Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Tuesday (and Monday) Update Bout of Books 11

Two for the price of one!  I spaced doing a real update yesterday so here is where I have gotten so far ...

Pages read today:163
Number of books I've read today: 1
Total number of books I've read: 1
Books Finished Today: The View from Saturday by E. L. Konigsburg - Children's Fiction 1997 Newbery Medal

Mini review - I am honestly not sure what I thought about The View from Saturday by E. L. Konigsburg. I loved From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and wanted to read another of her books. Since this was a Newbery winner I thought it was a good place to start. On the surface the story of four people coming together to form a unit and to compete as a brain bowl team is cool (I did that too when I was in middle school) but what was going on in the background here really bothered me.

Only Mrs. Olinski was a teacher with compassion for her student and a real concern for education. Every other teacher and school official was portrayed as a shallow/incompetent/terrible person (with one possible, minor exception). This really, really bugged me! I hate the fact that teachers are being portrayed as public enemies these days. Yes, there are incompetent teachers out there, but the vast majority that I have met range from at minimum competent and invested, to fantastic and responding to a calling. It is a hard, and these days pretty thankless, job. But it is increasing common to hear parent say that 'their' child's teacher is good/great/wonderful but still accept this meme that all the other teachers out there are lousy/lazy. And that messed up perspective was laid out here in the story. I really disliked this aspect of the book.

Just because our team is in competition with students from other grades and schools doesn't mean that we have to demonize the other teams and their coaches. That bugged me too. Whatever happened to the concept of friendly competition ? 

When Mrs. Olinski pokes fun at her supervisor for his understanding of diversity, I was somewhat on-board, but started more actively wondering about what exactly the author was trying to say here. I agree that a shallow understanding of diversity, going through the motions, is trivial and pretty useless. BUT real diversity is important and striving to increase understanding and respect has enormous value. Based on the book it is really fuzzy about whether diversity was really being celebrated here. The actual characters involved were from a pretty dated version of diversity and I am less then happy about the mystical Indian trope that was pulled out for Julian Singh and especially for his father.  That make me question what was actually going on here. So - disturbed.

On the other hand, I did very much enjoy the interlocking stories and the perspectives of each of the main characters. The book was a nice light read and in that aspect I felt it succeeded very well. 

Pages read today: 295
Number of books I've read today: 1
Total number of books I've read: 2

Books Finished Today: The Heist by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg

Right - so I got a copy of this for a buck from the library book sale, basically to support the library. I had a headache and ended up picking this book up because it had large print and required a low investment in intelligence. So, my expectations were low going in but oh my god this book is stupid.

I can't even review it - the writing is, well I was about to say juvenile but the children's book I read yesterday was much more sophisticated, so how about inept. The POV wanders around at random from Kate - Barbie FBI action figure, to Nick - generic Raffles sexy amazing thief, to the bad guys. And I do mean wanders - the POV occasionally jumps mid-paragraph. I can only assume that Kate is Janet's Mary Sue and that Nick is Lee's Gary Sue because they are such outrageous caricatures it is absurd.

 The first half of the book is 'assembling the team' so each of the new team members gets a chapter (thank god the team was comparatively small) and after that all but two of them basically disappear. They are also paper thin caricatures. Willie says around to be the explicit 'sex' girl to counterbalance Kate, the 'good' girl.

Now don't get me wrong, I can totally enjoy a stupid book as long as it is fun, but this was too much like reading someone else's private wish-fulfillment diary. I was not having fun. I was mostly amazingly bored.  This was like nothing so much as one of the lamer episodes of a TV show like It Takes a Thief or Hardcastle and McCormick (anyone remember those ?) I won't be reading another. 

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