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review 2020-06-09 15:34
Water for Elephants
Water for Elephants - Sara Gruen

by Sarah Gruen


This was an amazing story.


I love realistic stories about the circus or carnivals and I learned from the author's note at the end that this was very well researched in a historian sense. It rang mostly true and some of the incidents were taken from events that really happened somewhere in circus history.


My only niggle is that it was written in present tense. I'm not going to dock it a star for that as I usually do because it was done well and sometimes I could forget to notice, but it still would have been better in past tense.


The depiction of the rough edges of depression era train circus life was very immersive and I actually read most of the book into the night because I didn't want to stop. That's a sign of a well written story!


Without giving anything away, I particularly liked the way it finished. I mean the story itself, before getting to the notes. The decision made by Jacob, the main protagonist, left me with a smile on my face. Characters were strong throughout the story, human or otherwise.


There were definitely some animal antics that made me laugh, especially the elephant. There were other emotions too, some not so pleasant, especially with the knowledge that animals weren't cared for as they should have been in those days, but it's far in the past now and I could enjoy the story as a nostalgic record of a time that happened long before I was born.

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text 2019-11-21 20:00
Misc Children's Books Part 2
The Search for Elephants in Thailand - Deborah Haile
Snowy White World to Save - Andrzej Sapkowski,Richard Sale
Shadow Kitty - Kurt Zimmerman,Michelle Z... Shadow Kitty - Kurt Zimmerman,Michelle Zimmerman
The very Worst Riding School in the Worl... The very Worst Riding School in the World - Lucinda E Clarke,Lucinda E Clarke,Gabi Plumm
Adventures of Laffe the Giraffe: Friends Don't Bully Friends - Toby Beavers
Felix and the Magic Carrot - Emily Hamilton
Mattie the Madagascar Hissing Cockroach: In the Face of Danger - Michael Middlebrooks,Danica Damnjanovic

The book about Thailand is pretty nice.


Worst Riding School is more YA.


Laffe is wonderfully illustrated.  Mattie is great.  Felix is a bit weird.

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review 2019-05-17 03:00
Ants Among Elephants by Sujatha Gidla
Ants Among Elephants: An Untouchable Family and the Making of Modern India - Sujatha Gidla

This is a fascinating family history: the author, who was born an untouchable in India, writes primarily a biography of her uncle and her mother, focusing on their young lives. This family had hard lives, despite being better-educated than most people of their caste; even while working as college lecturers, they barely made enough to live on, lived in poor housing and dealt with a lot of family strife. Satyam, the oldest son, who gets most of the page time here, became a communist and spent most of his life fighting for that cause, while Manjula, the daughter of the family, collected several degrees before entering into an arranged marriage. They face a lot of struggles in their lives but never become the simple victims common in fiction; they are always moving forward, making their own decisions in life.

I’m a little surprised to see that many reviewers have struggled with this book; to me it seemed written in the standard style of popular nonfiction, straightforward but vivid. The story is presented from the perspectives of Satyam and Manjula, without spending much time filling readers in on the historical background or questioning the reliability of their memories (though interviews with others allow Gidla to fill in information they didn’t know at the time), but that’s standard for family memoirs. My biggest criticism is that it wraps up very abruptly at the end, briefly summarizing the next several decades; it was unclear to me why the author stopped where she did. The book is a good length overall, but I would have loved to read more about the author herself, especially after the glimpses of her life at the beginning and end. Definitely a book I would recommend to those interested in India, and in what life at the bottom is like from a firsthand perspective.

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text 2019-02-09 19:45
Impending Christie Re-reads
Third Girl (Hercule Poirot, #35) - Agatha Christie
Elephants can Remember - Agatha Christie
The Hollow - Agatha Christie
The Sittaford Mystery - Agatha Christie
Murder is Easy - Agatha Christie

Along with Sleeping Murder and Why Didn't They Ask Evans?, I will be re-reading this collection of Christie mysteries. The Sittaford Mystery is especially appropriate, since I am snowed in today.


I am excited to revisit them!

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review 2018-09-18 16:59
When Elephants Fly
When Elephants Fly - Nancy Richardson Fischer
Tiger Lilly Decker is hoping to make it through the next twelve years.  Her genetics have predicted her future and it doesn't look good.  Lilly's mom had schizophrenia and attempted to kill Lilly and herself by jumping off the top of a building when Lilly was seven years old.  Now, as a senior in high school, the danger zone for the onset of schizophrenia is approaching.  Lilly follows a strict regiment to ensure that she will not trigger any of the symptoms including reducing stress, getting plenty of sleep and avoiding certain foods.  Lilly's handsome, rich, popular and not yet out of the closet, best friend, Sawyer supports her through.  With Lilly's internship at the local paper, she has been reporting on the birth of an Asian Elephant Calf, Swifty.  After the calf is born however, the mom rejects Swifty and Lilly is triggered to run in front of the charging elephant mother to protect Swifty.  With a strong bond to the calf, Lilly is invited to follow Swifty as she is sent to the circus to be with the father that sired her.  Lilly continues to report on Swifty and the circus conditions and digs until she uncovers the cruelty that happens there.  With Swifty slowly dying, Lilly decides to break all of her rules and the law to get Swifty to safety.
When Elephants Fly is a powerful story of one person's journey with schizophrenia. If that weren't enough, the story also focuses on animal rights and sexuality.  Lilly's story is an important one, putting into focus that people with a mental illness are people first and should not be characterized by their illness.  Lilly is careful, guarded, and has an amazing heart.  Her fear of inheriting schizophrenia is understandable, but rules her life.  Lilly's journey to accept that she can not change her genetics is very meaningful especially when it is tied into the story of saving the life of Swifty.  With Swifty's story Lilly learns that there are bigger things in life than herself.  Swifty brings to light the plight that all elephants are facing now in the wild and the role of zoos in animal conservation along with the difficult decisions that people make on the elephant's behalf.  Along with that, Lilly learns that some people aren't what they seem as she uncovers that hidden animal abuse at the zoo.  The writing does a wonderful job of showing the complex emotions that elephants have as well as the complicated nature of a mental illness. As Swifty's life is endangered, Lilly's symptoms also begin to show, although it doesn't seem like anything that Lilly can't deal with.  Inspiring and hopeful, When Elephants Fly beautifully takes difficult subjects and weaves them into an intricate and enjoyable story. 
This book was received for free in return for an honest review. 
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