Tuesday, March 02, 2010

February: Reading & Reviewing Part 1

Because of my little slump, I only read 9 books this month, but I gave myself a double-shot of perspective. Looking at last year's journal entries, I saw that I'd only read 8 books by the end of February. I'm now at 22 books, and I didn't get there until April 17. Triple digits can happen again.

Even though vacation has ended and I'm back to serving up grammar and vocabulary Monday-Friday, March promises to be a great month. I have some inviting gaps in my schedule that dovetail nicely with my plans to get back to procuring library loot. I'm looking out the window now at my library. It's about 6:30 pm as I write this and that weird wedge-shaped thing is glowing with a soft green light as if tenderly beckoning me.

Cracked Spinz will resume meetings after a long hiatus and maybe we'll get some new members. The university hired about 15 new teachers. Here's hoping that some of them will be bookworms. Anyway, here's what I read this month:

1. Wild Swans (memoir) - Jung Chang. Not only is this a memoir, it's a history of 20th century China seen through the eyes of Jung Chang, her mother and her grandmother. It was heartbreaking to read about how fervently her parents believed in the Communist Party and their shock and disbelief at how Mao revealed himself over time to be nothing more than an evil despot. All of their dedication and sacrifice came to deep and profound loss and grief. I knew almost nothing about the Cultural Revolution, so this book was an eye-opener. If you get a chance, read it. You won't find a more incredible or well-told story. I'm really glad that my co-worker Canadian Cool loaned me her copy.

2. Great Expectations (audiobook) - Charles Dickens, Hugh Laurie. I won't say that I'm now an audiobook fan, but I truly enjoyed this one. My dearest crush Hugh Laurie narrates masterfully, and creates a wide and pleasing variety of voices and accents for each of his characters. Surprisingly, his best one (and the most moving) was for Miss Havisham. GE was the book that finally made me fond of Dickens, so I was pleased to revisit Pip and his world.

3. Bud, Not Buddy (novel) - Christopher Paul Curtis. This outstanding 1999 juvenille novel won the 2000 Newbery Award as well as the Coretta Scott King book award. It's 1936 and 10-year-old Bud (not Buddy) Caldwell has been in and out of orphanages and foster homes since his mother died when he was 6 years old. After he's put in another terrible foster home, he runs away and decides to hit the road and look for his real father. Going by a flyer that his mother saved, Bud is under the impression that a musician called Herman E. Calloway, who is the leader of a band called "The Dusky Devastators of the Depression!!!!!!" is his real father.

Curtis based some of the story on his colorful family history, and obviously did some great research about the time period. Bud and the other characters sound authentically 1930s. My favorite scene in the book involves Bud, who is on the road, lining up late at a soup kitchen for a free breakfast and being denied access. A couple with children see his plight and pretend that he's theirs. The scene is written for comedic effect, but there's a poignancy to it, too. I'm eager to read Curtis' other novels, particularly 1963 - The Watsons Go To Birmingham.

To be continued...


Kathy said...

The Watsons is easily one of my favorite children's books. I was Children's clerk at Borders for many years and put that book into as many hands as I could. I laughed out loud and cried hot tears reading it. I still get excited when I see it in a child's hand and encourage their parents to read it with them. I miss that job - can you tell?

Hannah Stoneham said...

Wow - what a great collection. I loved Wild Swans when I read it about 7 years ago but found it extremely harrowing. I think that it is wonderful how she manages to write a historically powerful piece in such a personal context.... Also - Hugh Laurie - completely understand. Have you ever seenhim as Bertie Wooster? Really good. thanks for sharing,


Eva said...

Wasn't Wild Swans awesome?!

Kim said...

I really liked Wild Swans too. I had no idea what had been going on in China for the last century so it was a real eye opener for me. I have a little crush on Hugh Laurie, too. I haven't read Great Expectations yet but I plan on getting to it sometime.

Isabella K said...

Oh, I'm glad you enjoyed Hugh Laurie! I don't have a good track record with audio books either, but I liked that one too. If Hugh Laurie's reading, I'll listen!

Tara said...

I thought Wild Swans was an amazing book! I'm impressed that you got so much reading done around it - it's a chunckster both in length and brainpower involved!