Showing posts with label WORTHY!. Show all posts
Showing posts with label WORTHY!. Show all posts

Friday, November 2, 2018

My Brigadista Year by Katherine Paterson


Rating: WORTHY!

Read charmingly and beautifully by Frankie Corzo, this was a very short audiobook (written by the author of Bridge to Terabithia) that I picked up on a whim at the local library. It turned out to be an inspired whim because I really enjoyed it. It tells an interesting story based on actual Cuban history.

Evidently at Ernesto Guevara's suggestion, Fidel Castro launched the Campaña Nacional de Alfabetización en Cuba, known as a year of education, which occupied almost the entire length of 1961. Literacy brigades (the Brigadistas of the title) were trained and then sent out into the countryside to build schools, train new teachers, and teach the illiterate to read and write. The campaign taught almost three-quarters of a million farmers and their families, and succeeded in raising the national literacy rate from around seventy percent to almost one hundred. There's a short documentary titled Maestra about the campaign, but I have not yet seen that.

This novel tells a fictional story of one such teacher named Lora, a girl in her mid-teens, who lived on a small farm while teaching the family and nearby families the alphabet and reading and writing skills. It was at no small risk to her life, since there was an orchestrated campaign against the literacy project because it was viewed as a political effort to indoctrinate those people, and there were attacks on the Brigadistas, including murders.

The story is told very actively, always moving forward, with little time for reflection, but which is nonetheless included in appropriately brief and organic moments. There is tragedy and joy and humor and moving times, and there were times I laughed out loud at the Brigadista's observations particularly towards the end about her friend's poetry (how many times can you write in the same poem that your heart was broken into a million tiny pieces?!). I commend this novel as a worthy, educational, and fun read.


Phase Two by Chris Wyatt


Rating: WORTHY!

This is an audio retelling of the wildly successful movie Guardians of the Galaxy that came out in 2014. Read pretty decently by Chris Patton, it was pretty much a word-for word copy of the script, with some minimal description tossed in, but unlike the movie, it isn't even PG-13 rating - it's more like a Disney animated film rating, so all questionable comments and references are omitted or re-worded. Other than that it's a pleasant listen for anyone interested in the Marvel universe.

I'm not sure there's anyone out there who is even moderately media-aware who doesn't have an idea what this movie was about, but if there is, then briefly, the story is an origin story of the formation of the Guardians, from a rag-tag band of misfits, disaffected revenge seekers, con-artists and thieves, into a genuine family of caring team-mates who don't actually save the galaxy (that comes in volume two!) but who do save a planet and defeat a brutal psychopath known as Ronan the Accuser.

The story starts with the young Peter Quill, so terrified by his mother's impending death that he won't hold her hand. Instead he runs out of the hospital only to be 'beamed up' into a space craft. The story then resumes twenty years later with that same Peter, now a mature (or maybe not) man who calls himself Star Lord, and who is on a mission to recover an artifact, which he tries to sell outside of the outlaw group who captured him all those years ago. His mission fails.

Oh, he gets the artifact, but he's captured when he tries to offload it, and he's tossed into a brutal space prison with three other villains, two of whom are the bounty-hunting team of Rocket and Groot. Groot is an alien species superficially resembling a tree, but who has legs and arms and the ability to speak and regenerate, although all he ever says is "I am Groot" in various tones which represent what he really means. Rocket, created by Marvel writers based on an old Beatles song (Rocky Raccoon) is a genetically-modified talking raccoon, whose experimental test designation was 'Subject: 89P13'. Now he's highly inventive, agile, scheming, and dangerous.

The third party is Gamora, another alien who was adopted by super villain (or is he?!) Thanos, whose self-appointed mission is to wipe out a random half of the universe in order to provide better living conditions for the other half. He adopted Gamora after killing her parents, and she became his trained assassin, but she's now decided to betray him to bring his murderous scheme to a halt.

These four meet the final member of their team in the prison. He's Drax 'the destroyer' (although he looks nothing like a navy ship...) who has a personal vendetta against Thanos and Ronan because they killed his family and he wants to kill Gamora, but Peter talks him out of it and the five of them join up to sell this artifact that Peter recovered, which turns out to be one of the six Infinity Stones which have been in existence from the start of the universe. Thanos wants them to complete his mission, Ronan steals it to pursue his own mission, and the Guardians are the only people who can stop him!

No one ever explained, neither in the movie nor in this novelization, why it is that Thanos isn't smart enough to know that with all six Infinity Stones, he can remake the universe however he wants without killing anyone! I guess he doesn't have the stones.... It's a pity one of these stones wasn't called the Smart Stone - with the ability to make people think critically and rationally.

So, fun stuff and a lot of laughs. The audio doesn't have the same magnetism and charisma of the movie, but it's a decent substitute and I commend it.


Unmarriageable by Soniah Kamal


Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

This was a largely well-written and highly amusing take on Pride and Prejudice. In a modern version of this novel, and to stay true to the repressive, controlling atmosphere and public censure women were forced to endure in Austen's time, you would have to set the story in a religiously-strict locale, and in this case it’s Pakistan that was chosen. The story is set in 2000 and 2001, and with a lot of character name changes, largely follows the outline of Austen's story. I found it entertaining, but I have some observations to make on the 'translation' into modern times and exotic locales.

I think in general the novel was very well done, with some good decisions made about how to translate various characters and situations into modern times. If I had one initial complaint that popped out at me during the reading, it would be the rather annoying self-awareness the novel seems to exhibit with regard to it being a riff on an Austen Novel.

Austen's works are mentioned frequently enough that it was bordering on becoming a parody at times, and the pretension in name-dropping of what are too-often considered 'the classics' in novels was irritating to me. There is an endless stream of novel references which, whenever I'm reading a novel that does this, typically feels to me like a tool used amateurishly as a lazy substitute for actually doing the work of showing that your character is intelligent and educated, and I'm never impressed by it.

That this was set in a non-English-speaking country. Believe it or not, there are very many such countries, and American writers seem scared to death of choosing any as a setting for their work, so kudos to this author for being as fearless as she is inventive, but given this I found it somewhat annoying in its frequent use of foreign terms and phrases.

I don't mind the phrases in moderation; it’s a pleasant change. What I do mind is the ritualistic compulsion on the part of the author to immediately stick a translation after the foreign phrase. This really trips up the story for me because rather than adding some atmosphere and a bit of color and verisimilitude, it merely suggests to me that the author is trying to sound clever.

Personally, I find it far better to include such words and phrases infrequently, and give them without a translation, allowing the context and your reader's smarts provide an understanding for them. Have a little faith in your readers! As it was, it could have been used less and as such would have been less irritating to me, and less disturbing of my suspension of disbelief.

Maybe it's just me, but a good example of this is where I read (and before you read on, be warned there is some bad language in this novel!), “How many times should I tell you not to not say behen chod, sisterfucker. It’s so insulting to women. Use your own gender and say bhai chod, brotherfucker.” To me it’s insulting that the author would think I cannot extrapolate from this context that the second phrase is masculine, so that she feels she needs to spell it out to me. She really doesn't! There were many instances of a similar nature.

An issue I've seen often with writers is when they're so focused on the text they're producing that they forget that this isn't supposed to be simply words on a page. It’s supposed to be a story of people living their lives, interacting, speaking...and hearing! So unless the main character's mom was routinely reading English newspapers (she may have been but there is nothing in the novel to indicate that she understood a word of English much less could read it), then only way she would know any given English word is from hearing it used, perhaps on TV.

The thing is that if you hear it used, you do not routinely mispronounce it as though you had read it somewhere! Even if you do misunderstand it, the whole process is different when it runs through an auditory process than when it runs through a visual one! So from the nervous nelly of a mom here we got a lot of mispronunciation-cum-malapropism such as "Pinkie, say ‘Tetley’ again. What did I tell you, Goga, ‘Tut-lee!’." We also got, for example, "Prince Chaarless and Lady Dayna." I don't see how you can get that unless you understand English reasonably well and are also dyslexic in English, neither of which applied to Mrs Binat! So, suspension of disbelief issue here!

Another example of this was where one particular character's name was deliberately mispronounced by one of the siblings in this story's equivalent of the Bennet family, so that it became "Fart Bhai." Fart is an English word, not a Pakistani one, so that name would not have sounded insulting or like a young boy's bathroom joke in any Pakistani language. Pakistan doesn't have one main language, but several. There are five which are spoken commonly. In Pashto fart is 'goez', in Urdu it’s 'puskee', and in Punjabi, in which district I assume this action is set, fart is 'garama', as far as I can determine using online resources. None of these sound like the English version of the word, so this joke made little sense.

A similar situation arose when the author had Wikaam (Wickham) set his price for marrying Lady (Lydia). In the Austen original, he doesn't actually set a price, but an amount is bandied around as a minimum, and this is £10,000. In today's money, that would be about £300,000, or almost $400,000 (depending on current exchange rate). So Lady is highly undervalued here! The amount stated in this novel $100,000 which is only about £76,000.

I found this most curious because Pakistani currency isn't dollars; it's rupees, one hundred of which are worth (at the exchange rate when I wrote this), only seventy-five cents. So very, very roughly one rupee equals one cent. An equivalent evaluation for Wickaam, in Pakistani coinage, of taking on Lady would be something like fifty three million rupees!

Perhaps the author thought that sounded far too high to western ears? I don't know. As the author it is of course her choice, but it seemed odd to me to use dollars instead of rupees or pounds (given how often Britain is referenced in the story). This was obviously written for an American audience! I just pass this on to highlight how complex it can be to try 'translating' an old story for modern ears, especially if the setting changes.

And now a writing issue! The author chose the interesting solution of adjusting the character's names to fit what I must assume are Pakistani naming conventions. The De Bourgh family for example became 'dey Bagh', and George Wikham became Jeorgeullah Wikaam. Elizabeth Bennet was Alysba Binat, and Darcy became Darsee. Curiously this rule was not applied to the location in which the story was set!

The original story takes place in and around Meryton, but the story in this book is set in Dilipabad, which is a fictional Pakistani location as far as I know. Dileep is a boy's name meaning 'King of the solar Race', and 'abad' means these days, very roughly, 'city of' so it would translate as the City of the King of the Solar race, but I have no idea what that's supposed to mean! In the Punjab district of Pakistan, there is a town called Multan, a name which sounds similar to Meryton, and which is not far from Lahore. I don't know why the author didn't simply use that, but again, it’s her choice.

The author's technique with names though, had the advantage of helping to keep everyone's straight, although I confess I got lost from time to time. I think if I'd done this, I'd have been tempted to go a different way, but maybe this worked better. I’d have been more inclined to look at what the English name meant and use the local translation of that, so that Lydia, which means 'beautiful one' would translate to Sudara (close enough!), which is actually a pretty cool name, but that means Elizabeth (oath of god) translates to Paramēśura dī sahu which really doesn't work! So maybe this author's choice was the wiser one?!

But enough with the writing issues and criticism. As I said at the beginning, I found this story engrossing and entertaining, and it kept me swiping the screen and tempting me away from my own writing projects too often, so this was definitely a worthy read. It even helped, indirectly, by reminding me of the original story, to clarify and gel some ideas of my own in connection with my upcoming redux of Pride and Prejudice - which I haven't even started yet but which I have now decided is up next after the current project, and which I promise is not set in modern times, nor is it set in Pakistan!

So I am greatful to have read this for that alone, but it was much more than that to me. It offered more than a literary stimulant; it was a good sotry, well told, and made more interesting to me for the very fact that it was so different from the traditional retellings of this which have become multifarious as well as nefarious and are typically boring and uninventive at best, or badly done at worst. I am grateful this wasn't such a story and I fully commend it - and look forward to this author's next offering.


Clean Enough by Katzie Guy-Hamilton


Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

Clean Enough from someone with the most intriguing author name I've seen in a while, promises to get you back to basics and still leave room for desert, and I think it achieves its aim. It's equally divided into two parts, the first titled 'Clean'. I'll let you guess what the second is titled! Clean is comprised of several sections, the first of which is Drink to your Health, featuring drinks to get you up and moving in one way or another, and including Designer Cashew Milk, Runner's Juice, and the Indiana Jones-sounding Holy Coconut Matcha Elixir.

Next up is Harmony Bowls, comprised of suggestions for breakfast which consist mostly of granola, eggs and oatmeal concoctions. There's a section on augmenting a common breakfast item by adding healthful foods such as avocado, mushrooms, tomatoes, and such to toast to taste! This idea works with the oatmeal too: start with something simple and basic and augment it to your own personal taste. After this comes a very full section on salads including some items you may not think of when you think of a salad. This is followed by prepared veggies including broccolini, onion, green bean, carrot, and eggplant, even though some of those aren't really vegetables.

Following this is a section on 'good starch' which covers rice, sweet potatoes, lentils, and quinoa, which I personally think we should call kwin-o-ah. Who can seriously get with keenwah? Really?! Keenwah sounds like a karate punch that will make you howl. I do not want that in my stomach. LOL! Remember starches (aka carbohydrates) are a required food for your body to function. It's not actually eating them that's the problem. Like everything else in your diet, it's the overeating of the wrong stuff that causes problems! After this section comes a short one on soups, which offers squash, tomato, beet, and coconut. The 'Clean' section finishes up with some suggestions for sauces and dressings.

The 'Enough' part covers a shocking array of desert items that will put weight on you just from looking through the pages. It features cookies (chocolate, molasses, raisin, coconut), cakes (the banana whiskey torte sounded really interesting!) and pies. That latter includes a Wimbledon pie which I'd never heard of, and which yes, contains strawberries, and which looks disgustingly irresistible from the photograph, although I cannot claim I've tried this!

Does anyone else find the name Wimbledon amusing? Okay, just me then. I asked around about this pie and it's not a racquet! It turns out that you get four servings and if you ace them all, you win.... The silk road custard tart looked scrumptious to me. It reminded me of such tarts I enjoyed when I lived in Britain (and no you are not allowed to double-entendre that!). Not that these deserts are Britain-based by any means. What you'll find yourself needing to remember in this section is that wholesome isn't the same thing as calorie-free!

Everyone has their own preferences when it comes to what one eats and some of those preferences are decidedly unhealthy. Eating whole foods rather than processed foods is healthier because those kinds of foods are what our bodies have evolved to digest healthily. Our problem is that we've been primed to gobble down fatty, salty, and sweet foods from when such things were scarce, but our bodies, which naturally sought out these things for perfectly healthy reasons in prehistory, cannot cope with this stuff now it's so very easy to come by.

Any eating plan (let's not talk about diets which rarely work) that gets you partaking healthily of good food, and which you can stick with is the plan to adopt for you, and while this book may not appeal to everyone, no book can! That's why my recommendation is to check it out and see if it fits your lifestyle if it does, you're on the gravy train! Or something like that.... I commend this as a worthy title.


Collage Workshop for Kids by Shannon Merenstein


Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

Not to be confused with College Workshop for kids (which I just made up), this is collage workshop aimed at a young audience! Kids love to do this kind of thing and it was interesting to me because I've been toying with an idea of doing a collage episode of my Little Rattuses series (which I'll then of course have to photograph since I'm not going to create a score of original collage books to sell! LOL! So while you never always know where you'll get good ideas and tips - which is why it's a good idea to read lots and keep your eyes open, you do now, because this book is full of them!

The book contains everything you need to know - the supplies you'll have to bring yourself! But once you have them, this book will tell you - and your kids - in easy, illustrated steps how to turn them into some pretty cool collages that any young child would be thrilled by and proud of. You can create anything in collage, and make it look pretty darned real by choosing the right materials, and once you get the bug, you can move on to creating your own entirely original collages. I commend this book as a fun adventure which will teach kids to be creative and leave them with some nice art skills and a wealth of confidence. Plus who knows - maybe a new hobby, too? Or even a career!


Build Your Own Chain Reaction Machines by Paul Long


Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

Subtitled "How to Make Crazy Contraptions Using Everyday Stuff--Creative Kid-Powered Projects!" this book is ideal for the kid who loves to tinker and invent. Using cardboard, mostly, with a few other items, some tools, a bit of glue, and the ability to measure, cut, and follow instructions closely, your boy or girl can build some amusing, entertaining and educational toys, and more than likely come up with their own future inventions using the skills learned here.

The book opens with a section on the essential tools, techniques, and mechanisms you will need or need to know in order to embark upon these projects. Three subsections cover basic tools, DIY tools, and basic techniques. This is only ten pages and filled with photographs, so no worries there. Once through that, you get to start your projects.

The first section of these is titled 'machines for your Room' such as a door knocker, a door opener, and a light-switcher. There are three more such sections covering machines for around the house (water your plants? Squeeze your toothpaste?), machines for fun and nonsense (launch a marble? make music?), and machines for food (vending machine, candy dispenser), so there's a lot of different projects you can undertake - assuming you have enough cardboard...and the determination to get it done!

I thought this was a fun, safe, and relatively cheap way to provide educational entertainment for your kid and I commend this book.


ABC for Me: ABC What Can She Be? by Jessie Ford


Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

This was a sweet and fun (and full of color in more ways than one) book for young children about a girl dreaming of what profession she might follow when she grows up, and unlike for far too many women of older generations, everything is open to her, but it's curiously in alphabetical order! So two ways to teach!

She imagines one thing after another and appropriately she doesn't shun traditional feminine occupations, but neither is she afraid of exploring professions where women have been scarce or absent in times thankfully past. This is entirely how it should be because in the end, it is her choice what to do with her life! That's the whole point: she can be anything she chooses. She's not afraid to take charge of that choice, and no one has any right to condemn or even judge her for what she chooses.

This is a great book for young girls who might appreciate having some cool ideas put into their heads and any possibly perceived limitations shredded. I commend it as a worthy read.


STEAM Stories: Robot Repairs (Technology) by Jonathan Litton, Magalí Mansilla


Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

These stories are aimed at introducing kids to concepts of physics and engineering in a light, entertaining, yet instructive way. If there's one thing this world needs, apart from a total absence of inflammatory so-called leaders of the free world, it's more girls looking towards a career in the sciences, technology, engineering, and math. Girls may feel they don't need those subjects, but those professions definitely need girls' minds, ethics, sensibilities, and team-work skills.

That's why I thought this was a fun and useful book, again by the team of writer Jonathan Litton, artist Magalí Mansilla to introduce young people to these professions, and why it was good to show a female character being proactive and sharing equally in a project.

The story is simple - this old robot falls apart and a boy and a girl decide to use their smarts to see if they can put it back together again and make it work. Of course they do, but they have to think about what they're doing and make smart choices to get it right. This is a positive thing for young children to be exposed to, and I commend this book as a worthy read.


STEAM Stories: The Great Go-Kart Race (Science) by Jonathan Litton, Magalí Mansilla


Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

Written simply by Jonathan Litton, and colorfully illustrated by Magalí Mansilla, this is another in a series aimed at promoting young people's interest in the sciences, technology, engineering, and math, and this one takes an engineering and a problem-solving approach, teaching a little physics and intelligent thinking along the way. Girls are sadly underrepresented in these fields and the professions suffer from that, so anything that serves to promote an interest in these subjects as a path to a profession, is to be welcomed.

It's the big go-kart race and our diverse boy-girl team are competing, but it's not simply a matter of steering the vehicle around a track! There are unexpected problems along the way and some very inventive and thoughtful efforts at solving them are required. Our boy and girl are equal though, and equal to the challenge, both of them contributing to the solutions. It's this team work, even in the midst of this highly-competitive race, that pays off, as it always will. I commend this as a worthy read for young children of both genders and all shades.


Around The World in Every Vehicle by Amber Stewart, Duncan Beedie


Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

Written well by Amber Stewart, and illustrated equally well by Duncan Beedie (both good Scots names I have to say!) this short story picture book was a fun romp across the globe employing an assortment of vehicles to make the trip.

It's educational as to geography as well as to different habits across the world when it comes to transportation, as we follow the rather foxy-looking Van Go family on a trip that's a trip! They set off from home on their bicycles and consult their map with seven major destinations marked all across the globe. They take an open-topped tour bus (see, it's not always raining in London!) past a hoard of traditional and distinctive-looking London taxis, and Freddie Van Go is moved to consult a book (yeay Freddie!) to discover what other kinds of buses there are.

This sets the tone for the other pages of the book, many of which are double-page spreads, so I wouldn't rely on your smartphone to read this in ebook form (Unless your kid is just looking at the pictures). You'll need a tablet - and a preferably regular-sized one rather than mini to read the small text.

I'm not sure it quite covered every vehicle (I saw no tank in there, for example!), but it sure covers a host of them: sea, air, land - and under the land! Yes, there is a trip through the Chunnel! It made for a colorful, varied, educational and fun read for young children. I commend it as a worthy read.


Animosaics: Can You Find It? by Surya Sajnani


Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

I'm currently working on a children's book that contains puzzles, so I've been idly noting what's out there for a while, and I was curious about this one. The puzzles here are nothing like those I'm using though, so it was interesting to see another approach. It's all in color here, and though I'm not sure how it would work for anyone who is color-blind, the puzzles are not as easy as you might think, even for someone with all his opsins in a row!

The pages are each a single color - very bright and rainbow colors to be sure, but only a single color per puzzle. Hidden in the color and disguised by a mess of shapes and patterns are certain specific items you must find, different on each page. Some of them were a pain to uncover! Not that I'm especially great at puzzles, but unless you're a puzzle solver of Olympic proportions, this will certainly occupy your time pleasurably and satisfyingly, assuming you enjoy puzzles to begin with, and perhaps even if you haven't found your kind of puzzle yet! I commend this book as a satisfying and colorful brain exercise!


Sunday, October 14, 2018

Peep by Maria von Lieshout


Rating: WORTHY!

This is another in what appears to be a series of confidence-building books by this author. I have no idea how many there are in the series. I know there are at least three and this author, who is Dutch by birth, has published over a dozen children's books on various empowering themes. I just happened on them by accident in my local library while checking out a display of kid's books the librarians had set up. Unlike the Goodreads 'librarians' for example, who don't appear to do a damned thing, the librarians in my local libraries are fun and inventive and hard-working, and their efforts pay off.

This one concerns a young chicken name Peep, who is following her brothers and sisters, who are in turn following mom, line-astern, on an outing, but when they reach the curb it seems to be so very high for a little Peep who wouldn't say Bo to a sheep. Mom and the siblings seem to have no trouble with it, but Peep can't handle this at all. However, with encouragement, pluck and determination, Peep makes the leap and does not regret it - that is until she reaches the other curb and has to figure out what to do next - which is delightfully where this tale ends.

I really liked this story. Just like the previous volume I read by this author, this one is also colorful, simply but competently drawn, amusing, and playful. I liked the humor and the lesson, and I commend it as a worthy read for young children.


Splash by Maria von Lieshout


Rating: WORTHY!

This playful and amusing little book for young children tells the story of a seal who can't seem to do much and feels very disappointed in itself until one day the sun falls into the ocean and it's up to the seal to replace it. The seal discovers that it can do things when those things are very important to it, and this leads to reconnecting with its friends. Fortunately for small and delicate flippers, the sun is only the size of a small beach ball and not too hot (it was cooled off by the ocean no doubt!), so this task isn't too arduous.

This is a colorful book (not all the seals are navy, for example...) and proved inventive and quite entertaining. The author appears to have a series of these, and I shall be reviewing one other like it by the same author. I commend this one as a worthy read.


Pelé the King of Soccer by Eddy Simon, Vincent Brascaglia, Joe Johnson


Rating: WORTHY!

Written by Eddy Simon and translated by Joe Johnson, with illustrations by Vincent Brascaglia, this was an enjoyable graphic novel about the remarkable career of Edson Arantes do Nascimento, better known to the world as Pelé, who was an outstanding Brazilian professional soccer player.

He played for a club team at the tender age of fifteen and for his national team at the age of sixteen; at seventeen, he put in a sterling performance at the 1958 World Cup, the first of three in which Brazil won with him on the team. He's the only player to have been on three world cup winning teams, and he scored 77 goals in 92 games during those competitions. He averaged almost a goal a game throughout his career, scoring some 650 in 694 professional club appearances.

There was a less stellar side to his life in his multiple marriages and multiple affairs outside of those marriages, some of which brought offspring. The story doesn't delve very much into those or his son's conviction for money laundering. It keeps the focus mostly on soccer, recounting his career almost game by game.

This graphic novel tells the story well, with lively, colorful, and well-crafted illustrations, from his barefoot, ball-made-of-rags street soccer days of his early age, to this triumphs as a professional (in soccer boots and with a real ball!). His hero was his father who was also a professional player until he got a bad leg injury and could play no more, but he encouraged his son to excel and Pelé did not let him down. I commend this novel as a worthy read and a piece of sports history that's well-worth learning.


The Woman Who Smashed Codes by Jason Fagone


Rating: WORTHY!

For a book offering a sort of biography of a woman who was both an outstanding and unassuming code-breaker, Elizebeth Smith, and who was such an important part of solving codes both in wartime and peace time policing operations (such as breaking rum runner's codes for example), I was a little disappointed that the story seemed to defer regularly to the men in her life, as represented by her husband and another man named Fabyan who was a patriarchal and hyper-controlling figure, but who nevertheless saw her potential and first invited her into his group before she ever met her husband-to-be.

Naturally you can't tell her story without including those people, but it seems that in trying to be so many things, the book failed at being the thing it claimed to be: a story of a woman who smashed codes. In view of this, I often found myself wondering, as I read it, if the author had initially written it about the married couple as a team, which they very much were, both professionally and personally, but later tried to change this by purveying it as a story about this one woman. I don't know if he did or not, but looking at it that way seemed to be the only way to make sense of the way it was written. The only other explanation is that he simply didn't get it. If that's the case, at least he can take comfort in the knowledge that our misogynistic jackass of a president would be proud of him.

There are bits in this book which seem irrelevant or hypocritical. The book often goes off at tangents and rambles on as much about those many other things as it does about its 'star'. It's supposed to be championing Elizebeth Smith, as judged by the title, but when this little code-breaking lab run by Fabyan brought in army officers to teach them about these techniques, it mentioned that four of the officers wives also took the course and did well in it. It also highlighted that even while praising them, this guy Fabyan made no mention of them by name, only as the wives of the officers, yet the book commits the very same sin by not telling us who these women were! This was another thing which made me wonder if the subject of the book originally had not been Elizebeth, but 'Mr and Mrs Friedman'.

That said it does tell a strong story about her and I learned a lot from it, so on that basis I am willing to rate this as a worthy read. You can always skips the bits that don't concern her, but I recommend getting this book from the library as I did or buying it used.


Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell


Rating: WARTY!

This was a wildly optimistic audio book experiment given that I'd already tried Rainbow Rowell's Fangirl and DNF'd it because it was an unmitigated disaster. I found myself forced to adopt the same approach here because this was simply not getting it done. Essentially it's a bit of a rip-off of Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan which was published in 2006 and is a much better read.

Rowell seems to be an uninventive writer who loves to tell rather than show, and who seems to think that stereotypes are daring. No, they're really not, but they do win awards evidently, which is probably why I'll never win one. The first problem is that the basic story is antique: a boy and a girl hate each other, but fall in love? Been there done that to death.

The second problem with this is that it's written as dual narratives which suck. The only kind thing I can say about that was that at least it wasn't in first person. The third problem is that the author doesn't even pretend she can write such a novel about modern youth, so she sets this in the eighties so she can write it about her own youth. Yawn.

The chapters are all called either 'Eleanor' or 'Park' and each is read by one of the two readers: Rebecca Lowman and Sunil Malhotra, and they lay out the perspective from the PoV of each main character so the author can tell you rather than show you what's happening. They meet on a school bus which is populated with stereotypes: jocks, cheerleaders, nerds, and so on. It's painfully tedious; there's nothing new, and I cannot commend it. I'm permanently off reading anything further by this author.


I Am Peace by Susan Verde, Peter H Reynolds


Rating: WORTHY!

Subtitled "A Book of Mindfulness" this book aimed at younger children, is intended to teach them how to be in the moment and not let extraneous worries or concerns tip them off their balance. I just reviewed a children's book called Verdi. Now I review one written by a Verde - and illustrated well by Reynolds. The book is short and to the point and offers advice on how to enjoy the now and not let worries and fly-away thoughts distract too much. The book is simple and modestly colored, with nice drawings and good advice for people who tend to let things get in the way of living life to the fullest. Everyone could use a little of that, and I commend this book as a worthy read.


Verdi by Janell Cannon


Rating: WORTHY!

This young children's book was hilarious. A hardback with glossy colorful pages and limited text, it tells the story of a young snake by the name of Verdi, who loves his yellow coloring and doesn't want to mature to the usual green scales. He tries to fight this, but in the end he loses and realizes that change isn't necessarily a bad thing.

As far as I can tell, Verdi is Indonesian - supposed to be a green tree python (Morelia viridis) based on his coloring, his life in the trees, and his residence on an island. These pythons are actually under threat because of smuggling to feed the pet market, and pythons like these do not travel well - many die before they ever reach the pet store.

What impressed me about this book was the beautiful artwork which manages to be colorful and realistic without looking like it belonged in a biology book. What amused me was the text and the snake commentaries from various other members of the local Pythonidae family. Verdi isn't impressed with these adults and decides to strike his own course, but no matter what he does he doesn't seem to be able to stop the spreading o' the green! He is determined, but nature beats cherchez.

His antics are amusing, especially the way he catapults himself off the top of a tree by holding a branch in his mouth and tightening his coils until he lets go and springs into the air. I laughed out loud at that. His 'spa treatment' with the mud was also amusing. I liked this book very much and commend it as a worthy read for young children - and even a few adults!


How Do Dinosaurs Eat Their Food by Jane Yolen, Mark Teague


Rating: WORTHY!

I'm not a huge fan of this author, but this short, amusing, and colorful pasteboard book for young children was a worthy read I thought, and the art by Mark Teague was great.

I think Dinosaurs are overdone these days, but this was a different take: working on the assumption of something which never happened in real life - that humans and dinosaurs existed together. This book amusingly takes that farce one step further by turning dinos into fellow citizens, who have lives and like to go out to eat - which seems to be true based on fossil evidence. Their al fresco dining habits are well documented.

Unfortunately their manners leave a lot to be desired and this is not so well-attested by fossil evidence, which is why this book is important! I found it entertaining, especially for the intended audience, and I commend it as a worthy read.


Hair by Leslie Patricelli


Rating: WORTHY!

This was an amusingly written and colorfully illustrated young children's pasteboard-style book about hair, which I found amusing. I can't speak to whether young kids will find it the same, but my best guess is they will enjoy it. It's the perfect read when you're readying to take them to the hairdresser for the first time. It was actually in a hairdresser's that I found this in a rack for the very purpose of entertaining young visitors. It covers several aspects of haircare and hair interests and I thought it was fun and a worthy read for the intended audience.