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review 2017-01-17 19:54
Matilda - Roald Dahl,Quentin Blake

Matilda is one of Ronald Dahl's most popular books and one of my favorites! The Lexile level is 840L. In this first chapter, Dahl writes "The books transported her into new worlds and introduced her to amazing people who lived exciting lives. She went on olden-day sailing ships with
Joseph Conrad. She went to Africa with Ernest Hemingway and to India with Rudyard Kipling. She traveled all over the world while sitting in her little room in an English village." I would read this aloud to my students, show them a map, and point out the continents on the map. I would divide my students into 7 groups and assign them a different continent. Each group finds a book set in their continent and reads it together. They are then instructed to write a book review, answering questions like "How can you tell the story is set here?" and "What is the best part of this story?" I would use this in a 4th grade classroom. 

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2016-08-10 22:46
Book 57: Waiting for Daisy by Peggy Orenstein
Waiting for Daisy: A Tale of Two Continents, Three Religions, Five Infertility Doctors, an Oscar, an Atomic Bomb, a Romantic Night, and One Woman's Quest to Become a Mother - Peggy Orenstein

Around the Year Reading Challenge Item #13: Reader's Choice

This book held my interest all the way through, but I'm having trouble coming up with something coherent to say about it.

Like the best memoirs, Orenstein is not afraid to sacrifice her pride for the sake of emotional honesty, and she writes candidly about many situations and conversations that do not present her in the best light. Still, the pain, disappointment and powerlessness that accompany infertility are very real, and it is in these deeply painful places that Orenstein sometimes recedes into the shadows. She brushes off her first miscarriage, and subsequent miscarriages are covered in varying levels of detail. She captures the danger of obsession that can emerge when high-achieving women confront infertility, one thing for which they seemingly have little control over -- but that doesn't mean they don't try! Orenstein details her attempts to "control" the uncontrollable by doing everything from acupuncture to building shrines in her bedroom. There's always that tantalizing "one more thing" that just might work.

But this book is strongest in the moments when Orenstein steps away from her infertility-fueled neuroses (no judgment) and reflects on what it means to her identity, particularly as a feminist. She struggles with her dedication to a woman's right to choose when she feels desperate for the pregnancy many women would give up, as well as the way women's sense of "worth" or "femininity" is tied to their ability to be mothers. She depicts how such an ongoing crisis colors the whole world in different ways, from how you interact to your friend who has 15 kids (yes, really), to how you think of sex, to the things you do when you travel (one of the most touching segments is when Orenstein visits a shrine for miscarried or aborted babies in Japan, the mourning of which happens mostly invisibly in the U.S.) Perhaps most impressive is her astuteness in pinpointing how the desire to become a parent can be subverted by the desire to get pregnant -- pregnancy becomes the "achievement" rather than the means to an end, a goal that can be focused on to the extent that it obscures serious consideration of parenthood (this has its parallel in brides who are so obsessed with the wedding that they don't contemplate the idea of marriage, I think).

Orenstein's journey is truly harrowing, rife with three miscarriages, two failed in vitro attempts, a handful of failed IUI procedures, a disastrous attempt using an egg donor, medical issues that interfered with Orenstein's ability to get pregnant or made doing so dangerous, and an adoption that fell through, and yet, I couldn't help but notice that this memoir is still coming from a place of incredible privilege. Although Orenstein briefly notes that advanced reproductive technologies are only available to those who can afford them, she spends very little time examining her privilege beyond that point. She even mentions feeling envious of a couple who cannot afford IVF and so can forgo the emotional, financial and physical strain of it -- although I expect that couple would prefer to have Orenstein's "problem."

It's not a perfect book, but as memoir goes it's eminently readable; the pages turn and the suspense of when and how she will finally get her daughter pulls you forward. (This is not a spoiler -- her author bio on the book mentions a daughter.) More importantly, it breaks the silence and offers companionship to the many women and families who are facing down what is still very much a silent struggle.

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review 2015-11-29 21:30
Seven Continents: Photography of Mohan Bhasker - Mohan Bhasker

Disclaimer: ARC via Netgalley.


                This is a collection of photographs by Mohan Bhasker, and many of them are stunning.  As the title indicts, the photos are divided by continent.  While largely pictures, there is some text, for the most part relating experiences while on the journey. 


                It’s strange that North and South America share a chapter, while each other continent gets its own (and you can make a geologic argument that Europe isn’t one).  While there are pretty pictures of New England in the fall, Canada is left out – though Mexico gets attention.  The focus on South America is largely, though not exclusively, on Argentina.  Those photos are beautiful, largely of nature, and they will make you want to visit.


                I do wonder, can anyone not include photos of lavender in France, just once?

                The weakest section of the book, for me, was the Africa chapter.  This isn’t because the photos aren’t stunning; every photo in the book is. It’s because they are all nature photos.  While the focus is on the natural world, the chapter on the Americas, Europe, and Asia do include buildings.  Why not Africa?  Why just the almost standard photos, wonderful as they are, of lions, zebras, and so on?


                Bu hey, at least Africa got more attention than Australia.


                The heart of the book is the Asia section, including a section on Nepal that is impossible to look at without thinking of the earthquake.  The Asia section does make up for other Africa and Australia.  And it is this chapter that truly comes across as a love letter of words and photos.

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review 2013-08-16 00:00
Wanderlust: A Love Affair with Five Continents - Elisabeth Eaves

As many of you know, I am obsessed with travelling. I don't know where this obsession began, but I think it had something to do with our trip to England and Italy when I was 14. Since then, I've visited a ton of places, some I loved (Vietnam, Peru) and others I couldn't stand (Mexico). I think the reason that Wanderlust is a 4* book is because I have never found a character that I have identified with so much.

A year ago, I found myself in Vietnam on a 3-month internship. You know when you have that summer that just changes your life and moulds you into an entirely different person? That was my Vietnam trip for me. One of the girls I was there with was primarily responsible for me opening up and experiencing new things, particularly in the romance department. I learned so much about myself and actually managed to dispel a lot of ridiculous notions that I had held close before my trip.

At the same time, my best friend was in Senegal, doing something similar. We both got back, full of stories, and realized that Canada was not where we wanted to be. So, in our last semester of school, we took off to Peru for a week, where we had a fantastic adventure. But upon our return, I still didn't feel at home in Canada and I took off to live in Prague. This is where things went wrong. I had spent all my money, and had no way of staying there for the period of time that I wanted. I came back to Canada, with my tail between my knees and thought that travelling wasn't for me anymore. Meanwhile, my best friend took off to live in Nepal, and our other close friend went to live in South Africa. Th Wanderlust crept up on me again, and I'm now going to live in Ireland.

Throughout this story, I was so envious of Elisabeth and her adventures. I wanted to be able to just be cool with things and go with the flow in the Middle East (granted, she was there pre-9/11). I wish I could travel up the coast of Australia and work wherever I want because it's so easy there. In her, I recognized the inability to be with any man, to want to live two lives. While I've never been unfaithful, I completely understood her adultery on some level, which frightened me a bit.

Others have complained about Elisabeth not having any meaningful relationships. Unfortunately, this is something I can relate to as well. I moved away from my hometown in rural Canada to the capital city for university. Over the 5 years that I lived there, I lost touch with my friends back home and made newer, stronger relationships. Now that I'm back home, I'm feeling the strain again, but this time with my friends in Ottawa. Aside from my best friend, who is a traveller like myself, there's no on that I am desperate to keep in contact with. And that's okay. That's the kind of person I am.

All the above is to demonstrate how much my life is like Elisabeth's. Like I said, I think this is why I enjoyed this book so much. The writing wasn't particularly beautiful; the story was told in a matter-of-fact way that didn't exactly captivate me. But it was my ability to relate and to see myself in Elisabeth that made this story for me. Her story has made me want to write about my own experience, though I don't know how I'd feel, having all my escapades out there for my family to read about. Elisabeth's brutal honesty in her feelings about men throughout the book made me a tad uncomfortable, not because they were sexist in any way, but because I couldn't imagine ever feeling so ambivalent about a relationship.

All in all, a fantastic read for anyone who feels like they don't belong in their home country, or who just has an insistent travel bug.

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review 2012-10-15 00:00
South America (Continents)
South America (Continents) - Mary Virginia Fox Not much here. Its a very, very basic book on South America. Would probably recommend reading with other materials.
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