Monthly Archives: October 2009

In the Wake of the Boatman – Review

In the Wake of the Boatman by Jonathon Scott Fuqua

Age: Adult

The first scene of the book opens up to a young man turned away from military service because of a bum knee, filled with a strange desire to crack his newborn son’s neck, as if to blame him for all the wrongs in life.

http://booklineandsinker.files.wordpress.com/2009/06/boatman.jpgThis is the start of Puttnam Douglas Steward, his first entrance into the world. From his birth and well into adulthood, Puttman has struggled with his father. Due to a lack of ability to communicate, the two men have a very strained and dysfunctional relationship, even though Carl Steward is able to be the fun loving dad with Putt’s older sister Mary. With a perfect sister, a disapproving father, and an alcoholic mother, Puttnam had to really struggle to create an identity for himself. Despite his questions about his gender identity, Puttnam still manages to achieve academic success in college and further military success when he enlists for the Vietnam War. Being a college graduate and war hero are two dreams his father held, but that never came to fruition for him. Instead of being proud of his son, there is only jealousy and resentment.

In The Wake of the Boatman is a very complex, character-driven novel with beautiful descriptions and well detailed characters. The book is also really heavy on the psychological and emotional ups and downs of Puttnam, which made it hard to read. The book is slightly depressing, so you have to be in a mood for it. Once I got to the second half of the book, I was able to read it with an easier flow. This is the type of book that you can’t stop reading when you start, but once you put it down, are very hesitant to pick it back up, knowing what awaits. Overall, I think this is one of the better written books I’ve read this year in regards to character development and detailed storyline.

In the Wake of the Boatman
by Jonathon Scott Fuqua
Bancroft Press, 2008
ISBN 1890862428
305 pages
Source: Review

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The Mysterious Benedict Society – Review

The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart

Age Group: 4th-9th grade

Reny, Sticky, Kate and Constance are four highly intelligent children that who have been selected to be a part of the Mysterious Benedict Society after taking a series of cryptic tests. The challenge for the group is to infiltrate  the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened, a special school located on an island. Their mental and physical strengths are pushed to the limit as they go deep undercover to uncover a most corrupt plot by the headmaster, Mr. Curtain.

I listened to this book on Audiocd, and it was a lot of fun. The four children are smart, funny and each has their own personality. Reny is the automatic leader, the quick thinker. Sticky memorizes everything he reads in an instant, but is shy and fidgety. Kate is a girl who carries around a bucket of tools and has a keen sense of perception when it comes to judging distances. Constance is incredibly short, stubborn and falls asleep a lot. The four of them work together well as they navigate their way through the LIVE and try to uncover the truth. They survive through the infamous waiting room, discover the whisperer and still have to deal with bullies at their school, all the while transmitting their findings in morse code to their partners on the shore.

This book is filled with puzzles and riddles that would make for a fun read for any child. They can test themselves against the characters. There are important themes of loyalty and friendship. This book makes learning and being smart fun because of all the fun ways the kids can use their intellect.

The Mysterious Benedict Society
by Trenton Lee Stewart
Read by Del Roy
Little, Brown, 2007
Listening Library Audio-cd
11 discs

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The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind – Review

The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind by William Kambwamba and Bryan Mealer

Age Group: 9th grade – adult

After three weeks of reading about monsters, zombies and the supernatural, The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind was a welcome change of pace to my reading repertoire.

The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind is an autobiographical account of William Kamkwamba’s life in Malawi. Although it was pitched to me as a book about a boy who built a windmill, the actual content was so much more inspirational and memorable. William takes us through the entire course of his life, from early childhood to his late teens when he did build a windmill. Growing up, William was always caught between past traditions and beliefs of magic and wizards, and western mentality that his father believed. William was always a curious and thoughtful boy, he and his friends would take apart radios and try to figure out how they worked and how to fix them.

https://i1.wp.com/www.shoutshare.com/ab/images/the-boy-who-harnessed-the-wind_500.jpgThis urge for knowledge was stunted by the many obstacles in his life. Having suffered through the tragic famine that struck Africa in 2002, William’s parents became desolate and unable to pay for William’s secondary school tuition fees. Although a dropout, William was determined to continue with this education by frequenting a small library near the school. There, in the small room where three shelves filled with books in no logical order, not by subject, author or genre. While digging through these books, William managed to pull out the books about science and soon began his studies for the biggest project of his young life.

This book is inspirational for a number of reasons: William’s family surviving the deadly famine and government corruption throughout Africa, his ability to overcome a lack of formal education by supplementing his knowledge with library books and a dictionary. His natural curiosity as well as his parent’s encouragement did much to drive William’s success. There are many heartbreaking scenes, particularly during the famine where everyone suffered and William was forced to make some serious decisions. William’s friendships are also a major aspect of the book. Without the help of his friends Gilbert and Geoffrey it would have been very difficult for William to fully bring his windmill to life.

I recommend this book to anyone looking for an inspirational story, to high school boys in particular feeling unaccomplished and unmotivated because of a lack of resources at home. William was able to create so much with so little, all it took was  a little imagine, experimentation and creativity.

Browse the book here

The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind
by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer
Harper Collins, 2009
ISBN 9780061730320
273 pages
Source: Review copy

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The Tragical Comedy of Mr. Punch – Review

The Tragical Comedy of Mr. Punch is a stand alone Neil Gaiman comic about a man remembering a childhood summer with his grandparents in England. Sent away for the summer because his mother was about to give birth, the narrator spent a majority of his summer engulfed in the violent tale of malicious Punch and poor Judy.

The story of Punch and Judy is really violent. The story traces back to the 1660’s originally from Italy making its way to England in the 18th century.  A script for Punch and Judy was written by John Payne Collier in 1828 under the title “the Tragical Comedy or Comical Tragedy of Punch and Judy.” In the story Punch happily kills their baby, kills Judy, kills the police, the judge and the devil that come after him for his crimes. In true Neil Gaiman style, there is an air of mystery, and paranormal in the story. The images are not traditional cartoon comic book style. They are instead a combination of photographs and drawn images, dark and dreary that cast a melancholy shadow over the story.

http://frankiely.files.wordpress.com/2008/07/punch-baby-and-judy.jpg

Although I’m a bigger fan of Neil Gaiman’s prose, this one is a really good introduction into the dark shadows of his mind.

The Tragical Comedy of Mr. Punch
by Neil Gaiman
Harper Collins,
ISBN 1563892464

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The Resurrectionist – Review

Sweeney is a father looking for a miracle for his comatose son Danny. This leads him to depart his hometown hospital in Cleveland for a dark and fortress like Peck Clinic away from everything that he knows on promises of his son’s revival at the hands of the famous Dr. Peck. Once at the Peck Clinic, Sweeney falls into a dark and seedy world, forever wanting his son to wake, the guidance for all of his decisions in the book. In a clever twist, a possible cure for his son may be in Limbo, a comic book series that his son adored.
The book is set up to tell two stories; one of Sweeney and his quest to find a cure for his sleeping son, and the second tells the story of a group of circus freaks lead by their small and fearless leader, Chick the chicken boy covered entirely in feathers and Bruno the strongman. Although they begin as separate stories, they do eventually overlap and bleed into each other. Both story lines are dark and eerie and very much set up like a comic book, only without the illustrations. This was one of those weird books that I couldn’t put down when I was reading it, but once I did put it down I didn’t want to pick it back up again.

Sweeney’s character was frustrating, whiny and seemed like a pushover to me. All bark with no bite. Nadia’s character is perhaps the most powerful of the entire cast, although she doesn’t seem realistic. Then again, I don’t think she or anyone else is meant to be realistic or relatable except maybe Nora. The book brings a lot to the table for discussion about relationships between families, friends, strangers, the role of the patriarch and matriarch and how far they will go to protect their brood. Although questions about the comatose and what consciousness really means. This is a very heavy and dark book, perfect for a winter evening read.

The Resurrectionist
by Jack O’ Connell
Angonquin Books: 2009
ISBN9781565126787
318 pages
Source – Review copy

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HFS – a cover story

The various shades of Her Fearful Symmetry.

Through a series of events, I somehow ended up with 3 versions of the newest Audrey Niffenegger book, Her Fearful Symmetry. One copy is an ARC that I found at the library. The second copy is one that I had pre-ordered from Amazon.com and lastly, the third copy is the signed copy that I won from a Twitter drawing run by Scribner Books. Each copy has a different cover and a different feel to it.

hfs

I’ve said it before, I am one of those shameless readers that picks out books based on their cover art. I have to admit that the blue and black covers definitely catch my eye and I think the black cover just makes the book seem much more creepy. I haven’t been able to find any information on the black cover, ie, if its the European cover or not. The only other cover art I’ve seen besides the blue cover is this one, and that’s been on online reviews:

I went into The Time Traveler’s Wife not knowing a single thing about the book or the author.

I bought it on a whim from Border’s Express because they had a buy 2 get 1 free sale and I wanted to read Life of Pi (which I never did finish, but that’s a story for another post).

At the time I started reading TTW, my boyfriend and I had just begun the first leg of our 2 year long-distance relationship and I could relate very much with the Claire and Henry. Unsure of my future with the man I loved, unsure of when I would see him, or for how long. 6.5 years after our first date, he proposed and now I know what our future is. TTW hit me in a way that very few books do, and even though my relationship has progressed, I don’t feel that I’ve outgrown the book.

Her Fearful Symmetry is the November pick for my book club. I want to read it right now, but at the same time, I don’t. It seems like everyone really loves this book, they say its better than her first. I’m very wary, but I should just open up the book and get it over with right? Putting it off will only make me expect that much more out of it, I think.

Are there any books you put off reading because of all the hype surrounding its release? How does the hype effect your reaction to the book?

Teaser Tuesday (10/20/2009)

TEASER TUESDAYS asks you to:
# Grab your current read.
# Let the book fall open to a random page.
# Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page somewhere between lines 7 and 12.

# You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given! # Please avoid spoilers!

My Two Teasers:

It meant no more watering tobacco nursery beds in the dambo, which broke your back and wasted time. A windmill and pump could also provide my family with a year-round garden where my mother could grow things like tomatoes, Irish potatoes, cabbage, mustards and soybeans, both to eat and sell in the market.

— The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba & Bryan Mealer.

Pride & Prejudice & Zombies – Review

I feel like one of the last people to read this book. It was all over the blogs over the summer. This book was the October pick for my book club.

I don’t think I have anything original to say about the book that others haven’t already said. I think it was incredibly clever the way Seth Grahame-Smith incorporated the zombies into the rest of the story, quite seamlessly. Although at the end of the day, the book is still just Pride and Prejudice, and there were many moments that felt slow, and I thought the ninja-parts were just over the top.

That being said…I’m going to pick out my favorite parts:

1. The storyline of Charlotte and Mr. Collins

It was a very fitting end to that love connection. What a perfect fate for Charlotte. (Obviously I am not on team-Collins, although he did make me giggle in the original and in this version with all his pompousness).

2. Darcy’s proposal scene with Elizabeth

In the original, every sentence Elizabeth said to Darcy packed a punch of emotion and truth. Seth Grahame-Smith just made those punches more literal, but still kept in step with the verbal pacing of the scalding rejection.

I don’t want to recap the plot of Pride and Prejudice,  because even with zombies, the plot is still exactly the same. My book club members agree that Elizabeth was well ahead of her time as a character, strong-willed and unconcerned about marriage and end-all to a happy life. Its no wonder so many women adore the story line, its full of twists and turns. I love that Jane Austen did not inflicted the boring love-at-first-sight theme on Elizabeth and Darcy, but rather gave them a large number of obstacles and challenges to overcome. I think that is a more realistic approach to how a relationship is formed between two people. Even though Jane and Mr. Bingley had their challenges, it was still a pretty predictable match.

All in all, this book was highly entertaining, but its not really in my top ten favorites of this year. The illustrations and reader’s guide questions at the end are hilarious. There were a few parts which felt really slow and I thought could use zombies to liven it up. Other parts (Elizabeth fighting Lady Catherine’s ninja’s) felt forced and out of place. I hope Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monster’s is just as entertaining though.

**

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
by Jane Austen & Seth Grahame-Smith
Quirk Classics, 2009
ISBN 1594743344
319 pages

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Ferris Beach – Review

Ferris Beach by Jill McCorkle is a simple coming of age story, following the lives of two girls from the age of ten into their late teenage years. The narrator, Katherine Mary (aka Kitty) Burns befriends the spunky daughter of the new family in their small neighborhood in the 1970s, and are soon inseparable, sharing every moment in their lives, from tragedies to love and high school.

In and out of Kitty’s life is her mysterious cousin Angela. Angela, the mystery, the tornado crashing through Kitty’s life every now and again played a significant role in shaping Kitty’s perspective of herself and her family. There are a handful of characters that make up the sum of this book, and all of which are entertaining and pure. By pure, I mean that they do not feel forced, and they are a natural representation of everyday people. Nothing annoys me more in a book when all the characters are always insightful and witty. The world is not always that intelligent.

I procrastinated on writing this review, because I’m not quite sure what to say about it. So much happened, but the way everything was woven together and told, makes it difficult to pick out any key moments. The major themes in this book are friendship, honesty, facades and prejudices. I found the narrator to be very boring and helpless throughout most of the book. She always played the on-looker and rarely the participant. Her best friend, Misty was especially flamboyant in dress, behavior and attitude, the two stood as polar opposites in those regards. Kitty is incredibly thoughtful, but often I wondered if this story was told as her looking back on her childhood, or through her childhood eyes, growing up. There was no sense of her mental maturity throughout the course of the novel, she started off as a 10 year old philosopher. Although I liked the book, I found it a bit dull in parts, mostly because it was a quiet coming of age story of two girls trying to fit in and have fun.

Ferris Beach
by Jill McCorkle
Algonquin Books, 2009
ISBN 9781565129313
343 pages
Source: Review book
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What To Read Next?

In a book rut?  Can’t figure out what book to read next?  Here are some great websites to help you narrow down the search, or possible add more books to your TBR pile.

Reader’s Advisory Online Database – read-a-likes

Novelist  – by grade/reading level

Lexiles – by grade/reading level

What Do I Read Next – navigation guide

Fiction Connection – search by tags

Overbooked – booklists

Reader’s Advisory – For Librarians

Best Seller Lists

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  • Reading Groups and Guides

  • BookBrowse Reading Guides
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