Sunday, December 29, 2013

Sunday Shorts

The Ordinary Princess by M.M. Kaye
published 1980
112 pages

Synopsis from publisher -

Along with Wit, Charm, Health, and Courage, Princess Amy of Phantasmorania receives a special fairy christening gift: Ordinariness. Unlike her six beautiful sisters, she has brown hair and freckles, and would rather have adventures than play the harp, embroider tapestries . . . or become a Queen. When her royal parents try to marry her off, Amy runs away and, because she's so ordinary, easily becomes the fourteenth assistant kitchen maid at a neighboring palace. And there . . . much to everyone's surprise . . . she meets a prince just as ordinary (and special) as she is!

My thoughts -

This is a delightful middle-grade novel by the author of one of my favorite books, The Far Pavilions. In the author's forward, she writes, " was only after I had read at least twenty of the stories that I noticed something that had never struck me before - I supposed because I had always taken it for granted. All the princesses...were blond, blue-eyed, and beautiful....This struck me as most unfair, and suddenly I began to wonder just how many handsome princes would have asked a king for the hand of his daughter if that daughter had happened to be gawky, snub-nosed, and freckled, with shortish, mouse-colored hair. None, I suspected."  The Ordinary Princess is Kaye's answer to that question, and it's wonderful. Read it with your child, and rejoice in the wonderful-ness of being ordinary.

Finished - 12/13/13
Source - my shelves
MPAA rating - this is about as G as it gets
My rating - 8/10

The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a 13-year-old Boy with Autism by Naoki Hugashida (translated by KA Yoshida and David Mitchell)
published in Japan in 2007
135 pages

Synopsis from publisher -

You’ve never read a book like The Reason I Jump. Written by Naoki Higashida, a very smart, very self-aware, and very charming thirteen-year-old boy with autism, it is a one-of-a-kind memoir that demonstrates how an autistic mind thinks, feels, perceives, and responds in ways few of us can imagine. Parents and family members who never thought they could get inside the head of their autistic loved one at last have a way to break through to the curious, subtle, and complex life within.

Using an alphabet grid to painstakingly construct words, sentences, and thoughts that he is unable to speak out loud, Naoki answers even the most delicate questions that people want to know. Questions such as: “Why do people with autism talk so loudly and weirdly?” “Why do you line up your toy cars and blocks?” “Why don’t you make eye contact when you’re talking?” and “What’s the reason you jump?” (Naoki’s answer: “When I’m jumping, it’s as if my feelings are going upward to the sky.”) With disarming honesty and a generous heart, Naoki shares his unique point of view on not only autism but life itself. His insights — into the mystery of words, the wonders of laughter, and the elusiveness of memory — are so startling, so strange, and so powerful that you will never look at the world the same way again.

My thoughts -

Hmmm. The idea of this book is quite interesting - I just question how much "freedom" the translators took in their translation. Some of the wording seemed odd for a young boy from Japan. It is certainly brave of the young author to write these words, and it is a unique perspective on the mind of autism.

Finished - 12/14/13
Source - South side library
MPAA rating - G
My rating - 6/10

A Kiss At Midnight by Eloisa James
published 2010
372 pages

Synopsis from publisher -

Forced by her stepmother to attend a ball, Kate meets a prince . . . and decides hes anything but charming. A clash of wits and wills ensues, but they both know their irresistible attraction will lead nowhere. For Gabriel is promised to another woman; a princess whose hand in marriage will fulfill his ruthless ambitions.

Gabriel likes his fiance; which is a welcome turn of events, but he doesn't love her. Obviously, he should be wooing his bride-to-be, not the witty, impoverished beauty who refuses to fawn over him.

Godmothers and glass slippers notwithstanding, this is one fairy tale in which destiny conspires to destroy any chance that Kate and Gabriel might have a happily ever after.

Unless a prince throws away everything that makes him noble . . .

Unless a dowry of an unruly heart trumps a fortune . . .

Unless one kiss at the stroke of midnight changes everything.

My thoughts - 

I'm honestly not sure how this ended up on my shelf - it is really not my typical genre. I have to say, though, it was pretty darn entertaining. Obviously nothing was a major surprise, but the banter was fun and the story a unique twist on the Cinderella tale. If you are looking for a quick, fun read you could certainly do worse.

Finished - 12/17/13
Source - my shelves
MPAA rating - R, kids. It's a bodice-ripper.
My rating - 7/10

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Book Thoughts - Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
published 7/10/12
464 pages

Synopsis from publisher -

Four decades of peace have done little to ease the mistrust between humans and dragons in the kingdom of Goredd. Folding themselves into human shape, dragons attend court as ambassadors, and lend their rational, mathematical minds to universities as scholars and teachers. As the treaty's anniversary draws near, however, tensions are high.

Seraphina Dombegh has reason to fear both sides. An unusually gifted musician, she joins the court just as a member of the royal family is murdered — in suspiciously draconian fashion. Seraphina is drawn into the investigation, partnering with the captain of the Queen's Guard, the dangerously perceptive Prince Lucian Kiggs. While they begin to uncover hints of a sinister plot to destroy the peace, Seraphina struggles to protect her own secret, the secret behind her musical gift, one so terrible that its discovery could mean her very life.

My thoughts -

I've seen this novel on several "Best Of" lists, so when I saw it on my library shelf I had to grab it. Turns out Seraphina deserves all the accolades it has received - this is one fantastic book.

Hartman creates a world for Seraphina that is complex and satisfying, with dragons and humans that clearly have years and years of history behind their tumultuous relationships. I appreciate that while Hartman gives her dragons plenty of personality, they are NOT just humans with scales. They are very, very different beings, and this creates tension on a bunch of different levels.

While Seraphina does find a love interest, this is not a "young girl falls in love" story - this is a story about a girl learning how to accept herself, and figuring out her place in the world, and solving a complicated mystery - oh, and also, she meets this guy. I found it incredibly refreshing to read a YA novel with a female protagonist that did NOT have the love story as the central theme of the book.

The aspect of the novel I appreciate the most is how well it works on multiple levels. Seraphina can easily be read as a fun, intriguing mystery with dragons - as a piece of entertainment, it's fantastic. But Hartman infuses the novel with so many layers - interesting discussions can be had about race, about people with differing abilities, about body image and self-acceptance. Additionally, Hartman is a great writer - she made me laugh, she wrote some incredibly beautiful passages, she kept me riveted from start to finish.

I absolutely loved this novel, and I can't wait to read more in this world. I highly recommend this, both for young adult readers and for those who just love a good fantasy novel. I think this will be a favorite for many years to come.

Finished - 12/12/13
Source - South side library
MPAA rating - PG-13 for violence
My rating - 9/10

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The State of the Stacks - It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

You probably won't be surprised by this, but I LOVE Christmas books. Last year, I posted about the books I enjoy reading for myself - this year, I am posting about books I have collected for my kids that are also fun for ME to read.

Little Tree by e.e.cummings and Chris Raschka
published 2006

Synopsis from publisher -

" Little tree/ little silent Christmas tree/ you are so little/ you are more like a flower/ who found you in the green forest/ and were you very sorry to come away? " So begins e. e. cummings` beloved tribute to the tiny evergreen tree, taken away from the cold forest to be decorated and adored by two children in their home at Christmas. Simply and sensitively told from the innocence of a child`s eyes, e. e. cummings` little tree comes to life as the children bestow upon it their heart-felt promises of comfort and love.

My thoughts -

This sweet board book is one of the first Christmas books I read to my kids, and it is such a favorite that we leave it out all year long. It's illustrations are very geometric in design, and contain lots of little surprises to keep young readers engaged. This is a great read-aloud story for young ones, but has enough depth to engage older readers as well. I will probably have to get a new copy soon - we've almost read it to pieces!

Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus by Frances P. Church and Joel Spector
text originally published in 1897; this edition 2001

Synopsis from publisher -

In 1897, a young girl wrote to The New York Sun asking whether Santa Claus truly existed. The paper's response, written by reporter Francis P. Church, has become a beloved holiday literary tradition. An original approach to a children's classic, this captivating book creatively reinterprets that heartwarming letter about the truth behind Santa Claus and Christmas. It is accompanied by charming Victorian artwork. Joel Spector is an artist and illustrator known for his elegant pastel images. His work appears regularly in magazines and newspapers including Business Week, Newsweek, Good Housekeeping, and The  New York Times.

My thoughts -

This classic is probably a bit old for my kids yet - the text, while lovely, is still a little dry for their taste. They can, however, appreciate the beautiful illustrations, and it's fun to watch them sit and turn the pages, completely entranced by the artist's evocation of the Victorian era.

A Snowman Named Just Bob by Mark Kimball Moulton and Karen Hillard Crouch
published 2003

Synopsis from publisher -

Sometimes life presents us with unexpected magical moments. So it is in this tale of a snowman named just Bob: when a young child builds a snowman, he comes to life just long enough to impart a few thoughts about the importance of building and holding friendships dear. Illustrated with warmth and whimsy, this book is a classic story the whole family can share.

My thoughts -

This book has wonderful illustrations as well as a delightful story about a young boy and his snowman. Bob is the kind of snowman I always wished I could build, and he introduces kids to the magic of winter and friendship. It's a book for kids that I don't mind reading over and over again.

The Christmas Story by the Metropolitan Museum of Art
published 2009

Synopsis from publisher -

The timeless story of Christmas is beautifully retold through paintings by some of the worlds greatest artists. Borrowing from The Metropolitan Museum of Arts extensive and rich collection, The Christmas Story depicts the Nativity through visual narration with the aid of paintings by, among others, Petrus Christus, Gerard David, and Hans Memling. Gold accents on the book jacket and interior pages make for a glorious and lush book.

The artworks, sensitively coupled with excerpts from the King James Version of the Bible, create a book that will be treasured by the entire family for years to come.

My thoughts - 

What more is there to say? The King James Bible mixed with great works of art from the Met make this a true piece of art - again, my kids are too young to truly grasp it's merit, but it will be a book they will grow into through the years.

Christmas in America edited by David Cohen
published 1988

Synopsis from publisher -

A photographic panorama of our nation during the holiday season. From Thanksgiving to Epiphany, 100 of the country's top magazine and newspaper photographers scattered across the nation to document how we prepare for, celebrate, survive and clean up after Christmas. 175 photos.

My thoughts -

This is a fantastic collection, ranging from humorous to poignant. It's a book to page through, not necessarily to read from cover to cover, but each page has a treasure to discover. While not specifically designed for kids, mine absolutely love it.

The Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore and Robert Sabuda
published 2004

Synopsis -

It's the classic Christmas story paired with incredible paper popups by artist Robert Sabuda. Breathtaking.

My thoughts -

We have 4 holiday books by Sabuda, and each is absolutely gorgeous. These are, clearly, not great for younger kids - mine still have to be reminded to be gentle each time they look. But oh, the wide-eyed wonder these books elicit in children.

These are just a few of the (ever-growing) stacks of holiday books that have found a spot on our shelves. What are your favorite holiday books to share with the youngsters?

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Kid Konnection - Fancy Nancy by Jane O'Connor

Kid Konnection is a weekly feature hosted by Booking Mama, featuring all things kid's books. Since I spend a good deal of time each week reading kids books, I thought it would be fun to join in!

Fancy Nancy by Jane O'Connor
published 2005
32 pages

Synopsis from publisher -

Meet Nancy, who believes that more is ALWAYS better when it comes to being fancy. From the top of her tiara down to her sparkly studded shoes, Nancy is determined to teach her family a thing or two about being fancy.

How Nancy transforms her parents and little sister for one enchanted evening makes for a story that is funny and warm — with or without the frills.

My thoughts -

I have to admit to being skeptical about this series when I first saw it- considering my daughter's current love of ALL things princess, I saw the cover and assumed we were in for more of the mindless Barbie/Disney Princess/ballerina/etc. type of fluffy story with no real substance.

BUT I was very wrong - Fancy Nancy is very pink, and she is very sparkly, but she is definitely not mindless. Jane O'Connor obviously loves words, and she decorates her books with great ones. Nancy uses words like improvise, and understated, and tells the reader, "Why say hello when you could say bonjour!" My kids love learning new words, and Nancy is such a fun way to introduce great ones into their vocabulary. 

This is a great series - both of my kids love these books, which just shows they are not only for little girls. They are fun for kids AND adults, which make them real winners in my book!

What books can you recommend to introduce new words into my kids' vocabularies? 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Book Thoughts - Mrs. Poe by Lynn Cullen

Mrs. Poe by Lynn Cullen
published 10/1/13
336 pages

Synopsis from publisher -

It is 1845, and Frances Osgood is desperately trying to make a living as a writer in New York; not an easy task for a woman--especially one with two children and a philandering portrait painter as her husband. As Frances tries to sell her work, she finds that editors are only interested in writing similar to that of the new renegade literary sensation Edgar Allan Poe, whose poem, "The Raven" has struck a public nerve.

She meets the handsome and mysterious Poe at a literary party, and the two have an immediate connection. Poe wants Frances to meet with his wife since she claims to be an admirer of her poems, and Frances is curious to see the woman whom Edgar married.

As Frances spends more and more time with the intriguing couple, her intense attraction for Edgar brings her into dangerous territory. And Mrs. Poe, who acts like an innocent child, is actually more manipulative and threatening than she appears. As Frances and Edgar's passionate affair escalates, Frances must decide whether she can walk away before it's too late...

My thoughts -

This book was somewhat frustrating for me. I thought the premise was quite interesting, and since I enjoy Poe's work very much, I was excited to gain a bit more insight into his life. His relationship with his much younger wife has always been a bit of a mystery, and I have to admit a fascination with the mind behind the stories.

I understand this is a work of fiction, based on a supposition at best, but I had a very hard time believing Cullen's vision of Poe. Honestly, I had a hard time believing in either of the main characters - I didn't ever feel like I truly understood the motivation behind the increasingly dangerous choices they were making. Their relationship didn't really make sense, and Cullen often had her characters using what felt like 21st century opinions to justify the actions of Poe and Frances.

The character that felt the most true to me was Virginia Poe, who was clearly supposed to be crazy. Her desperation and fear seemed a logical reaction to the situations around her, and she was the one I had the most sympathy for. Poe and Frances came to seem somewhat petulant, and I had a hard time rooting for their relationship.

Despite this, I did find myself continuing on with the story. I think Cullen is actually a good writer, who just didn't quite find the best subject for her work. Her descriptions of person and place were evocative, and I enjoyed the actual reading of the novel.

While it wasn't what I had hoped it would be, Mrs. Poe did keep me interested enough to finish the novel. I would be interested to read more work by the author, because I think she has potential greater than what was realized in this work.

Finished - 11/29/13
Source - review copy from publisher via Netgalley - thank you!
MPAA rating - PG-13 for some adult themes
My rating - 6/10

Monday, December 9, 2013

The State of the Stacks - Anticipation.....

I've seen a lot of bloggers/booksellers/other book related outlets start listing the books they are most anticipating for 2014, and I started thinking about what I was looking foward to. I realized that the books I am MOST excited about are "next-in-the-series" novels that are set to be published in the coming few months - series that I've LOVED and can't wait to read more.

Hollow City: The Second Novel of Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs - available 1/14/14

I read Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children at the beginning of the year and was completely captivated by a novel that was truly unlike anything I'd ever read before. In addition to the wonderful use of some very creepy pictures, I thought the story was compelling and original, and I'm VERY excited to read the next chapter in the adventures of Jacob and his new friends.

It has another great book trailer - check it out....

Cress: Book 3 of the Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer - available 2/4/14

I've read the first (Cinder) and second (Scarlet) books in the unique series of fairytale retellings, and think this third has the potential to be the best. It's the tale of Rapunzel, which is one of my favorites, and I'm already fascinated by Cress from just the brief glimpses we've seen of her in the first two books. This is a really great series, and I'm excited to read the next installment.

The One by Kiera Cass - available 5/6/14

I've read and enjoyed both The Selection and The Elite, and feel like this series is only getting better with each book. I love the combination of royalty meets reality tv, and America is a truly delightful heroine. I think I can honestly say I don't care WHO she picks, I just can't wait to find out!

And, of course, the book I'm most excited for is The City of Mirrors by Justin Cronin, rumored to be dropping in 2014. Please, please, please let it come!! The Passage and The Twelve are absolutely fantastic, and I can't wait to see what happens - Cronin has promised that all the answers will be revealed. There's no synopsis, no cover art, no release date - but I'm sure hoping 2014 is the year!

Alright, your turn - what are you eagerly anticipating in 2014? My bookshelves need to be filled!!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Kid Konnection - Can You Find It Inside?

Kid Konnection is a weekly feature hosted by Booking Mama, featuring all things kid's books. Since I spend a good deal of time each week reading kids books, I thought it would be fun to join in!

Can You Find It Inside? Search and Discover for Young Art Lovers by Jessica Schulte
published 2005
32 pages

Synopsis -

Whether it's a restaurant by Edward Hopper, a breakfast table by Fairfield Porter, or a game of keep-away by Seymour Joseph Guy, in this book each of the thirteen paintings, reproduced in full color, invites young children to explore works of art depicting a variety of indoor scenes.

Written in simple rhyme with major works form The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, this book asks children to take a close, closer and closest look at classic fine art at an early age.

My thoughts -

My kids have both started to enjoy the seek-and-find type books, so when I saw this one at the library we were all excited. I love that the author uses actual reproductions from the Metropolitan Museum  - I am fascinated by art as an adult, but didn't have much experience with it as a kid, so I'm hoping to give my children chances to enjoy it from an early age.

The rhymes are catchy, and the objects to find are not too challenging, which has made this a book my kids can look at independently. It's been fun as a mom to walk into a room and see them "reading" this one by themselves - finding more and more things in each picture to discover.

What are some more seek-and-find books I should look for? I've seen the I Spy series, and of course Where's Waldo, but I'd love more titles to look for at the library....

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Book Thoughts - Children of God by Mary Doria Russell

Children of God by Mary Doria Russell
published 1999
464 pages

Synopsis from publisher -

The only member of the original mission to the planet Rakhat to return to Earth, Father Emilio Sandoz has barely begun to recover from his ordeal when the Society of Jesus calls upon him for help in preparing for another mission to Alpha Centauri. Despite his objections and fear, he cannot escape his past or the future.

Old friends, new discoveries and difficult questions await Emilio as he struggles for inner peace and understanding in a moral universe whose boundaries now extend beyond the solar system and whose future lies with children born in a faraway place.

My thoughts -

I think it's safe to say that Mary Doria Russell doesn't write "easy" books. There are no easy scenes, no easy characters, no easy answers. Russell writes about struggle - the struggle to find a place; the struggle to find hope from despair; the struggle of faith amidst betrayal. I have not found her novels easy to read, but I have found them to be highly rewarding, and utterly unforgettable.

While Emilio Sandoz would ostensibly be the hero of the novel - it is, after all, his story readers of The Sparrow  want more of - he is not necessarily the MAIN character. Russell gives equal time to the others on Sandoz' mission, to Kitheri and Supaari on Rakhat, and on Sofia, the other survivor of the first mission. All Russell's characters- human and alien alike - come to feel like friends, flaws and all, as the reader follows them on their journey to find the answers they seek.

Russell's background as a biological anthropologist is a backbone of this novel - she is clearly interested in the the impact of one society on another, and the devastating consequences that can occur when societies collide. Her worldbuilding is intricate and complex, and the customs and political machinations within each society are an integral part of the story. This complexity was actually my only minor quibble with the novel - sometimes I felt like I was getting bogged down in detail, when all I really wanted to know was what the characters were going to do next.

I started reading this novel wanting to know what happened next to Emilio Sandoz after the devastating events of The Sparrow. I got those answers, but not necessarily in the way I expected them. Russell's second novel was thought-provoking and surprising, but certainly not disappointing. I think, for the right reader, this will be a reading experience you will never forget.

Finished - 11/28/13
Source - my shelves
MPAA rating - R for violence, adult situations
My rating - 8/10

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Sunday Shorts

The Vampire Diaries: The Fury by L.J. Smith
published 1992
308 pages

Synopsis from publisher -
Love can kill

Elena: with Damon at her side, and wild with her craving for blood, the changed Elena struggles to control her desires.

Damon: his hunger for the golden girl wars with his hunger for revenge against Stefan.

Stefan: tormented after losing Elena, he will do anything to get her back. Even if it means becoming what he once despised. . . .

Getting what they want may come at a deadly cost.

My thoughts -

Well, it certainly doesn't get LESS cheesy, but it was a satisfying wrap-up to this guilty pleasure series. I did enjoy the campy drama, and can't help but think Elena is a far better role model for teen girls than Bella Swan. I don't know that I am interested enough to pursue the next trilogy in this series, but I certainly had fun with this one.

Finished - 10/7/13
Source - South side library
MPAA Rating - R for violence and adult themes
My rating - 7/10

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Kid Konnection - It's Raining, It's Pouring by Peter, Paul, and Mary

Kid Konnection is a weekly feature hosted by Booking Mama, featuring all things kid's books. Since I spend a good deal of time each week reading kids books, I thought it would be fun to join in!

It's Raining, It's Pouring

text - public domain
music - Peter, Paul, and Mary
illustrations - Christine Davenier
published 2012

Synopsis -
One of the most beloved children's songs gets a rollicking picture book treatment by the beloved trio Peter, Paul & Mary. Featuring witty and whimsical art by the renowned illustrator Christine Davenier, this stunning new book offers plenty of fun, whether it's raining or not.

Complete with a CD featuring Peter, Paul & Mary's marvelous version of the title song, along with Peter Yarrow singing "Believe Town" and Noel Paul Stookey performing "Glory of Love" this beautiful picture book is perfect for rainy days, bedtime, or any time.

My thoughts -

David and Sophia really enjoy singing - especially singing along with songs they know - so when I found this lovely book with the classic children's song that included a CD of Peter, Paul, and Mary performing, I knew they would love it. They were both so excited the first time we listened, and it's been a daily request since we checked it out from the library.

The illustrations are fantastic, and the book itself tells a story greater than just the song - Grandpa bumps his head and the grandkids have to come inside during a rainstorm. Most of the kids play hide-and-seek, except for one little one that chooses to read with Grandpa, instead. By the end of the game (and the end of the book), all the kids can be found with Grandpa. It's good to read aloud, and great to listen along with the CD. This one is a delight!

Do you have any suggestions of book-and-CD combos? I think it's something we'll have to start doing more frequently!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Book Thoughts - If I Stay by Gayle Forman

If I Stay by Gayle Forman
published 2009
320 pages

Synopsis from publisher -

In the blink of an eye everything changes. Seventeen-year-old Mia has no memory of the accident; she can only recall what happened afterwards, watching her own damaged body being taken from the wreck. Little by little she struggles to put together the pieces — to figure out what she has lost, what she has left, and the very difficult choice she must make. Heartwrenchingly beautiful, Mia's story will stay with you for a long, long time.

My thoughts -

I find myself a bit conflicted about this novel. Forman certainly gives readers an affecting novel, full of hard decisions and sad goodbyes. Mia is an engaging and sympathetic heroine, surrounded by friends and family who all act perfectly appropriately given the extreme situation. The writing was quite good, and I liked Forman's use of flashbacks to tell Mia's story.

I think, for me, it just felt a little too perfect - Mia's parents are perfectly understanding about everything in her life. Her boyfriend is perfectly accepting of her, even though they are worlds apart. Her friends are perfectly funny. Her little brother is perfectly precocious. It seemed a little bit like Foreman set up this world on purpose, so the reader had no choice but to feel sorry for Mia - to understand completely why she would NOT want to stay.

I think I was looking for a little more conflict - I little more shading - to make Mia's pre-accident world feel a little bit more realistic. I think it would have made her difficult decision feel a little more true. I certainly didn't NOT like the novel - it just felt a bit simplistic, and I would have appreciated more depth.

I know this novel is almost generally beloved in the blogging world, and I do understand why. It's a lovely story of unconditional love and acceptance. It raises some interesting questions, and keeps the reader guessing until the last page. With just a BIT more nuance, I would have enjoyed it very much.

Finished - 11/10/13
Source - South side library
MPAA Rating - PG-13 for language and adult situations
My rating - 7/10

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Kid Konnection - There Was an Old Simms Taback

Kid Konnection is a weekly feature hosted by Booking Mama, featuring all things kid's books. Since I spend a good deal of time each week reading kids books, I thought it would be fun to join in!

There Was an Old Lady who Swallowed a Fly by Simms Taback
published 1997
32 pages

Synopsis -

There was an old lady who swallowed a fly.......

everyone knows this one, right???

My thoughts -

This is, of course, a classic, and it was a lot of fun to share it with my kids for the first time. Of course the silly rhyme made them giggle - Sophia told me she didn't want the lady to die, so in our version it was, "There was an old lady who swallowed a fly.....perhaps she'll sleep."  Silly girl.

What made this book particularly fun was the cutouts on each page - strategically placed over the old lady's stomach so the kids could recount what she had swallowed on each page. The author also had a peanut gallery of animals wisecracking their way through the story - comments like, "She left us high and dry", and "Why, oh why??" kept me chuckling, which made it a great pick for reading over and over again.

This is a great version of a classic - one both kids AND their parents can enjoy!

My kids really enjoy rhymes - books that rhyme, songs that rhyme, rhyming chants, etc. What are some rhyming stories or books we should check out next?

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Book Thoughts - The Elite by Kiera Cass

The Elite by Kiera Cass
published 4/23/13
323 pages

Synopsis from publisher -

Thirty-five girls came to the palace to compete in the Selection. All but six have been sent home. And only one will get to marry Prince Maxon and be crowned princess of Illea.

America still isn’t sure where her heart lies. When she’s with Maxon, she’s swept up in their new and breathless romance, and can’t dream of being with anyone else. But whenever she sees Aspen standing guard around the palace, and is overcome with memories of the life they planned to share. With the group narrowed down to the Elite, the other girls are even more determined to win Maxon over—and time is running out for America to decide.

Just when America is sure she’s made her choice, a devastating loss makes her question everything again. And while she’s struggling to imagine her future, the violent rebels that are determined to overthrow the monarchy are growing stronger and their plans could destroy her chance at any kind of happy ending.

My thoughts -

I am very impressed with this YA series. When I picked up the first book, I expected fun and froth escapism, and it was all there. But underneath the princess-y exterior, I noticed Cass begin to explore deeper issues - race and class, wealth and poverty, love and infatuation.

I was happy to note that she continued her exploration of these issues in the second novel in the series. America has a lot of complicated decisions to make, and Cass invites her readers to really think about the consequences of each choice, both good and bad. Nothing is as easy or as glittering as it seems, and America's struggles felt honest and true.

It is also, however, a lot of good fun. There is just enough suspense, just enough romance - I flew through the novel, and can't wait for the final installment. This is quickly becoming one of my favorite YA series, and I wouldn't be surprised if it found it's way into my permanent collection. Recommended.

Finished - 11/5/13
Source - South side library
MPAA rating - PG-13 for some violence and adult situations
My rating - 8/10

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Kid Konnection - From Head to Toe by Eric Carle

Kid Konnection is a weekly feature hosted by Booking Mama, featuring all things kid's books. Since I spend a good deal of time each week reading kids books, I thought it would be fun to join in!

From Head to Toe by Eric Carle
published 1999
28 pages

Synopsis from publisher -

What does an elephant do? It stomps its foot. Can you? From the creator of such beloved classics as The Grouchy Ladybug and The Mixed-Up Chameleon comes this interactive story that invites kids to imitate animal movements. Watching giraffes bend their necks or monkeys wave their arms is fun, but nothing could be better than joining in. From their heads down to their toes, kids will be wriggling, jiggling, and giggling as they try to keep up with these animals!Alligators wiggle, elephants stop, gorillas thump, and giraffes bend. Can you do it?

My thoughts -

I am doing my best to raise kids who love to read, and one of the ways I'm trying to keep them excited about reading is our weekly trip to the library. Each week we participate in Story Time, and then I let them pick out books. Each kid gets to pick out their own books - whatever catches their eye, no input or suggestions from mom. They love having the freedom to browse through the stacks and grab the books that THEY want to read.

I think this might be the first Eric Carle book I've read with the kids - I'm not sure how that happened! David picked this out last week, and it's been a lot of fun to read. Both kids enjoy the interactive aspect of the book, and I've even found them "reading" this one to themselves when I'm not around. Of course, Eric Carle's illustrations are wonderful, and really hold their imaginations. I think this would be a great book to have in your household library - who knows, it might wind up in ours!

What is YOUR favorite Eric Carle book - apparently I need to check out more! Is there another author like Eric Carle that I shouldn't miss?

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Book Thoughts- The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
published 2005
909 pages

Synopsis from publisher -

To you, perceptive reader, I bequeath my history....Late one night, exploring her father's library, a young woman finds an ancient book and a cache of yellowing letters. The letters are all addressed to "My dear and unfortunate successor", and they plunge her into a world she never dreamed of-a labyrinth where the secrets of her father's past and her mother's mysterious fate connect to an inconceivable evil hidden in the depths of history. The letters provide links to one of the darkest powers that humanity has ever known — and to a centuries-long quest to find the source of that darkness and wipe it out. It is a quest for the truth about Vlad the Impaler, the medieval ruler whose barbarous reign formed the basis of the legend of Dracula.

Generations of historians have risked their reputations, their sanity, and even their lives to learn the truth about Vlad the Impaler and Dracula. Now one young woman must decide whether to take up this quest herself — to follow her father in a hunt that nearly brought him to ruin years ago, when he was a vibrant young scholar and her mother was still alive. What does the legend of Vlad the Impaler have to do with the modern world? Is it possible that the Dracula of myth truly existed — and that he has lived on, century after century, pursuing his own unknowable ends?

The answers to these questions cross time and borders, as first the father and then the daughter search for clues, from dusty Ivy League libraries to Istanbul, Budapest, and the depths of Eastern Europe. In city after city, in monasteries and archives, in letters and in secret conversations, the horrible truth emerges about Vlad the Impaler's dark reign — and about a time-defying pact that may have kept his awful work alive down through the ages. Parsing obscure signs and hidden texts, reading codes worked into the fabric of medieval monastic traditions — and evading the unknown adversaries who will go to any lengths to conceal and protect Vlad's ancient powers — one woman comes ever closer to the secret of her own past and a confrontation with the very definition of evil.

My thoughts -

You see how the synopsis for this novel seems to go on and on? That's mostly the problem with the whole book. I like the idea for the story - I felt sympathetic toward the main characters - I was creeped out in appropriate places. It's not a bad book - it's actually quite good - there is just SOOOOO MUCH of it.

Much of the novel is presented in letter form, either from one character to another or from one character to a separate personage. I don't mind this literary convention most of the time, but it seemed like the author in this case used it to give readers and info dump - and then it just happened over and over again. Just when the story seemed to be picking up momentum, I'd turn the page and it would be another letter. It was hard to ever feel a real connection with any one character because the letters kept intruding on the storyline.

The other major problem I had with the novel was that it was often difficult to distinguish exactly whose story we were reading at the beginning of each chapter. There were no chapter headings of any kind, and with a story this complicated it often took me several paragraphs in before I realized in which time period we were heading.

It was a shame I had these struggles with the novel, because I found it to be quite engaging in many places. Despite the fact that I found it to be occasionally frustrating, I was intrigued enough to keep reading. The ending was quite exciting, although I would have loved more detail. (Ironic, right?)

Ultimately, the excessive length kept me from fulling enjoying the novel. It was an interesting reading experience, but probably not one I would easily recommend.

Finished - 10/31/13
Source - my shelves
MPAA rating - R for adult themes and violence
My rating - 6//10

Sunday, November 3, 2013

R.I.P wrap-up - Success!

My first R.I.P. challenge has come and gone, and while I didn't quite read ALL the books I'd hoped I could. I still think I had a successful challenge.

I read and reviewed The Road by Cormac McCarthy - definitely my favorite of all the reading I did for this challenge.

I also read a bunch of "creepy" books with my kids - they liked this one so much they've checked it out of the library for 3 weeks straight!

I also listened to The Vampire Diaries: The Fury by L.J. Smith, and participated in the Estella Society Read-a-long of The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. Thoughts on those books will be coming soon.

My goal for this challenge was to read four books, and I think I'm going to say I succeeded. It was a lot of fun, and I will definitely be participating again next year!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Book Thoughts - Fiesta of Smoke by Suzan Still

Fiesta of Smoke by Suzan Still
published 3/5/13
524 pages

Synopsis from publisher -

Against a backdrop of rebellion and intrigue, love between Javier CarteƱa, commander of insurgent Mexican forces, and Calypso Searcy, an American novelist at the pinnacle of her career, sizzles with passion across a broad sweep of history. Encompassing time from the Conquest of the 1500s to the present, the story races across space as well, from the forests of Chiapas to the city of Paris. There, an international investigative reporter named Hill picks up the swiftly vanishing trail of Calypso’s disappearance, and unwittingly becomes involved in one of the great dramas of the twentieth century and one of the great love stories of any age.

My thoughts -

Fiesta of Smoke is an ambitious novel, full of life and passion. From the very beginning, Suzan Still's love of Mexico and its people is evident, and at the conclusion of the novel her readers are left feeling the same deep respect and admiration for this land and its inhabitants.

Because the novel covers such a long period of time, there are definitely places that, at times, felt a little slower than others. Still wants her readers to understand the history behind the conflicts in Mexico, and sometimes relating that history did impede somewhat on the momentum of the novel. That said, I can say honestly that I became quite engrossed in the history of this country. I have not read very widely about this part of the world, and Still's novel makes me want to change that.

While the novel has three main characters, I felt that Javier was the heart and soul of her novel. The book just felt more alive when he was on the page. He was abrasive and abrupt, full of pride and anger, and completely captivating. It was interesting for me to realize that Calypso, who was a strong character in herself, was not the driving force of the novel for me. While I was certainly intrigued by the motivations behind her actions, it was Javier that truly compelled me to keep reading.

There were certainly some parts of the novel that felt a bit slow, but overall I was quite entertained throughout the whole (lengthy) book. I found it to be a fascinating look at a period and a conflict I knew very little about. I would definitely recommend this novel to readers interested in this area of the world, or who just want an engrossing and well-written work of fiction.

Finished - 10/28/31
Source - review copy from publisher via TLC Book Tours - thank you!
MPAA rating - R - this is a novel about war, and is not shy in its depictions of violence
My rating - 7/10

If you are interested in other thoughts about the novel, check out these stops on its book tour -

Monday, October 14th: Buried in Print
Tuesday, October 15th: …the bookworm …
Thursday, October 17th: It’s All About Books
Monday, October 21st: Suko’s Notebook
Tuesday, October 22nd: Read. Write. Repeat.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Book Thoughts - The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon
published 8/20/13
480 pages

Synopsis from publisher -

It is the year 2059. Several major world cities are under the control of a security force called Scion. Paige Mahoney works in the criminal underworld of Scion London, part of a secret cell known as the Seven Seals. The work she does is unusual: scouting for information by breaking into others minds. Paige is a dreamwalker, a rare kind of clairvoyant, and in this world, the voyants commit treason simply by breathing.

But when Paige is captured and arrested, she encounters a power more sinister even than Scion. The voyant prison is a separate city — Oxford, erased from the map two centuries ago and now controlled by a powerful, otherworldly race. These creatures, the Rephaim, value the voyants highly — as soldiers in their army.

Paige is assigned to a Rephaite keeper, Warden, who will be in charge of her care and training. He is her master. Her natural enemy. But if she wants to regain her freedom, Paige will have to learn something of his mind and his own mysterious motives.

My thoughts -

One of my favorite things in the reading life is finding a new series to sink my teeth into. I enjoy stand-alone novels, but immersing myself in the world of a series is like finding a new family to fall in love with. I seem to connect especially well with fantasy series, and I'm very excited about what Samantha Shannon has in store for us.

The Bone Season is the first in a projected seven-part series, and it certainly has enough intrigue and depth to fill seven novels. Shannon's world is complex and layered, with so much detail that at times it's hard to keep everything straight. There were moments where the volume of information seemed a bit overwhelming, and I would hope as Shannon continues to grow as an author that she will find ways to incorporate that more smoothly into the narrative.

In creating her heroine, however, the author makes not a single misstep. Paige is strong and feisty, prickly and aloof, vulnerable and desperate. She is young and makes a young person's mistakes, and watching her grow as the novels progress is going to be a pleasure. She has so much to learn and so much to overcome, and I can't wait to see how she will win her battles.

While not perfect, I found The Bone Season to be a compelling debut novel. I was thoroughly entertained from start to finish, and I am excited to read Shannon's next work. Recommended for fantasy lovers.

Finished - 10/1/13
Source - review copy from publisher via Netgalley - thank you!
MPAA rating - R for violence and language
My rating - 8/10

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Book Thoughts - Glamour in Glass by Mary Robinette Kowal

Glamour in Glass by Mary Robinette Kowal
published 1/31/13
336 pages

Synopsis from publisher -

Mary Robinette Kowal stunned readers with her charming first novel Shades of Milk and Honey, a loving tribute to the works of Jane Austen in a world where magic is an everyday occurrence. This magic comes in the form of glamour, which allows talented users to form practically any illusion they can imagine. Shades debuted to great acclaim and left readers eagerly awaiting its sequel. Glamour in Glass follows the lives of beloved main characters Jane and Vincent, with a much deeper vein of drama and intrigue.

In the tumultuous months after Napoleon abdicates his throne, Jane and Vincent go to Belgium for their honeymoon. While there, the deposed emperor escapes his exile in Elba, throwing the continent into turmoil. With no easy way back to England, Jane and Vincent's concerns turn from enjoying their honeymoon…to escaping it.

Left with no outward salvation, Jane must persevere over her trying personal circumstances and use her glamour to rescue her husband from prison…and hopefully prevent her newly built marriage from getting stranded on the shoals of another country's war.

My thoughts -

This certainly felt like a more mature book. Kowal gives readers a glimpse into a conversation that sparked the core of this novel, and I think in many ways this book shows how she is settling into and becoming comfortable with the world she has created.

While the first novel was very much lighthearted fun, this second book tackles some fairly serious issues, and doesn't give readers a completely rosy, fairy tale ending. I think Kowal gives readers a good deal more substance in this second novel, and while it took me longer to get into the meat of the tale, it also offered more satisfaction at its conclusion.

I think Jane and Vincent are a great literary couple, and their relationship feels authentic and believable. I am still enchanted with Kowal's use of glamour, and the interesting and sometimes perilous situations it can create.

I think this is a great series, and I hope it continues for many more novels to come.

Finished - 9/21/13
Source - South Side library
MPAA rating - PG-13 for violence and use of magic
My rating - 7/10

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Sunday Shorts

Deeply Odd by Dean Koontz
published 5/28/13
352 pages

Synopsis from publisher -

How do you make sure a crime that hasn’t happened yet, never does? That’s the critical question facing Odd Thomas, the young man with a unique ability to commune with restless spirits and help them find justice and peace. But this time, it’s the living who desperately need Odd on their side. Three helpless innocents will be brutally executed unless Odd can intervene in time. Who the potential victims are and where they can be found remain a mystery. The only thing Odd knows for sure is who the killer will be: the homicidal stranger who tried to shoot him dead in a small-town parking lot.

With the ghost of Alfred Hitchcock riding shotgun and a network of unlikely allies providing help along the way, Odd embarks on an interstate game of cat and mouse with his sinister quarry. He will soon learn that his adversary possesses abilities that may surpass his own and operates in service to infinitely more formidable foes, with murder a mere prelude to much deeper designs. Traveling across a landscape haunted by portents of impending catastrophe, Odd will do what he must and go where his path leads him, drawing ever closer to the dark heart of his long journey — and, perhaps, to the bright light beyond.

My thoughts -

It's so much fun to see the greater story developing - to start piecing together the place I think the author is ultimately going with this series. Once again, the actual mystery of the book - while certainly nail-biting - was not what I enjoyed most. Koontz creates such a delightful cast of characters, and I love watching them interact and trying to figure out what each player means in the grand scheme. This series is so much better than I expected it to be!

Finished - 9/11/13
Source - South side library
MPAA rating - R for scary violence
My rating - 8/10

The Selection by Kiera Cass
published 2012
352 pages

Synopsis from publisher -

For thirty-five girls, the Selection is the chance of a lifetime. The opportunity to escape the life laid out for them since birth. To be swept up in a world of glittering gowns and priceless jewels. To live in a palace and compete for the heart of gorgeous Prince Maxon.

But for America Singer, being Selected is a nightmare. It means turning her back on her secret love with Aspen, who is a caste below her. Leaving her home to enter a fierce competition for a crown she doesn't want. Living in a palace that is constantly threatened by violent rebel attacks.

Then America meets Prince Maxon. Gradually, she starts to question all the plans she's made for herself; and realizes that the life she's always dreamed of may not compare to a future she never imagined.

My thoughts -

Basically just imagine Prince Harry being the next Bachelor. That's pretty much the gist of this book, and while it sounds silly, I enjoyed it a lot. America is a fun and feisty heroine, and I'm enjoying her journey of discovery into worlds she hasn't known. I am definitely continuing with this series.

Finished - 9/18/13
Source - South Side library
MPAA rating - PG-13 for violence and some more sensitive situations
My rating - 8/10

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Book Thoughts - Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal

Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal
published 2010
304 pages

Synopsis from publisher -

Shades of Milk and Honey is an intimate portrait of Jane Ellsworth, a woman ahead of her time in a world where the manipulation of glamour is considered an essential skill for a lady of quality. But despite the prevalence of magic in everyday life, other aspects of Dorchester's society are not that different: Jane and her sister Melody's lives still revolve around vying for the attentions of eligible men.

Jane resists this fate, and rightly so: while her skill with glamour is remarkable, it is her sister who is fair of face, and therefore wins the lions share of the attention. At the ripe old age of twenty-eight, Jane has resigned herself to being invisible forever. But when her familys honor is threatened, she finds that she must push her skills to the limit in order to set things right--and, in the process, accidentally wanders into a love story of her own.

My thoughts -

Holy cow was this book fun. I'd seen several positive reviews, so I expected to enjoy it, but I found myself  tearing through this novel in 2 days. I thought the characters, the setting, and the ingenious use of magic were absolutely perfect.

 I've seen SOMAH referred to as "Jane Austen with magic", and while I don't think Kowal's work has quite the intensity or cultural insight as Austen, she certainly loves Austen's work, and that is evident throughout this charming book. Her heroine - Jane - could certainly hold her own with many of Austen's spirited creations, and the nods to her predecessor's ideas and wit are sprinkled throughout.

In adding magic, however, Kowal imbues her story with a fresh and engaging new element, and that was what truly drew me in. Her world is both familiar and enchantingly unique, and I loved learning about the ways Jane and others in her society use glamour to influence their lives. Kowal elevates magic to an art, and gives her reader many interesting discussions about the nature of art in people's lives.

The ONLY negative, for me, was a scene that seemed strangely rushed and chaotic toward the end of the novel. I'm still not sure exactly what happened, which is a bit frustrating in a novel that otherwise seemed perfectly paced. While it is a small quibble, I hope to see this remedied in future novels in the series.

I highly recommend this novel - it will appeal to many across a bunch of different reading genres. Shades of Milk and Honey is a fun and fresh take on the comedy of manners, and it's magic might even captivate you!

Finished - 9/14/13
Source - South side library
MPAA rating - PG-13 for some violence and adult situations
My rating - 9/10

Sunday, October 13, 2013

R.I.P. Challenge - Kids Edition!

Though I haven't been able to post much about it - whew! did this month get busy! - I have been participating in the annual R.I.P. Challenge, and reading some appropriately themed books for the season.

Without really making a conscious choice, I've also been finding some monster-themed books for my kids - so they've had a mini-R.I.P this month, too! They've been loving it, and we've been reading some really fun books.

 The Monster at the End of This Book by Jon Stone and Michael Smollin
copyright 1971

Synopsis from publisher -

Is there a monster at the end of this book? Lovable Grover believes so and he will try anything to stop readers from turning the pages to find him. This bestselling Sesame Street book of all time is an exciting and original tale that children will read again and again.

My thoughts -

This one is a classic, and it's been a treat to re-visit. My kids actually figured out right away that Grover was the only monster in this book, but it didn't seem to lessen their excitement as we reached the end.

The Book that Eats People by John Perry
copyright 2009

Synopsis from publisher -

Legend has it there exists a book that eats people.

This is that book!

Many readers have been unable to escape its perilous pages.

But this isn't that book.

Yes it is!

This is simply a story about that book.

Really. I mean, how could a book eat people?

So if you're just dying to know the history of this literary monster, all you have to do is turn the page...

Don't do it!

My thoughts -

This book has great illustrations - lots of different "looks" to the pages that keep my kids interested. They've asked me to read this one again and again, and never seem to get tired of The Book that Eats People snapping shut on it's victims.

Frank was a Monster who Wanted to Dance by Keith Graves
copyright 2006

Synopsis from publisher -

Frank was a monster who wanted to dance. So he put on his hat, and his shoes made in France...and opened a jar and put ants in his pants! So begins this monstrously funny, deliciously disgusting, horrifyingly hilarious story of a monster who follows his dream. Keith Graves' wacky illustrations and laugh-out-loud text will tickle the funny bone and leave readers clamoring for an encore.

My thoughts -

This is by far the grossest of the books - in one scene, Frank dances so hard his head pops open and his brains fall out - but it hasn't seemed to bother the kids at all. They just think it's hilarious. They love the rhyming story, and like to get up and do a little dancing right along with Frank.

Monsters Eat Whiny Children by Bruce Eric Kaplan
copyright 2010

Synopsis from publisher -

Dad has warned Henry and Eve: If you whine too much, monsters will eat you. Henry and Eve don’t listen, of course. The only problem is, when the monster comes, he can’t find the right recipe for whiny children; and neither can his monster friends! A whiny child salad doesn’t work because there’s paprika in the dressing. A whiny child cake won’t do because the flour spills all over the floor. And whiny child burgers are out of the question because the grill is too hard to light up. Arguments and hilarity ensue. And just when our persnickety monsters decide on the perfect dish…the worst thing of all happens….

My thoughts -

Anyone recognize the author's name? Producer for Six Feet Under, writer for Seinfeld - his sense of humor works perfectly for me, and I'm happy to laugh along with my kids on this one. Sometimes you have to read the book for Mom - this is definitely one of those cases!

What fun, spooky kids books are YOU enjoying this season??

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Book Thoughts - Beyond the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo

Beyond the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo
published 2/13/12
256 pages

Synopsis from publisher -

Annawadi is a makeshift settlement in the shadow of luxury hotels near the Mumbai airport, and as India starts to prosper, Annawadians are electric with hope. Abdul, a reflective and enterprising Muslim teenager, sees "a fortune beyond counting" in the recyclable garbage that richer people throw away. Asha, a woman of formidable wit and deep scars from a childhood in rural poverty, has identified an alternate route to the middle class: political corruption. With a little luck, her sensitive, beautiful daughter — Annawadi's "most-everything girl" — will soon become its first female college graduate. And even the poorest Annawadians, like Kalu, a fifteen-year-old scrap-metal thief, believe themselves inching closer to the good lives and good times they call "the full enjoy."

But then Abdul the garbage sorter is falsely accused in a shocking tragedy; terror and a global recession rock the city; and suppressed tensions over religion, caste, sex, power and economic envy turn brutal. As the tenderest individual hopes intersect with the greatest global truths, the true contours of a competitive age are revealed. And so, too, are the imaginations and courage of the people of Annawadi.

My thoughts -

In my continuing goal to read books that have won/were nominated for book awards, I picked up Beyond the Beautiful Forevers, which won both a National Book Award in 2013 and a PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Award. It really sounded like just the kind of nonfiction that I really enjoy, and while it certainly was a compelling read, it didn't quite blow me away.

Boo traces a period of 3 years in the slum of Annawadi, in which fortunes and lives rise and fall. Several different points of view are utilized, and the somewhat surprising breadth of quality of life is displayed. There were a few times I felt like I wasn't really sure how much time had elapsed between events - Boo states in her author's note that she reported for 3-4 years, but in the narrative it seems that more time passes. I just didn't quite feel like I had a central, grounding point to keep myself straight in the story.

There were many things that surprised me about this story, and I feel like I learned a lot about a way of life that is completely a totally unimaginable to me. I was astonished by the responsibility that the children would take upon themselves for the survival of their families. I think the one thing I didn't feel that I expected was a sense of hope - just based on the events of the book, I can't imagine how the people who live in a place like Annawadi can ever, under their own strength, make a new life for themselves, and that was a hard thing to ponder.

I certainly think this is an interesting and informative piece of writing, but it didn't quite strike me as favorably as it seems to have many other readers. If you are interested in India, or in the lives of people working to better their lives, you will most likely fall in love with this book.

Finished - 9/8/13
Source - South side library
MPAA rating - PG-13 for startling, eye-opening situations
My rating - 6/10

Sunday, October 6, 2013

No reading for me today!!

I will be too busy celebrating these two cuties turning THREE!!

Hope your day is as fun as ours is going to be.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Book Thoughts - Harvest by Jim Crace

Harvest by Jim Crace
published 2/12/13
208 pages

Synopsis from publisher -

A remote English village wakes on the morning after harvest, looking forward to enjoying a hard-earned day of rest and feasting. But two mysterious columns of smoke mar the sky, raising alarm and suspicion.

The first column of smoke comes from the edge of the village land, sent as a signal by newcomers to announce their presence as per regional custom. The second smoke column is even more troubling: it comes from a blaze set in Master Kent's stables. Walter Thirsk, a relative outsider in the village, casts his eye on three local boys and blames their careless tomfoolery. The rest of the villagers, though, close ranks against the strangers rather than accuse one of their own. Two men and a woman are apprehended; their heads are shaved to mark their criminality; and the men are thrown into the stocks for a week. Justice has been served. Or has it?

Meanwhile, another newcomer has been spotted in the village sporting the finer clothes and fashionable beard of a townsman. Mr. Quill, as the villagers name him, observes them closely and takes careful notes about their land, apparently at Master Kent's behest. It is his presence more than any other that will threaten the village's entire way of life.

My thoughts -


So this is my second novel in the Great Book Awards Experiment of 2013, and this one definitely FELT like what I expected a novel that might win a prestigious award should. I'm struggling, however, because I can't decide if I actually liked it.

 I definitely respect the immense mastery of the English language that the author possesses - this novel is exquisitely written, and it was truly a pleasure to read these well crafted sentences. If this had not been a library book there would have been SO MUCH underlining going on - since it is, I had to resort to sticky notes, and then I ran out.

"I know I pushed my nose against a tree and was surprised by the ancient sweetness of the bark. I know I stood and studied ants, not guessing yet what antlike labors were awaiting me. I know I picked a flower for my cap. And Then I set my eyes on Cecily and saw a chance to build a future here. I wooed her by working at her elbow in her fields, attending to the hunger of her soil. My labor was an act of love. My unaccustomed muscles grew and ached for her. I had no choice." (p. 48)

While I loved the construction of the novel, the story itself seemed a bit simplistic. The threads of ideas I began to notice in the beginning of the book never quite seemed all to come together, and I was left feeling like I was hoping for a bit more. At the same time, however, I am still trying to dissect whether the author wanted this to be an Important Book, with a message to impart, or whether he was just trying to write a simple story about another time.

Whatever his intention, I'm still thinking about this book, and that certainly means something. If you are a fan of absolutely gorgeous writing, definitely give Harvest a read. If plot is more your thing, then you might want to take a pass.

Finished - 8/28/13
Source- South side library
MPAA rating - PG-13 for violence and adult situations
My rating - ???
10 for writing, 6 for story, so.......8/10