Spoiler Warning

Book reviews and discussions may contain spoilers. Read at your own risk!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

An English teacher's dream

I can't count the number of times this book made me smile.  I'm not lying.  It was that good.

In fact, I haven't smiled this much since The Book Thief and The Hunger Games series.  If I were an English teacher I would get busy putting this book in my lesson plans.  In fact, I bet there are a lot of curriculum nerds going nuts out there right now fitting this book into English classes everywhere.  It truly is an English teacher's dream.  There is so much to explore.  Well, I better go since the discush is starting but i will finish this later.

OKAY FOR NOW discussion...

Better than okay, in fact, amazing.

I already reviewed this on Goodreads, but I just want to add...

After reading scores of YA and MG novels (in and out of this book club), I've come to realize how difficult it can be for a writer to give their young protagonist an authentic voice. Too much angst can come across whiny and annoying, giving birth to an unlikable character. Yes, birth. This problem has killed many a YA book for me (I'm not naming names Graceling ahem). Too little angst, and the character can seem inauthentic or 2-dimensional. It's a fine line, mi amigos. In my professional book club opinion, Doug Swieteck walked that fine line perfectly, not a single misstep. Doug is what made this book so great. Because if all that stuff would have happened to some random kid that didn't seem so dang real, I wouldn't have cared half as much.

Katniss Everdeen
Captain Peter Blood
Doug Swieteck

Let's discuss now, shall we?

Two Thumbs Up


That's how I felt about this book.  Having a 13 yr old boy myself I cannot begin to understand how the author captured the "phase" so perfectly.  And yet, this boy is so different from mine in so many ways.  Obv he doesn't have an abusive, loveless father, etc.  But, how is he so strong?  How can he maintain his ability to get up every day and not curl up in a ball and give up?  It was inspiring to me that a young boy could be so strong,...so caring,....so, so,...............tenacious.  I'm not making sense.  To be honest I didn't think this was gonna happen since I hadn't seen a post from Jespy about a discush.  But yay!!  I loved this book and have already recommended it to a dozen people at least.  Let's do this!

I Was a Chump

I was a chump at least 4 times reading this book.  So what?  So what?  You probably were too. 

Here are the stats on that:

1 time when that kid gave him the Joe Pepitone jacket when he was moving away.
1 time when Douggo stopped by the paper mill and I realized his dad had kept the money and baseball and hadn't said a stupid word to him about it.
1 time when the boss at the paper mill gave him that bomber jacket.

And one other time that I can't remember but you can probably figure it out for yourself.

If you are paying attention you'll see I didn't exactly take stupid notes.

There was a point where I was mad at Jenny for picking this book and making me read it.  I think it was the part where stupid Lucas came upstairs and beat up Doug and took his Joe Pepitone baseball hat.  Yup.  That was exactly when.  Like I wanted to be all depressed.  But Doug had already grabbed me by my stupid heart and that was that.  I was glad I read it and didn't even care it made me act like a chump.   The parts that got me good were the ones where the smallest actions made the biggest differences.  It made me realize that the little things I say or don't say to people can impact them.  Young artist.  Mamma's Baby. 

I  loved the writing style.  If I could trace my finger over it and copy it like Doug did with the Arctic Tern I would in a second.  I have a feeling it's a lot harder than creating stability or movement in a sketch though  A lot harder.

I am so glad I just read Jane Eyre a month ago. 

Fantastic book.  I loved it.  So what?

Monday, September 26, 2011

New Book Selection

I'm just gonna step right in and pick a book, if that's okay for now with you people.
The book is called Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt.

Have you forgotten why you love reading, my friends? Have you lost your reading mojos, mi amigos? Has your book list gone from totally chic to totally geek, my comrades? Well, here is a book that will get you back in the reading groove. After you read this, you will scower (how do you spell scower, fhs?) the Internet, looking for more books with teenage boy protagonists (and you'll have a hard time finding anything that measures up). This is a book you can safely purchase, rather than borrow from the library. This is a book you will continue to think about long after you close it/power it off. This is a book you will recommend to acquaintances during awkward lulls in conversation. This is a book you will bake a cake about.

You can read my review of it HERE on Goodreads if you need more convincing.

--Jenny ESP

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Discussion Place for The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb, a Novel

And go...

Only a little bit of Love

I was curious about the circus thing. I even got a little bit pulled into the story there for a few minutes. But Vinnie was so unlikeable. I couldn't stop wondering the whole book how she never wanted, felt, tried, wished, missed, or thought about doing it with Charles. And I felt so so sorry for him. I hated all of the travelogue stuff. Again? We have to hear about every city, the dirty wagons, trudging through the mud? Months and months of ships and trains and ugh! That could have been summed up pretty easily in a page or two.

I too googled pictures of Lavinia and her little husband. She wasn't that pretty. I wish I could find better pictures of her. What an ego the author gave her. So anyway. The other reviews are much better phrased and written than mine. A big thumbs up Landee. I felt the same way!!

"Landee Loved This Book" and other Humbugs

Alternate Title:  Landee Gives Mrs. Tom Thumb Two GIGANTIC Thumbs Down

First of all, I looked at the photos of Miss Lavinia Warren Bump.   She's no Beauty Queen.  Perfectly proportioned?  I'm gonna go with no.  MORE perfectly proportioned than the peeps on Little People, Big World, yes, I'll give her that.  But still.  Her head is bigger than it should be.  Minnie is adorable though... I just want to put her in my pocketbook and carry her around!

#2, Vinnie was highly unlikable.  Who ever heard of a snotty dwarf/pituitary disorder?  I recently found out that my ancestors also came over on the Mayflower and you don't see me with my tiny nose stuck in the air, do you?  I can't like a snob, no matter how tiny she is.  Therefore, I couldn't completely enjoy the story as it is told entirely from within her tiny brain.  I can't forgive her for being so cold with poor Charles either.  I mean, I wasn't looking forward to any nasty tiny person intimacy scenes or anything, but geez!  A man has needs, I don't care how wee he is.

C.  I LOVE P.T. Barnum.  If he really is anything like how he is portrayed in this book then I want to know more.  I guess that is one good thing about this book... it did make me want to know more about these people.

4th, the writing was subpar.  I wanted less of a travelogue and more of a character driven story.  The foreshadowing was driving me crazy too.  Things like "I would later look back at that handshake and remember it as the moment I sentenced Minnie to death"  (not an exact quote, but who cares?).  Rarely did actual events live up to to the drama of the foreshadow.   I was totally expecting Barnum to have strangled Minnie with his bare hands!  As it turns out, he happened to have introduced Minnie to some short-ish dude whom she married, got pregnant with and then died in childbirth.  Give it a rest, Vinnie, fhs.

Lastly, between this and Water For Elephants I'm starting to think that circus freaks are the new vampire.

Landee out.

Markie's Review of Mrs. Tom Thumb

While this book wasn't particularly entertaining; definitely not a page turner and nothing I would read again, I found the subject quite fascinating and I'm glad I read it. What fascinated me? Well, first off the idea that a person can be born a normal sized baby and then at at couple years old stop growing vertically, while otherwise continuing to age and develop normally in every other way. Apparently this type of dwarfism is not common today because it's easily treatable with hormone therapy. I guess that's why you never see little teeny tiny pocket people around any more. Kinda sad. I miss them... not that I ever had them... but still... I miss them.

I'm also fascinated by what kind of challenges one would face being a teeny tiny person in a normal world (or being a normal person in a world of giants depending on your perspective). "I had always looked up, of course; that was my natural position, just as a flamingo stands on one leg or an otter swims on its back" - challenging, both on a practical basis; things like boarding a train, getting into bed, using a bathroom, cooking, finding clothes, etc.; and on a social basis - the constant stares and whispers, and the challenge of finding a companion. In the case of Miss Lavinia Warren Bump there were extremely limited options.

I also think its facinating the way the author gave a personality and voice to this little person. I have no idea whether it was accurate or not; whether she was the nicest kindest bravest person in the world, or a selfish, bitter, cynical beotch. I suspect like most of us she was some of all the above. For me, I found the personality and voice that the author gave her to be believable, and I did not dislike her. I thought her motivations seemed genuine and I never had a "gimme-a-break" moment where I felt like nobody would act/feel/behave that way.

I don't know how I would handle being a teeny tiny person. Probably not gracefully. I think I would have been very reclusive, willing to stay on the farm and be sheltered and protected, and terrified of the day when my parents would no longer be around to provide that shelter and protection. I loved the fact that Vinnie did not want to be defined by her size, and had the courage and determination to first become a school teacher, and then to go explore the world. I didn't think there was anything incongruous or disingenuous about her wanting to protect her little sister, while at the same time feeling the need to get off the farm herself, see the world, and have people know and remember her.

I also can't judge her for marrying for practical and financial reasons rather than for love. I believe people have been doing that for generations. In fact I think the idea of marrying solely because you are in love is a relatively modern idea. Arranged marriages still happen today in many parts of the world. And again, her options were very limited. Marrying a normal (or giant depending on perspective) sized person would be out of the question for reasons I would think I need not explain. I think it was very sad that she never had any intimacy in her marriage (according the author) - I felt particularly sad for her husband, but again I can't blame her. Indeed she saw her worst fears played out when Minny foolishly did what Vinnie knew she could never do. It's just sad they didn't have something better than prevention powders in those days. Or maybe they did, but these tiny people just didn't know about it, or couldn't find anything their size. Poor little people.

I found P.T. Barnum fascinating too, and I wouldn't mind learning more about him. He certainly left a legacy. The Barnum & Bailey circus still travels around the country today. I liked the way the author portrayed him and would like to think it was accurate. I felt that while he was clearly a business man and out to provide entertainment and make a buck, he respected his employees. I personally don't have any problem with his passing off a wrinkled old lady as being 161 years old and the nanny of George Washington, or sewing half a monkey to half a fish and calling it a mermaid. I love that in our nation a person is free to find suckers and take their money. I did have a problem with his taking orphans and trying to pass them off as the Thumb's child; while at the same time being impressed by the brazenness of it. I think he probably should have done some jail time for that one given that people around the world sent expensive gifts for the baby's birth, and again for its supposed death.

I like the way that the author focused the narrative on the relationship between Barnum and Vinnie. I was sad that Vinnie blamed herself and Barnum for her sisters death, but again I found it genuine and didn't question it. I was happy that they reconciled in the end. These are two people that I will add to my list of people I'd like to meet on the other side. Of course I also found her interaction with, and feelings about the Mormons interesting. I completely understand her disgust at Polygamy. I wish I knew more about her meeting with Brigham Young.

I'm actually old enough, and maybe some of you are too, to remember "Freak Shows". I remember one "human oddity" I saw as a child. It was a tiny man. I paid my dime or whatever it was, and climbed the stairs into a trailer where we stood behind some Plexiglas staring at a little man in a tiny recliner watching TV. He wasn't an every day Oompa Loompa like midget, but he also wasn't a perfectly proportioned little man like Tom Thumb. He was rather misshapen, hunched over, and looked like he must be in constant pain. He looked to be in his middle ages and quite unhappy. I can't blame him. In the few minutes that I was there I witnessed several Cletuses banging on the Plexiglas, and shouting things to try and get the little guy to do something, like Dudley Dursely trying to get the attention of the Burmese Python. But the tiny man never acknowledged the people on the other side of the glass. I felt very sorry for this little person, and wondered about the ethics of this situation. On the one hand we were providing him with an honest living (assuming his employers were treating him fairly) while on the other hand it may have been at the expense of his dignity and self worth.

I pondered this ethical question throughout the book. It's one of the reasons I ultimately give this book thumbs up. It made me ponder some big questions. I like how the Author addressed this issue and how it must have always been a part of Vinnie's thinking. "There were hundreds of 'Tom Thumb Wedding' parties; 'Tom Thumb Wedding" fundraisers; 'Tom Thumb wedding' pageants at schools. Was I supposed to be touched by this, viewing it as a tribute to our love? Or was I supposed to be offended, seeing it as a mockery, a joke? I never could decide." When an Elvis impersonator marries a couple in Vegas, or dozens of them parachute from an airplane is it a tribute? a mockery? Both? Can you really pay tribute to somebody while you are making a joke of their appearance/size/voice/style/etc.?

Other passages that made me ponder:
"I wondered if this was how it always felt when all your dreams came true. Perhaps, after living with them for so long, did you simply toss them away - and begin to dream about something else?"
- Discussion point: Have you ever had a dream come true; one that you thought if only you had that one thing you would be happy for the rest of your life? How did you feel immediately after? 1,5,10 years after? Are you still waiting for your dreams to come true, and provide you the happiness you long for?
"I must confess, right here and now, to making a dreadful assumption. And that assumption was that a person this tall who moved this slowly, must be very slow of mind and wit and well."
- Discussion point: What assumptions do you make based on appearances? Are others justified in making assumptions about us based on our appearance, religious belief, occupation, etc.?
"I imagined what it would be like to be able to walk around freely, anonymously, nothing about me remarkable in any way. Would I like it? Would I trade my fame if it meant that I never had to suffer fools hugging me to them ever again? I honestly did not know. And I was more than a little relieved that it was a moot point, after all."
- Discussion point: Have you ever wanted to be a movie star/sports hero/national leader/famous singer/etc.? Do we envy them without considering what they sacrifice in return for their fame? Would you be willing to pay the price in lost freedom and privacy?

Whether or not one agrees or disagrees with the authors portrayal of Vinnie and whether or not you think she was a good or bad person there is no disputing the fact that this tiny person had the courage to travel the world, meeting kings, queens and heads of state, and on one tour alone "traveled 55,487 miles (31,216 of them by sea) and gave 1,472 entertainments in 587 different cities and towns in all climates of the world without missing a single performance because of accident or illness" and this without most of the modern conveniences we enjoy today. That's a pretty amazing feat IMHO and deserves my admiration and respect, if for nothing else.

Little Person, Giant Ego

JennyESP's review of The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb by Melanie Benjamin

The Writing:

The writing was very nice if you take it sentence by sentence. But those well-written sentences did not always move the story along. They sometimes just sat on the page looking pretty. And at times the dialog felt inauthentic, as if the characters were speaking for the sole purpose of informing the reader. (There would be long paragraphs of dialog from one character, saying things the other characters in the room had to have already known.)

The Pace:

Slow. Slow. Quick, quick, slow. I danced the Tango with this book, when I much prefer the Running Man. There were whole chapters that didn’t seem to add anything to the story and were, in fact, very dull. (Like chapter 5, for instance. You can skip chapter 5 and you won’t miss anything. Actually, you can skip the whole book and read about Vinnie Warren on Wikipedia.) Conversely, the parts of Vinnie’s life that I was particularly interested in reading about were skimmed over in a sentence or skipped entirely. For example, her courtship with her future little husband, Charles Stratton, Mr. Tom Thumb himself! I had to muck through 40% of the book, which included a lot of daily snobbery, before they finally met, only to have their courtship summed up in one unsatisfying “by the way, I agreed to marry Charles” sentence. (More on that relationship later…)

Mrs. Tom Thumb (aka Vinnie):

“Never would I allow my size to define me. Instead, I would define it would be defined as a self-absorbed, selfish, arrogant, condescending, uppity, heartless, cold, manipulative, opportunistic, cruel, self-righteous, judgmental hypocrite.” (Edits.)

The list of Vinnie’s unlikeable attributes grew and expanded as the story dragged on until any hope of redemption was lost. Although, such little effort was made to redeem this character that I have to wonder if the author intended for us to dislike Vinnie. Or perhaps the author and I simply define “strong, driven, independent female” differently. Either way, I utterly disliked Vinnie in an overwhelming contemptuous far-out way, and in the end, she killed this book for me. The most satisfying part of the book was when P.T. Barnum finally chewed her out, although it wasn’t nearly long enough and he failed to kick her into a thorny bush, as I was hoping. Vinnie never apologizes for her faults and never changes. If anything, she gets worse as the story progresses. Her mistreatment of her husband is particularly heartbreaking.

P.T. Barnum:

He was by far the best character in the novel. He shared many of Vinnie’s flaws, yet he was surprisingly down-to-earth and likeable. His relationship with Vinnie felt authentic.

General Tom Thumb (aka Charles Stratton):

Excuse me while I wipe the mud from this poor gentleman’s name.

Credibility (or lack thereof):

**spoilers ahead, and some frank talk about love-making, but I suggest you read on**

Charles Stratton was a real man. Vinnie Warren Stratton was a real woman. In this fictional autobiography, the author wants us to believe Charles and Vinnie never consummate their marriage.

Vinnie, the cold-hearted snake, only marries to advance her career. Unbeknownst to Charles, she never intends to consummate their marriage, or have children (adopted or otherwise, as children literally give her the heebie-jeebies). By the time the author is done with her, Vinnie is a 43-year-old, widowed virgin who is terrified of sex. Again, the author and I have different ideas about what makes a woman strong, driven, and independent.

Stretching the imagination even further, Charles, who married Vinnie for love, is blindsided by her unwillingness to consummate their marriage, but after a few rejections in the bedroom, he never presses the issue, never complains, and never strays from the marriage. He is given an almost child-like sensibility after that, as if he hasn’t any strong adult male desires. This is attributed to his small size and his “simplemindedness.”

I found this suggestion not only insulting, but lacking credibility. I read the author’s note at the end to see how she came to such bold conclusions about Vinnie and Charles, and found that the little evidence she gave to support her claims actually implies the opposite of how she portrayed them to be, if you ask me.

On Benjamin’s (author) website, she answers the question of how she balances “fact versus fiction” in her writing. Her reply: “I like to say that I never let the truth get in the way of a good story! There's a reason why "A Novel" is on the front of the book. It's fiction, and I trust the readers to know that it is. Always, my hope is that, after reading one of my books, the reader is then inspired to learn more about these remarkable people. However, I do use the known facts as a template; they're the "bones" upon which I hang the "skin"—the story, the fiction. But sometimes you do have to take liberties—although I always try to take them with people whose motivations are truly unclear in the historical record. Or with events whose details remain unknown to us.”

Oh, how I would've preferred if M. Benjamin had let a little more truth get in the way of her fiction! Her bones of facts were too easily broken. Indeed, I was inspired to read more about these real people, just as she hoped, and I believe she sold them short. Pun intended!

Here are some confirmed facts, not mentioned in the novel: Vinnie married an Italian Count (another little person) a few years after Charles’s death. She and the Count were together until her death, 34 years later. However, when she died, she was buried next to her first husband, Charles, and her grave stone simply reads “His Wife.” No name, no tiny life-size statue like her husband got, and no mention of her being a Countess. Just simply “His Wife.”

Yeah. They consummated their marriage, all right. In fancy hotels all over the world, including that weird little Mormon town in UT.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

I know other people think you're all that but, well....

Dear Vinnie,
I'm sorry to say it, but I don't like you enough to keep reading.  I spent four nights with you.  Four nights that I could have been doing something else like watching Seinfeld reruns or reading Twilight fan fiction, but I wanted to give you a chance.  After reaching page 124, I just couldn't give you any more of my time.  I'd been disappointed again.  You're finally back home with your family and I'm not feeling the warmth you have for your sister that I thought you said you loved.  The problem is this: I don't think your author really knows you.  She can't explain to me why you do the things you do.  From the very beginning there was this disconnect.  A lack of authenticity.  I first felt it when you decided to give up being a school teacher to join Colonel Wood.  I wasn't set up well enough for that.  I couldn't understand your decision-making for that one when I had thought you to be an intellectual school teacher.  Your naivete was a bit jarring and, honestly, I never got the respect back.  You left your little sister whom you said you loved and wanted to protect but you left without the approval of her or your family.   What?  That's not cool.  So it was downhill from there.  I'm sure you have a lovely story.  Maybe someone else can sum it up for me in a paragraph or two.  

Your typical 5'2"gal  in Meridian, ID, nothin' to write home about here

Monday, July 18, 2011

SRBC Book of the Month - A Markie Pick.

Well, I had all but made up my mind to go with another Dystopian YA book and one that came highly recommended by my daughter Samantha. The book is called Divergent and while I'm sure its awesome, it's another first in a trilogy where the other books are yet to be written. I'm not a fan of being left hanging and I have such a short term memory that I always have to re-read the prior books again when the sequels come out so I usually prefer to wait until an entire series is finished before jumping into it. Having said that, my pick is not due to be released until a week from tomorrow (which works out nicely for me since we will be on vacation for the next week) so if you are interested you probably have time to read Divergent while you are waiting to get the official pick of the month - which is....

The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb: A Novel
Author: Melanie Benjamin

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Discussion HERE for Heaven is For Real

Heaven IS for Real, but .... what?

I tried to cling to the few inspiring things this little boy had to say about his visit to heaven. But the more I read, the more 'off' it all was and left a bad taste behind. I have, many times, reconsidered his assertion that his miscarried sister was in heaven waiting. And I've tried to consider if that could really be possible. And yet, what I already know to be true just makes more sense. But, she was sad because nobody ever named her? I think if we're all children of God and knew Him before, He certainly had a name for us before we came to earth too, right? I also tried to imagine that maybe he saw / described heaven a certain way simply because he was such a young boy. But, that didn't really pan out for me either.

I love a good died-and-gone-to-heaven-and-came-back story. I watch I Survived... Beyond and Back often. I've seen probably more than a dozen different people on that show describing their experience. There is a consistent theme to them all. I love hearing people, who aren't well acquainted with religion, describing things, such as God's voice as sounding like thunder or the rushing of water. I love that they all realize in the end that there isn't an end. But none of them talk about wings or that sort of thing.

Does this make me a weirdie? I don't really care, actually. Whether or not the little boy really saw what he said he saw is beside the point, I decided. The fact that his parents are now fully subscribed to the idea of heaven and eternal families is a good thing I think. But I'm not jumping out of my skin to recommend this book to people. Or, recommending it at all. It's a good story in that it was such a hard experience for them to go through and the little boy lived. Hooray! Yikes. From growing up in WY I know about those hospitals where they aren't equipped or experienced enough to really know much of anything. So pitiful. Even this week, my nephew is finally coming to Denver for his third knee surgery because the guys in Casper couldn't figure it out. Sorry. I guess this is all beside the point.

Loved that it was a short read. Loved that it made me question a little. Love that I already sort of know pretty much most of the answers, kind of. :)

Landee Calls BS

Thank goodness Pop had mentioned that he wanted to have Jesus in his heart a week before dying.  PHEW!!  Can you imagine if he hadn't?  No heaven for you Pops!  But luckily, that was all it took to get into the literal pearly gates.

But yeah.  This book was no bueno, as my dear friend Flemsta would say.

Now, I'm not saying this book doesn't have its place in this world.  It certainly does.  Say, for example, you have no religion in your life.  Say, you have lost a loved one and honestly don't know where they had gone.  Perhaps you have never believed in anything higher than yourself yet you've felt the light of Christ in your life but didn't know what to call it.   Then I can see this book being inspiring.  I can see it giving hope where there is none.  

Unfortunately for Todd Burpo that is not me.  

Now, if there is, at some point an addendum added where, when the kid is 25 and meets the missionaries and they show him a pic of Joseph Smith and he's all "Wait...that's who?"  and they're all "This is Joseph Smith" and he's all "Ok, this is weird.... he was like, the third dude who talked to me up in heaven but I am just remembering that now" and they're all "Well he restored the gospel to the earth" and he's all "Oh yeah!  He mentioned that!  Holy crap... when can I be baptized?"  then fine.

Side notes:

  • Burpo is one of the most unfortunate last names I've ever heard.
  • Sonja sounds like a B.
  • I've been to the Butterfly Museum, Beebs has held Rosie the tarantula and I can testify that part of the story is true.
  • I do love that picture of Christ at the end by that little girl.  Like, really really love.  The hair is slightly Hasselhoff but I love the face.

The Correct Answer?

I thought the book "Heaven Is Real" was clearly breaking the number one rule of the Smart Remarks Book Club - No nonfiction - but I was wrong. Heaven may be real, but the assertions in the book are pure fiction. I knew this at 8% through (Kindle version) when Colten mentioned that the Angels sang "Jesus Loves Me" and Joshua Fought the Battle of Jericho". We all know that if this book were real the Angels would have been singing "I am a Child of God" and "Popcorn Popping on the Apricot Tree".

The fact is that this story is completely tainted by the fact that the father of this misguided child is a Methodist Pastor. I just find it hard to accept that out of the over 4,200 religions out there that this boy comes back from his near death experience regurgitating everything that his dad had been preaching since the day he was born; including the interesting fact that we all sprout wings after we die. I hope mine are hunter green.

I would have found this story much more compelling and believable if this boy had returned from the other side telling about the 40 virgins that he is going to have waiting for him when he dies, or about the six manifestations of God - Ganesha, Shiva, Shakti, Vishnu, Surya, and Skanda - he spent time with; or if this had been a story written by a Budhist Monk who's son came back from the other side describing his meeting with Joseph Smith, or the Prophet Mohammed; or if it was the child of a Shinto Priest who claims he is now an Operating Thetan (see Scientology); Or if it had been a Mormon Bishop's son who's visit to the afterlife included an Easter mass.

The part at the morturary where they about had to gag and forcibly remove this kid from the room because of his panic attack about whether the deceased had Jesus in his heart was creepy. I think despite the insistance from Dad that he tried very hard not to ask any "leading" questions, the fact is that he had been "leading" this child since birth. I'm not saying that this kid, or even his parents were blatanly lying, but I think kids are much more observant than we give them credit for and this child drew on everything he had been taught and observed in his short little life to give an account of Heaven that fit perfectly with what his parents expected to hear.

Or I'm wrong and the correct answer is... The Methodists... yes Methodist is the correct answer. http://mormondirection.com/2008/10/18/the-final-exam-a-light-moment/

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Check your DNA at the door and take out your ribbons, let's decode "Birth Marked" by Caragh M. O'Brien

Jespy's (never-too-late) book review of Birth Marked by Caragh M. O'Brien

That opening birthing scene had me at "push". I mean... mothers forced to give up their babies to the government? Newborns with ankle tattoos? What the heck is not fascinating about that? And then Sgt. Leon Gray showed up and things got a whole lot fascinatinger. And THEN Gaia cut the baby from the corpse and things got the fascinatingest!

Yes, I liked this book. I liked Leon and how he was freakishly handsome. I liked the *basic* premise (government forces outlying society to hand over a quota of newborns in exchange for meager support). I liked the conflict between Gaia and Leon. I liked the entertainment value I got out of it. I will for sure read the next book in the series.


In order to like this book, I had to suspend all logic and commonsense. Heavily. Otherwise I would have been asking myself the whole time...

Why would Gaia's dad bother to keep a coded list of births when the Enclave could simply use their DNA technology if they ever wanted to find birth families? Why would he want to keep that info from them in the first place?

Why didn't the Enclave simply use their DNA technology to find birth families? Are there no Maury reruns to reference in the future? (Say it ain't so!) They could take babies straight from the womb, but it was too much work to gather up women of a certain childbearing age and swab their mouth? Maybe ask them when they gave birth? When their last period was? Narrow things down a bit?

You know how the babies were given the choice to go back to their birth families when they turned 13? Well, how the heck would they know what family to go back to without any record of what family they came from? Wouldn't that be enough reason for the Enclave to keep a record of this stuff from the beginning?

You know how the Enclave only accepted healthy babies into their midsts? Well, why then, on the adoption records Gaia stole from the nursery, was there a separate column to list "Healthy boy" or "Healthy girl" if they were ALL healthy? Seems redundantly redundant to me.

Did Gaia's parents really have to disfigure the whole side of her face to keep her out of the Enclave? Couldn't they have done something cuter, like Tina Fey's scar? And why was the fact that she was intentionally scarred a surprise to Gaia, when it was perfectly obvious to everyone else?

Were there no brilliant minds in the Enclave who could decode a backwards alphabet written in reverse block letters? Were there no middle schoolers they could take out of class to crack the code?

You know when Mabrother Iris sharp-shooted the bird that was sitting right by Gaia's childhood BFF? Why didn't Gaia get the not-so-subtle hint? And after that happened, why did Mabrother Iris insist Gaia was smarter than her mother? (page 190, Gaia asked, "Why do you think I can solve [this super complicated code] when my mother can't?" His smile did not reach his eyes. "Because you're smarter.") Wha?

Other comments:

Every so often, the author did that thing where she recapped what the reader just learned... in case we didn't get it. She was real in-your-face about it too. Evidence, from the end of chapter 11:
"[Gaia] had rediscovered what it was like to be alive and hungry.
She had realized that the freckles were more than just a tribute to her brothers.
She was going to survive this interment and find a way out."

She could have prefaced that by saying, "So, to sum up what just happened..."

Regarding names. I know this shouldn't matter; I hated Gaia's name. I pronounced it Gee-ah, but I'm not good with triple vowels. When I found out it was actually pronounced "Guy-ah", I almost barfed. Granted, I had the the flu.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

let's get this thing started

Markie's Review of Birth Marked

I don't have a lot to say about this one. It wasn't great, but it wasn't bad - somewhere in between The Hunger Games and The forest of Hands and Teeth. It was an interesting premise and good writing. I look forward to continuing the story, but I have a feeling that by the time the next book comes out I will have forgotten 95% of what happened in this one.
P.S. Has anybody seen Jespy lately??

Friday, May 27, 2011

Discussion time

So, it's almost the end of the month and I was wondering if any of you have read the book and want to have the discussion this weekend. I was thinking Sunday night at 7pm pacific 8pm mountain. Let me know if this will work or if we need to wait another week.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Hunger Games Cast

Okay so I admit I am a bit behind.  Three books to be exact.  But to be fair, I think we have had a decline in participation for awhile so I know I am not the only guilty one around this place.

I am going to actually download the latest book on audio and attempt to read/participate in a discussion if people are going to host something.

*But I digress.

The real reason for my post here is to comment on the Hunger Games Movie Cast.  Have you seen it?  If not, let me help you out:

Gale:  Miley Cyrus' boyfriend

Not bad, not bad.  He has broad shoulders, this should work out.  I haven't seen his, what I am sure is epic, performance in the Last Song but if he keeps his mouth shut he can't screw up Gale too much.  He is very pretty.

Katniss:  Jennifer Lawrence, cheerleader extraordinaire.

Honestly when I saw her blonde chick/cheerleader pics I was not impressed but then I ran across a few gems from Winter's Bone like the one above where I was like, hey.... this could work out after all.  I guess I wanted a brunette with olive skin, but it looks like she might have some acting skillz.  I am giving her the bene of the doubt and going to be optimistic here.

Haymitch Abernathy:  Woody.

Can anyone picture Woody Harrelson drunk? Wait, I mean, can anyone NOT picture Woody Harrelson drunk?  Honestly I was shocked by this but wow, great pick.  I have long-loved his ability to play both a total sleazeball and a completely nice, innocent and likeable guy.  Totally versatile, and totally perfect for this.  Plus he is aging pretty quickly so he is just about the perfect guy to play an older-seeming lush who can kick some serious a$$ if he needs to.

Okay so I don't really care about anyone else (though casting Stanley Tucci as Caeser Flickerman gives me great hope because I have never seen him in anything lame) but the REAL reason for this post is...

Peeta:  My FAVORITE child actor of all time, Josh Hutcherson

If he is not your favorite, you obviously have not seen Bridge to Terabithia, Zathura, or Firehouse Dog.  Only one of those movies is any good, but he is absolutely adorable in all of them.  Very sweet, but also capacity to play a tough guy character.  I cannot tell you enough how much I love this kid and I think that it is perfect.  He is THE ultimately likeable underdog. 

So.. your thoughts?


Monday, May 2, 2011

Book For May!!!!

Yay!!! I got the go ahead to pick the book this month and I promise it won't disappoint. Since our discussions have been getting smaller and smaller I wanted to pick something gives us a lot to talk about. I hope the next discussion will be an epic one!!! Anyways I loved this book it has action and romance and a great story too, I hope you guys enjoy it!!
Birthmarked By Caragh M. O'Brien

In a dystopian world of the future, apprentice midwife Gaia, who has served the Enclave faithfully along with her parents, is thrust suddenly into a crisis. She delivers her first baby independently of her midwife mother and takes it to the Enclave inside the Wall as the first of her monthly quota of three newborns. Then her parents are arrested and she learns that they will soon be executed. Gaia springs into action and smuggles herself into the Enclave to rescue them. What follows is an exciting, almost breakneck adventure, as Gaia tries to discover what information the Enclave wants from her and her mother and tries to save both of them from prison. Along the way there is a mildly romantic turn to the story as Gaia develops a friendship and attraction to one of the soldiers, a man with a mysterious past. This world is one in which a small society, composed of an elite inside the Wall and a subservient class outside, is completely cut off from knowledge of anyone or anything outside of its borders. The rulers are authoritarian and mysterious and resemble a monarchy rather than the strictly ideological communitarian system in Lois Lowry's The Giver (Houghton, 1993). The cliff-hanger ending sets up the action for a sequel. Readers who enjoy adventures with a strong heroine standing up to authority against the odds will enjoy this compelling tale.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Discussion for Airborn

Here's our discussion for Airborn.  So what did you think?

Not The Worst

This wasn't the worst book I read in the last 6 months. Compared to Dark and Hollow Places (new release in the Forest of Hands and Teeth Series) Airborne was a breath of mango scented fresh air. They were on a pretty cool deserted (mostly) island, trapped in a lagoon, with a village of 'others' that no one really knew was there. Kind of a weird combo of Gilligan's Island, LOST, Treasure Planet and Star Wars (thanks Markie). Miss Simpkins was fun, in a Mrs. Bennett sort of way. Mr. Cruse was like....well, um....anyway. I enjoyed reading it after I plowed through the first 1/3 of the book and got to some interesting stuff. I too couldn't figure out where I was at on the ship. I thought maybe it was just me, but I'm realizing some of you had trouble picturing everything what the author was describing.

I can easily count on one hand the number of books that I've just groaned over and hated. This was not one of them. On Good Reads, I'd probably give it 2.5-3 stars.

Saved by the Pirates

Narrowing your nostrils is highly unattractive. Why was the author trying to convince us otherwise?

Anyway, I actually liked this book, despite a few problems and a slow beginning. It had a good vibe about it. I felt happy as I was reading it. And it contained pirates. Bad ones.

It started with an action scene (prologue)... and though parts of it were interesting, I had no idea what the H the author was describing. I could't picture any of it. It was all gondolas and bay doors and catwalks and portals and prongs and loops and wires and hoops and grapples and winches and propellers... DUDE! Just... stop. Just stop. I don't see it. This was a precursor to what would happen throughout the book. Long sections where I hadn't a clue what he was trying to describe, and I quickly gave up on ever figuring it out, I just let my eyes scan ahead until the dialog would pick up again. I'm glad to see others had this problem and so we can blame it 100% on the author and pat ourselves on the back for recognizing how bad he is at describing things.

Now, I have a sneaking suspicion that prologue was attached to the beginning to get the reader's initial attention, because I fully expected the adventure to continue, but instead, what came next was rather slow and dull. I mean, an air luxury cruise ship? Unexpected, right? I was thinking maybe an air pirate hunting ship, or an air patrol guard, and I was fully prepared to set a course for adventure, my mind on a new romance... but our hero, Matt Cruse, was merely a bell hop on a luxury cruise line?

About 25% (in Kindlese) into it, the pirates arrived and things finally picked up. There were definitely still problems with the scene descriptions, and some holes in the plot (ie. urgently needing to get Kate back to the airship asap so they could take off, but then discovering the pirates' hideout and suddenly having time to kill and needing to stall the pirates for an entire day), but it just turned into a fun read for me at that point. I liked the author's invention of Hydrium and that it smelled like mango, although I would have gone with dirty dishrag myself. I wasn't a huge fan of Kate at first, as she was so two-dimensional, a caricature of a modern woman more than an actual individual, but she grew on me as the story went on. Matt must be an old soul, since he felt more like 30 years old than 15 years old, but that can be forgiven. I wouldn't recommend this book to everyone, but overall, me likely.

Also, have you gize seen this movie? Best movie ever, by the same name.

PS. Anyone interested in picking the next book?


As long as we are pretending - pretending that balloons filled with an imaginary mango scented gas rule the skys, and pretending that there are winged panthers that spend their entire lives soaring in the clouds; we might as well go ahead and pretend that this story has some depth, more plot development, more interesting characters, more twists, and more fun.
For example, I pretended that instead of Hydrium Gas there was an all powerful force that bound everything together, that Bruce was a wookie, that Captain Walken had a good blaster at his side, that Kate was really Matt's sister, and that Szpirglas was actually his father. Really it was a much better story that way. Also, Lightsabers.

Cloud Cats Rule!

Am I the only one who kept trying to narrow my nostrils?  Yes?  K, never mind then.

The bottom line is that I loved this book.  I thought it was written well with some clever descriptions and phrasing stuck in here & there.  I loved the characters....Matt, Kate, Baz, Miss Simpkins & the Captain guy of the Aurora (forgot his name) come to mind.  It was entertaining and chock full of exciting situations Mr. Cruse needed to deal with.  What more does one want from a book, right?

It did take me a little bit, however, to realize I wasn't going to be able to place the time period this is taking place.  Then I started wondering "Is this one of those steampunk novels people keep talking about?"  Thank goodness my question was answered when Jen from Cakewrecks/Epbot (who is obsessed with all things steampunk) did a post of all her favorite steampunk novels.  Obviously Airborn was on that list or else I wouldn't be mentioning it now.    She loved it.    Although she also recommends some steampunk book by Scott Westerfeld and says "If you've read the Uglies series, then you know Westerfeld couldn't write a bad book if he tried."  <---makes me think she has horrible taste in books.

I do think the book tends to repeat itself quite a bit and some of the coincidences were just TOO coincidental but none of it seemed to bother me.  I just wanted to see how Mr. Cruse was going to get himself out of this one now.  The people who I think would simply FLIP over how awesome this book is are my 11 and 9 year old sons.  I may need to add this on to our nightly reading list.

I'll leave you with this... here is one person's idea of what the cloud cats looked like:

But oh how I wish they looked like this:

Regards, Landee

"That's my girl," I said, and took her hand.

That was the last sentence of the book.  He was always calling the Aurora his girl and now he's calling Kate his girl.  Can you say cheesy? ::gag::

Airborn by Kenneth Oppel was full of gag-worthy moments and vomit-inducing repetitions.  "Matt Cruse, light as air."  I know, I know, I know. 

The story started out a little slow but picked up quickly when pirates boarded their airship.  When they landed on the island things got pretty exciting.  That excitement remained until Kate and Matt accidentally beckoned pirates to rescue them.  Big oops.  It fell flat for me there.  I couldn't quite wrap my head around this uneventful, not-very-exciting way for the pirates and Matt and Kate to come together.  Oh well.  I did enjoy watching them squirm as they had to then pretend to be something they were not and devise a plan of escape.   

Still not sure how Matt escaped out of that hammock.  In fact, I'm not quite sure of anything in this book.  I felt like I was only half a participant in this story since I never grasped any of the author's descriptions.  The airship looks like what?  Wait, how did that happen?  He survived yet another death-defying moment how?  I'm not sure if I didn't have my brain fully screwed on while I listened to this story or what,  but I could not "see" anything.  I just had to be content to listen and hope the author got the descriptive parts over with quickly so I could get on with the dialogue.  

Kate.  Yeah, I liked Kate.  I thought her character was well developed and I enjoyed her ahead-of-her-time personality.  However, when she got herself into trouble for the umpteenth time I wanted to smack her.

The plot was alright.  Less life or death situations would have made it more exciting.  Matt was constantly being put in unbelievable situations where death seemed to be imminent.  The constant overcoming of the impossible grew tiresome for this reader and anti-climatic. 

I thought the cloud cats were totally stupid.  I thought they were supposed to be birds, not cats. 

Aside from these annoyances, I liked the book.   However, I hope they make-out more in the next one.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

I am so lame

I completely forgot our book discussion last Sunday.  Can we reschedule for Sunday, May 1st at 9pm MST?

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Get Ready to be Airborn

I know I'm extremely late announcing this month's book.  I guess I've just had my head in the clouds.   

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Dear Flavia

"I have this weird patch of skin on my tummy I've been needing the answer to.  Also, there is a really annoying teacher at my kids school that I'd love to "poison" with the birthday cupcakes I send in.  Not only are you charming and rascally all at the same time, but your love and affection for you highly dysfunctional family cannot be hidden by your attempts at ambivalence.  Your keen intellect and startling grasp of chemistry makes me wanna name my bike and ride her all over town.  Please be my new BFFF (best friend from fiction)?

Love, Memzy"

I'm off to Shed's grammy's 80th birthday party.  But I just wanted to chime in here real quick like.  I loved this book.  I cannot believe the author is a 60+ year old male!  I've already read the next two Flavia de Luce mystery novels with gusto.  I even named a recent necklace purchase my "Flavia" necklace.

Are you gize gonna do this or what?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


Read like the wind!

Book discussion will occur this coming Sunday, Feb 20th!

Time: I know this isn't the norm, but does 5pm (pct) 6pm (mst) work for everyone? Speak now or forever hold your peace.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Scorched Trails has dried up, time for a new book

It's a new year, and this book club could use a rejuvenation. I've been doing some research to find a book choice that could do the trick. My research actually yielded a long list of potentials, but I thought we should start with something fun and adventurous, something with a fresh and clever voice. That sound good? Good.

So, over the next four weeks, please enjoy

(Can I use "charming" in the same sentence as "murder and mystery"? Well I'm going to, with or without your permission, thank you very much!)
It's a charming story of murder and mystery.