Neshama’s Choices for November 28th

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Foundryside

I don’t read much in the fantasy/science fiction genre but when I come upon a starred review in Library Journal (a primary source of recommendations), I take a look.  This one introduced me to a rich adventure in world-building.  Sancia has a chip embedded in her brain that gives her special powers which enable her to track down a device that might be used for very nefarious purposes. She’s a guttersnipe of a thief, always at peril, but other rebels give her much needed help. In this world, scrivening lets object be programmed to perform beyond the bounds of “reality.” If you’re intrigued, enter this amazing construct—500+ pages—for a tantalizing experience.

Yoga Pant Nation

This is the kind of book I tend to dismiss as too cute, But I was in the mood for an easy, indulgent read and was delighted to discover that the protagonist, Jen, is an out-front bad ass. She’s always getting drafted for PTA projects and her snarky memos to fellow-parents are in- your-face hilarious.  She’s also worried about her parents who seem to be losing it rapidly. And she’s eager to become a spin teacher-- many opportunities here for embarrassing attempts. Refreshing.

The Marriage Portrait

Lucrezia, 15, is married to much older Alfonso.  In the 1500s such marriages were arranged for political and fiscal advantage. She’s an unusual girl—very observant, artistically talented, and apparently doomed if she doesn’t produce an heir. Said portrait encapsulates elements of the painful mismatch: the dress is horribly uncomfortable, and who actually did the work? O’Farrell  brings this long-ago milieu to life with immediacy. Such rich characterizations and vivid atmosphere. Highly recommended! 

Chouette

In this astonishing book we see the territory of mother love and mother terror writ large. Tiny gives birth to an owl-baby. She does her best to cope with the enormous challenges of feeding (a proliferation of vermin in the house helps. There’s constant mess and fierce acting out.  Her husband just wants to normalize Chouette (he insists on calling her Charlotte) which results in many fruitless encounters with doctors and special schools. Tiny is lonely, desperate, and determined to keep her child’s wild nature alive. This is a crazy fable that somehow works, very emotional and very original. A fascinating aspect: Tiny is a cellist and music is one of the narrative threads.

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