Sunday, 21 June 2015

Tea, treats and books on a changeable Sunday morning...


I’m happy to be back to my normal schedule this morning, so as I sit here with my cup of chai tea, my yummy vanilla scone and a bowl of fresh fruit (I’m thrilled that it’s finally strawberry season!), I’m thinking about what I’ve read over the past five days.  Yesterday the forecast was calling for thunderstorms today, so I was expecting a good reading day, but the sky is blue, blue, blue, and the air this morning feels warm and humid.  I’ve just checked the updated forecast and see that there is no rain in sight!  The weather is changeable indeed.

Speaking of changeable, I read two books this week that are not my usual reading fare.  The first was Seconds, by Bryan Lee O’Malley, a graphic novel that explores the possibility of changing your past to make it perfect.  Katie is a young chef whose first restaurant, “Seconds”, is prospering.  She wants to open a new restaurant in town called “Katie’s”, but when construction difficulties arise, she becomes frustrated and questions her decisions.  When her ex-boyfriend shows up at “Seconds”, she wishes they had never broken up.  Katie lives in a room above “Seconds”, and one night while she is sleeping, a white-haired girl named Lis appears to her and reveals a secret, a way to change her past, using a notebook and a magical mushroom.  Katie wakes up and discovers, hidden in a dresser drawer, the very items Lis described, so she tries out this formula to change mistakes made in her past.  Despite the rule of one mushroom per person, when Katie finds a whole drawerful of mushrooms, she takes advantage of this opportunity and tries to fix all of her past mistakes, which leads to disastrous consequences.  With the help of a shy waitress named Hazel, Katie tries to make things right in her life again, and possibly learn from her experiences.  I’m not really a graphic novel reader… ok, I’ve never read a graphic novel, so this was a whole new experience for me.  I had to remind myself to look at the illustrations for clues as to what is going on in the story, not just rely on the text.  That may sound obvious and simple, but when you are used to reading novels, it’s quite an adjustment.  Once I started to study the artwork, I began to get more out of the story.  I also expected the storyline to be pretty basic, and so was surprised at the depth of Katie’s experiences and the themes explored in this book.  Can we change our past mistakes, and will that really make our lives better?  If we change our own past mistakes, how does that affect the lives of others?  And if we change our past, are we still the same person we were before the alterations?  This is a fairly quick read that I would recommend as a good choice to add to your summer reading pile.

The other book I read was Say You Will by Canadian writer and juvenile literature icon Eric Walters.  This Young Adult novel tells the story of Sam, a high school student whose IQ is stratospheric, but whose social skills are lacking.  All of this sets him apart from the rest of the students, and he realizes that what he really wants is to be a bit more like everyone else.  He changes his hair and clothing styles, intentionally gets answers wrong on tests, and tries to make friends with people other than the two friends he’s had since kindergarten.  As prom time approaches, the latest thing at Sam's school is to present a promposal, an elaborate (and expensive) public event staged to ask a potential date to the prom.  As Sam ponders this phenomenon, he, too, becomes swept up in the excitement and enlists the help of his friends Ian and Brooke as he tries to come up with the perfect way to ask the girl of his dreams to be his date for the prom, despite the low probability of success.  This book has all of the ingredients of the best Young Adult literature:  an unlikely hero, an impossible quest, and an entertaining sidekick.  It also explores the preoccupation with consumerism, the need to fit in, and what it means to be yourself, even in the face of social pressure.  Throw in a lesson in psychology, and you will end up with a YA novel that is sure to appeal to just about any reader.  I almost never read YA fiction, so this, too, was outside my comfort zone, but it was an excellent novel.  Eric Walters has written more than 80 novels for children and young adults, and was recently named a member of the Order of Canada for his contributions to children’s and young adult literature that help young readers deal with complex social issues.  He is also the driving force behind The Creation of Hope (http://creationofhope.com/), an organization that helps orphans and needy children in Kenya.    

OK, that’s all for today.  Since it is now not going to rain, I should get outside and enjoy the day.  And so should you!  

Bye for now…
Julie


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