Monday, July 24, 2017

BOOK: New Boy by Tracy Chevalier

New Boy by Tracy Chevalier, 204 pages

Hogarth Shakespeare Series

1. After reading Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood, I became interested in the Hogarth Series, rewriting of Shakespeare plays by modern authors with a modern take.

2. I love Tracy Chevalier's books. She has written some amazing historical fiction novels (Girl With Pearl Earring, The Lady and the Unicorn, Remarkable Creatures). When I saw that Chevalier was the latest author to tackle Hogarth with her take on Othello, I was pumped.

3. Anyone remember the Disney show Recess? It's a classic that follows all the stuff that happens at recess in elementary school. The hierarchy, the cliques, the rules and leaders that occur everywhere - the diggers, the teachers, the skip-ropers, the girl who tries to get the swing to go over. The rules and interactions on a playground are real as children learn to maneuver social situations a lot can happen in a short time of recess and lunch (or as kids today call it - big recess)

4. Othello is a play I have not read, but I'm familiar with some of the characters like Iago, Othello and Desdemona. Oh, remember the song Desdemona from Fame? Loved this.

5. New Boy takes place in the run of a day (Before School, Recess, Lunch, Afternoon Recess, After School - Othello is a 5 Act play). Osei, a new student originally from Ghana arrives at a 1974 Washington DC school and is the only black student. Dee immediately befriends him, but Ian is not happy to see the balance of the playground shifted. Betrayal and tragedy ensues.

6. I read this over one day and was impressed with Chevalier's ability to remember how real and intense childhood can be. The main characters here are in grade six, and 'going together' is a big deal but probably doesn't seem important to adults. Ian as a manipulative mean child is oh so real. Eleven and twelve year olds are in the conflicting age of starting to understand grown-up ideas, and then able to flip back to childhood games.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

BOOKS: The Red Umbrella and If I Run

The Red Umbrella by Christina Diaz Gonzalez (audiobook)

This was a nice little find from YA Sync! Set during the Cuban Revolution, it follows a fourteen year old girl, Lucia, as life as she knew it changes forever. Early 1961, Castro is just beginning to make changes and Lucia's parents are concerned, but it doesn't really affect Lucia. Her friends are starting to join the young brigade, but they are still interested in trying to wear make-up and meeting boys. When Lucia sees someone hung in a tree her understanding of the revolution changes. (Only real violent scene, along with a bad *kissing scene with the guy she likes)

Because of these first scenes, I though the book would be darker but once Lucia and her brother get out of Cuba, things go very well. A lovely family fostered them, they fit in quite well in Nebraska, and it becomes all quite predictable. But, I really liked the predictability because I wanted things to work out well for Lucia and her brother! 

I'm not sure why some predictable books are okay while others are annoying. It could be my mood, or it could be something about the writing that transcends stereotypes. The writer creates characters with a little more depth. The topic of the Cuban Revolution was unique and I found that information enlightening, and then the characters were layered.

If I Run by Terri Broadstock (audiobook)

This one has tons of great reviews at Librarything and Goodreads, but... It is a suspenseful, girl on the run, told from two points of view, and it should have been in my wheelhouse. However, early on I became cynical and then once I started nit-picking, I could find plot holes to drive a truck through. So, this was an example of predictablity that didn't work for me. 

(I was also disappointed that it ended on cliff-hanger as there is a second book, If I'm Found. Books can be part of a series and have a sense of conclusion in each part)

There were strong Christian overtones as the main character struggled with her faith and would ask people she met about their faith. Oh, and she was perfect. Like unbelievably perfect (except for her lack of faith, but she leads a Christian life, saving and helping everyone she comes in contact with). I'm not anti-Christian but I didn't enjoy this aspect of the book. (Apparently the text version has a letter from the author that is very anti Planned Parenthood, which I'm glad I didn't have to read.) 

The mystery/conspiracy theory was not terrible, but as I started questioning, it fell apart for me. My sister was also listening to it, and she was quite enjoying it and finding it suspenseful, unless I ruined it for her, lol.  So, there is an audience for this book, but I am not it.  I won't need to read the second book.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

AUDIOBOOKS: YA Summer Sync (Dystopian Version)

Few more mini-reviews from the YA Sync free summer downloads. There are still 6 weeks of books to get.

I also just discovered Google Photos app, and now automatically am syncing my photos from my phone to the computer via all thing Google (that keypad for icons) It stores the pics in the cloud, freeing up valuable space on my phone for more audiobooks. It can be quite an operation on Thursdays trying to make space for the newest two audiobooks, but I think this will help. See how easily I can add a pic from my phone to my blog:

Here are some of the strawberries I picked on Monday. There is nothing like fresh PEI strawberries!

Feed - M.T. Anderson 

The world building here was good - the author just has the teen in the story narrating like a diary, using slang and talking without explaining what anything is. It makes you feel like you've landed in a future world and you try to make sense of things. I liked that about the book. The plot itself was beside the point for me, and a month or so later, I pretty much forget what the story was. I do remember that the 'feed' was like an implanted internet in their heads; and could profile you like google and facebook do based on your past activity. A reaction to the feed was skin issues. Overall, an okay read for the imaginative future that could be coming with our materialist bent.

Freakling - Lana Krumwiede

Another world building book, where communities have been isolated based on their development of PSI, or telekinesis. Kind of like how in Harry Potter world they use magic for everything, here they use PSI to eat, open doors, etc. 

The main character gets in an accident with his (evil) brother and loses his PSI. Taemon gets exiled to a nearby community which has a different form of PSI, and there is a longtime difference between the towns. There are power grabs, and discoveries of new ideas, and learning from history. There are a couple more PSI Chronicle books to this series, but I don't feel the need to continue, although the world building was done well.

The Gathering (Shadow House Book 1) by Dan Poblocki
Speaking of books I'm not planning to continue...
This one is not futuristic, but it is paranormal. I did really enjoy the set up of this book, as five children are invited to a particular house (the shadow house) under different pretexts, and they have to learn why and what is going on as once they get to the house, weird stuff starts happening and they can't leave. Also, no adults show up. A Stephen King type book for middle graders, which probably explains why I liked it the most. 

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Top Series I Want to Continue Reading

Top Ten Tuesday is taking a summer break, but I am not. I'm looking up old topics, and totally snagged this one from Katherine @ IWishILivedinaLibrary who did this topic last week. (Like me, she is also making her own lists; rebels we are, lol)

Dr Siri Paiboun by Colin Cotterill
I just read the first book, The Coroner's Lunch and really enjoyed it. My library has nearly all the books about the reluctant coroner in 1970s communist Laos.

Shardlake series by CJ Sansom
Set in Tudor England, this series combines history with murder. I have the next few books that I picked up at yard sales, and I really liked the first book. They are long books which may be why I haven't picked up the next one yet.

The Sunday Philosophy Club (Isobel Dalhousie) by Alexander McCall Smith
Since I am up to date with the Number One Ladies Detective Agency,  this other McCall Smith series set in Scotland could keep me occupied. I read the first one years ago and found it only okay. For some reason, last year I read the second one and caught the appeal a little more. Easy, quick reads.

Harry Hole by Jo Nesbo
I read a couple of these popular Swedish police mysteries but then didn't get back to them.  They were good when I read them.

Miss Julia by Ann B Ross
A rare non-mystery series, Miss Julia is a southern lady who gets into scrapes, and is always trying to control the people around her. Light and fun, this series is now up to 19 books; I've read four.

Mrs Pollifax by Dorothy Gilman
Another series where I've read the first one, really enjoyed it, and then never got back to it.

Earth's Children by Jean M Auel
I only have the last book, The Land of the Painted Caves, to read, but it's been a long time since I read the last book, over ten years ago. The completist in me wants to finish Ayla's adventures.

Martin Beck by Per Wahloo and Maj Sjowall
I am up to book number 7 of 10 of this Swedish police series. This series is considered a classic in terms of police mysteries. The Ed McBain 87th precinct books I read in the 80s could be considered the children of this series, and I get the same feeling from both series.

Monday, July 10, 2017

BOOK: The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall

It's summer vacation, the weather is great, and there are lots of books to be read. I just got back from a quick trip to the cottage I share with my sister. I've done some local touring, and plan to pick strawberries at a u-pick tomorrow. Summer is good.

The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and One Very Interesting Boy by Jeanne Birdsall, 288 pages

That sub-title pretty much sums up this sweet children's book. The family spends a few weeks at a cottage where they get into scrapes, make friends, and grow. 

from Amazon summary:
This summer the Penderwick sisters have a wonderful surprise: a holiday on the grounds of a beautiful estate called Arundel. Soon they are busy discovering the summertime magic of Arundel’s sprawling gardens, treasure-filled attic, tame rabbits, and the cook who makes the best gingerbread in Massachusetts. But the best discovery of all is Jeffrey Tifton, son of Arundel’s owner, who quickly proves to be the perfect companion for their adventures.

The icy-hearted Mrs. Tifton is not as pleased with the Penderwicks as Jeffrey is, though, and warns the new friends to stay out of trouble. Which, of course, they will—won’t they? One thing’s for sure: it will be a summer the Penderwicks will never forget.

Deliciously nostalgic and quaintly witty, this is a story as breezy and carefree as a summer day.

I liked how it was hard to place the time - could have been the 1950s, could have been ten years ago. There is a real timeless quality. Computers are mentioned but the children don't have cell phones. It also reminded me of old Enid Blyton books where the kids are on adventures with parents not around. Overall, this was an easy sweet read and luckily, there are several more books in the series.

The Penderwicks on Gardam Street
The Penderwicks at Pointe Mouette
The Penderwicks in Spring

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Books at the Top of My Summer TBR List

Top Ten Tuesday is taking a break for the summer so no new topics. However, I am not working for the summer so this is a good time for me to make bookish lists. Sigh. However I have decided to be a rebel and make my own lists from past topics that appeal to me. You may expect Top Ten lists from me over the summer. (Unless I fall asleep on the beach with my books and you don't hear from me until school starts in September.)
Happy Independence Day!

Here is a list of the Top Ten Books on My Summer TBR List.

An large epic book:
Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz
Summer is the perfect time to read a big, epic book. Last summer, it was The Fireman by Joe Hill. This year I am tackling a meta-mystery.

A Children's Book:
The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits and a Very Interesting Boy by Jeanne Birdsall
Summer is a great time to read some easy books, and I've borrowed this one from our school library. Also, Nan recommends.

A Mystery (new series):
Before the Frost by Henning Mankell
Next month's book club read is a Swedish mystery that I have never read. They will be excited that we have a book I haven't read yet.

An Audiobook: 
The Witch's Vacuum Cleaner and Other Stories by Terry Pratchett
YA Sync books are piling up on me and I'll listen to more than this, but I am looking forward to Terry Pratchett's foolishness.

a Graphic Novel:
Susanna Moodie: Roughing It In the Bush by Carol Shields
A Canadian history book by Carol Shields in graphic novel form? yes, please.

A Young Adult book: 
Hey Harry, Hey Matilda by Rachel Hulin
Epistolary book about twins looks likes fun.

A Science Fiction fun book:
Redshirts: A Novel With Three Codas by John Scalzi
I've been wanting to read this one for a while, and recently found it at the library book sale. It's based on the idea that the guy in the red shirt on Star Trek was always going to be the guy who died...

An Ongoing Series:
World of Trouble (The Last Policeman) by Ben H Winters
This has been a great little trilogy and I can't wait to see how it all ends. Could be literally as an asteroid is headed to Earth...

A Nonfiction Memoir:
Not Yet: A Memoir of Living and Almost Dying by Wayson Choy
I almost forgot to put a nonfiction book on my list. Also Canadian since it is Canada150 this year.

A Classic:
The Diviners by Margaret Laurence
I've been slowly making my way through Margaret Laurence books. The covers are terrible the books are wonderful.