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Long Division
Kiese Laymon
Ender's Game (Movie Tie-In)
Orson Scott Card
The Creature Department
Robert Paul Weston
Perfect Peace: A Novel
Daniel Black
Twelve Years a Slave
Solomon Northup, Richard Allen
Many Nations - Pbk - Joseph Bruchac The illustrations in this book are superb! Loved the colors and the warmth on every page. The text was sparse but effective. I almost graded it down a star for lack of text until I realized that every page sparked a discussion about what was going on in the pictures. Discussions about buffaloes, canoes, the design of the homes... almost every page could be used as a topic starter. It was wonderful that Bruchac included groups that are not as well known as others.

My biggest gripe is that there was no pronunciation key for this book. I would have really liked to have a handy guide to help me with some of the more difficult names.

Overall, Great book!
Foreign Gods, Inc. - Okey Ndibe Stolen gods?! What an interesting concept for a book! Taking something so important as village's ancient idol is, in itself, a heartless and cowardly act. When the thief is personally related to the villagers in the most intimate way, that makes it even more despicable. What type of person would do such a ruthless thing and why?

Ike's journey answers these questions and gives the reader new ideas to ponder as well. I found the clashes between the indigenous religion and Christianity to be quite insigtful. I also loved reading about the modern village life through the eyes of a returned immigrant.

The portion of the novel that deals with Ike's life in the US was full of stereotypes and the dialog seemed unnatural and jarring, but fortunately most of the novel is set in his hometown of Utonki in Nigeria. The Nigerian leg of his journey was written superbly. His angst was palpable on the page. Could he go through with it? Could he?

Ndibe's writing brought me right along with Ike as he traveled. I almost felt as if I were sitting with him in the deity hut as he communed with his uncle, and later when he ultimately made his final decision.

This was a really good read, but I was disappointed with the ending. It left me a bit confused. I don't have a problem with ambiguous endings, but this one really fell flat for me.

Overall, I would definitely recommend this novel, and I'm glad I got a chance to read it.

The Secret History - Donna Tartt This novel started out with so much promise, but ultimately left too many unanswered questions. For a book that tells you right at the beginning that a murder was committed, it still left too many dangling threads that went nowhere. It could have been so much better if Tartt would have explored the relationships between the characters more. Her prose was also exceptional, but it could not compensate for the other flaws. When I get to the end of a book of this length, I don't expect to still have lots of "Why?" questions floating around in my head, but I did with The Secret History.

I thought the characters were very well written. I felt that all of them would have been right at home with Niles and Frasier Crane http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frasier_Crane . They may have been out-of-sync with the 80's timeline they were supposed to be a part of though.

Overall, still a good read, but nothing I would go out of my way to recommend. I might still seek out more of Tartt's work because it is clear that she is a talented writer.
One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel García Márquez For me, this is one of those books, that I will enjoy discussing much more than I enjoyed the actual reading. There were just too many characters presented too quickly, and while some were truly interesting, Marquez only gave us quick startled glimpses of them before shoving us along to the next person/next scene. I also really like magical realism, but I think there can be too much of it. I also really disliked the pedophilia and repeated familial love occurrences. It may fit one of the themes, but I still don't care for it. I can appreciate that it is a fine piece of literature, but it is not going to be one that I revisit.

Personal enjoyment ... 2
Writing and themes ....4
Overall rating ........3
Counting by 7s - Holly Goldberg Sloan STANDING OVATION!!

I have this slightly odd habit. I only do it when I encounter a truly fantastic book, and well it happened last night.

See... I usually start reading a book while standing at the bar in my kitchen. Everything lands there when we get home...library books, school work, junk and not-so-junk mail. Most of the time, when I get a new book, being the nerd I am, I can't help but read the first few pages. From there I USUALLY put the book on the shelf, or in my bag, or somewhere else. Once in a great while, the book will get stuck to the counter and I find myself stuck with it like Pooh to his Hunny Jar. Yesterday, after the rest of the house was snoring, I decided to read the first few pages of Counting by 7's. Three hours later, I was still standing by the bar when my devoted hubby asked me if I knew what time it was! No, I didn't and thank goodness I had just finished because it was pretty dang late!

This book is wonderful! Willow is an awesomely wonderful child who seems a bit 'aspergery'. She never really fit in anywhere until tragedy forced her and special people around her into a 'new normal' I can relate to this story on so many different levels and I am sure that many others will too. It is a perfect match for the middle-grade audience that it is written for, and I highly recommend it.

There is one issue that I have with this book that almost caused me to rate it a 4, I had a real problem with Pattie conveniently hoarding all that money while her children suffered the living conditions they endured at the garage. Perhaps Sloan wanted us to realize that the situation with Willow forced her to finally open her eyes, but it is really hard for me to believe. but any book that keeps me standing for 3 hours, deserves a pass for one or two flaws.


Edit: As I kept thinking about it, I am going to have to go with a 4 because of the spoiler above. A 5 means that I would not change a thing about the novel, or if I would change/prefer some detail change, it would have to be very minute. Still a really fantastic read though!

The Prophet - Kahlil Gibran Inspiring, comforting, beautiful.

I sometimes try and include a favorite quote when I review a book, but that would be almost impossible with this one. The entire work is quotable. I am so glad I stumbled upon this tonight. (thanks insomnia)

I recommend it to any and everyone. Goodreads has provided a link to read it online. It's short enough to read in one brief sitting and I know I will be reading it often. I have never heard of Gibran before, but I will definitely look for more of his writing!

Good Night, Sleep Tight

Good Night, Sleep Tight - Mem Fox,  Judy Horacek Things we loved:
*The repeating rhyme... “‘We love it! We love it!’ said Bonnie and Ben. ‘How does it go? Will you say it again?’” ..... “I’ll tell you another. / I heard from my mother.”
*The nursery rhymes themselves were cute and there was one I had never heard before.

Things we thought were just OK
*Neither one of us was over impressed with the illustrations. They were good enough.
Little Night - Yuyi Morales Things I liked:
*The artwork was beautiful. I love the game Little night and her Momma were playing, and how she was getting ready for her 'day' as the world went to sleep

Just OK
*Although I thought the artwork was beautiful. It was too dark for a bedtime story. I never would have thought about it, but especially in the dim lights we have on to read bedtime stories, we hard a hard time 'seeing' the pictures. My biggest disappointment with this book was the ending. It was very awkward and ABRUPT. I kept looking for a torn out page thinking. "That can't be the end!" The ending kind of ruined the rest of the story for me.
Enchanted Lions - David T. Greenberg, Kristina Swarner Things I liked:
*The creative tale about riding lions into the cosmos. The prose was sweet and the pictures were lovely.

Just OK
*Granted my son is 8, but he was totally bored with this story. I can understand because while it was well written, I also found it a little yawn worthy.
Wash - Margaret Wrinkle W A S H

Unfortunately, that is what this book ended up being for me. It's a total wash. Started with a unique premise, but did not live up to my expectations.

The format was a WASH. I did not like the lack of chapters and the constant narration changes. They were confusing especially since the characters voices were not well developed. I would sometimes forget who was speaking, and that should never be an issue in a book about slavery.

The storyline was a WASH. There was no real plot, and even though that can work for some novels, it really does not work for this one. It meandered along and gave me no real motivation for following it.

The most interesting parts of this book involved the relationship between Wash and Pallas. The author very cleverly intertwined their stations in life, and their love story was believable and beautifully written. I wish a greater portion of the novel had been dedicated to their romance instead of other storylines like Richardson's war experiences that I was NOT interested in at all.

I kept feeling as though Wrinkle wanted to elicit some level of pity for Richardson (slave owner) and it kept coming across as justifications for the institution of slavery. At one point, Wash pities the poor white folks for having so much freedom. I suspect Wrinkle's intentions were to humanize Richardson, but it was not succesful.

I have read quite a few historical fiction novels dedicated to slavery. This one falls flat for me, and I would probably not recommend it when there are so many others that deal with the subject better.

Makeda - Randall Robinson ...son, you won't need to talk to my headstone in order to talk to me. I won't be there. I'll be in the air and the Earth. I'll be in the stars that light the African heavens. I'll be watchin' over you and your family. My spirit will always be close enough to touch and protect you all. So, do not grieve for me. My body will die, but my soul will live on. For my soul cannot die. Always remember that my soul is the spark of God in me."

Isn't that beautiful?! Sometimes one quote can make an entire novel. Truly this quote sums up the heart of Makeda. I was intrigued by idea of blood memories. How wonderful would it be to have lived many lives and actually remember those lives?! Makeda is about much more than that though. I learned about the Dogon people (why have I never heard of them?) and I will be researching much more about Timbuktu and also the Golden Age of the African continent.

Robinson also attempted to explore different familial relationships. I felt he was most successful when he wrote about Graylon and his love for his grandmother. A grandparents love is a beautiful thing and I was touched by the tenderness described in Makeda.

I wanted more from the other relationships in Gray's life. His parents and his brother got the short end of the stick in this story. These characters felt flat and voiceless. I was especially disappointed with the entire Gordon episode. Why did his father disown Gray like that? It just didn't seem to be a rational response to the tragedy described.

It took me a while to finish this novel, and I think it was because of PART 2. It just did not interest me much. "Gray Goes to College" was very dry compared to everything else in this novel.

Overall, a good book and one I am glad to have had the opportunity to read. (Goodreads giveaway)

The Other

The Other - Thomas Tryon In honor of the wonderful year of my birth, I have decided to read at least one book each year that was originally published in 1971.

The Other made the cut this year. It serves as an affirmation of what I have always known; 1971 was a year for masterpieces! ;o)

I expected to like this novel, but I didn't know that I would love it. It is a horror story, but not the blood-and-guts type. It is that subtle kind of horror, that keeps you up at night. I never worry about aliens, zombies or werewolves, but PEOPLE... yeah PEOPLE can be scary as hell. The quote 'real life is stranger than fiction' applies here. The characters that Tryon created feel extremely REAL.

Niles and Holland are the stars in this novel. From the very beginning you know that something just isn't right about one of them. You know that little kid that always just seemed a little off. The one who enjoyed shooting birds with bb's just a little too much or pulling the wings off of butterflies. Yeah....that kid. Most people know one of those, but they don't always turn out bad, so we just keep a wary eye on them...just in case.

As well as Tryon gets into the minds of the twins, he also does a fantastic job with the other characters. The twins grandmother is especially well done. Her struggle to keep the family together during their tribulations is palpable, so is her strong love for her grandsons.

Tryon also used beautiful prose that I didn't expect in this genre at all.

Some lengths away, the burial was in progress. The mourners clustered around ..... while Mr. Tuthill intoned the Twenty-third Psalm, as inevitably he did. Leaves, burnished red and gold, rustled above the narrow hole. Somewhere a bird sang. But of that group none seemed to mark the odd contrast between the entrancing birdsong and the pastor's doleful cadences. Niles observed how silently a stem detached itself from a twig: giving up its life—bright leaf, falling. . . falling. . .The leaf spiraled down to rest upon the lid of the casket. It looked like a hand, offering benediction

Truly a 5 star book in every way!

The World Champion of Staying Awake - Sean  Taylor, Jimmy Liao Things we loved:
*The bright colors but not too bright for a bedtime story.
*The end papers. Well this was something I liked. I was wondering if the illustrator meant to invoke thoughts of Stellaluna. There are 3 bats and a moon on the front end papers and owls and a moon on the back end papers. The little girls name is Stella.
*The fact that Stella is putting her animals to sleep, and behaving as the adult.
*Biggest like : The rhyming 'adventure' pages where Stella pretends they are on a boat, train, and hot-air balloon. (The 8 yr old had an issue with her just calling it a balloon...*mom rolls eyes here) We both loved the gorgeous full 2 page illustrations and the rhymes were perfectly done. I hate it when they seemed forced, and these definitely weren't
*Wacky questions animals asked to avoid going to sleep.

Things we didn't like
*Can't think of anything really. Great book!
Bear Snores On - Karma Wilson Things we loved:
*The cover. It was the first book the 8 yr old picked because the cover interested him
*The illustrations are soft and just perfect for a bedtime story. 8 year old really liked them
*The repeating phrase ... bear snores on. Enjoyed anticipating when he would awake.
*Biggest like : The rhyming story was also pitch perfect. Love the intro the most In a cave in the woods, in his deep dark lair, through the long cold winter, sleeps a great brown bear
*Fun slumber party.

Things we didn't like
*Can't think of anything really. Great book!
Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague - Geraldine Brooks "Cry now, my friends, but hope, also! For a better season will follow this time of Plague, if only we trust in God to perform His wonders!"

And cry they did. Before the village of Eyam could get to the better season they had to watch their loved ones die painful and horrific deaths, endure the panic driven madness of their neighbors, and suffer isolation from the rest of the world.

Brooks does an excellent job of setting this macabre scene. We get to know Anna, the rectors maid, intimately and she introduces us to the good and not-so-good people of her village.

Brooks manages to write beautifully about a horrific event in human history. I found myself wondering what a modern town would do in a similar situation. I can hardly imagine people willingly submitting to a self quarantine, but maybe I underestimate my contemporaries...

I enjoyed this novel and highly recommend it. I am also going to seek out Brooks' other novels.
Gone Girl - Gillian Flynn This book is a difficult one to review without giving anything away. I will say that the first 70-100 pages felt like torture to me. I did NOT enjoy it. The story thankfully got more entertaining after that, so that is the reason for the 3 ***

I do admit that I laughed out loud at some of the "bad" things in this book. This might just be an indication that I have a sick sense of humor. Oh well.

I would be willing to read more of Flynn's work, but I won't be actively seeking it out.