Friday, July 31, 2009

451 Fridays

451 Fridays is based on an idea from Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. In his novel, a group of people (Bradbury calls them Book People) are trying to keep the ideas found in books alive. Instead of actually saving the books, the Book People each "become" a book - memorizing it, word for word, and passing it down to the next generation.

451 Fridays asks what books you feel passionate about. What book do you think is so important that you would be willing to take on the challenge of "becoming"?


Today, I am thrilled to welcome Aarti from the fabulous blog, Booklust. If you read her blog in a reader, you need to go visit the site, because she has one of the coolest paintings I've ever seen as her header. I've actually been a reader of her blog since before I had my own, and I'm always excited to see what she reads next. She is also the host of Rosie's Riveters, a feature which lets guest bloggers talk about their favorite heroines in literature. Go check it out! Welcome, Aarti!


What 5 books do you believe are important enough to be saved, and why?


The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster
This is the first book I remember going to the bookstore and picking out by myself, and it's always amazed me that I picked so well. I truly believe that this is the book that got me hooked on reading. It's written for children, but it is one of those wonderfully clever children's books that can be enjoyed at any age. Juster's way of playing with the English language and our use of it is wonderful, and the book has such a resonating message about the importance of imagination for children.



The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas
This is one of those gorgeous, intricate puzzles of a novel where one
thing happens after another, all seemingly unrelated, until at the
end, you are left breathless by the spiderweb that the author created.
I love this book- it is one of those that you read and can understand
full well exactly why it is a classic. Much better than any book in
the Three Musketeers saga, in my opinion.


Crime and Punishment, by Fyodor Dostoevsky
I read this for high school English, and everyone in our class loved
it. It is a great story about redemption and forgiveness and love,
and, coupled with The Overcoat, is one of the reasons I love
depressing Russian authors.


Persuasion, by Jane Austen
It would be impossible for me to list five books to save and somehow
not include Austen on the list. She introduced me to the Georgian era
and I feel has almost single-handedly spurred on my love of history.
From her, I stretched to Georgette Heyer and then to British history
and then to culture and then imperialism... it's quite the chain, and
it all leads back to Austen. Persuasion is, in my opinion, her best
and most underappreciated work. It is her most romantic and the
characters are all so well-crafted. I love it and I wish more people
read it.


Small Gods, by Terry Pratchett
Mostly because I think along with the heavy tomes of classics and Big
Themes, we should have some light-hearted fun in our memories, too. I
think Pratchett does a great job of melding Big Important Ideas with
humor. Small Gods is one of my favorites by him as it tackles the
religion question in a very sympathetic and funny way.


Of those 5, which book would you choose to "become"?


The Phantom Tollbooth. It is the shortest ;-) And also, I think it's
important to save children's books. As we become more and more
electronics and gadget-focused, it's hard for people to keep their
imagination and creativity up. Juster's book really emphasizes that.



Do you have any favorite quotes from that book, so we know why you love it so much?



So many! Just did a Google search for some and realized that I really
need to do a re-read of this book. It's marvelous :-)

"For one of the nicest things about mathematics, or anything else you
might care to learn, is that many of the things which can never be,
often are. You see it's very much like your trying to reach Infinity.
You know that it's there, but you just don't know where-but just
because you can never reach it doesn't mean that it's not worth
looking for."

"A slavish concern for the composition of words is the sign of a
bankrupt intellect. Be gone, odious wasp! You smell of decayed
syllables."

"Time is a gift, given to you, given to give you the time you need,
the time you need to have the time of your life."



Aarti, thank you so much for taking the time to share with us YOUR list of books which must be saved! Readers, if you have a list you are dying to share, drop me a note - I'd love to have you join our fun!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Thursday Tunes


Thursday Tunes is a weekly event hosted by S. Krishna, devoted to sharing the music we love.

S. Krishna usually features a new artist each week - just to be different, I'm going to focus on a specific song, because it's the song that hooks me. There are very few artists whose entire body of work is in my MP3 player, but I have thousands of songs I love.




So guess where I still am?? =)

I have fond memories of sitting on this very dock, singing this song with my cousin Eric. Eric, this one's for you.










Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Tube Talk with Amy and Elizabeth


No episodes this week - think of our discussion as "on hiatus". =)

Make sure to stop by My Friend Amy, though - Amy went to Comic-Con this weekend and sat in on the Supernatural panel. I bet she had a great time, and learned a whole lot of new stuff!!

See you next week.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Review - Still Alice by Lisa Genova


Still Alice by Lisa Genova

published 01/09
320 pages


Synopsis from publisher:

What if every memory you've ever had will be erased from your mind, and you have no choice but to carry on...powerless to stop it?

Alice Howland is proud of the life she worked so hard to build. At fifty years old, she's a cognitive psychology professor at Harvard and a world-renowned expert in linguistics with a successful husband and three grown children. When she begins to grow disoriented and forgetful, a tragic diagnosis changes her life -- and her relationship with her family and the world -- forever.

At once beautiful and terrifying, this extraordinary debut novel by Lisa Genova is a moving and vivid depiction of life with early-onset Alzheimer's Disease that is as compelling as A Beautiful Mind and as unforgettable as Ordinary People.

My thoughts:

When I was in college, I spent a year and a half working for a company that provided in-home care to elderly clients. One of my clients was Miriam, a woman in her 70s with Alzheimer's disease. She was frustrating. She and her husband lived in an assisted living facility, and she didn't want to be there. She would ask about every 5 minutes when we would let her go home. Her husband, unable to cope with the situation, spent every moment of the day locked (literally) in their second bedroom, doing who knows what. I wish I had read this book before I cared for Miriam.

Lisa Genova's look into the life of Alice is honest and heartbreaking. She shows Alice's frustrations, fears, and small triumphs. She portrays the decline into dementia with a clarity that is breathtaking. It literally happens before your eyes - Alice's moment to moment grasp of who and what is around her can change in an instant, and Genova allows readers a glimpse of how frightening that must truly be.

"Alice knew that the young woman sitting across from her was her daughter, but she had a disturbing lack of confidence in this knowledge. She knew that she had a daughter named Lydia, but when she looked at the young woman sitting across from her, knowing that she was her daughter Lydia was more academic knowledge than implicit understanding, a fact she agreed to, information she'd been given and accepted as true."

Her insight into how devastating this disease is for families is also keen. While the story is told from Alice's point of view, she recounts conversations heard around her - while her family talks about her, "in front of her, without including her..." - that show the strain and confusion caring for a family member with Alzheimer's can bring. Her family does the best they can, but they aren't perfect - sometimes they are tired, stressed, scared, impatient - all emotions that ring true in such a difficult situation.

Of course, Alice is the centerpiece, and her voice is strong and vibrant. When she muses that she wished she had cancer, because then at least there would be something to fight, she broke my heart. Her pain at watching her career become unmanageable, her love for her family, and her fight to retain what little of her life she can control - all these little moments equal an unforgettable portrait of a woman losing her life, piece by piece.

"Accepting the fact that she did indeed have Alzheimer's, that she could only back on two unacceptably effective drugs available to treat it, and that she couldn't trade any of this in for some other, curable disease, what did she want? Assuming the in vitro procedure worked, she wanted to live to hold Anna's baby and know it was her grandchild. She wanted to see Lydia act in something she was proud of. She wanted to see Tom fall in love. She wanted one more sabbatical year with John. She wanted to read every book she could before she could no longer read."

It is almost inevitable that at some point in our lives, we will care for someone who will be diagnosed with Alzheimer's. Still Alice gives an honest, compelling account of what that journey could be like for the person we love. I think it could change the way we live with and love those people in our lives. I highly recommend you find a copy of this beautiful, heartbreaking novel.

Finished: 7/11/09
Source: Franklin Avenue Library
Rating: 9/10

Don't just take my word for it! Here's what some other fabulous bloggers had to say:

Books on the Brain
At Home with Books

This book counts toward:




Sunday, July 26, 2009

TSS - Relative Reads Review - The Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon


I was given the great fortune of growing up in a family of readers. Both of my parents read, and so do the majority of my aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents. In fact, my Great-Grandma had cataract surgery in her 90's, because she couldn't bear to not be able to read. I thought it would be interesting to read some of the books THEY have discovered and enjoyed over the years, so I asked them to send me some recommendations, and the fun began! I have a list of the titles various family members have suggested on the side of the blog, so if you want to see what will be coming up you can take a peek.


The Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon (recommended by Aunt Leah)
published 2002
384 pages


Synopsis:

In the near future, disease will be a condition of the past. Most genetic defects will be removed at birth; the remaining during infancy. Unfortunately, there will be a generation left behind. For members of that missed generation, small advances will be made. Through various programs, they will be taught to get along in the world despite their differences. They will be made active and contributing members of society. But they will never be normal.

Lou Arrendale is a member of that lost generation, born at the wrong time to reap the awards of medical science. Part of a small group of high-functioning autistic adults, he has a steady job with a pharmaceutical company, a car, friends, and a passion for fencing. Aside from his annual visits to his counselor, he lives a low-key, independent life. He has learned to shake hands and make eye contact. He has taught himself to use "please" and "thank you" and other conventions of conversation because he knows it makes others comfortable. He does his best to be as normal as possible and not to draw attention to himself.

But then his quiet life comes under attack. It starts with an experimental treatment that will reverse the effects of autism in adults. With this treatment Lou would think and act and be just like everyone else. But if he was suddenly free of autism, would he still be himself? Would he still love the same classical music?with its complications and resolutions? Would he still see the same colors and patterns in the world?shades and hues that others cannot see? Most importantly, would he still love Marjory, a woman who may never be able to reciprocate his feelings? Would it be easier for her to return the love of a "normal"?

There are intense pressures coming from the world around him?including an angry supervisor who wants to cut costs by sacrificing the supports necessary to employ autistic workers. Perhaps even more disturbing are the barrage of questions within himself. For Lou must decide if he should submit to a surgery that might completely change the way he views the world . . . and the very essence of who he is.

My thoughts:

I'm not entirely sure I can write a review that will do this book justice. What I'd like to do is gush on and on, and tell you it's one of the best books I've read this year, and go read it go go go!! But that's not terribly productive, so I'll try to compose myself and write something that sounds somewhat intelligent.

I am not autistic, nor do I have close acquaintance with anyone who is, so I don't really know what living inside an autistic brain would be like. I also realize that there is a broad spectrum of autism-related diagnosis, so what one person experiences is not necessarily what another would experience. That said, I'm not sure I remember the last time I read a work of fiction where I believed in the narrator as much as I believe in Lou Arrendale. The author uses his first-person perspective to tell almost the whole story, and she never wavers in his pitch perfect voice. I could see the world through Lou's eyes, and everything he did - every thought process, every action, every wish and dream - was completely logical and true. About halfway through the novel I realized that he made much more sense than the "normals" he interacted with, and by the end of the novel, I didn't want him to have the procedure, because I didn't want his beautiful brain tampered with.

"Autistic persons do not understand these signals; the book says so. I have read the book, so I know what it is I do not understand. What I haven't figured out yet is the range of things they don't understand. The normals. The reals. The ones who have the degrees and sit behind the desks in comfortable chairs. I know some of what she doesn't know. She doesn't know that I can read. She thinks I'm hyperlexic, just parroting the words. The difference between what she calls parroting and what she does when she reads is imperceptible to me...She knows I work on a computer, she knows I went to school, but she has not caught on yet that this is incompatible with her belief that I am actually illiterate and barely verbal.

She talks to me as if I were a rather stupid child. She does not like it when I use big words (as she calls them) and she tells me to just say what I mean. What I mean is the speed of dark is as interesting as the speed of light, and maybe it is faster and who will find out?"

Moon tackles some hefty issues in this novel, most specifically who gets to decide what is normal? Why does one person's normal become superior to another? If we truly love someone, why should we want them to change? If we are all made in God's image, would changing be the right thing to do? She asks these questions, but doesn't present easy, trite answers - the reader is left to draw their own conclusions, and I would bet you'll be thinking about them long after you've turned the final page.

"What I have in my head is light and dark and gravity and space and swords and groceries and colors and numbers and people and patterns so beautiful I get shivers all over. I still do not know why I have those patterns and not others. The book answers questions other people have thought of. I have thought of questions they have not answered. I always thought my questions were wrong questions because no one else asked them. Maybe no one thought of them. Maybe darkness got there first. Maybe I am the first light touching a gulf of ignorance. Maybe my questions matter."

I loved this book. I didn't want it to end. I know it will be a book I will read again, and that's pretty rare. If you haven't read it, I think you should. GO GO GO!!!

Finished: 7/5/09
Source: Franklin Avenue library
Rating: 10/10

Don't just take my word for it! Here's what another fabulous blogger had to say:

Semicolon



This book counts toward:




Saturday, July 25, 2009

Vacation!!!




Ladies and gents, I am on my way to the lake!! In fact, I just might be sitting in that very beach chair right now.

I have some posts scheduled for you while I'm gone, but I won't be around until the first-ish of August. I have some serious laying around, building sand castles, reading books to get done! It's all right to be jealous. Play nice while I'm gone!!

Poe Fridays (on Saturday)


This week we read the short story, Morella.

The narrator marries a smart, beautiful woman named Morella. She shuns society, choosing to spend all her time with her husband and her studies. As she delves deeper and deeper into her chosen field - mysticism - her body weakens, but her soul cannot die. Her husband begins to be frightened of her, and wishes for her death. She dies in childbirth, and her soul passes into the body of her daughter. As the girl grows, she becomes more and more the likeness of her mother. When her father has her baptized, he gives her the name Morella, and she answers, "I am here." Her father takes her to her mother's grave, where she dies as well, and he discovers that her mother's bones are missing from the grave.


This story is much more what I expect from Poe. Weird and creepy, with a beautiful but doomed woman. I thought Poe's take on the idea of reincarnation was quite interesting, and fit in well with the tone of the story. I'm not sure I agree with the daughter having to die - after all, she didn't ask to be the reincarnated soul of her mystic mother. All in all, I found this to be a good, scary read.

Poe Fridays is hosted by Kristen at WeBeReading. I don't know what we'll be reading next week, but I'm sure Kristen will have something interesting - make sure to stop by her blog and see what's up her sleeve!

Friday, July 24, 2009

451 Fridays


451 Fridays is based on an idea from Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. In his novel, a group of people (Bradbury calls them Book People) are trying to keep the ideas found in books alive. Instead of actually saving the books, the Book People each "become" a book - memorizing it, word for word, and passing it down to the next generation.

451 Fridays asks what books you feel passionate about. What book do you think is so important that you would be willing to take on the challenge of "becoming"?

Today, I am honored to welcome Emily Listfield, author of Best Intentions, to 451 Fridays. I recently read and enjoyed her novel - you can read my review here. You can find out more about Emily on her website. Thanks for joining us today!

What 5 books do you believe are important enough to be saved?

Important enough? That's tough because I truly believe all books (okay 99.9 percent) should be saved. After that, what, Shakespeare? Emily Dickinson? All I can do is tell you the five books that continually make it through the cut whenever I am parsing my shelves, moving, getting a paint job. These are the ones I save because they have been important to me for different reasons at different times in my life.


Tender is the Night, F. Scott Fitzgerald. Flawed but elegiac, romantic, perceptive, and seductive. No one portrays faded glamour and disappointed dreams better than Fitzgerald. In this book, he is tempered, wiser and sadder. He knows the price to be paid for failed romance and would pay it again anyway. There is, too, the allure of the specific time and place (the South of France) that Fitzgerald portrays with the best sort of nostalgia.


The Story of a Marriage, Andrew Sean Greer. One of my favorite books of the past year or so. In sparse, lyrical language Greer makes the conflicted emotions of a marriage painfully clear, deeply personal and universal.


Age of Innocence, Edith Wharton. Wharton is the master of social observation, so acute about how power moves about society and the shifting values that can can make or destroy lives. She is brilliant, too, on the price women pay when society offers them few options and little real education or independence. The social climbing, back-biting, and money envy are so little changed, though so much else has progressed - you can't help but smile knowingly at it. And I love the descriptions of Manhattan, where I live.


Collected Poems of William Butler Yeats. I fell in love with Yeats as a teenager and my appreciation has only grown. As I get older I understand more fully the depth and pathos of his poems about unrequited love, missed opportunities, aging, dreams, regret, rebellion.


Anais Nin's Diaries. I read these as a teenager when the romance of being a writer was just forming. In retrospect, they don't hold up at all - let me state that upfront. But they gave me a vision of what a woman artist could be, and held out the hope that it was not imperative to conform in all ways. Later, of course, I realized what a false vision that was - for example, Nin never mentioned that she was married to a banker, which does make being boho quite a bit easier. And the writing is insanely self-conscious and pretentious to me now. But I can't deny the effect they had on me when I was younger.


Of those 5, which book would you choose to "become"?


If I could have one night at a cocktail party on a moonstruck night in the South of France (Tender is the Night) with brilliant, witty, attractive company I would be quite happy. I would like to wake before the hangover though, before the failed romance and the dashed dreams.


Emily, thank you so much for taking the time to share with us YOUR list of books which much be saved! If you read this blog and have a list of books you'd like to share, drop me a note - I'd love to have you join the fun!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Thursday Tunes


Thursday Tunes is a weekly event hosted by S. Krishna, devoted to sharing the music we love.

S. Krishna usually features a new artist each week - just to be different, I'm going to focus on a specific song, because it's the song that hooks me. There are very few artists whose entire body of work is in my MP3 player, but I have thousands of songs I love.


A couple of weeks ago, I asked you to pray for a little girl named Kate. Her mom and I went to school together, and a couple of weeks ago a tumor was discovered in her brain. Since then, she's undergone brain surgery and therapy, and is getting ready to start chemotherapy. Recently, doctors discovered a growth on her brother's vocal chords, which will also require surgery. Overwhelming doesn't really begin to describe what this family has gone through lately. They would dearly love any prayers, good vibes, healthy thoughts, etc. that you have time to send up for them.

The first video is a song written for Kate by Nashville artist Audrey Assad - and can I say, someone needs to give this girl a recording contract. I love her voice! The second video is A Day in the Life of Kate, a little glimpse of what days at the hospital are like for this sweet little girl.





Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Nonfiction Files

The Nonfiction Files is a weekly journal of my adventures reading my toppling piles of nonfiction books. I won't be posting reviews, but rather my thoughts about what I'm reading, while I'm reading it.


My current read is American Eve by Paula Uruburu. You can read my first post about this book here.

Synopsis from publisher:

By the time of her sixteenth birthday in 1900, Evelyn Nesbit was known to millions as the most photographed woman of her era, an iconic figure who set the standard for female beauty, and whose innocent sexuality was used to sell everything from chocolates to perfume. Women wanted to be her. Men just wanted her. But when Evelyn’s life of fantasy became all too real and her insanely jealous millionaire husband, Harry K. Thaw, murdered her lover, New York City architect Stanford White, the most famous woman in the world became infamous as she found herself at the center of the “Crime of the Century” and a scandal that signaled the beginning of a national obsession with youth, beauty, celebrity, and sex.


My thoughts:

As Evelyn's story continues, her mother moves them to New York, where she believes Evelyn's looks can bring her an even more lucrative career. Tiring of hours upon end of modeling, being required to hold a pose and not move, Evelyn decides to try her hand at acting, landing a part as a chorus girl in a Broadway show called Florodora. Here, she catches they eyes of some very rich, very predatory men, chief among them the famous architect Standford White. Her relationship, and subsequent affair, with White is the basis for the tragic events that are soon to take place in her young life.

It is becoming very clear that Evelyn's story is not going to end well. She has almost no adult supervision or guidance - it's unfathomable to me that her mother would allow her 16 year old daughter into the situations Evelyn's mother allows her to be in. The author seems to believe that some of the reason behind that is the mother's naivete about New York society - honestly, it comes across as simple uncaring. Evelyn is a great meal ticket, so whatever it takes to keep the money flowing is just fine. It's sad that most of the bad things that happen, and are going to happen, would probably have been avoided if her mother had just said, "No! You are going to Stay Home Tonight."

I commented in the last post about the "gossipy" tone of the book - it's becoming a little tiresome. The author uses SO MANY adjectives - in one paragraph alone, she describes Evelyn's enchanting face, supple figure, dazzling talent, dainty feet, and calls her a little looker. I think perhaps she chose this style to mirror the feel of the day, but I would be happy with a few less adjectives.

I'm still wrapped up in the story itself, however. The idea of whether or not allowing children to be in the public eye at a young age is exploitation is a hot topic right now - yes, Jon and Kate, I'm thinking of you - and Evelyn's story certainly shows the darker side of that early public attention. The author quotes the adult Evelyn as saying, "I do not know that to be brought into the public eye so young is the happiest of experiences." I have a feeling that what I'm about to read is part of the reason she holds that opinion.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Tube Talk with Amy and Elizabeth


Supernatural time again! Amy and I are in the middle of season three, and things are getting intense. Stop by My Friend Amy today, where Amy will be hosting our discussion of episode 9, Malleus Maleficarum, and episode 10, Dream a Little Dream of Me.


Episode 11 - Mystery Spot

Recap - Sam and Dean investigate the disappearance of a man who went missing at a tourist location. While searching the site, Dean is shot and killed (!!!) by the owner. Sam is devastated, but stunned when he wakes up the next morning to find Dean alive and well. As the day unfolds, Sam realizes he is re-living the previous day and tried to prevent Dean's death, to no avail. Dean dies again and Sam must learn to live life without his brother by his side.

Our discussion - as usual, Amy's words are in red:



HAH! Dean singing along to "Heat of the Moment" - hilarious!!

I know, lol!

Holy crap! Dean got shot in the chest!!

That was a shock. But we knew it couldn't stick...

Uh-oh - it looks like a Groundhog Day-type episode.

Actually loved it.

Me too - I thought this was a great episode!


Okay, this is awful - no matter what Sam does, Dean ends up dying. It's what Sam has been worrying about for months, all packed into one horrible nightmare.

So true. The deaths got kind of funny...like the dog?

Yeah, and choking on the sausage. =)

I KNEW that trickster was going to come back to mess with them again!

You're so smart!! And he's so evil!

I don't know that it counts as smart. Basically, I just assume that anyone/thing that isn't actually dead will be back at some point to mess with them..

OMG, is Dean actually dead??? They can't just kill him off like that.


What a senseless death.


Okay, Sam pulling the bullet out of his own chest was pretty nasty.

Sam's a tough guy now.

Yeah - I don't like it.

Watching Sam become so isolated and hard was extremely sad. He was willing to kill someone to get Dean back, but he flinched at killing Bobby - I was so happy that there was a little bit of humanity still in there.

Indeed. Six months is a long time don't you think? I was wondering if Sam actually felt like six months went by...it would be hard to go back to normal.

It certainly would.

The trickster tells Sam that the obsession the two have with sacrificing themselves for each other is bad for each of them - they have to stop, because it's their weakness, and the bad guys know it. Do you think Sam will actually take any of what the trickster says to heart?

I hope so. I mean there are only two of them....how long can they keep sacrificing themselves for each other?

I liked this Sam centric episode quite a bit!

Me too - it was nice to focus on Sam for a while.


Episode 12 - Jus in Bello

Recap - Sam and Dean break into Bella's apartment to get the Colt back, but she has tipped off Agent Hendriksen about their whereabouts and they are arrested. While Sam and Dean are locked in a cell in Colorado, a demon breaks in and kills some of the sheriff's men and possesses Hendriksen. After the guys vanquish the demon, the FBI agent realizes they were telling the truth and prepares to release them, but Ruby shows up to warn Sam and Dean that the jailhouse is surrounded by a band of demons with a powerful new leader who wants Sam dead.

Our discussion:


Oh, Bella, this is pretty bad. I'm starting to rethink my affection for her.

She makes an interesting character but I don't particularly like her.

I think I'm always drawn a bit to the "anti-hero" type, which is why I have some fondness for her. However, not after this one.

Do you think it bothers the brothers that so many people consider them to be evil - even more evil than the things they are hunting?

I suppose they just add being misunderstood to the many crimes against them!

Did you suspect right away that the new FBI guy was possessed?

Um, no, I don't think so.


I'm not a fan of Agent Hendrickson, but he was certainly good in a crisis.

True that.

I love that Dean can still look on the bright side - "It's like they're coming right for us. Do you think it's because we're so awesome? I think it's because we're so awesome."

I LOVED that. :)


Best line of the episode -
Hendrickson: "I shot the sherrif."
Dean: "But you didn't shoot the deputy."


So now Hendrickson believes in demons - do you think he'll stop trying to arrest the Winchesters?

I think so. He knows what's been going on for real now.


Oh, I hate Dean running around outside by himself with the demon apocalypse coming.

I know!!!

Haven't we talked about their lack of knowledge of the buddy system before??

That cloud of demons was hands down the scariest thing I've seen on this show so far.

Very scary and very daunting.

I almost think Hendrickson might start helping the brothers.

In many ways he is already a hunter...just of bad men not demons. So that would make sense.

I've never thought of him like that, but you're totally right.

Ruby is willing to kill herself to save Sam? Boy, I really need to hear her backstory!

She really must believe in Sam or at least wants them to believe she does.

But why? It can't just be because she hates Lilith. I want a Ruby episode!

I HATE Dean's plan! And seriously, how brave was Nancy to be willing to sacrifice herself?

Nancy was very very very brave.

Did you know that the one who got away would come back to hurt them so soon?

NO!

Lilith is a little girl?? Okay, that's the creepiest kid yet.

Lilith is very creepy. And what's up with the white eyes?

I know - does that mean she's some kind of super demon? I hate her.

I think Sam and Dean are still too human to fight this battle.

Yes yes yes.






If you enjoy Supernatural as much as we do, we'd love to hear your comments!

Book Blogger Appreciation Week is BACK!!!


The brainchild of the brilliant Amy, the second annual Book Blogger Appreciation Week will be held September 14-18, 2009. It's a great week of recognizing our favorite bloggers, blogs, books, and just plain celebrating us! Visit the Book Blogger Appreciation Week Blog for the whole scoop, including what YOU can do to participate. Make sure you sign up, so you can be part of Amy's fabulous directory, and be entered to win prizes. YAY for prizes!

And, of course, you can vote for your favorite book blogs. You don't have to be a book blogger to vote - you just have to love books and bloggers, and be willing to take a few minutes to share your favorites.

Stop by and check it out!!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Review - Life's That Way by Jim Beaver


Life's That Way by Jim Beaver

published 04/09
297 pages

Synopsis from publisher:

Life’s That Way is a modern-day Book of Job. In August 2003, Jim Beaver, a character actor whom many know from the popular HBO series Deadwood, and his wife Cecily learned what they thought was the worst news possible— their daughter Maddie was autistic. Then six weeks later the roof fell in—Cecily was diagnosed with stage-four lung cancer.

Jim immediately began writing a nightly e-mail as a way to keep more than one hundred family and friends up to date about Cecily’s condition. Soon four thousand people a day, from all around the world, were receiving them. Initially a cathartic exercise for Jim, the prose turned into an unforgettable journey for his readers.

Cecily died four months after being diagnosed, but Jim continued the e-mails for a year after her diagnosis, revealing how he and Maddie coped with Cecily’s death and how they managed to move forward. Life’s That Way is a compilation of those nightly e-mails. Jim’s experience is universal for anybody who has lost a loved one. But Life’s That Way is not solely about loss. It is an immediate, day-by-day account of living through a nightmare but also of discovering the joy of a child, of being on the receiving end of unthinkable kindness, and of learning to navigate life anew. As Jim says, these are hard-won blessings. But then again, life’s that way.

My thoughts:

Sometimes, you are lucky enough to read a book that changes you. It changes the way you look at life, and relationships, and the things that really matter. It reinforces what you've always know, and reminds you of what's really important. Life's That Way is that kind of book.

I've struggled for a while to figure out the best way to write this review. I'm not sure I can do justice to the remarkable work contained between the covers. I'm torn between wanting to quote so many of the beautiful passages Beaver writes, and letting you discover them for yourselves.

Beaver writes with a simple eloquence that is immediately arresting. Because this started out as a series of emails, there is an intimacy between the author and the reader that is quite unique - I could imagine myself sitting across the kitchen table from the author as each day's tale was recounted. He talks about his great love for his wife, his anger and frustration, fear and disbelief, and shares all with such honesty and openness that at times it took my breath away.

"I'm not sad about Cec's chances, I'm sad about all she has to go through. I can't stand to see her in pain, to see her nauseous, or weak, exhausted. Cec said the other day that this illness had been a crushing blow to her illusion that she could control the universe. What it has crushed for me is the illusion that I could fix anything I tried to fix. I suppose that both of us are grieving for, among other things, our illusions."

But this is not a hopeless book. I had tears in my eyes nearly the entire time I was reading it, and yet ultimately felt inspired and uplifted. Through the pain, despair, struggle and heartache, Beaver is able to find goodness, hope, peace, and strength. He shares his good days and bad, his lessons learned and moments of joy.

"It's a lucky man who can both love and admire the woman in his life. I've always been lucky."

"As traitorous as it feels to say, I will feel better, I will feel happiness, I will feel less lonely, I will be less lonely. Even as Cec once awaited me a few months or years ahead, good things surely are poised just beyond the crest of this hill. It's steep, no denying. But my legs are good and my heart is determined. I'm sure it can't be too far. Since "life's that way ->," that's where I'm headed."

I know I haven't done this book justice. It has been a gift to my life, and I believe it would be to yours. I can't encourage you enough to find a copy - it is beautiful and moving and funny and brave and a completely engrossing read. It will certainly be one of my best reads of this year, maybe of my life.

"I had no idea a person was so many things, that her abduction from my life would leave such voids. It's not hearing her voice, it's not smelling her hair, it's not seeing her things in new arrangements in her closet or on her nightstand...It's realizing that it doesn't matter anymore if the sheets are tight and wrinkle-free on the bed, that no one leaves the cap off the toothpaste, that no one says 'What's wrong?' if I don't speak for half an hour...It's knowing I could pour a bucket of purple paint over the stair rail and into the hallway below and nobody would be upset. It's knowing I could bring home ten dozen roses and a string quartet and nobody would be happy...

All I can say is if you have someone you can share with, someone who cares about your life and wants to be involved in it in some way, any way, then share. Share, share, share. If a day comes when you've got no one to share that day with, nor the next nor the next, that's when you will know what you don't want to know. That even the best life can be hollowed out in a moment or a week or in four months. "

Go read it. It just might change your life.

Finished: 6/09
Source: Folio Literary Management
Rating: 10/10

Sunday, July 19, 2009

TSS - Review - Burnt Shadows by Kamila Shamsie


Burnt Shadows by Kamila Shamsie

published 4/09
384 pages

Synopsis from publisher:

Beginning on August 9, 1945, in Nagasaki, and ending in a prison cell in the US in 2002, as a man is waiting to be sent to Guantanamo Bay, Burnt Shadows is an epic narrative of love and betrayal.

Hiroko Tanaka is twenty-one and in love with the man she is to marry, Konrad Weiss. As she steps onto her veranda, wrapped in a kimono with three black cranes swooping across the back, her world is suddenly and irrevocably altered. In the numbing aftermath of the atomic bomb that obliterates everything she has known, all that remains are the bird-shaped burns on her back, an indelible reminder of the world she has lost. In search of new beginnings, two years later, Hiroko travels to Delhi. It is there that her life will become intertwined with that of Konrad's half sister, Elizabeth, her husband, James Burton, and their employee Sajjad Ashraf, from whom she starts to learn Urdu.

With the partition of India, and the creation of Pakistan, Hiroko will find herself displaced once again, in a world where old wars are replaced by new conflicts. But the shadows of history--personal and political--are cast over the interrelated worlds of the Burtons, the Ashrafs, and the Tanakas as they are transported from Pakistan to New York and, in the novel's astonishing climax, to Afghanistan in the immediate wake of 9/11. The ties that have bound these families together over decades and generations are tested to the extreme, with unforeseeable consequences.

My thoughts:

This was a very good novel that was ALMOST a great novel - but just missed it by a hair.

I loved the first two sections of this book. In part 1, The Yet-Unknowing World, we meet Hiroko and Konrad, and explore with them their burgeoning love. They are both outsiders - he a German, she a woman whose father is branded a traitor. People avoid them on the street, chose not to speak to them, and yet they find each other. Konrad tells Hiroko it might be better for her to distance herself from him, but she chooses not to. Their future is bright. Shamsie paints such a vivid picture of these two characters, who are both strong and yet vulnerable. And then comes the first tragedy.

"Functional, Hiroko Tanaka thinks, as she stands on the porch of her house in Urakami and surveys the terraced slopes, the still morning alive with the whirring of cicadas. If there were an adjective to best describe how the war has changed Nagasaki, she decides, that would be it. Everything distilled or distorted into its most functional form. She walked past the vegetable patches on the slopes a few days ago and saw the earth itself furrowing in mystification: why potatoes where once there were azaleas? What prompted this falling-off of love? How to explain to the earth that it was more functional as a vegetable patch than a flower garden, just as factories were more functional than schools and boys were more functional as weapons than as humans."

Part 2, Veiled Birds, finds Hiroko traveling to India to meet Konrad's family, and try to salvage a life for herself. Once again, Shamsie's characters are vivid and alive, and her writing beautifully descriptive of the locations and mindset of the people of the time. Her portrait of the marriage of Elizabeth, Konrad's sister, and her husband James is penetrating, a perfect snapshot of a couple forgetting why they loved each other. And then the second tragedy comes.

"Elizabeth almost laughed. So much for the demure Japanese women of all the stories she'd heard. Here was one who would squeeze the sun in her fist if she every got the chance; yes, and tilt her head back to swallow its liquid light. At what point, Elizabeth wondered, had she started to believe there was virtue in living a constrained life? She clicked her heels against the floor in impatience at herself. Virtue really had nothing to do with it."

In Part 3, Part-Angel Warriors, Hiroko and her husband are living in Pakistan with their son, Raza. In a section that brims with life, Raza stumbles upon a group of militant Afghanis while trying to appease his father. As he comes to identify more and more with this group, Shamsie lets readers in on the ease at which a basically good boy can become a terrorist. I found this section to be especially fascinating, with its themes of family love and loyalty, the desire to find a place to belong, and the quickness with which situations can spiral out of control. And then, of course, the third tragedy.

"Stay. Stay. Stay. She should have repeated it like a madwoman, banged her head against the wall in a frenzy, hit him and wept. She should have said it just one more time, just a little more forcefully. She should have taken his dear, sweet head in her hands and kissed his eyes and forehead. Stay."

It was the fourth section that I felt was lacking. It takes place in America and the Middle East after the events of 9/11/01, and the connection I had felt to the characters up until this point wasn't maintained. Hiroko appears less in this section than any of the others, and it could have been that I missed her presence. But more than that, I just felt like the story lost its focus, and didn't have the emotional impact the author was intending. It does, inevitable, contain another tragedy, this one the most unnecessary of them all.

This is the first novel I have read by this author, and I will certainly be looking for more of her work. While the ending did lose me a bit, the overall story was compelling and beautifully written, and I do recommend the novel.

Finished: 6/24/09
Source: LibraryThing Early Reviewers program
Rating: 8/10


Don't just take my word for it! Here's what some other fabulous bloggers had to say:

Bibliophile by the Sea
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Saturday, July 18, 2009

Poe Fridays (on Saturday)


This week, we read the short story The Devil in the Belfry.

There is a small, charming "Dutch" village called Vondervottemietttis, which is perfectly happy to stay to itself. The charming houses all look the same, and all are decorated with time-pieces and cabbages. The villagers believe that nothing good comes from outside their small town, and every day they pay special attention to what time it is. The man who is in charge of keeping their large, impressive town clock is the most important man in the village. Then, one day, just before the clock strikes twelve, a man arrives from outside the village and beats up the clock keeper, resulting in chaos. The clock strikes 13, everything goes crazy, and the village is never the same again.

Apparently, this story was meant as a satire of one or two things - President Martin Van Buren and his election methods, and the city of New York. I don't quite understand the Van Buren satire, but apparently the city of New York can be seen as Vondervottemiettis, happily settled by "the Dutch", and the man who comes in and ruins things is "the Irish".

Honestly, I didn't get either one of these references from just reading the story - another case of an author's intent lost to me, because I don't know the history behind its writing. It was, however, an entertaining little story, although one that didn't make a whole lot of sense. I was amused by the poor little villagers whose lives where thrown into uproar by the strange man from outside.

Poe Fridays is hosted by Kristen at WeBeReading.

Friday, July 17, 2009

451 Fridays

451 Fridays is based on an idea from Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. In his novel, a group of people (Bradbury calls them Book People) are trying to keep the ideas found in books alive. Instead of actually saving the books, the Book People each "become" a book - memorizing it, word for word, and passing it down to the next generation.

451 Fridays asks what books you feel passionate about. What book do you think is so important that you would be willing to take on the challenge of "becoming"?


Today, I am happy to welcome Michele to 451 Fridays. I think Michele is one of the funniest ladies in the blogosphere - she has a great, snarky sense of humor that makes her reviews such fun to read. She also has a feature called "Diversifying my Bookshelves", where she highlights some of the most outlandishly titled books I've ever seen. She blogs at A Reader's Respite - if you are not reading her, you should be! Welcome, Michele!

What 5 books do you believe are important enough to be saved?

1. Gone With the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell


"Dear Scarlett! You aren't helpless. Anyone as selfish and determined as you are is never helpless. God help the Yankees if they should get you." - Rhett Butler


2. The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck

Fear the time when Manself will not suffer and die for a concept, for this one quality is man, distinctive in the universe.

3. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams


Arthur looked up. "Ford!" he said, "there's an infinite number of monkeys outside who want to talk to us about this script for Hamlet they've worked out."


4. Vanity Fair, by William Makepeace Thackeray


Revenge may be wicked, but it’s natural.


5. Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien

"Always after a defeat and a respite, the Shadow takes another shape and grows again."
"I wish it need not have happened in my time," said Frodo.
"So do I," said Gandalf, "and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us."


And now, for the I'd be willing to BECOME. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. The first book of the series, but really, I'd be willing to become any of the books in the series in order to preserve them. Quotes?

"There are some things you can't share without ending up liking each other, and knocking out a twelve-foot mountain troll is one of them."

"It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends." - Albus Dumbledore



Michele, thank you so much for taking the time to share with us YOUR list of books which must be saved! I'm actively looking for more participants for 451 Fridays - if you are interested, please let me know!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Take a Change Challenge - Book/Movie Comparison


10. Movie/Book Comparison. Find a book that you haven't read that has a movie based on it that you haven't seen. Read the book and watch the movie within a few days of each other. Write about your reactions to both the book and the movie and compare the two.






I read Somewhere in Time by Richard Matheson last week - you can read my thoughts on the book here. Somewhere in Time, the movie, stars Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour, and is a slightly different story, but I was actually pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it.

One of the biggest problems I had with the book was that the first half started out rather slowly - it seemed to drag significantly until Richard made it back in time. I felt like the movie did a much better job of pacing - I didn't get that antsy feeling I had when reading the book, waiting for things to start getting good. I also felt a much stronger emotional connection to the romance of the story. I think, in general, I respond more to love stories on screen than in books, and that was definitely true with this story.

Of course, casting Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour as the leads certainly didn't hurt - in 1980 when the movie was made, they were two of the most beautiful people in the world, and watching them on screen certainly brought the story to life for me.

They did change some plot points from the book to the movie, and the changes to the ending made it seem a bit abrupt. But in general, the adaptation was strikingly similar to the book, and I feel like it stayed true to the feeling of the novel. I wouldn't go so far as to say it was the greatest love story of all time, as I've seen some people assert, but it was an entertaining way to spend a couple of hours.

Thursday Tunes


Thursday Tunes is a weekly event hosted by S. Krishna, devoted to sharing the music we love.

S. Krishna usually features a new artist each week - just to be different, I'm going to focus on a specific song, because it's the song that hooks me. There are very few artists whose entire body of work is in my MP3 player, but I have thousands of songs I love.

Last week I read Somewhere in Time by Richard Matheson, and this week I watched the movie staring Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour. Probably the best thing about the movie was it's beautiful score, featuring one of my favorite pieces of classical music, Rachmaninov's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Opus 43, Variation 18.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Nonfiction Files

The Nonfiction Files is a weekly journal of my adventures reading my toppling piles of nonfiction books. I won't be posting reviews, but rather my thoughts about what I'm reading, while I'm reading it.

This week I'm starting a new book -
American Eve: Evelyn Nesbit, Stanford White, The Birth of the "It" Girl, and the Crime of the Century by Paula Uruburu

Synopsis:

By the time of her sixteenth birthday in 1900, Evelyn Nesbit was known to millions as the most photographed woman of her era, an iconic figure who set the standard for female beauty, and whose innocent sexuality was used to sell everything from chocolates to perfume. Women wanted to be her. Men just wanted her. But when Evelyn’s life of fantasy became all too real and her insanely jealous millionaire husband, Harry K. Thaw, murdered her lover, New York City architect Stanford White, the most famous woman in the world became infamous as she found herself at the center of the “Crime of the Century” and a scandal that signaled the beginning of a national obsession with youth, beauty, celebrity, and sex.

My thoughts:

Evelyn Nesbit was born Florence Evelyn, to loving parents in a city just outside Pittsburgh, PA. By all accounts, she had a lovely childhood - her father was somewhat progressive for the times, and gave her a good education, and she was lively and vivacious and engaged with life. Her father's early death was a shock to the whole family, forcing her mother to move in with various relatives and leave Evelyn and her brother behind as she looked for work. When Evelyn was a young teen, she was "discovered" and put to work as an artist's and later photographer's model. She was soon supporting the family, and her mother chose to exploit her daughter's moneymaking ability rather than allow her to finish growing up. She was soon to be "discovered" by the rich and famous in New York, changing her life unalterably forever.

So far, I'm still in Evelyn's growing-up years - she's just started posing for photographs, and hasn't yet moved to New York to begin her career in earnest. Her story has already become tragic, however, with the death of her father and the subsequent poverty of her family. It's sad to think what this bright, bubbly young girl could have become had she been able to have the normal childhood she started out with. Uburu describes how lonely Evelyn feels, even just starting out in her modeling career - she's isolated from other girls her own age, and forced to live apart from the friends she should be making.

"There was something magnetic and haunting about her large, smoky eyes and almost mournful half smile. It was an expression Evelyn adopted without effort - and without any prompting from the artists. Virtually all those who came into contact with her or saw her image tried to articulate what that expression meant, but were left unsatisfied. It is perhaps the greatest irony that in describing in her memoirs what she was thinking or feeling during those long hours of posing, Evelyn recalled that initially she was thinking about the most mundane things one could imagine. Or absolutely nothing."

This book has been quite interesting so far - Uburu has an interesting writing style that almost feels gossipy at times, but is the perfect tone for the events she is describing. I'm thoroughly engaged in Evelyn's story, and I haven't even arrived at the good parts yet!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

I have a review dedicated to me!!


I have a review dedicated to me!

I have a review dedicated to me!



How fun. =)


Connie, over at Constance Reader, read and reviewed a book and dedicated her review to me!! Stop by and read her review of The Gossip of Starlings to learn the reason why.

I feel like I need to go out and read this book - soon!

Thanks, Connie. =)

Tube Talk with Amy and Elizabeth



Time to talk Supernatural! Amy and I are smack-dab in the middle of season 3, and things are getting good. Be sure to visit My Friend Amy, where Amy will have our discussion of episode 5, Bedtime Stories, and episode 6, Red Sky at Morning.


Episode 7 - Fresh Blood

Recap - Sam and Dean capture a female vampire named Lucy who claims to have no knowledge of how she became a vampire. The guys discover Dixon, a male vampire, is giving out blood to unsuspecting females in bars, offering it up as the "latest drug" and turning them all into vampires. Meanwhile, Gordon escapes from jail and goes after Sam. However, Dixon intercepts Gordon and turns him into a vampire, which makes Gordon more powerful than before and an even bigger threat to Sam.


Our discussion - as usual, Amy's words in are red:


Okay, Bella and Gordon working together is probably a bad sign for the Winchester boys.


I think so as I think one of the strengths (and weaknesses) of the Winchester boys is that they work together. I think it's better to work in pairs but not always possible.


You can make a vampire by putting some vampire blood drops in a drink?? Wow, that's some pretty serious biological warfare.

LOL.


Dean tells Bella he's going to kill her - do you think he's serious?


No.


I kinda think I might believe him. I think she's pushed him to the very limit, and there is nothing that makes him more mad than someone threatening Sam.


Is it wrong that when Gordon was trapped by the vampire, I was really rooting for the vampire? Did you feel sorry for him at all? I guess it was a pretty bad fate.


I do think that was an awful death. He spent his entire life fighting them after what happened to his sister. I just think it's a bit like being raped and then murdered. To be forced to become the thing you hate....ugh.


Yeah, I wanted him to be gone, but I didn't want him to have to suffer than horrible a fate.


I can see a definite change in Sam's attitude - he doesn't even hesitate in his pronouncement that they have to kill Gordon.


Sam saw and experienced some crazy stuff at the end of last season. If he had killed that guy (military guy, can't remember name) he wouldn't have died and Dean wouldn't have made a deal. I think that Sam doesn't see that mercy helps the people he loves or himself.


I think he has lost his innocence, which is heartbreaking.


When the vampire talks about not wanting to be alone, and feeling dead inside, you could tell that Dean knew just what he was talking about.


:( Poor Dean.


When Gordon went back to his friend and told him he had been turned, I had a feeling his friend wasn't going to last long.


His friend shouldn't have even let him talk! Vampires are not to be trusted!



Why did Gordon not even TRY to fight becoming a monster? It's like he embraced it.


I think Gordon was already a monster. =)


Hah.



Sam finally calls Dean out on how freaked out he is. No one knows Dean better than Sam, and he can see exactly what he's going through. He asks him to drop the show and be his brother again - and it looks like he gets through to Dean. Do you think Sam actually broke down Dean's wall? (also, that totally made me tear up.)



I think Sam will have to keep working at that wall. But I do think that Dean is starting to see how profoundly this will affect Sam as well.





Episode 8 - A Very Supernatural Christmas


Recap - It's Christmas time and Sam and Dean investigate a series of murders where the victims were pulled up through the chimney. Sam realizes they are dealing with a sort of Anti-Santa, a demon with roots in pagan lore. Dean wants to celebrate Christmas the old fashioned way as this is his last, but Sam refuses, not wanting to accept that Dean won't be around next year. Sam flashes back to a certain Christmas when he waited for his father to come home to give him a special gift.

Our discussion:


I LOVE Christmas episodes!!!

Me, too, and I was thrilled with this one! And so happy they did one.


Okay, that poor little boy will be traumatized forever seeing Santa get yanked back up the chimney.


LOL, did you watch the special features? I thought it was so Supernaturaly.


More flashbacks to the boys crappy childhood - their dad couldn't even show up for Christmas??


Love the flashbacks....geez that kid looks like Sam (mannerisms, etc.). I think the flashbacks give a lot of insight into the tight bond the brothers have.


I thought the same thing - they got great kids to play the boys when they were young. These flashbacks really show that the brothers honestly had no one to depend on but themselves.


The impromptu caroling was hilarious!


I LOVED it! And they didn't know the words...lol.


Dean wants to have Christmas so badly because its his last year - Sam can't have Christmas because he knows next Christmas Dean will be gone. (tear moment.) Why can the brothers only be honest with each other about how they feel when someone is going to die?


Hmmm. I think that's pretty true to life. Death brings everything into sharp perspective.


I thought the creepy, nice couple would be somehow slaves to the god, not BE the gods - that was a surprise!


Total surprise! And they were very creepy.


We finally get to see why Dean loves that necklace so much.

Yes, I loved that scene.


I love the Christmas tree decorated with car freshener trees. =)

Me, too!

I thought this was a very bittersweet episode - it had a basically happy ending, and yet knowing it would probably be the brothers' last Christmas together was sad, too.


Yes, very bittersweet and so perfect! But UGH on Sam's nail getting yanked out....that's one of my worst nightmares.....OUCH.

Yeah, of all the gross things we've seen so far in this series, that was definitely one of the worst!



That's all for this week - we'll have four more episodes to talk about next week. Supernatural fans, tell us what you think! We'd love to hear your comments.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Review - Skellig by David Almond


Skellig by David Almond

published 9/00
208 pages

Synopsis from publisher:

Ten-year-old Michael was looking forward to moving into a new house. But now his baby sister is ill, his parents are frantic, and Doctor Death has come to call. Michael feels helpless. Then he steps into the crumbling garage. . . . What is this thing beneath the spiderwebs and dead flies? A human being, or a strange kind of beast never before seen? The only person Michael can confide in is his new friend, Mina. Together they carry the creature out into the light, and Michael’s world changes forever. . . .

My thoughts:

This was a lovely little book. Almond captured the innocence and wonder of Michael and Mina beautifully, as they discovered their friendship with each other, and the strange and beautiful Skellig. Michael's uncertainty about his sister, his belief that he could do something to help her, his feelings of helplessness in the face of his parents' worry - all wonderfully expressed.

I think what I liked most about the novel is that Almond didn't answer every question he posed - most specifically, what is Skellig? I think sometimes books give us too much - they answer questions we didn't even know we had, and the mystery and wonder is just a bit lost. In this novel, we never really learn everything - we are left to ponder, with Michael and Mina, just what this amazing creature is, where it came from, and what it's purpose really was.

"The garage creaked. Dust fell. His breathing was hoarse, uneven. His body shuddered. He whimpered with pain. At the door he closed his eyes, turned his head away from the intensifying light. Then he turned again and faced the daylight. Through narrowed veiny eyes he looked out through the door. Mina and I gazed at his face, so pale and plaster dry. His skin was cracked and crazed. His black hair was a tangle of knots. Dust, cobwebs, bluebottles, spiders, beetles clung to him and fell from him. We saw for the first time that he wasn't old. He seemed like a young man. Mina whispered it: 'You're beautiful!' "

I highly recommend this book. I found it to be a refreshing change from the glut of vampire-werewolf-fairy-etc. YA novels currently available, yet with just enough of a supernatural touch to feel otherworldly and mysterious. I loved it, and will be finding a copy to keep in my permanent collection.

Finished: 6/14/09
Source: Franklin Avenue library
Rating: 9/10

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Things mean a lot
Valentina's Room


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