Posts Tagged ‘What’s in a Name? challenge’

Castle in the Air

by Diana Wynne Jones

HarperCollins, 1990

Source: public library

Read it because . . . I love Howl’s Moving Castle

 

Many moons ago,* I read this review over at things mean a lot and learned that Diana Wynne Jones wrote two companion books to Howl’s Moving Castle. Since I completely love and adore Howl’s Moving Castle, I decided I absolutely had to read Castle in the Air and I was going to do it for the Once Upon a Time Challenge and it was going to be Awesome.

Well, I read it. But folks – and this pains me to say this – it was not awesome.

I know. It doesn’t seem possible. Diana Wynne Jones not be awesome? After I finished reading Castle in the Air, I had the hardest time admitting out loud that I didn’t like it. It’s been a few months since I read it so most of the specifics have already left my brain, (and I don’t even want to skim the book to refresh my memory), but from what I remember the book felt not like the carefully work I’ve come to expect from Jones but like it was haphazardly thrown together. I never connected with any of the main characters. When Sophie, Howl and Calcifer arrived on the scene, it felt like a last-minute decision, like Jones suddenly remembered that this was a companion to Howl’s Moving Castle and she better find a way to tie the books together.

Did anyone else feel this way about Castle in the Air, or am I alone in my disappointment? I haven’t given up on Jones, but I don’t think I’m going to read the third book in the series, either.

Other reviews: BookLust, Chachic’s Book Nook, Dogear Diary, things mean a lot,

Did you write a review?  Let me know and I’ll add it to the list!

*I just realized that I started this review the exact same way I started the Howl’s Moving Castle review I wrote two years ago.  Weird.

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MWF Seeking BFF:

My Yearlong Search for a New Best Friend

by Rachel Bertsche

Ballantine Books, 2011

Source: public library

Read it because . . . I read this review and it sounded interesting

 

Two years after moving to Chicago with her boyfriend, Rachel Bertsche realizes there is a gaping hole in her life: she has no local best friends. Seeking to remedy the situation, she decides to embark on a year of friend-dating – 52 first dates in all – hoping at least one of them will lead to a new BFF. In MWF Seeking BFF Bertsche recounts her experience, sprinkling her friend-date anecdotes with discussions on current research and studies on friendship.

MWF Seeking BFF was an entertaining read. Bertsche is a humorous, open writer, and I never stopped being impressed by her pro-active approach to solving her best friend dilemma. I was pleasantly surprised by her inclusion of friendship facts and studies, and was pleased that she inserts her friendship research findings in the middle of her anecdotes with relative ease. She cites studies that highlight the positive affect friendships have on both mental and physical health, the stigma attached to admitting loneliness, and the overall decline of adult friendships in our society. Her book brings to light a subject few people are willing to discuss for fear of sounding “pathetic”: that many adults have only a few (if any) really close friends, and that making friends is much more difficult once you grow up.

As I read, I couldn’t help but reflect on my own friendships. Like Bertsche when she began her search, all of my best friends live rather far away. (Most live in a completely different time zone.) I have friends here, but no one I would feel comfortable calling at 2 am (which, in my mind, is one of the differences between a friend and a best friend). I’m not complaining, mind you. I have amazing friends and I wouldn’t trade them for anything. And I am, overall, pretty content with my life. But Bertsche did get me thinking about my local friendships and whether or not it’s time to expand my friendship horizons a bit.

My only quibble with the book are the repeated declarations concerning the Inherent Differences in the Friendship Needs of Men and Women. I am rather uncomfortable with absolutes and so I cringed every time Bertsche said something about men needing one kind of friendship and women needing another. I don’t think the issue is quite that black and white.

Overall, an interesting read. I recommend it.

P. S. This all started as a blog, which you can find here. (Confession: I haven’t looked at it yet.)

Other reviews: Book Addiction, Curled Up With a Good Book and a Cup of Tea, S. Krishna’s Books, The Written World

Did you write a review?  Let me know and I’ll add it to the list!

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Love Medicine

by Louise Erdrich

HarperPerennial, 1993; originally published in 1984

Source: purchased many years ago

Reread it because . . . it was time

 

Love Medicine was the first Louise Erdrich novel I ever read. My introduction to Erdrich’s work came via a Native American Literature course I took as an undergrad, taught by the university’s writer-in-residence, Janice Gould (who had fantastic taste in literature; I loved most of the reading she assigned). Over the next couple of years I devoured nearly everything Erdrich wrote. When I decided recently to finally reread some of her work, I knew I would start with Love Medicine since it was both the first Erdrich novel I ever read and the first she wrote.

Love Medicine was also one of the first novels I ever read with multiple narrators. This is a tough book to start with if you’ve had little experience with this literary technique. Not only does Erdrich switch narrators from one chapter to the next, but she moves back and forth in time and between first- and third-person narration. To add to the confusion, there are a plethora of characters, and you need a family tree just to keep track of who’s related to who and how.

Erdrich handles this deftly. She never info-dumps on the reader; instead, she introduces the characters organically and give them each an opportunity to tell their own story in their own time. In doing this she creates realistic, multi-dimensional characters more successfully than if she spent pages describing their histories and personalities.

Before rereading this, I really couldn’t remember anything about it other than the novel’s narrative style. Once I started reading, however, I was delighted to discover how familiar it felt. Yes, most of the book had escaped my memory, but more of it was lurking in my brain than I initially thought. As I was re-introduced to the characters the book started floating back. Marie’s name triggered a grin; Sister Leopolda’s name incited a shudder; Gordie’s name made me want to weep 200 pages before it should have.

There is one passage, however, that stuck with me even after I forgot all the others. Upon rereading it I find that it still moves now me as much as it did years ago. I don’t normally include large quotes in my reviews, but I’m sharing this one because it is a great example of why I love Erdrich’s writing. There is so much grief in her work but there is strength and light there, too.

Brief back story: Marie’s mother-in-law, the formidable Rushes Bear, has moved herself in with her son, Nector, and his family. There is no love lost between Marie and Rushes Bear; Rushes Bear is an extremely difficult person to get along with and it doesn’t help any that Marie is a Lazarre, which just gives Rushes Bear another excuse to despise her. (The Lazarres are on the lowest rung of the social ladder on the reservation.) Marie is pregnant when Rushes Bear moves in. When she goes into labor, Rushes Bear and Fleur Pillager deliver the baby. After the birth, Marie overhears this conversation in the next room:

“You take this,” said Nector. “The money’s yours.”

There was a clank as something hit the floor.

The door closed.

“If that Pillager won’t take it, you can,” said Nector.

“Not from your hands.”

“I’m your son,” he said.

“No more. I only have a daughter.”

“Her?” he said, almost laughing. “But she’s a Lazarre.”

“You shame me,” Rushes Bear said. “You never heard any wail out of her, any complaint. You never would know this birth was hard enough for her to die.”

I never saw this woman the same way I had before that day. Before that birth of the child, a son after all, Rushes Bear was a hot fire that I wanted to crush. After that, things were different. I never saw her without knowing that she was my own mother, my own blood. What she did went beyond the frailer connections. More than saving my life, she put the shape of it back in place. And even though her wild moods descended again, and again, with more violence until she was lost in those storms, sometimes for weeks, and even though sometimes she’d rise from her place behind the chair and bolt for home when we weren’t on guard, and even though she was more trouble to me than any child I ever had, I took care of the old woman every day of her life because we shared the loneliness that was one shape, because I knew that she was in that boat, where I had labored. She crested and sank in dark waves. Those waves were taking her onward, through night, through day, the water beating and slashing her unknown path. She struggled to continue. She was traveling hard, and death was her light. (104-105)

“More than saving my life, she put the shape of it back in place” – love it.

 

Other reviews: BookLust, Caribousmom, Regular Rumination, Shelf Love

Did you write a review?  Let me know and I’ll add it to the list!

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The Fault in Our Stars

by John Green

Dutton Books, 2012

Source: purchased from Amazon.com

Read it because . . . see lengthy explanation below

I almost didn’t read this book.

First of all, I completely forgot that I had pre-ordered it. When I got an email from Amazon.com telling me that my order had shipped, I had a minor panic attack. Last June I had to get a new debit card because in the wee hours of the morning someone tried to use it in California and Michigan simultaneously. (I was not in either one of those places. I here, asleep.) So my first thought was, Oh, &$@%, not again! Then I saw John Green’s name and remembered that I had impulsively pre-ordered it when I learned he was autographing all advance purchase copies. Oh. Whew.

But before I could read it, before it even arrived on my doorstep, I saw the word “cancer” in connection with this book, and suddenly I wanted nothing to do with it. 2011 began and ended with cancer: in January two of the people I love were fighting breast cancer and in December someone else I care about was dealing with the return of her cancer. Read a book about cancer? No. Absolutely not. I had enough cancer grief on my shoulders. I didn’t want any more.

When the book arrived I did my best to ignore it, but in the end, I caved in. I felt like I had to read it, because not only had I purchased it new, (I rarely buy new books for myself), I had pre-ordered it. Plus it’s John Green and I maybe sorta have a tiny book crush on him. (Who doesn’t?) So I read it. Even though I knew it would break my heart.

It did break my heart, but not in the typical tugging-on-the-old-heartstrings-YA-issue-novel sort of way. And not because it was a Book About Cancer and Cancer is Sad, or because it reminded me that while lots of amazing, wonderful things happened in 2011, it was also a year punctuated with grief. It broke my heart because the dialogue was sharp and smart, the characters quirky and flawed, the emotion raw and honest. It broke my heart because it was funny. It broke my heart because it was just a story about love and all that is amazing and beautiful in this world and all that makes life worth living and because it wasn’t trying to do all that, it just did.

And so. So because I am now a weepy mess I have to stop.  But before I do I just want to say thank you, John Green, for writing this.

Other reviews: books i done read, Book Monkey, The Bluestocking Society, Capricious Reader, Fyrefly’s Book Blog, things mean a lot

Did you write a review?  Let me know and I’ll add it to the list!

Additional John Green reviews on The Alcove: An Abundance of Katherines

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Even though I didn’t finish the What’s in a Name reading challenge last year, (I didn’t really finish much of anything blog-related last year), I’m signing up again this year.  It’s one of the more creative challenges out there, and I love it almost as much as the R.I.P. challenge.  And even though I tend to read with this challenge in the back of my mind, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked down at the book in my hands and realized with surprise that it fits one of the categories.

Enough rambling!  Here are the guidelines as outlined by challenge host Beth Fish Reads:

Between January 1 and December 31, 2012, read one book in each of the following categories:

1. A book with a topographical feature (land formation) in the title: Black Hills, Purgatory Ridge, Emily of Deep Valley

2. A book with something you’d see in the sky in the title: Moon Called, Seeing Stars, Cloud Atlas

3. A book with a creepy crawly in the title: Little Bee, Spider Bones, The Witches of Worm

4. A book with a type of house in the title: The Glass Castle, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, Ape House

5. A book with something you’d carry in your pocket, purse, or backpack in the title: Sarah’s Key, The Scarlet Letter, Devlin Diary

6. A book with a something you’d find on a calendar in the title: Day of the Jackal, Elegy for April, Freaky Friday, Year of Magical Thinking

The book titles are just suggestions, you can read whatever book you want to fit the category.

Let the challenge begin!

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by Shobhan Bantwal
Kensington Books, 2011
Source: public library
When I spotted The Full Moon Bride on my library’s new books shelves a while ago I remembered that S. Krishna had given it a positive review.  I impulsively checked it out, stayed up way too late reading the first half of the book, and then, over the course of the next week . . . skimmed the rest.  This may sound strange, but I’m actually proud of myself for skimming the second half of the book.  As I mentioned once before, I am bizarrely obedient when it comes to finishing books.  I don’t like to put down a book half-finished, even when it’s just not working for me.  Hence my delight my skimming the rest of The Full Moon Bride.  It’s a baby step in the right direction.
Even though I had a tough time finishing it, I’m not going to rip on The Full Moon Bride.  It’s a fairly decent book, and one I might have enjoyed it more were it not for one little thing: there was way too much telling and not enough showing.  (Actually, there were other little things that bugged me, too, but that was the main annoyance.)  I wanted to tell Soorya, the narrator, “Stop.  Stop telling me who you are.  Stop telling me who everyone else is.  Just live your story, and I will see who you are.”  The characters never really came to life for me, which is a pretty big drawback in a book that’s more character-driven than plot-driven.  
I do encourage you to check out other reviews before writing this book off completely.  If you wrote a review, please let me know so I can add it to the list.
I realized when I sat down to write this review that I can count this book for two different challenges – the South Asian Challenge and the What’s in a Name? Challenge (for the “life stage” category).  Yay!

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