Hazards of Time Travel by Joyce Carol Oates

Tags

Hazards of Time Travel by Joyce Carol Oates

Sometimes I get to read just for the fun of it. Usually I pick older books – I don’t know why, but my last excursion to the library, I ran across this book and became fascinated by title. I really enjoy reading good science fiction and fantasy literature. This one did not disappoint me.

Joyce Carol Oates is a very prolific writer, but much to my chagrin, I have to admit that I had not read any of her works before. I plan to change that on my next trip to the library.

The story begins in the not too distant future in what had been known as New Jersey, U.S.A. The USA as we in the 21st century know it has ceased to exist. Citizens are not even allowed to say the words, “Government” or “State.” The FBI has become the Federal Bureau of Inquistors. The politicians are chosen by their wealth, and ALL thought other than those sanctioned by the government is met with immediate and severe consequences

Adriane Stohl is a senior in high school who has been raised by parents – in particular, her father – who value the concept of “Self” and “Truth.” Her father, who had been a well known pediatrician has become an MI, or Marked Individual because he listened to a protestor in a park.

Adriane gets into trouble when she is chosen to be the valedictorian of her graduating class and chooses to write her own speech rather than pattern it on those of other students. Her family had always worried about her because she chose to do her best at the subjects she studied, and get the “A’s” she deserved. But is this society, standing out by getting good grades or being different from others is frowned upon. Her speech was actually only a series of questions, designed to make her classmates think about life and themselves in particular. Unfortunately, that sort of behavior was NOT acceptable, and she was arrested for her crime of promoting subversive thinking.

She is sentenced to be teleported back in time to 1959 to a small private university in a town called Wainscotia, Wisconsin. It was either that or to be Deleted so she was thankful for the mercy of her judges. She is given a totally new existence, a new name, a new family history and a set of rules to follow. Her sentence is for four years. (Just enough time for her to finish a college education.) Then she is to be taken back to her own time – provided she had kept the rules and not allowed anyone to know who she really was.

At the university she meets young psychology professor and somehow identifies him as a fellow Exile. How the two of them deal with their situation is the main theme of the book. The psychology of Skinner is the prevailing theory being taught at the university. Skinner believed that man was just a machine that behaved in certain ways because of the experiences the person had encountered. The professor, Ira Wolfman, comes to believe that they will not be punished if they break the rules, and he tries to get Adriane (or Mary Ann as she is now known) to go with him to California. One of the rules is that they cannot travel more than ten miles away from where they are living. He tells her that either they CAN travel away as they choose, or that what they are experiencing is only a Virtual Reality constructed by their jailers. In any case, he believes that their reality is only limited by their own minds.

At times the book becomes very philosophical, but Oates always pulls the reader back into the action of the story. The paranoia of the 1950’s about Russia and nuclear war is very clear. The limited mindset of many Caucasian Americans in the 1950’s becomes very real. The book is tragic and hopeful at the same time. The reader will not be the same after spending time reading it. Although my library has this in its Adult collection, I think it would be a good volume to add to any YA library. There is ONE “F bomb” in the book and one very limited sex reference. I would highly recommend it.

The Plot to Kill Hitler by Patricia McCormick

I don’t know how I managed to forget to post this after I reviewed it. This is the perfect book for fans of suspenseful non-fiction. This one is a page-turner narrative about Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a pastor and pacifist who became a most unlikely hero during World War II and who took part in a plot to kill Hitler.

This book was written by the a National Book Award finalist, Patricia McMormick, author of Sold and Never Fall Down. McCormick is also the co-author of the young reader’s edition of  I Am Malala. While it is primarily for younger readers, high school students will also gain from reading it.

It was April5, 1943, and the Gestapo would arrive any minute. Dietrich Bonhoeffer had been expecting this day for a long time. He had put his papers in order – and had left a few notes specifically for Hitler’s men to see. Two SS agents climbed the stairs and told the boyish-looking Bonhoeffer to come with them. He calmly said goodbye to his parents, put his Bible under his arm, and left. Upstairs there was proof, in his own handwriting, that this quiet young minister was a part of a conspiracy to kill Adolf Hitler.

This compelling, brilliantly researched account includes the remarkable discovery that Bonhoeffer was one of the first people to provide evidence to the Allies that Jews were being deported to death camps. The narrative takes readers from his privileged childhood to the studies and travel that would introduce him to peace activists around the world – eventually putting this gentle, scholarly pacifist on a deadly course to assassinate one of the most ruthless dictators in history.

The Plot to Kill Hitler provides fascinating insights into what makes someone stand up for the right when no one else is standing with you. “What should I do?” is a question each generation must answer over and over again.

With black and white photographs, fascinating sidebars and thoroughly researched details, this book should be essential reading for all middle school students.

Be the One by Byron Pitts

In just a little over 100 pages, Pitts has given us six stories of young people who have overcome tremendous odds in their lives. These are true heroes. They overcame child abuse, bullying, psychotic parents and war.

Their stories are not just those of survival, but of true success in life. The stories are inspiring and are easy to read. Many of these heroes credit God for strength for their successes, but all knew that they had to “be the one” to make changes in their lives.

I strongly recommend this as an addition to middle school and upper elementary libraries.

Harry Potter: a History Of Magic

Tags

,

Harry Potter: A History of Magic (American Edition)
British Library and New York Historical Museum and Library

Once in a while, I run across a book that just makes me want to say, “WOW!” This is such a book.

It may be hard to believe, but it has been 20 years since, J.K. Rowling first introduced Harry Potter to the world. This anniversary edition is done by the British Library and The New York Historical Society. The book is actually subtitled; The Official Companion to the British Library Exhibition at the New-York Historical Society Museum & Library. I understand that there is an exhibit in New York of the history of magic going on now.

As one might suppose, the history of magic through the ages is presented to the reader, but is it done in a rather unique format. The chapters are arranged to lead the reader through the history as if he or she were taking classes at Hogwarts. The titles of each chapter is the name of a class that Harry would have taken at Hogwarts; i.e Herbology, Divination, and Defense Against the Dark Arts.

Most things presented in the text are actual historical items, but interspersed with the historical are copies of drafts of Rowling’s drafts for the texts of the Harry Potter series and actual artwork for those books. Some illustrations are pen and ink drawings by Rowling herself, but the fantastic color illustrations were done by Jim Kay for Bloomsbury Books.

The book is well-bound. It is delighting to the eye, interesting to read, and engaging for all Harry Potter fans, ages 6-60. It also could be used as a source for research into the history of magic. There is an index of the exhibits shown in the text and brief biographical sketches of Rowling and of the curators of the British Library Exhibit. I highly recommend the purchase of this book for public,middle, and high school libraries.

We Rule the Night by Claire Eliza Bartlett

Tags

, , ,

This is a fantasy that focuses more on relationships than the magic powers of the characters. The setting is in a world torn apart by war. The Union of the North – very reminiscent of Russia – is trying to defend itself against the onslaught of the Elda forces that want to totally wipe out the Union.

     The two main characters are very different.  Linne’ is the daughter of one of the generals of the Union. She felt that her father didn’t notice her, so she bound her breasts and enlisted in the army as a boy. She has distinguished herself by her bravery in battles, but at the beginning of this story, she has been discovered and disgraced for trying to serve as a man. Linne’ has the power of sparking things. That means she can make engines move and start fires by using her magical abilities.

Revna is the other main character. She is a factory worker who lost both of her legs in a tragic accident. Her father was very skilled in working with living metal, so he fashioned artificial legs for her from the scraps at the factory. The only problem with that is ALL of the living metal, including the scraps, are considered government property. He was tried and convicted as a traitor because the courts argued that his use of the metal impeded the war efforts of the Union. The government did not take Revna’s legs from her so, she went to work in the factory where her father had been working.

Revna has the gift of using the Weave, a type of strand that connects the universe. She can locate and pull objects along the strands Weave. Both girls are recruited to serve in an experimental airborne division for the war effort, and all the men expect them to fail.  Revna and Linne’ do not like each other, but they are thrown together because no one trusts Linne’. They think she is a spy, and no one else wants to fly with Revna because they see her as a liability who might get them captured because she can’t run if they crash.

All the girls fear the two Sakrov officers that come to their camp. The fact that Linne’ used to serve with them only makes the girls fear her more. The Sakrov are like the CIA, and they deal mostly in intelligence and torture. The Union has a strange philosophy that if a soldier goes down behind enemy lines and then manages to escape then they must be a traitor, so they are tortured upon their return and then killed or taken to work in the mines. All of the girl aviators are allowed to only fly at night so their presence won’t demoralize the men.

One night Revna and Linne’ crash deep in enemy territory. How they get out and what they learn about each other is the main point of the story. While the book comes to a satisfactory ending, I think there is a possibility of more to come. Even though there is occasionally a bad word, and some smoking and drinking, I recommend this book for middle school and highs school libraries.

My Body, My Choice: the fight for abortion rights by Robin Stevenson

Tags

,

This eye-appealing, full color book on a very controversial subject is sure to raise questions and controversies in the libraries that may chose to add it to their collection. The purpose of the book is to provide the reader with the history of abortion and abortion rights. The abortion controversy is not easily resolved, regardless of how simple the author makes it seem. The author presents the anti-abortion issue as one of the oppression of women, trans-gendered men, and non-binary individuals. However, she has chosen to only present one side of the argument. The pro-life stand of religion is passed off as totally one of men trying to control women. The Christian position of when life begins is not discussed anywhere in the book. Many very religious people, both men and women, take the stand that life begins at conception, but this position is not mentioned at all in the book. I would not expect the author to present a positive take on when life begins, but to not mention it at all is to allow the reader to continue to think it as merely a “fetus” or a “collection of cells” – not a baby human.
It never seems to amaze me that our society gets very upset over clubbing baby seals for profit, but refuses to consider it murder to slice up and vacuum out a little human from its first home. I do believe that it may absolutely be necessary at times for a woman to have an abortion, and I fully support using birth control for people who do not choose to get pregnant. I do not and cannot subscribe to the position that women should have unfettered, free access to all forms of abortions. I digress. The purpose here is to explain why I do not think this book is appropriate for teen readers.
Some things are also glossed over, or simply not discussed. The reader is told that one in four women in North America will have an abortion; however, the reader must read the definition of abortion that the author gives on page ten to understand that she is including all terminations of all pregnancy for all reasons – including spontaneous abortions. The fact about one in four pregnancies ends in abortion may very well be true, but the fact is misleading because the reader, especially a young reader, will read that statement as “one in four end in some type of induced abortion.” Not true.
On page 76 the reader is presented with a list of MYTHS and FACTS about abortion. The first myth given is: “Having an abortion is dangerous for your health.” The fact given here is that: “The risks of continuing a pregnancy and delivering a baby are approximately 10 times higher than the risks of an abortion during the first trimester of a pregnancy.” Although the author clearly states that she is speaking only about the first trimester of a pregnancy, a young reader will not pick up on that, and will assume that any abortion, if done by a qualified person, is safe at any time. In that same list the author states a myth that “Having an abortion makes it difficult to get pregnant in the future.” She states the fact that “A safe, legal and uncomplicated first-trimester abortion has no effect on future fertility.” Important words here that are glossed over are “uncomplicated” and “first trimester.” The last myth states: “ Fetuses experience pain during abortions.” The author states: “ Fetuses cannot feel pain until at least the 24th week of pregnancy.” This statement is controversial in itself, but, a glossed fact here is that not only can the fetus feel pain at 24 weeks, but also, most states simply do not allow abortions after that time because the fetus is viable outside of the womb.
The author, in several places, decries the “lies” of the pro-life movement, but omission of facts, and miss-statements of other people’s beliefs are also lies. While there is a bibliographical list of all sources used, every single one of them is pro-choice. I cannot conscientiously recommend this book for young readers. I do think that adult pro-life advocates should read it for it is necessary to totally understand the position of the people on the pro-abortion side in order to be able to refute their arguments.

Mummies Exposed by Kerrie Logan Hollihan

This first book in a new series, Creepy and True, is one of the most fascinating factual books I have ever read. Get ready to have your knowledge about ancient civilizations challenged. The author thoroughly researched each mummy presented in the book, and full color photographs accompany each selection. Some examples of mummies that are very unusual are the mummies of the Tarim Basin, dubbed Witches of Subeshi because they were dressed in outfits which match the description of our Halloween witches down to the tall pointy hats they were wearing, and they are called “myag” which means “magician” or “magi.”. The other one was a man, also discovered in the Tarim Basin. This place is in western China, but he is very European looking, round eyes, long nose, long arms and legs, and he is wearing pants and boots – not at all Chinese. Other mummies from around the world are covered and the history of their lives – down to the last meals they ate – can now be ascertained by scientific methods. The ancients are not to only mummies presented. The soap lady of Philadelphia who was discovered 1874, and the mummies of Lenin and Eva Peron are also discussed. Hollihan also has included delightfully informative “Factlets” in nearly every chapter. These tidbits add to the knowledge of the reader as he/she progresses. The book includes a glossary, chapter notes, a bibliography for each chapter which makes research on an individual mummy much easier. An index will conclude the book. The next two books in the series, Ghosts and Skeletons should prove to be equally thought-provoking. Readers of the supernatural and the macabre will be drawn to the title. They won’t be disappointed. I highly recommend the purchase of this book for middle and high school libraries.

Hollihan, Kerrie Logan. Mummies Exposed. 2019, 208pp, $16.99 hc. Abrams Books for Young Readers, 9781419731679. Grades 6-12

The Calculus of Change by Jessie Hilb

Tags

, ,


Aden has a great relationship with mathematics, but the rest of her life is up-in-the air. The family is still reeling from the loss of her mother. Her best friend is boy-crazy and intent on starting an affair with one of her teachers. Aden has never dated and thought that part of her life was fine until Tate came into her life. Tate wears his yarmulke and a grin to school and is a friend to everyone. Aden is fascinated by him – especially that he is not afraid to openly display his religious convictions.

When Tate needs help with his calculus class, Aden steps in and helps him with his homework. Aden knows she is drawn to Tate, but he is dating another girl. I was feeling very impressed with Tate and Aden’s relationship at the start. He talks to her about his faith (She is also Jewish), and takes her to meet with a rabbi. But I lost that view of the relationship when he invites her to his house one night, gives her alcohol and proceeds to have sex with her. Worse yet is the fact that he gets up and leaves her in the bed with no explanation, does not even tell her ,”Goodbye.”

The redeeming part of the tale is that this did not destroy Aden, but she realizes that she cannot be around Tate. Girls who read this may understand that they don’t have to get “mushy brained” about love relationships.

I believe this must be an informed purchase for the high school library. The characters are very believable, and there is an over-all good resolution. However some schools may object to the sexual scenes. Also, the best friend does have sex with the teacher, but does not in trouble for it. The friend, Marissa, becomes pregnant, but she also had sex with another student about the same time so the fatherhood of the child is unknown. The teacher tells Marissa that his wife forgave him and that he is staying with her. That resolution bothers me. I don’t want to NOT recommend the book, but if it is purchased, it definitely needs to stay in the high school library.

Sometimes You Have to Cross When It Says Don’t Walk by Lesley Visser

Tags

, ,

I rarely ever do not recommend a book, but that is exactly what I am doing with this one. While this book is about a highly acclaimed female sports writer (the first one ever inducted into the Football Hall of Fame) it is not a book that young people will pick up and read.

It is a memoir of the life of a woman in her 60’s. There are no chapter titles to help the reader find things. There is no index. There is a chapter of acknowledgements that goes on for 12 pages that are mostly a list of names – page, after page of them.

The writing is rambling and very disjointed. A written organization of some sort, perhaps chronological or a type of sport being covered would perhaps have helped. There are at least seven pictures that are clearly labeled, but the person standing with Lesley in these pictures are NOT mentioned in the text where they are placed. All pictures are grainy, but that might be better in true publication because the copy I read is an advanced publication. I see no possible use for this book in any school library.

 

The Dragon With a Chocolate Heart by Stephanie Burgis

Tags

, , ,

Aventurine is a young female dragon who wants to explore the world outside her family’s lair. Her adventure into the unknown has disastrous results when she meets a food wizard who gives her enchanted chocolate which turns her into a human.

Aventurine falls madly in love with chocolate and wants more of it. She eventually is taken in as an apprentice to a famous chocolatier and begins to learn how to make the best chocolate in the kingdom. She also makes a friend of a young girl in the town.

Unfortunately, her dragon family is trying to find her, and Aventurine must decide how to stop them from destroying the world she must now live in. This is a cute story for elementary readers, grades 3-6. I recommend its purchase because it is a very unique approach to dragon tales.