Wednesday, May 30, 2012

March - Review and Giveaway

"And yet lust - the tightening throat, the flushed cheek, the raging appetite - is the only word accurate to describe the sensation I felt that morning, as the painted door closed and I was left with the liberty of all those books." -Mr. March (March p.18)

As a big fan of Geraline Brooks since I first read Year of Wonders my freshman year of college, I eagerly picked this book up with glee. And I was not at all disappointed.

The main character of this story is the husband and father to the females in Louisa May Alcott's novel Little Women. While I haven't read that specific classic, I now intend to do just that so that I may have the chance to know the other side of the story; this was in fact the reason why with book was written by Brooks in the first place.

The plot of the story follows Mr. March as he is away from his family and off in the fighting of the Civil War, acting first as a chaplain to the Union soldiers and then as a teacher to the freed slaves on a plantation. There are times when the man recounts bits of his past before he met his wife and how he met her, giving us some much needed insight into the actions taking place later in the book. Much of the story I feel Brooks did a wonderful job of creating from what little she had been given in Alcott's work.

Brooks states in the afterward that this was easy after careful research of her main character. Just as Alcott did before her, Brooks looked to Alcott's own family for the inspiration of the characters, basing Mr. March on Bronson Alcott. Not only was she given new understanding into the life of the famous Alcotts, but also into much of the Civil War, a bit of history she previously found boring. Just like Brooks, I too find myself drawn to know more about the circumstances of that war, the treatment of the contraband (as slaves were called when taken by the Union army), and hardships of everyone invovled in any way from soldiers forced to live with the memories of the terrible things done to the wives such as Marmee who had to sit back and quietly let go of their men, perhaps for good.

I greatly enjoyed this work, as I have other of Brooks' work in the past. While she brings forward the harsh truths of a time we would rather not look closer at, she does so without making you need to put the book down. Instead through all the blood and cruelty I felt compelled to keep moving forward. I look forward to keeping my copy to reread once I get the chance to read Little Women.

That being said somehow I ended up with 2 copies! So for this week's giveaway I have a paperback copy of this great book! And once you get done reading it I would suggest going out to find a copy of Year of Wonders by Brooks to enjoy that as well! Let me know if you would like to lay claim to this great read!

"I am no longer eager, bold & strong.
All that is past;
I am read not to do
At last, at last,
My half day's work is done,
And this is all my part.
I give a patient God
My patient heart."   - Private Cephas White, Union soldier, (March p.263)

Sunday, May 20, 2012


"Here above the ground / Ferris wheels go round / And the dance of clowns / A carnival - this town / Only a playground / Stay young, stay up above / Before it takes you down / Underground" - "Orpheus" by Paulo, Ecstasia (p. 1)

Francesca Lia Block has to be one of my all-time favorite writers. Her vivid imagination, dark views, and need to challange social standards keeps me coming back to her books for more. While her books tend to be very dark with little fireworks of love and understanding among the characters, I believe that if everyone were to give her a chance, they would find themselves just as drawn to her words as I am.

Ecstasia is set in a place where the world above is a constant carnival ride, the young citisizens contantly enduling in life's pleasures and never having to think of consequences nor the future. Until they begin to show signs of aging at which time they feel disgraced by their old appearance in a world of youthful beauty and so they take to the Underground where they fade away to ash. The book follows the band Ecstasia consisting of Paulo, Dionisio, Calliope, and Rafe. Rafe discovers a girl he has fallen for but before they can have much time together she begins to grow sick, meaning she must go Underground. Her illness and all the events that take place prior to it effect not only Rafe, as he believes, but his friends and sister, leading them all into darker places than they had intended on going for quiet a while.

Block's work has always had the effect of making the reader take a closer look at themselves and the society in which they live. What is up with our obsession with youth and beauty? But people keep coming back for more, as shown by the fact that when this book, written 1993,  went out of print Block kept recieving requests for it and had to have it republished. Her work is special and addicting.

I of course recommend everyone give her a chance, if not through this book, than through one of her other works. Trust me, you will make it to this one eventually.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Friday Night Lights for Wednesday Giveaway and review

"'As I stood in that beautiful stadium on the plains week after week, it became obvious that these kids held the town on their shoulders.'" -Father of a Permian football player, Friday Night Lights (p. xvi)

I remember sitting in the stands of one the football field at one of our rivals my senior year in high school. While I hated football everyone else in my family wanted to see the game that night since it was round one of the playoffs, a rare event in little Valley View, Texas. I took a book to the game, intending to get some reading done and the looks I was given for not intently watching the game could have been deadly.
However, as the game progressed, I found myself looking up from my book more and more. Until the end when I was one of the fans standing to watch the last seconds of a game that we were winning by one point. Then suddenly the opossing team kicked a field goal, gaining them 2 points over us. My heart broke. I hated the game but I found myself among those that were crying at the devistating loss our team, and therefore town, had just suffered. That is high school football in Texas.

Friday Night Lights goes a step further and shows you high school football in Odessa, Texas; a town where the football games draw crowds of up to 20,000 fans! A town dedicated to the football town to the point of worshiping the players. A town where it is not uncommon to find for sale signs int he head coaches yard after a loss.

H. G. Bissinger tries to capture the essence of the town by focusing on six players from the 1988 football team. They let him into their daily lives to see what they went through before each game, what they celebrated after each win, and what they endured after each loss. Bissinger gives a lot of the history of the town to try to make the reader understand the loyalty of the fans and the dedication of the players. In the afterward he talks about how 10 years after the book was published he still recieves harsh reviews of the world he portreyed in the book. No one wants to truthfully admit the power Permian football had/has over them.

While I will be the first to admit how much i dislike football, I found myself enjoying the story given here. I was drawn into the lives of the players, the fanatism of the fans, and the intensity of the events just as I had been in 2004 with my own hometown football team. I rushed through the end of the book, wanting to know every last detail of that final game, seeing it all in my head even though I did not fully understand it. I was also drawn in to the epilogue and afterward as the author fills us in on the lives of the players after they left that field house.

I would recommend this book, even to non-fans, but especially for Texans who have seen or been a part of the fanatism that can overtake us all when it comes to high school football. It was an interesting true story about one team and their fight to make it to the top, as well as a touching story about a few of the players and their sometimes love/hate relationship with the sport they are dedicated to.

That all being said, I am willing to pass on my copy. Both my husband and I have read it and while I would love to keep it perhaps to read it once more in the future or recommend it to my son as he gets older, I know that it's place is not on my bookshelf where it might sit untouched forever now that I have read it. So if you would like the opportunity to read this fascinating tale, simply leave a comment with your email address and I will get with you. It is a small paperback edition in perfect condition.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Casting Spells

This post is quickly following the one before it, so make sure you check out my review of Matilda by Roald Dahl!

"I had a full tank and a good sense of direction and the growing certainty that Sugar Maple wasn't what it seemed. And maybe neither was Chloe." -Luke MacKenzie from Casting Spells (p 265)

A gift from my mother, Casting Spells by Barbara Bretton has sat on my shelf for almost 2 years now, and I have been eyeing it curiously all the while not being able to pick it up because of some other book at the time. Well I could kick myself for not picking it up sooner!

I gave in and moved on from the book I was reading since I was pretty sure I had already read it in the past and I needed something light, upbeat, maybe romantic, and catching to distract me during 2 A.M. feedings. Boy did I find exactly that in this cozy novel!

Chloe Hobbs lives in a small town called Sugar Maple where nothing is as it seems. Firstly, Chloe owns one of the top knitting shops in New England where people can drop a house payment on yarn, never noticing the basket in the corner that never looks touched even after hours of knitting; secondly, the town seems to be an exact replica of the town of Salem down to the miniature lighthouse that no ship docking a hundred miles away can see; and thirdly, the town is protected by an ancient spell cast by one of Chloe's ancestors to protect it's magical inhabitants from the outside world. That is until an outsider dies inside city limits and the town has to welcome a cop from Boston who is there to make sure everything about the woman's death is as accidental and simple as the town is claiming it is. And to make things worse, while the fate of the town rests on Chloe to keep the family line, and therefore the protective spell, going, she is finding herself falling for the very unmagical human cop Luke MacKenzie.

Barbara Bretton does an excellent job giving life to Chloe! Her character is stubborn, down to Earth, and scatter brained, all of which makes it easier to relate to her and accept her quirky habits and life. I loved her and her friends, and greatly enjoyed reading about the adventure she is thrown on against her will! While bits of the narrative did at times seem repetitive, I enjoyed the back and forth point of views of Luke and Chloe that allowed the reader to see the town from one of its own as well as an outsider. I also enjoyed the fact that although the passion between the characters is supposed to be off the scale, they manage to keep it toned down seeing as how they are not supposed to be together. I am not big on reading about someone else's steamy, clothes flying, all over the place, sex lives, and in this book I didn't have to.

So if you like a bit of humor, love, chaos, and magic, I recommend you pick up this one. I really enjoyed it to the point where I didn't want to go back to bed at 3 A.M. but instead considered staying up to read the last 50 pages. It was fun to read!

An excuse and Matilda

Firstly, I would like to say that I am sorry for not posting in such a long time. Life got carried away. But I do have news, we have recently been gifted with the birth of our new baby girl, Livia Rea! She is perfect! This of course means more readings of Snuggle Puppy by Sandra Boynton, which I have no problem with! And since I am breastfeeding, which involves just sitting there for up to an hour at a time, I am getting more of my own books read. Which is why I am able to update the blog today! So let's get started.

"It is bad enough when parents treat oridnary children as thought they were scabs and bunions, but it becomes somehow a lot worse when the child in question is extra-ordinary, and by that I mean sensitive and brilliant. Matilda was both of these things, but above all she was brilliant." -Matilda (p10)

This book was a gift to me and my son from his "Aunt" Abby who loved it as well, and I am so glad that we got the chance to read it together. It took us a little while to finish since we only read a chapter a night and there were some nights when no reading was done. However, if we had stuck with it like we should have we would have gotten through it a lot quicker.

Let me say that my son greatly enjoyed this book. At 5 there were some phrases or words that he may not have understood, but that didn't stop him from enjoying the story. He loved the characters, even the evil Ms. Trunchbull who made it easy to dislike the villian of the tale was a hit with him. The illustrations may have helped a little on restless nights, but most times he would simply close his eyes or turn his head and listen to the story. After all, the Matilda in the book is also a 5 yr old; a brilliant, gifted, stubborn 5 yr old that my son can relate to very well.

In case you don't know the story of Matilda, let me help you out. She is a little girl with a brilliant mind and horrid parents. When Mr. Wormwood, Matilda's father, finally allows her to go to school her mind is filled with storybook images of children playing at recess, teachers who encourage greatness, and all the attractiveness of a safehaven away from her disasterous home life. The poor thing is sorely mistaken. Instead she is met by the Trunchbull, the principal of the school bent on making every child regret being young and small.
Matilda is frightened by the Trunchbull, as she should be after watching fellow classmates be tortured for no other reason than being kids. The Trunchbull even frightens Matilda mild-mannered teacher, Ms. Honey, who on the first day realizes she has a child protegy on her hands with Matilda. The two grow close, Matilda learns Ms. Honey's history, and using all her ability Matilda helps herself and Ms. Honey toward a life of something better.

The characters are perfect, the writing, while a little more advanced, is excellent, the story flows well, and it is just overall an incredible book. We loved it greatly! Jareth is even talking about when we will get a chance to read it again! If you have children I recommend you pick up a copy. If you don't, well pick up a copy anyway, you can entertain your inner child with this book!