Saturday, June 14, 2014

Room - Emma Donoghue

Summary from Amazon:
To five-year-old-Jack, Room is the world. . . . It's where he was born, it's where he and his Ma eat and sleep and play and learn. At night, his Ma shuts him safely in the wardrobe, where he is meant to be asleep when Old Nick visits.
Room is home to Jack, but to Ma it's the prison where she has been held for seven years. Through her fierce love for her son, she has created a life for him in this eleven-by-eleven-foot space. But with Jack's curiosity building alongside her own desperation, she knows that Room cannot contain either much longer.
Room is a tale at once shocking, riveting, exhilarating--a story of unconquerable love in harrowing circumstances, and of the diamond-hard bond between a mother and her child.

This book…my word. 

It was hard reading at the start due to the voice of the five-year-old narrator.  That took some getting used to.  But by page 50, I was hooked.  I didn’t want to set the book down.  I needed to know what happened.  How Jack & Ma were doing.  What was next. 

Donoghue does a fabulous job of drawing you into her characters.  I had visceral emotional responses to them and their situation.  I would find myself praying for Jack throughout the day.  They became real people in my world. 

I also appreciated the separation from the horror via seeing it through the eyes of Jack.

Really, I don’t know that I have an criticism for this book. 

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Learn Me Good - John Pearson

Engineer turned 3rd grade teacher...what's not to love?

I thought that I might struggle with the format.  The entire book is written as emails from teacher, Jack Woodson, to a former coworker at the engineering firm.  But that only added to it's appeal.

I literally laughed out loud at many points.  As a previous junior high teacher, I could picture so much of it in my mind. 

I appreciated how even the frustrating aspects of teaching can be looked at through the lens of humor. 

Witty.  Sarcastic.  Real.  A must read for any teacher.  A should read for any person.

Silenced - Dani Pettrey

Partial synopsis from Amazon:A relaxing day of rock climbing takes a disturbing turn when Kayden McKenna's route brings her face-to-face with a dead climber. Is it a terrible accident or something darker? When the case is handed to overburdened sheriff Landon Grainger, he turns to Jake Westin for help. With Jake's past now revealed, he's ready to use his talent for investigation again--but he could never prepare for where the mystery will take him.
This is the fourth book in the series, and my ratings on the books have decreased with each new installment. 

I did enjoy visiting Alaska and the McKenna family again.  However, that is about all I feel this book has going for it.

It is lacking in the outdoor adventure aspects that I liked in the past.  It was incredibly predictable - even the plot twist.  But probably my dissatisfaction comes most from the ending, and that has shaped my view of the entire book.

The climax and conclusion came too swift.  It felt forced, and the timeline even seemed inconsistent.  And the result for the villain was anti-climactic at best.

Additionally, there was the whole plot thread of the initial dead climber that didn't seem wrapped up.  The reader is left in doubt on if the right person was apprehended.   

At this point, if there is a fifth book to cover Reef McKenna (the only remaining single McKenna), I will most likely not be reading it.

The Hundred-Foot Journey - Richard C. Morais

Partial synopsis from
That skinny Indian teenager has that mysterious something that comes along once a generation. He is one of those rare chefs who is simply born. He is an artist."
 And so begins the rise of Hassan Haji, the unlikely gourmand who recounts his life’s journey in Richard Morais’s charming novel, The Hundred-Foot Journey. The Hundred-Foot Journey is about how the hundred-foot distance between a new Indian kitchen and a traditional French one can represent the gulf between different cultures and desires.

This was my book club's pick for May.  Half of us gave up on it before finishing.  The other half (including me) finished it but did not find the reading enjoyable.  As one member described it, the writing was "laborious."

I did enjoy the section based in Lumiere the most.  And appreciated the character growth and development of Madame Mallory.  The other characters, however, were more static and one dimensional. 

However, the narrative itself was unbelievably slow.  The descriptions of food, of settings, of everything was over the top (and I'm usually a fan of descriptive writing).  The random French words and phrases I'm sure were there to give the novel more flavor and perhaps sense of place.  However, I found them just plain frustrating as again and again I had to go to Google to find translations.

And, honestly, the significance of the whole message of the novel passed me by.


Thursday, June 7, 2012

Ronald Reagan: 100 Years

Synopsis from B&N:  February 6, 2011, marked the one hundredth anniversary of Ronald Reagan's birth. Known as "the Great Communicator," Ronald Reagan combined the best of small-town values and remarkable virtues with the eloquence and charm that came from a life spent in the public eye. As governor of California, Reagan earned the respect of world leaders and the American public. But it was as president of the United States that his strength of character, leadership, and love of country were best displayed. His eight years in the Oval Office ushered in remarkable change domestically and brought international peace, prosperity, and freedom.

I’ll admit it, I was a toddler and in elementary school while Reagan was president.  So I don’t personally recall a lot of what happened; I wasn’t big into politics when I was 9.  J  However, every time I’ve heard something about him or watched bits of speeches he gave, I am inspired.  He was a true American leader; a president working for the people.  He believed in the power of the human spirit and in the greatness of our country.
I love that he came from humble beginnings and was not a career politician.  I knew that he had been an actor, but his careers in sports broadcasting, as governor of California, and as a host for GE and other television shows I was unaware of.
The book was both informational and entertaining.  It was easy to read, and I loved all the pictures.
And, while the book didn’t focus much on Mrs. Reagan, Nancy was one classy lady. 
After reading this I am interested to read both Reagan’s autobiography and his letters to his wife.
His terms as president was a good time in America’s history.  He accomplished what he had set out to do - in his governor role, as president, and in his personal life and goals.  And that in itself is an accomplishment.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Can I Have and Do It All, Please? - Christine Caine

Synopsis from  More than ever before, women are navigating through increasing amounts of responsibility, activity, scheduling and multi-tasking...and we need some answers about how to have and do it all in life!

A book I’ve had on my shelf for over a year now…and should have read when I first got it.  And should probably read at regular intervals throughout life.

Christine Caine provides some answers about how to have and do it all.  And is the first person I recall running across who says this is not impossible.  It’s all about balance and focus, perspective and seasons.

Her book is filled with both humor and grace.  There are questions to encourage regular analysis of your life and why you do what you do and what you really feel is important.

Here is my only challenge:  Caine, like many others, says that as long as you are walking in what God has for you and His plan for your life, you will find fulfillment.  And this I totally agree with.  My struggle is more how to find out His plan.  It is expressed that you should look at what you’re good at and find your passion there.  That is where my challenge lies.  I am good at many things (reading, writing, teaching, cleaning, organizing, pushing paper, hostessing at restaurants, answering phones, reconciling reports…really, I have yet to work a job I’m unsuccessful at.  And I don’t say that in a cocky sense but a frustrated one.).  And, really, I’m not sure I’m super passionate about anything these days.  Sad, I know.

So I will use the tips in this book to continue to look at and pray about my life and my path.  Despite my confusion and frustration, I know my God is faithful beyond anything.  And I need to trust Him that if I’m not on the right path, as long as I keep my heart in the right place, He is big enough to help me reorient despite myself.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Dawn - Elie Wiesel

Summary from B&N:  Elisha is a young Jewish man, a Holocaust survivor, and an Israeli freedom fighter in British-controlled Palestine; John Dawson is the captured English officer he will murder at dawn in retribution for the British execution of a fellow freedom fighter. The night-long wait for morning and death provides Dawn, Elie Wiesel’s ever more timely novel, with its harrowingly taut, hour-by-hour narrative. Caught between the manifold horrors of the past and the troubling dilemmas of the present, Elisha wrestles with guilt, ghosts, and ultimately God as he waits for the appointed hour and his act of assassination. Dawn is an eloquent meditation on the compromises, justifications, and sacrifices that human beings make when they murder other human beings.

I jumped into this novel without really understanding what it was.  Each year, I read Night by Elie Wiesel with my eighth grade students in conjunction with them studying the Holocaust in social studies.  So when this year I ran across something that said Night was the first book in a trilogy consisting also of Dawn and Day I assumed it was a continuation of the author’s life story that began in Night

I was wrong.  Guess I shouldn’t assume things.  J

Dawn is a fictional story of a young Holocaust survivor who has joined the resistance movement in Palestine.  And it is a story that needs to be read slowly…and even then I’m not sure I took the time to truly reflect on the different nuances and challenges.  I have a feeling I’ll be chewing on the tale for days to come.