Wednesday, July 20, 2016
Summer Reading Continued
I never considered myself a huge reader of magical realism, but I loved A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, and this book seemed interesting. I admit I didn't understand everything that was going on, but I really loved the character of Roza because she has such an interesting back story and role in the narrative's action. Plus, as I was reading this book, a big fat bumblebee landed on my desk and lingered for a moment, so it seemed like a good omen. I finished this book in a couple hours because I just had to find out what was going on in the small town of Bone Gap.
A book by Kate DiCamillo: enough said. She's been one of my favorites for years now, and her books are always easy for me to slip in to and let the story rise up around me: like pleasant, warm water her words wash over me and afterwards I feel refreshed.
I really wanted to like this book, but it kind of fell flat for me. Little Women is one of my favorite books, and I find Louisa May Alcott one of the most interesting people to study, but I had trouble buying into this storyline because the protagonist seemed a little too docile and polite, and the murder mystery plotline didn't show up until almost the end, and it was pretty easy to guess how it was going to end. I would have liked to know more about the Ralph Waldo Emerson/Lidian Emerson/Henry David Thoreau love story that's alluded to; nothing says excitement like a Transcendental love triangle!
This was a quick read. I love novels in verse, especially historical fiction ones. This one centers on Margarita, a Cuban-American girl who reflects on what it's like to belong to two cultures. Complicating her ethnic identity, the revolution breaks out in Cuba, and she worries for her Cuban family members' safety, and mourns her ability to proudly claim her Cuban heritage because she lives in the country at war with it. I don't think there are enough historical fiction books written about the Bay of Pigs or the Cuban revolution, so a novel in verse that presents the conflict, in a child's poems, is a wonderful introduction to this chapter of history and invites more discussion on the topic.
Since I'd recently read The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, I guess I was jonesing for more Holocaust historical fiction. This book was just as well written and intriguing, but is probably better for older, more able readers. Not because of anything graphic (I mean, the Holocaust is already the most disturbing chapter of modern history) but it's a more nuanced examination of the complexities involved. This book includes a look at the underground adoptions that occurred, in which babies of Jewish parents were placed with non-Jewish families to ensure their survival, the Dutch resistance movement and the Dutch black market, as well as the Nazi persecution of homosexuals. There's also a case of mistaken identity which adds a well written mystery, but younger readers or ones not well acquainted with the Holocaust might get confused by the story.
I picked this book out a the Little Free Library at the beach where I work. It's about a woman who leaves her home of Syracuse, NY for the Berkshire mountains of Massachusetts, where she takes a position working at a school for teens with emotional, mental and behavioral issues. My predilection for horror always leads me to books about hospitals, asylums and boarding schools; even if the story isn't horror, there's sure to be some creepiness involved at any institution that profits because of human pain and suffering. Madeline doesn't trust the school's founder, or his theories and methods for helping the teens in his care. When a tragedy occurs, she finds out that the other teachers' loyalties run deep, and rather than help her expose him, they would rather help him cover up his own dark past. This is the second book in the series of the protagonist Madeline Dare, but it can easily be read on its own.
This is one of the books I spotted at the shop in Portland a while back and made a list of titles to ILL. The story itself is pretty basic: girls is uprooted from the home she loves, moves to a new house that has a mysterious and questionable history, befriends the weird Goth girl at school, then alot of creepy shit happens and along the way we get clues as to why the haunting may be occurring. I don't mean that the formula is a negative quality either because I happen to love ghosts stories with all those ingredients. I will say that it was a breath of fresh air to have a gay character, Raph, in the story because horror does get a reputation for excluding minorities. I was also a little relieved because it kills the idea of a romance early on, and I'm not a huge fan of romance in horror. It kills the creepy mood. I also want to comment on the cover image, which is one of my favorites now. The image of the girl on the ceiling is only printed on the dustjacket, along with the text, so when the dustjacket is removed, the book looks like this:
I love that effect because it's a visual aid for the way I've always rationalized the possibility of ghosts. My own little philosophy is a simplified version of time and space considerations; it's like if you have a photo of a person, and then you put a transparency with an image on top of it. If you're only looking at one layer, then you only see one of the images, but if you look at them both, piled on top of each other, you see both. To me, the idea of seeing a ghost is like looking at my own environment through another layer of time that's had something imprinted on it. Even if it's not true or possible, this is how I enjoy the idea of ghosts in life and in my reading picks.
Also, the ghost girl on the dustjacket has no face, which never fails to creep me out. I HATE things without faces which is the main reason I don't understand all the women I know who collect those Willow Tree figurines.
WHERE ARE THEIR FACES?!