Book: The Boy in the Striped Pajamas
Author: John Boyne
Recommend: This book is a harrowing tale set in a concentration camp that is worth the heartache.
I have had this recommended to me in both book and movie form many times and just hadn’t gotten to it. I knew that it was going to be a painful read and knew what I was in for or so I thought. I wasn’t expecting the book to come from the point of view of the child of a Nazi officer who was running a concentration camp. I expected to see the story through the eyes of the child in the camp. With a story of friendship that tugs at the heartstrings and an ending that will make you cry, this book is both simple and complex all at the same time.
This book is told from the point of view of a young boy who doesn’t really understand everything that is going on around him so you have to read between the lines to understand what is going on around the main character.
I don’t want to ruin the impact of this book so I don’t want to say too much but this book will make even the toughest person cry and will make everyone think about the perspective of children during the time. It is definitely worth the read.
Title: The Castle in the Forest
Author: Norman Mailer
Recommend: Well, if you enjoy this sort of thing but for the most part I would say no.
I have had this book sitting on my shelf for almost a year. I picked it up because it is a look at the life of Hitler and his past which I find morbidly fascinating in the way a trainwreck is fascinating. I was not expecting a couple of things when I picked this book up. First of all, I pulled the dust cover off and found a copy of the writer’s obituary tucked underneath. It was not a kind statement about the man. It basically referred to him as a misogynistic stuck up literary snob who happened to be a good writer that helped establish The Village Voice. A few pages into the book I could see exactly what the obit. writer had been talking about.
While he had some interesting insights into the history of one of the evilest men to walk to face of the planet, his Freud worship was well on display and his obsession with the base and carnal made it a less than palatable read. Not that I would expect a book about Hitler to be sunshine and rainbows but the obsessions with sex, insect, and bodily functions was more than a bit much.
This definitely ticked off a checkbox for me because I have finally read a book by this author but honestly I would not recommend it. This one is going in my bag for the used bookstore and will no longer take up valuable space on my very full bookshelves.
So, I have this problem. I’ve been reading tons and tons of books and feeling very guilty about not writing reviews on all of them. After all, what is the point of book blogging if I read and don’t blog?? However, I’ve been on a major reading binge ever since school got out and the idea of sitting down to write reviews on all the amazing (and some not so amazing) books that I’ve been reading, just seemed like a bit much. Also, when I read this way I get a huge backlog of book reviews. So I’m going to try posting things that I’ve read from week to week on Mondays. If I feel like a book needs a lengthy review, I’ll write it but most books are going to get a few sentences. For the purposes of this format, we are going to go to a simple five-star rating system (regular reviews will still use the regular blog system).
The week started with a reread of the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. I used to reread all the time. I love the thrill of going back to something familiar. It’s like visiting an old friend from college. You rehash the same stories with a joyful air knowing exactly what will happen. You catch greater nuance and discover things you never knew but it still has a comfort level that a new book simply misses. This time through the books, the complexity of the relationship between Harry and his muggle family stood out to me most. Petunia and Dudley in particular. I do wish that we had seen Dudley standing on platform 9 and ¾s during the epilogue. It would have been poetic justice. I love going back to visit this world and will always wish that Rowling would go back to her magical world. While I’m excited to read her latest, nothing will ever quite compare to Harry Potter. Rating – ★★★★★
I had a bit of book hangover after reading that series. I couldn’t seem to pick up anything for a couple of days. Finally I settled down and dove into VIII by H.M. Castor. A fictional retelling of the life of Henry the VIII which was exactly the kind of thing I needed to get through my Harry Potter book hangover. So often historical fiction about his reign comes form the point of view of one of his many wives. It was interesting as the author strove to get inside his brain. I think what I found most interesting was all of the politics that went on with his first marriage. This book would be a great starting point to create interest about Henry the VIII. Rating – ★★★★
I have a love/hate relationship with Charles de Lint. I love some of his stuff and simply can’t get through other things he writes. I think it’s largely me. I’ve picked up some of his Newford stuff and loved it. However I tried to get through Dreams Underfoot, the first book and I simply couldn’t do it. Sadly this one went back in my library bag, mostly unread. I might return to it at some point. I think I just picked it up at the wrong time. I hesitate to rate it right now but I rate everything so… Rating – ★
I’m not a judge a book by it’s cover kind of girl, but this one is lovely.
I’m not quite done with The Chaos of Stars by Kiersten White but should finish in the next hour or so. I have a feeling I know exactly where this book is going and I think I’m going to enjoy getting there. I love the idea of looking at Egypt’s mythology as the focus. So far the main character is very enjoyable to read and the author captures the idea of not fitting in anywhere in a somewhat simplistic but sincere manner. While it is definitely light reading, it is entertaining. Rating – ★★★
Book: The Penelopiad
Author: Margaret Atwood
Recommend: Definitely worth a read, especially if you had to suffer through The Iliad and The Odyssey in high school.
Okay, I am a fan of Greek mythology. I find it oddly fascinating that people could believe in this set of self-absorbed petty gods who thought it was fun to mess with the people they ruled over and who had limitations. I found their attitude towards women appalling in the way you find a train-wreck appalling – so horrible but yet you simply can’t look away.
Due to these factors I couldn’t help but add this book to my bag when I discovered it at the library. I have only read one of Atwood’s other books but I found her writing wonderful to read and that’s saying something considering I started with The Handmaid’s Tale. This book tells the story of Penelope, the wife of Odysseus who went missing for twenty years. She fended off suitors by the truckload and managed to stay true to him over twenty years. Never mind the fact that he was cheating on her every time he had the opportunity.
I found the character quite fascinating in this telling of the story, although slightly inconsistent in the center due to her passivity towards her household while her mother-in-law was alive. I loved the interjections from the author of almost sheer random wanderings on the topic. It broke up the story in an interesting way and get me to think about it from a myriad of perspectives.
Definitely worth a read if you are a fan of Greek mythology.
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Book: The Aviator’s Wife
Author: Melanie Benjamin
Recommend: It was definitely an interesting read.
I have seen so much press on this book due to the author and subjects. When I got an ARC, I was happy to read and review it for my blog. I only knew the bare bones about the Lindberghs and hoped that it would make me want to learn more about them.
Unlike most books about the Lindberghs, this one focuses on Anne. Starting with meeting her husband and following their lives together including the horrific kidnapping of their oldest son and the Nazi sympathizer scandals, this book follows their lives through an imagining of her life based on historical information.
The writing is wonderfully lyric and powerful. The details are well balanced. The author takes some license with the work but never strays so far that it renders the book inaccurate. The more difficult parts of their history is handled well.
Definitely worth a read but not the most phenomenal thing I’ve read this year.
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Author: Philippa Gregory
Recommend: Bit of a dull slog honestly.
I picked this one up simply because I thought it would interesting to see what her work for teens would be like. I knew her name of course because of The Other Boleyn Girl and other books that she has written (none of which I have read – yet). I figured this would be a great way to get into her. I was really wrong. Everything about this book was completely unappealing to me. I just couldn’t get into it!
There is just simply too much court and pieces of the inquisition in here to really be readable. I also found her writing to be rather dull. The book was on the shorter side which, along with the fact that I didn’t want to abandon two books in a row, were the only reasons I finished it. I don’t think it was a bad book but I don’t see it going over well with teenagers honestly. The characters feel far too old and dull. There is too much propriety and not enough passion to make this book enjoyable. It just lacked spark.
Might be up someone else’s alley but this was simply not my cup of tea.
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Book: The Poisonwood Bible
Author: Barbara Kingsolver
Recommend: Eh. I didn’t think it was nearly as good as all the hype around it.
I’ve heard about this one for years – literally. Honestly the title made me reticent to pick it up. Then when I found out the plot, even less so. Honestly, the only reason I read this one is that it’s on my list. So I didn’t go in having high expectations. While it was better than I thought it would be, it wasn’t life changing.
Okay, this is about a missionary family in Congo in the 1960s. They go in with no training and attempt to share with a tribe. The father doesn’t spend the time getting to know the people or culture, just preaches at them and find out far too late why nothing he is doing works. Then there is a revolution and instead of leaving, the father stubbornly insists that they remain until a live changing event occurs and nothing is ever the same again.
The writing was really good overall. I enjoyed hearing from the different characters as the story moved through. I think the author voice all but the youngest daughter really well. You didn’t get a sense that the five-year old was really five. She read like she was twelve or so, not the baby of the family.
I honestly found the parents a bit dense. First off, why wouldn’t you ask people why they don’t think baptism is a good idea? Why wouldn’t you attempt to understand the culture you were now immersed in? I think that this shows a very old way of thinking when it comes to mission work. One that rarely if ever exists today. Even then, this would not be the norm. The book really does paint the idea of mission work in a bad and inaccurate light. I’ve been surrounded by missionaries most of my life and this is not what it looks like. I think the one positive thing this does for missionaries is show how hard it is to live in such a foreign culture.
While it was an engaging read, I really don’t see myself picking this one back up again.
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Author: Scott Westerfeld
Recommend: Worth the read but certainly not the best thing I’ve ever read.
Can I just share how much I can’t stand having to wait to read a book when I’m in the middle of a series of any kind? I find it very hard to wait when I know the book is just sitting there, begging to be read. I had to wait almost two weeks though before I could dive back into this one. Work has been crazy busy due to the start of the new school year and so I have literally haven’t had a minute to read since school started. Finally this weekend, I took a day for myself and refused to do anything work related and was able to finish the Leviathan trilogy.
This one, was by far the longest book of the series and honestly the fasted read. Alek and Deryn are racing to try to end the war aboard the Leviathan when they pick up a stranded crew in Russia who was escorting none other than the famous and slightly crazy scientist, Nikola Tesla. Tesla tells Alek that he has a brilliant plan to end the war. It is a weapon so destructive that no one will dare to continue the fight. Deryn’s secret is finally unraveling. What will happen when a die-hard reporter threatens to reveal Deryn’s secret to the whole world?
Nikola Tesla in front of the spiral coil of his high-voltage transformer at East Houston St., New York
The moment I saw that Tesla was going to play a part in this book, I picked up my phone and texted one of my best friends who is a huge fan of Tesla’s work. If you aren’t aware who this man is, I would suggest doing some serious reading up on him. Tesla is the best scientist that the world forgot. He was so far ahead of his time that he came across as a bit crazy. If he got credit where credit was do, you would be shocked to find out how much of our modern world we owe to this man. In this book though, Tesla goes a bit off the deep end in a way only he could.
Alek and Deryn finally have no secrets. I was a bit bummed out at how Alek finds out the truth but was thankful that it finally happened already. I know why the author handled it the way that he did and don’t even blame Alek for his freak out about the fact that the boy he has been looking up to for so long is in fact a girl.
The ending of this trilogy was highly satisfying and worth the wait. I can’t wait to tackle Westerfeld’s other series now that I’ve read these.
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Author: Scott Westerfeld
Recommend: Worth reading but getting a bit frustrating!
The second book in the Leviathan trilogy, this book continues to follow Alek and Dylan as they run around Istanbul attempting to do what is best for each of them and not being able to stay out of each other’s way. Both characters seem to move closer to their goals only to have everything change when Dylan’s secret is threatened and Alek’s succession is in question again.
Great second book, building the conflict while seeming to move towards a resolution. Creating impossible elements while still managing to move the story along. At this point I really just want Alek to figure out what is really going on with Dylan and why they get along so well.
I really enjoy this series but I am ready for them to figure it out already!
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Author: Scott Westerfeld
This is my first introduction to Scott Westerfeld and I can’t wait to read more. Leviathan was even better than I thought it would be. A big fan of steampunk, this book was a huge hit with me.
To say that Deryn is a hug tomboy would be a large understatement. When she decides to disguise herself as a boy and enter the military so that she can fly, she knows it is a huge risk but decides that it is worth the risk. Everything seems to go well for her until they crash and a mysterious boy comes to rescue her. When her loyality is divided and it either her kingdom or the safety of the boy who saved her life, which will she choose?
Okay, this is some of the most inventive steampunk I’ve run across. The writing is great, fast and entertaining. At first I didn’t think I would enjoy the illustrations but after a while it was a help to envision some of the more bizarre things described in the book and they didn’t happen so frequently that they were a distraction. First time I’ve ever really seen full out illustrations be truly helpful to the story telling.
If I had to come up with some kind of criticism for this book it is that Deryn is just a bit too convincing as a boy. You don’t really see her struggle to maintain her lie very often. I think the conflict that should be here hasn’t really shown up and I hope that Deryn becomes a bit more realistic in the second book.
This book was great and I can’t wait to read the next book in this wonderful trilogy!
Buy it new 🙂
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Book: The Godfather
Author: Mario Puzo
Recommend: Great book, a lot of mature content but interesting read, especially after watching the movies.
Have you ever had a book that just seemed to take a long time to get through. Not because it was a hard read but because it just moves slowly even though you are enjoying it? Yep. That was this book. Great read but it took me a few days to get through it (of course watching the Olympics while reading probably didn’t help).
This tells the story of the Corleone family and the mafia in New York. I don’t know what it is about the mafia but I find it fascinating. I was impressed to see how accurate the movie was in comparison with the book! I didn’t expect the stories to be so close but they are extremely similar.
There is a large portion of almost every kind of mature content in this book so don’t expect a clean read when you pick this one up.
Great read but not for everyone.
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Book: The Book Thief
Author: Markus Zusak
This is another one of those books that I’ve been meaning to read for ages. So many people have recommended it. I got my hands on a copy this week. At first I didn’t think I would like it. At the end, I cried.
Set in World War 2 Germany, The Book Thief steals her first book the day her brother dies. The next from a Nazi book burning. A brave, real kid trying to live through the horrors that surrounded her. Told by death, this book has a unique perspective of what it was like for the people of Germany under Hitler’s rule.
I have to say that I think this book would have been better in some ways if Death hadn’t given away the ending quite so soon. The first half of the book it seems like the author was stumbling a bit with his unique narrator. The last quarter it was impossible to put down. I think on a reread, it wouldn’t seem so strange.
The characters are what stand out the most in this book. Leisel is a very powerful character, somewhat flawed like the rest of us but with an amazing heart. Hans and Rosa are fabulous in their own ways. Max is so strong even though everything is going against him and I dare you not to feel for Rudy.
This book is going to end up on school reading lists everywhere. It is going to be a book that stands the test of time. I don’t own it yet. It will be the next book I buy.
Need more than one copy!!
Book: The Help
Author: Kathryn Stockett
Recommend: No question about it. This one is an instant classic.
I’ve been hearing about this book for ages it seems. Everyone was shocked when they found out that I hadn’t read it yet. Sometimes when a book is so insanely popular, I tend to avoid it. I think it might be a bit of latent teen rebellion that’s not quite worked through my system yet. I actually am glad that I waited to read it. If I had read it when the movie came out, I know I would have been pressured to go see the movie and as much as I loved the book, I just have no desire to see the movie. I just think I would be terribly disappointed by it.
I loved this one. It tells a great story without going to one extreme or the other. Sometimes, books about racial conflict can be extremely biased. This one felt honest. Instead of taking a side, it seemed to simply share both sides of the conflict. I also love that this isn’t about the center of the civil rights movement and that there isn’t some HUGE and seemingly instant resolution.In real life, prejudice doesn’t disappear instantaneously. It is a slow progression until one day someone realizes that they have reached the end of a journey they didn’t even realize they had started.
If you haven’t picked it up yet, what are you waiting for?
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Book: The Sandcastle Girls
Author: Chris Bohjalian
Recommend: A good but tough read.
I got this one as an early reader’s copy and wasn’t sure that I was looking forward to reading it, but it was fiction based on a time I was not familiar with and thought it might make me want to do more research into a new topic. Set during World War I, this book depicts the horrible conditions for Armenians during the genocide. It tells the story of a young American woman named Elizabeth who meets an intense grieving widow name Armen. They quickly fall in love but he is sent to the front to fight the war.
While the love story is interesting, the horrors of what happened to the Armenian people is the real story. It reminded me quite a bit of reading about what happened to people in the concentration camps during WWII. I had never heard about this even and now I need to go spend some time learning about it. I know plenty about many other recent wars but World War I is an area where I am woefully lacking.
I think the only negative I might have to say about this book is that it does seem to slow and drag in the middle. I know that the author is attempting to set the reader up for the ending but I can’t help and think that the author could have done it faster and in a way that didn’t bog down the story. Once I hit Part 3, the story spend right back up towards the climax but there are certain section in the middle that just don’t move quickly.
This book does have some adult themes and is probably not appropriate for most kids. It also contains some trigger issues that might cause some issues for those sensitive to certain issues.
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Book: The Mists of Avalon
Author: Marion Zimmer Bradley
Recommend: It was a great re-imagining of the author legend for most audiences…
Okay, does anyone remember when TNT (I think) made a movie based on this book? Well, at the time, I was a crazy busy college student and only caught bits and pieces of this three-hour long marathon film. However, what I saw, made me want to read it. At the time though, I had no time for heavy reading. So it ended up on my mental list of books I would eventually get to. Well, it’s been over 10 years. I’ve had it my hands multiple times but have just never gotten around to reading it until now.
Take the legend of King Arthur and his knights. Flip it on its head and look at it through the eyes of Morgan la Fey. I would compare it to Wicked and the Wizard of Oz in that this tells the ‘villain’s’ story. This is the first time that I’ve read a decent excuse for Mordred.Ever. All of the characters have great depth and their motivations become very clear to the reader.
This is NOT a book for every audience. First, while it isn’t the central theme of the book and only put in for essential plot purposes, there is some mature sexual content. It was easy to deal with though. I think the bigger issue, to me, is the glorification of paganism that is prevalent through the book. While the author never directly attacks God or Christ, she does attack the intolerance of the church heavily. This would not be a good book for a Christian who is not solidly grounded in their faith or is easily swayed.
While it was a great read and an experience I’m glad I had, I don’t know that this one will be something I tackle again personally. Not a book for everyone but definitely a fabulous read.
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Book: The Map of Time
Author: Felix J. Palma
Recommend: Definitely worth the read!
I originally saw this book sitting on the shelves at my local Barnes and Noble. I really wanted to pick it up and read it but there was something else I needed to read and so I decided against it. I subsequently forgot about it until I saw it on the shelves at the library a couple of weeks ago. Immediately I recalled my desire to read it and hastily shoved it in my overflowing book bag. I cannot go to the library, it seems, without filling my bag to the brim and beyond.
This book was not what I was expecting. The jacket gives a hint of the plot at the end of the book, but is rather misleading. I’m not sure the jacket writer actually read the book. The Map of Time begins with a wealthy young man falling in love with one of Jack the Ripper‘s victims and his attempt at suicide. His well-meaning cousin enlists the help of H.G. Wells and they fake an episode of time travel to ‘save’ her, even though he cannot be with her.
H.G. Wells, 1910 (Photo credit: LSE Library)
The basic idea of the book is how one writer’s flight of fancy can have an effect on the real world in simple yet profound ways. I found the book very interesting and was able to make it through rather quickly, even though I am currently fighting off a reading slump. Particularly, the very obvious narrator was written in a refreshing, humorous way that made me laugh out loud a few times.
The only negative I can find with the book were some moments that could have been left to the reader’s imagination that were for some reason described in detail. For me, this is a personal pet peeve since I end up skipping over such material, even though I don’t like missing part of book.
This one is definitely worth picking up, especially if you are a fan of H.G. Wells, time travel or speculative fiction in general. I personally enjoyed it more than the work of Mr. Wells itself. I am very eager to read his next book, which should be out in the near future.
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Book: The Piano
Author: Jane Campion
I picked this one up on the recommendation of a bookseller at my favorite used bookstore, Bookman’s. When she found out that I was a musician she told me that I simply must read this book and then watch the movie. After reading the book, I don’t see any movie viewing in my future.
Since I don’t think this one is fit to be read, here is the basic idea. (Skip this paragraph if you plan to read it!) This book tells the story of a woman with a young daughter who is married off to a man she has never met. She is mute and communicates through sign language and using her notepad but her real method of communication is through her piano. When her new husband refuses to have it brought to the house, it creates a rift that cannot be mended. Then someone offers to take the piano off his hands in exchange for land and payment. Ada is devastated but eventually must go teach him because it is the only way for her to play. However no one expected how things would develop and Baines falls for Ada, eventually convincing her to cheat on her husband. Furious the husband locks her in the house to keep them apart and then when that doesn’t work, tries to end her piano playing forever. He realizes he has gone too far and lets his wife leave him.
While the power of music was portrayed well, the book centers more on the adult themes, not the music. There were many places I skimmed or completely skipped. I have no doubt the movie is far worse. This just wasn’t a book for me and one to stay away from if you are a more conservative reader.
Book: Water for Elephants
Author: Sara Gruen
Recommend: Definitely- a great read…
I had been putting off this read for months, simply because I couldn’t imagine enjoying a book about life in the circus. I am now regretting waiting so long to pick this one up. It was definitely more than I expected and I thoroughly enjoyed the read.
I think my favorite thing about this book is the in depth development of the characters. I also liked hearing the story from both the young and old versions of Jacob.
The only negative I would mention with this book is that sometimes the switch between young Jacob and 90 or 93 year old Jacob come at the strangest moments and it detracts from the story.
Overall, it was a great read and definitely something I can’t wait to revisit.
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Book: Vivaldi’s Virgins
Author: Barbara Quick
Recommend? Maybe if you are into music…
I picked up this book simply because it sounded interesting to me, knowing the history of the composer. It was an engaging read and the characters were well written. I came away though feeling like quite a bit of the story was missing. Some stories are best told in first person, however I don’t think this was one of them. There was a lot more I wish the writer had shared. Also Vivaldi didn’t feel very dynamic in the story. I was expecting him to take a more pivotal role in the story. Some of the most interesting bits were left out, where great moments of action could have occurred.
This is definitely not one that I would pay full price for. I don’t think people who aren’t familiar with the story of the red priest would find this very engaging. Pick it up at your own risk.
Final rating: library
Book : Ragtime
Author: E. L. Doctorow
Recommend? Eh- it was interesting once…
Okay, I picked this one up last summer and am just getting around it because I just haven’t had enough time to read since I started my master’s degree. I picked it because I loved the music from the musical and was curious about it. It definitely satisfied my curiousity.
This was a quick read and since I already knew the story line, it was easy to follow. i thought it was odd that the some of the main characters had no names. It was a unique device.
That being said, the story line was just not very interesting. I also found that he detailed things I didn’t want to know and left out things that I did. I found it a bit dry and uninteresting. I thought that it could have been better if he had developed the story more than he did. I honestly think that the musical did a better job of telling the story than the book did. I also found a few of the scenes just unnecessary.
Good luck getting through this.
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