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Monday, February 16, 2015

Things I've Read Recently (16): ESP Edition

If you're new around here or I just haven't done one in a while, 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 whatever reason fit my fancy. Sometimes I do ones that are kind of... themed.

Because that kind of thing pleases me.

Although in case, it was mostly accidental, and I'll show you how it happened as we go along.

The Chrysalids by John Wyndham

Published: I believe it was first published in 1955. My copy was a ebook I borrowed from the library that was published by Penguin in 2010
Genre: Adult Science Fiction
Binding: Ebook!
Page Count: It varies.
Part of a series? Nope
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound
(Affiliate links.)

Summary (from goodreads): First published in 1955, The Chrysalids is a post-nuclear story of genetic mutation in a devastated world, which tells of the lengths the intolerant will go to to keep themselves pure.

David Strorm's father doesn't approve of Angus Morton's unusually large horses, calling them blasphemies against nature. Little does he realize that his own son, his niece Rosalind and their friends, have their own secret aberration which would label them as mutants. But as David and Rosalind grow older it becomes more difficult to conceal their differences from the village elders. Soon they face a choice: wait for eventual discovery or flee to the terrifying and mutable Badlands

Thoughts: I actually had to read this for a class I'm taking. I'm not super into science fiction, especially adult science-fiction, and it wasn't really my favourite book ever. It was interesting, though, and I enjoy the class. Do not like Wyndham's views on women, and I did sometimes find the prose very purple. Plus it seemed like he kind of lost the message he was going for halfway through. Anyways, I can knock something off a list somewhere, and this makes the rest of this post kind of fun!

I'm going to go by chronological order after this, I believe, although this one is somewhere in the middle.

Matilda by Roald Dahl

Published: Originally published in 1988, I believe, but I think my copy was published in 1998 by Puffin, but it's somewhere in my room and I don't feel like chasing it around.
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: Goodreads says 240 so we'll go with that.
Part of a series? Nope.
Got via: Someone donated it to the library, so I bought it.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound
(Affiliate links.)

Summary (from goodreads): Matilda is a sweet, exceptional young girl, but her parents think she's just a nuisance. She expects school to be different but there she has to face Miss Trunchbull, a kid-hating terror of a headmistress. When Matilda is attacked by the Trunchbull she suddenly discovers she has a remarkable power with which to fight back. It'll take a superhuman genius to give Miss Trunchbull what she deserves and Matilda may be just the one to do it!

Thoughts: Everyone loves Matilda, don't they? I mean, except maybe the Faceless Old Woman Who Secretly Lives In Your House, but what's her deal, anyways?

Okay, but seriously. I love Matilda. I read it at a bad time in my life (the trip to attend my grandmother's funeral), but I still have majorly fond memories of it. There's just something about Dahl that's special, there really is. And the illustrations are lovely, too. So when I saw this at the library on sale for a quarter, of course I snapped it up! And since I'd gotten to the library early, and no one else was there yet, what else did I have to do besides sit down and read for a bit?

Anyways, highly recommended! And the movie's pretty good, too. Also, I just listened to the audio sample on Amazon, the newest one is read by Kate Winslet. There's an older version read by Sarah Greene, and there's nothing wrong with that, but the sample I heard of the Kate Winslet version is really fun. She's got a good voice. I may have to check that out from the library at some point.

Now, there was quite a gap between these two books, but it works nicely anyways!

The Girl With the Silver Eyes by Willo Davis Roberts

Published: This edition was released in March 2011 by Aladdin which is owned by Simon & Schuster, but it was originally published in... goodreads says 1980. This article I found on Tor says written in the 70s. Probably published 1980, or at least that's the best I can find!
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy/Paranormal
Binding: Mine is a paperback
Page Count: 181 in this version
Part of a series? NO AND IT SUCKS
Got via: This copy I bought, and I'll tell you all why in just a second.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound
(Affiliate link - although you could likely get a used copy, too, for pretty cheap.)

Summary (from goodreads): Katie Welker is used to being alone. She would rather read a book than deal with other people. Other people don't have silver eyes. Other people can't make things happen just by thinking about them! But these special powers make Katie unusual, and it's hard to make friends when you're unusual.

Katie knows that she's different but she's never done anything to hurt anyone so why is everyone afraid of her? Maybe there are other kids out there who have the same silver eyes... and the same talents... and maybe they'll be willing to help her.

Thoughts: This was basically one of my favourite books as a kid. I had a copy that somebody, I think maybe my grandmother, gave me, and I literally read it until it fell apart. I mean, I still have it, but it is held together by about three rolls of tape and my childhood hopes and dreams. That thing has been with me for over half my life, so it's not going anywhere, but it's also not exactly readable.

I found out about the reprint a couple years ago, actually before the cover had been finalized, I believe, because I have this in one of the files on my computer, possibly from an old project, not that I can remember, but I also can't find it anywhere online:

Which was totally fine with me. Took me a little to adjust because, well, when you literally read a book to pieces, you get used to the cover. But I didn't buy it because I had a copy, and also I was/am totally broke, so I don't buy two copies of a lot of books unless it's by accident with books like Goosebumps and library sales or garage sales. Just recently, though, I started really thinking about wanting to reread it, and I'm honestly scared to read my copy, it's so roughed up. Then I got some book money (either from the Grammarly thing I did, or from a Christmas present - I can't remember which site I got those from at the moment) so I thought, "Why not?" And it was only something around six or eight dollars because it was a bit older by then, so I didn't feel like a total dork buying something I already owned, even though wearing something out is a totally legit reason to buy a new one!

Anyways. I put it on my to-read stack and forgot about it a bit until I started my English class and we read the Chrysalids, and I started thinking about this because, hello formative book! So I decided to reread it!

And to be honest, I have a really hard time believing it's basically 2015 (it's 2014 when I'm typing this, but I'm gonna schedule it, so it probably won't post til next year - HELLO FUTURE), and that this book is at least thirty-five years old. This book is... thirteen years older than me. Now I feel really old, wow. But the book is not super dated, really. The language at times is a touch old-fashioned. There's at one point a mention of a molded salad, and that just seems so seventies/eighties to me that it's hilarious. (Also I actually had to look it up to know what it was.)

But there's a lot of stuff that really isn't dated. The fashion is simple, so you can easily picture them as current fashions, like shorts and T-shirts. Some technology is lacking, like cellphones and computers, and that could make the plot somewhat different today, but there's also a certain amount of sense it makes, because her mother is stated to be pretty broke, barely being able to afford their apartment is "the best she could manage, and she'd have to cut down on something else to pay for it". Mind you, it does rely a lot on Yellow Pages instead of Google, but still, that's about the worst of it. There is also an unfortunate stereotypical character who is fat, and depicted as lazy and gluttonous, but it is balanced by a very nice fat character. Katie also thinks a bit on her choice of language about the first character, and comes to the conclusion, basically, that it wasn't very nice. So it's not the best on that front, and a couple of the lines are a little mean, but it's quick, at least. And, to be honest, I've read worse in modern books, and I expect more out of those than a book published in 1980.

Katie does come off as very empathetic, even if sometimes it takes her a moment, and she has some moments where she is incredibly wise beyond her way, but not in an annoying way. It's more of a reflection of a life spent dealing with people being afraid, or leary of her. She's also a huge reader who doesn't make friends easily because other kids her age find her strange. Three guesses why I loved this book as a kid!

I also really love, as an adult, how many women there are in this book. There are a lot of female characters, and they're wide and varied. Some are very good, like Katie's friend Mrs. Michaelmas, and some are more of an annoyance to Katie, like her baby-sitters, which she obviously does not need, being a whole ten years old (haha), but none of them are ever villanized for their choices. Besides the one baby-sitter (the fat one, who is very stereotyped), pretty much none of the characters are shallow or caricatures. Katie's mother, who left her when she was very young, is distant, and while their relationship is strained, but she is not demonized for leaving Katie. (Neither is her father, although he is not a large character in the book, and the relationship there is very interesting.) At one point, Katie ends up at a sleepover with several girls. She's quiet through it, and she doesn't know any of them, but they're all kind to her, giving her food and including her in their activities, despite none of them having a clue who she is.

So while this is a little dated, and I'm not super fond of the fat character's depiction, none of that is enough to turn me off of it. I still really love it, honestly, and I wouldn't feel bad at all giving it to a kid today. I think it's clever, and there's a lot of it I appreciate very much as an adult. It's a really good story, and I desperately wish there had been a sequel! Like that was one of my great disappointments in life as a kid! Definitely a keeper. All in all, I'm glad I bought a new copy so I could actually read it, and while that one bit stuck out to me as an adult, it is only really in one chapter, and I can put it aside because of everything else that I love, including positive fat characters.

And I like the new cover. It's not mine, obviously, but it's shiny, and I think it would catch a kid's attention today. Also it takes elements that were actually in the story (Katie's silver eyes, the apple, her glasses, her face being slightly off-putting in a way that would creep adults out), so that's nice. Here's an interesting post that mentions the art on the cover.

But hey, let's be nostalgic for a second, and I'll show you "my" cover:

THE FASHION. Kids today probably wouldn't touch this with a ten foot pole! There are others, but this is obviously the One True Cover.


Dark Visions by L. J. Smith

Published: This edition was published September 3rd, 2009 by Simon & Schuster, but the original books were published in the mid-90s.
Genre: YA Paranormal Romance
Binding: One giant paperback
Page Count: 732
Part of a series? It's the full Dark Visions trilogy bound-up in one volume. It goes The Strange Power, The Possessed, and The Passion if you read them individually.
Got via: I think I bought it at Walmart.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound
(Affiliate links.)

Summary (from goodreads): Kaitlyn Fairchild has always felt like an outsider. Her haunting eyes and prophetic drawings have earned her a reputation as a witch. But Kait's not a witch: she's psychic. Tired of being shunned, Kait accepts an invitation to attend the Zetes Institute, where she can study with other psychic teens and have a fresh start.

As Kaitlyn learns to hone her abilities with four other gifted students, she starts to discover the intensity of her power - and the joy of having true friends. But those friendships quickly become complicated when Kait finds herself torn between two irresistible guys. Rob is a healer - kind and gentle, he's surrounded by good energy, while Gabriel is aggressive and mysterious - a telepath concealing his true nature. Together, Rob and Gabriel's opposing forces start to threaten the group's stability, and when an experiment traps the five teens in a psychic link - a link that threatens their sanity and their lives - Kaitlyn must decide who to trust... and who to love.

Thoughts: This is the only one that I really did on purpose. I did want one more book to fit in this kind of theme I had going on, and I owned this and it'd been forever since I'd read it last, so I went with the impulse. I own the first one separately, and have since I was a tiny child. I read it about a million times, and absolutely loved it as a kid. Combined with the last book, this was one of the

These have some odd similarities to the Girl With the Silver Eyes. You have a Kait, which is very similiar to Katie, who has "strange eyes", and magical powers. In this case, it's premonitions versus telekinesis, but both books feature the main character who finds a group like her and has telepathy within that group. I should put this as a spoiler, I guess, even though the one book is older than me and these ones are only a few years young but as much, but hey, stop reading at some point if you care - anyways. This has the school for people with special powers, although in GWTSE that's only vaguely mentioned as a possibility. Both main characters are from small farm towns. Both are said to never cry, although that changes with Kait. Obviously, there's more different than the same, but that's kind of fun to notice.

Anyways, while TGWTSE ages pretty gracefully, this one does... not. It's kind of cheesy now, and since I'm now over the age of 12, the writing is not amazeballs anymore. 17 year old Kaitlyn flying alone at 17 in a red dress and 2 inch pumps, and doing twists in the airplane bathroom, really made me giggle. Some of the characters can be a little stereotypical - Rob is the "good guy" all blonde and Southern, Gabriel is the "dangerous bad boy" named Gabriel Wolfe and all MANPAIN, Anna's character unfortunately falls into the whole "Magical Native American" trope, although I do like that she holds a connection to her family and roots that is near and dear to her heart - it's not done out of malice, but it is somewhat clumsy at times. The dialogue can be a bit dated, it's kind of judgemental about people who look different (like with hair dye and piercings, not skin or anything), Kait is kind of passive sometimes, and there's a lot of InstaLove.

But it was fun. Yes, it's cheesy and super dramatic, but it was fun because of that, too. I kinda felt like I was ten again, in a good way. The second and third I only read maybe once, because they were really hard to get (I had to order the third one from outside our region, which took a massive amount of work and came with a swack of paperwork I couldn't lose - nowadays, I can order from the whole province, but that's how long ago it was), so they were mostly new, which was kind of fun. It was fun seeing what I did remember, though. And all in all, it was a decent way to kill an afternoon. Sometimes it's just fun to read something kind of fluffy and silly, you know?

I  also do like the new cover of the bind-up. The grey stuff on the side is actually just shiny on mine, and it makes a pretty effect. These bind-ups all look really nice together, and it made them a LOT easier to find than the old copies! I have another of the Forbidden Game trilogy, and I think I'd like to read that sometime soonish.

Oh, and here's the cover  I grew up with (and still have!) just for fun:

This is like all the 90s rolled up into one. The hair! The giant head and tiny dude! The really weird cliff-area they're randomly standing on! The fact that I'm pretty sure she's wearing sneakers with that dress!

Also, what's up with either of the covers not getting that she's a redhead? She's not blonde! And they both make her super blonde. Not cool, covers. Not cool.

So, anyways, if I was gonna do the "is this worth the shelf space" test, I'd totally go with yes. They aren't going to be everyone's cup of tea, and a lot of it is nostalgia, but I do still think they've got a good story, and I still like them for what they are. So keep!

Okay! This got a little long, but it was a lot of fun!

Tell me what you think!

Peace and cookies,

Monday, February 9, 2015

Things I've Read Recently (15): Valentine's Day

If you're new around here or I just haven't done one in a while, 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 whatever reason fit my fancy. This is a special edition! There are only three in this one instead of my usual four, because I only ordered three last year, and... that's what I'm going to go with.

The Case of the Secret Valentine (A Jisgaw Jones Mystery #3) by James Prellor

Published: 1999 by Scholastic
Genre: Children's/Chapter Book Mystery, RL2
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 76
Part of a series? Yes, there's apparently about 30 of these.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound
(Affiliate links.)

Summary (from goodreads): Someone is secretly sending Jigsaw Valentines. When Jigsaw thinks about each valentine as a clue, the case starts to come together. It's a red-hot mystery for Jigsaw and Mila, the best detectives in the second grade.

Thoughts: This was cute. It was the third book in the series and I hadn't read any of the others, but it wasn't confusing or anything. I know a lot of kids who really like mystery books and this would be a great one for kids who are a little young for, say, Nancy Drew, etc. I liked how Jigsaw liked school, and also that nobody in the mystery was a "bad guy", really. While I don't think kids exactly need to be coddled like that, sometimes a little positivity is nice. I also thought it was neat that the mystery was more realistic, something a kid this age could actually solve, not a crime or anything. And Valentine's Day slant was a nice touch. It was a good seasonal book without making it impossible to read at other times of the year. Thumbs up.

Oh, also, I was completely wrong when I guessed who the culprit was. So either it was a good one or I was really not on my game reading it. Your pick!

The Valentine Baby Mystery by David A. Adler (Cam Jansen Mysteries #25)

Published: 2005 by Puffin according to my copy
Genre: Children's/Chapter Book Mystery
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 74
Part of a series? Yes. There's about 30 of these, too, and they've been around since like 1980. There's also the Young Cam Jansen series which are beginner readers.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound
(Affiliate links - and the Kindle copy of this is only like 4 dollars.)

Summary (from goodreads): It’s Valentine’s Day, and Cam is at school when she learns her mother is about to give birth. Mrs. Shelton quickly takes Cam and her best friend Eric to the hospital.There, in the waiting room, something of great value disappears. Click, click! Cam starts to unravel the mystery.Will Cam solve it before her Valentine sibling is born?

Thoughts: I read a couple of these when I was a kid and spent a couple weeks trying to train myself into having a photographic memory. You know, as you do. I was really into mystery books as a kid and I quite liked these. They've been around a long time and if this one is representative of the whole series, then they do work very well as a book for this age group. As an adult, the mystery here is a little unrealistic, but for kids, it'd work fine, and it's dramatic without the characters getting into dangerous situations, which can be upsetting for some kids. I don't know about others, mind you, but this one is good for that.

This was not super Valentine's Day focused. Other than a few scenes, there's very little that makes this a "Valentine" book. All in all, I'm not in love with these as an adult, especially since third person narration can be very dry in books for this age group, but I can see kids enjoying these easily.

Okay, this is gonna be a little spoiler-y if you care, but it bothers me a little. Cam's mom is having a baby. They don't tell her exactly when she's due, apparently, because she's literally just finished telling her friends that it could be "a few weeks". I could forgive that because babies like to surprise people. But her PARENTS decide to surprise her by NOT TELLING HER THAT THE BABY WAS TWINS. Like... that's not a good thing???? That just... bothered me. Not a big deal, just made me raise an eyebrow.

Junie B. Jones and the Mushy Gushy Valentime by Barbara Park (Junie B. Jones #14)

Published: 1999 by Scholastic
Genre: Children's Contemporary/Chaper Book, similar reading level to previous two
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 69 in my copy and no I'm not giggling
Part of a series? Yes, there are again around 30 of these
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound
(Affiliate links - as I'm writing this, the Paperback on Aamzon is only 4 dollars. That may change, but this would be a great little Valentime present for the young reader in your life!)

Summary (from goodreads): It's a mushy gushy mystery!

Hurray! February 14—Valentime's Day, as June B. calls it—is just around the corner. Junie B. can't wait to see all the valentimes she'll get. But she never expected a big, mushy card from a secret admirer! Who is this secret mystery guy, anyway? Junie B. is determined to find out!

Thoughts: The Junie B. Jones series are classic children's book. I read a handful when I was a kid and I remember that I liked them, but I don't think I read this one. This is also the first one I've read as an adult.

And, man, I almost died laughing reading this. Junie is spunky, she's funny, she's honestly freaking adorable. The premise unto itself is cute and her voice would appeal to children well.

But man. The adult humour that would go over the kids' heads is HILARIOUS. Like the poor teacher is probably driven to drink because of these children. There's one scene where she has to go to the sink and take aspirin and I almost giggled myself to death. I just... I was literally sitting there giggling to myself. I loved this book. And it was an awesome Valentine's book. Or Valentime's book. Either way. Great book, great seasonal book, really funny. Loved it.

Alrighty, that's it! What'd you guys think of this post?

Peace and cookies,