Friday, September 27, 2013

Book Thoughts - Looking for Alaska by John Green

Looking for Alaska by John Green
published 2005
223 pages

Synopsis from publisher -

Before. Miles “Pudge” Halter is done with his safe life at home. His whole life has been one big non-event, and his obsession with famous last words has only made him crave “the Great Perhaps” even more (Francois Rabelais, poet). He heads off to the sometimes crazy and anything-but-boring world of Culver Creek Boarding School, and his life becomes the opposite of safe. Because down the hall is Alaska Young. The gorgeous, clever, funny, sexy, self-destructive, screwed up, and utterly fascinating Alaska Young. She is an event unto herself. She pulls Pudge into her world, launches him into the Great Perhaps, and steals his heart. Then. . . . After. Nothing is ever the same.

My thoughts -

Okay, now I get it. I understand what all the hype is about. After reading The Fault in Our Stars, I questioned a bit why so many people seemed to be so crazy in love with this guy's books. I'm glad I gave him a second chance, however, because Looking for Alaska was an excellent read.

It's clear that Green's "thing" is writing about smart, funny kids who are outside the accepted norm, for one reason or another. While the dialogue in TFIOS seemed forced at times - like he really needed us to understand just how clever these characters really were - Pudge and Alaska and the Colonel always felt like real kids saying real things. I believed in these characters, and because of that I came to care about them.

 I enjoy Green's style of writing, and understand why it resonates with readers - he tackles tough questions honestly, and doesn't give trite answers. I think the subject matter of this novel in particular - big questions about life and the nature of suffering, the longing to understand more about yourself and the people around you - are what make it so powerful, especially to Green's target audience. I'm sure if I had read this book as a teenager, it would have been one of those life-changers that I spent all my time quoting to my friends and copying word-for-word on my school notebooks.

"The Colonel ran ahead of me, gleeful at his ejection, and I jogged after him, trailing in his wake. I wanted to be one of those people who have streaks to maintain, who scorch the ground with their intensity. But for now, at least I knew such people, and they needed me, just like comets need tails." (p.49)

As an adult, I've tackled these questions and ideas on my own, and so while I didn't personally feel a sense of revelation, I can understand why it could be that type of book for a young person. I know some parents will struggle with letting their kids read this novel, because it does include profanity and frank discussion of sexuality. While it won't be for everyone, I do think it's an excellent read, and will look forward to my next visit to John Green's world.

Finished - 8/25/13
Source- South side library
MPAA rating - R for language, adult situations, and sexuality
My rating - 8/10

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Book Thoughts - The Color Master by Aimee Bender

The Color Master by Aimee Bender
published 8/31/13
240 pages

Synopsis from publisher -

In this collection, Bender’s unique talents sparkle brilliantly in stories about people searching for connection through love, sex, and family — while navigating the often painful realities of their lives. A traumatic event unfolds when a girl with flowing hair of golden wheat appears in an apple orchard, where a group of people await her. A woman plays out a prostitution fantasy with her husband and finds she cannot go back to her old sex life. An ugly woman marries an ogre and struggles to decide if she should stay with him after he mistakenly eats their children. Two sisters travel deep into Malaysia, where one learns the art of mending tigers who have been ripped to shreds.

My thoughts -

I remember the first time I read the ACTUAL story of Cinderella - not the Disney version, but the Grimms tale where the stepsisters have to chop off parts of their feet to try on the slipper - and thinking, Wow. This story took a turn I didn't expect.

I felt very similarly about most of the stories in this collection. I would be reading along, thinking the story was heading in one direction, and then all of a sudden, "Wow. How did we wind up here?"

And honestly? I kinda liked it. It was entertaining to read a collection where I had (literally) no idea what was coming next. And I realize that at some point, I probably should have stopped being surprised - I mean, that is clearly her thing - but somehow I never was. Which is clearly the mark of a really good writer.

Highlights from the collection for me were Tiger Mending, about two sisters investigating a very unusual seamstress position; The Fake Nazi, about a woman investigating the life of a man claiming to be a war criminal; The Color Master, about a woman who must learn how to put anger into her work; and The Devourings, about a human and an ogre, and how that marriage works.

I do not think this collection will be for everyone - I think if you are not already a fan of the short story as a genre, this would be a tough sell. But if you are willing to take a chance and be a bit astonished, you just might find yourself enjoying Bender's slightly bent world.

Finished - 9/2/13
Source - review copy from publisher via Netgalley - thank you!
MPAA rating - R for adult situations & some violence
My rating - 8/10

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Book Thoughts - The Road by Cormac McCarthy

The Road by Cormac McCarthy
published 2006
audiobook read by Rupert Degas - published 2008

Synopsis from publisher -

A father and his son walk alone through burned America. Nothing moves in the ravaged landscape save the ash on the wind. It is cold enough to crack stones, and when the snow falls it is gray. The sky is dark. Their destination is the coast, although they don't know what, if anything, awaits them there. They have nothing; just a pistol to defend themselves against the lawless bands that stalk the road, the clothes they are wearing, a cart of scavenged food — and each other.

My thoughts -

My first official read for RIP and it left me weeping. Perhaps I should just quit while I'm ahead??

I was even prepared for it. I've seen the movie, so I knew what a gut-wrenching story this was. I knew it was bleak and grey, and I know it most certainly was not a happily-ever-after story. But I was not prepared for the absolute beauty of Cormac McCarthy's words, and how that would make the tragedy of the story so much more real.

“The soft black talc blew through the streets like squid ink uncoiling along a sea floor and the cold crept down and the dark came early and the scavengers passing down the steep canyons with their torches trod silky holes in the drifted ash that closed behind them silently as eyes.”

More than anything, I think this book is a love story about a father and a son. It's about choosing to go on when there is nothing you want more than to give up. It's about protecting what you love the most no matter what, and then giving what you love the strength to go on. It is spare and harsh and absolutely stunning.

“All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes. So, he whispered to the sleeping boy. I have you.”

Rupert Degas was the perfect narrator for this book. His voice carried the emotional weight of the story but never let it overtake him. I was absolutely mesmerized by every word. I realized that I somehow managed to find an abridged version of the book - normally that would upset me, but now I'm just excited that I have the chance to read it again and see if I can pick out the differences.

The Road won the Pulitzer Prize in 2007, and I can't imagine a novel deserving it more. For me, this book is perfection.

Finished - 9/21/13

Source - audiobook from South Side library

MPAA rating - R for violence, language, despair

My rating - 10/10

This novel is 1 of 4 for the RIP challenge.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Sunday Shorts

Odd Interlude by Dean Koontz
published 2013
297 pages

Synopsis from publisher -

Nestled on a lonely stretch along the Pacific coast, quaint roadside outpost Harmony Corner offers everything a weary traveler needs—a cozy diner, a handy service station, a cluster of cottages . . . and the Harmony family homestead presiding over it all. But when Odd Thomas and company stop to spend the night, they discover that there’s more to this secluded haven than meets the eye—and that between life and death, there is something more frightening than either.

My thoughts -

I think this series gets better and better with each novel. This story was a much shorter installment - it was apparently originally a web series - and for me it packed an emotional punch. This was also the first time in an Odd Thomas story that Koontz gives us something from another character's point of view, and it was extremely powerful. I devoured this book nearly in one sitting.

Finished - 8/4/13
Source - south side library
MPAA rating - R
My rating - 8/10

Odd Apocalypse by Dean Koontz
published 6/2012
368 pages

Synopsis from publisher -

The woman astride the ghostly mount reaches out desperately, the latest spirit to enlist the aid of Odd Thomas, the unassuming young fry cook whose gift—or curse—it is to see the shades of the restless dead, and to help them when he can. This mission of mercy will lead Odd through realms of darkness he has never before encountered, as he probes the long-held secrets of a sinister estate and those who inhabit it.

My thoughts -

I think this is the first installment in the series that has genuinely creeped me out - Koontz uses some actual science to craft this particular story, and it had enough of a ring of truth that it actually affected me. Honestly, though, I read these books for the relationships Koontz develops between Odd Thomas and the other characters that populate his world, and this book was full of them. I think Odd is one of the most original characters in current literary fiction, and I can't wait to read the next book.

Finished - 8/4/13
Source - South side library
MPAA rating - R
My rating - 8/10

The Vampire Diaries: The Struggle by LJ Smith
published in print 1991
audiobook - narrated by Rebecca Mozo

Synopsis from publisher -

Torn between two vampire brothers
Damon: determined to make Elena his, he'd kill his own brother to possess her.

Stefan: desperate for the power to destroy Damon, and protect Elena, he gives in to his thirst for human blood.

Elena: the girl who can have anyone finds herself in the middle of a love triangle . . . one that might turn deadly.

My thoughts -

I thought this book was a bit slower than the first in the series - it seemed like we spent a LOT of time not doing much of anything. It did, however, have a great climactic scene, and I will read the next in the series to see if I'm right about what the author has done.

Finished - 8/24/13
Source - audiobook from South side library
MPAA rating - PG-13 for romancy and violent moments
My rating - 6/10

The Second Summer of the Sisterhood by Ann Brashares
published 2003
373 pages

Synopsis from publisher -

With a bit of last summer's sand in the pockets, the Traveling Pants and the Sisterhood that wears them embark on their 16th summer.

Bridget: Impulsively sets off for Alabama, wanting to both confront her demons about her family and avoid them all at once.

Lena: Spends a blissful week with Kostos, making the unexplainable silence that follows his visit even more painful.

Carmen: Is concerned that her mother is making a fool of herself over a man. When she discovers that her mother borrowed the Pants to wear on a date, she's certain of it.

Tibby: Not about to spend another summer working at Wallman's, she takes a film course only to find it's what happens off-camera that teaches her the most.

My thoughts -

First - I don't feel like this book has a complete title. I think it had a real title, and then this was the subtitle - like, "(whatever, whatever, whatever): The Second Summer of the Sisterhood", and then somehow that first part got left out.

I am just charmed by this series. I feel for each of the girls in their struggles to grow up, and enjoy each one's stories equally. Delightful young adult fiction.

Finished - 9/2/13
Source - South side library
MPAA Rating - PG-13
My rating - 7/10

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Book Thoughts - The Meryl Streep Movie Club by Mia March

The Meryl Streep Movie Club by Mia March
published 6/2012
352 pages

Synopsis from publisher -

Three estranged female relatives - two sisters and the cousin they grew up with after a tragedy - are summoned home to their aunt’s inn on the coast of Maine. Thirty-one-year-old Isabel Nash McNeal is reeling from her husband’s affair, but a secret pact she made years ago may keep her from the one thing she wants most. Twenty-eight-year-old single mother June Nash promised her young son she’ll finally track down his father, and her search will lead her where she least expects it. Their cousin, twenty-five-year old Kat Weller, rocked by her mother’s shocking announcement and the arrival of her cousins, accepts her boyfriend’s marriage proposal; then has her “yes” tested in ways she never imagined.

     Every Friday night, Isabel, June, and Kat reluctantly get together to watch the films of their family matriarch’s favorite actress, Meryl Streep, and find themselves sharing secrets, talking long into the night, and questioning everything they thought they knew about one another, life, and love. Through surprising and heartfelt discussions of movies such as Out of Africa, The Bridges of Madison County, and Mamma Mia, the three women unexpectedly discover who they really are and what they truly want.

My thoughts -

I just enjoy these novels by Mia March so much. They are definitely in the "women's fiction" genre, but have none of the things that often irritate me about novels in this class - irritating heroines, "too perfect" love interests, and convenient situations that could never happen in real life.

The main characters of this novel - four women, all related - have all been touched by tragedy, which has informed their lives in a number of different ways. Each has made a choice that could be regretted, and each choice is impacting their life in the here and now. As with the previous novel, I haven't experienced any of the situations, but March was able to make each one of them relatable  - I could understand why each woman made the choice she did, and why she was struggling in the way that she was.

I find the relationships March creates between her main characters to be quite authentic, and never forced - I really believe the difficult roads these women have taken to get where they are today. Their discussions after watching each of the movies was fascinating, and quite honestly made me want to go out and watch each and every one of them.

Mia March might be my favorite author "discovery" of the year - I eagerly await her next novel, and I definitely recommend her work.

Finished - 8/22/13
Source - South side library
MPAA rating - PG-13 for adult situations
My rating - 8/10

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Tried it and Tossed It

The Panopticon by Jenni Fagan
published 7/23/13
304 pages

Synopsis from publisher -
Anais Hendricks, fifteen, is in the back of a police car. She is headed for the Panopticon, a home for chronic young offenders. She can't remember what’s happened, but across town a policewoman lies in a coma and Anais’s school uniform is covered in blood.

Raised in foster care from birth and moved through twenty-three placements before she even turned seven, Anais has been let down by just about every adult she has ever met. Now a counter-culture outlaw, she knows that she can only rely on herself. And yet despite the parade of horrors visited upon her early life, she greets the world with the witty, fierce insight of a survivor.

Anais finds a sense of belonging among the residents of the Panopticon — they form intense bonds, and she soon becomes part of an ad hoc family. Together, they struggle against the adults that keep them confined. When she looks up at the watchtower that looms over the residents though, Anais knows her fate: she is an anonymous part of an experiment, and she always was. Now it seems that the experiment is closing in.

My thoughts -

I think this is actually quite an interesting novel - I just couldn't get past the language and drug use. Normally those things don't bother me, but this particular heroine uses a LOT of language and a LOT of drugs, and it was too much for me to keep wading through. There is praise galore for this one on the internets though, so if it sounds like an interesting premise I would say give it a shot - the author shows immense talent, and I will definitely give her another try in the future.

Mayor of the Universe by Lorna Landvik
published 7/31/12
312 pages

Synopsis from publisher -

The world sees Fletcher Weschel as a mild-mannered actuary, but it could be the world has vision problems. Still, Fletcher wonders what the point is of having a wild heart if it’s ultimately harnessed by a timid soul. In his fantasies, he returns the call of adventure with a bellowing, “here I come!” In reality, no one hears his whispered, “me too!” ... except for an unlikely group that descends upon him one cold November night. With the help of these visitors, Fletcher’s life will never be the same, and the adventures he’s about to undertake are truly out-of-this world.

My thoughts -

This was.....a departure from the norm for this author, and while it wasn't bad, I was really just hoping for a feel-good, tear-jerking turn in Landvik's world. Unfortunately, this novel is a LOT different than her usual fare, and it just didn't work for me. I think if I had not expected it to be SO much different than it was, I wouldn't have been as disappointed.

Witch World by Christopher Pike
published 11/31/12
528 pages

Synopsis from publisher -

Heading off for a weekend in Las Vegas with her friends, Jessie Ralle has only one worry: how to make it through the road trip in the same car as her ex, Jimmy Kelter. The guy she hasn’t come close to getting over since he broke up with her five months ago. The guy who’s finally ready to tell her why he did it, because now he wants her back.
     Only, sometimes knowing why doesn’t actually make things better. Sometimes it leads to bigger, more terrifying questions.

     Jessie discovers that she’s stumbled into a world where some people can do the impossible and others may not even be human. Are there really witches? Is she one of them? Armed with new abilities and shocked to discover an entire parallel world in which she and her loved ones co-exist, Jessie’s desperate to learn whom she can trust and whom she can’t - before it’s too late.

My thoughts -

HOO boy, I just did not have the patience for this. I checked this out of the library as a possibility for the Dog Days of Summer read-a-thon, but when I tried to sit down with it I just couldn't do it. The plot was incredibly unnecessarily complex, and Jessie mostly just drove me nuts. This is kinda what I expected all the YA novels I read during that read-a-thon to be like, and why I generally avoided them when I was of the age to read them.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Book Thoughts - The Second Empress by Michelle Moran

The Second Empress by Michelle Moran
published 9/12
audiobook - narrated by Adam Alexi-Malle, Emma Bering, and Tanya Franks

Synopsis from publisher -

 After the bloody French Revolution, Emperor Napoleon’s power is absolute. When eighteen year old Marie-Louise is told that the Emperor has demanded her hand in marriage, her father presents her with a terrible choice: marry the cruel, capricious Napoleon or refuse and plunge her country into war. To save her father's throne, Mary-Louise is determined to be a good wife. But at the extravagant French court, she finds many rivals for her new husband’s affection, including Napoleon’s sister Pauline, who is fiercely jealous, utterly uncontrollable, and the only woman as ambitious as the emperor himself. When war once again sweeps the Continent and bloodshed threatens Marie-Louise’s family, the second empress is forced to make choices that will determine her place in history—and change the course of her life.

My thoughts -

I had worried for a while that I was burned out on historical fiction, but then I decided to give Michelle Moran a try, and guess what? Nope. I can still be carried away by a great historical saga, and this was certainly one.

I have always found Napoleon to be a strangely fascinating historical figure, I think probably because I enjoyed The Josephine B. Trilogy so much. Moran's Napoleon is definitely the bad guy, portrayed as egomaniacal, single-minded, and often just plain cruel. Napoleon's sister doesn't fare much better, and though much of her behavior may be attributed to mercury poisoning (one of the explanations given by Moran in her afterword), Pauline is definitely a character the reader can love to hate.

Marie-Louise, however, is extremely sympathetic - strong, honorable, loving, sometimes even funny - and Moran's heroine is easily strong enough to carry the novel. Moran's use of three narrators gives readers an interesting perspective on events, but as the novel progressed I grew extremely weary of Pauline's jealous ramblings, and somewhat confused as to what Paul's purpose in the story really was. I would have been much happier sticking with Marie-Louise, who truly was a compelling figure.

Moran can certainly write, though - I never wanted to stop reading, and only found the narrative to slow down a bit towards the end, primarily when we left Marie-Louise and moved to the other two narrators. I did some research after I finished the novel and it seems that some of Moran's plot points were not actually historically accurate - most specifically Marie-Louise's relationship with a member of the Austrian court - and that was disappointing to me, because this novel certainly could have done without that inaccuracy.

The audiobook was well done, and I thought the three narrators did a fine job of portraying their individual characters. Each seemed to capture well the essence of the person they were chosen to represent.

I really enjoyed this novel, and will definitely look to read more by this author. I understand from comments online that this is not generally accepted as her best work, which just makes me more anxious to read more. Because of the historical inaccuracy, I would recommend this novel with reservations - it was very entertaining, but I would have preferred the author to stick a bit closer to the real story.

Finished - 8/16/13
Source - audiobook from the library
MPAA rating - PG-13 for adult situations
My rating - 6/10 (would definitely have been higher without the inaccuracy)

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The State of the Stacks - Book Hoarding edition

Who likes to know what other people are reading? I do! Here's a look at what's currently stacked next to my bed.

I recently received a fantastic gift from my Grandpa -

A big chunk of his collection of James Michener books. Seeing these titles all stacked together made me think of one of my worst bookish habits - Book Hoarding. Now, I'm not talking about obsessively seeking out and buying more books - while I certainly have that disease as well, this is slightly different. Book Hoarding, to me, is purchasing a whole bunch of titles by an author that I KNOW I am going to like and then.......not reading them.

It's like I'm saving them for some nebulous, disastrous future in which authors only write bad books, or publishers only publish 50 Shades of Grey knock-offs, but NEVER FEAR! For I have hoarded all the books by all the Really Great authors, so I will still get to read Good Books. (or something.)

So, what authors am I currently hoarding?

Matt Ruff - I read his novel Set This House in Order several years ago, and it was SO fantastic. I had never read anything before that made multiple personality disorder seem so logical and understandable. So then I started collecting his books. So far I have accumulated -

Fool On the Hill
Sewer, Gas, and Electric: The Public Works Trilogy
Bad Monkeys
The Mirage

Patrick Ness - I'm fully aware that I am going to love his Chaos Walking series - it sounds like exactly the thing my brain craves. So I bought copies of the whole read someday. I also bought a standalone novel, because really, why not. So, these have found a home on my shelves -

The Knife of Never Letting Go
The Ask and the Answer
Monsters of Men
A Monster Calls

Guy Gavriel Kay - His novel The Lions of Al-Rassan is one of my favorite books of all time. His writing is purely magnificent. I've built up quite a collection that I know I will soon as I start reading them. I have collected -

The Last Light of the Moon
A Song for Arbonne
Under Heaven
The Last Light of the Sun

Margaret Atwood - why? because she's a rock star author, whose books are constantly unique and challenging. Even her novels that are not my favorites are still better than average, and some of her work is truly genius. Atwood novels I own but have NOT read include -

The Blind Assassin
The Year of the Flood
The Edible Woman
Cat's Eye

And in case you think it's just fiction I hoard....

Sarah Vowell - Honestly, I haven't read ANY of her books yet. I've just convinced myself that I am going to love them, so I'm collecting them. I mean, they sound SO funny. I'm going to like her stuff, right?? I hope so, because I own -

Assassination Vacation
The Partly Cloudy Patriot
The Wordy Shipmates
Unfamiliar Fishes

And these are just the authors on the bookshelves in my bedroom. As you can see, I have a bit of a problem. Am I the only one who does this? Is there anyone else out there saving up their favorite authors for a rainy day??

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Book Thoughts - The Hypothetical Girl by Elizabeth Cohen

The Hypothetical Girl by Elizabeth Cohen
published 8/6/13
256 pages

Synopsis from publisher -

An aspiring actress meets an Icelandic Yak farmer on a matchmaking Web site. An online forum for cancer support turns into a love triangle for an English professor, a Canadian fisherman, and an elementary school teacher living in Japan. A deer and a polar bear flirt via Skype. In The Hypothetical Girl a menagerie of characters graze and jockey, play and hook up in the online dating world with mixed and sometimes dark results. Flirting and communicating in chat rooms, through texts, e-mails, and IMs, they grope their way through a virtual maze of potential mates, falling in and out of what they think and hope may be true love.

My thoughts -

This was a great collection to read on my phone as I was going about my daily tasks and would find 10 minutes here and 15 minutes there to do a little reading. Each of the stories was a quick read, and the tone in general was on the lighter side. They were perfect to read, one or two at a time, because each story was easy to jump into, and each felt fully complete when it was done. 

Cohen does a great job of taking situations the reader can relate to and turning them into often awkward, sometimes cringe-worthy moments of relationship hell. With the online dating world exploding, nearly everyone knows someone who has met someone this way, and nearly everyone knows a cautionary tale or two. Cohen takes those cautionary tales and explodes them, making the reader laugh and gasp and shake their heads, and potentially learn a thing or two in the process.

Standout stories for me include Death by Free Verse, in which a relationship started with shared limericks finds its end with a surprise revelation; Man on a Boat, which illuminates clearly the disconnect between online conversations and meeting in real life; and Love Quiz, by far the darkest story in the collection, which highlights the dangers of letting yourself get too involved with people you don't really know.

I found this collection to be a quick and fun read. While at times some of the stories and situations seemed a bit interchangeable, it was on a the whole a nice collection. Recommended if you are looking for a smart, modern take on the short story.

Finished - 8/7/13
Source - review copy from publisher via Netgalley - thank you!
MPAA rating - R for adult situations 
My rating - 7/10

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

R.I.P - Count me in!

 Every year at this time, I think about joining the R.I.P. challenge, hosted by Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings -

Dark Fantasy.
Or anything sufficiently moody that shares a kinship with the above. That is what embodies the stories, written and visual, that we celebrate with the R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril event.

This year, I'm not thinking about it - I'm doing it! Mostly because I already had this stack of books sitting at my house waiting to be read - but also because I'm really enjoying reading with others this year.

 As part of this year's R.I.P, I will be joining the read-a-long of The Historian hosted by The Estella Society - I've had this one at my house long enough.It's time to read the darn thing!

I am going to try to join at the Peril the First level - read 4 books, any length, that fit the definitions of R.I.P. literature.

Here are a few choices currently on my shelves -

After that - who knows? I might be hooked!

It's my first year R.I.P.-ing, so I'm asking you, veterans- what should I read first??

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Book Thoughts - The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell

The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell
published 1997
448 pages

Synopsis from publisher -

The Sparrow, an astonishing literary debut, takes you on a journey to a distant planet and to the center of the human soul. It is the story of a charismatic Jesuit priest and linguist, Emilio Sandoz, who leads a twenty-first-century scientific mission to a newly discovered extraterrestrial culture. Sandoz and his companions are prepared to endure isolation, hardship and death, but nothing can prepare them for the civilization they encounter, or for the tragic misunderstanding that brings the mission to a catastrophic end. Once considered a living saint, Sandoz returns alone to Earth physically and spiritually maimed, the mission's sole survivor — only to be accused of heinous crimes and blamed for the mission's failure.

My thoughts -

Have you ever read a book that took your breath away? Have you ever fallen in love with a character who broke your heart? Have you ever had to put a novel down, because reading even one more word would be too much? If so, you know how I feel about The Sparrow.

From the beginning, I was gripped by the story. Russell's characters are so rich and complex, so utterly complete in their humanity, that I couldn't imagine what could have gone so horribly wrong. It's not a spoiler to say that their story does not end well - the reader is given this information almost immediately. But that does not lessen the anticipation, the unease, as Russell slowly unravels the threads of Emilio's story. It does not keep the reader from hoping for the best for these characters you have grown to love, and to feel the devastation when the end inevitably arrives.

There is so much to digest in the reading of this novel. The idea of family, both the family one is born with and the family one creates. The reality of the difficulties of truly understanding a culture that is foreign to our own. The human desire to understand the evil that is done in the world. The search for God, and the conflict between what we as humans want God to be, and what God truly is. Russell does not give easy answers - in fact, often there are no answers at all. But the journey is so authentic and real that it couldn't be any other way.

"For he could not feel God or approach God as a friend or speak to God with the easy familiarity of the devout or praise God with poetry. And yet, as he had grown older, the path he had started down almost in ignorance had begun to seem clearer to him. It became more apparent to him that he was truly called to walk this strange and difficult, this unnatural and unutterable path to God, which required not poetry or piety but simple endurance and patience. No one could know what this meant to him."

I've heard for several years that this novel was beloved by many - now I've joined their ranks. I had high expectations, and they were exceeded. I cannot recommend this novel highly enough. It will be one that I read again and again.

Finished - 8/31/13
Source - my kindle
MPAA rating - R - this is a tough, adult novel
My rating - 10/10

I read this novel for The Estella Project - and I completed the project! Yay for me!!