Book Review

The Hired Girl - a Book Review

February 24, 2017

The hired Girl book review
Like the first book I read for my 2017 book goal, I’d never heard of ‘The Hired Girl’ by Laura Amy Schlitz until I read the blurb on the A Mighty Girl booklist, but it sounded promising. Published in September 2015 it is a work for young adults and is one I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend to teen girls.

The book tells the story of fourteen year old Joan who, in 1911, runs away from her home on a small farm in Pennsylvania when her father forbids her from continuing her schooling. Being a lover of reading, Joan treasures the few books she owns and longs for a life full of love and adventure just like her favourite heroines.

The Hired Girl takes the form of a diary, written by Joan in the notebook given to her by her beloved teacher, Miss Chandler. At first I found the format a bit befuddling, and frankly I had a bit of trouble with Joan’s ‘voice’. But I got over myself and realised that the author had truly managed to inhabit the mind of a fourteen year old girl. If you’re a fan of Anne of Green Gables you’ll like Joan – she’s intelligent, na├»ve, impetuous, prone to making rather large blunders, and desperate to be in love. At times I found Joan to be a frustrating character who is overly emotional and a bit self-involved, but then again so are all regular fourteen year old girls (except for me – I’m sure I was perfect when I was fourteen – Ha!).

The author has crafted a tale where Joan takes us on a journey through early twentieth-century America as she experiences new inventions like electricity and a magical carpet-sweeper, and as she learns about feminism, religion and love. Overall I thought 'The Hired Girl' was an enjoyable book, and one I’d recommend if you’re looking for an easy read.

The hired Girl book cover
Book Title: The Hired Girl
Author: Laura Amy Schlitz
Genre: Juvenile Fiction
Pages: 400
My rating: 3 Stars
Buy the Book: Amazon.com Amazon.ca
Winner of the 2016 Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction A 2016 Association of Jewish Libraries Sydney Taylor Award Winner Winner of the 2016 National Jewish Book Award for Children's and Young Adult Literature Newbery Medalist Laura Amy Schlitz brings her delicious wit and keen eye to early twentieth-century America in a moving yet comedic tour de force. Fourteen-year-old Joan Skraggs, just like the heroines in her beloved novels, yearns for real life and true love. But what hope is there for adventure, beauty, or art on a hardscrabble farm in Pennsylvania where the work never ends? Over the summer of 1911, Joan pours her heart out into her diary as she seeks a new, better life for herself--because maybe, just maybe, a hired girl cleaning and cooking for six dollars a week can become what a farm girl could only dream of--a woman with a future. Newbery Medalist Laura Amy Schlitz relates Joan's journey from the muck of the chicken coop to the comforts of a society household in Baltimore (Electricity! Carpet sweepers! Sending out the laundry!), taking readers on an exploration of feminism and housework; religion and literature; love and loyalty; cats, hats, and bunions.

Life Lately

Quiet with MILCK and Choir!Choir!Choir!

February 22, 2017

One of my goals for 2017 was to try new things and a couple of weeks ago I sang in public for the first time since probably middle school - Mr. Robertson’s (Robinson's?) music class to be exact where I think he scared most of his students away from singing ever again. At the start of each year he made everyone memorize a song and stand up and sing solo in front of our classmates to determine what type of singer they were – Soprano, Alto or Tenor, etc. In grade eight that song was ‘Bring Him Home’ from ‘Les Miserables’ which is rather difficult (Mr. Robertson was rather odd – he also made us listen to one of the Beatles' LP’s backwards to listen to the hidden secret messages that said that Paul was dead). Anyways, I digress.

Choir! Choir! Choir! is an un-traditional choir that is based here in Toronto, where instead of having a regular group of members they invite anyone to attend and sing the song of that day. They spend a couple of hours rehearsing a song, and then everyone sings it together and it’s recorded. Some of the recordings have gone viral including their rendition of David Bowie’s Space Oddity, and a cover of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’ with Rufus Wainright for 2016’s Luminato Festival in Toronto.  My friend Lindsey has sung with them on numerous occasions and she invited me and a couple of friends to join her on February 6th in support of the ACLU.

If you heard anything about the Women’s March on Washington on January 21st, you may have heard of MILCK. She performed her song “Quiet" with a group of strangers during the march, and the video of it went viral. The guys at Choir!Choir!Choir! invited her to Toronto to sing the song with the group, and this is the result:

The experience of singing in such a large group was really neat, and I can honestly say I wouldn't hesitate to attend another Choir!Choir!Choir! event in future - even one that isn't for such a great cause. Also, if you look VERY closely you can catch tiny glimpses of me at 1:37 and 4:24 - not that I watched the video repeatedly to see if I could spot myself or anything . . . :)
I can't keep quiet

Book Review

Code Name Verity - a Book Review

February 13, 2017

Code name verity book review
One of my goals for 2017 is to try to read 40 books. In order to help me keep track of the number of books I read this year I thought I might write reviews as I go. Hopefully these will introduce you to a book or two you'd like to read, or it might even prompt you to recommend one you've read and enjoyed to me. Code Name Verity was the first book I started after January 1, 2017.

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth E. Wein was released back in 2012, and to be completely honest I’d never heard of it before I stumbled across it while perusing the A Mighty Girl book list. I’m a bit of a fan of fiction set during the Second World War, but this one is different than many of the ones I’ve read before as the main characters are female and they’re right in the middle of the action. Needless to say this was quickly added to my hold list at the library.

When this book became available I couldn’t wait to get started. The story centers on two unlikely best friends – a working-class girl from outside Manchester and a Scottish Aristocrat, who despite their completely different backgrounds complement each other perfectly. The first part of the book is written from the perspective of a spy captured and held by the Gestapo. It’s a diary of sorts – the confession the spy writes to delay further torture, and what she anticipates will be her eventual execution. The spy tells of the friendship between Maddie, a pilot, and Julie, a special operations executive.

To be honest I had trouble getting into this book for the first little while – I found it slow going. The narrator focused a lot on Maddie’s story – detailing planes and airfields and other operational aspects of the war. This focus makes sense given it the information that would be most desired by the Gestapo about the war-time operations of their enemies, but I truly only wanted to read more about the friendship between the two young women, and frankly I also didn’t like the narrator’s character – a spy willing to confess to the enemy in order to save their own skin. To be honest I was a bit tempted to put the book down, but I persevered and I’m so very glad that I did.

I won’t go into the second part of the book as it would give away some key points of the story (and some major plot-twists), but I will say that Code Name Verity turned out to be a fabulous book and I can’t recommend it enough. It’s classed as Young Adult fiction, but it’s a truly great read for adults (and frankly some of the book might be a bit graphic for young teens).

So tell me - have you read it? If so, what did you think? Have any similar books you can recommend?

Code Named Verity Book cover
Book Title: Code Name Verity
Author: Elizabeth E. Wein
Genre: Juvenile Fiction
Pages: 352
My Rating: 5 Stars
Buy the Book: Amazon.com Amazon.ca
Code Name Verity is a compelling, emotionally rich story with universal themes of friendship and loyalty, heroism and bravery. Two young women from totally different backgrounds are thrown together during World War II: one a working-class girl from Manchester, the other a Scottish aristocrat, one a pilot, the other a wireless operator. Yet whenever their paths cross, they complement each other perfectly and before long become devoted friends. But then a vital mission goes wrong, and one of the friends has to bail out of a faulty plane over France. She is captured by the Gestapo and becomes a prisoner of war. The story begins in "Verity's" own words, as she writes her account for her captors. From the Hardcover edition.

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