Wednesday, September 21, 2011

September Mother Daughter Book Group -- The Books of Elsewhere: The Shadows

The Shadows (The Books of Elsewhere, #1)
The Shadows by Jacqueline West

My enjoyment rating: 3 of 5 stars

Daisy Daughter rating:  3.5 out of 5 stars

Genre:  Juvenile Fiction

Mother/Daughter book club is back!

Our first 5th grade meeting was last night. The girls were thrilled to be back in action – and – for the first time, I could tell their maturity level is finally measuring up to being a part of book club. Will it last all year? Not sure – but there was a different vibe last night that hasn’t been apparent before.

We discussed The Books of Elsewhere: The Shadows by Jacqueline West.
Olive Dunwoody and her parents have moved to an old, mysterious, house after years of living in an urban apartment. To Olive, something is noticeably different about their new home – the artwork on the walls, left by the previous owner, is animated! The scenes shift and move, from the people in them to the activities that take place. Once Olive learns their secrets (and there are many!) she is transformed into a creepy world that is inhabited by talking cats and long lost children.
Daisy Daughter was VERY reluctant to read this book. “Paranormal” fantasy is not her favorite. And a few times I had to threaten (threaten – do you threaten a child over reading? Absolutely!) that if she didn’t at least give it a try (my 50 page rule) we wouldn’t be going to book club. It was enough to get her started and she finished. There were a few, “it’s CREEPY and SCARY” – but she really liked it in the end, and is ready for the second volume (Spellbound). Her friend Bea led the discussion and prepared some very thought provoking questions – to the point that the girls were debating certain scenes in the book and whether the paintings were “alive” or not! Way to go Bea!

On a personal level, this was only “OK” for me. There were too many “copycat” uses from other novels – moving artwork, boats on lakes, magical lockets – but I suppose nothing is original in literature anymore. I did enjoy Olive – she had spunk and courage! And the house was super mysterious and spooky!  This would have made a great October/Halloween choice!

But since we let the ghosts out early, our next book is:
The Secret Life of Amanda K. Woods

From Goodreads:
Amanda Woods is discovering that there are some things in life that you just can't change, like who your parents are or how your older sister treats you, but she is determined to change what she can. To begin with, she's not going to be just plain Amanda Woods (the girl her mother seems to think is just average). She's going to be Amanda K. Woods - someone who is proud and strong and sure of herself, someone who can have a French pen pal and a best friend of her own choosing, someone who finds four-leaf clovers and can get perfect scores on her math homework. There is more to Amanda than anyone else can see, things about her that Amanda herself doesn't even know yet, but she's finding out. In her first novel for older children, Ann Cameron presents a heroine who is philosophical and honest as only a twelve-year-old can be.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Book Review -- The Dirty Life

The Dirty Life: On Farming, Food, and Love

My enjoyment rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Source:  Personal copy

Genre:  Memoir, non-fiction

My only recollections of EVER getting up at 3:45am:

• Pulling an all-nighter in college to finish a college paper or study for a test
• Nursing a newborn
• Insomnia

Kristin Kimball and her husband Mark, get up routinely that early (or is that still considered night time?) to do their “chores” – everything from milking cows, to feeding chickens, to the multitude of other tasks that must be done on their farm – Essex Farm – in upstate New York.

The Dirty Life is the story of Kristin’s transformation from city chic to farmer frugal. Living the urban life in Manhattan, Kristin was a well traveled writer – who on assignment to interview an organic Pennsylvania farmer – fell in love with her subject.

In glorious prose, Kristin recounts for us their courtship, their early trials at farming, the arduous job of raising animals, and the nemesis of both insects and weeds that inhabit their fields.

Although not quite ready to sell my house and move to a rural outpost, I was enthralled at the transformation of Kristin’s life: living in a ramshackle and dirty farm house, infested with rats; the sheer amount of energy and fatigue she and Mark invest in the land; and the happiness that blossoms forth. It was obvious to me after reading her book, that all of us spend way too much time in front of the computer! Nary a mention of texting, tweeting, or blogging – just slop, seeds, slaughter, and sunshine.

She does not sugar coat their efforts – her memories of the farm are marked by conditions – the dry, the wet, the frozen, the abundant. It made me want to read an additional chapter, not yet written, about how the farm is fairing after the tremendous rains inflicted on upstate New York with both Hurricane Irene and tropical depression Lee.

This was pure enjoyment – I only wish I had an Essex Farm close enough to me in which to indulge.

For more from Kristin -- check out this great video:

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