Friday, October 25, 2013

And the Mountains Echoed

Hosseini, Khaled. And the Mountains Echoed. New York: Riverhead Books, 2013. Print.
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"This is what aging is, these random unkind moments that catch you when you least expect them" (Hosseini 231).

My Thoughts
I love the way Hosseini tells a story! This book tells many stories and had me interested in the opening chapter when a father tells a story to his two children to illustrate a hard truth: sometimes difficult choices are made to benefit the "greater good."

The main themes of this book are abandonment and penance. Many characters are disfigured as well. This may be a physical or psychological manifestation.

The main characters of this story are brother & sister Abdullah & Pari. However, the book spans several generations and travels to several countries and includes multiple characters. I was interested in learning about the various cultures, and Hosseini gives glimpses without having to explicitly explain.

Pari collects feathers as a young girl. Her brother Abdullah protects her & collects the feathers. Upon Abdullah's death, his daughter Pari finds a box full of feathers. Sadly, the daughter doesn't understand the significance, but the reader gets it! WOW!

Chapter Four begins a letter from Nabi to Mr. Markos, but it is really meant for Pari. I felt a range of emotions about Nabi while reading this "confession" and began to understand some connections between the characters. Nabi's letter is the "meat" of the story, and it is juicy!

There are several flashes of time in this book. The author breaks it up visually. I could see this story being put on the big screen very easily because as I read, I had the fade back moments. Sometimes, the breaks were distracting or rushed the story. The one element that ran throughout the book is that there are no coincidences. People are put into our lives for reasons, experiences shape us, and somehow, we are all connected. Someone at my book club described this as Hosseini weaving the threads together. This book is universal because it focuses on the human connection and the complexity of good and evil.

I was taking notes as I read, but then I started marking up the book. This is one I will reread and am glad I bought my own copy. This is also a book the reader needs to experience. My words will not express the beauty of this story.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The One and Only Ivan

Applegate, Katherine. The One and Only Ivan. New York: Harper, 2012. Print.
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My Thoughts
I kept seeing "buzz" about this book on my library list serv, so I looked it up and found that is was a "juvenile" book. I contacted the elementary librarians and asked to borrow it. All of their copies were checked out, but one would send the book to me when it returned.

I got it Tuesday and started reading it that night. It was such a cute story. Ivan is a silver back gorilla that was captured as a young animal and raised with humans. His "father" Mack now keeps him in a "domain" at the mall along with Stella the elephant and Snickers the trick dog. Bob is also there, even though he is "homeless" and wonders in to sleep on Ivan's belly. Later in the story, Ruby joins the attractions.

The opening chapter is "Hello. I am Ivan. I am a gorilla. It's not as easy as it looks" (Applegate 1). Indeed, as you read the story, you understand that being a gorilla is complex. Ivan and his sister Tag were captured as young gorillas. Ivan survived. He is an artist and explains that he draws things in his cage. "I often eat my subjects before I draw them" (Applegate 17). A human named Julia comes each day to the mall, as her dad George is the custodian. Julia is an artist, too, so she understands Ivan's drawings. Julia's understanding actually creates a conflict in the story.

Ivan is smart and thoughtful and funny. He shows the reader the human race through another species' eyes. "At times...I wish humans could understand me the way I can understand them" (Applegate 22). When a little boy remarks that Ivan must be lonely, Ivan wishes he could tell the boy,"With enough time, you can get used to almost anything" (Applegate 22). How true, Ivan.

Ivan isn't the only wise one in the mall. Stella the elephant shows her wisdom when she remarks that "old age is a powerful disguise" (Applegate 31). Stella and Ivan are pals, and Ivan makes a promise to help the baby elephant Ruby. Stella is a wonderful story teller because she doesn't forget anything. "I always tell the truth. Although, I sometimes confuse the facts" (Applegate 66).

The first chapter hooked my daughter into wanting to read this book. Well, I actually read some of it to her before going to sleep at night, which I enjoyed sharing the story with her. I don't know how much longer my little girl will let me read to her. Yesterday, she told me she finished the book at school. She really enjoyed it, and so did I.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Lovely Bones

Sebold, Alice. The Lovely Bones. Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 2002. Print.
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My Thoughts
OH MY GOODNESS! This book scared me!

Susie Salmon is murdered in 1973. She was fourteen years old. After her death, she goes to heaven and is able to tell the story of her family from her eye on the world.

This book is part mystery, part romance, part speculation and all very compelling! I can't wait to watch the movie to see if it is creepy as the book. I visualize what many of the characters look like, including the recluse neighbor Mr. Harvey.

I love how Susie is the omniscient narrator. She sees everything her family is doing and reacts as the reader would watching something that we could not fix.

When Susie's brother Buckley is in the seventh grade, "his favorite teacher was not really a teacher at all but the school librarian, a tall, frail woman with wiry hair who drank tea from her thermos and talked about having lived in England when she was young" (Sebold 253). Yes, librarians do make a difference, even if we don't all drink tea from a thermos!

Buckley has a special connection to Susie. He can see her, and even talks to her. "'Please don't let Daddy die, Susie,' he whispered. 'I need him'" (Sebold 260). I buy into this idea. I "talk" to my angels all of the time!

Ruth's character was interesting, but I had a hard time buying into the supernatural sex scene. Of everything written in the story, this was the most unbelievable element for me.

The ending was sad and happy at the same time. Susie and her family do get some resolution. The charm bracelet on the cover is relevant to the story.

The title reference is on page 320.

SPOILER: I was mad at how long Mr. Harvey lasted, but I was happy when he did finally die. That's one less creep on the move. When Sebold writes, "George Harvey had evaporated into thin air when he hit the property line. He [Len]could find no records with that name attached. Officially, he did not exist" (Sebold 218). This startled me. How many people are among us that don't "officially" exist?