I shall be near to you, by Erin Lindsay McCabe

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I shall be near to you erin lindsay mccabeThis is the story about a young woman who decided to follow her bridegroom to the American Civil War disguised as a man.

Rosetta marries her childhood best friend, Jeremiah, but just after the wedding, the boy enlists in the army with other men in the village to fight against the rebels. Rosetta has grown up in a farm and she is not ready for all the housework and needlework her new family want her to do; besides, she just want to be with Jeremiah, so she leaves without telling anybody (what would they thought of her, dressed as a man and her hair cut!).

Rosetta becomes Private Ross Stone. Life with the soldiers isn’t easy, especially when you have to hide your gender among all those people, but it’s rewarding for Rossetta because she is with his husband and the friends she had since she was little. However, things will change dramatically when they actually go where the fight is taking place.

First of all, I loved the book. It’s a different story not only focused on battles or historical facts, but on the feelings of a woman among real danger, and how she tries to protect herself as well as her husband (the same does he, of course). In the army, Rosetta realizes that many of those men will never come back to their homes; she helps with nursing in a military hospital and witnesses all the horror they are about to face too, and she eventually gets to know that the men opposite her in the battlefield are as young, innocent and deserving of dying as she is.

The "real" Rosetta

The “real” Rosetta

Rosetta changes in the army, among all the different men she meets there, and also women who are always nursing the wounded, witnessing another part of the same terrible war. The author describes how the war was through the eyes of a sensitive and reflexive character who has become wiser throughout the days she spends fighting at her husband’s side. At the same time, you can’t say the book is sided with one of the parties involved; Rosetta just happens to be where her husband is, not for any reason but love.

However, there is a little detail I didn’t like about the novel: it is narrated by Rosetta using the present tense, which always sounds strange to me (more in Spanish, but now also in English) and, since Rosetta is a farmer with no higher education, the narration is conducted by short sentences, simple facts – especially at the beginning – and some grammatical mistakes I suppose were normal among people like her (he don’t matter or I don’t know nothing were ones I noticed). I think this makes the story more plausible, but it’s too much for my taste; I would rather read that language in the dialogues, but not throughout the entire book.

Anyway, this is a book I enjoyed very much. The story has an unforgettable main character and a great ending.

rakin4

I received this book from Netgalley.

I shall be near to you
Erin Lindsay McCabe
Crown Publishing
336 pages

Crazy is normal, by Lloyd Lofthouse

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This is a memoir of a secondary school English teacher about one of his school years, two decades ago. I’m reviewing it for Virtual Authors Book Tour.

Crazy is normal Lloyd LofthouseI studied a Masters in Education to be a secondary school Science teacher but I have never had the chance to work (well, I’m tutoring a girl at the moment, but it’s hardly the same), so I enjoy reading anything about teaching, including some of the FB posts some of my friends write about their good and bad days at their schools! That’s why I said yes to this book.

Crazy is normal is a detailed journal of an academic course, week by week. Lloyd Lofthouse taught English and Journalism and was known for being one of the tough teachers. He worked in a public school and in this book he explains what he did in every class, the assignments the students had to do, the books they were supposed to read in class, the daily work of the school newspaper at Journalism classes, the way he evaluated the students’ work and the problems he had with certain students on a regular basis.

That is exactly the pro and the con of this book: it tells you EVERYTHING regarding school, and it becomes monotonous when he was to remind the rules to the students almost every day; frustrating when he has to send the same students out of the class for bad behavior and doesn’t get anything by phoning their parents, and also exhausting when he arrives at home after more than 10 hours of work only to correct and mark assignments until bedtime. So it’s absolutely different from other memoirs you can read because I think it hasn’t been written to entertain the reader (in fact, I can say most will find it boring), but this routine is the hard truth for a number of teachers day after day, isn’t it? That’s why I liked it. I think Crazy is normal can help me to face the class and the job if the time comes.

I couldn’t help but compare every detail throughout the book to the Spanish education system, or at least to the part that I know. I wasn’t surprised that most of the issues teachers must face remain constant everywhere: bureaucrats who have never been in a classroom are the people who tell you how to do your job, or those parents who are utterly worried about their children’s self steem and ask you to give them better grades instead of making sure the kids work harder the next time.

Nevertheless, I have found interesting differences between the educational system in America and Spain. First thing that caught my attention was that in Lofthouse’s school the teacher is assigned one classroom and the students change rooms in every period, which is absolutely fantastic because, as a teacher, you can have your class distributed as you want with all the tools you might need at hand, instead of running from one classroom to another taking with you your laptop, briefcase, etc. like Spanish teachers do. They also have “after school detentions”, which, in my opinion, would solve most of the teaching problems, but actually doesn’t work as well as I expected.

The book addresses other interesting issues, some of which shocked me, like almost everything related to Journalism classes – the responsibility students have for all the paper process and how they solve all the incidentals by their own. Or the teacher feeling attracted to a brilliant student, which leads to an embarrasing situation (only for him, though) when they are alone in the classroom he solves in a forthright way. There is also the girl who is transferred to another group because she is being bullied for being the only white in the class, or the shootings happening in the neighbourhood where the school is located.

As you can see, I could be talking about this book forever because I have found it fascinating. I have learned a lot and I have borrowed several ideas from Mr. Lofthouse’s classes which can’t be learned at university. However, this is not a book for everybody: you have to be truly interested in the matter because he only talks about teaching and, therefore, the lack of information about the author’s personal life might bore the reader to death.

Finally, I would like to tell you that I happened to watch the film Precious, which I think matches perfectly well with this book, and it also gives you hope, perhaps not in the system, but in teachers and students.

rakin4Crazy is normal
Lloyd Lofthouse
Publisher: Three Clover Press (June 14, 2014)
ISBN: 978-0986032851
386 Pages
 

Crazy is normal has won an honorable mention at the ‘Southern California Book Festival.

The book will be on sale for $0,99 until November 15 on Amazon.

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New books – from the Book fair

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Book fairThere has been a book fair of second-hand books in my hometown this last fortnight, and there is always a stall with a tiny pile of books in English I like to check every year, so there I went, and I almost need a taxi to come back home with all those books ;)

It’s not my fault – they were so cheap I couldn’t help myself!

imm1Night Music (Jojo Moyes): My boyfriend bought me this one. You know how much I loved Me before you, and I want to read more by this author.

Change of heart and Handle with care (Jodi Picoult): another author I would like to read more by.

The lucky one (Nicholas Sparks): I know I will end up crying with Sparks’ stories, but even so, I love them.

The other half lives (Sophie Hannah): I didn’t know this one, but I had to choose four books if I wanted to get a discount, so I thought this one might be a good mystery.

Written in my own heart’s blood (Diana Gabaldon): Here you can see my crown jewel :D I didn’t buy this one at the book fair; I ordered it in my local library because I have just finished the 7th book in the series and I don’t want to wait until the 8th is translated into Spanish, so I bought it on a whim!

And now, it’s time to read my brand new books.

The weight of blood, by Laura McHugh

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This is the book I picked up for Dewey’s readathon a week ago and, as you should know by now, I was unable to read in a single day, because yes, I’m slow. It has nothing to do with the book, though – it had me hooked on from the very beginning and I had a great time reading it. The weight of blood Laura McHughThe story is set in the typical small village (in Arkansas) where everybody knows each other, when something unusual happens: Cheri, a girl from the village, is found dead and cut into pieces after being missing for almost a year. Lucy, the main character, was friends with her, and she is sure Cheri didn’t leave on her own – the girl was a little retarded and wasn’t the kind of girl who takes such a decision – so she tries to find out what’s going on around Cheri’s murder.

Lucy’s mother, Lila, disappeared when she was a baby and the girl craves for every bit of information about her mother that the other people in the village tells her when they talk, and somehow Cheri and her mother’s disappearances seem to be related to her. What Lucy doesn’t know is that the track of the murderer might lead to her own family.

The first part of the story has chapters from Lucy and Lila’s perspective, so you get to know little by little how Lila came to the village and fell in love with Lucy’s father, but it is not the happy ending – or the happy beginning, most accurately – she had been told over the years. Lila kept secrets that some of her neighbours know, and Lucy has to be smart enough to find them. In the second and third part of the books, we have chapters from other characters’ points of view, which help us to fill up the gaps.

You know I’m a fan of family mysteries, and this book was just my cup of tea. I enjoyed the way the author introduces the different characters, a glimpse when they were young in Lila’s chapters; another at what they have become now at Lucy’s time. Meanwhile the reader tries to recompose all the information about every of them. I really loved Lucy’s father, who was so sweet with Lila from the beginning, when she arrived to town and everybody else looked at her like she was an alien, just because she was an outsider.

Summarizing, I think The weight of blood is a good mystery novel, well narrated through different characters’ perspective, which keeps you hooked on Lucy’s investigations about the secrets buried in this village. rakin4I received this book from Netgalley.

The Weight of Blood
Laura McHugh
Random House
302 pages
 

Laura McHugh on Facebook

Dewey’s Readathon: Hour 20 update

Hi everybody!

I’ve just got up, had my breaktast taken a shower and I’m going to read for a few minutes because today I signed up for my first race, and I have to go!

I never do anything special on weekends, but when I do something, it’s everything in the same day ;) So this update is not very boookish.

Who is ready for a run?

race

Dewey’s Readathon: Hour 11 update

More mini-challenges I couldn’t resist!

Mini-challenge: Show it off

I would like to show you tree editions of my favourite book: The princess bride. It’s a little collection I started and so far I have an American, a British and a Spanish edition of the book. I’ve read it in Spanish and in English, and I plan to re-read it again, every time a different edition.

The princess bride editionsMini- challenge: On food and books

Well, I have to talk about a recipe inspired on a book, and I’m really bad at English when it comes to food, so I’ll try an easy one.

Since I loved Outlander series, I have tried some Socottish recipes lately, and porridge is the easiest one, and perfect for breakfast when it’s cold, so here we go:

Porridge:

  • 2 cups of milk
  • 1 cup of water
  • 4 tablespoons of oatmeal
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar
  • One banana (or another fruit you like)
  • 1 tablespoon of apricot jam

You have to boil the milk with water, oats and sugar for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Pour the mixture into a bowl and add the banana sliced on the top.

Heat the jam in the microwave for a few seconds to make it liquid and add it on the top. Enjoy!

Porridge

 

Dewey’s readathon: hour 7 update

I want to tell you what I’ve been doing lately ;)

Mini-challenge: Coffee or tea

I’m TeamTea, which is known in this mini-challenge as Team CS Lewis, since he once said that “You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me”, and here is a picture with my favourite tea, one I bought recently that has flowers and flavours of coconut and cinnamon. Delicious!

Team CS Lewis

Mini-challenge: Book shelfie

I love this challenge because I love to see the pictures people post of their beloved books in the shelves.

Here you can see mine:

Book shelfie

Mini-challenge: Quotable quotes

This is the quote I chose from the book I’m currently reading, The weight of blood. It has a gripping beginning, and I’m enjoying it so far.

I told her to ignore them. but I never told them to stop, and that’s what I remembered when Cheri’s body turned up in the tree: the ways I had failed her. Like how I’d been her best friend but she wasn’t mine. How I’d worried something bad might have happened when she went missing, but I didn’t do anything about it.

I’m only at 15% of this book, because you know I read very slowly, but well, I’m having so much fun at the Readathon!

Dewey’s readathon – Starting point

dewey's readathonI’m participating in Dewey’s readathon today!

How exciting is this! :D

Books:

Here in Spain the readathon runs from 14 pm Saturday to 14 pm Sunday, so I’m about to start reading and have lunch almost at the same time.

My book choices are:

Books for Dewey's readathon

The weight of blood (Laura McHugh): this is the book I want to read during the readathon. I’ll try to finish it, but we all know how slowly I read… The rest are “just in case” I find this one difficult to follow or I don’t like it. 330 pages.

Orphan train (Christina Baker Kline): I’ve read a number of positive reviews about this one and I also want to read it. 278 pages.

The horizon (Patrick Modiano): a book in Spanish by the Nobel Prize of this year. I borrowed it from the library to see if I like the author. 160 pages.

Other plans:

I signed up for my first running race, which is tomorrow at 11 pm, so I can say I’m only participating in the readathon today, because I’ll be busy (and nervous too!) tomorrow.

Regarding the Readathon’s activities, I’m planning to accomplish as many mini-challenges as possible, because that’s what I did in the previous readathon and I had a great time.

I’m also twitting and facebooking everything to keep track of the books I’m reading and what the rest of the community is doing.

Here we go!

My grandmother’s brand new library card

Abu's library card 1When my grandmother became a widow she tried to embrace new activities to keep herself busy and go out a little, instead of staying at home thinking she was alone.

I remember that the first thing she did was signing up for computer classes, when she was almost 80! There she went for a couple of courses, and now she knows how to send emails to us, her children and grandchildren; look for whatever she is interested using google, as well as reading the newspaper online, and my blog too!

She also likes sewing with a friend of hers (we all have beautiful curtains, tablecloths and woolen hats made by her) and she is reading a lot lately. Of course, I am the one in charge of providing books for her to read.

I find quite difficult to recommend books, but after some failed attempts I knew exactly which reads she is most likely to enjoy. The problem here is that after a couple of years I have almost run out of her kind of books; I asked her why she doesn’t learn English so I can lend her some books she will love, but she didn’t want to hear about it, so I went for the only choice left: I decided the time to get her own library card had come.

We went to the library together last week in order to get the card (I had already filled the form, etc.), take a look around the library for her to know where to find the novels the next time she goes, and look for the only novel by Kate Morton she hasn’t read yet, which was borrowed (Who dared! Grrrr).Abu's library card 2

In the end, we decided to borrow another book by Jojo Moyes, because we both loved Me before you (my review), and then we had a coffee together to celebrate.

Hope she enjoys walking around the bookshelves at the library as much as I do!

Me before you, by Jojo Moyes

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me before you jojo moyesPlease, readers, don’t judge this book by its cover. I did think this was an easy chick-lit read full of funny situations, probably about a girl trying to get the man of her dreams, but I was totally wrong – behind the frivolous cover you see there is a deeply sensitive story, and one of the best I have read this year.

Will Traynor is a successful and wealthy business man, whose hobbies are mainly extreme sports, who has an accident that leaves him a quadriplegic. At the third page of the book.

After this shocking start, we meet Louisa Clark, a girl who has just lost her job as a waitress and the only one she is able to get – considering she has no higher education – in the little village where she lives is taking care of a quadriplegic man: our Will. They don’t get on well with each other at the beginning because Will has become grumpy and bad tempered, but Louisa is capable of looking through all that resentment and try to make he see that there are still things that can bring joy to his life.

Yo antes de ti

This is my sister, performing acrobatics with the book (hanging from aerial silk), in memorial of Will’s love for risky sports :)

The story is about Louisa’s efforts to come up with plans for Will – plans that are not always welcome by him, but thanks to her perseverance the readers find themselves committed to Louisa’s cause, praying for that idea to turn out well or feeling sorry when she doesn’t succeed, having she worked so hard.

The cast of secondary characters is also remarkable, and they bring touches of amusement and sorrow to some parts of the story. For example, there is Louisa’s boyfriend and his obsession with triathlons – taking into account that Louisa is not very good at sports, they make a funny couple; or Louisa’s father, who has also lost his job and now their only income is her daughter’s job, so they behave like she is the head of the family, a role she doesn’t want. All these characters make the story more enjoyable, adding what we can called mundane issues (compared to Will’s disability, I mean) to the story.

I would really like you to give Me before you a chance and help Louisa to show Will that his live isn’t over yet; that he can still love, learn and have fun regardless of his condition.

rakin5P.S. I lent it to my grandmother and she loved it as well.

P.S2. Now I’m looking forward to reading more books by this author.

P.S3. There will be a film based on this book, with Emilia Clarke playing Louisa!

Me before you
Jojo Moyes
Viking, 369 pages
Penguin Books, 400 pages
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