Why I bought it? Well, technically I didn't. My husband got it for me for Christmas (bless his heart), but I did request it. I had been looking on linWhy I bought it? Well, technically I didn't. My husband got it for me for Christmas (bless his heart), but I did request it. I had been looking on line to find some interesting reads to put on my wishlist, and, on Amazon, I pulled up a list of the best books of 2008. The title struck me as funny. I read a little about it, and it peaked my interest. On my wishlist!
Synopsis: In 1946, Juliet Ashton, an author looking for something to write about, is inspired by a letter she receives from someone in Guernsey, one of the channel islands, to look into the Nazi occupation there during the war. She decides to write an article about it and starts researching. She asks that people send her letters telling their stories. The letters are so rich that she has to travel there and meet the people and ends up making it into a book. It's told completely in letters.
What I thought? If you've been following my blog at all lately you know I loved this book. Not just the little "loved" but the big, fat, knock down, drag out, jump up and down, like a 13 year old girl listening to David Archuleta! screaming in capital letters, with ten exclamation points! LOVED! this book. It now ranks up there with my ALL TIME favorite books! It's smart and profound and witty. At the beginning, I was charmed. By page 10, I was laughing out loud and thoroughly hooked. I could tell that my house was going to suffer. Every other page I was chuckling, weeping, or howling with laughter. I even scared my kids a couple of times with my outbursts.
A friend said that not everyone will necessarily like my selection, and I know that. I can't imagine how anyone wouldn't be swept up and carried away by this story, but I suppose it's possible. Everyone has different tastes. That's why so far I have not been able to bring myself to read anyone else's review of this book. So now you have my complete and unadulterated gushing. I think men will like it too--you men out there.
I do have to share this one little tidbit. When I was finished reading, I was so excited that I decided to send a letter to the authors. I sat down at my computer and searched them up. They have a lovely site. Through reading things on their website, I realized that the main author, Mary Ann Shaffer, has passed away. Annie Barrows is her niece, she came in at the end of the project when her aunt became too sick to finish and tidied things up for publishing. Well, I just sat there looking at my computer screen and balled like a baby. She never got to see her book on the shelves. She did know it was being published, but she never saw the final product. She'd never write another book.
I have contemplated the capacity of a my current 5 star rating system to handle my enjoyment of this read, but after railing last week about my daughter flaunting the conventions of the 5 stars, I can't let myself do the same, but if I could... Curse you! Restrictive 5 stars! Curse you! Being an adult about things and not simply throwing out convention!
My rating: *****+++++ (I can at least add pluses.)
CS: 6 out of 10--There is a bit of language, not the F word, but a sprinkling of the others. There are a few adult situational things, and there is some recounting of the horrors of war. It's not for your little ones. I plan on letting my 14 year old daughter read it. I wouldn't go much younger than that though.
Enjoy! And if you read it, let me know what you thought. ...more
Why I bought it? I kept hearing so many amazing things about Neil Gaiman and this book sounded interesting, so I put it on my Christmas list and my huWhy I bought it? I kept hearing so many amazing things about Neil Gaiman and this book sounded interesting, so I put it on my Christmas list and my husband got it.
Synopsis: Coraline is a young girl who sneaks into a mirror image flat through a locked door in her own to find an alternate reality with another mother and father. The neighbors are the same but different. All the people in this reality have buttons for eyes. Things are all geared to make her happy in the new world to get her to choose to stay. The food is delicious. All the games and shows are for her. What will Coraline choose? Should she go back to her real family or stay with the other mother? Is it safe to stay with the other mother? How can she get back home?
What I thought? I have to preface this with a reminder that my opinions and scores are not based on literary merit, but my own enjoyment of the book. Since Gaiman won the Newberry, it is obvious that his writing is very good, however, I was not as thrilled with this as I thought I would be. So many of my friends loved it and thought it was amazing. I kept hoping for that feeling, but, alas, it never really came. The story is very unique, and it did get better for me at the end (which took me forever to get to because I kept putting the book down). It was a very different kind of story than what I normally read. Pretty creepy in a lot of places. It is geared for children, but I was kind of grossed out in several scenes--some things struck me as really weird. I can see some kids being scared, but some really like that. So it's a matter of preference. The alternate covers I found do a better job of showing the feel of the book than the first one (which is the one on my copy). The first one looks quirky and fun with scary elements. The others look more menacing. The book was pretty dark, I thought.
What my daughter thought? She said it reminded her of Matilda by Roald Dahl, and that it was creepy but good.
My Rating: ***1/2 out of 5 (Only this high because it got better at the end, and the writing was good.)
My Daughter's Rating: **** out of 5
Cleanness Score: 3 out of 10, This is really for the grossness factor, but that is such a relative thing. ...more
Why I bought it? This one was actually a recommendation from Nathan Bransford, agent extraordinaire. I wanted to see the kinds of things he really likWhy I bought it? This one was actually a recommendation from Nathan Bransford, agent extraordinaire. I wanted to see the kinds of things he really likes, so I asked for some suggestions. This one was on the list and sounded interesting to me.
Synopsis: This book, narrated by Death, is set in Germany prior to and during WWII. Liesel Meminger impresses Death at the passing of her little brother, when their mother is taking them to live with a couple near Munich. Liesel starts her book thieving graveside even though she can't read. Her foster father teaches her to read, and she continues her book stealing at a Nazi book burning, then at the Mayor's house. The story follows her experiences and relationships through the war.
What I thought? WARNING: Gushfest ahead. This book has won tons of awards, including the Printz Award, and rightfully so. From the first page, I was riveted. Death's voice is surprising and refreshing and compelling. I couldn't get enough. This is one of my new favorites. There is a lot of dark humor, as you might expect from Death, but there is also compassion and shock at the brutality of human nature. The best part to me was the unexpected imagery that Death uses to tell the story. He is lyrical. Who knew? I'm sure there will be those who don't like the way the book is written. It is very poetic, but those of you who love an impeccably wrought phrase will go nuts for this book like I did.
I have to give you a few examples of the writing so you can see what it is like. It's unlike anything I've read. If you like these. You will like the book. (These are from the beginning so they won't be spoilers.) This kind of thing (personification, unexpected images, lyrical descriptions, etc.) is on EVERY page. I thought there was no way that Markus Zusak could sustain the language, etc., but he did. When I found out that it took him 3 years to write this book. I just nodded. It would take at least that long.
On the first page, Death announces: "You are going to die." Death does not sugar coat. He, later, describes those left behind when he carries the souls of the dead away: "I witness the ones who are left behind, crumbling among the jigsaw puzzle of realization, despair, and surprise. They have punctured hearts. They have beaten lungs."
Another section near the beginning of the book, when Death sees the book thief for the first time, gives you a nice example of the imagery:
A small soul was in my arms... ...I clearly remember that my breath was loud that day. I'm surprised the guards didn't notice me as they walked by. The world was sagging now, under the weight of all that snow. Perhaps ten meters to my left, the pale, empty-stomached girl was standing, frost-stricken. Her mouth jittered. Her cold arms were folded. Tears were frozen to the book thief's face.
As you would expect, this book has some serious tearjearker moments (Embarrassing moment: I was reading it while waiting for my daughter to finish a test in the public library downtown and just sat there sobbing as people looked at me like I was nuts. I should have known better than to read it in a public place.), but surprisingly not as many as you might think (and that's why I was lulled into a false sense of security that I was safe from the tears in public thing.). There is some serious humor as well.
My Rating: ***** + (I'm trying to contain myself these days.)
Cleanness Score: 7--There is a fair amount of language (not tons) often in German but translated afterward. There are scenes of the death and destruction of war as you would expect in a book about WWII. It is not for the very young. I think I'm going to wait to give it to my 14 year old until she is a little older. She is sensitive to the sadness of war, and I think this would be a bit much for her. It is for YA, but it can be very disturbing. I would keep it to your older YAs.
This book was a revelation to me of what can become popular. It achieved the recognition of "NY Times #1 Bestseller." It is so nice to know that this kind of artistic writing can achieve great success. Don't let the inevitable sadness contained in it keep you from reading it. I kept postponing reading it because I knew it would be sad. I've had it since Christmas. I could kick myself for waiting. It is so worth the teary moments. ...more
Why I bought it? This was another one on my Christmas list that my husband got me. I had heard so many good things about it, and it kept coming up difWhy I bought it? This was another one on my Christmas list that my husband got me. I had heard so many good things about it, and it kept coming up different places that I felt I just had to read it.
Synopsis: The United States no longer exists. In its place is a society where every year one girl and one boy ages 12-18 are chosen from each of 12 regions of the country as tributes to the Capitol to fight in the Hunger Games. All you have to do to win is survive. It's considered a death sentence for most of the 24 kids whose names are drawn. When Katniss' little sister's name is chosen, she volunteers to go in her place. The winner brings back needed food and honor for their region. How will Katniss ever survive? And what of her fellow tribute who once saved her life? How can she kill him?
What I thought? This is getting to be a trend, but I LOVED it. It is very compelling. The premise promises lots of tension and it delivers. It's a page turner extraordinaire. I had a hard time putting it down, and when I finished, I started over to remind myself of what happened in the beginning.
My rating: ***** out of 5
Cleanness Score: 7 out of 10--there is a lot of violence as you would expect in a book that is a fight to the death. Some of it is very disturbing. I don't really remember any language, but the gruesomeness of some of the deaths is going to keep you from letting your "tender" ones read this one. It's classified as YA, but I wouldn't let those under 14 read it.
The sequel, Catching Fire, comes out Sept. 8, 2009. I can't wait.
On Amazon, there is a review by Stephen King that does a great job (as you would expect) and is really funny at the same time. ...more
Why I bought it? It should be no surprise to you by now that I love Jane Austen. My husband and I stopped by the BN to pick up a couple books for him.Why I bought it? It should be no surprise to you by now that I love Jane Austen. My husband and I stopped by the BN to pick up a couple books for him. I was being strong and was not going to get anything for myself. I have a stack of books at home that I need to read and some friends' stories to critique, but when I walked by the display of Jane Austen books I was sucked in, and this one caught my eye because of the movie. I wanted the "real" story behind it. So much for my determination to leave the store with no book for myself.
Synopsis: This is the biography that inspired the movie Becoming Jane and the author was a consultant for the film. It focuses a lot on the impact her sister Cassandra, her brother Henry and his relationship with their cousin Eliza, and her possible romance with Tom Lafroy had on her stories. There is a lot of time spent on family history and Jane's interaction with different family members.
What I thought? This was a very well written and researched biography. There were times though that I thought Spence was forcing his assumptions on me. I enjoyed it pretty well, but Spence went on and on over certain details and skimmed others. (I thought he spent entirely too much time on the whole Eliza and Henry story. I realize it was important in JA's life, but not for the number of pages it got in the book. That section about stopped my reading. If you find yourself getting bogged down there just skim it and move on. Things pick up after that part.) I really enjoyed the interaction of Jane and Cassandra. Some of the details that were included there really enlightened her character. The detail that one of their niece's fiancé called them "the formidables" was great. I could just picture the force they had in the family. I especially was interested in the relationship that she had with her nieces and nephews and how much she cared for those around her.
My Rating: **** out of 5
Cleanness Score: 3 out of 10. There are details about affairs and things of that nature and people dying as would be expected in a biography from that time period. But it is all pretty tame. ...more
Okay, so why would I review a book by Jane Austen? Everybody knows her right? Yeah, well, what I've found in talking to friends is they've read PrideOkay, so why would I review a book by Jane Austen? Everybody knows her right? Yeah, well, what I've found in talking to friends is they've read Pride and Prejudice and maybe Sense and Sensibility even Emma sometimes, but much past that, unless they are particular JA fans, they haven't read. Seriously, if you haven't read Persuasion, you're missing out.
Why I bought it? Hello! It's by Jane Austen. I LOVE her. She's so witty and captivating. The first time I got Persuasion was in a complete works of JA. I wanted to read them all, and bought a big blue tome from some bookstore somewhere. It was so long ago who remembers? I have other formats as well and have read it more times than I can count. One of my favorites is a pocketsize version I got at BN that fits just about anywhere, so it's easy to take with me.
Synopsis: When Anne Elliot, a baronet's daughter, is 19, she falls in love with Frederick Wentworth, a young man in the Navy. She is persuaded by her surrogate mother to refuse his proposal of marriage on the grounds that he is not good enough for her. No money. Eight years later, he returns to the neighborhood a rich man to visit his sister and stirs up Anne's feelings again. The problem now is that there are other young women to draw his attention. Does he still care for Anne? Does he hate her for rejecting him? There's so much more to it than that, but you'll just have to read to find it all out.
What I thought: You have to know I love it. Duh! Here's the thing though. This is my overall favorite JA novel (I do have a special place in my heart for P&P, but Persuasion is better written). It is her last complete work. It's her smoothest as well. If you've seen the movie and think you're good. You're not. You're still missing out. The book is better. It has one of the most romantic scenes in literature in it.
My Rating: ***** + (Hey, if I like it better than P&P, you know it has to get that kind of score.)
Cleanness Score: 2 of 10, As you would expect. Nothing really bad in it. There is a little intrigue of people doing PG-13 kind of things in the background. That's why it gets a 2 instead of a 1....more