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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Book Reviews, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 26 - 50 of 2,347
26. Book Review 2016-003: Dispatches From the Drownings by B.J. Hollars

Hollars - Dispatches from the DrowningsBook Review 2016-003
Dispatches From the Drownings by B.J. Hollars
2014 by University of New Mexico Press, 192 pages

(I believe B.J. might have arranged for a review copy--or I might have bought it--do not remember)

 

"What you're about to read is not a conventional book." I do not believe B.J. Hollars could have started this work more appropriately. I have read this book straight through at least twice since obtaining a copy back in 2014 and frequently pick it up and skim through to read one or two of the incidents. Part Wisconsin Death Trip (that's the obligatory comparison), part Lee Martin's Turning Bones, part season five of The Wire, all wrapped up into a wonderful 100 stories of less than a page apiece.

Hollars, who has previously published two more straightforward non-fiction titles, sub-titled this one, "Reporting the Fiction of Nonfiction." In his Author's Note/Introduction, Hollars notes that he tells his students in his nonfiction classes that "most facts--even those offered neutrally--are about 75 percent true and 25 percent false." This bringing to light of the "Fiction of Nonfiction" is pretty fascinating and the whole Author's Note should be used as an essay for other nonfiction classrooms.

It seems it's not very safe to be around the rivers of Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Numerous drownings over the years. One thing B.J. Hollars does very, very well is research. It was very apparent from his first two works, and comes through loud and clear here too--though in a different path. Where his previous two works led Hollars to research specific incidents and people and the horror that is lynching, this noticing of drownings led him down a path of researching journalism to a degree. That is, while researching area drownings over the years, Hollars noted the various styles that were taken in the reportage of these incidents. While Hollars is sure that no liberties with the truth were intentionally taken, he noticed words like "supposedly" inserted when discussing either how, or why, the deceased might have been in or near the water in the first place. He noticed that the journalists themselves were never eyewitnesses and so at best, at the very best, the accounts were second hand--counting on both the memories of those that did witness things, and the perfect communication between said witness and the journalist.

What Hollars has done is found numerous drowning incidents from the time period of 1875 through 1922. He's researched the drownings, either from single or multiple written sources, read and re-read the accounts and then re-written them, using his own memory of what stuck out from the original reportings. While still essentially nonfiction, it throws in one more aspect of non-reliability. To me, this would be a fascinating enough experiment in writing and thinking about nonfiction and its complete veracity. However, Hollars wasn't satisfied to stop there.

Instead he adds two more elements--the first is photographs. He's found what can be considered appropriate photos from the collection of Charles Van Schaik (yes, the photographer whose work Michael Lesy used for his seminal Wisconsin Death Trip, hence the "obligatory" comparison). and as his author note notes--"...we must remain cognizant that the photographer still decides what to reveal or withhold." Add to that the fact that Hollars has then cherry-picked the photos he wants to use with specific drowning accounts, for whatever reasons he chooses, and you realize that as the reader, you're being nudged by Hollars' choice in Van Schaik's photographs, as well as Hollars' version of the original reporters account of the incident. 75% true seems to be a best case scenario.

Then the second element--in keeping with his own 75/25 theory, Hollars has manufactured 25 drownings. That is, of the 100 accounts of drownings in this book, only 75 come from Hollars specific research. Now, I have no doubt whatsoever that the 25 that he invented also were affected by his research, they were not taken from specific drownings of the past as the other 75 were. And having read this book straight through twice, and dipped into it more times than I can count, I couldn't even begin to try to suggest to you which 25 are the more manufactured of the 100 manufactured works within these covers. Not one jumps out at me, let alone 25.

It's a fantastically creative work, with what I find to be a tremendous germ of an idea--the Fiction of Nonfiction--truly followed up on by hard work, great creativity, and the fact that B.J. Hollars is one hell of a writer.

4.5 stars

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27. 4 More Books Read

1. The Astounding Broccoli Boy by Frank Cottrell Boyce was sooo good.  But the author's note at the end was almost as good as the book!

Rory Rooney has been thrown off the bus by Tommy-Lee ever day.  Still, when Tommy-Lee has an extreme allergic reaction from eating Rory's lunch - without Rory's permission, I might add - and Tommy-Lee is taken away in an ambulance, everyone blames Rory!!!  Tommy-Lee's friends throw Rory into a stream and when he stands up, Rory is completely green.  Now, it's his turn to be carried off to the hospital.

But Rory is prepared.  His favorite bedtime story is his mother's book, Don't Be Scared. Be Prepared.  Rory's mom is all about being prepared.

Rory is in the isolation ward at the hospital.  But he's not alone.  Oh, no.... he and his roommate are in for astounding adventures of the superhero-ish sort.  As London squirms in the grasp of the Killer Kitten virus, two - or is it more? - green children prepare to Save The World.

 Need a break from whatever ails you?  This book will help.

2. For another look at lunacy, we have Kill the Boy Band by Goldy Moldavsky

Four Fans of the Ruperts - a boy band - somehow end up with one of the Ruperts, tied up in their hotel room.  Fangirl fantasy come true!!  Squeeee, or whatever.  His phone alone is a treasure trove of awesomely...oh no, what's this??  And when the narrator comes clean about the whole event, who will pay the price of the long night's misadventures?

The lunacy in Moldavsky's book is creepy.  I ended up skimming the book because:
1.  The teens are unbelievably shallow, narcissistic and cruel.

2.  It's a little too mean to be funny, I think.

That said, I am NOT a teenage girl.  It is way too long since I screamed over a boy band.  Back then,  social media was a phone with a long cord and my Mom's kitchen timer.  So, what do I know?  Right?  Definitely for teens.  And the fans on Goodreads like it a lot.  Dark humor, they say.

3. The Nameless City by Faith Erin Hicks.   In a medieval city in the Orient, Kaidu is learning to fight.  The city has changed hands so often, that its natives call it the Nameless City.  Kaidu is part of the conqueror's army.  When he ventures into the city, he meets a girl who calls herself Rat.  They don't trust each other but Rat shows Kaidu things about the City that he can't learn behind the fort's walls.  When a threat comes from inside the fort walls, Kaidu and Rat must work together as a team.

This graphic novel moves so seamlessly that I didn't notice the lack of words.  Actually, as I type this, I realize that since reading this book, action scenes in text books take so long.  No wonder graphic novels are so hot.  Thanks, Faith Erin Hicks, for furthering my understanding of this genre.

4.  An Inheritance of Ashes by Leah Bobet. This book had to be read, word for word.  The struggle between Halfrida and her sister, Marthe, and their fight to keep their farm needs to be explained.  An artist might be able to show the pain, anger, stubbornness and pride on each young woman's face but Bobet's words made this stew of emotions all too real to me.  Insert these women into a war ravaged countryside, with a missing husband, and strange unearthly beings and you get a fantasy that speaks volumes about how people do and do not get along.

There is the mystery soldier who asks for somewhere to stay; the unearthly creatures; the aftermath of a war against the Wicked God; the search for a missing hero; Marthe's pining for her husband; Hallie's secret-keeping and her fear.  Also a fledgling romance and three cheers for scientific method and investigation. (Sentence fragment, I know.  Deal.) There's some heavy stuff going on in this book.   I liked it!

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28. Wrinkles and abandoned buildings

I finished You Were Here by Cori McCarthy the other night and it was so satisfying!  Told in alternating voices, this is a story of grief and stubbornness and the need to put the past to rest.  Serious stuff!  McCarthy's mix of characters, words and graphics spins this book right along. 
          I worried at first that this would just be another "dead family member" book.  Then it morphed into a book about meeting unrealistic expectations and then it turned into a graphic novel and the whole time this group of five teens are fighting, musing, obsessing, and engaging in risky behavior - lots and lots of risky, perilous, dare-devil behavior.  (Definitely Teen Readers!)

So read it.  It is emotionally manipulating, but most good books are.  And the resolution is realistic and, as I mentioned before, satisfying.

The Wrinkled Crown by Anne Nesbet is a wrinkled book.  Linny lives in Lourka where no trail is a straight line - or even the same from trip to trip.  Here stories can change reality.   When Linny breaks the most sacred taboo in the hills, her best friend and tether-twin, Sayra, is the one who pays the price.
Linny takes her forbidden lourka - a stringed musical instrument - and runs away to the Plains to find a cure for Sayra's fading away illness. 
Linny and her friend, Edmund, are caught up in a civil struggle between a faction that believes everything should be mapped, straight, smooth and mechanical - and a faction that honors magic and wrinkles of all sorts.
 I ended up skimming and, alas, skipping.  If I had more time I may have enjoyed the arguments and adventures and authoritarian quasi-villains.  The book is as wrinkled as its title.  But it is a solid beginning of a new magical trilogy(?) or series.  (Grades 5 through 7, though younger readers with skills and stamina will enjoy this book.)

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29. Book Review 2016:002 - Good on Paper by Rachel Cantor

Cantor - Good on PaperBook Review 2016-002

Good on Paper by Rachel Cantor

2016 via Melville House Books (eBook purchased)

 

While I own A Highly Unlikely Scenario, I did not read it right away when I picked it up and in all honesty, am not sure where it is right now. When Rachel Cantor starting posting about a second novel forthcoming, I made sure to pick up a copy (ie, ordered the eBook) and set aside time this past week to make sure I read it. If her debut was nearly as good as this one, I should be downstairs digging through boxes for as long as it takes me to find it.

Cantor has written a novel that is both Academic in nature, as well as a quick-paced, interesting story. Academic in that it involves literary translation, explanations of Dante, as well as delving into Judaism, the Bible from a Catholic point of view, as well as external religious texts. In Shira Greene, Cantor has created a very normal person--selfish, loving, hopeful, negative, and just about everything else that a person could be. The novel starts with her as a temporary worker at a prosthetic limb provider. She's mid-30's,living with her childhood (from age 15) friend who is a University professor, and therefore is provided with a large family-sized apartment as he's the stated (though not blood) father or Shira's daughter, Andi.

Shira has been an English grad student when the love of her youthful life inadvertently exposed himself to be deeper in another relationship than Shira had understood him to be. This led to her to be unable to read Dante at all, let alone continue on with her dissertation and translation efforts. She had even published some short fiction but had pretty much set all of that aside to concentrate on trying to temp her way to a full-time position somewhere.

Out of the blue, a very recent Nobel winning poet, Romei, contacts her to tell her he wants her to translate his forthcoming work from Italian to English before it' is even published in Italian. It's a dream-come-true job and as one might expect, as in many such cases, the job really isn't as dream-come-true as she'd like to have hoped.

A very smart move on Cantor's part was to have Romei send his work to Shira in sections. This allows her to read it, and while thinking about it to herself, explain both Romei's work, as well as Dante's work, to the reader. It's done in a manner that allows the reader to learn more and more about Shira, Ahmed (the friend), Andi, Shira's past, as we read on. We get to understand this unconventional family. By breaking the novel into these pieces though, Cantor doesn't have one big Italian work being translated straight through. Instead, we're there as Shira somewhat selfishly delves into the work deep enough to not notice some issues Andi is having, worries that are hitting Ahmed, and we get to see her budding potential romance with part-time Rabbi Benny, who is also the local bookstore owner.

We get to see Shira go from giddy with how this project would jump start her career, to curious about certain things Romei was doing, to worrying that the work was not translatable, to believing Rome was sabotaging her career intentionally for reasons she couldn't understand. The relationship Shira develops with Benny is useful, not only to allow readers to dip into that aspect of Shira's life, but also because as a very well-read part-time Rabbi, Benny is able to help Shira with some of the translation aspects as Romei drops religious references and brings up other texts that Benny is familiar with.

The fact that Shira is working on a big translation can hardly be considered an accident. One of the bigger themes of the work seems to be the idea of misinterpretation and how simple it is to do so and the many ramifications of such. While not coming straight out and ever pointing such an incident out in the "story" portion of the novel, Shira explains numerous times throughout the Romei-heavy sections just what her process would be as she translated his work, and how to do her best to avoid misinterpretation.

The story has many twists throughout, while there might be early worries that Cantor's going to be too academic, or that not having read Dante thoroughly might detract from the reading, neither could be further from the truth. And saying the story is good is cutting Cantor's efforts short--there are at least 3 or 4 solid story lines being merged throughout Good on Paper and she handles the transitions and mixtures deftly.

4 stars.

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30. Picture Book Study: This Orq. (He Cave Boy.) by David Elliott and Lori Nichols

This is a children’s picture book structure break down for This Orq. (He Cave Boy.) by David Elliott and Lori Nichols. This breakdown will contain spoilers.…

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31. Picture Book Review: Dig In by Cindy Jenson-Elliott, illustrated by Mary Peterson

Dig In! by Cindy Jenson-Elliott, illustrated by Mary Peterson

Release Date: 3/1/2016

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As a librarian who does toddler storytime, I am always on the lookout for great new toddler books. It feels like I repeat the same books over and over with my little ones. So I get very excited when a book like Dig In! comes across my desk.

Dig In! is a child's exploration of playing outside in the dirt. From digging in the dirt to finding worms, snails, rocks and then water to make messy mud, each page takes a new experience or discovery and presents in from a young child's view. The text is simplistic enough that young children can follow along and the overall book is engaging and exciting. It's short enough to be read aloud in toddler storytime even with antsy toddlers.

The illustrations, which according to the book were created using linoleum block prints on paper with some digital touch ups, are bright and colorful. They really pop on each page which makes them great for a crowd. The block prints help everything have it's defined space and it adds a bit of texture to the dirt, which I think young readers will find especially engaging. It's almost as if you can reach your hand out and touch the dirt on the page.

As Springtime approaches, Dig In! is a great new choice to add to storytime. It's perfect for a messy storytime where you get to play in the mud and it's a wonderful encouragement to families to get outside and play.

Full Disclosure: Reviewed from  copy sent by publisher for review

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32. The Stumps of Flattop Hill Book & Art Exhibit

Good art can be a little dark and disturbing. In the case of a new exhibition at the Whitney Library Gallery, it can also be classified as creepy, spooky, kooky, mysterious and more than a little fun. The show features dark drawings and haunting images, much of them from a new children's book, "The Stumps of Flattop Hill," by Las Vegas-based author Kenneth Kit Lamug.

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33. Infinity and Me - an audiobook review

Although I reviewed a print version of Infinity and Me book several years ago (my original review is linked here), I recently had the opportunity to review the audio version for School Library Journal.  My review as it appeared in the February, 2016, edition of SLJ is below.


HOSFORD, Kate. Infinity and Me. 1 CD w/tr book. 44 min. Live Oak Media. 2015. $29.95. ISBN 9781430120049.

K-Gr 3—A small girl, Uma, ponders infinity while gazing at stars, “How many stars were in the sky? A million? A billion? Maybe the number was as big as infinity.” Uma proceeds to ask friends and family how they conceive of infinity. They define it in quantities of numbers, time, music, ancestors—even spaghetti! Finally, she settles on her own measure of infinity, quantified in something that is personal and boundless. Narrator Nancy Wu is accompanied by a full cast of characters, music, and sound effects that complement the text and the book’s full-bleed, painted illustrations by Gabi Swiatkowska. Background sound effects include a bicycle bell, the “tinkling” of stars, chattering voices, and churning gears. A sense of wonder is embodied in Wu’s narration, the illustrations, and the overall production. The audiobook contains two tracks, one with page turn signals and one without. VERDICT This is an intriguing introduction to a mathematical concept, perfect for those seeking to inspire very young people to wonder about math and science. [“This quiet jewel is sure to spark contemplation and conversation": SLJ 10/12 review of the Carolrhoda book.]

 ##

Copyright © 2016 Library Journals, LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc.
Reprinted with permission.


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34. The Hollow Boy


The Hollow Boy (Lockwood & Co. #3)I did not sleep well last night.  It might have been my bedtime reading.  The Hollow Boy by Jonathan Stroud continues the ghost fighting adventures of Lockwood & Co.  Lucy Carlyle, our narrator, wants everything to remain stable in the Lockwood household.  She, Lockwood - the founder of the company, - and George of the thick glasses and love for research are busier than ever.  However, they have NOT been called in to help with the HUGE outbreak of paranormal activity in Chelsea that has resulted in deaths and large scale evacuations.  Of all the ghost fighting businesses, Lockwood & Co., alone, has been ignored.  You can imagine that doesn't sit well with Lockwood.


In the meantime, any other ghostly problems have landed on the Lockwood doorstep and Lockwood wants to hire an assistant.  George has no opinion.  Lucy wants things to stay the same.

So, what happens when the assistant is hired in Lucy's absence?  And then there is the case of the bloody footprints and its aftermath.  Lucy is tempted to enter the forbidden room.  And the Haunted Skull gives a running sarcastic commentary on everything Lucy does.

Expect specters.  Expect odd behavior on the part of the non-talented adults.  Expect hanging threads that need to be followed up.  Well, I can't tell you what else to expect because honestly, if I were a little more superstitious, I may NEVER have gotten to sleep.

Just one question for you; have you ever gone into an older department store and felt, hmmm, I don't know, a presence from the past?  Yeah, me, too.

The Hollow Boy by Jonathan Stroud.  Read it, preferably in the daylight.

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35. The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Just finished THE WAR THAT SAVED MY LIFE by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, loved it. This  historical fiction novel for middle grade is such a satisfying read, full of adventure and heartbreak and compassion. I loved the characters in this book SO MUCH, and desperately want a sequel.

I confess that I held off reading this book because its premise sounded too depressing but I am soooooooooo glad that I got over this and strongly encourage others who have held off for the same reason to get over it as well. Highly recommended.

Find out more about Kimberly Brubaker Bradley at her website.

More about the book on the Penguin Random House site.

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36. All the Pretty Princesses

Princesses everywhere.

I am not the most girly type of woman.   But even I wanted to be a princess when I was little.  I did not want to be an actual princess, who has to learn to be diplomatic, attend boring meetings, discuss policy with councilors, and put up with the attentions of not necessarily handsome princes.  I wanted to be a fairy tale princess - beautiful, cosseted, rich and talented.

So, to celebrate Princesses everywhere on this Carnival Tuesday, here is a list of my favorite princess books:

The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch.  A dragon destroys everything - including a princess' wardrobe AND kidnaps a handsome prince.  Dressed in a paper bag, our princess hunts down the evil lizard. (Picture Book)

The Magic Fishbone by Charles Dickens.   Alicia manages the castle and the little princes and princesses quite well with just her cleverness.  The magic fishbone in her apron pocket must be saved for just the right wish. Happy ending, everyone!!! (Short story suitable for ages 4 through 10, and for adults who like Dickens)

Princess Academy by Shannon Hale.   Miri and the other girls in her mountain village must learn how to be princesses because one of them will marry the prince.  Also - bandits try to kidnap them and they have to protect themselves.  Bad guys; jealousy; mean teachers; resourcefulness! (Middle grade through teen)

Hmmm, there are many, many more princess books around then are dreamt of in your philosophies, dear Horatio.  But here is just one more.

I am going to add I am Princess X by Cherie Priest because the story is a bit incredible but the combination of graphics and text and the suspense, clues, and sleuthing add up to a roller coaster ride of a book. (Teen - action-adventure, violent crimes, risk taking)






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37. The Green Bicycle – Diversity Reading, 2016

Title: The Green Bicycle Author: Haifia Al Mansour Publisher: Dial Books for young Readers, 2015 Age: 9-13 Themes: family, dreams, life in Saudi Arabia as a girl, coming of age, role of women/girls Opening: Wadjda wasn’t thinking about her ticket to heaven. You could see it on … Continue reading

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38. The Dangerous Alphabet by Neil Gaiman and Gris Grimly Book Preview

This is a picture book preview for The Dangerous Alphabet by Neil Gaiman and Illustrated by Gris Grimly. This is a rhyming alphabet book. A is for…

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39. Dear Fang, With Love by Rufi Thorpe {Review}

Dear-Fang-Love-Rufi-Thorpe-May-24

This heartbreaking and deceptively slim novel deals with big topics like the mental illness, abandonment, family relations and the Holocaust. After a long estrangement, Lucas wants to be back in his 17-year-old daughter Vera’s life, especially after she has a psychotic break. He takes her for the summer to his ancestral home in Lithuania. While Lucas tries to mend their relationship, he also learns about his grandmother’s life during WWII. This is a powerful novel from the author of The Girls from Corona Del Mar.

Summary:
Lucas and Katya were boarding school seniors when, blindingly in love, they decided to have a baby. Seventeen years later, after years of absence, Lucas is a weekend dad, newly involved in his daughter Vera’s life. But after Vera suffers a terrifying psychotic break at a high school party, Lucas takes her to Lithuania, his grandmother’s homeland, for the summer. Here, in the city of Vilnius, Lucas hopes to save Vera from the sorrow of her diagnosis. As he uncovers a secret about his grandmother, a Home Army rebel who escaped Stutthof, Vera searches for answers of her own. Why did Lucas abandon her as a baby? What really happened the night of her breakdown? And who can she trust with the truth? Skillfully weaving family mythology and Lithuanian history with a story of mental illness, inheritance, young love, and adventure, Rufi Thorpe has written a wildly accomplished, stunningly emotional book.

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40. Picture Book Study: Meg Goldberg on Parade by Andria Warmflash Rosenbaum and Christopher Lyles

This is a children’s picture book structure break down for Meg Goldberg on Parade by Andria Warmflash Rosenbaum and Christopher Lyles. This breakdown will contain…

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41. Wanted: Writing with an At Can connection

Galleon is looking for fiction and poetry for issue V. Publishes work by Atlantic Canadians or related to the region, but there is room for submissions “from away.” Fiction: 5000 words max. Poetry: 100 lines max. Payment: One copy. Deadline: May 1, 2016.

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42. Fantasy Sports #1 by Sam Bosma

This is a book preview for FANTASY SPORTS #1 by Sam Bosma.  In Sam Bosma’s debut graphic novel, a young explorer and her musclebound friend…

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43. Reading and awards

In the past few weeks I have read Circus Mirandus, The Book of Kings, Anna and the Swallow Man, The Beastly Bones, The Hired Girl.   I gave up, temporarily, on The Six of Crows and I promise to go back to that because my Boss says it's worth the effort.  I also read Confessions of an Imaginary Friend.

I am pretty sure that there  are other books that I have read recently that did not make this list.  You will note that few if any of these books are on the recently released Youth Media Awards.   (Mainly because several of these are 2016 releases so....)

As a matter of fact, I did a poor job of reading award-worthy books this year.  I have been reading what I want - so there.  

So here is a short run down of two of the books mentioned above.
The Book of Kings -by Cynthia Voigt.  I want to live in Max's home town.  I, too, want to be a solutioneer.  Max Starling must rescue his parents who have been tricked into playing the King and Queen of a small, oppressed South American nation.  So, he, his grandmother, his tenant, Ari who is also a Baron, his "assistant" Pia's father, two boys who may end up being good friends and Max's painting teacher all pile on to a ocean liner, leaving behind the idyllic city of Queensbridge.  Don't DO it! Max.  What a delightful adventure, full of twists and turns and headstrong people.

The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz.  When Jane's unhappy father burns her journals - they are a waste of her time.  Jane runs off to Baltimore and gets a job as a hired girl in the home of a department store owner and entrepreneur.  Her job is complicated by the clash of cultures.  Jane's mother was Catholic, though Jane rarely got a chance to attend church.  And the family she works for are observant Jews.  Jane is NOT 18 as she claims but only 14, so she makes some choices and behaves in ways that threaten to get her fired.  Good book.  Read it.
 

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44. Check out Edward Gorey’s “Amphigorey Too” Book Art & Interiors

If you already purchased “Amphigorey: 15 books” then this is obviously the next step. It collects 20 of Gorey’s books (ones which are less popular).…

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45. Doodle Invasion, A Crazy Coloring Book by Kerby Rosanes

If you’re looking for a more “character based” coloring book, you’ll have lots to doodle at with Zifflin’s Doodle Invasion Coloring book featuring the art of…

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46. Book Review 2016-001: Vertigo by Joanna Walsh

Walsh - Vertigo2016-001: Vertigo by Joanna Walsh

115 pages, 2015 by Dorothy, a publishing project

Purchased direct from the publisher

 

Like all books published by Dorothy, a publishing project, I purchased this one as soon as it was published. Unfortunately, like most of the books I buy these days, it sat around for half a year before I picked it up to read it. I originally intended to read a story or three, choose one, and post on the Work of the Day. However, a combination of sitting at a car service department for longer than I'd hoped for, and the fact that I couldn't stop turning pages, led me to read the entire collection of stories by Joanna Walsh.

The collections focuses more on women in domestic situations more than anything else. Walsh's language is incredible--there's a dreamlike quality lulling the reader into a sense of security while at the same time writing about urgent situations--a mother in a children's ward waiting for news on her daughter; a woman dealing with the fact that her husband has developed online relationships with other women; a mother on a bus ride with her daughter to what she knows re her disappointed parents. It's a very interesting combination of situational tension being calmed down by the way Walsh writes her sentences and puts her paragraphs together.

Part of this is done through her usage of the ordinary. In "Online," the story with the flirtatious husband, the wife asks "How is your breakfast?" and "What do you like for breakfast?" The sort of things you don't typically see in stories. The second question does lead to the interesting point that she believes she's at a disadvantage with the collective that is the group of women he talks to online. She believes that because they can ask questions like this, where she sounds ridiculous doing so as she KNOWS what he likes to eat makes them more interesting to him than she is.

In "Young Mothers" a story wherein the mothers see their existence ebb and flow strictly through their children. They are not known by their names but as "Connor's mum, or Casey's mum." Walsh slides lines like:

"Colors were bright, so our children did not lose us, so we could not lose each other, or ourselves, no matter how hard we tried."

after couplets like:

"Fleece was warm and stretchy for growing bodies. Shoes were flat for running, playing.

A couple of nice, simple sentences describing the outfits of the children in standard terms and then just a hammer blow of truly getting inside a mother's head.

The collection has fourteen stories that are linked, not by character, or setting, but by mood, by language and the very smooth mixing of urgent situations with calming language. It's unlike any other collection I've read and I look forward to future works by Joanna Walsh.

4.5 paws

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47. {Review}Your Heart is a Muscle The Size of a Fist by Sunil Yapa

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Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of A Fist by Sunil Yapa

Little Brown, Release Date: January 12, 2016

Summary:

The Flamethrowers meets Let the Great World Spin in this electrifying debut novel set amid the heated conflict of Seattle’s 1999 WTO protests.

On a rainy, cold day in November, young Victor–a nomadic, scrappy teenager who’s run away from home–sets out to sell as much marijuana as possible to the throng of WTO demonstrators determined to shut down the city. With the proceeds, he plans to buy a plane ticket and leave Seattle forever, but it quickly becomes clear that the history-making 50,000 anti-globalization protestors–from anarchists to environmentalists to teamsters–are testing the patience of the police, and what started out as a peaceful protest is threatening to erupt into violence.

Over the course of one life-altering afternoon, the fates of seven people will change forever: foremost among them police Chief Bishop, the estranged father Victor hasn’t seen in three years, two protesters struggling to stay true to their non-violent principles as the day descends into chaos, two police officers in the street, and the coolly elegant financial minister from Sri Lanka whose life, as well as his country’s fate, hinges on getting through the angry crowd, out of jail, and to his meeting with the President of the United States. When Chief Bishop reluctantly unleashes tear gas on the unsuspecting crowd, it seems his hopes for reconciliation with his son, as well as the future of his city, are in serious peril.

In this raw and breathtaking novel, Yapa marries a deep rage with a deep humanity. In doing so he casts an unflinching eye on the nature and limits of compassion, and the heartbreaking difference between what is right and what is possible.

Review:

This compelling story of the WTO riots in Seattle in 1999 is told from many differing points of view. At the novel’s center is a homeless, young, black man named Victor who wants to sell marijuana to the protesters in order to make enough money to buy a plane ticket and get out of Seattle. Over the course of one day, the novel introduces us to seven people whose lives will be transformed by these cataclysmic events. The cast of characters includes Victor’s stepfather, the Chief of Police, cops and protesters that gives a very unique voice to this debut novel. Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist depicts how the protester’s non-violence led to retaliation from the police. One protester’s story about a murderer who is now a non-violent protester is extremely moving and will resonate with readers. This Rashomon-like narrative will appeal to fans of Jonathan Franzen, Garth Hallberg, Colum McCann or Rachel Kushner.

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