Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Three Tales of My Father's Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett

At the suggestion of an alley cat, a brave boy named Elmer Elevator sets off to rescue a dragon.

This 50th anniversary volume contains the books My Father's Dragon, Elmer and the Dragon, and The Dragons of Blueland along with an introduction by the author. Together, they make up the "Elmer and the Dragons series." In the first book, Elmer sets off to save an enslaved baby dragon. The second book is the fantastic journey homeward. In the third book, the dragon returns to enlist Elmer's help in saving his family.

I read this as part of my self-education on award-winners of the past; the first book in the series was a runner-up for the Newbery Medal when it was published in 1948.

It's an odd type of children's story - the kind we had before anyone took "children's literature" very seriously. It's a series of wildly improbable adventures taken by a child without the aid of adults. There are talking animals. There's menace, but no big danger befalls them. All's well in the end, and it always finishes with the adults befuddled as to what's happened right under their noses!

Monday, November 28, 2016

Razor Girl by Carl Hiaasen

Some stories are just so strange they have to be true - and the con artist at the core of Razor Girl is one of those; her scam involves shaving her privates while behind the wheel, "accidentally" rear-ending someone, her hiked skirt and blood droplets for effect.

This book is a return to former-detective, health officer Andrew Yancy and his endangered bit of paradise. A big-city lawyer and his high-maintenance fiance are planning a new McMansion on the lot next to Yancy's house. Things didn't go so well for the last guy that tried to build there ...

Throw into the mix a reality TV star who isn't what he seems, his beleaguered Hollywood agent, and a Florida redneck with a man-crush. Typical Hiaasen!

Truly, it's prime-form Hiaasen too, with a story that hums right along and a plot you couldn't possibly predict. Nobody does comedy-mixed-with-satire the way he does, and it seems like Florida is determined to provide fodder for these novels (we'll call that a silver lining).

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Super Extra Grande by Yoss

Who knew there's a whole sub-genre of Cuban sci-fi? And apparently, Yoss is the crown prince.

This slim volume features a space biologist who specializes in really, really large creatures (partially because he's very big, himself). The one experience that so-far eludes him is actual research on the living, moving lakes of a distant planet.

When he's offered the chance-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do so, it's not without an ulterior motive. Because not one but two of his former employees are MIA, crash-landed in one of the alive lakes, but they were on a secret mission that cannot be revealed. Also, they're both sort of in love with our hero.

The book was entertaining and the characters and creatures were interesting and new. I felt like some things were a bit too pat - just sort of resolved immediately with no drama or tension. I wanted more!

The real reason I picked up the book was that I'd read about a heavy-metal rocker with a degree in biology who wrote sci-fi, and that was just the kind of strange I had to investigate.

Friday, November 25, 2016

This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz

Love is at the center of this short story collection, but it's equally a look at the American immigrant experience.

The collection revolves around Yunior: - the stories are about his brother, his parents, his past and present lovers. He's a Dominican in America, smart but naive, and like many, he's struggling to figure out his own life while getting older every day.

The language is raw - but appropriately so - and often it's a mix of Spanglish (and it's not translated, so you'd better dust off your high school espanol). Yunior's a bit of a fuck-up where it comes to love and sex, but granted he's got no solid role models to show him otherwise.

I understand why the book got so much love. It's not necessarily a happy tale, but it's told well and offers a unique perspective on the American experience. I listened to the audiobook (awesome) and it was interesting to hear the "street" come and go from the dialog across the stories.