Sunday, November 23, 2008

The City of Ember by Jeanne Duprau


Yes. I recommend this book.


I was loaned this book from Griffin, and at first I thought it would be just like The Giver. However, after I got through the first couple of chapters where the kids get their work assignments, I didn't have that thought again.


The City of Ember is a little dark, but there are many kind people. The main characters are in sad circumstances, but there was enough hope and small happiness that it didn't get me down.


I loved some of the details of the story. The way the characters save every little thing because it might be useful. I loved the scene when Lina bought her pencils, and then the one after when she and her sister drew with them.


Although I hated the thought of this horrible dark underground city, I enjoyed the adventure of the story. I liked the sweet main characters, Lina and Doon. I think Doon's insight from his father about anger was very insighful, unexpected consequences.


Just a warning, there are two more books in the series, and although certain situations are resolved, it is a bit of a cliff hanger! Griffin has the second book requested from his school library, so lets hope the students get it turned in soon!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild


This is a sweet story that takes place in London in the 1930's. It was first published in 1937, but I hadn't heard of it until Betsy mentioned it.

I enjoyed reading it. It is about three orphaned sisters who start at a ballet school. I liked the nice flowy writing style. The characters are cute, if stereotypes. It is a little bit like a fairy tale.

I would think elementary school girls would especially like it.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli


Just when I think I've read every sweet young-adult-coming-of-age novel out there, my young hip friends (you know who you are) recommend one I've never even heard of.


I loved it, no surprise.


I liked that it was written from the perspective of a teenage boy. I loved that he was probably more realistic than many characters. Although I did feel myself pulling for him to just man-up, I think that's the point.


Stargirl, herself, is a cool character. The author managed to make her unique, and she didn't quite fit in to any normal highschool stereotype--like hippie, outcast, or cheerleader. You of course like her and kind of wish you were her. I especially like her genuine kindness.


Just a little side note. Stargirl, the character, reminded me of who so many people at my highschool were trying to be. Unlike most highschools in books or movies, it was all the rage to be original or outrageous at our school. Way cutting-edge, I know. But even the jocks and cheerleaders were piercing their noses, making their own jewelry, and writing poetry. Which leads to an entirely different idea of being unique.


I think the character of Wayne Parr was a lot more interesting than Hillari Kimble. I loved the line, "Wayne Parr did not much care. Neither did we."


I also liked the description of the mud frogs. I don't want to ruin it by trying to paraphrase, its just good.


And the part that I could totally feel, and made me feel nostalgic is when Leo is at Stargirl's and thinks, "I didn't want to leave. I wished I could curl up right there on the driveway and go to sleep."


I did get a little distracted with some of the philosophising of Archie. I think it almost distracted from the purity of the story. But what is a coming of age novel without a wise mentor?

I think this book has a honest ending. Not entirely predictable.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Phantom of the Opera


I am finally getting to reviewing this book that I REALLY liked. I think it was a great book club pick--thanks Cheryl--especially for October. It is spooky and creepy without being gorey or graphic. A couple of times I braced myself to be horrified or to skip over something, but I didn't need to. Especially IN the ghost's house.


The translation I read was by Alexander Teixeira de Mattos, and was the "Borders Classics" version from Borders books.


I read it fast in a couple of days with hopes to finish before book club, but failed. So I didn't take notes like I usually do. Also, I saw a production of Phantom of the Opera when I was in highschool, and listened to the soundtrack hundreds of times in the early 90's. That being said, I only vaguely remembered much of the story.


When I saw the musical, I remember thinking Christine had wronged the Phantom. In the book, I was very into the character of Raoul. I LOVED the back story of he and Christine. I was grateful a lot of the back story of the Ghost was skimmed over. I didn't want to know any more about the rosy hours of Mazenderan.


I loved the phrasing of things like that. "rosy hours." I really enjoyed the writing style throughout. I'm flipping through for more examples, "The famous baritione had hardly finished..." "He kissed her hands and went away, cursing Erik and resolving to be patient." Without knowing a better way to say it, I loved the wording and the voice throughout.


I recommend this book! I think it is an interesting story. I've got to read up more about the Paris Opera House because it fascinated me to find out that so many of the insane things described about it in the book really existed!


I'd love to hear what you think if you read this!!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Swim to Me by, Betsy Carter


Yes I recommend this book. But I think it's probably like a 3 out of 5, or rent it kind of recommendation. Maybe I need to invent a more precise system.
I liked this book that is about Weeki Wachee, and the swimming mermaids. It's basically a coming of age book for Delores Walker (Taurus). I liked the story and the characters enough. Nothing wowed me, but nothing drove me crazy either.
I can't remember if I found this on one of your blogs..Amy, Betsy???...or why I put a hold on it, but it was a quick enough read. It takes place in 1972, and had a couple Esther Williams references. I think Esther Williams mentioned Weeki Wachee in her book too. The lady in charge of the mermaids was described in such a way that I couldn't get the picture of the costume designer in The Incredibles out of my head.
I loved this quote, "Delores, startled by her mother's comment, had the impulse to say the meanest thing she could think of."
I know that feeling (not about my mother of course)!
I also hope my children never say this, "When she thought of home, she thought of towels on the bathroom floor, toast crumbs spilled on the kitchen counter from the morning's breakfast, half-finished sentences shouted from room to room." But I guess no one could blame them.......
I like they way the book ended. I liked the magical, mystical elements of the water and animals, and the cute little brother. That all I have to say!
WHAT IS THE MATTER THAT IT WON'T SAVE MY SPACES???

Sunday, October 12, 2008

A Caldecott Celebration, Six Artists and Their Paths to the Caldecott Medal, By Leonard S. Marcus


Yes, check this book out from your library sometime.

This is a fun little book that lives up to its title. The stories about each of the artists are very interesting. I bet my artist friends (you know who you are) would even get more out of it than me.
I thought it was most interesting to hear the artists describe how they came up with ideas and how they practiced drawing. None of them made it look easy. And I LOVED the little "dummy books" that some of them had made. I learned a new term.


I have to admit I hadn't heard of all of the artists. I enjoyed looking at the list of ALL the Caldecott winners on the back, and I was sad that more weren't mentioned in the book. I will definetly use this research to reserve more books for me via the online catalog of my library.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Two literary movies revisited

So I recently watched two more versions of movies of books I like.

The first is the Keira Knightley 2005 version of Pride and Prejudice.

I liked it. I think it was pretty and the music was nice. I thought the casting and acting was very good too. BUT, having watched the BBC version first, I have to say I liked the long one better. It just felt more like a book. I also missed the development of Mr. Wickam and Elizabeth's relationship in the shorter movie. Also, I thought Mrs. Bennett in the long movies was so hilarious, and not as much in the short version.


Second, my friend Aminda loaned me Masterpiece Theater version of Room with a View. I think it was shown in 2008 for the first time. I didn't like it nearly as much as the Merchant Ivy version. I knew I would be biased, so I want to point out what I did like about it. First, Cecil is a bit more charming, so you can understand more why she would be interested in him. I loved the actor from Enchanted that played Mr. Emerson. I think the actors did a good job.


BUT I didn't like the whole return to Italy flashback setting. I think it was cheesy and distracting. I think Freddy plays such a fun role in the book and the first movie, and in this version he is really minor. The MAIN problem I had was how they wrote so many explanations into the script. There is a conversation after the first kiss that is too obvious and wordy. George's speech to Lucy after the second kiss was annoying and overstated. I really prefer the subtlety of the book, which the first movie stayed true too. There were just too many verbal explanations added in. Another unneccessary one was after they are together, and George explains Charlotte's role, when in the first movie, it's just insinuated that she approved and helped them out.


**SPOILER**....the worst part is the ending. WHY oh WHY would you take a happy ending and make it sad? The whole book is a romantic comedy, then to make it a tradgedy. Not for me.


So, the newer version of Pride and Prejudice has merit because it is more condensed and a much more reasonable length. I didn't like PBS's attempt to remake A Room with a View at all. The movie was fine, but I just love the other one and the novel TOO much to like the liberties they took. But I do enjoy comparing different versions of film and lit. So thank you all my good friends for your recommendations.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

eat cake by Jeanne Ray


What a fun book! I really enjoyed reading this and I recommend it to everyone. Thanks Amy for introducing me to the book and loaning me your copy!

What I liked:
I was trying to think of how to explain why this book that has plenty of sadness and trials made me happy. Well, first of all it has a happy ending *yay,* but the characters are nice. It has people who surprise you with their kindness, generosity and support. I couldn't help but think of Lars and the Real Girl that I watched last week (thanks Kim!). It also has characters that surprise you with their kindness, generosity and support. I love stories like that. I think too many times people in real life dissappoint you by being selfish, lazy and apathetic. So its nice to read about better people.

There are so many great moments in this book. I especially liked when Ruth's mother compliments her, and when both her parents come through for her. There were so many great quotes, I'll post some at the end.

One of the best things about this book is that the characters make positive changes in their lives. I think that is very encouraging and uplifting. Motivating, really.

Also all the cake imagery and description is great! Having a cake as her safe place. I just got a kick out of it and thought the metaphors held up well.

I don't have a list of things I don't like this time.

But here are some great quotes from the book:

"Everybody gets tired of cooking dinner. There's too much responsibility. Did we eat this last week? Is it balanced, is it green, will he like it, will she eat it, do I have the right ingredients, enough time, will this new recipe fail me?"
I can relate, can't you???

"We'll drink and eat cake and in the morning we'll come up with some sort of plan. I think it would be good if we didn't try to figure it out right this minute."

"I was terrified. I loved him."

"Doing something is always easier than waiting."

"She was a teacher in her soul."

"It did the very thing that music can do when it is at its best: It elevated us and healed us an showed us how to be our better selves."
I LOVE this quote.

This book is a slim 225 easy-to-read pages. Pick it up if you don't have time to read, really. It's lovely, quick and fun.

I'm hoping it was a nice appetizer for Truman that I picked up from the library yesterday, Colby are you kidding me with this 1000 pages??!! It's worth it??

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Enders Game by Orson Scott Card



Recommendation: Yes. I liked this book.


I went to a literary conference in college to hear Orson Scott Card speak. I don't remember much except the question answer period during lunch, and a lot of people trying to impress him. BUT I do remember how smart he sounded, but not snooty, just bright and interesting. So I don't know WHY it has taken me so many years to read one of his books. Many people in my family are big fans. I also saw him waiting to be seated at Brick Oven once. Famous.


So, I actually decided to read this, his first book, to see if it would be a good read for my son. I think he needs to wait a couple more years.


What I liked: I just have say it again, but OSC writes smart. I don't know how else to describe it. But I liked his style right off. I can count the number of science fiction books I've read on one hand, but this one was really easy to read.


I liked the character. It is easy to think of Ender as being about 5 years older than he is, but I think that's the point. In his intro, which I only read part of before the book, OSC says, "I forced the audience to experience the lives of these children from...the perspective in which their feelings and decision are just as real and important as any adult's." He also talks about the "personhood of children."


Something else cool is how the desks the boys use are so similar to laptops. Very insightful for 30 years ago. Also the "nets." Cool.


I really liked the end. The last chapter was good for me. I like the whole Speaker for the Dead, which pretty much means I'll read the next book. I liked that things didn't finish up the way I predicted. I don't know if you can call it a happy ending, but it was happy compared to the majority of the book.

What I didn't like:

I got a little bogged down with the descriptions of the futuristic governments, and the details of the battles. I read them, but didn't fully process them. This didn't affect the story.


It was also a little more violent that I like to read. Which is why Griff will be waiting a couple more years. Some of the characters are just so MEAN. I guess that's real life. But it was troubling.


Some of the boys slang is a little annoying, or offensive. I did see that the original copyright was 1977, which explains a little.

Cool Quotes:

"There's only one thing that wil make them stop hating you. And that's being so good at what you do that they can't ignore you."

"So everything depend on how you push off, the course you set when you start."

"It was better in the morning. Home was merely a dull ache in the back of his memory. A tiredness in his eyes."

Friday, September 5, 2008

Million Dollar Mermaid by Esther Williams

Recommendation: Yes. I think this book was entertaining and interesting.

What I liked:

Esther Williams was a champion swimmer when there were not a lot of women in the sport. She qualified for the Olympics, then WWII broke out. She is a great example of someone who made something out of themselves.
The details she includes about how she got into swimming, the behind-the-scenes dramatics, and what little pieces of advice helped her along the way are fascinating to me.

I like that Esther did not sleep her way to the top. She did not use men, and she did not allow herself to be used. I admire how spunky she was in deflecting the passes of the creepy men in her story.

I like the way her voice shows through with old fashioned phrases, and views of what was going on. She has a good sense of humor. I also enjoyed all her cracks about the short men. Very funny.

I loved the pictures in the middle. It took me a while before I noticed them, and I think they really add to the narrative! She was so amazingly beautiful! So classic.

Having grown up in a pool, and always surrounded by swimmers, it was fun to read her perspective on swimming and those around her in the movie business that didn't get it. I swam with a couple of girls who competed in synchro, and it was cool to see how Esther Williams was so instrumental in developing it, and furthering it as a real sport. In fact she mentions at the end how it was made an official sport in the 1984 Olympics in LA and the winners were Tracie Ruiz-Conforto and Candy Costie. They were from Bothell and they even named the pool we swam in Highschool after them, so how's that for 6 degrees of seperation.


What I didn't like:

Be forwarned that some really terrible things happen to Esther. She has some horrible things happen to her when she was young, and some more when she's older. Obviously they need to be in the book, but I still didn't like reading about them. So sad.


It bugged me that she admitted and was frusterated that her movies were all fluff and basically the stame story line, yet she was huffy and offended if someone else said the same thing.

I also started feeling a little skeptical about Esther's opinions. I think in its own right, this is a bit of a "tell-all" book. She mainly focuses on herself and the details of her life, but she does name names. There are all kinds of little stories of big stars in not-so-flattering light. I'm sure they are true, but I just wonder why she felt like she had to report the dirt on others. ALSO, as she gets older, she makes several choices that I think are hard to justify, yet she does. She is honest about her motivations at times, but other times she seems to miss the irony that she was acting like those she earlier condemned. It kind of made me trust her less.



Suggestions: Amy told me that our library had collections of Esther William's films. I checked one out that had 6 DVDs. I admit I didn't watch all of them, the stories are sweet, but a little silly. I did a lot of fast forwarding of scenes she wasn't in, but it was so cool to see the scenes and actors that she talked about in the book. I LOVED IT! I think it would have been cool to watch them intermittently as I was reading the book.

Monday, September 1, 2008

BBC Pride and Prejudice

I LOVED IT!

First of all, the scenery is AMAZING. So beautiful. I watched most of the series in the first night, but had to crawl up to bed at 2. I finished it the next night, and it was so great.

I realized when Elizabeth arrived at Pemberley that I had read the book. Sometimes I get the Austen books mixed up. I really enjoy this story, but of course it drives me crazy that she doesn't tell everyone that Mr. Darcy saved Lydia. But these old fashioned books never do.

I enjoyed all the characters, the men were so handsome, and so were the women.

Definetly worth the 5 hours!

Thanks to all of you who have recommended it over the years, I wasn't disappointed!

Favorite quote: "There are few people whom I really love, and even fewer of whom I think well. The more I see of the world, the more I am dissatisfied of it."

I also loved when Elizabeth is telling her Dad that she does love Darcy and that she's never known a better man. He replies something like, "Good, because I could never have parted with you otherwise." So great.


I also watched Mansfield Park last week. I liked it. It was on TV, and not a book I had read. But I recommend it.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Breaking Dawn by Stephanie Meyer


Recommendation: If you read the others, you probably will read this one.
I would not recommend reading it if you haven't read the others, or if you didn't like her first books.

What I think is cool about Stephanie Meyer: I think it is really impressive to come up with this kind of complicated story. To create characters, organizations, supernatural beings. I couldn't do it.

I think she writes true to herself and her beliefs. She keeps her books PG, which I think is cool especially given her topic and the desire to sell books to more than just young adults. I think she has proven a point. And that is great!

I also give her a lot of credit for knowing her audience. Introducing a child in this book was genius considering how many mothers are reading her books. I think she said some sweet things about the way we feel about our children instantly.


What bugged me about this book: I really stuggled with the dialouge between characters. Things like, "S'Okay," and "Er, thanks," drive me crazy. There is also a lot of painfully lame phrases and exchanges between her main characters. Trite, over used expressions, and just stupid words. If you've ever watched a movie or TV show with me, you know this kind of stuff drives me CRAZY. Zero tolerance.

One thing I liked about Twilight were the magical scenes. The scene with Edward and Bella in the meadow and the scene where Bella is so happy to see the sun and she falls asleep in the warmth were pretty, and I remembered them. I didn't remember anything in the same way in this book.

Also the way that Bella just believed that they were all going to die, when obviously they stood a chance. Her continual comments about it being about to be over weren't believable to me.

What I liked about this book:

It was a good story. It picked up well where the other one left off. It isn't predictable, and I did really want to see what was going to happen. Lots of interesting twists and turns.

It made me think about how my life would be easier if I was a vampire. Never needing sleep! Especially if your child did sleep. Fascinating possibility. Never having to cook food!

I did think about what the vampires would do when the socialized. Food is such a big part of our social gatherings.

I liked that Bella was happy. I liked that their "coven" was able to be a good example and be closely bonded and everything.

I always love a happy ending!
One last thing:

She called Lake Union, "Union Lake."
I'm also critical of overlooked research or poor editing whichever it was.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

So Brave, Young, and Handsome by Leif Enger


I have been waiting and hoping for Mr. Enger to produce another novel after LOVING Peace Like a River so much. Here it is.


Recommendation: Yes, I liked this book. I think if you liked his first, you will like his second. I did not enjoy it as much, but I think its a good story. I like the feel of the book.


What I liked: As in his first novel, I really liked the characters. They are well-formed and illustrated without too much distracting description.


This is an interesting story. It involves another cross country trip, another saintly outlaw, and bad law man. It is not a copy-cat of his first, but has a similar feeling. It is written to be romantic, but I don't think it is a romance. The draw of the West, making resolutions, changing your life, are all themes that flow through it.


There is a cool metaphor when Monte see's his reflection in the barbershop window, and Siringo talks about his wife not being able to see him, and Monte talks about his "hazy outline." I liked it.


Also there's a cool metaphor about Siringo's grasp.


I also liked this part. " 'She's so pretty, I just forgot how to talk,' Hood told me. I loved him for that. What man has not stood in lumpen torment before the face of beauty?"


Also, "violent and doomed as this world might be, a romance it certainly is." In response to, "this world ain't no romance, in case you didn't notice."


I didn't find this book predictable, and I was happy with the ending.


What I didn't like: I liked a lot of this book, but there wasn't a lot that I loved. I'm glad I read it, I hope it is successful, and I hope Leif Enger keeps writing. I think two of the things I liked the most in Peace Like a River were the family, and the power of healing. There is a family in this book, but its more of a supporting cast. Religion is mentioned in a positive light, but it isn't as magical. Also there are murders, and some bad beating-ups.


Over all I didn't like it as much as his first novel, but I think it is a worthy read.


I can't wait to hear what everyone else thinks about it.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Founding Brothers by, Joseph J. Ellis


Recommendation: YES! This is another great US history book.

This book won the Pulitzer Prize, and is only 248 pages long. Don't be fooled! It is well-written, but really made me concentrate to understand what was being said. Here's an example I've been showing people of how wordy Ellis can be, "...the very presumptiveness of the revolutionary rhetoric served to obfuscate the quite palpable reality that slavery, no mantter how anomalous in purely ideological terms, was still deeply imbedded in the very structure of American society at multiple levels or layers that remained impervious to wishful thinking and revolutionary expectations." WHEW! I ended up holding a bookmark underlining the words as I read to help me focus. But it is completly readable. I didn't even pull out my dictionary, although I probably should have. I don't want to turn you away from the book, just warn you.

What I loved:
Joseph Ellis took a specific event or theme for each chapter. Because of the way it is organized, I think it flows really well. Each chapter could stand alone, but they do overlap and intertwine with each other. One cool theme that he referred back to several times is how hindsight affects history and how we read and write it. How events or famous quotes are only poignant because of what we know happened next. It was a very interesting concept, and one that made alot of sense in the context of these stories.

Another thing that the characters mention more than once that is so fascinating to me, is that it was really a miracle that our nation stayed together in the early years. There were so many times that even the men fighting (figuratively and literally) to keep the United States together, really didn't think it would make it.

"If hindsight enhances our appreciation for the solidity and stability of the republican legacy, it also blinds us to the truly stunning improbability of the achievement itself."

"Though there have been many successful colonial rebellions against imperial domination since the American Revolution, none had occured before."

Reading this again puts me in awe of these men (and their wives) that made it happen.

My favorite sections:

I got a little bogged down in the chapters The Dinner and The Silence. But even those were interesting! I ended up writing down some reminders to myself of who was with the Federalists and who was with the Republicans. That helped some.

The Collaborators and The Friendship were my favorites. It's so sad to me that John Adams was right that he would not be credited nearly as much as Thomas Jefferson and George Washington for his role in founding the nation. I really am drawn to him and will HAVE to read to read his bio now. One thing that Ellis mentioned was that he told Abagail to save all his letters. He knew that they would provide history. In fact it seems obvious that his last few years of letters to Jefferson were part of his attempt to write history as he had experienced it.

The Silence deals with how slavery was treated politically in the 1790's. I had no idea how long the debates were going. At first I thought it was very irresponsible for congress to have a "no talking" policy about it. But I guess that we often avoid things that we know are wrong, but are too embarrassed or dependant upon to change. Reading the different arguments that were circulating was very interesting.

When John Adams was vice-president, he describes the job as "the most insignificant office that ever the Invention of Man contrived or his Imagination conceived." To make matters worse, after his first debate, the Senate decided that the vice president was not permitted to speak. Can you imagine the torture of listening to these political debates and being able to participate? Sounds like torture to me!

Things I didn't know about before reading this:

Jay's Treaty, Consumption, Capitol on the Potomac, the duel between Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton. A lot more. But to my history teachers' credit, I have forgotten most of what I once learned.

Some great quotes/concepts from the book:

"...slavery was a cancer on the body politic of America that could not at present be removed without killing the patient."

"The Adams style was to confront, shout, rant and then to embrace. The Jefferson style was to evade, maintain pretenses, then convince himself that all was well."

"No one present at the start knew how it would turn out in the end."

"The basic framework for all these institutions and traditions was built in a sudden spasm of enforced inspiration and makeshift construction during the final decades of the eighteenth century."

"...the office would routinely outlive the occupant, that the American presidency was fundamentally different from a European monarchy, that presidents, no matter how indispensable, were inherently disposable."

On page 209, a letter from Jefferson to Abagail Adams is quoted, and Ellis inserts parenthetical comments that are very funny to me.

And lastly, in a letter to Benjamin Rush, John Adams says he knew a French barber in Boston who used the phrase "a little crack," meaning slightly crazy. He uses it to describe some philosophers, then says, "I must tell you that my wife, who took a fancy to read this letter upon my table, bids me tell you that she 'thinks my head, too, a little crack,' and I am half of that mind myself." HILARIOUS!!! I think that might be my new catchphrase. And again, how can you not love John and Abagail Adams.

Now, please read this book and comment in the space provided.


Friday, August 1, 2008

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte



Recommendation: YES! I enjoyed this book. I recommend it.

What I liked: I couldn't put this down! Really, it isn't a fast read, so I had to stop reading two nights, acknowledging that I couldn't finish it even if I stayed up later.

I was totally drawn into this story. I think something that I liked was that even the characters you are rooting for have faults. I think they are realistic heroes. I liked that maybe Helen's aunt was right. So often in books and movies the adults, well-meaning or not, are wrong. I liked when Helen was giving advice to Esther, she is talking about not marrying for money, a title, etc, but then she says something like love isn't enough either. I don't think the mistakes made in the book were entirely the fault of the characters. It's probably pretty realistic.

I don't think the book is too predictable. Some little parts you can figure out but in a nice way. Like--oh of course they will get married. I always like those tidy endings anyway. Even more I like when they actually happen in real life! SO rare.

What I didn't like: Well, it was hard for me to get into this bookat the start. I think the descriptions are a little much, but very typical of the time period. I felt like skimming parts, but tried hard to actually read it all. Once I was into the story, probably 6 or 7 chapters, then I was totally hooked.

A funny quote:

Talking about who to marry, Gilbert is saying "I shall expect to find more pleasure in making my wife happy and comfortable, than in being made so by her." His mom, (whose advice to Helen is horrible!) responds with this:

"You'll do your business, and she, if she's worthy of you, will do her's but it's your business to please yourself, and her's to please you." Then talking about her own husband, "he was steady and punctual, seldom found fault without a reason, always did justice to my good dinners, and hardly ever spoiled my cookery by delay--and that's as much as any woman can expect of any man."

Hilarious.

In Gilbert's defence, his reaction to his friend is, "Is it so, Halford? Is that the extent of your domestic virtues; and does your happy wife exact nor more?"
Thoughts:
I think an obvious theme in the book is how boys were raised at the time. Gilbert's mom says really stupid things to Helen about raising her son. It is so obvious to the reader even before her journal, as to why she would raise him that way. But Gilbert himself is so spoiled by his mom. As is Mr. Hargrave.

I probably should try to read Wuthering Heights--I haven't ever, and Jane Eyre--its been years, but I'll probably take a break first! It would be good to compare the sister's writings.

I do recommend this book, especially if you like this time period and style. And if not, give it a try anyway! If you do, PLEASE LET ME KNOW WHAT YOU THINK OF IT!!!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Room With A View--Film


So I got the Merchant Ivory version from Netflix. It was every bit as good as I remembered. I love it! I'm not sure why. The only thing that kind of bugs me is George. I like the actor enough, but I just don't think he's exactly right like the other ones.

**To skip the nudity, when Freddy and Mr. Beebe invite George for a bathe, watch them walk to the lake, then hit skip. You'll go right to the "troublesome boiler" chapter.

Some things I love about this movie. The story, see book review for details. I think Mrs. Honeychurch and the Miss Alans are even more charming than their characters come off in the book. After Charlotte goes inside to get change, Mrs. Honeychurch laughs and it is so great!

I loved the way George kind of scissor jumps over the tennis net and then lays next to Cecil and Lucy. I LOVE the scene where Charlotte is sitting on the ground, then clears her throat and says, "Oh I've had this cough for weeks, it has nothing to do with sitting on the ground."

I guess since its been at least 10 years and probably more like 15 since I've watched the movie, Lucy would seem really young to me. She seemed like a teenager almost. Her posture was so great, and her little pouts. Helena Bonham Carter does a great job. I think all the actors and actresses are so good in this movie. Daniel Day-Lewis~hilarious!!


Sunday, July 13, 2008

Austenland by Shannon Hale


I enjoyed reading this book! I recommend it if you are looking for something light and fast.
I think this book is pretty predictable, but it was still fun to read. I couldn't put it down once I started, and it is short.
I'm not the hugest Austen buff, but I've read enough and seen enough movies to follow along. I need to watch that BBC version of Pride and Prejudice, so I can really be cool. Reading this you feel like it was written by someone you know. That's how I felt. It almost seemed like she could have said, I had this funny idea the other day....But it was a creative frame for a romantic comedy.
I think the type of place was believable considering the disposable income and fantasys of certain middle aged women. Plus SO many people are obsessed with Jane Austen.
I love that the great-aunt gave her the trip, and the whole opening scene with her mom and aunt was a great nod to Austen, Forester, all those British authors.


Some lines I liked:
"Like drinking a cold glass of water after too much sugary punch."

"He was so cute and funny and so-not-Mr. Darcy....and so-not-typical-Jane."

BUT the best one was,
"Why was the judgement of the disapproving so valuable?"


Friday, July 11, 2008

Founding Mothers by Cokie Roberts


I recommend this book!

What an interesting read! This book is about just what the title suggests, "The Women who Raised our Nation." Most of the information presented is from letters between women and their husbands and friends. Martha Washington, Abagail Adams, Mercy Otis Warren, Kitty Greene are just a few of the central women.

I loved getting a little different historic perspective. I'm overwhelmed by what these women sacrificed to make the work of their husbands and sons possible. It is also so sad to realize that these mothers lost so many of their children. They basically had babies then got pregnant again over and over. Both moms and babies died in childbirth, and children died often from whooping cough, small pox, all kinds of things. I guess I knew all this stuff but to see the pattern in real women's lives was very humbling. It makes me so grateful for modern medicine!

I enjoyed reading this book, I wish I had kept better notes, because some of the stories overlap and begin to blur in my mind. I'm not sure I could recall to you specific chronological details. I did learn at book club that there is an alphabetized index in the back, so you could easily look up and flip back if you forgot who someone was. But I didn't know it in time.

I didn't even know that Ben Franklin was married. He wrote a nice thing about his wife posthumously, "I always discovered that she knew what I did not know."

Some other cool quotes:

Abagail Adams, "If we mean to have heroes, statesmen and philosophers, we should have learned women."

"We have done evil or our enemies would be at peace with us. The sin of slavery as well as many others is not washed away."

"I can hear of the brilliant accomplishment of any of my sex with pleasure....At the same time I regret the trifling narrow contracted education of the females of my own country."

Martha Washington, "The greater part of our happiness or misery depends up on our dispositions, and not up on our circumstances."

I was a little surprised at how readily these women left their children to be with their husbands. I guess I don't entirely understand their reasoning. But several children were left with aunts, grandparents, even sent away to school. Because these were mostly more affluent families, I'm guessing that a lot of the child rearing was being done by servants, nurses or slaves. So maybe it wouldn't be as different. The women seem to take a lot of pride in their children, and heartache when they lost them. It just seemed weird to me that they didn't always raise them.

This book took me awhile to read because it is so packed with information. The narrative does jump around people and forward and backward in time. Sometimes this is distracting, but I think it's unavoidable with the information she is trying to present. You can't really cruise through it, but it is a worthwhile read!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine


I really liked this book. (Thanks Betsy for the recommendation and the loan!) I haven't seen the movie yet, but reading the book makes me want to now.

It took me a few pages to get into the book. I'm not usually a fan of fairytales and fantasy beyond children's books, so the whole Ogres, gnomes, fairies, giants talk was a little off-putting at first. But like a good book, once the story developed, I was hooked.

I think that the take on the Cinderella story was good. Original, but it kept enough similarities to make it clever. It's a sweet romantic story, with a spunky Ella. I think she was a fun character, pretty original in that she wanted to be funny, and was strong-willed about her curse.

I also liked the way the curse was resolved. In case the book is different than the movie, or in case I'm not the only one who hasn't seen it, I won't go into detail. But I liked that Ella was a strong character without feeling like feminism was being thrust out a as a central theme.

This is a fun young adult story. Probably even intermediate. I don't think my boys would read it, but I think it would be age appropriate for them.

Was it this movie that made the name Ella so popular a few years later?

Thursday, June 19, 2008

confessions of a slacker mom by Muffy Mead-ferro

I didn't like this book. I liked the idea, I thought it would be relatable and at least humorous.


Instead I think it was self-gratifying and arrogant. I think the author probably has some good ideas, but her examples and her reference point were extreme and stupid.


I don't know one person who has a TV in each of their kids rooms. I don't know one person who wants their kids to be years ahead in school, but not be able to catch a ball. Maybe she was exaggerating to be funny, but if so her arguments kind of lose their power. But actually I don't think they had much power to start with.

I'll admit that half-way through the book I was done with it. It's short so I finished, hoping to find something more redeemable or valuable. I don't think there are any new ideas here. NONE. There were things I agreed with and things I didn't, but it didn't open up my eyes to anything, nor provide me with any new ideas.

I do think she has enough ideas and funny things to say that she could have written an at least partially entertaining magazine article. Really not enough substance for a whole book.


One more gripe:  I think her kids are a little young for her to think she has it all figured out.


I could rant some more, and I apologize for not taking better notes and being more specific with my complaints. I guess I'm a slacker.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

A Room With A View by E.M.Forster


I've never seen this cover before, but it's the best I could find!

I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this book. After raving about it at book club I came home and started reading it again for two reasons. 1) To make sure I did still love it, and 2) to see if it stands alone with out the great Merchant Ivory film I fell in love with in college.

So I know that the answer to 1) is yes. But I'm still not sure about the 2). I'm sad my blockbuster doesn't carry it because I'm really in the mood to see the movie now that I've re-read the story. The two are so intwined in my mind that I can't figure out which one I would recommend you read/see first. Just be warned that there is nudity, humorous--not suggestive, but full.
What I Love:

This story is a comedy. The characters are hilarious. Miss Bartlett must be the most annoying person ever created, but she even makes you laugh. I think we all are reminded of people that have similiar personalities. Her lines kill me. And then when Mrs. Honeychurch tells Lucy she is just like her, I felt like laughing even though I could feel the absolute horror that Lucy was feeling. I hate it when people compare me to someone who I'm convinced I'm nothing like.

I love the chapter titles. Like, "Possibilities of a Pleasant Outing," and "Lying to Mr. Beebe, Mrs. Honeychurch, Freddy, and the Servants."

I love that Forster doesn't bother with physical descriptions. He describes the views a couple of times I guess, but no lengthy list of adjectives introducing characters, no long descriptions of the monuments they see abroad. I appreciate that. I get annoyed when writers feel the need to paint every detail for us. I think it works really well with this story. Leave out the unneccessary.

Lastly, I love the story. I think it is original. It may be a little cliche that the character doesn't know who she loves, or what she should do, when it seems obvious to the reader. But it's so short and so witty. You don't spend much time being frusterated or irritated with characters. I guess I've felt that way too many times in books.

I also love the smartness of Forster's writing. The subtle and not so subtle symbolism. The Emerson's provide Lucy with a "view" throughout the story. Who provides the "spiritual guidance." The forshadowing, all of it.

Is it like Jane Austen?

So I was also trying to answer this question, 3rd reason I guess. I'm also not sure of the answer. I haven't read an Austen novel in a while. I think Forster writes more humorously. Class distinction and "properness" are kind of mocked in this novel.

What I don't love:

The only thing is that some of the book still goes over my head. Because this was written 100 years ago, there are things Forester refers to that I just don't understand. I also haven't been to Europe, which I think adds to that. There are the obvious things like Italian phrases, and words like "shibboleth." (Which I looked up, and it wasn't the intended meaning) But there are less obvious references that lose their meaning on me. None of these, however, affect the book's effect on me.

Great Quotes:

"Then the pernicious charm of Italy worked on her, and, instead of acquiring information, she began to be happy."

"I think that you are repeating what you have heard older people say. You are pretending to be touchy; but you are not really."

"Perhaps anything that he did would have pleased Lucy, but his awkwardness went straight to her heart"

"My brain has gone to pieces. Part of it lives three minutes back, when I was sure that you loved me."

"It was unladylike? Why? Why were most big things unladylike?"



Friday, June 6, 2008

Divisadero by Michael Ondaatje


I have to say that I just don't get into this style of writing. Or maybe I mean form. I haven't read this author before, so I don't know if this is typically how he writes his books.


Here's what I mean. The book begins with a family, two sisters their father and a farm hand that has basically been raised by the father. So you read several chapters about the family and how a tragic event affects them. It flashes to different times in the future and what the characters are doing. Then there is a section that follows a character from one of the girl's stories, there is one more flash forward to her sister, then the next section goes way back in time in the life of one of the other characters. Nothing more about the original story.


I honestly didn't want to finish it when I realized that I had about 30 pages left and it was all going to be about Segura the writer. I just felt more emotionally attached to the first family and their stories. Not even an ounce of resolution. The story just ends and you think it will come back and it doesn't.


I liked the way the stories were written, and I like the characters. There's a little too much violence, and a little forced romanticism. Really, people carry herbs in their pockets so they can just pick veggies from the wild and with a loaf of bread make a meal. This happens in more than one instance. Then again I've never been to France.


I know this isn't much of a review, but my feelings were all over the place and I thought the book was too. I won't be rushing to read his other books.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Dream When You're Feeling Blue by Elizabeth Berg

Overall Recommendation: Sure. I think this is a nice story. Its not going to change your life, but I enjoyed it.


What I liked: This is the story of three sisters during WWII. They are young adults living at home. I liked the sisterly interactions, I think they could have been more developed as individuals, but they were believable characters.

I liked the interaction of their family. I liked all the letter writing and the routine of their lives.

What bugged me: It seemed to me that Elizabeth Berg had a list of all the 1940's research she did, and she made sure to cram in every little reference to the era, pop culture, figure of speeches, propoganda. It felt forced. We know its 1943 already. It felt like she wanted to keep pointing out what was going on around the characters. But the story is so entwined with the war, you don't forget what year it is. All the references to clothing trends, rations, war posters, bonds, it just got a little distracting.

I also didn't like the ending. I don't want to "give it away," but I just thought it was a little disappointing.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

Recommendation: If you haven't read this book, READ IT!

After reading the last two "downer" books, I reached for an old friend, and wasn't disappointed.

One of my favorite books I've read in the last few years. I don't think there are many people who haven't read it, so I'm not going to review it.

Just a reminder if you've forgotten about it.

Gossip: When I was looking for a cover picture, I saw that they are making a movie of this. Dakota Fanning as Lily, Queen Latifah as August, Jennifer Hudson as Rosaleen, Alicia Keyes as June.

It is listed on IMBD as "post-production."

Everyone seems a little younger than I imagined, but then again, I'm getting old.

The Awakening by Kate Chopin


I read this in college, but didn't remember much past the premise. Because it takes place around the same time and has the same theme as Loving Frank, I thought I might as well.

I do feel for the women of this time period. I appreciate efforts women, including Mamah Borthwick, made in order to further Women's rights, suffarage, etc...I just feel like the stories are too extreme.

I think that in my day, women are encouraged to have book clubs and Ladies Nights. It is expected that we get bored or feel underappreciated. I would hope that that gives us a form to stand on and to try hard to meet our needs. In both these books, I kind of left with the thought that you can't let your life get to this point. The point where your only option is complete abandon.

An interesting quote from Edna Pontellier: "I would give up my life for my children; but I wouldn't give up myself."

Loving Frank by Nancy Horan





My Recommendation: I don't really recommend this book. It is very sad and has a very tragic ending.

What I did like: The story itself is very interesting. I don't know a lot about Frank Lloyd Wright, but the descriptions of his theories were very interesting. I would love to see more of his homes based on the great descriptions the author writes.
I respect Nancy Horan for her obviously extensive research, and her attempts to tell Mamah Borthwick's side of the story. She really did try hard to justify the affair. I also liked her writing style. I have a page full of quotes that I liked from the book. The story was well told, I just didn't care for the story.
What I didn't like: I had a hard time sympathizing with the main characters. I will admit that had Mamah and Frank found themselves in the same situation 100 years later, their story would be drastically different. She could have filed for divorce, probably been given custody of her kids, and maybe lived happily ever after.
BUT, I just don't buy the theory that you can't be a good mom if your life isn't fulfilling in every way. Mamah felt something important missing from her life, and I do understand that. I just don't agree with the drastic measures she felt she had to take to improve her situation. She had a nanny and a housekeeper, so why didn't she have the time to make herself happy? I know I'm being critical.
"The greatest measure of her love would be to leave them alone." Nope, I disagree.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

I KNOW!

I've been thinking of what excuses to list here about why I haven't written anything lately. But the truth is that I just haven't gotten around to it. I haven't read much. I think I always kind of fall in a slump after reading a book like Twelve Little Cakes that I LOVED so much. I've tried to start 2 other books, but I think I'm not going to read them. Soon, friends. I do feel guilty for reading and enjoying everyone else's blogs without contributing anything to the Blog Universe. Thanks for not giving up on me. Here's to next week.

Friday, March 21, 2008

The Twelve Little Cakes

Recommendation: Yes, I would recommend this book. I think the stories are lovely and I like the way the author writes. I enjoyed reading them all, and I think you will too!


Overview: Dominika Dery is my age (according to the story, she was born 10 days after me), and was born in Prague, Czechoslovakia when it was under control of the Soviet Union. She lived with her parents and older sister in the township of Cernosice. This is a memoir written in 12 chapters, stories really.

Know that this doesn't cover her entire life, just the first few years. BUT, I read that she is working on 12 more stories that will cover a few more years of her life.


What I liked: First off, Dominika Dery has a positive outlook on her life as a child. Similiar to The Glass Castle, she is growing up in difficult circumstances, but she is happy. Her stories have sadness in them, but they aren't miserable. She writes these from her perspective as a small child, with all the wonder and optimism she had then.


I like the way she focuses on a few specific incidents, but expands them enough to give us a clear picture of what was going on. Also they segue well together, so it doesn't feel choppy. I like the way she refers back to things. For example, she explains about the little shops selling sausages and little cakes, then refers back to that a couple of times later.
I love the cute little cakes with meaningful titles for each chapter.

I always love a story with magic or religion or spirituality especially when it is natural and not over dramatic. So I loved her reference to her "little god." I loved that her mom dreamed of her before she was born.



Also what sets this apart from The Glass Castle is that Dominika has great parents! Her parents are described and developed well. And they are good moral people. I do think she becomes a little disenchanted with her father as she gets older. (I'm thinking like when he built the laboratory in their garage.) It will be interesting to see in her next collection if her opinion changes.



Communism as it was in Czechoslavakia in the 70's and 80's is talked about a lot in this book. It helps you get a feel for how her life was affected by it, but doesn't overwhelm you with a history lesson. Dery provides information in a way that is not overwhelming. It was interesting and sad to see the effects of a Communist elite, black listing and failed revolutions. I don't think I could pass any test on communism, but I do understand it a little bit better.

There were so many moments in this story when I thought thing were going to turn horrible, but they didn't. Which isn't to say her life was always happy, but I think Dominika chose to focus on happy and meaningful moment for her story.

I LOVED the little old ladies that were her friends. I loved the ballet dancer's response to her, and the way the other teachers were charmed by her. I loved that the priest was so nice to her.


What I didn't Like: Well, I don't have much. I will say that the story where she is in an isolation ward of a hospital was a very sad. I admit I had to kind of skim it because it was so sad. But that's just because I don't like sad stories, it was written well, and probably left out the worst parts!




Cool Quotes:
"By the mid-eighties, communism was like an old dragon that would occasionally crawl out from its cave and eat someone for dinner. As long as it wasn't you the dragon was eating, you could live with the sound of screams in the distance."
"This power was like fire. It was a good servant but a bad master."

Saturday, March 8, 2008

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion




Overview: Joan Didion is an accomplished writer, her talent for writing is obvious and makes this account very readable. This is a memoir of the year after her husband died.


What I loved: I took lots of notes while reading this book. I think Joan gets it right. She is not writing a self-help book, she does not attempt to make a big statement. She simply writes how it was and what she felt, and how she lived. I think it is realistic, and sadly I can relate to much of what she wrote. I kept thinking, "YES! That's exactly how it is." Because she is a writer, there are all kinds of great literary references. She copes with obstacles in her life by reading all she can about them. She researches and looks for answers, I love that. She has included just the right amount of quotes and information that you get a feel for what she is reading, without it distracting from her actual story. This book is sad, and honest, but she doesn't feel sorry for herself.

If I had read this two years ago, I think my response would be different, but I liked it so much I'm sure I would still have enjoyed it and recommended it.
Like I said, I took a lot of notes, but I'm not sure how to put them on. I think I'll have to update this later after I know what I think is good to share.

These is My Words by Nancy Turner

Recommendation: I do recommend this book. It is long, and it took me a few chapters to really get in to the story, but after awhile I couldn't put it down. It didn't get boring at any point. I really enjoyed reading it.



Overview: I don't read many pioneer/homesteading kind of books. This isn't my usual genre. It is not about LDS settlers. It is a fictional diary.

It is sad, lots of bad things happen. But it is not a boo hoo story.


What I liked: This is definetly a hard luck story. I guess all pioneer books are. I liked the main character, Sarah. (Colby might be irritated that she is good at everything and doesn't know why a man would love her.) The author does a great job using the diary format. I like that although horrible things happen, its not written overly sentimental. The lapse in dates and entries help you get a feel for her life. The entries are written, I think, realistically....of course no one really writes that much in their diary. I think you can really see Sarah's growth.


I loved the focus on reading and education. I loved the way children are valued in this story. The excitment each feels when they learn they are expecting. There were so many tender entries about Sarah's children and her love for them. I loved that for the most part the men are good. The main characters are moral and upright.


The romance is the best part. I liked Captain Elliot. I think it was cool how the author let his history unfold slowly. I loved when Sarah found the books and how they changed her life.



What I didn't like: I think some parts are just hard to believe. Maybe its because this was set over 200 years ago. But really, if your sister's husband is a creep you wouldn't tell her?

I just have such a hard time with the way things aren't talked about. Why didn't anyone express to her that they held Captain Elliot in high esteem when she was worried about him being a soldier and not proper? Also, I know Sarah is young and not schooled in the ways of romance, but I think she wouldn't be as clueless about peoples feelings and intentions if she was a real person. The way she interacted with the "old biddies" on the train was much more realistic.

I think the book is fairly predictable, you can figure out what is going to happen. BUT the way things happen and when they happen is more of a surprise. So it didn't really bother me.

I believe that the author did her reasearch, and I don't know much about the "territories" during this time, so I don't have historical issues. I just sometimes wonder if things really were that different.


Final Note: I don't know why I read this when Graham was out of town. As if I don't already have a hard time sleeping when I'm alone. I started getting the feeling that people would know I was alone and I had no way to protect myself and my kids from banditos. Really.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Apology

Take me back...apo-o-logy. I know, more self-indulgent lyrics....

I went to the libray today and picked up 5 juicy volumes. They actually had a marker on the hold shelf that said, "your books are on the bottom shelf." Fancy. I've been waiting, and enjoying the sunshine. Don't give up on me and check back soon, I'll be reading!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Princess Academy by Shannon Hale

Recommendation:
Yes, I would recommend this to everyone. I think girls as young as 7 or 8 would enjoy it. It was a little slow starting for me, but I did enjoy it. Princess Academy is a great story. I like the characters, the plot, the conflicts, all of it! I couldn't help thinking this would be an easy book to teach story elements from!

What I liked:
I loved the quarry speech. I loved the idea, I loved how it playes such an importance in Miri's life and the story. I like the description. I think the author did a great job of showing how each of the girls had something she was self-conscious or embarrassed about. The characters were sweet, and I think most girls would identify with someone.

I loved the importance of learning to read and how it changed all their lives.

I loved when the girls worked together: the "Diplomacy," and leaving in the first place.

What kind of bugged me:
I didn't like the harshness of Olana. I know it was important for the story, but those first few parts were difficult for me to read. I do think there were many predictable parts, but I think you take that instride when you read a children's novel!!

Final thoughts:
This is a sweet story! Well developed, good details. Its a super quick read, 314 pages, but written for children.

Friday, February 8, 2008

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon


Quick Review since I've read it before.


Overview: This story is written from the perspective of a 15-year-old boy with autism. The author is neither austistic nor an expert, but writes a good story. The story is a murder mystery of a dog, and has lots of sad twists and turns. It is a sad story, but has a nice ending.

Warning: Several F-words. Not gratuitous, but I like to give you a heads up. The characters are British after all.

What I like: Of course I always like a happy ending. I like the main character. Its hard not too. Your heart breaks for him as he struggles through life. I felt like cheering when he did brave things! As the details of the story unfold, I have to admire the author for the interesting idea and perspective.

What I don't like: If you internalize too much, this can really be a downer of a book. Does that make sense? There were a few inconsistencies that seemed a little forced, but I'm not an autism expert either.

Recommendation: I'd recommend this to everyone. It's a different book, and it will give you some insight you might not already have. It's a quick read (especially the second time around!) Just be forwarned about the language.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Life of Pi by Yann Martel


Recommendation:
This is a good book. Yann Martel isn't my favorite writer. That being said, I do think he is very good. This story is multi-layered, creative and interesting. I think I was a bit disappointed overall because I was expecting something different.

WARNING: I am writing this assuming you have read this book. My review will spoil it if you haven't. I don't know how else to possibly respond. Sorry.

Overview: The title right off sparked my curiosity. The cover art I assumed was abstract, until of course I realized what the bulk of this novel was going to be. Everyone I talked to told me there were "two schools of thought" on the ending. Knowing this I was anxious to get to the end.

Dislikes: The pace of this novel bothered me. I assume that Martel consciously chose to draw out parts, and be very brief other times. But not at the times I would like. For example, Pi has been giving very detailed almost minute to minute accounts of his shipwreck, when all of a sudden on page 189 it says, "I survived 227 days." This transition irritated me. The same with the mysterious algae island. So much is explained and described, then all of a sudden he determines the algae is carnivorous and he leaves. The ultimate example is how the novel is kind of longish, then bam--at the end he presents us very briefly with an alternative. Is that fair?

The book claims to tell "a story that will make you believe in God." I was kind of waiting for the magical moment. It seemed that a great deal of time was spent showing how Pi believed in God and was very religious, and that he was a well trained swimmer. So I would have assumed that these two traits would save his life after the ship sank. I might have just missed the big picture, but I didn't think either o
f these things were mentioned much in the sea chapters.

Likes:

I like the beginning of the book the best. I enjoyed the authors description of Pi's childhood. Once I was used to the random insertions of italicized narrator chapters I like them too. Especially when he realizes Pi has a family, and he says, "This story has a happy ending."

I love that the boy Pi embraces three religions. I don't remember enough from my Philosophy class in highschool or my World Religions class in college to grasp the full meanings of his comparisons. But it was still great to read what he thought of as the strengths and beauties of these three religions and lifestyles. I loved each of his experiences discovering new truth.

I think most of the chapters of life at sea are well done. Pi continues to be a very clever character, building the raft, and before that realizing the need for it. I cheered with him when the solar stills worked! The descriptions were sometimes gross, but for the most part, tastefully handled.

I was so excited when he reached the island because I thought it was the miracle, and answer to his prayers. Then it got weird. I might not be looking at it close enough to understand the symbolism. Maybe the point is that our blessings may not be as good as they seem. I enjoyed Pi's return to strength, that he could eat until he was full, and the beautiful green. I thought the teeth in the tree were just creepy. The whole ending of this part was weird.

Best Quotes:

When he is on his bicycle and describes his experience, "I suddenly felt I was in heaven. The spot was in fact no different from when I had passed it not long before, but my way of seeing it had changed. The feeling, a paradoxical mix of pulsing energy and profound peace, was intense and blissful." It's much longer, but I love this part and I loved how he explained those moments where we are overwhelmed with a spiritual feeling in an ordinary setting.

"I just want to love God." Beautiful.

On a personal note: "To lose your father is to lose the one whose guidance and help you seek, who supports you like a tree trunk supports its branches."

My Final Conclusion:

I'm a fan of the first story. For me it was impossible not to believe with the amount of time I had invested in it at that point. I believe that Pi was extremely frusterated that his interrogators didn't believe him. I assume that they werent' the first disbelievers. He thought the animals were the believability problem. So he re-told his story without the animals. Now for the perspective change, I think he had come to identify with Richard Parker, so he told the story as if he were the monster at the bottom of the boat. Which is probably how he felt looking back on some of his more primitive behavior.

I also think that the frenchman part was an hallucination. This part seemed so unreal to me. That he lost his sight then regained it. I preferred the conversation when I thought he was talking to the tiger.

My thought is that if I read the book again (which I don't plan to do right now), I might change my mind. Any Robert Cormier fans out there? I read all his books I could get my hands on in junior high (thanks to Wendy's recommendations). Reading I am the Cheese again in college, gave me a whole new perspective. I seriously doubted that any of the bicycle journey was real. SO I think there is a chance my belief would change upon further readings.


Thursday, January 24, 2008

blink by Malcolm Gladwell

Subtitle: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking

Overall Recommendation: Yes, if you know what you're getting into. Not a fast read but it's a very interesting read. Blink is so different than anything I've read for awhile. Non-fiction, lots of case studies, I had to actually think a bit to make sense of all the information. It was good for me. It was a bit laborious, but I'm glad I finished.

Case Studies or Examples I liked: The Pepsi Challenge--so cool to find out the reason behind New Coke! I'm not much of a cola drinker, but many near and dear to me are. I think the difference between good for a sip and good for a whole case was very interesting.

Rule of Improv--Facinating! This will change the way I watch comedy!

Watching a movie with the autistic man--again, so cool! It was one of the clearest explanations of the social disconnect people with autism have. I thought the research here was very accessible and clear.

The screened auditions for the orchestras--we've heard examples like this before, but I thought it was cool to hear the one judge talk about how she prefers them because she gets distracted by little things. At first this was distracting because I thought it was opposite of the first impression idea, but it fits with the concept of too much information blurs the truth.

Case Studies or Examples I struggled with: The whole Millenium Challenge--it was interesting, but a little drawn out. All of the computer simulated quick responses--I just found these too contrived. Maybe I don't have enough experience with them, but they were too off the wall for me to really get into.

What I liked: I was initially concerned the author was going to suggest that we should trust our first impression wholly, which is kind of radical. Never judge a book buy its cover, right? I do think we all agree that our gut instinct or mother's intuition is right on a lot of the time. I just wondered how a book would prove this, and how would you justify the stereotyping and profiling that embracing this theory would lead too. BUT, I think the value in the book is the idea that we educate ourselves, gather all the facts, do the research, then let our subconscious make quick decisions.

I think Gladwell is right on when he explains that we often have to made choices without the luxury of time to weigh all the options. This reminds me of what we learn in our youth and try to teach our kids; we need to weigh the evidence and prepare for meaningful decision making before the heat of the moment. I'm thinking of saying no to drugs and staying morally clean. We can't necessarily trust our instincts if we haven't gone through the logical and reasonable facts before we are faced with a split-second decision.

I completely agree with his phrase, "paralysis through analysis." When we overload ourselves with choices or information, it becomes more difficult to know what the right choice is. We don't always make a better decision just because we have more information. I guess the trick is finding out what is essential, what is distracting, and what is just irrelevant.

What bugged me: Where this got confusing, and a little inconsistant for me was when the opposite seemed to be true. To understand facial expression, it suggests gathering tons of information. The research in the beginning with the couples also confused me in that way. Like I mentioned above, the simulated or computer studies (race with car salesmen, old age word references, gun or wrench) just seemed a little forced. I know that studies like this are done in all fields, and are considered valid, I'm just not convinced that it transfers directly to life. I got bogged down with all the technical details in some of the studies. Gladwell's style isn't my favorite. I think he was trying too hard to make a complex idea readily available to his readers, because the repetitive loops were pretty annoying. Each chapter rolled back to his previous example, which kind of gave me the feeling, "see I told you so, and now I told you again and again and again."

Also I think the information he presented was being manipulated to make his point. I wrote enough papers in college to know how this is done. Some of the studies I felt like you could use to prove the contrary. He would say things like "just under 50%, then just over 50 %" and I'm just not convinced there was a difference. I'm not convinced the numbers really proved what he insinuated they did.