Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Reptile Room by Lemony Snicket ****

Ah yes. I've read the second book in A Series of Unfortunate Events. It is most unfortunate.
Same characters from the first book (I have a funny feeling that Count Olaf will be appearing quite regularly), just with the addition of a dottie uncle who collects bizarre snakes.
These books really frustrate the hell out of me, mostly because you just want the kids to run off & stop waiting for the dense adults in their lives to figure out the obvious. And obviously, Count Olaf is the bad guy.
Speaking of Olaf, they made a movie based on the first 3 books, I believe. And I know Jim Carrey plays Count Olaf. Now, for no apparent reason, Jim Carrey freaks me out. Maybe it's his shiny, shiny eyes. But whatever the cause & without having seen the movie, I think he'd make a good Count Olaf.
I recommend this book to all the good people of the world who are feeling a little down. This ought to send you right over the edge.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Hoot by Carl Hiaasen *****

Excellent excellent! Carl Hiaasen just does the best job ever of writing a book for kids that is smart, funny, & has a conscious. I can see why this book won awards, & it wins an award from me too: 5 stars!
Roy has just moved from Montana to Florida, & misses his past life a lot. But thanks to a mysterious kid & his sister he not only starts to fit in at school, but he also starts to love & appreciate his new home state.
I've never been to the Everglades, in fact the one trip I made to Florida as a teen was to see my sister graduate from Navy basic training in Orlando & then to go to Disney World (side note: I didn't like Disney World. Sorry.). It was hot & miserable, & the only nature we saw was the 10 minute trip to the ocean to stand on a crowded beach & walk in the waves. So whenever I think of Florida, that's the image that comes to my mind.
Carl Hiaasen has made me want to go back to Florida, only this time to see it's natural beauty. That's so much more a part of who I am, & I'm lucky that my husband & son are the same way. Give us a secluded wilderness over a theme park any day! Gators & mosquitoes I knew were down there, but burrowing owls?!? I never never would have equated Florida with burrowing owls. Wonderful!
Thanks for the great trip, Carl! I'm gonna be checking out your books for adults soon!

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket ****

My God, this is a depressing book. The author wasn't kidding when he warns not to read it if you like happy endings. Of course it's funny & very clever too, but it put me in a crappy mood from the get go!
I grabbed this book at my son's school library because I wanted to read something at a higher vocabulary level--this one is 6th grade. I didn't know that most of the higher vocab words are defined in a rather humorous manner by the author. I can see this being a great series for kids who love words, since they'll learn new ones without quite realizing it. The writing is excellent!
If you don't already know, this miserable book is about the 3 Baudelaire children: Violet, Klaus, & Sunny. From the very beginning their whole world goes to crap when they find out their house has burnt down, their parents are dead, & they have to go live with a freak of a relative called Count Olaf. It goes downhill from there.
I'm not sure if I'll continue with the rest of the books (there are 13 in all!), but I do recommend them for the goth-in-training crowd & other morose youngsters.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Deep and Dark and Dangerous by Mary Downing Hahn ***

Well, when I break my reading fast I really break it! Just finished this little number--it's one of the Mark Twain Award nominees this year. It's the only one I've read so far, & it was pretty good.
It's the kind of spooky ghost story I would have really loved when I was in the 4th grade. It starts with a 13 year old girl, Ali, finding a picture of her mother & aunt from back in the summer of '77. The third girl in the picture has been ripped off, so that only her shoulder & some of her hair is vi sable. Turning it over, she finds that her name has been ripped off too--all that is left is a "T". She soon finds herself spending the summer at Gull Cottage in Maine with her aunt Dulcie & 4 year old cousin Emma. This is where the mysterious picture was taken 30 years before, & soon Ali is finding out that what happened all those years ago is still haunting not only her aunt & mother, but Gull Cottage as well.
Over all it was a fast, easy read that kept my interest. As I'm prone to do I found some nit-picky things that irked me, like the author describing the 2 cousins playing Candy Land with dice. Since when do you play Candy Land with dice?
Letting that go, I can see why the girls were reading this book like crazy at my son's school. My biggest beef with it is the lack of male characters--there is only the very minor character of Ali's dad, & that's it. It explains why I didn't see as many boys checking this book out as girls. I like balance in my reading, & I wish one of the major characters had been male. But I can also see why the author stuck with girls--it does lend some continuity to the stories of the past & present.
My only other beef is the level of maturity attributed to the 4 year old, Emma. At times she acts like a 4 year old, & at other times like a child much older. I had to go back at one point to the beginning of the book where it tells her age because I got so confused.
Otherwise, this was a good read, especially for kids. It didn't have much for adults other than the relationship between the 2 sisters, which sucked at times, & you don't have to tell me about that since I have a sister too! I highly recommend it for the 4th-6th grade girl in your life, if you have one!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Three Day Road by Joseph Boyden *****

Yes, I've finally read another book. Not sure why I had the dry spell, but I'm glad it's over.
This is one of those books that haunts you for quite awhile, in fact parts of it may haunt me forever. It's amazing to me how images that form in your mind when reading can be the hardest to get out of it--things that you never saw, but feel like you did.
I heard of this book on a blog I follow, Half Soled Boots (Shan is very good at concisely describing the books she reads on there, so if you get a chance please check it out. And if you like knitting, she's the gal for you!). It sounded interesting, & since my library didn't have it & I've been wanting to try out the inter library loan function online, it worked for me.
Xavier & Elijah are two young Canadian Indian young men who join the army so they can go fight in WWI. They're both excellent shots, & so become sharp shooters. The story is about them, & about Xavier's aunt back home, Niska, who still lives in the wild as their ancestors did.
The scenes that haunt me are those of the WWI battlefields. I've seen a few movies showing the hell that went on over in Europe during the Great War, but as I said above, the images my own mind conjured up from reading the descriptions of the atrocities committed in the name of war will always be there.
I think that's the sign of a great author--not whether I like the plot or not, but whether I'm stuck with the images they somehow gave me in my head. I've read quite a few books that I honestly didn't like, but which were able to snake their way into my subconscious & now lie there waiting for some small thing to hatch them out again.