Book Review: Kira-Kira

Continuing the pattern of last year, I’m making a good run through the Newbery winners.  I picked Kira-Kira by Cynthia Kadohata in part because it also serves my diversity challenge, centering on a Japanese-American family living in Georgia in the 1950s.  There was some exploration of that dynamic…but it was also the most unrelentingly depressing Newbery I’ve read yet!

The narrator is Katie Takeshima, but the story really centers around her beloved older sister Lynn.  Lynn is brilliant, loving, a force in the family and full of dreams for her future.  You can already see where this is going, can’t you?  Lynn is one of those too good to live characters, and sure enough—as the book goes on Lynn is vaguely and sporadically ill…then less sporadically…then fatally.

I don’t like stories about children dying.  I’m just going to put that out there, and admit that this makes it harder for me to judge if this was a good story about a child (well, teenager) dying.  I especially hate stories about children dying in slow, lingering ways, which this definitely was.  I love The Bridge to Terabithia, but that’s not a book about death—it’s a book that contains a death.  Kira-Kira is largely focused on Lynn’s slow decline and death, and how Katie handles it. Continue reading

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Blog Hop: Multitask Reading

book-blogger-hop-finalToday’s Book Blogger Hop question is:  Can you read and watch TV or listen to the radio at the same time?

The very thought of reading and watching TV makes my head hurt a bit.  I can do a lot of things while watching TV (write my rent check, knit scarves, do some very basic email sorting…) but not reading.  They use too much of the same parts of my brain.  I use to be able to write while watching TV, but I lost that ability somewhere around after college.  It may be related to the ability to write novels while listening to class lectures (I was masterful at that, and no teacher ever caught me–I’d just keep two sheets of paper on my desk, one for writing and one for note-taking).  No class lectures, no opportunity to practice writing while listening.

Anyway…no reading while watching TV.  In theory I think I could read while listening to music, but I don’t.  I use to while studying, and I listen to music while working…but not while pleasure reading.

I can read while waiting in line.  I can read while walking–not something I do, particularly, but I have done it.  Much easier to avoid bumping into things than you’d think (I mean, I can see around the book…)  I can “read” while driving–audiobook only, of course!  But I can’t read (visually) while riding in a car without getting sick, one of the very minor tragedies of my life.

Do you combine reading with any other activities?  Anything you’ve tried to combine it with, and found you couldn’t do?


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Book Review: The Girl from Everywhere

I love a good premise.  I love good characters, but I usually pick up books because something in the premise grabs me—so how could I resist The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig?  It’s a fantasy of traveling to anywhere a map records—in the present or the past, real or imagined.

For sixteen-year-old Nix, this is normal.  She’s lived her whole life aboard her father’s sailing ship, as he sails them into history.  But he’s on a quest to the one place he can’t seem to reach: Hawaii, 1868, the time and place when Nix was born—and her mother died.  Her father hopes to find the perfect map to change the past, while Nix fears what that will mean for her life—and even for her existence.

The book takes us through several times and places, and while I almost always wind up wanting more with this kind of premise, I liked the places we got to visit and how well they were brought to life.  The magic is fascinating, especially as more rules and details emerge around just how this fantastical travel works.

From the good premise the torch was picked up by good characters.  Nix is likable and tough with vulnerabilities she keeps carefully hidden.  She’s cautious about commitments, sometimes impulsive, and struggles with complicated choices, sometimes making questionable ones.  She’s also smart and creative and game for adventure. Continue reading

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Blog Hop: Love Is in the Pages…

book-blogger-hop-finalToday’s Book Blogger Hop question is: What is your favorite Valentine’s Day read?

Hmm, I don’t think I’ve ever given much thought to a Valentine’s Day read before.  My favorite bookish romance remains Turnip and Arabella in The Mischief of the Mistletoe, though that’s a Christmas book, closely followed by, well, basically everyone in the Lunar Chronicles.  I mostly go to movies for holidays, and my favorite romantic comedy is Alex and Emma (a movie about a writer, incidentally!)

Valentine’s Day is not happy for everyone, for a variety of reasons, and in that scenario I recommend Terry Pratchett, my go-to for blue days.

If I actually read anything as a sort of Valentine’s Day event this year, it is most likely to be my own fourth book, which is what my boyfriend is currently reading. 😉


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Book Review: Remembering Lucy Maud Montgomery

I kicked off my L. M. Montgomery-related reading challenge this year with a book that’s sat on my shelf unread for a while (I love when challenges get me to read unread books I own!): Remembering Lucy Maud Montgomery, edited by Alexandra Heilbron.

I’ve seen it said elsewhere that Montgomery’s novels reflect the sunnier side of her personality (with their pastoral scenes, romances and happy endings), while her journal was her grumble book for her darker pains and worries (especially in the last few years).  This book tries to fill in a third side, the face people around her knew.  It’s a series of interviews with people who knew her, about what they remember.

This book is a brilliant idea that came thirty years too late.  Montgomery died in 1942, and the book was published in 2001, nearly 60 years later.  Since Montgomery was herself in her sixties when she died, simple math and the human lifespan indicates that people interviewed must have been much, much younger than she was.

Despite that, the book starts out relatively strong, interviewing relatives who, though children at the time, seem to have some genuine insights into who she was and how she related to their family.  One fun note, among the relatives’ interviews and elsewhere, is that she routinely talked to herself, while she was plotting out stories and shaping dialogue.  She mentions in her journal that she thinks stories out before writing them down, but doesn’t describe speaking them aloud.  The best relatives’ interviews are from a series of nieces and nephews, though there was one from her granddaughter, who had surprisingly little to add. Continue reading

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