The Road to Little Dribbling

littledribblingby Bill Bryson
First sentence: “One of the things that happens when you get older is that you discover lots of new ways to hurt yourself.”
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Content: There’s a bunch (a dozen or so?) of f-bombs scattered throughout, and it’s a bit old-n-cranky for the younger set. But if you’re interested in that sort of thing (plus England), then it’s in the Creative Non-Fiction section of the bookstore.

It’s been 20 years since Notes from a Small Island, and Bryson’s publisher thought it’d be an interesting thing for Bryson to go back and revisit places. Well, he decided not to do that. Partially because he’s not one to do things exactly the same way, and partially because he applied for British citizenship and one of the questions asked what were the two farthest cities in Great Britain, he drew a line down the middle of the country and decided to loosely follow it, visiting places.

It doesn’t sound like much to hang a book on, but this is Bill Bryson after all. It’s been a while since he’s done a travel book, and I was more than happy that he got back to it. I was much more willing to read this one than I was Notes (I didn’t “get it”. I wonder what that means now.) and I thoroughly enjoyed traveling to all these small, out of the way, strange little English places with him.

But what really struck me is that Bryson is a bit of a crank. A lovable, affable, hilarious crank, but a crank nonetheless. He’s one of those people who think that it Used To Be Better back when he was younger, and that the world — or, more particularly, Great Britain — is going to pot. And yet, the affection he has for his adopted country is obvious. He adores Great Britain, not just with all his faults but because of them. In spite of his occasional crankiness (or maybe because of it?) I had a hilarious, fun, and sometimes insightful (his throw-away comments on U. S. gun control in the last chapter are spot-on) time traveling England with him.

First Sunday Daughter Reviews: February 2016

Ever since we switched to morning church last month (we switch back and forth every year), I’ve found that this post is a bit more challenging to get out. Currently, it’s 6:30 a.m., the house is quiet (except for the dog; did I tell y’all that we got a dog? We did. An adorable, if somewhat not-chill, pointer mix. We love her to death.), and I’m trying to remember everything that the girls read this past month.

We’ll see how I do.

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M has discovered the Arden Shakespeare editions, and has decided that she adores the text notes and that it makes Shakespeare that much more interesting. It makes her SO VERY happy. (As an aside: I really like it when she sends be bookish texts as well. It’s so much fun to hear what she has to say.)

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This one came out a couple weeks ago, and C spent a Saturday afternoon/evening reading it. She stayed up way too late but it was WORTH IT.  She’s a huge fan of Kiera Cass.

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E got this for Christmas, but finally got around to starting it yesterday. It’s such a delightful mix of WEIRD and elegant, that she’s in love. She kept reading me passages and is insisting that I need to read it when she’s done. (I think I might opt for the audio version of this one though.)

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A picked this one up when she lost a different book she was reading. She said it’s NOTHING like what she usually reads (it’s about a cosmetology student and a fashion contest) but she’s super invested and has opinions about the characters and the plot. It’s great to branch out!

9781619632653And K has been reading this with Hubby in preparation for Jessica Day George’s visit this week. I used my powers as Children’s Event Coordinator and sent her to K’s school, which has K over the moon excited. She loves the story, she thinks Celie and the family are great, but her favorite “character” is the castle.

What are your kids reading?

I am Princess X

iamprincessxby Cherie Priest
First sentence: “Libby Deaton and May Harper invented Princess X in fifth grade, when Libby’s leg was in a cast, and May had a doctor’s note saying she couldn’t run around the track anymore because her asthma would totally kill her.”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Content: It’s a bit intense at times and there is some mild swearing. It’s in the YA section (grades 6-8) of the bookstore.

Libby died three years ago in a car accident. May knows this. She’s moved on (sort of). But, when she’s back in Seattle the summer before she’s 17, she starts seeing stickers around town. Ones of a princess in a pink dress, red Chucks, and wielding a katana sword. The spitting image of the comic that Libby and May created in fifth grade. At first, it seems like a coincidence: maybe someone got a hold of all the pages Libby left when she died. Or, maybe — just maybe — Libby’s still alive.

After reading the webcomic, May is convinced of the latter. She’s convinced that Libby’s mom was murdered, that Libby was kidnapped, and that she’s the only one who can find Libby. She enlists the help of a recently-graduated computer geek (with a bit of a dark side), Patrick, and together they follow the clues May says are left. The thing is: what started out as an innocent investigation becomes increasingly more dangerous the further they get involved.

Ohmygosh! I don’t know why this took me too long to read this!

Seriously though, people: it’s a tight, interesting thriller, one that kept me guessing along as May and Patrick figure out and follow the clues. It gets intense at times and it definitely kept me turning pages.  THIS is what a good YA mystery is about. No extra lame love story. Cool characters. A fantastic mix of graphic and prose. So, so very good.

Can you tell I liked it?

Audio book: Wild

wildby Cheryl Strayed
Read by Bernadette Dunne
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Content: Drug use, sex, drinking, yeah: it’s all in here. Definitely not for the faint of heart.

I was wandering around, looking for a new audio book, and stumbled on this one. I figured so many people have raved about it that it couldn’t be terrible. So, I picked it up.

If you’ve been under a rock, it’s Cheryl’s personal story of her redemption, of sorts, after her mother died and her marriage fell apart (due to her infidelities and drug addiction). She decides that what she needs to do is hike the Pacific Crest Trail from California to Washington (actually, Oregon came later, after she discovered that the Sierras were snowed in) alone. She has no experience, she has no idea what’s in store for her. And yet, you have to admire her for going through with it, even when — especially when — the going gets hard.

But I couldn’t get past the “poor me” vibe that I felt was under the whole book. Maybe it’s because Cheryl didn’t narrate her own book and I never really got past that. Or maybe I’m just too judgmental (which I am, unfortunately). But while I really enjoyed the moments when Cheryl was battling against the trail, and mostly succeeding, I didn’t have much patience for Cheryl herself. (Now that I write this, it sounds really judgmental. Maybe it’s just wrong time wrong book?) I was talking to someone who had a similar experience with Eat, Pray, Love (which I really liked). Perhaps we’re more apt to judge women who travel because their lives are broken than those (men?) who just up and leave (I’m looking at you, Bill Bryson) to go experience the world.

I don’t know. I just know that I didn’t connect with this one as much as I hoped it would.

Salt to the Sea

salttotheseaby Ruta Sepetys
First sentence: “Guilt is a hunter.”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Review copy provided by the publisher.
Content: There are some disturbing elements — it is the horrors of WWII, after all — including violence and rape, though none of it is graphic. It’s in the Teen (grades 9+) section of the bookstore, but I’d give it to an interested 7th- or 8th-grader.

One of the things I really admire about Sepetys is her willingness to tell the untold story. The story that’s been buried or neglected because of the way history has been told. The story that’s difficult to face or bear. She looks at them unflinchingly, and compels us to bear this hard history with her. It’s a difficult thing, but she does it so eloquently we just can’t look away.

This time around she tackles the sinking of the Willhelm Gustloff, a Nazi ship that was carrying 10,000+ refugees that was sunk by the Soviets near the end of the war. We follow four young adults (they range in age from 15 to 21) — Emelia, a pregnant Polish refugee; Florian, a Prussian who’s on the run with a stolen secret; Joana, a Lithuanian nurse who’s been able to repatriate into Germany, and who’s searching for her mother; and Alfred a young Nazi recruit who is a bit… off — as they head toward the ship in the dead of winter. The chapters are short, almost poetic, and they intertwine in compelling ways. It propels you forward, in spite of the horrors (perhaps because of them?). The minor characters — the orphan boy Joana finds, as well as the shoemaker they travel with, among others — are just as fleshed out and real as the main characters. Sepetys didn’t cut corners, and I appreciated that.

It’s exactly what I’ve come to expect from her. And that’s the best thing.

 

Monthly Round-Up: January 2016

January usually kicks my butt. Seriously. It’s cold, it’s dark, there’s hardly any holidays to break up the long, dull, boring days. But this year, it wasn’t too bad. Maybe it’s the meditation practice that I’ve picked up in the past few months. Maybe it’s a handful of sunny, 60-degree days where I could sit outside and bask in the sunshine. Maybe it was the idea of a yoga retreat that kept me going and that I thoroughly enjoyed. At any rate, I managed to read, I managed to stay sane, I managed to have a good January for once.

My favorite book this year was this:

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The Buried Giant
(audio book)

The audiobook was brilliant, and the book was right up my alley. As for the rest:

Graphic Novel
9781449470760 nimona

Unicorn on a Roll
Nimona

Nonfiction

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We Should All Be Feminists

Adult Fiction
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Mrs. Queen Takes the Train

YA
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Kill the Boy Band
Peas and Carrots
These Shallow Graves

Middle Grade

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Mr. Lemoncello’s Library Olympics
Friday Barnes, Girl Detective

What were your favorites this month?

Audio book: The Buried Giant

buriedgiantby Kazuo Ishiguro
Read by: David Horovitch
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Content: There’s some violence and mild sexual elements. But, no worse than any Tolkein book. In fact, if you’ve made it through LOTR, you will probably really like this one.

Axl and Beatrice have had a long, good life. Or, at least as much as they can remember. They live in a cave dwelling in Britain, in the time after the Romans left and Arthur’s peace with the Saxons is waning. They’re not quite content, and so they determine that they need to head to a nearby village to see their son — whom they only can barely remember having — because he’s anxiously waiting for them.

They have no idea how their journey will go, or the people they will meet (an elder Sir Gawain among them, much to my delight), and how it will all change them.

I’m not sure how much more of the actual plot I want to divulge. Much like LOTR (which this strongly reminded me of), the plot is less important than the journey. Axl and Beatrice’s journey — though we never really got inside Beatrice’s head, which disappointed me — was a grand one, like Odysseus, or Frodo. The people the met, the friendships they made, the emotional journey they took as well as the physical one all had a mythological quality to it.

I’m sure you can find a lot of deeper meaning in the story as well. But for me, listening to it on my way to and from Dallas (the narrator was excellent, once I got used to his cadence), it was more a long oral narrative, a story to be heard by the firelight over several nights, a story to capture the imagination and to be swept up in.

Which means it’s being told by a master storyteller. And I loved every minute.