Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Gideon the Cutpurse, by Linda Buckley Archer

I grabbed this book from the juvenile fiction shelf, mostly because it had a fantasy sticker on the binding but also because I noticed its sequel sitting next to it, The Time Thief, which had an intriguing piece of promotion tagging the front cover. It said, "May very well give J.K. Rowling a run for her money." That's probably the best bit of promo they could have given a book like this. I might not have otherwise checked it out. Anyway, it's an adventure book that centers on two present day English adolescents (yes, they're 12) who accidentally land themselves in 1763. So historical fiction, if you will, as well as time travel adventure story. It's a trilogy, the third of which hasn't been published yet. Has lots of twists in the plot. Fun and fast paced. In a way it reminded me of the Peter and Starcatcher series. I really enjoyed both books. But I wouldn't go so far as to say it rivals Harry Potter. Oh, and apparently the title of the first book was later changed or maybe published differently in the UK and in the states, so depending on your library the first book can also be found under The Time Travelers (I like the original title better, personally).

I read The Lace Reader and Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, which Amanda posted about. They were both really good. The Lace Reader was a little scary/exciting with some unexpected twists that make you want to read it all over again with your new, added perspective. I'm currently about 3/4 of the way through Guernsey and the Literary and Potatoe Peel Pie Society. I LOVE it. If you haven't checked it out yet, go do it. Right now. One of the best books I've read in a long time. I also read Mansfield Park by Jane Austen not too long ago. I really enjoyed it. It's a quiet, contemplative sort of book. Next up is Pride and Prejudice.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

"Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus" By Mary Shelley- Read by Chad

Dr. Frankenstein, with the hope of advancing science sets out to reanimate that which has pasted away. At the moment of success, religious and ethical doubts flood his thoughts to the point where he runs in terror.
The creature, finding himself alone in a world of fear and hate towards him, decides to track down his creator with the hope that he will create a female to accompany him through his new life. Frankenstein refuses to repeat the evil that he'd already committed. The creature cursed with solitude sets out to curse Frankenstein with the same fate.

The book makes a few parallels to the creation of Adam and Eve however in this case, after the creation of man, the creator curses the man and leaves him to fend for himself with out help, and with out a companion. Thus, in a sense, making the man or "the creature" drunk with hate and scorn towards his creator.
This book is terribly sad for both the creature and Frankenstein.
For a book that was written nearly 200 years ago, it is extremely relevant to the ethics of science today.
Don't look through the window at night in a lightening storm, it's a guarantee that the creature will be on the other side smiling at you. Dun, Dun, Duunnn....

Saturday, December 20, 2008

What I've been reading...by Chad

I had to break into Caitlin's account to post here since apparently, the only dude that can post is Austin.
So anyway,
Edward- "I love you, but I want to drink your blood"
Bella- "I love you, I'm not scard of you. Let's get it on".
If Jasper is so jumpy around blood (i.e. He nearly kills Bella when she gets a paper cut (wait, was that in this book?)) then what the heck is he doing in school? What, no one's got a paper cuts in school? I think I saw someone lose a finger once in shop.

Edward- "I'm in this book. JK".
Jacob- "Hi Bella, I'm not so secretly in love you and you hanging around all the time is sort of leading me on. P.S. I'm a werewolf."
Bella- "Thanks for helping me get over Edward. Oh, you love me? I love you too. JK. I'll be here tomorrow so you can hold my hand some more.

Bella- "Edward, make me a vampire"
Edward- "Alright, JK"

I thought the ending was anti-climatic. If the volturi were mind attacking them, I think it would at least have been cool if they did some mind attacking back. Maybe had the Amazon take out their vision or something.

My second time through this one. There was a bunch of stuff I missed from the first time. For examle, Bokonan predicted that his boat taken from the "Lady's Slipper" would sail again at the end of the world. It was made into the bed that Papa was in when he fell into the ocean.
Now I want to try a little Boko Maru with Caitlin. This book gave me a nightmare about Ice Nine. I haven't verified this, but I wasn't aware the cat's cradle is one of the oldest recorded games. I like this book.

My first time with Robinson Crusoe. I was surprised at how spritual it was. He spends 28 years on the island, 26 or so by himself. Over which time, he comes to appreciate the Lord's hand in all he has and all he is able to learn and accomplish. "If savage man come, they eat me, you get away". This is also where "My man Friday" comes from. I like Friday. I like the scene where Friday fights the bear.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Know-It-All

In my Real Simple magazine, they had some authors write letters to Santa as their childhood selves. The one by A.J. Jacobs was particularly funny, so I thought I'd get his book from the library. Hilarious. He decides he's going to read the Encyclopaedia Britanica from A to Z. The book not only goes over the odd things that he's learned (like how Rene Descartes had a thing for cross-eyed women, or this bit about Pythagoras that I liked,

According to the encyclopedia, members of the brotherhood , [which Pythagoras founded] were told to "refrain from speaking about the holy, wear white clothes, observe sexual purity, not touch beans, and so forth." That's what it said: do not touch beans.... It didn't say whether that meant all beans, or just certain beans like kidney or pinto. Just those four words.)

but he talks about how he tries to fit all of these new factoids into his daily conversations. This is something I'm always trying to do, so I felt like we would be two people of the same heart. He chronicles his quest to go on Jeopardy, join Mensa, and use his new found trivia knowledge to compete in the crossword puzzle tournament hosted by Will Shortz.

It was hilarious. The only down side was maybe 8-10 incidences of foul language, maybe 12. I normally wouldn't stand for that, but I was hooked.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Lace Reader

I just finished Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry. I picked it because of the rave review it received on CurledUp.com. First off, I have a confession: this book normally wouldn't have passed my profanity filter, which sort of works on a point system. The problem with this book is that there was no swearing until more than half way, and by that time I was hooked and couldn't stop. Just in the interest of disclosure, I would guess that throughout the last half of the book, there were probably 20 incidences of the "f-word" but not much else. No sex or violence, and some mild illicit drug use.

On to the story. It revolves around a woman named Towner Whitney who fights equally with her own mental illness and (possibly caused by) her family. All the Whitney women are Lace Readers with a streak of genuine psychic power. Lace reading invloves holding a piece of lace to the face of another and seeing images in/through the lace and telling the future. Towner battles with past demons and tries to find what is real and what is hallucination.

You may be wondering about the picture at the top. It is a lace maker's pillow. A portion of the book revolves around one of these pillows and while Ms. Barry did as good a job as a person could have done describing it, I was still way confused at what it actually looked like. Mostly because those wooden peg things are called bobbins. She never says what the bobbins look like, so I was trying to picture bobbins like the little things that go in your sewing machine, and it just wansn't working out. So, if you read it, you won't be nearly as confused as I was.

I wouldn't go so far as the previously cited reviewer as to say that this is one of the best books I've ever read, but I did enjoy it. A lot. Once I got about 100 pages into it, I read it straight through.

My only complaint, aside from the f-bombs, is the ending. It has a twist ending that I totally didn't see coming. Not the same as, but akin to, The Sixth Sense where the whole perspective of the book changes with this one piece of information. The only thing is, I felt, is that there were lots of unanswered questions connected to this one last twist that I would have felt more peaceful about if they were addressed. As it is, I'm wondering how it all was supposed to work in that one scene.... or what about... or who was she talking to if....

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

My Antonia

I saw a while back that Caitlin had My Antonia by Willa Cather listed under her "currently reading" section on her blog. I had never read it (really I hadn't heard of it), so I got it from the library. I had a few other things I was reading at the time, so I had to renew this book 3 times before I got through it.

For those who, like me, haven't read it, it was published in 1918 and it chronicles the lives of settlers on the Nebraska prairie. The narrator is Jim Burden, a boy sent to live with his farmer grandparents. His closest friend is Antonia Shimerda, an immigrant from Bohemia who lives in the next farm over with her family. The Shimerdas have it rough and live in a sodhouse like the one pictured above.

The book, overall was worthwhile, but like other great pieces of literature of the early century, was a bit dreary to get through. (We all remember the turtle chapter from The Grapes of Wrath.) It seemed to me that looking back and reminiscing was a large thematic element. As Jim gets older, he is always thinking about his early years. The Shimerdas are always talking about 'the old country.' Looking back is fine, but it seemed that no one was satisfied with the present. The only thing that came close was when Jim was going to the dances in Black Hawk, and having fun dancing with all the girls, until his grandmother felt he was giving the family a bad name, so he had to quit going.

When Jim does try to go back to his hometown after being away for so long, he doesn't look on the changes he finds there with any sort of satisfaction; just a sad longing for the way things used to be.

I agree with the sentiment that 'you can never go home again,' and while that's a sad truth, I can still find pleasure in the present, and even excitement about the future. Maybe that's what Antonia was trying to do when she was talking about how much she cared for her orchard. She speaks about how she cared for the trees and woke up in the middle of the night to go water them. What are young cherry trees if not a promise of a better future (one with cherries in it)? Maybe this pleasure in the present is what Jim was trying to do when he was taking his mental snapshot of all of Antonia's children coming out of the fruit cellar.

At any rate, I'm glad that I was born where and when I was if only that I didn't have to wrangle cattle all day then hunker down in the back room that night and give birth. What a life, eh?

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Cronicles of Prydain

I tried reading these books when I was young but I think I started in the middle of the series and it was just too hard for me to get into them. Chantel and I have read all five and I thought they were awesome. I gave my office mates and others who caught me reading them the line, "well, I have to read them to make sure they're all right for my 6½ year old son." They are not too dark or too violent, check. Lots of action to get Owen's attention, check. Almost no romance whatsoever—the heroine is somewhat of a tomboy—thus Owen, a member in good standing of the “no-kissing-club” will not revolt, check.

I plan on owning them someday soon.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

My friend Vivian is responsible for so many fabulous things in my life: my love of ultimate frisbee, chocolate milk in a frosty mug, my first taste of Jack Johnson, and my introduction to a movie called Cold Comfort Farm. I love this film. It is very character driven with very little actual plot, but by the end of the movie, I felt like I knew and cared about all the people in it. Not to spoil what plot there is, but I was really happy for all of them that it had a happy ending, genuinely happy for them.

This book is like that.

The book uses an epistolary style to tell the story of the German Occupation of the channel islands (as in the English Channel). At the end, you come out knowing so much more than what it was like for the people of Guernsey Island during the war. You've made friends with all the people there. On the back cover, Elizabeth Gilbert, autor of Eat, Pray, Love (a book which I hear is fabulous and I started to read, but I can't recommend on account of it didn't pass my profanity filter) gives a review. She states: "... I kept forgetting this was a work of fiction populated with characters so utterly wonderful that I kept forgetting they weren't my actual friends and neighbors."

I loved this book so much, I finished it in a very unproductive day and a half, if productivity is counted as doing things other than reading like caring for my child and cooking/cleaning.

Read it, you'll love it.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Book of a Thousand Days

Why can't I post a picture of a book... help me.... I'm so retarded.

I just read Shannon Hales's Book of a Thousand Days.  I really liked Goose Girl by the same author.  Both books are retellings of Grimm fairy tales.  They are harowing and romantic.  It was easy reading... I finished it in less than a day.  (OK, not my most productive day)

Monday, July 07, 2008

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

Mom read this book in her book club and every time I talked to her, she asked me if I had read it. She described the plot, and from what I could tell, it sounded really depressing. Her description, which is fairly accurate, went something like this: It's the story of two girls in pre-communist China. And they communicate by writing secret messages back and forth on a fan. The book tells the story of their lives including all about how they have their feet bound and are married off to strangers.

I wasn't all that jazzed to read a depressing story, so after she loaned it to me, it sat on my shelf for a while. When I got around to reading it, I found it very compelling. To learn about a culture so different from my own from an insider's perspective, without judgment. Not even A Thousand Splendid Suns really did that (although I liked that book too).

Anyway, the book is a bit depressing, but at the same time, it's fascinating and heartwarming.

Monday, February 04, 2008

The Sisters Grimm

I just finished book 4 of the Sisters Grimm series. Apparently, every female of my family that lives in the borders of Orange County has already read them, and kept them a secret. So, this post if for anyone else who's out of the loop, like me.

The books center around Sabrina and Daphne Grimm, great-great-....-great-granddaughters of the famous Brothers Grimm. In the books, the Brothers Grimm didn't invent the fairy tales, they "documented" them... as in the characters are real. Now, centuries later the immortal Everafters, as they call themselves, cause trouble and it's up to the Grimms to solve the mysteries and keep the peace.

The books are written for a young audience, maybe 7-14 years old, but they're cute and you can read one in about 3 hours. There are five currently published with the 6th due out in April.