Llew's Reviews

Archive for January, 2008

Wolves of the Crescent Moon by Yousef Al-Mohaimeed

Thursday, January 31st, 2008 by Miss Laura

wolvesofcrescentmoon.jpg For some reason this book, which involves an eyeless orphan, an earless tramp, and a eunuch, was banned in Saudi Arabia. Go figure.

This is another Publisher Rep picks from the ABA (American Booksellers Association) sponsored Winter Institute that I attended last week. It’s the first pick that I didn’t really love. It’s well written but it just wasn’t a story that appealed to me. I can’t say anything negative about it- just wasn’t something I’d read again or recommend. Unless, you like stories like Chabon’s “Gentleman of the Road” — then I might suggest this one. Otherwise, eh.

Sweethearts by Sara Zarr

Wednesday, January 30th, 2008 by Miss Laura

sweethearts.jpg This young adult title comes out on February 1st and is a keeper. It’s the story of two friends, Jennifer & Cameron, from childhood who are outcasts at their elementary school. They’re picked on, called names, teased mercilessly, and have fairly rough home lives. However, they have each other and they’re each other’s saviors – more than friends, more than siblings, more of a connection than most of us have experience with at that age. Which is why Jennifer is more than crushed when Cameron disappears one day and later is reported to have passed away.

Jennifer reinvents herself – losing weight, learning to do things for herself that her mother doesn’t have time to do (like wash her clothes), and building an emotional facade to protect herself form her peers. She’s in high school with a boyfriend and a group of friends – no one to pick on her in sight – when Cameron comes back.

It’s a fairly turbulent story line with an ending that is neither neat nor final. It’s a quick read and a good read – but far from a happy one.

Savvy by Ingrid Law

Wednesday, January 30th, 2008 by Miss Laura

“A rollicking ride of a novel. Mississippi Beaumont (Mibs, for short) is about to turn 13. In her unusual family, that’s when a savvy arrives. One brother can produce electricity. Another causes hurricanes. Because Papa is ill, Mibs hopes her savvy will help him recover. The special talent that arrives, however, is not at all what she expected. This terrific story may remind you of Lightning Thief and certain American tall tales, but it has a charm and energy all its own.” — JoAnne Fritz IndieBound’s Indie Next List Summer 2008

This is another galley (it comes out in May) so there’s currently no cover art up for the book which is a shame because the ARC has a right cute cover to it. And the story, of a girl turning 13, is right cute as well. Almost too cute (think “Hope” by Joan Bauer) in the way it’s told and conveniently wrapped up – but still an intriguing delightfully told story for the middle school age set.

It’s the story of an incredibly likable family with special talents which they don’t come into until their thirteenth birthday and don’t learn to fully control until some time after that. They keep these skills to themselves and the story takes place in an otherwise normal modern day society. When the father is in a car accident right as the main character’s 13 birthday is about to happen, everything goes topsy turvy. As I said, it’s really a delightful middle school age book that I’m pretty excited to come out so I can recommend to others. It’s along the lines of “Fablehaven” but a little younger and not as friendly to boy readers.

The Film Club by David Gilmour

Wednesday, January 30th, 2008 by Miss Laura

film-club.jpg I read an advance reader’s copy of this book after hearing it lauded at the Winter Institute in Kentucky last week. There were quotes! Quotes from famous authors, like Richard Russo! Quotes that said things like, “I loved David Gilmour’s sleek, potent little memoir, The Film Club. It’s so, so wise in the ways of fathers and sons, of movies and movie-goers, of love and loss.”

You can’t just not pick up a (free) book when such things are said by such people. It’s impossible! Or at least it is unwise. So I picked it up, couldn’t put it down, and a few hours later crawled out the book’s warm, yet turbulent, embrace. When the author’s 16 year old son is struggling in school and every resource has been drained, it’s decided that he can drop out. The only requirement is that he watch movies with his dad. They range from high brow to , well, Basic Instinct. But it’s not always about the movies or even what those stories can teach us about life. But it’s more about what you learn from that time with a parent that you otherwise (most likely) wouldn’t have. David Gilmour isn’t the perfect father. He isn’t even a father you wished you had (at least not for me) but his Film Club is the perfect idea — and one I wish I had participated in.

And, now, I have to go watch True Romance because evidently it’s the *perfect* movie. Or something like that.

Zoro’s Field by Thomas Rain Crowe

Saturday, January 19th, 2008 by Miss Laura

zorosfield.jpg On a recent hike along the trails of Carl Sandburg’s old house in western North Carolina, I brought along a guide book. Under “suggested readings” “Zoro’s Fields” was listed along with a biography on Sandburg. Since I wasn’t familiar with this title, I decided to check it out.

It’s the story of how author decided to move back to WNC when he was 30 and live in a cabin (that didn’t have electricity or plumbing) to eek out a living from the land. He befriends a couple of older gentleman who impart their wisdom when it comes to working the land in exchange for help with some of the more laborious chores. Less than a page is dedicated to Crowe’s relationship with the Carl Sandburg homestead – which is ten miles from his cabin and where on days the farm is closed to the public he clears out the goat barn to use the manure for his fields. It’s an Appalachian Walden’s Pond only not nearly as well written.

Each chapter ends with one of his poems. Evidently, his poetry has been published in various magazine but I don’t know why. Most of it is wretched wretched stuff. And while the book is thought provoking in it’s themes of being self sufficient and discovering yourself through nature, it’s not well written enough to be inspiring or a book for the ages. Plus on the “About The Author” page at the end of the book it describes Crowe as a “baby beat” of the 1970s San Francisco renaissance. Baby Beat? That makes me throw up a little in my mouth. I mean, seriously.

Atonement by Ian McEwan

Thursday, January 17th, 2008 by Miss Laura

atonement1.jpg Finally, I was able to read what I had wanted to all along instead of the very poor substitute of “On Chesil Beach.” This book is amazing and I absolutely adored it. I could kick myself for not having read it sooner, and yet at the same time I still wish I had the delight of reading it for the first time to look forward to. Oh well.

Now on to getting the rest of McEwan’s works in my grubby little hands.

On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan

Saturday, January 12th, 2008 by Miss Laura

Talk about the wrong book to give a couple of Newlyweds. Ouch!

This was the first book I’ve read by McEwan and in reality was just something to do until I could get my hands on “Atonement” which I had left at work. It’s a quite short story that I couldn’t really relate too. Well told, sad – but just a little off. Didn’t do much for me one way or another. I can see liking some of his other work though.

Making Money by Terry Pratchett

Tuesday, January 8th, 2008 by Miss Laura

Making Money is not a business bible at all but rather a sequel to Pratchett’s “Going Postal” with which it shares these similarities:
*Both were bought in hardback as presents for my lovely boyfriend. He was eyed as he read them and then I nabbed them as soon as he finished. Don’t judge me.
*Both were read while I was home sick. Not that I’m saying you need a fevered mind racked with delusion to relate to any of Pratchett’s main characters, but it helps.
*Both were fantastic light reads and had me chuckling throughout, even though I was in a sick bed.

When Pratchett first announced that he had early onset Alzheimers, I discussed with a friend who is also a fan of his. She commented something like, “Not to be cold-hearted but why couldn’t it have happened to someone else oh say Nicolas Sparks?” To which I thought, “By reading the plot summaries on the back of Sparks books one might assume that it has already happened to him as well.” Read one of his books and I’m pretty sure you’ve read them all.

Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac by Zevin, Gabrielle

Saturday, January 5th, 2008 by Miss Laura

For Christmas, I received lots of fantastic presents. Among them was *not* this book. However, a dear friend did get a couple of bath bombs which are my favorite. Tonight, after a long dull day at work, I decided to tuck into a hot bath with this book and the chocolate flavored bath explosion of joy. Man, I love chocolate. And that bath bomb smelled and felt great.

But it looked. Well, sitting in a tub of hot brown water might be one of the most disturbing things I have ever willingly done. I decided I would just concentrate on my book but it’s hard not to notice that you’re neck high in BROWN water. I kept lifting the book higher and higher to read it, all the while negating any soothing effects the bath might have had on my neck.

Bathing in brown water = Ewwww.
Memoirs of a teenage amnesiac = Awww.

This is the right mix of cute, light, sad, and vulnerable. It’s full of overly self conscious mixes and Ingmar Bergman references. And it tries to hard, just like every teen does. I loved it.

Gentlemen of the Road by Michael Chabon

Saturday, January 5th, 2008 by Miss Laura

I’m always a complete sucker for Chabon’s dry wit and this one even features a man who is constantly smitten with a new hat. Oh, a man after my own heart. It took me a little while to get into. Since it’s such a short novel that meant that by the time I was into it, I was about out of it.

Alas, perhaps if Chabon had gone with his original title of “Jews with Swords” I would have picked it up sooner.

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