books, fiction, reading, reviews

Sea Change by Aimee Friedman

friedmanSea Change (2009)
Aimee Friedman
320 pages
Young Adult
Rating: Re-read

Summary

Miranda Merchant is ready to spend her summer interning at a museum in New York. But when her maternal grandmother Isadora dies, Miranda has to push her plans back and she and her mother travels to Silkie Island to take of Isadora’s estate. While there Miranda finds a strange book at the Mariner, her grandmother’s summer home. The book tells of the legend of the merman who once lived off the coast of the island. These mermen look normal but it’s when they’re fully in the water that you can see their true form.

While on the island Miranda meets Leo, a gorgeous and mysterious native who seems to be everything Miranda needs. But something tells Miranda that Leo is hiding a secret. Does it have to do with the merman legend?

Thoughts

What a great story! I was originally planning on waiting for the read-a-thon to read Sea Change. Last night I glanced through the book and ended up spending the next two hours reading. Miranda is a great character. She’s an intelligent and shy teenager who’s not really into dating and boys. She just tries to stay focused on her passion,which is science, and keep out of trouble. It’s when she meets Leo and also T.J. another boy, that she starts to understand what chemistry between two people feels like.

Friedman’s description of Silkie Island is so believable. I felt as if I was there. You can picture the setting so well, whether it was the Mariner or Fisherman’s Village.

If you’re participating in the upcoming read-a-thon and looking for a short but well-written story, look no further than Sea Change, a light tale about teenage love.

books, reading, reviews

Essay Review: What Good Is a Story?

kingsolver

“What Good is a Story?”
from the essay collection, Small Wonder (2002)
written by Barbara Kingsolver

I have always wondered why short stories aren’t popular in modern America. We are such busy folks, you’d think we’d jump at the chance to have our literary wisdom served in doses that fit between taking the trash to the curb and waiting for the carpool. We should favor the short story and adore the poem. But we don’t. Short-story collections rarely sell half as well as novels; they are never blockbusters. They are hardly ever even block-denters. . .

This is the start of “What Good Is a Story?”, an essay by Barbara Kingsolver, detailing the three months she spent in 2000 as a guest editor for The Best American Short Stories series. Kingsolver had to read  125 short stories before she could pick the twenty best ones. In her essay, Kingsolver explains those hectic three months, why she loves short stories, and what reading means to her.

On reading during this hectic time,

. . . all of us have to work reading into our busy lives. The best tales can stand up to the challenge-and if anything can, it should be the genre of short fiction. . . If we lived in silent white rooms with no emergencies. . .we probably wouldn’t need fiction to help us explain the inexplicable, the storms at sea and deaths of too-young friends.

On choosing the stories that she did,

With a pile of stories on my lap I sat with this question, early on, and tried to divine for myself why was it that I loved a piece of fiction when I did, and the answer came to me quite clearly; I love it for what it tells me about life. I love fiction, strangely enough, for how true it is. If it can tell me something I didn’t already know, or maybe suspected but never framed quite that way, or never  before had sock me so divinely in the solar plexus, that was a story worth the read.

I don’t know about you, but that is very true for me. I don’t want to read anything predictable or something that I already know. Many of the books I’ve read lately have uncovered to me lives I don’t usually think about. Reading this essay reminded why I picked up this book the very first time. I enjoy Kingsolver’s writing. It’s accessible and tells me something that I knew but couldn’t put into words myself about reading.

I won’t give you any more quotes but if you’ve enjoyed any of Kingsolver’s other works, I’m sure you’ll enjoy this amazing collection of essays. Or if you haven’t read Kingsolver before but enjoy a mixture of the personal and the political, this book may be for you.

Other books you may enjoy:
A Broom of One’s Own: Words on Writing, Housecleaning & Life by Nancy Peacock

Book Coveting, Sunday Salon

Sunday Salon – Book Coveting Women Writers

Good morning. Right now the sun is shining and there’s not a cloud in the sky. With very little homework left to do, I plan on spending my day reading and writing posts. With so many books checked out from the library and so many of my own books piling up on my shelves, this week’s book coveting post focuses on the books I have and those written by women.

Fiction

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The Physick  Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe. I’ve heard so many great things about this book that I’m hoping to start reading it today. A historical thriller that goes back and forth between the Salem Trails and modern time. Witchcraft, family secrets, and more makes us this thriller.

First Light by Rebecca Stead. First Light is the story of Peter, a boy who join his parents on a trip to Greenland and Thea, a girl whose people live deep inside the article ice.

Drinking Coffee Elsewhere by ZZ Packer. I don’t read short story collections as often as I would like to, but I couldn’t ignore the praise that Packer’s debut collection has been receiving.

Nonfiction

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Sinners Welcome by Mary Karr.  I read The Liar’s Club by Karr a few years ago, rushed out and bought Sinners Welcome, but haven’t read more than a few poems. This volume of poetry chronicles Karr’s exploration of her faith.

Small Wonders by Barbara Kingsolver is one of my favorite books. Filled with powerful and engaging essays, Kingsolver’s essays range from topics about September 11th, surviving rape, the power of indie bookstores, why short stories are great, and more. I’m currently re-reading these essays, trying to dissect them and see how Kingsolver puts one word after another to make beautiful sentences that make up powerful essays.

Her Blue Body Everything We Know: Earthling Poems 1965-1990 Complete by Alice Walker. Though best known for The Color Purple, it is this volume of poetry that I love the most. I first read this collection when I was  a teenager. Since then I’ve re-read this many times. One of my favorite poems is “Goodnight, Willie Lee, I’ll See You in the Morning”.

Fiction

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Bog Child by Siobhan Dowd. I recently heard of Dowd while reading The Guardian. Dowd passed away in 2007, only three months after finishing Bog Child. She started writing at the age of 47 in 2003. All four of the books that she wrote has received rave reviews. Set in 1981, Fergus is helping his uncle with chores when he finds the body of a murdered child in the bog. It’s a coming-of-age story that’s won the 2009 Carnegie Medal award.

The Post-Birthday World by Lionel Shriver. After a kiss with a man who is not her partner, Irina McGovern, must make a decision to either give in to passion or stay in her safe relationship.

Flygirl by Sherri L. Smith.  Ida Mae Jones is a girl who dreams of flying. When the United States Army forms the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP), Ida decides to use her light skin to pass as white. Colleen at Chasing Ray called this book, “a historical drama that grabs you at the throat and holds on tight”.

Now the morning is almost over and I’m off to read. Have you read any of these books? What books are you coveting?

Dewey's weekly geeks

Weekly Geeks: Where in the world have you been?

This week’s Weekly Geeks asks you to tell us about your globe trotting via books. Are you a global reader? How many countries have you “visited” in your reading? What are your favorite places or cultures to read about? Can you recommend particularly good books about certain regions, countries or continents? How do you find out about books from other countries? What countries would you like to read that you haven’t yet?

worldmap

It took me at least an hour to think of the many countries I’ve visited in books. Of course the United States was one of the easiest countries. To my surprise so was France, Chile, and Spain.  I  realized how little I’ve visited Asia and Africa. All together though I’ve been to 34 countries through my reading. A few of my favorite books from other countries are:

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A Man, a Woman, and a Man by Savyon Liebrecht. Fiction. Israel. I found this book years ago at my local library. When I tried to find it again last year, I was dismayed to find that my library no longer has it. Hamutal and Saul meet at the nursing home that their parents reside. Soon they start an adulterous affair and both fall in love. From what I remember of this book, it was the plot and the beautiful language that kept me reading.

The Killer’s Tears by Anne-Laure Bondoux. Fiction, young adult. France. I don’t remember how I found this book but I’m glad I did. Angel Allegria is a killer on the run from the police. When he encounters the Poloverdos’ farmhouse, he kills both parents but spare their son Paolo. This is the start of an unlikely friendship between the two. I love the first sentence, “No one ever arrived here by chance”.

Blindness by Jose Saramago. Fiction. Portugal. I read Blindness years ago and feel in love with Saramago’s writing. Blindness is Saramgo’s exploration in what would happened if people suddenly went blind with no reason behind it. Lyrical but yet haunting, Blindness is a book I still think about.

Any suggestions for Africa?

nonfiction, reviews, Uncategorized

500 Great Books by Women

bauermesiter

500 Great Books by Women (1994)
edited by Erica Bauermeister, Jesse Larsen, and Holly Smith
426 pages

I don’t review reference books here on 1330v, but I love this book and wanted fellow bookworms to know about. If you liked Book Lust by Nancy Pearl, you will love 500 Great Books by Women.

Edited by Erica Bauermeister, Jesse Larsen, and Holly Smith and compiled with the help of thirty contributors, 500 Great Books gives the reader a collection of short reviews of lesser-known books of all genres written by women writers from different races, ages, sexual orientations, and countries. Many of the featured books were first published in a language other than English.

The reviews are divided by theme such as Growing Old, Choices, Families, Ethics, Observations, and many more. I used post-its to mark all the books I wanted to read and I ran out of post-its! My book now looks like a rainbow.

Many of the books featured here I have not heard of and less than twenty of them I’ve read. The editors included many well-known writers like Angela Carter, Louise Erdrich, Alice Walker, and Barbara Kingsolver but you are not going to find every book they wrote in this collection. Instead every writer only gets one book featured to leave room for other writers. I thought the idea was thoughtful and fair.

The only thing I didn’t like about the book is that there’s no table of contents though you can find out what books is featured by going to a theme’s page. Included in the back of the book are many indexes such as by title, subject, country, and others.

I loved the beginning of the book’s preface,

We read to learn, to feel, to stretch beyond our own lives, to escape, and to understand. A book has the power to reach back toward us and let us know we are not alone. Up from a flat page of type comes joy or anger or sadness, a sentence that soars, or an image that surprised like a photograph long forgotten. For a few hundred pages we can feel new rhythms, see new images, learn about ourselves, and become someone else.

The contributors and editors did an amazing job with this book. With so many books published every year in the United States let alone other countries, 500 Great Books is not meant to be comprehensive but to recommend to the reader some of great books the editors have read. Highly recommended.

fiction, It's Monday, reading, Reading Journal

Reading Journal: Currently Reading

Yesterday I started reading Marilynne Robinson’s debut novel, Housekeeping. The novel is the story of Ruth and her sister, Lucille, as they’re raised first by their grandmother, then her sister-in-laws, then by Sylvie, their eccentric aunt. According to the back cover,

Ruth and Lucille’s struggle toward adulthood beautifully illuminates the price of loss and survival, and the dangerous and deep undertow of transience.

While reading Housekeeping I’ve learned that this is a book to read slowly. This book is lyrical, so well-written. I’ve been keeping a pencil with me every time I continue the story because of the beautiful passages I want to go back to later on. Like this passage,

If heaven was to be this world plunged of disaster and nuisance, if immortality was to be this life held in poise and arrest, and if this world purged and this life unconsuming could be thought of as world and life restored to their proper natures, it is no wonder that five serene, eventless years lulled my grandmother into forgetting what she should never have forgotten.

Originally published in 1980, Housekeeping was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in 1982. It didn’t win though Robinson later won the Pulitzer Prize in 2005 for her second novel, Gilead.

fiction

Wild Magic by Cat Weatherill

weatherillWild Magic (2007)
Cat Weatherill
280 pages
Middle School Fiction

What led you to pick up this book?

When I heard this was a re-telling of the Pied Piper fairy tale, I wanted to read it badly. I’ve been on a fairy tale kick for a while now. It took about six months for me to get this book from the library so when it finally arrived I was surprised.

From the jacket flap

The Pied Piper had his reasons for enchanting the children of Hamelin and stealing them away—ones rooted in a deep history of wild magic. Mari and her brother Jakob are among the children who followed the piper’s song, and they are now trapped in a beautiful but cruel world inhabited by a horrid Beast.

What I liked most

Everything. Mari and Jakob are great characters to follow. The book’s summary is actually wrong. Mari followed the Pied Piper but Jakob couldn’t because he had a bad leg. Jakob was so determined to get to his sister that he sat at the magical door of a mountain every night for days, waiting for it to open. The effects of Elvendale, the magical city inside the mountain on Jakob almost had me in tears, it was so touching.

In Wild Magic readers find out what happened to the children of Hamelin Hill and also get the background story on the Pied Piper.

Though this book stayed on my shelf for weeks once I opened it, I read it in a matter of hours. I was drawn into this story of three great characters, a beast, and a deadly forest. Even the minor characters were interesting. I definitely recommend this book.

Here’s a description of the children leaving Hamelin Town with the Pied Piper,

He dared to be different. Into a sad, drab world of gray and black he had come, burning bright in turquoise and jade. Dazzling as a dragonfly. He had played a pipe and the rats had followed, dancing till they drowned in the quick brown water of the river. They had to follow him. They couldn’t resist his music. And Marianna couldn’t resist it now. It was glorious. She wanted to dance. She wanted to dream. She wanted to follow the Piper.

And Marianna wasn’t alone. The streets were packed with children. Every boy, every girl in Hamelin Town seemed to be there, and they were all dancing.

fiction, J.Kaye's Y.A. Challenge

Bones of Faerie by Janni Lee Simner

simner Bones of Faerie (2009)
Janni Lee Simner
247 pages
Young adult/Dystopian fiction
Well-Read Ladies pick for May


Summary

A devastating war between human and Faerie leaves both sides changed forever. Liza, a young girl, has only heard of the Before which is so different from the aftermath. Humans live in small villages instead of cities. Modern technology is a thing of the past. Even nature is now an enemy where trees can attack at will and plants are not to be trusted. The one lesson that Liza has learned from her cruel father is to never let anything magical in. Your life depends on it.

But when Liza’s mother gives birth one night, the child is different. Born with hair as clear as glass, Liza’s father knows the baby is part Faerie and abandons it on a hillside to die. Soon after Liza’s mother disappears and Liza is left alone with her father to fend for herself. When Liza realizes that she has the power to see into the past and future, she too flees in search of her mother and a safe place to live.

My thoughts

I think Bones of Faerie is a pretty good book. The aftermath of the war between the two races was believable. Teh author constantly illustrated the effects of the war: people had to pump their water and grow plants that could possibly kill them if they wanted to live. Liza’s display of strength and her relationship with Matthew, a boy from her neighborhood, was also entertaining.

What I didn’t like was that readers were never given a reason for the war, just a quick explanation that the two sides didn’t get along. I wanted to know the details behind the war and what lead up to it. I wanted a feel for both sides like you do with Hunger Games.

I still think it’s a good read. The story captures your attention and doesn’t let you go until the end.

Other reviews:
Becky

Books in Translation, fiction, reading challenges

Emily’s Piano by Charlotte Gingras

gingasEmily’s Piano (2005)
By Charlotte Gingras
Translated from the French by Susan Ouriou
Illustrations by Stephane Jorisch
60 pages

Middle school fiction

Grown-ups think I don’t understand anything. They’re wrong. I watch soap operas just like everyone else. What’s more, I have hypersensitive ears and piercing eyes. Even my sense of smell is much better than most people’s. I’d make a great bloodhound.

Summary

Emily’s family life is not the best. Her father rarely comes home at night and her mother spends her days crying. One day the family has to move from their grand house to a much smaller apartment. Most of their things are sold including the family’s old black piano.

Emily thinks that if she can just get her mother’s piano back, it would make her mother feel so much better. She goes  on walks all around the city, looking for the piano. Will she find it and bring her mother happiness?

Thoughts

I enjoyed reading this book. The author never tells you Emily’s age but I imagine her to be a  tween, ten or eleven years old. Everyone from her parents to her much older sisters are too busy with their own lives to pay her any attention.

As an adult and a parent it was sad to see that no one in that family was focused on Emily. Though Emily herself is a little sad about her parents’ divorce, she’s still going on with her life, taking care of herself while understanding her mother’s grief.

Here’s two more great quotes from the book,

There’s no hope of a truce in this family now. We criticize each other, we tell each other’s secrets. Sometimes we scream insults.

Emily’s conversation with her father,

He says children can’t know how complicated and strange grown-ups’ lives are, even to them. How sometimes life is like a canoe trip down a dangerous river when the canoe tips down and sinks. How sometimes a person has to run away, or how . . .

What about me? Do grown-ups know what they’re doing to me?

Though this  is a short book, readers travel with Emily on a journey through sadness and emotional maturing that has a beautiful ending.

Congratulations to Sarah for winning the Karma Wilson giveaway!

Giveaway

Sunday Salon: Mother’s Day Giveaway

wilson mamaMama Always Comes Home
Karma Wilson(2005)
Illustrated by Brooke Dyer

Mama Always Comes Home is the story of Mama Cat, Mama Mole, and other mamas who have to briefly leave their little ones to take care of home but promises their children they will always be back soon. I had to pry a copy of this book out of my mother’s hands, she loved it that much. It’s a great book for mothers and mothers-to-be and perfect to help reassure children with separation anxiety that at the end of the day, Mama always come back.

wilson animalsAnimal Strike at the Zoo. It’s True! (2006)
Karma Wilson
Illustrated by Margaret Spengler

The animals at the zoo go on strike. They’re tired of working for peanuts and make all sorts of demands to the zookeeper. He tries to keep them happy by meeting them but it’s little Sue on her very first trip to the zoo who show the animals how great their job really is. My children loved this book and we all laughed as we read it aloud.

There’s an animal strike at the zoo. It’s true!
The headlines are telling it all.
The animals quit. “That’s it!” “We’re through!”
Say all critters from biggest to small.

karmawilson headshot

The author, Karma Wilson, kindly sent me a signed copy of both books to give away to my readers. To enter, leave me a comment including your email address. One winner will be randomly chosen this Thursday, May 14th. Good luck.

More on the author

Karma Wilson is the author of more than 30 books including Bear Snores On, How to Bake an American Pie, and Moose Tracks. You can visit her on her website, www.KarmaWilson.com