Thursday, April 21, 2011

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

My rating: 5/5

I've been spoiled by good books lately; someone needs to recommend something really crappy so I can clear my brain. I'm on the verge of thinking the good stuff is boring just because it's as good as everything else I'm reading.  Seriously, send me your worst.

That being said, this book is not boring.  It's not terribly exciting, but reading a book told from the eyes of someone with a completely different view of the world is probably my favorite kind of book.

From the back cover: "Christopher John Francis Boone knows all the countries of the world and their capitals and every prime number up to 7,057. He relates well to animals but has no understanding of human emotions. He cannot stand to be touched. And he detests the color yellow.

"This improbable story of Christopher's quest to investigate the suspicious death of a neighborhood dog makes for one of the most captivating, unusual, and widely heralded novels in recent years."

Judging by that description, the main character sounds like an odd duck. But the book is written from 15-year-old Christopher's perspective, and the way he describes his own eccentricities makes them sound almost sensible.  Dogs are easier to understand than people; they make noises and a few different motions to communicate how they feel.  You don't have to try to interpret their facial expressions, and they're not going to lie to you.  Reading Christopher's reactions to people and how he absolutely hates to be touched, not even allowing his parents to hug him without screaming, you both pity his parents and feel Christopher's shocking discomfort to physical contact.  And though neither of his parents is perfect by a long shot, you end up sympathizing with them, even if Christopher can't.  

My husband works with kids with special needs, and he read and recommended this book to me a while ago.  I really enjoyed it, and I would recommend it to anyone looking to understand autism a little better.

After this though, I definitely need to take a break from books written in first person from a child's perspective (i.e., this, Room, and The Dead Fathers Club), but I do enjoy it when it's done well, and all of these authors have done it well.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Interview on the Story Hack blog

New for Monday, an interview with Bryce Beattie, author of the Story Hack blog.  Great questions, and he even added a clip from Community!  How did he know that's one of our favorite shows??

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Book Review: Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith

My rating: 3.5/5 stars

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is set up to mimic a non-fiction account of the life of the iconic 16th President of the United States.  In the beginning, the author is given Lincoln's journals, and from there the story is a mesh between excerpts from the journals and information we assume was gathered from other sources.  It was certainly unique, and I'm glad I read it; but I believe it could have been much better.

I won't go too far into describing the story, as I think the title basically says it all.  Many people close to Lincoln during his life are killed by vampires (most distressingly his mother), and he basically grows up hunting them.  (Of course vampires are involved in the American Civil War, but I won't spoil anything there.)  It could have been such an interesting story; and don't get me wrong, occasionally it was.  But the author tries a little too hard to make it non-fiction-y, and I was often bored.  I'm not bored by non-fiction as a rule, but when I'm expecting to read a fiction story about vampires, I don't care much about all the names, dates, and contents of boats heading down the Mississippi.  If I wanted factual stuff like that, I would read a biography of Lincoln. And because I don't have a lot of information memorized about Lincoln, I had no idea while reading this novel what was actually fact and what had been made up to fit the story.  So when the reading got rough, I skimmed to the interesting parts.  And I skimmed a lot.

I was also somewhat annoyed by the portions of the book that were not taken from Lincoln's journals, where the author was relating or summarizing other information to move the story along.  Sometimes, I liked these parts better than the journal bits.  But the author often relates what a character, Lincoln or otherwise, was thinking, or for example that someone "lifted their eyes" before saying something.  How in the world would a biographer know any of this?  If you're going to plunge into a writing style, don't wear arm floaties; go all the way.  You don't get to also be a regular, descriptive novelist at the same time.

That being said: 1) I think the book would have been better if it had only been written as Abe Lincoln's journal, or if it had been written entirely as a regular ol' fiction story.  And 2) The best part of the book in my opinion was the portion told from John Wilkes Booth's perspective.  No journal entries intruded, and there probably weren't many historical facts to deal with in the way of knowing what Booth was like, what his motivations were, etc.  The author had more freedom here, and it showed.  I only wish more of the book had been from his perspective, or from anyone else's perspective not tied down to such an overload of facts. 

But THAT being said... Abraham Lincoln probably would have made a pretty good vampire hunter. Just saying.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Book Review: Room by Emma Donoghue

My rating: 5/5 stars

Room is narrated by a five-year-old boy named Jack.  Jack lives in Room.  He eats at Table, sleeps in Wardrobe, and plays on Rug.  And because he's never been outside of this 11' x 11' place, he thinks Room is the extent of the world, and he's content with it.  His mother, Ma, was kidnapped when she was 19 and imprisoned in Room, a makeshift holding cell constructed by "Old Nick" out of his shed.  Jack calls him Old Nick because he only comes in the nighttime and brings them their supplies and occasional treats, and to spend time in bed with Ma.  But Old Nick recently told Ma that he's been "laid off," and Ma worries that he'll stop bringing them food and cut off their electricity.  It's time for a plan, and Jack must face new facts about the existence of people and places outside of Room.

This is one of the best books I've read in a long time.  The author writes very convincingly as a five-year-old, and every situation he faces brings to light many things readers may have never thought about.  If you'd never seen farther than eleven feet in front of you, how underdeveloped would your depth perception be?  If your mother was the only person who'd ever spoken to you, how confused would you be when somebody else did?  How could you imagine wind or the feel of grass on your feet if you'd never experienced it?  Combining the imagination of a smart but sheltered little boy with a very suddenly expanded view of the universe makes for a very interesting, and at times very emotional, read.  Through Jack's perspective, you can also easily empathize with other characters, especially his mother.  But where Room represents imprisonment for Ma, it's everything Jack knows and loves.  And Jack being forced to view Room differently is both painful and encouraging to experience through reading this book.

For a trailer, see:

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Book Trailer!

The book trailer for The Death of Torberta Turchin has finally arrived.  Check it out and let me know what you think.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Autism Awareness Reading Challenge

April is Autism Awareness Month, and the Uniflame Creates blog is hosting a reading challenge. 

From the blog post:
"The Rules:
- The challenge runs from April 1st till April 30th.
- You only have to read one book that has something to do with autism.
- Write your thoughts in a blogpost and leave the link to this post in a comment (I will edit this post throughout the challenge to add the links)
- Sharing this post is appreciated because I would like to reach as many people as possible and hope that they will participate :)"

Their recommendations include A Friend Like Henry, With the Light, and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time.  I'd add Look Me in the Eye: My Life With Asperger's to that list.

Also, they'll also be doing some sort of autism-related giveaway mid-April!

Read the full blog post here.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

GoodReads Book Giveaway

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Death of Torberta Turchin by Shannon Mawhiney

The Death of Torberta Turchin

by Shannon Mawhiney

Giveaway ends May 01, 2011.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win