YA Fiction Picks - My Expanding Booklist

Because I haven't been doing much with my spare time this semester besides read young adult fiction, I will share a few favorites with the rest of the world..I am quite intrigued by the number of youthful protagonists who must do a little time-traveling or archival investigation in order to establish their identities. Apparently the past is super cool these days.

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld: I get it. YA steampunk is in these days, but this book is actually good. Set in the early throes of World War I, the story cuts back and forth between young protagonists on either side of the lines. I'm not going to give away all of the conceits because they are more fun to discover for yourself, but I do look forward to reading the rest of the series.

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente and Ana Juan: Eight parts Wizard of Oz-like quest to stop evil witch from ruining fairyland and two parts Peter Pan-like reconciliation with aging out of the imaginative wonder of childhood. If you've ever read At the Back of the North Wind by George MacDonald, you will appreciate this little vignette. The illustrations make the book.

The Kronos Chronicles Series by Marie Rutkoski (first book: The Cabinet of Wonders): Frankly, if a story's got gear-works machinery and a tin mechanical spider who acts as a frequently disregarded conscience to a twelve-year-old girl's escapades, then you certainly don't need much else to convince me to read a book.

Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley: For all the philatelics out there, here is an adventure featuring a spunky eleven-year-old girl turned budding scientist turned budding detective turned budding stamp expert.

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs: Recipe for an intriguing tale: take a bunch of somewhat creepy yet thoroughly vintage photographs from the late 19th and early 20th century and create a story that manages to reference them all. I thought most of the photo incorporations were relatively believable, but some were definitely a stretch (as in, one could have removed them with no detriment to the story). Ten points for novelty, however.

Moon Over Manifest by Claire Vanderpool: A spunky-twelve-year-old-girl-coming-of-age story set in a Depression-era midwestern town, with flashbacks to World War I. Based on the cover photo I almost did not read this book, as I am suspicious of Newberry Medal-winning books that feature realistic stories about adolescents. I may never recover from Bridge Over Terebithia. Never fear! Moon Over Manifest deals with death and grief, but only secondarily. Instead, Abilene Tucker mostly just learns how to grow into her own self, never an easy task for a twelve-year-old.

The Secret Series by Pseudonymous Bosch (first book: The Name of This Book is Secret) and The Mysterious Benedict Society Series by Trenton Lee Stewart (first book: eponymously titled) appear at first glance to be rewrites of the same archtypal scenarios: kids with unique gifts who join a secret society in order to stop evil villains from destroying the world with their nefarious inventions. Even the membership of the two societies seems suspiciously similar: a brainiac, an athlete and a ringleader curiously lacking in birth parents. The main difference I can detect is that the Secret Series is a good deal sillier. And might make you hungry.

Posted by funke at 10:27 | Comments (0)


this is your brain - this is your brain NOT on digital preservation

..so this is a silly little video created for a class project...a simple little PSA to promote the importance of preserving your digital files....

Posted by funke at 10:21 | Comments (0)


Five Things to Avoid If Attending a Classical Concert

Consider these five tips a guide for the uninitiated. Please, under no circumstances, commit the following social faux pas at your next classical concert:

1. Yelling "Bravo!" when the performer is clearly a woman. This mistake stems from an ignorance of basic Italian. "Bravo" is, in fact, a masculine adjective. If you wish to congratulate a female on an outstanding performance, please employ the feminine case, "Brava!" Or, if multiple performers are taking a bow, you may resort to the plural, "Bravi!"

2. Clapping between movements of a larger work. Granted, one does want to communicate approval and appreciation for a job well done, but the fact of the matter is that smaller movements within a larger piece are musically related (all the more so once you get into the German Romantic period). Clapping between movements obscures lingering overtones left over from one movement, causing some aural amnesia before the next even commences. If, on the other hand, the prior movement was so horrible that you wish to stamp all traces of it from the atmosphere, then by all means, clap away.

3. Clapping the instant the performer strikes the final note. Since we are on the subject of clapping, I would like to point out that just because a performer has stopped playing does not mean that the music is over. Again, savor those lingering overtones. Don't break the spell.

4. Snoring through the pianissimo section. This faux pas needs no further explanation, except perhaps some recommendations on nasal strips.

5. Trying out unapproved nicknames for composers and their symphonies. Tchaik 6 and Shosty 5 are ok. Beet 9 is not.

Posted by funke at 18:00 | Comments (0)


snow day!

Our Colorado vacation came and went all too quickly, but it was filled with certain highlights, such as Evan's first ski trip. This event progressed happily with the requisite number of wipe-outs, balanced by subtle triumphs over the intricacies of the ski lift. Weather cooperated, sending us sunny skies, fresh powder and the mysterious absence of crowds. Only later did we learn that our trip coincided with the winter start date for public school, and even the most lackadaisical student never misses the first day, I suppose.

Other experiences included a winter hike through Section 16 (not, as one may suppose, to be confused with Area 51). A late start and a hearty fear of freezing to death sliced over 1/2 hour off our hike time. We did manage to stop long enough to gaze at the view of Colorado Springs and pose on picturesque wooden bridges. Given the rather solid state of our woodland brooks these days, the bridges appeared more decorative than useful, which suited our photo op purposes just fine (cf. Facebook).

Finally, a snow day brought us some fun times laughing collectively through a Pearls Before Swine treasury. And now we are back in Boston for more snow. A kind landlord used a snow blower to uncover our car.

Posted by funke at 15:59 | Comments (0)


it takes a little Christmas

...I busted out the Angela Lansbury, because I quite agreed with the sentiment that "it hasn't snowed a single flurry" and that we surely "need a little Christmas." And Evan insightfully pointed out that it sounds like composer Jerry Herman ripped the chorus from his recent number "It Takes a Woman" from Hello Dolly.

Compare for yourselves.

"We Need a Little Christmas"

"It Takes a Woman"

Posted by funke at 19:51 | Comments (0)


catalog that

Yes, I've (nearly) emerged from the long tunnel of uncommunicative semester busy-ness -- note that my last entry was the good-bye wave dashed over the shoulder as I ducked into the tunnel entrance -- and I was inspired to 'phone ahead to let folks know I'd soon be out in the sunshine again.

December is always a good time to start writing again. I promise I won't bore you with tales from the library trenches, but I did manage to sneak Peterson's into a holiday game of charades.

Husband and I started our first Christmas tradition: picking out an ornament at 10,000 Villages. I've got my eye on a nice table-topper type tree at the local garden store. Friday is when we'll wrap up that fresh fir scent and bring it home to our own cozy nest. So excited!

Posted by funke at 9:05 | Comments (1)


Halbwachs meets Facebook

So I am taking an archives course on collective memory this semester and was doing the course readings on the Simmons quad, enjoying the lingering sunshine and crisp breezes of early fall. And getting excited about dense philosophical texts once more on my reading radar. After reading for about 2 hours about the role that remembering events/narratives/ceremonies plays in societies, I went to check my email/social networks and noticed so many friends had status updates with "remembering," "we will never forget," "we thank you for your service." I started geeking out -- what serendipity to see social theory suddenly in action! If only old Halbwachs had lived to get a Facebook account.

Posted by funke at 21:21 | Comments (0)


Coasters for Hipsters


*Every hipster worth her salt finds herself with an ever-accumulating pile of ticket stubs from all the very cool events she attends. But what to do when these evidences of past good taste start cluttering up the house?

*The coasters that Evan & I had originally chosen for our registry were a nice wooden set, but four months is ancient history in Crate & Barrel years. So as I contemplated what to select in exchange for an extra wedding present I *finally* returned today, I was struck by a set of photo coasters.

*At home, I thought about filling the coasters with pretty paper. We didn't really need to serve beverages with our smiling faces anywhere but on our faces. But then I remembered that ever-growing stack of ticket stubs.


I assembled a set representing four areas of hipster-friendly media:




Existential Theatre

Posted by funke at 18:32 | Comments (0)


the real inspector hound

Whenever a Tom Stoppard play comes to town, I snag tickets as quickly as I can enter my credit card number into the simple online form. Especially if the tickets are half price, thanks to Bostix.org.

Though Tom Stoppard is one of my top 3 favorite playwrights (a trio which is rounded out by Oscar Wilde and Neil Simon), I have a somewhat lopsided experience with his work performed live. While I can notch 3 performances of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead on my theatre critic belt, I have yet to see a performance of Arcadia. Sigh. So I was quite pleased to attend something that didn't involve Hamlet, but still included a few of my other favorite things: madcap mysteries (full of misguided police messages, confused inspectors, informative charladies and terribly suspicious half-brothers from Canada) as well as characters who find themselves mixed up in places they didn't intend to visit.

Like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, the two protagonists of The Real Inspector Hound don't know why they have been tossed into the middle of an unfolding drama, nor do they seem to question the logic of their circumstances. And unfortunately for our heroes, the play sweeps them along to the bitter end. And what is that, you might ask? Now that would be telling.

The play has been said to break the 4th wall. Perhaps, but in doing so, a fifth wall is built. There are audience members scripted into the play, but we -- the real audience -- are still aware they are only actors. As we laugh at the breakdown between actor and audience within the play, we realize that there is still a comfortable boundary between us and the play within play we behold. And so, I posit that perhaps The Real Inspector Hound is simply a theatrical extension of Goedel's theorem: no system can prove itself. In other words, the foundation for every system lies in some system beyond itself. And while the audience and actors within the play find themselves utterly confused about any boundaries, it takes the outside audience (us) to firmly contain them within their own play-acting world.

And this is why I love the theatre. Too bad theatre didn't make it into Douglas Hofstadter's book.

Posted by funke at 12:41 | Comments (0)


Jungle Chair

Tomorrow is a baby shower. I usually try to make gifts, but I was running out of time to do my usual hand-stitchery. Rummaging in the craft & games closet, I found a chair-weaving kit picked up from a yard sale last summer. So I wove a little kid's chair/stool. It seemed a little bland, so I spruced it up with some stain work (I had a dark stain left over from an earlier project). Then I noticed that the baby registry theme was jungle animals. So a giraffe and elephant were splashed on with acrylics received from a Yankee Swap. All in all, a thrifty but unique gift. I hope it brightens up the baby room.



Elephant detail:

Posted by funke at 20:20 | Comments (0)