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Interviews | April 8, 2014

Shawn Donley: IMG Gabrielle Zevin: The Powells.com Interview

Gabrielle ZevinThe American Booksellers Association collects nominations from bookstores all over the country for favorite forthcoming titles. The Storied Life of... Continue »
  1. $17.47 Sale Hardcover add to wish list

    The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry

    Gabrielle Zevin 9781616203214


Customer Comments

Pauline Alama has commented on (4) products.

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
The Count of Monte Cristo

Pauline Alama, September 7, 2013

This amazing book, full of drama and adventure, passes the ultimate test of a classic: everyone steals from it. Mark Twain refers to it in Huckleberry Finn. Dorothy Sayers stole a murder plot from it, and The Princess Bride went right on and stole the same device. This kind of stealing -- like the kind in baseball -- is actually legit, and in fact, the highest tribute to the storytelling powers of the great Dumas.

Edmond Dantes, the hero, is falsely convicted of a crime he didn't commit (hmm, maybe Hitchcock also read this at a formative age). He is robbed of everything: his good name, his engagement to the woman he loves, and his youth, which he spends in an impregnable prison on a lonely island. There follows a daring escape, a new identity, a campaign of revenge -- and a surprisingly uplifting ending.

Today the book is, of course, dated -- above all in its view of women -- but it remains necessary reading for anyone who loves adventure stories.
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Science Made Stupid! by Tom Weller

Pauline Alama, September 5, 2013

Remember those science textbooks from your grade school days, full of factlets and factoids and diagrams? Science Made Stupid is a great parody of the way science is often presented to kids (or at least was back then). It does for science education "1066 and All That" did for English history and "Dave Barry Slept Here" did for American history. Much of the humor is visual, like an illustration of the dinosaurs being made extinct by a comet -- that is, a comet whacking a dinosaur in the back of the head. Others rely on wordplay, like "Red shift shows increasing Communist domination of the galaxy." I remember when my college science fiction club got a copy of this book, we passed it around laughing helplessly.
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The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
The Scorpio Races

Pauline Alama, August 26, 2013

There are just so many reasons to love this beautiful story! The characters are worth caring about, the setting is so vivid I can almost hear the ocean, and the story is so gripping that I could hardly put it down. It's an original twist on the legend of the water horse -- sort of like Seabiscuit, except that some of the horses can eat you. On the fictional island of Thisby, an annual race draws foolhardy men to test their courage on water horses: predatory creatures of legend, born from the sea. Driven not by desire for glory but by desperation, a young woman signs up for the race riding an ordinary mortal horse. While it's fully and gloriously within the best traditions of the fantasy genre, exploring a mythological idea with a full-fledged sense of wonder, the Scorpio Races is also grounded in a healthy dose of reality, including one of the most convincing depictions of poverty I've read anywhere outside Dickens. Although marketed to Young Adults, this beautifully written novel is well worth the attention of Not-So-Young-Adults, especially if you love animals or the ocean.
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The Freedom Maze by Delia Sherman
The Freedom Maze

Pauline Alama, January 30, 2013

Seldom have I read a historical fiction/time travel book so well-researched and nuanced -- and never before in the children's section.

Sophie, a middle-schooler in the segregated South of 1960, thinks she's already experienced the ultimate humiliation. Her parents have divorced, her best friend acts as though the divorce taints her, and she's going to have to spend the summer with her impossible-to-please authoritarian grandmother in the remains of what used to be their family's sugar plantation.

Then a mysterious trickster in the plantation's old maze sends Sophie back in time to 1860. Her visions of "Gone with the Wind" romanticism come crashing down when her slaveholding ancestors see her not as a long-lost relative, but as a light-skinned slave. To be fair, actually they see her as both: they identify her as the daughter of a ne'er-do-well son of the family and his mixed-race lover. But family ties do little to soften the bonds of slavery.

Sophie's family troubles in 1960 and her larger burdens in 1860 intertwine in ways that enrich character development. The same habit of defensive secrecy that helped her evade conflict with her mother and grandmother is a survival skill in slavery.

As Sophie grows through her experiences, she learns to put the family legends into perspective, and her sympathies broaden beyond the clear-cut categories of black and white that she was raised with. But she isn't sent to the past just to learn her lesson: she has to take sides and risk all to help a sexually abused slave escape.

The Freedom Maze is a gripping time travel story with interesting characters and an ultimately hopeful ending, appropriate for ages 12 to adult.
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