Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Wednesdays with David: Happy Birthday, Monster!

Happy Birthday, Monster!
By Scott Beck
Abrams Books for Young Readers 2007
From our lovely local library

The Story: Ben the monster is throwing a surprise birthday party for his friend Doris the dragon. He invites all of the usual gang - you know, the vampire, the mummy, the skeleton, the alien, the ghost, and the robot. The juxtaposition of the usual (Ben brushing his teeth and flossing in the morning) with the unusual (the ghost has some difficulty eating the party nuts...when you don't have a body, snacks seem to fall right out). 

Mama opines: This book has a sort of comic book feel to it. The illustrations are in panels, four to a page and there are words in bubbles to be found throughout. I picked this book up because we have a birthday boy in the house this week and it was a fun read. It would also be great for Halloween with all of the monster characters. Yay for an inventive plot and a book that has monsters and aliens without being dark or violent. This is a sweet book about friendship, even when your friends are a little different.

Thoughts from David: Well,  the robot cleans the floor. I like it because it’s almost my birthday and it’s Doris’ birthday too! She was a dragon! DRAGON! (runs around room roaring) Remember she blows fire?

What is your favorite part? The robot is my favorite!  When they get to do stuff, like the piƱata and dancing…..

Happy Wednesday from the almost four year old! 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Review: Girls in White Dresses

Girls in White Dresses
By Jennifer Close
Alfred A. Knopf August 2011
292 pages 

Girls in White Dresses revolves around the wedding years. Do you know what I mean by that? If you do, you are likely in your twenties just like the protagonists in this novel, Lauren, Mary, and Isabella. During this time in your life, you spend a lot of time attending bridal showers and then weddings and then baby showers. This season of life elicits many different reactions – jealousy, boredom, anger, drunkenness, the desire to beat a bridezilla over the head with her bouquet…

Isabella is frustrated to be working under a woman who is younger than her and puzzled as to why friends set her up with truly bizarre men. Lauren wonders what to do with herself during the days when her friends work and she waits to work the dinner shift at the bar/restaurant with that sleazy bartender she definitely should not sleep with again. Mary is finishing law school, and wondering if school and then her job will leave her any time to spend with her friends or to date.

“No one had told her it would feel like this. She’d gotten so much advice about her first year at a law firm, but no one had ever said, “You will be constantly afraid.” And that’s what she was. She was afraid that someone would come to her with work to do, and she was afraid that no one would come to her with work to do. She was scared that she was missing something in her research. She went over each assignment she was given, and then she was terrified that they would all think she was slow. Whenever someone said ‘case law’ or ‘document review,’ her first instinct was to hide under her desk.
Sometimes, just as she was finishing up one project, feeling like she’d accomplished one thing, someone would come to her office to give her a new task. She was sure she was failing.”

I could refer to this novel as smart chick-lit, but does anyone even call it chick-lit anymore? The good news – this book is easy to read. Breeze through it in a weekend afternoon sort of easy to read. The other good news? If you are somewhere between the ages of 22 and 32 and of the female gender, you will likely find yourself nodding your head in recognition many, many times throughout this book. Ms. Close has written a really good debut and I’m excited to see what she will do next.

The only complaint I have is that while the novel is anchored by Mary, Lauren, and Isabella, the chapters often revolve around their friends. It sometimes takes a while to figure out who this person is and which girl or girls she is friends with, and by the time you have figured these things out, the character will show up in the book no more.

This leads to a sort of jumble in your head of names and situations, which is ok. I don’t think this is the sort of book you read over and over again, whilst referring to your favorite character. Instead, this book confirms the desperate hope that you are not alone in this bizarre adventure known as your 20s. This book is a really good quick read - the women are all relatable as they look for their dream job (or any job), the love of their life (or just a stinking date!) and try to hold on to their friendships as they are pulled in a million different directions. 

Monday, November 28, 2011

It's Monday - Hooray?

How was the weekend, everyone? Lots of turkey and pumpkin pie leftovers? Setting up Christmas trees? This weekend, we helped decorate at my parent's house, but we have not done our place yet (sad face). We are getting ready for the little man's fourth birthday this weekend, which should be lovely...if we don't ship him off to Siberia before then. (I have great hope for the age of four - the end of three seems to be rather wild and insolent.) 

This week, I finished reading:

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
By Michael Chabon

Girls in White Dresses
By Jennifer Close

Here are the posts from this week:

Here are the books coming up this week (yay!):

The Marriage Plot
By Jeffrey Eugenides

The Matisse Stories
By A.S. Byatt 

Tomorrow, I shall tell you all about The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay or maybe it will be Girls in White Dresses. We will see which one gets written first! Until then, please avail yourself of the most excellent comment button, and tell me what you are reading, what you have been up to, and any other interesting things I should know. Happy Monday! 

Friday, November 25, 2011

Book Snippets: Half the Sky

This Thanksgiving week, I have been listening to Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide. It has been really flooring me, to the point that I have to stop listening for a while to take in everything I have just heard.

On this day when people in this country waited in lines miles long to get a good deal on a new flat screen TV, we need the reminder that there are more people in forced labor and sex slavery today than there were people enslaved at the height of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. While college students enjoy sleeping in today, we need the reminder that many children in the world do not have the opportunity to attend any school ever. While we gather with our families and neighbors this weekend, we need the reminder that honor killings and rape as warfare are still happening in our world.

Can I ask a favor of you, readers? As you start your holiday shopping, would you consider giving a gift to someone you don't know? Would you check out one of these organizations and think about giving them a very basic privilege that we take for granted? In the midst of the craziness our economy and Occupy Wall Street, it's easy to forget that the 99% of us here in the US (even those of us who are careful each month to make sure that ends meet), are some of the wealthiest in the world.

These are some resources I find really awesome. Would you think about it? Let me know if you gave a gift to someone through one of these organizations - I want to hear all about it.

World Vision (I love this one because they have an entire gift catalog. You can choose to give malaria nets to children in Africa, clean water to a rural village, or a small business loan so that a mother can support her children.)

Love 146 is working to end child sex slavery through prevention and aftercare. You can donate directly or order one of their nifty T-shirts.

The Half the Sky website will direct you to a ton of resources to to help women in the areas of education, preventing violence against women, stopping sex trafficking, maternal health and economic improvement.

Have an amazing weekend, friends. I will be back next week with lots of books reviews, promise!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Dear Readers,
May your day be filled with family and friends, pumpkin pie (my favorite part of Thanksgiving dinner!), and an excellent book.
Happy Thanksgiving.
Literary Lindsey

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Wednesdays with David: Elves for a Day

I have to apologize, friends. I know that standard decorum dictates that I should not start talking Christmas-like stuff until Friday. But when we went to Disney, it was already decorated for Christmas and they played Christmas we are already sort of there. We beg your forgiveness.

Still here?


Without further ado, here we have Mickey and Santa in one charming book.

Elves for a Day
Mickey and Friends Visit Santa's Workshop
By Joanne Barkan
1993 The Walt Disney Company
(A note - Amazon and the inside cover inform me that this book was made exclusively for Disney store. It might make finding it a little interesting, but I know you are up for the challenge!)

The Story: Donald makes bad choices, such as taking his friends for a leisurely airplane ride in a blizzard, getting lost, and running out of gas. Thankfully, the intrepid group is found by one elf named Jitters who whisks them away to Santa's workshop. The elves are way behind (slackers) and if they can't finish all of the toys in the next few hours, the jolly man is calling off Christmas. Our heroes rise to the occasion and Christmas is saved! Hooray. 

Mama opines: Predictable? Of course. Cute? Yup. The best thing about this book is finding the little Disney touches scattered throughout the book. Keep an eye out especially in Santa's workshop. Homages to many Disney movies can be seen. Also, yay for Christmas and Christmas stories.

Thoughts from David: I love when the plane crashes (quite mildly, the mama must add) and when they see Santa Claus.
What is your favorite part? I love them all!

Happy Reading, friends and have a wonderful Thanksgiving! 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Review: Before I Go to Sleep

Before I Go To Sleep
By S.J. Watson
Harper June 2011

Christine wakes up with no memory of the past twenty-five years. She doesn’t know the man sleeping next to her or where she is. Each morning, her husband Ben has to explain to her who he is and that she has had a terrible accident that resulted in seemingly permanent amnesia. Christine discovers that she has been seeing a doctor behind her husband’s back and keeping a journal to help her remember the details of her life. When her journal and her husband’s story don’t match, she has to discover the truth. But how can you know the truth when you forget everything as soon as you go to sleep?

This was a great read. I was hooked from the beginning when Christine opens her journal to find the words “Don’t Trust Ben.” The whole premise is terrifying. Could you imagine waking up each morning with no memory of the last 25 years? How do you know who is telling you the truth or what the truth is to begin with? Watson shows a great deal of talent in his debut novel. The suspense holds from first page to resolution.  I found his reflections on memory and perception to be spot-on as well.

“I feel like I am going mad. Everything is fluid, everything shifts. I think one thing, and then, a moment later, the opposite. I believe everything my husband says, and then I believe nothing. I trust him and then I don’t. Nothing feels real, everything invented. Even myself.
I wish I knew one thing for certain. One single thing that I have not had to be told, about which I do not need to be reminded.”  

With many suspense books, I find myself with an unsettled feeling at the end. I enjoy reading them, but often finish them feeling unsatisfied. This was not the case with Before I Go to Sleep. I appreciated that Watson concluded the novel, but not neatly. After all, if this is representative of real life, who knows what could happen the day after the book ends? This is a captivating thriller that you don’t want to miss. 

Monday, November 21, 2011

It's Monday and it's almost Thanksgiving!

How was your weekend? We had a Thanksgiving dinner with the church youth group and co. on Friday night. Then we spent the rest of the weekend reading, catching up on TV, taking a nap or two, and making up lots of boxes for Operation Christmas Child

This week, I read:
Before I Go to Sleep
Before I Go to Sleep
By S.J. Watson

Posts from this past week:

I am currently reading:
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
By Michael Chabon

I'm going to start listening to:

Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into
Opportunity for Women Worldwide
By Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn

On the schedule for tomorrow? A review of Before I Go to Sleep. See you then! And don't forget to leave me a comment and tell me what you are reading this week. 

Friday, November 18, 2011

Some of this and a little of that

So we went to Disney World. We got back on Tuesday. It was lovely and we had so much fun. It was one of those vacations where you fall into bed exhausted, but so happy. Good on the vacation front, not so much on the reading one. I am about 200 pages into The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. I am enjoying it so much, but it's an intricate book. It's not something you can just breeze through, especially at the tune of 600 plus pages.

Now we are back home and trying to catch up on loads of laundry and phone calls and picking up with our crazy lives. I finally found the missing CD for the audio book I have been listening to on and off (it was in one of David's DVD cases...don't you love when you put something somewhere that makes sense at the time and no sense at all after the fact?). The bad news is that I have no more renewals of Exit the Actress. So it's back to the library with that one. That's sort of sad for me. I hate not finishing books, but it just wasn't holding my interest. That struck me as strange because I studied theatre in college. I know all about Nell Gwyn and she is fascinating! Maybe it's the listening to it that isn't working. A lot of people really enjoyed this book. So for now, I'm letting it go, but I think I will try to pick it up in print in the future.

This weekend, the hubs is hosting a Thanksgiving Dinner for the youth group at our church. Other than that, I hope to get lots of reading done, avoid catching David's cold, and come back with a shiny book review for you at the beginning of next week.

Have a lovely weekend, ladies and gents!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Review: The Midwife's Confession

The Midwife’s Confession
By Diane Chamberlain
Mira 2011

When Noelle commits suicide, her best friends Tara and Emerson are shocked. The women are left with only a mysterious note in which Noelle apologizes to a woman named Anna for something that is left unwritten. Tara and Emerson dig into Noelle’s past, interviewing the women she worked with as a midwife, determined to find out what dark secret caused her to take her own life.

Meh. Is that an appropriate reaction to a book? I was interested enough to continue reading, but that may have been in part because I was leaving to go on vacation and wanted to finish the book before I left. I could figure out what the big secret was fairly early on. Then there was another plot twist, which I also saw coming. The characters just didn’t really hold my interest. I actually had to check a few times if the current chapter was from Tara or Emerson’s point of view.

While Ms. Chamberlain does occasionally have some good insight into grief, it always seems to just be skimming the surface. Tara is dealing with losing Noelle in addition to losing her husband the previous March. When she realizes that her husband’s message is still on the answering machine, “I stared at the phone in my hand for a moment, then started to cry, hugging the phone to my heart. I sat on the stool next to the kitchen island and sobbed so hard my tears pooled on the granite. I’d thought I was done with this part of the grief – this sucking-down, soul-searing pain – but apparently not.”

So this book was ok for me. I didn’t hate it, but I probably won’t pick up another book by this author. There were so many places to go with the topics introduced within the novel – grieving, the relationship between mother and child, the extent to which we really know each other, the experience of childbirth - but it feels like a cursory effort throughout. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Wednesdays with David: Our Apologies

We regret to inform you that, due to post-Disney exhaustion and the start of a nasty cold, David has declined to comment on any of the books we have been reading this morning while snuggling on the couch.

Please come back next week - we promise to have a great children's book review for you! And coming up tomorrow, The Midwife's Confession by Diane Chamberlain!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Review: Sister

By Rosamund Lupton
Crown Publishers 2010

Beatrice’s sister Tess has gone missing again. Bee is not particularly worried – Tess has done crazy things like this before. Instead, she is ready to give her baby sister an older sister reprimand about taking care of herself and her baby. But when Bee arrives in London, she discovers that her sister has been murdered. When the police rule it a suicide, she knows that it cannot be true. She starts to investigate on her own, barging into the house of her sister’s older lover, questioning the fellow student who was in love with her, and researching the medical study that her sister took part in so she could save her baby.

The reader knows from the beginning something bad has happened to Tess. Bee is actually writing to Tess, telling her what has happened since the moment that their mother called and said that Tess was missing. It is obvious from reading this story that Ms. Lupton is a sister. Her insight into that relationship is nuanced. Bee is certain she really knows her sister, the things she would or would not do. Her sister’s death instigates the first moment when she is unsure of just how strong their bond was.

“Facts of exploding shrapnel were ripping our relationship apart. You didn’t tell me when your baby died. You were depressed, but you hadn’t turned to me. I knew every painting you were working on, every friend, even the book you were reading and the name of your cat. (Pudding – I’d remembered the next day.) I knew the minutiae of your life. But I didn’t know the big stuff. I didn’t know you.”

This novel manages to be an intriguing mystery, a look at the morality of medical practices, and a lovely tribute to the relationship that sisters share. Oh, and have I mentioned the crazy twist ending? Yes, that too. This is a strong debut novel and a good mystery. 

Monday, November 14, 2011

It's Monday and I'm not here...

Nope. I'm not here at my computer today. I'm not even in the beautiful state of New Jersey today.

Today I am right here:

Or maybe here:

That's not the point, really. I'm supposed to talk about books, I think.

I finished reading The Midwife's Confession by Diane Chamberlain before I left. I may or may not have made some progress on this novel by the excellent Michael Chabon:

I don't know. I'm writing this on Wednesday night. Who knows what I have done in four days? I will let you know when I get back.

Until then, I hope you had a wonderful weekend and are reading some awesome books that you will tell me all about. Come on back tomorrow for a review of Sister by Rosamund Lupton.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Review: The Night Circus

The Night Circus
By Erin Morgenstern
Doubleday September 2011

Marco and Celia are illusionists, trained from childhood to manipulate their surroundings and the people they encounter. They have been prepared for a battle of magic that will continue until there is a winner. Their battle ground is the mysterious night circus, which appears without warning and features tents of clouds and ice, magicians and contortionists, and a white flame that never goes out.

This novel has been the belle of the literary ball for months. I get nervous about reading highly acclaimed books, but this one deserves all of the accolades. Ms. Morgenstern is a wonderful writer. She has incorporated mythology and fairy tale into a story that is truly compelling. We rush through the rainy streets of London and explore the amazing tents of the circus with Bailey, a young boy who is inexplicably drawn to the circus and a certain red-haired girl. The description and imagination that permeate each chapter are amazing. It’s not just about the magic of the circus, but about the magic of story.

"It is important,’ the man in the grey suit interrupts. ‘Someone needs to tell those tales. When the battles are fought and won and lost, when the pirates find their treasure and the dragons eat their foes for breakfast with a nice cup of Lapsang souchong, someone needs to tell their bits of overlapping narrative. There’s magic in that. It’s in the listener, and for each and every ear it will be different, and it will affect them in ways they can never predict. From the mundane to the profound. You may tell a tale that takes up residence in someone’s soul, becomes their blood and self and purpose. That tale will move them and drive them and who knows what they might do because of it, because of your words. That is your role, you gift. Your sister may be able to see the future, but you yourself can shape it, boy. Do not forget that.’ He takes another sip of his wine. ‘There are many kinds of magic, after all."

Some reviewers have commented that the characters seem undeveloped. But I think they don’t need to be extremely developed – this is a fairy tale. Think of the fairy tales of your childhood. We don’t need to know everything about them, because the important things are the atmosphere and the story.  

Thank God for writers like Erin Morgenstern. So many authors focus on what we already know –we fall in love and relationships break, people become heroes in the heat of the moment and others commit horrendous crimes. Some authors, though, give us new worlds to discover, like Narnia and Middle Earth and Hogwarts. They remind us about the power of imagination and wonder and dare us all to dream again. After all, the Night Circus is called Le Cirque de Reves – The Circus of Dreams. This was a book that I didn’t want to end. 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Christmas and books? Yes, please!

So if you are reading this here blog, you might have a bookish blog of your own. You may also love Christmas or Hanukah or Kwanza or Ramadan or Festivus or another winter holiday that I can't think of at this moment.
So...if you are a book blogger and love you some holiday cheer, read on!

Hop on over to The Holiday Swap.


It goes like this - you fill out a smallish form with your mailing information and what kind of goodies you would like to receive. You have to act quickly, because they are only accepting secret Santas between now and midnight on Friday. So then someone gets your name and you get someone else's name. You send them something awesome and another lady or gent sends you something awesome.

In the end, everyone has a present and we are all really excited about ChristmaHanaKwanzakah...

Ok, enough of my babbling. Go sign up. Now! Go!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Wednesdays with David: A Confession

I have a confession to make.

When we feature books here on Wednesday, they really are books that David and I read together. But sometimes it's like pulling teeth to read anything that does not involve Toy Story, Wall-E or Cars.

When we go to the library, I know we are going to end up with these if they are on the shelf:


It's a little bit of a race at the library. David stuffs books into our bag based on Disney characters or Nickelodeon shows. I scramble to find Caldecott and Newbury winners, classic characters like Frog and Toad and Little Bear, and short chapter books that will stretch his little imagination.

Parenting is challenging stuff sometimes. But I know that reading to my little guy, whether we are reading JM Barrie's Peter Pan or we are reading Cars for the 23rd time this week, is one of the most important things I can do for him.

Even if you are not a momma or a daddy, you can still read to a child. It's really a great experience, promise. So dust off your favorite children's book and go find your niece and nephew or your neighbor or volunteer at your library. Share the book love, my friends.

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Review: What Women Fear

What Women Fear
By Angie Smith
B & H Books September 2011

As wives, as mothers, as women, we tend to fear a lot of things. We worry that our husband might lose his job, our mother could have another stroke, or that our precious child might get hit by a car while out riding their bike. Angie Smith’s book What Women Fear looks at her own deep-seeded fears in light of the Bible and a relationship with a heavenly Father.

Each fear is connected to someone from the Bible. Fear of the what if correlates with Hagar, who wondered if she could have done something different to keep her son safe with his father instead of dying out in the desert. She is so consumed with fear that she doesn’t even see the well that God has provided to save him. Job has fears of rejection, abandonment and betrayal when his wife and friends tell him that God has left him and he should curse his maker. Jonah fears what God has planned for his life and that it will not match his own plans.

The most striking chapter concerns Peter walking on the waves towards Jesus. Smith writes about doubt, our fear that God isn’t who he says he is or doesn’t have the power to fulfill his promises. “I don’t think it’s possible to live this life without room for doubt. And even more shockingly, I don’t think God holds it against us. After all, if He wanted us to know we could walk on water, I think He would have designed us to do it.”

This book is obviously not going to pack as much of an emotional punch as Smith’s previous book, I Will Carry You. That being said, this would be a great book for a women’s bible study. Actually, it’s a great book for anyone, although it is marketed towards women. Many of the biblical examples are men and I have to imagine that men have fears too…they just deal with them differently.

Ms. Smith is a lovely writer. You can tell with each sentence that she really wants to help her readers find faith in spite of their fear, instead of being paralyzed by it. She believes that we can all find balance on this tightrope of life, that “the more we tap into a life balanced by Christ, grounded in knowing Him and His Word, the less we have to worry about falling off. It’s still scary up here, no question, but if we can get a firm grip on that which steadies us, it will look different.”

Monday, November 7, 2011

It's Monday and we're going to Disney World!

Good morning, my reading friends! I hope you had a wonderful weekend. Did you read anything good? Do anything exciting? 

Here are the books I read this week:

The Night Circus
By Erin Morgenstern

By Rosamund Lupton

Posts from this week:

Reading this Week:
The Midwife's Confession
By Diane Chamberlain
(I don't know if I will finish this one or not...we leave on Thursday for Disney World (!) and I don't want to take a library book with me. I will be taking the book below, from my TBR pile.)

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay
By Michael Chabon
(You do know about Michael, right? You can read my review of Chabon's The Yiddish Policemen's Union here.)

I shall be gone from Thursday until Tuesday night. I will not be blogging while I am away, but I am reading furiously in order to have reviews pre-written for your reading pleasure. Don't forget to come back tomorrow for my review of What Women Fear by Angie Smith!

Let me know what you are reading this week in the comments. My to-be-read list is only 12 pages long or so...clearly I need your suggestions! 

Friday, November 4, 2011

Review: Sisterhood Everlasting

Sisterhood Everlasting
By Ann Brashares
June 2011

Did you grow up with these girls - Lena, Bee, Tibby and Carmen? 

The four Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants books were a reading staple for many a high school girl, myself included. Author Ann Brashares has brought the girls back ten years in the future, as they look towards their 30th birthdays. Carmen is a successful actress in NYC, engaged to a man she is not sure she truly loves. Lena is an art teacher with a casual relationship, but she still thinks about Kostos and wonders about what might have happened. Bridget still lives with Eric in California, but she can’t shake her wanderlust. And Tibby? Tibby seems to have fallen off the map after she moved to Australia with Brian. While none of the girls are as close as they wish, no one seems to remember the last time they have talked with Tibby.

One day Lena, Carmen, and Bree receive letters. Tibby has purchased them all tickets to Greece. The four girls are to be reunited at Lena’s grandparents’ house. When the three girls arrive, Tibby is nowhere to be found. Their discovery of Tibby's secrets will profoundly change their lives. 

I was really relating to this book - the post-college years where your friends move to different states and you are pursuing careers and getting married, and you are so darn excited to talk to your friend once every few weeks if you are lucky. The best friendships don't change - even when you haven't seen them for months, it feels as easy and close as it has always been. But their absence leaves you incomplete.

“Growing up is hard on a friendship. There’s no revelation in that. I remember my mom once told me that a good family is built for leaving, because that is what children must do. And I’ve wondered many times, is that also what a good friendship is supposed to be built for? Because ours isn’t. We have no idea how to cope with the leaving. And I’m probably the worst of all. If you need a picture, picture this: me putting my hands over my eyes, pretending the leaving isn’t happening, waiting for us all to be together again.”

Ms. Brashares wonderfully portrays this season of life. Her characters have grown up, but at their hearts they stay the same. These are the girls you know and love. The choices this author makes for her characters will surprise you - this is real life. There is no bubble of safety for these girls. They are now grownups dealing with very grownup problems. 

I have to admit I found the ending sort of far-fetched. But sometimes you can give beloved characters grace that you wouldn't give to others. I wasn't sure how I would feel about Brashares bringing the four girls back so long after the other books; but I was happy to see them again, the way you are happy to see old friends, real or literary. 

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Review: The Borrower

The Borrower: A Novel 
By Rebecca Makkai
Viking June 2011

Lucy Hull is a small town children’s librarian with a big love for books. One of her favorite library patrons is ten year old Ian Drake. His imagination and spirit are compelling, even as his strictly evangelical mother severely limits his selection of books. Lucy has been clandestinely sneaking the boy books his mother will not allow him to read. She worries about him, fearful about his relationship with his parents and worried that Ian is being sent to a local program that promises to ‘un-gay’ children.

One morning, she comes into the library to find Ian. He has run away from home and camped out in the library. She offers to drive him home. Ian accepts, but then refuses to give his address and leads her on a wild cross country adventure.

This is a great book for people who love books. The references are endless and will make you stop to fondly remember the books that you loved as a child. Chapter titles are often book titles or literary allusions. The novel as a whole is enjoyable, but I think Ms. Makkai boxed herself in with her plot. Once Lucy has (for all intents and purposes) kidnapped Ian, the reader knows that there are only a limited number of options for an ending. Even Lucy knows that their adventure cannot continue indefinitely:

“I was surprised-and surprised to be surprised-but I couldn’t figure out what it was that I’d expected. Somewhere in the back of my mind there had always been a fantastical and illogical ending to the story, as crazy as Ian’s story about his grandmother, and if only I had bothered to examine it first, we wouldn’t be here. I’d forgotten that all runaway stories end like this. Everyone goes home. Dorothy clicks her way back to Kansas, Ulysses sails home to his wife, Holden Caulfield breaks into his own apartment. Huck didn’t go home, at least-but what happened to Jim? Probably something terrible. I couldn’t even remember.
What happy ending could I have been nursing, this whole time? It lurked there like a dream, half remembered.”

Perhaps the biggest hurdle to get over is that nothing really seems to change. If this novel is meant to be a great literary adventure, something must happen as a result of the journey. But in The Borrower, it seems that little changes for the main characters in the wake of their adventure together.  This frustrated me a lot – why in the world had they gone through this whole thing if they were only to end up (situation-wise if not geographically) right back where they had started? I liked this book, but ultimately didn’t adore it the way I had hoped that I would.

All of that being said, I have to leave you with this ridiculously wonderful quote about Lucy’s personal book collection:

“Thus Nabakov lived between Gogol and Hemingway, cradled between the Old World and the New; Willa Cather and Theodore Dresier and Thomas Hardy were stacked together not for their chronological proximity but because they all reminded me in some way of dryness (though in Dreiser’s case I think I was focused mostly on his name); George Eliot and Jane Austen shared a stack with Thackeray because all I had to his was Vanity Fair , and I thought that Becky Sharp would do best in the presence of ladies (and deep down I worried that if I put her next to David Copperfield, she might seduce him). Then there were various stacks of contemporary authors who I felt would get along together at cocktail parties, and there were at least three stacks of books I personally loathed but held on to just in case someone asked me to loan them a page-turner about a family of circus performers, or an experimental novel about a time-traveling nun. I’d hate to have to say that I knew the perfect book but I’d just given it away. Not that people often asked.”

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Wednesdays with David: Wednesday is Spaghetti Day

Wednesday is Spaghetti Day
Written and Illustrated by Maryann Cocca-Leffler
Scholastic 1990
Suggested Age Range: 4 and up

This may be the most perfect book we have ever featured here on a Wednesday, is Wednesday. Also David loves pasta. He loves it so much that I worry one day I will go to wake him up and find a giant noodle instead of a little boy.

So, in this book, Catrina the cat is waiting for her family to get themselves out the door to work and school. Today is Wednesday and on Wednesday, all of her cat friends come over to make lunch. Once the family leaves, Catrina and her friends start to make an excellent meal - spaghetti, bread, juice, salad, and even spumoni ice cream. But can they finish their feast, clean up, and sneak back home before the kids get home from school?

I enjoyed this book. The premise is original and the illustrations are wonderful. David thinks this book is hilarious. We have had it out from the library for weeks and weeks. He even insists on looking at it while he eats (it smells slightly of maple syrup...please forgive us, librarians!)

Thoughts from David:

Why do you like this book? "Cuz when they scream because the school bus turned the corner. I like it because they make food. They make spaghetti."
Do you like spaghetti? "Sure do!"

What is your favorite part?  "They are going to have guacamole day tomorrow and when the kids don't even see the cat leaving the house."

Usually, I post a charming picture of David reading. But this is the week after Halloween. I would be remiss if I did not leave you with this:

The first picture is David at our church Halloween party, dressed up as Buzz Lightyear of course. (And yes, that is his boot on the table.) The second is David right before trick-or-treating with my sister. I hope you don't mind I put your lovely face on my blog, SG. At least now I will know if you are reading!
David will be back next Wednesday. Tomorrow I will have my review up of The Borrower by Rebecca Makkai. Have a great week, wonderful readers!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

October Wrapup

So October is...over? How does this happen? The fact remains that today is November 1st, so I will recap the month for your literary pleasure.

Books Reviewed: 9

Books Reviewed with David: 4

Memes participated in: It's Monday, What Are You Reading at Book Journey, The Gothic Lit Tour at The Classics Circuit, and the 24 Hour Readathon.

Favorite Book of October: The Submission

What was the best book you read in October? Let me know in the comments!