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In Which You Help Me Write My Reviews :D

June 15, 2009

Was that title long enough for you? Well, the June mini-challenge for the Dewey’s Books Challenge (and maybe the Once Upon a Time one as well?) is to list books we’ve read but not reviewed for either the challenge. Then, we solicit questions from our readers, and answer them all in an interview-style review post. Also, the current Weekly Geeks topic is the same thing. Since I’m always behind on reviews, this works for me! I’m including basic plot summaries so you’ll have an idea of the kinds of questions to ask. :) (I didn’t write the plot summaries, but borrowed them from Powell’s.)

Once Upon a Time reads:

  • Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Mariellier:

    High in the Transylvanian woods, at the castle Piscul Draculi, live five daughters and their doting father. It’s an idyllic life for Jena, the second eldest, who spends her time exploring the mysterious forest with her constant companion, a most unusual frog. But best by far is the castle’s hidden portal, known only to the sisters. Every Full Moon, they alone can pass through it into the enchanted world of the Other Kingdom. There they dance through the night with the fey creatures of this magical realm. But their peace is shattered when Father falls ill and must go to the southern parts to recover, for that is when cousin Cezar arrives. Though he’s there to help the girls survive the brutal winter, Jena suspects he has darker motives in store. Meanwhile, Jena’s sister has fallen in love with a dangerous creature of the Other Kingdom–an impossible union it’s up to Jena to stop.

  • The Fox Woman by Kij Johnson:

    Yoshifuji is a man fascinated by foxes, a man discontented and troubled by the meaning of life. A misstep at court forces him to retire to his long-deserted country estate, to rethink his plans and contemplate the next move that might return him to favor and guarantee his family’s prosperity. Kitsune is a young fox who is fascinated by the large creatures that have suddenly invaded her world. She is drawn to them and to Yoshifuji. She comes to love him and will do anything to become a human woman to be with him. Shikujo is Yoshifuji’s wife, ashamed of her husband, yet in love with him and uncertain of her role in his world. She is confused by his fascination with the creatures of the wood, and especially the foxes that she knows in her heart are harbingers of danger. She sees him slipping away and is determined to win him back from the wild…for all that she has her own fox-related secret. Magic binds them all. And in the making (and breaking) of oaths and honors, the patterns of their lives will be changed forever.

  • Tom’s Midnight Garden by Philippa Pierce:

    Tom is furious. His brother, Peter, has measles, so now Tom is being shipped off to stay with Aunt Gwen and Uncle Alan in their boring old apartment. There’ll be nothing to do there and no one to play with. Tom just counts the days till he can return home to Peter.Then one night the landlady’s antique grandfather clock strikes thirteen times leading Tom to a wonderful, magical discovery and marking the beginning of a secret that’s almost too amazing to be true. But it is true, and in the new world that Tom discovers is a special friend named Hatty and more than a summer’s worth of adventure for both of them. Now Tom wishes he could stay with his relatives and Hatty — forever…

  • Nightwatch by Sergei Lukyanenko:

    Set in modern-day Moscow, Night Watch is an elaborate world. Living among us are the “Others,” an ancient race of humans with supernatural powers who swear allegiance to either the Dark or the Light. A thousand-year treaty has maintained the balance of power, and the two sides coexist in an uneasy truce. But an ancient prophecy decrees that one supreme “Other” will rise up and tip the balance, plunging the world into a catastrophic war between the Dark and the Light. When a young boy with extraordinary powers emerges, fulfilling the first half of the prophecy, will the forces of the Light be able to keep the Dark from corrupting the boy and destroying the world?

  • Wondrous Strange by Lesley Livingston:

    For seventeen-year-old actress Kelley Winslow, faeries are just something from childhood stories. Then she meets Sonny Flannery, whose steel-gray eyes mask an equally steely determination to protect her. Sonny guards the Samhain Gate, which connects the mortal realm with the Faerie’s enchanted, dangerous Otherworld. Usually kept shut by order of icy King Auberon, the Gate stands open but once a year. This year, as the time approaches when the Samhain Gate will swing wide and nightmarish Fae will fight their way into an unsuspecting human world, something different is happening . . . something wondrous and strange. And Kelley’s eyes are opening not just to the Faerie that surround her but to the heritage that awaits her.

For the Dewey’s Books Challenge, there’s only one book I haven’t reviewed:

  • Gifted by Nikita Lalwani:

    Rumi Vasi is 10 years, 2 months, 13 days, 2 hours, 42 minutes, and 6 seconds old. She’s figured that the likelihood of her walking home from school with the boy she likes, John Kemble, is 0.2142, a probability severely reduced by the lacy dress and thick woolen tights her father, and Indian émigré, forces her to wear. Rumi is a gifted child, and her father, Mahesh, believes that strict discipline is the key to nurturing her genius if the family has any hope of making its mark on its adoptive country. Four years later, a teenage Rumi is at the center of an intense campaign by her parents to make her the youngest student ever to attend Oxford University, an effort that requires an unrelenting routine of study. Yet Rumi is growing up like any other normal teen: her mind often drifts to potent distractions . . . from music to love.

And the other random reads:

  • This Earth of Mankind by Pramoedya Ananta Toer:

    This Earth of Mankind, the first novel in Pramoedya Ananta Toer’s series known as the Buru Quartet, tells of the adventures of Minke, a young Javanese student living equally amongst the Dutch colonists and the colonized Javanese of late nineteenth-century. It is through a beautiful woman named Annelies and her family that Minke finds the strength to embrace the world of Indonesia, a world brimming with beauty and possibility as well as brutality and anger.

  • Spoken Here by Mark Abley:

    In Spoken Here, Mark Abley journeys around the world seeking out languages in peril — Manx, Mohawk, Boro, Yiddish, and many more. Along the way he reveals delicious linguistic oddities and shows us what is lost when one of the world’s six thousand tongues dies — an irreplaceable worldview and a wealth of practical knowledge. He also examines the forces, from pop culture to creoles to global politics, that threaten to wipe out 90 percent of languages by this century’s end.

  • The Pirate’s Daughter by Margaret Cezair-Thompson:

    In 1946, a storm-wrecked boat carrying Hollywood’s most famous swashbuckler arrived dramatically and accidentally in Jamaica, and the glamorous world of 1940s Hollywood converged with that of a small West Indian society. After a long and storied career on the silver screen, Errol Flynn spent much of the last years of his life on a small island off of Jamaica, throwing parties and sleeping with increasingly younger girls. Based on those years, The Pirate’s Daughter is the story of Ida, a local girl who has an affair with Flynn that produces a daughter, May, who meets her father but once.

  • Food Matters by Mark Bittman:

    Bittman offers a no-nonsense rundown on how government policy, big business marketing, and global economics influence what we choose to put on the table each evening. He demystifies buzzwords like “organic,” “sustainable,” and “local” and offers straightforward, budget-conscious advice that will help you make small changes that will shrink your carbon footprint — and your waistline. Flexible, simple, and non-doctrinaire, the plan is based on hard science but gives you plenty of leeway to tailor your food choices to your lifestyle, schedule, and level of commitment. Bittman, a food writer who loves to eat and eats out frequently, lost thirty-five pounds and saw marked improvement in his blood levels by simply cutting meat and processed foods out of two of his three daily meals. But the simple truth, as he points out, is that as long as you eat more vegetables and whole grains, the result will be better health for you and for the world in which we live.

  • The Plain Janes by Cecil Castellucci and Jim Rugg:

    When transfer student Jane is forced to move from the confines of Metro City to Suburbia, she thinks her life is over. But there she finds her tribe: three other girls named Jane. The four girls form a secret art gang, but can art really save the hell that is high school?

  • Liquid Jade by Beatrice Hohenegger:

    For general readers, Hohenegger provides a history of tea, with attention to social and cultural aspects. She covers tea’s early lore and culture, how it was involved in the clash between East and West, and different topics such as its discovery and etymology, different types, and the origins of the tea bag and iced tea. The last section focuses on contemporary issues concerning today’s trade, such as sustainability, fair trade, and organic agriculture.

  • Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson:

    Lia and Cassie are best friends, wintergirls frozen in matchstick bodies, competitors in a deadly contest to see who can be the skinniest. But what comes after size zero and size double-zero? When Cassie succumbs to the demons within, Lia feels she is being haunted by her friend’s restless spirit.

So, please, ask any questions that come to mind! When I do my answer posts, I’ll give you link love for your question. :)

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30 Comments leave one →
  1. June 15, 2009 12:19 pm

    Okay, as I wasn’t sure about it, I’d love to know what you thought of the translation from the Russian in Nightwatch.

    And what did you think of the artwork in Plain Janes.

  2. uncertainprinciples permalink
    June 15, 2009 2:13 pm

    Unfortunately, I haven’t read any of the above. Really like the sound of Tom’s Midnight Garden though. Would you recommend it? How about Gifted?

    Also, re: Wintergirls – is it more drama, or more thought-provoking, or does it provide the reader with a good balance of both?

  3. June 15, 2009 2:49 pm

    Okay, I would love to know about the Toer book. I’ve read one of his books but it was sort of biographical. My questions are: What did you think of his writing? Did the plot move you along well? Are you going to read the rest of the titles in the Buru Quartet?

  4. June 15, 2009 3:21 pm

    *If you’ve seen Nightwatch the movie, does it follow the book?
    *Did Food Matters make you change the way you eat or buy food?
    Looking forward to your reviews and everyone’s questions!

  5. June 15, 2009 5:33 pm

    I haven’t read any of these books you mention!

    I’m curious about “Spoken Here” by Mark Abley. How many languages does he actually cover, and is sign language any of them? Which exnict language discussed did you find most interesting?

  6. June 15, 2009 5:39 pm

    When I read The Plain Janes, I didn’t write a review because I didn’t know what to say about it — it wasn’t bad, just nothing that seemed to blow me away.

    Of all the comic books out there, why do you think someone should pick this one over another? Or, is there another comic that’s somehow related that you’d recommend instead?

  7. June 15, 2009 5:43 pm

    Spoken Here: So does the book focus primarily on language, or does culture and place play a part in the story? Since I like to travel and read about other places, do you think this would be a good book for me…or not?

  8. June 15, 2009 9:32 pm

    I loved Tom’s Midnight Garden. What did you think of the time travel aspect and his relationship with Hattie?

  9. June 16, 2009 5:17 am

    Nightwatch sounds like a very interesting and exciting book. Does it live up to its description? Or is it just another formulaic SciFi YAL book?

  10. June 16, 2009 12:26 pm

    Tell me what you did/didn’t like about Wintergirls. Have you read any other Laurie Halse Anderson; how did it compare/will you want to read another?

    What was the best part about Plain Janes for you?

    What did you think of Wildwood Dancing? How did it compare to the original fairy tale for you?

  11. June 16, 2009 12:31 pm

    Did you know anything about Errol Flynn before reading The Pirate’s Daughter? Did you feel that he was treated fairly in the novel? I’ve been having issues lately with authors using real people as fictional characters and then taking them off on ridiculous courses.

  12. June 16, 2009 1:24 pm

    I didn’t finish The Night Watch as it didn’t flow for me. How did you find the style of the book? Did you feel any ‘connection’ with any of the characters? And will you ne reading the next 2 in the tiology.

  13. June 16, 2009 2:28 pm

    I love that your reading choices are so eclectic! I’ve got a couple questions for you:

    The Fox Woman – I’d like to know if there is much mythology about foxes in the story? And if so, is it an important part of the book?

    Gifted – In the description of the book, there are some quirky things like exactly how old she is, and the probability of walking with her crush. I’d like to know if this is something that is sprinkled throughout the book?

    Food Matters – Was the information presented in a educational way? Did it ever feel like it was written in a preachy, pressureing way?

    Liquid Jade – What made you decide to read a book about the history of tea? What is your favorite kind of tea? And did the book make you want to try any new-to-you types of tea?

  14. June 16, 2009 2:34 pm

    I just finished The Plain Janes as well, so I’m curious to read what you think about the book. However, my question for you, is what did you think of the “art” the Janes made around town? Did you see any of it as art?

  15. June 16, 2009 3:38 pm

    In Gifted, who did you think was ultimately to blame? Was it all her father’s fault?

  16. June 16, 2009 6:23 pm

    Liquid Jade: What was the most unusual thing you learned about tea that you didn’t know before?

  17. Shannon permalink
    June 16, 2009 8:41 pm

    On Food Matters: I’ve heard there were recipes included along with the discussion of food. I hope I’m not misremembering. Did you try any of the recipes? If you just scanned through them, did they seem to match up with what he was saying?

    The descriptions for Wildwood Dancing, The Fox Woman, Wondrous Strange, and the Pirate’s Daughter all sound pretty exciting and interesting. Did they hold your attention and are they worth checking out?

  18. June 16, 2009 8:42 pm

    Love all of the questions so far guys! You rock! :) Keep them coming.

  19. June 17, 2009 2:22 am

    I\’m interested in The Pirate\’s Daughter – is it fiction or biographical? Is Flynn portrayed sympathetically? Is it mainly about his daughter?

  20. June 17, 2009 3:22 am

    The Pirate’s Daughter is on my list but my mum wasn’t that impressed – is it very light or does it have a bit of substance?

    Do you think Wintergirls deserves all the hype it’s had?

  21. June 17, 2009 6:32 am

    I’ll be very interested to hear your thoughts on Wondrous Strange. Did the two main characters & their relationship work for you?

    Also, I’m delighted to see you’ve read Wildwood Dancing. What did you think of it? Did you like how Marillier reworked the fairy tale or not? What did you think of the setting?

    And last but not least, I am so jealous you got your hands on Liquid Jade! I love books on tea but haven’t read this one yet. Is it a worthwhile read? If you’ve read other tea books, does this have anything new to add? What do you think of her approach to the subject? And what tea do you recommend to drink while you’re reading it? ;)

  22. June 17, 2009 8:59 am

    Regarding Food Matters – I love books like this, but I’ve read a lot of these types of books and after awhile they all seem to kind of be saying the same thing. Is Food Matters different from the rest? Why should I pick it up (or why not)?

    And for Wintergirls, well I’m really just curious to see what you thought of it. I loved the novel, found it so powerful, and I’m generally interested to hear your thoughts. :) So I guess that’s not really a specific question, just that I’m looking forward to your review!

  23. June 17, 2009 5:38 pm

    Liquid Jade: Which cultures are explored in this book. China I presume. Japan? Britain?

    The Pirate’s Daughter: I do not have a question, but my local paper today (the Sydney Morning Herald) a mentioned that Hobart (Errol Flynn’s birth place) will be holding 100th anniversary celebrations for Flynn’s birth.

  24. June 18, 2009 11:26 am

    Still loving the questions guys!

  25. June 19, 2009 9:13 am

    Gifted sounds rather brainy. Was it? Did you like it? Why or why not?

    I have the stereotype in my head that Bittman is rather opinionated food writer. Is that accurate, or this book more of a general, informative book?

    Spoken Here sounds fascinating! What language is dying that sounds most interesting to you? Or, what language died that is most tragic or was most interesting?

    What age is Wintergirls for? It sounds pretty serious.

  26. June 19, 2009 12:37 pm

    I have Food Matters on my wishlist, but I’m concerned about how practical it is. For someone with a full-time job, hobbies, and a LIFE (such that it is) would instituting his suggestions require me to spend scads of time in the kitchen (or at the grocery store)? In other words, is it possible for *normal* (or at least semi-normal) people to follow his advice?

    Looking forward to the reviews!

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