Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Harper Lee: To Kill a Mockingbird

One Word Summary: Boo

More Words: I don't know anyone that doesn't like this book. And I know a lot of people who named their first born Atticus. Really. Okay- I can only think of one person, and it was a middle name. But still. What an iconic character. He was a man of integrity. He was a good father. He was highly quotable. He was a great reader. And he couldn't have done it without Calpurnia or Miss Maudie. ummm, I'm at a loss for any comment that isn't dumb or redundant. I liked the book. It took a while to really begin enjoying it. The trial scene went by in a whirl. I wonder if Matlock stole the left-handed defense. And those Ewells!

Questions:

Was the name Heck Tate a joke?

Why is it fair to say Bob Ewell fell on his knife?

Sarah Dessen: Along for the Ride


One Word Summary: Caffeine

More Words: I really like Sarah Dessen. I used to read her blog faithfully and I still rush to Barnes and Noble for her newest releases. Dessen's writing is always well crafted and thoughtful. What I really like are the little madeup details in each book (you'll have to read to know what I mean, since I'm not giving examples). Her stories explore the dynamics of the mother daughter relationship, which is fascinating to me. She writes about teenaged girls who are a little neat freakish/ocd/controlled/serious. Dessen usually gives them meaningful new friends and a shot of playfulness and a paradigm makeover, in other words a second chance before college. This story wasn't my favourite, but it was still good and it had a happy ending.

Summary: A girl goes to the beach for the summer. She learns to ride a bike, value herself, and not make assumptions about other girls based on their preference for the colour pink. All while riding around in a truck with a boy, late at night questing a lost childhood.


My two favourite Books by Sarah Dessen:
This Lullaby (for late teen readers)
Someone Like You (also for late teens)
Sarah Dessen's Best Novel:
Keeping the Moon

Anita Shreve: Light on Snow

One Word Summary: Coincidence

More Words: I liked this story. It makes you wonder what would you do if you were the father/mother/girl/police officer/parents of the mother/the grown up baby? It's not a bit like the Heintz dilemma, but it got me thinking about it. I really enjoyed the author's style too. I want to read more of her work.

Summary: A father and daughter are snowshoeing in the woods. They find a newborn in the snow. They save the newborn. The story is about how they handle the fallout and handle their own personal grief.

Sarah Smith: Chasing Shakespeare

One Word Summary: Shakespeare is the god of your own image

Other Words: Lightening [Bug]

More Words: This book was okay. I'm sure it would be fascinating to someone who has read beyond high school Shakespeare and who was maybe part of a medieval club in college or who actually thinks about poetry. Gosh, this book makes me wish I were like that - but only if I don't have to change my name to Hilde the cobblers daughter, or cook with cloves, or wear a cloak, or play rpgs, or crack jokes in Olde English, or... Anyhow, since I don't' have a working knowledge of the political dynamics of 16th century England this book was way over my head. However it was still pretty okay.

Summary: Joe-bluecollar-mr.Shakespeare grad student finds a letter written by Shakespeare in a dusty collection of fraudulent papers. The letter claims that Shakespeare is not Shakespeare. The timing of the discovery coincides with the major publication on Shakespeare (which represents a lifetimes work). Enter VaVaVoom Posy from Harvard. Together Joe and Posy embark on a quest to discover who Shakespeare really was and become famous overnight.

Moral of the Story: Don't Be Anne. And Instant Gratification is a mirage- greatness takes a lifetime.

Censorship: The F word is abundant and there is a sexy red bra, a tattoo, and other vavavoomness- but no indecent exposure.

Quote:

I believe God is a librarian. I believe that literature is holy, Mr. Roper, it is the best part of our souls that we break off and give to each other, and God has a special dispensation for it, angles to guard its making and its presentation HB p.136

List of things To do:

  1. Rename myself Hilde
  2. Appreciate good poetry
  3. Write bad poetry
  4. Read the books mentioned on the back jacket: Possession by As Byatt, Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey
  5. Find a picture of WH the Earl of Southampton circa 1590

Tracy Chevalier: Falling Angels

One Word Summary: Bad Mom

Reactionary Words: I wonder if you could sue the family of a woman who fails to watch your children at a public rally, and whose neglect causes the violent death of one of your children. I wonder what I would do to her if she didn't already die herself. Honestly this is another fantastic book that I hated. First of all I'll admit to being a selfish person but I've never reached the heights Kitty Coleman achieves- possibly because I'm not very intellectual and I'm not stuck in Victorian England. But people like her drive me crazy. She's sociopathic. I'm simultaneously disgusted with and sorry for her unsatisfaction.

Summary: The friendship of three children who meet in a graveyard and and bring with them the ideals of their very different families.

Tracy Chevalier: Burning Bright

One Word Summary: Opposites have one thing in common

More Words: Philip Astley was larger than life. Blake remains a mystery- and yet he's more solid to me. All the characters were fantastic.

Summary: The experiences of a country family who join the circus and live next door to William Blake in nineteenth century London for a year.

Thoughts and Lessons: I know I should be overawed by Chevalier's superb juxtapositioning skills but really I'm just thinking about the secret lives of children. I remember when I left home, how I realized that my mom was a person unto herself and that she had her own dreams and disappointments and they had nothing to do with me. Lately I've grown accustomed to thinking of my children as appendages to me, but maybe they're not after all. And I'm thinking it might be important to find out who they are.
Also as I read this story I kept wondering about the careless parents who don't take very much trouble over their kids, especially in areas of morality. I know eventually you have to let your kids go, but still I think your supposed to bug and nag the people you love. I think you're supposed to make them uncomfortable so they never become complacent. So they're willing to do the right thing, always. And I believe there is a right thing.

Tracy Chevalier: The Virgin Blue

One Word Summary: A Bag of Bones

More Words: This novel is not without merit but that doesn't mean I liked it. And just because I didn't like it a whole lot doesn't mean I could put it down. On reflection The Virgin Blue is a work of genius. Or Chevalier is a genius. Complete, Balance, True to itself, blah blah blah. But there's no happy ending and worse the story offers up no reasons or justifications. Stuff just happens, a lot of it horrific. It makes my head spin, just wanting to know Why? Why?! Why! It's a little like life- too complicated to attribute one reason to a whole slew of events. Anyhow, I think I must be Rick. I don't understand, I'm not interested enough to try, and I'm careful enough to withhold my condescending judgment.

Questions:
  1. Who was the first girl under the hearth?
  2. What's wrong with Ella's love analogy?
  3. What would you do if you were Isabelle?
  4. What do Jean-Paul, the wolf, and the shepherd have in common?
  5. Is Ella a "woman who is lost, directionless, doesn't know what she wants so grabs at the idea of a baby as something to keep her busy. And she's bored with her husband so she XXXXX the first offer she gets"? Or is she more?
  6. Why hasn't Disney princessified Little Red Riding Hood?

Other Books:
The Hundred Secret Senses, by Amy Tan

Censorship: This is not for little girls. It's a little bit horrific, and it's not really a book to read if you want to feel good about life and the world.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Tracy Chevalier: The Lady and the Unicorn

One Word Summary: a mon seul desir
More Words: There is definitely something seductive about this book. I like Tracy Chevalier's style. While the story behind the unicorn tapestries is made up, I'd like to believe there is a real woman behind each one. And it's even better that the women remain a mystery to Mr Casanova, Nicolas des Innocents.


Plot Summary: Oversexed portrait artist, Nicolas des Innocents, is commissioned to design tapestries for Jean Le Viste's home in Paris. He fascinates all the women meets between Paris and Brussells with his seductive words (a unicorn pickup line-of all things). While Nicolas is at work the reader gets a snapshot of medieval life and a glimps at the workings of the human heart.

Questions:
Do men always get what they want?
Which woman are you- scent, sight, touch, sound, taste?

Censorship: This book is full of sex and human desire, like Captain Correli's Mandolin I'd rather have my daughter grow up before she reads this book.

Three pre-teen books you can read in a day

How to Take the Ex Out of Ex Boyfriend, by Janette Rallison- Girl dumps her boyfriend in a fit of petty temper, and spends the next week trying to entice him back. This book is funny.

Slept Away by Julie Kraut- NYC city girl is forced to attend summer camp, where she learns the meaning of friendship. This book has fast paced language similar to Megan McCafferty cynical genius (errrr, I'm not saying J. Kraut plagiarized anything)

The Boyfriend Game by Stephanie Davis- Soccer girl discovers boys, and learns a little about being a friend.

Diana Wynne Jones: Fire and Hemlock

One Word Summary: Tam Lin
More Words: The cover of this book was a little creepy and a huge deterrent to even touching it even though I'm in love with Diana. I sort of danced around it at the library for three years. However I read in Nancy Pearl' s Book Crush that this was a Tam Lin Story and so I had to read it. I enjoyed reading Fire and Hemlock, I'll probably read it again. But I have to admit it's not a great book.

List of what I didn't like: It was a little surreal at the beginning and took awhile to get used to. At first I didn't like or understand Polly's friendship with Tom. And the ending was a little confusing. Not only confusing it was... well I didn't like it. {What's the word for something that is too unrealistic even for fiction}

What I did like: I like how the stories Polly and Tom made up became true. And the Fairy Queen was one scary lady.

Other Books:
An Earthly Knight by Janet Elizabeth McNaughton

Dianna Wynn Jones: The Game


One Word Summary: I want to be a comet
Kirkus says it all: A fantasy novella kindles a sizzling premise that fails to catch fire.
When I read the title of this book I got it confused with 3 other books...
  • Teresa Toten's The Game, which I really liked but have to recommend with caution since it's a teen book dealing with dysfunctional family issues.
  • A story I read a long time ago about a teen girl who gets stuck in a virtual reality game. It was really really fun. Heir Apparent by Vivian Vande Velde
  • A story I read a long time ago about a two teens who become unlikely friends through an online rpg. Their friendship and private game help the girl to work through a traumatic event and her subsequent gender identity issues.

Katherine Paterson: Preacher's Boy

One Word Summary: The Bucket List

More Words: Katherine Patterson is a great writer. This book is easy and good to read. I bet it would be fun to read with a child so you could talk about it together. It has all the right elements: an adventure, a moral lesson(s), a satisfying ending. Only I seem to remember it taking a long long time to read. It was only 186 pages, which means... I wasn't that into it.

Plot Summary: It's the turn of the century, possibly the end of the world, and the preacher's boy has a list of things he wants to do before he dies and goes to... well it's not up.

Question:
Why couldn't Vile stay in Leonardstown?

This book reminds me of:
Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
Soup by Robert Newton Peck

Harold K. Moon: The Leah Shadow


One Words Summary: Polygamy-shmigamy
More Words: My mom went to Education Week and she brought me back this book (along with several others). There must be a whole bunch of people out there who love LDS fiction. Unfortunately I don't live on that island. The book was fine, and the writing too, but I for sure had a problem with the content. It made me feel so miserable for all the women who had to claim second place. Maybe love was different 120 years ago. Maybe it's possible to love and cherish and be loyal to more than one person. But I don't believe it.
Summary: A man marries a good woman. Fifteen years later he marries another woman. There's trouble with the law. The man flees to Mexico with his second wife. The first woman tells her husband not to come back for her, because she doesn't want to share him. He stays away until her death years and years later. Then he realizes how much he hurt her, but admits that he wouldn't have done anything differently because he loves his second wife.
Moral of the Story: It's wrong to break someones heart. Don't marry someone you don't love, even if you live on the frontier and there is no one else. And if you do... gosh you've got a real dilemna.
Note to self: what's the name of that romance with the exercise girl in it.

Georgette Heyer: Not Quite the Complete Ouvre

My Very Favourites:
The Masqueraders, Devil's Cub, The Convenient Marriage, Faro's Daughter, Friday's Child

The Favourites:
Regency Buck, The Foundling, Arabella, The Quiet Gentleman, Bath Tangle, The Unknown Ajax, Sylvester, Venetia, The Grand Sophie

The Good Ones:
The Black Moth, Powder and Patch, The Reluctant Widow, The Nonesuch, False Colours, Cousin Kate, Charity Girl

The Ones I didn't Finish:
The Talisman Ring, An Infamous Army, The Spanish Bride, The Corinthian, Cottillion, The Toll Gate, Sprig Muslin, Frederica

Not Favourites:
April Lady, Black Sheep, Lady of Quality

Not Regency:
Pastel, Barren Corn, Instead of the Thorn

Memorable Enough but Not Georgette Heyer:
Babe, Little Coquette, Bath Scandal, Escapade, The Bargain, The Rakes Rainbow, The Black Diamond, Rose Trelawney, Olivia, Scandal's Daughter, Mr. Cavendish I Presume, Winter Wedding...

Catherine Gilbert Murdock: Dairy Queen


One Word Summary: Moo!
More Words: I liked this book, let me tell you.
Summary: A not so bright and not so beautiful jock has a brilliant idea. After a backbreaking day on the farm D.J.'s arch enemy, Brian, calls her a cow because she always does what's she told and she's too stupid to care. This starts her thinking about how much her life sucks and about how much she loves football. DJ is determined to be anything but a cow, which is why she decides to try out for the boys football team.
Murdock's Other Books:
There's a sequel to Dairy Queen, Off Season, and it was very good. And there's a third, Front and Center, which I haven't read-but I will. Although I hope number three is the last one.
Murdock also wrote a Sleeping Beauty tale, Princess Ben, which had some great elements but was just okay.

Edith Pattou: East

One Word Summary: cold, hungry, and tired.
More Words: I think fairy tales are great. I think fairy tales that feature a girl who must be silent or blind to pass some test involving their lover fascinating. I think this story was slow moving. I think the writing was affected and dull. I think it could have been better than boring. On the plus side, I think the trolls and their city were cool. I think Rose was admirable because she could make clothes from scratch. I think she could do anything. I think she could do anything even if she were cold, hungry and tired. I think I'll probably read this book a fourth and fifth time, despite not liking the style.
Summary: Troll Princess falls in love with a human boy. Before she can possess him a human girl of his choosing can rescue him by passing an improbable test. Rule number one: The girl can't know anything.

David Mitchell: Cloud Atlas

One Word Summary: I love you, forgive me
More words: Without being sentimental, even a little, this story is about heartache. I really got wrapped up in the narrative. It haunts me still. I'll be going about my day and all of a sudden I'll remember something and I'll have to stop and chew it over again. The dedication was beautiful, although I didn't record it.

Other Books:
Stone Angel by Margret Lawrence
Fifth Business by Robertson Davies
I heard the Owl Call My Name by Margret Craven

Diane Setterfield: The Thirteenth Tale

One Word Summary: Sybling Rivalry

More Words: Ummm... I think I didn't really like this book. It's distinctly unpleasant and yet disturbingly compelling. It haunts me. It didn't turn out like I expected or wanted. Which is funny because the narrator and I both like clean fairy tale stories, and this one was upsetting and twisted. All I have to say is... poor cinderella.

Recommendations: You should read this book if you're in a miserable mood and would like to feel worse. I think my daughter can live a fulfilling life without this dose of reality. Really I hate to be mid-victorian, but I am and that's that.

People who liked this:
Anything by Torey Hayden
The Lovely Bones by AliceSeybold

Tracy Chevalier: Girl with a Pearl Earring

One Word Summary: 5 Guilders
Last Words: A maid came free.
A Few More Words: I liked this story. The writing was fluid and gorgeous and simple. I'm not a huge fan of clever artistic posturing, and this novel is so unaffected that I'm going to read all of Chevalier's work. I can't stop thinking about Griet's hair. It's so odd and wonderful to me that woman (maybe man too?) can be two contrary things at the same time. And a mystery all at once. I remember learning in an art class that beauty of a drawing lies in the unfinished elements. You know partial circles and disappearing lines so that the eye has to fill in the gaps. I like that. Griet's hair fixes that principle in reality for me.
Questions:
  • What is wrong with Frans?
  • Why does Griet have sex with Pieter-the-son?
  • Does Griet even like Pieter-the-son?
  • Do men always get what they want?

Joanne Harris: Chocolat

One Word Summary: Transcendental-Buddha is a Woman
More Words: When I finally closed this book I felt unsettled and confused. On reflection, that's probably just as I ought to feel. If you've seen the movie the book is not exactly the same. Although, I can't really remember the film except that to say I thought it was beautiful. I think Hollywood wrapped it up nicely too. The novel has a less tidy and not-so-happily-ever-after finale. It ended on a plea. Harris left it up to the humble reader to choose which way the wind was blowing. For me- I can't decide.
Recommendations: This story isn't for the dogmatic (-izer or -ees). It's not for people who can't tolerate a little or a lot of negative christian stereotyping. It's also not for people against euthanasia or for people who have a problem with alternative lifestyles. This book is not relaxing. Don't pick it up after a long day at work, don't pick it up if your feet hurt. It's a good book to think about-it grows on you after you've put it down. Read it on a rainy day with a blanket a fire and a pizza (or maybe a box chocolates would be more appropriate).

Questions:

  • What do magic, fairy tales, imaginary friends, Christ and chocolate have in common?
  • Why does Vianne have sex with Roux?
  • How is Vianne both domesticated and untethered?
  • What would you give up for lent? Would the sacrifice make you a better person?
  • Can a mother be everything for her daughter? How about a daughter to her mother?
  • Write a 80 000 word essay on the meaning of life.
  • Where did Vianne find time to do everything she did, including the everyday stuff that doesn't get written about? & decorate it all pretty?
  • Is it good to be attached to things and people?
  • Does life imitate art? (ha-mine doesn't!)

Other Books:

Middlemarch by George Elliot

Technical Difficulties

ummm... I'm back. and I've read a lot of books.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Louis de Bernnieres: Corelli's Mandolin

One Word Summary: Antonia

More Words: This book was Awful. Terrible. Depressing. Difficult. Insane. I loved it. It made me feel hopeful, despite human atrocities.

Questions:
  1. Does Carlo's homosexuality impact his heroism? Would he even be a hero if he weren't a homosexual? What do you think about his arguments against choice?
  2. Compare Mandras to Antonio. Francisco to Antonio.
  3. Hubris. What is Mandras' fatal flaw?
  4. How is Pelagia like a man? Is she different from other women in our day and culture?
  5. According to the author what comes of teaching women to think? Do you agree?
  6. What is the name of the literary technique for separating lovers and then reuniting them after it almost too late? What purpose does it serve? Is it true in real life?
  7. Is Antonio a coward, a lover not a fighter, a pacifist, a wimp? Why does he give up on Pelagia so easily?
  8. How did WWII change the world? Why is Cephallonia the perfect place to stage a story about change, and growing old, and being young and in-love. What do these things have in common? What other dichotomies can you identify in the book.
  9. Why does the doctor use such big words?
  10. Was Mussolini really crazy?
Quotes:
he also knew that everyman needs an obsession in order to enjoy life.

Another thing. Love is a temporary madness, it erupts like volcanoes andthen subsides. And when it subsides you have to make a decision. You have towork out whether your roots have so entwined together that it is inconceivablethat you should ever part.

He had struggled for a better world, and wrecked it.


More Reading:
Tragic Greek Plays
Mussolini Biography
History of Greece
A farewell to Arms, and other Hemingway novels
An atlas

Censorship: I would want my daughter to wait until she was a senior in highschool at least. But she should read it again after college and when she's old.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

One Word Summary: Elizabeth

More Words: In grade nine I had to do a creative project on everyday life during the depression. This book reminded me of that assignment, with a few key differences. Number one being the quality of the work. The writing, the research, the romance were all much much better. Another biggie- this book takes place after the occupation. Unfortunately I can't say I was in love with either, the assignment or the book. Yeah it's great, as a source of information on everyday life between 1940-1946 in Great Brittan. It is also highly quotable. The characters are diverse, fun, quirky. It's emotional and human. It's silly. Juliet is classic, everyone wants to be her or her friend. And if not they're stuffy religionists*. There is nothing wrong with this book. It was just too Idyllic. Do communities like Guernsey exist anymore? Do I wish they did? Would people today enjoy being hyper involved in everyone else's life? People they know, not TV characters or Celebrities. It took a lot of work to read, but it was worth it. The Potato Peel Pie society has grown on me.
*religionists are people who use God as an excuse for being mean, cruel, thoughtless, unkind, judgemental, or better than you. They hate children and condemn anything fun.

Quotes:
Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad books. 53

It was much easier before Kit learned to talk, but it was not so much fun. 80

I think you learn more if you're laughing at the same time. 89

What a blessing that I have no imagination and am able to see things clearly. 267

Is it unseemly to get married so quickly? I don't want to wait - I want to begin at once. All my life I thought that the story was over when the hero and heroine were safely engaged- after all, what's good enough for Jane Austen ought to be good enough for anyone. But it's a lie. The story is about to begin, and every day will be a new piece of the plot. 274

Writer's are rarely the solution to anyone's problems. 285 afterword

Censorship: I would let my daughter read this

Georgette Heyer: The Black Moth

One Word Summary: No Honour in Whining
More Words: I'm a little disgusted with myself for enjoying books that take place in such a repressive unliberated era, or written by women who lived in a different repressive unliberated era. Fortunately Heyer may just put me off Regency Romance, since I'm terribly addicted. There was a whole chapter called "Mistress Diana is unmaidenly" where she allegedly wears her heart on her sleeve and proposes marriage to Jack. She was very subtle. Also Mistress Diana is later abducted, sneered at and manhandled by The Black Moth, but since he didn't actually rape her and it all turns out good (Jack shows up just in time to duel The Black Moth and then Jack proposes marriage to Diana) she's willing to laugh it off as a great joke and wrap the whole thing in clean linen so the neighbours wont talk. It's ridiculous! oh, but it gets worse. Turns out The Black Moth really was in love with Diana and now he's a reformed rake-ist. What I want to know is why all the 'gentlemen' didn't put an end to him sooner? Really, it's just bad form to steal another man's property! And then there's Jim who is inlove with his master- it's a little sickening how servile the servant class gets to be. But why am I complaining not even the men get to be human in this book, they have to be perfect. Alright, I'm done with my rant. Incase it's not obvious, I liked this book. But I'm never reading another regency again.

Summary: It all started with a card game where someone cheated and the wrong man takes the blame and it ends with a happily ever after. There is a sword fight, or two.

Ally Carter: Don't Judge a Girl by Her Cover

One Word Summary: Huh?
More Words: I liked the first book in this series, I'd tell you I love you but then I'd have to kill you. This is the third book, it was less confusing than book two, Cross my heart and hope to spy, but still not completely transparent. Maybe it's supposed to be true to Cami. She's unsure about everything, especially when it comes to boys. Or maybe it's true to spy culture, where information is often convoluted.

Summary: A bunch of girls, who attend an elite spy school, stress about boys. They also accomplish one secret mission in each book, usually involving boys. Up until now the missions haven't been serious... but now it's getting all Harry Potter Book 4.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

One Word Summary: Brains! Guts! Glory!
More Words: Truthfully- I haven't actually read this book. I saw it at Barnes and Noble (my favourite store) and held it in my hands for a long while. I weighed my options and put the book down with a sigh. The cover picture would be too fascinating for my daughter and knowing there is a book entitled Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is almost as great as reading it. Almost.



From the blurb on the back of the book:
Complete with romance, heartbreak, sword fights, cannibalism, and thousands of rotting corpses. Pride and Prejudiced and Zombies transforms a masterpiece of world literature into something you'd actually want to read.


*Note to self: make an Austen Spin-off List

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Books I returned to the library without finishing, boo hoo

Winnie the Pooh and the House and Pooh Corner by AA Milne,
There was nothing sweeter than the sound of my daughters voice chuckling while I read the chapters outloud. Even my husband bubbled over and he was pretending to do something else. But the book smelled like an ashtray, and my daughter took it into her head to start choosing her evening story, and finally the book was overdue. I'm determined to get another fresher copy, even if I have to read it alone.

The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare,
For fun and sort of as a very cheap date my husband and I took parts and read this together. Only we're not Actors so our efforts came out very stilted and completely unpoetic and not even a bit funny. Consequently we never finished, and then our copies were overdue. I really liked the movie with Elizabeth Taylor, and I liked the movie Ten Things I Hate About You, and I liked the performance I saw in college... so I might get around to reading this even if the fun takes some work.

Cranes: A natural history of a bird in crisis by Janice M. Hughes
This book is really cool. I've always wanted to be the type of person who dressed in tweeds and wellingtons and walked out in the dewey mornings to watch birds. Only I have a difficult time using binoculars, they're so disorienting. Same with mircroscopes which is why I'm not a scientist. Anyhow my first impression of this book was not favourable (It started out all doomsdayish- "Woe Woe Woe. Humans are destroying the planet, and even if they changed their wicked wasteful ways it's too late. Life is Over. Woe Woe Woe"), then I changed my mind. Only it's a coffee table book, so the size is not conducive to reading in bed and the glossy pages are not conducive to reading with lots of light. And then the book was over due. I want to finish this book, I really do, but if I never get back to it I'm going to go birding(some of the best lectures I attended were about evolution and birds) and I'm going to make 1000 paper cranes (or at least learn more about Sadako Sasaki). I do miss all the notes I took...they're still in the book.

Growing Trees from Seed: A practical guide to growing native trees, vines, and shrubs by Henry Kock
One day I'm going to buy a small house with lots of lawn and I'm going to build a forest. I'm determined. This book will make it possible. It was overdue, so I couldn't keep it forever. One day I'm going to buy this book.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Katherine Dunn: Geek Love

One Word Summary: Dreamlets

More Words: I probably read too much of this book before setting it aside. At first I thought- "Hey I'm willing to suspend my assumption that normal is somehow ideal. But thank goodness this only fiction." As I plowed ahead the content became a little more edgy, as in perverted, which was something I didn't expect. Although I should have, since deviant behaviour is dismissing conventions. I guess, like most people I have to draw a line somewhere so I put this book down. It's not vital to my happiness, besides intellectual stimulation can be found elsewhere. And if I'm wrong, well there will always be someone else ready to champion the mainstream-ification of subversive* ideas. Although the freaks in this book seemed to revel in their uniqueness so it might be a cruelty to normalize them**. I wonder if it's even possible.

*in the most complimentary sense of the word-since I'm sure the true subvert wants to be acknowledged.
**cliche sentiment, right?

Plot Summary: The mystery surrounding the dissolution of a freak-show family. Actually, I didn't get very far... so all I really know is that a father and a mother experimented with various substances to birth malformed mutated children who they displayed to the public in a family freak show. When the story starts everyone is dispossesed. The first chapter is idyllic, but it turns quickly.

Questions:

  1. What were those parents thinking! Was their family project wrong, or right?
  2. What makes freaks so fascinating? Why do people have an instinct to stare and look away simultaneously?
  3. Were the children only valuable as a draw for gawking crowds? As a way to keep their father's carnival solvent?
  4. Does Miranda lose her tail?
  5. Who was Miranda's father? Do I really want to know?
  6. Ignoring the fabulous disguises were the characters in this story everday people?

Inscription found on the inside flap:

This book was bought by Daniel Silver (N.Y. N.Y.) and given to Daniel Brooks
(Toronot, Can) Then given by Daniel Brooks to Daniel MacIvor (Toronto) then
given by Daniel MacIvor to Stacy Abramson (Granada, Spain/Chicago, Il)

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Noel Streatfeild: Family Shoes

One Word Summary: Miss Virginia Bell thinks...
More Words: This book was written a long time ago in England, so the values and customs are different. I started reading The Shoe Books after I saw "You've got mail" and I really like them. They're a pleasant world where everyting always turns out gorgeously. Where the villians are simply thoughtless and selfish and usually rich. Where everyone else cares about you. The books seem to say believe in miracles you will go to an elite dancing school and be famous one day. Plus there are a few moral lessons added for good measure. Of course, I don't care for a few things in this book. For one the family keep secrets and they refuse to ask for help. I don't think private martyrdom is noble. Besides it's not truly noble since they whine a lot about things when they could just ask for help. Finally, while I don't like people being crabby because they feel crabby I'm not sure if being polite all the time and above all else is good for anyone's emotional health. However that's England a long time ago for you.

Another Series in the Mayberry-ish style are Maud Hart Lovelace's Betsy-Tacy books. And for an older crowd there's Phyllis Reynolds Taylors Alice books.

Quotes:

"I want to rescue someone from drowning, or catch a burglar, or something like that," she complained. "But everybody round us is so dull, they never want
those sorts of things done for them."


"Darling don't be so silly. Do yo think I'd miss one minute of watching my children grow up for all the money in the world?"

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Terry Pratchett: Wee Free Men

One Word Summary: Crivens!
More Words: Waily Waily! Not being of an extremely intellectual bent I don't know if I can explain the higher meaning in this story, but I did like it. It was silly and thought provoking and interesting. I simply loved the Nac Mac Feegle, and their war cry. "Nae king! Nae quin! Nae laird! Nae master! We willna be fooled again!" The ladies in my book group spent a lot of time discussing two things. The first item we talked about (actually I listened) was how our perception of reality might not always be accurate. The second thing we talked about (again I just listened) was about how crazy our male children are. We also ate a lot of chocolate fondue. In general everyone enjoyed the book. One person didn't, she said it was soft-core fantasy and it didn't grab her attention. Incidentally she didn't' like A Wrinkle in Time either. As for me, I thought there was some irony in spending a good portion of a day reading a fantasy story about not dreaming your life away. I'm still wondering what Pratchett meant by 'waking up', it seems he meant a lot of things. Ultimately, I need to read more Shakespeare.

p.s. I read the illustrated version. Some of the pictures were purposely unpleasant. Revolting, actually. My daughter liked sneaking peaks. She's three. I'm not quite ready for her to fight monsters. And I believe she is still too young to grow up. However the pictures are facinating so... Beware. Little eyes are seeking. and Be ready to answer their questions.

Questions:

  1. What makes a person a hero? What is a witch?
  2. Is it possible for everyone to be "awake"? All the time?
  3. How does the author feel about education? Does it keep us from thinking? Does make us useless?
  4. Do you think this book says men are less smart than women? What's your opinion?
  5. How did Tiffany's anger help her overcome the Queen?
  6. Is there a difference between duty and love?
  7. Why didn't Granny talk much? Why didn't Tiffany insist on being the Hero at the end? Do you think she was right to blackmail Roland? Did she blackmail Roland? What exactly happened?

Quotes:

They looked like tinkers, but there wasn't one among them, she knew, who could mend a kettle. What they did was sell invisible things. And after they'd sold what they had, they still had it. They sold what everyone needed but often didn't want. They sold the key to the universe to people who didn't even know it was locked.



"You mean...you think... that you sort of died somewhere else and then came here?" said Tiffany. "You mean this is like...heaven?"
"Aye! Just as advertised!" said Rob Anybody. "Lovely sunshine, good huntin', nice pretty flowers, and wee burdies goin' cheep."
"Aye, and then there's the fightin'," said another Feegle. Then they all joined in.
"An' the stealin'!"
"An' the drinkin' an' fightin'!"
"An' the kebabs!" said Daft Wullie.
"But there's bad things here!" said Tiffany. "There's monsters!"
"Aye," said Rob, beaming happily. "Grand, isn't it? Everythin' laid on, even things to fight!"

If I was a world that didn't have enough reality to go around, Tiffany
thought, then snow would be quite handy. It doesn't take a lot of effort. It's
just white stuff. Everything looks white and simple. But I can make it
complicated. I'm more real than this place.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Randy Pausch: The Last Lecture


One Word Summary: Childhood Dreams, Chestnuts, Brick Walls, Disney, Chutzpah
More Words: It's hard to fault a dead man. But as I read, nodding my head and taking mental notes the whole time, I kept thinking if Jai can put up with her Alpha Male then I can too. Weird thought right. Anyhow, the man is amazing. His whole life is a miracle. He's just so cool. He's interesting and dynamic and engaged... I can't stop singing his praise. I liked the book, and I think I'll start writing thankyou notes. The first person to thank is Jon for gifting this book to Will for his birthday. We both liked this book. Thanks Jon. The note's in the mail.


To Do List:
Write Thank You Notes
Dream some more
Work Harder than possible to realize dreams
Keep up with journals

More Words:
I would just like to say that my most cherished childhood dream was fulfilled when I married Will. I always wanted to have a happy family. We don't have a white picket fence, but it's all I could have hoped for.

Anne Tyler: Breathing Lessons

One Word Summary: Almost Happily Ever After

More Words: The writing is flawless. Characters, Setting, Dialogue - Superb. Only now that I've read this book about life's disappointments and compromises I'm not sure if my life is really as great as I imagine. Anyhow I started out feeling enamoured with Maggie (she's just so cute) and then slowly I started to fall out of love with her (she's pathologically inaccurately wishfully meddlesome). Finally at the end of the day... well it was a just a long day, and I like her anyway. Only now I feel depressed. Don't read this book on a bad day.

Plot Summary: The misadventures of a long-time married couple travelling to and from a funeral, and all the history in between.

Quotes:
"Mom? Was there a certain conscious point in your life when you decided to
settle for being ordinary?"

Why did popular songs always focus on romantic love? Why this preoccupation with first meetings, sad partings,honeyed kisses, heartbreak, when life was so full of children's births and trips to the shore and longtime jokes with friends? Once Maggie had seen on TV where archaeologists had just unearthed a fragment of music from who knows how many centuries B.C., and it was a boy's lament for a girl who didn't love him back. Then besides the songs there were the magazine stroes and the novels and the moves, even the hair-spray ads and the pantyhose ads. It struck Maggie as disporportionate.Misleading, in fact.

Questions:
  • Why does Ira play solitare all the time?
  • Is Maggie's idea of Ira accurate?
  • Do all marriages settle out like this?
  • Why is the story entitled: Breathing Lessons?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Daphne DuMaurier: Rebecca

One Word Summary: Haunting
More Words: When Will asked if Alfred Hithcock's film was based on this novel my vision automatically shifted to a black and white film, so silent you can hear clocks ticking, and short uncomfortable dialogue with the nameless girl painfully repeating the same answer to different questions. I started holding my breath for the terrible thing to come at last. Before that I felt impatient with the nameless girl. I wanted her to be better than Rebecca after all, eventhough there's no competing with Rebecca. I felt frustrated and jealous for the nameless girl. Really, DuMaurier is a genius with words, she can capture so much human feeling with them. I like how her words pulse through the text ("We would not talk of Manderly, I would not tell my dream. For Manderely was our no longer. Manderly was no more.") There was one passage in chapter two that made me think "this will be quite different from Jane Eyre". I really liked reading this book, although I may never read it again.

Quotes:
The devil does not ride us anymore. We have come through our crisis, not unscathed of course. His premonition of disaster was correct from the beginning; and like a ranting actress in an indifferent play, I might say that we have paid for freedom. But I have had enough melodrama in this life, and would willingly give my five senses if they could ensure us our present peace and security. Happiness is not a possession to be prized, it is a quality of thought, a state of mind. Of course we have our moments of depression; but there are other moments too, when time, umeasured by the clock, runs on into eternity and,catching his smile, I know we are together, we march in unison, no clash of thougth or of opinion makes a barrier between us.
We have no secrets now from one another. All things are shared. Granted that our little hotel is dull, and the food indifferent, and that day after day dawns very much the same, yet we would not have it otherwise.

This passage reminds me very much of the famous passage in Jane Eyre near the end where she says,
I have now been married ten years. I know what it is to live entirely for and with what I love best on earth. I hold myself supremely blest - blest beyond what language can express; because I am my husband's life as fully as he is mine. No woman was ever nearer to her mate than I am: ever more absolutely bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh. I know no weariness of my Edward's society: he knows none of mine, any more than we each do of the pulation of the heart that beats in our separate bosoms; consequently, we are ever together. To be together is for us to be at once as free as in solitude, as gay as in company. We talk, I believe, all day long: to talk to each other is but a more animated and an audible thinking. All my confidence is bestowed on him, all his confidence is devoted to me; we are precisely suited in character - perfect concord is the result.
Study Questions:
  1. Who is the nameless girl? A natural extension of her husband, a foil for Rebecca, a sort of Everyman, a ghost?
  2. Does Maxim love the nameless girl? Why does he love Manderly? Why can't he forget Rebecca?
  3. How do societal conventions help the plot, and inhibit the characters?
  4. What words and phrases does DuMaurier use to create such on ominous tone?
  5. Are the nameless girl's imagining more real than what's actually happening?
  6. When does the nameless girl star refering to herself and Maxim as we?
  7. Do they have children?

John Van De Ruit: Spud

One Word Summary: Spudliness? Ick
More Words: This book is vastly hugely wildly inappropriate. Will would be so disappointed if he knew I actually read it. And that I laughed (except at that one part near the end that sort of got glossed over). In my defense, I only read the first two sentences on the jacket cover ,"It's 1990. Apartheid is crumbling." before plunging in. I completely missed the phrases: "raging hormones" and "prepubescent choir-boy". Anyhow, curiosity outmaneuvered wisdom once again. It's been awhile since I've had raging hormones, and I've never been in a choir. Let's just see, I reasoned.
Plot Summary: There was no plot. It's a Seinfeld book.
On the Upside: There is a reading list... which I didn't write down and don't dare hunt out.

Other Book Suggestions, if you're interested in Fictional Adolescent Male Psyche:
The Catcher in the Rye by Jerome David Salinger
The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole by Sue Townsend
Inside the mind of Gideon Rayburn by Sarah Miller
The Black Book by Jonah Black
Two Way Street by Lauren Barnholdt

Friday, May 22, 2009

Katy Moran: Bloodline

One Word Summary: Legend
More Words: I wish I had a map of England and some working knowledge of Ancient History. Anyhow, this story is King Arthur Legend meets Crispin (Avi) with a maybe a whisper of The Legend of Lady Ilena (Patricia Malone) into the mix. I liked it, although my eyes started to get blurry at the final battle scene. And the end, where the two lovers alone survive, is a little sketchy.

Robin Palmer: Cindy Ella

One Word Summary: My therapist says...
More Words: I'm not proud of having read this book in the least. I didn't like it at all, except that it made laugh a little and sometimes the dialogue was fluid. The main character was extremely self absorbed, she kind of reminded me of Candice Cameron's best friend in Full House. You know annoying. I think Palmer was going for quirky and intelligent, like a Meg Ryan typecast. But she did do a good job with her Romantic Interest. He's handsome and kind and athletic and popular and a touch shy and vague enough to satisfy anyone's dreamboy.
Plot Summary: A few weeks before Prom Cindy Ella writes a letter to the editor of her school newspaper stating emphatically that prom is a waste of time blah blah blah. She's already uncool, but now she's even more uncool. Anyhow... the letter is somehow the catalyst for her romance with out-of-her-league Adam. Actually it's probably just the excuse for writing a book.

MORE BOOKS IM NOT PROUD OF
Barry Jonsberg: Am I right or Am I right.
One Word Summary: Too Much Unnecessary Detail
More Words: It was funny enough, but only because the jokes had nothing to do with the story. Again, the narrator was annoying... so annoying that even my curiosity couldn't compel me to finish skimming this novel. And the notes to Fridge reminded me of Feeling Sorry for Celia by Jaclyn Moriarty, which I did like. I kept thinking, it must be an Australian thing. To end on a positive note I did like the instructions on how to write a poem in less than two minutes.
Plot Summary: I didn't read enough to actually know what happened, but I think Fridge (AKA: Mom) gets involved with an abusive man who is also the father of the BestFriend. Don't worry the Abusive man gets told off. Meanwhile, absentee Dad shows up to talk and there's a
Cute boy. Maybe they go on a date. Cute boy and Narrating Voice, I mean.
Instructions on how to write a poem:

Let's get rid of some misconceptions. Misconception number one: poetry has to rhyme. Wrong. Rhyming poetry is actually very old-fashioned (as well as a pain in the arse to write) and we are modern, up-to-date wordsmiths here. Misconception number two: rhythm is important. Wrong, wrong. Modern poetry relies upon the rhythm of the street, the natual cadences of the spoken language (memorize that and repeat it to any teacher who challnges you). Misconception number three: poetry has to make sense. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Let's be honest. How many proper poems have you read where you've known what the hell was going on? Few, if any, I'll bet. And the same appies to your teacher. He or she will read your poem and nod wisely. They can't admit they don't understand it. They're English teachers, after all. In the unlikely even they ask you to explain, recite the following: "It was my attempt to rationalize the dichotomy between personal emotions and the presures of modern-day living." That'll shut them up.

Okay. We don't need rhyme, rhythm, or meaning. The key is that it should look like a poem.

[and then it goes on for about another page or so]



Marianne Curley: Old Magic.
One Word Summary: Nothing at all
More Words: The idea was good, only the writing needed a lot more polishing. It was so rough draft-ish I thought I was reading the outline notes. I tried skipping to the end, only it confused me a little so I had to read the middle too.
Plot Summary: New boy is school has very strong magical powers, only he doesn't know it. Freaky Girl, Kate, senses his magic and figures out that he's cursed too. She helps him, they travel through time, they fall in love.

Richelle Mead: Frostbite.
One Word Summary: Love Conquers All
More Words: Are you ever curious about all those vampire love stories out there? This is one of them. It's number two in the Vampire Academy series. There's a prologue that gets you up to speed on the storyline if you've skipped the first book. I didn't read much beyond that. Think I might find book three and read it's prologue. And then if I'm really addicted book four.
Plot Summary: Unlicenced half-trained teenaged vampire bodyguard saves the world, yet again. And maybe kisses her badboy heart-throb (who is also her teacher, ewwww).

okay... I should admit that I feel terrible for having nothing but unkind things to say about what I've read. I watched Ratatouille the other day, and I know it's easier to be a critic than a creator. So to all you would be writers: you've done what most people in the world wish they could do. Go You.

Tamora Pierce: The Will of the Empress

One Word Summary: Escapism
The back cover reads: Long-awaited... Highly anticipated... The Circle Reforged. Four Mages. One Destiny. No Turning back.
More Words: ummmm, the book was very interesting while I was reading it. Only I forgot about it almost as soon as closed the back cover. In fact I don't really care about The Circle of Magic Series. Although I do like some of the other series, like Trickster's Choice and Terrier. Now those I really liked. Anyhow this is the third time I've checked this book from the library (thinking it's something else?), so I finally just hunkered down and read it. And yeah, the book is just fine if you need a break from all responsibilty but still need to actually be a little responsible. Oh, it's possible to understand without having read the other books.

Donna Jo Napoli: The Smile

One Word Summary: BitterSweet
More Words: I think I need to learn a little more European History, like I should read a book dedicated to it instead of gleaning facts from fiction. Now, DJN is a very prolific writer. All the novels I'ver read of her's are bittersweet. It's weird how she can make settling almost satisfying. It's especially weird that keep coming back for more, since I prefer the more traditional happy ever after.
Plot Summary: The story is set in Florence just after the death of Lorenzo the Magnificent. A young noble girl is preparing for her come out, only a series of unfortunate events delay the actual party and ultimately her betrothal. Meanwhile there's political turmoil and she meets Leonard Da Vinci and falls in love with Giuliano the youngest Medici boy- who names her Monna Lisa.
Dedicatication: For Headley, my newest joy
Quote:
I give a small laugh. Only city folk could say such a thing. And only a
childless man.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Suzanne Harper: The Juliet Club

One Word Summary: Besotted Grin

More words: I can't honestly say this book was spectacular, because it was over the top ridiculous. But, instead of cringing I found myself grinning like a love struck fool. None of the characters were the least bit boring -something you don't find in nature. Each one had their unique voice and idiosyncrasies, my favourite had to be Sylvia followed closely by Grandma. While the story was completely unrealistic it also felt genuine. I even learned something about Shakespear's writing, and something about Juliet. The author did wonderful research and clever thinking. I liked this book. It would be a pleasure to read more of Harper's work.

Plot Summary: Disenchanted with Romance Girl Next Door travels to Italy for a summer Shakespear seminar and falls in love, despite her seriousness and stiffness. In fact all the lead characters fall in love.

Quote:
"You're thinking of magnets," she corrected him. "Not people."

Friday, May 15, 2009

Ted Dekker: Blink of an Eye

One Word Summary: Precognition proves existence of God
More Words: I'm not having very much luck just pulling books off the shelf in the library. The only reason I finished this story was because I wondered where Dekker was going with his precognition thing. Anyhow here's the plot. Super Genius Suffer Dude foils an attempt to overthrow the Saudi Arabian government, maintains the status quo, and finds true love. Yep that's it. I bet the movie was better.
Quote:
The collective mind of America was headed down the toilet. At some point during the last twenty years, someone decided that intelligence wasn't such a hot commodity after all, and the rest of the country licked up that nonsense as though it were a melting vanilla cone on a hot day.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Chaim Potok: The Chosen

One Word Summary: Tzaddik
More Words: This is a work of genius. I even pulled out my pen and sticky notes to study it as I read, although I didn't commit anything to memory. I loved reading every word, and following significant words as they appeared through the story. I love how Potok used sight and sound to define his two main characters. I love how everyone blinks, but it means different things. I like Davey Cantor, whose only purpose is to show up with bad news. I love how the title is open to so many interpretations. I love how beautiful Potok's images are and I love the complete lack of superfluity in his style.

Study Questions:

  • Is the Master of the Universe as silent Danny's father or as effusive Reuven's father?
  • Is the World Cockeyed? How do different character define the world?
  • How does having a soul counter cruelty? How is Reb Saunders both cruel and compassionate?
  • Warfare and fighting language figure throughout the novel. What are Danny and Reuven fighting against?
  • In the beginning Reuven's father is angry and lectures him on the importance of listening. At the end Reuven's father is angry again for the same reason. How does Reuven change and remain the same?
  • Why does Danny want to study psychology?

Quote:

My father looked at me. " What did I never tell you?"

Monday, May 4, 2009

Charlotte Bronte: Jane Eyre

One Word Summary: My Master
More Words: This novel is a masterpiece. Books that are good enough to study should have study questions. So I've come up with a few questions to spend time thinking about.

Study Questions

  • Why can't Jane live with Mr. Rochester as his mistress? And the parallel question, why does she offer to accompany Mr. Rivers to India as his secretary but not as his wife?
  • How is Jane's love for Helen similar to her love for Mr. Rochester? What does she feel for Mr. Rivers?
  • What makes Jane Eyre so different from Pride and Prejudice?
  • How does Charlotte Bronte define good or bad in her characters?
  • Is Jane really an elf/faerie? Who is she?
  • What words were threaded throughout the text?
  • Was the finale satisfying?
  • Which do you think better, love in this world or glory in the world to come? Must a person give up one to achieve the other?

Quotes:

He made me love him without looking at me. p203

Alas the readers of our era are less favoured. But courage? I will not pause either to accuse or repine. I know poetry is not dead, nor genius lost; nor has Mammon gained power over either, to bind or slay; they will both assert their existence, their presence, their liberty and strength again on day. Powerful angels, safe in heaven! they smile when sordid souls triumph, and feeble ones weep over their destruction. Poetry destroyed! Genius banished! No! Mediocrity, no: do not let envy prompt you to the though. No; they not only live, but reign and redeem: and without their divine influence spread everywhere, you would be in hell - the hell of your own meaness. p427

This was very pleasant; there is no happiness like that of being loved by your fellow-creatures, and feeling that your presence is an addition to their comfort. p284

Hush, Jane! you think to much of the love of human beings; you are too impulsive, to vehement: the sovereign Hand that created your frame, and put life into it, has provided you with other resources than your feeble self, or than other creatures feeble as you. Besides this earth, and besides the reace of men, there is an invisible world and a kingdom of spirits: that world is round us, for it is everywhere; and those spirits watch us, for they are commissioned to guard us, and if we were dying in pain and shame, if scorn smote us on all sides, and hatred crushed us, angles see our tortures, recognise our innocence (...) and God waits only the separation of spirit from flesh to crown us with a full reward. Why then, should we ever sink overwhelmed with destress, when life is so soon over, and death is so certain an entrance to happiness - to glory. p45

Glen Ebisch: Grave Justice

One Word Summary: that insipid nasal sound
More Words: Murder Mysteries are like olives, you have to try them now and again just to see if you still don't like them. I think I need to sample a better olive, before I give up on them entirely. For this story my biggest complaint is the dialogue. It felt too convenient. One character makes a statement, another person replies, a few remarks are shared, and the author sets you up nicely with some vital information, and everyone is satisfied. Sort of like in a sitcom. Conversations are never so straight forward. They're supposed to be messy. There was also some romance, which made me feel really embarrassed- again just because of the way the would be lovers were talking. It was weird, and maybe even unhealthy. However to be fair I did like the criminal mastermind ploting.
I did read a similar novel earlier in the year by Catherine Coulter: Double Take. I liked it fine. But I'm not addicted in the least to this genre.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Sharon Shinn: The Safe Keeper's Secret


One Word Summary: Wintermoon Wreath
More Words: I read the Safe Keeper's Secret, and at the end it still felt unfinished. It doesn't have a clean "and they all lived happily ever after" conclusion. The characters' lives just continue, and you never know what happens to them. For me it's a little untidy, though I'm sure some people love to fashion endings to suit themselves. The other two in the trilogy are the same, except that I liked them a lot better. I think because the romance was better. All three stories feature 1) a cruel boy, 2) a plot twist, 3) an abusive parent, 4) a happy family, 5) a regular convergence of people with magic, 6) expressions of love that follow an"I will go where you go" formula, 7) a discussion about the conflict between Justice and Secrets, 8) a heroine who gives her wishes away, and 9) the wintermoon wreath. Sometimes the writing seemed a little inconsistent, like the author would say Jack never eats beans and then later he would gobble up a whole bowl but only this one time because... and I never would have noticed except the author explained it away. However, I do read a little carelessly so my impression may very well be wrong. In the end, I liked the books. They grew on me.

DEDICATIONS- I like the dedications in all three of these books.

The Safe-Keeper's Secret:
For Aaron. Because reading the last few chapters aloud to you is one of my most special memories.
The Truth Teller's Tale:
For Sheila who always tells the truth and Alice who knows how to keep a secret.
The Dream-Maker's Magic:
For Andrew When you're old enough to read this May every single one of your dreams come true.

In my favourite story, The Dream Maker's Magic, the heroine is a girl raised to be a boy. I thought that was interesting idea and I wish the author did even more with it. Her love story made me think of Mill on the Floss and how I wish it ended.


The cover of Truth Teller's Tale is a little creepy. This book was the most lighthearted. I liked it a lot... and I kept wishing the SafeKeeper would just share some information already. I don't understand how anyone can trust someone who just smiles mysteriously.

Malcolm Gladwell: Outliers, The Story of Success

One Word Summary: Timing
More Words: Everyone should read everything that Malcolm Gladwell writes.
The Moral of the Story: Spend a lot of time doing what you love to do. Use your inherited cultural traits to best advantage (note to self, what are my ICT's). Remember Luck and Opportunity are important ingredients to success and be greatful for both. Even if your life gets filed with the unsung heros. Train children to be active in their own lives.

E.M. Crane: Skin Deep

One Word Summary: Tea, Anyone?
More Words: Ummm, this story relies heavily on highschool stereotypes, which is fine except the tone is a little bitter. I didn't really think highschool was a popularity contest, but I could identify with Andrea's incredible loneliness. I even remember being that selfconsious too. I like that she's a compulsive walker, nevermind that she didn't actually do a lot of walking over the course of the story. Actually she did but it was sort of glossed over. In fact I had a real problem with how time flowed, huge events approached way fast while nothing happened in the interim. Anyhow, this is the story of Andrea, who forges two friendships and learns to love herself. Her first friend is a mysterious neighbour, a sort of her fairy godmother character. I had a hard time liking her character. She just so perspicacious it's annoying. She never just drank tea. It was at odds with her 'contentment' theory. Andrea's other friend is a cheerleader, who is crossing the popularity line to be friends with someone who is 'authentic'. What can I say, it's fiction. One day they're strangers, and the next day they're friends.
The Moral of the Story: Love comes from within. Love yourself. Believe you deserve to be loved. Give others a chance, too.

Eva Ibbotson: Which Witch

One Word Summary: Cute
A Few More Words: Clever, funny, eeevil (bhahaha), and gross. I can't wait to read this to my daughter. Caution: Some feminists might balk at the premise of this book. It is a competition, sort of like a beauty pageant, among the Witches of Todcaster to be named the most powerful and wicked and vile witch ever. And the winner gets to marry Arriman the Awful, a very powerful dark wizard. Okay, maybe that's not offensive. But the witches are definitely vile.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Inkdeath by Cornelia Funke

This is the third book in a 3-book series, the first being Inkheart. Inkdeath is my favorite in the series. The other two books were okay, but i really liked the characters. This book was really interesting, full of action, and it really made me think. I don't want to say too much about it for those who want to read the series. It really plays on Shakespeare's idea of "All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players." Who judges our fate? Are we subject to destiny or do we write our own fate? Do we underestimate those we've judged in the past? What do we expect from our heroes? These are some of the questions this book brought to my mind and made me think about. I might be looking to much into it, but I do that with everything. I also enjoy that she has quotes from different books at the beginning of each chapter. They're even more fun when I've actually read the book they're from. Overall, if you like fantasy and like books, you'll like this series.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

List of books I started and didn't finish in the last 2 weeks

Every reader must go through a bit of a can't-read-a-thing-jag. It's really no fun, and I hope this post will be the cure for me.

The Blind Watchmaker, by Richard Dawkins.
One Word Summary: Zealous
A few more words:The Author is in love with his voice. His writing is tangental. I kept wishing he'd get to the science already- because, eventhough I'm a heathen creationist I think evolution is compelling. I'd like to learn more. I'll read this book when I'm older.

Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
One Word Summary: Sweet
A few more words: I think maybe I'm not really interested in stories that feature little boys, or their pets. Although I do like the family a lot. And I really like how everyone talks. This is a Newberry Award winner, so I'll finish it one day. Along with Bud not Buddy and MC Higgins the Great and Strawberry Girl.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
One Word Summary: WOW
A few more words: Believe it or not I've never read this book. Although I sort of know what happens. When I was a teenager I thought "gothic" meant something else, and I had a very scary English teacher who was in love with Heathcliff. A totally different story, but she put me off the Brontes, until I read Agnes Gray and Emma Brown (unfinished work completed by Clair Boylan). So the romance is romantic, it burns through my chest. And Mr. Rochester is not what I expected. I read The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde, and I was really shocked to discover that Jane Eyre's Mr Rochester is a leetle bit crazy. He's moody, violent, tempermental, unstable, touchy, passionate... anyhow, he's great (but I'm not inlove with him). Sardonic is my new favourite word. Incidentally, Jane is different then I expected. At first I didn't understand the dedication to Thackery, and now I'm thinking I might have to study this novel and perhaps re-read Vanity Fair. Only that's a lot of work, so maybe another day.

Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin
One Word Summary: Helicopter
More Words: I've actually only read the Introduction. I want to read this book, but I'm starting to feel a little anxious about all the other books I'm not finishing. You could call it- Opportunity Cost-itis. I need make a clean slate, so I can kick this Jag... Three Cups of Tea might fall off my radar for a few months, unfortunately.

The Women's Room by Merilyn French
Oneish Word Summary: Feminism from the 70's
More Words: I wanted to read this book for my mom. Weird right. She used to drag me to all her women's study tutorials in college. She's a feminist, at least in theory. I think I am too, although I'm honestly confused about the definition of feminism. There are so many factions out there... or so it seemed when I was young and trying to prove my worth by reading 'hard' books like Backlash and The Beauty Myth. Anyhow, I've never even tried to read this. After all I've got nothing to prove and the jacket wasn't very appealing (ie new or beautiful).

The Phantom Tollbooth by Susan Nanus
One Word Summary: Droll
More Words: Maybe later.


Now here's where I admit that I have read at least 4 Regency's, eventhough I said I was through for a few months. These ones written by Joan Wolf. They were only 100 pages and they adhered to a strict formula. Very soothing after an exhausting day.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Abundance of Katherines by John Green

I'm new here and this is my first review. Here goes:

This YA book was a fun read. It started out like a typical coming-of-age novel, and it took awhile to really get into it. Colin, the main character, is strangely likable. You want to find out his obsession with dating Katherines (note: Katherine, not Catherine). Each character has moments of crisis about identity and purpose (what teen book doesn't), but each resolve these crises in different ways. I can see the little bits that show how much John Green is a literary nerd. Colin's "Eureka" moment is one of these. Well written, it talks about the future, stories, and mattering. I would share it here, but that would ruin some plot points and it's really long. I also liked the little facts shared along the way. Example: "Bees sting people only once, and then die. Hornets, on the other hand, can sting repeatedly. Also, hornets, at least the way Colin figured it, are meaner. Bees just want to make honey. Hornets want to kill you." It's a fun little book.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Geoff Nicholson: The Lost Art of Walking

I really ment to read Wanderlust: A history of walking by Rebecca Solnit. Near the end of Lost Art I started to wonder why my copy of 60 Hikes within 60 miles, would quote this book. I came up with one good idea. Urban Hiking, particularly hiking through parking lots. I bet it's all the rage in major metropolitan areas. Anyhow, I'm glad I made a mistake and got to read this book too.


First, I should say Geoff Nicholson is irreverently funny. The back jacket reads "Nicholson's Books aren't for the faint of heart". It's practically a challenge to all lily livered people out there, including me. Of course the back jacket is all about praise for Bleeding London, but still the quote says 'books'. So don't read this book if you're easily offended, or if you don't know how to laugh.


Ultimately Lost Art is a great reference book. It's full of trivia about walking, historically and culturally. Nicholson wrote a lot about people who walk or walked, which I thought was great. My favorite chapter was THE WALKING PHOTOGRAPH. And Nicholson's opinion of the psychogeographers and the walkers-in-nature made me laugh. It also made walking more accessible to me, since it is possible to walk anywhere and I always sort of thought you had to drive to the mountains first. The chapter about ECCENTRICS, OBSESSIVES, ARTISTS reminded me of my brother. He's probably a compulsive walker, and I'm sure his walks are chemically enhanced. He's also a littel perverse (Nicholson favourite word, I'm tired of it). Walking with him is always an adventure. What I like best is the bibliography, there are two. There's the traditional one at the back, and then there are all the books named through the text. It's a gold mine of great reading.



Quotes:


Speaking of the birth of the antichrist on June 6, 2006: "Even the Antichrist surely wouldn't hit his stride on the very day he was born." p107


"I'm a big fan of walking in parking lots, partly because it's simply a perverse thing to do, but also because it's a small act of reclamation and defiance. Taking a walk, even just a shortcut, through a parking lot is a way of saying that this open space, and sometimes it can be the only open space for miles around, isn't the sole province of cars and drivers. And if there's a chance of being run down by cars maneuvering into or out of parking bays, then so be it." p156


"It's strange what you find yourself seeing when you're ninety years old and have been walking in the desert for nine consecutive days." p173


"In the course of writing this book I've spent time watching children walk, and they're all over the place, no rhythym, no balance, no sense of purpose. Maybe it's because they don't have anywhere to go." p222

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Mette Ivie Harrison, The Princess and the Hound


Interesting, not great. I couldn't help but think the author had a point she wanted to make about love- irritating. It was sometimes a little slow and not very amusing- boring. Also the idea of animal magic put me in mind of Shannon Hale's Goose Girl - distracting. I did like Prince George because has no personality, almost. It was refreshing to read about a hero who doesn't even have any redeeming antihero qualities (ie, kleptomania, wry sense of humor, scar along jaw, angst). Of course I almost changed my mind when he suddenly is able to tap into his amazing animal magic powers.

So the point: It takes courage to be yourself. Don't sacrifice your identity for love. Always be honest, it also takes courage.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Melina Marchetta: Jellicoe Road


I liked Marchetta’s other novels, Saving Franceca and Looking for Alibrandi. I’m mostly disappointed in this book. Conceptually, I did like how the tone resolves itself as the story progresses from sinister intensity to benign hopefulness- it just didn’t turnout that great. There are two stories in Jellicoe Road, a fairy tale like memoir and the main narrative which takes place twenty years later. For the first fifty pages I couldn’t figure out what was happening. In the beginning it was all about some spooky underground society and a turf war, but really it was just a bunch of bored kids taking themselves too seriously. The main narrative centers on Taylor and the mystery about her mother. Taylor’s character didn’t work for me. She’s rude, unstable, guarded and everyone likes her (with one exception). I have a hard time believing that she has such a loyal support network, since antisocial people are generally alone. Still she's a whole character, you know tough vulnerable generous sympathetic. It's just not obvious at first... I guess in this book nothing is what it seems, yet it’s all predictable. One thing for sure is that Marchetta gets the teen drama and intensity right. This one book just isn’t my favourite.

There is a happy ending too, if you’re interested. Although the book does deal a little with streetlife, and mentions some gritty stuff. Also there is sex in this book.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

April Fool's Day Goals

It's time to make some reading goals for the following year...
  1. This year I will spend more time outside, more time playing with my children, more time talking to my husband and I will spend less time with my head stuck in a book. But not that much less.
  2. This year I will the read the Newberry Medal Winners for 1922 thru 1932.
  3. This year I will read the entire standard works.
  4. This year I will read one non fiction book a month.
  5. This year I will read 2 books from my shelf, that I haven't read yet.
  6. This year I will exert self control and not read all night and into the early morning, no matter what.
  7. This year I will find the perfect pastry cook book.

Khaled Hosseini: The Kite Runner

The first line reads: "I became what I am today at the age of twelve, on a frigid overcast day in the winter of 1975." The following sentence, "I remember the precise moment, crouching behind a crumbling mud wall, peeking into the alley near the frozen creek", should have tipped me off to the coming horror. The word 'alley' should have been a red flag. I seem to recall someone warning me even. Still I forged ahead. Until I got to that alley in the winter of 1975 I didn't believe anything too bad could happen. But it was terrible. At that point my heart hurt and I felt sick, like maybe I would die of sadness. Anyhow, I've stopped reading The Kite Runner, for now. Everyone loves this book, and I do too. I'm curious to see what becomes of Amir, and I want to know how Hassan survives. Does his heart break? Mostly I want there to be some sort of atonement, although maybe I'm of hoping for too much.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Dedications

Meg Cabot once wrote that she dedicated a book to a traffic court officer. I might not have that exactly right, but it's enough for me (read: I don't want to find the source). I think she now dedicates everything to one person who might be HWSNBNITB. Anyhow, I love dedications.

Here are two of my favourites
Host by Stephanie Meyer: To my mother, Candy, who taught me that love is the best part of any story.

Austenland by Shannon Hale: For Colin Firth, you're a really great guy, but I'm married, so I think we should just be friends.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Linda Sue Park: A Single Shard

One of my goals is to read all the Newberry Award winning books, and the Newberry Honors as well. A Single Shard won in 2002. The writing is simple and philosphic. Is buddistic a word? In fact it is infused with moral lessons delivered so mildly that it's like a loving grandparent crafted the tale just for me. A Single Shard is about a boy, Tree Ear, who lives under a bridge in a potter's village in 12th Century Korea. The text is full of authentic details about Celadon Pottery from that era, which served as a parable about the virtue of taking time to do something right (how do you say that in fewer words?). Really though, I like stories that tell how ordinary people used to live while more important historic events were unfolding, elsewhere. There is no high adventure in this story; however, like other juvenile lit heros Tree-Ear is an orphan, he's on the cusp of manhood, he lives in a remote place, he has a wizened old friend, he has a unique/great talent, he's loyal, and he saves the day. So, of course it's a good book.



OTHERS THAT COME TO MIND:

juvenile lit books full of detail about everyday life in the middleages:

Catherine Called Birdy by Karen Cushman
The Midwifes Apprentice by Karen Cushman
The Seeing Stone by Kevin Crossley-Holland
Crispin by Avi
Good Masters! Sweet Ladies: Voices from a Medieval Villiage by Laura Amy Schlitz
Daughter of Venice by Donna Jo Napoli




other juvenile lit heros

Will (from The Dark is Rising, although he's not an orphan), Luke Skywalker, Harry Potter, Eragon, Taran (from Chronicles of Prydain)

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Georgette Heyer: Lady of Quality

Umm, it was probably too soon for another Regency Romance. Or Georgette only has one story that she writes over and over again. With the exception of Friday's Child, I think the other 4 novels I read are the same. I'm even getting tired of phrases like, "Doing it a little too brown" or "awake on ever suit". And I wish the men would put away their everlasting quizzing glasses. Besides, I really don't care what they wore anymore, inevitably it's pink overlain with silver net. Furthermore, I really can't believe a person could reach the age of 29, and not have been a little in love and then fall completely inlove with so little fanfare. Hows that for a set down! So no more Georgette Heyer for at least 3 months.

Rick Van Noy: A Natural Sense of Wonder [Connecting Kids with Nature through the Seasons]

At first I thought this book was a series of selfcongratulatory essays written by the worlds greatest tree hugging dad. I'm ashamed to own such meaness of spirit, but I am please to admit I was wrong. Anyhow I am now motivated to read Thoreau, to invest in maps and field guides, to find a place to swim outdoors, to learn to ski, to buy rubber boots, to hike the east coast. Really though I just want to be outdoors with my kids more. Van Noy shares some of his triumphs, and some of his mistakes. He tells about all the cool adventures his famly has had, and reveals that his kids still have mundane toys and watch too much TV. He admits to mistakes, and swearing, and yelling. He offers practical advice and he subtly hints that raising kids outdoors takes work. Plus the Notes at the end of the book is great place to look for more reading ideas.


While Van Noy wants parents to turn off the TV and even park the car more often so that children can connect with nature, he's also concerned about the health of our planet. He believes that if our children learn from nature and love the natural world they'll take better care of it. I agree with him.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Diana Wynne Jones: House of Many Ways

I heartily recommend all Diana Wynne Jones. It’s fun, adventurous, twisty, and obviously magical. House of Many Ways is a sequel to Howl’s Moving Castle. But the story doesn’t revolve around Howl, Sophie, or Calcifer; although they do save the day in the end (kind of like Castle in the Air- an earlier sequel). Instead this story is about Charmain, often called Charming, which she isn’t. She’s got a temper. She’s critical. She’s impatient. She's matter of fact. She doesn’t know how to do anything for herself, and she isn’t bothered to learn either; so long as she’s got food and a book and no interruptions. Charmain is my kind of hero. Anyhow, read the book and learn how she helped save the kingdom from the Lubbock.

I liked this book. I probably wont read it again.