Pippi Longstocking and Ronia the Robber’s Daughter

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Pippi Longstocking
By Astrid Lindgren
I grew up loving the 1988 film version of Pippi Longstocking, but I never read the book until this year. I was glad to discover the two are very similar. The fun-loving, feisty Pippi that I was a fan of in the movie is there in full effect in the book. Pippilotta Delicatessa Windowshade Mackrelmint Efraim's Daughter Longstocking lives by herself with only her horse and her monkey to keep her company. Pippi is separate from her father during a storm at sea and moves into her house, Villa Villekulla. She has superhuman strength and doesn’t follow the regular rules of society.

One of the things I always loved about Pippi when I was growing up is her freedom. There are no parents. She doesn’t have to go to school if she doesn’t want to. Of course that would appeal to a kid! As much as I loved my parents, I think half of the pretend games I played with my brother and sister started off with us being orphaned somehow. It’s like your imagination has so much more freedom when you remove any form of supervision from the equation.

BOTTOM LINE: Read it with a child-like heart and you’ll enjoy it. It’s fun and playful, but obviously as a parent you’re going to be worried about the orphaned girl.

Ronia the Robber’s Daughter 
By Astrid Lindgren

This one was given to me by the person with the best taste in children’s literature of anyone I’ve met. Obviously I had to read it! I actually enjoyed it even more than Pippi Longstocking. Where Pippi is all about an unusual girl dropped into the midst of regular society, Ronia is all about a girl living in the wild.

She is the only daughter of the leader of a band of robbers. They live in the forest and her boisterous father and strong-willed mother give Ronia plenty of freedom to explore her surroundings as she grows up. When she makes friends with a young boy in the forest she has no idea that it’s the son of her father’s nemesis.

BOTTOM LINE: Another adventurous female protagonist from Lindgren. I can’t wait to share her books with my daughter. Ronia is a wonderful example of being brave, kind, and generous of spirit.

Indy Library Installations

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

“A public library is the most enduring of memorials, the trustiest monument for the preservation of an event or a name or an affection; for it, and it only, is respected by wars and revolutions, and survives them."

On the circle in downtown Indianapolis there is a book installation called "Monument". It is one of eight installations throughout the city. Each one has a unique way of sharing books (for free) with the public. I love that my city has done this! The Monument exhibit includes the Mark Twain quote above in part of its design. Below is a complete explanation of the series. I just love it!
"The Public Collection is a public art and literacy project developed to improve literacy, foster a deeper appreciation of the arts, and raise awareness for educational justice in our community.
  Through a curated process, Indiana-based artists were commissioned to design unique book share stations or lending libraries that are installed in public spaces around Indianapolis. The Public Collection stations are free and available to everyone. You can borrow and return books at your leisure."
Photos by me. 

Our Mutual Friend

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Our Mutual Friend
By Charles Dickens
Oh Dickens, I’ve missed you! I used to read one Dickens novel each year, but it’s been four years since I last picked up a new one of his tomes. It took me a minute to get into the novel, but once I got to know the characters I was completely hooked. 

Dickens creates stories with a huge cast of supporting characters and half a dozen overlapping plots. His work was originally serialized, so imagine watching a complicated television drama. Each week there’s new twists and turns, but rarely are things resolved or revealed until those final chapters. His work is the same. You spend the first third of the book just trying to keep everyone straight and it was slow-going for a bit. 

This novel, more than his others, starts off with an incredibly gripping scene. Lizzie and her father are rowing around the River Thames looking for dead bodies. They find a drowned man named John Harmon who is the heir to his grandfather’s fortune. From that moment on things become much more complicated.

There are the Boffins, an older couple that inherits the money when Harmon is declared dead. Then we meet Bella, the young lady who was destined to marry Harmon, even though they had never met. There’s a little crippled woman named Jenny Wren who makes clothes for dolls and a shady man named Silas Wegg with a wooden leg and a pile of schemes to get his hands on the inheritance.

When John Rokesmith’s true identity was revealed I was so surprised! What an impossible situation to find yourself believed to be dead and then to  realize that the woman you were supposed to marry didn't want to marry you. Then to fall in love with her without meaning to, even though you know she won’t love you because you’re “poor” now. If you tell her who you are she’ll marry you, but she won’t love you. Or you can walk away and lose your love forever.
The scene where Mr. Boffin tells him off and humiliates Bella was such a great one. I loved that they fell in love and he knew that she truly loved him and not his money. At the same time, I couldn’t believe he took so long to tell her who he was. I understand that she had seen something nasty in herself that scared her, but at some point you have to be honest with your spouse. I loved watching her transformation. She was such a frivolous creature and she found out what was really important to her when it was almost taken away. 

A Few Highlights:
- The friendship between Lizzy and Bella, I love that relationship.
- I was so glad the Boffins were in on it and that he hadn't really turned miserly.
- The sweet scene towards the end with Sloppy and Jenny Wren was just the best.
- How perfect that the novel comes full circle for Lizzie. In the beginning she finds the dead body in the river and at the end she saves Eugene by pulling him from the river. No one does a full circle like Dickens!
- The schoolmaster was such a creepy stalker. That whole love story was sad an twisted. Eugene is so selfish and oblivious, Lizzie so hopeless, and Bradley is just aggressive and awful.

BOTTOM LINE: In Our Mutual Friend Dickens explores social classes, the dangers of greed, a  twisted love triangle, and so much more. It was definitely one of my favorites of his books. This was his final completed novel, but I still have quite a few left to read. I’m sure I’ll pick a new one next year when the weather turns cold. There’s something about the first snow that always makes me want to curl up with his work.
"There's no royal road to learning and what is life but learning."

2016 End of the Year Book Survey

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

What a crazy year this has been! Adding a baby to our family made it trickier to sit down with a book, but I still read some great ones. I’m ready for 2017, but first it’s time to take a bookish survey. I love these because they make me think about all the books I've read over the past 12 months.  

Two trends I saw in the books I read. One was fantastic descriptions of food (Relish, Sweetbitter, and Kitchens of the Great Midwest). The other was rotating perspective (Underground Railroad, Commonwealth, Did You Ever Have a Familiy). It’s always interesting when you see trends, because those books become linked in your mind.

Any books I reread this year are not eligible for this list. It was fun to reread a few favorites this year, like The Night Circus and some of the Narnia series. I didn’t count the piles upon piles of children’s books I read in this list. I also don’t limit myself to one book per answer if there are two or three that really fit perfectly.

Number of Books You Read: 125
Number of Re-Reads: 10
1. Best Book You Read In 2016?
Classics — The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Germinal, Our Mutual Friend
Historical Fiction — The Underground Railroad
Mystery —The Trespasser 
Literary Fiction — Kitchens of the Great Midwest
Nonfiction — When Breath Becomes Air, The View from the Cheap Seats, Alexander Hamilton
Fantasy —The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear
Play — The Miracle Worker
Science Fiction — Dark Matter  
YA — Pippi Longstocking, The Selection series
Graphic Novel — Relish 

2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t? My Brilliant Friend, I think it was just way over-hyped. Lila by Marilynne Robinson, I really enjoyed Gilead and this is a parallel novel, but it didn’t work for me. 
3. Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read? The Selection, I thought it would be total fluff (mainly because of the cover), but I really enjoyed it! I liked that it focused on the political structure more than just the reality-show-style competition. 

4. Book You “Pushed” The Most People To Read? The Kingkiller Chronicles 

5. Best series you started in 2016? Best Sequel of 2016? Best Series Ender of 2016? The Name of the Wind / Thrice Brinded Cat Hath Mew’d / The One (Kiera Cass) 

6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2016? Noah Hawley (Before the Fall) 

7. Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone? The Girls from Ames 

8. Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year?
Dark Matter 

9. Book You Read In 2016 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year? The Name of the Wind 
10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2016? Commonwealth 

11. Most memorable character of 2016?
 √Čtienne Lantier in Germinal and Kvothe from The Kingkiller Chronicles 

12. Most beautifully written book read in 2016? Our Mutual Friend and Commonwealth 

13. Most Thought-Provoking/ Life-Changing Book of 2016? The More of Less and When Breath Becomes Air 

14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2016 to finally read? Germinal, it’s been on my TBR for YEARS. I’m so thrilled I finally read it. 

15. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2016?
“One can learn from a glance at a person’s library, not what they are, but what they wish to be.” – Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew’d 

“If you would have your son to walk honorably through the world, you must not attempt to clear the stones from his path, but teach him to walk firmly over them - not insist upon leading him by the hand, but let him learn to go alone.” – Tenant of Wildfell Hall 

“There's no royal road to learning; and what is life but learning!” –Our Mutual Friend

16. Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2016? We Should All Be Feminists: 65 pages / Our Mutual Friend: 880 pages 

17. Book That Shocked You The Most Before I Go to Sleep and Dark Matter 

18. One True Pairing (a couple that you ship)? Kvothe and Denna from the Kingkiller Chronicles

19. Favorite Non-Romantic Relationship of the Year: Ove and his neighbor Parvaneh 

20. Favorite Book You Read in 2016 From an Author You’ve Read Previously:  The Trespasser, What Alice Forgot

21. Book You Read Based SOLELY on a Recommendation from Somebody Else/Peer Pressure: The Lunar Chronicles and The Raven Boys Cycle 

22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2016? Stefan from Along the Infinite Sea (very Casablanca) 

23. Best 2016 debut you read? The Underground Railroad 

24. Best Worldbuilding/Most Vivid Setting You Read This Year? The Name of the Wind and Kitchens of the Great Midwest (the best food scenes!)
25. Book That Put a Smile on Your Face/Was the Most FUN To Read? Notorious RBG 

26. Book That Made You Cry or Nearly Cry in 2016? A Man Called Ove, The Light Between Oceans, and The Boys in the Boat 

27. Hidden Gem of The Year? The Fox and the Star and Seven Women, I particularly loved reading about the lives of Rosa Parks and Maria Skobtsova. 

28. Book That Crushed Your Soul? When Breath Becomes Air and Did You Ever Have a Family 

29. Most Unique Book You Read In 2016? Tree of Codes 

30. Book That Made You The Most Mad? The Life We Bury

1. Best bookish event that you participated in (author signings, festivals, virtual events, memes, etc.)? Dewey read-a-thon in October, co-hosting the Germinal and The Fireman readalongs, and the Elizabeth Strout author reading I attended. 

2. Best bookish discover (book related sites, book stores, etc.)? Litsy! It’s the best app for book lovers.

3. Most challenging thing about blogging or your reading life this year? Having a baby! Reading with a kiddo in the house is definitely harder, but it’s still doable. 

4.  Did you complete any reading challenges or goals that you had set for yourself at the beginning of this year? I finished my Reading the States challenge for fiction books.

Thanks to Perpetual Page Turner for once again hosting this survey!