#IMWAYR December 5, 2016

Hurrah! #IMWAYR time again, when readers share what they have been reading and find out what others have been up to in the past week. The adult version of this meme is hosted by Kathryn at Book Date. The kidlit rendition is hosted by Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki at Unleashing Readers. Whatever you are looking forward to in your next great read, these are fabulous places to start your search.

My reading life has been rich and wonderful in spite of it being a busy two weeks. Last weekend I didn't post because we had company and made sausage. I think we made 50 pounds of venison based sausage, and another five pounds vegetarian. Much of this will become Christmas presents for friends and family.

I also managed to squeeze in some serious sewing. All one hundred forty four arcs for The Quilt are completed! Now I need to figure out what to do next!



BOOK REVIEWS POSTED

I Am Not A Number by Jenny Kay Dupuis, Kathy Kacer & Gillian Newland (Illustrations)

The Secret Life of Lincoln Jones by Wendelin Van Draanen

NOVELS

The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken narrated by Amy McFadden

3 stars
This is a pretty gloomy story although I really enjoyed the beginning of it. I was captivated by Ruby and the other characters and intrigued by this dystopian world that Bracken created. Ruby and all other children develop strange powers once they reach 10. Then they are taken from their families and put in camps. At the camp Ruby is in, some children with extraordinary powers are killed. Ruby is lucky to be rescued by a group who have their own nefarious plans for her. She escapes them and joins up with a small band of similar children. While I enjoyed this book, there are places where it dragged and I just wanted to skim over them. I will not read anymore in the series because I really really hated the ending.

Playing For the Devil's Fire by Phillippe Diederich

4 stars
This is a dark and heartbreaking novel. Essentially it reveals how a cartel moves in and takes control of a small Mexican community. Boli is a thirteen year old boy who lives a comfortable life with his parents, his sister, and his grandmother. 
The takeover begins when a few new families move into town. Then business owners leave. There are a couple of gruesome murders. Boli's parents head off to the city and disappear. Within a short period of time, the entire community is corrupted. Boli and his family have no idea who to trust. There is no guarantee that the has-been masked wrestler Boli brings home will be able to do anything. 

Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew'd by Alan Bradley narrated by Jayne Entwistle

4 stars
First off, I confess to being a hard core Flavia de Luce fan. This means that any new novel is like anticipating a visit with a dear friend, and automatically rates high before I've even read it. This time Flavia has been off at school in Canada. When she returns home to Buckshaw for Christmas, she finds that her father is in the hospital with pneumonia. Next morning, when she goes on an errand for the vicar's wife, she discovers a dead body.
I realize that this brief summary captures none of the humour, emotion and suspense embodied in this novel. I promise that if you start reading the Flavia series by Allen Bradley, you will come to love this precocious twelve year old and be terrified of, and for her at the same time.

Sammy Keyes and the Skeleton Man by Wendelin Van Draanen narrated by Tara Sands

4 stars
Every once in a while I have to go and read another mystery in the Sammy Keyes series. Part of what I love about them is that they do not need to be read in order, although Sammy does grow up as the series develops. They are loaded with humor, wonderful characters, a smattering of social issues, and just enough suspense to keep readers coming back for more. This time, Sammy and her friends are out trick-or-treating when they are bowled over by a skeleton. They discover someone tied to a chair and the mystery begins as Sammy, the detective, unravels the crime.


4 stars
Ghost by Jason Reynolds

As usual Jason Reynold's characters have so much voice and personality I can't help but fall hard for them.
Ghost is a story about redemption.
It reveals how one person can make a difference and change lives for the better. It highlights the positive power of sport and being part of a team.
I loved this ending that leaves the reader ready, waiting, and filled with questions about how Ghost's future will run along.

4 stars
Serafina and the Twisted Staff by Robert Beatty narrated by Cassandra Campbell

I am usually a scaredy-cat when it comes to creepy novels. However I have managed to finish off my second Serafina book. Oh yes, they are terrifying at times, and this keeps readers like me biting our nails. Beatty creates characters that are so appealing you can't abandon them in the middle of their dangerous adventures. Then there is this historical, magical world to get lost in. Watch the trailer below and you will get a glimpse of it.




Holding up the Universe by Jennifer Niven

4 stars
How's this for happenstance? I finished listening to the Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks and then the next book I picked up to read was this one.
Ultimately this book is about learning to live within the skin of who you are.
It's the story of two flawed characters. Libby Strout is an overweight teen with a publicly humiliating past. But really, she's so much more than this. Jack Masselin is a popular student with a secret that terrifies him. He's got prosopagnosia, known as face blindness, an inability to recognize faces.
After an inauspicious beginning, these two become friends and eventually more.
I loved so much about this book: the literary quotes Libby writes on her shoes, the way the book is loaded with all kinds of memorable lines.

"only small people - the inside-small kind - don't like you to be big."

And this quote here just sucker punched me.

"This is what I know about loss:
• It doesn't get better. You just get (somewhat) used to it.
• You never stop missing the people who go away.
• For something that isn't there anymore, it weighs a ton."

PICTURE BOOKS

Better Than You by Trudy Ludwig

3 stars
Someone mentioned this title a couple of weeks ago and I had not yet read it. 
There is a saying: Don't blow out someone else's candle to make yours burn brighter. 
This book shows us why. It is the story of two friends. One is always bragging and showing off to prove that he can out do the other. We see the kind of damage this arrogance does to make his friend feel inferior. Eventually the other friend finds someone else to hang out with and the braggart is left alone. 
There is a lot I liked about this book, but would have liked to see the 'show off' learn to be a better person. Hopefully teachers and parents can use this book to help both types of kids to live better lives.

When We Were Alone by David Alexander Robertson & Julie Flett (illustrator) Netgalley

5 stars
I would have picked up and read this book just because, you know, Julie Flett! I adore her illustrations. 
In this narrative, a young girl spends time with her Nokom (grandmother) and wonders why she does the things she does. The girl questions how she dresses, wears her hair, why she speaks Cree, and spends so much time with her brother. We readers learn, along with the girl, that this is how her Nokom celebrates her life in contrast to her experiences in residential school. 
I highly recommend this one for all libraries. Full review to come. 

NONFICTION

The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks narrated by Jonathan Davis

5 stars
I finally got around to reading this book. It's been on my to read list for at least a couple of decades. This is why I create my must read list for the year. Thank you Carrie Gelson! I might have always wanted to read it but never got around to it if it wasn't for joining up with the #mustreadin2016 group. (I only have a few more titles to finish up and I will have achieved this year's goal!)
I have a hard copy of this, but found the audiobook available at amazon for $7. Holy Carumba, it's amazing! I really wish I had found time to read it while my mother was still alive. I don't say this about many books, but this is one I know I will read again. Well, so long as I don't get consumed with reading everything else this man has written. 
Oliver Sacks is brilliant. How he finds the humanity in everyone almost makes me weep.
Has anyone else read it?

5 stars
I Am Not a Number by Jenny Kay Dupuis, Kathy Kacer & Gillian Newland (Illustrations)

Did you know that the last residential school in Canada didn't close its doors until 1996?
This narrative about an eight-year-old girl who was taken from her loving family to an abusive residential school, should be required reading for anyone who works with indigenous children. Every school and public library should have at least one copy.

CURRENTLY

I'm listening to Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. I keep forgetting about The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl by Shannon Hale, a Netgalley title that I need to get back to.

UP NEXT

I'm gearing up to listen to more books as I continue to work on The Quilt and finish other projects that need to be done by the 25th. I also have a pile of library books. This coming week I'm managing the Scholastic Book Fair for the new librarian.

Honestly, I have no idea when I will carve out time for cleaning house. I might have to come up with a schedule!

I Am Not A Number by Jenny Kay Dupuis, Kathy Kacer & Gillian Newland (Illustrations)

This book matters to me. 

I have friends who survived their own residential school school experiences. They are also survivors of the dysfunctional families created because their elders and previous generations were dragged from their families and forced to attend one of these institutions. 

The last residential school in Canada didn't close until 1996. I Am Not A Number is the true story of Irene Couchie Dupuis, grandmother to the author, Jenny Kay Dupuis. When Irene was eight years old, an Indian agent came and took her and two brothers away from their home and community of Nipissing First Nation, to go to the Spanish Indian Residential School. The children's names were taken away and replaced with a number. Irene's number was 759. Her story reveals the cruelty and neglect these children endured at the hands of the nuns in charge. When Irene and her two brothers returned home for the summer, they told their parents about their experiences. The family came up with a plan to hide and protect the children so they wouldn't have to return.

Many, if not most other children were not so fortunate. Not only were they unable to escape, their experiences were much more horrific than what is revealed here. 

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This is not a comfortable read, but it is an important, necessary narrative for building knowledge about this despicable aspect of our history. At least one copy should be in every school and public library to use with elementary and older students. Adults should read it too. 

The Secret Life of Lincoln Jones by Wendelin Van Draanen

Thank you Netgally for letting me read The Secret Life of Lincoln Jones by Wendelin Van Draanen in exchange for an honest review.

Here is the book synopsis.

"Award-winning author Wendelin Van Draanen gives us a fresh and funny story about a boy learning to become the brave hero of his own life. Perfect for fans of Counting by 7s and The Fourteenth Goldfish.

My secret life is filled with psychic vampires, wheelchair zombies, chain-rattlin’ ghosts, and a one-eyed cat. But they’re nothing compared to my real-life stalker: a sixth-grade girl named Kandi Kain. . . .

Lincoln Jones is always working on the latest story he’s got going in his notebook. Those stories are his refuge. A place where the hero always prevails and the bad guy goes to jail. Real life is messy and complicated, so Lincoln sticks to fiction and keeps to himself. Which works fine until a nosy girl at his new school starts prying into his private business. She wants to know what he’s writing, where he disappears to after school, and why he never talks to anybody. . . .
The Secret Life of Lincoln Jones is a terrifically funny and poignant story about a boy finding the courage to get to know the real characters all around him—and to let them know him."

My Reflections

Lincoln and his mother have moved from a small town in Southern United States. In this new place, Lincoln has a lot to learn about being human, connecting with other people, and growing up.

Lincoln is a boy with secrets. He doesn't want anyone to know that he spends his time after school at Brookside, an old folks home. He doesn't want anyone to know why he and his mother left their old home. He doesn't want anyone to know what his life was like before now. Lincoln is a writer. It's one of those things he keeps hidden but it's also how he protects himself from other people.

Readers will cheer for Lincoln as he forges many new relationships. At school there is a group of girls he shares a table with. There is Kandi, a girl who seems to be always wanting to know his business. Then there are the people at Brookside, a home for old people who are suffering from dementia and memory loss. Mrs. Graves, his elderly neighbor is another person he gets to know. Eventually, Lincoln's relationship with his mother also evolves.

One of the things I really appreciate about Van Draanen is how she is able to bring social issues into great fiction. Lincoln is being bullied by another boy on the bus. Trying to ignore him doesn't work. What does work is when other kids step up to stop it, just like in real life. There is the homeless vet who hangs out around their apartment. And then there is Kandi, who seems to be irritating but has her own story to tell. All of this reminds readers to dig deep to understand what's inside of other people.

I like this book a lot. Van Draanen combines laugh out loud humor and heartbreak into one fabulous narrative. I appreciate that these adults, from the teachers to the mother and the workers at Brookside are fine people. I like that these other kids are mostly kind and good. I love how she brings social issues, like the ones with the veteran and the old people who never get any visitors into our vision. I was able to make personal connections to this since my mother lived among people like those who live at Brookside. It's a very lonely place for many people.

Margaret Mead once said something to the effect of, You know a civilization is in decline when old people and young people are separated. Thank you Wendelin Van Draanen for showing us what we miss.

#IMWAYR November 21, 2016

Hurrah! #IMWAYR time again, when readers share what they have been reading and find out what others have been up to in the past week. The adult version of this meme is hosted by Kathryn at Book Date. The kidlit rendition is hosted by Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki at Unleashing Readers. Whatever you are looking forward to in your next great read, these are fabulous places to start your search.

I didn't get so much quilting in this week, but the reading was divine. I wish my house would clean itself though. 

REVIEWS POSTED


NOVELS

Waylon! One Awesome Thing by Sara Pennypacker, Marla Frazee (Illustrations)

4 stars
I'm adding Waylon to my list of boys in literature who I love. Sarah Pennypacker knows how to create loveable, complex characters. When all the boys in his grade four class end up on a team except Waylon, it isn't easy. Ultimately though, with support from family (including his gothic teen age sister) and a geographical epiphany, Waylon finds friendship in an unlikely person.
This would make a great read aloud in younger classrooms. I can imagine, Be An Isthmus, becoming as a class motto as a result.

4 stars
The Secret Life of Lincoln Jones by Wendelin Van Draanen (netgalley)

I'm in the middle of writing a review for this one so all I'm going to tell you is that I really liked this story of a young boy and his relationships with the old people at the home where his mother works, the other students in his class, and his mother.

Stars of Summer by Tara Dairman

4 stars
Gladys heads off to summer camp where she ends up working in the camp kitchen. She's learning to swim and master archery. However, something is wonky with her new reviewing assignment where Gladys has to find the best hotdog in New York. On top of that, Hamilton Herbertson, kid author, seems to be stalking her.
What I liked in the previous books is what I like here; great adults who have their children's best interests at heart, loads of humor, compelling characters and delicious descriptions of food.
Now that I've finished this, I have to wait for Dairman to release the next in the series. In the meantime I'll have to see what kinds of hotdogs are available here in Vancouver, BC

3 stars
Imprudence by Gail Carriger, narrated by Moira Quirk (YA)

This is another fun, steampunk, paranormal novel. Prudence ends up taking her parents on an emergency trip to Egypt in The Spotted Custard. She has a devil of a time trying to figure out who keeps attacking the ship and why. 
I appreciated that we get to know Prudence a bit better and I enjoyed the adventure and action in this one. Some of the minor characters are delightful. I could have done without the romance. In fact that aspect felt a bit to harlequin for my tastes, though I suspect that in my younger days I would have be happier with it.

ADULT NOVELS

Tulip Fever by Deborah Moggach

3 stars
This book club book turned out to be a relatively easy read. It's told through the points of view of numerous characters. I appreciated how multidimensional Moggach reveals them to be.
The plot trajectory wasn't a surprise except at the very end.
What I found fascinating was reading how the author was inspired to write the book. I also enjoyed looking at the images of the paintings throughout the book and looking them up on my device to get an enlarged view of them. There is a list of them at the back of the book, but I wish each image was accompanied by a caption.

Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson, narrated by Robin Miles

4 stars
I was riveted by these characters and their lives. It's the story of the power of friendship and how, even if it can't protect these young girls from the horrors in their everyday lives, at least provides an anchor for them to hold on to.
I'm pretty much a hard core fan of Woodson, and wasn't disappointed in this one. One of our book club members just started reading A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. I would love to go back and read it again after reading this.

CURRENTLY

I'm listening to The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken and just started Playing for the Devil's Fire by Phillippe Diederich.

UP NEXT

Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew'd by Alan Bradley has just become available so I'll be listening to that next. Then I have four more books from the library to get to. 
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