Wednesday, March 27, 2013


Kate, Lauren. Fallen. New York: Delacorte Press, 2009. Print.

My Thoughts
I liked the bare bones story, but I wish Lauren Kate would have arrived at it sooner. This book was a bit mystery, lots of forced drama, and a predictable love story. I just kept slogging through to find out how the mystery surrounding the characters would be explained.

I kept thinking that Kate had a checklist of "this is everything best sellers have had, so I'm going to include them in my book, too." She perpetuated some stereotypes (i.e., clueless parents) and didn't really include a fresh narrative voice. (The main character was too whiney, insecure and allowed quite a bit of freedom to be at a reform school). At times, I thought the story was too slow (see my slogging comment above), and at the same time, there were parts that just zoomed by me. There were hints of intrigue, but I honestly finished the book disappointed.

I bookmarked many pages as I was reading because I felt like there were clues to the story on the page. I don't even want to look back to see what else I marked.

I have allowed myself permission to not finish the series (there are three more books). I will probably see the movie later this year, and like other books, it may help me change my mind about this book. For now, I'm disappointed and wished I used the time with a different book.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Sorta Like a Rock Star

Quick, Matthew. Sorta Like a Rock Star. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2010. Print.

My Thoughts
Taken from the back cover:
"Amber Appleton lives in a bus. Ever since her mom's boyfriend kicked them out, Amber, her mom, and her totally loyal dog, Bobby Big Boy (Thrice B), have been camped out in the back of Hello Yellow (the school bus her mom drives). But Amber, the self-proclaimed princess of hope, refuses to sweat the bad stuff. Instead, she focuses on bettering the lives of the people around her. But then a fatal tragedy threatens Amber's optimism--and her way of life. Can Amber survive and continue to be the princess of hope?

With his oddball cast of characters and a heartbreaking, heartwarming, and inspiring story, author Matthew Quick builds a beautifully beaten-up world of laughs, loyalty, and hard-earned hope. This world is Amber's stage, and Amber is...well, she's sorta like a rock star. True? True."

I think this summary is spot on! Amber helps others because she wants to help them. When circumstances happen, those she helped in turn help her with the most generous of hearts.

I enjoyed Amber's character. Early in the book, I wasn't sure I could get past the "WORD" interruptions she throws out there, but I stuck with the book and when I finished, I smiled. It was refreshing and heartwarming and kind. I think we need to read more kindness.

Amber has a true friend in Donna. Donna is the mom Amber wishes she could have. I liked the tough exterior/role model character that Donna provides the story. Donna's son Ricky is autistic and Quick does a good job making him realistic and dimensional.

I loved the literary allusions. I can tell that Amber is a reader. When she asks her mom about "fishing fo' men" and the mom responds "Nope. Nothing." Amber replies with, "a good man is hard to find" (Quick 11). As Flannery O'Connor is one of my top three favorite writers, I really enjoyed this allusion.

The Hope vs. Pessimism contest every Wednesday made me laugh. Joan of Old faces off with Amber. Amber always wins. At first, I though this was a bit far-fetched, but Quick wrapped it back around and that story line became integral to the conclusion.

A week before reading this book, I was watching Katie Couric's talkshow. Her guests were Robert DeNiro and Bradley Cooper, and they were talking about this movie they made entitled, Silver Linings Playbook. It sounded interesting and something I'd like to watch. When I finished reading this book and looked at the back cover, I learned that this author (Mathew Quick) wrote Silver Linings Playbook. Strange timing!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Light Between Oceans

Stedman, M. L. The Light Between Oceans: A Novel. New York: Scribner, 2012. Kindle file.

My Thoughts
This was an enjoyable book and another Faith Lit (my book club) selection.

Tom Sherbourne is a lighthouse keeper. He loves the routine, structure and procedure of the job. His wife Isabel loves the adventure of living on Janus Rock. "Janus Rock was one square mile of green, with enough grass to feed the few sheep and goats and the handful of chickens" (Stedman 5). They are alone together. Ralph Addicott and Bluey bring in a relief ship every few months with supplies. 

An interesting thing happens one night. A baby and a dead man float up in a boat to the shores of Janus Rock. What to do? Tom wants to immediately do his job. His wife wants to protect the baby. Tom ends up giving in to his grief stricken wife, and they begin to raise baby Lucy. This charade lasts for a few years until they return "home" to learn of baby Lucy's true identity. Tom is grief stricken. Isabel wants only what she thinks is best for Lucy.

Lucy's story continues from here. I don't want to spoil what happens, as this part of the book really is the meat of the story. What happens to baby Lucy? How are many lives connected in this tale of love, tragedy and suspense?

Stedman wraps up the story as tight as a fisherman's knot. As a reader, I faced the question of what is the right thing for the characters to do, and could I do the same given the same circumstances? I'm not sure I would.

I enjoyed the author's use of language. "Tom feels the stillness of the cell weigh upon him, as dense and as liquid as mercury" (Ch. 25). I felt like I lived on the lighthouse rock with Tom, Isabel and Lucy. I walked the town of Partageuse. I felt the internal struggle of Tom, Isabel, Hannah Roennfeldt and Gwen. The ocean tides gave a cadence to the story.

When my book club met to discuss the book, we speculated who could star if this were made into a movie. We are betting that it will be!

I enjoyed this book so much, that even though I read it on my Kindle, I bought a bound copy for my shelf. This will be one to re-read.

Becoming Anna

Michener, Anna J. Becoming Anna: The Autobiography of a Sixteen-Year-Old. Chicago: University of Chicago, 1998.

My Thoughts
I didn't know if I'd be able to read this book. Once I finished Chapter 1, I had to really think if I wanted to go down this dark road. The writing is beautiful, full of vivid imagery--the content is horrific.

Young Tiffany Blake is admitted to a mental institution by her family. Her grandmother, a PhD in child psychology, inflicts verbal abuse on Tiffany, blaming her for all of the family's problems, including Tiffany's mother's diabetes. The first sentence of the book reads, "My grandmother says I destroyed my mother before I was even born" (Michener 1). Thanks, Grams!

In fact, from the outside her family looks "normal." "People who knew my grandmother and my parents casually, liked them. All three were intelligent, well educated, and knew how to hold interesting conversations. They could be friendly when they wanted to be" (Michener 9). They are nice when it is convenient or looks good to the outside world.

She spends 47 days at a private institution. She returns home only to be shipped off to a worse (if possible!) place called Wilson State Hospital. There, Tiffany does try to get along with others and make friends until finally, she snaps a little and begins to stand up for herself and others. She sees the injustice and unfairness inflicted upon her and her ward mates. She's had enough. Of course, in a perfect catch-22, her outbursts further "prove" to others that she is crazy.

I flagged so many pages in this book. The descriptions are vivid. Tiffany's encounters with adults are heartbreaking. She is believed when she tells lies and not believed when she's telling the truth. "If my only friend's parents, one of them a victim of abuse herself, couldn't help me, then I could think of nothing short of suicide to save me from years of endless, steadily worsening misery" (Michener 17). She does try to overdose on pills right in front of her family. "They just laughed" (Michener 32.). HOW CAN THEY BE SO CRUEL?

Tiffany writes, "I can describe in this book all the horrible things that were said and done to me, but I can never even begin to describe the true horror of mental institutions, the never-ending, sanity-stripping monotony, the subliminal implications of this endless routine and always having some hateful stranger watching you endure it, or perhaps be driven mad by it, whichever the case might be" (Michener 38).
There are so many examples.

While reading, I kept thinking about a kid I worked with when I was a teenager. Kyle had been to rehab (something my naive world didn't know about), and I wondered as I read Tiffany's story if Kyle's experiences at rehab were similar to Tiffany's at the mental institution. I don't know why I kept thinking of Kyle, but if he is still alive, I hope he's doing well.

Becoming Anna was a book that was hard to read, but I think I needed to read it. I was so happy when I read page 249!  This made the entire book worth reading. Surprisingly, it is in the epilogue that I learned how Tiffany became Anna. Yet, I had to travel down her road because I wouldn't have understood (and appreciated) Anna's story any other way.