The Secret Life of Lincoln Jones by Wendelin Van Draanen

Thank you Netgally for letting me read The Secret Life of Lincoln Jones by Wendelin Van Draanen in exchange for an honest review.

Here is the book synopsis.

"Award-winning author Wendelin Van Draanen gives us a fresh and funny story about a boy learning to become the brave hero of his own life. Perfect for fans of Counting by 7s and The Fourteenth Goldfish.

My secret life is filled with psychic vampires, wheelchair zombies, chain-rattlin’ ghosts, and a one-eyed cat. But they’re nothing compared to my real-life stalker: a sixth-grade girl named Kandi Kain. . . .

Lincoln Jones is always working on the latest story he’s got going in his notebook. Those stories are his refuge. A place where the hero always prevails and the bad guy goes to jail. Real life is messy and complicated, so Lincoln sticks to fiction and keeps to himself. Which works fine until a nosy girl at his new school starts prying into his private business. She wants to know what he’s writing, where he disappears to after school, and why he never talks to anybody. . . .
The Secret Life of Lincoln Jones is a terrifically funny and poignant story about a boy finding the courage to get to know the real characters all around him—and to let them know him."

My Reflections

Lincoln and his mother have moved from a small town in Southern United States. In this new place, Lincoln has a lot to learn about being human, connecting with other people, and growing up.

Lincoln is a boy with secrets. He doesn't want anyone to know that he spends his time after school at Brookside, an old folks home. He doesn't want anyone to know why he and his mother left their old home. He doesn't want anyone to know what his life was like before now. Lincoln is a writer. It's one of those things he keeps hidden but it's also how he protects himself from other people.

Readers will cheer for Lincoln as he forges many new relationships. At school there is a group of girls he shares a table with. There is Kandi, a girl who seems to be always wanting to know his business. Then there are the people at Brookside, a home for old people who are suffering from dementia and memory loss. Mrs. Graves, his elderly neighbor is another person he gets to know. Eventually, Lincoln's relationship with his mother also evolves.

One of the things I really appreciate about Van Draanen is how she is able to bring social issues into great fiction. Lincoln is being bullied by another boy on the bus. Trying to ignore him doesn't work. What does work is when other kids step up to stop it, just like in real life. There is the homeless vet who hangs out around their apartment. And then there is Kandi, who seems to be irritating but has her own story to tell. All of this reminds readers to dig deep to understand what's inside of other people.

I like this book a lot. Van Draanen combines laugh out loud humor and heartbreak into one fabulous narrative. I appreciate that these adults, from the teachers to the mother and the workers at Brookside are fine people. I like that these other kids are mostly kind and good. I love how she brings social issues, like the ones with the veteran and the old people who never get any visitors into our vision. I was able to make personal connections to this since my mother lived among people like those who live at Brookside. It's a very lonely place for many people.

Margaret Mead once said something to the effect of, You know a civilization is in decline when old people and young people are separated. Thank you Wendelin Van Draanen for showing us what we miss.

#IMWAYR November 21, 2016

Hurrah! #IMWAYR time again, when readers share what they have been reading and find out what others have been up to in the past week. The adult version of this meme is hosted by Kathryn at Book Date. The kidlit rendition is hosted by Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki at Unleashing Readers. Whatever you are looking forward to in your next great read, these are fabulous places to start your search.

I didn't get so much quilting in this week, but the reading was divine. I wish my house would clean itself though. 

REVIEWS POSTED


NOVELS

Waylon! One Awesome Thing by Sara Pennypacker, Marla Frazee (Illustrations)

4 stars
I'm adding Waylon to my list of boys in literature who I love. Sarah Pennypacker knows how to create loveable, complex characters. When all the boys in his grade four class end up on a team except Waylon, it isn't easy. Ultimately though, with support from family (including his gothic teen age sister) and a geographical epiphany, Waylon finds friendship in an unlikely person.
This would make a great read aloud in younger classrooms. I can imagine, Be An Isthmus, becoming as a class motto as a result.

4 stars
The Secret Life of Lincoln Jones by Wendelin Van Draanen (netgalley)

I'm in the middle of writing a review for this one so all I'm going to tell you is that I really liked this story of a young boy and his relationships with the old people at the home where his mother works, the other students in his class, and his mother.

Stars of Summer by Tara Dairman

4 stars
Gladys heads off to summer camp where she ends up working in the camp kitchen. She's learning to swim and master archery. However, something is wonky with her new reviewing assignment where Gladys has to find the best hotdog in New York. On top of that, Hamilton Herbertson, kid author, seems to be stalking her.
What I liked in the previous books is what I like here; great adults who have their children's best interests at heart, loads of humor, compelling characters and delicious descriptions of food.
Now that I've finished this, I have to wait for Dairman to release the next in the series. In the meantime I'll have to see what kinds of hotdogs are available here in Vancouver, BC

3 stars
Imprudence by Gail Carriger, narrated by Moira Quirk (YA)

This is another fun, steampunk, paranormal novel. Prudence ends up taking her parents on an emergency trip to Egypt in The Spotted Custard. She has a devil of a time trying to figure out who keeps attacking the ship and why. 
I appreciated that we get to know Prudence a bit better and I enjoyed the adventure and action in this one. Some of the minor characters are delightful. I could have done without the romance. In fact that aspect felt a bit to harlequin for my tastes, though I suspect that in my younger days I would have be happier with it.

ADULT NOVELS

Tulip Fever by Deborah Moggach

3 stars
This book club book turned out to be a relatively easy read. It's told through the points of view of numerous characters. I appreciated how multidimensional Moggach reveals them to be.
The plot trajectory wasn't a surprise except at the very end.
What I found fascinating was reading how the author was inspired to write the book. I also enjoyed looking at the images of the paintings throughout the book and looking them up on my device to get an enlarged view of them. There is a list of them at the back of the book, but I wish each image was accompanied by a caption.

Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson, narrated by Robin Miles

4 stars
I was riveted by these characters and their lives. It's the story of the power of friendship and how, even if it can't protect these young girls from the horrors in their everyday lives, at least provides an anchor for them to hold on to.
I'm pretty much a hard core fan of Woodson, and wasn't disappointed in this one. One of our book club members just started reading A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. I would love to go back and read it again after reading this.

CURRENTLY

I'm listening to The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken and just started Playing for the Devil's Fire by Phillippe Diederich.

UP NEXT

Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew'd by Alan Bradley has just become available so I'll be listening to that next. Then I have four more books from the library to get to. 
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Cloud and Wallfish by Anne Nesbit

In my late teens and twenties I was a huge fan of those cold war spy novels. John Le Carré, Eric Ambler, Len Deighton and others were a regular part of my reading experiences. Today, if my partner and I are arguing about what to listen to while travelling, we end up compromising and listen to at least one of the BBC's series, The Complete Smiley.  

Because I am already a fan, I am predisposed to be both delighted and fascinated to view the world of the cold war from a child's perspective.

Here is the synopsis from Goodreads:

Noah Keller has a pretty normal life, until one wild afternoon when his parents pick him up from school and head straight for the airport, telling him on the ride that his name isn’t really Noah and he didn’t really just turn eleven in March. And he can’t even ask them why — not because of his Astonishing Stutter, but because asking questions is against the newly instated rules. (Rule Number Two: Don’t talk about serious things indoors, because Rule Number One: They will always be listening).

As Noah—now "Jonah Brown"—and his parents head behind the Iron Curtain into East Berlin, the rules and secrets begin to pile up so quickly that he can hardly keep track of the questions bubbling up inside him: Who, exactly, is listening — and why? When did his mother become fluent in so many languages? And what really happened to the parents of his only friend, Cloud-Claudia, the lonely girl who lives downstairs?


What I Think:

I started this a while ago, and then, when I decided I had to finish it, couldn't put it down. 

First off, the characters are compelling. Noah is so ordinary. He's just a kid who is caught up in circumstances beyond his control. He's trying to do his best, but sees injustice everywhere he looks. Claudia's life with her strict grandmother is untenable and Noah/Jonah is her only friend. What those two will do to support each other is dangerous and heartwarming. Their pseudonyms, Cloud and Wallfish are merely the beginning. 

Even the secondary characters, like Noah's parents, Claudia's grandmother, and Noah's teacher, when he finally gets to go to school, are multidimensional. 

This book is filled with secrets; secrets about Noah's parents, secrets about Claudia's family, secrets about what it was really like to live in the country of East Germany, and even Noah's secret ability. 

I remember when the Berlin wall came down. Here in the west we were astonished and hopeful. Reading about it from the perspective of people on the other side, however fleeting, gave me a whole new perspective. 

What I really think is that even if you are not a huge fan of cold war novels, you should still get your hands on a copy of this historical novel set in East Germany in 1989 as soon as possible and read it!

#IMWAYR November 14, 2016

Hurrah! #IMWAYR time again, when readers share what they have been reading and find out what others have been up to in the past week. The adult version of this meme is hosted by Kathryn at Book Date. The kidlit rendition is hosted by Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki at Unleashing Readers. Whatever you are looking forward to in your next great read, these are fabulous places to start your search.

Aside from reading obsessively about the American election, I managed to get in a bit of reading with my eyes. I've also been listening to audiobooks and working on That Quilt. I've finished the A arcs and am working on the B side. I've got another 144 more to go before I move onto the next phase. Here's a picture of what I've completed so far.



PICTURE BOOKS

At the library last week, while dropping off some unread books, I wandered over to the picture book area to see what was new. Here is what I found.

Some Birds by Matt Spink
  
3.5 stars

This simple, patterned rhyming book has gorgeous zentangle illustrations. The text will be easy for new readers to memorize and the illustrations will keep them engaged. I can imagine art projects for readers of all ages spinning off from this book. If I were still working I would hand this off to Blake and David, some teachers who teach their students to zentangle.





3 stars
Aberdeen by Stacey Previn

This is a sweetly illustrated story about a mouse who gets distracted by a floating balloon. As he chases after it, his tail gets tangled up in the string and takes him on an adventure. He ends up getting very lost.

NOVELS

Full of Beans by Jennifer L. Holm

5 stars
Sometimes, all you need is a really good middle grade novel. If it teaches you something and makes you laugh at the same time, it's just divine. This is one of those. It's also the perfect antidote for too much politics.
Full of Beans is a prequel to Turtle in Paradise, a book I adored. The story is set in Key West during the depression. We learn a lot about Roosevelt's new deal and what a change it made in people's lives.
There are many quotes to share. Here is one of my favourites:
"Nana Philly was notorious. She made grown man cry. She chased three pastors out of town. Folks whispered that she was so mean, she must be related to the devil himself. Black cats cross the road just to get away from her."
It also doesn't hurt that Holmes gives us a link to a recipe for chocolate divinity fudge in the end notes. By the time you finish reading, you're going to want some.

Summerlost by Ally Condie

3 stars
This is a sweet story of friendship, family, and loss. These characters are ones I wish I could have known when I was younger. Cedar and her family are recovering from the loss of a father and brother in a fatal car crash. While on summer holidays she ends up working at a Shakespeare festival.
These last lines are going to resonate for a while.

"I have been in the presence of a lot of greatness. And people I love who loved me back. It might be the same thing."

5 stars
When the Sea Turned to Silver by Grace Lin, narrated by Kim Mai Guest

I am infatuated by this collection of companion novels. Through them I get to visit a world and reality I've never entered before. This is a story that shows us that story tellers, just by telling stories, can have powerful influence over their worlds. Grace Lin masterfully weaves all the threads of the different stories into a satisfying conclusion. If you haven't read any of these books, you need to remedy this.
This week while I am working on That Quilt, I'm going to be listening to Starry River of the Sky.

3 stars
Prudence by Gail Carriger, narrated by Moira Quirk

I actually finished this a couple of weeks ago, but forgot to mention it. I am a fan of Carriger's world building and sense of humor. If you haven't read any of her work, here is a quote from Goodreads describing her work:
"Gail Carriger writes steampunk comedies of manners mixed with paranormal romance. Her books include the Parasol Protectorate, Custard Protocol, Supernatural Society, and Delightfully Deadly series for adults, and the Finishing School series for young adults."
While I finished up her Finishing School series, I have only read Soulless, the first in the Parasol Protectorate collection. I was looking forward to Prudence, because she is the daughter of the two main characters in that one. I was not disappointed.

ADULT NOVELS

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch, narrated by Jon Lindstrom

5 stars
I really don't know where to begin with this roller coaster of a read. It is the story of a physics teacher who leaves his home one evening and wakes up in a dangerously different world. When he finally figures out what is going on, he has to figure out how to get home to his real wife and son. This science fiction title will have you thinking about the choices you've taken and what might have been.
I know some people will complain about the science in this book, but I don't have the capacity to respond to that. What I can confirm is that this is a gripping read filled with sympathetic characters and a wickedly twisting plot. I did not anticipate where this book was going at all for a while. It kept me on the edge of my seat until the end.
I'm contemplating getting this for my partner for Christmas.

OTHER STUFF

I abandoned March of the Suffragettes last week. I wanted to love it because the topic fascinates me, but it was dry and not engaging. I just didn't feel as connected to these important characters as I should have. I agree with Karen Yinling "this was not formatted in a way that will be appealing to my students. It was very wordy, had few pictures, and had some odd turns of phrase."

CURRENTLY

I'm into Imprudence, the next of the Custard Protocol series. I've started Waylon! One Awesome Thing by Sara Pennypacker.

UP NEXT


Starry River of the Sky by Grace Lin and The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken. I just realized that I'm supposed to have Tulip Fever by Deborah Moggach finished by Tuesday for book club. I haven't started it yet. 

#IMWAYR November 7, 2016


Hurrah for Monday! #IMWAYR time again, when readers share what they have been reading and find out what others have been up to in the past week. The adult version of this meme is hosted by Kathryn at Book Date. The kidlit rendition is hosted by Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki at Unleashing Readers. Whatever you are looking forward to in your next great read, these are fabulous places to start your search.

In spite of my ongoing, but lessening back problems, I've had a pretty good reading week. In part this is because I figured out how to read with my eyes for part of the day. (Imagine me nesting in my favourite reclining lounge chair with cushions piled up at the sides so I can relax my back and hold a book at eye level at the same time) I still haven't been able to knit. Instead I started back to work on a quilt that I should have finished ages ago. As I sew, I listen to audiobooks. That mostly accounts for my successful literary week. I'm also content with my quilting progress since I've finished around 120 arcs on my son and daughter-in-law's very late double wedding ring quilt. They were married over a year ago!

PICTURE BOOKS

4 stars
The Perfect Tree by Chloe Bonfield

Jack sets off to find the perfect tree to "chop, hack and stack." Although he spends much time searching in the woods, he is unable to find one. Luckily he makes some new friends who show them their perfect trees. As they do this, Jack learns that trees have more perfection inside them than he could first imagine.

Bonfield's art is just stunning. It's a mixed media combination of paint, collage, three dimensional construction, lighting and digital enhancement. You need to get this book to see how spectacularly it all comes together.


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5 stars










Journey, Quest & Return by Aaron Becker

I read Journey, the first of Becker's wordless, magical, steampunk picture book series ages ago. Then for some reason, I missed Quest. Since Return, the culmination of the trilogy is now published, I decided to check out all three of them and read them together. I'm sure glad I did. What an amazing collection of art! What a glorious story! I'm not going to say a word about plot or characters because if you haven't seen them, I believe you should experience them for yourself without prior knowledge.
Seriously, if you haven't seen them yet, go get them now!

NOVELS

4 stars
Cloud and Wallfish
by Anne Nesbit (NetGalley)


I started this a while ago, and then, when I decided I had to finish it, couldn't put it down. As a fan of all those John Le Carré and other adult cold war spy novels, I was fascinated to see this world from a child's perspective. I'm working on a review of it so all I'm going to say is that you should get your hands on a copy of this historical novel set in East Germany in 1989 as soon as possible and read it!



You Know Me Well by Nina LaCour & David Levithan, narrated by Matthew Brown & Emma Galvin


I have long been a fan of Levithan because he envisions worlds that open up possibilities into who we humans are, and who we can be. I love that he and LaCour haven't disappointed me in this partner novel.
It is story of two teens who meet and become friends at the beginning pride week. Both of them are in the middle of relationship messes. Their story is revealed alternately with LaCour writing Kate's story and Levinson authoring Mark's.
Ultimately this is a book about friendship. Not just Mark and Kate's, but also their friendships with the other people in their lives. The trajectory of their romantic relationships felt idealistically realistic to me.
The book includes some swearing, kissing and drinking but it is not excessive, so that if someone gave me a copy, I would put it on my grade 7 shelf.

Saving Montgomery Sole by Mariko Tamaki

4 stars
Montgomery Sole lives with her two moms and sister, Tesla, in the small town of Aunty, California. She has to deal with some homophobia at her high school. Thankfully she has two best friends, Thomas and Naoki. Together the three of them are part of a mystery club that explores unexplained phenomena.
Montgomery feels threatened when a new student, whose father is a right wing evangelical Christian, comes to spread his message in their community.
The book begins with a meeting of the Mystery Club trying out something called remote viewing where they attempt to ‘see’ what is inside a closed box. What we come to realize is that this is a book about attempting to ‘see’ inside the 'boxes' that are other people to find out who they really are. It's a book that celebrates the power of friendship, no matter how successful our viewing is.
I loved the diverse group of characters in this novel almost as much as I appreciated that many of them were Canadian (as is Tamaki!)

ADULT NOVELS

5 stars
In The Woods
by Tana French


In The Woods won the Edgar, Anthony, Barry and Macavity awards for best first novel of 2007. There's a reason for this. It is probably the finest first novel I've had the pleasure reading. It is exquisite. There are words, lines, sentences and whole paragraphs that stagger with their beauty and truth. And then there are the characters, individuals imbued with layers upon layers of complexity. It's terrifying and heartbreaking all at the same time.

5 stars
The House Without Windows
by Nadia Hashimi, narrated by Ariana Delawari

The best thing about being retired is reading adult fiction. The House Without Windows is a story about women in prison in Afghanistan. While the story focuses on Zeba, a woman charged with murdering her husband, we learn much about the other women in the prison and what perverse rulings have put them there. (Afghanistan has no word for rape so all sex outside of marriage is called zinā, and punishable for all parties. To prove rape, a woman must have 4 witnesses.) The mystery that unfurls here is whether or not Zeba actually killed her husband and if so why, and if not, then who? If you are interested in learning more about what it means to be a woman in an essentially misogynist culture, then this is a book for you. If you enjoy books that celebrate the sisterhood of women, then this is a story you must read. If you are fascinated by the machinations of the legal system, look no further. I'm definitely going to read more of Nadia Hashimi's work!

CURRENTLY

I'm still reading March of the Suffragettes but intend to finish it up before I start any other reading with my eyes! I'm listening to Dark Matter by Blake Crouch.

UP NEXT

I've got The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken, cued up for my next audiobook. For my eyes will be something from the pile of library books. There are 4 due back on the 12th. Summerlost by Allyson Condie, Kids of Appetite by David Arnold, One Awesome Thing by Sara Pennypacker, and When the Sea Turned to Silver by Grace Lin. I suspect either some will be late, or I will return them unread.