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Flawed (Andrea Dorfman)

6 Sep

Some messages never grow old – they can be read and received throughout your life, and still continue to hold meaning regardless of how many times you hear it.  The message behind Flawed – that we should accept our whole selves, including our imperfections – is one that might change as we grow older but ultimately stays the same.

 

Flawed Squinklethoughts

1.  Dorfman’s first book, which is adapted from her Emmy-nominated film (also titled Flawed), falls somewhere in the middle of graphic novel, picture book, and memoir.  It’s an autobiographical retelling of the relationship between the author and her now-husband, Dave, which leads her to confront insecurities about her body, and her feelings about plastic surgery.  She reaches into memories to recall other moments when body-image issues arose as she decides whether Dave’s career as a plastic surgeon might be a deal-breaker between them.

2.  Young people will enjoy this book, which is easy to read and understand, and full of powerful images that highlight the narrator’s emotions throughout the story.  Older people will enjoy this, too, which serves as a good reminder that while we can aspire to improve our health and present a professional  demeanour/presentation, we should ultimately learn to accept ourselves, flaws and all.

 

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3.  I particularly enjoyed the extra pages at the end of the book that include a note from Andrea and sample postcards from Dave’s and her postcard project.  It’s always great to get behind-the-scenes stuff!

4.  I haven’t seen any of Dorfman’s films before, but I’m very keen to look them up now.  Cool Canadiana aside, they also tackle important life issues and lessons, which my students would enjoy.

 

4 Squinkles

 

Andrea Dorfman’s Online Corners
Website | YouTube | Chapters/Indigo

 

Thank you, Firefly Books, for sending me a copy of Flawed in exchange for an honest review.  All Squinklethoughts expressed herein are entirely my own.

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Supreme Power: 7 Pivotal Supreme Court Decisions (Ted Stewart)

13 Nov

The physical book itself is not very long, but Supreme Power: 7 Pivotal Supreme Court Decisions that Had a Major Impact on America packs a wallop.  Historians, poli-sci students, and lay people alike will find Ted Stewart’s discussion of significant Supreme Court decisions gripping and educational.

 

Supreme Power Squinklethoughts

1.  This book is for you if you want to know how the Supreme Court began and why a Justice once said, “We are not final because we are infallible, but we are infallible only because we are final.”  The intro hooks you in right away.  Stewart discusses the Founding Fathers, their vision for the new country, and even some personal vendettas against one another.  I guess if you want to learn about how the highest court in the land got to be that way, you have to start at the beginning.  I find it really interesting that the number of Justices has fluctuated throughout history.  Also, it’s incredible how many appeals there are every year, and how many are actually heard and decided by the Court.

2.  The divide between prescriptive and descriptive linguists today neatly mirror the two philosophical types of Justices that Stewart describes – the Originalist and the Constitutionalist.  I found this part particularly interesting because I could see how similarly different many tenets of the two political parties are.  As I read through the chapters, I found myself seeing each case from the view of both philosophies, and it’s no wonder they had to go to the Supreme Court for final decisions.

3.  The section on Plessy v. Ferguson, which discusses the onset of the term “Jim Crow” and how the idea of “separate but equal accommodations” led to problems we continue to see today, was a good read.  Stewart recounts the Court’s ruling that the Louisiana Separate Car Act was not in violation of either the Thirteenth or Fourteenth Amendments.  As far as class discussions go, this chapter would make a great springboard for talking about what constitutes “established usages, customs, and traditions” and whether a few years is enough time for a custom to become established.

4.  Another chapter that I liked was “How a Law on Bakers’ Working Hours Led to Abortion Rights”.  I enjoyed learning about Lochner and the belief that part of our birthright is the right to work as long or as hard as we want.  I also like that Stewart poses the question on who defines “liberty” and what “due process” actually (or should actually) means.  I would have liked more of a discussion on the proceedings and consequences of Roe v. Wade.  Stewart discusses Lochner a lot, but he leaves the Court’s decision on Roe v. Wade to a few paragraphs.  I think the pivotal impact of McCorvey’s case shouldn’t have been considered outside the scope of this book.

 

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5.  I didn’t take any poli-sci or history classes in university – at least not ones that explored the Supreme Court and its decisions – so I was happy to learn about the cases Stewart presents.  This book would be great for anyone who wants to know a little bit about them and American political origins.  It would also make a good addition to senior high-school and university courses.  I don’t know if I would assign the entire book, but I’d definitely pick a couple of cases (and the intro) for students to get into.  A caveat, however: Stewart uses jargon that the average person might have heard of but don’t understand.  If I were to give excerpts of this book to non-poli-sci students, I’d have to include a glossary so that they don’t get lost in legalese.

6.  Aside from a glossary that would have helped even me, I would have liked to find an index at the end so that I could find pages related to specific mentions of Justices or cases more easily.  A very extensive bibliography is included though.

 

4 Squinkles

 

Ted Stewart’s Online Corners
US District Court Profile | Chapters/Indigo

 

Thank you, Shadow Mountain, for sending me a copy of Supreme Power: 7 Pivotal Supreme Court Decisions that Had a Major Impact on America in exchange for an honest review.

All Squinklethoughts expressed herein are entirely my own.

Spellbook of the Lost and Found (Moïra Fowley-Doyle)

8 Aug

This book has everything I liked, which is why it jumped to the top of my reading queue.  Definitely pick this title up if you also love any of the following: secrets, magic, spells, friendship, strong women, Ireland, narratives in multiple voices, tree and flower names.

 

Spellbook of the Lost and Found  Squinklethoughts

1.  The title alone hooked me.  I like books about magic and spells, especially in modern times, so this seemed the perfect choice for me.  One thing I really like about Spellbook is that while magic permeates throughout the entire story, it’s not presented with the type of clichés that persist in other books.  The magic here is treated with respect, even by the characters who don’t believe in it at first, because there is every chance that a life will be changed.  Or lost.  No foolish wand-waving or silly incantations here.  (In fact, the spells are very nicely worded.)

2.  Right off the bat, I was sucked into the stories of SO MANY characters, all of whom narrate a chapter here and there.  In reality, there are only a handful, but it sure felt like there were more.  Once I got the dramatis personae figured out, including which girl-named-after-a-tree is related to or friends with that other girl-named-after-a-tree, the multiple narratives are not a problem at all.  Olive, Rose, Hazel, Ivy, Rowan, Laurel, Ash, and Holly … You really become invested in their stories once you meet them.  I felt like they might have been my own friends.

3.  In fact, I liked the multiple-narrative format that Fowley-Doyle employs here.  It really highlights the fact that the characters are all related but are experiencing the events of the story in his/her own way.  Even if they share scenes or encounter the same strange trinket in the woods, the characters repress different secrets and develop unique perspectives.  I do think there could have been a little more work put into adding more idiosyncrasies in the speech or thought processes of the characters because often, the narrator of one chapter sounds exactly like the narrator of the previous one.  I’m thinking along the lines of one of them always saying something like “Wotcher” (à la Tonks), though I like Rose’s quirk of blowing bubbles to manage her cigarette cravings.

4.  It is a lot of work to weave different characters’ stories together when those characters have little reason to be connected at all, and I really applaud Fowley-Doyle’s plot.  Everything came together very well, and although I got an inkling about the ending about halfway through the plot, I was sufficiently surprised at how she designed it.  Nothing seemed contrived … so much so that I wanted more.

 

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5.  About that ending … As great as the entire story was, I felt let down at the end.  Not because it wasn’t a good conclusion, but because the conclusion was so delightfully messy.  I can’t help but think (and hope) that it serves as a bridge to a sequel.  I want more of Rose’s healing, more of Hazel and Rowan’s reconciliation, more of Ivy’s secrets, more of Olive and Emily’s changing sisterliness, and more of Laurel, Ash, and Holly.  More of everything and everyone.  And I definitely want to know more about Mags.  I mean, she could be the star of her own book, and that would be awesome.  Is there even enough for a follow-up book?  I think so.  The ending of this one just leaves you wanting more … and isn’t that the sign of a great story?

6.  Fowley-Doyle writes very lyrical prose.  It was a pleasure to read her turns of phrases, though I understand that it’s not everyone’s cup of tea (or swig of poteen). There were many times that I had to reread a sentence or phrase because it just seemed so deep that I needed to give it extra attention.  If you’re into that kind of writing, this book will definitely satisfy you.

7.  Parents/teachers, there are a few scenes that might be too delicate for certain readers, and there are sprinkles of profanity throughout the book (though not enough to seem like it was put in for the sake of sounding teenage-y).  On the whole, this story would be just fine for YA readers to devour.  Even better, I’m sure readers of adult lit would enjoy this story, too!

8.  Last thought for you to keep in mind before you begin your journey with Spellbook of the Lost and Found: Be careful what you wish for; not all lost things should be found.

 

4.5 Squinkles

 

Moïra Fowley-Doyle’s Online Corners
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Tumblr | Chapters/Indigo

 

Thank you, Penguin Random House Canada, for sending me a copy of Spellbook of the Lost and Found in exchange for an honest review.

All Squinklethoughts expressed herein are entirely my own.

The Confessions of Young Nero (Margaret George)

23 Jun

I can’t begin to tell you how much I loved this book.  If the only thing you know about Nero is that he blamed Christians for a great fire, then you really need to pick this title up!

 

Confessions of Young Nero Squinklethoughts

1.  I am embarrassed to admit that even I fell under the trap of skating over Nero and relegating him as merely one in a list of inefficient emperors of the Early Roman Empire.  When I teach my favourite course, Classical Civilizations, we give him maybe 15 minutes of airtime, and then we move on.  I just can’t do that anymore after reading this book.

2.  You know my life revolves around middle-grade stories, and that even the YA or adult choices I make are usually historical fiction (like this one) or retellings of old favourites (like Mechanica and Eligible).  The drawback of being immersed in MG is that I don’t find enough good supplementary reading material for my high schoolers.  Teachers/parents, in case you’re wondering, this book is totally appropriate for a senior-level history or English class.  It’s clean and, obviously, written at an adult reading level.  I very well might add it to my Classical Civs course if I can restructure the units somehow.

 

Confessions of Young Nero Lesson

 

3.  This is my first Margaret George book, and I’m keen to try more of her work.  Her prose is gorgeous and polished, making her narrative voice completely unobtrusive to Nero’s story.  I have the unfortunate habit of being able to recognize (and see over and over again) the phrases that denote an author’s voice or style, but in this case, I was just so engrossed in the story that I didn’t even think of analyzing the prose.  Really, Nero’s story is so well told that you might, as I often did, think that Nero, himself, is telling the story.  Also, Locusta is such a great instrument.  I don’t know if she’s real or not, but her chapters really make the plot sizzle.

4.  I rooted for Nero the entire time I was reading this book.  I mean, history has relegated him to the halls of the crazy/evil/useless leaders, but my heart broke time and time again over the sad moments of his life.  (I kept thinking about Crispus until the end of the novel.)  So, now, I keep wondering whether history has completely messed up his story.  He was a product of his time, for sure, but in so many ways, he rose above expectations.  For one thing, he actually cared about what happened to his people.  I don’t know if that’s solely George’s interpretations of events, or if she read historical papers that actually mentioned his kindnesses, but it was a really good feature of the Nero in this book.  You know the saying, “History is told from the perspective of the victors”?  Well, in this case, the victors were Nero’s enemies, so most (all?) of the stories that exist of him reflect their belief that he was a terrible leader and person.  No one tells the story of how beloved he was by the citizens of the Rome that he led.

5.  I imagined Simon Woods as Nero about a quarter of the way into the story.  I’m not sure if that’s because I had just rewatched the TV series Rome or what, and I don’t think he quite fits the traditional images of Nero, but if there’s ever a movie of The Confessions of Young Nero, I think Woods would be a good choice.

6.  The ending was rather abrupt, and I wish I had known that the book wouldn’t cover everything in Nero’s life.  Well, I guess I could have figured that out for myself if I had tried to work out his timeline in comparison to the book length.  Anyway, I was left hanging!  But not in a terrible, terrible way.  Now that I know that this is the first in a duology, I can admit that this one ends in the perfect spot.  The great thing is that it seems like you can read both books as standalones.  But if you enjoy the story and writing as much as I did, you’ll be just like me … eagerly anticipating the follow-up.

7.  This is at the top of my list of best books I’ve read in 2017 so far.  I highly recommend this to all lovers of history, Ancient Rome, character-driven stories, and engaging prose.

 

5 Squinkles

 

Margaret George’s Online Corners
Website | Facebook | Pinterest | Chapters/Indigo

 

Thank you, Berkley and Penguin Random House, for sending me a copy of
The Confessions of Young Nero in exchange for an honest review.

All Squinklethoughts expressed herein are entirely my own.

The Little French Bistro (Nina George)

21 Jun

I was excited to read The Little French Bistro because I enjoyed The Little Paris Bookshop a lot. I really felt for Marianne at the beginning of the novel when some man rescues her from her suicide attempt. Why couldn’t he just leave her alone? Then, we get more information about how loveless her marriage is (husband leaves her to make her own way home!), so I’m happy that she finds some courage to make it to the coast of Brittany and start a new life.

 

Little French Bistro Squinklethoughts

1.  The author does a great job portraying the small-town charms of the small town that Marianne finds herself in. There is an interesting (but large) cast of secondary characters that envelop Marianne in their lives. I felt that some of the friendships came a bit too easily. Maybe it’s because I don’t reveal myself as easily as Marianne does, or maybe it’s because I don’t live in a small town, but that part felt a little unrealistic. So, too, does the fact that Marianne is able to find a good job and place to live within a day or so of landing at the coast. Is it really that easy? Especially considering Marianne is now in her 60s, I think? I am happy that she is able to reinvent herself, but I would have liked a little more struggle — a few more obstacles besides the sometimes dark thoughts that run around her head — before she could settle in to her new routine.

2.  The ending was definitely a surprise, and I think it saved the story for me. As the novel progressed, I sort of got lost in all of the names of the characters, which meant that there were a few too many for my liking. I liked being alongside Marianne as she grew in her role at the restaurant, but all the other stuff outside of the day-to-day, which is usually what interests me more, didn’t do it for me this time round.

3.  I’d recommend the book for anyone who likes stories about the French seaside, women’s growth, and happy endings … with the caveat that they’d have to adopt a little willing suspension of disbelief, and wade through lots of interactions with Breton neighbours before getting to the good ending.  I’d say that this was just under 4 stars for me.

 

3.5 Squinkles

 

Nina George’s Online Corners
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Chapters/Indigo

 

Thank you, First to Read, for sending me a copy of
The Little French Bistro in exchange for an honest review.

All Squinklethoughts expressed herein are entirely my own.

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