March & April '09 Reviews

1. The Long Goodbye (Lightheaded)
2. Matt (Great World)
3. Farm Lane Books (Blindness)
4. Mee (The Book of Lost Things)
5. Matt (Interpreter of Maladies)
6. Alice (Get a Life)
7. Matt (Passage to India)
8. Kimmie (Water for Elephants)
9. The Invention of Hugo Cabret (Erin)
10. Cath (The Reaper)
11. Matt (Good Man in Africa)
12. Kimmie(The Stranger)
13. Alice (Finding Nouf)
14. Tiny Librarian (Mystic River)
15. Pipedreamergrey
16. Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist (Lightheaded)
17. TheChicGeek (TheBridgeofSanLuisRey)
18. Matt (Untouchable)
19. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (Lightheaded)
20. Matt (Tracks)
21. The World According to Garp (Tammy)
22. Mee (The Complete Maus)
23. Mee (Fables 1001 Nights of Snowfall)
24. Coraline (Desert Rose)
25. Alice(Homestead)
26. Caribousmom (Offshore)
27. Mee (The Graveyard Book)
28. Corinne (People of the Book)
29. Matt (Journey of the Dead)
30. Mee (Snow Country)
31. Cath (A Fatal Inversion)
32. Amy@The Sleepy Reader (The Whistling Season)
33. Mee (The Color Purple)
34. Elizabeth (Infinity in the Palm of Her Hand)
35. Alice(Years of Grace)
36. J (The Graveyard Book)
37. Matt (Colour of Blood)
38. Rebecca @ The Book Lady's Blog (A Long Way Gone)
39. Amy@The Sleepy Reader(Mudbound)
40. Tammy (Atonement)
41. Tiny Librarian (How I Live Now)
42. Mee (Fables Vol 1: Legends in Exile)
43. Lightheaded (The Graveyard Book)
44. Mee (A Thousand Splendid Suns)
45. Cath (The Graveyard Book)
46. Sheri @ A Novel Menagerie (Atonement)
47. J (The Fifth Child)
48. Kimmie (Middle Passage)
49. Cath (The Sedgemoor Strangler)
50. The Great Geek Manual's Review of Turn Coat by Jim Butcher
51. Corinne (Dune)
52. JLS Hall (The Way Through the Woods)
53. JLS Hall (The Age of Innocence)
54. Elizabeth (Midnight's Children)
55. alisonwonderland (The Book Thief)
56. Kimmie (The World According to Garp)
57. Cath (The Handmaid's Tale)
58. alisonwonderland (An Abundance of Katherines)
59. Mee (Ethel & Ernest)
60. Kimmie (Beowulf)
61. Jill (The Tenderness of Wolves)

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The House of the Scorpion

Farmer, Nancy. 2002. The House of the Scorpion. Simon & Schuster. 380 pages

In the beginning there were thirty-six of them, thirty-six droplets of life so tiny that Eduardo could see them only under a microscope. He studied them anxiously in the darkened room.

If you haven't read The House of the Scorpion, you really don't know what you're missing. It's as wonderfully complex and beautiful and thrilling as Frankenstein. (Which, if you remember nothing else about me, remember my love for Mary Shelley's monster.) The House of the Scorpion is science fiction. Set several centuries in the future, it revolves around the Alacran family, rulers of the empire of Opium which borders the United States and Mexico. Well, what used to be called Mexico. Our hero, Matteo Alacran, has an unusual upbringing. His first five or six years are almost spent in complete isolation. His only interactions being with his caregiver--not his mother, who was sacrificed--a woman, a servant, named Celia. But one day, in his cabin, he hears voices. He sees two children. A boy and a girl. And despite Celia's warnings, his curiosity gets the better of him. And he springs through the window--the doors and windows being locked--freeing himself, yes, but bloodying himself up in the process. What this teaches him--among other things--is that he is different. Not just a little different, but DIFFERENT. His very existence seems to repulse people. Why? What did he ever do to them? Thus Matt's struggles begin.

The book traces his childhood from birth through age fourteen or so. As I said, it's a unique one. The household being darkly twisted and as dysfunctional as can be. The few friends Matt make cannot ever overcome his great disadvantages. Though small threads of hope remain. Matt's future remains uncertain. And his present is full of dangers as well. Life is not easy, but it's all he knows. His very life depends on the conclusions he will come to draw, the observations he continues to make.

The House of the Scorpion is a thrilling science fiction novel that is intelligent and intense.

The Graveyard Book - Neil Gaiman

Bod (short for Nobody) Owen's lives in a graveyard with only ghosts for company. When he was a baby a strange and evil man named Jack killed his parents and older sister. Bod was a curious child and managed to let himself out of the house in time and crawl to safety. He has the unusual gift of being able to see ghosts and he is given free reign of the graveyard and all it's secrets.

Time passes and Bod has a series of mini adventures on his way to manhood. When he is 5 he meets Scarlet and they go exploring some of the more ancient graves, he meets three ghouls who try to kidnap him and he tries to do a good thing for a young woman who was killed for being a witch. All of this leads him closer to finding the man who killed his family and being ready to enter the more usual world of the living.

A moving tale with some great characters and mini stories that all come together for a great conclusion. This was the first book I read using the song ereader and it was a very enjoyable experience. It had all the Dave McKean illustrations in it (beautifluly drawn) and I was able to make the print larger at night time when I had more sleepy eyes. Definitely recommended for kids of all ages and do consider getting an ereader (recommended by a real book lover).

Doing It by Melvin Burgess

Burgess, Melvin. 2004. Doing It. (Originally published in UK in 2003.) Henry Holt. 326 pages.

You should be able to tell from the start if Doing It will be to your liking. If the title doesn't clue you in, then surely the first chapter will leave you with no doubts. Doing It is "YA Romance" from the male perspective. (Well, if you can have it be a "romance" without it being particularly romantic.) I'd classify it as humor--and believe me I'm sure there will be some that find it quite humorous--but well, some of the jokes are a bit mean, but perhaps even more importantly it is so much more than bawdy humor. (For me, the elements of humor falls more into the cover-the-eyes, it's so embarrassing kind. You know the sort where you laugh at someone else's misery or humiliation or pain.) There is a substance hidden under the first thirty layers of teen guys talking about sex--the sex they want to have but aren't always getting. It's a story of friendship, in a way, three guys: Dino, Ben, and Jonathan. And each guy is at a different place in their lives. Dino is a player pure and simple. He is dating, Jackie, a tease of a girl who will only go so far with him. She's always promising more...and more...and more. But always chickening out, getting angry, running away. Ben is a strange one. He's a guy with more than a few secrets. One involving an inappropriate relationship with a teacher. Jonathan is mostly a good guy. Not perfect by any means, he listens to his friends more than his heart I think. He has a friend, Deborah, that is "plump" to some people but out and out fat to others. He's drawn to her. He wants her, there's no denying it. But he's afraid that everyone will laught at him if he dates a fat firl. Dino especially can be harsh. So he's torn between his feelings--both like and desire--and his "reputation" as one of the guys. Some of the narrators are more likable than others. Jonathan was the one I liked best, generally speaking.

Before you even start reading this I'm going to let you know that I'm still thinking WHAT?!?! about this book, I finished it an hour ago and have read what a few of the papers had to say about it.
Gould's Book of Fish is set in Tasmania, Australia. An 'antique' dealer (faker) finds this book in a junk shop and becomes obsessed with proving that it is geuine. The little book is described as containing paintings of fish, with dense script surrounding the images and trapped on scraps of paper tucked into the book, the handwriting is crabbed and a mix of colours as the writer has had to make ink from whatever he can find around him.
Up untill then everything is clear, then you get to actually read 'The Book of Fish'. Gould is a convict, imprisoned on the island. He is sent each day to work for one of the wealthy men of the island, a scientist who claims he wants to categorise the fish in the area, with a limited ability to paint Gould sets to work. We then hear Gould talkig about his paintings and his growing obsession with fish, as well as his afairs with a local black woman, the murder of aboriginies, and the treatment of the convicts among many things far more confusing.

The Graveyard Book ~ J's Review

The Graveyard Book

Nobody "Bod" Owens is the protagonist of Neil Gaiman's newest story, The Graveyard Book. The book starts with the murder of Bod's family, and his unknowing escape as an 18-month old toddler. Bod climbs out of his crib and down the stairs, and, finding the front door open, takes the opportunity to explore, unaware that his parents and sister are being ruthlessly stabbed inside. He ends up at a nearby graveyard, where he is taken in by the dead (and undead) residents.

His story is told in a series of episodes, some seeming more like short stories than part of a larger tale. He grows from a toddler to a teen under the watchful eyes of his ghostly parents, the ghost of a witch, a werewolf, and a vampire. The 'man named Jack' who murdered his family is still out to get Bod, and brings continuity to the main story of the book. But mostly, this is the story of how a young human child makes his way in a world populated by those who are so very different than he, much like Kipling's The Jungle Book, which Gaiman said was his inspiration.

The Graveyard Book is emotionally honest, and serves as a wonderful allegory of childhood. Bod's adventures into ancient burial chambers guarded by jealous spirits and the trip he takes into full on danger by entering a ghoul gate juxtapose nicely with his adventures amongst the living, dealing with middle school bullies and greedy antique dealers.

I enjoyed The Graveyard Book quite a bit, and I'm looking forward to reading more of Gaiman's work. This is primarily a children's book, most appropriate for readers aged 9-12, but I suspect young teens might enjoy it as well. The Graveyard Book was this years winner of the Newbery Medal.
The theme of the 26th Bookworms Carnival is book awards and prizes.

It can be found here:

There are some great articles, featured book reviews, and a chance to win a $10 Amazon certificate, so come visit!

The Whistling Season

Ivan Doig
352 pages

Oliver Milliron is a recently widowed farmer in Montana who responds to an advertisement that says “Can’t cook but doesn’t bite.” In need of a housekeeper, Oliver hires Rose Llewellyn who brings along her brother, Morris Morgan. When the town preacher elopes with the teacher and Morrie is pressed into service as the new teacher, he and Rose begin building a relationship with Oliver and the Milliron sons, Paul, Damon and Toby that will stand out in Paul’s memory years later when as Superintendent, he is reminiscing and deciding the fate of one room schools.

I found The Whistling Season to be a book that I could only read in small chunks. It was slightly wistful and nostalgic in places, making me wish it were possible that way of life still existed so I could explore it, if only for one day.

On the other hand, I often found myself wondering what the story was about: Paul, one room schools, Rose and Morrie, Montana, or the Milliron family? Yes

The Whistling Season is definitely not a page turner. Yet, I found that I always wanted to get back to the characters. The storyline didn’t develop at all like I expected which is good( I like that it wasn’t predictable) and bad(I felt lost at times.) I enjoyed the descriptions but found some other areas a bit plodding. In the end, I felt it was worth reading but not one of my favorite Alex Award Winners. (3/5)

Laura's Review - The White Tiger

The White Tiger
Aravind Adiga
276 pages

See, this country, in its days of greatness, when it was the richest nation on earth, was like a zoo. A clean, well kept, orderly zoo. Everyone in his place, everyone happy. ... And then, thanks to all those politicians in Delhi, on the fifteenth of August, 1947 -- the day the British left -- the cages had been left open; and the animals had attacked and ripped each other apart and jungle law replaced zoo law. Those that were the most ferocious, the hungriest, had eaten everyone else up, and grown big bellies. (p. 53-54)

Balram Halwai lives in "the jungle" that is 21st century India. The book is organized as a lengthy letter from Balram to China's Premier, shortly before the Premier's visit to Bangalore. In the letter, written over several days, Balram describes how he left his rural village to work as a driver for the son of the village's wealthiest man. He landed this position completely by luck, and used it to rise up in Indian servant society, and eventually become an entrepreneur.

But this is no rags-to-riches story. It is instead a sometimes humorous, sometimes scathing account of contemporary Indian society. Adiga vividly describes the stark contrasts between "haves" and "have nots," and is resigned to this remaining as status quo for years to come:
An Indian revolution? No, sir. It won't happen. People in this country are still waiting for the war of their freedom to come from somewhere else -- from the jungles, from the mountains, from China, from Pakistan. That will never happen. (p. 261)

The White Tiger explores many of the same themes as A Fine Balance, but I found the latter better-written and far more moving. This was an OK read, but disappointing compared to other Booker Prize winners. ( )

My original review can be found here.