Monday, August 31, 2015

507 (2014 #64). Big Stone Gap

by Adriana Trigiani

This book was much better than I expected.  It's 1978, Ave Maria Mulligan is about to turn 36, and it's been a tumultuous year for her in her hometown of Big Stone Gap, Virginia.  Her beloved mother has died, and she learns her mother's secret a few months later.  This throws her life into upheaval, and suddenly this long-time spinster is thinking of marriage and moving.

The book is full of small-town characters and quirky happenings, including one event based on a real-life incident in the real Big Stone Gap, author Adriana Trigiani's hometown in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia - a campaign stop visit by actress Elizabeth Taylor and her then-candidate husband John Warner.
This book isn't especially deep, but it's funny and enjoyable to read.  Some of the descriptions in it are quite lovely. From page 56, about Big Stone Gap: is fall, our most luscious season.  The mountains around us turn from dark velvet to an iridescent taffeta.  The leaves of late September are bright green; by the first week of October they change to shimmering gemstones, garnet and topez and all the purples in between.  The mountains seem to be lit from the ground by theatrical footlights.  Autumn is our grand opera.  It even smells rich this time of year, a fresh mix of balsam and hickory and vanilla smoke.

And here's another, from page 256, of Italy:

There is a peachy golden haze over Italy that makes green fields more vivid, gives brown earth a depth and people a romantic glow....I think there is something different about the light.  When the sun goes down, the sky turns a vivid blue-black, the stars seems closer, and the edges don't fade out toward the horizon.  The same saturated blue hems the skyline that nestles the moon.

The hardbound book from the library is pictured at the top of this post.  I prefer the cover on the paperback book group edition pictured below it.  That book also included part of chapter 1 from the sequel to Big Stone Gap, entitled Big Cherry Holler.  From what I read, I definitely want to read that and the rest of the books in the series.  And maybe even see the movie version of this book, which is supposed to come out in October 2015.

© Amanda Pape - 2015

[The hardbound book was borrowed from and returned to the Hood County Library.  I already had the paperback and will hang on to it for a while.]

Hood County Library 2015 Summer Reading Challenge Book #18 - Own But Never Read

Little Bee, by Chris Cleave

This one has been sitting on my TBR (to be read) shelf for some time.

Review is here.

© Amanda Pape - 2015

Sunday, August 30, 2015

506 (2015 #63). The Storm in the Barn

written and illustrated by Matt Phelan

This graphic novel won the 2010 Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction written for children or young adults.  It was also a Texas Bluebonnet Award nominee in 2011-2012.

It's set in Dust Bowl Kansas in 1937, and it hasn't rained in four years, since now-11-year-old Jack would have been old enough to help around on the family farm.  Since there's no farming possible, Jack's father seems to perceive Jack as being useless.  Being picked on by the town bullies doesn't help.  The general store owner tells him stories of Jacks of folklore to bolster him.  His sister Dorothy suffers from dust pneumonia, and it seems the only bright spot is when she reads aloud from some of Frank Baum's Oz books. Like Oz, the only illustrations in the book that are not monochrome occur when Jack's mother reminisces about the past.

Otherwise, Phelan's pencil, ink, and watercolor drawings use muted tones, browns and beiges in the daytime, and blues and grays at night, inside the barn, and during the rain that finally comes.  In an author's note at the end, Phelan says some of his inspiration was the black-and-white images of Works Progress Administration photographers of the era such as Dorothea Lange and Walker Evans.  He wrote,  "I began to imagine what the experience of living in the Dust Bowl must have been like through the eyes of a kid. Without the complicated explanation of the history of over-planting, soil erosion, and other factors, a young boy or girl would only know ... The rain had gone away. But where?"

While graphic novels are often good for struggling readers, the sparseness of the text in this story might be difficult for some.  I had problems interpreting what was going on in a few of the textless panel sequences.  For this reason - and because of a (thankfully not-too-graphic) section about killing off jackrabbits that were overwhelming the area - I'd recommend this book for somewhat older readers, age 11 and up.  I didn't really care for the fantasy element in the book (the "storm in the barn" pictured on the cover), but that will make the book more appealing for children.

© Amanda Pape - 2015

[This book was borrowed from and returned to the Hood County Library.]

505 (2015 #62). Rifles for Watie

by Harold Keith

This book won the Newbery Medal for "the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children" in 1958.  Unlike most Civil War novels, it is set on the western front, specifically in (what is now) Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, and Arkansas.

Jefferson Davis "Jeff" Bussey is sixteen-year-old farm boy in Linn County, Kansas, when the war begins in 1861.  Inspired by his admiration for Abraham Lincoln and an attack on his family by pro-slavery Missouri bushwhackers, he joins the Kansas Volunteers at Fort Leavenworth.

Jeff is eager to see battle, but has only a background role initially.  Later he learns the harsh realities of combat, moves from the infantry, to an emergency participation in the artillery, to the cavalry, and becomes a scout.  His time "undercover" on the Confederate side was one of the most interesting parts of the book.  He learns that the Rebels are people just like him, and when he falls in love with a Confederate Cherokee girl, he feels torn between the two sides.

Although I'm not much for war fiction, this book held my interest throughout it.  It's well-written and provides much insight into the day-to-day life of soldiers in the Civil War's western front.  The reading level and content of this book makes it more appropriate for grade 6 and up.

Author Harold Keith, a native Oklahoman who had a master's degree in history, interviewed 22 Confederate veterans then living in Oklahoma and Arkansas as part of his research for the book.  He also read diaries and journals of mostly Union veterans, and hundreds of letters, including many from the mixed-blood Cherokees who participated in the war, such as family members of the Confederate general Stand Watie of the title (although there is no evidence Watie ever attempted to get the repeating rifles of the title and the fictional plot).

© Amanda Pape - 2015

[This book was borrowed from and returned to the Hood County Library.]

Saturday, August 29, 2015

504 (2015 #61). InvisiBill

by Maureen Fergus,
illustrated by Dušan Petričić

This is a cute and funny book that not only addresses feelings of being ignored, but also the distractions of modern life (tablets, telephones, televisions) that often keep parents and siblings from paying attention to each other.

In Maureen Fergus' story, middle child Bill turns invisible one day when his busy family doesn't pass the potatoes at the dinner table when he asks for them.

Dušan Petričić's caricature-like illustrations, rendered in pen and ink and colored in Photoshop, add greatly to the humor - and message - of the tale.  I especially liked the way he placed his illustrations on square or rectangular backgrounds that sometimes overlapped in interesting ways.

This book should appeal to all children - those who wonder what it might be like to be invisible, and those who sometimes wish they were noticed a little more.

© Amanda Pape - 2015

[This book was received through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program.   It will be donated to my university library.]

Hood County Library 2015 Summer Reading Challenge Book #17 - Young Adult Book

Absolutely Normal Chaos, by Sharon Creech

The audiobook is shelved in the Young Adult section at the Hood County Library.

Review is here.

© Amanda Pape - 2015

Friday, August 28, 2015

Hood County Library 2015 Summer Reading Challenge Book #16 - Turned Into Movie

Big Stone Gap by Adriana Trigiani.

Coming to theaters on October 9.

Review to come.

© Amanda Pape - 2015

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Hood County Library 2015 Summer Reading Challenge Book #15 - Graphic Novel

The Storm in the Barn, by Matt Phelan.

This graphic novel won the 2010 Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction written for children or young adults.  It was also a Texas Bluebonnet Award nominee in 2011-2012.

Review is here.

© Amanda Pape - 2015

Hood County Library 2015 Summer Reading Challenge Book #14 - Published in Birth Year

Rifles for Watie, by Harold Keith.

This book was published in 1957, and won the Newbery Medal for "the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children" the following year.

Review is here.

© Amanda Pape - 2015

503 (2015 #60). The Alchemist

by Paulo Coelho, performed by Jeremy Irons

I chose this book because it met one of the categories for the Hood County Library 2015 Summer Reading Challenge (translated from another language, in this case Portuguese), it was short (164 pages), and it was available in audiobook (four discs).  Also, I liked the title - alchemy fascinates me.

Thank goodness the book was short.  What a waste of my time.  But then, I'm not a fan of the "inspirational" genre (so this book could have also fit the "out of your comfort zone" category in the reading challenge).

The alchemist in this fable/parable/allegory is actually not the main character.  That would be an Andalusian shepherd boy, Santiago (mostly called "the boy" in the book, annoyingly).  In pursuit of his "Personal Legend" to find a treasure he's dreamed about, he travels from Tarifa in Spain across the Strait of Gibraltar to Tangier, (in present-day Morocco), across the desert to the Al-Fayoum Oasis, and then on to the pyramids in Egypt.  It takes a long time and he meets a lot of people along the way, including a gypsy woman and a disguised king in Spain, a crystal merchant and an Englishman who wants to be an alchemist in Tangier, and a beautiful woman he immediately falls in love with as well as *the* alchemist at the oasis.

There's lots more (capitalized) drivel in the (print) book, as the boy learns about the Soul of the World, the Philosopher's Stone, the Elixir of Life, the Master Work, and the (universal) Language of the World.  He learns to "listen to his heart" and to read omens, and nothing really bad ever happens to him.

I was bothered by the message (page 22) that "to realize one's destiny is a person's only real obligation....And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you achieve it."  Of course, this only applies to men, because (page 126) "a woman ... knows that she must await her man."

The only good part about this book was listening to actor Jeremy Irons' wonderful voice reading it.  Even so, I can't recommend this overrated fantasy.

© Amanda Pape - 2015

[The audiobook, and a print copy for reference, were borrowed from and returned to the Hood County Library.]

502 (2015 #59). The Tiger's Wife

by Téa Obreht

This book looked interesting when I saw it was available as an e-book from the Hood County Library, when I first got a Kindle in April 2013. I've been meaning to read it for some time, so the Summer Reading Challenge was a great excuse.

Téa Obreht will be 30 years old on September 30, 2015. Her debut novel, a National Book Award finalist and British Orange Prize for Fiction winner was first published in 2010.

It's a braided narrative, with all the stories set in an unnamed Balkan country (Obreht was born in the former Yugoslavia).  One story is set (more or less) in the present, just after the various Yugoslav Wars.  Natalia is a doctor on her way to a coastal orphanage with her friend Zora to vaccinate the children there.  While traveling, she learns that her beloved grandfather has died under mysterious circumstances.

The other two threads in the narrative braid are folkloric tales of magical realism that her grandfather, also a doctor, used to tell Natalia.  One involves his encounters over the years with a "deathless man," who cannot die himself, but comes when others are about to die.  The other dates back to his childhood in a remote village and the interesting characters there, including Darisa the Bear, a taxidermist and hunter; an unnamed apothecary; Luka the butcher; and Luka's deaf-mute wife - called "the tiger's wife" because she befriends a tiger lurking near the village that escaped from a city zoo.  All of these people have their own back stories, which Obreht relates in the novel as well.

This book has some interesting things to say about death (pages 154 and 300-301 in particular) and war.  Here is a good quote concerning the latter, from page 283:

But now, in the country's last hour, it was clear...that the cease-fire had provided the delusion of normalcy, but never peace.  When your fight has purpose--to free you from something, to interfere on the behalf of an innocent--it has a hope of finality.  When the fight is about unraveling--when it is about your name, the places to which your blood is anchored, the attachment of your name to some landmark or event--there is nothing but hate, and the long, slow progression of people who feed on it and are fed it, meticulously, by the ones who come before them.  Then the fight is endless, and comes in waves and waves, but always retains its capacity to surprise those who hope against it.

There are also some insights about fear (page 168):

My mother always says that fear and pain are immediate, and that, when they're gone, we're left with the concept, but not the true memory--why else, she reasons, would anyone give birth more than once?

and about superstition and deceit (page 312):

...the apothecary learned to read white lies, to distinguish furtive glances between secret lovers that would precipitate future weddings, to harness old family hatreds dredged up in fireside conversations that allowed him to foresee conflicts, fights, sometime even murders.  He learned, too, that when confounded by the extremes of life--whether good or bad--people would turn first to superstition to find meaning, to stitch together unconnected events in order to understand what was happening.  He learned that, no matter how grave the secret, how imperative absolute silence, someone would always feel the urge to confess, and an unleashed secret was a terrible force.

Obreht writes well.  I hope she isn't a one-hit wonder.

© Amanda Pape - 2015

[This book was borrowed from and returned to the Hood County Library.]

Friday, August 21, 2015

Hood County Library 2015 Summer Reading Challenge Book #13 - Translated from Another Language

The Alchemist, by Paol Coelho

This book was originally written in Portuguese.

Review is here.

© Amanda Pape - 2015

Monday, August 17, 2015

Hood County Library 2015 Summer Reading Challenge Book #12 - Re-Read

The Invention of Wings, by Sue Monk Kidd, read by Jenna Lamia and Adepero Oduye.

I read this book (or rather, listened to it, as I did again this time) the first time in February 2014.  I re-read it because my book club is discussing it tomorrow, and I am the discussion leader.

My review is here.

© Amanda Pape - 2015

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Hood County Library 2015 Summer Reading Challenge Book #11 - Author Under 30

The Tiger's Wife, by Tea Obreht.

Tea Obreht will be 30 years old on September 30, 2015.  This National Book Award finalist was published in 2011.

This book looked interesting when I saw it was available as an e-book from the Hood County Library, when I first got a Kindle in April 2013.  I've been meaning to read it for some time, so the Summer Reading Challenge was a great excuse.

Review is here.

© Amanda Pape - 2015

Saturday, August 15, 2015

501 (2015 #58). Talking to the Sun

selected and introduced by Kenneth Koch and Kate Ferrell

I needed to read a poetry anthology for the Hood County Library's Summer Reading Challenge, and I chose this one because I liked the idea of pairing poems with works of art.  It's supposedly an anthology for "young people" and shelved in the juvenile nonfiction section of the library, but at 112 pages with about 177 poems, I feel it qualifies for this challenge.

I also think that's part of why it's not appropriate for its supposed age group of ages 3-8.  At those ages, I'd want to read more kid-friendly poems to my children.  I'd target this anthology at ages 10 (grade 5) and up.  The poems selected are representative of many cultures (including ancient and native peoples), but that also contributes to its appropriateness for an older age group.  Some well-known poets are represented, but others are overlooked in favor of lesser-known poets of the same "New York School" as selector Kenneth Koch - at least 15 of the poems fall in this category.

The poems are grouped into ten sections that, according to co-selector Kate Farrell in an introduction, "suggested by the history of poetry; the book starts with ancient and primitive poetry, and ends with modern poetry."  Poems in each section generally address a common topic or are of a certain type, such as nature, spring, children, love, nonsense, animals, the universe, ordinary things, and dreams.  While the introduction and appendix (also by Farrell, on helping young people like poetry) and section introductions are good, and some of the commentary on individual poems is helpful (such as definitions of words no longer in common use), other commentary is superfluous.

Poems in the book are paired up with works from New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art (which co-published the book). Sometimes the connections are obvious, sometimes they are not, but they should spark good discussions.  I loved the idea of doing this. The cover photo is detail from the image of one of those works, The Repast of the Lion by Henri Rousseau, with the book title strategically covering the lion eating his prey.

© Amanda Pape - 2015

[This book was borrowed from and returned to the Hood County Library.]

500 (2015 #57). The Gift of the Magi, and Other [Short] Stories

by O. Henry

I had planned to read my personal copy of a collection of O. Henry's short stories for the Hood County Library adult summer reading challenge (the Dover Thrift Edition with the word "Short" added to the title, pictured above right).  It had two of my old familiar favorites in it, the famous "The Gift of the Magi" of the title, and the equally (I thought) famous and funny "The Ransom of Red Chief," plus 14 other tales I hadn't read before.

I've been trying, when possible, to choose books for the challenge that the Hood County Library owns.  They do have a collection of O. Henry's short stories, the one pictured above left.  It had 29 tales, but only five overlapped (and surprisingly, one of those was not "The Ransom of Red Chief."  I decided to read both books, 40 short stories in all.

O. Henry (aka William Sidney Porter) is known for endings with a twist, and these did not disappoint.  Many are funny, but a few are serious.  Most of the stories are set in New York City, where the author spent the last eight years (1902-1910) of his too-short life.  My favorite stories are the ones set in Texas, where he lived from 1882 (when he was 20) to 1897, starting at a sheep ranch in South Texas, and eventually moving to Austin (where he worked as a pharmacist, then as a draftsman for the state's General Land Office, and finally as a bank teller for the First National Bank) and then Houston (where he wrote for the Houston Post newspaper).

The Texas-set stories in these books include "The Enchanted Kiss," set in San Antonio; "The Lonesome Road," which mentions Aransas Pass and the Nueces River in south Texas; and "The Pimienta Pancakes" (in the Dover edition only), which mentions the Frio and Nueces rivers and San Miguel Creek, all of which join up around Choke Canyon Reservoir near Three Rivers in South Texas.

Other stories I particularly enjoyed were "The Third Ingredient,"  "The Furnished Room," and the long but satisfying "The Roads of Destiny," all in the longer book.  However, the Dover edition (besides having "The Ransom of Red Chief") provided the name and date of the collection the story was first published in, which at least gave me a relative idea of when it was written.

© Amanda Pape - 2015

[The longer book was borrowed from and returned to the Hood County Library.  I already owned the shorter Dover Thrift Edition, and plan to keep it.]

499 (2015 #56). The Lost Garden

by Katherine Swartz

I was concerned this book, which was sent to me to review, would be out of my comfort zone because its publisher primarily does Christian fiction, which I don't care for.

Thankfully, this book does not fall into that genre, and I found I enjoyed the dual story lines, one set in the past (post World War I England), and one in the same location but more present-day.  The tie between them is the garden of the title, created by 19-year-old Eleanor Sanderson in the past, and found and restored by 37-year-old Marin Ellis (a transplant from Boston) in the present day.

The setting is the fictional village of Goswell on the Cumbrian coast of England, which author Katherine Swartz (who writes romance as Kate Hewitt) says "bears a not-so-startling resemblance to St Bees," where she used to live.

I enjoyed the descriptions of the village and surrounding countryside, and other places in England, such as the reference (on page 186) to the Cumberland Hotel at Marble Arch in London in 1919--my mother stayed there in 1953.

There's a bit of romance in each book, as Marin and Eleanor each become involved with a gardener.  The theme that ties the story lines together is dealing with loss.  Eleanor's brother died in the war, and Marin's father in a recent car crash.

I'd be interested in reading the first book in this "Tales from Goswell" series, The Vicar's Wife.  Characters from that book appear in this one, and seem to be based on the author's own experience of moving from New York City to St Bees - as a vicar's wife.

© Amanda Pape - 2015

[I received this book from the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program.  It will be donated to the Hood County Library.]

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Hood County Library 2015 Summer Reading Challenge Book #10 - Collection of Poetry

Talking to the Sun:  An Illustrated Anthology of Poems for Young People, selected and introduced by Kenneth Koch and Kate Farrell

I chose this collection because the Hood County Library had it, and I liked the idea of pairing poems with works from New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Review is here.

© Amanda Pape - 2015

Sunday, August 09, 2015

Hood County Library 2015 Summer Reading Challenge Book #9 - Collection of Short Stories

The Gift of the Magi, and Other Stories, by O. Henry

I chose this one because I had another O. Henry short story collection at home (albeit a different and shorter one with only 16 stories - this copy, from the Hood County Library, had  29, with only five overlapping).  I also chose it because O. Henry lived for a while in Texas (in Austin and in Houston) in the late 1800s, and some of his short stories are set in Texas.

Review is here.

© Amanda Pape - 2015

Thursday, August 06, 2015

498 (2015 #55). Yes Please

written and read by Amy Poehler

I listened to this audiobook because it won the 2015 Audie Award for Humor, and was a nominee for the awards for Autobiography/Memoir, Narration by the Author or Authors, AND Audiobook of the Year.  Oh, and because I needed a short audiobook to listen to (I have to do a re-read next for an upcoming book club meeting), and this one was available at the Hood County Library.

A memoir by a 43-year-old comedian is not going to be very deep.  Surprisingly, though, there were some very good "bits" in here, some more serious than funny.

The audiobook was quite good.  Poehler brings in a number of guest voices (Carol Burnett, Patrick Stewart, Kathleen Turner) who read some of the book's pithy statements that introduce chapters or sections.  Better are the readings by Saturday Night Live (SNL) cast-mate Seth Meyers, Parks and Recreation (P&R) producer Mike Schur, and Amy's parents, as they are reading sections they (supposedly) wrote or said.  The last chapter, "The Robots Will Kill Us All:  A Conclusion," is read live by Poehler, and she is definitely in her element.  The *only* drawback to the audiobook is that it does not include the photographs from the print version (alas, way too small to see well in the e-book, of course).  I wish Poehler had included them in a PDF file on one of the discs, as another SNL cast-mate, Tina Fey, did in her memoir on audiobook, Bossypants.

The book begins with the 12-minute "Writing is Hard: A Preface," about just that (blah), followed by a five-minute "How To Use This Book," the only redeeming factor being the explanation of the book's title.  I also found the chapters about her television comedy show P&R to be rather tiresome, probably because I never watched the show.  I used to work for an urban city parks and recreation department (and for city governments more years beyond that), and I didn't want to watch the show and be always critical of what they got wrong. (Not to mention, apparently the P&R characters hate the library - and I'm now a librarian.)  However, not having watched the show made this part of the book less relevant for me.  Poehler's give-and-take bit with Schur was okay, but the sections on each of her cast-mates was boring, and the part about names originally considered for Poehler's Leslie Knope character in the show was just stupid.  P&R fans will probably love these sections, though.

Much better, though, are bits such as Amy's "Birthing Plan," which I found hilarious, since I wrote these too.  The chapter called "Gimme That Pudding" is about acting awards and is very funny.  A couple of chapters are more serious.  "Sorry, Sorry, Sorry" relates the story of an SNL sketch she did that made her uncomfortable and that she ultimately apologized for to some of those offended (and to the rest of us via this chapter).  "Time Travel" was a rather insightful view on how people, places, and things can help you recall good memories of the past and deal with future problems.  And the concluding chapter - while full of laughs because it's read before a live audience - also has something rather profound to say about how technology is taking over our lives and what we can do about it.

© Amanda Pape - 2015

[This audiobook was borrowed from and returned to my local public Hood County Library.]

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

497 (2015 #54). Go Set a Watchman

by Harper Lee

I'm not going to try to do an analysis or critique of this book.  Others have done a far better job of that than I ever could.  Let me just sum up with a few points:

1) I had to read Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird (henceforth known at TKaM) in eighth grade and I LOVED it.  I had the opportunity to play Scout in a short reading from the book on my school's then-brand-new (this was 1971) closed-circuit TV system, and I adore Gregory Peck (who played Atticus Finch in the movie), so I've got all that baggage of having read and loved TKaM.

2)  Despite all that, I am VERY glad I read Go Set a Watchman (henceforth known as GSaW) and plan to re-read it a number of times.

3)  That's also despite all the controversy about its publication (those saying 89-year-old Lee was taken advantage of, versus those who say she intentionally wanted GSaW published now, so many years later, with the increasing racial tensions in this country).

4)  TKaM is the better book, as it should be.  GSaW is NOT a "sequel," despite the embarrassing (and confusing, for the unknowing) marketing attempts to describe it as such.  Rather, GSaW is Lee's first attempt at the story that was rewritten into TKaM, when an editor suggested she concentrate on the well-written childhood recollection scenes in GSaW and instead develop those into a novel - which is what became TKaM.

5)  There are a lot of identical or nearly-identical passages in the two books, which will become wonderful fodder for English classes studying these novels in the future, along with the opportunity to analyze other facets of the evolution of a piece of writing.

6)  The theme of GSaW is disillusionment.  Jean Louis Finch is 26 in the mid-1950s, and quite different from the six-year-old Scout of TKaM in 1933-35, who idolized her father, Atticus Finch.  She's returned to Maycomb, Alabama, for a visit with the now-72-year-old Atticus, from her home in New York City, where she's become quite independent and somewhat liberal.

7)  I was not at all surprised by the "different" Atticus in GSaW.  I think a careful re-reading of TKaM will show that, and recommend doing so ideally before reading GSaW, or else immediately afterwards.  The reader needs to keep in mind that both books were written in the 1950s, and that Lee's own life parallels Scout's in many (but not all) ways.

8)  GSaW's title comes from Isaiah 21:6:  "For thus hath the Lord said unto me, Go, set a watchman, let him declare what he seeth."  It appears on page 95 of the book, when Jean Louise is at the Methodist Church with her family, and it's the verse the minister chooses to preach upon.  More interesting in this scene is an attempt by the choir director to have the congregation sing a well-loved hymn in a different way that he learned from a New Jersey music instructor at a choir camp.  Atticus' brother Jack comments, "apparently our brethren in the Northland are not content merely with the Supreme Court's activities.  They are now trying to change our hymns on us." (page 97).  Jack and the choir director agree that the hymns should not be changed.  This is a good illustration of how many Southerners at the time (and today) felt about outsiders trying to tell them what to do.

9)  A few other comments:  A quote from Jean Louise, VERY relevant to a situation in my hometown, from page 167:  "Why doesn't their flesh creep?  How can they devoutly believe everything they hear in church and then say the things they do and listen to the things they hear without throwing up?  I thought I was a Christian but I'm not."

And from page 181-182:  "I never thought to look into people's hearts, I looked only in their faces,  Stone blind...Mr. Stone. [the preacher]  Mr. Stone set a watchman in church yesterday.  He should have provided me with one  I need a watchman to lead me around and declare what he seeth every hour on the hour.  I need a watchman to tell me this is what a man says but this is what he means, to draw a line down the middle and say here is this justice and there is that justice and make me understand the difference.  I need a watchman to go forth and proclaim to them all that twenty-six years is too long to play a joke on anybody, no matter how funny it is."

And from page 229, a quote from Jean Louise's beau (and Atticus' partner) Henry:  "Mr. Finch has no more use for the Klan than anybody.  You know why he joined?  To find out exactly what men in town were behind the masks.  What men, what people.  He went to one meeting, and that was enough."

And from page 265-266, a quote from Jean Louise's Uncle Jack Finch:  "Every man's island, Jean Louise, every man's watchman, is his conscience.  There's no such thing as a collective your, Miss, born with your own conscience, somewhere along the line fastened it like a barnacle onto your father's. As you grew up, when you were grown, totally unknown to yourself, you confused your father with God.  You never saw him as a man with a man's heart, and a man's failings - I'll grant you it may have been hard to see, he makes so few mistakes, but he makes 'em like all of us.  You were an emotional cripple, leaning on him, getting the answers from him, assuming that your answers would always be his answers....When you happened along and saw him doing something that seemed to you to be the very antithesis of his conscience - your conscience - you literally could not stand it....Our gods are remote from us, Jean Louise.  They must never descend to human level."

10)  My conclusion?  Read GSaW but realize it is NOT a sequel.  (Re-)read TKaM too, preferably before GSaW.  I also plan to read at least one good biography of Harper Lee.

© Amanda Pape - 2015

[This book was borrowed from and returned to my local public Hood County Library.]

Sunday, August 02, 2015

Hood County Library 2015 Summer Reading Challenge Book #8 - Out of My Comfort Zone

The Lost Garden, by Katharine Swartz

I thought this would be out of my comfort zone, because I chose it from the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program based on its description - a dual narrative, one set in 1919, the other present day - in the same location.  I discovered after I received the book that its publisher does Christian fiction, which is definitely out of my comfort zone.

Fortunately for me, my worries were for naught, as this is not typical Christian fiction.

Review is here.

© Amanda Pape - 2015