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!


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.


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.

  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.