Thursday, May 31, 2012

Books We Love

Hey everybody - I'm a Guest Poster!

Go check out Constance Reader, where you will hear about one of my favorite books, that I can't WAIT to read to my own kids.

Many thanks to Cathy for letting me take over her blog today!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Book Thoughts - An Uncommon Education by Elizabeth Percer

An Uncommon Education by Elizabeth Percer
published 5/1/12
352 pages

Synopsis from publisher:

Afraid of losing her parents at a young age—her father with his weak heart, her deeply depressed mother—Naomi Feinstein prepared single-mindedly for a prestigious future as a doctor. An outcast at school, Naomi loses herself in books, and daydreams of Wellesley College. But when Teddy, her confidant and only friend, abruptly departs from her life, it's the first devastating loss from which Naomi is not sure she can ever recover, even after her long-awaited acceptance letter to Wellesley arrives.
Naomi soon learns that college isn't the bastion of solidarity and security she had imagined. Amid hundreds of other young women, she is consumed by loneliness—until the day she sees a girl fall into the freezing waters of a lake.
The event marks Naomi's introduction to Wellesley's oldest honor society, the mysterious Shakespeare Society, defined by secret rituals and filled with unconventional, passionate students. Naomi finally begins to detach from the past and so much of what defines her, immersing herself in this exciting and liberating new world and learning the value of friendship. But her happiness is soon compromised by a scandal that brings irrevocable consequences. Naomi has always tried to save the ones she loves, but part of growing up is learning that sometimes saving others is a matter of saving yourself.

First Impression - 5/3/12

Oooh, I am hooked on this novel from the very first paragraph - and as I read farther in, I just get more hooked. Naomi is smart and a bit weird, without many friends, which is a feeling I remember well from being a kid. Her father's earnest efforts to educate her are endearing, and her mother's distance makes me wonder what went wrong. I like Percer's style - I definitely want to know where she is headed.

"I suppose it was one of many talismans, real and imagined, I began collecting around that age to help me believe that what I told myself just might be true. Perhaps the strongest of these convictions, and the one it took the longest to let go of, was that believing that I needed to save those I loved from harm also meant that I could." (p.3)

Second Thoughts - 5/16/12

It's quite interesting how far into the novel Percer takes her readers before Naomi arrives at Wellesley. Part of the reason I was excited to read this book was because of my love for novels set in boarding schools/colleges/etc. Percer doesn't drop her readers immediately into the college setting, but takes time setting the stage, highlighting Naomi's younger years. It's a way to illustrate that education doesn't all take place at school - lessons are being learned in this part of her life as well.

The novel does have a decidedly blue undertone, which Naomi's shenanigans with the Shakes girls doesn't quite resolve. Percer's prose is lovely - easy to see her roots as a poet coming through on the page. I'm still enjoying this novel very much.

Last Word - 5/24/12

"It would be wrong to say that I had felt dismissed by Phyllis, though it wasn't until a few days later that I realized she had given me what I wanted: the invitation to let that encounter be an isolated one, easily buried within the rapidly developing past. I think that growing up in the shadow of my mother's containment meant that I felt pinned in by it, as though the slighest strong movement from me would cast us both, shattering, to the floor. It was almost liberating to think that it was possible to love and discard in the same, swift act." (p.218)

So many of the hardest lessons in life involve learning when to let go. Naomi certainly found much to hold on to in her years at Wellesley, but in Percer's hands it is the moments of letting go that become the most important. Those moments make the novel somewhat bittersweet, but it didn't ever feel heavy with its own weight.

I very much enjoyed this novel. Percer's characters are strong and memorable, and her writing lovely. There were a couple of scenes that I felt didn't quite serve the forward momentum of the story, but overall I savored every page. This is definitely a book I can imagine re-reading at some point - recommended!

Finished: 5/24/12
Source: review copy from publisher
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for adult situations
My rating: 8/10

Monday, May 14, 2012

Sunday Shorts

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
published 2009

Synopsis from publisher:

Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has won the annual Hunger Games with fellow district tribute Peeta Mellark. But it was a victory won by defiance of the Capitol and their harsh rules. Katniss and Peeta should be happy. After all, they have just won for themselves and their families a life of safety and plenty. But there are rumors of rebellion among the subjects, and Katniss and Peeta, to their horror, are the faces of that rebellion. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge.
My thoughts:
I'm still not completely sold on the narrator that has been chosen to read this series - sometimes there is something in her voice that seems to play too young. But once again, I think the novel definitely holds up to a re-read. Once again I am realizing just how much depth of thought Collins has put into this story, and how many little things there are that make the story as a whole such a rewarding experience. I'm so glad I decided to revisit this series!

Finished: 4/21/12
MPAA rating: PG-13
My rating: 9/10

 Comeback Love by Peter Golden
published 4/3/12

Synopsis from publisher:

Over thirty-five years ago, Gordon Meyers, an aspiring writer with a low number in the draft lottery, packed his belongings and reluctantly drove away, leaving Glenna Rising, the sexy, sharp-witted med student he couldn’t imagine living without.
Now, decades later, Gordon is a former globetrotting consultant with a grown son, an ex-wife, and an overwhelming desire to see Glenna again. Stunned when Gordon walks into her Manhattan office, Glenna agrees to accompany him for a drink. As the two head out into the snow-swept city, they become caught up in the passions that drew them together before tearing them apart. And as the evening unfolds, Gordon finally reveals the true reason for his return.

My thoughts:
This was a pleasant, quick read - Gordon and Glenna were interesting characters, and I particularly enjoyed the sections set in their past, as I found the history of that era to be quite interesting. Parts of the plot were somewhat predictable, but not in a way that hindered my enjoyment of the novel. I did at times wonder exactly WHY this couple seemed so in love with each other, but I think that about people I know in real life, so it certainly wasn't a dealbreaker. I thought it was a good book - if it crosses your path, definitely give it a shot.

Finished: 5/6/12
Source: review copy from Netgalley
MPAA rating: R for language and adult situations
My rating: 7/10

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
published 2010

Synopsis from publisher:

Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has survived the Hunger Games twice. But now that she's made it out of the bloody arena alive, she's still not safe. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge. Who do they think should pay for the unrest? Katniss. And what's worse, President Snow has made it clear that no one else is safe either. Not Katniss's family, not her friends, not the people of District 12.
My thoughts:
This series is not perfect. Are there places where the narrative could use some tweaking? Absolutely. Are there times when Katniss' whining gets annoying? Yep. Does Peeta seem too perfect? Sure. Does it contain scenes of extreme and sometimes graphic violence? It does.  But I still recommend this series without reservation to anyone I can convince to give it a shot. Because these are the kinds of books I want my kids to be reading. Books that ask hard questions, and don't give passes or spell out answers to make sure kids "get it". Books that show the good AND the bad of human nature, and the consequences of both. Books that entertain, and provoke. Books that engage the imagination and the heart. I love this series, and I'm so glad I spent time with Katniss and Peeta, Gale and Haymitch again.
Finished: 5/9/12
MPAA rating: PG-13 for violence and adult situations
My rating: 10/10