Mina vs. The Monsoon by Rukhsanna Guidroz



This is a sweet story about a young girl who is stuck inside during the sub-continent’s monsoon season when she would prefer to be outside playing football/soccer. I loved the pictures and rich art and liberal sharing of new words.



The fact that this is a little girl who wants to play sport is lovely. And her mother’s secret interest in the same sport was also adorable. But I wasn’t too fond of the idea that the monsoons could be chased by music or dancing away. I wonder if children living in that environment will be similarly put off, especially when they know the season to last much much longer than is depicted in this story. I also was put off by the use of “soccer” when the Indians 1) play cricket with more regularity and 2) call it football. I appreciate that soccer is more palatable to American audiences but since we are learning new words, we could teach how American is an outlier is the sports world.

If you are looking for a diversity picture book, this has loads of meat on it with which to start many interesting discussions. But I don’t see it being popular outside of the USA.

The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle

-also sold as the Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle.

I really debated reviewing this book here. First, it isn’t YA. Second, it has been out for a while now. Third, it is painful for me to write a realistic review of a book I didn’t like but I did enjoy.

That isn’t quite the contradiction it seems. I have had the experience of enjoying books but not liking them before. Consider Dan Browne, Dean Koontz, Stephen King. With just a few exceptions*, if I start one of these author’s books, I have to finish them. But I am not drawn in by the words or the characters. I am just being a plot junkie. I have to know the ending and how we got there… it is all about the road, baby. But the vehicle, the company, the music – not worth mentioning. And plot is what made me stick it out for 7 1/2 Deaths. PS. I seem to have a pathological needs for this to be the 7 1/2 LIVES of Evelyn Hardcastle. Forgive me if I slip.

This is a convoluted, somewhat magical, story that takes place in a place devoid of modern conveniences. We are told, as fact, that a guest will murder one of the host. And the unraveling of this murder takes place over the course of one 24 hour period, for 8 different narrators who are actually one character.

Certainly lay, people enjoy different things. I did not realize until reading this book how important it was for me to sympathize and empathize with the main characters. In this story, it is impossible to get close to these characters because they aren’t who they really are. And the character you are supposed to know, he morphs so much he doesn’t really have enough substance to love or hate. So his decisions, falling in complete “like” with several of the female characters, seem a bit contrived. He just seems to stick his neck out there fairly readily for a group of people he doesn’t really seem to have a realistic attachment to.

The explanation of how this repeated day occurs is not exactly given short schrif but is so anathema to the setting of the majority of the plot that it definitely kicked me out of the story world rudely. The true revelation of what is going on, why there is this life recycling is not discovered so much as told. And I am pretty sure there is a ‘rule’ about showing not telling in novels. Still up until this scene, I was desperate to visualize the plot (of the 8 character recycling). I searched online for a mind map or a chart or a timeline – but to no avail. I started to make one myself and then I realized I really didn’t care enough to continue.

With that revelation, I consumed the rest of the novel to be able to close the book so to speak on this story. The lack of compelling word artistry, the constant disintegration of the main character, I just ignored it all and read to the end.

If you are a plot junkie, have at it. Bring a paper and pen perhaps. But if you are set on lyrical words, deep world building, or significant character development, I don’t think you will be happy. Honestly, the title was the best part.

*Exceptions for me seem to be time travel related. I think Koontz’s Lightening and King’s 11.23.63 (less so with the ending) were both some of their most original and compelling writing. Everything else seems to be the same story on rewind.

My Plain Jane

So there is this Thing in books. I think it must also be in film and TV as well but I am not an expert in the writing of either. It is one of those Things you don’t realize or appreciate until it has been broken. Indeed, violating this Thing can sometimes be a great story vehicle and sometimes it can be a cop-out. The Thing is the fourth wall…. that window that readers or viewers get to peak through when consuming a story. Think of The Office (US) and how periodically Jim stares into the camera, talks directly to the audience. That is the breaking of the fourth wall.

I bring this up because I think it can be quite difficult to do. And it is done in My Plain Jane and done well such that it was unobtrusive. The direct conversation with the Reader provides context for the era, a useful tool considering the target audience is probably not familiar with the Victorian Age and its historical nuances. It also supplies a fair bit of the humor… including some that will appeal to young activists, particularly in the US.

This is the second in the “Jane” series – focusing on Jane Eyre and her writer, Charlotte Bronte (oh, and her brother). It is a fun, paranormal retelling of the Eyre story and is enhanced with a knowledge of Jane Eyre (such as Charlotte Bronte’s male pseudonym) though that isn’t strictly necessary. The novel is not scary despite the ghost plot line and it is has the morality of the time (so no sex, drugs, or rock n roll). The reading level would make it suitable for Middle Grades and above. But most importantly, this would be a truly entertaining hook for students into the original Jane Eyre novel and all the controversies it brought up in its own time.

I am obviously a proponent of reading for fun. But I am coming around to the idea that all school “assigned” reading really should be for pleasure’s sake. Comprehension as a skill is a by-product of empathy for characters and their travails. Trying to teach it is possible but so much more difficult than letting it happen naturally.

So Readers, allow me to break the fourth wall as well and directly implore you. If you don’t want to read the book assigned, dare your English teacher to let you choose your own reading material. Bring them your favourite stories and ask them to compare them to the classics. And if they don’t, demand they enter your reading world by writing your essays about how Hunger Games relates to the Odyssey or compare Steampunk and Victorian novels. Your reading choices are vast and varied and deserve validation.

As for My Plain Jane, this is one strong sample of the way that modern authors are handing out gold-gilded invitations to ELA teachers to join their students in reading first for fun.

Ha Ha! Made you read. :)

Thanks for not running off!  Find me @LibraryKATinAD .  My personal Twitter is @TragicCharacter. Did you know that MANY local libraries have electronic library cards?  You can often borrow eBooks, Audiobooks, and magazines for free from your hometown library.   Do a search and check it out!


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