Monday, September 30, 2013

Books! Books! And More Books....

I’m missing book reviews. Not reading them, but writing them.

The platform where I’ve been a regular, active reviewer for over a decade is currently in a state of huge flux. At the moment, it’s unclear whether or not the site issues will resolve so that book reviewers can remain viable contributors to the site. I’m sad over this for several reasons, one being that I do earn a small amount of consistent income from reviewing for the site each month, and another being that I’ve met some wonderful people through the site and would miss the camaraderie and community there if I had to step away completely.

But the strangest thing of all right now is not having this one niche to place book reviews – a niche I’ve relied on since the sweet girl (now eleven years old) was a baby. In that time I’ve averaged between 2-3 reviews per week, most of them books. I had not realized how engrained the review writing habit had become until the past couple of weeks, when I’ve not been able to post reviews of several books I’ve read and enjoyed. Granted, I could write and post elsewhere – like here – but I would miss the larger readership I have there, and the sense that I’m building something that’s connected to a community and not just me.

So what books have I read lately that I’m wanting to talk about?

In children’s books, the sweet girl and I just recently finished a “team read” of an amazing book called Team Moon: How 400,000 People Landed Apollo 11 on the Moon. After searching for ages for mid-grade resources on the moon landing and never feeling entirely satisfied, I felt like we hit the jackpot with this gorgeous picture book. Well, it’s picture book sized, but stuffed with text as well as photos. Written by Catherine Thimmesh, Team Moon stuns you with beauty and fascinates you with “behind the scenes” information about the moon landing. Despite the fact that the Apollo 11 mission was 44 years ago, Thimmesh manages to build suspense into the telling. She also shares about a number of people, beyond the three astronauts, who had a large share in getting them there.

Also in children’s books, I’ve discovered a delightfully wacky mystery series for mid-grade readers. I’m not sure how many Wilma Tenderfoot books there are, but having just laughed my way through the first, I hope there are a lot more. The book has a winking, all-knowing narrator and a terrific way of spoofing both orphan tales and detective stories. It managed to make me think of Harry Potter, Unfortunate Events, the Benedict Society, and Sherlock Holmes. Oh, and Saturday morning cartoons. Not to mention orphan girl Wilma (who so wants to become a detective) has a delightful sidekick in a beagle named Pickle. This series is by British author Emma Kennedy.

In books for grown-ups (I do still read those!) I’ve discovered a new mystery series I’m enjoying. The author is Christobel Kent, and the novels, which feature her private investigator Sandro Cellini, are set in and around Florence, Italy. Italy has become something of a fascination for me in recent weeks as we’ve made it our first geography study this year in school. Among other things, that’s meant that we’ve watched some good travel documentaries (yay, Rick Steves!) which have given me great visuals to keep in mind as I read. I’m not sure what I’m enjoying most about the series: Kent’s atmospheric writing, her lovable detective Cellini, or the great descriptions of Italy, but the combination of all those things definitely makes these books worth reading. The mystery plots are also strong, always a plus in these days where great characters and settings abound but writers tend to clunk their way through clichéd mystery plots. Not the case here.

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