Saturday, June 28, 2008

Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

Well, it's only taken seven months, but my son and I have finished reading Tom Sawyer together. The girls and I have been reading Little Women, started at the same time as Tom Sawyer, and we thought we were almost done when I realized the edition of the book we have is just the first half of what I consider the whole story. So we may finish in about a year or two. But in the meantime, my son was kind enough to write a review of Tom Sawyer:

Tom Sawyer is a great book. It has everything. Action, adventure, suspense, and humor come together in this book. The author (Mark Twain) was very creative with inventing his characters. A young, mischievous boy who has a huge imagination. A superstitious boy who lives in the streets. These are both characters that you can't help enjoying reading about them. The story is a very good one. The plot mostly focuses on the misdeeds of Injun Joe and how Tom is involved, but it is balanced with Tom's other adventures. Tom's imagination constantly gets him in trouble whether he's attending his own funeral or searching for hidden gold. This story is also a very unique one. I highly doubt you will find any other book where a cat is fed painkiller. So, all things taken into consideration I rate this book:

5.5 stars
3 Thumbs up

Thank you all, and have a good night/evening/morning/afternoon/lunch/naptime.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Audio Book:Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle by Betty MacDonald

Four-word Review:

Kid's entertainment, parent's therapy.

Rating: 5 Stars

Sunday, June 22, 2008

A Question and a Review

Things have been busy lately, and will get even busier in the next couple of weeks, but I thought I would try to get a review in and pose a question to other readaholics out there:

Is there a certain book, author, series, genre that you love because of the time or place that you were introduced to it? What circumstances external to the actual story can contribute to a reader's experience, good or bad?

This has been on my mind since I read a book recommended by a friend who randomly found a paperback copy of the book (Shake Down the Stars) while she was living in Alaska for a time, and the story of the discovery seems to add to the romance of it--(but that may just be melodramatic me, I didn't ask if that's how she feels about it). My love for the Shannara series by Terry Brooks began my senior year of high school when it was recommended to me by Jeremy T. who was in my art class--and who, as you may have guessed, I had a little crush on, but woe was me, he was in love with Natalie or Natalia or something like that :-(. I got over him, but continued to read the series as new books came out, and am now trying to read the ones I missed while I was busy populating the earth with my offspring. And Brooks is still adding to the series with The Gypsy Morph, third of the Genesis of Shannara trilogy, due to come out in August.
Whatever influence the (romantic?) circumstances of my introduction to this fantasy world filled with elves, swords, and druids, I find that these are the books I turn to when my purpose in reading is to unwind or relax. I think it takes me back to those carefree days of high school, unrequited love notwithstanding.

Which leads me to the review of The Voyage of the Jerle Shannara, a trilogy including Ilse Witch, Antrax, and Morgawr. I am even more brain dead then usual, and my eyes are actually crossing as I look at the computer screen, so I am quoting material from Brooks' website for summaries:

Ilse Witch:
When the mutilated body of a half-drowned elf is found floating in the seas of the Blue Divide, an old mystery resurfaces. Thirty years ago, the elven prince Kael Elessedil -- brother to the current king -- led an expedition in search of a legendary magic said to be more ancient, more powerful, than any in the world. Of all those who set out on that ill-fated voyage, not one ever returned...
Until now. For the rescued elf carries a map covered with mysterious symbols only one man has the skill to decipher. That man is Walker Boh, the last of the Druids. But someone else understands the map's significance, someone dark and ruthless: the Ilse Witch, a beautiful but twisted young woman who wields a magic as potent as his own. She will stop at nothing to possess the map -- and the magic it leads to. To stop her, Walker must find the magic first.
So begins the voyage of the Jerle Shannara. Aboard the sleek, swift airship are an elven prince; a Rover girl; a monstrous creature part man, part enigma; and a young man named Bek Rowe, who may unknowingly hold the key to the success of the mission -- or to its cataclysmic failure. Now, as old secrets come to light, sowing seeds of mistrust and suspicion among the crew, the Jerle Shannara flies into the face of unknown terrors while the Ilse Witch and her dark allies follow, waiting to strike...

Now in Antrax, as the crew aboard the airship Jerle Shannara is attacked by evil forces, the Druid’s protégé Bek Rowe and his companions are pursued by the mysterious Ilse Witch. Meanwhile, Boh is alone, caught in a dark maze beneath the ruined city of Castledown, stalked by a hungry, unseen enemy.
For there is something alive in Castledown. Something not human. Something old beyond reckoning that covets the magic of Druids, elves, even the Ilse Witch. Something that hunts men for its own designs: Antrax. It is a spirit that commands ancient technologies and mechanical monsters, feeds off enchantment, and traps the souls of men.
With the Jerle Shannara under siege and Antrax threatening the bold and unwary, the Ilse Witch finds herself face-to-face with a boy who claims to be the brother she last saw as an infant. Now a young man, Bek wields the magic of the wishsong and carries the Sword of Shannara upon his back. Unsure whether to trust Bek or to slay him, the Ilse Witch takes him prisoner. One has come pursuing truth, the other revenge. Yet both seek Walker Boh with the fate of the Four Lands hanging in the balance.

Now in Morgawr, the quest at last draws to its climactic conclusion, as the forces of good and evil vying against each other to possess an ancient magic race towards an explosive clash--and whatever fate awaits the victor... and the vanquished. Harrowing confrontations with the merciless Ilse Witch and the monstrous Antrax have already taken their toll on the intrepid heroes of the Four Lands. But their darkest adversary now snaps at their heels, in the form of the Morgawr--master of the Ilse Witch, feeder upon the souls of his enemies, and centuries-old sorceror of unimaginable might.
With a fleet of airships and a crew of walking dead men at his command, the Morgawr is in relentless pursuit of the Jerle Shannara and the crew that mans her. For the Morgawr, the goal is twofold: to find and control the fabled ancient books of magic, and to destroy the dark disciple who betrayed him--the Ilse Witch. But the Ilse Witch is already a prisoner... of herself. Exposed to the awesome power of the Sword of Shannara, and forced to confront the truth of her horrifying deeds, she has fled deep into her own mind. Now at the mercy of those who seek vengeance against her, her only protector is her long-lost brother, Bek Ohmsford, who is determined to redeem his beloved sister... and deliver her to the destiny predicted for her by the Druid Walker Boh.

And the most eloquent review I can give right now is that I really, really liked all three. They include the same good versus evil story lines, but introduce some new themes about redemption and forgiveness. I found them to be a bit more gruesome than the others, but nothing too bad.

Rating: 4/5

Monday, June 9, 2008

What's In A Name Reading Challenge Completed!

I think this was the first challenge I signed up for, hosted by Annie of "Words by Annie."
The challenge was to pick a book with a title that fit each of the six themes. Here's what I have read for each theme, along with links to reviews:

My favorites were Gathering Blue, Goose Girl and Veil of Roses.

I remember when I signed up for this challenge, I had a schedule of when I would read each one--every other month throughout the year. That was new book blogger naivete, as well as being unrealistic to think that I would stick to any sort of schedule, being a very haphazard reader by nature. I like to go wherever my mood takes me and that can be very unpredictable. Anyways, I loved this challenge and the different themes to pick books from so much that I ignored my schedule. Thanks, Annie!

Life of Pi by Yann Martel (2001, 326 pgs.)

Life of Pi is part adventure story, part zoology lesson, and part philosophical musing. It is the winner of the Man Booker Prize, and when this is announced with a big gold circle on the cover, a reader has high expectations. During the first part of the book we are introduced to Piscine Molitor Patel (shortened to Pi for obvious reasons), a young boy from India, the son of a zookeeper, who embraces three major religions: Hinduism, Islam, and Christianity. I loved this part of the book--it's quirkiness, humor, and the different religious perspectives that are explored. Since I have started rating books on Shelfari and my blog, I find myself thinking throughout the book how many stars it will get, and it often changes throughout the book. In the beginning I was thinking, "This is such a cool book! Five stars all the way!!" And then his family and some of their zoo animals needed to emigrate to Canada by ship, the ship sank, and Pi and a few animals, including a Bengal tiger are the only survivors. And I was bored. (Uh-oh! Down to three stars!) For me there were too many details about how he survived on the boat for 227 days. And the account of this is the bulk of the book. Then the very end entertained me a bit more--a humorous interview of Pi by members of the Japanese Ministry of Transport in trying to determine the fate of the ship that sank (sunk?). This is were the message of the book comes full circle, although it is open-ended and makes you think rather than come to any firm conclusions.
This book was exactly 100 chapters. That thrills me, but I couldn't say why!

The final verdict (drum roll, please . . . ):

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Weekly Geeks #6

This is my first time participating in Weekly Geeks, hosted by Dewey of The Hidden Side of a Leaf. I couldn't resist, it just has my name written all over it! This weeks theme is to create some sort of photo collection that represents our love of books and reading.

This first picture is of my beloved bookcase. I got it for my birthday last year, and it holds my small but special book collection. I am mostly a library-book-reader, but I will buy a book if my library doesn't have it, or some of these are books that I really loved and bought when I was younger. I keep some library books in the basket on the lower right, but a lot of times they are in various places in the house (like in kids' rooms where we sometimes have frantic searches.)

This is not a great picture, but I bought these plate holders on clearance for four dollars each, and decided to use them to display books, as well as a couple of plates. Eventually I would like to decorate my whole family room with a reading theme, but lately I spend too much time reading to accomplish that :-).

This is my newly reorganized nightstand. At the end of my review of Organizing From the Inside Out, I mentioned that my next task was to master the chaos of my nightstand. This is the result, and has worked wonderfully for about a month. I'm usually reading a few books at a time, and this is where I usually keep them, because I never know what mood I'll be in at night (for the whole three minutes before I fall asleep!)

This picture is from last September, and I was just so happy to see everyone quietly reading together that I took a picture. My kids do like to read, but this is a rare, peaceful scene:

One cool thing about Weekly Geeks is that you are supposed to post a link to another geek's site, and I am linking to Confuzzled Books. I love the name of the blog, and there are pictures of a very cute dog!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008