So, I must add my voice to the deafening praise surrounding The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. Highlights iCheck out more reviews at Across the Litoverse
So, I must add my voice to the deafening praise surrounding The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. Highlights include: the charming, self-aware narrator (who just happens to be Death); Zusak's insistence that the reader knows the fate of each character long before the ending of the novel; Hans Hubermann's quiet heroism and his dedication to his foster daughter; and the reclamation of books for new purposes (e.g. Max's use of Hitler's Mein Kampf to write his own memoirs).
Also, be prepared to cry for the last section of this book.
In truth, Jane is one of four Moffat children, meaning she shares her middle child status with an older brotFull review posted on Across the Litoverse
In truth, Jane is one of four Moffat children, meaning she shares her middle child status with an older brother; however, she coins her title after noticing her mother simply introduces her as just Jane. Sylvie is the eldest child; Rufus, the youngest; and Joey is the oldest son. But what about Jane? I would argue her stance in this matter exemplifies a middle-child mindset, so I'll let the the four-child status slide this time.
What follows in this second novel from The Moffats series is a collection of short stories profiling one year in the life of the feisty, fun-loving Jane after she and her family moves across town to a house on Ashbellows Place. In a new setting with a host of neighbours to meet, Jane wants to greet the world with a new persona—and the mysterious middle Moffat seems an excellent place to start. But being in the middle is a lot harder than it looks…
Jane's adventurous spirit and her endless search for fun leads her to befriend and secretly protect Mr. Buckle, Cranbury's oldest inhabitant, to hold her first disastrous organ recital, to help the girls' basketball team win their championship, to stand up to the frightful mechanical wizard Wallie Bangs, to learn about losing and finding best friends across town, and so much more. Throughout her travels, Jane dedicates herself to upholding the honour of the Moffats, and helps her mother and siblings as best as she can.
Overall, a lovely book about a fellow Moffat[t] child. In particular, the book lends itself well to classes studying children's lives during the Second World War and offers a nice, light read to middle readers in general.
Ideal for: Middle readers who like episodic, small-town adventures; Educators looking to capture a child's life in the Second World War for their classes; Older readers looking to reconnect with the classics of their childhood; Members of the Moffat clan....more
Three women join forces to write a book exposing the real experiences of African-American women employed asFull review posted on Across the Litoverse
Three women join forces to write a book exposing the real experiences of African-American women employed as domestic labourers in Jackson, Mississippi during the 1960s. Aibileen Clark sacrificed her education and her writing talent as a teen in order to support her family—after the death of her only son, Treelore, Aibileen takes on a job with the Leefolt family and cares for their toddler, Mae Mobley, a young girl who is nothing more than a burden to her flighty, superficial mother. Aibileen's confrontational friend, Minny Jackson, has been blacklisted by the white women of Jackson after offending (and ultimately pranking) Hilly Holbrook, the leader of the community, with a devilish and unforgettable pie. Minny takes up a job in secret with Miss Celia Foote, a woman from a "white trash" background who doesn't want her husband knowing she hired some help. Last, Eugenia "Skeeter" Phelan returns from school and aims to become a writer—however, she's plum out of ideas. After learning about Aibileen's son and his unfinished book profiling the lives of black men and women working in the South, Skeeter decides to write a book about black women working for white families in Jackson. The project binds the women together and thrusts them into a world of danger should any outsiders learn of their work…
I found The Help's plot didn't start until the 70-page mark, when Skeeter first speaks with Elaine Stein of Harper & Row Publishers. Even after Skeeter has been handed such an obvious chance to write about Jackson's racial politics, she only finds her book idea after snatching it from Treelore's dead hands and from Aibileen's pen. From then on out, The Help danced wide circles around the central plot of three women writing their book and meandered through dense tangents regarding Skeeter's dismal love life, Hilly Holbrook's obsession with toilets, a few nods to relevant historical moments, and a bizarre scene featuring a naked, masturbating man attacking Minny and Miss Celia. The Help's pacing was glacial at best, and I often found myself losing touch with the writing project and the imminent dangers it posed to the maids who added their testimonies to the book.
You know it's a bad sign when you start thinking Hilly's assassination would be faster and more successful than the writing project ever would be…...more
Under the Hawthorn Tree opens with Jingqiu, a senior high school student, who's travelling to the countrysidFull review posted on Across the Litoverse
Under the Hawthorn Tree opens with Jingqiu, a senior high school student, who's travelling to the countryside with her Educational Reform Association to write a new textbook based on the testimonies of the lower and middling peasants of West Village. Jingqiu comes from an impoverished and politically questionable urban family, and her impressive writing skills coupled with her endurance allow Jingqiu to redeem what she views as her political shortcomings. She aims to fit in with her hosts and the rural way of life until she meets Sun Jianxin (a.k.a. Old Third), a man who had once lived with her host family as she is now. From the moment the two meet, an instant and impossible love blooms—Old Third comes from a powerful military family while Jingqiu's father was sent to a labour reform camp as a reviled landowner.
Once Jingqiu returns to the city, Old Third continues to pursue her at all costs. But Jingqiu cannot ignore her mother's warning: one slip leads down a road of hardship. One simple mistake—whether it be a misinterpreted letter, an overheard comment, or a neighbour who witnesses a her walking with an unknown man—can ruin a girl's reputation and damage her family's social standing. Even with those fears running through her head, Jingqiu falls further in love with Old Third, and approaches what will no doubt cause her a lifetime of heartache…
Ai Mi captures Jingqiu's suffocating anxiety with grace—she's a quick and clever girl, but sadly, she must redirect her energies into constant self-policing to avoid bringing greater hardship onto her family. Also, love during the Cultural Revolution speaks loudest through the small, secretive details (e.g. Old Third buying new boots for Jingqiu after she ruins her feet at work; Jingqiu sews Old Third's letters into her jacket to protect them from outsiders). I did find Jingqiu's fierce pride could get frustrating at times, though I understand why she would refuse to accept money and other gifts from her friends and from Old Third. Overall, a great addition to the reading list and an excellent representative of modern Chinese literature.
Ideal for: Readers who like their romances tragic, impossible, and a touch melodramatic; Folks with an interest in Chinese literature and personal stories from the Cultural Revolution; Readers who notice the small details in life and value the guarded gestures of two lovers living in bad times....more
a garage sale detour in a small Saskatchewan town, RCMP Constable Arabella Dryvynsydes discovers a duplicateOriginally posted on Across the Litoverse
a garage sale detour in a small Saskatchewan town, RCMP Constable Arabella Dryvynsydes discovers a duplicate photograph of her paternal grandmother, Sara, and her late twin sister among the stacks of old tokens for sale. After losing her mother one year earlier, and after the recent dissolution of a long-term relationship, Arabella craves a new project to focus on in a bid to forget the stinging wounds of recent months. How did a photograph taken in the mining town of Extension, B.C., wind up in a stranger's possession one hundred years later? And what implications does this hold for Arabella's present life?
As she sifts through a packet of long-forgotten letters and traces her roots back through the oral testimonies of her aunt and father, Arabella revives the memory of her great-grandmother, Jane Owens, and uncovers the dark secrets Jane took to her grave. One part detective novel and one part CanLit historical narrative, Extensions explores one woman's quest to understand her origins while resolving a century-old murder case. All in a day's work for the RCMP, n'est-ce pas?
Sadly, Extensions was rife with numerous issues for me: Jane Owens' narrative (by far the most compelling part of the book) was often hijacked by the mundane doings of Arabella's life; characters' names and relationships were convoluted and difficult to follow without a visualized family tree (i.e. try sorting out a Jane, Janet, and Janetta or a Lewyllyn and Llewellyn); and Myrna Dey's representations of minority groups were often limiting and distressing—I wasn't clear if this was meant to show a small mindedness in Arabella, or if the comments were…uh, serious.
I would advocate skipping Extensions unless you're aiming to read through the 2011 Scotiabank Giller Prize longlist like me....more
The Golden Mean offers a sensual, frank depiction of the ancient Greek philosopher, Aristotle, and his complex connections with the boy who would becoThe Golden Mean offers a sensual, frank depiction of the ancient Greek philosopher, Aristotle, and his complex connections with the boy who would become Alexander the Great. As the novel opens, King Philip presses Aristotle into service as a teacher of the young princes of Macedon, forcing Aristotle to postpone his dreams of succeeding Plato as the leader of the Academy in Athens. One son, Arridaeus, possesses the intellect of a child in the aftermath of a serious illness; the other son, Alexander, is destined for greatness but struggles under the strict roles of both future king and Macedonian man. Aristotle trains Alexander to find the golden mean within himself, the balance between the extremes of muscular domination and intellectual pursuits. As Alexander rises to militaristic glory, Aristotle must overcome the increasing irrelevance of his lessons in the face of violence and battlefield politics while maintaining his integrity as an academic.
Annabel Lyon breathes new life into the historical depiction of both Aristotle and Alexander the Great, and she succeeds in humanizing such mythical figures in engaging prose. Her writing cycles between quiet moments of physical or intellectual intimacy and frightful moments of violence or prolonged illness suffered in an age before complex medical treatment. The novel is not recommended for the weak of heart (and weak of stomach) as certain passages border on the graphic. But the sweet moments shared between Aristotle and the older son, Arridaeus, mark the book as a solid read for fans of literary and/or historical fiction. Academics with a detailed knowledge of ancient Greece might take offense to some liberties taken with timelines, but regular readers will find much to celebrate with the prose.
Ideal for: Readers who like a bit of literature around their sexy prose; Casual historians who know the gist of Alexander the Great's background; Folks who follow the heavy hitters of the Can. lit. award circuit. ...more