25 August 2012

The Journal of Curious Letters

I finally finished The Journal of Curious Letters! 
It only took two renewals from the library and a very long phone conversation last Saturday for a third renewal but I finished it! 

I wasn't as fresh off The Maze Runner as I would have liked to be, but one of the first things I noticed was that the writing was very different. The Maze Runner, if I had to categorize, is a mid-teen young adult books. That would place The Journal of Curious Letters somewhere in pre-teen/early teenworld. What does that even mean any more? In my head, I'm thinking maybe 8-12. 
I am basing that on the style of writing, the themes present in the book and the over all progression of events. 

It is a story that starts with our main character, Atticus (nicknamed Tick) Higginbottom, receiving a "curious" letter telling him that the world is in danger but that he can help! What a crazy thing for a kid that gets picked on all the time to hear! And of course, like any good hero, he has a choice: to help or to ignore the letter.  And, as a good storyteller would do, James Dashner has Tick accept the challenge and we start on an adventure into the Realities. 

Tick receives letters in the mail from a mysterious MG, each one a clue to when, where and how they will meet and further discuss saving the world. A nice twist to the story is that Tick isn't the only one receiving letters. He meets up with a few other kids and together they figure out the clues and talk about the interesting things that happen to them. 

I will be honest: I wasn't terribly riveted by this book. What I found most interesting is the completely different way James Dashner told this story. It was evident in both the writing and story line that this was not going to be a watered down Maze Runner book. 
Some authors can seamlessly write a book for children that adults find wonderful. Harry Potter is case in point. The story, the characters, the writing--it wasn't dumbed down so only children could understand. I had more talks with adults. come to think of it, about the books than I ever had with children. We talked about our favorite characters and plot twists, as well as the moments that made us cry. 
But J.K. only really wrote the one series. Sure. OK. The Chronicles of Narnia. C. S. Lewis wrote children's books as well as academic books and "adult" books. There was a bit of a difference, but the quality was the same. 

It almost seemed like there was a fire missing from The Journal of Curious Letters that was always present in the Maze Runner. As I was reading I kept thinking that this book would be good for pre-preteens. It gives them a character their age (that gets the be the hero and is a rather "normal" even boring kind of kid), introduces them into a fantasy that seem possible, and puts them in harrowing adventures. For my taste, too much focus was put on the letters and the events leading up to the harrowing adventure rather than on saving the world. (Very reminiscent of the last Twilight book where we spent the whole book on the verge of an epic battle...that never took place. Major letdown.)

I will not be pursing the rest of the series, but will keep it in mind for kids who aren't sure they like to read, are feeling kind of left out in life, or are interested in trying a new genre. I might recommend it for boys (as Tick is a boy...) and I seem to have trouble finding books to recommend to young men that don't have girls as the star of the show. But as a girl who is really into fantasy, I have gotten used to boys running the show (Harry, Frodo, etc.). [ Ok so they don't always run the show. There is Buffy and Katniss, too. Just...oh never mind!] 
Next up: The Wizard of Earthsea? That would be nice. My friend just gave me Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children and I am itching to try that. I also got Pilgrim's Regress and The Children of Hurin out of the library at church...this past May. And I haven't gotten to those either... 

13 August 2012

The Apocalypse has never been funnier -- Clive Barker

I finished Good Omens! Yes! 
So, okay it took me WAY longer than I really wanted it to, but I will again blame it on crazy normal life schedule, work schedule and season one of Game of Thrones. Only important stuff, I promise :) 

I wrote the following review over on Goodreads.com (which, by the way says I'm only 1 book behind of my goal now. Cue The Journal of Curious Letters. With any luck I"ll be back on track in no time!) which I decided to share with you. I'm still working on how I do reviews. I struggle with telling too much or telling too little. I have trouble with this when I tell friends about the books I am reading in face-to-face conversations. 

When you see the name "Neil Gaiman" on the cover of a book, you not only buy the book but you also clear your calendar for the foreseeable and forget about everything else that is going on in your life. 
Good Omens was no exception. 
When my friend's ask me about the book I tell them that it's about the the end of the world & the Apocalypse, hilarious and sacrilegious but in all the right ways. If I ever get around to reading The Screwtape Letters (which after this, I really want to do) I imagine it would be a modern take on that. The main characters are Aziraphale, (an angel with an obsession with books and considers the used bookstore he runs as his own personal library), Crowley (a demon with a love for good food and fast cars) and the antichrist, a young boy of 11 who runs a bit of a gang in Tadfield. 

There is more than that, obviously. But honestly, if that isn't enough to make you laugh or make you interested at least a little bit, well then, I'm not sure you deserve Neil Gaiman. 

But really, do any of us deserve Neil? He is, I believe, a common grace--something we don't deserve but something we need to be thankful for. 

11 August 2012

Game of Thrones, FTW!



I just finished season one of Game of Thrones. 


Excuse me for yelling, but seriously, I mean seriously. This show was done so well. Top marks. 

The settings, the costumes, the map, the script--everything was fantastically done. And adapting a 900 odd page book into a miniseries? Probably the BEST choice they could have made. It would not have done well as a movie. It would have needed to be a 5 hour movie. Longer. 

It made me wonder what would have happened if Peter Jackson had done the same with Lord of the Rings. That way instead of three hours, we could have gotten (if they held to GoT series) 10 hours and LOTS more details. Don't get me wrong, I love Lord of the Rings and am SO EXCITED to see The Hobbit. But it makes ya think, doesn't it? 

I am now motivated to get back to reading Clash of Kings. I am already about 200 pages in, but that was...months ago. Also, so excited to see season 2! 

If you haven't seen it, or read Game of Thrones, do it! I promise you won't be sorry! 

08 August 2012

Six+ month review

Anyone want to explain to me how it is already August?! 

I have been reading a lot (ok and watching Game of Thrones, too. Have you seen series one?? So good!) but I am still struggling with finishing books. I have so many things going on and sometimes my books end up on the back burner. It doesn't mean I'm reading boring books, or that I don't want to read. Promise. Sometimes stuff gets in the way, life gets in the way, or I just choose to read slowly. 
However, I've just learned a very important lesson: apparently, I can finish a fairly long book if I just put my mind to it and choose to do it.

I check out a book called I am forbidden by Anouk Markovits sometime at the end of June...and didn't get around to reading it until about 4 days before it was due. I was busy reading Good Omens, trying to get through The Wizard of Earthsea and starting a new book was not in my plans. And then I got hooked on Eureka and lost about two weeks of my life.  Not that that is a bad thing...never! It just well...anyway. Back to the book.
I read two nights hardcore. I mean I went to bed early and propped myself up with pillows and just read. During coffee the next morning, I read. I would get comfy and read after work, get ready for bed and read some more. I put such a hurting on that book! I will confess that I was more in a hurry to finish the book than I was to understand the book at times. I did lose my place a few times in the narrative, but I was able to pick it back up. 

I first heard about the book from Goodreads (which tells me that though I am at 54% of my reading goal, at my current pace I am 2 books behind schedule. Thanks guys.). Actually, the Goodreads monthly newsletter accounts for most of my "new" finds these days. I love it. 
At first, the book seemed to be about a couple of Jewish kids during and after the war.  Not quite. It tracks the beginning of a Jewish family who takes in an orphaned Jewish girl, Mila, after the war. She becomes the oldest in the family, embracing and learning the ways of faith while the families natural daughter, Atara, questions the faith in a way that is only acceptable for men in the faith. She is repeatedly told that the questions she asks could be answered if she were a boy learning to be a rabbi. At the time and in culture, girls were raised with "enough" knowledge of the faith in order to raise a family in the proper Jewish way. 
Mila and Atara take different paths once they grow up and the book chronicles more of Mila's choices and legacy than her sister's. One reason I think this really works for the books is because even though Mila is supposedly the "better" daughter in keeping the Torah and the proper ways she is taught in order to raise a family, her choices aren't easy. How often are the stories we read about the rebel daughter picking her way through the tough of life because it is more interesting than the "perfect daughter" doing what is expected and having everything turn out ok? I think "I Am Forbidden" shows us that even the path that is considered right and proper has plenty of trouble and heartache of it's own. No one is safe. 

It was a bit of a juvenile read, but not to the point of being immature. There is a whole post I could write about the way Mila interprets the Torah when she is looking for answers, but I won't. If you do pick it up, let me tell you that there IS a glossary at the back of the book. I wish I had known that while I was wading through the many Hebrew & Yiddish words throughout the book.

I forgot to tell you that when it was all said and done, I was a few days late returning I am Forbidden. Oops. I am absolutely rubbish at library due dates. And when I just wasn't making progress on Good Omens, I broke down and headed over to my local used books store. One of the many benefits of Gently Used Books is that they have a search & reserve feature. So I emailed to see if they had Good Omens and The Wizard of Earthsea. They had both and reserved them for me to pick up later in the week. I own both now and was able to return my almost overdue library books without too much of a fuss. I'm trying to grow here, people. Really. 
I am almost done with Good Omens and when I'm done with that, I HAVE to pick up The Journal of Curious Letters...because it is due in 10 days. And I don't want another 3 days of intense reading with the purpose of "just getting through" a book. I want to enjoy and relish in the new adventures and characters without feeling rushed. 

Sorry the updates have been few and far between. I just have been behind on my reading. Though now I know that Goodreads is not-so-silently judging me about reaching my goal, I might just be a little more on top of my goals.