Sunday 18 June 2017

Post on a thunderous Father's Day...

The forecast for today calls for an 80% chance of thunderstorms all day, but so far, we’ve had a smattering of rain, some sun, dark clouds, alot of wind, and a mild threat of a thunderstorm in the form of distant thunder. Very unsettled weather indeed, but not as bad as expected... yet!  I’m feeling quite safe, though, in my cozy reading chair with my cup of tea, a date bar and some of the first local strawberries of the season, although I may have to stop typing and rush to close all the windows any minute.

It’s been a super-busy week and weekend, so I didn’t get a whole lot of reading done, but I did finally get to read a Young Adult novel I purchased for one of my schools from our Book Fair in May, Summer’s End by Canadian author and librarian Joel Sutherland.  Set in the Muskokas in the fictional town of Valeton, it tells the story of four fourteen-year-olds who plan to have the summer of their lives before they head off to high school.  It’s bad enough that three of these kids, Hayden, Hannah and Jacob, best friends forever, will be going to different schools in town, but the fourth, Ichiro, will be moving to Japan.  They are all living in different domestic situations, none ideal, and they rely heavily on each other to get through each crisis as it occurs.  After a skirmish during a baseball game, Jacob and Ichiro decide to take Ichiro’s new canoe, a gift from his parents to help ease the pain of the impending move, out on the lake, where they have gone canoeing all their lives.  But something seems different this time… they are drawn further and further out, far beyond any reaches they’ve paddled to before.  As the mist rolls in and surrounds them, they come upon a remote island and decide to stop and take a tour.  What they discover is “Summer’s End”, an old, decrepit mansion that begs to be explored, even as it repels them with the aura of foreboding.  They enter the house, and, against their better judgement, check out the rooms on the main floor.  When the phonograph begins playing on its own and Ichiro becomes paralyzed with fear in one of the rooms, they instinctively race for the door, but not before the screaming begins.  Can they stay away?  Well, that wouldn’t make for a very good novel, would it?  After some research at the local public library, they discover that this house was built nearly a hundred years earlier by a doctor and his wife, who came to tragic and horrible ends not long after they moved in.  The place has been passed down through the family, but no one has been brave enough to live there.  There have also been a number of unsolved cases of missing children over the years, and Jacob thinks these two are connected.  The four kids decide to canoe out there again one night, as Jacob has an idea that may finally  free the spirits of the missing children and solve the mystery, bringing some sense of closure to at least one child’s parent.  What they encounter, however, is far beyond anything they could have imagined, and they must use all their wits to stay one step ahead of the ghostly presences that haunt “Summer’s End” and save the lives of other children in the town.  This novel has all the elements of a deliciously scary gothic horror (a creepy, decaying, isolated setting, supernatural beings, curses and/or prophesies, and a couple of quick-thinking, brave heroes), and I can picture my eleven-year-old self curling up with this type of book and staying up way too late to finish it, savouring every juicy, horrific detail.  The language was not overly challenging, but the content was certainly mature, making this an ideal novel for kids who want a fast-paced, engrossing, plot-driven book.  And being a librarian himself (he is the Children’s and Youth Services librarian at the Georgina Public Library), Sutherland also manages to include a plug for the local library, outlining some of the challenges librarians face when trying to secure funding to maintain a well-rounded library collection that will meet the needs of all patrons.  I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and would agree with one of my students, who has already read this novel and included it in my “Staff and Student Picks” display, that this is “a scary mature read”.  

I finished listening to an audiobook this week, too, Crime of Privilege by Walter Walker, but I’m not going to write much about it, as it was not an entertaining listening experience.  Here is a summary from the Penguin Random House site:  

A murder on Cape Cod.  A rape in Palm Beach.  All they have in common is the presence of one of America’s most beloved and influential families.  But nobody is asking questions.  Not the police.  Not the prosecutors.  And certainly not George Becket, a young lawyer toiling away in the basement of the Cape & Islands district attorney’s office.  George has always lived on the edge of power.  He wasn’t born to privilege, but he understands how it works and has benefited from it in ways he doesn’t like to admit.  Now, an investigation brings him deep inside the world of the truly wealthy - and shows him what a perilous place it is.
It got rave reviews, so I’m sure it’s my inability to appreciate the writer’s skill, but I thought it was overly long and complicated, many parts just dragged along and were repetitive, and the narrator was so wimpy and wishy-washy that I kept hoping it would end.  I almost stopped listening at one point but, after investing so much time into it, I decided I could struggle through one last section.  Perhaps if I had known that it was loosely based on actual historical events related to the Kennedy family, I may have been better able to appreciate it, but I think my problem was with the narrator, George, and his morally righteous, yet incredibly hypocritical, attitude.  It may also be that audio was not the best format, that it may be a book I could have enjoyed in print.  Having read the reviews, I may revisit this book again in print someday and see if I have a better experience. I may even check out other books by this San Francisco lawyer-turned-author. WOW, that was alot more than I’d planned to say about this book!

That’s all for today.  Happy Father’s Day, and get outside before the rain starts in earnest!

Bye for now…

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