Sunday, May 27, 2018

AUDIOBOOKS: Running Scared (week 3 of YA Sync)

The third week's theme is Running Scared, stories with boys running for their lives. Another fiction and nonfiction pairing.

On Two Feet and Wings: One Boy's Amazing Story of Survival by Abbas Kazarooni

A crazy memoir from the 1980s, when Iran was suddenly under the Ayatollah, fighting a war with Iraq, and Iranians were trying to get out. (I had a student ten years ago whose family left Iran so he wouldn't have to do his time in the army. Lovely student) In terms of time and general theme, this reminded me of Persepolis but it was quite different. In trying to get their nine year old Abbas out of Iran, his parents make plans to flee to Turkey, but at the last minute, the parents weren't allowed out, so they sent him on his own. On his own at nine. A friend of the father's was supposed to look after him, but he barely throws him in a taxi. Luckily, Abbas meets a couple of absolutely wonderful residents of Istanbul. (I love stories of wonderful people in Istanbul.) 

Dear little Abbas manages to make his way in Istanbul as he waits out his application at the British Embassy. His street smarts are pretty good for a nine year old, and his resiliency is amazing. We talk in school about kids today needing to be resilient and this would be a great book. Apparently there is a follow up book about Abbas' time in England, with a not as happy of ending.

Johnny Get Your Gun (Virgil Tibbs book 3) by John Ball

The fiction half of this week's offering and a sequel to a book previously offered, In the Heat of the Night. Both feature Detective Virgil Tibbs (of the famous movie line - They call me Mr Tibbs!). This one was very good, starting out with two young boys and a case of bullying gone wrong. The younger fellow vows revenge, and takes his father's (loaded!) gun to find the older boy. A nine year old on the run with a loaded gun led to much suspense and concern, never knowing how serious the author with make things turn out. I loved the 'noir' feel to the story, little description, all action and the Pasedena/Anaheim setting. I'd look for more Virgil Tibbs mysteries for sure.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

AUDIOBOOKS: Venturing Abroad (week 2 of YA Sync)

The theme for the second week is Venturing Abroad, promising to take the reader to places you might find beyond imagination. I like that this week had a fiction and a nonfiction book.

The Devil's Highway by Luis Alberto Urrea

Wow, this one felt like it was written last year, not in 2004, but it does feel like it was a Pulitzer finalist for nonfiction writing. Starting with an incident where 14 immigrants died from heat exhaustion (and 12 others severely injured), Urrea looks into many aspects of Mexicans travelling and entering the United States illegally. From the people themselves, the border agents, and the guides, there are so many stories and issues beyond 'build a wall'. Listening to this makes one wish that a certain someone would also listen to it and see the shades of grey in the immigration issue. 

Solo by Kwame Alexander

I loved the lyrical writing of this novel in verse. It appears I like and can appreciate novels in verse because this is now the third book that I've read and really enjoyed. Solo is about the son of a famous rock musician. Blade is estranged from his drug-addicted father and trying to forge is own identity. He ends up on a quest to Ghana to find his mother. The audiobook is wonderful, read by the author and including music by Randy Preston, appropriately. 

Thursday, May 24, 2018

AUDIOBOOKS: YA Sync : Stories with Histories

The theme of the first week was Stories With Histories and these two books were full of history, both real and literary. 

The Great War: Stories Inspired by Items from the First World War
I like these kinds of books: assorted short stories with a theme, and each author wrote a story about the First World War based on an object. Some stories were set during the war, some were in any of the decades after the war, some were set in other countries. Like any collection, some stories stand out more than others. 

Much variety, and I tried to just listen to one at a time so as to appreciate each one separately. Captain Rosalie was excellent, about a little girl in France whose father is fighting. She thinks she is a secret agent sitting in the back of class, gathering information as a part of the effort.  Maud's Story about women working in the factories during the war. Our Jacko was set in the sixties in Ireland and allowed a  family to recognize the contributions of their ancestors, and brought war to life for kids who like to 'play' war.

  • Our Jacko by Michael Morpurgo, inspired by a Brodie helmut
  • Another Kind of Missing by AL Kennedy, inspired by a compass
  • Don't Call it Glory by Marcus Sedgwick, inspired by a nose of a Zeppelin bomb
  • The Country You Called Home by John Boyne, inspired by a recruitment poster
  • When They Were Needed Most by Tracy Chevalier, inspired by a Princess Mary gift fund box
  • A World that Has No War in It by David Almond, inspired by a soldier's writing
  • A Harlem Hellfighter and His Horn by Tanya Lee stone, inspired by sheet music
  • Maud's Story by Adele Gerais, inspired by a war-time butter dish
  • Captain Rosalie by Timothy de Fombelle, inspired by a Victoria Cross
  • Each Slow Dusk by Sheena Wilkinson, inspired by school magazines
  • Little Wars by Ursula Dubosarsky, inspired by a French toy soldier

Pretty impressive collection of authors! 

A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavarello

Sherlock Holmes must be one of the most 'inspired by' characters written in modern day, and this one does not disappoint. I knew A Study in Charlotte sounded familiar, as spritereads had brought this to my attention last year. This is the first of a trilogy and I will be reading the rest!

Set in modern times at a New England boarding school, descendents of Sherlock Holmes (Charlotte) and Dr Watson (Jamie) meet up, with all their family history there to cause problems. When a student both Charlotte and Jamie had had bad interactions with is found murdered, they must work together to clear their names. It is so much more than that, with much respect to the original books, and homage with different short stories. The characters were great, the plot was good, even descendents of Moriarty appear. I can't wait to read the next ones: The Last of August, and The Case for Jamie.

Monday, May 7, 2018

AUDIOBOOKS: Free YA books all summer

It's a new season of YA Sync! Time for my annual reminder that you can get 2 free audiobooks, every week for the next 13 12 weeks. I'm late with this as you've already missed the first week, but you have til Wednesday to get the second week's books: Solo by Kwame Alexander and The Devil's Highway by Luis Alberto Urrea (a Pulitzer NF finalist from 2005) 

Every year there is one classic book that I have read and not enjoyed. This year it is The Scarlet Letter. I'll listen to it, but I expect I'll hate it anew, just like Lord of the Flies and The Picture of Dorian Gray. Instead of The Scarlet Letter, try the retelling in When She Woke by Hillary Jordan, or The Scarlet Pimpernell and pretend it's the book you were looking for, like I once did accidentally. 

Eek, I still had a few, if eight is a few, books on my phone from last year that I haven't listened to yet. Since the new season started, I did manage to get two old ones read.

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepety 

I remember when this poor book was released around the same time as Fifty Shades of Gray and it got completely overshadowed. Most people probably didn't even realize there were two different books. This is a Russian WW2 book and definitely not that other book.

I was really not into it at first as I find the Holocaust books so horrific. These were Ukrainians being gathered up by Stalin for what ever reason he felt like and sent to prison camps, after the men were separated from their families. We follow a teenage girl who dreamed of art school as she ends up fighting for her life in the Russian winters. It was well done and I ended up liking it, as well as you can like a book like this. The author at the end explains how it was based on stories from her Ukrainian family that were passed down. 

Shadowshaper by Daniel Jose Older

Modern day fantasy set in New York, I liked the Puerto Rican folklore aspect mixed with the modern day teenagers. The narrator,  Annika Noni Rose is very good and brings the characters alive. I'm not the hugest fan of fantasy and ghosts but this wasn't too elaborate and I was able to follow it. Sierra is a teenage artist painting a mural when she discovers she is a shapeshifter and needs to help the spirits around her. A discussion with her grandfather sends her on her quest.  There is another book but I don't feel the need to keep reading this one.

The Witches: Salem, 1692 by Stacy Schiff

I've listened to 10 out of 21 sections of this history book, but I don't know if I'll listen to the rest. I still have it on my phone and I may pick it up again, but surely, an editor is to blame for this length. So far, it's just case after case of who got tried for being a witch. I guess I feel like the story is not progressing, and something could have been summarized. There is certainly research that was done, and I did discover how to speed up the replay to 1.5X. 

I recently read Caleb's Crossing by Geraldine Brooks; I think I'm not a fan of the Puritans, and their religious dogma. This also explains my dislike of The Scarlet Letter. Reviews at Librarything indicate this book may be a bit better at the end, so I may finish it at some point. 

Sunday, May 6, 2018

BOOK: Jane of Lantern Hill by LM Montgomery

Jane of Lantern Hill by LM Montgomery   (292 pages)

Jane of Lantern Hill has all the requisite characteristics of a Montgomery book - a lonely child, proud rich older character, misunderstandings and grudges held over a long time, and of course, some Prince Edward Island. I've read a lot of Montgomery but didn't remember this one, although I could predict a lot of the plot. Not that this was a problem - it's what I like about Montgomery's books.

Jane Stuart is living in Toronto with her mother and grandmother, lonely and unhappy, although wise in her observations. When her father requests Jane for the summer on PEI, Jane is surprised and reluctant as she didn't even know he was alive. She falls under the spell of PEI in the summer which is exactly what happens here. I loved her delight with the environment and characters surrounding her as she threw herself into her new life. This changes Jane as she returns to Toronto and cannot be cowed by her grandmother as easily.

I loved Jane's appreciation of her simple life in PEI, keeping house and making friends, loving the ocean and the sky. Montgomery follows her tried and true storyline and of course, a *spoiler* happy ending. I enjoyed by time with Jane and the nature of PEI. It got me feeling like summer in PEI as the weather is turning in a good way, and it's almost time to open the cottage.