Sunday, January 31, 2010
Thursday, January 28, 2010
Elner Shimfissle is living in Elmwood Springs, Missouri and she has raised her family and would really like to live her life the way she would like to in her retirement but there are people in her life who can't help but worry about her, particularly her high-strung niece, Norma. In fact, as Elner is picking figs from her fig tree and in the process falls off the ladder her last thoughts are "I'm in big trouble now...I may just have lost ladder privileges for life." And this is the beginning of the end for Elner. Or is it?
While this book was filled with interesting characters and a few ideas that kept my curiousity going, I don't think it is a book that I'll ever re-read. I didn't love all of the characters which is perhaps what the author was aiming for. I couldn't easily relate to their predicaments either although they were humorous at times. I did feel that things unfolded with a nice pace and that there was closure made with all the loose ends for the most part. But there were a couple of chapters in particular that really bothered me. I didn't feel the theme or the character it introduced added to the storyline at all and was unnecesssary. I wished that it hadn't been part of the story or I might have felt differently about the book in the end.
This book was an entertaining, light read which did give me a unique retrospective of Elner's life. I did enjoy the heartwarming perspective of how the simplest things that Elner did for others were the ones that meant the most in their lives. It gave me a gentle reminder of the importance of reaching out to help others.
A look from the book:
If Elner had entertained any doubts for a second that the woman before her was her sister, she didn't anymore. It was Ida all right.
"Now Ida, " She said, "try not to get yourself in a snit. Norma had no choice. Tot is a good friend. How can you tell somebody something like that and not hurt her feelings? She showed up at the funeral home with her supplies and everything. She thought she was doing you a favor. Norma didn't have the heart to tell her she couldn't do you."
Ida was not sympathetic. "I should think a dying wish trumps hurt feelings, any time of the day."
Elner looked up and saw two zebras, with red stripes that looked like candy canes and with silver tinsel manes and tails, an a herd of tiny little bright yellow hippopotamuses no bigger than twelve inches high, pass right in front of them.
375 pages, Ballantine Books - June 2007, My rating: 2.5 stars
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
Lately my tastes have been straying away from young adult fiction, mainly YA fiction that's geared more towards adults that kids (which I think ruins it most of the time), but this movie looks pretty good, see here, so I decided to listen to the book first before I take my kids in February.
My review will be short.
It was okay.
But as a side note, I probably shouldn't have listened to it, as I was not a fan of the reader. His voices seemed too cartoonish, like they were straight off of Sesame Street, and kept reminding me this book was for kids (you know like Trix), and I think I'd have liked it better if I'd have just read it and invented my own voices in my head. I plan on reading the rest of the series eventually and see if my little theory holds true.
Kudos to Riordan for keeping the content in this one for young adults. Imagine a young adult book that is actually for young adults! Perish the thought!
As for content, just think Harry Potter/Greek mythology, but I like mythology (I am a huge Clash of the Titans fan after all), and even though it's not half as good as Harry Potter as far as predictability and character development goes, I will give it full marks for excitement. It was good fun. Any kid would like this book. And the movie looks even better. Maybe we'll even see it on the first weekend. For me that's really saying something.
Another point of view: Amanda
Thursday, January 21, 2010
The more I read about the early monarchs, the more I'm convinced - a lot of them were loony birds. They were paranoid (probably because most of their extended families wanted them dead), often delusional, unable to form stable relationships after being raised by multiple people in multiple places usually amongst a war for dominance, forcing them to grow up too fast. I wonder, can they be blamed for their erratic behavior after such odd and bizarre upbringings?
Richard the III is no different from these. I've seen how he's depicted in Shakespeare's plays. His hump, his paranoid and murdering behaviors are legendary. Author Sandra Worth's depiction here argues that may not be true about him. Was Shakespeare's view skewed by the reigning, rival Tudors? He may have been handsome. A shy product of his violent environment. In love with a beautiful woman as depicted on the cover of her book, Love and War.
I'm a big fan of John Waterhouse paintings. A lot of authors use them for covers. In fact when I notice a Waterhouse on the front, I have a hard time resisting a book's contents, regardless of how good it may or may not be (the one below was on Mistress Shakespeare.)
His paintings of mainly women are so lovely and filled with emotion. He had a way with catching just the right expression, the slope of a shoulder, how their hands lay atop each other. And I've always wondered who the woman was he painted the most. Her face and red hair. Her absolutely flawless pink skin. Talk about giving me a complex!
While I thought the cover of this one beautiful, I had a hard time stomaching it as Richard III sitting there with his lovely Anne Warwick, the woman it took him nearly a decade to marry amidst the war between the Roses. I thought more of this knightly clad hero as his earlier ancestor, a younger John of Gaunt and his mistress and eventually third wife, the beautiful Katrine - who also had red hair. Worth's take on Richard and Anne is obviously modeled after their lives, and from a favorite book of mine by Anya Seton entitled Katherine, about their courtship and later marriage.
In truth, Love and War, is much more about the history of the epic battle between York and Lancaster than it is about Richard and Anne. And I liked that because I'm a big English history buff. But the love stories themselves seemed more like filler than anything, definitely running second to the battles and treason that took place during the time period. Maybe that story line evolves more in the second and third books in the series.
So don't be fooled by the cover! If you want a fantastic love story amidst war and strife, read Katherine. If you want to learn about the history of the War of the Roses, read this one, the first in The Rose of York trilogy.
And most importantly, wear sun screen so you'll have beautiful skin like the ladies in these pictures!
We can all dream anyway...
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
I only describe this to you now because this book, Living Dead Girl, has had this same affect on me. It has this intense, terrifying feel to it. I can still see Alice and hear her voice. I ponder about her devastating situation. Her story has affected me more than I think I realize, even now. I don't know that I can ever read this book again. Although, I may feel compelled to do so like I did while I read it recently.
I had an unpredictable parental experience while reading this book. My 5th grade daughter loves to read and she often looks on my shelf to see what I'm reading. It so happened that she decided to read Living Dead Girl without asking me. When I realized she was reading it, I felt it was too late to take it away. I felt she should have the closure in the ending if possible. I had her give it to me when she finished and invited her to talk to me but she didn't say too much at this point. Over the next few days, I think I managed to stay open so she could feel like she could talk to me. As soon as she finished, of course, I read this book very fast so that I could discuss it with her. As we discussed this book it surprised me, mostly, about what I learned from her vantage point. Naturally, she had a few questions and I think a lot went over her head. I remembered how my mom handled me when I read A Child Called IT and I tried to emmulate that by listening, keeping open to answer questions and keeping calm. I know this is a strong book with a massive message. I realize the controversy on whether or not it should be a book for teens. Through my experience with my daughter, it has taught me a lot and opened my eyes more than I think even my daughters' eyes. She knows more than I realize. Fifth grade is still so young and I wouldn't have told her to read this book. I don't really recommend it at all. I've worried about this situation a lot but overall I think it's okay, and I truly hope that she's okay, that she read it. I think that it is alright for teens/Young Adults if they want to read it but a parent, trusted friend or mentor would be very helpful so that they could discuss it with them or have any questions answered that they might need. It also lends to a good dicussion on the whole stranger danger topic. Seriously, it's super scary to think about how to handle this if it really happened. So hard to fathom. Nightmarish, really? Now I worry, have I talked about this enough with my daughter?
I thought it was deeply touching and hauntingly written, perhaps even overwhelmingly so. I couldn't put it down. If possible, it might have been even more compelling if Elizabeth Scott wrote this based on a true story but it saddens me deeply to say this could be real. I think Alice's story did need to be told and I think I'll never forget it either.
176 pages, Sept. 2008, My rating: 3 stars
— Quotes from this book:
...the thing is you can get used to anything you think you can't, you
want to die but you don't, you can't, you just are
Once upon a time I was a little girl who disappeared.
Once upon a time my name was not Alice.
Once upon a time I didn't know how lucky I was.
-On the back cover:
This is Alice's story. It is one you have never heard, and one you will never, ever forget.
Plainfield Public Library
Katy Reads Y.A.
Monday, January 18, 2010
1)The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
2)The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
3)The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
4)An Irish Country Girl by Patrick Taylor
5)A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
6)The Twilight Saga (books 1-4) by Stephenie Meyer
7)Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Other Strange Tales by Robert Louis Stevenson
8)The Hidden Flame by Davis Bunn and Janette Oke
9)The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
10)The Vaninshing of Katharina Linden by Helen Grant
11)The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner by Stephenie Meyer
12)The Dragonbone Chair by Tad Williams
13)On Becoming Baby Wise II by Gary Ezzo
14)Christmas Jars by Jason F. Wright
15)To Green Angel Tower Part 2by Tad Williams
16)The Mansionby Henry Van Dyke
17)Midnight's Children by Salmon Rushdie
18)Against All Things Ending by Stephen R. Donaldson
19)The Light in the Forest by Conrad Richter
20)You and Your A.D.D Child...by Jody Capehart
21)To the Green Angel Tower Part 1 by Tad Williams
22)The Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan
23)The Stone of Farewell by Tad Williams
24)The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
Sunday, January 17, 2010
Thursday, January 14, 2010
Tally is now a special. She has undergone another surgery and has now joined the unique ranks of The Cutter's with her long-time friend, Shay, in charge. They are like super detectives and have missions of distinction where they monitor the lives of the Uglies and the Pretties. Tally is headed in a new direction and she can feel it. Will it be good or bad for her? When she is faced with the ulitmate cure, will she take it?
"Tally's in constant motion, the action nonstop, all the way until—paralleling
the stunning end of Uglies—Tally makes an unromantic, pragmatic and desperate
final decision. A splendid, provocative conclusion to a terrific series."
Kirkus Reviews (starred)
Friday, January 8, 2010
In Pretties, the story picks up shortly after the end of Uglies with the main character, Tally, already having had the required surgery to make her pretty and similar minded as the others. Suddenly, she's thrust into a world of popularity which includes the best of beautiful things, parties and people. She is still friends with great characters from Uglies like Shay & Peris who is her best friend as promised. As she starts to meet other pretties, like one in particular named Zane, things start to get more complicated. There are always lots of choices for Tally to make and things for her to experience as well. I felt I related to Tally as a character better in Pretties than in Uglies. I feel I had identified more with Shay before but her character has so drastically been altered because of the pretty operation that it deeply saddened me. I didn't realize how this would affect me. It still amazes to feel how deeply I can be moved by the written word. Bravo to Scott Westerfeld for that!
One thing that I feel is at the heart of these stories are the tiny details about friendship. So many possibilities and disappointments that lie within Tally's relations with her friends spoke to me. It is very subtle yet beautiful. It's what drew me into reading these books for the most part and had me wanting to read the complete series. I had to know what would happen with these friends. It's not the only reason though because this book contains a lot of exciting adventurous things, i.e, a floating ice rink. Honestly, I'm a little afraid of ice or ice skating and I couldn't imagine even wanting to go there to ice skate. The way Westerfeld describes it was incredible and what results there is fascinating too. Plus, isn't it just the kind of thing Pretty's would do for fun?
Now, for me I did have to be patient with and get past that semi-annoying Pretty language for most of the novel but I think I understood why it was written in that voice. I think it was valuable to differentiate between the two different worlds in order to transition from the Uglies to the Pretties stories. Actually, I think it moves the story to a higher scale and it's very clever writing.
I admit that I've read very little dystopian novels until this year. I wasn't always sure I could get into them, I think. As I've read them more, I've found that I've really enjoyed reading this genre. I feel I've discovered a whole realm of new thoughts and possibilities which is simply exciting. I'm glad about that.
From the book itself:
"Remember that the most beautiful things in life are the most useless." -John Ruskin. (Pg. 1)
"...everything was always ultra safe in New Pretty Town. Otherwise pretties would be killing themselves left and right."
"She had to get out of this balloon now. Then Tally saw the river. And,
clutching her hover board, she threw herself into the void."
"... as if the metal had suddenly become liquid and alive."
"...a noisy was to travel, the wind roiling the trees like a storm."
384 pages, Nov. 2005, My rating: 4.5 stars
Other Pretties book reviews to read:
Jawas Read, Too!
Thursday, January 7, 2010
I'm not sure which of our wonderful authors would like to continue with 5-squared this year or who may move on. I don't think it is my place to officially assume either. So, I made a 2010 book list for all current authors listed. Each current author does have admin. privileges on this blog, so I'll let them decide. Of course, I hope each one would continue posting as I do enjoy reading a variety of reviews myself but I'll understand either way. That's the nature of a group, comings and goings, I think. I'm looking forward to 2010 here on 5-squared!
Unofficially, I do realize that some of our authors, as you may know, have already posted some of their book reviews on their own blogs. I'll add those links (the ones I'm aware of so please let me know if I've left you out) to the sidebar so that you can continue reading their amazing book reviews. (Authors if you don't like your link there you can take it off.)
As for me, I'm planning to continue posting my 25+ book reviews here. I enjoy being a part of 5-squared and on group blogs in general. I think that's my niche.
I hope you'll continue reading and leaving your input through comments as well. Thank you!
1)The Rose of York - Love and War by Sandra Worth
2) The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
3) Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, a play by Tom Stoppard
4) The Spirit of Sweetgrass by Nicole Seitz
5) Angelology by Danielle Trussoni
6)Abigail Adams Life by Woody Holton
7) The Convenient Marriage by Georgette Heyer
8) The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest by Stieg Larsson
1) Can't Wait to Get to Heaven by Fannie Flagg
2)The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
3)Batman: Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader? by Neil Gaiman Illustrated by Andy Kubert
4)Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah
5)Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
6)The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy
7)When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
8)The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde
9)Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
10)The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson
11)Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
12)The Queen of Cool by Cecil Castellucci
13)Episodes: My Life as I See It by Blaze Ginsberg
14)The Light in the Forest by Conrad Richter
15)Don't You Dare Read This, Mrs. Dunphrey by Margaret Peterson Haddix
I happen to know, as you might, that this number is likely to be much higher individually. I, for one, didn't get all of my reviews up and many more reviews from our beloved authors have been posted onto new blogs which is super exciting as well to see people succeeding and moving on to bigger & better endeavors like our founder, Amanda, has done over at her blog The Zen Leaf. I feel all of this proves the overall growth of this group, more than was ever projected at the sheer start of it all, which is simply amazing!
2009 Book Counts:
Amber - 27
Byron - 3
Christina - 56
Jason - 76
Julie - 32
Lula - 56
Marcia - 8
Nikki - 17
Terry - 53
Trixie - 11
I'm looking forward to our book reviewing in 2010. I'm happy to be here and be a part of this! I'm glad to associate with the wonderful people here as well. I plan on staying around but I understand that as in so many groups people may come and go. No worries. Wherever you go or wherever you are, let's get it on and keep reading!
This book is simply concise yet I was pleasantly surprised with how easily it charmed me. I enjoyed spending time in this sleepy little world of Hope Jensen's. I enjoyed her dreams, felt her pains and wanted her to work out her problems.
Here's the basic story: Hope is a newspaper reporter with a career mission to do better and succeed in getting promoted. Human interest stories are her passion and this is what she believes will set her apart. So, naturally as she endures one of her most horrible Christmas Eve's in her life she immediately looks for a way to remedy the problem with her writng skills. Since out of that Christmas Eve night, she becomes the recipient of a Christmas Jar which drives her unwavering curiousity to find out who is behind it. Of course, what she finds isn't what she expected but precisely what she needed but doesn't realize it at the time.
This is a feel good book and it was what I needed for this Christmas season. For me, it was light and simple not the most developed, story or character wise, which leaves a lot open for discussion and interpretation.
On a personal level, I was also surprised because many who've recommended this book to me over the years had stated that it would make me want to have my own Christmas Jar. This is part of the reason I hadn't read it yet, perhaps, I didn't want to feel a guilt trip to be charitable. Charity is a very personal thing in my mind and I don't want to do what everyone thinks I should when it comes to that. I want it to come from my heart. So, while it may be true for some to feel compelled to start a Christmas Jar and it certainly worked for this family and these people in the story, I have to say, I was happy not to feel guilty. I don't necessarily feel that I have to have or start my own Christmas Jar. Don't worry, I will be charitable in my own way and I am inspired by the overall message this story had to offer. I enjoyed the heart of this story which I feel deals more with human nature than the actual charitable aspect.
I'm happy to have read it this year and maybe next year I'll read the sequel after all the hype dies down like I obviously did with this one.
149 pages, August 2006, My rating: 4 stars