Monday, June 27, 2016

Things I've Read Recently (35): Summer-ish Books

If you're new around here, Things I've Read Recently is a series of posts I do that are basically mini-reviews of books that I either forgot to review, didn't have enough to say for a full review, or just didn't want to do a full post about for whatever reason. Sometimes I try to make themes!

This is another post inspired by my on-going project to weed books from my shelves. Y'all know I like my themes, so I thought I'd try to make a few look vaguely related, and this is what I got. Kind of outdoorsy, camping, summer-ish books. It sort of works, right? So let's do this thing.

Who Cares About Karen? by Alison Lohans/Alison Lohans Pirot depending on the edition (mine says Pirot, but it seems to be mostly just Lohans, since her newest books use that name.)

Published: My copy is from 1983 by Scholastic Canada
Genre: Contemporary YA, but fairly young. That's pretty typical for the time period, I think.
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 149
Part of a series? Nope.
Got via: It's a library reject.
Amazon / AbeBooks

Summary (from goodreads): After their car plunges down a steep cliff into Suicide Gulch, five students try to survive in the bleak British Columbia mountains until one of them can climb back up the cliff to get help. For shy Karen the days in the bush seem like years. Shelley, Karen's "big sister" friend, is badly injured and needs help herself. Stanley can't seem to knock off his clown act, even in an emergency. And Dave doesn't seem to notice that Karen's around. Then there's Ward, who looks as if he could be triggered into one of his black rages by anything at all.

Suddenly it's Karen who has to handle everybody else's problems...but who is there to care about her?

Thoughts: I read this once at a doctor's office when I was like nine or ten, and I have a very strong sense memory of that. Otherwise, literally the only thing I remembered was that Karen has night blindness (the name of which is nyctalopia, if you're going to google it like me). Meanwhile, I'm reading this while it's storming pretty hard here, and there's just been a big accident nearby. That's not creepy or anything.

Honestly, this was fun. It's that whole outdoors survival thing, you know, like Hatchet and whatnot. I think the only thing that really dates this is a little bit of dated language, although not a ton, and the fact that none of them have cellphones. (Although, if you were dumped into the middle of the woods in rural British Columbia, there probably wouldn't be great reception, would there?) It's not a modern voice by any means, but it's not enough that it's hard to read.

It's Canadian, and the author lives in Saskatchewan, and there's nothing I think was problematic. I had fun reading it, and I think I'm going to keep it. It is Canadian, after all. I'd also like to check out the author's 2011 book at some point, because it sounds cool.

The Accidental Camper by H. J. Lewis

Published: November 13th, 2003 by Vanwell Looking Back Press, which is apparently a Canadian publisher I had never heard of before.
Genre: Contemporary MG, or lower YA. The series is aimed at around the fourth grade according what I read online, and has an averaged third grade reading level, but it seems themed older.
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 109 plus a glossary and thanks from the author.
Part of a series? This is number 7 of an 8 book series.
Got via: I have no idea. There are no library marks, so it was probably from a yard sale.
Amazon / AbeBooks

Summary (from goodreads): A four-day canoe trip, a cool counselor, and her best girlfriends. Life can't get much better than this for Mel Randall. Except for a few small details. Mel flights with her boyfriend; her two friends can't stand each other; and Diana doesn't know one end of a canoe paddle from the other. Oh yes, and an incident with one large wild animal out in the woods. It's going to take all of Mel's resources to survive this trip!

Thoughts: I was not as impressed with this one. I think this series is geared at "reluctant" readers, since the reading level is a little lower than the subject matter and characters are aimed at. And I can definitely see that working for some kids. This isn't a wilderness survival one. It's just the story of three girls who go canoeing and camping. It's a little bit like a Baby-Sitter's Club Super Special, only without the baby-sitting.

The writing is just... clunky. And the plot isn't exciting enough to carry it over. Plus, fourteen year olds all having boyfriends and one of those boyfriends being sixteen doesn't work so well with me. I'm getting so old. Don't get me wrong, it's not horrible, but it's just kind of... boring. I could see this working really well for a kid, so I think I'll pass it along and hope it ends up in a better home.

Sidenote - doesn't the girl on the cover look like Anne Hathaway?

Mixed-Up Summer by Bianca Bradbury

Published: 1979 by Scholastic
Genre: At the time, contemporary YA, but I think today we would categorize it differently, actually.
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 221
Part of a series? Thank God, no.
Got via: A yard sale for a quarter, apparently.
Amazon / AbeBooks

Summary (from goodreads): Gay and Tom are engaged, but Gay's not sure she's ready for marriage... or if she really wants to spend the rest of her life with Tom.

She feels so confused. Should she go to college? Can she marry Tom and still have her own life?

If only someone could tell her what to do. But Gay learns one thing from her mixed-up summer: some answers must come from within herself.

Thoughts: I really hated this. *whine* Okay, let's get the elephant out of the room. Gay was actually a somewhat popular name. It dropped out of use in the mid-20th century. Since the character in this book is 19 in the late 1970s, her name is probably slightly dated, but not out of the realm of possibility. It's awkward, and you're probably giggling. TV Tropes has a trope page about it.

But honestly that has very little to do with how I felt about this book, which was... oh, man, but this was not enjoyable. Most of that, probably, is because of how dated it is. It is so dated, people. First of all, she works as a "nurse's aide" in a nursing home that is apparently in a hospital (?), and she has literally no training or education besides graduating high school. At one point, they need a nurse to tell them that they shouldn't lift an elderly woman who has fallen because she might have a broken hip. Gay thinks she has "a nurse's observant eye" because of doing this for a year. The whole thing is just kind of terrifying to read.

Then there's the romance, which is kind of horrible. Tom is a jerk! He's belittling to her when she knows things he doesn't. He calls sick people, disabled people, people who have lost their jobs, all of them he calls losers. That includes implying it about Gay's father because he makes less than her mother. He hits things when he's angry, assumes he'll drive her car when they go places, and doesn't talk about his emotions or any problems they may have. Ever. Meanwhile, Gay thinks that when they get married and start having sex, they won't fight anymore, and she'll be able to change the things about him that annoy her.

I was legit rooting for them to break up. By the end of the book, though, she's decided to marry him, and those questions about college and her life other than him? They never get answered! Also, despite the title, this has nothing to do with summer. Gay goes swimming once. Otherwise, it might as well be set at Christmas for all it really matters.

Okay, I can't talk about this anymore. This is not sticking around on my shelves anymore, that's for sure. If you want to see more about me reading this book, though, I storified my tweets from the experience, and you can check them out here. Because there is so much more there.

There's A Cow in My Swimming Pool by Martyn Godfrey and Frank O'Keeffe

Published: 1991 by Scholastic Canada
Genre: Contemporary MG
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 134 plus an about the authors page.
Part of a series? Nope.
Got via: I have had this since I was a kid, so I probably got it either as a gift or from a secondhand store.
Amazon / AbeBooks

Summary (from goodreads): Nicole knows she shouldn't really be having this part. Her mom and her new stepdad already said no, before this left for their honeymoon.

But everyone's having such a good time, including Nicole. Brent, the new guy in town, is so easy to talk to, and he really likes her. So Nicole ignores her misgivings - until things start getting out of hand...

Thoughts: Do you know how many times I read this book as a kid? Neither do I. That's how many times I read it. It's ridiculous. This is one of very few book I brought with me when I moved from Ontario to Saskatchewan. And I'm happy to say it has held up pretty well. Considering this book is older than me, I'd honestly say that the only things that really date it are a lack of cellphones, using a "blaster" to play tapes, and maybe one mention of an old Madonna song.

There's a little bit of casual ableist language, but it's not so bad that I wouldn't be comfortable recommending it. And in general, it's very realistic. Nicole's mother and step-dad aren't perfect. They make mistakes, and decisions that aren't amazing, like Nicole's mother saying something is okay, and then her step-father saying it isn't and she can't do it literally a few hours after they've been married. Nicole struggles with her feelings about the marriage, and acts very realistically. I like how Nicole and Robyn have only been friends for a few months, and they're not life-long best friends. I like how they're about twelve, and they talk about sex a little, when they're talking about wedding nights, and cows and bulls and baby cows being born. It's very age-appropriate, and true to life.

It's sweet, it's got really funny moments sometimes, and I love how Canadian it is. I can totally see why I read this so often as a kid, and I'm glad it's still good. It gets to stay where it belongs on my shelf.

So, there's that. Got rid of two, kept two. Not bad rates!

Peace and cookies,
Laina

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