Saturday, January 17, 2015

1984 by George Orwell

1984 by George Orwell
Summary (from Goodreads):
'It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.'

Winston Smith works for the Ministry of truth in London, chief city of Airstrip One. Big Brother stares out from every poster, the Thought Police uncover every act of betrayal. When Winston finds love with Julia, he discovers that life does not have to be dull and deadening, and awakens to new possibilities. Despite the police helicopters that hover and circle overhead, Winston and Julia begin to question the Party; they are drawn towards conspiracy. Yet Big Brother will not tolerate dissent - even in the mind. For those with original thoughts they invented Room 101 . . .

Ninteen Eighty-Four is George Orwell's terrifying vision of a totalitarian future in which everything and everyone is slave to a tyrannical regime.
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Read for The Classics Club.
Edition Read:
Overdrive ebook through local library

Finished this one over a month ago and have been struggling to write a review for it. I've decided just to go simple.

I didn't like it. Sometimes Orwell's prose was very good and sucked me in, but most of the time it was tedious. I didn't feel a connection to the characters or buy into the love story. That's not always necessary, but I feel the ending would have had a lot more punch if it had.

That said, I do “get” the book. I can see how it terrified readers back in the 40s and how a lot of it's terminology continues to be used today (to an extent I didn't realize prior to reading it). It very clearly illustrates the importance of the freedoms we often take for granted. It's definitely a very important book that everyone should give a try.

Verdict: 
6/10
I didn't like it, but it should definitely be read. Very much a "classic".

Monday, October 6, 2014

Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson

Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson
Summary (from Goodreads):
"As I sleep, my mind will erase everything I did today. I will wake up tomorrow as I did this morning. Thinking I’m still a child. Thinking I have a whole lifetime of choice ahead of me. . . ."

Memories define us.

So what if you lost yours every time you went to sleep?

Your name, your identity, your past, even the people you love—all forgotten overnight.

And the one person you trust may be telling you only half the story.

Welcome to Christine's life.


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Bit o Background: 
Totally guilty of seeing the trailer for the movie and that's how I decided to read the book.
And, yes, I know that's a different cover (the movie cover *ick*) than what is listed in the link, but I really just wanted to say that I thought the guy on the right of the cover was Stanley Tucci. It's not, but doesn't it kind of look like him? Or is that just me?

Thoughts:
I recall the whole “go to sleep and lose your memory” idea from 50 First Dates and know that it's not a real condition. It is, however, a really interesting concept for a mystery with an unreliable narrator. Instead of being actively lied to, you are learning things along with her.

I thought, more than once, that Christine's journal entries were a bit long for someone who had to reread it every day. Granted, this IS a novel so it's not going to be written in the most efficient way for our sake.

I guess I'm kind of an idiot because I didn't really see the twist coming. Well, HALF the twist. I saw the smaller half, but not the bigger one. No spoilers, but I knew where she was going pretty much immediately at the beginning of Part III and it took way too long to reveal it. Didn't see the other part. Others are reporting that the end was too obvious and killed the whole book. YMMV – proceed with caution.

Didn't really like the very ending. Given the general tone of the novel, I think a darker ending would have fit really well. Things just get wrapped up in a nice tight little bow. I do like some like that, but going by the entire rest of the book it just felt a bit weird.

Verdict:
6/10
I liked it. Despite the flaws, I really had a hard time putting this one down. I finished it in two days. Normally, I have way too much things going on to really sit down a read something for hours on end. This one held me captivated the entire time.
You have to able to suspend some disbelief for the story to work. If you can, you are in for a nice (albeit plot-holed) ride. If you can't, you might just want to skip.

Quibbles:
Semi-spoilery.

Nothing major to the plot, but you've been warned. (Mouse over to reveal.)

I'm not sure if this is a plot-hole, aborted arc, OR (failed) red herring, but the pills. I thought for sure that Ben was drugging her which would not only explain everything, but be way more plausible than the truth.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote

Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote
Summary (from Goodreads):
It's New York in the 1940s, where the martinis flow from cocktail hour till breakfast at Tiffany's. And nice girls don't, except, of course, Holly Golightly. Pursued by Mafia gangsters and playboy millionaires, Holly is a fragile eyeful of tawny hair and turned-up nose, a heart-breaker, a perplexer, a traveller, a tease. She is irrepressibly 'top banana in the shock department', and one of the shining flowers of American fiction.

About the Author
Truman Capote was an American writer whose non-fiction, stories, novels and plays are recognised literary classics, including the novella Breakfast at Tiffany's (1958) and In Cold Blood (1965), which he labeled a "non-fiction novel." At least 20 films and TV dramas have been produced from Capote novels, stories and screenplays. 

In the 1950s and 1960s, Capote remained prolific producing both fiction and non-fiction. His masterpiece, In Cold Blood, a story about the murder of the Clutter family in Holcomb, Kansas, was published in 1966 in book form by Random House, became a worldwide success and brought Capote much praise from the literary community. After this success he published rarely and suffered from alcohol addiction. He died in 1984 at age 59.


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3rd book for The Classics Club

Edition Read: 
Overdrive library .epub

Bit of Background:
I grabbed this one from the library because I wanted to read it and thought that my Capote book was In Cold Blood. When I actually went and checked my blog I realized I had gotten it backwards. ^^;
I've seen the movie a number of times, not a whole lot, but enough that the book did jog my memory.

Thoughts:
It's really hard to read this and not compare it to the movie.
I will admit, blasphemous though it may be, I like the movie better.

 It just boils down to me not buying into book-Holly. I found her completely unlikable and can not understand why all the characters were falling all over themselves for her. I did understand her and "Fred's" friendship, but no one else. Audrey Hepburn made her believable.

Verdict: 
5/10
I might recommend this only if you haven't seen the movie. Then, and only then, would I insist that you watch the movie immediately after. Or just go watch the movie.
It gets a 5 because it was readable and even not liking it – it was well written. Credit, where credit is due- I will likely read Capote again.

Minor Quibbles:
No chapter breaks!

The book manages to be generally more offensive than the movie. It was written in the late 1950s and set in the 1940s, so a lot of derogatory slurs and weird slang get thrown around. It fits the time period, I just felt like giving a warning to anyone who didn't know. 
Incidentally, the depiction of Mr. Yunioshi is much more modern than the movie. In the book, he could have been any ethnicity and it would not have changed the book at all. 

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Summary (from Goodreads):
Frances Hodgson Burnett wrote more than forty books, none remains so popular as her miraculous and magical masterpiece, The Secret Garden. Has any story ever dared to begin by calling its heroine, “the most disagreeable-looking child ever seen” and, just a few sentences later, “as tyrannical and selfish a little pig as ever lived?” Mary Lennox is the “little pig,” sent to Misselthwaite Manor, on the Yorkshire moors, to live with her uncle after her parents die of cholera. There she discovers her sickly cousin Colin, who is equally obnoxious and imperious. Both love no one because they have never been loved. They are the book’s spiritual secret gardens, needing only the right kind of care to bloom into lovely children.

Mary also discovers a literal secret garden, hidden behind a locked gate on her uncle’s estate, neglected for the ten years since Colin’s birth and his mother’s death. Together with a local child named Dickon, Mary and Colin transform the garden into a paradise bursting with life and color. Through their newfound mutual love of nature, they nurture each other, until they are brought back to health and happiness.

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(2nd book for The Classics Club)
 Edition Read:
Barnes and Noble Classics Series (ebook) - $4.49
(Grabbed this one when they were offering up several B&N classic nookbooks for free.) 
This book is in the public domain*. You can grab it for free at:
-The Patricia Clark Memorial Library on MobileRead .epub .mobi
-Girlebooks
 *Public Domain in the United States. If you are in another country, please check your country's public domain laws before downloading. Thanks! :)

Bit of Background :
This one was (sort of) a cheat book for me.
Back when I was in the 4th or 5th grade (circa 1993-1995), I became obsessed with this book. I watched all the movies/tv specials (including that weird one where Mary and Colin aren't cousins and they get married when they are older). I used to take this key to the china cabinet and wear it on a string around my neck because it looked like what I imagined the key looked like. I'm not entirely sure why I liked it so much. I don't like gardening – never have. Maybe the idea of just having a really secret place all my own. Who knows.

Thoughts:
That said... It's kind of hard to review something I read several times (and was obsessed with for an entire year). Granted, it has been a while, well over a decade, since I had previously read it. So I'm just going to jot down what sticks out in my mind.

 -Excellent characterization. The characters are very well fleshed out. You might not like all of them (especially Colin starting out), but for the most part they feel real.
-Lovely backdrops. The descriptions of the setting is amazing. Burnett is a master at bringing them to life.
 -A very quick book, but it doesn't feel rushed.

Verdict:
10/10
It still maintains much of the magic and charm it did back then. A very lovely book. Highly recommended to all.

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Saturday, August 30, 2014

Minor Updates to the Reviewing System

I've been a bit MIA lately. Nothing major. I have been reading, just not reviewing. ^^;

At this point in time - I'm discontinuing the parental views. I hope to bring it back at some point in the future, but right now I just have too much mental clutter to focus on it properly.
I will also no longer be reviewing picture books.

I am currently not accepting ARCs for novels unless I plan to read it immediately. For the time being, it will need to be an author, series, or subject I am already familiar with and interested in.
This does not apply to crafting books as they do not require the same amount of time or same sort of rating.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

There's a Mouse Hiding In This Book! by Benjamin Bird

There's a Mouse Hiding In This Book! by Benjamin Bird
Summary (from Goodreads):
This Tom and Jerry interactive picture book holds a surprise on each page! Where is Jerry hiding? On the title page, on the back cover, or somewhere in between? Little readers will howl with delight each time they open the covers and try helping Tom find the mischievous mouse. Perfect for storytime.

A light, quirky "meta-fictional" picture book series using the well known, timeless characters of Tom and Jerry. Young readers will whoop with delight at the story and artwork, but parents and caregivers will also appreciate the humorous and gentle introduction to the process of reading and the parts of the book.

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Disclaimer: I received an advanced ecopy of this book from the publisher through netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Initial Thought:
Oh look, Tom and Jerry! Are they still around?

General Thoughts:
I think this book would be fantastic as a paper or board book. It asks the reader to do certain things with the book (like shaking it or turning the page really fast). Kid's love doing things like that. It's very entertaining and for the younger ones, it helps teach following directions. 

It's not that it can't be done as an ebook, but I found myself wondering if doing the actions asked, if it would change the outcome. (It doesn't.) I know, what a spoiled world we live in! But, if you're going the ebook route and have it ask the reader to do things... it really should respond in some way. 

That said, it's actually really cute and I can see my son (and other little ones) having a lot of fun being able to really manhandle a book in that manner! 

Quibble: Tom is narrating. TOM. You know, the cat that doesn't talk. That was a bit weird to see. (Or does he talk now??) 

Verdict:
3/5
Cute book. Classic characters that may resonate more with the parents than the kids reading it.
This one is difficult to rate because I don't know if I'm rating it as a paper/board book or an ebook. As a paper/board book, it's a solid 4/5. As an ebook, it definitely falls short and gets a 2/5. 



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Parental

Good for all ages.



Positive Messages:
  • Not a “message” really, but the book focuses more on subtle learning by asking the reader to follow some directions.
Conclusion:
No issues with my kid's reading this. A fun picture book with memorable cartoon characters.  

Monday, May 5, 2014

Change the World Before Bedtime by Mark Kimball Moulton, Josh Chalmers, and Karen Good

Change the World Before Bedtime by Mark Kimball Moulton, Josh Chalmers, and Karen Good
Summary (from Goodreads):
Written in simple, engaging rhyme, this story takes an inspirational look into how the little things in life a smile, a kind word, a simple deed can help change the world in a big way. Through 18 stunning illustrations, children will read about eating right, cleaning up the Earth by recycling and conserving, helping the sick and those less fortunate, and working in a group to make bigger miracles. Even an ordinary kid can be a superhero before bedtime! Grades Pre-K to 2.

About the Authors
Once upon a time, coincidence, fate, and magic conspired to introduce three big dreamers – Mark, Karen, and Josh. And new friends became forever friends who, separately and together, use their creative talents to change the world a little bit at a time.
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Disclaimer: I received an advanced ecopy of this book from the publisher through netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Thoughts: 
Ahh, my first official picture book review.

The illustrations are lovely. I liked them a lot. The book is mostly about recycling and the book has a very recycled scrapbook feel to it.
The rhymes are cute and have a nice flow to them. 

Verdict
4/5
It's a cute picture book with nice rhymes. It also focuses on the importance of recycling and taking care of the planet.
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Parental

Good for all ages. 



Positive Messages
  • Mentioned above: Focuses on recycling and taking care of the planet.

Conclusion
I would have no issues with either of my children reading this or having it be read to them.