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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