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Canada Reads 2016

25 Apr

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Every year since 2002, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation organizes Canada Reads, a ‘battle of the books” style competition to select a book everyone should read. This year’s winner is The Illegal by Lawrence Hill.

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Publisher’s Summary: Keita Ali is on the run.

Like every boy on the mountainous island of Zantoroland, running is all Keita’s ever wanted to do. In one of the poorest nations in the world, running means respect. Running means riches—until Keita is targeted for his father’s outspoken political views and discovers he must run for his family’s survival.

He signs on with notorious marathon agent Anton Hamm, but when Keita fails to place among the top finishers in his first race, he escapes into Freedom State—a wealthy island nation that has elected a government bent on deporting the refugees living within its borders in the community of AfricTown. Keita can stay safe only if he keeps moving and eludes Hamm and the officials who would deport him to his own country, where he would face almost certain death.

This is the new underground: a place where tens of thousands of people deemed to be “illegal” live below the radar of the police and government officials. As Keita surfaces from time to time to earn cash prizes by running local road races, he has to assess whether the people he meets are friends or enemies: John Falconer, a gifted student struggling to escape the limits of his AfricTown upbringing; Ivernia Beech, a spirited old woman at risk of being forced into an assisted living facility; Rocco Calder, a recreational marathoner and the immigration minister; Lula DiStefano, self-declared queen of AfricTown and madam of the community’s infamous brothel; and Viola Hill, a reporter who is investigating the lengths to which her government will go to stop illegal immigration.

Keita’s very existence in Freedom State is illegal. As he trains in secret, eluding capture, the stakes keep getting higher. Soon, he is running not only for his life, but for his sister’s life, too.

Fast moving and compelling, The Illegal casts a satirical eye on people who have turned their backs on undocumented refugees struggling to survive in a nation that does not want them. Hill’s depiction of life on the borderlands of society urges us to consider the plight of the unseen and the forgotten who live among us.

Set in 2018 in fictional countries, The Illegal is timely, but tells a story as old as time. The writing is fast paced, just like Keita’s running pace, and you can’t help but like him. Although he is the main character, the stories of several other characters help tell Keita’s story and add to to the complexity of the novel. A few things I expected to happen did, but there were a few surprises, too.

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Happy 17th birthday, Alexis!

4 Jul

Today, in addition to it being the 239th birthday of the United States, it is the 17th birthday of my niece, Alexis. This year, I sent her All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven.

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Let me start by saying this one ripped my heart out. It reminded me a little of John Green’s Paper Towns. This is a very sad book about two very sad teens. Violet is overwhelmed by the death of her sister a year before. Finch is depressed and contemplating suicide. They come together accidentally and bond over a geography project.

The story, told in two voices,  unfolds slowly, so don’t give up on it if you get to page 50 and are thinking about abandoning it.

A few things about the novel concern me. First, the inattention and lack of concern for Finch’s mental health on the part of Finch’s parent. Then, the apparent lack of concern of school officials for the suicide attempt in the tower, and the way the school social media made a circus of it.

In spite of that, I highly recommend this to YA and adult readers.

2015 Hub Reading Challenge Check-in #3

1 Mar

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Although I had a very busy week, I managed to finish three Alex Award winners. I didn’t love them all.

My least favorite was Wolf in White Van  by John Darnielle.

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This sad and dark novel tells the story of Sean Phillips who lives in isolation due to a disfiguring injury He runs a role plying game from his small apartment in Southern California. As the story unfolds we find out about the trial Sean faces following the death and serious injury of two player. This pulls us back to the moment of his own self-inflicted injury.

Yesterday, I finished Bingo’s Run by James A. Levine.

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Bingo Mwolo is small for his age and the greatest drug runner in the slums of Kibera, Nairobi, Kenya. When he witnesses a murder, he is hidden in an orphanage, where he discovers that life after drug running has just as many scams and tricksters as life in the slums.

My favorite Challenge book this week was  Define “Normal”  by Julie Anne Peters. about two girls–a “punk” and a “priss”–who find themselves facing each other in a peer-counseling program and discover that they have some surprising things in common.

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 All three of these had contemporary settings. I think my next read needs to be historical or fantastic.

Everybody Reads

23 Feb

Multnomah County Library’s 2015 “Everybody Reads” book is The Residue Years by Mitchell S. Jackson.

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This is an autobiographical novel for adults, set in  a tough neighborhood in Portland, OR during the 1990s.  I have my copy, but have yet to read it.

The Residue Years is too mature for young adult readers (12-18), but there is an alternative that has just been published.

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This Side of Home by Renée Watson is set in a Portland, OR neighborhood that is gentrifying.

Publisher’s Summary:Identical twins Nikki and Maya have been on the same page for everything—friends, school, boys and starting off their adult lives at a historically African-American college. But as their neighborhood goes from rough-and-tumble to up-and-coming, suddenly filled with pretty coffee shops and boutiques, Nikki is thrilled while Maya feels like their home is slipping away. Suddenly, the sisters who had always shared everything must confront their dissenting feelings on the importance of their ethnic and cultural identities and, in the process, learn to separate themselves from the long shadow of their identity as twins.

You and your teen could read different books on a similar theme and perhaps have a great conversation.

Memorable Camping Trips

16 Jan

I just finished reading The Bear by Claire Cameron.

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Don’t be fooled by the cover, or the fact that the narrator is 5-year-old Anna. This is not a book for children.

Goodreads Summary: While camping with her family on a remote island, five-year-old Anna awakes in the night to the sound of her mother screaming. A rogue black bear, 300 pounds of fury, is attacking the family’s campsite, pouncing on her parents as prey.

At her dying mother’s faint urging, Anna manages to get her brother into the family’s canoe and paddle away. But when the canoe dumps the two children on the edge of the woods, and the sister and brother must battle hunger, the elements, and a dangerous wilderness, we see Anna’s heartbreaking love for her family–and her struggle to be brave when nothing in her world seems safe anymore.

I have been camping ion places like the setting of this story and my brother and twin sister have a scary canoe camping  story that involves a bear. My most memorable canoe camping trip took place on the May 24th weekend in 1990. My brother Brian and his family (wife & 4 kids) took my sister, her boyfriend (Tom, now her husband) and I to  Shark Lake in the Haliburton Highlands. We started out at Long Lake, near Apsley, Ontario and made three portages in to get to Shark Lake. It was a cold and rainy weekend. There were no bears but we did hear wolves. They were close and I remember my sister-in-law being frightened. We joked that because we were camped on an island, they couldn’t get us unless they were scuba wolves. I remember drinking lots of hot tea and trying to keep the fire going. Tom and Brian actually paddled to a cabin to see if it was open and contemplated breaking in. Hypothermia was a real concern. Here is a picture of me with my pyjamas over my clothes. It was so cold we wore all the layers we had. In spite of the terrible weather, I have very fond memories of this trip. This was the last canoe camping trip I was ever on. That summer I moved to Colombia, then to the US and I never moved back to Canada.

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Books under my tree

26 Dec

OK, so the title of they blog post is a bit of a lie because I haven’t put up a Christmas tree for years. My place is only 700 square feet and I am lazy. I am also up to about 75 Howliday cards, which festoon my bookcase.

Speaking of which, I received 3 books this holiday and thought you’d like to know what I’ll be reading shortly.

For my birthday I got Dispatches from the Front by David Halton.

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Goodreads Summary: As senior war correspondent for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation during the Second World War, Matthew Halton reported from the front lines in Italy and Northwest Europe and became “the voice of Canada at war.” His gripping, passionate broadcasts chronicled the victories and losses of Canadian soldiers and made him a national hero.

Born in Pincher Creek, Alberta, in 1904, Halton was to achieve the fastest ever ascent in Canadian journalism. A year after joining the Toronto Daily Star as a cub reporter, he was in Berlin to write about Adolf Hitler’s seizure of power and – long before most other correspondents – to begin a prophetic series of warnings about the Nazi regime. For more than two decades, he witnessed first-hand the major political and military events of the era. He covered Europe’s drift to disaster, including the breakdown of the League of Nations, the Spanish Civil War, the sellout to Fascism at Munich, and the Nazi takeover of Czechoslovakia. Along the way he interviewed Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Hermann Göring, Neville Chamberlain, Charles de Gaulle, Mahatma Gandhi, and dozens of others who shaped the history of the century.
In Dispatches from the Front, acclaimed former CBC correspondent David Halton, Matthew’s son, also examines his father’s often tumultuous personal life. He unravels the many paradoxes of his person­ality: the war correspondent who loathed bloodshed yet became addicted to the thrill of battle; the loner who thrived in good company; and, in some ways most puzzling of all, the womanizer with a deep and enduring love for his wife.

For Christmas, I received two books, Tell by Frances Itani, is a sequel to  Deafening (which you should read if you haven’t)

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and Emancipation Day  by Wayne Grady which is set in  post WWII Canada and “Steeped in jazz and big-band music, spanning pre- and post-war Windsor-Detroit, St. John’s, Newfoundland, and 1950s Toronto, this is an arresting, heartwrenching novel about fathers and sons, love and sacrifice, race relations and a time in our history when the world was on the cusp of momentous change.”

 

 

 

Random book thoughts

14 Sep

From a rather bumpy start, due to my last-minute decision to change jobs,  the school year seems to be developing its rhythm. I have unpacked two of the boxes I shoved in my classroom closet. I almost wept the other day, the first day I asked my students to read with a partner. It sounded so beautiful and I forgot how much  love that sound. Although I am still tired, I am not as tired and I’m going to bed able to read or knit before I do so.

I have a stack of books I’m working through.

In the car, I am listening to  The Goldfinch  by Donna Tartt. I am not loving it. I find the protagonist whiney. There are 24 or 26 discs and I am not sure I will keep going on this one. It has received a lot of press, but everyone I know who’s read it didn’t really like it.

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At school, as I unpacked to two  boxes I mentioned above, I found my copy of Falling in Love With Close Reading, which I’ve mentioned before. I was about halfway through when it got misplaced in the big switcheroo. Now I can finish it. I still plan to do a boo group with it at school, but I need to finish it first.

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At home, I’m reading the YA novel The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski.

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According to Wikipedia,

 the winner’s curse says that in such an auction, the winner will tend to overpay. The winner may overpay or be “cursed” in one of two ways: 1) the winning bid exceeds the value of the auctioned asset such that the winner is worse off in absolute terms; or 2) the value of the asset is less than the bidder anticipated, so the bidder may still have a net gain but will be worse off than anticipated.

Rutkoski took this idea and has turned it into a compelling read. The main character, Kestrel, is the daughter of a general of a conquering army. One day at a slave auction, she buys a slave, more out of a desire to stir the pot during the auction, than because she needs him. I’m only about a quarter through, but I am seriously engaged. The slave, Arin, is more than he seems and I can tell that trouble is brewing and a revolt of some sort is in the  offing. Just where Kestrel will end up is yet to be determined. I have a few predictions, but I’m not ready to share.

Finally, I’m listening to The Queen of the Tearling  by Erika Johansen, while I knit.

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I didn’t realize until looking for this image, that the rights to the movie have already been sold and Emma Watson is an executive producer and plans to star in the movie as the Red Queen. Frequently compared the A Game of Thrones, The Queen of the Tearling  is the story of Kelsea, the heir to the Tearling throne, who has been hidden away since she was an infant. She is summoned to reclaim her throne on her 19th birthday, setting in motion a whole series of events that involve a certain amount of gore. It’s a little derivative, but pretty good to listen to while I am otherwise occupied. It is meant to be a trilogy and we shall see if I persevere through all three books.

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