Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

I love this book, even though it took me longer to read. I have watched the black and white movie version many times, loving the story. The story is set in the early 1900’s in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. It is about a young girl, Francie and her poor Irish immigrant family. Her father Johhny Nolan, is a singing waiter but is drunk most of the time and out of work. Johnny and Francie have a close relationship. Her mother Katie scrubs floors and does her best to teach family values and prepare the children for the future. Neely is her younger brother, they do most things together. The Rommelys, Katie’s mother and sisters are strong women that stick together through tough times. The movie stops a lot earlier than the book. So I was able to see more of Francie’s life and have closure.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Standing in the Rainbow by Fannie Flagg

This book starts in 1946 in Elmwood Springs, Missouri. Neighbor Dorothy has a live radio show out of her living room. Fannie describes all the characters in town and tells bits and pieces of their lives throughout a fifty year period. I know that some of the characters cross over to at least one of her other books. I was quite frustrated with the first half of the book. There just didn’t seem to be a story that ran together. Then she spends about 10 chapters on one couple, leaving you the feeling that was the main story. In the end she does tie up all the loose ends of all the town folk and gives you closure. I wouldn’t re-read this or choose any of her other books. Yet in some ways I am glad I read this one. Weird, I know

Friday, February 19, 2010

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

I picked this one up just because it was short and I was in the mood for it. I love this classic story and I think no home library is complete without it. I've seen many theatrical renditions of the story, but this was the first time I've read the original work. It was fun for me to compare Dickens' novel with the play I'm so familiar with. And that it took only a little more time to read than watching it on stage would take makes it a great pass-time. Four and a half stars go to Mr. Dickens. Maybe that's unfair; I think that half star may have fallen off just because the used copy I was reading smelled so strongly of smoke. Sorry, Charles. I know that's not your fault, but it is what it is.

Batman: Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader? by Neil Gaiman Illustrated by Andy Kubert

Let's face it - Batman is one of the best classics in comics and will this really be the end for the Caped Crusader? Who really knows? I personally can't imagine it and I'll always be glad for all the comics ready to read about him out there. I'm a Batman fan. So, therefore, I pay tribute to Gaiman and Kubert for their glorious trip down memory lane to honor him. It's beautiful, really. As mentioned here from Publishers Weekly:

Although this is obviously a love letter from one of the comics medium's
premiere talents, the volume will appeal more to readers well-versed in Batman's
continuity than Gaiman's normal legion of fans As the finished story only
amounts to two issues of material, this hardcover is padded out with
lesser—though not badly written by any means—stories teaming Gaiman with Simon Bisley, Mark Buckingham, Kevin Nowlan and Bernie Mireault, plus a sketchbook by Kubert.

I felt this sketchbook and the different styles of art was worth looking at. It's so visually stunning! Plus, the art and writing together so clearly defined the unique presence of Gotham, its characters both good and bad that we've come to know and imagine. It completely captured my mind to realize all the reasons I've loved Batman over the years. And in the end, I feel I don't really want it to end. I would love to see Gaiman and Kubert team up again, oh, pretty please let them have another issue. It truly was fantastic and not to be missed for loyal fans. One for halls of nostalgia and classic comic heroes always.
If you're not a Batman fan then you might at least browse through this shadowy work of art in the bookstore. It's glowing!

128 pages, DC Comics (July 21, 2009), My rating: 4 stars

Want to read more:
Stuff As Dreams Are Made On...
Poe and Van Gogh
CBR-comic book resources

Thursday, February 18, 2010

An Irish Country Girl by Patrick Taylor

This one gets a firm four stars from me. I probably wouldn't have read it if I hadn't won it from Goodreads' Firstreads. I got an advance copy to look over and review for promotional purposes. I had not read all the books in the Irish Country series, but I did read the one just before this, An Irish Country Christmas. I liked that one okay, but not enough to make me want to read the rest of the stories. This one, though, was more my cup of tea. I'm really glad I didn't miss out on this story. It is the back story of one of the secondary characters from the series. It has a lot to do with Irish folklore and superstitions and such.
Taylor does a great job of bringing you into the story. I found myself thinking about the characters whenever I wasn't reading it. At the same time, it was a light and easy read. He also does a great job in making sure each book in the series can stand on its own. You don't have to have read any of the other books to "get" it. I loved the folklore and I loved the Irish dialect. It was so much fun to spend time there.
And this one is squeaky CLEAN! I like it a lot.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood

2 stars. I almost gave it three because I liked the beginning and the ending pretty well. But then I had to remind myself why this book took me three times as long to read as it should have. It was over 500 pages of sameness. And not very interesting sameness, either. It was mildly interesting at first, but then none of the four stories actually ended up DOING anything. Yes, there are FOUR stories in this book. It is a frame story within a frame story that comes out looking more like a collage of family skeletons from the closet. I think the main reason I finished reading it at all was so I could have the satisfaction of putting it down.
I will give Atwood two props though. One, there was a lot of sex going on, but it was nearly all behind the scene. That was handled rather tastefully, I think. And two, she did a good job of hiding her clues throughout the story and she does a good job of misleading the reader. I make this statement hesitantly because I had it figured out halfway through the book. So either I'm just smarter than the average bear or her clues weren't as cleverly hidden as it seemed. Either way, she made me FEEL like a smarty because I figured it out early on. It wasn't a TOTAL waste of time, but I am glad it's over and I can now move on to more interesting things (I hope!).
And FYI- there is some mild profanity and, as I mentioned above, lots of discrete love scenes.

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson

This book took me about 2 1/2 months to read and I felt it was worth it. I started in Dec. 2009 but I'll count it toward this year as I finished this month. It is my first non-fiction book of this year and so compelling that I've procrastinated in writing this review as I've struggled to find the words to tell about it. My overall opinion is that this was not your ordinary non-fiction but altogether an excellent read. I was considerably amazed with all the details and facts which have compelled me to want to learn more and not necessarily about The Devil in the White City but about Chicago itself. What can I say? I have discovered that I love reading and learning about this time period circa 1893. It really was an exciting time in history or at least I think so now as I've read a couple of books about it.
This novel really depicts two stories in which one is about murder through the hands and the maddened mind of H.H. Holmes. That part is truly terrifying. On the other hand you have this magical part of the story of the World's Fair and all the components necessary to pull it off. I marvel that this was probably the start of the creation of Amusement Parks like Walt Disney World. I found these details fascinating. It was intriguing how all of these components and people came together working so hard to achieve this unique venue. In some ways they triumphed and in other ways they even failed. They were tenacious and disbelieving that they could actually pull this off. It was sheer madness to even consider at that time period what they dreamed up, i.e. a GIANT wheel that transports people into the air just for fun to give them the sensation that they are flying and also made completely out of steel! Really? A Ferris Wheel. So insanely amazing!

On the back of my book cover I found these two quotes about this book that really caught my attention before I read it:

So good, you find yourself asking how you could not know this already.

A wonderfully unexpected book...Larson is a historian...with a
novelist's soul. ~Chicago Sun-Times

As I read this book, I found out exactly the truth of what these quotes meant. I'm glad that I did as well. I did find myself wondering and realizing how little I know about this time period. I also like the fact that one, as Larson did, can present facts in a vitally interesting way which made me feel as if I was reading and being entertained as a fiction novel does for me. To me as one who values writing, this represents a work of art. I also feel that I've retained many facts from reading this book so I think that it will be something that will stay with me. Finally for me, this so-called staying power is also a work of art.

447 pages, Vintage; Reprint edition (February 10, 2004), My rating: 4.5 stars

More viewpoints:


Bookworm Bites


Thursday, February 4, 2010

Carrie's Books

Carrie is texhess.
Goal: 25 books
1)Goodnight, Mr. Tom by Micheal Magorian
2)Dancing at Midnight by Julia Quinn
3)The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
4)Standing in the Rainbow by Fannie Flagg
5)A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
6)The Mammoth Cheese by Sheri Holman
7)Pandora's Daughter by Iris Johansen
8)When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
9)The Girl with the Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier
10)Winter in Morning by Janina Bauman
11)The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
12)Death of Valentine by M.C. Beaton
13) The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale
14)Wish You Well by David Baldacci
15)True Blue by David Baldacci
16)Simple Genius by David Baldacci
17)Silent Sea by Clive Cussler
18)The Art of Mending by Elizabeth Berg
19)Stalemate by Iris Johansen
20)Impulse and Initiative by Abigail Reynolds
21)>Pride and Prescience by Carrie Bebris
22)Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy by Abigail Reynolds
23)Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith and Jane Austen

The Great Gatsby

Written in 1925 by F. Scott Fitzgerald, set in 1918 this story is about a young man named Nick Carraway from the Midwest. He moves to the West Egg of Long Island. An area were the newly rich show off their wealth yet do not have the social ties and background as the East Egg rich. Nick meets his cousin Daisy and her husband Tom Buchannan on East Egg. There he meets the beautiful professional golf Jordan Sparks and they begin to date. His neighbor Jay Gatsby, lives in a large Gothic Mansion and has large parties every Saturday. People come from New York whether they are invited or not. Finally Nick is invited, he meets Jordan there, along with meeting Gatsby. It turns out that Gatsby knew Daisy prior to her marriage and is still in love with her. He employs Nick into arranging a meeting. The two men become good friends, doing many things together.
For 188 pages it is a wonder how very little there was to the actual story but the book seems so full. There's scandal, romance, heartbreak and tragedy all wrapped up in these pages. There are long boring sections, and I was a bit confused at times wondering where the story was going. I know that this is considered a great masterpiece by all, but I was not that impressed

Dancing at Midnight

Dancing at Midnight by Julia Quinn. Oxfordshire 1816, Lady Arabella "Belle" Blydon- is tired of trying to find a husband. Having rejected dozens of marriage offers (she's holding out for true love), she takes a much needed rest in the country, at the estate of her cousin Emma and Emma's husband Alex, the Duke of Ashbourne.
Belle loves to walk in nature and to read, and one day she wanders onto the adjacent property where she meets Lord John Blackwood, a wounded war hero who's planning to farm the modest estate he's recently bought Not only is John's leg wounded (he limps) but his heart is wounded from a trauma in his past. Feeling unworthy of Belle physically, socially, economically and morally, he keeps pushing her away.

But Belle will not be stopped now that she's found the only man she's ever loved Lord John Blackwell is new to his title and his lands he has acquired for participating in the military. All his life, the seventh child of an Earl and pretty much forgotten, he has made his own way. Until one fateful day in the army, he has kept a secret hidden from everyone. If it ever got out, he would be shunned. Wounded and battered, both physically and mentally, John has no time or patience for an innocent girl who thinks he is 'too mysterious' to pass up. But Belle's persistence makes him see he can love and he deserves to love. The only thing holding him back is his dark past and someone who wants him dead for it.

I found Belle rather spoiled, and the story a bit long. I was not prepared for an intimate scene between the two and felt uncomfortable.

Goodnight, Mr Tom

This is a historical novel,by Micheal Magorian, set in the late 1930’s during WWII. It shows how the children in London were evacuated to small towns to live with strangers because the Nazis were bombing London.
The story is about a small boy named Willie Beech who is evacuated to Little Weirwold to live with an older man, Mr Thomas Oakley. Tom is not used to children. His only child died as an infant.But he is very kind to Willie. Willie is a malnourished, abused and deprived child who is afraid of everything. With Mr Tom’s help he slowly starts to think on his own and becomes acclimated to the town people, learns to read and write, and makes friends. Mr. Tom begins to love Willie as his own child. Then a telegram comes and Willie must return to his abusive mother in London. Weeks past and Willie doesn’t return so Mr Tom goes to London in search of the boy he has come to love so much. I loved this book and would recommend it to others. A bit of caution though,, the episodes of child abuse and neglect are rather strong, and may not be suitable for all ages...at least the abuse is not described in action, we just see the end result