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[personal profile] justice_turtle
[Written right before posting:] So I finally gave up on this... miserable object... (I tell you, I'm really regretting right now that I didn't make this blog R-rated) and decided to post what I had. In hopes that people will wail back at me and share my pain. O_O

In other notes, I've finally realized that putting the warnings in the actual post body as well as in the cut would be useful for anyone who ever gets linked here from anywhere. I'll do that from now on, and at some point go back and edit them into all the old liveblog posts. :D

**************

[Earlier:] ...I have no idea whether "New Finland" here means a place that is not Finland, like New York or New Zealand, or whether it means "contemporary Finland" as opposed to "traditional Finland with Lapps and reindeer and that".

LET'S FIND OUT. (Since I only have this book on interlibrary loan till October 7. ;P)

WARNINGS: normative arranged marriage, suicide, misogyny, classism, wildly skewed Finnish history... I may have missed something there because after 'suicide' the problems started coming so thick and fast I forgot to warn at the time )

* You know what? I'm done. This book is SO BIASED, and every bad sort of -ist possible [except maybe racist, which it made up for by being AS CLASSIST AS POSSIBLE, like the Dynne in The Phantom Tollbooth whose middle initial "A." stood for "AS LOUD AS POSSIBLE", only with classism]. I have no more interest in it whatsover. Blaaaaaaah. Done.

ETA: I found and fixed my own overflowing link. Aren't you proud of me? ;P Yes, this book has addled my brain. Addled, I say.
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
[Note: I'm planning to post Mondays and Thursdays for a while. Also, I have my laptop hooked up to a desktop monitor and it seems to be working okay.]

Summary: A fictionalized version of the year or so leading up to Vasco da Gama's 1497 voyage to India, seen through the eyes of the young Ferdinand Magellan and a highly fictionalized Jewish banker named Abel Zakuto.

Reaction: Oh, where to start? O_O I only got 13% of the way in before I gave up on this mix of bad research and utter nonsense with a nice thick scoop of misogyny on top.

Every single thing that could be slanted to the glory of Western explorers has been slanted so. Every single reference to women in the book is derogatory and stereotyped. There are two female characters, but by the point I stopped, it hadn't passed the Bechdel test even by implication, because one of them didn't talk, even offscreen.

And as far as I can figure, the portrayal of the political situation in Portugal at that time was made up out of whole cloth... to the point that "Abel Zakuto" was made up as a separate character from real-life Portuguese Royal Astronomer Abraham Zacuto, and was given most of Abraham's true history and accomplishments, apparently just to separate "Sympathetic Hero Character" from "person who has any sympathy or respect for the Portuguese monarch"! O_O BECAUSE CONFLICT, that's why. If you don't have a villain, make one up! *sigh*

Conclusion: One star. Half because because Mrs Hewes has an enjoyably brisk writing style well-suited to adventure stories, and half because -- even though it wasn't actually meant to come across as a romance -- the budding gay teen romance between young Ferdinand Magellan and fictional character Nicolo Conti was adorably sappy and quasi-realistic.
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
So. The next book on this list that I actually have is Spice and the Devil's Cave, Newbery Honor 1931, available free here thanks to the University of Pennsylvania.

bad research and a lot of misogyny )
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
Summary: The story takes place just after the American Revolution, and follows three protagonists - a shipyard owner's young heir, a fugitive French revolutionist, and a young sailor-lad - in their twin quests, first, to save a New England town's failing economy via the two-year voyage of a trading ship carrying trade goods ventured by all the townspeople, and second, to discredit the traitorous townsman who SABOTAGED the economy out of jealousy for the shipyard owner! ...yes, it really is presented as that Dramatic, and that easily fixed.

Reaction: I may have just plain grown out of Cornelia Meigs's writing style, but everything in this book just felt so obvious to me. Sympathize with this character! Don't sympathize with that character! Here's foreshadowing for the ENTIRE PLOT! Everything will be fixed in the end when this one Bad Person gets his just desserts! :P Not to mention all the weird segments of racism and classism scattered throughout. :-(

I'm... I know I've never liked her "boys' books" as well as her "girls' books", but I'm really starting to wonder if any of her books are as good as I thought. I'm still going to have The Covered Bridge on the Mock Newberys list, even though it'll be an interlibrary loan, because I seem to recall that being a really good book, but -- I'm revising my expectations downward. :P Which is sad.

Conclusion: No stars. I feel like I've been giving out zero stars a lot, but actually this just brings "zero" up to par with "one", "four", and "five", at five books each. And there was really nothing in the part of this book I read that I would give a star for.
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
Summary: cut for spoilers )

Reaction: On the one hand, I was really epically impressed by the amount of detail research the author obviously did, and by the light hand with which she distributed the details to draw a clean, memorable picture. I was also massively impressed by the illustrator, Harrie Wood (definitely not the Australian civil servant), who did a full-page illustration in period style for the beginning of each chapter.

On the other hand, after a rather hopeful first chapter or two with spoilers ), the writing kind of devolved into "sympathize with THIS side!", and every single time it was the whiter side. (Except I don't know about spoilery conflict ). Was there a whiter side in that one?) Every time. I quit on the chapter about spoilery name ) the Muslim pirate, because the writing was all about how he was EVILLY EVIL and really he was a pretty cool guy. He just did his pirating at Europeans instead of at brown people, like proper European pirates do. *end ALL THE SNARK*

I learned a massive amount from all the Wiki-searching I did to check things this book was saying, though. It was packed chock-full of references to historical events and characters I'd never heard of before. I wouldn't have wanted to read it pre-Google - there wasn't quite enough background provided to help check anything - but I enjoyed it as it stood.

Conclusion: Three stars, out of five possible. It wasn't bad, it just could have been so much better, and all it would have taken is some more balanced writing. It came so close.
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
...312 pages, due on Friday. Or Thursday. The library website and the interlibrary loan notice on the front of the book disagree. :P *sigh* I might need to check this one out again.

onward! -- classism, racism, the myth of the One True Passion In Life for each worker, and me getting overexcited about many things )

Sorry, Cornelia Meigs. I think I may have outgrown you. :P
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
more liveblogging )

...You know what? I'm bored. I'm bored of this book. I don't want to do the last two chapters. (There are only two, about Barbarossa and Garibaldi respectively - and I really, really don't want to hear any more about the Piratey Muslim Wickedness of Hayreddin Barbarossa.) I'm done.

At least I know who Hayreddin Barbarossa is now. ;-) It was really a fairly educational book, if by "book" I mean "source of search strings I never thought to look up before". ;-)
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
Summary: A collection of eighteen short stories and poems, previously published separately in a children's magazine, here gathered as a book and illustrated with 200 silhouettes by the author.

Reaction: Humor is a very subjective thing. Let's just put that out there. Me, for instance, I've never heard a Joss Whedon joke I unequivocally liked, but 99%1 of geeks seem to think he's the last word in humorous adventure writing.

1: 55% of all statistics are made up on the spot - including these. ;-)

So it's hard to criticize a book like this whose only stated purpose is humor. But, well, I didn't like it. I only managed to get through the first two stories, one of which was a long poem set in a "China" which only resembled any historical or traditional version of China in that the men wore their hair in braided pigtails and the women had tiny bound feet -- oh, and one character was a mandarin. ;P The other story was about a Caliph of Definitely-Not-Baghdad (this does not seem to refer to a Caliph in the specifically religious sense, the leader of a whole sect of Islamic worshippers, but to a more-or-less secular ruler of a city) who buys a clock from a Yankee con man in order that Mr John Bennett may try to write a parable on Daylight Savings Time, and fail miserably. You don't spork DST by ignoring how it actually works.

And the inherent racism in having a city full of "laughable" brown people conned by a Yankee deus-ex-machina, which left a bad taste in my mouth by itself, is followed up - in a later story (I flipped forward) about the same fictional Caliph - by an entire court of Persian astronomers and mathematicians who didn't know the earth was round. :P On which I gave up.

Conclusion: One star. I'm really tired of giving no stars to book after book, and this one's illustrations are impressively detailed and lively for silhouette-work, even though I am well prejudiced against them because of the offensive subject-matter: they started with a Chinese laundryman using his queue or pigtail as a clothesline, and didn't get any better. :P

I don't know if Mr John Bennett's older book Master Skylark, set in Shakespeare's England, is any good, but you can read it from Project Gutenberg at that link if you want a sample of his writing. ;S Like I say, humor is subjective, and he might not be as racist in Elizabethan England.
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
I have an interlibrary loan! ...I can only assume from the title and what I can see of the front cover that this is another glowing example of early 20th century chinoiserie, like Shen of the Sea. Because cultural appropriation always makes for happy kiddie fun times, am I right or am I right?

(Huh. Maybe I've had this the wrong way round. Maybe a snarky writing tone doesn't make for more interesting liveblogs; maybe if you liveblog terrible books long enough you inexorably develop a snarky writing tone, like it or no. ;P)

Anyway. ONWARD. And, uh, downward? Certainly not upward. *dry grin*

The Pigtail of Ah Lee Ben Loo )

* You know what? I took a break to let my brain recover, and then I flipped forward, and "The Persian Columbus" begins with the "renowned Caliph Haroun Al Huck El Berri" discovering from the newspaper that Columbus says the earth is round, a thing which none of his Persian advisers and mathematicians know... and I am just done. DONE DONE DONE. I don't like this guy's sense of humor and I don't care to give this book another chance.
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
Summary: Four siblings, seventeen years old and younger, move to South Dakota to live on a homestead there for fourteen months, beginning in summer 1910. They encounter not only blizzards and hard work but evil claim-jumping neighbors. Eventually they triumph over all odds.

Reaction: I wanted to like this book. I really, really did. The first few pages were so well-written in a spare, casual, well-pruned style. And it's set in South Dakota! Land of my heart. :-)

But. :P this got long )

And then there was the bit where I flipped to the end and found the author agreeing with seriously nasty victim-blaming, and just ugh. I'm going to link the online edition for completeness, but I really don't recommend it.

Conclusion: No stars. Which is a shame. It had potential. :P
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
I don't think I know anything about this book, except that it's a 1930 Newbery Honor Book and that it's out of copyright (available here). So!

DISCOVERY! )

:PPPPPP I'm done. I'm just done. It's quite obvious that everything will work out fine for the Linville kids, but that I'll keep calling out unfortunate turns of phrase and weird implications bordering on the offensive, or (as here) crossing well over that border, for the rest of the book. Blah.

***********

...why did I flip to the end. WHY. Now I have icky victim-blaming defense of domestic violence ) stuck in my head. :PPPPPP
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
Summary: A Southwestern Native American toddler gets lost in the desert, makes friends with a shepherd boy, and spends the rest of the book trying to find her family again.

Reaction: Oversimplified baby-talk narration, inaccurate representation of Navajo folktales, a protagonist of an unnamed tribe that is definitely not Navajo, and it takes ten pages for anything at all to happen? Plus bonus fat-shaming and chauvinism! Must be a 1920s Newbery, huh? *dry grin*

The setting showed fairly detailed research, but the "What tribe is she? Not Navajo! What tribe is she like? Navajo!" deal really made me eyeroll; it seemed like an excuse for sloppiness. I was reasonably impressed, though, by the existence of a subplot about a white man kidnapping Native children by government sanction to make them go to White-run boarding schools and forget their culture; I've never seen that historical fact addressed in any other work of fiction. Ever.

(I don't know if that says more about my reading than it does about the state of fiction.)

Conclusion: One star. For the boarding schools subplot.
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
I'm... less than optimistic about this book, because of the title. It's also out of print - I've got it on an interlibrary loan - but after Wonder Smith, Dream Coach, and Tod of the Fens (on the one hand) and The Story of White People and Shen of the Sea (on the other), I have serious doubts that the survival of a title on this list actually has anything to do with its quality. ^_^

holds nose and dives in; warning: fat-shaming )

...yeah, guess what? I'm done. I don't even care what happens in the rest of this book. Good-bye.
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
Summary: cut for spoilers )

Reaction: This is a book about unpleasant people having dysfunctional relationships while terrorizing themselves and each other with punitive religion. I don't like it.

(On a different note, this is the first book on the Newbery list to have a female protagonist. It's a shame she had to be this... painfully agency-lacking little thing whose entire character development, as far as I read, centered around being manipulated by A Boy. :P The really snarky part of me wants to say, no wonder this book was recently republished by a conservative Christian publishing house....)

Conclusion: Two stars, for the admittedly very good research and well-handled stream-of-consciousness emotional evocation. The characterization is actually quite realistic too, given the background of all the characters - it's an extremely accurate portrayal of the terribly strangling way over-structured religion causes people to beat themselves up. It's just, all of that seems to be considered a good thing. Including Dencey's drastic lack of agency. O_O
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
Oooh...kay. I tried to read this one before, but couldn't get past the first chapter for, if I recall correctly, personal reasons. Let's see if that's still the case.

Read more... )

Anyway, I'm done. O_O
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
Summary: cut for spoilers )

Reaction: also cut for spoilers )

Conclusion: Two stars. It has a clever plot with plenty of foreshadowing and twist reveals, hard to summarize in a sentence or two, and one of the female characters gets to save the lives of the two titular male heroes at one point. (Admittedly, by running to fetch male deus-ex-machina character spoilers ); it doesn't speak well to the general quality of adventure-stories that even this amount of agency for a young lady strikes me as very rare in adventure stories with a male main.) But its historicity runs to the dubious, and the levels of racism, classism, and especially ableism are really terrible.
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
I'd like to polish off what I can of the 1920s here (there are about half a dozen books left I'll have to interlibrary-loan), so the next book I'll tackle is Trumpeter of Krakow. ...at least we're starting to hit things that are Children's Classics rather than Did You Ever Hear Of That Me Neither. Whether the "classic" status is deserved, we'll find out.

(I've read this book before, but it's been many years, and Shen of the Sea shook me badly. ;P)

Come away with me then, to... oh never mind. XD )

And I'm only up to page 48, but it's Monday, so here we are: posting time. :-)

I may not get back to this book by next Monday, as I've got an interlibrary loan in - The Dream Coach by Anne Parrish, a 1925 Honor Book - and it's extremely rare and fragile and I have to return it in two weeks. So that's priority.

After that's done, though, it's Trumpeter of Krakow and then (except for the seven interlibrary loans not yet gotten) we'll wind up the Roaring Twenties in grand style with Millions of Cats. XD
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
Summary: A live Dutch doll about eight inches tall, named Nicholas, visits a fantasyfied New York City to see the sights.

Reaction: This book could have been so, so, so good. I love "virtual tour" stories about places I've never been; if this had been a good example of that genre, I would've had no complaints.

Sadly, it's not an example of the genre at all. It belongs to the very close but distinct genre of "tour guide disguised as fiction" - landmarks aren't clearly described, just mentioned offhand, with very specific directions as to finding them "on the ground", and it's really hard to stay interested in the storyline when whole chapters consist of "they went to this really awesome little place! and this one! and this one!" with no atmosphere to give a sense of the places. It's really clearly aimed at kids who live in 1920s New York and have the ability to follow in Nicholas's sightseeing footsteps.

WHICH IS SAD. A book that did give the atmosphere of these little hole-in-the-wall shops and big department stores would be an invaluable time-capsule story for its era! There are tiny hints of time-capsule things anyway, like the NYC-dwellers counting time by the flashes of the (then brand-new) stoplight at Forty-Second and Fifth - but just not enough. :-(

Conclusion: Two stars. I'd mark it much higher, but it was clearly never intended to go beyond its own place and time, and therefore doesn't really belong on the Newbery list.
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[personal profile] justice_turtle
I have finally acquired for review one of the half-dozen Newbery Honor books not even my old home library had! ALL HAIL INTERLIBRARY LOAN. XD This would be one of the 1925 Newbery Honor Books - the year of Tales from Silver Lands. (I've also got the other Honor Book from that year on request, but it's not in yet.)

this is a very old book )

I'm not going to read all the rest of this. I gave it a fair shot, 100 pages, and I see why not even my old library of completism owned it. It was a good book at the time and for the place it was written in, but it doesn't have much interest beyond that place and time.

I still would've voted to give it the Newbery above "Tales from Silver Lands" if it had had that absolute necessity of tour-books which are intended to replace rather than supplement a trip to the place: better visual descriptions, fewer El stops. :P

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