[DWJ] Books of 2007

Elizabeth Parks henx19 at gmail.com
Wed Jan 2 11:21:53 EST 2008

Gili wrote:

* "Sahara Special" by Esme Raji Cordell. Tearjerker about a misfit
fifth-grader. I cried my eyes out, and can't say it wasn't a good book - but
I had to wonder who the target audience was. An adult wouldn't read a book
so clearly marketed to young readers, and I doubt many young readers would
have the perspective to appreciate the characters.

I say:

this reminds me of my reaction to _The Spell Book of Listen Taylor_ by
Jaclyn Moriarty.  It's a YA book (in the US), and the title character
is a YA, but it focuses mainly on older characters, and the overall
theme of the book is adultery.  I liked it (not as well as the murder
of bindy mackenzie, but more than the year of secret assignments), but
I know without a doubt that I would have hated it as a young teen.  I
was far too romantic, and far too vehemently anti-adultery whatsoever
without any of the later experiences (not committing adultery or
cheating, i must admit) or knowledge that let me be sympathetic to the

One of the reviews on Amazon says that it's a revised version of an
adult novel. . . it still strikes me as a strange choice for YA.
Anybody else feel that way?


On Jan 2, 2008 4:48 AM, Gili Bar-Hillel <gbhillel at netvision.net.il> wrote:
> I had a very strange year readingwise. My reading was very unevenly
> scattered over the year - long barren stretches with occasional gluts -  and
> I think I read quite a bit less than I do on an average year. Probably this
> is due to my having had a baby in May and the translation of "Harry Potter
> and the Deathly Hallows" from July to October. Two of the best books I read
> this year I read only last week.
> I actually kept a list of books I read this year (not including picture
> books and some work-related stuff) which is a bit OCD of me but I hope not
> completely boring:
> * "Memory" by Lois McMaster Bujold.  I don't need to tell this list about
> Bujold. I've been reading the Miles books completely out of sequence, but
> enjoying them anyway.
> * "Avielle of Rhia" by Dia Calhoun. All the right elements somehow added up
> to a really mediocre book. If the mix had been just slightly different I
> could have loved this book, but I found it predictable and a bit preachy in
> a hit-you-over-the-head fashion.
> * "Dragon Slippers" by Jessica Day George. Just the opposite: a slightly
> different mix would have made this a run-of-the-mill YA fantasy of the type
> we've read a hundred times, but George added just enough humor and panache
> to make this a tremendously enjoyable book. I highly recommend it.
> * "The Frog Princess" by E. D. Baker. Blah. Silly.
> * "Sahara Special" by Esme Raji Cordell. Tearjerker about a misfit
> fifth-grader. I cried my eyes out, and can't say it wasn't a good book - but
> I had to wonder who the target audience was. An adult wouldn't read a book
> so clearly marketed to young readers, and I doubt many young readers would
> have the perspective to appreciate the characters.
> * "Hide and Seek with Angels" by Lisa Chaney. This one is non-fiction, the
> first of two biographies of James Barrie that I read this year, as part of
> my research for the annotated edition of "Peter Pan" I've translated for an
> Israeli publishing house. Barrie's life makes for fascinating reading,
> stranger than fiction. I haven't read many biographies and don't have a good
> basis for comparison, and I'm sure having such a rich, complex and
> well-documented object makes some aspects of the job easy for a biographer,
> but I suspect this one was also simply well written.
> * "The Skiver's Guide" by Diana Wynne Jones
> * "A Song for Summer" by Eva Ibbotson. There were many things I loved about
> this book, but ultimately it is not one of my favorites from Ibbotson, and
> my gripes with this book drew my attention to flaws in some of her other
> books. She does this bit with everything seeming to build up to a happy
> ending and then going wrong, and then dragging out for a bit more up to the
> true happy ending. It's like a suitcase with a false bottom. I find it
> disconcerting. But the characters were delicious, as a former drama major I
> particularly appreciated the artsy-fartsy Brecht production. I wonder how
> much of the plot was born out of Ibottson's fascination with the word
> "defenstration".
> * "Book of Enchantments" by Patricia Wrede. Nice collection of short
> stories. This book was actually picked out for me and purchased by my
> husband - I was impressed, I'm not easy to buy books for.
> * "Daughters of the Dragon" by Marit Ben-Israel. It doesn't look like this
> Israeli novel will be translated into English anytime soon, more's the pity;
> I would have loved to hear some of your takes on it. I found it a compelling
> albeit depressing book. The story, in very basic lines, is about the little
> girls sacrificed annually to a vicious dragon, who makes them serve as
> slaves for a year and when they're all spent devours them just in time for
> his next offering. One of the little girls figures out a way to kill the
> dragon, and then turns his hide into a giant puppet so she can continue to
> receive the town offerings. She hopes to establish a secret community with
> the other sacrificial girls, however when the next girl arrives they don't
> really get on with each other. The narration keeps keeps getting sidetracked
> into other stories, more or less relevant, and it can be a bit trying. The
> third girl to be saved is an abandoned child from our world who crossed over
> through a magic picture in an old book, her story is never quite resolved; a
> fourth girl did a bout as a magic princess in a forest luring travellers to
> be devoured by wolves - altogether impossibly complicated. In some ways,
> this book reminded my of "The Neverending Story", in which each character
> hints to an entire tragic history that can't be fully explored. And here too
> there's a problem of audience: too dark for young readers, too fairytalish
> for most adults. Reviews for this book were very mixed, and my opinion was a
> bit mixed too, but overall it was so interesting that I would recommend
> giving it a try - if only it could be translated into English.
> * "The Sea of Monsters" and "The Titan's Curse" by Rick Riordan. Books 2 and
> 3 in the Percy Jackson series: more of the same if you've read the first,
> which I reckon is a good thing.
> * "Yetzer Lev Ha'Adama" by Sarah Blau, not quite sure how to translate this
> one - "The Passions of a Heart of Earth"? Another Israeli novel, not sure
> what the prospects are for this one ever being translated. This one is
> definitely for adults: about a self-loathing young woman who fashions a
> Golem for herself, to satisfy her supressed sexual passions; but she can't
> quite control the Golem and his supernatural influence gradually poisons her
> world. Strong stuff, disturbing on many levels, often deliberately ugly and
> quite frightening. Not an easy book but very interesting.
> * "The New Policeman" by Kate Thompson. As recommended on this list. Did not
> disappoint.
> * "Wyrd Sisters", "Maskerade", "Carpe Jugulum" by Terry Pratchett. This was
> my Terry Pratchett binge during my first hospitalisation for PIH (=Pregnancy
> Induced Hypertension).
> * "Lady Friday" by Garth Nix. This is the weakest of the "Keys to the
> Kingdom" series so far, and I'll admit I was disappointed. But I suppose
> even an utterly brilliant series has its slow installments.
> * "The Game" by Diana Wynne Jones. Too short!  Interesting to read
> back-to-back with the Rick Riordan books, which are also reworkings of Greek
> mythology.
> And then I was hospitalised again, and read:
> * "The Merrybegot" by Julie Hearn. Overall a good book, even excellent, but
> the end was a bit too deus-ex-machina for my liking.
> * "Peter and the Shadow Thieves" by Dave Barry and Ridely Pearson. Not sure
> why I bothered, given that I didn't like "Peter and the Starcatchers". This
> sequel is maybe just slightly better. Still pretty Schlocky though. I don't
> get how Dave Barry can be not funny.
> * "Celandine" by Steve Augard, another recommendation from this list which I
> thoroughly enjoyed, though was a bit peeved to discover it was book 2 of a
> trilogy.
> * "Voices" by Ursula Le-Guin, I remember enjoying this book but can't
> remember almost anything about it. And yet again was peeved to discover it
> was book 2 of a trilogy (nobody's fault but my own).
> And then I decided to clear some reading "debts", the following three are
> all titles from the adult imprint of the same publishing house for which I
> select the YA books:
> * "The Chronoliths" by Robert Charles Wilson. Science fiction of a social
> vein, I enjoyed it.
> * "Transformation" by Carol Berg was absolutely super, but the sequel
> "Revelation" was a bit of a let-down.
> At some point here I was hospitalised for the third and final time and baby
> Haggai was born (on May 13). Then for a while was not capable of reading
> anything but the cartoons and funny bits of back issues of "The New Yorker"
> from 2003. But somehow reading skill returned and I read:
> * "Small Steps" by Louise Sachar. Not nearly as good as "Holes", but still
> better than your average YA book.
> * "Tunnels" by Roderick Gordon and Brian Williams. There had been a bit of a
> buzz about this book, hailed as "the next Harry Potter" (like so many books
> nowadays), so I felt I had to read it. It was a decent enough page turner,
> horror/fantasy blend, but not good enough for me to want to invest in
> reading the sequels, despite ending on a cliff-hanger.
> * "The Princess Diaries" by Meg Cabot. Don't know what I was thinking, I
> should have known I wouldn't like this book. But still and all, SO much
> better than the inane movie version.
> * "Caddie Ever After" by Hilary McKay. Not as good as the other Casson
> books.
> I think this is the last book I read before the big freeze of "Harry Potter
> and the Deathly Hallows". Then, all in the past month or so, I read:
> * "Mirrorscape" by Mike Wilks. Another "the next Harry Potter". Quite good,
> good pace, interesting world, a bit too complicated what with all the
> hopping in and out of paintings, some of which sound to be quite bizarre
> paintings (like a blend of Bosch, Dali and Escher).
> * Several short books I've been asked to translate, including "Utterly Me,
> Clarice Bean" and "Nim's Island"
> * "Larklight" by Philip Reeve. Victorian outerspace steam-punk adventure,
> quite witty in a toungue-in-cheek sort of way, me likes!
> * "Dragonkeeper" by Carol Wilkinson. Possibly the best book I've read all
> year. Or maybe I'm just still under the influence, having read it very
> recently.
> and lastly, "Whispering to Witches" by Anna Dale, sweet but nothing special.
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