Thursday, June 28, 2012

Review: The Magicians

The Magicians
By Lev Grossman
Viking 2009
402 pages
From my to-be-read shelf

The Magicians

Quentin Coldwater should be a happy kid. But he is waiting for something big to happen, something that will make his rather ordinary life extraordinary. So as he waits to finish high school and go to Princeton, he learns magic tricks and rereads his favorite childhood books that take him to the magic land of Fillory. When he travels through a portal to Brakebills, a college for the study of magic, he thinks that life is finally about to get good. But magic doesn't solve every problem and sometimes, it creates new ones.

Many people claim that this book is a darker, more grown-up Harry Potter. But for me, they just happen to be two books that involve young magicians. I think the difference is that Harry Potter is about a fight between good and evil. The lines are clearly delineated (well, maybe not for you, Snape) and you know that good must prevail regardless of the cost. In The Magicians, everything is grey. Normal people and magical people have faults and make mistakes and don't know who they are supposed to be or what will make them content with their lives. The contrast is really strong between the ambiguity of Quentin's life and the way he perceives the characters in Fillory to be good or bad.

While this book may seem to be specifically for and about college-aged readers, I think there is something very universal in Quentin's expectations and experiences. Each one of us believe that we would be happy if - if we got a promotion, lost 20 pounds, got married, or got our book published. All magic aside, this is Quentin's realization that the things he thought would make him happy - magic, love, Fillory itself - are not enough to make him content with his life.

"Here he was, a freshly licensed and bonded and accredited magician. He had learned to cast spells, seen the Beast and lived, flown to Antarctica on his own two wings, and returned naked by the sheer force of his magical will. He had an iron demon in his back. Who would ever have thought he could do and have and be all those things and still feel nothing at all? What was he missing? Or was it him? If he wasn't happy even here, even now, did the flaw lie in him? As soon as he seized happiness it dispersed and reappeared somewhere else. Like Fillory, like everything good, it never lasted. What a terrible thing to know."

Mr. Grossman is obviously paying a thinly veiled and very loving homage to the land of Narnia and its creator, C.S. Lewis. Fillory is a magical land inhabited by magical creatures which is often rescued by a group of siblings who are summoned when there is trouble and sent back home when peace reigns again. As someone who loves those books, I really enjoyed this and can imagine myself going back through the book again to discover more of the allusions to Narnia.

I found this book to drag and be uneven in some places, but ultimately I thought it was an excellent look at the way the things we think will save us can actually damage us instead. I appreciated the way that magic did not fix all problems - magic is hard to learn, hard to practice, and creates its own special class of problems. And yet we are still captivated by magic. C.S Lewis was, Lev Grossman is, and we are as we continue to read books and watch movies where the characters can do things we can only imagine. I will definitely be picking up the second book to find out what happens to Quentin and Fillory. 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Wednesdays with David: Party Time!

Sorry friends, there is no Wednesdays with David today. We didn't do much reading. Instead, we spent most of the day celebrating the most excellent 86th birthday of my grammy/David's Gigi (aka great-grandma). We partook in swimming (David) and mudslides (Mommy) and had lots of fun with our family.

Dear Grammy/Gigi, Happy Birthday. We love you very much.

When Grammy met David....

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Review: The Turn of the Screw and Daisy Miller

The Turn of the Screw and Daisy Miller
By Henry James
Lancer Books 1968
284 pages
Won from Allie at A Literary Odyssey

The Turn of the Screw & Daisy Miller

The Turn of the Screw

I wasn't sure how I would react to this famous ghost story. I don't do scary very often or very well and so I purposely started out reading this story only during daylight hours. I found that, although it was extremely atmospheric, I wasn't as freaked out as I had worried I might be.

The story begins with a man proposing to read a ghost story that was entrusted to him by a young woman. There is great dramatic tension leading up to the actual reading of the tale but once you get into it, you may forget completely about the group of characters experiencing the story along with you. A governess gets her first job and meets with her new boss. He is the uncle of two young children and our narrator is sent to the mansion to take care of the girl and then her brother when he is expelled from school. As she gets to know the angelic children, she begins to see strange figures around the grounds and the house. She becomes convinced that they are the spirits of the former groundskeeper and the former governess, both of whom have a malevolent pull on her innocent charges. 

I have to confess that I didn't love this story. I think James did an excellent job of really creating the atmosphere. You understand just how big and isolated this huge house and its occupants are. That being said, I failed to really feel any human connection between the governess and the children or the governess and the housekeeper, who is the only other character in the story. I couldn't understand why she didn't just leave (with or without her charges). I really felt the similarities between this story and Jane Eyre, which I listened to last month. I felt like I had already read a story about a creepy house, an angelic student, and a distant (yet very desirable) employer. 

The major point of contention for those who read this story is the line between reality and imagination. Many critics claim that what the governess sees is all in her head as the result of being unable to cope with the isolation. Others claim that the ghosts are real and that this story is about the loss of innocence as she pines for her employer and her young charges stand on the edge of adolescence. I think the best thing about this story is that you may never be able to answer this question. 

Daisy Miller

Daisy Miller is not a scary story (unless you are frightened by American girls who seems to lack manners!). The novel centers around Winterbourne, a privileged American man vacationing in Geneva and Rome who encounters a rude young boy and his older sister Daisy. Daisy and Winterbourne begin a complicated series of flirtations, where she tempts him to take her to the Roman ruins without a chaperone and dangles an Italian man in his face in order to make him jealous. Winterbourne's family and acquaintances are shocked at Daisy's behavior and urge him to leave her alone. But he can't help falling for her charms.

In this story, Henry James again succeeds brilliantly at not telling you quite what is going on. Because this story is told from Winterbourne's point of view, we never know if Daisy is intentionally acting like a hussy or if she is just a free spirit who is so naive that she does not realize she is breaking all rules of social decorum. This is a brilliant character study of both Daisy and Winterbourne. 

This story is quick read and I think it is fascinating to read it as a woman in the 21st century, who has to worry about so few of the social restrictions that are imposed upon Daisy and the women of her time. It will either make you feel very lucky to be living when you do or make you angry that a time existed when women were restricted and judged  in this way. 

What is your favorite Henry James novel or short story??

Monday, June 25, 2012

It's Monday and I'm back!

Hello, literary people! Sorry I'm posting this a bit late. I made a quick jaunt out of state this weekend, but I am back home in NJ (which greeted me with a torrential rain storm, by the way). I had a really good week for reading, though! This probably means that I should pay some more attention to cleaning my house or doing the laundry this week...

Read This Week:

The Magicians
By Lev Grossman

Code Name Verity
By Elizabeth Wein

Love and Other Impossible Pursuits
By Ayelet Waldman

By Kevin Roose

Posts from this Past Week:
It's Monday
Wednesdays with David: You Can't Go to School Naked!
Reviews of The Cruise of the Rolling Junk and Russian Winter

Reading Now:
The Eyre Affair (Thursday Next, #1)
The Eyre Affair
By Jasper Fforde

Up Next:
The Chosen
The Chosen
By Chaim Potok

What book(s) are you excited about this week?

Friday, June 22, 2012

Review: Russian Winter

Russian Winter
By Daphne Kalotay
Arrow Books 2012
459 pages
Won from Kristin at Always with a Book

Nina Revskaya is a reclusive former Russian ballerina living in Boston. When she decides to auction off her expansive jewelry collection, she does not anticipate that it will open the door to her past. Drew Brooks, her contact at the auction house, feels like there is more to the story of the jewels than Nina is revealing. When she meets Grigori Solodin, a professor with a unique connection to Nina, the two are determined to find out the truth about the Revskaya jewels and Nina’s mysterious past.

Russian Winter sucks you in and does not let you go. The narrative switches between the present day where Nina is reticent to reveal anything to Drew or Grigori and the past, as Nina starts in ballet school and works her way through the ranks to become “The Butterfly,” the star of the Bolshoi Ballet. Ms. Kolotay is superbly skilled at making the reader feel as if they actually are in the different places, watching the stories unfold. She weaves fact with narrative, so that the reader feels like they have learned about Stalinist Russia, ballet, literature, and jewels without having to crack a textbook. But this doesn’t mean her writing is dry; rather it is nuanced and beautiful.

“And though she knew that the stories had been written in another time, Drew felt she understood the confused schoolteachers and reluctantly betrothed daughters, the aging widowers and poor farmhands, whose main misfortune was simply to be human – to fall in and out of love, to grow old or die young. She had been reading one or two stories each night before bed and, when she at last closed her eyes, felt she had been there with those people and suffered their small agonies.”

One of the things I found most fascinating was the way Kalotay depicts life in Communist Russia. There are a great many things that Nina and her friends are shielded from with their privileged lives as artists. But the threat of the Stalinist government constantly hangs over the characters. Artists are placed on various levels, which indicated their compliance with the rules and how much they are favored by the government. There is a constant fear of creating or performing art that will be seen as anti-government or that your words and actions will be reported by someone you trusted. Despite this, Nina and many of the other characters are artists and their dedication to their craft is evident on every page.

You know it’s a good read when you come to the end and you are disappointed that it is over. I wanted to spend more time with Nina, Grigori, and Drew and find out more about their pasts and their futures.  This novel has so many good things within its pages – wonderful characters, strong research, a mystery, and really beautiful writing. Daphne Kalotay is a very talented writer and Russian Winter is not to be missed. 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Review: The Cruise of the Rolling Junk

The Cruise of the Rolling Junk
By F. Scott Fitzgerald
Hesperus Press November 2011
92 pages
A birthday gift

Well, ladies and gentlemen, I am doing an abysmal job of reading and reviewing something by F. Scott each month. My last post on Francis is from March and I am appropriately ashamed. So today we will look at The Cruise of the Rolling Junk and soon we will look at Tales of the Jazz Age, a collection of short stories. Next month, I will be (re) reading The Great Gatsby. I would love for you to join me!

The Cruise of the Rolling Junk is a recent release of Fitzgerald's articles detailing the adventure that he and his wife Zelda had on the way to visit her parents. The duo set out from Connecticut to drive to Zelda's childhood home in Alabama in a car they dubbed 'the rolling junk.' 

Shortly after the publication of The Beautiful and the Damned, Fitzgerald wrote  about their trip with the hope of making some quick money from a major magazine. Unfortunately, the only magazine that would accept his travelogue was Motor magazine. For a few hundred dollars, Fitzgerald's account appeared in three installments in 1924.

Although this is a very quick read, I found it incredibly indicative of Fitzgerald's style as a writer. While this purports to be a true retelling of their trip, we know that there are several key issues which are misrepresented, or lied about. This is the fascinating thing about this writer, though. His fiction has many shades of truth and his supposed non-fiction has the flair for the dramatic which inspires Fitzgerald to make their story better (even if it is untrue). 

There are also many things the reader can take from this slim book about  Fitzgerald as a person. We get an intimate look at the relationship of F. Scott and Zelda - the way they fought, the way they constantly tried to triumph over the other in wit or humor, and the way alcohol and money figured heavily into their ups and downs as a couple.

Through the eyes of our intrepid travelers, we view a country that is still healing from war and is riddled with racism. Zelda is deeply grieved by the ways her beloved South has changed since she was a young girl living there and enjoying 'peaches and biscuits.' F. Scott is incredibly uncomfortable when he has to stop in a black town in order to get some gas and wishes he had purchased a gun. While such overt racism is difficult to stomach today, our author is certainly not alone in his feelings in the 1920s. 

There is a comedy of errors feel throughout this book - the ways in which the car breaks down, the irresponsible spending of money, the finding of more money, and the final stroke of bad fortune (spoiler!) when it is revealed that Zelda's parents are not at home to receive them! It is fun to read, but what makes it excellent is that the humor is only thinly obscuring the real issues for both the Fitzgeralds and the country at large.

If you are a newbie to the writing of F. Scott Fitzgerald, this is a great way to dip your toe into the waters in less than 100 pages. If you are a lover of his remarkable stories, you will want to add this one to your shelf as perhaps the last piece of newly released writing we will ever have from a very talented writer.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Wednesdays with David:You Can't Go to School Naked!

You Can't Go to School Naked!
By Diane Billstrom
Illustrated by Don Kilpatrick III
Putnam June 2008
Read on We Give Books

The story: A little boy decides that he will no longer be wearing clothes to school. His parents attempt to change his mind with the thought of various sticky, smelly, yucky disasters that could befall him if he goes to school sans clothes. Can they convince him to wear clothes to school the next day?

Mama opines: We read this book at We Give Books, which is a fantastic program that donates a book to a literacy cause for every book you read on the computer with your little one. You Can't Go to School Naked will surely induce giggles from your child as our protagonist and his parents imagine all of the funny and uncomfortable things that could happen if he goes to school naked. The rhyming scheme reminds me a bit of Dr. Seuss and the illustrations are charming.

Thoughts from David: I like it because well, it’s silly. It’s funny to go to school without underwear!
Favorite part: I don't have a favorite part. I like it all! 

Stay cool today and happy reading!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

It's Monday - What are you reading?

Hello readers! How is everyone doing?
This week was very busy for the literary family with Father's Day, a visit from my aunt and cousin, and the first birthday of our adorable nephew. We are spending today at Sesame Place (hooray!). It's David's first time and we can't wait to watch his face as he sees Sesame Street and all of his friends.
This should be a busy week here on the blog with lots of book reviews, including some catching up on my year of F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Read This Week:
The Turn of the Screw & Daisy Miller
By Henry James

Reading Now:
The Magicians
By Lev Grossman

Up Next:
Code Name Verity
Code Name Verity
By Elizabeth Wein

Love and Other Impossible Pursuits
Love and Other Impossible Pursuits
By Ayelet Waldman

What did you read this week? 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Review: The Dispatcher

The Dispatcher
By Ryan David Jahn
Penguin December 2011
351 pages
Won from Amanda of A Library of My Own

The Dispatcher

This is a terrible book to read if you have just moved and find yourself still surrounded by boxes. Those boxes will not get unpacked. It is also a horrible book to read if you’ve just moved into a new house and you are not yet acclimated to all of the creaks and groans that an old house makes at night. But the reason it is such a terrible read in those circumstances is because The Dispatcher is an incredibly gripping thriller.

Ian Hunt is the police dispatcher in a small Texas town. He is just finishing up his shift when the phone rings. A young woman cries out for help. When he asks for her name, she replies that she is Maggie Hunt. Maggie is Ian’s daughter. She has been missing for seven years. The call is quickly cut off – her kidnapper has discovered her escape and caught up with her. Ian sets out to find his daughter and take revenge on the one who stole his daughter.

Author Ryan David Jahn chooses to take us within the mind of each of the main characters. We switch between Ian’s grief and determination, Maggie’s fear and desperation, and the warped reasoning of the kidnapper. I found it fascinating that the reader knows from the beginning where Maggie is and the identity of the kidnapper. This doesn’t diminish the tension, though. Jahn makes it clear early on that no one is safe in his book.

I enjoyed the realism of this novel. ‘Good guys’ can die, injured people get slowed down by pain, and someone who seems truly evil is often motivated by something other than cruelty. I’ve seen a few too many movies where heroes who should have died an hour ago keep moving and villains are seemingly evil for the pure pleasure of it. In The Dispatcher, we get to know a hero who is both fallible and mortal and a nemesis who has a twisted sense of morality but a true desire to make his wife happy.

It was interesting to see how Jahn wrote Maggie. She is a fourteen year old girl who has been living in a basement for the past seven years of her life. His descriptions of her inner demons are really fascinating, but I had some pause with the way he described her. She was always described as being small in comparison to everyone else. Assuming that she hasn’t been malnourished (and we get no indication that she has), I think that most girls have had their major growth spurts by that age. From the descriptions, I sometimes thought for a moment that she was much younger than fourteen. This is a minor complaint, though.

The Dispatcher is truly one of those edge of your seat, stay up until 2 a.m. to finish it sort of books. It is a rather graphic story, though. If you don’t do well with blood and violence, this is not a book I would recommend to you. Ryan David Jahn is an author who gives his readers both a compelling plot and realistic characters. I will definitely visit his writing again. 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Wednesdays with David: Captain Pajamas

Captain Pajamas: Defender of the Universe
By Rosie Smith and Bruce Whatley
HarperCollins April 2000
This book is from the library in our new town. Hooray for new library cards!

The story: It is late at night. Everyone is sleeping, except for our hero Brian. He hears strange noises and then his Techno Robotic Alien Communicator begins to flash! He hurries to rescue his sister Jessie, who reluctantly accompanies Captain Pajamas (Brian) and his dog Shadow through the house on a hunt for aliens. But sometimes the aliens are where you least expect them...

Mama opines: This book is a lot of fun. I just happened to see this on the shelf on the library and knew that it would be perfect for a certain little boy. The interaction between a sleepy big sister and a determined little boy rings absolutely true to me. It's told in a sort of comic book format and the pictures are really fun. The only thing that is a little strange to me is that, in some pictures, Brian and Jessie have no mouths. Artistic preference I guess, but I like my characters to always have mouths. 
Anyway, this is a perfect pick for any little boy or girl who is obsessed with aliens or dreams of saving the universe!

Thoughts from David: I love it because he's a defender of the universe!
Favorite part: The alien part is my favorite!

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Review: Great House

Great House
By Nicole Krauss
W.W. Norton and Co. October 2010
289 pages
From the Library of Lindsey

Great House

Great House revolves around an enormous and beautiful desk that travels the world. Lotte Berg is an author who pours the pain of losing her family during the Holocaust into her work, but never speaks of it to her loving husband. She passes the desk on to a young poet named Daniel Varsky because he reminds her of someone from the past. Varksy, in turn, leaves the desk with a young writer named Nadia before meeting a brutal end in Chile. Nadia writes books at the desk for 25 years before a girl shows up at her doorstep, claiming to be Varsky’s daughter and asking for the desk.

Each character in this book is dealing with loss and deciding how much of themselves they are willing to share with others. There is a lot of pain and sorrow that the characters experience, but each one finds something crucial while sitting at the desk – inspiration, answers, or closure.

This novel is divided into two books with four sections in each. Krauss visits each character twice. She employs some interesting strategies to tell this story. She never uses quotation marks, and it sometimes takes a while to tell whose section you are reading because she doesn’t indicate which stories belong to which characters.

Nicole Krauss is a very talented writer. Every phrase in this novel is integral to the characters and the stories they tell. Nothing here is wasted. Her descriptions of our moments of realization about ourselves and others are so striking and so perfect that they may cause you to stop for a moment to drink them in.

“By the time you were born, I understood, in a way that I could not have with Uri, just what the birth of a child means. How he grows, and how his innocence is slowly ruined, how his features change forever the first time he feels shame, how he comes to learn the meaning of disappointment, of disgust. How the whole world is contained inside of him, and it was mine to lose.”

This is not a novel for a quick skim. Reading Great House takes effort and serious attention on the part of the reader. Ms. Krauss is not one to tell you things outright; instead you have to work for every insight you get about these rich characters.  This is a novel you could return to several times, and pick up new understanding and connections with each reading. I think Krauss intentionally does not wrap up all of the loose ends, because hers is a story that is authentic. Our connections with other people and our understanding of our own lives are not things that are easily determined within a few years or a few hundred pages.  

I think the best way to experience this book is as a collection of short stories instead of a linear story. While they are loosely based around the desk, many of the characters have no interaction with each other. Krauss is a gorgeous writer, someone who is truly crafting language instead of just using it. Many readers seem to prefer her novel The History of Love to this one. I look forward to reading that book and whatever stories this talented writer graces us with in the future. 

Sunday, June 10, 2012

It's Monday and we are reading all the books in our world....

Hello! Happy Monday! I have to tell you that the title of this post is a tribute to my son, who (in)famously remarked that he was going to eat all the things in his world. Some days it really does seem that way.

How is everyone doing? We had a really nice Sunday - we went to church, got a few things done, and had the in-laws over for the afternoon and evening. Now I'm settling in to watch the Tony Awards, because my other love is theatre (and chocolate, but there is no awards show for that as of yet).

Read This Week:

Russian Winter
By Daphne Kalotay

The Cruise of the Rolling Junk
By F. Scott Fitzgerald

Reading Now:

The Turn of the Screw & Daisy Miller
The Turn of the Screw 
and Daisy Miller
By Henry James

Posts from this Past Week:
It's Monday
Wednesdays with David: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Reviews of Bloom: Finding Beauty in the Unexpected and Woe Is I

Up Next:
The Magicians
The Magicians
By Lev Grossman

What are you reading this week?

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Review: Woe Is I

Woe Is I: The Grammarphobe's Guide to Better English in Plain English
By Patricia T. O'Conner
Riverhead Books 1996
227 pages
From my bookshelves

Woe Is I: The Grammarphobe's Guide to Better English in Plain English

Non-fiction double whammy! I know, I know, you are wondering if you are in the right place. Two non-fiction books in a row? There may be perplexed expressions or scratching of heads. Well…in the interest of full disclosure, I did read Great House before Woe Is I. But Great House is giving me all of these thoughts and feelings and things, and I need some time to muse and ruminate. Woe Is I, on the other hand, is all about the grammar and if you know me, it’s sort of my favorite thing to talk about.

Patricia T. O’Conner is a former editor for the New York Times. She is so good at grammar that she actually taught other smarty pants people who work at the Times about not making fools of themselves on the page. This is a wonderful thing, because if fancy schmancy editors sometimes get confused about when to use ‘that’ and when to use ‘which,’ we can obviously all stop feeling bad about our own grammar mistakes.

Woe Is I is set up into easy to understand chapters, covering tricky topics like pronouns, possessives, punctuation, and so-called language rules. This book is perfect for reading cover to cover as a refresher or keeping handy to answer a specific question. O’Conner has provided both a glossary and an index, so you can find your answer quickly and move on with your literary masterpiece.

The author recognizes several important things. First, making an occasional error in grammar is not the end of the world. She has a lot of fun with this book, which means that you can laugh at your own mistakes and those of others. You may even find yourself chuckling; yes, chuckling about grammar! O’Connor acknowledges that English is a strange and awkward language, with nonsensical rules and lots of exceptions which will break said rules. There is no shame in being confused about this weird, beautiful language that we speak and read. In the introduction, English is compared with ‘rational languages,’ which are constructed to be easy and logical. “And guess what? They’re flat as a pancake. What’s missing is the quirkiness, as well as the ambiguity, the bumpy irregularities that make natural languages so exasperating and shifty – and so wonderful. That’s wonderful in the literal sense: full of wonders and surprises, poetry and unexpected charm. If English weren’t so sketchy and unpredictable, we wouldn’t have Lewis Carroll, Dr. Seuss, or the Marx Brothers! And just try telling a knock-knock joke in Latin!”

Woe Is I is a handy book to have on your bookshelf. If you are a serious writer, I would advise you to have several reference books on hand. This book includes a bibliography to get you started. O’Connor works very hard to make this an accessible read for the everyday person. She is looking to clarify, not confuse, and so she does not delve heavily into the technicalities of grammar. This is a book you can quickly refer to so you don’t make the embarrassing mistake of writing that your relatives immigrated from Russia. I’m just happy to know that the grammar police will not descend upon me if I occasionally end a sentence with a preposition.

So, fellow writers and editors, what are your favorite writing or grammar guides? 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Wednesday with David: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
By Roald Dahl
Illustrated by Faith Jaques
Cornerstone Books 1985
From our shelves (apparently from my fifth grade teacher!)

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

The story: Little Charlie Bucket and his family are on the brink of starvation when the mysterious Mr. Willy Wonka opens his chocolate factory to five lucky children. Charlie finds a golden ticket in a candy bar he buys with some change he finds in the street. Charlie and his Grandpa Joe join spoiled Veruca Salt, gluttonous Augutus Gloop, gum-loving Violet Beauregarde, and television obsessed Mike Teavee for an unbelievable journey through Mr. Wonka's Chocolate Factory.

Mama opines: Does any child not love this story? Roald Dahl has such an amazing imagination and a true gift for knowing what appeals to children. It's interesting for me to observe how David acts when we are reading a chapter book as opposed to a book with pictures. The edition we are reading does have a few pictures, but a majority of the pages are just text. When we read a picture book, he tends to look at the illustrations and read a few words when I prompt him. As we read this, he tends to stare off into space or fiddle with a toy until something funny makes him laugh. We are having a lot of fun with this one and I think we may try Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator next, which neither of us have read yet!

Thoughts from David: I like it because of the chocolate. Well, chocolate is pretty yummy and the chocolate factory opens with no kids. The gate is opened and they go up to the top and then they go back down on the lift. One girl turns in to a giant blueberry!
Favorite part: When they ride the lift and it goes up and up and up! 

What is your favorite Roald Dahl book? 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Review: Bloom: Finding Beauty in the Unexpected

Bloom: Finding Beauty in the Unexpected
By Kelle Hampton
Harper Collins 2012
272 pages
Birthday gift to myself

Kelle Hampton thought she was prepared for the birth of her second daughter. At thirty-one years old, she was the mother of one daughter, stepmother to two boys, and thrilled to be expecting again. The nursery was finished, the favors were ready for friends who came to visit, and she had the perfect outfit picked out for the soon-to-be-big-sister Lainey. Kelle delivered her daughter, ready to rejoice over her perfect baby girl. But…

“I knew the moment I saw her that she had Down syndrome and nobody else knew. I held her and cried. Cried and panned the room to meet eyes with anyone who would tell me she didn’t have it. I held her and looked at her like she wasn’t my baby and tried to take it in. And all I can remember of these moments is her face. I will never forget my daughter in my arms, opening her eyes over and over…she locked eyes with mine and stared…bored holes into my soul.
Love me. Love me. I’m not what you expected, but oh, please love me.
That was the most defining moment of my life. That was the beginning of my story.”

In Bloom: Finding Beauty in the Unexpected, Kelle shares her experiences as she learns that her baby Nella has Down syndrome and realizes what that will mean for her daughter and for their family. She candidly shares her pain as she waits for the official diagnosis, her sorrow over the loss of the relationship she dreamed of her daughters sharing, and the agony of that first dark night in the hospital room. I think it’s easy for the reader to judge Kelle for the moments when she couldn’t process that Nella was her baby, when she wished to send her back, when she cried out that she wanted to go back in time to a moment before she held this knowledge. Instead, I think it’s incredibly brave of her to share the depths of her pain. We all know that joy and pain often reside in the same moments, and the honesty of her pain also serves to highlight the positive spirit that she comes to call her own.

Kelle is a photographer by trade and this book is complimented throughout by the beautiful photos she has taken of her family. It’s somewhere between a memoir and a coffee table picture book. The pictures combined with Kelle’s easy writing style make you feel as if you are sitting in the living room of an old friend, paging through her photo albums, as she candidly tells you the most important stories of her life.

I think this book speaks to all of us. While many of us do not have a loved one with Down syndrome, all of us can relate to a defining moment when the thing we were expecting was not what we received. This is decidedly a book to read with a box of tissues nearby. It will make you cry, make you thankful for the ones you love, and show you a very unique brand of courage. Kelle and her family inspire us all to grieve, to rearrange, and to move forward in this one beautiful life we have been given. 

Sunday, June 3, 2012

It's Monday and June is here!

Hello friends! Happy Monday and Happy June! Our weekend was a busy one (as per the norm these days!). Husband had his first official day as the pastor of our new church. Life is moving fast!

Read This Week:
By Patricia T. O'Conner

By Ryan David Jahn

Reading Now:

Russian Winter
By Daphne Kalotay

Posts from this Past Week:

Up Next: 

The Cruise of the Rolling Junk
By F. Scott Fitzgerald

What are you reading this week?

Friday, June 1, 2012

May Wrap-up

Egads! How did this happen? I only realized the month was ending two days ago. I'm going to blame this one on the moving.

Books reviewed: 10
Pages read: 2928
Paper books/Audiobooks: 9/1
Fiction/Non-fiction: 9/1
Female authors/Male authors: 6/4
My books/Library books: 2/8
Lindsey's favorite read in May: Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson

Books reviewed by David: 4
David's favorite read in May: Frog and Toad Are Friends

Happy June, my friends! Have a wonderful weekend!