Oct 31, 2009
Author: Kate DiCamillo
Publisher: Candlewick Press (2003)
Book Source: School Library
My 8 year old daughter Lillian reads a lot but this particular book she is re-reading at home as well as listening to the teacher read it at school. She has a bookmark keeping the place her class is up to, a bookmark keeping where she has read ahead past the class during spare time at school, and a book mark where she has started back at the beginning at home. So let's ask her what is so great about The Tale of Despereaux to warrant three concurrent readings.
Lillian's Answer: "There is lots of things happening at the same time and it is really interesting. Well like it is a huge book with lots of different stories in it. It has got 370 pages in it and there is this one bit that is really funny. Despereaux (the mouse) falls in love with a princess (a human) and he is not supposed to let the princess touch him or see him and so he has to go into the dungeon. That is where the rats are and the rats want to eat him, but he hasn't been eaten yet and I don't think he will be because I have already read the book before and I remember that he stays alive."
Lillian's Favorite Passage: "The Princess Pea looked down at Despereaux ... Despereaux stared up at her in wonder. The Pea, he decided, looked just like the picture of the fair maiden in the book in the library. The princess smiled at Despereaux again, and this time, Despereaux smiled back. And then, something incredible happened: The mouse fell in love."
I asked her to tell me more about this book but she wanted to keep reading and was mad that I was interrupting her reading to ask who the author and publisher were. So we had better leave her to it.
2. Make a cup of coffee
3. Grab your current read
4. Dip chocolate cookie (biscuit is the Australian term) in your coffee. This will cause it to begin melting so don't leave it in the coffee too long.
6. Watch out for falling crumbs that nestle in book pages
Note: I did not get compensated in any way for this post. It is solely my unbiased opinion. (I wish that I did get a case of free Tim Tams out of it.)
Oct 28, 2009
Oct 27, 2009
Author: Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows
Publisher: The Dial Press (2008)
Genre: Historical Fiction
Book Source: Library Copy
Set in 1946 soon after the Second World War, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society tells the story of a writer who is searching for a subject for a book. The protagonist Juliet Ashton enters into a correspondence with a man from Guernsey, a British Island occupied by the Nazis during the war. Through letters between Juliet and her friends old and new, an intriguing portrayal of what it was like to live through the German occupation emerges. The members of the society and the stories they tell capture Juliet as both a writer and a human being. After she has done as much research as she can she realizes that she must go there herself.
The tone of this book was light and humorous even though it related to war. The cast of characters were quirky and interesting. The letter format worked perfectly. (It reminded me of the book and film 84 Charing Cross Road.) Even though the letters often related anecdotes and little stories there was a strong plot line tying it all together. The letters are written by many different characters, so we get many different viewpoints along the way. I really enjoyed the writing style; it helped to evoke the time period so well. I did have a niggling hesitation about the way in which many war time atrocities were brushed over or taken lightly but it seems that the authors purpose was to look for the good in humans regardless of the external circumstances and allegiances. Overall, I really enjoyed The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and would recommend it as a funny and sweet story that celebrates books as a way to rise above life's difficulties.
Right now I am in The Glade, which is a fictional place created by James Dashner in his book called The Maze Runner. The Glade is surrounded by massive stone walls with doors that lead out into a maze. Each night the doors close the inhabitants inside the Glade in order to protect them from the dangerous creatures that roam the maze at night.
Oct 26, 2009
“Reading a book is like re-writing it for yourself. You bring to a novel, anything you read, all your experience of the world. You bring your history and you read it in your own terms.”
- Angela Carter
When you are reviewing a book(or recommending one to a friend) do you try to stay objective when evaluating it's merits or are you happy to allow your own unique perspective to come through in your review?
Oct 22, 2009
Author: Jonathan Lethem
Publisher: Doubleday (2009)
Book Source: ARC from Publisher (Doubleday)
Chase Insteadman is the character who narrates this unique story of a group of friends who live in Manhattan. Chase was a child star who now floats through life with no particular purpose. His only responsibility is his role as the fiance of Janice Trumbull who is trapped on the International Space Station and sends him love letters which are also printed in the newspaper. When Chase meets Perkus Tooth his life takes on a new routine. Perkus is a cultural critic who endeavors to enlighten Chase with his wild drug induced theories and paranoid interpretations of life in Manhattan. He obsessive search for truth takes the form of cutting up magazines to rearranging words and analyzing various films. As Chase joins Perkus in his search for meaning other characters enter the story-scape such as Oona Laszlo, a ghost writer and Richard Abneg who works for the mayor. One of the bizarre adventures Perkus leads the group into is an obsession with "chaldrons", which they feverishly try to buy on Ebay auctions. In the end the characters of Chronic City discover that things are not what they appear and they are quite possibly mindlessly playing out their assigned roles.
It took me a while to get into this book. It had me puzzled and wondering where it was going. Chronic City is not a gripping read due to its detailed ramblings about what goes on in the mind of Perkus Tooth, some of which is interesting but mostly absurd. It makes for very little and very slow plot development. That being said, I was interested in the overall themes even though I felt that they tended toward repetition and ambiguity. A lot seemed unnecessary. Lethem has written a very long and detailed portrayal of modern city life. His characters illustrate the compelling force of obsession. I did enjoy his postmodern themes and would recommend it to people who like heavy reading.
Oct 21, 2009
Oct 20, 2009
Hosted by An Adventure In Reading - "Where is your reading taking you today?"
This Tuesday I am sailing around about to discover the Hudson River. I am reading Half Moon: Henry Hudson and the Voyage that Redrew the Map of the New World by Douglas Hunter
Oct 14, 2009
Oct 13, 2009
Author: Allison Hoover Bartlett
Publisher: Riverhead Books (2009)
Book Source: ARC from Publisher (Riverhead Books)
This true story is about a book thief named John Gilkey and a rare book dealer named Ken Sanders who is determined to stop him. Set in the intriguing world of rare books, The Man Who Loved Books Too Much explores the power of possession. For John Gilkey ownership of books carries an identity of intelligence and class. Rather than work to pay for the books he wants to own, he makes fraudulent purchases and generally acquires rare books any way he can. Ken Sanders becomes obsessed with stopping Gilkey in order to protect his trade from such a prolific rare book thief. Sanders and other book sellers who are victims of Gilkey take the loss of beloved books very personally and band together to bring him to justice.
Allison Hoover Bartlett finds herself wanting to understand how Gilkey could risk his freedom in order to stock his book collection. Through detailed interviews with Gilkey she begins to discover a man who has an unusual set of ethics and a strong desire to create his ideal self-identity. Along the way the author is herself drawn into some ethical dilemmas. As she spends more and more time with Gilkey and he begins to reveal details not yet known to the police investigators, the author's role becomes unclear. Is she merely collecting stories, or is she influencing them?
One of the reasons that I enjoyed this book was that there was a lot of variety to it. It contained crime mystery, an introduction to the rare book trade and stories of historical book collectors. Another aspect I particularly liked was the interesting and timely themes. The author delved into Gilkey's ethical theories and psychological motivations. The fine line between loving books and obsessively collecting them at any cost was an interesting question that was raised in The Man Who Loved Books Too Much. The desirability of books as objects in and of themselves regardless of the content printed within is still alive and strong today even with the popularity of electronic books. Allison Hoover Bartlett's writing was charming, as were her descriptions of various rare book stores and the people that frequent them.
The One Lovely Blog Award was passed to me from Katy of A Few More Pages. Katy has just started blogging in September and looks well worth following. It is fun to be amongst the early followers of a new blog.
I want to pass this award on to:
Jo-Jo of Jo-Jo Loves to read!!!
Kaye of Pudgy Penguin Perusals
Melody of Melody's Reading Corner
The Splash Award came from Al at Publish or Perish. Thank you... Check out Al's photos and write ups about his weekend trips in the Australian countryside and also his journey toward the publication of his first novel.
This award goes to:
Kals of At Pemberley
Heather of Gofita's Pages
Dani of Average Girl Reads
I am currently reading my way through Manhattan. Jonathan Lethem's intricate look at this city in his new book Chronic City is very thought provoking. From what I can gather he seems to be exploring the notion of truth and reality as it is found in modern urban life.
Oct 8, 2009
Author: Jane Dawkins
Publisher: Source Books (2007)
Genre: Historical Fiction, Austen sequel
Book Source: My Own Copy
Letters From Pemberley is a sequel to Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. The story spans the first year of marriage between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy. The entire novel unfolds through a series of letters written from Elizabeth to her sister Jane, who is herself newly wed. Many of the familiar characters are present in this sequel to one degree or another. As Elizabeth settles into her new home and meets her new neighbors we see her mature and become comfortable with her new situation. Her initial nervousness and hesitations over how to run such a grand home and how Mr. Darcy's friends will receive her provide some difficulty in her early months of marriage. These hardships are tempered by Mr. Darcy's care and concern for Elizabeth.
Meanwhile Jane and Mr. Bingley find that they are overrun with Jane's family coming for frequent visits. When they find that they are expecting their first child they decide to move very near to the Darcy estate. Mr. Darcy's young sister Georgiana also features in the story. She is a welcome companion for Elizabeth. Letters From Pemberley was a sweet story that was quick and easy to read. The letter format resulted in short chapters and proved a nice way to tell the simple story. Jane Dawkins kept it gentle and positive in style and plot. There were no arguments or misunderstandings between the newly weds. There was a ball, visits between family and friends, a London trip, an engagement, pregnancy and new acquaintances. Overall, this is a light read that I would recommend to Austen enthusiasts and anyone looking for a slight extension to the happily-ever-after theme. Jane Dawkin's novel gives the reader a glimpse of Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy's happy marriage as it continues past the wedding day.
Oct 5, 2009
Oct 3, 2009
Author: Henry James
Publisher: Penguin Books (2003)
First Published: 1881
Genre: Classic fiction
Book Source: My own well worn copy.
Isabel Archer is a young American woman who is invited to visit Europe with her aunt. Isabel is an optimist who's ideas about life have been formed by the American ideal of individualism, as well as by romantic and naive notions gleaned from reading books. She embarks on her European tour with a desire to observe humanity and experience all she can. To this end she determines to retain her freedom; turning down two eligible marriage proposals...
After some time she meets Gilbert Osmond, an ex-patriot American living in Italy. His charming manner and his dedication to art and beauty intrigues Isabel and she agrees to marry him. Later she realizes that ''love' for her was based more upon Isabel's money, youth and beauty than any affinity of their minds. She is merely another of the pieces of art that he collects - meant to adorn his home. For an opinionated intelligent woman like Isabel the situation is stifling and humiliating to say the least.
The Portrait of a Lady is classic literature at its best. Henry James is a master craftsman who delves deeply into the layers of the human consciousness. He gives wonderful psychological character portrayals that unfold gradually. The various characters spend a lot of time speculating on each others motivations. The settings are very atmospheric and important to the development of Isabel's character. James creates suspense and great internal drama with his use of symbols and metaphors. For example, when Isabel is contemplating her marriage she describes it as:
"... the shadows had begun to gather; it was as if Osmond deliberately, almost malignantly, had put the lights out one by one. The dusk at first was vague and thin, and she could still see her way in it. But it steadily deepened, and if now and again it had occasionally lifted there were certain corners of her prospect that were impenetrably black."(P.474)
The Portrait of a Lady can stand multiple readings even in close succession due to the detailed descriptions of setting and characters. It spans such a range of human emotion. It is full of intelligent characters and touches upon many important themes such as marriage, love, female freedom, social constraints, wealth, etc, etc. As one of my favorite books, I highly recommend it. This is an excellent choice for a book club and for those who enjoy immersing themselves in a long and detailed story.