Thursday, August 27, 2015

Under the Wide and Starry Sky by Nancy Horan (audio)

"Writers should find out where joys and give it a voice."

In a similar style to Loving Frank, Nancy Horan tells the story of Fanny van Grift Osbourne. The year is 1875 and Fanny sees studying art in Paris as the only way out of her less-than-ideal marriage.  Travels with her three children and their Nanny, but being on her own is more complicated than Fanny expected.  She is denied admission to art school because she is a women and is constantly looked down upon.  Soon Fanny meets the inspiring writer Robert Louise Stevenson and she eventually finds love and a whole new set of challenges.

I felt that the book was a bit slow and drawn out at times, but I overall enjoyed it.  I loved the description and learning about the life of Robert Louise Stevenson.  The book gave a lot of interesting insight of what it was like to be an author and a women during the time period.  The whole "independent women" theme got a bit redundant at times (very much like the author's first book), but it brought out a lot of unique aspects on the limited choices that women had.

I tried reading Treasure Island to Isabelle, but it was way too wordy and long for her at the time.  We made it through the first few chapters though and it was a interesting companion to the novel.  I would like to read The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde at some point as well.

Monday, August 24, 2015

MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood

"There's the story and then there's the real story and then there's the story of how the story came to be told.  Then there's what you leave out of the story.  Which is part of the story too."

The third (and final?) books in the MaddAddam Trilogy left off right where the first and second parallel stories ended.  The first book was told by 'Snowman-the-Jimmy' and the second alternated between the two female characters of Ren and Toby.  The third novel is mostly told from the perspective of Amanda and her stepfather Zeb.  The previous characters are mentioned as well, but the read doesn't really get an inside view into what they're thinking or feeling about what is going on.  There is a lot a back story that explains how the 'Waterless Flood' happened and Crake's history.

For me, this book feel somewhere in the middle of the other two.  I wasn't as impressed by it as the first, but I felt it was a much better story than the second.  I enjoyed reading about how the lives of the characters continued and how everyone interacted once the were reunited.  They basically built their own post-apocalyptic colony and had to face all of the challenges of living in a world where basically everyone has been destroyed.  They also had to figure out how to co-exist with the Crakers, a more gentler species of humans left to inhabit the earth.  The situations that the characters are faced with are very real and I was very captivated by the continual world-building that Atwood created in the first novel.  I felt like most of the questions were answered but, I still am left wondering how all of these different people survived - were they all given an antidote or did I miss something?

So overall - not as good as the first, but well worth the read and I'm glad I finished the series.  

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka (audio)

★★★ 1/2
"Women are weak, but mother's are strong."

This was the first audio book that I have listened to since I stopped having to drive an hour to work and back everyday to Whitewater.  Since I'm going to start doing a lot more driving soon on a daily basis, I figured I might as well get some more books read.

This book was descent.  The author uses different themes to describe a group of mail-order Japanese bride's experiences as they travel from Japan and live their new lives in the United States.   The story was told by strings bits and pieces of each women's live together as they adapted to new challenges in a world completely different in the one that they had grown up in.  It talked about everything from the voyage to America to wife and motherhood to the war.

I'm glad I listened to it as an audiobook - the author had a unique way to blending each women's lives together that was brought out by the narrator.  I really enjoyed this technique for the first couple of chapters, but it started to seem a bit like an essay after awhile - one of the main reasons why I did not give it more stars.  Plus, I found myself way to invested in each of the characters.  After finishing the book, I really wanting to what happened to each of the women because I couldn't at all tell who was who.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick

"Ben wished the world was organized by the Dewey decimal system.  That way you'd be able to find whatever you were looking for."

I picked this one up after I read Hugo for the second time.  I read it to Isabelle when she was about six-months old - back when she wasn't crawling yet and could sit still for me to read her pages at a time.  We have since moved on to primarily board books and short pictures books except on the rare occasion that she wants to cuddle in the morning!

First of all, I just need to point out that Brian Selznick is an amazing storyteller and illustrator.  His books are pure genious.  I think I've said this before, but I've read a lot of books (both children and adult) and it's a rare treat when I find an author that is able to do something completely new and different that I haven't seen before.  And to top it off, Selznick manages to do it extremely well while still creating an captivating story.

The book is similar to Hugo where the story it told through both pictures and words except that Wonderstruck tells two different (but connected) stories - one through only words and the other through only pictures.  

Here is a brief description: Ben and Rose secretly wish for better lives. Ben longs for his unknown father. Rose scrapbooks a famous silent actress. When Ben finds clues and Rose reads enticing news, the children independently run to New York for what they are missing. Ben's story in words, Rose's in pictures, come together in deafness.

Amazing. Moving. Wonderful. Pure genius.  I perfect mix of history, self-discovery, and mystery told through words and pictures.  I CANNOT wait until The Marvels comes out in less than a week!!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood

"You can forget who you are if you're alone too much."

I recently finished Margaret Atwood's 'Oryx and Crake' and loved it so I was really excited to read this one as well.  I finally finished all of my required reading for my two library school classes and finally and able to read books that I don't have to read or finish within a week - a much appreciated change!

This second book in the trilogy is a parallel story to the first one.  The chapters go back and forth between two women who have survived the 'Waterless Flood' - both of whom were briefly mentioned in 'Oryx and Crake.' Ren has been locked in a high-end sex club where she worked as a dancer and Toby survived in a spa where she was able to live on many of the edible treatments.

I didn't end up liking this one as much as the first.  I enjoyed reading more about the world - which Atwood does an excellent job of building - but, overall I felt that the novel was a bit slow and uneventful.  The book went into a lot of unnecessary detail and there were way too many coincidences with the characters knowing each other.  I know they were all part of the same organization, but it seems like nearly everyone else on the planet is dead so how did all of these people with connections survive?  I felt like I might have been better off just reading the first book and calling it quits.  There was also a lot of unanswered questions, which I hope are resolved in the third book!