Monday, July 23, 2012

Book Round-up

O.K., so I've plowed through several books in recent times--most of them pretty good.  Here are a few, reviewed briefly. (All titles were borrowed from the library.)

1. Jane by April Linder--This is a modern-day (young adult) retelling of Jane Eyre.  Full disclosure: I did not enjoy Jane Eyre when I had to read it for high school.  It was a drag and the relationships (and much of the events) made no sense.  So while Jane is a very good tribute to the original, I wound up not enjoying it for the same reasons I didn't enjoy the original.
But after saying all that, as I have been taking more of an in-depth look at introversion for my own personal insight, it has been said that Jane Eyre (the original character) was an introvert.  Lindner definitely writes that aspect of Jane Moore (the modern-day character) marvelously well.  (I even found myself identifying with some of the things she said she experienced!) Actually, I have to admit that Lindner's wordcraft in general really impressed and pleased me as a reader.
I read this in anticipation of a Twitter Book Club. . . that I wound up missing!  But I don't regret having read it.  I do look forward to reading her future work.  Even if I'm forced to rehash everything I read for high school.

2. The Girl Is Murder by Kathryn Miller Haines--I forget where I read about this book and felt compelled to request it from the library.  [Update 07/24/2012: I remembered that Bri reviewed the next installment, The Girl Is Trouble, recently. I honestly didn't remember that as I was reading the book and writing this post, so my apologies if my post notes similar things!] It's pretty well-written YA (definitely for teens and not younger) set during the WWII era.  It was almost like crossing Meet Molly (yes, I had a Molly doll, a major indulgence from my generous parents) with Veronica Mars and making a novel: teen girl with mom gone helps disgraced dad (lost his leg while serving in the military) with his detective agency.  She goes rogue in an attempt to find out what happened to a classmate of hers and discovers a new sense of self, as well as ways to relate to her dad and others, along the way.  Definitely a good novel for mystery lovers.
The only thing that really turned me off at times was the attempt at authenticity sometimes tripped me up: too much lingo, not enough contextual clues.  It seemed gratuitous.  I found myself wishing for a glossary to which I could flip for help sometimes. [07/24/2012: And it appears that Bri enjoyed the things I didn't really like, so. . . that's different tastes for you! The second book does sound a bit more substantial, though.]

3. The Cheshire Cheese Cat: A Dickens of a Tale by Carmen Agra Deedy & Randall Wright--I read this one on audio.  This is a middle-grade book, so it's not a million CDs long.  And what a wild story it was!  Skilley the cat won't eat mice; he likes cheese.  He manages to get himself a job at a cheese shop and pub--a very odd place where he makes friends with the mice (and particularly the clever Pip) and is studied by pub patron Charles Dickens who comes in to work on his writing, as do several of his contemporaries.
Conflict comes mainly in the feline person of Pinch, a cat with several scores to settle.  It sounds like a story that is too far-fetched, but all the characters are really well-drawn (and oh, the Dickensian names!) and the action flows.  Bonus: Pip is well-read and loves using numerous "fifty cent words," often to Skilley's puzzlement but always for his edification.  I would love to see teachers use this remarkable story to teach vocabulary.
Double bonus: The illustrations are by Barry Moser, whose cat illustrations I recognized because our family loves Telling Time with Big Mama Cat.
It's a great read and would be a really fun travel audiobook, because the production is done with such animation (intelligible British accents included).

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Coming off Hiatus

Well, the book club leader moved out of town, and the half the club seems to be on summer vacation, so it remains to be seen if and when the next selection will be announced and a date set.  The next meeting, if it happens, might not take place until September.  And of course my participation is dependent on both the selection and the date.  (For all I know, I will have joined or started a new book club by then!)

In the meantime, I've been reading.  A LOT.  And I'm eager to share what I've read.

To that end, I'll be putting up posts discussing titles I've read.  The posts will be labeled "independent reading."  The things I read will vary in genre and reading level but will be not "younger" than Middle Grade (pretty good explanation here).  I'm in the middle of two pretty good--and very different--books at the moment.

Is anyone reading anything good for the summer?  Feel free to share in the combox.