Monday, December 14, 2015

More minis: Well Wished by Billingsley (reread), Orphan Train by Kline (reread), I Love It When You Talk Retro by Ralph Keyes

She eased onto the ice and cast her words in front of her, threading the air with her voice and tugging it taut with a bright invisible line. And the ice flowed into her legs -- or maybe it was that her legs flowed into the ice -- and even when she took the air in a jump there was some secret that whispered between the ice and her feet. 

[p. 62]

Well Wished by Franny Billingsley is a reread but I'll go ahead and write a bit about it, just for grins and because I happen to love Franny Billingsley's writing.

Nuria lives with her grandfather, whom she calls "the Avy", in tiny Bishop Mayne, a village with a magical Wishing Well. One can only make a single wish in a lifetime and that wish must be worded very carefully or things can go very, very wrong. One such wish caused all the children in town to disappear -- all but 11-year-old Nuria, who lives up on the mountain.

When a single child returns, Nuria becomes friends with her. Catty Winter is unable to walk after illness took away the use of her legs. She and Nuria spend time together in a cabinet under the stairs, which they have decorated. They're very imaginative children. When Catty convinces Nuria to make a wish with her and the wish goes horribly wrong, Nuria wants to rescind the wish. But, Catty does not. How will she convince Catty to speak up so things can return to normal but without making Catty's life as bad as it was, before?

Highly Recommended - There are a lot of things I love about Well Wished: its complexity, the relationship between Nuria and her grandfather, the creativity of the children, the word game ("Bring me a description") Nuria plays with the Avy, the way the story is resolved. It's a lovely story. I read a few reviews while I was reading the book because I noticed it didn't have a very high rating at Goodreads and found that some people considered Nuria a bit snarky. She's a wit, definitely, but I don't think of her as negative. Rather, it seemed to me that she's a good person who wants to do the right thing. And, the writing is lovely.

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline is also a reread. This time, I read it for discussion with my local book group. I suggested it when our group leader asked me if I knew of any discussion-worthy books that weren't downers, as we'd read a series of truly dreary books and everyone was in need of an upper. I recommended Orphan Train, which she quickly read and added to the schedule for discussion.

I'm not going to write a full description since I've reviewed Orphan Train in the past (that's a link, at left, to my old review) but it's a story that flits between the story of a teenager in foster care in the present day and a historical story about a young orphaned Irish girl who was sent on a train to the West. Their lives, as it turns out, bear some uncanny parallels. The story ends on a very happy note.

We discussed Orphan Train, last month, and used some of the questions in the paperback version for discussion (but it was also a partly organic conversation). I don't recall anyone at all saying they disliked the story and it was definitely a good choice. Everyone was relieved to have a break from sadder reading material and there was plenty to talk about.

Still highly recommended - Loved it the first time; appreciated Orphan Train even more upon rereading.

I Love It When You Talk Retro by Ralph Keyes is about the crazy things we say, the origins of some of the words and phrases that we use, and how some of them have been altered by time, shifting their meaning -- sometimes to its opposite.

I bought I Love It When You Talk Retro as a remainder and had set it on the end table with the thought that I planned to read it soon. If you're a regular here, you know I decided to go ahead and read the book after my husband spilled coffee all over my copy. It's not in great shape.

Although I can't recall what rating I gave the book, I liked it a lot but didn't love it. The history of words and phrases is, of course, fascinating to me because I'm a lover of words (I'll bet most of you share that with me). There were only a couple problems with the book. One is that sometimes the author was wrong. It didn't happen often, as far as I know, but I did catch a few mistakes. The second problem is that the author seemed to grow tired of his subject matter toward the end of the book. Within the last 50 pages, the depth of history seems to narrow, the passion wanes and the reader is left with questions that were answered earlier in the book when describing other retro terminology. The final problem is kind of shocking for the type of book: the author inserts his opinion where it is absolutely not appropriate. He may, for  example, say the origin of a phrase came from a particularly bad movie, for example -- his opinion, not necessarily the opinion of the reader or even the popular viewpoint.

Recommended with slight hesitation - Because of the three problems mentioned, I can't give I Love It When You Talk Retro an enthusiastic recommendation but it was fascinating enough that I occasionally read passages to my husband and he enjoyed them as much as I did. So, it's worth reading, even though it may not be a perfect book.

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  1. Sounds like some really good books. I love rereads.

    1. Me, too. You often make new discoveries (things missed on a first reading) when you reread. I love that. :)


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