Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is one of my definite favorites this year. It is an intense page-turner that will keep you glued to your seat. I would have read it in one sitting, but I was on a road trip and it was my turn to drive! 

The Hunger Games is a dystopian novel set in Panem, what used to be North America. The Panem government demonstrates its absolute power and authority every year when two young adults, aged 12 to 18, are chosen from each of the 12 districts to compete to the death on national television.

I'm only setting the stage because I don't want to give anything away. But, the Panem society has enormous parallels to our own reality-television image-fixated culture. I know I'll be mulling this book over in my head for a long time. Its themes of survival while overcoming obstacles and oppression and learning to love and trust under the most trying circumstances are perfectly blended.

This book is at times uncomfortably raw, but for me that's what makes it so great. This is the first book in a projected trilogy and I will be in line to get the next one as soon as it hits the shelves. Highly recommended.

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Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart

rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

I thought this book was great. The story was clever, funny, and surprisingly real. Frankie attends an exclusive prep school, hobnobbing with elite New England society. But, she stands slightly outside the central circle--she has not quite enough money and a different religious background than the rest of her peers. As a freshman, Frankie was in love with Matthew Livingston and he acted like he didn't know her. But, this year he notices her right away. Quickly she realizes that Matthew and his amazing friends belong to a secret all-male society, the same society her dad spoke so highly of when he attended the school. But, Frankie is not a rule follower, and she doesn't understand why she can't be fully included in all of Matthew's life, including his secret club.

Having attended a boarding school myself, I could totally relate with Frankie. When I was in high school, I found very similar social dynamics existed to Frankie--where you can sit at meals, what misdeeds you can get away with, and who calls the shots based on parental prestige and power are all part of boarding school life (and to a large extent probably high school as well). Frankie doesn't see why it has to be that way, and she sets out to buck the system.

This book is not only great fun, but the writing is sharp and witty, with some great play on words. My only gripes are that I didn't totally love the third person narrative and I was left a little concerned about Frankie's mental health at the end of it all. But, the book was refreshingly clean for YA, which I really appreciated. Recommended!

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Orbis Terrarum Finished!

Just in the nick of time, I finished my 9 books by 9 different authors from 9 different countries.  
Here's my list:

  1. The Book Thief - Australia
  2. The Miracle at Speedy Motors - Scotland/Zimbabwe
  3. The Other Boleyn Girl - England/Kenya
  4. Unaccustomed Earth - United States/England
  5. A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian - Germany/Ukraine/England
  6. Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress - China/France
  7. Persepolis 2 - Iran/France
  8. How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents - Dominican Republic/United States
  9. P.S., I Love You - Ireland
Thank you Bethany for hosting.  I look forward to next year (and starting a little earlier this time!).

1.) What did you like about the challenge?  I liked that it forced me to live a little outside my bubble.  It also got me to read books I've had on my list for a long time.
2.) What would you like to see change for next year? Something has to change?
3.) About the rules, or the non-existent rules...did you like that? Loved the non-existent rules.  Makes them so much easier to follow.  :)
4.) Are you going to join us next year? Yep!
5.) Pretty please give me any suggestions for changes, the betterment of the challenge, or just anything that you would like to see changed for next year.  Really bethany, it was great!
6.) Would you like the challenge to be more involved? What if we read books together sometimes? Would that interest you?  I would be interested in a group read.  Maybe not every book, but if people wanted to join in a group read from time to time, it might be fun.  
7.) would you be interested in helping somehow next year? How would you like to help?  I would be happy to help.  Maybe with prizes?

P.S. I Love You

PS, I Love You PS, I Love You by Cecelia Ahern

rating: 2 of 5 stars

I saw this movie, and cried my eyes all the way through it. I don't know what possessed me to want to read the novel, but my curiosity got the better of me. (That, and it was a really good copy on the cheap at Goodwill.)

Anyway, I really liked the movie, and I thought the book was just OK. The book was really different from the movie, so perhaps that is part of my discontent. But, I also felt that the writing was at times long-winded and amateur (Ahern was only 21 when she wrote the novel).

P.S. I Love You is the story of Holly Kennedy, whose husband dies from a brain tumor right around her 30th birthday. He leaves her a series of 10 notes that become her guide through life for the months following his death. Holly relies on family and friends to encourage her as she goes through her grieving process, but she also becomes more sensitive to the sufferings of others. In the end, it is a story about learning to work through life's tough times and remembering to cherish the time we have here.

I would certainly be interested to see what someone who read the book first thought, versus the other way around like me. Overall, I found there were some very touching and poignant moments in the book, but I was left feeling vaguely unsatisfied with Holly's journey.

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Tuesday, December 9, 2008


Rules (Newbery Honor Book) Rules by Cynthia Lord

rating: 4 of 5 stars

Twelve-year old Catherine is like most girls her age. She wants to make friends and she cares about what others think of her. Mostly, she wants to be "normal".

But Catherine feels like she has it harder than others because her younger brother has autism and it embarrasses her. So, she has a sketchbook where she writes down all the rules that she thinks he should know. For instance, "It's okay to hug Mom but not the clerk at the video store" and "No toys in the fish tank" (hence, the cover). In the course of the book, Catherine makes friends with a paraplegic which sets her on a road to discovering what "normal" really means.

I found this Newbery Honor book to be incredibly refreshing and a joy to read. It is a great book for anyone who wants to understand more about living with and befriending those with disabilities. I think it would be a great book to read aloud (it's funny and heartbreaking) and discuss with kids. Appropriate from about 4th grade on up.

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Monday, December 8, 2008

A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol and Other Christmas Writings (Penguin Classics) A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is one of those books that I'm a little ashamed to say that I haven't read before. But, my online book group is reading it this month and now I am SO GLAD I can say that I have read it.

I know I don't really need to give any kind of a plot synopsis. But, I can see where I would have been turned off by reading it in my younger years. Dickens does occasionally go off on wordy tangents, which for a book that is only 100 pages seems somewhat unnecessary. But, it was a lovely enjoyable read which put me right into the Christmas spirit.

One of my favorite quotes from the book is when Marley is lamenting the mistakes that he made in life. He says:
Not to know that any Christian spirit working kindly in its little sphere, whatever it may be, will find its mortal life too short for its vast means of usefulness. Not to know that no space of regret can make amends for one life's opportunity misused! Yet such was I! Oh, such was I!
I should mention that the Muppet Christmas Carol is my favorite Christmas movie and I watch it at least once a year. I was surprised at how true the movie stayed to the book. You know that Jim Henson must have been so grateful he could turn Fezziwig into Fozziwig. I mean, how perfect is that?

Economist Best Books of 2008

Check out the list here.

Sunday, December 7, 2008


Fairest Fairest by Gail Carson Levine

rating: 4 of 5 stars

I went into this book knowing very little about it, and for that I was glad, because I had no preconceptions about how the story SHOULD go. I just thoroughly enjoyed it for what it is. (So you hopefully won't find any spoilers in my review!)

Fairest is the story of Maid Aza, the adopted daughter of innkeepers. Circumstances force her to attend the royal wedding, to her extreme mortification because she is widely regarded as ogre-ishly ugly and she feels extremely self-conscious. But with her good heart and a beautiful singing voice, she attracts the attention of the court.

The romance was simple and sweet. But the message about the true nature of beauty carries the day. This is my in person book club's choice for this month, and I also think it would make a great mother-daughter read. I would recommend this award-winning book for girls of all ages starting at about 4th grade on up.

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Saturday, December 6, 2008

Charity Girl

Charity Girl by Georgette Heyer
Originally published:  1970
Published by Sourcebooks Casablanca:  September 1, 2008

rating: 3 of 5 stars

Viscount Desford is an unmarried gentleman who finds Charity Steane running away from her aunt's household on the way to London. Rescuing her puts Desford in a social pickle and he turns to his best friend, Lady Hetta Silverdale, for help. Bound by honor, Desford goes on a search to find Charity's missing grandfather.

I liked Charity Girl, but it was missing something I found more readily in Regency Buck. Perhaps it was that little element of intrigue that kept me turning pages in Regency Buck. Interestingly, Charity Girl was written about 35 years after Regency Buck, and I definitely noticed a difference in her writing style.  I found Charity Girl a tad heavy on the Regency period slang and wished I had a dictionary nearby on a few occasions!

Overall, Charity Girl was a nice easy romance. I will continue searching out Georgette Heyer books for my future romance literature fix. She is one of my favorite authors that I discovered in 2008!

Thanks again to Danielle at Sourcebooks for the chance to review this book.  

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Guest Post: The Mysterious Receding Seas

When I saw this book come up for review, I knew it was the kind of thing my mom would be interested in. So, here's her take on the book:

Tricia knows that I am interested in various non-fiction theories about the earth. I was excited to read it because it addressed a topic that I had never thought about before.

Guy puts forth his ideas about the seas receding. Basically, ever since Noah and his Ark, the seas have been going down. The explanation for cities like Machu Picchu in the tops of the mountains makes much more sense if you believe that most of the earth was anciently covered with water.

I did not think that this book was very well-written. For me, it lacked the data that I felt essential for this kind of project. I found it quite repetitive from chapter to chapter retelling some of the same observations numerous times. Guy's theory still intrigues me, and I even think that it is plausible. This book needs editing and more scientific evidence to entice me to recommend it to someone else however.