Sunday, December 28, 2008

Patty Jane's House of Curls by Lorna Landvik

Yes, this is my vacation and the way I unwind is to speed read. So, at the start of vacation I made a stack of books I hadn't got to - and I'm working down through the stack.

Lorna Landvik is another of my favorite authors - a good mid-western voice - lots of quirky characters, some heart ache, some tears both of joy and sorrow and a happy rather expected ending. Just what I need on a cold Sunday afternoon! Patty Jane didn't disappoint.

Patty Jane and her sister Harriet are the children of alcoholics - the connections between them deeper than some sisters due to this shared burden. Patty Jane falls deeply and soundly in love with Thor - gets pregnant immediately after their marriage and then Thor promptly disappears a few days before his daughter's birth. Meanwhile Harriet is swept off her tall and shapely legs by little portly Avel. Their love is deep and passionate. Avel, an older rich man leaves on a business trip in the months before their wedding and dies in a plane crash. Sound like a love story?? Or just a tale to compare your life to and come out on the winning side?

The book goes on from there. That's one of my favorite parts of Landvik's writing. Many books end as the heroine is left alone and empty -yet somehow triumphant. Landvik's story, like life, continues.

Patty Jane, Ione (Thor's mom), Nora (the daughter) and Harriet create a life for themselves in the beauty parlor attached to their house - the House of Curls. But, it's more than only a beauty parlor, they begin to offer classes on everything from the NASDAQ to art appreciation. And the women of the town respond.

Then Landvik really offers a punch - a mysterious stranger, a long lost and completely changed love and a nasty cancer death.

Again, the story continues...

Anyway, I loved it in the same way I love my ratty old sweatshirt and warm fuzzy socks. It warmed me up both on the inside and the outside - and yes I shed a couple of tears... :)

Saturday, December 27, 2008

City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau

This is one of those fast and furious young adult books. It's a bit predictable, but still fun.

The premise is a city that was set up underground due to some upcoming catastrophe on the topside. The city has been happily churning along for 200 years - and now things are running out and being used up and falling apart.

When the Builders created the city they left escape instructions for the mayor of the city to be passed down from generation to generation - unfortunately, that didn't quite happen. Now noone in the city is aware there was a before, an above ground, another way of life.

Enter two kids - 12 year olds just graduating from school. On their final day of school each school child draws a job which they will do for the next 3 years. These important jobs keep the city running. Lina is made messenger and Doon begins his work with the pipeworks.

Lina loves running but dreams of another city - one of light and color and tall buildings. Doon has a sense that he is supposed to do something important to help the city - which he sees falling apart in front of his eyes. Then Lina discovers a secret - the secret of escaping Ember. No one will believe her or Doon when he discovers the Mayor is stealing from the underground stores. The two are labeled as problems.

Together they take off to try to find the way out.

From the pictures included in this movie edition of the book - Hollywood has done it again. The story thousands will see on the screen is not the same as the one I read on the pages of the book. Are we surprised???

I would recommend this to any kiddo or adult ready for a quick and easy adventure.

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

This is the first novel I've had to read for my library science classes! It made me feel like a real librarian! :) Our assignment was to read a book on a banned list. I've never read this one - so here was my opportunity. I read East of Eden several years ago and remember feeling the same way when I got to the that really what life is like? How depressing...

Lenny and George are ranchmen in California - working the land and moving from place to place. That is an oddity - two men traveling along together -George looking after Lennie. But, Lennie needs it, he is incredibly strong and not incredibly smart. He reacts to fear by squeezing - mice, dogs, women. The results are not good.

George keeps weaving this word picture of the perfect little ranch to Lennie - a nice little place with their own animals and Lennie can raise rabbits. George describes it to Lennie like a parent would tell the same bedtime story over and over. The comfort is in the repetition, and Lennie responds.

Their dream begins to spill over to Candy, an old swamper at the current ranch. Candy has the money that they need to get their dream started. But...

Lennie gets scared, makes a mistake, it wasn't really is fault, but he is the culprit. Now, George has a decision to make. At what point is Lennie more of a liability than a responsibility? And, what do you do? George must decide.

So, this book lines up a row of misfits who have created a 'family' of sorts. Each knows they are not of the norm - except Lennie. The fragile strings that tie him to George break on one warm Sunday afternoon. George's solution to the problem leaves me sad and a little empty. Is that really our life?

So -why would this book be on the banned list? Hmmm...interesting quesition...

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Alcatraz versus the Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson

Alright -I admit this title was just too odd to overlook. When I saw it in the book order - I had to scarf it up! Evil librarians??? It's something I had to know more about - since I am trying to become a librarian and all. And what I found out made me, not really.

This is an odd book about an odd boy and his odd family and their odd war against the librarians who control all the knowledge of the world and dish it out slowly to the Hushlanders of the known world. This knowledge keeps them docile and content to fill their head with empty garbage instead of seeking out the truth of the Free Kingdoms, of which Alcatraz and his family are a part.

Sound odd enough?

This was a really fun book to read. There are all sorts of interesting quotes and comments focused at the Hushlanders and their inability to discern what the truth is even when it is right in front of them. And the librarians who control them by controlling the knowledge are the all powerful rulers.

It is just the reverse of the Noah Wylie movies about the Librarian. There he is the keeper of knowledge for good. Here they are the keeper of knowledge for evil.

So, what does that really say about librarians? Is the world a little in awe of the knowledge they are privy to? Maybe that is why they 'hide in the stacks' and make everyone keep quiet. The knowledge is just too much to deal with...hmmm.

Interesting thoughts on a odd little book...

Oh yeah - and today truly marks the beginning of vacation -this is the third book I finished today... YIPPEE!!!

The Killer's Wife by Bill Floyd

This is a fast and involved book. I read it this morning...ok -I'll admit I did skim some of it. :)
The basic premise is Nina Mosely, the ex-wife of a convicted serial killer is found out by one of the victim's fathers'. As she reels with the way her new world has crashed down she is most concerned with her 7-year-old son's perspective. He thought that his father was convicted of robbery and killed in prison. Unfortunately, that was not quite the case.

This crazed father believes that Nina somehow was involved in the murders and just covered up for her husband. So the book jumps back and forth through time -from the beginning of their relationship to the birth of their son and the moment of the discovery of his horrible crimes.

The story becomes more intense when one of his 'victims' turns up to carry on the job that Randy Mosely didn't finish.

This is a quick and intense book. It answered some of the continuing quesitons - how can the family not know...and how can you deal with the guilt of not knowing...
But, it didn't answer why she was spared. He had started killing before he met her - but she lived why??

That is part of the guilt she has to carry.

I'd recommend this as escapism.. in a creepy sort of way!

The History of Love by Nicole Krauss

I'm not sure about this book... I read it really slowly - due to class assignments and the Twilight books, they were a little more compelling. So, it's hard to give a very good read on this book.

This is one of those quiet stories - a bit depressing - about how life is not what you thought it was going to be. Four main characters slowly spin the story of their lives as they come closer and closer to crossing paths. And all of it is tied to the book The History of Love.

There is Alma, the young girl, pining after her died father, her mother who is translating the book from Spanish to English for an unknown man, the brother, Bird, who believes he is some type of Jewish hero and Leo Gursky, the original author of the book.

Each of these people's gripe on reality is tinged with the loss of the love of their lives. A loss from which they really can not recover - instead they are all sleep walking through their lives. It is especially awful for the children.

So, you see this is not the griping book that I needed to read right now - instead I would read a little, put it down and promptly forget.

I always like books that follow separate threads and use different storytellers perspectives, so I think this would be one that I could have really liked at a different time....

Monday, December 1, 2008

Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls

image from LibraryThing
This has to be one of my all time favorite books. I just finished reading it out loud to my 4th graders. I have probably read it 15+ times and I never get tired of it!

What a great story!

It has something for everyone - silly dog stories, the action of the hunt, the nasty Pritchard boys and the simple life of a country boy in the hills of the Ozark Mountains.

I get choked up every time I read it. But, it's interesting that different things hit me now. I identify so much more with the Mother - she is always worried and jumping to conclusions about how dangerous everything is. Well, as my daughters have grown - I understand that more and more.

Anyway - I would recommend this to anyone who needs a heartwarming read about the innocent love between a boy and his dogs!!