Sunday, October 19, 2008

Read-a-thon Mini-Reviews

I've got two options: Write today about the books I read during 24 hours of the Read-a-thon while they're still fresh in my mind but my mind is like mush from lack of sleep, or wait until my brain is functioning at peak capacity(really, though, when does that ever happen?) but my memory not so clear. Obviously I've chosen the first option, perhaps not so much because my recall will be better, but so that I have an excuse if it sounds more dorky than usual.
I went to sleep at 5 a.m. and woke up at 9 a.m. It might have been wise to sleep longer, but I am a morning person--when it's bright out and my kids are stirring, sleep is impossible.
Here are the books I read, in the order that I read them. I can't really do from worst to least, because I liked them all. Wasn't that lucky?

Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices From A Medieval Village by Laura Amy Schlitz
I had read raving reviews about this, but skimming through it I had my doubts about whether I would like it. I just couldn't see what the fuss was about. But this collection of monologues and dialogues of various characters living on a manor in England in 1255 is truly exceptional. I think the strength is in how she taps into the emotions and desires of the characters in a way that we can relate to. It is moving in parts, as well as humorous and educational. I would love to see this performed by an actual class!

Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley, and Me, Elizabeth by E.L. Konigsburg
How can Konigsburg get away with such an absurdly long title? Because she has written such a great story (as usual) that we are more than willing to forgiver her. Elizabeth is without a friend until she meets Jennifer, self-proclaimed witch, willing to let Elizabeth become her apprentice. She must follow a strict eating regimen, refrain from certain taboos (like "never sing before breakfast" or "never wear shoes in the house on Sundays", and usually bend her will to Jennifer's. The sometimes strained relationship grows as Elizabeth the social challenges of elementary school. Loved it!

Whale Rider by Witi Ihimaera
How to review this one? It has elements of magical realism and a mythical feel. Kahu's great-grandfather is bitterly disappointed that she is a girl. He needs a grandson who will become chief of their Maori tribe that claims descent from the male whale-rider that Kahu is named after. It is clear from the beginning that it is her destiny to do something great, all the while being shunned by her great-grandfather. The only thing that bothered me about the book was Kahu's desperate attempts to gain his approval. Why did she love the cranky old man anyways? Her great-grandmother, Nanny Flowers is a hoot! I was not super-duper wowed by this book, but I liked it-it's quick and engaging. I've heard the movie is amazing--I'll be getting it soon.

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken
I enjoyed this one, but it is one of those I wish I had read as a child. I let myself get pretty carried away by things as an adult, but more so when I was younger. Trains, wolves, a mansion with secret passageways, an evil guardian and a gooseboy--how real and exciting they all would have been to me. It's an old-fashioned story, which I love. It was not terrible dynamic though--you won't get any adrenaline rushes in the end.

The End of the Beginning by Avi
This was a perfect read aloud book about a journey of a snail and an ant, filled with silly but sometimes meaningful philosophies. It has be feel of a novel, but is really rather short with delightful illustrations. My girls did not want me to stop reading it they were so entertained by it.

Wednesday Wars by Gary S. Schmidt
Loved it! Funny! Moving! Meaningful! Masterpiece! Should have won Newbery Medal!!! I had no trouble staying awake reading this one, and it helped moisten my strained eyes.

Coraline by Neil Gaiman
Okay, I was so afraid after reading this one that I would have nightmares about buttons!! What I liked best about this little horror story was the vivid pictures Gaiman creates with his writing, without using a whole lot of words to describe Coraline's exciting but sinister alter-world in which she has an "other" family. Strong and resourceful, Coraline overcomes her fears as she attempts to return to her real life. It's an original story without being outlandish. Very good!


7 comments:

  1. I agree completely about nightmares about button eyes! I had one of those nightmares after reading Coraline! Fantastic imagery, great read. Congrats!!

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  2. That is so fun! Maybe I will join you next year. Congrats on so many awesome books read!

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  3. First--congrats on staying up for the whole 24 hours--your numbers are great!

    I read Coraline as well and was really frightened by the pictures at 3 am!! :) Know what you mean about the thoughts being fresh in your mind...I'm not looking forward to writing about the books I read (which luckily is only 4).

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  4. Wow you read a lot! I don't think I could stay up that long, but I might try next time. My son's birthday and birthday party happened to fall on the read-a-thon this month, so I had to pass.

    I read Trish's review of Coraline and I'm now anxiously awaiting my copy to arrive at the library. I can't WAIT to read it, and I don't normally enjoy modern fiction. I have a feeling this is going to be different, and I'm quite excited by it.

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  5. Congratulations on all the books you read. I don't think I could read that much.

    I LOVED "The Wednesday Wars", and I'm always so happy when I find people who love it as much as I do.

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  6. (I don't know how I missed this post!) I loved Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! but also didn't think I'd like it. Something about the cover? The title?

    Heard so much about the Wednesday Wars. I must check it out!

    And Avi was a childhood favorite of mine. I read all of his in the course of fifth or sixth grade. And then of course he's writing more. Must check that out too.

    Haven't read any Gaiman yet. But I don't like scary books. So not yet.

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