Thursday, October 15, 2009

Schooled by Gordan Korman

My 10-year-old son is a big Gordan Korman fan. I would guess he's read at least 20 of his books. According to my book jacket, he has written at least 50. This was my first time reading one of his books, and I was impressed. He writes very honestly, and I think deals with some intense topics, but keeps it appropriate for younger readers.

The characters in this book don't stray too far from their stereotypes, aside from the main character Cap Anderson. Cap and his grandma are the last two remaining residents of a commune founded in the 1960's. He has lead a sheltered life, and when his grandma is convalescing in the hospital, he is shoved into a modern day middle school.

This book reminded me of Stargirl. The stories are similar. While I liked Stargirl better, Schooled has a much happier, tidier ending. Each chapter is written in the first person by one of the characters. I think the technique works well, and provides good insight into the thoughts and motivations of each character. I still think Korman could have been a little more creative with his characters. They were so stereotypical, popular football player, outcast--on the chess team, no less, sidekick, popular girl, etc. But they were well developed.

The most insightful part comes when the popular boy (Zach) has now been outcast and is having a conversation with the boy (Hugh) he has tormented for years.

"My whole life, it's always been obvious what sports to play, what bands to listen to, what people to hang out with. It's as if I was born with a natural guidance systerm inside my head, showing mme how to be cool."....Instead of gloating, he actually seemed to understand. For Hugh Winkleman, the whole planet didn't come with a book of instructions.

Doesn't is seem like from a young age those kids who will be popular and cool seem to stand out? It's hard to explain, but I think Korman said it well.

I'm looking forward to reading more of Gordan Korman's books. Apparently I'll have plenty of choices!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Frog Princess by E.D.Baker

My four-year-old found out about the new Disney princess movie from their website. She was thrilled and told me all about it. When I heard it was based on this book (I'm not sure if it really is....), I had to look into it. Then my friend at book club told me she had read all the books in the series and really liked them.

And, I really liked this book. I didn't love it, but I think it is really fun. The characters are cute, the story is interesting and creative. It's not as predictable as I feared.

I liked the characters, but some of the development was a little confusing. Like the author had little details about them she wanted to make sure to include, and they were just awkwardly interjected. When Emma decides on the swamp fairy plan, it felt weird to me, and out of character.

It almost felt like a Disney animated movie. Cute characters, good storyline, but with a few painfully cheesy lines. Like when Emma mentions that her grandmother lived "through the woods," and "even my horse knows the way."

I also liked that Emma didn't do what I expected her to do. She wouldn't kiss the frog a second time because she knew better. She didn't want to make things worse. She makes her own decisions, but still learns from other characters. I think she's a fun heroine. I will read more of the series.

I just realized my same four-year-old was looking through my library copy this morning and now my little notes are lost. I was so determined to write a more thought out review this time. Sorry.

So I recommend it! From the little research that I did, the movie seems to be inspired by the book, but I don't think it follows very closely. Which is too bad, hopefully it will be a fun movie anyway.

Friday, October 2, 2009

The Magician's Elephant By, Kate DiCamillo

I really like Kate DiCamillo's books. If you do too, I recommend this book. Her stories and characters are quirky and a bit strange. This one reminded me more of Edward Tulane and Desperaux than Winn Dixie. It seemed to me like a book I would assume had been written in a different country.

I love the poetic way she writes. Here's the opening sentence,
"At the end of the century before last, in the market square of the city of Baltese, there stood a boy with a hat on his head and a coin in his hand."
Isn't that pretty?

I do love the mis-match characters and how they recognize the good in each other and help each other. DiCamillo describes one of the characters as having "the soul of a poet." I like that.

Another great quote from a kind nun, "All of God's creatures have names, every last one of them. Of that I am sure; of that I have no doubt at all."

And, stay with me here, the elephant, while in captivity, "was saying her name to herself." Why? Because, "It was the name that her mother had given to her and that she had spoken to her often and with love."

There is a dark sadness in the book, but the end is happy. My favorite kind of ending. The characters take leaps of faith. The faith is in the magic, but I'm OK with that because it is such a sweet magical story.

I read this one early because I was the recipient of a generous Barnes and Noble gift card. If you live around here you can borrow my copy.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Sammy Keyes and the Hotel Theif

If this series had been around when I was 9 or 10, it very well may have been my favorite.

Sammy is a girl and she solves a mystery. The story is quick, not too scary, and the characters are likable. Of course as a grown-up, there are lots of things I would have liked to have seen developed more, but I guess that's why there is a whole series.

I hope I can convince my boys to at least give this one a shot. There's a good chance I'll check out more of these when I need a little break. (Like after reading Dickens!)

Monday, September 21, 2009

David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

I've been struggling to figure out how to review this book. We haven't had book club yet, so maybe I'll form some more opinions. I went back and forth so many times reading this. It is SO LONG. Small type, complicated wording, and it takes people forever to get their point across. I know, I'm a total baby. I've been spoiled by reading clever, concise, modern novels lately I guess.

Sixty pages in I decided I was done. This poor boy's childhood. I can't handle cruelty toward children, even in 150 year old fiction. So.

But I came back to it, and at about 500 pages, I couldn't put it down. So YES, I recommend it, but just know what you're getting into. Decide if you can commit. I can never read books over a long period of time, it's just not something I can handle. So this took me a lot of squeezed in moments, almost all of Murphy's naps, and lots of late nights. I think I finished it in about 10 days.

There were a lot of things that I thought about while reading it. Like why some themes appear so much in literature. How sad it is that this book was probably accurate in having almost all orphans or single parent households. And why I didn't like the book for awhile. In fact, so many bad things kept happening, that I became suspicious of every new character that was introduced. BUT of course the story gets better, and of course I love a *relatively* happy ending.

It was hard for me to understand parts of this book. Like David's profession. A lot of the legal and business discussion was hard for me to figure out.

In the end, I like David's character, I loved his aunt, I loved Mr. Peggotty, and Peggotty, and of course Agnes (such a terrible name). I think Dickens had a sense of humor when he named his characters, and they were right on! (Except Agnes.)

This is my rambling review, I went through so many opinions and emotions while reading it that my review is equally scattered!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Step-Ball-Change by Jeanne Ray

It's impossible not to compare this book to Eat Cake, by the same author. And I think I'd still recommend Eat Cake as the better story. Both begin with a group of people thrown together in the midst of tragedies, who help each other out, and for the most part become better people and solve each other's problems.

That being said, I liked this book. It has a happy, tidy ending. The characters have a good sense of humor about themselves. The family relationships are great. There is a lot of discussion about marriage, and I think much of what is said is insightful.

It was hard for me to imagine Caroline as 62. But I love that she was. She has two sons, a daughter, then a son just like me. I love to think that my kids would be stopping by and sharing their problems with me 28 years in the future.

I love when she talked about dancing, and how that had been her love in life.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

Reading this book again felt similiar to reading Harriet the Spy to my kids earlier this summer. Both books are great. Both are interesting stories, told well. But this time reading, I just felt like they were old-fashioned. They felt out of date, and I noticed more of a disconnect. It's hard to put into words, but I just wonder if I was reading either of these books for the first time as a child in 2009 if they would be as enjoyable.

(By the way, if Claudia mentions putting on a "petticoat" then the girl pictured on the cover of the book should not be wearing striped tights or Sketchers like my copy.)

Some good quotes:

"She was convinced she would develop a medium-serious skin disease within five minutes after she got off the bus."

"The silence seeped from their heads to their soles and into their souls."

Claudia's explanation:
"When you hug someone, you learn something else about them. An important something else."

I do believe literature is timeless, I do. I think so much of this book is amazing. But somehow childrens' literature just seems to feel more dated to me than other books.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Finished Harry Potter

So I did it. Finally I have finished the Harry Potter series.

I liked #6 & 7 so much better than 4 & 5. I really liked them. I don't want to spoil it in case any of you are like me and late to read the series.

But I loved the quote when Dumbledore said, "time has made a fool of us again." Or something like that in reference to losing track of time.

I liked the way the book ended. Although I will complain that it got unnecessarily complicated. All the Hallows stuff. All these connections or not connections. The wand is connected, but how. I just think that #7 got a little more complicated than it needed to be.

I do love Luna and her sweet, dreamy comments through out the whole series.

I appreciate that J.K. Rowling keeps these books for kids. The little romances are kept so simple and innocent. She often writes that the characters swear, but she doesn't have to write out the words, just references it. I appreciate that these are truly PG books. I do think they are scary, but without being gory. Like she says Malfoy still bore the mark of Voldemorts punishment, but without having to describe the horribleness. Do you know what I mean?

Overall I liked this series. It won't be my favorite ever, but I'm glad I invested the time into reading it. I think the characters are great, and for the most part strayed from the stereotypes that are repeated over and over in literature. I loved the relationship between Harry and Hermoine.

Now I'm off to tackle David Copperfield, all 877 tiny print pages of it for book club next month.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Revenge of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutz

This is another great book in the series. Don't start with it, go in order, but I liked it every bit as much as the first two. They all follow the same kind of plan, but they don't feel formulaic. I have nothing in common with Izzy Spellman, but I love her!

This series is a nice change from the books I usually read. If you took some of the things this family does to each other (invasion of privacy, pranks, etc) too seriously, it might be too much. But taking it as fiction, it is not.

Here are some lines I especially liked:

"The rest of the day I had only one thought in my mind: Is this really my life?"

"My feet felt like lead and I wanted to punch the wind that was slowing me down."

"Petra changed everything and I found that our relationship became too sticky to dust off."
Clever, huh?

I love this series, and I'm thrilled to see that #4 is coming out in March 2010!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Harry Potter and the Order of the Pheonix

So. I finally finished #5. I have to say it was the hardest for me to get into. I hated how there was NOTHING good for so long. I just felt discouraged reading it, thinking, how can this possibly get worse. Then it would. I was particularly disturbed by the Umberidge detentions and how Harry felt ashamed and didn't' want to tell anyone.

The books are getting dark. It's not the witchcraft and dark magic that bother me, it's the good versus evil. I just like for the good guys, especially kids, to have a resourse. It just felt like Harry was being isolated from any kind of support and that upset me.

I know I'm naive. I realize there are lots of people in horrible situations, I'm just not sure I want to read 1,000's of pages about it.

That said. I did enjoy the unraveling of this book at the end. I'm still a fan of the characters. I feel like I finally know them a bit better. They are filling out and becoming less of cartoons to me. I think J.K. Rowling is an excellent writer.

I prefer the more concise length of the first couple books. I think the same story could be told a bit quicker. I am still frustrated by the limits and limitless of the magic. There are no rules, so you never know what they will or will not be able to do with magic.

OK. I'm off to start #6, and I think we're going to see the movie tomorrow night.

Oh, and about the movies. I've seen 2, and I'm not sure how anyone could follow what was going on if they hadn't read the books. But I do think they are well done.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo

I really enjoyed this book. I think Kate DiCamillo is a great writer, but both The Tale of Despereaux and The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane seemed a little dark for kids. That being said, I really liked them, and so did my boys.

Winn-Dixie has some sad elements, but to me was much lighter than the others. The story is sweet, and really does show all the nice things that happen to Opal because of finding her dog. I enjoyed reading this aloud to my boys, and I think they liked it too. The characters are great, the dialouge between them is great, and the overall message of the story is great.

I've decided that I always enjoy when the main characters are a mixed-matched bunch.

This is a short, sweet, nice book.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Beauty by Robin McKinley

I enjoyed this book and I would recommend it. It is young adult fantasy. It is a sweet and magical re-telling of Beauty and the Beast. If you like fairy tales, you will like this book.

I especially liked that everyone was nice. Beauty has two sisters, and they are nice. Her dad is great, and even the Beast is nice from the beginning. I liked the descriptions of the enchantments, and enjoyed the writing style. That being said, I didn't LOVE this book. I think it's nice, but I think I would have enjoyed it more about 20 years ago. I read The Blue Sword by the same author in junior high and I remember liking it a lot.

Here are a couple examples of her writing style:

"Firelight sent a warm glow through the windows, and left golden footprints in the garden."

"..although I privately thought that our family already had more than enough virtues personified."

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Harry Potter Continued......

So I've finished 2 & 3, and I'm a little way into #4.

I enjoyed both 2 and 3, and was actually kind of scared at the end of #3, and stayed up too late to finish it. Which is always a sign of liking a book for me. You know, it's worth giving up sleep for. I think both of these books kind of followed a similiar story line. You knew who to be suspicious of, but not sure why. Then the bad guy didn't end up as bad, a couple twists, etc. But I think both are good stories. I have to say the element I really didn't like was Dobby. I think the whole concept is annoying and unpleasant. I guess that's the point, but I'm not thrilled to see house elves back in the story line in Goblet of Fire.

I have to say I'm having a hard time keeping my enthusiasm going for this book. I'm just not that interested, and as they keep adding more characters and layers it's not helping. My son has assured me that he really like #4, and he just finished reading it for the 4th or 5th time, so I'm trying to go on his word. I don't think I'll be able to finish these monster volumes in time for the new movie to come out in a week. So I might be re-thinking my plan.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

I'm going to assume I'm the last person on the planet to read these books. I've always thought I would get around to them, but when I heard the movie this summer was going to be PG and I could take my boys, I decided it was the perfect time! (I haven't seen the movies yet either.)

So, I liked and would recommend this book. It is filled with action and adventure. I like the voice and style that J.K. Rowlings writes in, I was a little nervous about that. But I love that after spending years being under appreciated and mistreated, that Harry finds out he is a hero, and had loving, courageous parents.

Also, I love the type and spacing that is used. The very helpful last page told me it is 12 point Adobe Garamond, I hope they are all the same.

I was a little annoyed that some things weren't resolved, like how did Malfoy get out of the forest? Stuff like that bugs me.

I loved when Dumbledore tells Harry to "use the proper name." That they both felt the same way about it.

And finally, this fantastic explanation, " have been loved so deeply, even though the person who loved us is gone, will give us some protection forever." Beautiful.

I can't wait to continue the story!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri

Did anyone read Interpreter of Maladies? It's been a few years since I have, but I remember liking it. I also remember some of the stories were really sad. Although each dealt with a family or character that was either born in India, or born in America to first generation Indian immigrants, many of the themes were universal.

Unaccustomed Earth is the second collection of short stories that Jhumpa Lahiri has published. She also wrote a novel in between, that I haven't read yet.

I really liked these stories. Again there are some tragic parts. In fact, the last three stories are "part two" and all relate to two characters, and culminate with them being reunited after 30 or so years. I wish these had been the first three, because I didn't like the ending and thought it was a sad way to finish up a book.

So the things I did like. Lahiri has a great way of making her short stories feel like a novel. They don't feel like a chapter or a short snippet. Each has complex characters, most of whom I liked, and thought provoking ideas and themes. Some were more relatable than others, and again they are all about familes who have immigrated to the United States at some point from India. I have to say it did make me want to learn more about the culture, but the importance is not limited to a sort of culture study. Not at all. I loved that I could sit and read a complete story in one sitting, but I would be just as excited to start the next one.

These are well-written stories. I want to describe them as smart, but I'm not sure what a smart story should be.

One theme that I liked was how the third generation, the grand children, seemed to help bridge the gap. Not just grandchildren I guess, but children in general. Most of the stories have a sweet element even if they also have a lot of sadness.

There was one particular part that sadly sounded familiar:

He's talking about how he and his wife's energy is now "devoted not to doing things together but devising ways so that each could have some time alone, she taking the girls so that he could go running hin the park on her days off, or vice versa, so that she could browse in a bookstore" It goes on, but you get the point.
I highly recommend this book. I hope you'll like it too.

(Oh and there are a few moments of PG-13.)

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Three Cups of Tea

This is a really good book. I had heard a lot about it, and finally took the time to read it. I couldn't put it down, and am completely fascinated by Greg Mortenson's work. While I admire what the co-author Relin was trying to do in adding background and poetic descriptions, they were a little distracting to me.

The story of Greg wandering into a tiny village in Northern Pakistan, making a promise to build a school, then going back to California and working hard and ultimately giving up his old life to make this happen is amazing. It is entertaining and captivating all by itself. I did appreciate the background into the different villages, religions, and nationalities, but I'm still confused.

However today as I read an article about refugees in Pakistan, I had a frame of reference. It wouldn't have caught my eye a week ago. But words like "Kalashnikov rifles," "Pushtan," and "Peshawar," now have meaning in my mind. That being said, the conflicts and poverty are very hard to comprehend.

More than any other book lately, I want to talk about this one. Luckily I know enough people who have read it. I'm having a hard time knowing what to post! So I'm going to resort to lists.

What I thought was AMAZING:

  • How Greg Mortensen completely gave up his life of climbing to become a school builder. He didn't look back.
  • The story of Greg meeting and marrying his wife is almost unbelievable, but very sweet.
  • The hospitality of the Pakistani people. The way that they fix food and serve tea, then ask the questions.
  • The timing of Greg's work is so incredible, that he was there before the "madrassas" were springing up all over the place.
  • I love how his wife believes in him and has personally sacrificed so much for her husband to keep his work going.
  • When Greg is able to go back and double the salaries of the men who have served so long and hard with him!
What was frustrating to me:
  • It is always hard for me to keep characters and vocabulary that are in a foreign language straight when I read. I don't take notes the way I did in college, so there were times I would get characters confused.
  • I'm still hung up on him not taking the government's money. He did it because he wanted to protect the people he worked with. Obviously, he can do more work without having to be accountable to or babysat by the US government. BUT, if the whole point is that increasing education opportunities is the best way to fight terrorism, the government is going to need inside help. The troops can't accomplish what Greg could, they wouldn't have the contacts, the experience, all that. SO this has caused me to think a lot about it. Reading a book like this, you start to think, it should be so simple. I know it's not, and I keep thinking of HOW things could be accomplished.

And again that's why this story is so amazing. Greg saw a need and then did everything he could to fix it. Over and over again. His dedication is totally inspiring.

I recommend this whole-heartedly. I've heard a few people saying it was too boring, and I think that's because some of the details and background might seem tedious. I was so fascinated by the character, and wanted to see what he would do next, that I read it pretty quickly.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Curse of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutz

I was thrilled to discover that Lisa Lutz had written not one, but TWO more books about the Spellmans. I finished up the second one this weekend and was not disappointed. I'm not going to go into detail, because if you haven't read the first one it won't matter much.

I think this was just as good as the first one. I did actually figure out more of the mysteries, but they were still creative and suspenseful. Mostly I enjoy these books because they are funny, entertaining, and the characters are likable and well-developed. David plays a smaller role in this one, and there are some sad events.

One line I particularly liked,
"After my teeth cleaning and reminder of my all-around mediocrity, I needed a stiff drink."
I don't drink, but I could substitute "a stiff drink" with a fattening treat. Needless to say, I can relate.

Also the on going theme of the ex-Olympians cracked me up.

This time the book jacket describes Izzy as "part Bridget Jones, part Columbo."

I enjoyed this book, I recommend it (again, note that there is some interspersed swearing), and I'm equally stoked to read #3!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

I completely recommend this book!

I loved it. This story is told through letters between a writer in London and some friends that live on the island of Guernsey. It is not choppy at all, and the characters are endearing. Do I say that too much? It's such a huge enjoyment factor for me. My only complaint is that I had no idea the age of a few of the characters. Like was Elizabeth in her 40's or 20's? Dawsey, Isola, no idea.

My mom was telling me recently how she loved reading books that taught her about a different time and culture. I was thinking that I don't always love books like that. But THIS book gives a really good perspective of the aftermath of WWII. From several perspectives.

One thing I LOVED was that it does not gloss over the horrors these people faced in the war, but it doesn't dwell on them. Everyone is trying to find joy, and the book feels very hopeful. I think it is very successful in dealing with tragedy. It made me think of many aspects of war that, hopefully, I've never been exposed too.

Yet, it is not purely informative and historical. There is a rich story of Juliet, and her finding happiness. There is a nice romance or two! I love the blend of great old friends, and brand new friends that feel like kindred spirits.

I loved the voice and the style of this writer. I'm so sad to hear that she died. But how great, and in the spirit of the book, that her niece finished the process for her.

There are some great statements in this book:

"That's what i love about reading: one tiny thing will interest you in a book, and that tiny thing will lead you into another book, and another bit there will lead you onto a third book. It's geometrically progressive--all with no end in sight, and for no other reason than sheer enjoyment." I love this because that is why we read, for "enjoyment." And who hasn't been lead on a treasure hunt from one book to the other.

And going right along with that, "We clung to books and to our friends; they reminded us that we had another part to us." This is how I feel as a mother of young children. Lot's of my time is spend in the mundane, and doing things I'm not crazy about. Reading reminds me of my other self: who I used to be.

This book is funny, but doesn't try to be witty at every turn. After hearing of her friend's broken leg, she writes to his sister about her "tiny infant of an idea," and says, "In honor of Sidney's leg, I'm going to coddle it and feed it and see if I can make it grow." Hilarious.

I loved how the book unfolds in the letters through the simple statement, "I'll tell you a story about..."

From the author's Acknowledgements in the back, "I hope, too, that my book will illuminate my belief that love of art--be it poetry, storytelling, painting, sculpture, or music--enables people to transcend any barrier man has yet devised."

I kept hearing about and seeing this book. It's great, read it!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Updates on a few books....

So I haven't been reading as much. I got a new sewing machine, and I've been a sewing maniac.

I did finish the Griffin and Sabine books. I read them quick, and I did like them. Hayley I'm glad to hear you loved them. I think I liked the idea of the books more than the actual story. They are much more about the artwork, and mysticism, than about an actual story. That's how I felt. Especially the second trilogy. It got too mythological and symbolic for my taste. But still cool to look at.

I also read the final book of Ember. The Diamond of Darkhold. I really enjoyed it. I think it was a fitting end, and again, I really enjoy the characters of Lina and Doon. When I read The People of Sparks, I kept wanting someone to go back to Ember to salvage what they did have. Things just seemed so desperate. So I was glad to have that issue resolved in this novel. I give the whole series a thumbs up.

So I'll be reading again soon I'm sure.....thanks for not giving up on me!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Spellman Files by, Lisa Lutz

This is a fun book. Thanks for the recommendation Alisha!

The book jacket compares it to Harriet the Spy, and Nancy Drew for grown-ups. I think its a fair comparison. The story is about a family of P.I.s. It's written from Izzy's 20-something perspective. She has case files, transcripts, and charming lists.

I enjoyed the style of the book, the spunky characters, and it has a couple of good mysteries too. The Spellmans are good mix of dysfunction and love. The details had me cracking up. For example, the tennis uniforms, paying the little sister, the tattoos. Good cover too.

I recommend this book! (Just a warning, there are a handful of f-words.)

Friday, February 13, 2009

Griffin and Sabine: An Extraordinary Correspondence by, Nick Bantock

This is a pretty little book. The story is told through postcards, and letters that you actually pull out of an envelope to read. Not all the artwork is pretty, but I love the idea of the book. The story is intriguing, but the entire book felt more like a chapter. SO I quickly put requests in for the other 5 books of the series. Hopefully they'll come in quick.

The basic summary is that an artist, Griffin, receives a postcard from a woman who lives on a tiny island. As they correspond, she explains that she can see his artwork as he creates it. Their letters draw you in, and I'm really excited to see where the story will go.

**As a side note, my anesthesiologist when I was in labor with Laney told me about these books. We were having a discussion about the names of my children. I was impressed that he had a literary reference for each of their names that I was unfamiliar with. Of course I don't remember what Delaney and Nolan were. I think they were authors. Its nice the conversation was good, because the epidural wasn't. It only took on one side, and someone had to come fix it, give me another shot of it, which resulted in cement leg on the left side for many hours. But I digress.....

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Elegance of the Hedgehog by, Muriel Barbery

Loved it. Absolutely. Thank you Graham for finding this gem. And thank you Wendy for reading it right before me and putting up with me talking about it so much on our trip. This book is French. It has been translated. Both of the main characters are endearing. I loved them, hence loved the book.

Paloma and Renee each have "the elegance of the hedgehog: on the outside, she's covered in quills, a real fortress, but my gut feeling is that on the inside, she has the same simple refinement as the hedgehog: a deceptively indolent little creature, fiercely solitary--and terribly elegant."
I took a lot of notes, I'll spare you most of them, but really I'd love to write them all up.
Here are a few that I really liked:

Madame Michel writes about her husband's last days, and going to a movie, "he had placed his trust in what we had said to each other without any need for words."
I love that, not just the point she is making, but the lovely way it is written.

Or, Paloma while visiting her grandma in a rest home, says, "I was ripe for despair. Then suddenly I remembered that I had decided to build and not destroy. I looked all around me for something positive," I love the dramatics of Paloma's emotions, because that's how we are as teenagers. Lots of things she said cracked me up.

"If you think about it carefully, there is nothing uglier than an open door." Renee is explaining why the Japanese sliding doors are so much better. And still talking about Japanese design, "Maybe we're all sick with this too much of everything."

I'll admit that there are times when Renee's philosophical musings begin to lose me. But enough of what she says is really good stuff, that I like her.

One more Paloma quote, "So when they sing a canon I look down at the ground because it's just too much emotion at once: it's too beautiful, and everyone singing together, this marvelous sharing."

That is one of the themes running in this book, noticing those pure moments of beauty.

I will state that the ending is not what I really wanted or expected. I won't say anymore. But it's still a great book.

I hope more of you will read it because this is totally in my top 10.

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Prophet of Yonwood

This is book #3 of the series. It is a prequel to City of Ember. It shows one small town 50 years before people went to live in the City of Ember. Nickie is 11, and she grows up to be the one that wrote the diary that Doon and Lina find on their way out.

I was a little concerned that this book was heading toward making fun of religion, you know false prophets, false hope, etc. But I think it is a good story to match the first two. It has a pretty happy ending too.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson

We read this book for bookclub this month, and I really liked it! It has a similiar feel to Little House on the Prairie, and These is My Words. But it takes place later, during World War I. The author, Kirby Larson, is from Kenmore! It won a Newberry Honor award, and is written for young adults, maybe even older elementary kids.

The author heard stories of her Great-grandma homesteading in Montana, and started researching. I think it is well-written, and has lots of interesting historical information, without sounding like a history book.

The characters were well developed. I loved the family of friends that Hattie found in Montana. Just a warning, this book made me cry. It could have been worse, but there are some SAD parts. I liked the character of Hattie, and her swift sincere prayers. There are some sweet magical moments.

I hope you'll read and enjoy this book.

PS. There are two recipes in the back. Aminda made Perilee's Wartime Spice Cake, and MMMMM it was good!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

People of Sparks

This is the sequel to City of Ember, and I liked it just as much. I think it has some thought-provoking ideas about what leads to war, and choosing the right thing even if it is hard. But keep in mind that it is a children's book, so you've probably thought the thoughts before. I'm an adult and I still really enjoyed it. I do think you should read the books in order to thoroughly appreciate them.

When the two civilizations come together, it is interesting what is of value to each. What they have and what they need. A little bit of brain versus brawn, but it's more complicated than that.

I liked the symbolism of the weather. The season's changing, the wind bring change.

Doon and Lina emerge the heroes again. There are some interesting new characters. Over all I just think its a great book. Probably for 9 and up.

Some quotes:

"Being good is hard, much harder than being bad."

"You don't want to, but you do it anyway."

"He hadn't really imagined what fighting would be like."
(Again I really liked Doon's father's simple wisdom.)

"She had hoped that someone else might to do, so she wouldn't have to, but nobody did."