Posts Tagged ‘spontaneous read’

When I sat down a few days ago to catch up on my favorite book blogs I realized how much I miss this book blogging world.  I miss reading reviews, chatting with fellow book lovers, and planning and writing my own reviews and bookish thoughts.  I miss having a tiny corner of my life separate from work and school.  At first I was a little caught-off guard by this feeling, and then I felt a little sad, because unfortunately this is just the beginning. 

Sigh.  Drat being a responsible adult.

I want to apologize for my absence here, my delayed (or completely lack of) comments on your blogs, and all current and future whining about the intrusion of my thesis and work on my book blogging life.  I’m a little bundle of stress these days, but I’m trying really hard not to inflict that on anyone.  (I think I would be a little more successful at that if I moved to Antarctica.  But I hear it’s kinda cold there.)

Even though work, school and being sick (yes, I’ve been sick, too, which is just not fair, if you ask me) have kept me from blogging, I’ve managed to squeeze in quite a bit of “fun” reading.  (Mostly because I read while at work, but don’t tell on me!)  I don’t really have a review in me right now, so here’s a brief recap of some recent reads:

I did read one more Isabel Allende book last month – Daughter of Fortune.  Most of the novel takes place in California during the Gold Rush, and it was interesting to read an Allende novel about a time and place I’m familiar with.  She is such a vivid writer, though, that even if I wasn’t a native Californian I would still have felt like I was there.  I’ve never been to Chile, and yet after reading House of the Spirits I feel like I have.

Hmmm, what else . . . I finished up the Stieg Larsson Millennium series a few weeks ago.  Not the all-time greatest books I’ve ever read, but still very good.  A coworker loaned me Mennonite in a Little Black Dress by Rhoda Janzen last week, and I feel a little ho-hum about it.  I’ve definitely read better memoirs (A Girl Named Zippy comes to mind; wow, do I love that book!). 

I’ve had a good reading streak since then: I finished Bad Mother by Ayelet Waldman last night and lovedlovedloved it.  When I have available time and brain space I’m definitely going to review it here.  (In the meantime, check out Jenny’s review.  Wonderful.)  I’m on a mini Diana Wynne Jones kick, too.  I read Charmed Life the other day (good times, big fun) and am in the middle of Dogsbody, which is just fantastic.  I’m also in the middle of Among the Shadows by L. M. Montgomery, (recommended by Chandra), because frankly I could not resist reading a collection of spooky stories written by the author of Anne of Green Gables.

And on a totally unrelated note, autumn is finally getting rolling here, which just thrills me to pieces.  The leaves are blowing everywhere, there’s a chill in the air . . . I would be totally okay with it staying like this until spring 🙂

What are you up to?  Any great reads?  How’s autumn treating you?

P.S. In more unrelated news, I just discovered that Gail Carriger (author of Soulless, which I reviewed back in July) quoted my review on her blog!  A real, live author quoted me!  Wow.  I’m getting all giddy and starry-eyed over here.

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by Jacqueline Kelly
Henry Colt & Co, 2009
Source: public library
2010 Newbery Honor Book 
The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate was a delight to read. I confess that when I first read the list of this year’s Newbery winners I was not at all inclined to read this book; it went on my “maybe someday” mental list of future reads. I stumbled across it last week at the library when I was looking for a completely different book and was drawn to its striking and intricate cover (yes, I broke the “don’t judge a book by its cover” rule, but can you blame me? Look at it!). I am so glad I picked it up. This is the best impulse read I’ve had in a while.
I tend to shy away from historical fiction in children’s literature namely because, in my limited experience, many children’s historical fiction books are just thinly (very thinly) disguised history lessons. To be clear: I have nothing against history or the valiant attempts of history buffs to make the subject interesting for kids. I’m just not a big fan of overtly didactic books that try to pretend they’re not. (I don’t read a lot of historical fiction for adults, so maybe someone who does can help me out: do authors of adult historical fiction do that – sacrifice their art for didacticism?) I just want a good story. If I learn something in the process, great.
Calpurnia Tate was nothing like that. The story is set in 1899, and while Jacqueline Kelly paints a pretty clear picture of life in small-town Texas during this time period she doesn’t bog the book down with too many details or lectures. The story flows. And while the feisty Calpurnia Tate is a bit of a tomboy, she isn’t just another Jo March. She has a personality all her own. (I also think she’s a total riot, but I believe I already mentioned that!)
Kelly manages to avoid another stereotype with Calpurnia’s relationship with her grandfather: it’s not just one of the wise elder bestowing wisdom on the impressionable youth. Her grandfather is full of quirks and flaws and spends far more time instructing (well, ordering) Calpurnia to seek out the answers for her questions herself than telling moralistic “when I was your age . . .” stories. He also treats her more like an equal than a child (although that isn’t always the best idea, such as when he offers her a test taste of his pecan whiskey; I was rolling on the floor when I read that chapter!).
The book ends at the perfect time, too. While we have to watch Jo March, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, Anne of Green Gables and countless others compromise their individuality and personality for the sake of cultural expectations, when we leave Calpurnia she is still twelve and still (mostly) free to pursue her passion for science and knowledge. The story closes on a positive, if faintly ambiguous, note: we are free to believe that Calpurnia will travel the world, attend a university and become a scientist. I’m sure there are people out there who will read the ending and squawk that’s not realistic for the time period, but me? I’m okay with a hopeful ending.

Other reviews:

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