The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark

I hadn’t heard about author Muriel Spark until I saw this image on Jessie’s blog.

Knowing nothing about Muriel Spark, I picked The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie based on it’s title. It’s a great title, however this book wasn’t for me at this time. None of the characters were particularly likable. There isn’t a strong plot, at least the strength of plot I require now. Written humor often is lost on me. For me the book was a dud. That’s not to say it wouldn’t be a great book for you.

I’m looking forward to reading the young adult books The Drowned Cities and Insurgent. Both are dystopias and promise tons of plot. Ahh…

Review based on a library book.

An introduction to Canada

The book Hey Canada by Vivien Bowers runs into a common pitfall: a topic as broad as Canada is difficult to cover in any depth while maintaining interest and readability for youth.

Fictional characters Gran, Cal, and Alice take on a trip across Canada, visiting every province, territory, and capitol city. Each province or territory is introduced with it’s flower and bird along with an list of items to find there. Side notes include “Cal’s Tweets,” “Hamster Updates,” “Cal’s Historial U-turns (graphic vignettes),” and “It’s The Truth!” provide additional information.

While a trip seems like a good method of introducing a country, there is too much text spent tying the travel plot line together, and too little information about Canada itself. For example, the travelers visit the Museum of Civilization in Ottawa. “We walked through the Canada Hall, which goes through a thousand years of Canadian history. Cal zoomed through his historical tour at warp speed, then spent the rest of the time going up and down the escalators. Gran took two hours for her tour. She came out looking bug-eyed.” At the surface a “personal” tour of Canada seems appealing, however a longer book with more detail, designed to be browsed will be more enjoyable.

Book reviewed provided by Tundra Books.

Volunteering around the world

Ken Budd’s memoir, The Voluntourist, revolves around a big life issue: What is my purpose and legacy? Ken’s father led a successful career and excelled as leader. Ken would love to have kids, but his wife Julie isn’t interested.

Ken decides to explore his own purpose through volunteering and traveling, voluntouring, starting with renovating homes in New Orleans. Each of Ken’s destinations has a new location with a new culture and a new opportunity: teaching English in Costa Rica; assisting disabled students in China; researching natural science in Ecuador; providing moral support (along with a little farming) in Palestine; and working with orphans in Kenya.

Ken is kind with his descriptions of himself and others, while maintaining humor and realism, which makes this book very readable. A brief section at the end of the memoir provides introductory information about becoming a voluntourist.

Reviewed from an uncorrected proof provided by William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

Poverty, birth, and unmentionables

How do you decide what to read next? For me, its a variety of sources and a great deal of serendipity. I found The Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times in a list of “nonfiction that reads like fiction” books. I like nonfiction reading, so it isn’t hard for me to find something that is enjoyable. The “nonfiction that reads like fiction” label is probably used with good intention, however I find it off target. The books are well written? Have a strong plot? Are enjoyable? Are easy to digest? I’m not coming up with a good alternative description for these books, but you will quickly come up with one.

I loved The Midwife, which is the memoir of a young nurse that trains and practices as a midwife in 1950’s in London’s East End. Jenny Lee works out of a convent that provides nursing/OB/GYN services to the poverty-stricken neighborhood. Through reading this book, I met the naughty (or senile?) nun that eats at least half of a cake intended for the entire convent. I also met the pig-enthusiast nun who assures the janitor that rough pig intercourse is normal, as they observe it. I also learned the secret to a happy marriage, even after 24 children!

What I won’t be doing is discussing this book with my mother. Okay, perhaps the secret to a happy marriage, but not the naughty bits. I don’t prohibit my mother from reading this book, I just don’t want to talk to her about it.

When I recorded The Midwife in my LibraryThing list, I was thrilled to see that it is the first of a trilogy! It is followed by Shadows of the Workhouse and Farewell to the East End. These books will be approached with caution, as it is always difficult when the first book isn’t nearly as good as the second or third. I didn’t find the second or third books in my library, so I promptly purchased them (an unusual activity for me).