Tuesday, April 29, 2008

It's a Mall World After All

Title: It's A Mall World After All
Author: Janette Rallison
Genre: Young Adult
Pages:230
Date Finished: 28 Apr 2008
My Rating: 3 Stars

It's a Mall World After All is a witty, fun filled high school romance that actually had me laughing out loud at times.
Charlotte is a good intentioned but accident prone teenager. While working at the mall she sees her best friends boyfriend cheating on her. When Charlotte tells her best friend, she sides with her boyfriend and Charlotte feels a wedge begin to form between them. Charlotte becomes determined to prove she is right and gets herself into several sticky (literally) situations.
I thought this was a delightfully fun and clean teen read. I really enjoyed Charlotte's sarcastic wit and her inner dialog.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Sunday Salon

The Sunday Salon.com
I am about half way through It's a Mall World After All by Janette Rallison right now. I wanted something fun and light to read after finishing the dark and cynical book The Chocolate War. This is fitting the bill perfectly. It is a fun read, a nice teenage fluff read that is actually turning out to have more substance than I expected.

This week I read the Chocolate War, L is for Lawless and The House of Order Handbook.
I hated the Chocolate War by Robert Cormier. I put this book on my reading list after I saw it listed on some classics must read list somewhere. I hardly consider this book a must read or a classic!
L is for Lawless by Sue Grafton is the 12th Kinsey Milhone novel. I started reading this series in early 2006. I read A-D in very quick succession and then slowed down considerably. I enjoy the series, most of the time.
The House of Order Handbook by Marie Calder Ricks is an organizing book that I got through Interlibrary Loan. I am on a bit of a organizing/housekeeping book kick right now but I was not impressed with this one. You can read my thoughts here. I've got another organizing book that I requested through Interlibrary loan waiting to be picked up. Hopefully I will enjoy it more.

I have two books checked out from the library that I should be reading this week. Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary and The Italian by Anne Radcliff. I have at least three Interlibrary Loan requests out right now and I have The Red Leather Dairy and Home on hold.
I anticipate The Italian will take me awhile to read (the print is tiny) but if I do get through it this week than I will start reading I am a Mother by Jane Clayson Johnson.

I went a little crazy with my To Be Read list this week. I think I added 31 books. Here are some of the highlights:
One Fine Day by Mollie Panter-Downes
The Edwardians by Vita Sackville-West
The Perfect Summer by Juliet Nicolson
Victorian Love Stories by Kate Flint
The Widow's War by Sally Gunning
All of the above are titles that I got from the blog A Work In Progress
Some of the other books I added include:
Ladies of Liberty by Cokie Roberts
Holy Secret by James L. Ferrell
The Presidents Lady by Irving Stone (I just visited the Hermitage last month and learned a lot about Andrew Jackson and his wife Rachel. I am really looking forward to reading this novel.)
The Mom's Club Diaries by Allyson Condie and Allyson Braithwaite Condie
Dickens by Peter Ackroyd
Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson

I am going to go do some dishes, put the kids to bed and enjoy a nice evening in a comfy chair reading a good book. :-)

Friday, April 25, 2008

The Chocolate War

Title: The Chocolate War
Author: Robert Cormier
Genre: Young Adult
Pages:263
Date Finished: 25 April 2008
My Rating: 1 Star

I Did not like this book at all. I had to force myself to finish it just because I hate leaving books unfinished. It is a story about a chocolate sale at a private boys prep school. The action revolves around one evil bully, an equally evil and manipulative teacher and their victim. I find it extremely unbelievable that one teenage boy could have as much power as the bully in this story does. The plot was completely ridiculous. I did not care for the theme of the book or most of the action of the book. Much of it was obscene and lacked any good morals what so ever. After reading this cynical and dark story I need to go find something light, fun and easy to read just so I can wash this book out of my brain.
Don't waste your time. Read something better.

L is for Lawless

Title: L is for Lawless
Author: Sue Grafton
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 290
Date Finished:23 April 2008
My Rating: 3 Stars

I think maybe I am feeling a little bit of a Kinsey burnout. I just don't get into these stories as much as I did when I first started reading them.
With L is for Lawless we find Kinsey traveling away from her usual stomping grounds in California to track down answers for a friend of a friend. She is not being paid but she just can't seem to let things go once she gets started. She sets off to find proof that a neighbor's grandfather had served in WWII so the family can give him a military burial but finds herself caught up in a 40 year old bank robbery case that takes her to Texas and Kentucky.
I thought this book took awhile to really take off and was much slower paced than many of the previous books in the series. There were the usual twists and turns that you come to expect from this series but as usual I think it took Kinsey a little too long to put the pieces of the puzzle together. She always gets the clues but is slow putting them together to find the answer.
If you have not read this series you should start with A is for Alibi and work through the series. T is for Trespass was published a few months back. I am hoping I'll get caught up with the series before U comes out.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Rules

Title: Rules
Author: Cynthia Lord
Genre: Juvenile Fiction, Newbery
Pages: 200
Date Finished: 18 April 2008
My Rating: 4 Stars

Newbery Honor book 2007
Catherine's younger brother has autism and Catherine has made a set of rules "so if my someday-he'll-wake-up-a-regular-brother wish doesn't ever come true, at least he'll know how the world works, and I won't have to keep explaining things."
-If the bathroom door is closed knock (especially if Catherine has a friend over)!
-Say "thank you" when someone gives you a present (even if you don't like it).
-Don't stand if front of the TV when other people are watching it.
-A boy can take off his shirt to swim, but not his shorts.
-Chew with you mouth closed
-It's fine to hug Mom, but not the clerk at the video store.
-You can yell at the playground, but not during dinner.
-Flush!
-No toys in the fish tank.

I was amazed at how quickly I read this book. I sat down to read it and before I knew it I was turning the last page. This book was like a breath of fresh air to me. Lord gave us a character that is honest and fresh. I felt like I intimately knew Catherine and understood her feelings, and the actions she made as a result of those feelings. By the end of the book I was wishing I could be 12 again and move in across the street so I could send Morse code messages to Catherine with my flashlight.
Catherine really wishes she could have a normal brother. One she does not have to remind how to act in public and one who she does not have to worry about sabotaging her efforts to make friends with her new neighbor. She wishes she could live in a house where "no one drops toys in the fish tank, no one cares if the cellar door is open or closed, and no one shrieks unless there's a huge, hairy spider crawling up her arm. And they only have regular family rules: No snacks right before supper. Call if you're going to be late. Homework first."
Over the summer Catherine tags along while her mother takes David to his occupational therapy. While she is there she strikes up a friendship with Jason, a boy in a wheel chair who can only communicate through a series of cards with words written on them.
Throughout the story Catherine struggles to find a balance between her autistic brother, her parents who tend to put David first, and her new friendships, one with Jason and the other with the new girl next door.
While autism is a major theme in this book, the story is told through Catherine's eyes not David's. You get a picture of what it is like to have someone in your family with autism not what it is like to actually have autism.
I think the reason I enjoyed this book so much is that Lord made Catherine so accessible, someone you can really identify with.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

House of Order Handbook

Title: House of Order Handbook
Author: Marie Calder Ricks
Genre: Organization, Homemaking
Pages: 215
Date Finished: 23 April 2008
My Rating: 2 Stars

First off, I have to say that this book was absolutely riddled with typos. In fact, someone who had this book checked out before me had started writing in corrections but stopped after the first few chapters. I don't know if they stopped because they stopped reading or because they just got tired of marking all the typos. This was a self-published book but clearly it needed some good editing.
All the typos aside, it is a pretty basic book on housekeeping and organization. I went through this book in a few hours and took about one page of notes on things that I thought would be helpful. Each chapter has a story from a former client of Ricks. I found myself rolling my eyes at many of these stories and decided that maybe I am not as unorganized as I thought. In fact, if these stories are actually true, than I am light years ahead of these women in my organizing skills or at least knowledge. (Even if I don't do these things I at least know I could be doing them.) For example, there is a story about a woman who fed her family cornflakes for dinner because she forgot to take the beef out of the freezer in the morning. She does not have a microwave she could defrost the meat in? And I am thinking her shelves must have been pretty bare if the only alternative to beef she could come up with was cereal. I also could not believe that there are women, mothers even, who need to be told that taking toys and snacks along in the car when running errands with the kids will make said errands easier. Really?? What mother can't figure that out for herself?
For a book published in 2006, much of the information seemed very dated. Who uses the term variety store these days? Ricks suggests taping coins to the bottom of your purse for making calls at a pay phone. I can't even remember the last time I saw a working pay phone.
A few times in the book, Ricks suggests that you set aside 3 hours a day for housework and not to let anything distract or interrupt you. My first thought was does this women have kids? There is no possible way I could go 3 straight hours doing housework without being interrupted or distracted. It is just not practical. Ricks also suggests that you schedule appointments around this 3 hour time frame and if a friend invites you to do something during this time you should tell them no. Basically, pick a 3 hour time frame where you will not leave your house for any reason or let anyone or anything distract or interrupt you. And do this everyday. Seems a little bit extreme to me!
With all that said, the book did have some decent ideas, you just had to work past all the crazy stuff to get to them. In fact, I already use a 3x5 filing system similar to the one Ricks suggest for organizing and tracking my daily, weekly, monthly etc chores.
Some of the other good things I gleaned from this book:
  • The buy back box. When kids leave toys, books etc etc laying around you put them in a box and they have to buy them back by either picking up other things that are laying around or doing some other special chore.
  • Master Key copies in my family binder. I have a family binder with important documents and papers in it but it is nothing like the one Ricks suggests. However, she suggests making copies of your car and house keys and putting them in a business card organizer and then adding it to your family binder. I thought this was a good idea. (Just tape the opening closed so that the keys don't fall out.)
  • Reading Nickels. Your kids can earn nickels for summer reading goals (number of pages or books read etc) and then use the money they earned to buy school supplies at the end of the summer.
Beyond that, she had some decent worksheets that I am sure could be very useful to some people. I don't think I'll be using any of them because I use Excel a lot and already have my own versions of these worksheets or would rather make my own in order to tailor them to my needs.
This is a good book for some good, basic organizing ideas that will help your life run more smoothly if you implement them.
Marie Ricks can be found online at House of Order.

I am the Only Running Footman

Title: I am the Only Running Footman
Author: Martha Grimes
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 206
Date Finished: 17 April 2008
My Rating: A

Richard Jury is my favorite English detective! The eighth in the series, I am the Only Running Footman, is at the top of my favorites in the series. This time around Jury is called in to investigate the murder of a women outside a pub in the Mayfair district of London. Policeman Macalvie is back in this novel, convinced that the London murder is connected to a similar murder in Devon. (This is the second novel with Macalvie and I am wondering if he will pop up again in future stories.) Melrose Plant's role was small in this installment but enjoyable none the less, with a short return to the setting of Long Piddelton and some of the regulars there. I always find it interesting to see how Grimes brings Plant's character into the stories. I adore Sergeant Wiggins and really loved the description Grimes made of him. "Sergeant Wiggins's presence was soothing; he gave witnesses the impression somehow that he was one of them, had come amongst them with his notebook and pen; his economical stares (often not related to the problem at hand); not to mention his roster of maledictions that nudged awake the sleeping hypochondria in everyone; his ability to scale the Metropolitan Police down to the pleasant bobby on the corner. In an old morality play, Wiggins would have been the shepherd come to bear witness. And he always had a spare handkerchief."
This story seemed to take on a slow, plodding pace but it worked well. Everyone was just working together to decipher what little evidence and motive there was in order to draw everything to a close. And of course, only pages from the end, Jury has his Ah-ha! moment and figures everything out. (Well, almost everything.)
I'll admit that at the end I found myself saying "huh?" and re-reading the last few pages. It was not until I was making dinner and running the story back through my head that it all came together for me. Grimes laid all the clues out there perfectly. I was just a little slow putting it all together.
Another good mystery solved!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Falling Behind

I am participating in TV turn off week, which for me means turning off my computer for most of the week. So I am falling a bit behind on commenting on the books I've read.
Here are some books I'll be posting my thoughts on soon:
  • I am the Only Running Footman by Martha Grimes
  • Rules by Cynthia Lord
  • L is for Lawless by Sue Grafton
  • House of Order Handbook by Marie Calder Ricks
I've also got two cookbooks that I will probably write up some thoughts on as well. Killer Pies by Stephanie Anderson and Bake Until Bubbly by Clifford A. Wright.

You'd think that by spending less time on the computer I'd be getting more reading done but I'm spending my time working on little projects that I have been putting off.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Picture Books

We've got some really neat picture books checked out from the library right now.

Hickory Dickory Dock by Keith Baker.
A fun spin on a nursery rhyme. The story starts with the mouse and at each hour a new animal comes along to interact with the mouse. I can't read this book to Red, I have to sing it.










Where's the Big Bad Wolf? by Eileen Christelow
This one is just too much fun! A mystery for the pre-school set.

"Whenever there's trouble on Detective Doggedly's beat, that low-down, no-good, chicken chasing, pig-poaching Big Bad Wolf is always the prime suspect. But when the three little pigs' house is huffed and puffed into a pile of straw and only a sheep named Esmeralda is found at the scene of the crime, Doggedly has a new mystery to solve: Where's the Big Bad Wolf?
With the help of some wise, elderly cows, Doggedly sniffs out the clues. But can he catch the culprit before the three little pigs are gobbled up?"


Eggs Mark the Spot by Mary Jane Auch

"Pauline is a hen with a special talent. She can lay an egg that has an image on its surface of whatever she sees. One day, the director of the Big City Art Gallery invites Pauline and her owner, Mrs. Pennywort, to an exhibit of famous paintings. The director asks Pauline to lay one egg for each of the paintings. Pauline is inspired...and gets carried away. Instead of copying the paintings, she does her own creations. But her talents come in really handy when an art thief tries to steal a Degas painting. Pauline provides clues to the burglary with her egg-laying skills and becomes a heroine in this hilarious companion to The Easter Egg Farm."
Another mystery for the pre-school set. This one is great for introducing some art and artists. It is a cute story.

When Dinosaurs came with Everything by Elise Broach, illustrated by David Small

Red and I absolutely love this one! Friday is Errand day, a day the boy in the story dreads.
Except this Friday is different because instead of getting stickers and balloons every where they go they get dinosaurs. Real, live dinosaurs. The boy is of course delighted, mom-not so much. We seriously love this book. Everything about it, the story and the illustrations. We got this from the library but we'll be buying our own copy very soon!






Austenland

Title: Austenland
Author: Shannon Hale
Genre: Fiction, Chick-Lit
Pages: 196
Date Finished: 14 April 2008
My Rating: 3 Stars

I've had this book on hold at the library since February. (Popular book!) My husband came with me when I went to pick it up. I handed him my stack of books to hold onto and this one caught his attention. He started reading the book jacket and then started laughing out loud, quite loudly. "A book about someone obsessed with Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy? It's perfect for you!" I blushed a little. "I am not obsessed!" I said, grabbing the book from him. "I just know a good thing when I see it." And really, I am not obsessed, I just have a strong affinity for the movie and actor. :-) My husband just does not understand why I watch Pride and Prejudice so often, or more specifically why I watch the "Darcy Edition" as I like to call it. (I skip any scene that does not have Mr. Darcy in it.) He does not understand why I find such humor in saying "no, no. The green one" when he is getting dressed. (In my defense, I have not watched Pride and Prejudice in several months, not even the Darcy Edition. And I don't hide it in my house plants. In fact it is quite prominently displayed in my entertainment unit.) But anyway! I am supposed to be writing about the book here...

Sure, Jane had first read
Pride and Prejudice when she was sixteen, read it a dozen times since, and read all the other Austen novels at least twice, except Northanger Abbey (of course). But it wasn't until the BBC put a face on the story that those gentlemen in tight breeches had stepped out of her reader's imagination and into her nonfiction hopes. Stripped of Austen's funny, insightful, biting narrator, the movie became a pure romance. And Pride and Prejudice was the most stunning, bite-your-hand romance ever, the kind that stared straight into Jane's soul and made her shudder.It was embarrassing. She didn't really want to talk about it. So let's move on. (2)

Jane's great aunt uncovers her secret obsession and leaves Jane a non-refundable trip to Pembrook Park in her will. Pembrook park is a resort done up Regency Style complete with period clothing and social protocols. Women come to find their own Mr. Darcy. There was a bit of an ick factor for me in this part. It kinda reminded me of those reality dating shows on TV. Come to Pembrook Park to fall in fake love and become fake engaged.
The book was a quick and easy read. Chick-lit with a Jane Austen flare. I thought the ending was a bit rushed and I think our hero should have been fleshed out a bit more. Apparently you can read some alternate endings at Shannon Hale's Website. There are also some other goodies worth checking out there. Like Hale's letter to Colin Firth and her letter to Janeites. Hale has a very wry sense of humor and I think I enjoyed reading the items on her website even more than the novel. You can also find an excerpt from the book on the website.
I did enjoy the novel. It was fun reading about someone immersed in the regency era, wondering who was real and who was just acting. I appreciated that Hale did not try to re-write an Austen novel or even try to mimic Austen's style. As I already said, I think Hale has a wry sense of humor and so she really did not need to try to imitate someone else's.
I was left feeling thankful that I was happily married before I saw Pride and Prejudice for the first time! :-)

Beezus and Ramona

Title: Beezus and Ramona
Author: Beverly Cleary
Genre: Juvenile Fiction
Pages: 159
Date Finished: 13 April 2008
My Rating: 5 Stars

I decided to read this on a bit of a whim. Inspired by D.E.A.R day I pulled out some of my old books from when I was a kid. I don't think I have read a Beverly Cleary book since I was in 3rd or 4th grade. I did read her autobiographies when I was in 7th grade for a book report. I always loved Beverly Cleary and I am excited to return to these great children's classics.
9 year old Beezus, who always seems so level-headed, is dealing with the antics of her "creative" 4 year old sister, Ramona. Beezus is trying to work through the fact that she does not always like her little sister. Especially when Ramona does things like write all over the pages of a library book, take one bite out of dozens of apples or bake her doll into Beezus' birthday cake.
I was impressed with how Calm Mrs. Quimby remained through all of Ramona's antics. I guess her character stands out to me more now that I am a mother and not a pesky little sister anymore. (Well, I am still a younger sister, but maybe not so pesky anymore.)

Monday, April 14, 2008

National Library Week

Did you all know that this week is National Library Week? It is time to celebrate libraries and librarians everywhere!
In honor of Library Week I have found some book lists that feature books about libraries and librarians. There is some overlap in the lists and I, of course, have not read all these books myself but thought they were some fun lists.

Librarians as Characters in Fiction

Fiction about Libraries and Librarians

Librarians and Libraries in Fiction

And for the movie lovers:
Librarians in the Movies

So go visit your library this week! :-)

Saturday, April 12, 2008

For The Sake of Elena

Title: For the Sake of Elena
Author: Elizabeth George
Genre: Mystery
Pages:388
Date Finished: 11 April 2008
My Rating: 3 Stars

The 5th Inspector Lynley mystery was a bit to gratuitous for me. I've read the first four novels in the series and so I know Elizabeth George can be a bit graphic, but there was just to much in this novel for my tastes.
The other reason this is not a favorite Elizabeth George is because I did not care for the characters. The more I learned about the victim, the less I liked her. I found her manipulative, two faced attitude annoying. I understand that you are not necessarily supposed to like the victim, but this one just really bugged me more than the victims in previous books. I also thought her mother was just a tad to psychotic and her father was just messed up. For whatever reason, I just could not get into the characters and therefore could not get into the story. The ending left me feeling a bit cheated. I thought the motive for the murder was extremely flimsy and pushed the limits of a good mystery.
Lynley and Havers have fallen into a good partnership in this book. I do kind of miss all of Havers' crazy misjudgments of Lynley and the misunderstandings between them. I really enjoyed it when Lynley had a conversation with Havers in his head because he knew exactly how she would react to what he was thinking. What I enjoy most about this series is what goes on in the lives of the main characters outside of the investigations. (But the investigations are good too!)

Babies and Books





That is my copy of Whose Body? by Dorothy L. Sayers. It could have been worse. This is not the first book that my baby has nibbled on and some of the others actually look worse. I guess it is time to clear off the bottom two shelves of my bookcases. I am already short on shelf space so I have no idea where I'll put them but I need to save them from the baby so they must be moved somewhere.

D.E.A.R


Today is Drop Every Thing And Read Day!
My kind of day! I have noticed that a lot of the local schools had activities and things planed to celebrate D.E.A.R but my kids are not school age so we are celebrating on our own.
So how are we celebrating you ask? Not doing too much different than we normally do. We will spend as much time reading out loud with the kids as we can and maybe make a special visit to the library. No TV. Just books today. I think we will also pop into the bookstore for a while and do some browsing and maybe even buy a book. Maybe I'll even pull out my old Ramona books and read one or two since she is hosting D.E.A.R.
So don't forget to read to your kids today! :-)

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Feathers

Title: Feathers
Author: Jacqueline Woodson
Genre: Juvenile Fiction, Newbery
Pages: 118
Date Finished: 8 April 2008
My Rating: 2 Stars

Newbery Honor Book 2008
Frannie is intrigued by the Emily Dickinson poem that her teacher reads at school.
"Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul"
As she is trying to figure out what this poem means, a new boy shows up in her class that the other kids start calling Jesus Boy. She is also dealing with her mother's latest pregnancy, her brother's deafness, and her best friends increasing religious feelings.

I didn't like this book. The story just did not hook me. For such a short book there was good character development and Woodson writes in a very beautiful prose, but I just did not care for the story. It almost felt like I was reading several issue stories like race relations, religion, family, bullies, and death but none of them really tied together. The book moved along slowly and was a little too preachy for me.
Like The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron, I was left really wondering how much an elementary age child would enjoy this book. I think if I had read this as a child it would have bored me. I am also left wondering how the Newbery Committee picks the books they bestow medals and honors on. I wonder who the winner would be if the kids picked and not the adults.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

A Thousand Splendid Suns

Title: A Thousand Splendid Suns
Author: Khaled Hosseini
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 372
Date Finished: 7 April 2008
My Rating: 3 Stars

This book has been on my To-Be-Read list for awhile and I finally read it for a book group. I am really looking forward to discussing this book with the people in the group.

A Thousand Splendid Suns
chronicles three decades of turmoil leading up to and after the Taliban and gives the reader a terrifying perspective on Afghan life. Mariam, an illegitimate daughter of a successful businessman, is forced as a teenager to marry an older, brutal man, Rasheed. When Mariam fails to bear children, Rasheed takes an even younger wife, Laila, whose liberal, intellectual parents were killed after the Communists took over Kabul.
Born a generation apart and with very different ideas about love and family, Mariam and Laila are two women brought together by war, by loss and by fate. Together they endure the ever escalating dangers around them, in their home as well as in the streets of Kabul.

I have to admit that this was a difficult book for me to read at times. It was very graphic with depictions of violence. It was not so much the depiction of violence that disturbed me as much as it was that I did not want to read about these things happening to these women. It was just hard for me to read about all the horrific abuse they were dealt. There was one incident in particular when I thought Laila's daughter was going to die and I just had to shut the book because I did not want to read that.
Most of the story takes place on one street in Kabul but I felt like I really got a sense of the bigger picture. I admit that all I know about Afghanistan and everything that has happened over there in recent history, I have learned from little snippet on the news. I found reading about the wars, the communists and the Taliban coming to power very interesting. It was all seen through the eyes of two women but through them and their stories, you really get a feel for what was happening to so many during these years of war and upheaval.
At it's heart, I think this story is really a story about relationships, especially those of mothers and daughters, and survival in even the most dismal of circumstances.

Sense and Sensibility

Title: Sense and Sensibility
Author: Jane Austen
Genre: Classics, Jane Austen
Pages:343
Date Finished: 31 March 2008
My Rating: 5 Stars

What can I say about Sense and Sensibility? It is no secret that I love Jane Austen. Sense and Sensibility was the first Jane Austen novel I read way back when I was about 16 and I have read it numerous times since then.
If you have not read the book or at least seen one of the movie adaptations of the book, you might not want to read this post. It will be filled with spoilers if you are not familiar with the story.
I've been reading a lot of, what I consider, weird opinions about Marianne and Willoughby. Apparently there is a group of people out there who think Marianne and Willoughby should have ended up together, that they were perfect for each other etc etc. I scoff at such sentiments!
I decided to read the book this time around with these other opinions in mind to see if there was anyway I was missing something that these people were picking up on.
When I was younger, I loved Marianne. Her storyline was my favorite. I thought she was justified in everything she did, every way she acted and in everything she said. My heart broke right along side hers when Willoughby left. But at the same time, I was very happy to see her end up with Colonel Brandon because I always had a soft spot for the Colonel.
Well, like Marianne, I guess I have matured with time because when I read Sense and Sensibility now I find myself cringing at most of what Marianne says and does. I have also read a lot more about the time period and have a better understanding of what was socially acceptable at the time, which has aided in a better understanding of Marianne's actions, right and wrong. Marianne is young, immature and vastly rude to the people around her. Willoughby brought out the worst of these traits. Yes, Mrs. Jennings and the Middletons might be a bit annoying and trying but the are just trying to be friendly and mean no real harm. It really makes me cringe to read Marianne and Willoughby mock Colonel Brandon. Willoughby is spoiled, rude and as I said, brings out the worst in Marianne. If they had ended up together, I have no doubt that Marianne would have turned into a snob of the utmost kind.
I've heard it said that some people hope Colonel Brandon died after a few years and that Mrs. Willoughby died in childbirth making it possible for Marianne and Willoughby to marry and perhaps even raise the child he had with Eliza. Huh! What are these people thinking?I doubt Willoughby would ever acknowledge or take responsibility for his child with Eliza no matter who he married. And I won't even go into the whole idea of Marianne and Willoughby getting married because the whole idea is just ludicrous!
You know what has always bugged me the most about Sense and Sensibility? When Elinor forgives Willoughby during their conversation at Cleavland. "Elinor assured him that she did;-that she forgave, pitied, wished him well-was even interested in his happiness-and added some gentle counsel as the the behavior most likely to promote it."
Ha! I'd like to hear that counsel she gave him! How about something like, "Stop sleeping around with young girls and leading other ones to believe you love them, when really all you care about is money!"
I think my sentiments align more with those of Mrs. Dashwood's. "Nothing could away the knowledge of what the latter (Marianne) had suffered through his means, nor remove the quilt of his conduct towards Eliza. Nothing could replace him, therefore, in her former esteem..." I still think even she was a little to soft on the guy.
What can I say? I detest Willoughby!
And lest any of you wonder if Marianne really loved Colonel Brandon, I'll leave Jane Austen herself to clear up any questions on that matter. "Marianne could never love by halves; and her whole heart became, in time, as much devoted to her husband, as it had once been to Willoughby."

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Book Stack Tuesday

Here are the books I plan to read or at least start reading this week. It has been a few months since I read a mystery so this should be a fun reading week. The house might be a little worse for it though because I tend to stop everything I am doing when I read a good mystery! :-)

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Hattie Big Sky

Title: Hattie Big Sky
Author: Kirby Larson
Genre: Historical Fiction, Young Adult
Pages:289
Date Finished: 15 March 2008
My Rating: 5 Stars
2007 Newbery Honor Book (and so much better than the winner from 2007!!)

"For most of her life, sixteen-year-old Hattie Brooks has been shuttled from one distant relative to another. Tired of being Hattie Here-and-There, she summons the courage to leave Iowa and move all by herself to Vida, Montana, to prove up on her late uncle's homestead claim.
Under the big sky, Hattie braves hard weather, hard times, a cantankerous cow, and her own hopeless hand at the cookstove on her quest to discover the true meaning of home."

I loved this book! I am so glad I decided to read all the Newbery medal and honor books because otherwise I might never have read this amazing story. I should point out that I have researched a lot and read a lot about WWI and I love reading books about this period of history. So based on that I was probably predisposed to like this book.
Larson said she wanted to write a story about homesteading in the time of Model T's instead of Wagons and based the idea of a 16 year old girl homesteading on her own on her great-grandmother's experiences.
The characters are what made this story. Hattie finds herself surrounded by a whole cast of vivid and individual characters. It is through her associations with these people, the good and the bad that Hattie learns her own strength. I loved the letters and newspaper columns that start out most of the chapters. I thought Hattie's voice was charming and true to the period.
I imagine that some people would not like the ending but I thought it was perfect. I think it was an ending full of hope and anticipation for the future.
Larson even includes some recipes at the end of the book!
My only real complaint is that I felt Larson was trying to push a bit of her own political agenda in the story.

You can read the first chapter of Hattie Big Sky here.

A Walk with Jane Austen

Title: A Walk with Jane Austen
Author: Lori Smith
Genre: Memoir, Jane Austen
Pages: 234
Date Finished:3 April 2008
My Rating: 2 Stars

It can be kinda annoying when you start reading a book thinking it is about one thing, only to discover it is about something else all together. This is especially true when what it turns out to be about is not something you are interested in reading. I thought the book, A Walk with Jane Austen by Lori Smith was about her travels in England, following in the footsteps of Jane Austen. Imagine my disappointment when it turned out to be a book about Lori's Smith search for the perfect Christian husband. It turns out she did not go to England so much to visit the places Jane Austen lived in and wrote about as to find a husband and evaluate her faith in God. Jane Austen really seemed to be an afterthought in this book. The first section of the book is all about a guy she meets in Oxford and falls in madly in love with even though she has only known him a few days. (She then later writes about how characters in Austen's novels fall in love and get married way to quickly.)
Besides being all about finding God and the perfect husband this book was depressing. The England that Smith wrote about is not appealing at all. Nowhere she went was pretty enough or charming enough. It all seemed to take too much effort and so she just didn't do it. "Sydney Place seems luxurious, as does most of Bath to me, but I was too tired to do more than venture into the edge of the park." (164) She never seems really that interested in actually doing anything, except maybe complaining that it is too cold to wear her fashionable or cute clothes. "Derbyshire sounds terribly romantic I think. If only I felt like going anywhere. I'm staying at a pub and it will probably smell." (177)
Smith's writing was not very coherent. I found myself asking who, what or where are we on several occasions. She just starts talking about people and I have to stop and figure out if I am supposed to know who she is talking about. "I met the dashing stranger from the stairs today." (41) What dashing stranger from what stairs? She starts one chapter talking about Exeter, then goes off on something about God for a few paragraphs and all the sudden she is sitting in Bath. Wait! I thought you were on a train going through Exeter? She goes back and forward in time over and over again in a most confusing manner.
By the end I was aggravated and frustrated by all the whining and complaining and a little concerned for this woman's sanity.
I was disappointed in this book and was pretty disappointed about being disappointed because I was really looking forward to this book. I was expecting a charming little book about England and Jane Austen. I found myself reading a rather depressing book about a single girl who wants a husband. And yes, I do get that Jane Austen's books were about women who were trying to get husbands too. Jane Austen managed to write in a much more charming, less depressing and more cohesive manner.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Book Stack Tuesday

Is it really already Tuesday again? I only read one book last week! I am hoping this week will not be so crazy and I'll find more time to read. So I am being ambitious and I am putting down four books for my reading goal this week.

I, somehow, got really lucky and found a copy of A Thousand Splendid Suns at the library. They usually have copies of popular books set aside in the Express Collection, which means you can only check it out for a week and you can't renew it or put holds on these copies. I've been watching and waiting for a copy to come in. I checked the computer before we went to the library and saw that there was one checked in. Yes! I quickly got the kids in the car and we took off. When I got there I did not see it on the shelf. I checked the computer again and sure enough, there were no copies, according to the computer. But then I turned around and sitting right there on the Express Collection shelf was a copy. Woohoo! It gets even better. It is not an express copy! I have it for the normal three weeks. How did that happen? Not sure but I am really glad because the book group at church is reading this book for April and I really want to participate.

I have two reviews to write. I was hoping to get them written up today but did not have time. Hopefully I'll get them done within the next few days.