3.5 stars - The ending was kind of Shakespearean farce-y but I am pretty sure that was an intentional choice, given a lot of the references in the boo...more3.5 stars - The ending was kind of Shakespearean farce-y but I am pretty sure that was an intentional choice, given a lot of the references in the book. I enjoyed it for that, once I got over the ridiculousness of it.(less)
These books are really only 3 star books, but I gotta give 'em 4 stars for being a fun tie-in to the Castle TV series. It's fun for me to read them an...moreThese books are really only 3 star books, but I gotta give 'em 4 stars for being a fun tie-in to the Castle TV series. It's fun for me to read them and imagine the actors in the roles. I was also tickled by the "author's note" where the "author" Richard Castle thanked all the fictional cops for their help - Beckett, Ryan & Esposito....and then in another paragraph of thanks that was a list of names, I recognized the first names of the actors in the TV show. Stana is a dead giveaway. That layer of in-joke is the kind of thing I enjoy greatly.
As a mystery on its own, it was pretty good. A sort of twist-y end that came out of left field without seeming totally implausible. And as much as I watch Castle for the relationship between Castle and Beckett, I read these books for the relationship between Rook and Heat. It's fun on the show and fun in the book.
Fluff, but enjoyable fluff. The purple prose was turned down a bit for this book, and that was fine too. That got to be just a little too meta for me. (less)
I have a long relationship with The Little Prince; I used to watch the television show on Nickelodeon when I was a kid, and loved it. I first read the...moreI have a long relationship with The Little Prince; I used to watch the television show on Nickelodeon when I was a kid, and loved it. I first read the book when I was in middle school, borrowed from friends of my parents and read in a gulp in their den while the grown-ups partied upstairs. I remember being touched by the sadness in it, and loving the gentle silliness that was there in contrast.
This edition is in my library's Children's Graphic Novel section, and I've been seeing it while looking for graphic novels that won't freak out my 5 year old. I finally checked it out for myself this past visit. I read it, again in a gulp, sitting up in bed with my light on, while my husband slept next to me. This time, the poignancy came through louder than the silliness, and I was pleased at how the illustrations just match the tone of the story so well.
I didn't read this to my daughter, but she is drawn to anything in a comic book style, and she's flipped through it several times. She likes the pictures, her favorite is the silly king on the tiny planet. She observed that everyone looked so sad at the end, and wanted to know why the Little Prince and the Flower were not together when the loved each other. That is some powerfully good illustration, if she can pick up on the plot enough to figure this out.
I really enjoyed this version of The Little Prince story, and I can easily picture myself picking this up sometime.(less)
I continue to really love this series. The story is the tiniest bit predictable, but in a solid, classic way. The four girls continue to have their ow...moreI continue to really love this series. The story is the tiniest bit predictable, but in a solid, classic way. The four girls continue to have their own strong personalities, and even Batty gets to come into her own as a person, not just as the baby/littlest sister. Birdsall also does a great job of keeping the story kind of timeless, but not old-fashioned. When I finished this book, it was all I could do to keep from driving out to the library and picking up the 3rd book right away.
Also, it came as no surprise to me to find that the author is local to me - there's a feeling that is just so....Western Mass-y about this series, and I mean that in a good way.(less)
I read this AGES ago, and it was a quick 2-day read at the beach while Charlotte had her swimming lessons. I was particularly interested in the Jane Y...moreI read this AGES ago, and it was a quick 2-day read at the beach while Charlotte had her swimming lessons. I was particularly interested in the Jane Yolen stories, because as much as I remember probably reading this as a kid, I don't remember "The Transfigured Hart," and I'm surprised I hadn't diligently tracked it down...but I will now. I do remember "The Boy Who Only Drew Unicorns" - that had stuck with me in the back of my head where I save the good stuff.
It's a cute-ish treasury that seems, well, dated somehow. I guess I'm not used to reading these kinds of collections any more - so many of them that come out now seem to be a little better at isolating stand-alone stories, and not needing practically a whole page of italicized preface before a story. I mean especially the excerpts from Madeline L'Engle's "A Swiftly Tilting Planet" (one of my favorites when I was a kid) and from "The Last Battle" by C. S. Lewis (another favorite). Specifically the Narnia bit, which was only very tangentially about unicorns. The L'Engle excerpt was explained too much and edited too strangely - they really could have skipped straight to coming down on the Unicorn's home planet, without all that lost at sea stuff. Anyway, I'm glad I re-read this, and I would probably not need to read it again, except to maybe look up the name of the Yolen stories if I forgot them again.
Oh, Patricia C. Wrede's "The Princess, The Cat, and the Unicorn" was pretty excellent, in true fairy tale form. I do enjoy a vain Unicorn, and the titular Unicorn was particularly so.(less)
Ehh, I think I'm over these books. The who-will-she-choose drama is a little ridiculous, and the mysteries are so by the number, that at this point I'...moreEhh, I think I'm over these books. The who-will-she-choose drama is a little ridiculous, and the mysteries are so by the number, that at this point I'm only surprised when Stephanie's car *doesn't* blow up. The woman reading this audio version gives it her all, but stereotypes that seemed affectionate on the page come out as laughable when voice-acted.
Does this mean I'm going to stop listening to the new ones as they come out? No. But I'm not going to go back and listen to 16, which I just realized that I missed.(less)
I randomly picked this up off the library paperback shelves. Of course it is the second in a trilogy, and of course they don't have the other two, but...moreI randomly picked this up off the library paperback shelves. Of course it is the second in a trilogy, and of course they don't have the other two, but I found it engaging, and a fast, easy read. A palate cleanser from the serious nonfiction, disturbing mystery, and thought-provoking poetry that I've been reading lately. Also? I've been reading a slew of cheap/free romance on the Kindle since I got it, and it's harder for me to find the acceptable romance in the Kindle marketplace. I'm not saying that if it's published in mass market paperback that it's automatically better than ebook only - not by a long shot - but my ebook screening process isn't quite honed yet.(less)
I've taken to grabbing books off the poetry shelf at the library to get back into the habit of reading poetry. It's a very small library, with an extr...moreI've taken to grabbing books off the poetry shelf at the library to get back into the habit of reading poetry. It's a very small library, with an extremely small contemporary poetry shelf. Most of the poets are regional or local, because what else would you have in such a small library? I'm not sure how this book ended up there, but it is wonderful.
Poetry is hard for me to review; in fact, that is one of my goals, to learn how to better write about poetry. Right now all I can do is grunt, "I like it." But I do. This collection is divided into sections, and one of the sections relates to Murphy's work as a professor. I found the grouping of "Why Poetry?", "Lesson" and the follow-up "Why I Didn't Cite My Sources: A Found Poem," to be the most economical teaching memoir I've ever read.(less)
This slim book ticked several boxes - Bronte, poetry, criticism. All things I've wanted to read more of. Though, if you don't say anything critical, d...moreThis slim book ticked several boxes - Bronte, poetry, criticism. All things I've wanted to read more of. Though, if you don't say anything critical, does it still count as criticism?
The first part of the book is some biographical information - not a lot (if anything) that I didn't already know about Emily Bronte, thanks to a lot of recent reading (including The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Brontë, which covers a ridiculous amount of factual information and the podcast "Stuff You Missed in History Class"). Considering the subtitle of this book is "Poems for Young Readers", the poems are pretty digestible as well, with some really hearty footnotes.
I can't help but compare this Emily with that other Emily, Emily Dickinson. I know the comparison gets made a lot - two almost contemporary reclusive female poets with the same first name, it seems required - but the themes of their poetry really do overlap. Bronte's poems fall into two rough categories to me: the Gondal poems, and the moor poems. There is a kind of subset of moral/religious/instructional poems, also, but there is overlap there with Gondal. The moor poems are the ones that beg the most comparison to Dickinson; while Bronte still adheres (for the most part) to a more traditional structure, the themes and visuals are a little alike.
Bronte: O Stars and Dreams and Gentle Night; O Night and Stars return! And hide me from the hostile light That does not warm, but burn -
There is so much to love about this book! Not so much a fairy-tale retelling, as a story of faery. I loved this book. The only reason I am giving it 4...moreThere is so much to love about this book! Not so much a fairy-tale retelling, as a story of faery. I loved this book. The only reason I am giving it 4/5 stars is that to me the ending felt a little flat & anti-climactic, though I think I'm in the minority on that one.
The story takes place at a boarding school in England in the 1979/1980 time period. The protagonist, Mori, has fled her home in Wales after a supernatural clash with her mother that leaves her crippled and her sister dead. (This is on the back of the book, and in every description, so I don' think I need to tag this with spoilers.) The whole book is a really delicious examination of what is real and what isn't, and what is Faery and what isn't, and how magic works. One of my absolutely favorite things about this book, aside from Mori herself, is that science fiction runs as a current throughout the whole story. Mori's love and passion in life is reading sci fi, thinking about sci fi, and even studying science. She doesn't seem to reflect much on the fact that her whole live is lived in the fuzzy, chaotic world of magic and faery - in stark contrast to the ordered, regular world of the sci fi & fantasy she seeks out.
She immerses herself in the books and discussions of the books when she finally discovers like-minded people. This book made me want to re-read a lot of the 70s and 80s era sci fi that I read as a kid, borrowed from my aunt and libraries. If this had been my book, I would have read it with a highlighter - it isn't so much that the language here is as tantalizing as some of the other books I've read recently, but that passages Mori writes could have been taken from a very honest diary that I never kept. There are so many little things about Mori that I recognize and remember about myself, which is a sign of how much I'm going to love a book (yes, I'm a little self-involved) and also how hard I'm going to judge that book.(less)
via audiobook. Vetting for the kid. I kind of adore this story so far.
Edited to add: I started this on audiobook, but decided that I wanted to race th...morevia audiobook. Vetting for the kid. I kind of adore this story so far.
Edited to add: I started this on audiobook, but decided that I wanted to race through the second half rather than drag it out over another 2 hours of listening.
This is the review where I'm going to betray my age and all my rough hippygoth edges. This book touched me and warmed me and made me cry (in a good way) and reminded me of something I didn't even know that I had been missing, though it explains all those recent re-reads of the Anne of Green Gables books, the Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm books, and most of Francess Hodgson Burnett's ouvre. This book was lovely, and wonderful, and old-fashioned in the best way possible. It reminded me of the Pyes and the Moffatts, and the Quimbys. Sweet, a smidge sentimental, but not treacly or cheesy. No Bobbseys here.
This is the story of a family on a summer vacation - the old-fashioned kind where you go away for a month and stay in a house. There are four kids, all girls. Their mother died, so they are cared for by their widower father. Mr. Penderwick is just the right touch of scatterbrained & eccentric without being really clueless or neglectful; it's not the kind of book that you look back on and think, "Holy cow, he's actually an awful dad." The girls are all really distinct, and Birdsall does a great job of setting them up and setting them apart right from the beginning. Rosalind, the eldest, very much a tween; Skye, feisty, math-loving and strong; Jane, the dreamy author, with a passion for soccer and drama; and little Batty, with her fierce loyalties and affections. They are all girls, but their stories aren't about being girls (with a slight exception for twelve year old Rosalind on the eve of her first crush), their stories are about being kids.
They are driving from their hometown, a suburb of Boston, to spend a summer vacation in the Berkshires, at a little house they are renting, rather than their regular place on the Cape. When they arrive at Arundel House, they discover the closest thing that passes for a manor house in Western Massachusetts, completely with its gothic hero, the only child Jeffrey, misunderstood son of the cold, lonely, bitter Mrs. Tifton. The only things she values are her pristine show garden, and her late father's legacy. Housekeeper & cook Churchie, junior gardener Cagney, and village represtantive/tomato vendor Harry round out the cast of characters, with a villainous assist from Mrs. Tifton's "gentleman friend", Dexter. The Penderwick girls and Jeffrey become fast friends, and have all sorts of adventures, the kind that kids have over summer breaks when they are told in the morning, "Go outside, I'll see you at lunch!" There are conflicts and dramatics, within the fixed frame of the vacation timeline, major events to be anticipated and survived, and always the awareness of how many days left before the Penderwicks return to their home across the state.
There is a wonderful timeless element to this book - computers are mentioned, and when the girls tell stories about school, it's clear they are talking about a regular 21st century public school, but at the same time, they aren't talking about texting and the internet and boy bands and television shows. That is, in and of itself, a relief. No matter how timeless iCarly seems now, that reference is not going to seem nearly so fresh in 8 years, and the book doesn't need it to set the scene, anyway.
Middle readers are such a tricky category for me to judge - in some ways, my tastes when I was a kid were so different from the norm, so I can't even rely on my own memories. It's hard for me to guess how a kid would take this book - I have no idea. I couldn't even put an age range on it - I think this would be a great book to read to a family with a variety of age ranges. The sibling dynamics are spot-on, and I can see how kids would like to talk about who is more like what character. The audio was pretty good, though it is tricky to do a voice for a 4-almost-5 year old, and that was very distracting. I would like this as a car trip audiobook, especially for a summer vacation.(less)
I was really looking forward to this read. I read Kelle's blog, Enjoying the Small Things, and I particularly remember reading Nella's birth story as...moreI was really looking forward to this read. I read Kelle's blog, Enjoying the Small Things, and I particularly remember reading Nella's birth story as the first thing I read. I think some other blogger linked to the blog as a great example of using photography in a blog, as well as beautiful writing about motherhood.
I think the choice by Kelle & her publishers to include her photography in the book was a GREAT choice. So many photos, in color, really add to the saturated, hyper-real feelings she's writing about.
It's kind of weird, I'm reading this book at the same time as Double Time: How I Survived---and Mostly Thrived---Through the First Three Years of Mothering Twins - both memoirs by authors whose blogs I read religiously. It's hard not to compare them to each other. While I relate intensely to Jane Roper's personality, personal writing style, and locale, I find Kelle Hampton's book fascinating because she is so different from me. Her history, her outlook, her attitude are 180 degrees from where I am at any given day. I'm touched by her honesty, optismism, and openness. Her writing style is relatable, and the emotion palpable. I'm gone back and read Nella's birth story on her blog a dozen times since I first read it, but I still read every page, every word, when I found that it was the prologue to Bloom.
The "uplifting personal narrative" is not my usual jam, but I found myself crying and smiling, and getting lost in it just the same. (less)
Hunger Games vs. Battle Royale, Harry Potter vs. Chrestomanci ....
While I don't think that the Hunger Games or Harry Potter were rip-offs, I do think...moreHunger Games vs. Battle Royale, Harry Potter vs. Chrestomanci ....
While I don't think that the Hunger Games or Harry Potter were rip-offs, I do think that there is some DNA in common. By which I mean that there are certain themes that people revisit. And archetypes. The same way if I told a story about my high school experience, it would probably sound very similar to, say, my friend's experience, even though I am not copying it. Some things in life just end up similar.
Which is a very long way to say that it took me a good 125 pages to get past the "Narnia" feel of this book. Talking animals and an adolescent boy being flattered and charmed by a manipulative witch? That was rough. And it's only the barest outline of this story. I did move past it to enjoy the book in its own right, though.
I really liked this book, and at first I was like, "How much do I like this because it is Colin Meloy and Carson Ellis, and how much do I just like it?" I am a huge fan of The Decemberists, the band that Colin Meloy is in, and his wife, Carson Ellis, has done a lot of their design work, and some other work that I like, so I went into this prejudiced. And while that may bump this from a 3.75 to a 4.00 star review, I am pretty sure I would have liked this book anyway.
Some things I really enjoyed:
* The very Portland-y feel of Portland. I have never been to Portland, but I have lived in Northampton & Amherst Massachusetts, and there is definitely a similar feel. I liked that Portland was almost a character itself.
* Resisting making Curtis "that guy." He was a smidge awkward in the beginning, but he never got too Edmundy.
* Prue is a great heroine, with realistic motives and reactions.
* The language. I loved that there are complicated words, words that kids aren't expected to know, and that they aren't explicitly explained. You can either figure them out from the context, or look them up, but there they are, and they completely add to the tone of the book. Some examples: bagatelle, barrage, debacle, raffishly, imbibe, invectives, resplendent, indiscernible
* The danger felt real. With some kids' books, the suspense feels faked, because you think, "Yeah, but they'd never kill off a main character," or "Something will happen before it gets too dark," or, worst of all, "Some grown-up will fix it." The stakes were high & legit the whole time.
I have a hard time with middle readers sometimes - it can be hard to find that right tone that isn't condescending, and isn't too simplified. The ones that feel best to me are the ones where the stories are interesting, and not just retreads. It sucks when you are reading a book meant for a middle schooler and you realize that it's just a dumbed down version of some grown-up book. I feel like this story couldn't be told any other way, and that's what made it such a good read. (less)
I liked this book an awful lot. It reminded me a bit of Please Ignore Vera Dietz, but that may have just been because of the dynamic & style. This...moreI liked this book an awful lot. It reminded me a bit of Please Ignore Vera Dietz, but that may have just been because of the dynamic & style. This book plays with form in a great way, using strike-throughs to highlight emphasize certain points, There are also photographs sprinkled through, an integral part of the story. I loved how much this book reminded me of high school & college, but how different it was from my experience - digital cameras & social networking pages really have changed the landscape. The difference between when my mom went to high school and when I went to high school is minuscule compared to when I went to high school and when my daughter will go to high school. But some things never change, like being a boy in love with your best friend, who is a girl who is dating someone else. Possessiveness & competitiveness & sadness & jealousy. Really lovely sad themes with lovely sad characters. As an adult I was very interested in the character of Jack, but I liked how inaccessible he was in this book, because he was so inaccessible to Evan.
Good book, sad book, glad I had the chance to read it all in one fell swoop.(less)
This gets three stars....just barely. I should have been tipped off by the word "Redemption" in the sub-title. I found this book just a little too sen...moreThis gets three stars....just barely. I should have been tipped off by the word "Redemption" in the sub-title. I found this book just a little too sentimental. I wanted to know about the rehab process for the dogs, and while the legal case details were both sketchy and interesting, the real problem I had with this book was that it really romanticized the dogs. I appreciate the point that Jim Gorant makes about this case - that this case made the dogs in dogfighting the victims, not the weapons. And that is why I wanted to read this book - I love pit bulls, and I was so heartened to hear that so many of Vick's dogs could be rehabbed or rescued. But the whole first half/third of the book included italicized passages from one of the dog's point of view, and that was just too much for me. I really struggled to get through the first half of the book, where bland procedure was mixed with cheesy dog narration. Once the dogs' legal guardian gets appointed, and the dogs get their individual evaluations, the book picks up, and the rest of the book follows the stories & challenges of individual dogs at their foster homes or rescue facilities, and that was the part I really enjoyed and looked forward to.
I think this is one of those books that ends up preaching to the choir; I can't imagine anyone who isn't already pro-pit bull reading this, and for those of us who are already pro-pit bull, I can't imagine it telling us anything we didn't already know. It did satisfy my curiousity as to just what happened to all those dogs, but I can't say that I appreciated this book any more than I would have a feature piece in a magazine.(less)