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review 2019-10-14 00:36
Sometimes, you just know . . .
Radioactive: Marie and Pierre Curie, A Tale of Love and Fallout - Lauren Redniss

Sometimes, I have to think for a while -- or a long while -- about how I would "rate" a book. And sometimes, I just know as soon as I close the cover. 

 

Today was one of those days. This "graphic history" hit my emotional, intellectual, and artistic buttons in all the right ways, and as soon as I closed the back cover, I knew: Five stars. 

 

Highly recommend. Read it all in one sitting, for best effect. My time was about 1:45, so if you have time for a movie, you have time for this one. 

 

-cg

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review 2019-09-09 01:47
It moved me . . .
Heart of a Tiger: Growing Up with My Grandfather, Ty Cobb - Herschel Cobb

This memoir touched my heart. Yes, Herschel Cobb is probably idolizing his famous grandfather, but so what -- I idolize my beloved, late grandparents a bit, too. 

 

Was the famously irascible Ty Cobb the old pussycat his grandson makes him out to be? Perhaps not. But for a few weeks, over the course of a few years, he was the child's life-line, as the boy suffered through physical and emotional abuse, as well as neglect from his parents. The elder Cobb was the man young Herschel needed in his life to survive, and probably saved him from turning into a violent or despairing man himself. 

 

So the story moved me. It was horrifying to realize that a child who came from a family with means could be just as badly abused--terrorized really--as a poor child. And he needed the love and support he received from his grandfather (as well as various aunts and his grandmother) as desperately as any child. 

 

It also makes me aware that some children never find their lifeline -- they survive by their own wits. Or the cycle doesn't break. So yes, it's the overlay of this being a "famous family," that drew me in to the memoir, but in the end, that mattered far less than the human connection told of within. Does it matter that it was a story about Ty Cobb? Not as much as it mattered that the boy, Herschel, survived. 

 

-cg

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text 2018-09-03 16:10
August Retrospective

Between procrastinating the book for my IRL book club, getting hooked on an online farming game, and starting to watch Dr. Who with my husband, I’ve spent a surprising amount of August not reading.  I’m especially surprised because I’ve been on vacation for the past week and instead of my usual book a day, I have only finished one book (though I did DNF 2 others). 

 

During August, I finished 3 books in print and 1 audiobook.

 

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis - J.E. Vance 

 

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis - J.E. Vance got a lot of press right after the 2016 presidential election, but it took me until now to listen to it as an audiobook.  As advertised, Hillbilly Elegy discusses the plight of  whites of Appalachia in the story of one family told by the son who "made it" and moved away.  Like many personal narratives, I think Hillbilly Elegy would have made a wonderful long-form article, but the full  book was a bit thin and repetitive.  While Hillbilly Elegy does a good job of personalizing one segment of the white working class and their struggles, I found it long on anecdote and short on rigorous analysis that would have deserved the reviews saying that it explained the appeal of Mr. Trump to these voters who swung the election. 

 

The Woman in Cabin 10 - Ruth Ware 

 

My IRL book club read The Woman in Cabin 10 - Ruth Ware for August.  After procrastinating starting it, I did finish it in time for the book club meeting, due in part to insomnia the night before the meeting.  I didn't find the protagonist appealing, but once the story got going, the pages turned.  The opinion of the book club was that The Woman in Cabin 10 was the suspenseful/thriller-like story that we were expecting for our previous selection Before the Fall - Noah Hawley.

 

Tinker - Wen Spencer  

 

My husband has been trying to get me to read Tinker - Wen Spencer for over a year.  My younger son devoured the series this summer.  I brought the opening volume of this urban fantasy-like series based on the premise that an orbital gate transfers a near-future Pittsburgh to the planet of the Elves on vacation with me. Tinker had some rough edges and Mary-sue-like moments, but I was right, it did make a good vacation read.  I am curious to see where the series goes, but not quite sure how it might fit into Halloween Bingo (while you could stretch and call elves cryptozoological and there is a murder, at least this first book doesn't fit the suspense/mystery/horror requirement).

 

Sing, Unburied, Sing: A Novel - Jesmyn Ward 

 

I've been intentionally trying to read more books by African-American authors.  So after seeing glowing reviews, I started the 2017 National Book Award winner Sing, Unburied, Sing: A Novel - Jesmyn Ward. I can't articulate why, but the book just didn't grab me (The extended episode with the car-sick little girl was the penultimate straw). So, despite feeling that Sing Unburied Sing is something that I should have read, and a book that would be good to be conversant with as part of cultural literacy, I guiltily decided to DNF. 

 

 Leviathan Wakes - James S.A. Corey  

 

The rest of the family has also devoured Leviathan Wakes - James S.A. Corey this summer.  DH is on book 4 of the series and older son is up to book 6.  I started Leviathan Wakes late last week.  After getting about 50 pages in on August 31st, I decided to throw it back onto the someday/maybe pile and move on to Halloween Bingo selections instead.

 

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review 2018-06-25 02:39
Silent Days, Silent Dreams
Silent Days, Silent Dreams - Allen Say

In addition to the well known Caldecott and Newbery Metals, the American Library Association gives a number of other awards, including the Schneider Family Book Award for books that embody an artistic expression of the disability experience.

 

Silent Days, Silent Dreams by Allen Say won the young reader (0-8 years old) category this year. In Silent Days, Silent Dreams, Allen Say provides a capsule biography of folk artist James Castle.  Like most, I had not heard about Jimmy Castle before. Castle is described as deaf, mute, autistic, and probably dyslexic, yet he was a self-taught artist, who left thousands of drawings and other folk-art objects. 

 

All of the art in Silent Days, Silent Dreams was created by Allen Say, either in the style of James Castle or slightly modified copies of drawings Castle did himself.  While I think that Allen Say did a good job, I wish that the book had included Castle’s original art instead of just new drawings and objects created in Castle’s style. 

 

If you want to let James Castle “speak” for himself, some of his art is available at http://jamescastle.com/

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review 2018-06-25 02:31
2018 Caldecott Award
A Different Pond - Bao Phi,Thi Bui

I often use the Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon as an excuse to catch up on the Caldecott Award and Honor Books, and while I borrowed several picture books from the library, I’m only now getting to them (something about them being due back to the library on Monday finally bringing them to the top of my list).

 

My favorite of this crop of picture books was A Different Pond by Bao Phi illustrated by Thi Bui, which was a Caldecott Medal Honor book .  A young boy and his father, a Vietnamese immigrant, head out fishing long before dawn.  Over the course of the gorgeously illustrated pages, you discover that they are fishing not for pleasure, but to put food on the table.  With the current attention on immigrants and also on economic disparities, A Different Pond is a very timely story and a fine way to introduce young readers to multicultural protagonists. (4 stars)

 

Wolf in the Snow - Matthew Cordell 

 

Wolf in the Snow by Matthew Cordell is the winner of the 2018 Randolph Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished American picture book for children.  This almost wordless book tells the story of a young girl and a wolf cub lost in the snow and how they eventually both made it to safety.  While nicely done, Wolf in the Snow just didn’t hold much for an adult reader without children to share read-alouds with. (3 stars)

 

Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut - Derrick Barnes,Gordon C. James 

 

Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut  by Derrick Barnes and Illustrated by Gordon C. James follows a young African American boy as he gets a haircut.  I loved the concept and the prose of this Caldecott Honor book, but the accompanying paintings just didn’t speak to me. (3 stars)

 

There are 2 other Caldecott Honor's books this year:  Big Cat, little cat,” illustrated and written by Elisha Cooper and “Grand Canyon,” illustrated and written by Jason Chin.  I'm planning to give Big Cat, little cat a pass, but have Grand Canyon on reserve at the library

 

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