Monday, January 28, 2013

The Dressmaker by Kate Alcott

The Dressmaker 
I read this book quite a few months ago. In fact, I finished it just before going on a cruise this past summer. Maybe it's not such a great idea to read a book about the Titanic before embarking on a ship for the first time in one's life... Haha. Seriously, though, a lot of stuff was coming out last year about the Titanic because of the 100 year anniversary of its sinking and I saw this book displayed on a "new reading" shelf at the library. Have I told you that I love historical fiction? :) AND the two things that fascinate me the most are World War II and the Titanic. I know- kind of morbid in some ways, but I just can't get enough information about them! So I had to check it out, right?
The book is about a seamstress named Tess that wants to make a name for herself. After leaving her position as a maid, she is fortuitous in gaining employment with the world famous designer, Lady Lucile Duff Gordon, while simultaneously gaining passage onto the Titanic's maiden voyage. On board, she becomes intrigued with Jack, a self made millionaire from Chicago and Jim, a kind sailor, who is looking for the hope of a better life in America.
After the ship sinks, the survivors are brought to New York and are quickly brought to trial. Lady Duff Gordon is soon at the center of the trial as questions arise about the actions of some of the people that were able to make it into the lifeboats. Tess has a few decisions to make with who to believe and who to share her destiny with.
I liked the character development. Apparently, in real life, Lady Duff Gordon was NOT a fun person to work with. While the author portrays this in the book, she also lets us see some of her generosity as well. I liked how the author had background stories to the characters- it gave them some dimension. I mostly liked the book. The worst part (although it wasn't terrible) was the ending. It seemed a little vague... a little weak. Not one of those books that I LOVED, but a good read. I'd be willing to read more books by this author.

Monday, January 21, 2013

"Reached" by Ally Condie

"Reached" was released in November 2012.  In September or October I put in a purchase request with my library for copy of the audio CDs.  They're usually very good about fulfilling purchase requests as long as they think there will be a big enough demand for that title, especially if it's part of a series.  So I thought acquiring "Reached" would be a no-brainer.  When December came and went I finally put my name on the book waiting list, believing the library either couldn't purchase the CDs at that time or lost my request.  When I was #9 on the book reserve list, I got an email saying the CDs were available for me to pick up.  Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay!

"Reached" is the third book of the "Matched" trilogy. I was very happy when I started listening to it and learned my guess that "Reached" would be narrated by the three main characters--Cassia, Ky, and Xander--was correct.  Ally Condie has a fantastic talent for creating her stories.  I felt as I listened to it that Condie gave birth to her stories through words like a stone cutter reveals a statue hidden in rock.  Her poetic imagery and symbolism were so natural, it felt as though those elements in the story always existed; she was able to expose them and mold them to give the words their own voice to be heard.

And I have to say I really adore the book covers.  The art and aesthetic appeal really draw me in.  I find myself staring at them in sequence as Cassia emerges from her glass bubble.  As she destroys it, she becomes reborn herself.  It just makes me all sorts of happy.

Finally, I listened to the entire series on CD.  Books on CD can be fantastic little productions.  I like the feeling that someone is reading me a bedtime story, like when I was a little girl.  All three audio books were a pleasure to listen to.

My "Matched" review can be seen here.
My "Crossed" review can be seen here.

Monday, January 14, 2013

"The Wednesday Wars" by Gary D. Schmidt

Finally, I'm posting again! It's been awhile and I've left most of the work to Amy for about a month... or more... I'm horrible at the procrastination thing. Or good at it, depending on how you view it. ;)

Now onto my book!

Holling Hoodhood is a seventh grader at the beginning of the school year in 1967. He knows that his teacher, Mrs. Baker, hates his guts. Every Wednesday, the Catholic and Jewish kids leave school early for Cathechism and Hebrew School. Holling is the only Presbyterian in his class and doesn't get to leave school early. Mrs. Baker chooses to teach him EXTRA Shakespeare. And that's just the start of his worries with her.

I LOVED this book! I loved how each character developed and how you saw life different through Holling's eyes by the end of the book. I loved Mrs. Baker's intuition and loving personality. I loved the relationship Holling and his sister develop. I loved how even though he may have had a lot of influence from the one person that didn't change, he chose to be different. I connected with him. I connected with Mrs. Baker. I laughed a lot and cried some. It was funny and insightful. Very well written. Definitely worthy of it's Newbery status. I highly recommend picking this book up! You won't want to put it down.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

"My Antonia" by Willa Cather

Because the holiday season is simply ridiculously busy, my book club always skips the December meeting.  I got "My Antonia" in November and we'll discuss it at our January meeting.  I only finished the book last week.  I could have been a really fast read, but, as I've stated, the holiday season is ridiculously busy, so I had to pace myself.  But I finally finished!

The book is an American classic, and I looked forward to reading it because I've never read Willa Cather.  I'd say her books are sort of "Little House"-ish in the genre.  "Antonia" is narrated by a young male character, Jim, who goes to Nebraska to live with his grandparents the same time Antonia and her family move from Bohemia.  There are many anecdotes about farm life and growing up in a small country town, as well as Jim's friendships with Atonia (Toni) and other immigrant girls.

I liked the open and honest writing style.  The story isn't very complicated, and the characters are genuinely developed.  But I was disappointed when I finished because there was no great climax, no grand finalĂ©.  The story has a nice beginning, middle, and end, but none of it was particularly engaging.  I wouldn't call it boring,  because I was curious how the story wrapped up.  It was just a very mild ride.