Books in June and July

Dude, I don't even know why I'm doing this blog entry. I'm so tired! The girls and I had an epic day today: we took the streetcar out to Kew Garden and the girls played on the beach for hours. After that, they played in the wonderful playground, and after that, we walked for blocks and blocks to have an ice cream with a friend the girls met on the beach. Then another long (long, long) streetcar ride (punctuated by an emergency stop at Starbucks for a bathroom visit) and finally home at five. I made supper, put the girls to bed, cleaned the kitchen, and then rearranged all the furniture which had been disarrayed so I could paint the wall. Then I reloaded the bookcase, which I had emptied so I could paint it. I must have put on more coats of paint than I realized because I couldn't fit in all the books I was sure I had taken out of it, but I finally got all that sorted out and now I am sitting. Hurray!

On to the books.

The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill was our book club book, and it's also the Canada Reads book for this year, which means that just about everyone I meet has read it, or at least heard of it. Now that's cool.

The Book of Negroes is the story of Aminata Diallo, an African woman who was kidnapped into slavery as a child. The book follows her life through slavery and freedom, and all around the world. Some of the people in my book club didn't know about the slave ships and stuff, and I didn't know about the loyalists in Nova Scotia, the actual Book of Negroes, and the ships to Liberia. It was an informative read, and a good yarn, but I didn't get as emotionally engaged as I did when I read, for example, A Thousand Spendid Suns (which just about killed me). I found Hill kept a distance between the reader and Diallo, and didn't let me get right into her emotions.

The book is sold as Someone Knows My Name in the US, because apparently "Negro" is just too loaded a word down there. I think from a marketing standpoint, The Book of Negroes is a better name, but Someone Knows My Name is truer to the themes in the book. Names are important in this book. But it's a bit forgettable, marketing-wise.

I don't often buy books. I used to buy books a lot, before Delphine was born and we had a 1-to-1 people-to-jobs ratio. But a couple of weeks ago Blake and I found ourselves in a bookstore and I decided I was going to buy myself a book, dammit. Lucky for me it was coming up on Father's Day so I checked out the display of Man Books, which I love. (Why are there no science books in the Mother's Day display?) In amongst all the spy books and stuff I saw the bright yellow cover of A Case of Exploding Mangoes by Mohammed Hanif. The cover promised a witty, clever thriller. It started off a little confusing; it's not one of those books that spoon-feeds you every detail, so you just have to forge ahead and figure out things as you go along. It's worth it, as the book unfolds into a touching and intriguing story of love and revenge. With a great ending.

A Walk In The Woods by Bill Bryson. Bill Bryson decided to walk to Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine. Well, not the whole thing. But enough to get an idea of what the trail's about, and write a book. As usual, it was great Bill Bryson writing, funny and easy to read. Reading the book inspired me to do (well, think about doing) a long hike sometime. (I'm trying to figure out how to go for a long hike without pitching my own tent. I expect that will involve paying someone a lot of money.) Reading this book was the next best thing to actually walking the AT.

Healthy Lunchboxes For Kids by Amanda Grant. Picked this one up off the display at the library. Delphine's starting all-day school and while I'm not expecting her to stay for lunch often, I thought I could use some ideas. Thinking of something for dinner every day pretty much saps my food creativity, so I need all the help I can get. This is a great book, with lots of sandwich and salad ideas, recipes for scones and cakes and cookies, as well as nutrition information and advice on how to reduce waste in your kid's lunch. Very useful book and one I'd consider owning. Although you could tell it's an English book; apparently English kids love chutney, will consider eating dip made with smoked fish, and enjoy sausage sandwiches. No sign of Marmite, but plenty of nuts.

50 High Impact, Low-Care Garden Plants by Tracy DiSabato-Aust. I ordered this from the library but it's really not my kind of thing. I like low-care garden plants, but I also like them to be local to my area, and this book featured lots of foreign plants chosen because they have spectacular foliage or great flowers. This is a useful book but not for me.

A Perfect, Gentle Knight by Kit Pearson is a young adult book about a large family coping with the death of their mother. Sebastian, Rosalind, Corrie, Orly and Juliet live in a big old house with their father, a distracted English professor. The older kids take care of the younger kids while they all try and stay out of the way of the latest housekeeper. They cope with the loss of their mother by escaping into a game of Round Table, playing the roles of knights, squires and pages. The children struggle with growing out of the game, or not being able to, and the pressures of having to take care of themselves without an involved parent. It's a lovely book with beautifully drawn characters and a satisfying resolution.


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