Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Paper Towns

Paper Towns, by John Green
My second John Green novel. I didn't enjoy it as much as The Fault in Our Stars, but it's a worthwhile read. I found it interesting to read a novel set in Orlando (unusual) since we made a trip there in August. I couldn't shake the image of Quentin and Margo sneaking into Sea World!

Orlando might not fit the definition of a real paper town (a fictitious place put on maps by map makers to prevent copyright infringement), but I think it's a fitting's a totally manufactured place, created for tourism and to make money. I was happy to get back to my beautiful hometown of Portland, Oregon!

Similar to Green's other novels, we have a smart, nerdy male character, Quentin, with a quirky male friend and a sort-of love interest, Margo Roth Spiegelman. Even the names are easily identifiable John Green choices! 

Margo was not incredibly likable, and I didn't really understand why she was drawn to her extremely poor choices in friends...she was clearly not shallow, but her friends are. Why didn't she hang out with Quentin instead?

This was an interesting journey she took them all on, and I'm glad to read that John Green has publicly expressed regret for using the word "retard" in this book. Even though it's used frequently in middle schools and high schools, as a huge mentor and hero to kids everywhere, he has the choice to take the higher road.

I look forward to reading more John oldest son particularly enjoyed Looking for Alaska.

The Secret of Shadow Ranch: My first Nancy Drew

The Secret of Shadow Ranch, by Carolyn Keene

Can you believe that I've never read a Nancy Drew book? This was my first! I read it because of this delightful little second grader--daughter of a close friend--who's obsessed with them at the moment.

I'm glad to be able to say I have read Nancy Drew--she was a plucky detective but she was awfully concerned with her looks and her friend's weight! But I understand that many of the original Nancy Drew books were rewritten in the 1950s to make her more feminine. I'd love to read the actual original story written in the 1930s. I understand that this book diverts from the usual Nancy Drew template because it's set in the desert, away from her home.

The other class "girl" novels I haven't read are Anne of Green Gables--maybe that's a goal for later in the year. I've been told by many that I would like them.

I gave my little friend Grace a copy of the first two "Boys Against Girls" books by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, which I enjoyed with my boys. We'll see what she has to say about those!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015


Room, by Emma Donoghue

I'm desperately behind in my book reviews, so I'm having a hard time remembering the details of the forgive me for the brevity here.

I avoided this book for awhile, as I'd heard others talk about how difficult it was. I hadn't realized that Emma Donoghue had also written Slammerkin, one of my best books of 2005. Room is not as dark as many books I've read, so I'm not sure why I stayed away.

Room describes a mother's desperate love for her son and desire to protect him above all costs. "Ma" and Jack are in captivity for five years until she devises an escape plan. In the second half of the book, the two struggle to adapt to their new-found freedom. It illustrates power imbalance and violence against women.

Many readers dislike the simplified, child-like language Jack uses, and I agree that it is an odd choice. In my experience, only children tend to have more advanced vocabularies, not less advanced...and I would think this would be even more the case in this story, since Jack was Ma's only companion.

Being married to a Brit, I found a number of instances where British English snuck into a story supposedly set in the U.S.

But overall, I found this novel to be touching, thought provoking, and mesmerizing.

Friday, August 14, 2015

A Queer and Pleasant Danger

A Queer and Pleasant Danger: The True Story of a Nice Jewish Boy Who Joins the Church of Scientology and Leaves Twelve Years Later to Become the Lovely Lady She is TodayA Queer and Pleasant Danger: The True Story of a Nice Jewish Boy Who Joins the Church of Scientology and Leaves Twelve Years Later to Become the Lovely Lady She is Today, by Kate Bornstein 

What a wild ride Kate Bornstein's life has been. Born and raised as a man, Bornstein's journey through scientology--including her marriage and fatherhood--seems stranger than fiction. As another reviewer wrote, "In the first six pages we learn that Kate is an anorexic Jewish sadomasochist lesbian transsexual woman with chronic lymphocytic leukemia and lots of tattoos and a bionic knee and borderline personality disorder, who writes porn and used to be in a cult and wants to be cremated when she dies and managed to dodge the Vietnam war through a psychiatric deferment, all of which is considerably more than I know about the majority of my friends."

Bornstein reveals more than we really want to know about her, and she does it in an endearing, disarming way...but I have to laugh when she says she's writing this book for her (estranged) granddaughter! What person would want to read about his or her grandparent's S&M adventures? I thought the scientology bits were interesting and eye-opening, and I have to admire Kate's gutsy spirit.