Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Release Date: October 2011
Genre: Middle Grade Fiction
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
From Brian Selznick, the creator of the Caldecott Medal winner THE INVENTION OF HUGO CABRET, comes another breathtaking tour de force.
Playing with the form he created in his trailblazing debut novel, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Brian Selznick once again sails into uncharted territory and takes readers on an awe-inspiring journey.
Ben and Rose secretly wish their lives were different. Ben longs for the father he has never known. Rose dreams of a mysterious actress whose life she chronicles in a scrapbook. When Ben discovers a puzzling clue in his mother’s room and Rose reads an enticing headline in the newspaper, both children set out alone on desperate quests to find what they are missing.
Set fifty years apart, these two independent stories–Ben’s told in words, Rose’s in pictures–weave back and forth with mesmerizing symmetry. How they unfold and ultimately intertwine will surprise you, challenge you, and leave you breathless with wonder. Rich, complex, affecting, and beautiful–with over 460 pages of original artwork–Wonderstruck is a stunning achievement from a uniquely gifted artist and visionary.
I found Wonderstruck to be utterly fascinating and unique. Ben’s story is told in words while Rose’s story is told in pictures. I don’t want to spoil anything, but telling Rose’s story in pictures helps the reader understand Rose’s life at a level that words cannot convey.
I think it’s pretty clear that Rose and Ben’s story will eventually come together somehow but I was completely surprised by how this happened.
Do not let the thickness of the this book turn you off. More than half of it is marvelous full -page illustrations. It only took me a couple of hours to read. The detail in the illustrations is amazing and the emotion each one conveys to the reader is breathtaking.
I read this story because it was a pick for the intergenerational book club my oldest son and I are a part of. This book was thoroughly enjoyed by the adults and kids alike. I highly recommend Wonderstruck.
For more reviews of books for children and teens, check out Booking Mama’s feature, Kid Konnection, posted on Saturdays. If you’d like to participate in Kid Konnection and share a post about anything related to children’s books (picture, middle grade, or young adult) from the past week, you can go to her site to leave a comment and your link .
March 4th, 2014 in
Last week I reviewed the movie 12 Years A Slave. I said, “Unless you live under a rock, I’m sure you’ve heard of the movie and that it’s been nominated for several Academy Awards”. Since then, I’ve learned that some people who DO NOT live under rocks have not heard of the movie and/or its Oscar nominations. What I should have said is, “If you’re an Oscar fan like me, you have no doubt heard of the movie 12 Years A Slave and that’s it’s been nominated for several Academy Awards. So I apologize to everyone, whether you live under a rock or not.
February 22nd, 2014 in
Last week I reviewed the book 12 Years A Slave. This weekend I saw the movie adaptation of the book, also titled 12 Years A Slave. Unless you live under a rock, I’m sure you’ve heard of the movie and that it’s been nominated for several Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Chiwetel Ejiofor for Best Actor, Michael Fassbender for Best Supporting Actor, Lupita Nyong’o for Best Supporting Actress and Steve McQueen for Best Director.
I found the movie to be a great adaptation of the book. Some things were condensed or not explained in as much detail as they were in the book but the overall sense of the dreadful life of a slave was still there. The story is told in a non-linear fashion with flashbacks to Solomon’s life before he was kidnapped into slavery. The one thing that really bothered me was the opening scene in which Solomon is having sex with another slave. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that in the book, Solomon is faithful to his wife during his entire time in slavery. I’m not really sure what the purpose of the sex scene was supposed to be. If you have an idea of why it was included, please tell me!
The movie is produced by Brad Pitt’s production company, Plan B. I found it funny that Brad Pitt cast himself as the one truly good guy in the South, even though it’s a very small role. His character is originally from Canada but had a southern accent. Did Canadians speak with the accent they have now – aboot for about and the like – back in the 1800s? I would have liked him to speak that way. Ejiofor, who plays Solomon was phenomenal. At times, the camera would just stay on a silent close-up of his face for several seconds and his agony was palpable. That’s a testament to McQeen’s great directing as well.
Fassbender was really good, but there’s no way he’ll beat Jared Leto of Dallas Buyer’s Club for Best Supporting Actor. Nyong’o was fabulous and she had some of the hardest, most emotional scenes of the movie. I think she deserves to win Best Supporting Actress for sure.
This was a hard but wonderful movie. I think that if you read the book first, you’ll have a more in depth understanding of events but even without having read the book, I think you’ll find the movie fantastic.
February 18th, 2014 in
After I’m Gone: A Novel by Laura Lippman
Publisher: William Morrow
February 11, 2014
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
When Felix Brewer meets Bernadette “Bambi” Gottschalk at a Valentine’s Dance in 1959, he charms her with wild promises, some of which he actually keeps. Thanks to his lucrative—if not all legal—businesses, she and their three little girls live in luxury. But on the Fourth of July, 1976, Bambi’s comfortable world implodes when Felix, newly convicted and facing prison, mysteriously vanishes.
Though Bambi has no idea where her husband—or his money—might be, she suspects one woman does: his mistress, Julie. When Julie disappears ten years to the day that Felix went on the lam, everyone assumes she’s left to join her old lover—until her remains are eventually found.
Now, twenty-six years after Julie went missing, Roberto “Sandy” Sanchez, a retired Baltimore detective working cold cases for some extra cash, is investigating her murder. What he discovers is a tangled web stretching over three decades that connects five intriguing women. And at the center is the missing man Felix Brewer.
Somewhere between the secrets and lies connecting past and present, Sandy will find the truth. And when he does, no one will ever be the same.
This book is classified as a mystery/crime novel but in reality it is fascinating character study of the five women in Felix Brewer’s life – his wife, three daughters and mistress. I was most intrigued by Bambi’s story. It really made me think how hard it would be to be wealthy one minute and have it all suddenly taken away. She goes from a mentor to some of the newer mobster wives to being pitied by them. All of the characters are wonderfully layered and developed like Bambi. Because this IS a crime novel and written by Ms. Lippman, it has surprising twists and turns as well. I enjoyed this book on many levels. I love this author and her style and I am thrilled with her latest release.
(I received this book courtesy of the Amazon Vine program.)
Another book I’ve reviewed by Laura Lippman:
I’d Know You Anywhere
February 11th, 2014 in
Twelve Years A Slave: Full Book and Comprehensive Reading Companion by Solomon Northup
Publisher of this edition: CreateSpace
This book was first published in 1853 and is public domain
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Because of the Academy Award nominated movie based on this book, I think most everyone is acquainted with the story of 12 Years a Slave. It’s the memoir written by Solomon Northup, a free black man who lived in New York state with his wife and three children. He was kidnapped and sold into slavery in 1841 and was a slave for twelve years before he was rescued.
As one can imagine, Solomon’s time as a slave was utterly horrible. Because of the media coverage of the movie, I expected the worst in terms of what Solomon and the other slaves went through and the truth of it was even worse than I could have ever imagined. Not every scene is intense and graphic – I don’t want to discourage anyone from reading this book. It’s an important book and should be read by everyone. There are some scenes that are to read though, I won’t lie about that.
I was surprised by how accessible the language Solomon used was. I’ve read other books from the 19th century that were really hard to follow and understand (Dickens, anyone?) This book was very beautifully and descriptively written but I still was always able to follow what was happening. I bought this version of the book because I anticipated struggling with it but I would have been just fine with the regular book.
I haven’t seen the movie yet so I can’t draw any comparisons between the two but I still highly recommend this book to everyone.
February 10th, 2014 in
I know this isn’t a fashion blog but I have to share with you my latest obsession – Stitch Fix. It’s an online personal shopping service. When you sign up, you feel out a detailed questionnaire with your sizes and style preferences. It even asks you which areas of your body you’d like to accent and which you don’t.
Then you schedule when you’d like your Stitch Fix box to arrive. You can either have it sent to you automatically every month or just schedule them come whenever you’d like. I’m doing mine quarterly for now but I love it so much I might have them come more often. I love it because I love clothes but I’m not a good shopper and with three kids, I don’t make the time to shop very often. I love that these items come right to my door. Most of the time, the items are things that I would have walked past in the store but end up looking great on me. Like I said, I’m not a good shopper! I’d like to share with you what I received in my February Stitch Fix box.
Valencia V-Neck 3/4 Sleeve Blouse and Sophia Skinny Jeans
The blouse is navy even though it looks black in the pictures. I liked this top but I felt like it was a bit too short for me. The jeans are great. They are a bit snug but since they are stretchy, I think they would loosen up as the day went on.
The back view of the Sophia Skinny Jeans
I think the back view of jeans is much more important than the front view and I like the back view of these jeans. These jeans are an example of how great Stitch Fix is at listening to feedback. In the Fix I got before this one, there was a pair of jeans that had big back pockets and looked like mom jeans to me. (I didn’t keep them.) I noted that on the online feedback form and got these jeans with small flattering pockets this time.
Colibri Solid Tab Sleeve Blouse
I love the color of this top. As a red head, I love to wear just about any shade of green. I don’t think the fit is for me though; I prefer a more fitted top.
Huebert Space Dye Open Cardigan
This cardigan is super comfy and has a bohemian feel which I like.
Alisa Open Heart Post Earrings
These earrings are silver, small and sparkly – all the things I like my jewelry to be.
There is a $20 styling fee for each Stitch Fix box but if you buy something, you get a $20 credit. If you choose to keep all five items in your Fix, then you get 25% off of your total order.
For this Fix, I decided to keep the cardigan and the jeans. I wanted to keep the earrings also but they were priced more than I usually spend on jewelry. Stitch Fix provides a postage paid envelope to send back the items that you don’t want – so convenient!
If you’d like to sign up for Stitch Fix, please use my referral link – I’ll get a credit if you do. And then when you are a member, you can refer your friends and get credit for it. Let me know if you have any questions about this great service!
February 8th, 2014 in
See Now Then: A Novel by Jamaica Kincaid
Publisher: Macmillan Audio
Release Date: February 5, 2013
Length: 5 hours and 46 minutes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
In See Now Then, the brilliant and evocative new novel from Jamaica Kincaid—her first in ten years—a marriage is revealed in all its joys and agonies. This piercing examination of the manifold ways in which the passing of time operates on the human consciousness unfolds gracefully, and Kincaid inhabits each of her characters—a mother, a father, and their two children, living in a small village in New England—as they move, in their own minds, between the present, the past, and the future: for, as she writes, “the present will be now then and the past is now then and the future will be a now then.” Her characters, constrained by the world, despair in their domestic situations. But their minds wander, trying to make linear sense of what is, in fact, nonlinear. See Now Then is Kincaid’s attempt to make clear what is unclear, and to make unclear what we assumed was clear: that is, the beginning, the middle, and the end.
It’s hard for me to describe See Now Then. It’s the non-linear study of the relationship between Mr. and Mrs. Sweet. The prose is wonderfully crafted and poetic. I listened to this book on audio and after reading other reviews from people who read the book in print, I think audio is the way to go. Print readers complained of Ms. Kincaid’s massively long run-on sentences and the lack of paragraph breaks of which I was completely unaware. Ms. Kincaid narrates the book herself and does a fantastic job. She was born in St. John’s Antigua and her accent made the book sound even more beautiful. It’s not a happy book – Mr. and Mrs. Sweet don’t like each other much at all – but I still found it almost relaxing to listen too because Ms. Kincaid’s voice is so lyrical. It was almost like listening to a very long poem.
This book is definitely unique – it’s written in a style that I have never read before. Because of this, it’s probably not for everyone. If you are a practical reader who wants a straightforward plot, then this is not the book for you. But if you’re open to reading outside your comfort zone or you place a high value on prose, then give this book a try.
(I received this audio book courtesy of the Solid Gold reviewers program at Audio Jukebox.)
February 4th, 2014 in
Neve: “Mommy, just tell me when you see a zombie and I will shoot it. And I don’t care about baby zombies, only big zombies.”
Cash: “Daddy’s farts sound like quacks because there’s a duck living in his butt.”
Me: West, if you don’t wear you coat to school today, they are going to call me and tell me I’m a bad mom.
West: If they do that, just say, “No, I’m not. You are!”
Cash: Mommy, if you don’t loan me money to buy this Skylanders, then when I grow up I’ll never be able to get a loan from a bank because I’ll never have experienced it.
Cash, if you run into Mrs. York today, ask her for that form.
Mommy, I’m going to see her before I run into her
Neve saw a dad at the West’s school in his camo Army uniform and said (super loud, of course), “Why is that guy in his pajamas?”
February 1st, 2014 in
Last week, my local independent book store, Rainy Day Books, brought in Ransom Riggs, author of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children to speak. He’s on tour promoting the second book in the Miss Peregrine series, Hollow City. His talk was a Q&A session with the audience. The first lady to ask a question had already read Hollow City and basically said that Hollow City wasn’t as good as the first book and seemed forced. Her “question” was if this book was harder for him to write and was that why it wasn’t as good? RUDE!! He answered very graciously that this new book did take him about twice as long to write as the first book. He did not come down from the stage and punch her in the throat.
Which brings me to my next point. He is CUTE! The photo on his books’ jackets does not do him justice. And I like his preppy fashion sense too:
Some highlights of his talk:
- · He attended Kenyon College and while there was in a family friendly sketch comedy group with John Green (author of The Fault in our Stars)
- · After that, he went to film school at USC ; he had a few meetings about screenplays he’d written but nothing ever came of them
- · His work writing at mentalfloss.com got him a job at Quirk Books. His first book for them was a non-fiction book called The Sherlock Holmes Handbook
- · He has collected old photographs for a long time and the head of Quirk Books suggested he write a novel using them
- · His photos are organized by subject and sometimes he looks through his files for the perfect photo to use in his story and other times he has a photo he wants to use and finds a way to incorporate it. He said the process is one of push and pull
- · He didn’t know that Miss Peregrine was a young adult novel – Barnes and Noble shelved it in that section and that was that
- · He makes short films and puts them up on youtube
I am beyond bummed that I didn’t have the friend who accompanied me take a photo with me standing next to him, with both of us looking at the camera. This is me telling him that Rosemary’s Baby is going to be a mini-series. (He mentioned that he liked the book in his talk.) He told me that he only recently read it for the first time. I told him it is one of my favorite books and that Ira Levin is one of my favorite authors. I suggested that he read A Kiss Before Dying by Levin if he hasn’t already. At this point, he was probably thinking, “I’m a professional writer. I don’t need a random woman from the audience recommending books to me.” But he was so nice and gracious, even as the Rainy Day Books lady was dragging, I mean escorting, me off the stage. Which is why I didn’t get a decent picture with him – too much fangirl rambling. Ugh. Anyway, I can’t wait to read my autographed copy of Hollow City!
January 29th, 2014 in
West, earlier this morning: “Please, please tell me if you got Cash a keytar for his birthday.”
Me: “If I tell you, and you ruin the surprise for Cash, you will be in the worst trouble you’ve ever been in in your life.”
West: “Okay, I don’t want to know.”
Me, to Cash: You know what I mean?
Cash: You didn’t say jelly bean. Are you losing your motherlyness?
Cash: In West’s imaginary pirate ship of life, he is going against the flow.
Cash: Mommy, I’m going to call your chest privates BIBs for built in bottles.
“The jig is up Neve.”
“No, Mommy, the jig is CLOSED.”
Cash: “No one raps with an original piano, only keytars. Original pianos are for sad songs and Western saloons.”
Cash hands me the first fundraiser of the school year. “Ugh, I hate fundraisers.”
“Mommy, you are a member of the PTA, you are supposed to LOVE fundraisers.”
“Cash, here’s a napkin.” Cash takes napkin, wipes mouth on shirt while holding napkin.
January 25th, 2014 in