Saturday, July 31, 2010
Thursday, July 29, 2010
Their friendship is tested when Amber's abusive boyfriend returns and Danny's mother withdraws more permanently from her family, leading eventually to a crisis that threatens Amber and her unborn child, as well as Danny's concept of love and manhood. (Summary from book - Image from amazon.com - Book given free for review)
My Review: Season of Water and Ice is a quiet, contemplative, and well-written piece of literary fiction. Danny’s relationships with those closest to him are complex and riddled with unspoken (or rarely spoken) emotion which is, perhaps, why he spends so much of his time alone. As an alarmingly perceptive teenager, Danny distances himself from his peers and his family, and occupies himself with deftly analyzing the world and people that surround him, learning to discern their motivations and his own. Unfortunately, the distance that he put between himself and the other characters, kept me at bay as well, and made it difficult for me to truly connect with any of them. While I can’t say I loved this book (it was far too sad for that), I can’t say I didn’t like it either. Most of all, it made me think. Which, I suppose, says quite a lot.
My Rating: 3.5 Stars. For the sensitive reader: I don’t think that I can honestly recommend this book to you, beyond the above paragraph, because there were far too many sexual situations, discussions, and moments of profanity throughout this book. Although I’m sure the sexual content was authentic to his character, age, and gender, I wasn’t particularly thrilled about having to read about it all the time and doubt you will be either.
Sum it up: A melancholy coming-of-age story about the many faces of love, the desperation of loneliness, and the anguish of dreams unrealized.
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
This simple act takes old Henry Lee back to the 1940s, at the height of the war, when young Henry’s world is a jumble of confusion and excitement, and to his father, who is obsessed with the war in China and having Henry grow up American. While “scholarshipping” at the exclusive Rainier Elementary, where the white kids ignore him, Henry meets Keiko Okabe, a young Japanese American student. Amid the chaos of blackouts, curfews, and FBI raids, Henry and Keiko forge a bond of friendship–and innocent love–that transcends the long-standing prejudices of their Old World ancestors. And after Keiko and her family are swept up in the evacuations to the internment camps, she and Henry are left only with the hope that the war will end, and that their promise to each other will be kept.
Forty years later, Henry Lee is certain that the parasol belonged to Keiko. In the hotel’s dark dusty basement he begins looking for signs of the Okabe family’s belongings and for a long-lost object whose value he cannot begin to measure. Now a widower, Henry is still trying to find his voice–words that might explain the actions of his nationalistic father; words that might bridge the gap between him and his modern, Chinese American son; words that might help him confront the choices he made many years ago.
Set during one of the most conflicted and volatile times in American history, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is an extraordinary story of commitment and enduring hope. In Henry and Keiko, Jamie Ford has created an unforgettable duo whose story teaches us of the power of forgiveness and the human heart.
(Summary and cover photo from of barnesandnoble.com)
Heather's Review: Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is a beautifully crafted novel which speaks of the segregation that took place after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. It addresses the difficulties of being of Asian decent during this period of time and the prejudices that arose. The novel also depicts a rocky relationship between a father and his son - an indestructible wall of secrets built between the two. Yet at it's heart Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is a love story.
Jamie Ford's writing took my breath away time and time again with his tale laced with symbolism. My chest tightened as I watched one season of a life come to an undesirable end and another unpredictable future begin. My eyes were far from dry as I savored the final pages. Despite all the war and torment that takes place during this book there is a feeling of total and utter peace as the last word is read and the cover is closed.
I was fortunate enough to attend one of Jamie Ford's book talks and signings. He is a very charismatic man with a wonderful sense of humor, yet remains humble. It just made me love this book (now signed!) more.
Her Rating: 5 Stars
(I did catch the discrepancy between the time frame of the novel and the technology written about but I was so utterly engrossed in the tale that it did not distract from the story line for me. So it remains a 5.)
To sum it up: A perfect balance of fact and fiction wound together to create a beautiful love story.
Mindy's Review: Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is the quiet and expressive story of Henry Lee, told in two alternating parts—Henry as young boy and Henry as an elderly man. Young Henry lives in Seattle during WWII, and though he is Chinese, contends daily with the shameful racism brought about by the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and a father who holds a deep-seated hatred of the Japanese. His father longs for his native China, but desperately wants his son to be seen as an American. Old Henry tells his story with a voice of experience and wisdom. While mourning the loss of his wife Ethel, and confronting some of the same issues he and his father faced with his own son, Marty, Henry keeps can't help but think about the past and what could have been. Through the eyes of young and old, a beautifully rich story unfolds. It is young love, hateful actions, familial betrayal, and undying loyalty, all set to the beat of Seattle’s famous jazz scene.
It seems cliché to use the word bittersweet to describe this particular novel, but in the end the word is fitting, and perfectly describes my feelings as I read. I didn’t always know what was going to happen, but was content to go where the story led. If the ending tied up a little too neatly, I found I didn’t mind at all. I closed this book with a contented sigh and the feeling that all was as it should be.
Her Rating: 4.5 Stars. For the sensitive reader: I really can’t remember anything offensive. Of course, I’m a bit batty right now, so that might not mean a whole lot.
Sum it up: A beautifully written love story that should not be missed.
Average Rating: 4.75 Stars
Monday, July 26, 2010
My Review: I picked up this book after reading Kari's review and I definitely agree with her review. This is an incredibly fast read for two reasons. First, it's only 126 pages. I can personally attest to its "waiting room" readability. Second, the action starts immediately with the arrival of a letter from Sunny's presumed dead sister, Jazz. When Jazz shows up for a visit, any sane person can see that something is terribly wrong.
Dead Girls Don't Write Letters is definitely creepy and I could see it being tweaked a bit and made into an M. Night Shyamalan movie (that I would definitely go see). That having been said, I didn't "get" the ending. It was obviously a gigantic twist, but I had a hard time making sense of it and have heard the same from several other people. We were all left with a giant sense of "Huh?". I felt that Giles could have written a better, less ambiguous ending without hurting the story.
My Rating: 3.75 Stars For the sensitive reader: A scattering of profanity throughout - mostly of the "S" variety.
Sum it up: A book with great cinematic potential.
Sunday, July 25, 2010
The rules contained herein are general truths to many facets of a man's life. They provide a way--through advice or humor--to getting through most of it, one rule at a time. (Summary from book - Image from amazon.com)
My Review: I found this book at Goodwill and, since it claims to be “rules that apply to every man’s life,” it should be no surprise that I read most of it out loud to my husband so that I could gauge his reaction. There were times when we were both laughing so hard it was a struggle to finish the “rule,” and others when scratched our heads in dismay. Esquire maintains that they found the original leather-bound, handwritten copy of this book in their research department and that no one knows who wrote it. If the above is true, and not just a publicity stunt, then I’m a little intrigued by who the author might be and how they set about writing these rules. Esquire claims that all the rules are “true” even though it’s fairly obvious they’re being facetious.
Here’s a handful of rules just to give you an idea of what to expect from the book:
- A relaxed dress code at work does not legitimize the display of leg hair or chest hair.
- The day that the New York Times referred to Snoop Doggy Dogg on second reference as Mr. Dogg was the day the whole formal news outlet edifice began to crumble.
- Reaching over to flush another man’s urinal is universally frowned upon.
- There is no historical basis for Count Chocula.
- There is no shame in cinnamon toast. There is, however, ample shame in eating a Lean Cuisine entrée at home, alone, pantless, while watching television. Look at yourself, man. Just look at yourself.
- A complicated coffee order impresses no one.
- Satan loves parents who give young children rat-tail haircuts.
- The only thing more important than saying “No, you don’t look fat in that outfit” when she ask you the first time is the deep sincerity with which you must say “Really” when she asks you the second time.
- The best number is 7, followed closely by 9.
- Love does not mean never having to say you’re sorry. It means having to say you’re sorry over and over again, in new and different ways, every day, every week, every month, even when you don’t want to, every year, until God grants you his mercy and you finally, blissfully die.
Esquire’s rules are a mish-mash of humor, candid, and bizarre regulations for being a man--many even make alarmingly clever Facebook statuses (Oh, I do intend to use a few). While I won’t say that I would recommend this book because of the profanity and light-minded humor, I’m sure that many less finicky people would enjoy this book.My Rating: 3 Stars. For the sensitive reader: There is some swearing (including the f-bomb), discussion of sex, and other “guy” humor.
Sum it up: At 517 rules and 185 pages, it’s the kind of book you can read in a single sitting, laugh a bit, and walk away without looking back.
Friday, July 23, 2010
David Langston, called The Harvester of the Woods, works long and diligently, after the death of his mother, to make a success of the business of raising and selling medicinal herbs which he and his mother had started together. By dint of unswerving perseverance and diligence, he becomes very prosperous and is ready to consider marriage when he suddenly sees in a vision an exquisitely beautiful girl. Convinced that she will become his wife, he builds a beautiful house in his beloved woods and begins a search for the girl of his vision.
Finally he discovers her--Ruth Jameson, by name--and learns that she has been living with an uncle who mistreats her shamefully. He proposes to her and she accepts--more for the protection of his home than out of love for him. Despite his attentions, he cannot kindle love in her heart and at length, she falls desperately ill. How David's her potions save her life after all else has failed--including the attentions of a doctor to whom she had once been betrothed--and how David finally succeeds in kindling the spark of love make up the heart-tugging climax of this famous story. (Summary from book and image from http://alledgesgilt.blogspot.com/2007/11/harvester-by-gene-stratton-porter.html)
My Review: Reviewing this book is going to be difficult for me. While I can appreciate it for its literary qualities, it was tedious to read. Admittedly, I'm not a Dicken's fan or any other verbose writer who uses description to carry a story. If the Harvester wasn't talking to a human being, meaning he was chatting with his dog, his plants, or even the stream, I tended to lose interest and fast. There were parts of the story that held my attention and those were the highlights when there was some new plot twist or new information given about why the Dream Girl was just so very sick.
Here are the qualities I liked in the book: 1) I was told by a friend that her husband's view of how to treat a woman was shaped by this book. I like that idea because even though the Dream Girl was irritatingly frail (almost like how Bella in Twilight is irritatingly clumsy), he always treated her with the utmost respect and consideration. 2) I can appreciate the metaphor of the harvest being a representation of how love grows. It takes time, effort, care, work, and often pays off with great reward. 3) I could appreciate how the author, and likewise the Harvester, adored plants. You can tell that each description meant something to the writer. While this bored me at times and led me to skimming, I knew it was all stemming from a great love of the land. 4) I loved seeing a man set a brutal man straight. While the Harvester didn't actually finish her awful uncle off, when you learn what a horrid man he was you're sure hoping at times he would. 5) In the very beginning of the story the Harvester is ranting about how a woman would never be satisfied with what he could give her and therefore he felt all women weren't worth the time. Then he has this life altering dream and does a complete 180. It's hilarious and fantastic all at the same time. It's fun to watch someone eat their words once in a while, especially when it doesn't hurt the person to do so.
Here's what drove me crazy about the book: 1) As stated above, the Dream Girl is ridiculously frail. It seems as if this is a literary device of the times, and as such I can let it slide, but oh, was it annoying. There were times I wanted to throttle the girl and say, "Do you even want to get better? Because you sure don't seem to me to be trying!" I do realize there are situations in life where someone's troubles begin to cause their health to falter, but this was just too extreme. 2) The detail. Over the top detail. It was mind numbing at times. I like plants. I like gardening. I could care less about EVERY sunset and EVERY flower on EVERY vine that happened to be in his 9 acres of land! AH! Too much detail! 3) Maybe I'm jaded--I'd like to think of myself as realistic, but this really bothered me. Porter writes the Harvester's character without flaw. I kept searching for even one small, teensie-weensie flaw. You can find none (well, maybe at the end of the story you could call one thing a flaw, but it really is a lack of knowledge and not a personal failing in my mind). He's not real, therefore the story was not believable in my mind. I apologize right now for comparing (again) this book to Twilight, but it seems most would understand my general idea by doing so. Even Edward had flaws, and while they were minor, they were still flaws and I could still stomach the fact that he wasn't perfect. The Harvester is literally written as the perfect guy. Maybe that will appeal to you. For me, it's an instant moment of cynical, "Yeah, right."
Here's just a little information I thought readers mind find interesting. At first I thought Gene was a man--nope. Gene Stratton Porter is a woman with a fascinating life. If you're ever curious and like her books, do a little research into her life. You'll be interested to see how much she puts herself into her books.
If I was to compare this to other romantic books (clean ones) I think this would surpass all others in the area of romance. Not that it's my favorite, but it is the ultimate chivalrous love story where the man does all, gives all, is all for the woman he loves--she isn't the perfect woman to me, but maybe she would be to others. (Bella drove me nuts too--I know, I know, one more comparison...sorry!) I personally like the banter better in Pride and Prejudice and the overall story better in Jane Eyre. I don't think I've ever read a more romantic yet squeaky clean book. Everything about The Harvester is focused on the absolute best in people (the main characters). If you're needing an old fashioned, heart-warming love story, give this one a shot.
Rating: 4 Stars. The overall story is great, but the overloading on detail brings it down in rating, at least for me.
Sum it up: If you like clean romantic books, this should be your next read.
Thursday, July 22, 2010
Please excuse our mess. Hopefully we'll get some of our design issues worked out in a couple of days. Until then, things might not match, but the reviews will keep on coming!
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Even though Cammie is fluent in fourteen languages and capable of killing a man seven different ways with her bare hands, she has no idea what to do when she meets an ordinary boy who thinks she's an ordinary girl.
Sure, she can tap his phone, hack into his computer, or track him through town with the skill of a real "pavement artist"--but can she maneuver a relationship with someone who can never know the truth about her? (Summary from book - Image from http://www.allycarter.com/ - Book from personal library)
My Review: I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You is, like, totally written from the viewpoint of a teenage girl – complete with chick fights, crushes, sarcasm, and hundreds of parenthetical interruptions (to illustrate the complexities of teenage thought). In spite of all that, and a little because of it, I really enjoyed myself.
I thought this book was a quick, but fantastic YA read. At no point did I feel the urge to stab a pencil in my eye(or that of a character), as is the case with most books that in any way resemble those Gossip Girl books. I credit the character’s wit and hysterical inner dialogue for making the book so much fun. I was constantly snickering and reading sections aloud to my husband that I thought were hilarious*.
After all, what normal girl has to learn the fine art of embroidery, but still dodge an actual minefield in order to sneak off school grounds. And if, say, she wants to rummage through a guy’s garbage, break into his home, and put a tracker in his shoe, well that’s her business, right?
Why, oh why, didn’t I find this book about 15 years ago when I could have fantasized that my boring old high school was instead a clandestine spy academy, training me to silently incapacitate an enemy and decode encrypted satellite transmissions? Okay, so it wasn’t written yet, but it would have made PE and Keyboarding way more fun. If you’re in the mood for a quick, somewhat juvenile, but still enjoyable read, pick this one up. And if you find that one just isn’t enough, do a little dance, because this book is part of a series! I’ll be moving on to Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy, Don’t Judge a Girl by her Cover, Only the Good Spy Young, and Out of Sight, Out of Time as soon as I can get them from the library.
*I’m sure he loved that.
My Rating: 4.25 Stars For the sensitive reader: Fling this at your daughter’s head all willy-nilly -- that’s the only way it could possibly hurt her. Seriously. That and, possibly, paper cuts.
Sum it up: Cute, fun, and very appropriate. I could see this book being a real hit with the 10 to 16 age group—at least the ones who aren’t currently obsessed with vampires. It might even find an audience with those who are…ahem…a little older.
Monday, July 19, 2010
Bartholomew Fortuno, the World's Thinnest Man, believes that his unusual body is a gift. Hired by none other than P. T. Barnum to work at his spectacular American Museum—a modern marvel of macabre displays, breathtaking theatrical performances, and live shows by Barnum's cast of freaks and oddities—Fortuno has reached the pinnacle of his career. But after a decade of constant work, he finds his sense of self, and his contentment within the walls of the museum, flagging. When a carriage pulls up outside the museum in the dead of night, bearing Barnum and a mysterious veiled woman—rumored to be a new performer—Fortuno's curiosity is piqued. And when Barnum asks Fortuno to follow her and report back on her whereabouts, his world is turned upside down. Why is Barnum so obsessed with this woman? Who is she, really? And why has she taken such a hold on the hearts of those around her?
Set in the New York of 1865, a time when carriages rattled down cobblestone streets, raucous bordellos near the docks thrived, and the country was mourning the death of President Lincoln, The Transformation of Bartholomew Fortuno is a moving novel about human appetites and longings. With pitch-perfect prose, Ellen Bryson explores what it means to be profoundly unique—and how the power of love can transcend even the greatest divisions.
summary from book and cover photo from barnesandnoble.com, Book received free for the purpose of soliciting a review
My Review: Having been compared to Water for Elephants, I was thrilled to receive The Transformation of Bartholomew Fortuno free for review. This is the tale of human curiosities living in Barnum's Museum in New York during 1865. From the fat lady to the strong man, this story is told through the eyes of the performers. The main character is Bartholomew, the worlds' thinnest man and this is his tale, as the title states, of the transformation of his life both past and present.
Having read both novels I would caution the comparison between this book and Water for Elephants. While entertaining in it's own way this novel lacks the depth Gruen developed within her pages. This story contains very little action yet remains interesting. It is primarily focused on Bartholomew's quest to discover if the life he leads is the one he chose or if it was chosen for him. It is only when the book, and Bartholomew, take a step back from the present to examine the past do we discover the answer to this dilemma. A touch of love and an arson mystery keep the book flowing.
Full of intrigue this novel is an entertaining mix of fact and fiction. The author has an unique way of making the reader connect with her characters. I read this book at a leisurely pace and each time I opened it I felt as if I were visiting with old friends. It was difficult to let them go at the end of the book and I have little doubt that I will again visit them in the future.
My Rating: 4 Stars
To sum it up: An entertaining and enjoyable read
Saturday, July 17, 2010
And from the second grade to the seventh, that's how it was. She says: "My Bryce. Still walking around with my first kiss." He says: "It's been six years of strategic avoidance and social discomfort."
But in the eighth grade, their views of the world--and each other--turn upside down. He says: "I'd spent so many years avoiding Juli Baker that I'd never really looked at her, but now I couldn't stop." And she says: "I felt a cold, hard knot tighten in my heart. I was through with Bryce Loski."
Is there hope for happiness in junior high?
Have you flipped?
(Image from http://www.refineme.org/ and summary from back of the book.)
My Review: Simple, formulaic, but also with rich themes and different ideas made this book a comforting and fast read. It's a book I'd recommend to younger YA readers or those who need books that build confidence in reading. It doesn't have much depth to the writing and even some of the characters lack the depth needed to make them seem real. That said, the changing perspectives each chapter gives it some spice--Bryce gives his side for a chapter and then it switches to Juli and her perspective. Sometimes it's about the same event; sometimes it's not. It really helps paint a picture for younger readers how two people can see the same event so differently.
My favorite aspect to the book was the emphasis on the worth of the individual, what really matters in life and about a person. Van Draanen does a good job painting a nasty picture of people who value things and a perfect image as the most important. And while I agree with this point, my only complaint is this isn't an accurate depiction of a real person--no one is so 2-dimensional as these characters are drawn. There are always aspects to people that are of value. That said, it is a YA book. We're building readers with these books and you have to start somewhere and we really shouldn't start by confusing them with contradictions and complexity. That why for a YA book I gave it the rating I did.
Rating: 4 stars (For an adult reader it's more like a 3 star book. Very basic and somewhat predictable.)
Sum it up: Junior high perspectives and learning what really matters.
Friday, July 16, 2010
This is Kari, one of the reviewers here at Reading For Sanity. I'm on an organizing frenzy right now, being that it's summer break and I'm off from teaching. While going through my stacks of books--yes, I do have more than bookshelves can hold--I found a second copy of Son of a Witch by Gregory Maguire. Here's where this gets good for you: I want to give it away! It's in almost mint condition: my 14 month old got a hold of my books the other day and decided she'd help in re-stacking, therefore it's not quite perfect. Regardless, it's yours if you comment and are chosen!
To enter you must (and this part can all be done together in one post):
1) Live in the U.S. (Sorry Tokyo, it costs WAY to much to ship to you).
2) And this is important, you must be (or quickly become) a Google or Blogged follower to enter. See the right sidebar!
3) Comment and leave your contact information (like an email)
For extra entries you can (separate comments per entry please*):
1) Like or follow us on our Facebook or Twitter pages
2) Post about this contest on your blog, twitter, or facebook page.
3) Comment with the title(s) of your favorite fairytale re-telling.
*Seriously, folks. If you follow the rules, you get your extra entries. If you don't, you get one. I'm still picking these out of a hat so I make the rules.
This giveaway will end July 31st, 2010 at 11:59 PM PST. The winner will be chosen randomly, announced the next day (or very nearly) and contacted for shipping information.
Thursday, July 15, 2010
U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels has come to Shutter Island, home of Ashecliffe Hospital for the Criminally Insane. Along with his partner, Chuck Aule, he sets out to find an escaped patient, a murderess named Rachel Solando, as a hurricane bears down upon them.
But nothing at Ashecliffe Hospital is what it seems.
Is he there to find a missing patient? Or has he been sent to look into rumors of Ashecliffe's radical approach to psychiatry; an approach that may include drug experimentation, hideous surgical trials, and lethal countermoves in the shadow war against Soviet brainwashing ...
Or is there another, more personal reason why he has come there?
As the investigation deepens, the questions only mount. The closer Teddy and Chuck get to the truth, the more elusive it becomes, and the more they begin to believe that they my never leave Shutter Island.
Because someone is trying to drive them insane ...
Summary and Cover Photo courtesy of Barnesandnoble.com
My Review: A woman has mysteriously escaped from Ashcliffe Hospital on Shutter Island, a location home to only the those who have committed the most horrific crimes and the asylum's employees. Teddy Daniels, U.S. Marshal is sent in to find the escapee but may lose himself in the process. No one gets off this island alive.
This book will grab you from the opening chapter and ceases to release even after the cover is closed. As you travel with Teddy through the asylum you soon find there is more than meets the eye. The place holds a multitude of secrets, each terrifying and the twists just keep turning. There is no telling what will happen next yet each event falls perfectly into place leading to the ultimate climax.
Shutter Island is well-written, it's beautiful words at odds with the horrific story line yet somehow resulting in balanced tale. This book is impossible to predict and equally as difficult to put down. It will have you reading into the wee hours...just be sure to leave all the lights on. I can only imagine how terrifying the movie must be.
My Rating: 4.5 Stars - Sensitive readers: The F-bomb is drop on multiple occasion and there is some sexual detail.
To Sum it Up: A twisted tale sure to leave you shuttering.
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
My Review: I received this book free to review and I'm so glad! I love quotes, so maybe I'm biased about this book. I also loved all my Thoreau readings in college. This book takes all of his most thought provoking thoughts and put them in an easy to digest, small bites format. I'd like to use this in my classroom for a quote of the day, although not all would be discernible for my middle school students. I believe though that we could build up to the vocabulary, the sentence structure, and the higher (critical) level thinking. If you like books that make you analyze yourself and your motives, do pick up this enjoyable read.
Rating: 5 stars.
Sum it up: A wonderful compilation of quotes that provokes intra-personal contemplation.
Monday, July 12, 2010
Enchanted by the workings of electricity as a boy, William had a goal to study science in Malawi's top boarding schools. But in 2002, his country was stricken with a famine that left his family's farm devastated and his parents destitute. Unable to pay the eighty-dollar-a-year tuition for his education, William was forced to drop out and help his family forage for food as thousands across the country starved and died.
Yet William refused to let go of his dreams. With nothing more than a fistful of cornmeal in his stomach, a small pile of once-forgotten science textbooks, and an armory of curiosity and determination, he embarked on a daring plan to bring his family a set of luxuries that only two percent of Malawians could afford and what the West considers a necessity—electricity and running water. Using scrap metal, tractor parts, and bicycle halves, William forged a crude yet operable windmill, an unlikely contraption and small miracle that eventually powered four lights, complete with homemade switches and a circuit breaker made from nails and wire. A second machine turned a water pump that could battle the drought and famine that loomed with every season.
Soon, news of William's magetsi a mphepo—his "electric wind"—spread beyond the borders of his home, and the boy who was once called crazy became an inspiration to those around the world.
Here is the remarkable story about human inventiveness and its power to overcome crippling adversity. The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind will inspire anyone who doubts the power of one individual's ability to change his community and better the lives of those around him. (Summary from the book cover - Image from indiebound.com - Book from the library)
My Review: The summary, given above, is comprehensive and accurately describes the book's premise, so in the interest of time (mostly mine) I'll jump straight in to how I felt while reading it.
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind is more than just a feel-good tale, a simple biography, or an interesting human rights piece. It is, quite simply, amazing. Part historical and cultural study, part coming-of-age tale, I fell in love with William's story and marveled at his ingenuity and determination. I thrilled in his successes and all-out-gaped at his creativity (boiled goat poop, anyone?). While it was heartbreaking to read about the difficulties that his family, and in truth all of Malawi, suffered in the face of famine, drought, and extreme poverty, it was wonderful to watch William’s life transform from a hand-to-mouth existence to the life he has today. What a relief, to finally read a true, uplifting and inspirational story, instead of all the gloom and doom memoirs that have become so popular. Read it for yourself, you won't be disappointed.
My Rating: 4.5 Stars. My rating for this book is based on my admiration for William's story and his acheivements, rather than for Bryan Mealer's writing. It was okay, but really just the means of delivering the story, and not much else. For the sensitive reader: I did skim through some of the more technical paragraphs because I didn't understand them, but that was the only content editing I did. I guess if I ever need to build a windmill I am flat out of luck.
Sum it up: The story of someone who endured unimaginable hardships and still managed to defy the odds and build a better life for himself, his family, and his village. Anyone who liked Three Cups of Tea or The Prize Winner of Defiance Ohio will love The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind.
Click here for more about William Kamkwamba and his current projects.
Sunday, July 11, 2010
Terrified for her future, Kathy turns to amateur sleuth Anne Marshall for help. Believing in Kathy's innocence, Anne launches her own investigation, uncovering proof of a conspiracy that reaches from Kathy's past and threatens her own life.
In a race against time, Anne must count on her close friends and even the ghost of her father to help her bring a killer to justice before it's too late
Cover Photo from barnesandnoble.com, summary from book
My Review: Anne Marshall is a court reporter and a law student. She can not seem to keep her nose out of police business. When Kathy Spence's husband turns up dead and Kathy is pegged as the murderer, Anne steps in to prove Kathy's innocence. With the help of her father's ghost and a few well-connected friends, this amateur sleuth's quest to uncover the true murderer begins.
I was sent this book free for review and only after beginning it did I realize that this is actually a follow-up book to Piercing the Veil. Reading the first book was not necessary to the storyline of this novel, but maybe it would have added some dimension to the heroine and supporting characters. As it was I felt very detached. Also the first story is referred to often throughout this book.
Everything about this story is far-fetched, from the plot (yes, I realize that most mystery plots fall into this category but this one was over-the-top) to the dialog to the setting. The author's need to continually reiterate events and conversations was distracting. This book also lacked mystery as the conclusion was blatantly obvious from the beginning. The action picked up during the last fifty pages and, though predictable, the climax kept it from flopping altogether.
Bottomline I wasn't impressed with this book but I do know a few people who would enjoy it. It was a simplistic, predictable PG mystery with a touch of humor. If this is your cup of tea I'd suggest picking up the first book before reading this one. Don't let the paranormal situation turn you off as that was one of the few aspects that actually worked well for this book.
My Rating: 2 Stars
To Sum it up: Not as much fun as I had hoped
Friday, July 9, 2010
The Real Prince Charming : Discovering God's Plan for a Lifetime of Fulfilling Romance - Michelle Raftery
Why would you settle for less when you could have God's best?
Facing common dating pitfalls, author Michelle Raftery points out that when you ask the Creator Himself, you learn what a special and unique place God has for women! (Summary from book - Image from amazon.com - Book given to me for review from BringItOn Communications )
My Review: The Real Prince Charming is a book for the single Christian woman who is looking to meet and marry the man of her dreams. Raftery disregards the standards set by romantic comedies and recommends against impractical expectations when looking for a spouse and focusing on the qualities that God values – kindness, love, constancy, optimism, and humility (among others). She suggests that a woman should abandon the concept of finding the perfect man and look for the man that God has created perfectly for her. She also encourages young women to accept their God-given personalities as gifts from Him that will enable them to live out His plan for them and to live lives of emotional, mental, and physical purity.
My favorite part of the book was the chapter entitled Waiting for the White Horse where Raftery outlines the pitfalls of sitting around waiting for a man to save you from a life of perpetual single-ness. She goes on to explain how to rescue yourself from life’s troubles, or at the very least, see them in a different light that will enable you to live life fully regardless of your marital status.
Spiritual truths aside, The Real Prince Charming was not without its writing flaws. By the end of the book I was royally bothered by the Prince Charming/Princess metaphor, as well as several non-Biblical analogies and embellished characters that I felt weren’t necessary to understand the text. I wish that Raftery put a little more faith in the reader to be able to draw obvious spiritual parallels without the aid of a metaphor or analogy. On the other hand, I appreciated how she made frequent reference to Bible verses and drew comparisons between problems we face today and those found in the Bible. Raftery uses many different translation of the Bible throughout this book (NIV, NLT, NASB, MSG, etc.) and, although I prefer the King James Version of the Bible, most of the verses that she used would be difficult to misinterpret regardless of the translation chosen. I was thankful that she drew so much from the scriptures and didn’t write solely based on her own personal beliefs without a doctrinal foundation.
My largest complaint is that Raftery skirted the giant elephant sitting in the middle of her book. What about those people who don’t get married--who don’t find someone “made just for them”? Is it their fault? Were they not looking hard enough, or in the right places? I’m fairly certain that I know what she would say and that I would agree with it, but the issue wasn’t even addressed and I felt that it should have been.
The final chapter of this book (and many places throughout) speaks to the importance of having a personal relationship with God, our Father in Heaven, and his son Jesus Christ. He is our Rescuer and Redeemer and the one person we can always turn to for support. I enjoyed the opportunities that this book offered for introspection, evaluation, and personal growth. At 100 pages, it was remarkably filling food for thought.
Sidenote: I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (you probably know us as “Mormons”). While there are some differences between the author’s beliefs and my own in regards to the nature of the Trinity and the repentance process, I believe the principal message of this book transcends individual religion and echoes important truths about women, our Father in Heaven's love for us, and His divine plan for each of his children.
My Rating: 4 Stars (Books with a strong, important moral message, regardless of certain writing idiosyncrasies, will always get my recommendation.)
Sum it up: A brief, but thoughtful, book that offers an infinitely more divine perspective on dating, relationships, self-acceptance, than the media-inspired (and ultimately flawed) concept of Prince Charming.
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
My Review: I feel like I've read this before. Maybe I haven't and the premise just feels familiar because of a common theme or message that is also in movies. I'm not sure. Regardless, The Persian Pickle Club is a fast and enjoyable read. It doesn't take long before you're attached to the characters and finding yourself biased by their opinions and riding along in their old automobiles charmed by their manners. It was interesting to see which character I related to most and why. As the story unfolds you learn why the club is called Persian Pickle. (It's another name for paisley...which, honestly, why didn't they just say paisley?) You also learn about the strong bond between women young and old that have come together to support each other outside of their club as well as in their quilting. It makes you want to go back in time and live in simpler times where you had friends to help you out the minute you picked up the party line (a phone line where everyone in town can listen in on your conversation if he so chooses).
The book takes a twist about half way through. You think you're along for a ride in depression era literature and out of the blue you're amidst a scandal, a murder, and abuse. Breaching the subject of abuse can be difficult, making sure to depict the horrible reality but not burdening the story so much that the reader wants to put the book down. Sandra Dallas pulled it off gracefully. My favorite part was the ending that leaves you questioning the answer you're given. I will not divulge what that is here. You must pick up the book to find out for yourself--it's only 196 pages, so there's really no excuse not to.
Rating: 4 stars.
Sum it up: Quick, little read with a fun twist.
Monday, July 5, 2010
As Japanese bombs fall on their beloved city, Pearl and May set out on the journey of a lifetime, one that will take them through the Chinese countryside, in and out of the clutch of brutal soldiers, and across the Pacific to the shores of America. In Los Angeles they begin a fresh chapter, trying to find love with the strangers they have married, brushing against the seduction of Hollywood, and striving to embrace American life even as they fight against discrimination, brave Communist witch hunts, and find themselves hemmed in by Chinatown's old ways and rules. (Summary from the book - Image from www.lisasee.com - Book from the library)
My Review: May and Pearl, see Shanghai through the rose-colored glasses often worn by the young and the rich. As Japan invades China, the girls flee their beloved city and the terrors of war—but don’t escape entirely unscathed. Their story spans two continents and continues for several decades, through the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor and into Mao Tse-tung’s Red China.
The central premise of Shanghai Girls book is the strong emotional ties that exist between mother and daughter, husband and wife, and, in particular, sisters but it was also about transformation, both personal and national—about the forces that shape our identity and, ultimately, change our lives. The relationships See creates are realistic combinations of loyalty, conflict, disappointment, sacrifice, and love. One of my favorite characters was Mrs. Chin. Her evolution from bound-footed submissive to a brave and selfless mother was something that will stay with me for a while.
When I sit down and think about it, this book was not a pleasant read. The portrayals of everything from the brutality of invading Japanese soldiers to the U.S. treatment of Chinese immigrants were horrifying on so many levels, but I felt compelled to continue reading out of a sense of personal obligation to the people who really experienced these things. As if, somehow, my reading allowed their voices to be heard, despite the fictional context. I don’t know if that makes any sense. While I loved the exquisite detail that See poured into her descriptions of Chinese delicacies, and the rich heritage and long-standing traditions of the Chinese people, these literary delights came with an unpleasant consequence—intense images of abject poverty, death, and depravity. By the end of this book, I'd read enough descriptions of dead babies, disease, and rape to last a lifetime.
I haven’t read any of Lisa See’s other works yet (most notable - Snow Flower and the Secret Fan and Peony in Love) so I can’t say how this book compares to her others. I do know that I felt the ending was a bit contrived and didn't really mesh well with the rest of the book. It moves very slowly (like I said, it spans decades) so I wouldn’t go into this book expecting a fast-paced story or a “feel good” read, but I still felt it was worth reading.
My Rating: 3.5 Stars. For the sensitive reader: I wouldn’t recommend this book to just anyone. Be prepared for unpleasant things. They aren’t glorified in any way but there is some very real violence and other subject matter that was difficult to read.
Sum it up: A book that tugs at the heart in many ways. I went through a whole myriad of emotions while reading and, though I’m not likely to pick this book up again, I’m glad I read it.
Sunday, July 4, 2010
And the Star-Spangled Banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!
Saturday, July 3, 2010
The Book Thief - Marcus Zusak
Life of Pi - Yan Martel
Little Bee - Chris Cleave
The Gargoyle - Andrew Davidson
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie - Alan Bradley
Zeitoun - Dave Eggers
First, Edward was most likely my soul mate, maybe.
Second, there was a vampire part of him--which I assumed was wildly out of his control--that wanted me dead.
And third, I unconditionally, irrevocably, and impenetrably, heterogeneously, gynecologically, and disreputably wished he had kissed me.
And thus Belle Goose falls in love with the mysterious and sparkly Edwart Mullen in the Harvard Lampoon's hilarious send-up.
Pale and klutzy, Belle, arrives in Switchblade, Oregon, looking for adventure, or at least an undead classmate. She soon discovers Edwart, a super-hot computer nerd with zero interest in girls. After witnessing a number of strange events--Edwart leaves his Tator Tots untouched at lunch! Edwart saves her from a flying snowball!--Belle has a dramatic revelation: Edwart is a vampire. But how can she convince Edwart to bite her and transform her into his eternal bride, especially when he seems to find girls so repulsive?
Complete with romance, danger, insufficient parental guardianship, creepy stalker like behavior, and a vampire prom, Nightlight is the uproarious tale of a vampire-obsessed girl, looking for love in all the wrong places. (Summary from book - Image from io9.com - Book from a friend)
My Review: If you are one of the many people that hate all things Twilight, then you might want to throw a little party to celebrate the merciless laceration of Meyer's first book at the hands of the Harvard Lampoon. Instead of star-crossed lovers Bella Swan and Edward Cullen, Nightlight is about Belle Goose, a certifiably insane girl that just thinks every guy wants her, and Edwart Mullen, a pasty-white, germophobic computer geek hopped up on anti-anxiety meds.
Reading Nightlight was like trying to keep up with the mind (and body) of a toddler--it was constantly shifting from one thing to another and back again with zero warning. Every paragraph was filled with the crazy, random, and absurd. The parts I liked best were when the writers blatantly ridiculed the movie or the book – like mocking Meyer’s use of blank pages to convey emptiness, or Edwart and Belle staring at each other for five hours in a picturesque meadow. They even went so far as to take some lines directly from the movie or book and set them in strange context (ie. “AS IF YOU COULD OUT RUN ME!”). Let’s admit it. That part in the movie was pretty darn lame and Harvard Lampoon mocked it to the fullest extent and with my admiration. My biggest disappointment was the ommision of a central character (several, actually, but one in particular) – Jacob. There were a few remarks about werewolves and one reference to a “Team Jacob”, but no character that was supposed to mock the teenage mutant ninja werewolf that is Jacob Black. I mean, what, because he’s Native American, the Harvard Lampoon is too afraid to poke fun? What a bunch of wusses.
Other than some clever and humorous moments, Nightlight was nothing worth waiting in long lines for, unless it's your life's ambition to make fun of all things Twilight. If so, Harvard Lampoon beat you to it. Time to find a new dream.
My Rating: 2.9 Stars. A "3" just didn't feel right. Other people have loved it, so I suggest you gauge your tolerance for the randomly absurd and go from there. For the sensitive reader: If you still want to read it, go ahead. I think there was only one swear word in the entire book (of the OMG variety).
Sum it up: Twilight meets The Twilight Zone – if The Twilight Zone were less creepy and suffering from a severe case of ADHD.
Thursday, July 1, 2010
Eggers’s riveting nonfiction book, three years in the making, explores Zeitoun’s roots in Syria, his marriage to Kathy — an American who converted to Islam — and their children, and the surreal atmosphere (in New Orleans and the United States generally) in which what happened to Abdulrahman Zeitoun was possible.
Like What Is the What, Zeitoun was written in close collaboration with its subjects and involved vast research — in this case, in the United States, Spain, and Syria.
(Summary from book, cover from barnesandnoble.com)
My Review: This story featuring one family living through Hurricane Katrina begins with gripping anticipation. The reader already knows the outcome of this horrendous storm and the devastating aftermath. Yet as the book opens the Zeitoun family is living a regular day in their lives, only mildly concerned about the storm. As New Orleans is evacuated the family decides to split with the mother and kids heading north and Mr. Zeitoun staying to care for the house and business. Through Mr. Zeitoun's eyes we are able to see the events unfold following the hurricane's destructive path.
Once the storm hits the reader is flooded with a mix of emotions; admiration for Mr. Zeitoun's bravery combined with great sadness for all the loss taking places. This book is so well written I felt like I was living through it myself. The story is absolutely heart-wrenching. I was humbled by Mr. Zeitoun's ability to put others before himself time and time again.
Soon the story loops into so much more than a tale of Hurricane Katrina. Zietoun's good deeds were not rewarded as he is arrested and falsely charged with looting. He is sent to a makeshift prison where he is denied his rights to a phone call time and time again. As he attempts to escape this nightmare his family loses touch with him and fears the worst. All signs point to him being unfairly targeted due to his Muslim faith.
The Zeitoun's story is appalling and leaves the reader seething with rage at the injustice taking place during a time of weakness. It left me questioning what other misdeeds happened behind the scenes the the media neglected to bring to attention. This is an emotionally difficult read yet an important one. I would definitely recommend it to others.
Rating: 4 Stars
To sum it up: An eye opening account of the horrors behind the scenes of Hurricane Katrina.