Shawn L. Bird

Original poetry, commentary, and fiction. All copyrights reserved.

Echoes November 24, 2011

In my on-going delight over having discovered and devoured Diana Gabaldon last month, I have read the last book in the Outlander series twice this month (I read through most of the series twice since I discovered them. Just because.

I had a bunch of ponderings about Echo in the Bone, and was hoping to spend some quality time on the Outlander Book Club forum. Unfortunately, having Americans involved, they have closed the forum for the Thanksgiving holiday (imagine! shutting down the internet for a holiday!) NOT being an American, I’m not very impressed. I did a search for other discussions and came across this amusing review.  I thought you might be entertained by it as much as I was.

Having shared that, and not being able to play on the forum, I shall have to listen to Voyager and cut out that linen tunic, I guess.

 

lonnnnnnnnng walk November 17, 2011

Filed under: book reviews — Shawn L. Bird @ 12:16 am
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I’m reading The Long Walk for my book club.

I’ve decided I don’t like expository biographies that don’t use dialogue or skillfully develop suspense or tension.

I suspect the movie is actually going to be better than the book.

That’s saying something, but it’d be hard to be worse.

 

interviews October 19, 2011

Filed under: book reviews,Grace Awakening,Reading,Writing — Shawn L. Bird @ 7:10 pm
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I like interviews.  I enjoy meeting people, and I enjoy the fun of discovery that comes from questions.

Recently I was asked if Grace, Ben and Josh would consent to participate in an interview.  With some difficulty, the three of them were assembled in one place, and this is the result:

http://oneminutebooks.blogspot.com/2011/10/good-characters-make-you-feel-like-you.html

 

getting it October 12, 2011

I was impressed with OneMinuteBooks’ review of Grace Awakening for a couple of specific reasons. Of course, I like that she’s enthusiastic in her praise, but specifically, I love that she GETS it.

She understands that since Grace is the narrator, the reader has only as much information as Grace does. (Well, they get a little more, as they get to peek in on those 3rd person mythic realm dialogues that Grace doesn’t know about). Yes. This is confusing. Yes. This was intentional.  Yes.  This means you are Grace, in all her confusion.

I like that the reviewer gets the mythical allusions, and understands the purpose behind not telling the reader straight out. Yes. You’re supposed to be smart enough to be able to look this up yourself (with the help of the glossary at the back).  Yes. I expect that you are smart enough to figure out that there is another story happening, beyond the one that Grace knows about.   Congratulations on discovering the puzzle pieces that Grace doesn’t understand!   Reading between the lines and interpreting the additional clues take skill!  Grace hasn’t figured it out.  I’m glad when readers can!  😀

Once upon a time I was told “Grace Awakening is Twilight for intelligent girls.” I think this is true. Most people will get the surface story, but there is a lot more at play here than is apparent on the surface. It makes me happy when someone not only gets it, but actually appreciates that it’s there.

Followers of Athena, I salute you! This book was written for you!

Thanks Amanda for understanding what Grace is all about.  After a couple of weird reviews this week when I suspected the reviewers hadn’t actually read the book, this gave me faith in the process again.  Not everyone will get it, or like it, but there are more out there who do!

To read the OneMinuteBooks review visit here.

 

Review of Matched by Ally Condie September 27, 2011

Filed under: book reviews,Commentary,Reading — Shawn L. Bird @ 12:14 am
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First let me say that I LOVE the cover of this book. I thought it was absolutely fantastic, and although I’m still trying to figure out exactly what the symbolism is (I get the green dress- but why the bubble?), I think it is a very powerful image.

I enjoyed this book. On Goodreads there are a lot of angry statements that it’s a rip off of The Giver.  I appreciate the many comparisons to The Giver, but the oft-repeated statement that it’s a copy are unjust. While there are some similarities, I see more in common with Orwell’s 1984, Atwood’s Oryx and Crake, or the 1970’s move Logan’s Run. It’s dystopian literature. There are only so many ways to interpret the theme! A few concepts are going to overlap. I don’t hold that against Condie.

I like the protagonist, Cassia. I like her feisty nature and her thoughtful approach. She knows she’s good at things, and she isn’t humble about it. I like the logical development of her awareness and her conscience. I do think the impetuousness is going to cause trouble. It’s inevitable, otherwise there wouldn’t be more books coming, right?

I like Xander. I like the strong security of him. I like his unquestioning devotion. I understand the attraction of Ky, with his mysterious past and strange knowledge, but personally, I would say good-bye, think fondly of him, and stick with the steadfast spirit of devotion that Xander provides willingly. (That’s a Bright picking Jim kind of choice, I realise).   I wouldn’t walk into the trouble that Cassia is going to get into because of Ky. But then, I don’t live in a dystopian novel.

Thankfully.

 

hourglass September 25, 2011

I belong to a YA reading group on Goodreads.com that had Hourglass by  Myra McEntire as its monthly book in August.  I really enjoyed this story of a teen who is fresh out of the psych hospital for hallucinating.  She wasn’t hallucinating though, she was seeing through time bubbles.  I love Emerson the protagonist- she’s sarcastic, feisty, and tortured.  I enjoyed the time travelling component that came up toward the end of the book.

The characters in this book were well crafted and became very real for me. In fact, they became so real that as I read Hourglass, I had a new experience. I kept hearing echoes of my own characters, and I kept thinking how well Grace and Ben would love to hang out with Emerson and Michael. I could see them all taking on the bad dudes together. How cool would it be for Emerson and Michael to go back and visit Grace and Ben in one of their past lives? (There’s a project for some fan-fic writer).

I had never had that experience before, and it was quite fascinating.  Emerson is tougher than Grace, but she shares the same bent for sarcasm and healthy doubt about the male in her world.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and I am looking forward to the next book in the series. Very entertaining read, Myra McEntire! Thanks a lot!

 

watering elephants August 31, 2011

Filed under: book reviews,Reading — Shawn L. Bird @ 12:41 pm
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I just finished reading Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants which is my book club’s September read.  It’s hard to say what I loved most about this book.  Sara Gruen is a masterful storyteller, and she does a brilliant job of flashing between the present in a nursing home and the 3.5 months in depression era Benzini Brothers Circus.  Her narrator is protagonist “90 or 93” year old Jacob.  It is a testament to Gruen’s skill that he rings entirely true.  She has thoroughly captured the frustration of strong mind being caught inside a feeble body as Jacob remembers the joys and horrors of  life on a circus train.

I remember loving circus books as a kid, and plainly that hasn’t changed.  When I reached the last 50 pages, I couldn’t see how on earth it’d be possible to wrap all the conflicts in so little time, but she does.  I loved the ending as well.  I didn’t see it coming and it made me happy.

Great book.  Highly recommended.

 

love light June 6, 2011

Filed under: book reviews,Commentary,Literature — Shawn L. Bird @ 12:19 am
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She was bendable light: she shone around every corner of my day.

She taught me to revel. She taught me to wonder. She taught me to laugh. My sense of humor had always measured up to everyone else’s; but timid, introverted me, I showed it sparingly: I was a smiler. In her presence I threw back my head and laughed out loud for the first time in my life.

She saw things. I had not known there was so much to see.

She was forever tugging my arm and saying, “Look!”

(Jerry Spinelli, Stargirl p. 107)

This is the best part of love, isn’t it?  Spinelli is able to articulate so beautifully a special part of the best relationships.  When the world opens up because of the love you share.  When we are able to embrace things that are new to us, particularly if they challenge us, we become better.  We are never able to see things quite the same way when we’ve looked through someone else’s eyes.

The older we grow, if we keep exposing ourselves to experiences that introduce us to new views, we can become large enough to see ourselves as a tiny pinprick on a planet.  We realise our perspective is not the only one, and that there is joy in other places than where we usually find it.  There is pain in new places as well.  Be open to both, and the world expands.

 

Flavia rocks! June 4, 2011

I have just finished reading A Red Herring Without Mustard by Alan Bradley.  This is his third book featuring 12 year old chemist Flavia de Luce.   The other two are Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie and The Weed that Strings the Hangman’s Bag.

What’s great about Flavia, is that although she is an uncommon genius in the chemistry lab, she has all the same issues that any youngest of three kids could expect- torturing by older siblings, being ignored by a distracted parent, etc.

Her bike, Gladys, is as much a character as Fatima the VW Beetle is in Grace Awakening.  I  like that someone else feels transportation can be a valid character. lol

Although Flavia is 12, these are not books for kids.  The murders Flavia  solves are rather gruesome.  Nonetheless, the humour of her prepubescent attitude adds a lot of amusement to the stories. They are set in Georgian England.  Flavia has a good relationship with their gardener who was a shellshocked WW I soldier and with their housekeeper Mrs. Mullet.  Her mother Harriet was lost and presumed dead while mountain climbing.  Her sisters  are Daphne and Ophelia.  They have their own unique talents.  Their father has never gotten over the death of his wife, and has retreated into a world of philately.

Here is a little taste of Flavia’s voice:

My experience of cod-liver oil was vast.  Much of my life had been spent fleeing the oncoming Mrs. Mullet, who, with uncorked bottle and a spoon the size of a garden spade, pursued me up and down the corridors and staircases of Buckshaw–even in my dreams.

Who in their right mind would want to swallow something that looked like discarded engine oil and was squeezed out of fish livers that had been left to rot in the sun?  The stuff was used in the tannig of leather, and I couldn’t help wondering what it would do to one’s insides.

“Open up, dearie,” I could hear Mrs. Mullet calling as she trundled after me.  “It’s good for you.”

“No! No!”   I would shriek.  “No acid!  Please don’t make me drink acid!”

And it was true–I wasn’t just making this up.  I had analyzed the stuff in my laboratory and found it to contain a catague of acids, among them oleic, margaric, acetic, butyric, fellic, cholic, and phosphoric, to say nothing of the oxides, calcium and sodium.”

Alan Bradley.  A Red Herring without Mustard.  Toronto: Doubleday. 2011 (pp.127-8)

How can you resist a character with so strong a voice?  Even when the story goes just where you expect, Flavia is always a delightful surprise and there is always something interesting to learn!

 

Fishtailing February 15, 2011

Filed under: book reviews,Literature,Writing — Shawn L. Bird @ 12:06 am
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Wendy Phillip’s YA novel Fishtailing is a collection of poems that tell a painful narrative about teen life. The inner turmoil expressed in the poetry paints the undercurrents that the adults either ignore, misunderstand, or are overwhelmed by. The needs are so great, and the students are so many, the adults’  insensitivity is understandable (survival instinct more than anything) but it’s frustrating as well. You want to shout, “Can’t you tell what’s going on here?”

Wendy is a graduate of the UBC MFA in Creative Writing, and I see their interdisciplinary approach echoed in the way poetry and story have combined in a way that is more profound than a strict narrative would have been.  The masterful way  each persona is crafted delineates a clear voice for each character as the woeful tale unfolds.

Wendy’s years working in high schools is very apparent. This feels real. These kids feel like the complexly burdened teens that stare across their desks at me.

It’s a book that offers a challenge to teachers of teens. The challenge may be too difficult for them to cope with though. Ignorance is bliss.

 

 
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