Thursday, August 25, 2016

A Review: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

Unless you've been living under a rock, you've likely seen the visually enchanting trailers for this book turned movie, directed by Tim Burton. The premise of the book is based on the author piecing together a story with the help of a collection of eerie vintage photos that might have been double or triple exposed... or are in fact real images of peculiar children with peculiar abilities.

The book is geared towards a youth audience, with a (logically) teenage protagonist. Jake's life is a sort of perpetual limbo from his birth with all the wealth he'd ever need and no need to do anything but eventually "take over the family business": he's a trust fund baby. But he's bored. He sees his parents and their dull pointless lives and is unhappy and helpless to accept his. That is, until something happened to change everything. I guess everyone can relate to the mundanity of daily life with going to work, interacting with your family and friends in a very normal fashion all the while without real direction, purpose or any idea about what to do with yourself. Adults generally are busy adulting or raising their kids so I don't think they get lost in the same thoughts of boredom as Jake.

The thing is, as an adult who's not currently doing any adulting, I should naturally fall right into the book's story and be excited. I read with determined vigour searching for the hook in the book that would pull me in and sell me on getting the other two books of the series. I think that the years of adulting have left me with little imagination or interest to go off on a fictional journey. I think it's a good read for the target audience because I do believe that there are plenty of kids these days who lead rather dull existences and want to discover that they're special and go on an exciting and risky adventure. I can't speak for the movie as I didn't watch it but as with all movies from books, better to read the book before watching the movie just because the original is always better!

Without giving more of it away, I would say the book is worthy to be picked up by a youth audience and would be a good read for them without getting into subjects that are way over their heads (like adulting). It's a good coming of age story about a boy that many could relate to and see a part of themselves in him and go on an exciting journey to seek out their place in this world.

Friday, August 19, 2016

A Review: The Legend of Zippy Chippy

I judged this book by its cover, grabbed it (scanned at the library) and ran (this was before I broke my leg and wrist). I wasn't sure what to expect, but it was a thoroughly enjoyable read because I was so entertained by it! I know little about sports and even less about thoroughbred racing. But Canadian author William Thomas moulds the narrative life of racehorse Zippy Chippy in the most amusing fashion: by utilizing Zippy's life story to instill a sense of perspective about our own lives through the eyes of this lovable (and often ornery) equine.

Regardless of a reader's actual knowledge about thoroughbred horse racing history/industry, one would be able to take away tid-bits about life and sports history that can help us gain perspective about life's many struggles and failures while maintaining a positive outlook. I'm not saying that it's all rosy and rainbows and butterflies (because it's not), but it's really practical and honest in its tone. Each chapter follows a portion of Zippy's life and presents a moral and includes a brief about another similar subject that further drives the concept.

There is just enough humour, fact, moral and fun to keep the reader turning the pages and wondering what was the next bizarre turn of events that Zippy Chippy would get into. I found myself laughing out loud on several occasions and reading parts to my other half about the antics which seem unbelievably silly and outrageous. Even through the silliness and the humour, I still found myself nodding in agreement about the practicality of what could be taken away from the turn of events which made the reading so satisfying!

Without giving it all away, I would highly recommend this read for anyone in any circumstances because the truth is, everyone can learn something from this ornery retired racing legend.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

A Review: As Always, Julia: The Letters of Julia Child & Avis Devoto

I picked this book up after watching Julie and Julia, then reading the autobiography of Julia Child, My Life in France because I thought it would be an interesting perspective through a collection of personal letters between Julia Child and her friend, Avis DeVoto. The decade long collection of letter correspondences between Avis and Julia start with Julia reaching out to Avis' husband, Bernard (a American historian) about a knife, through fan mail. In place of Bernard, Avis' response sparks the start of a life-long friendship and culinary/literary collaboration.

Avis is not only Julia's good friend, but she was critical to helping Julia publish Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Julia herself is known as American chef, author and television personality. Julia brought authentic French cooking to American tables in the 60s through television and cook books. In the age of social media where relationships are created or ended in the blink of an eye, the collection of letters between Avis and Julia is very much the opposite: a lovely marination of two women's common interests and perspectives over years. While they surely had telephone correspondences on occasion, the essence of their perspectives is evident when you read the letters--both women are learned and capable in their own rights.

Avis, left and Juia, right working on... something!

I liked that the sections were prefaced by a summary of sorts to give the reader an idea about what turn of events (without giving it all away!) were about to unfold. Reading the letters feels like you're embarking on the same emotions and events Julia and Avis are, from their daily mundane struggles to the more lofty subjects like political atmosphere. Neither woman is dull by any means and the lives they lead are more than enough adventure for a reader. I enjoyed living through them by their letters as letters are generally not hidden behind several layers of editing or censoring by the writer, which makes them even more lively and enjoyable.

This is the first collection of letters I've read... it helps that I had some background from the other two books even though the editor made efforts to include lots of footnotes with explanations and clarification. Aside from the biography/autobiography slant, the book touches upon the political and cultural subjects of the time, giving a time-capsule feel where it's easy to lose yourself in their conversations. Other than the intimate insight into creation of one of the most well known and reputed French cooking books, if you enjoy history, this can be an interesting read as well, especially regarding the US political atmosphere of the 1950s.