Wednesday, June 20, 2012

New Kate Morton Novel!!!

On October 16, "The Secret Keeper" by Kate Morton will be released.  I'm just a little excited about this.  Click here for more info!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

"The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie" by Alan Bradley

A mystery!  I don't often pick mysteries for my own reading so when we had a choice for the next book club pick I voted mystery.  I'm so glad I did!  I didn't read this one, I downloaded the audio onto my iPod.  The narrator had such a charming accent.  I loved listening to it.  In fact, I went to my library's website to see if they had any other books by Bradley because I enjoyed "Sweetness" so much, and I found out there's a sequel!  I'm on the waiting list for the CDs and I can't wait to listen to that charming narrator again.  Well, I hope it's the same narrator, at any rate.

I felt the book was a combination of recent books I've read, "Hedgehog" and books by Kate Morton.  "Hedgehog" because the story is told through the eyes of an intelligent 11-year-old girl (although this girl isn't bent on her own destruction).  Kate Morton's stories come in because the story takes place at a grand old English manor that had been in the family for centuries; and for the mystery component.  Flavia de Luce, a child chemist, takes it upon herself to resolve her father's name when he's accused of the murder of a college acquaintance who was found dead in the estate's cucumber patch.  She's very precocious and gets herself in and out of several scrapes while collecting evidence and solving who really killed the ginger-haired man.

It was an excellently spun story with unique characters.  That's a huge selling-point in any book I read; how real are the characters?  Maybe that's a reason I hated "Gay Neck" so much.  It was so bland because there was virtually no character development to add flavor to the story.

Go read "Sweetness."  I'm sure it's a book you won't regret getting to know better!

"Chords of Strength" by David Archuleta

Dollar store book!  As a member of the LDS church, I'm naturally curious about famous Latter-day Saints.  So I picked up this story about the Idol runner-up.  I like to pretend I'm a writer, so when I read books it's often for the style of the writing as much as for what is written.  I was really curious about how much the Church would be mentioned in the book, how 'preachy' it might be.

I thoroughly enjoyed it.  It's funny hearing stories from people younger than me (and Archuleta is a good ten years my junior) on overcoming their challenges because they almost make it sound like they've already finished their existence and they're reflecting on their struggle and how they overcame them.  Not to diminish the story at all, because I enjoyed it.  I am, however, thoroughly entertained when young people say, "This has been the dream of my life!" and I think kid, you're only 16!  You haven't had a life!

That being said, I did enjoy the story of hope, taking risks, and overcoming challenges.  I won't go into too much detail, but like I said earlier, I like to pretend I'm a writer and I have my own fantasies of writing professionally when I grow up (read, when my children are older and my life as a mother to infants and young children evolves into a period when I can dedicate a few hours every day to practice my craft).  The book is full of encouragement and I really felt I could fulfill any dream of my heart.

"Gay Neck, the Story of a Pigeon" by Dhan Gopal Mukerji (1928 Newbery Winner)

This Newbery book has been my greatest struggle.  I wanted to give up.  I really, really wanted to sack it and move on.  But I already quit "Tales from Silver Lands" and I felt giving up on another book would show weakness.  I refused to be defeated by this 200 page book.  But frankly, I hated it.  Almost every single page was a snooze fest.  Unless you're an avid bird fanatic or interested in early 20th century British India, you won't like this book.  I knew it was about a bird, obviously.  I was expecting something charming like "Ralph the Mouse" or "Stuart Little."  Wrongo bongo.  The only redeeming quality of this story were the war chapters where the bird goes to Europe to be used as a messenger pigeon in World War I.  Those were more interesting.  Then it went back to boring again.

There was an underlying theme of overcoming fear throughout the book, so I guess that might be another point for it.  However, at the end of the book one of the human characters and Gay Neck both have to overcome the horrible side-effects of the war they encountered in Europe (today known as post-traumatic stress disorder).  The author has them 'fix' their ailment by having them kill a wild buffalo that's been destroying several villages in India.  And voila, they're magically mended!

This bothered me.  PTSD is a real issue.  People who have fought in battle or experienced natural disasters or what-have-you often deal with this problem for life.  It's not a cold.  There's no remedy.  You can learn coping mechanisms, but nothing will cure you of it.  So the author 'fixing' the bird and the man by having them defeat the buffalo, and therefore all their fears and trauma, did not sit well with me.

Don't read this book.  It's a story about a pigeon.  That's all you need to know.