories. So sue me.) Datlow and Windling are master anthologists, and this collection contained some of my favorite authors (Jeffrey Ford, Neil Gaiman), so I was excited to see where all it took me. It's a fantastic collection, introducing me to some new authors that I've just got to see more of: Genevieve Valentine, Cecil Castellucci, Holly Black. The pieces range from funny to scary to poignant and there were way more hits than misses.

Finally, there's The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick. Like Wonderstruck, it's a story told in both words and pictures, lending a (highly appropriate) cinematic feel to the reading experience. It's the story of Hugo Cabret, an orphan taken in by his drunken uncle who maintains the clocks at the train station. When his uncle disappears, Hugo goes on maintaining the clocks, hiding from the Station Agent and stealing food when he has to. The story has danger, excitement, chase scenes, automatons, coincidence, and even a history of early films. It's fabulous, and I love it to pieces.

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