Saturday, November 13, 2021

The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan -- Book Review


Hello poor neglected book blog. I could spend paragraphs talking about how my reading life is in the toilet and flushed but I think I'll just try to make a fresh start and see if I can get excited about reading again this season.

I recently read this. I don't recommend it. Find out why below:

From Goodreads: "Nina Redmond is a literary matchmaker. Pairing a reader with that perfect book is her passion… and also her job. Or at least it was. Until yesterday, she was a librarian in the hectic city. But now the job she loved is no more. Determined to make a new life for herself, Nina moves to a sleepy village many miles away. There she buys a van and transforms it into a bookmobile—a mobile bookshop that she drives from neighborhood to neighborhood, changing one life after another with the power of storytelling. From helping her grumpy landlord deliver a lamb, to sharing picnics with a charming train conductor who serenades her with poetry, Nina discovers there’s plenty of adventure, magic, and soul in a place that’s beginning to feel like home… a place where she just might be able to write her own happy ending."

My Review: I hated this book SO. MUCH.

The best thing about this book is that I feel so passionately against it that it's put me in the mood for writing a lengthy review, which I've not done in quite awhile. I've struggled with whether or not it even deserves a review but I guess I do want to say some things so I'll take the time.

(spoilers below)

I'll begin with the Feminist garbage. Miss Independent ends up sleeping with the guy obsessively for a week or so (and roughly, of course, so roughly that she jokes about needing to go to the, not abusive at. all. Where are you Feminists who care about women's health???? Oh that's right---getting your kicks off of trash like this). Then she decides she wants it to be about more than just the sex but her best friend tells her to stop being so demanding and having such high expectations---be happy with what you have, oh Miss Independent, this is as good as it gets. When they finally do end up taking things further (as in backing up, learning first names, and actually having full-on conversations), it's the MAN who decides when and how the relationship moves forward. Mmm Hmm. Look how free and independent she is! What a role model! Oh, and there's also that part where she and the guy's wife are in the same room together and the wife throws a fit about wanting a book that belongs to Miss Independent. She says, "You can't have that. It belongs to someone else." We are supposed to think Miss Independent is strong and standing up for herself...but the irony is completely lost on anyone who actually enjoyed this story because it's Miss Independent who has taken what belongs to someone else---the wife standing in front of her. Feminist hypocrisy at its finest and it makes me want to throw up.

I hate to make this political but it's got Leftist nonsense from front to back so I spent the majority of my time rolling my eyes. The two kids must leave their mother to the care of social services so they can go "have their lives" at school, even though dying mother wants the comfort of her children near her. Not to mention the issue of family responsibility that is somehow made out to be an unfair burden put on a perfectly capable but entitled almost 16 year old. Yes, this situation needed a solution but there's that "state will fix everything" mentality that leaves a sick feeling. Then there's the foreigner who breaks the law and the rules of his employment and gets deported. This author's answer? Lawyers. Because being disciplined for breaking the law is just not fair. Ugh.

Nina, who is supposedly "mousy", is actually a lunatic with multiple personalities. In the Ainslee/Ben situation, she's way too preachy and meddling, providing very little actual helpful guidance or long term solutions. With Lennox she's a total psycho and acts like he owes her something (plus all the above mentioned puke). With Marek she's melodramatic and hypocritical. In fact, the Surinder and Marek storylines really distracted. I would have loved to have seen her more in the community---instead, her "involvement" is only highlighted after the statement is made about her missing it should she choose to leave. I think it would have made her dilemma much more believable had I seen her actually putting down some roots. Instead, way too much time is spent on these two relationships that actually add nothing at all of substance to the story.

As usual, I also found the foul language to be unnecessary---but apparently it's trendy so whatever.

Were there any redeeming bits? Few, but here they are…

It took a little bit to get into the story at the beginning but by chapter four, I was imagining how I could turn my own car into a traveling book shop. It does sound like a wonderful idea, though that would have had to have been one heck of a wide and long van to fit in all the stuff she talked about, with a story time to boot.

I think the themes of the demise of the "old fashioned" librarians and quiet libraries where people actually go to READ are really fitting right now. Our library recently underwent a remodel and now we've got all kinds of new agendas for our new spaces. The dialogue on pgs. 50-51 is spot on when Nina is being interviewed about how she would make the library work for nonreaders. She's a little dumbfounded and rightly so. Why are libraries worried about catering to nonreaders? That's like a car mechanic providing less services to car owners because they're concerned about pollution. They're shooting themselves in the foot by making the libraries so unappealing to actual readers! We readers want quiet and peaceful libraries with librarians who go around and sternly shush people. We want the struggle of holding in a cough so we don't make ourselves obvious while perusing the aisles. We want to hide the candy bar in our unzipped backpack on the table and sneak a bite when the old battleax in charge is not looking. We DON'T want shelves emptied of classics to make more space for space. We don't want sterile, too bright, too new museums to the memories of what once was where everyone is free to talk at whatever volume suits them and play computer games all afternoon.

Man, this book made me mad in its bad parts and mad in its good parts. I don't know if that's the sign of a great author or a horrible one but I can't imagine picking up another of hers any time soon. Or ever.

Saturday, February 13, 2021

Children's Classics Book List -- According to Wikipedia (February 2021)

In January I started the Children's Book Reading Challenge for Adults and have since been thinking I needed to make a list of children's classics to read from. I found this list on Wikipedia and thought I'd copy it out here. The list goes from ancient times to 1990 and is a pretty good one, I think. There are just under 200 books on the list and I'm committing to reading 100 of these in the next five years (end date: February 13, 2026). Those I've read prior to this commitment will be marked in red; those underlined, red, and in bold are ones I've read since beginning this challenge; those crossed out are ones I started and abandoned. In the future, I might add links to those I've also reviewed.

I'm starting with 28 read. I've read about 10 more, but it was too long ago to remember what they were about so guess I'll need to reread!

1/100 read for commitment since 2/2021

Panchatantra by Vishnu Sharma (c. 800 BC)

Aesop's Fables by Aesop (c. 600 BC)

Kathasaritsagara by Somadeva (11th century AD)

Arabian Nights by Unknown (before 8th c. AD)

Orbis Pictus by John Amos Comenius (1658)

A Token for Children by James Janeway (1672)

Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe (1719)

Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift (1726)

Tales of Mother Goose by Charles Perrault (1729)

Little Pretty Pocket-book by John Newbery (1744)

Little Goody Two Shoes by Oliver Goldsmith (1765)

Lessons for Children by Anna Laetitia Barbauld (1778)

The History of Sanford and Merton by Thomas Day (1783)

The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann Rudolf Wyss (1812)

The Nutcracker and the Mouse King by E.T.A. Hoffman (1816)

Ivanhoe by Walter Scott (1819)

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving (1819)

Rip Van Winkle by Washington Irving (1820)

Grimm's Fairy Tales by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm (1823)

A Visit From St. Nicholas by Clement Clarke Moore (1823)

Tales of Peter Parley About America by Peter Parley (1827)

Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens (1838)

Nicholas Nickelby by Charles Dickens (1839)

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (1843)

The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas (1844)

Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Andersen (1846)

The Children of the New Forest by Frederick Marryat (1847)

Slovenly Peter by Heinrich Hoffman (1848)

David Copperfield by Charles Dickens (1850)

The Wide, Wide World by Elizabeth Wetherell (1850)

The King of the Golden River by John Ruskin (1851)

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens (1853)

The Coral Island by R.M. Ballantyne (1857)

Tom Brown's Schooldays by Thomas Hughes (1857)

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (1861)

The Water Babies by Charles Kingsley (1863)

A Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne (1864) 

Little Prudy by Rebecca Sophia Clarke (1864)

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (1865)

Max and Moritz by Wilhelm Busch (1865)

Hans Brinker or the Silver Skates by Mary Mapes Dodge (1865)

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (1868)

Ragged Dick by Horatio Alger Jr. (1868)

Lorna Doone by R.D. Blackmore (1869)

Mrs. Overtheway's Remembrances by Juliana Horatia Ewing (1869)

Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne (1870)

At the Back of the North Wind by George MacDonald (1871) 

The Brownies and Other Tales by Juliana Horatia Ewing (1871)

The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald (1871)

Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll (1871)

Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne (1872)

A Dog of Flanders by Ouida (1872)

What Katy did by Susan Coolidge (1873)

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain (1876)

Black Beauty by Anna Sewell (1877)

The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain (1881)

The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi (1883)

The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood by Howard Pyle (1883)

Nights with Uncle Remus by Joel Chandler Harris (1883)

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson (1883)

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (1884)

Heidi by Johanna Spyri (1884)
King Solomon's Mines by H. Rider Haggard (1885)

Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson (1886)

Little Lord Fauntleroy by Frances Hodgson Burnett (1886)

The Happy Prince and Other Tales by Oscar Wilde (1888)

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court by Mark Twain (1889)

The Blue Fairy Book by Andrew Lang (1889)

The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling (1894)

Seven Little Australians by Ethel Turner (1894)

The Second Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling (1895)

Moonfleet by J. Meade Falkner (1898)

The Black Corsair by Emilio Salgari (1898)

The Reluctant Dragon by Kenneth Grahame (1898)

The Story of the Treasure Seekers by E. Nesbit (1899)

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum (1900)

The Tigers of Mompracem by Emilio Salgari (1900)

Five Children and It by E. Nesbit (1902)

Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling (1902)

The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter (1902)

King Arthur and His Knights by Howard Pyle (1902)

The Call of the Wild by Jack London (1903)

Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm by Kate Douglas Wiggin (1903)

A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett (1905)

The Railway Children by E. Nesbit (1906)

White Fang by Jack London (1906)

Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery (1908)

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame (1908)

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett (1909)

Peter and Wendy by J.M. Barrie (1911)

Tarzan by Edgar Rice Burroughs (1912)

The Lost World by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1912)

Pollyanna by Eleanor H. Porter (1913)

The Magic Pudding by Norman Lindsay (1918)

Raggedy Ann by Johnny Gruelle (1918)

The Story of Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lofting (1920)

The Heart of a Dog by Albert Payson Terhune (1921)

Juan Bobo by Puerto Rico School Children (1921)

The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams (1922)

The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lofting (1922)

The Dark Frigate by Charles Boardman Hawes (1923)

Smoky the Cowhorse by Will James (1926)

Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne (1926)

The House at Pooh Corner by A.A. Milne (1928)

Bambi by Felix Salten (1928)

The Trumpeter of Krakow by Eric P. Kelly (1928)

Milly-Molly-Mandy Stories by Joyce Lankester Brisley (1928)

Emil and the Detectives by Erich Kastner (1929)

Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome (1930)

Babar by Jean de Brunhoff (1931)

Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder (1932)

Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers (1934)

Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild (1936)

The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf (1936)

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien (1937)

The Sword in the Stone by T.H. White (1938)

Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans (1939)

My Name is Aram by William Saroyan (1940)

Curious George by H.A. Rey (1941)

Five on a Treasure Island by Enid Blyton (1942)

Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes (1943)

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery (1943)

Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren (1945)

Happy Dan, The Cynical Dog by Ward Greene (1945)

The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge (1946)

Thomas the Tank Engine by Wilbert Awdry (1946)

Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown (1947)

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith (1948)

Finn Family Moomintroll by Tove Jansson (1949)

Noddy Goes to Toyland by Enid Blyton (1949)

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis (1950)

Charlotte's Web by E.B. White (1952)

The Borrowers by Mary Norton (1952)

The Children of Green Knowe by Lucy M. Boston (1954)

Beezus and Ramona by Beverly Cleary (1955)

Eloise by Kay Thompson (1955)

The Hundred and One Dalmatians by Dodie Smith (1956)

Harry the Dirty Dog by Gene Zion (1956)

The Silver Sword by Ian Serraillier (1956)

The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss (1957)

Little Bear by Else Holmelund Minarik (1957)

Tom's Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce (1958)

A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond (1958)

The Rescuers by Margery Sharp (1959)

The Weirdstone of Brisingamen by Alan Garner (1960)

James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl (1961)

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster (1961)

The Big Honey Hunt by Stan and Jan Berenstain (1962)

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle (1962)

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken (1962)

Stig of the Dump by Clive King (1963)

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak (1963)

Clifford the Big Red Dog by Norman Bridwell (1963)

Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish (1963)

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl (1964)

Flat Stanley by Jeff Brown (1964)

The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein (1964)

Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh (1964)

Chitty-Chitty-Bag-Bang by Ian Fleming (1964)

The Fox and the Hound by Mannix and Shoenherr (1967)

The Owl and the Service by Alan Garner (1967)

A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin (1967)

The Iron Man by Ted Hughes (1968)

The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr (1968)

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle (1969)

Charlotte Sometimes by Penelope Farmer (1969)

Are You There God? It's Me Margaret by Judy Blume (1970)

When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit by Judith Kerr (1971)

The Lorax by Dr Seuss (1971)

Watership Down by Richard Adams (1972)

A Taste of Blackberries by Doris Buchanan Smith (1973)

The Worst Witch by Jill Murphy (1974)

Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson (1977)

Each Peach Pear Plum by Janet and Allan Ahlberg (1978)

The Snowman by Raymond Briggs (1978)

The Neverending Story by Michael Ende (1979)

The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks (1980)

The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch (1980)

Jumanji by Chris Van Allsburg (1981)

Goodnight Mr. Tom by Michelle Magorian (1981)

The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13¾ by Sue Townsend (1982)

War Horse by Michael Morpurgo (1982)

The Sheep-Pig by Dick King-Smith (1983)

The Castle in the Attic by Elizabeth Winthrop (1985)

Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones (1986)

Franklin by Bourgeois and Clark (1986)

The Little Polar Bear by Hans de Beer (1987)

Madame Doubtfire by Anne Fine (1987)

Matilda by Roald Dahl (1988)

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Last Week's Reading: Madeleine L'Engle and the Dust Bowl Days


Last week was a pretty good week for reading. I read a couple quick reads for young people and a nonfiction that was dry as its subject matter---but still worth it.

Book Description: "A Wrinkle in Time: The mysterious Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who and Mrs. Which send Meg and Charles Wallace through time and space to rescue their father on the planet Camazotz, accompanied by their new friend Calvin. Along the way, the three children learn about the "Black Thing", a cloud of evil that shadows many planets, including Earth. They encounter a Brain named IT, which controls the minds of people."

Reading, finishing, and actually UNDERSTANDING this book sparked a huge sense of accomplishment and pride in me. Ha! I've read it several times over the years, never understood it in school, and "kind of got it" as a younger adult. Since the Bible passages aren't referenced, baby Christian me never realized they were Scriptural and I always got distracted and lost when things got "too scientific". But this time through I thoroughly understood what I was reading and immediately picked up the second book in the series upon finishing.

5 stars from me for a great book---but even more so deserved after reading some biographical info and learning all L'Engle went through to finally have this published!

Book Description: "A Wind in the Door: Meg, Calvin and the disagreeable school principal Mr. Jenkins have to travel inside one of Charles Wallace's mitochondria to save him from a deadly disease, part of a cosmic battle against the evil Echthroi and the forces of "Unnaming"."

I struggled with this one a lot---I'm so bad with scifi/fantasy! I struggled to keep my attention on the story---nonhuman characters, poorly explained science, Meg does a lot of "stamping". Extreme drama mixed with extreme fantasy was a bit much and I had a hard time following. I did have a little deja vu, now and then, until the second half. Maybe I read this waaaaay back in elementary or middle school?

My favorite quote was this: "It is only when we are fully rooted that we are really able to move."

Book Description: "The dust storms that terrorized the High Plains in the darkest years of the Depression were like nothing ever seen before or since. Timothy Egan’s critically acclaimed account rescues this iconic chapter of American history from the shadows in a tour de force of historical reportage. Following a dozen families and their communities through the rise and fall of the region, Egan tells of their desperate attempts to carry on through blinding black dust blizzards, crop failure, and the death of loved ones. Brilliantly capturing the terrifying drama of catastrophe, Egan does equal justice to the human characters who become his heroes, “the stoic, long-suffering men and women whose lives he opens up with urgency and respect” (New York Times).

In an era that promises ever-greater natural disasters, The Worst Hard Time is “arguably the best nonfiction book yet” (Austin Statesman Journal) on the greatest environmental disaster ever to be visited upon our land and a powerful cautionary tale about the dangers of trifling with nature."

This was a very interesting and informative read---I learned a few things and definitely had a shift of perspective about this time in history. I'd been told that my great grandmother and her family went through the Dust Bowl but looking at the timeline compared to where they were doing those years, it looks like they were probably more financially affected by the lack of work than by the bulk of the dust storms themselves. Her family left Beaver County, Oklahoma (in the heart of the Dust Bowl) in the 1920s and went east to Enid (east of the worst of it by a couple hundred miles, according to this book). So they were out of there long before the dusters started hitting, but definitely would have felt the financial fall out of that mixed with the other effects of the Great Depression. From what I can tell, that family began to move west to Oregon in the early 1950s, with my great-grandmother arriving within 10 years of that.

Reading about the beginning of the depression reminded me of last summer when the government was... read the full book review here.

The L'Engle books fulfill the following challenges: The Children's Books Challenge at Belle's Library; and four challenges for the Brighter Winter Reading Program.

The Worst Hard Time fulfills the following challenges: The Historical Reading Challenge at The Intrepid Reader and two challenges for the Brighter Winter Reading Program.