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Happy Bastille Day!

14 Jul

On July 14, 1789 a Parisienne mob stormed the Bastille, a notorious Parisienne prison. Considered a monumental moment in the French revolution, Bastille day (or La Fête Nationale) first became a holiday on 14 July 1790.

Since I won’t be in France this Bastille Day, I can, at least, read about it. And the perfect summer read for an armchair traveller  is I See London, I See France by Sarah Mlynowski.

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Publisher’s Summary:  I see London, I see France…I see Sydney’s underpants.

Nineteen-year-old Sydney has the perfect summer mapped out. She’s spending the next four and a half weeks travelling through Europe with her childhood best friend Leela. Their plans include Eiffel Tower selfies, eating cocco gelato, and making out with très hot strangers.

Her plans do not include Leela’s cheating ex-boyfriend showing up on the flight to London, falling for the cheating ex-boyfriend’s très hot friend, monitoring her mother’s spiraling mental health via texts, or feeling like the rope in a friendship tug of war.

In this hilarious and unforgettable adventure, New York Times bestselling author Sarah Mlynowski tells the story of a girl learning to navigate secret romances, thorny relationships, and the London Tube. As Sydney zigzags through Amsterdam, Switzerland, Italy, and France, she must learn when to hold on, when to keep moving, and when to jump into the Riviera…wearing only her polka dot underpants.

Vive la lecture d’été!

 

Calling all Hamilfans!

30 Jun

With the phenomenal  success of the musical Hamilton,  it was inevitable that we would see books about the eponymous hero.

I can make no comment on any of the nonfiction books, but I can tell you that I really enjoyed Melissa de la Cruz’s Alex and Eliza: A Love Story, which fictionalizes the story of how Alexander Hamilton met ad wooed Elizabeth Schuyler.

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From the  author’s website:  1777. Albany, New York.

As battle cries of the American Revolution echo in the distance, servants flutter about preparing for one of New York society’s biggest events: the Schuylers’ grand ball. Descended from two of the oldest and most distinguished bloodlines in New York, the Schuylers are proud to be one of their fledgling country’s founding families, and even prouder still of their three daughters—Angelica, with her razor-sharp wit; Peggy, with her dazzling looks; and Eliza, whose beauty and charm rival that of both her sisters, though she’d rather be aiding the colonists’ cause than dressing up for some silly ball.

Still, she can barely contain her excitement when she hears of the arrival of one Alexander Hamilton, a mysterious, rakish young colonel and General George Washington’s right-hand man. Though Alex has arrived as the bearer of bad news for the Schuylers, he can’t believe his luck—as an orphan, and a bastard one at that—to be in such esteemed company. And when Alex and Eliza meet that fateful night, so begins an epic love story that would forever change the course of American history.

Hardcore Hamilton fans and fastidious historians might not appreciate this fictionalized account, but it is a great book that lets the reader escape the woes of the present for a while and see what it took to meet and marry your soulmate during the Revolutionary War.

The Upsides of Summer Vacation

29 Jun

Of course, having unlimited free time is one of the best upsides of summer vacation. There are other perks – few responsibilities, unlimited walks with Lucy, puttering about in the morning. The greatest upside is unlimited reading time. Ah, sweet summer reading! My local public library, like many nowadays, has a summer reading program for adults, too.

I’ve mentioned before that 4 of the 5 Morris finalists my committee selected have books coming out this year. So far, I have only read one of the 4, The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli, but I now possess the other 3.

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Publisher’s Summary: From the award-winning author of Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda comes a funny, authentic novel about sisterhood, love, and identity.

Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love. No matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can’t stomach the idea of rejection. So she’s careful. Fat girls always have to be careful.

Then a cute new girl enters Cassie’s orbit, and for the first time ever, Molly’s cynical twin is a lovesick mess. Meanwhile, Molly’s totally not dying of loneliness—except for the part where she is. Luckily, Cassie’s new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. If Molly can win him over, she’ll get her first kiss and she’ll get her twin back.
There’s only one problem: Molly’s coworker, Reid. He’s a chubby Tolkien superfan with a season pass to the Ren Faire, and there’s absolutely no way Molly could fall for him.

Right?

Molly is a real “every teen” – just an ordinary girl with no super powers, unless you count cookie dough. The book maintains the same lively tone we encountered in Simon and the Homo Sapiens Agenda without seeming repetitive or trite.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets Book VS Movie

29 Jul

We had to turn in our laptops in June. They will be replaced in late August when we go back. Although I miss having a second computer at home for the summer, I will mostly miss it for the sticker I had on the front, which was given to me by a former colleague.

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I recently finished listening to Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. 

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It took a little longer than I’d planned because I was listening in the car and I am not driving as much these days. It was great fun reconnecting with the Hogwarts gang and I noticed more humor in the books than I remembered. I also noticed more omissions in the movie adaptation. As I listened, I could visualize the movie in my head, which is why certain missing bits stood out.

The book opens on Harry’s birthday, while the movie begins with Dobby and  the imminent dinner party with the Masons. When Ron, Fred & George come to get Harry at the Dursleys’ house, the book mentions that Fred & George have to break into the cupboard to get Harry’s trunk, then carry it up the stairs. Not in the movie.

The first really big omission is what Harry sees in and hears in Borgin and Burkes. Rowling was ding some serious foreshadowing in the book, but Harry doesn’t really hear anything in the movie.

The book has several other significant things that the movie does not.

  1. The book’s Deathday Party is completely omitted, necessitating the movie to come up with a different way for Harry to encounter the frozen Mrs. Norris.
  2. Hermione saves Harry from the rogue bludger in the movie, but Fred & George restrain it in the book.
  3. The book is full of foreshadowing of Ginny’s role in the Chamber of Secrets, but none of this appears in the movie.
  4. The Valentine’s dwarves of the book are completely missing from the movie, which I think is a crying shame.

The Harry Potter Wiki has an extensive list of differences at the bottom the Chamber of Secrets page. 

I have Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban on hold. I am #13 in line on 11 copies. Fortunately, I have a few other audiobooks I can listen to in the meantime.

Summer reading

20 Jun

The summer solstice falls  at 3:34 today in Portland, OR.

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I hope to be home before then. I have to go into work today to finalize grades and check out. The Math teacher on my team is moving to the high school so we are taking her out for lunch.

When I get home, summer holidays will stretch out before me. It is a glorious thing. Summer reading will also stretch out before me. Here is my current TBR pile.

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Gene Luen Yang, the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, has a reading platform that is ideal for summer reading.  The Reading Without Walls Challenge encourages kids to read without walls in one of three ways:

1. Read a book about a character who doesn’t look like you or live like you.

2. Read a book about a topic you don’t know much about.

3. Read a book in a format that you don’t normally read for fun. This might be a chapter book, a graphic novel, a book in verse, a picture book, or a hybrid book.

When you finish, take a photo of you and the book (or just the book if you’re shy) and post it on Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag #ReadingWithoutWalls. You’ll inspire others to do the same!

Have a great summer of reading.

All good cycles must come to an end

10 Jun

There are many literary cycles,  groups of stories focused on common figures, often (though not necessarily) based on mythical figures or loosely on historical ones. You can listen to the four operas of Wagner’s Ring Cycle in 15 or 16 hours.

It took 11 hours, 53 minutes, over about a week, for me to listen to The Raven King, the fourth and final book in Maggie Stiefvater’s Raven Cycle.

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Goodreads Summary: Nothing living is safe. Nothing dead is to be trusted.

For years, Gansey has been on a quest to find a lost king. One by one, he’s drawn others into this quest: Ronan, who steals from dreams; Adam, whose life is no longer his own; Noah, whose life is no longer a lie; and Blue, who loves Gansey… and is certain she is destined to kill him.

Now the endgame has begun. Dreams and nightmares are converging. Love and loss are inseparable. And the quest refuses to be pinned to a path.

The book didn’t quite start out as I expected and some new characters were introduced, but I quickly recalled what had gone on before and found myself drawn into the story. The ending was and was not what I predicted, since my predictions changed from chapter to chapter.And when the real solution appeared, it made perfect sense.

I am going to miss Adam, Ronan, Noah, Gansey,  and Blue. Although the ending leaves their futures open, I somehow don’t thing Stiefvater will return to these characters.

You can listen to all four books in The Raven Cycle in about 46 hours.

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All four books are narrated by the actor Will Patton, whose voice is the perfect vehicle for the series, set in rural Virginia. If you are looking for a summer literary adventure, this might be a journey you will enjoy.

Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead

27 Aug

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I’ve been thinking over what to say about Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead. Overall, I liked it.

Publisher’s summary: Bridge is an accident survivor who’s wondering why she’s still alive. Emily has new curves and an almost-boyfriend who wants a certain kind of picture. Tabitha sees through everybody’s games–or so she tells the world. The three girls are best friends with one rule: No fighting. Can it get them through seventh grade?
This year everything is different for Sherm Russo as he gets to know Bridge Barsamian. What does it mean to fall for a girl–as a friend?
On Valentine’s Day, an unnamed high school girl struggles with a betrayal. How long can she hide in plain sight?

Each memorable character navigates the challenges of love and change in this captivating novel.

The story has stuck with me since finishing it, which says something. I enjoyed the three intertwined stories. I even like d the second person narrative of the unnamed girl on Valentine’s Day, which seems to be the sticking point in the unfavorable reviews I read.

For me, the issue is Bridge’s voice, and I will admit that I listened to the audio version in the car, so maybe this exacerbated a minor issue. Bridge only speaks in short sentences. She questions, repeats what people said, and frequently has sentences of one or two words. It sort of annoyed me.  Did the author do this on purpose because Bridge had a brain injury from the accident?  Would I even have noticed this is I had read the book rather than listened to the audiobook?

In spite of my “issue” with t he book, I do recommend it. This is the sort of book perfect for kids who are still to young for YA, but too old for a lot of the chapter books that are out there.

 

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