Random ramblings and TV-inspired activities

Sunday, 5 February 2012

The Library Experiment

We're regular visitors to the library, even if I have to keep reminding The Girl that we're not there to borrow copies of books we already have. It's a on the list of "cheap things to do with the kids" that gets rotated regularly.

I love reading, and The Girl seems to love books too - Toddler Boy seems to like turning the pages more than looking at what's on them, but I've just about got him to understand they're not for throwing, so there's hope yet. (As you can imagine, the latter can make for 'interesting' library trips...)

By the time we've been to the library and they've looked at and chosen a couple of books each, my nerves are usually shredded and I either decide I can't face wrangling them while I try and choose a book for myself or I plain forget. However, I've now found a semi-cunning plan to address this: I let The Girl pick my books for me.

So far, it's been quite a successful tactic. She picks things I wouldn't, and for the most part I've enjoyed her selections. I give you my potted reviews:

Mendel's Dwarf - Simon Mawer
I remembered Mendel from GCSE Science, hereditary genes and all that... This book was an intriguing mix of the "proper science" with an imagined past of Gregor Mendel interspersed with a first-person autobiographical account from the fictional Dr Benedict Lambert, geneticist, distant relative of Mendel, and dwarf. Dr Benedict is an engaging, but not always sympathetic, character and the story has a few twists and turns to keep you guessing, although I was willing the ending to be something other than it was... It stayed with me after I'd finished it: compelling yet disconcerting.

The Seamstress - Frances de Pontes Peebles
Two sisters escape their hometown in very different ways - one by an unsuitable marriage, the other (willingly) abducted by the cangaceiro, or rebel bandits, that roam the countryside of rural Brazil. I was utterly caught up in the South American world, in the fates of the sisters and their struggles against the societies and circumstances they are caught up in. Vivid, passionate and brave, I really enjoyed this one.

The Ghost Agent - Alex Berenson
My daughter's choices are nothing if not eclectic. I hated this book. In fact, I didn't finish it, and it's not often that happens. I can't tell you much about it, as I didn't get that far. It was written as if it was a book of a film; the kind of film you put Steven Segal in, because Vin Diesel's busy and Matt Damon won't return your calls. It was based on real-life political tensions, largely centered on China, North Korea and America. The central hero would fit in perfectly with 'Team America', but at least in that film machismo and arrogance were being sent up rather than taken seriously. Not my cuppa.

Angel with Two Faces - Nicola Upson
Back to enjoying the books again! This was a lively "whodunnit", set in England in the 1930s. I did find it was only the references to World War I that kept reminding me it was supposed to be set back then, and that the central characters were swept along by, rather than proactively solving, the case. But it was entertaining, and the differing ways in which the two key protagonists responded to a certain controversial issue was certainly thought-provoking.

The Girl's latest pick is Shadow Sister by Simone van der Vlugt. It's a crime one, which is not my usual thing, so I'm waiting to see what I make of that. It's one way of getting out of a reading rut, anyway!


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