Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Wednesdays with David: How Do Dinosaurs Get Well Soon?

How Do Dinosaurs Get Well Soon?
By Jane Yolen
Illustrated by Mark Teague
The Blue Sky Press 2003
From the library 

The story: "What if a dinosaur catches the flu? Does he whimper and whine in between each Atchoo?" And so we are off on this rhyming adventure with several sick and very grumpy dinosaurs. We find out if they throw their juice and tissues back at their parents or drag their giant dinosaur feet on the way to the doctor's office. Luckily, for small readers who may be feeling a little under the weather themselves, we discover that sick dinosaurs (and hopefully their human counterparts) listen to the doctor and their parents so that they will get better in no time.

Mama opines: Dinosaurs + 4 year old boy = Perfect. This book is a fun read and I like the subtle hint that if a dinosaur can behave, so can a little boy or girl. The illustrations are wonderful - Mr. Teague draws beautiful dinosaurs and really captures the frustration or relief of the human parents and doctors. As an added bonus, the names of the dinosaurs are found on each page so that budding paleontologists can add to their collection of facts.

Thoughts from David: I like it because I love the part where the dinosaur throws his tissues on the floor. It's a funny book and I love lots of pages.
Favorite part: When the dinosaur goes to sleep. 

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Review: Flappers and Philosophers

Flappers and Philosophers
By F. Scott Fitzgerald
256 pages

Man, I thought I was the best F. Scott fan. I have this big beautiful collection of F. Scott stories and I thought that it included all of the stories. But then I went and cross-referenced the stories in Flappers and Philosophers with my book. It only had half of them! Thank goodness for Project Gutenberg

This collection includes eight stories and is Fitzgerald's first published story collection. Many of the stories had previously appeared in the New York Post. The most popular from this collection are The Offshore Pirate, The Ice Palace, and Bernice Bobs Her Hair. Interestingly enough, many of these stories are told from the point of view of women in stark contrast with the male protagonists of Fitzgerald's novels. He is widely credited with bringing the flapper character to prominence.

I enjoyed all of these stories. Fitzgerald writes a wide range of characters and themes. His stories range from  a young man whose turn to crime has interesting repercussions to a young woman whose yacht is boarded by pirates. They are the perfect length - nothing has been neglected, but I never felt like I had been reading a story for too long. 

My favorite of the bunch was Head and Shoulders. Horace Tarbox is a student at Yale, aloof and focused on his studies. When his friend sends a girl to his rooms as a prank, he finds that he can't stop thinking about her. Marcia continues to work as a showgirl while Horace hopes to move up in the export company where he is employed. "Horace, who had no habits whatsoever - he had never had time to form any - proved the most adaptable of husbands, and as Marcia entirely lacked opinions on the subjects that engrossed him there were very few joltings and bumpings. Their minds moved in different spheres. Marcia acted as practical factotum, and Horace lived either in his old world of abstract ideas or in a sort of triumphantly earthy worship and adoration of his wife." The evolution of their relationship and the roles that they play within it are fascinating to witness. 

Flappers and Philosophers is an excellent short story collection from a writer who was in the early years of his career. It's a treat for fans of Fitzgerald's novels and a good starting point for those who have not yet read his brilliant prose. 

In March, I'll be reading The Beautiful and The Damned. Join me? 

Monday, February 27, 2012

It's Monday, so I tell you about those books

Hey there, guys and gals! How are you? How were your weekends? Mine was very busy, but good. On Friday and Saturday, the husband and I were in Maryland visiting my best friend and her husband. Sunday included church, lunch with husband's parents, a hymn sing (wherein I sang the very awesome The Prayer), and a potluck. Yes, a potluck. It was awesome but exhausting. I got some good reading done this week, including finishing up a book while watching The Oscars. (Trust me, multitasking is key for parents!) 
So...about those books...

Read This Week:

David Copperfield
By Charles Dickens

Case Histories
By Kate Atkinson

The Baker's Daughter
By Sarah McCoy

Posts From This Week:
Finishing Up:

Flappers and Philosophers
By F. Scott Fitzgerald

Coming Up:

Life of Pi
By Yann Martell 

No One Is Here Except All of Us
By Ramona Ausubel 

Have a great week and make sure to let me know what you are reading right now in the comments! 

Friday, February 24, 2012

Review: Case Histories

Case Histories
By Kate Atkinson
Little, Brown, and Company September 2008
310 pages
From my personal library...hooray

Jackson Brodie is a private detective attempting to juggle several cases. At the beginning of the novel, the reader is presented with three stories. In the first, a young girl goes missing after she and her sister camp out in the backyard in a tent. In the next, a young woman is murdered while interning in her father’s office. In the third, a young woman goes to prison for murdering her husband with an axe in view of their baby girl. As Jackson becomes makes progress in the cases, he discovers that they are more connected than he could have ever imagined.

This novel is a mystery, but more importantly it is a story about the people who are left behind after tragedy. While Jackson does investigate the crimes, he also provides compassion and understanding for the survivors.  He empathizes with his clients because he too has experienced loss when his older sister was brutally raped and murdered. His kindness and his attempt to be a good father are his strong points, but our hero is very much flawed. He can’t stop fantasizing about the women he encounters and he is terrified that his ex-wife and the new man in her life will take his daughter away from him. He thinks that "she wouldn't be the same Marlee in twelve months' time: she would have different skin and different hair, she would have outgrown the shoes and the clothes she was wearing, she would have new buzzwords (New Zealand words), and she might not like Harry Potter anymore. But she would still be Marlee. She just wouldn't be the same." 

The thing I found most fascinating about this novel is the way that so many of the characters sit on the edge of likeability. I found myself often thinking that I didn’t really like many of the characters. In spite of this, I had a very serious need to find out what happened to them and how they were connected. These are very deeply injured people whose lives have been destroyed. The wreckage is not pretty, but Ms. Atkinson portrays it with compassion and sometimes humor.

This is a really interesting novel. I went back and forth trying to decide if I liked it or not. At times, I was not particularly enthusiastic about continuing. I think that’s because there is little imminent danger. These cases are cold and their resolution will likely not change anything in the present. I’m glad I stuck with it, though. The mysteries are wrapped up by the end, some more predictably than others. The characters will make you uncomfortable, make you wince, and make you think about putting this book down, but ultimately this is a good book. I will warn that it takes some time to get used to the peculiarities of the novel, the style, and the characters.

This is the first Jackson Brodie novel, and the first book I have read by this author. I somehow already own the third book, so I will be searching out the second. Atkinson is a good writer, with interesting style and quirks. While Case Histories takes some time to get comfortable with, it’s worth the read. 

Friends, as you read this I am on my way to the wonderful state of Maryland. Why is it so wonderful, you ask? Why, it's because my bestest friend Becca lives there. I will be visiting her today and Saturday (husbands included). Then on Sunday, there will be church and a hymn sing with a potluck. Try not to be too jealous... 
Have an amazing weekend, friends. I'll be back on Monday. See you then! 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Wednesdays with David: Truckery Rhymes

Truckery Rhymes
Written by Jon Scieszka
Illustrated by David Shannon, Loren Long, and David Gordon
Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers August 2009
From the library

The story: This is a collection of nursery rhymes that are rewritten to reflect the lives and adventures of the trucks in Trucktown. Favorite classic songs and rhymes like Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, Three Blind Mice, and Jack and Jill are now about the crazy antics of your favorite trucks and construction vehicles. 

Mama opines: This was fun to read and I've been looking to get a little more diversity in our reading. I'm hopeful that after he has already listened to the truck rhymes, we can ease into the classic rhymes (perhaps A Children's Garden of Verses). This is one of the very large collection of Trucktown books. My favorite part is the fantastic illustrations. The illustrators have a great eye for really giving the trucks emotion and character.

Thoughts from David: I liked it because it has some bumping, bashing, beaming, and slamming and because it has some good stuff.
Favorite part: I like this one! (points to the wheels on the bus song, which now goes through the sounds that a multitude of trucks and construction vehicles make)

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Review: David Copperfield

David Copperfield
By Charles Dickens
Oxford University Press 1948
From that beautiful library place
877 pages

I'm finished, I'm finished! Yes, I might be doing a small dance. It has taken me almost a month to read this ginormous tome, but I'm glad I did. Reading David Copperfield has convinced me of the genius of its author. 

This novel is, as the title suggests, about the life of one David Copperfield. We begin at his birth and follow him through his childhood as his widowed mother remarries a terrible man who controls the family with an iron fist. We follow David as he goes to school, makes new friends, chooses a profession and falls in love.

This sounds like a simplistic plot, but it is greatly enriched by the crazy cast of characters that inhabit the pages. The protagonist is sweet, na├»ve, and downtrodden, but never cloying. He is a great protagonist and it’s a pleasure to follow him as he grows from a child to adulthood. Mr. Dickens has surrounded David with some of the most delightful characters and despicable villains that you’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. David’s stepfather is truly menacing and Uriah Heep is a sniveling creep. My absolute favorite character is David’s eccentric aunt Betsy Trotwood. Her constant comparison of David to the sister he should have been is hilarious and delightful. This book is supposed to be rather autobiographical and I think it shows. You can tell that Dickens really loves (or hates) these characters.

The only part that drove me (and many other readers) crazy is David's love for a young woman named Dora. Dora is ridiculously childlike and although their relationship progresses, it is always an uneven relationship. Far from being a mistake, I think this is Dicken's examination of the difference between the naivete of first love and the endurance of true love. 

It’s important to keep in mind the original format of a book when reading it. David Copperfield was serialized, meaning that people could buy installments of the novel monthly. I can imagine families gathering around to hear what happened to David next. While this book seems incredibly long at first glance, it works. This is an epic story, but it is one to be read at your own pace. I would not suggest that you get it out from the library, and then put off starting it for a week or two…not that I know anything about that.

In an almost 900 page novel, I had to laugh a little at Dicken’s depiction of Mr. Micawber. He is a man who is often short of money but never short on words. Dickens writes that “we talk about the tyranny of words, but we like to tyrannise over them too; we are fond of having a large superfluous establishment of words to wait upon us on great occasions; we think it looks important and sounds well. As we are not particular about the meaning of our liveries on state occasions, if they be but fine and numerous enough, so the meaning or necessity of our words is a secondary consideration, if there be but a great parade of them.”

If you have the time to read it slowly without pressure, I would highly recommend you pick up David Copperfield. Dickens writes amazing characters and if you haven't experienced one of his novels yet, there is no better time than his 200th birthday! 

Sunday, February 19, 2012

It's Monday - What are you reading?

Friends, I feel like I am reading and reading and just not finishing anything. I would like to place the blame for this predicament firmly on the shoulders of one Charles Dickens. I mean, come on, I know it's your 200th birthday and I know young David C is delightful, but your almost 900 page novel is taking me FOREVER to finish. 

Alright, enough whining from yours truly. Now we shall talk about books! Hooray! 

Read Last Week:
A Room With a View
By E.M. Forster

Reading Now: 
Case Histories
By Kate Atkinson

David Copperfield
By Charles Dickens

Posts from This Week:

Next Up:
Life of Pi
by Yann Martel

The Baker's Daughter
By Sarah McCoy

So what are you reading right now? Comment away, friends!

P.S. It's not too late to join me in reading F. Scott Fitzgerald this year! This month, I'm reading Flappers and Philosophers, a short story collection. I will be posting about it next Tuesday! 

Friday, February 17, 2012

Review: A Room With a View

A Room With a View
By E.M. Forster
210 pages
Bantam Classics 1988
Won from the lovely Allie at A Literary Odyssey 

Lucy Honeychurch is visiting Italy with her cousin when she is witness to a murder. This unusual set of circumstances brings her closer to another visitor, George Emerson. Although they connect, he is not an appropriate sort of boy and Lucy endeavors to forget the whole experience. Once back in England, she becomes engaged to Cecil Vyse, “an ideal bachelor.” But George and his father soon move into Lucy’s neighborhood and she must choose between what she has been taught and her true desires.

This is my first Forster novel (I know, I know, another strike towards my degree in English lit!) and to sum it up in a word, this book is charming. I really enjoyed reading it. While the plot may sound simplistic, this is more than a love story. Forster is writing about the movement towards independence for Lucy and, by the same token, for all women. It is a chronicle of Lucy’s realization that the social mores that she has been taught all of her life make no sense and she wants no part of them. While in Italy, she wonders about her inability to go around town on her own. “This she might not attempt. It was unladylike. Why? Why were most big things unladylike? Charlotte had once explained to her why. It was not that ladies were inferior to men; it was that they were different. Their mission was to inspire others to achievement rather than to achieve themselves.”

Forster is an empathetic and meticulous writer. My poor little paperback was stuffed full of bookmarks, indicating passages I wanted to write down later. Despite this being my first reading, this book manages to feel like hearing an old family story – sweet and familiar. The characters are varied and often very humorous. Forster deftly uses them to make his point about society, but never at their expense. Each person you encounter in these pages, including the bombastic mother, the meddling clergymen and the spinster aunt, are wonderfully and terribly human.

This is a beautiful book – half gentle love story, half examination of women on the verge of independence and equality. The reader is immediately aware that Cecil cannot be the right mate for Lucy. She always imagines him in a drawing room with no window, while George loves to roam outside and actually gives up his room for her in Italy so that she can have a view. In Lucy’s love story, an equal opinion in the relationship, or a view, is the necessary foundation for a lasting relationship.

If, like me, you haven’t experienced Forster before, get to it! You will laugh at and cheer for Lucy, George, Cecil, and their companions and marvel at the author’s beautiful and precise prose. This short and sweet novel will reignite your confidence in loving classical literature. 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The post about my tbr shelf

We all have one. Some of us are a little ashamed and we don't really want to talk about it. Some of us are just determined to do something about it.

It's the to-be-read shelf or pile...or shelves and piles. You know how it goes - you win some books and don't read them right away. Your mother/brother/husband/best friend gives you a book and you decide to save it for the right day. You love that magical library place and can't leave without a pile so high it blocks your view. The tbr shelf just sort of happens.

So I'm coming clean, kids. Here is my tbr shelf as of today.

It's manageable, I think. I hope. There are 30 books living on top of my bookshelf. Some of these books are coming up on the schedule, since I am one of those crazy people who plans out what they will be reading for the next few weeks. I'm reading A Room with a View (not pictured since it's next to my bed) right now and hope to finish it up tonight

So now that I have confessed my bookish indiscretions, it's your turn. Tell me about the unread books in your lives. How many are there? Where do you hide them? It's ok boys and girls, this is a safe place for your literary secrets.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Wednesdays with David: The Velveteen Rabbit

The Velveteen Rabbit
By Margery Williams
Illustrated by Florence Graham
Abridged Version
Grossett & Dunlap 1987

The Story: A little boy receives a rabbit for Christmas. The rabbit waits in the nursery for the boy to notice him, to love him, to make him real. The boy comes to love him and the two are inseparable until the boy gets scarlet fever. After he recovers, all of his toys and books are sent away. The velveteen rabbit is despondent until a fairy appears to him and turns him into a real bunny.

Mama opines: You guys, I am a little teary. I practically pulled teeth to get David to listen to this book a few days ago. Ever since, he has picked it to read every single day. This is the actual book that my mom and dad gave me when I was around his age. I love this story. It's sweet and simple and if you have never read it to your little one, you must do so immediately! Small note: I will admit to leaving out that tiny detail about them taking all of the toys out to be burned...since it doesn't actually happen, I find that saying that the toys had to be taken away is much better for both of our hearts. 

Thoughts from David: I like it because the rabbit gets to be real.
Favorite part: When the boy has the ill (so cute!) and the bunny goes out to the garden and gets to be real! 

Happy reading, everyone!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Review: If I loved you, I would tell you this

If I loved you, I would tell you this
By Robin Black
288 pages
Random House March 2010
From the biblioteca

If I loved you, I would tell you this is the debut collection of short stories by Robin Black. She tells a wide range of stories – a father taking his teenage daughter to get her first seeing eye dog, an artist trying to render a man on canvas who is suffering from dementia, a group of children play acting the wives of King Henry, and a woman traveling through Italy with her brother after her painful divorce. Black portrays each protagonist well, regardless of age or gender. Her middle-aged father is as convincing as the young girl who believes that magic will keep her fracturing family together.

The strongest of the bunch is the title story. Black uses an inventive format to tell the story of a woman who is terminally ill. She begins each segment with “if I loved you, I would tell you this.” Her neighbor (who she refers to as ‘yeti’) is oblivious to the effect his actions have on her life.  She imagines how she would tell him about the way his selfish choices impacted her life, if she knew him well enough to begin the conversation. The heartbreak of this woman who will leave behind a grieving husband and a mentally ill son is beautifully rendered.

“Todd: cannot speak, cannot walk, barely hears, is blind in one eye. Cannot control his bladder or his bowels. Does he know us? It’s never been clear. Until now, I’d always hoped that he did. I’d always hoped that it gave him some kind of comfort to have me and have Sam there with him. But now I’m not so sure that I want that anymore. Now I find myself hoping sometimes he never really knew who I was. Now, my yeti, I find myself hoping he may be like you. And so won’t ever miss me when I’m gone.”

Ms. Black has a gift for the heart of the short story - finding the nuanced moments that reveal everything about a person or situation. She places each character on the page with compassion and care because each one of them is broken. Her stories are good and it’s difficult for me to find a specific flaw. That being said, the characters and stories didn’t stay in my mind after reading. Despite the heavy subject matter, the emotional punch to the gut that causes you to close a book of short stories and just take it all in was not to be found.

If I loved you, I would tell you this is a solid debut, full of stories of great love living in tension with incredible loss. I only wish there was the additional depth that leaves the reader completely satisfied with just one single perfect story. 

PS - Happy Valentine's Day, my fellow book lovers! 

Sunday, February 12, 2012

It's Monday and snowy weekends are perfect for reading...

Good morning, ladies and gents! How were your weekends? We were visited by a dusting of snow on Saturday. David has been wishing and wishing for a good snowstorm. Even though this was only an inch or two, we put on snow boots and snow pants and out we went!

Reading-wise, I've been alternating between chunks of David Copperfield and a short story or two from If I loved you, I would tell you this.

On to the books!  

Read This Week:

The Cookbook Collector
By Allegra Goodman

If I loved you, I would tell you this
By Robin Black

Posts from this week:

Still Reading:
David Copperfield
By Charles Dickens

Coming Up:
A Room With a View
By E.M. Forster 

Case Histories
By Kate Atkinson

So what are you reading this week? Leave me a comment and let me know! Have a wonderful week!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Review: The Cookbook Collector

The Cookbook Collector
By Allegra Goodman 
The Dial Press July 2010
416 pages
From the library 

Jess is a graduate student in philosophy who works at an independent bookstore specializing in rare books and spends her spare time campaigning to save the trees. Emily is the CEO of a computer corporation in Silicon Valley and spends any free time with her boyfriend Jonathan, who is in management of another emerging business. The two sisters are very close, but often have difficulties understanding the other’s decisions. Their relationship is the heart of this novel. “Of course Jess knew that. She knew what Emily kept hidden, and so their time together was difficult, and also sweet.”

This is a really enjoyable read, especially after my less than stellar experience with my previous book. Ms. Goodman attempts to cover a lot of ground with her novel. Emily is caught up in the tech boom of the 1990s and we get an insider look at how a company grows from start-up to top of the stock exchange. It’s also fun to see Emily and her colleagues discuss ideas for digital products that are a part of our day-to-day lives at this point. Jess becomes close to her boss, George and through her eyes we learn about the intricacies of the market for rare and valuable books. On top of these intensive plot lines, we watch the girls struggle with the death of their mother several years before and experience tragedy on 9/11.

I loved the story of Jess and George, as she tries to reconcile her growing love of old books and the man who teaches her about them with her love for the environment and Leon, the charismatic leader of the movement. The relationship between Jess and Emily is excellently rendered. (I can state this with authority because I have three sisters of my own).  But there are just too many threads to follow. Goodman introduces too many characters and then sporadically gives the reader a sentence or two to explain what is happening with them. It’s impossible for the reader to connect with all of them.

As the book draws to a close, the conclusion seems just a little bit too perfect. This book is often compared to the work of Jane Austen, which I can’t comment on very much because I am still working my way through the cannon. I wonder if Goodman decided to tie up all of the loose ends so nicely in a nod to the happy endings of old. But in a book with a dead mother, crises of both relationships and business, and planes crashing into buildings, I wish that we had been given a more realistic, messy ending. Despite the fact that Goodman tries to pack too much into this novel, the story of Jess and George’s discovery of love through books is wonderful and they are characters that I would love to meet again. 

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Review: The Flame Alphabet

The Flame Alphabet
By Ben Marcus
Knopf January 2012
304 pages
From the library

The Flame Alphabet follows one family through a post-apocalyptic world, but this one is different from any world you have read about before. In this world, the speech of children is toxic to adults. Their parents became nauseated, weak, and repulsed by the very sound of their children’s laughter and stories. Sam and Claire are parents to Esther, a typical teenager who wants little to do with them. As Esther’s very words make them weaker and weaker, they seek answers in their underground sect of Judaism and perhaps the mysterious man who keeps appearing to Sam.

This book got a lot of buzz and I was excited to read it. Unfortunately, it turned out to be one of those books that you are more than content to set down when it is time to do something else. While the premise is interesting, the reader never connects with the characters. Claire and Esther are either not present or incapacitated for large portions of the novel and Sam is aloof from beginning and end. While he goes through this novel presumably in an effort to find safety for his family, we never really feel his attachment to either his wife or daughter.

There is a lot of pontificating throughout the novel about the need for language or the ways in which language is dangerous to us. By the end of the book, the only words are within people's heads, since speech and written text are lethal to those who hear or see it. Many of Sam’s opinions about language come from his religious beliefs. In their branch of Judaism, they listen to messages from their rabbi in secret huts. The message is not supposed to be discussed or repeated. Sam explains that “the secrecy surrounding the huts was justified. The true Jewish teaching is not for wide consumption, is not for groups, is not to be polluted by even a single gesture of communication. Spreading messages dilutes them. Even understanding them is a compromise. The language kills itself, expires inside its host. Language acts as an acid over its message. If you no longer care about an idea or feeling, then put it into language. That will certainly be the last of it, a fitting end. Language is another name for coffin. Bauman told us the only thing we should worry about regarding the sermons was if we understood them too well. When such a day came, then something was surely wrong.”

There is a lot I wanted to know that Marcus doesn’t seem to find important to answer for his readers. I wanted to know why the faithful Jews were worshipping in secret, creating huts in the forest where they could listen clandestinely to their leader. I wanted to know how in the world they kept getting all this gasoline for their car in a time of crisis. I wanted to know how life seemed to be going on as usual for so long, despite the knowledge that children are making the adults around them ill with every word they spoke. I wanted to know why children were immune, while adults were keeling over in the street.

While Marcus initiates many conversations about the role of language and the relations between parents and children, I couldn’t figure out for the life of me exactly what he was trying to say. While Marcus seems to indicate that language is dangerous, he continues to write and write. Sam is creating a record of his experiences for any future survivors who might be able to survive reading it, despite the obvious trouble with words and language. So is the point that language must endure despite its challenges? I was never sure. Mr. Marcus had a fascinating idea, but his execution leaves much to be desired. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Wednesdays with David: Captain Bob Takes Flight

Captain Bob Takes Flight
By Roni Schotter
Illustrated by Joe Cepeda
Atheneum/Anne Schwartz Books April 2003
From the library

The story: It is time for the most dreaded mission of all - cleaning your room! Captain Bob packs his flight bag, gets his sky scarf and goggles and prepares for takeoff. Can he complete his mission and get back to the control tower before lunchtime? 

Mama opines: This was one of my sneak attack books. Do any of you other moms and dads do this? You're in the library and your little guy or girl is very focused on finding exactly the same Toy Story book that you get every single week. So...very smoothly you survey the surrounding shelf and slip a few books into the bag that have no Disney/Pixar/Nickelodeon symbols to be found. Captain Bob was one of those.

I'm going to declare this one a big success because David asked to read it before Monsters Inc. So now you understand the magnitude of our love for Captain Bob. 

This book is pure fun and it might help at clean up time if you can remind your little one that cleaning is an adventure. We can certainly use all  the help we can get!

 I love the way the illustrations work in this book. Part of each page shows the reality of his room while the remainder shows the flight in his imagination. It reminded me a tiny bit of Where The Wild Things Are, since this boy also is sent to his room, goes on an adventure and comes home for a meal and love from mom. 

Thoughts from David: I like this book because he goes flying way up in the sky!
Favorite part: When he lands in the soup fog! 

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Review: Mockingjay

By Suzanne Collins
Scholastic Press August 2010
400 pages

Katniss has been extracted from the Hunger Games as part of an ongoing plot to fight the Capitol and President Snow. She is the Mockingjay, the figurehead of the rebellion, even though she was unaware of her role. The rumored District 13 does exist and is the seat of the revolution. Now that Katniss has been freed, war looms on the horizon.  

People have a lot of very strong feelings about the conclusion to the Hunger Games Trilogy and I must admit that I have some as well. This book is a great departure from its predecessors. While both The Hunger Games and Catching Fire were terrifying in their description of children brutally murdering other children, here there is no end in sight. The reader cannot remind themselves of the normal lives that go on outside of the arena, for now all is war and death can take any character at any moment. I found Suzanne Collin’s depictions of war, especially from the view of someone who is neither a soldier nor an adult, in depth and truthful. 

I am going to discuss the novel as a whole, so here is your mandatory spoiler warning. If you haven’t read it yet, go get the book instead!

I found this a good conclusion to the series with a few caveats. The first thing that bothered me was the discussion of another round of Hunger Games after the war was won. The survivors of the games are brought into a meeting with the leader of the rebellion and new president Alma Coin. After Katniss mediates on the immense loss of life that was caused by the games and the way that nothing has changed in spite of a war, she votes for the Hunger Games. I was awfully confused about this, until I read some other reviews and found out that the general consensus was that Katniss votes yes as a sign to Haymitch about what she is going to do. “This is the moment, then. When we find out exactly just how alike we are, and how much he truly understands me.” It that makes sense, but Haymitch doesn’t do anything after this point to help Katniss. While I love what Katniss proceeded to do, I wish Collins had been a bit clearer to the reader about their complicity, instead of leaving us scratching our heads in confusion.

The ending seems sort of anti-climactic after that point, but it occurs to me that this is the way that wars end. People go home or go to somewhere and have to try to live some semblance of lives in spite of everything that they have gone through. The actions of Katniss’ mother and Gale struck me as just plain terrible. Katniss has been through so much, often for their sakes. Their decision to never see her again seems awful and out of character. On the other hand, I wish Peeta had not come back. It felt to me as if someone reminded Ms. Collins that this was, after all, a YA novel and it was not appropriate to leave poor Katniss all alone and suffering from PTSD. The reintroduction of Peeta at the end felt forced and unnecessary. While I have never found myself firmly on the side of either Peeta or Gale, this ending struck me as totally false. As awful as it would be, I think the best ending would have been leaving Katniss alone in her pain.

I know that sounds as if I did not like the book, but on the whole I love the series and I like this book. Expectations are so great and love of these characters so strong that it would have been difficult for Ms. Collins to please all of her readers. This is a series that I will go back to again and again for an excellent story and characters that stay in your mind long after the book is closed. 

You can also read my reviews of The Hunger Games and Catching Fire

Sunday, February 5, 2012

It's Monday...

Good morning, everyone! How was your week? Did you all enjoy the Super Bowl yesterday? Football has a decidedly soporific effect on me, so I'm more of the "Yay for snacks! Now I will sneak off to a corner with my book" mentality. Hubby started his final semester of graduate school this week, so the end is in sight, thank goodness! 

Read Last Week:

This Side of Paradise
By F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Flame Alphabet
By Ben Marcus

Posts from this past week:
It's Monday
Wednesday with David
January Wrap-up
Reviews of This Side of Paradise and Camp Nine

Reading Now:

David Copperfield
By Charles Dickens

The Cookbook Collector
By Allegra Goodman

Coming Up:

If I loved you, I would tell you this
By Robin Black

A Room With a View
By E.M. Forster

What are you reading this week? Tell me in the comments, if you please!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Review: Camp Nine

Camp Nine
By Vivienne Schiffer
University of Arkansas Press October 2011

Chess Morton is a little girl living in Arkansas during WWII. When a Japanese internment camp is set up next to her home, her understanding of race relations, friendship, and loyalty are changed forever. 

Wanna read what I thought about this book? Click here and hop on over to the Atlantic Highlands Herald to find out! 

Thursday, February 2, 2012

January Wrap-Up

Books Reviewed: 11
Pages Read: 3059
Fiction/Non fiction: 9/2
Female authors/Male authors: 8/3
Lindsey's Favorite of the Month: Mr. Fox

Books Reviewed with David: 4
David's Favorites of the Month: Cookiebot and Bumblebee Boy!

Mom! Stop making me take pictures! The sun is bright!

What was your favorite January read? Let me know in the comments and don't forget to come back tomorrow for a review of Camp Nine!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Wednesdays with David: Winnie-the-Pooh

Happy February, everyone!

I have found that when you read to a little person several times a day, sometimes you will hit a children's book slump. It seems like you have already read everything and you absolutely, will not, under any circumstances, read the book from the Cars movie one more time. When that moment strikes, I like to go back to the classics. Books with chapters that were written long before either one of us was born. We have varied levels of success. David did not appreciate Ramona or that crazy cat Socks. He sometimes will listen to Junie B. Jones, but we abandoned the latest one halfway through. (I know, they are newish, but how cute and funny is Junie B?)  We love the Magic Tree House books, but the books we love best of all are the classic Winnie the Pooh books.

My sister gave David Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner for Christmas. I thought it was time to add them to our collection since we got them from the library every other trip. He really sits and listens to each chapter, usually begging for one or two more stories. I think it's kind of hit and miss which books your child will like, even if they are books that you love. However, I think it's important to give your child a wide variety - easy readers and chapter books, newly published books and ones that you remember from your childhood. I have to imagine that reading longer books helps with attention spans too, which we could really use some work on!


Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner
By A.A. Milne with decorations by Ernest H. Shepard
Puffin Books 1992

The story: I'm fairly sure you know...

Mama opines: There is something so homey about classic children's literature, isn't there? The knowledge that nothing is going to happen in these pages that will make you wince, the feeling of meeting old friends again, the sneaking of glances at your little one to see how he is reacting - these are the moments when you know that reading to your child is priceless. And aren't the characters in these stories just like small children? Winnie the Pooh with 'little brain,' but very good intentions; Piglet who is scared of almost everything; Eeyore who is grumpy because he never quite gets enough attention; and Owl and Rabbit who attempt to convince the rest that they know more than they do. My favorite moments, though, are the ones when the author breaks into the story. The stories are, of course, inspired by his own son Christopher Robin, his stuffed animals, and the walks that father and son took through the woods near their home. The love that Milne had for his son spills onto every page and begs to be shared with a little one who you love.

Thoughts from David: Well, I really really really love the parts that have Winnie the Pooh and my favorite is when they build a house for Eeyore. 

Who is your favorite? Winnie the Pooh? Tigger? Eeyore? I like all of them! Everyone in the Hundred Acre Woods! 

“Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind. "Pooh?" he whispered. 
"Yes, Piglet?" 
"Nothing," said Piglet, taking Pooh's hand. "I just wanted to be sure of you.” 

See you in the Hundred Acre Woods, friends!