Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Letters for Emily

Letters for EmilyLetters for Emily by Camron Wright

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

Harry Whitney is an old man. He has part-time help in his home and he looks forward to his weekly visits from his favorite granddaughter named Emily. Harry knows that his time left is short and he's not always thinking straight. So he decides to write a series of letters and poems for Emily to read once he's gone. The poems and letters contain stories of Harry's life and advice for Emily's future.

I have a grandmother with Alzheimer's and I thought this might be a good read for me. But it's really not a book about a character with Alzheimer's, it's more about the relationship between Emily's mom and dad. The elementary way in which their troubled relationship was portrayed had me rolling my eyes by the end of the book. All of the characters are pretty one-dimensional. As for good points: I liked Harry and the flashbacks of his life. And it's a quick, light read. But it's a book that read kind of like a Lifetime movie.

Source: Purchased

Tuesday, February 28, 2012


MockingbirdMockingbird by Kathryn Erskine

On the library stacks: Children's fiction
AR Reading Level: 3.6
Awards: ALA Notable/Best Books; National Book Award
Recommended for: Grades 4+

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Caitlin is a 5th grader with Asperger's. Her mother died from cancer when she was young, and her older brother has just died unexpectedly in a school shooting. Caitlin, her dad and their community need to find a measure of peace, understanding and closure. But in order to do that, Caitlin is going to have to learn to see her world in more than just absolute black and white.

The author was inspired to write this book after the shootings at Virginia Tech. Obviously when I read this book last week I could not have anticipated the events in Chardon, Ohio yesterday. My thoughts and prayers, like yours, are with all the families in that small community. This book explores the pain, sadness and the confusion of those impacted by such tragedies, but also the hope, change and growth that can come by our reactions to such horrifying experiences.

I do think between the cancer, and the Asperger's and the shootings, there were too many issues to deal with in such a short space, but it's a beautifully written book. I agree with the author that events like this affect us all. It's a book I would gladly recommend to all as well.

Also reviewed by: Thoughts of Joy ~ So Many Books, So Little Time ~ I Am A Reader, Not A Writer ~ BermudaOnion's Weblog ~ Becky's Book Reviews ~ The Bluestocking Society ~ Book Nut ~ Your link here?
Source: Purchased

Monday, February 27, 2012

Tuesdays with Morrie

Tuesdays with MorrieTuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom

AR Book Level: 5.5
On the library stacks: Adult Biography
Awards: ABBY Children's Award/Honor Book; Christopher Award

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

For those who aren't familiar with this book (or the movie) this is the story of the last days of one of Mitch Albom's professors, Morrie Schwartz, who passed away from Lou Gehrig disease. Mitch visited Morrie for 13 Tuesdays and recorded the life lessons Morrie taught.

Nothing in the book was really new or earth-shattering, but it's a book that is a good reminder about the important things in life. It's a sweet story and I was surprised at how emotional I got at the ending. I think I liked The Last Lecture better, but this is a quick read and well worth the time.

Here's my favorite quote:
Aging is not just decay, you know. It's growth. It's more than the negative that you're going to die, it's also the positive that you understand that you're going to die, and that you live a better life because of it...if you've found meaning in your life, you don't want to go back. You want to go forward. You want to see more, do more.
Source: BookMooch

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

As You Wish

As You WishAs You Wish by Jackson Pearce

AR Reading Level: 4.7
On the library stacks: YA Fiction
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Poor Viola. Her boyfriend came out of the closet, and now that he's her best friend things just aren't the same. At least when she had a boyfriend, Viola felt like she belonged somewhere, or at least to someone. But now she feels alone and adrift in the world of high school. Her single wish to belong is so powerful that her own personal Jinn shows up to grant her three wishes.

Viola takes her sweet time deciding on her wishes, frustrating Jinn to no end. And of course, when she starts making her wishes, she realizes that they just might not be all that they are cracked up to be.

This is a cute, sweet book that's easily read in an evening. While there is certainly a fantasy element, it's not too overpowering for those leery of the genre. The romantic development in the storyline is particularly fun. I closed the book with a satisfied smile on my face.

Also reviewed by: Book Nut ~ Your link here?
Source: Purchased

Monday, February 20, 2012

Midnight in Austenland

Midnight in AustenlandMidnight in Austenland by Shannon Hale

On the library stacks: Adult fiction
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Straight up, I'll just say that if you read and liked Austenland, you should definitely read this book.

Charlotte Kinder has decided to leave her kids with her ex-husband for a few weeks in the summer while she takes a much-needed break to England. She treats herself to two weeks in Austenland, dressing up and playing her character of Charlotte Cordial. She is attracted to her "Mr. Darcy"-like character named Mr. Mallery, but she's never really sure what's real and what is just acting.

Adding a serious creep factor to her vacation is the dead hand she is quite sure she saw while playing a game of Murder in the house. There are both real and imagined mysteries to be solved during Charlotte's stay and she is quite determined to get to the bottom of them, all while still trying to remember she is supposed to be on vacation.

This book is really good mind candy. The humor didn't exactly work for me, but I was mildly amused. However, I was really taken away with the story and I'm always a sucker for a mystery. It was fun to see a reappearance of a couple of the characters from the previous book. While this is not as good as Austenland, it's still quite fun.

Also reviewed by: Book Nut ~ I Am A Reader, Not a Writer ~ Lesa's Book Critiques ~ Emily's Reading Room ~ Your link here?
Source: Library

Saturday, February 18, 2012

So Big

So Big  So Big by Edna Ferber

AR Reading Level: 5.8
On the library stacks: Adult fiction
Award: Pulitzer Prize (1925)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have wanted to read this book for years. Inexplicably, I was turned off by the title. I never would have guessed that So Big is actually a person! (After reading the book, I still think it's a silly title.)

Selina Peake's father, Simeon, was a gambling man. She and her father traveled from place to place-- sometimes flush with cash, sometimes not. Eventually they settled in Chicago and Simeon made sure Selina went to the best school money could buy. When Simeon dies unexpectedly, Selina decides to take a teaching position in High Prairie, a Dutch farming community just outside the city. She approaches what was to be a short-term position with a sense of adventure. But when Selina marries a poor farmer, High Prairie becomes her everything.

"So Big" is Selina's son, whose name is actually Dirk. Selina works herself to the bone to make sure Dirk can get a good education and get out of High Prairie. He does so, but then he becomes a person that Selina doesn't really like. He eschews the beauty and grace in life that Selina thought she had taught him to see, opting for security among the monied society of Chicago.

This is a beautifully written book. It's one of those books that really gets right into the guts of humanity and what makes people tick. It's about the meaning of success and how our choices can either backfire or how they can spur us on into greatness. The book moved a tad slow for me and it ended in a really odd spot. I would really have liked Ferber to have written a post-Depression update on these characters. But it's a lovely novel, definitely deserving of its Pulitzer Prize.

Also reviewed by: Gerbera Daisy DiariesThe Book Nest
Source: Library

Monday, February 6, 2012

Bel Canto

Bel CantoBel Canto by Ann Patchett

On the library stacks: Adult fiction
Awards: Orange Prize for Fiction (2002), Book Sense Book of the Year Award for Paperback (2003), PEN/Faulkner Award (2002)

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

So one of my goals this year is to either read or get rid of books that have been languishing on my bookshelves for years. I figure that if a book has been on my Goodreads to-read list for over 4 years, it's time to read up or ship out. My mother-in-law recommended this book to me years (and years!) ago. I was really impressed with this author when I read State of Wonder last year, so my expectations were high.

This book is based on the Japanese embassy hostage crisis that took place in Peru on December 17, 1996 and lasted 126 days. I was in college then and I'm afraid to admit, I don't remember anything about it. The book opens right as the opera singer finishes her last aria and the terrorists seize control of the home of the Vice-President. It turns out that these terrorists are a pretty sorry lot of terrorists because they didn't even realize the President was not there, and he was their main target. Eventually they release all but 50-some odd hostages, leaving a group of men and one female--the lovely opera singer.

It's a slow-moving story, with a lot of background information. There really isn't much in the way of action and the author tells the reader how everything is going to end up right from the start. I did appreciate that since I started to feel somewhat benevolent towards the young terrorists. The book is interestingly written and uses both formal and informal tones. The ending seems to generate quite a bit of discussion and I will just say that I thought the epilogue was just...weird. Overall I would say I'm glad I read it, but it's not going to be a favorite.

Also reviewed by: My Friend Amy ~ Bibliophile By the Sea ~ ~ Linus's Blanket ~ It's All About Books
Source: BookMooch