The #WritersRead theme for March was children’s and middle-grade novels. I chose to read one of my daughter’s most beloved books, Holes by Louis Sachar.
I have around 3000 books sorted onto shelves around my home. The books I’ve read are housed in a room we call the library (read: The Library Project). Upstairs, my daughter has two crammed bookshelves, my husband has one, I have another in the bedroom I call my TBR shelf (over 300 titles and counting) and our guest bedroom hosts two bookshelves, one full of books from my childhood and one called the denial shelf. The books on the denial shelf don’t actually exist.
What may surprise you, however, is how few books there are on the children’s bookshelf Before the age of twelve, I didn’t really like to read. What happened when I was twelve? Our family took a vacation to Lake Michigan and over the bed, in the room I shared with my sister, was a shelf of well-read paperbacks. Bored to distraction by the rain that prevented us from swimming, I picked one at random (probably the skinniest) and read it. The book? Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. And so began my love affair with science fiction, dystopias, and by extension, apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction. Forty years later, I’m still going.
The point of this little story isn’t so much to share how I got started reading but to explain why I don’t have a lot of typical children’s books on my shelves. As a child, I might not have read a book like Holes, and that would have been a shame. It’s not speculative and there’s no romance (another not so secret passion of mine). The cover and the title might have intrigued me, but the premise would not. But I did enjoy this book. Very much, in fact. It was just a little bit sinister and had a lot of heart.
As a reader (and writer) who prefers intensely character-driven stories, I’d have liked more Stanley. He came across as a little too passive for me. But he does grow over the course of the book, in all the right ways. He leans into his own strength, thereby discovering he’s pretty okay as he is. And, really, he’s kind of perfect for the tale the author wanted to tell. The same story told from the point of view of Xray or even Zero, would have been entirely different, and probably not the one Louis Sachar wanted to write.
I also enjoyed all the quirkiness you wouldn’t get away with in an adult novel, such as the games with the names, and the (maybe) improbable history lessons. Because this was a children’s book, I was able to suspend disbelief and just roll with it. Enjoy it. All in all, I liked the present story more than the past stories, though, because in my heart, I wanted both Stanley and Hector to get what they wanted. But I’m not going to spoil the ending and tell you whether they did. I read this book in a couple of hours, so it won’t take you too long either.
Other notable reads for March
Four Friends by Robyn Carr
Robyn Carr is one of my favourite authors. I lived in Thunder Point for a while, looking forward to every new novel not so much for the romance it would bring, but so I could check back in with the town’s many residents. I loved the Virgin River novels for the same reason and devoured the new Netflix series in days (so good).
I’ve had Four Friends on my bookshelf (the one in the bedroom) for a while. I finally picked it up over the weekend, looking to involve myself in another world for a while. One where people had problems, but the support of friends to help them work it out. Where couples fought and worked it out. Where there were happy ever afters.
Four Friends is a little different from Carr’s earlier novels in that the focus isn’t necessarily on one couple. There is a story for each of the friends and they’re all equally fulfilling. I laughed and cried and when I was done, I recommended the book to four of my friends.
The Iron Crown (The Darkest Court #3) by M.A. Grant
I’ve loved The Darkest Court series from the first book. Urban fantasy is usually a tough sell for me, but M.A. Grant has written a fusion of contemporary fantasy that works on every level. The lore is clearly defined and the characters are relatable.
The Iron Crown brings the plot started in book one and continued in book two to a terrific conclusion. Layered in between is the romance between Lugh and Keiran. The element of this series I have enjoyed the most is that both men are equal partners in plot and power. While the books tell the story of the darkest court, Smith, Sebastien, and in The Iron Crown, Keiran, are given huge roles to play. I honestly couldn’t tell you which journey fascinated me more: Lugh’s uncanny gift or Keiran’s unexpected ‘ascension.’
Bonus points: friends to lovers is my favourite romance trope. I was one very happy reader by the end of this one.
Bruce Lee: A Life by Matthew Polly
This biography covers Bruce Lee’s life in exhaustive detail, from his family’s humble beginnings to the inquest following his death. The facts are fascinating. What I really enjoyed, however, was the in-depth look at Lee’s philosophies regarding martial arts, or Kung fu.
He’s not always painted in the best light, which is another reason I enjoyed this book so much. Lee was vain, ambitious, a philanderer, and not always honest–except in one very important detail. He was very clear about what he wanted and who he wanted to be. He lived a very full life and probably did more in his thirty-odd years than many of us have done in twice as long.
I also enjoyed the look at the Hong Kong film industry, television in the sixties, and how martial arts became popular around the world.