Friday, December 17, 2010

One Second After by William R. Forstchen

When the power goes out in picturesque Black Mountain, North Carolina, John Matherson knows exactly what happened. A history professor and former military officer, John has read the reports of what an EMP attack would look like, he knows immediately that the United States will never be the same. EMP is an electromagnetic pulse that wipes out of all America's power grid. Electricity, phones, and all cars built before the 1980's are rendered completely useless, thereby crippling the country. Left to protect his two daughters and lead the small town to reform itself into a hunter/gatherer society, John must gather all his strength and knowledge to make the hard decisions that will keep his town alive. Food and medicine rationing, martial law, and battle strategies become daily decisions alongside the everyday duties of being a father. One Second After is a cautionary tale of the all too true consequences of not being prepared for this type of attack.

This book is thought provoking and moving. Forstchen tackles the questions you pray you never have to answer, and the ones you would never even imagine. One Second After looks closely at how comfortable America has become and what would happen to us if someone decided to prey directly on our complacency. I found that throughout the book I agreed with the decisions John makes, though at times I wondered if I would have the strength to do the same. One Second After is described as an apocalyptic novel but at the heart of it, this is really a book about what it truly means to be an American, to love your neighbor and your country, to find strength in your faith and family, and ultimately the resilience of the human race.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

When Jacob Jankowski hopped a train to run away from a family tragedy, he couldn't have imagined the world in which he would find himself. He soon learns that the train is that of the Benzini Brothers Traveling Circus. An almost graduate of veterinary school, he is put in charge of the welfare of the menagerie. Jacob makes a few friends and quite a few enemies on the fateful journey. At the heart of the book is a love story between Jacob and one of the star performers, who happens to be married to a paranoid schizophrenic animal trainer that can't decide if he wants to kill Jacob or love him like a brother. Water for Elephants tells the story of Jacob's time with the circus and all the oddities that life brings. Taking place during the depression era, the story is vivid, beautiful, surprising, and at times sad.

Water for Elephants is one of the best books I have read in quite a while. It is absolutely riveting. Sara Gruen does such an excellent job of engrossing the reader in the story, there were times I was sure I could smell the popcorn and wild animals. I was so glad to hear this book is being made into a movie. The description of the circus and all the colorful characters was so visual it will lend itself perfectly to the big screen.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Luxe by Anna Godbersen

Elizabeth Holland is the reigning queen of Manahattan's social scene in 1899. Her life appears to be perfect, but her family is hiding a secret. After her father's strange death, they are shocked to learn they are broke. In an attempt to save the family's reputation, Elizabeth is betrothed to Henry Schoonmaker- one of New Yorks's richest and wildest bachelors. The betrothal puts Elizabeth in the middle of a love triangle that could cost them all more than the family money. The Luxe is the first in a series of four books.

Lately I seem to be finding myself emerged in some fabulous young adult literature. I'm not ashamed of it, but what does it say about today's literary choices if adults keep turning to young adult chic lit for entertainment? I'm tired of heavy books that make me sad. I need a break, and I found it in The Luxe. Anna Godbersen does an excellent job of creating a world of frills, lace, and a few good ol' dirty catfights. This book is Mean Girls in corsettes. I'm considering heading out tonight to buy the next book in the series, Rumors. I recommend this book for a quick, no-brainer read. It's like getting a good dish of gossip without having to feeling guilty about it.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Little Bee by Chris Cleave

A 16 year old Nigerian girl, a 4 year old who thinks he's Batman, Sarah, a woman with only 9 fingers, and her husband Andrew are all forced together in this story about survival. Little Bee grew up in the third world country where she changes her name to Little Bee to protect herself. After an encounter on the beach one day with the English couple, Sarah and Andrew, Little Bee stows away on a ship to seek refuge in England. Once there, she is immediately sent to a detention center where she spends over a year in harsh conditions because she has no papers. Once released, she goes to find Sarah and Andrew only to find that their worlds do not go together so well.

If you are looking for a "feel good" book then this is not the book to read. This is a very sad book, but I think that Chris Cleave does a great job of showing the difficulties of life in a third world country, in detention centers, and even in middle to upper class society. Sarah and Little Bee are practically forced together because of circumstances and it is great that Chris Cleave allows the reader to hear both of their points of view by switching from one character's voice to another. Listening to Little Bee you will find a young girl who is constantly afraid that men from Africa will come to find her. Sarah's perspective is even more complex as she cheats on her husband, works a full time job, tries to raise her son, and doesn't know how to manage it all.

While this is an extremely sad book, Little Bee's thought processes at times are very witty and sometimes make you laugh. Not to mention the fact that Sarah's 4 year old believes that he is Batman and can not be convinced otherwise. While I do recommend this book, I have to warn that the ending is somewhat frustrating and left me hanging. Even so, this is a wonderfully written book and well worth reading.

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest is the third and final novel (although their have been rumors of a fourth manuscript) in Stiegg Larsson's must-read trilogy. If you have not read the first two books in the trilogy, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and The Girl Who Played with Fire, you should head to the book store and get started.

Stiegg Larsson starts off in this novel where he left off in The Girl Who Played with Fire and doesn't stop for air. He picks right up with all of the characters, which can be a little frustrating in the beginning, especially if you had to wait for the third book to come out. The many investigators and police officers are hard to keep straight. Once I realized that I couldn't keep them all straight and just kept reading, I was hooked. When I reached Part 2, I could not put the book down. I have to say that I was concerned as to how Larsson was going to end this series when I picked up the book, but I was very impressed with how he masterfully tied all the loose ends.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

South of Broad by Pat Conroy

South of Broad by Pat Conroy is the story of a misfit boy and his journey into adulthood accompanied by an interesting group of friends and a truly difficult family. In spite of his mother's detachment and the turbulent backdrop of the 1960's and 1970's, Leo manages to become the kind of man everyone wants to know. The book takes the reader along as Leo navigates life in aristocratic Charleston, SC (otherwise known as south of Broad Street). The story continues with Leo's adult life and the obstacles him and his life-long friends are forced to overcome. The book is a series of twists, turns, and false endings, but somehow Conroy makes it work.

If you have ever been to Charleston, SC or even seen a picture of it for that matter, you will enjoy this book. The historic city is just as much a character in the story as Leo, his devout Catholic mother, or his flamboyant neighbor. You can almost smell Hyman's seafood and the brine in the air. The plot is full of so many seperate climaxes that it could really have been turned into two seperate books, but it flows together well enough that it is easy to overlook. I've heard a few grumbles from other readers about the ending, but I am of the opinion that it couldn't have ended any other way. If you want to decide for yourself, I guess you'll just have to pick up a copy and head south of Broad.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Voice (Book Sneeze Review)

Book Sneeze is a unique sight that offers books to bloggers to be read and reviewed. So far I have received one book and was quite impressed with the whole idea. The books are absolutely free but you can only request one at a time. Once you have posted your review for one book you are allowed to choose another. It's a great way to get free books and be introduced to new authors.

The Voice was my first Book Sneeze book to review. It is an excellent translation of the New Testament that seeks to "retell the story of the Bible in a form as fluid as modern literary works yet remaining painstakingly true to the original manuscript." One of the most unique characteristics of this translation is the screenplay format. Whenever there is dialogue, the speaker is indicated which allows for the reader to read the text as a narrative. For someone who loves fiction because of how the text flows, I felt that I was reading a true story as opposed to biblical fact.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Dear John by Nicholas Sparks

Dear John
is the star-crossed love story of John and Savannah. The two meet by chance on the beach in North Carolina and fall instantly in love. After being together for two weeks, Savannah must return to her life and John to his. Unfortunately, John's life is thousands of miles away stationed in Germany as part of the US Army. The two swear to write letters and keep their love alive until the day that John can return. It seems as if it is only a waiting game, until the terrorist attack of September 11th which spurs John to re-enlist. The distance, different lives, and John's inability to totally trust this love due to his strained relationship with his father leads them down a difficult path.

Sarah's Review:
Ugh. Let me start there. I think all Nicholas Sparks books are hit or miss. This one is most definitely a miss. I have to believe the reason it became so popular was because of the movie that was made from it starring ever-so-cutie Channing Tatum. It is dull and predictable. The characters are not believable and difficult to relate to. Surprisingly, I think Nicholas Sparks writes better female leads than males. My advice? Skip it. If you want Nicholas Sparks, try
The Guardian or The Choice, but if it's mind-numbing sleep medication you're looking for then this is the book for you.

Erienne's Review:
After reading
A Walk to Remember and The Notebook, I had pretty much given up on Nicholas Sparks. With each of his books I could most likely tell you the ending about thirty pages in. He is that predictable. I picked up Dear John with the hopes that after a few years maybe Nicholas Sparks had a little more to offer. Unfortunately, Dear John is probably the worst Nicholas Sparks book that I have read. In Dear John, Nicholas Sparks basically tells you the ending of the book within the prologue. This time I didn’t even have to read thirty pages. At that point, I pretty much had to make myself continue reading. The remainder of the story was just like a typical Nicholas Sparks romance that brings tears to your eyes before you realize how very unrealistic his version of romance actually is.

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

The Secret Life of Bees is the story of a young girl coming of age in the south during the 1960's. Lily is raised by her neglectful father on a peach farm in South Carolina. Finally fed up with her father's mistreatment Lily and her nanny Rosaleen head off in search of a place to call home. Lily and Rosaleen are taken in by the Boatwright sisters on their bee-keeping farm in Tiburn, SC. There she finds unconditional love, the mother she's been longing for, and finally herself in this unlikely honey-sticky place.

Sarah’s Review:
This book hums with the feel of long hot summers and honeybees. It is a portrait of the strength of women and the bonds we share together. Although I was a bit uncomfortable with the religious aspects of the book, I believe strongly in the message. One must find what you truly believe in before you can find who you really are. The Secret Life of Bees is inspirational and uplifting. An excellent book to read this summer while laying in the sunshine with a glass of sweet tea.

Erienne’s Review:
The Secret Life of the Bees is a book that reminds me of the importance of having people to help you go through the struggles of life. Lily, who has no one she can trust but her nanny, ends up finding an entire community of people to love her and help her deal with the difficulties in her life. The women at the bee-keeping farm show Lily how to love again by loving her despite their differences. Lily is also able to see how the women deal with their own struggles and support one another within the midst of difficult times. As the book comes to a close, Lily is beginning to experience freedom from her past and is able to return some of the love she has been given.

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt

Author John Berendt fell in love with the city of Savannah, GA on his first visit. After taking up a part-time residence in the city, Berendt began writing a work of nonfiction that reads like a wild soap opera. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil tells the story of Jim Williams and the murder of his young lover, Danny Hansford. Berendt intertwines Williams's story with the lives of other colorful Savannah residents and the city itself becomes a minor character in the story. Set in the shade of live oaks and spanish moss, the story that Savannah residents like to simply refer to as "the book" is a twisted tale that seems to go nowhere and everywhere all at the same time.
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil can be dark one minute and hilarious the next. Berendt takes the reader for a fun-filled mystery ride. It is very easy to forget that this book is considered nonfiction since it reads like a love song to the southern city of Savannah. The book actually inspired me to take a road trip to Savannah and I was pleased to find that it was literally like stepping into the story. The Mercer House stands facing some of the most gorgeous squares and Bonaventure Cemetary is every bit as eerily beautiful as Berendt promises. This book is a must read for anyone that has been to Savannah or anyone planning to go there. Even if you're not, read it anyway, it's just a fun book. When you're done, go ahead and see the movie starring John Cusak. This is very difficult for me to say, but believe it or not it actually is one movie that lives up to the book.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert

Elizabeth Gilbert follows up her best selling novel,
Eat Pray Love, with an interesting book that takes a look at the institution of marriage. Throughout the book, Liz talks with women within western civilization and women outside her own culture to discover their thoughts on marriage. Liz, who has already experienced a difficult divorce, is extremely skeptical about the idea of being married again and is left with no other option when the man she loves is about to be deported. She must come to terms with marriage or be separated from him.

Committed was an interesting book for me to read. Having read Eat Pray Love, which read much more like a piece of fiction, I found that Committed was a rather difficult read. While there were many good pieces of information about marriage, I found that Elizabeth tended to lose me in her extreme thought processes. It seems that for Elizabeth, in order for her to go ahead with any decision, she must have it completely resolved in her mind. While this is not necessarily a bad thing, it was rather frustrating to follow those thoughts within her book. Many times I wanted to say, "Liz, just jump in with both feet and stop talking."

While I appreciated some of the questions that Elizabeth asked about marriage, it was very hard for me to come to terms with many of her conclusions. Throughout most of the book, it seems that she is merely giving her own opinion about marriage and fails to look at it from all angles. She spends much of her time trying to convince others that marriage, within western culture, is demeaning towards women and suppresses their individuality but she does not take into account or mention those women who willingly choose to be married and have a family. Because these women have willingly chosen marriage for themselves, marriage in turn becomes a part of their individuality. Also, it seems that even some of the historical information that Elizabeth used to back up her beliefs were somewhat skewed by her opinions. She seemed to make the facts fit in where she needed them regardless of how she had to bend or misshape them.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Worst Case by James Patterson & Michael Ledwidge

Detective Michael Bennett already has his hands full, being a single dad with ten kids, when wealthy teenagers start to go missing throughout New York City. Detective Bennett, along with FBI agent Emily Parker, are put in charge of the task force to find the kidnapper and attempt to bring the teenagers to safety. The kidnapper, Francis X. Mooney, believes that by his actions he is serving a greater cause and leads the two cops on a wild goose chase throughout New York City.

Worst Case was my first James Patterson book. While many have raved about his works before, I have not been able to bring myself to pick up one of his books. When having trouble finding something to read, I tend to check out the New York Times best seller list and his new book happened to be at the top of the list. That being said, I decided to give James Patterson a try. Overall I thought that Worse Case was a decent mystery. I was not on the edge of my seat the entire time I was reading the book but there were enough twists and turns throughout the novel to make me want to finish. I enjoyed how Patterson and Ledwidge used third person narrative while also showing the individual perspectives of the characters throughout. It was very interesting to be able to see into the mind of the kidnapper and then be able to go right back into the minds of the two cops working to find him. I don't think that Worst Case has made me a true James Patterson fan, but I do have to say that it was worth reading.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory

At the age of fourteen, Mary Boleyn is forced by her unscrupulous family to seduce the king of England. As the queen was unable to give the king his only desire, a son, he takes Mary as his mistress. Infatuated by Henry VIII and the power of his kingdom Mary is shocked to learn that her family has decided to throw her sister, Anne, into the ring as well. Mary must step aside and help her aspiring sister steal the heart of the king and eventually become the Queen of England. The Other Boleyn girl is the story of the rise and fall of Anne Boleyn and all the deceit and desire that came along with it, told from the eyes of the little known Boleyn sister.

Philippa Gregory takes historical fiction and makes it sizzle. The Other Boleyn Girl is captivating. I was surprised to find that even though I already knew the outcome of the story, I couldn’t wait to see what would happen next. I simply could not put this book down.

Researched in painstaking detail, The Other Boleyn Girl is a portrait of life in the Tudor period of England. It shows a drastic contrast between the life of a courtier and that of a commoner. It also takes an interesting look at the life of women of that time and what was expected of them. As a woman in the twenty-first century I was appalled at the low value that was placed on women in the 1500’s, especially women of high ranking families.

This book is about intrigue, sex, selfishness, ambition, and finally the power of love. I’m adding this to my must-read list immediately, and maybe even to my must-read again list.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time begins as a mystery told from the point of view of Christopher John Francis Boone, a very unique teenager. Christopher finds the neighbor’s dog dead in the yard and decides to write a book about his investigation into the matter. After his father repeatedly tells him to mind his own business, a secret is revealed to Christopher that sends him off on an even bigger adventure. His quest brings him to new places, creates new experiences, and redefines his life as he knows it.

While I can’t recall the author ever directly saying what makes Christopher so different, it seems clear to me that Christopher has autism. This book is an interesting, and I believe amazingly accurate, look inside the head of a person with autism. The glimpse inside Christopher’s mind is fun, quirky, and somewhat maddening at times. His skewed views of the world make the most mundane daily tasks seem like terrifying and exciting adventures.

The book is uniquely written and refreshing. This book breaks the mold of a typical novel by numbering the chapters with prime numbers (because those are the numbers Christopher likes), and using mathematical formulas, sketches, and charts throughout. While I laughed out loud at the oddities of the book in the beginning, I did find it to be a bit tiring by the end. Being inside Christopher’s mind was exhausting and I was glad when the story was over. Altogether an interesting read, though not one of my favorites.

The Piano Teacher by Janice Y.K. Lee

The Piano Teacher
is set in World War II and Post World War II Hong Kong as Janice Y.K. Lee tells the tale of one man’s interactions during and after the war. Throughout the novel, she skillfully moves from one time line to another. In the beginning we are introduced to Will Truesdale, an Englishman who has just moved to Hong Kong who quickly falls for Trudy, who is the daughter of an affluent Chinese businessman. We follow their story into the Japanese attack on Hong Kong and are given a small glimpse into history. As Janice Y.K. Lee is telling Will and Trudy’s tale she also weaves in the tale of Will and Claire, the piano teacher, which takes place after the war.

This is a must read simply because it is a wonderful piece of historical fiction. Reading fiction is a treat itself, but it is all the better when you can read about pieces of history neatly woven into the lives of the fictional characters. Janice Y.K. Lee does a wonderful job of weaving in the factual information with the fictional. We are given a look at the Japanese occupation through both the eyes of Trudy and Will. Once the Japanese completely take over, Will is interned and his life in the camps is less than easy. Trudy is left on the outside to fend for herself and through her eyes we are given a look at the Japanese soldiers, as she must make friends with them to survive.

While I definitely recommend this book because of its historical elements and the authors uncanny ability to switch from one time line to another, I was frustrated with some of the characters' decisions and the ending of the book. I felt that the epilogue ending was rather quick and inconclusive.

The Quickie by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge

Paul and Lauren’s marriage is in trouble. Lauren is sure he is having an affair and she decides the way to deal with his betrayal is to have an affair as well. As she spends an amazing evening with a man she has been dreaming about for some time, the night takes an unbelievable twist and Lauren finds herself in the middle of a nightmare.

This book is so fast paced and full of surprises it is hard to summarize it without giving anything away. Patterson hits the gate running from the prologue and doesn’t slow down until the last page. You will read this novel at a full sprint.
The Quickie stays true to its name and is an excellent poolside read for the summer or as a way to spice up a cold winter night. You won’t get bogged down with words or lost in a description of the weather and landscapes or deep inner thoughts. It’s simply action, action, action. Short and sweet, just like the book.

The Memory Keeper’s Daugher by Kim Edwards

The book begins in 1964 with the birth of twins and the formation of a secret so unbelievable that it haunts all those involved for the rest of their lives. One baby is healthy, while the other is born with Down syndrome. The father asks the nurse to take the baby away to an institution and he tells the mother that her daughter died in childbirth. Instantly in love with the out casted child, the nurse is unable to send her away and decides to go into hiding to raise the baby on her own. The Memory Keeper’s Daughter is the story of how this one fateful night shapes the lives of these two families for the rest of their years.

It seems almost impossible that this could be Kim Edwards’s first novel. It is so beautifully written that the reader genuinely shares the pain and regret of each character in the story. The lives of these two families are seamlessly woven together. At many points in the story I just wasn’t sure who I was rooting for. As is so often true in real life, there is no clear hero in this story, only people that rise on some occasions and fall so far on others. As the story came full circle I began to think there was no way this book could end in a way that gave me closure, but I was pleasantly surprised. Read this book. Then go find someone you have done wrong and tell them you’re sorry, for goodness sake.

Marley and Me by John Grogan

While Marley and Me may technically be nonfiction, it reads like a beautiful work of fiction. It is the story of a dog and the role he plays in his owner’s lives as they journey through the ups and down of life and the journey into civilized adulthood.

Right from the start Marley terrorizes the peaceful life John and Jenny have created. He destroys their house and pushes them to their limits. The situation only gets worse as the couple begin to have children. They constantly go back and forth on whether to keep Marley or find him a new home. By the end of the story, they realize that even with his antics Marley has played an important role in the story of their lives.

I got a puppy shortly after college when I was living on my own. I quickly realized I had made a huge mistake. When I seemed to be at my wits end with my dog, someone begged me to read Marley and Me before I took her back to the pound. As I finished the book I hugged Rizz through a haze of tears and promised her she would live out all her days with me. I still have Rizz, and she’s my best friend.

Marley and Me is heart-wrenching and beautifully written. Anyone who has ever loved a dog will love this book. Please, please, please don’t just settle for the movie. You need to feel the power and emotion behind John Grogan’s words. You will love this family and more importantly you will love Marley.

A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

Gemma Doyle was raised in India in the late nineteenth century. After the mysterious death of her mother, Gemma is sent to the Spence Academy in England to finish her schooling and learn how to become a lady. Gripped by despair, guilt, and terrifying visions Gemma finds herself an outcast at the academy. She then befriends a group of Spence’s most powerful girls, and Gemma finds that she is able to control her visions and transfer herself and her friends to a supernatural world. It’s there she learns that she is connected to a group of powerful women known as the Order. Gemma must decide whether to trust her instincts and pursue her powers or listen to the warning of the mysterious young man that is following her.

A Great and Terrible Beauty is both a beautiful and frightening tale of young girls on the brink of womanhood and the choices they must make. As if toying with the supernatural wasn’t difficult enough, Gemma and her friends are faced with the decisions that every teenage girl must make. Confusion over boys, the pressures of school, and daily quarrels with each other can make the lives of the Spence girls seem downright dramatic.

Libba Bray creates loveable and sometimes despicable characters that are so true to reality they might have been modeled after our own high school friends. The character of Gemma is strong, independent, and utterly interesting. It was almost hard to believe she would struggle to make friends, since I wanted to call her up and have drinks (if not of course for the small obstacle that she is only sixteen and in fact not real). A Great and Terrible Beauty places these fantastic characters in a glowing green English countryside, throws in a little magic, and we find ourselves at the start of what is sure to be a wonderful adventure. Thank goodness there’s a sequel.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A Child Called “It” by Dave Pelzer

This is the true story of child abuse told from the mouth of a man that lived it. A Child Called “It” is Dave Pelzer’s account of life as the child that was the outlet for his alcoholic, emotionally unstable mother’s frustration with life. Never called by name, starved almost to death, and hidden away in the basement for years of his life, Dave Pelzer overcame this living nightmare to write a series of books about his life. This is the first in the series of three. It focuses on his childhood up to the fifth grade when observant teachers helped to bring his abuse to an end.

I was disgusted while reading this book. Not with the book, but with the fact that it is nonfiction. It’s rare that I read a nonfiction book, but when a fellow teacher told me how this book changed her way of thinking about her students, there was no way I could walk away from it. If you work with children in any way, you must read this book. It will make you angry. It will make you sick, but you must find the strength to read it. The fact that this woman was able to torment this child for so long without anyone knowing had me looking at each of my students with fresh eyes. It made me see that I need to understand their lives outside of school in order to understand their performance inside my classroom.

Underneath the wretchedness of this story is a theme of determination and perseverance that will steal your heart. Little David’s ability to hold on to hope is inspiring. To survive reading this book I had to keep reminding myself that it would be okay, he would live to write his story. I was able to keep reading because I knew he was going to make it. Where did he find his strength?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie
is a fascinating tale about an eleven year old chemist/detective, Flavia de Luce. Set in the English town of Bishop's Lacy, Flavia de Luce battles with her two older sisters who seem to despise her as she attempts to solve a murder that happened in her very own back yard. She does all this using her chemistry lab left to her by an auspicious uncle while relying on her bike as her means of transportation to gather clues. This is the first Flavia de Luce mystery, with the second: The Weed that Strings the Hangman's Bag to be released in March 2010.

Readers will most likely fall in love with Flavia de Luce after the first twenty pages. She is a fearless and determined eleven year old girl who will stop at nothing to solve a crime or to get revenge. After being tied up for hours by her two older sisters, Flavia skillfully concocts a remedy for her sisters' bad behaviors in her chemistry lab. Flavia cruises around Bishop's Lacy on her bike, which she has creatively named Gladys, in attempts to discover who has killed a mysterious man in the cucumber patch at Buckshaw, the great house where she lives.
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie is a page turner that will send you out looking for the next book in the series. Thankfully Alan Bradley is feeding our addictions and has already released the titles of the next five books.

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Set in a dismal view of the future, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins follows the story of Katniss as she is sent into the arena to fight for her life in a game of survival. Chosen through a drawing created by the corrupt government of Panem, one boy and one girl from each district is sent to the games. The children must fight to the death and the winner is the only one left alive. Katniss must choose between life, love, and loyalty in a story that makes us question our ideas of quality entertainment. The Hunger Games is the first in a trilogy with the final book being released in summer 2010.

Sarah's review:
The Hunger Games is a delicious morsel of a book that leaves me starving for more. Although it is considered young adult literature, the themes of the book relate to teens and adults alike. The story is told from Katniss's point of view and the reader is really able to get inside her head. She is the warrior every teenage girl hopes she will be. The love story that begins to unfold is juicy and enticing and I had to follow up immediately with the second installment in the series, Catching Fire. The Hunger Games is an adventure from start to finish. It's a quick read but will stay on the mind long after you are through. Although the concept of the book seems farfetched, it makes one think about how far reality TV will go and exactly what we consider to be entertainment. Why do millions of Americans engross themselves in shows like Survivor, or worse yet, Jersey Shore? As for me? I'll stick to books like The Hunger Games.

Erienne's review:
Suzanne Collins does a superb job with her first book in The Hunger Games trilogy. Not only is the novel filled with excitement that leaves you not wanting to put it down, it is also jam packed with thought provoking issues such as desensitization and the value of human life. The gruesome death match is aired on television for all to see and the people of Panem are required to watch. While the people in the districts do not particularly enjoy this, those within the Capitol find it intriguing. Viewers cheer for their favorite contender and simply watch while the chosen children kill one another in hopes of being the last remaining survivor. The onlookers within the Capitol hold little regard for who lives or dies while those within the districts are watching for even a glimpse of their representative. While The Hunger Games is a book where you will find love and excitement, it is also a book that will leave you thinking about many of the issues that we encounter today.