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.


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.