Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Book Review -- Tell the Wolves I'm Home

Tell the Wolves I'm Home
Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt
My enjoyment rating: 3 of 5 stars
Hangover rating: 2
Source: Personal copy
Genre: General fiction (but really could be YA)
Objectionable material: None

June Elbus is heartbroken when her beloved Uncle Finn dies of AIDS. What he leaves behind is a portrait, a boyfriend, and sister (June's mother) who is reluctant to accept Finn's past lifestyle and the man he left behind. June must act as the peacemaker in her family to resolve the conflict within her home, even at the risk of hurting the one she cares the most about.

I loved June. A 14 yr old obsessed with Mozart's Requiem is a girl after my own heart. She was loyal, independent, fearless and carefree. Getting on a train to Manhattan from her suburban home, without an adult knowing her whereabouts, was completely normal. She fought with her sister and loved unconditionally.

My biggest hurdle with this novel was the relationship crafted between June and Toby (her deceased uncle's surviving boyfriend). For me it was just odd, weird, creepy -- they met at his apartment after school, they got drunk together, he taught her how to smoke -- I just didn't get it. At the end of the novel -- the author uses these interactions to show the deep well of love and loyalty June had not only Toby, but Finn as well, but it still seemed unnatural to me.

That being said -- I loved the layers the author created between June, her sister Greta, her parents, school, the art world -- a very multidimensional narrative that was brilliantly executed.


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Mini-book review -- Lean In

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead
Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg
My enjoyment rating: 4 of 5 stars
Hangover rating: 4
Source: Library
Genre: Nonfiction; self-help
Objectionable material: None
 
The great thing about this book is that Ms. Sandberg is encouraging to ALL women, whether you chose to have a career, family, married, single -- all of it, none of it, or a little bit of everything. She writes that we, as women, should encourage each other in our endeavors, regardless of what they are. That when women succeed, all of humanity succeeds. It made me want to start over and pursue my career.
 

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Book Review -- My Year with Eleanor

My Year with Eleanor: A Memoir
My Year with Eleanor: A Memoir by Noelle Hancock
My enjoyment rating: 3 of 5 stars
Hangover rating: 3 stars
Source:  Nook ebook
Genre: Memoir; self help
Objectionable material: some minor language

On the eve of her 30th birthday Noelle Hancock loses her job. Life is in crisis mode.

In an attempt to bide her time until she secures another one and recreate her old "exciting" self, she embarks on a year of "fears" in tribute to Eleanor Roosevelt's quote, "Do one thing every day that scares you."

This was a pleasant memoir in the theme of many other self discovery, "do something in a year" books (live biblically, live in Italy, eat vegan -- you name it).

Her anecdotes of swimming with sharks, flying from a trapeze, climbing Mt Kilimanjaro (among others), were whimsical, terrifying, and inspiring.

Her writing was witty and clever.

Interestingly enough, I found myself more interested in the life and writings of Eleanor Roosevelt, though. There is a woman I definitely need to read more about.

A quick and easy memoir if you are looking for something effortless to read.


Monday, November 11, 2013

Book Review -- Attachments

Attachments
Attachments by Rainbow Rowell
My enjoyment rating: 5 of 5 stars
Hangover rating: 5!
Source:  Personal copy
Genre: General fiction (romantic comedy)
Objectionable material:  A possible cuss word -- maybe.
 

I didn't know anything.

I didn't know it was going to be funny. On the very first page.

I didn't know that there were going to be nerds playing Dungeons & Dragons, and girlfriends emailing each other, and bad breakups, and marital drama, and a boy still living with his mom, and sadness, and uncertainty.

I didn't know you could write a romantic comedy from the guy's point of view. And it work.  Who does that?

I didn't know it was going to be a cross between Bridget Jones meets a Friends episode.
 
I didn't know I would be so happy that I'd read Eleanor and Park first, because I would have assumed that it was going to be Ha Ha Funny, when it clearly was not. Whew.
 
I didn't know that Rainbow Rowell could write two totally and completely different books, but yet nail the relationships in both. Absolutely perfectly.

I didn't know I was going to love everything about this book. Everything.

I didn't know what I was missing.


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Recovering...will be back soon.

I'm recovering from shoulder surgery -- torn labrum, repaired bicep tendon -- typing one handed is slow going.
 
Will be in a sling for a month...with rehab during my recovery.
 
I can still read -- when I'm not sleeping!
 
I've read 3 books that I've not blogged about:
 
The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman -- 4 of 5 stars -- read for October book club -- we all loved it -- great discussion book. (Fiction)
 
Brain on Fire by Susannah Cahalan -- 3 of 5 stars -- an amazing medical mystery and journey -- but would have made a better medical journal article than a full length book. (Non-fiction)
 
Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein -- 3 of 5 stars -- a solid historical fiction account of an American pilot imprisoned at Ravensbruck concentration camp during WWII.  Suffered from my high expectations after reading Code Name Verity, one of my favorite books of all time.  (YA Fiction)
 
Back to the pain meds!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Book Review -- A Corner of White

A Corner of White (The Colors of Madeleine, #1)
A Corner of White by Jaclyn Moriarty
My enjoyment rating: 4 of 5 stars
Book hangover:  4
Source: Public library
Genre: YA fiction (with a bit of fantasy!)
Objectionable material: none

Parallel lives...parallel realities...and nothing but a crack between a broken TV set and a parking meter that divides the two.

Madeleine and her mother have started over in Cambridge, but Madeleine is wondering why.

Elliott's father is missing and he is determined to find him.

Both are leading practically normal teen lives, when they start communicating via a void in the universe that separates them -- neither one believing that the other is real.

I loved Madeleine -- she was tough, sassy, vulnerable, and trusting. Elliott was the tough guy, with the potential to break your heart.

This book was like nothing I've ever read: part fantasy, part time travel, part whimsy, part science lesson (be prepared for a primer on Sir Isaac Newton), part potential teen romance -- it was quite delightful!

One flaw: the story did take quite a bit of time to develop -- I was 3/4 through the book before anything really happened. So, it does take some patience.

However, it's the first book, in a planned series of books, that I'm actually EXCITED about reading the sequel! Take that Divergent!

I'm really happy I took a chance with A Corner of White.


Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Something is rotten with my state of reading

 
OK -- things aren't really rotten over here in book blogging land...they are just very, very tired.
 
Very little reading has been done of late.  After being diagnosed as anemic, low Vitamin D, and borderline diabetic (something that can be controlled through diet and if I stop eating so much dang watermelon!) I've been focusing on health issues -- beginning with an early morning (as in 5:30am) 4 mile walk to start my day, as well as an occasional tennis match (which has shredded my shoulder, that now requires surgery, but that is another post entirely). 
The 4 mile walk is great -- the time of day, not so much.  By 10am I need a nap.  But curling up in the stacks at the library is not an option.  So the first thing I do when I get home, before the kids arrive from school, is sleep.  Normally that time has been when I get the majority of my reading done...but I can't even turn a page before completely crashing.
I have read 2 books since my last post -- neither of which were particularly memorable:
The Maid's Version by Daniel Woodrell (3 out of 5 stars)
Best known for his book, Winter's Bone (and probably the movie starring, Jennifer Lawrence), I was eager to start this slim novel  based an actually catastrophic event, the explosion of the Arbor Dance Hall in 1928 (in SW Missouri).  Although the writing was spectacular -- really, the first 2 pages of the book were probably some of the most vivid, descriptive pages I've ever read -- but I got lost in the narration, and who was telling the story - was it Alma the maid? Her grandson, whom she's telling the story?  For such a short book (170+pgs), it's hard to imagine being confused...but alas, I was.   However, I gave it props (3 stars) for the writing alone.  I'm determined to read Winter's Bone too.
Divergent by Veronica Roth (2 out of 5 stars)
This book suffered from nothing other than I am experiencing dystopian fatigue.  It seemed  the same, or variations on similar themes, as  all other dystopian lit I've read - nothing particularly unique. Divergent particularly appeared to rely heavily on themes in Lois Lowry's The Giver -- but in a much more violent/YA way. I only finished it a few days ago and it's already been forgotten.  Book 2 is not in my future.
 
 
My current reading venture is The Corner of White by Jaclyn Moriarty.  After reading and loving The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty -- I thought I would give her sister's YA novel a go.  So far I'm intrigued -- time travel elements mixed with modern day -- I can't quite figure out where she's going with the storylines and characters -- but I'm invested and interested enough to find out.
In other news...I have an article about Mother Daughter book clubs set to publish in Little Rock Family, our local family magazine, in November.  If I could do nothing else it would be to write about community reading and book clubs, in all their various forms.
Hope your reading endeavors are progressing along better than mine.
Embrace the cooler temperatures and brilliant fall colors by curling up with a good book.
 
 
 

Friday, September 20, 2013

September Book Club -- The End of Your Life Book Club

The End of Your Life Book Club
The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe
My enjoyment rating: 3 of 5 stars
Hangover rating: 2
Source:  Personal copy
Genre:  Memoir/Biography
Objectionable material:  None
 

In a tender tribute to his mother, Will Schwalbe writes of the final two years of his mother's life and their shared love books. In waiting rooms, pharmacies, car rides, vacations -- Will and Mary Anne discussed the many books they read together -- their very own two person book club, minus the refreshments.

Will's mother was an amazing woman: Radcliffe- educated, theatre trained, she went on to direct auditions for the London Academy of Music and Drama, was an educational administrator at Harvard, volunteered for months in a Thai refugee camp, founded the Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Children, and in her final years, raised funds for traveling libraries in Afghanistan.

I was a bit surprised I'd never heard of her.

I appreciated the author raising my awareness of his mother's accomplishments, her charity work, her friends, her love of literature and a life well lived.

However, I'm not sure if the author was trying to write a book club book, a biography, a family history. Or what exactly. In many ways this book was, as my friend Becca mentioned, a 300 page obituary with an attached reading list. There was no clear narrative, no clear direction, no clear focus. The books almost seemed an afterthought.

But my main issue with his memoir/tribute was its tone: Between the name dropping (they lived next to Julia Child), the overseas travel (we all could be so lucky to visit London and Geneva whilst undergoing chemo), the political slant, and overall affluence, the entire story was laden with pretension. My take -- if you get cancer it's better if you're rich, because you can still vacation in Vero Beach, and upstate New York, and have your townhome in Manhattan. Oh and lots of books too.

Ultimately though, in a world where mother's are berated in print by their offspring, this book was a generous outpouring of love for a beloved mother.


Thursday, September 19, 2013

Book Review -- Fortunately, the Milk

Fortunately, the Milk
Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Hangover rating: 4 (I'm still grinning)
Source:  Copy at Barnes & Noble
Genre:  Juvenile Fiction (chapter book)
Objectionable material: None

Only Neil Gaiman could send a father out for groceries and have him encounter aliens, pirates, dinosaurs, vampires, and a host of other creatures, only to return from his time travels with his necessary item -- milk -- for his children's breakfast cereal.

Read in only about 25 minutes in the middle of the Barnes & Noble children's area -- I must have been grinning because the salesman noticed and asked, "it must be funny?" I responded, "I will read anything by Gaiman, even if written for an 8 yr old."

A rollicking adventure -- with amazing illustrations.

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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Book Review -- Eleanor & Park

Eleanor and Park
Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
My enjoyment rating: 4 of 5 stars
Hangover rating: 4
Source: Personal copy
Genre: YA fiction
Objectionable material: strong language, sexual innuendo

Park rides the bus.

Eleanor is new to riding the bus.

The only place to sit on the bus is next to Park because Steve, Tina and their posse refuse to let Eleanor sit anywhere else.

With Park's quick slide toward the window, Eleanor finds a seat -- and what will turn out to be, her salvation.

Rainbow Rowell has written the pitch perfect novel of outcasts, bullying, dysfunction, abuse and frenetic, impassioned young love.

She is flawless in encapsulating Park and Eleanor's relationship -- two teens who have nowhere else to turn except to each other.

The danger and peril that exists in Eleanor's home and with her siblings is heartbreaking. But with Park's bravery they find a way to...survive.

This is a book that will linger with you a long time.
 
I will certainly be reading Rainbow Rowell's other novels!


Friday, August 30, 2013

Book Review -- The Husband's Secret

The Husband's SecretThe Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty
My enjoyment rating: 4 of 5 stars
Hangover rating:  3
Source:  Library copy
Genre:  General fiction
Objectionable material:  Language; sexual relations


Three ordinary families whose lives are subtly intertwined and the extraordinary secrets that change their lives forever.

I really enjoyed this book and how the author turned run of the mill families into an escalating moral dilemma.

An interesting look at the "butterfly effect" (in which a small change at one place results in large differences later) on a very personal, intimate level.

Reminded me of Jodi Picoult's novels.

Would definitely like to read this author's other novels.

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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Book Review -- Elizabeth the First Wife

Elizabeth the First Wife
Elizabeth the First Wife by Lian Dolan
My enjoyment rating: 3 of 5 stars (should have been 4!)
Hangover rating: 1
Source: Public library
Genre: Fiction, "Chick-Lit"
Objectionable material: One sexual reference -- really tame. 

One day Elizabeth Lancaster is teaching her college level Intro to Shakespeare class – the next, she’s off to Ashland Oregon, as a consultant for a newly imagined production of the Bard’s A Midsummer’s Night Dream at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, staring none other than her ex husband, FX Fahey (think Hugh Jackman) and directed by superstar Taz Buchanan (think Baz Luhrmann). Her summer is filled with all things Shakespeare – but the drama is not confined to the stage – the arrival of her family sets in motion a comedy of errors and love interests that the Bard would truly appreciate.

This was SO my book: I loved the theatrical setting; I loved ALL the references to Shakespeare; I loved the comparisons between Shakespeare’s characters and their real life counterparts (Henry V & Katherine = Duke & Duchess of Cambridge); I loved that she had Team Romeo vs. Team Hamlet vs. Team Twilight (Edward doesn’t stand a chance!); it was witty, it was smart, it was clever – something I would never attribute to “chick lit.”

But here is the rub:

I had 3 serious issues that I just couldn’t get past:
 
• During the casting of the production it is mentioned that the actors were cast by the OSF, not the director, Taz Buchanan – no way would that happen!! At least not in my theatre world.
 
• When referencing Elizabeth’s father winning the Nobel Prize, he is said to be attending on the arm of “Princess Sophia.” There is NO Princess Sophia of Sweden. (Princess Victoria and Princess Madeleine).
 
• But this is the kicker – she has Elizabeth I “executing her sister, Mary Queen of Scots.” NOOOOOOOOO!!! Mary Queen of Scots was NOT HER SISTER!! She was her cousin (and a 2nd or 3rd at that…I think). Mary I was her sister! How does this slip by an editor? Even I, lowly public school educated, state undergraduate degree awarded human, knows that they weren’t sisters.

So…suffice it to say…the book I was ready to award 4 stars, dropped to a 3.

Totally took the shine off my reading experience.

But yes…overall, it was still fun.


Sunday, August 11, 2013

Book Review -- The Member of the Wedding

The Member of the Wedding
The Member of the Wedding by Carson McCullers
My enjoyment rating: 3 of 5 stars
Hangover rating: 3
Source:  Library copy
Genre: General fiction
Objectionable material: None

Frankie Addams is bummed. Her older brother is getting married and moving away. Now she will be stuck at home with her dad and housekeeper with no chance of leaving her small town Georgia home.

Why oh why won’t the newlyweds take her with them?

Carson McCullers brief but powerful novel expertly examines the mindset of a precocious 12 year old girl who is dealing with tremendous loneliness and trying to find her way in the world, all the while thinking she’s more mature than she really is.

This was an interesting novel. It was difficult to read initially because first: it was written almost entirely without chapters (drove me crazy!) and second: it took place almost entirely around the kitchen table between 3 characters, Frankie (aka F Jasmine or Francine), housekeeper, Berenice, and cousin, John Henry (which is why a stage adaptation would be brilliant).

Frankie was crazy. Really. What 12 year old isn’t? And I’m an expert – I am a mother of a 12 year old girl who acts just like Frankie. One minute she was playing – the next she was angry – the next she was threatening to run away from home – the next she was trying to hijack her brother’s honeymoon.

This is the type of book one needs to read in an English Lit class because the author obviously crafted a brilliant novel – but one I need explained to me. It wasn’t until the end that it occurred to me – oh – that might have been really good.

It also is a novel that requires a tremendous amount of patience.

But if you are a mom of a 12 year old girl – it was peaceful confirmation to learn that 12 year old girls in the 1940s were just as crazy as modern day 12 year olds – just without electronics.


Thursday, August 8, 2013

Book Review -- A Northern Light

My enjoyment rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Hangover rating: 3
Source:  Personal copy
Genre:  YA; historical fiction; suspense; women's fiction
Objectionable material: Minor language
 

Mattie Gokey was born during the wrong century -- the early 1900's was not a good time to be a woman.

An aspiring writer and academic, Mattie must labor away on her father's farm or work at a local resort, instead of pursuing her dreams at Barnard.

While working at the resort, Mattie becomes intimately involved in an accident on the property -- a young woman is found drowned and her companion missing -- as a result of a capsized boat. But Mattie has in her possession letters that may prove it wasn't an accident after all.

Jennifer Donnelly's novel, A Northern Light, was a rich historical novel about Mattie's dreams and aspirations to move off the family farm and make an independent life for herself.

The author's emotionally charged dialogue and characters were a joy to read.
 
I especially liked the author's use of vocabulary words as a tool for Mattie's character.  It was effective and I learned so many new words!

However, the novel was stuck trying to do two things at once: was it a murder mystery? or women's historical fiction? I wish the author had picked one and stuck with it.

But, overall a satisfying book and I would like to read more by her.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Book Review -- Summer of the Gypsy Moths

Summer of the Gypsy Moths
Summer of the Gypsy Moths by Sara Pennypacker
My enjoyment rating: 4 of 5 stars
Hangover rating: 3
Source:  Personal copy
Genre: Juvenile Fiction
Objectionable material: None

Stella doesn’t know her father and has been abandoned by her mother. Living with a Great-aunt on Cape Cod, she’s enjoying having a home for the first time in years. Although Angel, the foster child her great Aunt is also caring for, is a thorn in her side. But when she comes home from school to find Great-aunt Louise dead – both girls are terrified of being sent to another round of foster homes. Together they hatch a plan to keep the authorities and neighbors at bay, while staying in the only home they both have ever known.

I loved this book.

Although their plot to “hide” Great-aunt Louise is ENTIRELY implausible (at least in my world) – both girls are robust, confident, resourceful (alarmingly so!) and absolutely delightful.

I loved how they maintained their independence in spite of their unfortunate circumstances.
 
The setting of Cape Code with it's beach houses, gardens, ocean surf was perfect for two young girls to explore. (And a perfect non traditional "beach read").
 
And even though this is another “bad mother/orphan” book – it seemed entirely fresh and new.

It would make a great Mother/Daughter book club choice.


Thursday, July 25, 2013

Book Review -- The Giver

The Giver  (The Giver Quartet, #1)
The Giver by Lois Lowry
My enjoyment rating: 3 of 5 stars
Hangover rating:  3
Source:  Library copy
Genre:  Young Adult
Objectionable material: None
 

Jonas lives in a world without choice: of family, seasons, profession, longevity. But his selection by the community of Elders as, Receiver of Memory, changes forever his perception of his parents, siblings and his life. In his training as Receiver, Jonas must gain “memory” from the Elder Receiver, who is known as the Giver. Jonas’s new memories open up a vast landscape of knowledge, joy, and sorrow that was absent from his personal experience. How can he continue to live without variety, even if it comes with pain, and maintain his position as Receiver?

Lois Lowry writes a haunting story about life without options. Of any kind.

I was especially touched by the intimate relationship she developed between the Giver and Receiver. She does a magnificent job of showing how important a student-teacher relationship is (it reminded me of Dumbledore and Harry Potter).

And the empty nature of the Jonas’s family was equally well done.

However, this was an extremely bleak novel. And as brilliantly crafted as it is, not sure I can say that I actually enjoyed it.

But – it is considered one of those novels you “must read.”

So, at least I can check it off my list.
 
Has anyone read the remaining in the series?

Friday, July 19, 2013

July Book Club -- The Art Forger

The Art Forger
The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro
My enjoyment rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Book hangover: 3
Source: Personal copy
Genre: Fiction
Objectionable material: Some sexual innuendo; one F bomb.
July Book Club selection
 

Claire Roth, trying to resuscitate her career after being humiliated by a former art professor, accepts a nefarious offer from a gallery owner to “copy” as Degas painting – one that is eerily similar to a piece stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum some 20 years earlier.

With clever twists and loads of information, author B. A. Shapiro, treats the reader to a fascinating “art” mystery, which at its heart is based on an actual event.

There was so much to love about this novel: an education in art forgery, museum hierarchy, art experts, art galleries, and internal moral conflict -- it was really a ton of fun to read.

My only complaint – the ending. I was expecting something more – startling – gasp worthy. But the end was nothing more than a Disney-Nicholas Cage-National Treasure cop-out.

Oh well.

I know now why I will never be an author – endings are really difficult to write.

However – this made an AWESOME book club discussion! There was so much to discuss – everything from the actual heist to the recovery of art during WWII. It totally made up for the lack of satisfying conclusion.


Friday, July 12, 2013

Book Review -- Daughter of Smoke and Bone


Daughter of Smoke & Bone (Daughter of Smoke and Bone, #1)Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor
My enjoyment rating: 4 of 5 stars
Hangover rating:  4
Source: Personal copy
Genre: Fiction, fantasy, YA, dystopian
Objectionable material: Sexual illusion, but it was faint at best; I don't remember any language.
Ladies of Literature book club July pick


Summary: Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil's supply of human teeth grown dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she's prone to disappearing on mysterious "errands"; she speaks many languages--not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she's about to find out.

When one of the strangers--beautiful, haunted Akiva--fixes his fire-colored eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?
My thoughts:
 
Totally. Out. Of. My. Comfort. Zone.

I feel like the Mikey commercial of the 70’s – she tried it and she liked it!

Seriously…I would NEVER have read this without prompting from my friend, Heather.

I don’t read books like this. Angels? Monsters? Teeth? Parts? Wings?

Hats off to author, Laini Taylor, for creating such an otherworld experience, and having it feel authentic. Her imagery of the “chimaera” – these monster-animal-human-like creations – is vivid, and seems almost plausible.

The relationship she builds between Karou and Akiva is like any other star-crossed/Romeo & Juliet love affair, fraught with passion, angst, longing, pain, desire. I too would run off with an angel if he looked and acted like Akiva! However, if the guy I was into was half goat, not so much.

And I think where her story was brilliantly executed – is with the character’s relationships (or lack thereof) – whether it was Karou & Brimstone, or Karou & Kaz, or Madrigal &Thiago, or Zuzana & Mik – all unique, different, emotionally charged, potent, dangerous. And, well, normal. Or as normal as can be.

I don’t do sequels unless your name is Harry, but I think I will be queuing up part 2 of the Smoke and Bone series, Days of Blood and Starlight.



Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Book Review -- The Ocean at the End of the Lane


The Ocean at the End of the LaneThe Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
My enjoyment rating: 5 of 5 stars
Source: Library
Genre: Fiction, fantasy, coming of age
Objectionable material: sexual situation

In the countryside of Sussex a man returns to the site of his childhood home, long since demolished, to reflect on his family after attending a funeral. Curious about the surrounding area, he wanders down the lane to visit the Hempstock farm, home to his childhood friend Lettie, her mother and grandmother.

But the visit does more than satisfy his curiosity – it also unveils years of repressed memories that are more frightening than dreams.

Neil Gaiman, where have you been all my life?

In the spirit of Grimm and L’Engle, Gaiman once again weaves fairytale magic as he creates a mysterious dimension within the boundaries of Hempstock farm.

I was scared, I was mesmerized, I was anxious…and ultimately, I was completely satisfied with the unfolding fable.

I loved Lettie and the courage she exhibited, much beyond her 11 years (and one wonders, how many years?). Her mother and grandmother, along with Lettie, represent the often used trifecta (think the 3 witches in Macbeth) of magical women – and their power was unmatched. Our unnamed narrator was equally terrified, weak, broken, and brave. All of the elements of reality and fantasy are “stitched” together masterfully.

The end makes one wonder if our memories should be trusted or if if life is all a dream.


Monday, July 1, 2013

Book Review -- The World's Strongest Librarian


The World's Strongest Librarian: A Memoir of Tourette's, Faith, Strength, and the Power of FamilyThe World's Strongest Librarian: A Memoir of Tourette's, Faith, Strength, and the Power of Family by Josh Hanagarne
My enjoyment rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Book hangover: 0
Source:   I received a copy of this book free from the publisher. I received no other compensation, and my thoughts are 100% my own.
Genre: Memoir
Objectionable material:  language including the F bomb.


In his acknowledgments author Josh Hanagarne says, “When I finished the final version of this book, I thought, ‘This is a really weird story.’”

I couldn’t agree more.

Josh is a 6’ 7” librarian. Who also happens to be Mormon. Who also happens to have Tourette Syndrome. Who also happens to lift kettle ball weights to help manage his “tics” and symptoms.

That, my friends, is weird.

But interestingly enough…the weirdness actually works.

In his memoir, The World’s Strongest Librarian, we learn how Josh struggles with his disease, his attempts at traditional medication, his difficulty with school, his faith, his family relationships, and his job.

I appreciated how much he has overcome to try to live a “normal” life – the attempts at intense physical and mental training to keep “Misty” (the name he has given his tics) at bay. I enjoyed learning about his family and his marriage and their struggle with infertility; about his continued worry over his son, Max, and whether he too would inherit Tourette’s. I was especially touched by how honest he was with regards to his Mormon faith – and the struggles he has with “not knowing” where he is in life with his religious beliefs. I can totally relate.

The librarian side of me wished it had more librarian anecdotes – because libraries are zoos and the patrons are the animals and on any given day, you never know what is going to happen or what you might step in. Quite literally. So, I was desperate for MORE of those – because his scenarios were very funny!

But this wasn’t a “library” book – this was a book about illness and the strength to overcome.
 
Josh in his own words:
 

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