Monday, March 31, 2008

Catching up on Some Reviews!

I don't call myself "Chain Reader" for nothing! As soon as one book is done, I'm grabbing for another. That's one of the reasons I started this blog--it makes me at least stop and think about the book I have just finished so they don't all just blur into one another. But I don't always have the self-discipline to keep myself from opening that perpetual "next" book until I've done a review. Anyways, this is just my discursive way of saying that I'm behind on reviewing the books I've read. So I will try to do a few nutshell reviews to catch up:

Cleaning: Plain and Simple by Donna Smallin (2006, 290 pgs.): I am convinced that this is some sign of reading sickness that I even read books about housework. I think I just get bored so easily, and if I can find some new method for doing laundry every few months, or learn some new homemade concoction for scrubbing the cabinets, cleaning could actually be a little bit fun! This one is actually one of the best I've read. It has some general advice, and then is divided up by room, and goes beyond the basics, including some natural cleaning options. There a many quotes scattered throughout the book, and I loved this one by Erma Bombeck: "My theory on housework is, if the item doesn't multiply, smell, catch fire, or block the refrigerator door, let it be. No one else cares. Why should you?" Amen to that!
Rating: 4.5/5

People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks (2008, 384 pgs.): Hanna Heath accepts the assignment to restore the mysterious Sarajevo Haggadah, an ancient Jewish manuscript with stunning and unlikely "illuminations." She discovers a few clues to its history: an insect wing, a wine stain, salt crystals, and a white hair. The book alternates between her scientific discoveries about the clues and the stories of the past keepers of the Haggadah. I enjoyed reading it and had a hard time putting it down, although the fact that some parts are told in reverse-chronological order gave me a bit of mental vertigo.
Rating: 4/5

The Known World by Edward P. Jones (2003, 14 hrs. 13 min.): This was the Pulitzer Prize winner for 2004, and I've got to be honest, that's the only thing that kept me listening to the end. **CHEATER WARNING** Review from Amazon:
Set in Manchester County, Virginia, 20 years before the Civil War began, Edward P. Jones's debut novel, The Known World, is a masterpiece of overlapping plot lines, time shifts, and heartbreaking details of life under slavery. Caldonia Townsend is an educated black slaveowner, the widow of a well-loved young farmer named Henry, whose parents had bought their own freedom, and then freed their son, only to watch him buy himself a slave as soon as he had saved enough money. Although a fair and gentle master by the standards of the day, Henry Townsend had learned from former master about the proper distance to keep from one's property. After his death, his slaves wonder if Caldonia will free them. When she fails to do so, but instead breaches the code that keeps them separate from her, a little piece of Manchester County begins to unravel. Impossible to rush through, The Known World is a complex, beautifully written novel with a large cast of characters, rewarding the patient reader with unexpected connections, some reaching into the present day. --Regina Marler
The last sentence cracks me up. It's code for "boring and complicated, with too many characters to keep track of." I was patient, but didn't feel rewarded.
Rating: 3/5

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen (1798, 179 pgs.): This is the only Austen book I hadn't read, and the saying "save the best for last" does not apply here. Another expression that keeps popping into my head is "you can't win them all." Jane Austen is truly a genius, and in most of her works, her wit jumps out from every page, every sentence and every word. In Northanger Abbey, it just emerges every once in a while. I didn't hate it though--it is Jane Austen for heaven's sake! (Kind of like The Avengers is one of the lamest movies ever made, but Ralph Fiennes is in it, so I'll enjoy it anyway). Also, Catherine Morland reminded me so much of myself that it was scary--reads too much, bends her will to please others, and cries a lot.
I've watched about a third of the movie so far, and have learned that I have been pronouncing the title all wrong. It should be North-Anger--anger as in mad. But everyone likely knew that except for me.
Rating: 3.5/5

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld (2005, 448 pgs.): Here I can truly say that I have saved the best for last, (of my reviews, that is). I loved this one, showing that I will forever be a teenager at heart. Tally Youngblood lives in a world 300 or more years in the future, in which everyone is turned "pretty" at the age of 16 through a very thorough cosmetic operation. Tally learns of a small group of rebels who choose to live another way of life, rejecting the idea that everyone should be perfect. Fans of The Giver by Lois Lowry should love this one. My 13-year-old daughter loved it too and has read it twice, along with the rest in the series. (I should note that she was mortified that I wanted to read the same book as her. She couldn't find it for a couple of months, and I'm still not convinced that she didn't hide it on purpose.)
Rating: 5/5

Thank goodness I've gotten all of this off my chest and into the blogosphere. I can sleep without having nightmares about review-evasion agents coming to get me.


  1. My parents and sisters read The Known World and gave it high praises, but I just couldn't get into that book. I keep wondering if I'm really missing something.

  2. Love your reviews. I haven't read Northanger Abbey but heard that it was published after Jane Austen's death and she may not have meant for it to be published at all.

    I would like to read "People of the Book". I read "Year of Wonders" by Brooks and liked it a lot until the last few chapters and then she went crazy with it. It sounds like this one will be better.

    I've been meaning to read "The Uglies" but haven't gotten to it yet. My TBR list is getting so big!

  3. I feel you on The Known World. It took me forever to get through that one.

    I really liked People of the Book. I thought Uglies was pretty good. I've got the rest of the series sitting on my shelf - I really need to get to it.

  4. Heyy.. have u read Pretties by that Scott guy. I'd really like a review of that book.
    Also, can u suggest some more fantasy books.
    Recently i have delved into the fantasy genre and absolutely enjoyed it. The books i am refferring to are The Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis. They are simply fantastic and caught me awestruck at the man's creativity and imagination.
    In fact, Disney and Walden are coming up with the latest Narnia movie-Prince Caspian, this May 16th. It promises to be awesome by the looks of the trailor. Watch the trailor here-
    It'll entrall you for sure!
    So plz suggest something equivalent.

  5. nice reviews - and so good to get that burden lifted! i liked People of the Book a lot. (i didn't see that you commented on it over at Book Buddies ... did you look at any of the discssion questions there?) i also really liked Uglies - which my 17yo daughter recommended to me. (i've also read Pretties and Specials, and i've got Extras on the shelf.)

  6. I'm a big fan of the Uglies trilogy - it came highly recommended by my 17 year old sister that hates reading. Didn't like Extras as much, but it was still a good read. I haven't read any of the others in this group, but I do think it's really impressive that you review every book you read!

  7. Imagine how embarrassed my kids are when their DAD reads Uglies. "Dad, that's a girls book!" I tell them it's research since I also write YA, but the truth is I love a good book regardless of who its target audience is.

  8. I just finished Uglies and loved it too. I also compared it to Lowry!