31 January 2009

January books eta

I've decided to add a monthly tally of books of read and what I thought of them. Now, this is not to say that my opinion is THE opinion. It's not for glory. It's much more selfish. If you find that you've read the same book and hold a similar opinion, perhaps you'd be kind enough to suggest something I might like to read. I miss being able to browse through a library and pick up whatever strikes my fancy. These rec's might help me know what to add to my Amazon orders.

Note: Not all of these were books that I'd choose for myself if I had everything to choose from. But, they were all in English!

So! In January I had two weeks off from school, which meant more reading time than usual. Here's what I read this month:

Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell

This was a treasure! There is nothing I like more than discovering an old book. I bought it because it was on sale and was thrilled. This book is nice and thick, so it doesn't end too soon. The writing is clear and descriptive. The characters were well-drawn. It's a story where everyone ends up just as they ought to--though it had enough in it to make me worry that wouldn't be the case! I loved it. This is a keeper--one I know I'll re-read.

Tale of Desperaux by by Kate DiCamillo

I thought this was fine. I can't believe it won the Newberry Award. But, it was fine. If it'd been written by a student, I would have asked for more--more depth, more plot, more...everything. I would have told them they were keeping too much of the story in their head and asked them to be more generous with their readers.

The Lightening Thief by Rick Riordan

This was an interesting 'tween book. It is the first in a series that posits that the mythological Greek gods are still with us--and still having flings with mortals. The result: half-mortal children who have some powers from their immortal parent. Some of these kids head out on a quest. One of the signs you're half-mortal: a diagnosis of ADHD! I think both boys and girls would like this one. It would be a great way to start some creative writing after a mythology unit--if you were the child of one of the gods, who would you be? How would we know? Me? Artemis, of course. Though I think Athena is close second.

My Place by Sally Morgan

Bleh. I picked this up from our High School and read it because it was in English. It's a biographical account of a woman who traces her aboriginal history. It was mildly interesting. But, our poor students! There are soooo many better books they could be reading!

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

I thought this was a book that got caught up in its own cleverness. It has a good premise--a book written by Death--that didn't pan out. There are times you can actually hear the author beaming over an overblown description. The story itself is sound. It was interesting to see the life of a German girl with no particular political leanings during WWII. It was good, I passed it on, but it's not great. Somehow it's sadder to me when a book with potential doesn't live up to it than it is to just be an overall disappointment.

Nobody's Child by Kate Aide

This was a re-read of a great book. It is about the history and challenges of being a foundling. It takes simple questions, "What is your name?" "Where were you born?" that we face on countless forms and examines the difficulties these questions pose for children who don't know the answers. The author is a foundling. She weaves in personal stories and accounts of others in thsi book. It's insightful. It's interesting. I'll probably read it again at some point.

A Small Part of Me by Noelle Harrison

This book is not great. It's okay. I got it in Tallinn in the foreign language section. It's the story of the women in a family. The mother leaves. The grown-up daughter searches for her. The stepmother is woven in to the story. I read the whole thing but will pass it on and not keep it on my shelf.

The Endless Steppe: Growing up in Siberia by Eshter Hautzig

I thought this was a well-told story. It's another children's book. This is about the author's experience being deported from Poland to Siberia during her childhood. She lives there for four years, from the age of 10-14. I wouldn't hesitate to give this to a fourth or fifth grader who was interested in WWII. It's a nice addition to Anne Frank and Number the Stars. If you have children adopted from Siberia, you might like this quick read.

Several collections of Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Waterson
I just love these comics! These were re-reads.

Also: The Days are Just Packed, The Lazy Sunday Book and Scientific Process Goes "Boink"

If only the Washington Post review had been available in Tallinn before I bought this book: Doris Lessing is a legend. The author of nearly 50 books, she has earned her reputation as a notable prose stylist and a writer whose work defies categorization. Several of her novels are numbered among the modern classics; she has reputedly been considered for the Nobel Prize in literature.

These facts only make The Cleft more mystifying. Because it is not merely a flawed novel or a failed novel. It is an actively bad novel.

I picked this up from the fifth grade library because 23 January was an R'n'R Day (read and relax day) at school and I didn't want to bring the above book to school. Holes is a great, quick read. Got pre-teenaged boys who need something to read? Give them this.

Caught in the Act, In the Face of Danger, A Place to Belong
by Joan Lowery Nixon

These are the second, third and fourth books in a series about a group of siblings who traveled on one of the orphan trains. I'd ordered the first one this fall along with several non-fiction accounts of people who rode the trains as children. Lo and behold, our third grade teacher ordered the whole Orphan Train Adventures series! I liked the third book (In the Face of Danger) better than the second. I don't know how I'll feel about d2b reading these, though. I think they could be a little unsettling to an adopted child. For bio kids, these are just kid adventures on the frontier. But...I'm not sure I'll have them on the bookshelf. There is a difference between these and the classic "orphan" stories.

*eta: I read the fourth book in the series and don't think I'll read further (although they are unread books in English...which is tempting...) In this book the mother comes from NYC to marry two of the children's widowed adoptive father and then doesn't. She marries someone else and only takes one of her children back with her. I say no to having these on the shelf.


votemom said...

my oldest son read Holes at least 7 times when he was in 5th/6th gr. my 2nd son read it twice (he's not as big a reader). we also read it out loud after dinners with all 3 older kids when my firstborn was in about 10th gr. great book. and surprisingly, they did a pretty decent job with the movie. the book, of course is better tho.

Andrea said...

Ack, the orphan train stories freaked me out as a child. I was 12 or 13 when I found them, and I was devastated at the thought of a court allowing a woman's children to be put on a train to go to new mums and dads! On top of that, I was just sickened that they split the children up.

On the other hand, I think my determination that sibling groups not be split up, as well as my desire to be an adoptive mum who makes sure a sibling group can stay together, may have sprung in huge part from my reaction to those books when I was little. So I don't TOTALLY hate them, I guess :P

I wish I had a recommendation to make . . . if I think of one, I will come back to make it!

Rachael said...

Well, I'm glad you fessed up that you had two weeks off. That is a lot of books for one month!

I read The Book Thief this month too. I started it on CD, then switched to the book (because I am too impatient to spend 15 hours on a book!) But, the narrator was really great (the only time I've ever truly enjoyed a book on tape/CD, except for the Agatha Christie BBC ones which are great too). After I switched to the book, I continued to hear it in my head in his voice, by default. I suspect that influenced my opinion of the book. I really liked the first 75%. I was disappointed in the ending, and not just because it was sad (that was a given.) But, I think I liked it better than you did, it sounds.

Great idea for a post. I look forward to future editions. And, I'm going to add "Wives and Daughters" to my library list.

My favorite book read this month was "I Capture the Castle" by Dodie Smith. A classic that I can't believe I'd never discovered before. Probably you've already read it, but if not, I think you'd enjoy it.

kate said...

Andrea--and not just allowing but offering it as the only alternative to prison!

Annie said...

Wives and Daughters is one of my all-time favorite books! Love, love, love it. She can write with such amazing delicacy about human interactions and relationships. The BBC version is wonderful, too. I read this to Lydia a few years ago and we both fell so in love with Gaskell and we read everything else she wrote and LONG for more.

My son Aidan so loved Calvin and Hobbes as a little boy that his first son is named Calvin.

My favorite "orphan story" is Daddy Long Legs. I adored that book.

Rachel - I also read I Capture the Castle to Lydia.... How I wanted to like it! But I just didn't somehow. Perhaps I should try again.

Jenni said...

I've got The Lightening Thief in my "TBR" pile. The series is quite popular with my students, so I thought I'd check it out.

Debbie B said...

Now you need to watch Holes and Tale of Desperaux and tell us how they relate to the books.

I haven't read any of those so I can't give you any recommendations. I like the Post's review! Sorry you wasted your time on that one.

I did recently read Carried Safely Home and enjoyed it. It's about a family waiting to bring their son home from Vietnam and there are numerous bumps along the way.

Andrea said...

Calvin and Hobbes! Were they on here last time I read this? I love Calvin and Hobbes, my father introduced me to them via his collection of all the books. I just love them; I bonded with a little guy who came in to have his passport photo done over our favourite Calvin and Hobbes storylines.

(I didn't tell him this, but that storyline with the baby raccoon makes me cry every time)

kate said...

Andrea, they were there. You just got sidetracked. ;> The only one I added was the *last* Orphan Train book. ;>

rolise said...

You should ask anyone who visits to give you their finished books. I myself had 3-4 from the plane ride and not being able to sleep that I could have left on my first trip but wound up taking home. What genre would you prefer if you could walk into a Borders or Barnes and Noble right now?