Thursday, December 27, 2007
The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks is a sappy love story best described as book candy. It's sugary and sweet but doesn't really offer any real content. The book offers a sweet love story told by an aging man in a retirement home. The frame story is a little sappy and lame, but I mostly enjoyed the love story that he told. This book is fun, but definitely not life changing or awe inspiring. Read this book if you like sappy love stories, if you saw the film, or if you just want something quick and easy to read. I give it a 6 out of 10.
Thursday, December 20, 2007
The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman is the third and final book in His Dark Materials trilogy. It's also the longest book in the trilogy. The book brings the story of Lyra and Will to a somewhat disappointing and heartbreaking conclusion. Disappointing because you don't learn everything you want to learn and heartbreaking because what you want to happen doesn't happen. The book starts slow with so many story lines and characters to follow but wraps up all together too quickly when all the stories and characters collide. Read this book if you read the first two, if you like sci-fi/fantasy, or if you're interested in books about philosophical questions. I give it an 8.5 out of 10.
Friday, November 23, 2007
The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman is the second book in His Dark Materials trilogy. In this book, the characters can move between worlds including the world that we, the readers, live in. A great battle is about to be waged, and Lyra's journey has taken a turn. She has met Will Parry, a boy from our world, and together they must travel towards their destiny that could quite possibly be linked beyond their understanding. Read this book if you read the first, if you enjoy mystery and intrigue, or if you like to read a book that you can't put down. I give it a 9 out of 10.
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman is the first book in Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy. The story takes place in a world very similar to ours but also very different. Lyra, a young girl growing up at Oxford under the care of scholars, is taken onto a strange and curious adventure when she must leave Oxford in the care of a beautiful, mysterious woman. Her adventure will take her far north to a land of fighting bears, clans of witches, and scientific experiments. Lyra doesn't know it yet, but her destiny is somehow wrapped up in her journey to the north, but she must discover that destiny by herself. The fast-paced action creates a story that you can't put down because you really, really want to know what's next...in fact, I already have the next book to pick up and read. Read this book if you love fantasty, if you're looking forward to the film and want to read the book first, or if you've heard the controversy but want to learn the facts straight from the source. I give it an 8.5 out of 10.
Saturday, November 17, 2007
When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka is a beautiful story of a Japanese family deeply impacted by the Pearl Harbor bombing during World War II. Written from the perspective of the different members of the family, the book describes their life being placed into an Internment Camp. It remembers a time in our country's history that is often dismissed or brushed over. What makes the book so beautiful is it's poetic language. The sentences are short and sweet, but all together they create a story that will touch any reader. Read this book if you want to learn more about this time in our country's history, if you're interested in family stories, or if you like books that can say so much with so few words. I give it a 9 out of 10.
Saturday, November 3, 2007
I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak is the story of Ed Kennedy, a twenty year old Australian who lives out his days driving a cab, hanging out with his stinky dog, and playing cards with his three best friends. His life suddenly changes when he stops a bank robber and begins to receive mysterious messages in the mail that require him to deliver his own messages to anonymous individuals. Ed's role as the messenger takes his life in an odd and inspiring direction. The message, ultimately, is the book. You have to read it to find out what that message is. Read this book if you like mysteries, if you are interested in the idea of random acts of kindness, or if you like to read young adult fiction. I give it a 9 out of 10.
Saturday, October 27, 2007
Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri is a book of short stories about various Indian people. The connecting thread between each story seems to be an element of love. Some are searching for love, some are adjusting to a new love, some are discovering a loss of love. Each story gets to the heart of its characters. Lahiri knows how to develop stories that pull at heartstrings and make the reader mourn for the characters. All of the stories, except one, resonate with a deep sadness that can begin to feel overwhelming. The last story, however, saves the reader from sorrow by offering hope and happiness. Read this book if you liked Lahiri's novel The Namesake, if you enjoy short stories, or if you are looking for a quick read with deep meaning. I give it a 9 out of 10.
Sunday, October 21, 2007
The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards is the story of a family struggling against a secret that has changed their lives significantly. When the young couple drove to the clinic on a snowy night to deliver their child, they never imagined that they would be blessed with twins. However, the father recognizes that the baby girl has down syndrome, and, wanting to spare his wife from unnecessary pain, asks the nurse to take the baby to an institution. He then tells his wife that the baby girl was born dead. The nurse, however, decides to leave town and raise the baby as her own. The novel follows the lives of all the individuals involved as they struggle with this event. The book lapses over two decades to describe what happens to people when secrets are told and kept. Read this book if you like love stories, if you're interested in family dramas, or if you enjoy best sellers. I give it an 8 out of 10.
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Specials by Scott Westefeld is the third book in the Uglies series. The book follows the life of Tally Youngblood after she receives a surgery to become a Special citizen. Once again, Tally's world is turned upside down after she learns something about the surgery and the world she lives in. The book nicely ends what was supposed to be a trilogy, but Westerfeld has decided to continue the series with a next book called Extras. Read this book if you're wondering what happens next in the series, if you love dystopian novels, or if you want to read a subtle commentary on war. I give it an 8.5 out of 10.
For a review of the previous book, Pretties, click here.
For a review of the previous book, Pretties, click here.
Saturday, September 29, 2007
Eldest by Christopher Paolini is the second book in the Inheritance Trilogy. The first book, Eragon tells of a boy who finds a mysterious rock. Later the rock hatches into a dragon and Eragon and his dragon, Saphira, must journey to new lands in order to save their empire from the terrible and corrupt king, Galbatorix. The second book follows his adventures across the lands. In this book he heads to the land of the elves in order to train to become the ultimate Rider. The book ends in a fierce battle that will definitely be picked up in the third book (when it is actually published). What I enjoyed about this book was that the first book was written when the author was fifteen. The second book definitely shows his maturity as a writer. Also, the book switches back and forth between Eragon's story and the story of his cousin, Roran. This makes for good reading when you have a short amount of time to read a day. Read this book if you love fantasy, if you read Eragon and want to find out what happens next, or if you saw the (completely horrible) film based on the first book and want to see a much, much better version. I give it an 8.5 out of 10.
Saturday, September 1, 2007
The Attack by Yasmina Khadra is the story of a Muslim doctor who lives in Israel. As a prominent member of society, Dr. Jaafari has cast aside his Muslim background in order to be accepted by the Jewish community. His wife, as well, has assimilated to the culture and enjoys the rich life that the doctor has established. When his wife dies in a suicide bombing, however, Dr. Jaafari begins to search for answers. There is a possibility that his wife was not merely a victim, but was indeed the suicide bomber herself. At first, I thought this book would be predictable, but the ending really surprised me. Read this book if you're interested in world affairs, if you question the pointless struggle between religions, or if you enjoy a good mystery. I give it an 8 out of 10.
Saturday, August 18, 2007
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath is a mostly autobiographical novel. Esther, the main character, is a young woman who finds herself sinking into a deep depression after returning home from an internship in New York. After a suicide attempt, Esther enters an asylum where she must figure out what she wants from life. Knowing Sylvia Plath's history, it is easy to understand why this book is autobiographical. Names have been changed, but events and feelings have not. Esther's despair feels real and raw. Read this book if you love Plath's poetry, if you like The Catcher in the Rye but want to read about a female character with the same tone, or if you are interested in stories about mental illness. I give it an 8.5 out of 10.
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut is a self-proclaimed "anti-war" novel about a man named Billy Pilgrim who was a Prisoner of War in Dresden during WWII. The book mixes real history with science fiction. Vonnegut himself was a POW in WWII during the bombing of Dresden. What makes this book a science fiction novel is the fact that Billy Pilgrim is "unstuck in time" which means that he often finds himself traveling through time to other parts of his life. Also, Billy Pilgrim is abducted by aliens and kept in a zoo on their planet. During his time on the alien planet, he learns about their views on time and war. The novel, written during the Vietnam War, really captures the absurdity of war while also making statements about how humans choose to live their lives. Read this book if you like science fiction, if you like anti-war novels, or if you are interested in some WWII history, particularly the bombing of Dresden. I give it a 7.5 out of 10.
Saturday, August 11, 2007
The Children's Story by James Clavell is a very short story about an incident in a classroom. It is revealed that the students are being re-educated by some unknown foreign power that has invaded America. The book raises questions about our current school situation and what can happen when young minds are introduced to new ideas. Read this book if you like stories of dystopia, if you have a spare ten minutes, or if you question how students are learning. I give it a 7 out of 10.
Friday, August 10, 2007
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides is the story of Callie, a young girl who comes from a Greek family. At the age of fourteen, Callie becomes Cal after a doctor reveals that she was actually born a male. Cal narrates the entire book as he traces his life which begins, not at his birth, but at the beginning of his grandparents' romance. This family history is captivating because of the secrets and lies that one family can possess. Cal's struggle with his identity is rooted in these secrets and lies. Read this book if you love sweeping family histories, if you're interested in some Turkish/Greek history, or if you can't get enough drama from the soap operas. I give it an 8 out of 10.
Sunday, August 5, 2007
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling is the seventh, and final, book in the fantastical Harry Potter series. Rowling attempts to tie up all the strings that she has left hanging in previous books. The book is long and at times I felt like it was dragging on simply to make the book longer than the previous one. However, fans of Harry Potter will not be disappointed with Rowling's conclusion to the much-loved series. I don't want to ruin it for anyone, so I'll leave it at that. Read this book if you're a fan of Harry Potter, if you love fantasy, or if you simply want to see what all the hype is about. I give it a 9.5 out of 10.
Wednesday, August 1, 2007
The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros is a collection of vignettes told from the perspective of Esperanza, a young girl growing up in the Latino section of Chicago. The short, poetic pieces offer a colorful collection of characters and events. The writing may be hard for some to understand at first, but the language is so beautiful, many of the vignettes could be read as poems. While the stories seem to be disconnected, by the end of the book you have a portrait of Esperanza's life which is ultimately framed by her longing to leave Mango Street, because she knows that she does not belong there. Read this book if you love the beauty of poetic prose, if you are interested in social issues (including poverty and prejudice), or if you are a woman wanting to remember what it was like to be a young girl trying to become something. I give it a 9 out of 10.
Tuesday, July 31, 2007
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini is the amazing story of two women living in Afghanistan. The book spans thirty years and takes you through the actual history of Afghanistan. From the Soviet invasion through the American overthrow of the Taliban, these two women, who are so different, find themselves together in a unique relationship. This is Hosseini's second novel. His first novel, The Kite Runner, was also amazing, but this one served as a beautiful, hopeful follow-up that really touched my heart. Read this book if you want to learn a lot about Afghanistan, if you love reading about human nature, or if you simply love the beauty of language. I give it a 10 out of 10.
Sunday, July 29, 2007
Pretties by Scott Westerfeld is the second book in the Uglies trilogy. In a world where everyone goes under the knife on their sixteenth birthday in order to be beautiful, Tally seems to be conflicted about her new pretty world. Some of the same characters return from the original book, but there are new characters as well. Fans of the first book might be a tad bit disappointed by the events in this book, but the same themes remain. Tally's journey keeps the reader engaged. The ideas about a future world are thought provoking: what if we all did look the same? What if our world was controlled enough to eliminate disease and destruction? And what would we do if faced with the challenge of fighting such a mighty authority? Read this book if you liked the first one, if you are interested in utopia novels, or if you want to be up on the latest young adult favorites. I give it a 7.5 out of 10.
The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares is a young adult fiction novel about four teenage girls who have been best friends since birth. The novel takes place during the first summer that they spend apart. A special pair of jeans comes into their lives, and they decide to send the pants between each other all summer long. What I liked about this book was that it falls into the chick lit genre without being over the top. This book will definitely be in my classroom library. If you've seen the film, don't judge the book. The book was much better. Read this book if you love chick lit, if you saw the movie and want to read the much better version, or if you remember growing up with a group of close-knit girlfriends. I give it a 7 out of 10.
Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris is a memoir (I love memoirs) written as short stories. Sedaris is generally known as the hilarious author who discusses the incidents in his life that make his readers laugh out loud while reading. I chose this book earlier in the year because David Sedaris was coming to Anchorage. If I bought one of his new books at Title Wave Books I was entered into a contest to win free tickets. Needless to say I didn't win. However, I did enjoy this book of short stories that I read while we were camping this summer. It was nice to be able to pick up the book, read one story, and then put it down again. I didn't have to worry about continuity or remembering plotlines. I didn't find it as funny as everyone else seems to find it. My favorite story was titled "Big Boy" and told of an unfortunate incident in the bathroom of a dinner party. I laughed so hard I had to read it to my husband. Read this book if you love to laugh, if short stories capture your attention, or if you have family members that won't mind you interrupting their day in order for you to read them a line or two aloud. I give it a 7.5 out of 10.
The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger is a love story with a twist. The love story mingles with science fiction because Henry is a time traveler. But, not in the way we normally think. It's not his job. It's not his invention. It's more of a genetic defect. However, his destiny with Clare is clear. The novel traces the love story between Henry and Clare and all the obstacles that come with a man who can suddenly disappear at any time. I'm usually not a fan of love stories, but this one was so interesting that I couldn't put it down. I was told it was a tear-jerker, and I honestly didn't cry although I could see why others have. Read it if you are a sucker for a good love story, if time travel interests you, or if you love reading a story told from the perspective of two different people (Clare and Henry take turns narrating). I give it an 8 out of 10.
Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert is a memoir written about a year of travelling through Italy, India, and Indonesia. Gilbert was divorced in her thirties and decided to take a trip to "find herself" so to speak. In Italy she studied pleasure. For her, this meant eating fine Italian food and learning to speak Italian...just for fun. In India she studied devotion while staying at an Ashram. Finally, in Indonesia she studied balance. She wanted to learn how to balance pleasure and devotion in her life. I love the way this book is organized and found it much more touching than I originally thought it would be. I'm not spiritual at all, but somehow this book spoke to my heart. Read this book if you're a woman, if you're interested in travel, or even if you just want to read a great story about someone finding out how to live life on her own terms. I give it an 8 out of 10.