Thursday, October 6, 2011

Wisdom's Kiss

Wisdom's KissWisdom's Kiss by Catherine Gilbert Murdock 

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin 
Publication Date: September 13, 2011
Hardcover: 304 pages
Price: $16.99
Series: Companion to Princess Ben
On the library stacks: YA Fiction 

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I should say up front that I loved the Dairy Queen series and I have not read Princess Ben. However, the author makes it clear that this is a stand-alone book, even though Ben is in this book as the grandmother of Wisdom.

This book is told in a unique format. It includes 8 different points-of-view including diary entries, encyclopedia entries, letters, and a play. It's quite a task to keep up with them all, but I had more trouble with the different places for some reason than the characters. The short entries keep the book moving along at a steady pace, but I think it may have halted real character development too.

Princess Wisdom (Dizzy) longs for adventure outside of her kingdom. When the Duke of a faraway land proposes, she accepts. Fortitude (Trudy) is an orphan girl who lives within a day's journey to the Duke's home. When Dizzy's entourage stops at Trudy's inn, Trudy is asked to be a lady-in-waiting since everyone else in Dizzy's party is sick after eating bad oysters. Trudy is excited to travel once she realizes that her childhood love, Tips, is in town and they can reunite after six years apart.

The only character that I really liked in this story is Trudy. She's plucky and courageous, but has real feelings and emotions. Everyone else is pretty one-sided and I'm still kind of mad that things didn't turn out differently for Trudy. At the end, the author talks about the process of writing this book. While it does sound like she had fun, I'm not sure that all the pieces fit together cohesively enough for the target audience. For me, this is a fairy tale that falls flat. 

Source: e-copy provided by netGalley and Houghton Mifflin for review purposes.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua

On the library stacks: Adult Biography
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was originally scared that reading this book would upset me. But our book club decided we would read it this month so we would really have something to talk about. I read this book in one sitting. It's fast-paced, surprisingly funny and thought-provoking.

Amy Chua is a professor of law at Yale. She and her husband Jed have two daughters named Sophia and Lulu. Amy and Jed decided early on that Amy would raise the children in the Chinese way, and that the kids would be raised Jewish like Jed.

Amy explains the differences between the Chinese mother and the Western mother. Yes, she forced her kids to do hours of piano and violin practice. They had to be #1 in most of their classes at school. But she has good reasons for this. Amy believes that self-esteem for kids comes by making them do hard things. They will feel good about themselves after their dedication pays off and they accomplish something difficult. And Amy stands by her kids every step of the way--through every practice session and rehearsal, driving them wherever they need to be, and all while holding down a full-time job. I honestly don't know when this woman sleeps.

While I question some of Amy's methods, I think her principles are quite valid. However, the one weakness in this book for me is that it doesn't really have an ending. She began writing the book when Lulu rebels, trying to make sense of it all. And really, how Lulu turns out and the backlash from her mother's strict parenting is still to be determined. Still, there is much to think about here and I can't wait to discuss it.

Check out: Amy's website & Sophia's New York Post article in defense of her mother

Also reviewed by: Planet Books ~ In the Pages... ~ BestBooks ~ Bloggin' 'bout Books ~ Your link here?
Source: Library

Monday, October 3, 2011

Scrambled Eggs at Midnight

Scrambled Eggs at MidnightScrambled Eggs at Midnight by Brad Barkley & Heather Hepler

AR Reading Level: 5.4
On the library stacks: YA Fiction
Recommended for: Grades 8+

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Calliope is a 15-year old who spends much of her life traveling with her mom from one Renaissance Faire to the next. Her mom is a wench (says so on her W-2!) and she also sells funky jewelry at the faires. Cal is used to moving from one town to another, often following men her mom has taken fancy to. Cal puts up with all the uncertainty, often living in tents.

Eliot is the son of an evangelist/fat camp director living in Asheville, North Carolina. He secretly (and illegally) makes fireworks. He spends much of his time disgusted with his dad making money selling God. He and his mother wish they could go back to their simpler life in Carolina Beach.

And, of course, Cal and Eliot meet and their lives change forever. I loved the scene where Cal and Eliot meet in the bookstore. Cal says she hears percussion instruments strike up in her head. As Eliot goes to leave she says:
The band keeps rocking in my head, but as I listen I realize that there is something else there, real soft underneath the crashing. I can't quite identify it, but it's there--a sustained note. It's something quiet and peaceful, and all I can do is smile and lift my hand because my brain is too busy throwing a party in my head to think of anything clever to say.
This is a delightfully quirky teen love story. I love that it is set in my home state, and I could definitely feel the influence of the Carolina Renaissance Festival & Artisan Marketplace that our family attended last year in Huntersville. I actually don't like the title and I don't like the cover art. But I love the format with alternating chapters where we get to hear Cal's and Eliot's voices.

Also reviewed by: The Book Nest ~ Tiny Little Reading Room ~ Not Enough Bookshelves ~ Your link here?
Source: Purchased

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Under the Tuscan Sun

Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes

On the library stacks: Adult Non-fiction
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I remember watching this movie years ago and enjoying it. I traveled to Tuscany as a teenager and I felt the cinematography brilliantly captured the essence of the beautiful landscape. The book, however, is very different from the movie--in large part, because there really is no plot to the book.

In 1988, Frances Mayes was a divorced professor, living in the Bay Area. In 1989, she and her partner Ed, decided to purchase a 250-year old farmhouse named Bramasole in Cortona, Italy. The book is really a somewhat random collection of her thoughts as they go through the decision to buy the home, perform the much-needed restoration, transform the land, play tourists, and host dinner parties. Some chapters contain recipes, in some we follow her footsteps as she explores a nearby town, and in others she explains the the difficulties inherent in such a huge undertaking.

For me, the book moved really slowly. It's the sort of book you can put down and pick up at any time. Mayes does a nice job describing the land, the food, the weather and the house. But because the book is a compilation of sorts, some things got repeated and the word "Etruscan" was overused. I really wanted to connect more with Frances, Ed, and her daughter Ashley, but I felt like there was a wall put up between us and she wouldn't let me in. Perhaps travel/home remodeling memoirs are just not for me.

Also reviewed by: Silly Little MischiefBermudaonion's Weblog ~ Book Nut ~ Your link here?
Source: BookMooch