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>February: Reading & Reviewing Part 1

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>Because of my little slump, I only read 9 books this month, but I gave myself a double-shot of perspective. Looking at last year’s journal entries, I saw that I’d only read 8 books by the end of February. I’m now at 22 books, and I didn’t get there until April 17. Triple digits can happen again.

Even though vacation has ended and I’m back to serving up grammar and vocabulary Monday-Friday, March promises to be a great month. I have some inviting gaps in my schedule that dovetail nicely with my plans to get back to procuring library loot. I’m looking out the window now at my library. It’s about 6:30 pm as I write this and that weird wedge-shaped thing is glowing with a soft green light as if tenderly beckoning me.

Cracked Spinz will resume meetings after a long hiatus and maybe we’ll get some new members. The university hired about 15 new teachers. Here’s hoping that some of them will be bookworms. Anyway, here’s what I read this month:

1. Wild Swans (memoir) – Jung Chang. Not only is this a memoir, it’s a history of 20th century China seen through the eyes of Jung Chang, her mother and her grandmother. It was heartbreaking to read about how fervently her parents believed in the Communist Party and their shock and disbelief at how Mao revealed himself over time to be nothing more than an evil despot. All of their dedication and sacrifice came to deep and profound loss and grief. I knew almost nothing about the Cultural Revolution, so this book was an eye-opener. If you get a chance, read it. You won’t find a more incredible or well-told story. I’m really glad that my co-worker Canadian Cool loaned me her copy.
2. Great Expectations (audiobook) – Charles Dickens, Hugh Laurie. I won’t say that I’m now an audiobook fan, but I truly enjoyed this one. My dearest crush Hugh Laurie narrates masterfully, and creates a wide and pleasing variety of voices and accents for each of his characters. Surprisingly, his best one (and the most moving) was for Miss Havisham. GE was the book that finally made me fond of Dickens, so I was pleased to revisit Pip and his world.

3. Bud, Not Buddy (novel) – Christopher Paul Curtis. This outstanding 1999 juvenille novel won the 2000 Newbery Award as well as the Coretta Scott King book award. It’s 1936 and 10-year-old Bud (not Buddy) Caldwell has been in and out of orphanages and foster homes since his mother died when he was 6 years old. After he’s put in another terrible foster home, he runs away and decides to hit the road and look for his real father. Going by a flyer that his mother saved, Bud is under the impression that a musician called Herman E. Calloway, who is the leader of a band called “The Dusky Devastators of the Depression!!!!!!” is his real father.

Curtis based some of the story on his colorful family history, and obviously did some great research about the time period. Bud and the other characters sound authentically 1930s. My favorite scene in the book involves Bud, who is on the road, lining up late at a soup kitchen for a free breakfast and being denied access. A couple with children see his plight and pretend that he’s theirs. The scene is written for comedic effect, but there’s a poignancy to it, too. I’m eager to read Curtis’ other novels, particularly 1963 – The Watsons Go To Birmingham.

To be continued…
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