**spoiler alert** I remember reading this book when I was in the fifth grade and really liking it. I read it a few more times since then at different...more**spoiler alert** I remember reading this book when I was in the fifth grade and really liking it. I read it a few more times since then at different ages and it always held an appeal for me, no matter what age I was. That continues to hold true now that I am in my twenties.
Avi delivers a strong, self-assured female during a time period when that's rare. And Avi does it in such a way that you really root for her. Charlotte really starts off as this meek, mannered girl on a ship with, well, essentially pirates. And while she was supposed to be protected, the families that were supposed to be there occupying her time, bailed out at the last minute.
I like that Charlotte's transition into rebellion is gradual. She really sticks her nose up at every sailor for the first month or so of her trip. The Captain is the only person that she shows any respect for because he is of her "status." It's a lot more realistic that way because that's the way she was raised. She was bred to be a girl of good manners and only relate to people of her class. I like that it takes something extreme, a mutiny and betrayal, to change her mind.
I also like that this is still, really, a children's book leaning into a YAlit book. It's still children's book because there is a clear cut good guy/bad guy. Charlotte and her sailor friends are the good guys and the captain is very clearly the bad guy. But it's YAlit because Charlotte is coming of age, dealing with choices that are making her question her upbringing and really having to decide between what she thinks is right and what she's been taught is right.
Avi gives the book a lot of twists. I mean, I remember really being on the edge of my seat when I first read this book, never knowing what was going to happen. Now, obviously, it's a little more predictable because I've read the book four times, but reading it at ten? Fascinating with all it's twists and turns.
Probably the only draw back to the book is that it has a very focused audience. I can't see 10 year old boys being excited to read it (despite the pirates). In fact, now as an adult, thinking about it, the boys in my fifth grade class must have really hated this book. I mean, a girl coming of age story? Not exactly the cup of tea for most fifth graders.
However, a great story and definitely worth picking up (and will take you about two hours to read.)(less)
There are some books that you read, and like, but are soon forgotten. And then there are some books that will forever stand the test of time and I thi...moreThere are some books that you read, and like, but are soon forgotten. And then there are some books that will forever stand the test of time and I think Charlotte's Web is a great example of that kind of book. Originally introduced in the '50s, when Children's Literature was just starting to grow it's roots, E.B. White gives us this great story about a little girl, her pig and a spider that befriends them all.
One of the things that I noticed rereading this as an adult, that I didn't quite catch onto as a kid, is that it introduces kids to a TON of vocabulary. It also does it in such a way that it doesn't make the kid feel like an idiot. White introduces kids to all these to words but then tells them the definitions without making the readers feel dumb for not knowing. It's a book full of animals, many who don't know the meaning of the words that Charlotte is weaving into her web. Therefore, it's not unnatural for them to ask what "humble" means or what "terrific" means or any of the other words that Templeton brings Charlotte in error.
I like watching Fern in this story too. She grows up, like any little girl should and I like that white doesn't ignore that fact. I really like that, eventually, she loses interest in Wilbur and the barn and all of its activities after that summer that she spends there. I like that it's a coming of age story, not just for Wilbur, but also for Fern.
I loved watching Charlotte and Wilbur's friendship grow. I liked that with that friendship, Wilbur became more intelligent, and more aware of his surroundings and life. I also like that with that friendship, others were formed. The barnyard animals didn't shun him as they seemed to in the beginning of the story and he learned that life wasn't all about playing. I really like that this book is about companionship.
Probably one of the best things about this book is that it's a book that transcends age and gender. There's nothing overly girlie about it (especially with Avery running amok on its pages) but there's nothing so boyish about it either. My boyfriend (someone who, tragically, hates reading and barely does it) even told me he remembered this book fondly when required to read it back in elementary school. I remember loving it as a kid and loving it again, reading it now.
I recommend this book to anyone looking for just a good, quick read. Also, give this book to your kids. It's a great story for kids and a great book for almost any age. It's not an overly challenging read but still very education for a kid. Not to mention it just has a lot of great moments.(less)
I have probably read this book three or four times in my life now. However, it's been a few years since the last time I read it (probably high school...moreI have probably read this book three or four times in my life now. However, it's been a few years since the last time I read it (probably high school was the last time I read it) but it still moved me just as much now as it did then.
I feel like this is the ultimate story of friendship. It's a story of four girls that, no matter what happens to each other, they're just there for each other. There are trials, deaths, jobs, trips, boys and all sorts of other things that could tear them apart. They come from different homes, different backgrounds, even different schools. But yet, they find themselves constantly drawn to each other. They learn that your friends are family, even when your family can't really be your family.
Sometimes the writing in the book was a little contrite (especially in the beginning of the book) but I found that it worked itself out pretty quickly and that you got so involved in the story you didn't really notice that kind of thing.
I liked that ALL the stories weren't about boys. And even though one was a happy boy story, one of the boy stories was not so happy. I like that these girls know everything about each other and that, despite that closeness, still changed so drastically over this one summer.
This book will make you laugh, it will make you cry, and it will make you see all of your relationships with your girlfriends in it. I know that I do. This book reminds me of the friends I have now, of how they're family to me, of how they would do things like fly halfway across the country if that's what I needed from them. I love that Brashares brings so much LOVE into her story. At the end of it all, it's just a good book about amazing friendships.(less)
**spoiler alert** I won this book off Goodreads and, to be honest, I was a little wary. The last book I had won was really awful and I was afraid that...more**spoiler alert** I won this book off Goodreads and, to be honest, I was a little wary. The last book I had won was really awful and I was afraid that this one would end up that way. It was a story about the outbreak of Bird flu (that ends up killing about half the world's population) and a mother and two daughters get stuck in the house with her soon-to-be ex-husband and his assumed mistress.
However, I was surprised that it was a pretty decent book. Buckley is very good at inducing panic in her reader. The whole time I was reading, I was worried about the bird flu. I mean, just panicked about it (and that doesn't happen to me easily. It was to the point that it snowed near me and I thought, "OMG, what if we can't get supplies!" And then I remembered that it was just a snowstorm. There was no bird flu.) She did so well at describing the completely scared emotions of the people in the book.
She was also incredibly good at writing post-traumatic experience characters. For instance, in the epilogue, the mother has emergency supplies on hand despite it being ten or so years after the epidemic ended. She makes sure that she's ready if it ever happens again. The daughter has a hard time trusting people, loving people because she remembered how easily they left her life. Maddie, the younger daughter, came out relatively unscathed because she was so young when it was all going on. The house had a generator when it previously didn't. These are all traits that would come from the kind of experience that they went through.
However, the was one major thing that bothered me about the book. It seemed like the family just couldn't catch a break. It starts out with the reader finding out that the family lost a baby and now Anne and Peter were divorcing. Then the flu breaks out. Ok, so it blows but all of this I can accept. And then the snow storm hits. It is the biggest snow storm in years, blanketing the entire North-East, knocking out the power. Well, since everyone has the flu, no one is fixing the power. So they're without power almost the remainder of the time they stay in that house. It comes back on for maybe a few hours. Then their neighbors get sick, including Anne's best friend, Libby, who leaves Jacob (Libby's son) on Anne's doorstep. Jacob already had it and lived. Anne leaves him there but Peter brings him in. So now they have an extra mouth to feed. They're running out of food and water and Anne has to raid other houses for supplies. Peter goes out to find formula for Jacob and his truck gets stolen... and he gets exposed to the virus. So he sleeps in the garage for the flu's incubation period and when it passes, Anne and him get back together (this had been brewing for a little while.) They decide to leave the house and go to a hunting lodge that belonged to Peter's father in the middle of nowhere.
And then Peter gets sick. Anne takes care of him, keeping the girls away and trying to disinfect everything. Then Maddie, Anne's youngest daughter has an allergic reaction and has to be rushed to the hospital. When Anne gets back, Peter is dead after she had been told by the nurse at the hospital that if he made it this far, there was a good chance he's live (he had been sick for five days.) So Anne buries him in the backyard. And then someone breaks into the house and tries to steal all their food and water. Anne shoots them, almost killing the man.
It just got to be too much. It was one thing after another after another after another. I just feel like she took it too far. There's adversity and then there's pushing things to almost beyond belief. I got that she wanted to create chaos but all of it together was just ridiculous.
You also find out that it was Kate that accidentally killed her brother. She went in there with her pillow, climbed into the crib and accidentally smothered him. Peter and Anne also manage to reconcile during the whole ordeal, which I felt was a little unlikely. Their problems had a lot to do with their dead son and how they each handled bad situations. Anne didn't and Peter, in a lot of ways, didn't either. Now, just because the world is in turmoil around them, they decided that they need to reunite? I'm not buyingit. Buckley slightly redeemed herself by having him die but, at the end of the day, it's just another piece of the over-the-top pie.
Buckley is also not good at subtlety. Shazia is a Grad student of Peter's who comes to live with them and Anne immediately thinks that she's Peter's mistress. However, the reader never gets the sense that she is. I never for a second actually thought that Shazia and Peter had a relationship (even when we find out Shazia is pregnant. No, I'm serious.) Anne kept thinking it, kept trying to lead the reader on but it was so forced that I KNEW that Shazia and Peter were simply teacher and student.
Buckley is really good at portraying emotions and causing emotions in her reader. The epilogue was incredibly well done, powerful and emotional. Her problem lies in the fact that she doesn't realize where the line between just enough and too much is. If you enjoy reading books about families coming together, I recommend this. She portrays the family dynamic well or if you like stories that are panic inducing (because, some people do.) If it's not your thing, then I wouldn't pick it up. (less)
I have a fascination with really tragic time periods in history. I really don't know what it is. I love Henry VIII and I love reading about the Romano...moreI have a fascination with really tragic time periods in history. I really don't know what it is. I love Henry VIII and I love reading about the Romanov family. Alexander manages to weave history and fiction into a really compelling and suspenseful tale.
The thing about the Romanov family is that you read about them, and you can see all the tragic mistakes they're making, and it brakes your heart. Alexander let's you watch them during their last days and you see it from someone who was loyal to them until the end.
Alexander also shows you how incredibly unstable the country is, the situation is. The Romanov's are trapped in this house, in stifling heat, unable to open a window. And, even though the book is fiction, the situation was probably incredibly close to life. Alexander used real letters in the story, weaving all the stories and tales and personalities around them and their last days. You see how corrupt the men who were watching the Romanov's were, how afraid they were that the Royal Family would escape.
I also love how true to their personalities Alexander kept. I've read a number of biographies on the family and it seems that Alexander also has done his research. Anastasia is the boisterous and risk taking youngest, Alexei a boy who was bored but curious, Alexandra always nervous about her family and Nicholas always in control.
Alexander had a wonderful twist ending, too. Even though this was a second reading, I had forgotten a major plot point, so I was still partially surprised. I remember the first time around being really shocked by the end. Though... to be fair, I'm not the best at figuring some of this out. He gives you clues, and you could probably figure some of it out, but I think you'll still be surprised.
It's a very good Historical novel and I really think that you should pick up not only this novel but the other novels written by him.(less)
This is a book that I've been meaning to read for some time and just never got around to (which is interesting, since it was required reading for my b...moreThis is a book that I've been meaning to read for some time and just never got around to (which is interesting, since it was required reading for my brit lit class.) Everyone knows the story of Alice and all the rumors and theories about Lewis Carroll that have developed over the years. For all the hype, however, I wasn't overly impressed. I always had heard that it was kind of a head trip but that didn't really happen.
Alice the character drove me nuts. I kept expecting her to grow, to become more intelligent, more self aware, but that never really happened. The only times she seemed to really figure things out was when she got frustrated with the Queens. Both the Queen of Hearts and the Red Queen pushed Alice too far, she lost her temper and finally told them how ridiculous they both were. However, she was constantly tripping over her words and making stupid comments. I understand that things were crazy in both worlds but eventually, I would think she would adapt and she never did. I especially thought she would have figured out the "everything is backwards" concept going on in the looking-glass since the concept was not only simpler but it was also the second time Alice had found herself in a world so unlike her own. Alice was based off a real Alice and it makes me wonder if this is what she was really like.
This book is also very dated. Some stories transcend time (LOTR, Pride and Prejudice, Romeo and Juliet) but the Alice stories don't. A lot of the puns pertain to the time period that Carroll lived in and, if not for the end notes that, I would have missed about half of them. It's not just the puns, either. A lot of Alice's mannerisms and things that happened in her daily life, don't happen any longer in modern day and don't transfer over like in other stories. Shakespeare certainly is dated in his own way but not so much that it deters from the story. I still know McBeth kills the king to become king, I know that Romeo and Juliet's love is transcendent and tragic and I know that Hamlet lies of the precipice of insanity. The Alice stories are stories about puns so if you can't understand half of them, it makes the book less interesting.
Despite it being dated, Carroll is a genius with word play. Sometimes following it made my head spin (in that good, really impressed kind of way.) The double entendras and anagrams and riddles that he managed to weave so easily into the story requires a level of brilliance that I can't even comprehend. In fact, in a poem at the end of the book, every line contains the letters of Alice's real name. One of my favorite scenes is when Alice meets the Knights. Not only are they hilarious in the way they fight (with their swords in the crook of their arms and constantly falling off the horse whether they've been hit or not) but when they ride they fall off and the white one talked of all the things he invented and dragged Alice into a name wordplay that just made me laugh. The first scene with the two knights (white and black), the black one wants to kidnap Alice and the white knight comes to save her (Get it? He's her white Knight? In his Armor? That's shiny? And he's saving her? And the way he words it takes a second to understand so I just laughed all the more when I figured it out.)
I also liked that the rabbit hole and the looking-glass had connections. The Mad Hatter showed up in both and references were made back to the original story, which I enjoyed. I always like when authors do that skillfully and Carroll did it seamlessly.
The poetry got to be a bit much in Through the Looking-Glass. I felt like I was reading a poem more than I was reading a story and it was overwhelming to the point of distraction. However, Jabberwocky was a work of genius and made me interested to read some of the literature that's been written on it. I was also unaware that "The time has come, the Walrus said, to talk of many things" came from Through the Looking-Glass. I'm actually a little ashamed to admit it, because I feel like I should have known that, but it's just another testament to Carroll's genius that one of the most famous lines from a poem are not even from the beginning of the poem, but the middle.
There were good and bad parts to this book. It was only mediocre but I feel you should still read it. I'm a big advocate of reading the classics once even if you don't like them (I've read both Don Quixote and Wuthering Heights. I hate them but can at least appreciate what they've done for literature.) Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking-glass are definitely on the slightly dull side but you can't argue with Carroll's genius, which makes it worth it. It's not long so if loving his word play is all you get out of it, then I feel it's still worth the read.(less)
**spoiler alert** This is the second time that I've read this book and I did enjoy it more this time than the first, but it still doesn't quite live u...more**spoiler alert** This is the second time that I've read this book and I did enjoy it more this time than the first, but it still doesn't quite live up to the expectations of the hype it has been given.
Gemma Doyle is the main protagonist and I actually really loved her. She's a witty, sarcastic and strong willed girl living in a time when it's improper to be all these things. Women in her world are meant to be demure, obedient and always polite and refined. Gemma, who has been raised away from England and these expectations, is none of those things. She's sarcastic and impatient and generally doesn't want to deal with the silliness of the girls around her. However, that doesn't stop her from being drawn to the "popular" girls. She knows that they're ridiculous and that they're obnoxious but, at the end of the day, she still doesn't want to be alone. She still feels the need to belong.
I also liked how all of these supposedly well brought up girls all had their flaws. They weren't as perfect as they presented themselves. Felicity was the Queen Bee and she had a mother who left her father to be a courtesan. Felicity also never sees her father, yet can't seem to stop idolizing him. Pippa has a dark secret (or at least, it's dark for her time period.) She has epilepsy and parents who are hoping to marry her off before anyone finds out. Ann is forever doomed to be poor and some rich man's governess and Genna is still reeling from her mother's death... as is her father. Gemma's father is a ghost of who he was, no longer able to function without her mother. I loved the characters that Bray created because they are wonderfully flawed living in a world where they're expected to have no flaws. As a reader, you really don't like these girls to begin with but, by the end, you can't help but feel sorry for them.
In the midst of Gemma's personal tragedy, she begins to have visions. One of these visions leads her to the diary of Mary Dowd, a girl who is part of an occult called the Order. Gemma learns to cross over into a different realm, a realm where her mother still exists. Gemma also brings her friends to this other realm. I loved the dream realm because it allowed you to see another side to these girls. It let you see them as they wish that they were. Felicity wanted to be strong, Ann beautiful, to be seen, and Pippa wanted romance in her life. Gemma got to spend time with her mother and learn about herself and her new-found powers.
But they were powers that had to stay in the realm. If Gemma brought them out, she could allow Circe in, a creature trying to gain more an more power and who had been cut off from the realms for years. This is where we really get to see how relationships between mothers and their daughters never change. Despite how much she missed her mother, how sad she was when her mother died and how happy she was when her mother returned, Gemma still fought with her mother like before her death. They were still at odds. Gemma wanted to bring the magic into the world to help her friends, to make life better for them and not to subject them to the misery that was to be their well-bred lives. Her mother warned her, repeatedly, against it.
Bray also adds a little bit of mystery from multiple places. It's Mary Dowd's journal that allows her to discover the realms, but it's Kartik that continually warns her away from them, scared of what will happen if they're opened again and reasonably so. Circe is looking to destroy everything. If the realms are opened, she will have access to that power. You don't really know much about Kartik other than he's a gypsy and Gemma seems to continually dream about him. His brother also died, protecting Gemma's mother.
It's not until the end of the book that you find out Mary Dowd was actually Gemma's mother. And Mary's friend, Sarah Reese-tomb, is now Circe. Gemma's mother helped turned her friend into the monster that she is now, however unintentional it was. I liked that it helped you see Gemma's mother as a person who made large mistakes in her life, mistakes that cost many people dearly. It allowed Gemma to see that her mother wasn't perfect, which inevitably changed their relationship.
The thing about this book, however, that really I didn't enjoy was that it's not really memorable. I enjoyed reading it and I liked the characters and writing and plot but I didn't come out of the book thinking, "wow, that was amazing." I've heard a lot of good things about this series and I understand the praise but honestly, I don't come away with the need to continue the series (which is probably why I didn't the first time I read it.) I never made it to book two and while, yes, that's my intention now, I don't feel like I need to pick it up right this minute to find out what happens. I guess that I'm just disappointed that a book that is actually very good, isn't able to instill that feeling of "WOW" in me.
Overall, it was enjoyable and well written. I really love Libba Bray (her blog is about the most hysterical thing I've ever read) and enjoyed the book, I just wish I could see her blog writing translate into her book writing. We see glimpses of it with Gemma but it never really comes to life. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys fantasy novels and YA lit. It's an easy read and fun.(less)