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review 2017-11-24 13:58
The Watcher: Jane Goodall’s Life with the Chimps ★★★★☆
The Watcher: Jane Goodall's Life with the Chimps - Jeanette Winter

Crossing the ocean, Jane stayed on deck

and watched the waves, even when the cold wind blew.

She saw all the different blues and greens of the sea,

and fish that glowed through the dark water.

 

 

What I loved best about this little children’s book was the emphasis that was placed on Jane Goodall’s accomplishments and the characteristics of her person and work that helped her to achieve them – curiosity, determination despite hardship, and patient observation, but done in a way that was celebratory rather than preachy. I enjoyed the artwork, too, with its bright unusual colors and sense of motion. In telling Goodall’s story, the book also tells us a story about the forest in Gombe in Tanzania, where deforestation and poaching were threatening the chimpanzees with extinction, accompanied by a rather horrifying illustration of a poacher aiming a gun at a mother chimp playing with her infant chimp amid tree stumps. Although the book tries to end on a high note, that illustration is the one that stuck with me after finishing.

 

This was an ebook, borrowed from my public library. I read this for The 16 Tasks of the Festive Season, square 14: Book themes for Quaid-e-Azam:  Pakistan became an independent nation when the British Raj ended on August 14, 1947. Read a book set in Pakistan or in any other country that attained sovereign statehood between August 14, 1947 and today (regardless in what part of the world). This book is set in Tanzania, which became independent from the UK in 1961, according to Wikipedia.

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review 2017-11-22 13:09
Foxglove Summer ★★★★☆
Foxglove Summer: PC Peter Grant, Book 5 - Ben Aaronovitch,Kobna Holdbrook-Smith

More fun with my favorite apprentice wizard cop, this time out in Herefordshire on the border of Wales instead of in London, investigating the disappearance of two preteen girls. We get to meet a retired wizard cop and his weirdo granddaughter, and we have more – much, much more! – of Beverly, and we even get a teeny satisfying peek at what’s going on with Lesley. I can’t say I came away really understanding all the logic of what happened, but that’s probably because I was listening to the audio while distracted, and one of these days I’ll get around to re-reading these books and will take a more critical look at such things. For now, I’ll just say it was enormously entertaining.

 

Audiobook, via Audible, with another masterful performance by Kobna Holdbrook-Smith. I read this for The 16 Tasks of the Festive Season, square 14: Book themes for Dies Natalis Solis Invicti: Celebrate the sun and read a book that has a beach or seaside setting.  –OR– a book set during summertime. –OR– set in the Southern Hemisphere. This story is set in high summer, as we are constantly reminded of the oppressive heat (Are the West Midlands that much hotter than London?), and seasonal flora that are relevant to solving the mystery.

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review 2017-11-22 12:43
Ordinary People ★★★★★
Ordinary People - Judith Guest

I wish I had the skill to truly analyze what makes the difference between a book where the author tries to manipulate the reader’s emotions and only gets an “hmm how sad” from me, or worse, eyerolls, and a book that has me glued to the pages and leaking tears. All I know is that this is one of the latter.

 

In spite of a story that is almost all character, with almost all events taking place within those characters’ thoughts and emotions and in their interactions with one another, and in spite of a present-tense, stream of consciousness writing style that might have annoyed me in another author’s hands, this story of a family fragmenting and reforming in the aftermath of tragedy absorbed me completely and wrung my emotions inside out. It’s been a while since I had a good cry over a book, and it was deeply satisfying.

 

Vintage paperback, picked up from my public library’s gimme shelves, where they make unusable donated books and culled books available to the public in return for a suggested monetary donation.

 

I read this for The 16 Tasks of the Festive Season, square 4: Book themes for Penance Day: Read a book that has a monk, nun, pastor / preacher or priest as a protagonist, or where someone is struggling with feelings of guilt or with their conscience (regardless over what). In this book, members of a family are struggling with their sense of guilt or failed responsibility in the aftermath of tragedy

(Con over surviving when his stronger brother drowned and Cal over somehow failing his son when he attempted suicide).

(spoiler show)

 

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review 2017-11-21 17:34
The 13th Gift ★☆☆☆☆
The 13th Gift: A True Story About a Christmas Miracle - Joanne Smith

 

Ugh. Within about 5 minutes of listening to this audio, I could only wail Nooooooooooooooooooooo. I didn’t expect much from this one, so the bar was set pretty low. I expected a bit of light Christmas glurge, a memoir about a family dealing with the loss of a loved one, who found their Christmas spirit when their friends/neighbors/whatever got together to leave anonymous gifts to remind them of The Meaning of Christmas. Sounds like the perfect story to get you into the season, if you go into it without a cynical heart. I was even willing to overlook the amateur quality of the audio narration, because it’s a memoir read by the author. But I simply could not overlook its pushing my biggest button with respect to writing style, the dreaded First-Person-Present-Tense, further committing the egregious sin of mixing past tense inner monologue directly in with the present tense narration of story events. No. Nope. No way.

 

DNF at 5%. Ordinarily I wouldn’t rate a book after less than 20 minutes of audio time, but FPPT always gets a 1 star from me unless the writing and story are so fantastic that I don’t even notice it enough to be annoyed by it.  

 

Audiobook, borrowed from my public library, read by the author.

 

I was attempting to read this for The 16 Tasks of The Festive Season, square 4: Book themes for     Thanksgiving Day:  Books with a theme of coming together to help a community or family in need.  –OR– Books with a turkey or pumpkin on the cover. I don’t have any other books lined up for this task, so I might have to use my other Light Joker for it.

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review 2017-11-21 15:15
I Am Malala ★★★★★
I Am Malala - Malala Yousafzai

I was fascinated, horrified, and inspired by this story of Malala Yousafzai, the girl who was shot in the face by the Taliban for daring to insist upon the rights of girls to an education and to criticize the Taliban for their interpretation of Islamic law with respect to women and violence. It is also the story of her much-loved father, who instilled in her the love of learning, set an example of having the courage to stand up for his principles in the face of ignorance and violence, and supported her whole-heartedly in everything she did. And it is also the story of the rise of militant Islamic fundamentalism and the Taliban in Pakistan and her beloved Swat valley, who used the tactics of would-be dictators and religious fanatics everywhere, some of which were all too familiar here in the US.

 

This is the hardcover version, which I’ve had on my bookshelf for a couple of years, waiting on my TBR. I read it for The 16 Tasks of the Festive Season, square 10: Book themes for World Peace Day: Read a book by or about a Nobel Peace Prize winner, or about a protagonist (fictional or nonfictional) who has a reputation as a peacemaker. Malala Yousafzai is the youngest Nobel Prize laureate (in 2014 at age 17) for “her struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education”.

 

Previous Updates:

11/14/17 0/327 pg

I'm getting started with I Am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban, which can fit both Square 10: World Peace Day (Malala Yousafzai was a co-recipient for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014) and Square 14 Quaid-e-Azam (she is Pakistani and much of the book is about and takes place in Pakistan) for The 16 Tasks of the Festive Season. I haven't decided yet which square I'll use it for, since I don't have any alternatives for either yet. I don't have any books about any other Nobel Peace Prize winners, and my library has some unappealing options, mostly children's books. 

 

11/14/17 5/327 pg

We went to school six mornings a week, and as I was a fifteen-year-old in Year 9, my classes were spent chanting chemical equations or studying Urdu grammar, writing stories in English with morals like "haste makes waste" or drawing diagrams of blood circulation - most of my classmates wanted to be doctors. It's hard to imagine that anyone would see that as a threat.

 

11/17/17 125/327 pg

The description of how the Taliban took over the region, taking advantage of the people's anger and frustration with the legitimate government and winning their hearts through a combination of setting themselves up as the only source of truth, appealing to prejudices, and providing entertainment and charity - it's a little terrifying.

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