Saturday, January 16, 2010

AACK! Has It REALLY Been THAT Long?!!

I was chatting with a friend from high school the other day and mentioned this blog. She jumped right on here and said something about "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society...". I thought, wait- what? I asked her if that was the last thing I had posted and she said yes. My, how time and books have slipped by. :) Here are some of the ones you missed:

P.S., I Love You by Cecelia Ahern
I had a hard time with this one. I kept comparing it to the movie (which I love) and trying to decide which I liked better. I never really came to a clear conclusion. I think the writing is great. I absolutely love the characters- they are all much more likable in the book. There is a much stronger family dynamic and the characters seem to have a much more firm footing on higher moral ground. I thought the ending was a little anti-climatic. (This is the main thing I liked better about the movie.) Overall, I was glad that I read it and I look forward to reading more Cecelia Ahern so I think it deserves to be called something more substantial.

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
LOVED this. It wasn't n
early as violent as the first one. It was a little more political and had shades of 1984. Katniss Everdeen faces the fallout of her decision to rebel (in the previous book, The Hunger Games) and finds herself torn between the two men who love her. I thoroughly enjoyed this and it was not too predictable for the most part. (There were a couple obvious things but they did not detract in any way.) I can't wait for the third book of this trilogy to come out. The series makes for some great book discussions and is a great choice for book groups. For this reason I think Catching Fire is something more substantial.

Stones From the River by Ursula Hegi
A very dear friend recommended this to me. She
said it was her favorite book and so I delved in with high expectations. The metaphors are wonderful; truly excellent craftsmanship. No matter how hard I tried though, I just could not get into the story. It is so, SO sad. The book is told from the perspective of a Little Person in Pre-WWII/Nazi Germany. It starts when she is a tiny little girl and tells how her mother believed that the baby girl's condition was a punishment from God. The mother could not bond with her, most likely due to postpartum depression, and shuts down completely for years. When the mother becomes pregnant again, the little girl is so afraid that the new baby will be normal and that her mother will not love her anymore, that she eats the sugarcubes left on the windowsill for the stork. She hopes that if she does this, the stork will not leave a baby. The baby is stillborn and the girl believes that she has killed him. Her mother sinks into a depression so deep that she has to be sent to an asylum for shock therapy and eventually dies. The girl believes she has killed her mother. Mixed in with all this are the everyday challenges of being a Little Person, being discriminated against, etc. The father and the Jewish lady across the street are the only bright spot in her life. They show her kindness and love. I only got about halfway through the book when I could force myself to go no farther. I can only assume something horrible happens to the Jewish woman and I couldn't take the sadness anymore. I am sorry that Little People have the struggles they do, but surely there must be a slightly less slit-your-wrists book about it than Stones From the River. Skip this one.

Remembering Isaac by Ben Behunin
Groan. I have this thing. I HATE not knowing how things end. I cannot walk out of a movie, I can't turn off a t.v. program i
n the middle, and I certainly have a difficult time putting a book down once I've started it. So I REALLY hate it when I read to the last page and the story doesn't end. I'm not talking like Harry Potter where there is an arc and a plotline resolves but other questions are unanswered to keep you hooked for the next one. I'm fine with that. It is what makes reading a series fun. No, what I'm talking about here is when you turn the page expecting at least another chapter- even another sentence- and lo, and behold the book is TO BE CONTINUED. It's a cheap trick and it makes me really mad at author, editor, and publisher alike. Such is Remembering Isaac. It is not a book. It is HALF a book. There was not enough resolution for this to be worth my while. It makes me grumpy every time I remember the day and a half I spent reading it. The writing is stilted and preachy. I agree with the tenets Mr. Behunin is trying so skill -lessly to weave into the book, but I think the way he did it smacks of a public library puppet show for preschoolers. Mr. Squirrel needs to find out where the magical nut stash is and he goes to Mr. Owl, Mr. Bunny, and Mr. Frog, each in turn to ask them if they know where it is. Bleagh. Skip this one.- On the other hand,

Discovering Isaac by Ben Behunin
is much, much better. I read it because, as previously stated, I can't stand not to know how it ends. It's a compulsion. Even if it's a Lifetime Original Movie from the 80's, if I see
more than 5 minutes of it, I have to see it through to the end. Probably I could take medication...? I digress. The book is still TO BE CONTINUED (ARGGGHHHHH!), but the writing is leaps and bounds over the first one. The little moral lessons are much more subtly woven into the story and the love story picks up enough that you really want to find out what happens to their relationship. Maybe the last book in the trilogy will actually be good. Since it is still not a finished story, I am going to say skip this one too.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid series by Jeff Kinney
In an effort to connect with my boy, I picked these up to see what he was reading. They are funny, irreverent, and made me feel guilty for laughing out loud at things that I shouldn't laugh about. (e.g.- Greg's friend Rowley gets blamed for somet
hing Greg does and Greg is trying to decide what the right thing to do is. He comes to the conclusion that the right thing to do is to let Rowley "take one for the team on this". Then when his mom asks him if he did the right thing or not and he answers Yes, she takes him out for ice cream.) The stories are a little mean-spirited, but I think the point is to teach right and wrong through irony. This might be great for middle schoolers, who deal almost exclusively in sarcasm, but for my 3rd grader I am afraid that all the implied lessons on virtues may be a little lost. I enjoyed this very much and it got my son to read four books in three days so I'm going to say it's refined sugar.

My Best Friend's Girl by Dorothy Koomson
Another in an endless supply of airplane books, My Best Friend's Girl is sweet but a little ho hum. The story is about Kamryn, a woman whose best friend dies of leukemia leaving her five year old daughter to be raised. Kamryn takes her in and the book is sort of the
story of the adjustment she makes to the new life of being a mom and falling in love with both the girl and a would-be father. I was in love with the love interest by the end and I liked the main character, but this book isn't going to stick with me. I would be surprised if I even remember reading it a year or two down the road. It's not substantial but I did enjoy it so if you have nothing better to do or you're looking for that perfect weekend on the beach book, this is good refined sugar.

The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
This was another book that my son was reading and I had been recommended it several times in the last couple years. The story was a fun romp through Greek mythology, set in modern times in NYC. I liked it as much as the first Harry Potter book and I can't wait to read the next one in the series (Percy Jackson and the
Olympians). Because it drew me in and because it makes Greek mythology so accessible to young adults, I feel this is something more substantial.

The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
Another book that I read because I loved the movie so much. The characters were more loveable in the movie,
more realistic in the book. Even though I knew what was coming, I bawled my eyes out at the end and when I closed the book I marched upstairs and made love to my husband. It was really good. The book is peppered with strong profanity and there is mention of illicit drug use several times. Overall I liked it though and because I really had to concentrate to wrap my mind around and make sense of the paradoxes intrinsic in time travel, I feel like this is something more substantial- profanity notwithstanding.


Kim said...

I love reading your reviews. It's so interesting to get your take on books. You should really do it more often.

I've wondered about those Isaac books. I'm glad to finally hear someone's opinion on them.

Oh, Suzanne Collins. August can't come fast enough.

I had to put down Time Traveler's Wife because I felt too guilty about all the language. That was 3 years ago though and I've been desenscitized quite a bit since then. I might have to try it again soon.

Not quite the Bradys said...

I am going to try to do better about posting. "I always think, oh I'll get to it" and next thing I know I'm half a dozen reviews behind.

I know what you mean about August. I preordered almost a month ago. :)

I did feel guilty about the language in that book but I really liked it. I donate all the books I read that I won't read multiple times and that one is on my keeper shelf.

Thanks for the other thing. I appreciate it. Definitely if it works out. :)

Kristina P. said...

Thanks for your comment! You are much too kind. I really, really need to read more. I've heard that Suzanne Collins is awesome.