Friday, December 31, 2010

Midnight's Children

Midnight's ChildrenMidnight's Children by Salman Rushdie

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I had a horrible time trying to decide how to rate this book. On the one hand, any idiot can see this is the product of a master word-weaver. On the other hand, I can't say that I enjoyed it all that much.

There was a lot that was really interesting about it- the political unrest in India in the mid-twentieth century was a huge one, as well as the different major religious sects. His style is thick with Indian culture, which was a lot of fun. But the style, being very Indian, seemed kind of disjointed to me. There wasn't a very cohesive flow to the plot. It took me a good hundred pages just to get used to his style. He would often introduce a person, event or concept that wouldn't actually get to play a part in the story for another couple hundred pages or so. It was a bit confusing at times and confusion tends not to be a good motivator for me to finish the book.

As it is, I was so unmotivated to read much on a daily basis, that my time having it from the library ran out before I could finish. I don't care enough to check it out again and finish the story. He's just too wordy for me and I'd rather move on to something else now.

Would I recommend it? Ah... hm... sure. Give it a try. It's definitely different from anything I've picked up before. Be aware of some strong language and adult themes.

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Sunday, December 12, 2010

Christmas Jars by Jason F. Wright

Christmas JarsChristmas Jars by Jason F. Wright

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I read this in a couple of hours while I wasn't feeling well, just two weeks before Christmas. It loses points for sub par writing, flat and unrealistic characters, and an unbelievable yet predictable plot.

But it gains major points back again for having a wonderful message about small and simple things making a huge impact where it matters most, in the heart. This is definitely a feel-good story; great for Christmas time when life can be too busy to read anything heftier.

Over all, this was a quick, sweet, uplifting read. Go ahead and peruse it this Christmas while you wait in long lines or wait for your cookies to bake.

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On Becoming Baby Wise II by Gary Ezzo

On Becoming Baby Wise II: Parenting Your Pre-Toddler Five to Fifteen MonthsOn Becoming Baby Wise II: Parenting Your Pre-Toddler Five to Fifteen Months by Gary Ezzo

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was more like 3.5 stars to me. I don't think it is as good as the first book. I love the Baby Wise concepts that are outlined in book one; that baby's needs should not supplant the marriage relationship; that baby's needs can be worked into the entire family's schedule rather than the family revolving entirely around baby; and parent directed feeding, as opposed to demand feeding, fosters good sleeping and behavior patterns. I've implemented these principles with my last two babies and they both started sleeping through the night by ten weeks of age. They were also happier and easier to manage during their waking hours. People have always been amazed at how "easy" my little ones have been.

So while I love the Baby Wise method in general, and would recommend it to anyone, I think this particular book is a little lacking. It teaches great principles for parenting your pretoddler, but it doesn't offer many examples of how to practically implement those principles. It tells us the what to do and why to do it, but not really how to do it. I understand any examples they might have given may not reflect my actual life experiences, but I really think those exmples help solidify my understanding of the priciples.

Still, it was a quick read and taught some really great parenting principles. It's definately worth picking up if you have a baby.

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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Don't You Dare Read This, Mrs. Dunphrey by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Since both of my daughters had read this book and have been talking about it, I thought that I should read it as well. I'm glad I did!
This book was similiar to an epistolary novel wherein it was written through a series of journal entries. Right from the beginning, I thought this was clever and I loved the sense of character that felt from the journal writer, Tish Bonner. At first, Tish wonders about completing the assignment or whether she'll even care to at all. True to her character, first, she tests the teacher of whether her journal entry will really NOT be read if she simply writes Don't Read This at the top as instructed. Soon, as she starts writing and it seems that her entries are not being read she realizes how cathartic writing becomes to her.
This is where I really identified with Tish because I feel the same way about writing. I love how it can help me process a situation going on around me. I have found I don't even have to write down it exactly - just the feelings in the form of a poem helps me deal with it.
In this sense through writing Tish deals with her concerns which seem typically adolescent. As the journal continues, you gain a sense a what is really happening which is anything but typical. This is where it tore into my heartstrings. I worried for Tish. I wanted the outcome to be better for her. I gained an insight into my daughter's eyes and why this book meant so much to them. It hit me that it meant something to me as well. I was unexpectedly amazed by this because I am so much older now than a teen which took me back to those days while at the same time it didn't feel outdated at all. I could still relate. I wanted to understand even from the point of view that I see things now in my adulthood.
Questions kept popping in my mind during my reading experience which made it feel interactive too, i.e... How can we help those in need around us when they wouldn't want us to know? Can we ever really know what someone is really dealing with in their lives? What's hidden in their tough exterior? This book was perfectly short and the ending is not unrealistic either. Most of all, I will never forget Tish and her story will haunt me. I love it when a book can do this and it is one of the reasons why I read.

Young Adult Paperback: 128 pages
Publisher: Simon Pulse (May 25, 2004)
My rating: 4 stars

Here's my daughter's take on the book: Nessa's Pen and Ink
If you can do me a favor and leave her a comment. She'll love it! They are posted by her even though it says my name. :)

Other noteworthy reviews too:

3 Evil Cousins

Social Voice

Welcome to those from Radiant Reviews! Thanks for reading today! Happy Thursday!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

To Green Angel Tower, Part 2 by Tad Williams

To Green Angel Tower, Part 2 (Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, #3; Part 2)To Green Angel Tower, Part 2 by Tad Williams

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was more like a 3 1/2 for me. It stayed true to the other books in the series and I enjoyed reading it. There were a few surprises in there which I enjoyed. Unfortunately, they only lasted for a few pages. The end kind of irritated me though. It's not that I wanted it to end differently, it was just too feel-good. The darkness passes and the sun comes out again. And even though the world is pretty much wrecked, we're all so happy to be alive. Yeah. Right. Sorry, I'm just not buying that. But as I said, I enjoyed it over all, so it was worth the read to me. If you're into fantasy, I'd say you'll enojoy this series, but there are better ones out there.

View all my reviews

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Mansion by Henry VanDyke (I read it, too!)

The MansionThe Mansion by Henry Van Dyke

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a short story, very appropriate for Christmas time. It was a light and quick read with a beautiful, uplifting message. This can be downloaded for free through Project Gutenberg. I would recommend anyone read it.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Light in the Forest by Conrad Richter

This is one of those books that I feel everyone should read at least once before they die. For one thing, it left me with a feeling that it is not long enough because I desired to read more. I enjoyed the imagery within this book of simple moments that if they are not read carefully than I knew I would miss how poignant and beautiful they really are. This is a book that is hard to describe to others how I felt after reading it because all I realized is that somehow I was different for having read it now. Even if this book isn't exactly deemed politically correct now, I feel it will remain still validly a classic because of the raw themes and perspectives it contains.
I felt this book was a great discussion for our book club and it had a lot to think about. In such a short novel, Richter masterfully presents a number of viewpoints without heavy bias one towards another. Each side is complicated and each character paints a perspective that can be understood even sympathetically. I'm glad I chose this as a book club selection because we discussed not only the basic themes of freedoms vs. civilization, imperfections in both societies, hardships of frontier life, but even more complicated themes like the value of inter-personal communications, misperceptions and the struggle for identity and loyalty.
(Below may include spoilers.)

The basic overview of this book is about two groups of people, Native American Indians and the Whites now settling on their land. This story is told through the eyes of True Son. He was born as John Butler to a white family in a frontier town. At the tender age of four, True Son is captured by the Lenni Lenape Indian tribe. He is taken in by the great warrior, Cuyloga, as his own son, given a new name of True Son and raised by the tribe for approximately ten years. He is an Indian in every sense as he can think, feel, speak, revere their Spirit and fight all as they do. This has shaped him and he is who he is now. So, it shouldn't seem such a shock, yet it did feel that way, when suddenly the Indians have to make a treaty and return all white captives to their own people. It is emotionally gripping and at times violent. Yet there is the interwoven simplistic conflict between these two groups and how Richter paints this vivid picture through True Son who struggles so deeply and individually that seems to tug at my heartstrings. His confusion and pain is real. It haunts me.
One of the most touching scenes to me is when True Son is told to put on the clothes of the white man which represents frustration and pain to him and his brother, Gordie, who makes an effort to help him by saying:
When you put these on, will you give me your Indian clothes, True Son? … Then I can be an Indian.

In the silence after this is said, an unjudgemental connection is felt between them. There is respect and compassion. Most of all, there is hope.

128 pages, 1953 - publisher · Alfred A. Knopf, My rating: 5 stars.

Other references for this book:

Blogfest Project for A Light in the Forest.

Walt's Unsung Star: Remembering James McArthur


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Against All Things Ending by Stephen R. Donaldson

A big apology to all the Donaldson fans out there. I just really didn't like this book. I was so monumentally disappointed. I love fantasy and had heard good things about this series, so I entered to win it for a goodreads firstreads give away. A couple of gripes I had (feel free to disagree, this is only my opinion):

I jumped into the story in the third book of the third linked-series. Probably about the worst place a person could start, I know. But the book gave a pretty detailed synopsis of the preceding series and books to catch the reader up to the present story.

Maybe if I had started from the beginning I would have liked it better, but I'm inclined to think not. Just the descriptions of the previous books was a turn off to me. This is not the kind of fantasy I was hoping for. Darn. Oh well, I'll give it a try anyway.

Next, I was completely put off by Donaldson's writing style. The word "snootitude" comes to mind. Again, big apologies to people who find his style poetic and sophisticated. I found it uppish and pretentious. I recently read a reference book on writing in the legal profession that was easier to read than this epic fantasy.

I really wanted to give this one a good review, but I just can't do it. I leave this story (I confess only partly finished because I just can't take it any more!) with a measly one star and the promise to avoid Donaldson in the future.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Pride and Prescience by Carrie Bebris

(or a Truth Universally Acknowledged) A Mr & Mrs Darcy Mystery

I looked up prescience;noun, knowledge of things before they exist or happen; foreknowledge; foresight.

I really enjoyed this book. It did not have the kissing and other intimacies that the other Darcy versions had. It definitely followed the Regency etiquette. I liked it because most of the original characters were represented. It starts on the double wedding of Jane and Elizabeth. This version doesn't change the originally story like the other versions.
The same banter between Darcy and Elizabeth continues which is always fun. There are several mysteries and many possible villians.
It was a book that I found so pleasurable I didn't want it to end and longed for a sequel. I recommend this book to any readers, not just Janites. This is a 4 1/2 or maybe even a 5 star.

The Light in the Forest by Conrad Richter (I read it, too!)

The Light in the ForestThe Light in the Forest by Conrad Richter

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was a really quick read. I actually really enjoyed it, but I only gave it three stars because the ending was so completely unsatisying. It's one of those open ended stories. It resolves one main conflict, but leaves a hundred other loose ends. If I were at all into writing fan-fic, I'd feel compelled to finish this charcter's story. If this story went to a publisher today, it would probably be rejected. That said, there was a lot that I liked as well.

The writing was top notch. Even during the narrative (note: I generally don't like much narrative), it was alive and in motion. I loved how the change in point of view changes your sympathies throughout the story. In the end, when True Son comes to sympathize in some degree with both the white man and the Indians, you would think he should be able to live peacably in either world, but just the opposite is true. During that time, sympathy was treachery, so both sides saw him as a traitor. A very sad story, made sadder in that he really had no choice in any of it.

View all my reviews

Friday, October 8, 2010

Impulse and Initiative by Abigail Reynolds

This version of Pride and Prejudice is nicely written. It is the same author as Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy, just a different twist to the story.

After receiving Elizabeth’s refusal of marriage in Kent, Darcy follows up by coming to Longburn to court her. It is so sweet and at times comical to read the banter between the two of them. It was beautiful reading about their budding romance grow and to see the changes in both characters.

SPOILER ALERT – They end up having to get married which is a great disappointment to me. I understand that youth nowadays are in to that kind of thing so maybe this version is a lure for more teens to read Austen.

There is more of Darcy’s sister Georgianna and his cousin Colonel Fitzwilliam in this version and we get to see how Darcy thinks and understand his original actions.

I enjoyed this book. I feel it is a romance novel and I usually avoid them but I was actually ok this time. There is intimacies throughout this book also but they are not as detailed as the Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy novel. I give this book a 4 star and suggest it to other Austen fans.

Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy by Abigail Reynolds

The author changes the story line so Darcy kisses Elizabeth when he asks her to marry him in Kent. People see the kiss, so Elizabeth is compromised and feels she has to marry. Elizabeth marries Darcy even though she hates him.

I loved the story. . It was well written and sweet, although the romantic scenes are too intimate for me. But for those who read Romance Novels, they might be fine with it.

Except for the intimate scenes I would give this a 4 star, but with them I would drop it to a 3 star. It was fun to see the different version of the story.

Pride and prejudice and zombies Seth Grahame-Smith

I hadn’t read Pride and Prejudice yet, I thought I had. So I read the original P&P at the same time I read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. It was nice to be able to see exactly where changes are made to the new story. The author stuck to the story and basically put the “zombie” parts are just tucked in here and there. At times they stick out like a sore thumb.

For 50 years England has been fighting a zombie making disease. The Bennets have sent their daughters to China to be taught how to fight. The have a dojo and spend much time practicing. The King has sworn them to the duty of fighting the Zombies. This does give a reason for why the military are posted in their town. Elizabeth and Darcy are both well trained killers and it is comical to read about their walks and then they stop to kill zombies then go right back to the stroll and conversations.

I thought of bringing cauliflower to the book club this month as this is the book we read for the month. The zombies would find fields of cauliflower and devour them, thinking them were brains. Yuk huh? The gruesome details are not that bad. Of course during the time reading it I started having nightmares from all the YA vampire books I had been reading. So I ended the book having difficulties with the yuk.

I would suggest this book for others to read, as long as they are prepared for the gore. I would give this book a 3 star. It is very comical.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

You and Your A.D.D. Child... by Jody Capehart

You and Your A.D.D. Child: How to Understand and Help Kids with Attention Deficit DisorderYou and Your A.D.D. Child: How to Understand and Help Kids with Attention Deficit Disorder by Jody Capehart

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

My son's specialist highly recommended this to us and I loved it. The tone was authoritative but not pretentious. As an unexpected bonus, it wasn't just based on steril, clinical over-my-head mumbo jumbo, made accessible for the non-PHD. This book included a spiritual approach which really gave me hope that maybe I'm not doing everything wrong after all. And it was so refreshing to hear that spritual nurturing is not only advisable but essnetial for the ADD child. It also addressed issues that I had never considered before, such as learning style and environment. But now that I know these things can have a huge impact on how an ADD child deals with the world, I hope it will be easier for me to change how I deal with him as I learn to help him cope. I would recommend it to any parent with an ADD child and to any educater.

note: since this is edition is a little older, the section on types of medications is outdated.

Still, I thought it was fabulous. Solid 5 stars.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

To Green Angel Tower, Part 1 by Tad Williams

To Green Angel Tower, Part 1 (Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, #3; Part 1)To Green Angel Tower, Part 1 by Tad Williams

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The first book in this series was just okay- just good enough to make me curious about the rest of the story. The second was better- I was actually excited to move on to the next book (which is SO HUGE they had to split it into two parts). Part one of book three has all the throat gripping, can't-put-it-down excitment that the first two installments lack. That speaks highly of this book, but not so highly of the series in general. If a story is around 3000 pages long and it takes all the way until page 1700 to really suck the reader in, you've got too many pages, bub. The segway from part one to part two felt a little weak to me as well. You can almost hear the author saying, "Okay, I'm not sure how to make these essential details interesting. I just want to get on to the next exciting part." But then the next exciting part doesn't happen until the next book.

In spite of that, this is a four star book. I really liked it. I hope part two is at least just as good.

View all my reviews

Monday, September 13, 2010

Episodes: My Life as I See It by Blaze Ginsberg

This is book is so unique! It truly is a labor of love. His mother, Debra Ginsberg, wrote an amazing prologue right from the start. In this book, don't expect to read along as any ordinary book for this is an insight into an extraordinary mind. Blaze is a real person who happens to have a creative intelligence that few of us will ever understand in our normal realm. For this is a tale, told in the form of episodes rather, from a life in the realm of a high-functioning autistic teenager going into his twenties.
At first, you must abandon how you think every day and try to place yourself watching an episode through Blaze's eyes and then you'll become enthralled with what he is letting you in to see. A whole new world will come alive, very much like watching TV, and you'll laugh, find a new perspective about teenage/early 20's life, and maybe you'll even get a little teary-eyed.
Don't be afraid to reminisce and relate it to your teenage experience which I feel is the best way to get past feeling of it being disjointed about the plot. Think Napoleon Dynamite. It is not your typical book. It's very execution is originally developed by Blaze and it is his mind that you're entering. Be realistic. Enter his mind on his terms and I think you'll enjoy this book. It's a quick read and can easily be followed through the different styles of episodes which we know everyday from TV already. Such as sydicated, season finale , and on-going as in a soap opera type episodes. Plus, there are, of course, the special features and the once a year specials, like Thanksgiving,to give you something to look forward to. Personally, I enjoyed the great cast of characters from Blaze's family, special guest star appearances and of course, the credits even down to the music. I've always liked to see what music is included whether on TV or in the movies. Most of all I liked the quotes! It was cool how he included books and other information that he was covering in his school studies much like a News segment too. In fact, a lot of these episodes reminded me in some way of human interest stories which have always been one of my favorite News features. [I know that's because my Grandpa Hatch loved them too and was quick to point them out to me and let me in on a few that would uplift me. Ones he had even written, so this book had helped me in remembering him too. Miss you, Grandpa!]
One thing I can guarantee about this book is that it is one of a kind and you won't read anything else like it. For that reason alone, it should be worth reading! Now, if you watch TV then, of course, you'll view it predictably but that's a different episode. ;)

288 pages, Publisher: Roaring Brook Press; 1 edition (September 1, 2009), My rating: 3 stars

View a different episode:

Chicken Spaghetti

VIDEO: Blaze on Blaze on tinypic

Mrs. B's Book Extravaganza!!

flamingnet young adult book blog

“Each passage functions as a minimalist gateway into his passions, dreams, fears and desires.” —Kirkus Reviews

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Queen of Cool by Cecil Castellucci

Remember back in the high school days of what you thought cool was and those who were considered cool did you ever wonder about them or what they did or what problems they may have faced in life? Libby Brin is the cool girl. She has a wild character, panache and even seems courageous. Her life seems free from too much attention from parents or even teachers. She seems as if she could do or have anything in her life without major consequences.
Yet, life isn't always so carefree for her, inside of herself she is looking to be different or to feel something, anything really. She is oblivious to how cool she seems to others yet understands that she is popular. Her view of herself isn't the same as those around her and what they think of her. She has to make choices, although they didn't always seem significant enough in general, they were tough for her. A reality check comes into play a little bit for her when she is highly encouraged by a teacher to sign up for volunteering at the Zoo. This is where life gets a bit interesting for her and she meets teens from her class who are often the brunt of a lot of jokes.
I wasn't always clear what Libby was thinking or feeling even in her connection with them or how valid her loyalty was with any of her friends but there was a moment when I felt hopeful for Libby and that she might actually have a new perspective. I did find while reading the book that my own prejudices and perspectives about the high school world were tested and that's not a bad thing. I don't think this book was so stereotypical with its characters as I've heard others mention as I think it was my own view of them and what I was thinking was skewed.
Anytime, a book brings out such thought-provoking feelings and makes me think of things that are even uncomfortable for me I'd have to say I learned something and whether you think that lesson is good or bad will be up to you as much as it was up to me in this instance.
As far as minor characters go, I feel that Tina, Sheldon and Sid deserve a mention. I wonder if I was like Tina in high school and I think I wish I was but deep down I feel I wasn't as bright and confident as she was. I liked how overwhelming the odds were stacked up against her each day but that didn't stop her from being accomplishing tasks that she set out to do. I even understood her cool factor worship a little bit of Libby and her hope of what could happen for her friend too. In the end, I can still feel the sting of her disappointment. I love how well-developed these characters were and the I found myself wishing that the ending hadn't of come so fast.
Perhaps, I was feeling melancholy as I read this book because I found myself wondering where all these characters would be ten or even twenty years after high school. What would be realistic for them then? I'm sure that was just because this summer was my high school reunion which I was unable to attend (haha). :D A little bit ironic, I thought.
Overall, just a note that for me, although I'm sure it is sadly realistic for teens and what they deal with, I wouldn't recommend this book casually because this book contains use of profanity, drinking, and instances of sexual activity. I know I curiously finished it, although, maybe because I know nothing of being a teen in this type of world since I made different choices and grew up in a highly religious environment. It was interesting but personally I'm glad my life as a teen was different from Libby's.
Maybe this book wasn't my favorite or even the type I would usually read but I do like this author's personality and I like following her on Twitter. I have seen her in interviews (see what I mean in Author Mix) and I think her writing is talented. It may be a guilty pleasure but I'm still curious about reading her other books.

Young Adult, 176 pages, Candlewick; First Edition edition (February 14, 2006)
My rating: 2 stars

You don't have to take my word for it:

Neary Notes

The Hiding Spot

Book Reviews and More

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan

The Sea of Monsters (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, #2)The Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I just finished reading this to my son. It was a fun follow up to the first one, but I think I liked The Lightning Thief better. This one had more humor in it, anyway. My son laughed more, and there were plenty of jokes that I got, but were just a tad over his head. I'm having a lot of fun with this series. And now on to book three!

View all my reviews

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Stone of Farewell by Tad Williams

Stone of Farewell (Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, #2)Stone of Farewell by Tad Williams

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I liked this one better than book one of the series. Williams does a good job of cliffhanging the end, especially when you consider how many different POVs there are. There were a few choices made by some key players that kind of bummed me out. But heros are best when they are falible, I guess. I'm pretty excited now to jump into part one of the conclusion, but I just started school again, so my pleasure reading time has got to be limited. Bummer.

I've heard that this is one of his lesser collections, so now I'm really excited to check out one of his more notable works.

View all my reviews

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

This one gets four stars from me.
I just finished reading this one aloud to my son. We had a lot of fun with it. I'm not sure what I was expecting when I started it, but there was something about this book that caught me totally off guard. Whatever it was, it took me a couple chapters to get used to it, but then I really liked it. It might have just been the pace and the rhythm. I've been reading Harry Potter out loud for so long, and this was completely different. When you read a book aloud, the story's voice tends to get IN you in a way that it just doesn't when you read silently. This story's voice was more personal- being in first person- and more modern, I think, than I expected.
My son enjoyed it a lot, but I also found myself getting excited for reading time everyday. I want to know what happens next! I waited to see the movie, so it was all a surprise to me. A pleasant surprise. I can't wait for The Sea of Monsters.

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest by Stieg Larrson

Hrm. Quick overview of this lovely trilogy..

And if you've not read any of these, this probably won't make any sense. So. Sorry. In advance.

Book one -

Men definitely hate women in this one - A LOT, Nazis and big corporations are the roots of all evil - OF COURSE, who needs big boobs anyway (or I mean boobs at all), or condoms for that matter, or to be faithful to one's spouse.., and all those names..good grief. My review of this one is here.

Book two -

The giant blond dude from Rocky IV/man who feels no pain from the Brosnan (slash fake) Bond movies makes an appearance and boy is he pissed, Lisbeth is actually in this one - like she does stuff and everything (I mean everything), again with the names...holy crap....but this one by far my favorite of the three.

Book three -

Lisbeth is in the hospital and now she's pissed, duct tape cures all ills (my husband slash life partner could've told them that!), hot Amazon women are attracted to middle-aged, over-weight men, Lisbeth is still in the hospital.., ack, those names! I wanted to ram my head into the wall they were so confusing, Salander is still in the hospital..., stalkers are always skinny nerdy men, Swede's like to use the word whore a lot, giant blond freak makes an appearance at the beginning and the exact end of the book - in between I completely forgot about him, wha? Salander finally leaves the hospital?? Just in time to save the day? Not really, and the mysterious sister? She never shows...ah, come on!!

A really funny take on this series is in The New Yorker. I laughed myself silly it was so. spot. on.

3 stars

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

First off, I really like the title which happens to be suited perfectly for this book. Just as the title suggests things aren't always as clear as they seem and life has a way of unraveling for Okonkwo, the main character. You could consider this book as a modern Greek tragedy. Many themes transpire within this book that are thought-provoking and I must admit it wasn't always comfortable subject matter for me to necessarily enjoy pondering. It left me with mixed feelings all the way through starting from trying to understand the culture through the eyes of the character's, mainly Okonkwo, to becoming frustrated with mis-communication amongst the different parties and wanting to understand what progress truly means or doesn't mean in the long haul.

If anything, it was a learning experience to read this book and an emotional investment that I don't think I was fully prepared for with this book. I didn't think I undervalued people or that I couldn't adapt when necessary but now I see all of this in the struggles Okonkwo has and so my perception is different now. I want to try harder to be a better person. There really is so much to take away from this classic and so much to re-evaluate. This is the type of book that re-reading in a few years will bring on a whole new vision to it, perhaps in each 1o years of life, it will change for the reader.

Also, there were things in this book that I couldn't ever understand because I just can't relate to that strong of emotion or experience. I might not be meant to. I'm not sure if I'd like to or if I could become more aware. These struggles in between change and tradition are real either within myself or in the life of Okonkwo and because of this simple thread I think this book will always be thought of as a classic. For that reason, I'd say you should read this tragic book at least once.


Okonkwo ruled his household with a heavy hand. His wives, especially the youngest, lived in perpetual fear of his fiery temper, and so did his little children. Perhaps down in his heart Okonkwo was not a cruel man. But his whole life was dominated by fear, the fear of failure and of weakness. It was deeper and more intimate than the fear of evil and capricious gods and of magic, the fear of the forest, and of the forces of nature, malevolent, red in tooth and claw. Okonkwo's fear was greater than these. It was not external but lay deep within himself. It was the fear of himself, lest he should be found to resemble his father.

Credit where credit is due: Achebe uses this opening stanza of, yes, a William Butler Yeats’s poem “The Second Coming.” Sorry, I didn't include this originally in my post and I do appreciate Hamilcar for helping me realize this. :) I love Yeat's by the way and this must be why it stood out in my memory. It is where the title of the novel is taken, as an epigraph to the novel. A nice touch, I think.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world

209 pages, Originally published in 1958, My rating: 3 stars

Reviews from fellow 5-squared reviewers:


Thursday, July 22, 2010

Stalemate by Iris Johansen

Eve Duncan, a re-occurring character, is what is called a "forensic sculptor," which means she takes a skull and sculpts over it her interpretation of the face, based upon forensic measurements and - to a great extent - intuition. She has never yet been proved wrong. However, she generally works for families of missing children or law enforcement agencies - hoping with each skull she brings home, she might find her own 7yr old daughter, Bonnie, missing and presumed dead for many years.

When she receives an offer from the infamous Luis Montalvo - who is a well-known and wealthy arms dealer in Columbia - twice she firmly declines. He has tried to get her to travel to Columbia to sculpt a skull and she refused - however, the third time he makes an offer she cannot refuse in all good conscience, and she goes - in order to save an innocent family, and also with the promise that Montalvo will help her finally find her daughter. She goes without telling her partner Joe an ex-FBI agent who follows her south. She finds Montalvo as a dangerous criminal but also someone with heart and passion. Eve ends up being key to a war between criminals.

I have read two other book from Iris Johansen, Firestorm and Pandora’s Daughter. I had another sent to me but the “bad guys” in that one were with child molesters and I couldn’t read it. All three were good reads, I really liked Firestorm though

The Art of Mending by Elizabeth Berg

This book was lent to me with a stack of books, so I didn’t “pick it,” but I’m glad I had the chance to read it. I am interested in other books by this author now.

Laura Bartone, a quilt artist, and her husband Pete reconnect each evening by sharing an experience from the day and a memory from the past. (I love that) The story does the same kind of thing, mixing memories from Laura's present-day life and those of her childhood.

Laura is excited about the annual family reunion in Minnesota. When they arrive, her sister Caroline insists on a meeting of just the 3 siblings, including their brother Steve. She wants to talk about how they grew up, suggesting that she was physically and emotionally abused by their mother. Steve and Laura do not have the same memories and struggle with this concept. Caroline has always been different and overly dramatic, are they sure she is being truthful? Then their father is hospitalized. Laura tries to deal with that grief while continuing her business and raising her two teenagers. Whether she believes Caroline or not, Laura must take the time to reach out to her sister and learn ways to mend the family.

Laura says "There is an art to mending. If you're careful, the repair can actually add to the beauty of the thing, because it is testimony of its worth."

I liked this book. It dealt with some tough questions. In a family we all remember things differently. We all have hurts from the past. What if we don’t agree or can’t accept their memories, how do we push on. I liked also how the book dealt with daily living and parenting the teens too.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Silent Sea by Clive Cussler

This is the 7th book in the Oregon series from Clive Cussler and Jack DuBrul. The Oregon appears to be a dilapidated freighter manned by a ragged looking crew when in reality it is a high tech and highly armed ship whose crew is known as the Corporation, and is led by Captain Juan Cabrillo, a former CIA field agent. He and the crew perform black ops for the CIA and also private security for different world leaders at handsome prices. All of the Oregon books I have read I have totally enjoyed, their ship is cool.

The story begins on Dec 7 1941 on a small island off the Washington coast. For generations a family have been searching the pit or shaft for the rumored lost pirate treasure. In the present we are off to the jungles of Argentina with the Oregon crew. The CIA have sent them to recover a satellite, Argentina is in political turmoil. Finally we end up in Antarctica where there is something mysterious and dangerous going on. The book is nonstop action. The plot is well thought out and you’ll warm to the Oregon cast of characters

Simple Genius by David Baldacci

I read this book years ago and just had the opportunity to listen to it on audio with my hubby. Good read. Re-occurring characters Sean King and Michelle Maxwell, former Secret Service now turned Private Investigator’s. I have not read other books about them, but now know they are out there waiting for me.

The book starts out with two story lines, one about Michelle and her personal problems and the other about Sean and the job he has taken to pay for Michelle’s therapy. Michelle picks a fight with a really big guy on the wrong side of town. She survives physically but emotional is a wreck. Sean hires his friend Dr. Horatio Barnes to help her but she has to enter a psychiatric facility.

Wanting to keep Michelle in therapy, Sean takes a job at a highly secretive “think tank” called Babbage Town. The scientists there are very protective about their codes and quantum processors. But one of their team, Monk Turing has died and they need to know if it was murder or suicide. The installation is located across the river from the CIA’s highly classified facility known as the Farm. Monk Turing’s 11 year old daughter Viggie is emotionally and socially disabled, but she is a mathematical genius. Sean has a difficult time finding information. He is also worried about his Michelle and how much she can handle.

I liked the book, it had a bit too much technical info about codes for me but Paul loved the details. It made me want to read more of David Baldacci

True Blue by David Baldaccis

I like David Baldacci. We just listened to two of his books on our trip. So I went with True Blue. It is aboubt two sisters in the Washington DC police force. Beth is the Chief of Police and Mace Perry was a police officer but has just served two years in prison because she was set up. She is one tough cookie. Too tough for me. She is bitter, angry and wants to know the truth and get revenge. I like police officer novels. But the two women are just too tough and the story has several things happen that are too far fetched for me. Mace gets out early from prison and the next day is invited by Beth to check out a murder scene. really? Mace meets an attorney there, Roy, the one who found the body and they become friends, deciding to solve the murder before the cops in order to get Mace reinstated. Mace makes some ilegal choices in her pursuit of the truth and Beth let's her do it. There is another murder, another lawyer, but Beth, the DC police and FBI are taken off the case from higher ups. Mace gets a job with a professor to work with people from the projects. Another "ya right;" Roy challenges the head of a gang on one on one basketball in stead of getting shot. The story is okay. Not a good one for Baldacci. I give it two stars

Wish You Well by David Baldacci

I am a great David Baldacci fan. His books are thrillers, edge-of-your-seat who dunits, and Paul and I enjoy them. I typically go into the library and clear out a shelf of an author, just dive into a large stack of their books. This time I came away greatly surprised, because Wish You Well is nothing like his others and I love it. Baldacci interviewed his Mom and Grandmother on where and how they were raised in the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia. I read it all in one setting and when I closed the book my soul felt full,complete, it felt like something I can't describe with words. As I have been thinking about it for a couple days, I still can't think of a way to describe the good feeling I had. I will say it was one of the best books I have ever read.
It is about Jack Cardinal's family, his wife Amanda, daughter Lou age 12 and her brother Oz, age 7rs. They move from New York City to the Appalachian mountains in Virginia to live with Great Grandmother Louisa. She is in her eighties and has lived on the mountain all her life. The mountain, now there is a character that fills the pages of their lives and of the book. Baldacci describes the mountain and all it "is" in such a way that you feel who have been there, that you are a part of what is living and breathing. Their whole lives depend on what they get from the land. The story is told through Lou. It's about tradegy, friends, political issues, love and of hope. Definitely about hope. I could have said much more about the book but I kept editing myself as not to tell you too much. I do hope you read it and enjoy it as much as I have. Oh, I went on Amazon and read a few of their reviews, at least three other people I read about also felt that it touched them in ways they couldn't describe. enjoy.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Dragonbone Chair by Tad Williams

Tad Williams is a highly acclaimed Fantasy novelist and this series: Memory, Sorrow and Thorn is considered one of the must-reads of the fantasy genre. Book One, The Dragonbone Chair, sets the stage and introduces our hero, Simon (and other key players as well). This book is part coming-of-age-story, part classic-good-verses-evil-drama, part political intrigue, with just a hint of first love. I found here, a good mix of round and flat characters. I was very interested in the events of the story. I liked it. I feel compelled to read the rest of the series to find out what happens. All that being said, I went in to this book hoping to be captivated and swept away. I was not. 700+ pages should have flown by in a week's time. It took me nearly 2 months to finish it. I'm not sure why, but it just didn't grab me. Even though I liked it, I didn't find myself wondering what would happen next whenever I had to put it down. Even though I liked it, I didn't feel any sense of urgency to get back to it as soon as I possibly could.
I'd recommend this one if you already love fantasy, but probably not if you're just getting acquainted with it. I wish I could give it 4 stars, but I have to go with 3.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson

Warning - Spoiler Alert: This is definately a book to be experienced so feel free to stop reading now and just go read this book and get your own first impression. No, really, I think that might be best. Smile.


What memories make up your life? How did you become the person you are today? Have you ever wondered about who you are or have you ever wanted to be different? What do you remember about being young?
These questions and more are what 17 year old Jenna Fox is trying to discover and understand about herself as she awakens from a year long comatose state after a horrifying accident. Since she is suffering from amnesia, everything is a different perspective. Her parents seem paranoid by worrying about a lot Jenna has yet to comprehend, her grandmother, Lily seems distant and mysteriously bitter towards her and who were her friends again? Although, Jenna has been told the basics and given DVD's of who and what she was - a dancer, a daughter, a student, a friend etc... It does not make her feel any more complete as a person. More than she even realizes, she desires to feel whole again. So, she aims to truly discover who she is from her memories that she is making from the world she knows now. Yet the old memories creep in and haunt her desire to become different or more real. It's all so confusing!
This book uncovers so much about humanity, courage, identity and friendship in this new world of Jenna's that her parents seem wrapped up in and are part of creating somehow. It didn't feel that it started out dystopian with sci-fi elements but it sure ends up that way which I thought was uniquely clever. I loved how layer by layer - slowly and poetically - it was uncovered and brought to my attention. I had to think and piece together all the details to make sense of it all. All the while, considering each question, questioning each character and their motives and wondering what I really knew at all.
In the end, I question everything. I just love it when books do this!

272 pages, Henry Holt and Co. (BYR) (April 29, 2008), My rating: 4 stars

Meaning I pulled from the book:

Pg. 21: He laughs again. Why does he do that? He is more curious than I am. "You're a tough critic, Jenna Fox. I create art because I need to. It's just something in me. Like breathing."
How can a pine serpent be in him? Especially one that will not last. "This will be gone by tomorrow."

Pg. 131: I look at my hand curled in my lap, the bandage now covering the secret. The sick feeling of when I first saw it returns. In one moment, one brief glance, reality can flip. Whatever we believe can vanish. Believing in something doesn't really make it so.

Pg. 182: She pulls me close again, my head on her chest. I can hear her heartbeat. Familiar. The sound I heard in her womb. The whoosh, the beat, the flow that punctuated my beginnings in another dark place. I had no words for those sounds then, just feelings. Now I have both. I can remember it as clearly as I remember yesterday.

Pg. 192: There is not much to clean. My room is still sparse. "It is life near the bone where it is the sweetest, " I say to the walls. I amuse myself with my cleverness. I run a cloth over my desk and chair and I am done.

Popular excerpts from Amazon, sorry, I don't know the page #'s:

The dictionary says my identity should be all about being separate or distinct, and yet it feel like it is so wrapped up in others.

Are the details of our lives who we are, or is it owning those details that makes the difference?

How much can you really trust your memories - and if you lose them, can you get them back? Can you get yourself back?

Maybe that is all any life is composed of, trivia that eventually adds up to a person, and maybe I just don't have enough of it yet to be a whole one.

Other ideas about this book:

S. Krishna's books


Inside Looking Out

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

I didn't start this book right off after I checked it out from the library. I had really wanted to in some ways but in others, I didn't. For one reason is the subject matter is tough which deals with eating disorders (anorexia, bulimia) and through my reading I found out that there are other subjects included (cutting, ghosts) that are tough to read about in this book also. This book is an emotional investment and even though I may not want to think about subjects like these, it is real. This book was written in such a way that it made you feel, even empithetically, what Lia, the main character, was thinking. My heart was torn and breaking for her and at the same time I wanted her to make sense of all of it and find a way to overcome. It left me to wonder about how I struggle with my own irrationality but I don't always notice the tiny opportunities or people given to me that could help me along my path. They are so small and tender that it is hard to see clearly sometimes. It finally takes sheer "will" and difficult "work" to change. I have to open my eyes and regard it as merciful. It amazes me that Anderson could stir all of this thought process within me by her writing. I find that is a wonderful talent for an author. I'm glad she has shared this with the world and I look forward to reading other works of hers.
I can't say that I completely loved this book because it was not easy due to the subject matter to read but I do view that it is important. For some, it may even be helpful or at least that is my hope. I would recommend this very carefully.

I wish I had finished reading this book in time to attend my library's book group discussion on it which would have been interesting.

Check out these thoughts from the author at Amazon Videos.

288 pages, Pub: Speak (February 23, 2010), My rating: 4 stars

Memorable Quotes (spoiler alert):

"The lights flicker behind my eyes. I knew her whole world. I
knew her sleepovers and cookie sales and crushes on boybands and the time I
broke my leg riding on the back of her bike and the time I helped her paint her
room white after she painted it black without permission." pg. 95

"We sit in the middle of the cafeteria, a fish bowl crowded with minnows,
guppies, tetras, mollies, and angelfish. Sharks circle their prey.
Lesser spiny eels bump their noses against the glass, looking for the
exit. Bits of fish flakes and strings of poop dangle in the air.
Lime-green algae slicks the floor." pg. 105

"Beautiful when seen through the paper wings of out-of-season flies."
pg. 112

"The dead do walk and haunt and crawl into your bed at night. Ghosts sneak
into your head when you're not looking. Stars line up and volcanoes birth
out bits of glass that foretell the future. Poison berries make girls
stronger, but sometimes kill them. If you howl at the moon and swear on
your blood, anything you desire will be yours. Be careful what you wish
for. There's always a catch." pg. 253

"There is no magic cure, no making it all go away forever. There are
only small steps upward; an easier day, an unexpected laugh, a mirror that
doesn't matter anymore." pg. 278

Links from other readers of Wintergirls:

Lucid Conspiracy

Call of Kairos

Helen's Book Blog

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner: An Eclipse Novella by Stephenie Meyer

I had pretty low expectations for this one and was pleasantly surprised. Meyer explores the darker side of her vampire world. Without getting overly morbid, she gives us a sense of what it would be like for one her Vamps who is completely controlled by the bloodlust, sees herself as more God than demon, sees us puny mortals as food, but still has a lot to learn about the clandestine world she's become a part of so very unexpectedly. Meyer does a great job of getting you to sympathize with some of the "bad guys," so that when the inevitable good-conquers-evil ending occurs, you wish she could go back and rewrite Eclipse just a little bit. It also opens up the possibility for yet another storyline in the future; one that I must say, I wouldn't be sorry to read. Three stars to Bree Tanner's story.

The Convenient Marriage by Georgette Heyer

Ah, those hazy summer days. Sitting on my porch rocking chair with my bare foot dangling lazily over the arm rest whilst I rest peacefully over the other one. So relaxed my eyelids hover within centimeters of each other..


If only that were true. More likely scenario, I'm grabbing a few pages here and there while stuffing my face with Doritos and rubbing the skin off my sunburned nose while absentmindedly sort of watching my kids play/pretend not to drown in the neighborhood pool.

But alas, sigh, it's still the perfect time to read me some Heyer. The funniest one I've read of her's so far, this one did not disappoint. Taking place when England was at war with the soon to be United States, all the classic Heyer is included - kidnapping, mistaken identity, more kissing than usual, her favorite word, odious, among others - she has the knack for entering just the right word at just the right time. My heart swooned as always at her dashing, unaffected hero, and I laughed out loud more than once at a group of bumbling goofballs who in the end are at least as funny as Bottom and his acting troupe from A Midsummer Night's Dream, and that's saying something..

Yet again, I can't help but wonder: why aren't any of her books made into movies??

I'd be first in line if they were.
A great romantic comedy to read while on those cement beach sides. Just make sure a lifeguard is present lest you get distracted by those throbbing loins...
4 stars

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale

I just discovered Shannon Hale's "The Goose Girl" in the YA section and am amazed. Her story, based on the Grimm's fairy tale, is both magical and real, with characters who seem so alive they breathe right out of the pages. "The Goose Girl" is a book you can read for the joy of the story, and for the amazing things Hale does with it. She takes the elements of Grimms' fairy tale and weaves something entirely new
*Spoiler alert*

"She was born Anidori-Kiladra Talianna Isilee, Crown Princess of Kildenree, and she did not open her eyes for three days." She is called Ani, and is next in line to be queen until her mother announces that her younger brother will claim the throne and she will be married to the prince of Bayern, a country bordering Kildenree. Ani, weak and indecisive, is on her way to the country when half her honor guard massacres all those loyal to her and try to kill her in an attempt to make Selia, her lady-in-waiting, the queen.
Ani runs, and through the kindness of a few good people, survives and ends up as a goose girl in Bayern. She must find a way to reclaim her name, though, and soon--for the prince's marraige to Selia/Anidori is fast approaching and war is on the verge of breaking loose.

Shannon Hale just one a Newbery Honor for her book Princess Academy. Which I want to read now.

Death of a Valentine by M.C. Beaton

I found this one on the New Book shelf. The cover says A Hamish Macbeth Mystery so she must have others about him. . Hamish is a small village constable in Lochbuch Scotland. He is assigned a partner, Josie. Who happens to be head over heels in love with him and he doesn't know it. The book is about a death and his struggle to solve it. Also about the obsession Jose has, which is quite comical. I enjoyed this book. I liked it so much I think I will go back and get more of hers. It was a quick read also.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde

"It is exquisitely trivial, a delicate bubble of fancy, and it has its
philosophy...that we should treat all the trivial things of life seriously, and all the serious things of life with sincere and studied triviality." ~Oscar

This quote introduces this play at its beginning. Right away, this caught my attention and I found myself thinking of this philosophy as I read this play. Often I have wondered about why is it that small unimportant things invade my thoughts and at times the more important things don't seem like a very big deal? I don't know why I do this and without even realizing it because I have had times in my life when I have been serious of trivial things and almost unaware of serious things in my life without even knowing why or rationalizing it easily. Of course, the danger and the difference in doing this was that my outcome in my life usually didn't come out this brilliant and comedic. In fact, mine would be considered a tragedy. To me, this is one of the amazing things about Wilde's writing of this play. How he captured this very thing in a comedy!
In this play are intricately woven themes, i.e., the aristocracy, marriage, the literary world, English manners, women, love, religion etc..., among a cast of characters that will not easily be forgotten. Jack is the male lead in the play and Algernon is in a great supporting role and as these two characters play off each other and the women, Lady Bracknell and Gwendolen, it ends up in a comedic adventure! I love Wilde's thought-process and his portrayal of our subjectable human nature and of societal conflicts that are still generally true.

Some of my favorite lines (possible spoiler alert!):

Algernon: I really don't see anything romantic in proposing. It ... is very romantic to be in love. But there is nothing romantic about a definite proposal. Why, one may be accepted. One usually is, I believe. Then the excitement is all over. The very essence of romance is uncertainty.
Lady Bracknell: I am pleased to hear it. I do not approve of anything that tampers with natural ignorance.
Gwendolen: I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.
Gwendolen: If you are not too long, I will wait here for you all my life.
Lady Bracknell. [Pencil and note-book in hand.] I feel bound to tell you that you are not down on my list of eligible young men, although I have the same list as the dear Duchess of Bolton has. We work together, in fact. However, I am quite ready to enter your name, should your answers be what a really affectionate mother requires. Do you smoke?

Jack. Well, yes, I must admit I smoke.

Lady Bracknell. I am glad to hear it. A man should always have an occupation of some kind. There are far too many idle men in London as it is.
Algernon: Oh! It is absurd to have a hard and fast rule about what one should read and what one shouldn't. More than half of modern culture depends on what one shouldn't read.

Ever since I've read this play, I really do want to see a live performance. It would be a nice experience and I hope to be able to have this opportunity one day. Until then, I'll re-read this play and eventually find a copy of my own.

178 pages, My rating: 5 stars

Read these bloggers thoughts too:

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

Vida Winter, England's most famous and reclusive writer, is nearing the end, and before she goes she wants her amazing life story to be recorded for posterity. For this, she engages a lonely young biographer, Margaret Lea, who has a few secrets of her own. Up to this point Miss Winter has given 19 versions of her life to different biographers, all untrue. She has finally decided to tell the true story. Which is so intriguing, full of ghosts and mystery. I truly enjoyed this book.
A sentence from the book; "I still believe in stories. I still forget myself when I am in the middle of a good book."

Winter In The Morning by Janina Bauman

Yet another book about a young girl. Once I started reading it, I couldn't put it down. After forty years, the author, Janina Bauman, is ready to tell her story of her life and experiences in the Warsaw Ghetto during the Holocaust. The story begins telling what a good life Bauman has with her father as a doctor and a loving close Jewish family. Then as the story goes on the war begins and their town is transformed into a Jewish ghetto. They are forced slowly to move from place to place, within the ghetto, each one worse than the other. With her remaining family she escapes the ghetto only to find more problems along the way to freedom, but in the end everything works out. This book gives in excellent detail, Bauman's experiences of friendship, love, death, poverty, adventure, and family problems. Many of her personal diary entries are included also showing exactly how she was feeling. The story is full of adventure and feeling and it was a joy to read. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who is interested in what really went on in the Holocaust

Girl With a Pearl Earring by tracy Chevalier

This is another book about a young girl. Greit lives in 1660's Holland. She becomes the maid for the the artist Jan Vemeer because of her family's misfortune. Eventually becoming the inspiration for one of his most famous paintings. It is a very sensual portrait of a 17th century Dutch household, beautifully written.
Griet is treated very poorly by everybody in the house, even the other maid. Only one or two of the many children are civil to her, yet she holds her tongue and plods through her day. The one place where she finds solace is when she is cleaning the studio for the painter. Little does she know that the solace that she finds there and the attention she gets from Johannes makes people in the house become upset. As things get increasingly out of control, Griet must make some decisions that will affect her life and her place in the household.

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

This is a book about a young girl living in New York. She is a latchkey child and must learn about safety as she travels around her neighborhood. She learns the joys and hardships of friendship and of that first crush. I loved it

Pandora's Daughter by Iris Johansen

now I enjoyed this book. It about a woman who finds she has powers and so do others. She is fighting them and in denial. Friends are there to help her through them. And the bad guy is after her. It is adventurous, and I liked it.

The Mammoth Cheese by Sheri Holman

This book is about a town. I had a hard time getting into this book because one of the families is a young couple who goes through fertility drugs then chooses to keep all 11 babies. The local pastor is the one who convinced her to keep them and now she is suffering from post pardem depression. The book delves into the moral dilema of was it the right thing to keep all eleven. Their is a young girl and her first crush and finding out who she is. HEr mother and finding out who she is and the mammoth cheese. The town chooses to deliver a huge round of cheese to the white house. The book was okay, I seem to be getting into reading books about young girls latley. Thank goodness I have a teenage boy!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious.

-Albert Einstein, The World As I See It (1931)

I decided to read this book based solely on Karen's review at Books and Chocolate. She reviewed this book about 8 months ago and I've been thinking about it ever since. I was very impressed with what she said so you'll have to hop on over there to read it too. Since then this book won the Newbery Award which she predicted in her review and after it happened to win - that's when I saw this book for sale at Borders. I couldn't help it, since I usually like Newbery's, so I snatched it up. I went home and read it in just a few days and then I read it to my 11 yr. old daughter each night until we finished.
I agree with Karen that at the beginning it is very different, "puzzling" is the way she put it yet when you are about five chapters in you start realizing just how great this book is. Suddenly, it's like magic and realistically so. Just to illustrate, there were times that my very heartstrings were tugged by this book and what it was unfolding to me which came completely unexpected to me at the end when I didn't think I would feel so moved. But I was and I am.
I loved the way people, places and things were described in this book. It demanded and let you use your imagination to view this book in the way it was written. I love that! It let the characters stand in their own right and this is what was so exciting about it to me - my perceptions about them were not always right. It's what was underneath that counted which really brought to life the intensity of our own human nature. It expresses the sheer value of a human being. It gives new eyes to how the world is viewed through a child's eyes. It is the beauty of the unconditional.
Overall, it's very hard to describe and perhaps that's why I've struggled writing this review. Most of all, I want you to read it, no, even better, to experience it for yourself.

Hardcover, 208 pages
Random House Children's Books
July 14, 2009
My rating: 5 stars

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Abigail Adams: A Life by Woody Holton

Abigail Adams.
Doctor, therapist, teacher, entrepreneur, politician, mother, and wife, in no particular order at any particular time.
She was everything.
She was nothing.
And she knew it.

And it made me a bit sad for one main reason: in this age of the crappily short emails, texts, whatever, I thought of the lost art of letter writing. I learned an immense amount of really interesting, meaty stuff about the revolution and the people in it, specifically the women and their take on this war that affected them profoundly, because Abigail Adams was a fantastic, carefully opinionated letter writer.

If she hadn't been married to that great politician John Adams, if he hadn't been away from home as much as he was (and that was a lot, up to five years at a time - like half their married life), we wouldn't have this treasure trove of information. And it was really, really cool.

This is a good book, especially the second half when the war really picks up, how she deals with her children and family life, the rivalry between Adams and Jefferson, presidential life for wife and husband. Speaking of Mr. Adams, she rarely agreed with him. She was so feisty and opinionated for her time. An American Revolutionary heroine, a rambunctious feminist icon. The bread and butter of women's history.
4 stars

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Vanishing of Katharina Linden by Helen Grant

I got this as an ARC from goodreads firstreads. It'll come out for purchase in August.
I think I have to give it four stars. It was a little bit morbid in theme, but I got completely sucked in after the first few chapters.
Set in recent Germany, the story is told by 11 year old Pia. As she deals with her own personal difficulties, her small town suddenly experiences a string of mysterious disappearances. In an effort to overcome her social struggles, Pia commits herself to solving the mystery. With the help of her sole friend, Stefan, and an unexpected ally, the truth is uncovered. But as so often happens in life, the perfect ending Pia envisions is not to be.
This was a quick, enjoyable read. I do recommend it.
Be advised, there is some use of profane language, but it is nearly all in German.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

On Becoming Baby Wise... by Gary Ezzo

On Becoming Baby Wise: Giving Your Infant the Gift of Nighttime Sleep (On Becoming. . .)On Becoming Baby Wise: Giving Your Infant the Gift of Nighttime Sleep by Gary Ezzo

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really liked this one. I'm not a huge fan of most parenting books, though I'll read them occationally when I feel like I could use a different perspective to help solve a parenting problem.

The thing I LOVE about this method is that it is centered around the idea that the marriage relationship is the heart of the family and should be given priority over all other relationships in the household. Too often, baby makes three and suddenly the original two are unnaturally distanced from each other. This is not good for anyone in the family.

The eat/wake/sleep routine and Parent Directed Feeding this book encourages has worked really well for our family in the past and though we're still in the first couple of weeks of our youngest's life, it has already made adjusting to having a new person in the family much easier. Our days are buisier, yes, but predictably so. Our nights are wakeful, yes, but predictably- and therefore, managably- so.

I would recommend EVERY new or expectant parent read this and at least consider the ideas presented here. They are presented in a friendly, unobtrusive way that lets a person off the hook if they don't happen to agree with the ideas. Definately a GoodRead.

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Friday, May 14, 2010

The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy

As I read this book again, I feel it still stands as one of my favorites in the classics. To me, it's very compelling that I love this book so much when it talks about something that could be so dark and menacing with the theme of the French Revolution. Each time I read this, I am not only merely entertained but I learn a little something more about this story and its view into the vague window of humanity. So, for this book review I thought I would answer some of those questions that could be discussed in a book group which I hope will give you a sense of the book and what it is about. Even more than that I hope that you'll want to read it at least once and even if you don't like it as much as me, I hope you'll gain a new perspective for that is what so much of great literature does for me. Also, I must warn you that there are spoilers below if you haven't ever read this book before.

1. What is the author's opinion of the old ways of the French nobility? Is the narrator impartial or ally him/herself with a class, a country, a cause?
Right away, even in the very first paragraph of this novel, it grips my attention and I get a feel for the environment of the French Revolution. It is not overly gory but provides a depth of description so that you understand what is going on. I feel the conflict of the Nobility(noblesse) vs. the citizen(citoyen). The author shares her resentment of the ignorance and brutality of the lower classes which made me ponder about the nobility, who held not only held the money but the education of France. If they kill them off then where does that leave the country. Simply put it is a double-edged sword.
Here's an example:
It was to be seen every day, for those aristos were such fools! They were traitors to the people of course, all of them...Their ancestors had oppressed the people, had crushed them under the scarlet heels of their dainty buckled shoes, and now the people had become the rulers of France and crushed their former masters...

I also perceive England through the eyes of a group of Englishman and reasonably wonder if they would have dared interfere with their diplomatic relationship with French Republican government.

2. Let's talk about Sir Percy. How is point of view a crucial device in the rendering of Percy?

Cleverly, an old hag is our first introduction of the elusive Scarlet Pimpernel and then there is Sir Percy who seems to be the perfect aristocrat. He is stunning, has impecable timing, and is absolute fun to be around. For example:

A long, jovial, inane laugh broke the sudden silence which had fallen over

'And we poor husbands, ' came in slow, affected accents from
gorgeous Sir Percy, 'we have to stand by...while they worship a demmed shadow.'

Everyone laughed-the Prince more loudly than anyone.

I do not forget him, his laughter or poems about the Scarlet Pimpernel in high society and so I am constantly reminded of this mysterious character too. It is a classic unfolding of a character transformed into the birth of a hero so differently than had been presented beforehand. This impact of using p.o.v. for the hero of this story where it leaves one wondering and questioning then becoming amazed at the reality in the end which was foreshadowed beforehand. I enjoy how the characters and the story unfolds itself. I enjoy reading about Percy with his bouyancy and all his flaws yet he is heroic in his own epic way. As mentioned in the Introduction in my copy of the book, this creative dual heroism can still be found today in the likes of Batman, Zorro, Superman to even elements as seen in the movie, The Princess Bride. Brilliantly charming, this ideal is definately part of the heroes of our dreams today.

3. At what point does Lady Blakeney become a sympathetic character? Would you consider her an unlikable character at first?

The first introduction to Lady Blakeney leaves an impression of a cavalier attitude but I feel that this is fleeting. In no time at all, her layers begin to unravel. I felt this sense at the very beginning of Chapter 12, as in this paragraph:

Marguerite suffered intensely. Though she laughed and chatted, though she was more admired, more surrounded, more f^eted than any woman there, she felt like one condemned to death, living her last day upon this earth.
I enjoy what Marguerite brings into the story, her sense of propriety and fashion, her teasing, the way she intimidates and the way the narrator wonders how Percy was able to catch her. I love the way it is described about how Percy looks at her. I love the complexity of their relationship and mystery of her thoughts. It's enveloping as their world shared together seems different from the world they are living with others around them. I felt I must continue reading in order to find out their secrets and if their relationship will survive or destruct. She is definately intriguing and complex.

4. How is the Scarlet Pimpernel flower a larger motif for the themes of the novel? Does it fit Percy as a character?

I have realized now that I seem to love books that have motif's of birds or flowers. I love when they are truly encapsuled in the story. I love how and what this simple red flower foreshadows in the story. From the first notice of this flower, it becomes a symbol for the hero throughout the book.

The Scarlet Pimpernel... is the name of a humble English wayside flower; but it is also the name chosen to hide the identity of the best and bravest man in all the world, so that he may better succeed in accomplishing the noble task he has set himself to do.

Scarlet Pimpernel is a low-growing kind of plant that is wild and flowering. Since it is bright red, it suggests that it comes from the Prime rose family. It is a constant growing flower in spite of rain or overcast conditions. This flower evokes a powerful emotional imagery and it succeeds in being a memorable emblem for the hero. It is pleasant to look at and be around yet eccentric and definately leaves a lasting impression. I do think this flower fits Percy as a character right as it sounds, don't you think?

5. Would the novel have been more satisfying with a different resolution, or does the resolution as Orczy presents it fit the tenor of the book as a whole?

It really seemed as if some potent Fate watched over that daring Scarlet Pimpernel, and his astute enemy almost felt a superstitious shudder pass through him, as he looked round at the towering cliffs, and the loneliness of this
outlying coast.

Although, I do imagine other ways this novel could have ended, overall, I enjoyed the resolution of the novel. I felt there are still unanswered questions yet a satisfactory closure. I love the romanticism and feeling of a fairy-tale like discovery between Marguerite and Percy that seem to exhibit a conciliation for them against all of the odds.

265 pages, Signet Classics 100th Anniversary Edition, My rating: 5 stars
If you're interested in art during the French Revolution look at:

1789: French Art During the Revolution, catalogue of an exhibition in New York held at Colnaghi from October 10 through November 22, 1989. Exhibition organized and catalogue edited by Alan Wintermute. Published by Colnaghi, 1989.

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Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

I waited until the hype died down to read Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins. I usually do this with a popular series of books at times but as I have sometimes discovered, as with this book, that's not always a smart choice.

I think if you start reading The Hunger Games than you should go out immediately and continue reading through Catching Fire so it will seem like one big book. I honestly think that is the best way to read it, in this case, since it is a middle book. As with a lot of middle books from a trilogy, I find there is a lot of set up, explanation, and discovery of motives, characters and symbolism. I didn't mind it but I think if The Hunger Games were fresher in my memory than that excitement from reading it originally would have spilled over and carried me through this one. For me, this book didn't compare with the excitement I sustained through reading the first book which I devoured and didn't expect I would at all.

I still liked Catching Fire but in a different way which was more thoughtful and forseeable. I do love its cast of characters, Peeta, Gale, Katniss, Cinna, Haymitch, Effie and it did not dissapoint me there. Although, I didn't read it as fast as The Hunger Games it was engaging and I did want to continue reading it consistently. Also, I liked the conclusion better which felt more complete yet there is still enough uncertainty that is left for me to ponder about how it will unfold in the next part of this saga.

So in the end, I am looking forward to the third installment, Mockingjay(Aug. 24th), in this series. Perhaps, I won't wait this time but I may read it as soon as I can!
My favorite quote from the book without giving too much away:
"Four days in, the picturesque mountain erupts in a volcano..."

See, you've got to read this book now - it has a volcano in it!
Just fyi, I'm Team Peeta. :)

400 pages, Scholastic Press; 1st edition (September 1, 2009), My rating: 4 stars
Other juicy reviews:

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Angelology by Danielle Trussoni

I'm not sure why I liked this book. Maybe it was the half naked man on the cover. Maybe it was the religious foreshadowing, the looming Gothic art and the mysterious passageways into long lost secrets, that moved my brain to crave it like a big bowl of the banana cream cake I just had after dinner.

I became slightly involved with this book. It haunted me a little. It haunts me still, and that surprises me, because there is very little romance, very few people die (but when they do die, they die spectacularly), the praise on the back cover catalogs words like: alluring, delicious, gorgeous, beguiling and holy, and I usually try to avoid books with so high of appearance adjective praise...they frighten me into disliking them.

So what was it then? The atmosphere. I became quite lost in this world she's created. A world that's deeply religious, mythological, and historical at the same time. A world where angels and humans are at war with each other. A world where if you really want to know what happens read Misfit Salon's excellent review of this book here. The plot is complicated and diverse, very descriptive and bordering on verbose, but still, I liked it.

But who knows, maybe it really was the naked man on the cover.
And now I really must get back to more cake...
4 stars.