December 5th, 2010

#1 Sunset Song

I read this recently and I can't recommend it enough. (I also wrote an essay on this for my Higher English) It's about a girl who grows up in rural Scotland before the 2nd World War who then loses her husband in the war. It's quite depressing but I think it perfectly captures the mind of a young girl growing up and how her relationships with her family develop.

“Sunset Song” by Lewis Grassic Gibbon is a novel set in the early twentieth century. The novelist outlines the life of a young girl named Chris Guthrie from childhood, through her teenage years and finally adulthood. The text is narrated by Chris and this is how we are able to get a clear insight into her relationships not only with her family and friends, but also her internal dialogue with herself. The main theme of the novel is that of change, especially in Chris who’s development is mirrored by the changing seasons for planting and harvest of the land and its rotations. This thread runs constantly throughout the novel and is emphasised by the fact that it is set in the time period of the Second World War, since she becomes widowed.

(Voted best Scottish novel of all time)
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onward

Books 43 - 45

The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore - While it was obvious that this was the author's first book, and he is not an experienced author, it was also obvious that he cared deeply about communicating both his story and that of the Other Wes.
I wish that the author had done a more thorough analysis of the reasons he turned into good Wes while the other Wes remained bad Wes. I mean, there is a big difference between tagging buildings in the Bronx and shooting a police officer at close range.
I wish that the author had also explored in more detail the "hidden doors" into the privileged world he now inhabits - clearly many of these were as a result of networking and luck, and I wish Wes had examined more in depth about why these experiences are not available to disadvantaged youth without family connections.
I picked up this book after hearing the author speak at the Baltimore Book Fair this summer - he was very compelling in person. Many of the other people in the audience were teachers, and many people waiting in line to get the book signed were teachers - middle school and high school. It was unclear to me at the time why there were so many teachers - there is a section of resources that will help disadvantaged youth listed in the back of the book, this may be why. I thought the emphasis at the book signing about this being a "book for teachers" REALLY detracted from the message, because I as a non-teacher felt uncomfortable, like this may not be a book for me. When I read this myself, I did not feel like there was an educator-specific message.

Boneshaker by Cherie Priest - Now this is a steampunk novel that I liked! I loved that the world-building was not over the top and in your face - it developed over time, as you get to know the characters. I loved the zombies/rotters. I loved the unique technology and social problems.
I did not understand how the two main characters, the mother & son, could have SUCH a strained relationship. It seems that she was a single mom for his entire life, and yet at the beginning of the book it is as though they have never spoken. Why would she not just answer his questions like a normal human being? (Then there would be no book.) So I thought that part was strained and a little contrived, but it served to get everyone into the old city, where the entire story was great.
PLUS - I loved that it was published in brown ink.

A Sea of Troubles by Donna Leon - I usually love all of these Brunetti books pretty much equally, but this one just didn't click with me. (This might be what took me so long to finish it?) In most of the others, the focus is on the police, procedure, political problems, recalcitrant bureaucracy, local dilemmas, etc. Brunetti himself is a central character and plot device by which all these other issues are examined. In this book, however, we have to explore the feelings of Brunetti and Elettra, which is not exactly what I signed on for, based on my experience with the rest of the series. The mystery with the local fishermen, which I was interested in, was only superficially explored, and seemed like it was used as a vehicle to explore everyone's feelings, instead of the other way around.