Thursday, January 6, 2011

A trio of reviews and an announcement

Well, I feel like my reading has gotten off to a good start. I've read three very different books already : Prada and Prejudice, Masterpiece, and The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate.

One (P&P) is firmly YA, the other two are MG.

Before I leap into the reviews, I want to make an annoucement. No, I am not querying, and I don't have an agent... not that announcement. Calm down. Take a deep breath. Here we go.

Over the month of December I participated in a Read-a-thon where participants were meant to challenge themselves to read as much as possible over a weekend, and then attach some donation (to the charity of their choice) based on the books read.

Some people opted to do a per-page kind of thing (a penny for every page read). Some, like me, made a per-book arrangement ($1.00 a book, etc). I decided to donate $5.00 for every book I read. I managed to read 10 books over the month, and am excited to be donating that $50.00 to my local neighborhood non-profit, the North End Action Team.

I really had fun with this challenge, and to be honest, I don't want to stop.

Drum roll please...

So I am initiating my own challenge, I want to keep giving throughout the year. I love the idea of associating something as fun as reading, with "The Greater Good".

Of course, anyone who would like to join in can, but no pressure. It's more that I want to keep reminding myself to read (not hard), and to give (sometimes hard), throughout the year. So, to begin I created this handy-dandy badge. I had to use my own art work, because I was paranoid about using someone else's from the web.That meant a bug, which meant, a theme that was insect-inspired.

I present the I Dig Reading Challenge.

I'll share with you as I try to read and give more! If anyone does want to join in (one of us, one of us), feel free to lift the badge from this post. Or just watch as I try to keep reading and giving all year.

On to the reviews

Prada and Prejudice, Mandy Hubbard.
Tiny synopsis: Callie is on a school trip to England, feeling left out as usual. In a fit of mania, she decides to impress the popular crowd by splurging on a pair of honest-to-God Prada shoes. Trying to walk around London in these massive high heels, she falls, hits her head, and is sent back in time to 1815.

This was a cute and fun story. Fantastic themes about struggling with fitting in, having confidence in yourself, and deciding what's really important in life. In addition, the journey to 1815 emphasizes the way women lived in that era. A lot of this is realized through funny interactions and hilarious errors. At times, though, Hubbard more pointedly highlights the options (or lack of) available to women, and shows how different characters try to handle it.  I thought the romance was sweet and heartfelt.

The evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly
Another Callie, but a quite different story about a young girl trying to understand her role in society.

Tiny synopsis: It's 1899 and Calpurnia is eleven. She is the only daughter in a family with (I think seven) brothers. There were a lot of brothers, and some of them ran together. Callie does not excel at the skills that young ladies of this era are expected to have. She can't sew, play piano, or cook well, which means she and her mother constantly butt heads. She falls into an unlikely relationship with her cranky elderly grandfather, a civil war veteran who runs experiments in a shed behind the house. Together, they explore the natural world.

I loved this story. Just adored it. The relationship between Callie and her grandfather is fantastic-- it reminds me a lot of the grandchild/grandparent relationship in A Christmas Memory, by Truman Capote. I still remember the first class where I read A Christmas Memory. It knocked my socks off. An oddball child and an oddball grandparent joining up to have some adventures together. Callie's grandfather is a naturalist, so they collect bugs and plants, and observe nature together. There were many funny moments, and also this really poignant realization that girls, even girls like Callie, most often do not get a chance to go to College in this era. The author plays with this theme a lot, but never fully answers what Callie can expect for her future. I am not surprised this was a Newberry Honor Book. Isn't that cover fab?

Finally, Masterpiece by Elise Broach
Tiny synopsis: James is eleven and lives in an apartment in Manhattan. Marvin is the beetle that lives with his family in the cupboard under their sink. James is a bit of a misfit (is this a theme today, or what?). For his birthday he gets a pen and ink set. In an effort to cheer him up, Marvin creates a pen and ink drawing as a gift. Everyone thinks it's James'. The drawing leads them all on an adventure that includes a mystery and an international art heist.

 This book had much more depth than I expected. I thought it would be a slight, quick, middle grade read. I was surprised to find the mystery truly compelling. It was well-crafted and suspenseful, as well as a sweet story.


  1. What a great idea! Here's to happy reading in 2011!

  2. Very, very, VERY cool reading challenge. I'll pass it along and also participate! Let's see, I owe $10 so far for 2011! Off to a good start. :)

    And great book reviews! The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate is definitely in my TBR stack.

  3. Great reviews! And your reading challenge sounds awesome...I may just have to steal your badge. :)

  4. Meredith, yay for reading!

    Thanks Susan, I thought it would be fun! As a fellow scientist, you'll love calpurnia.

    Pam, please DO steal my badge!

  5. I've been meaning to read Calpurnia for ages -- I'd better grab a copy (and pay for the privilege - I'm in on the challenge.)


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