Monday, September 17, 2012

13 Gifts

Author: Wendy Mass
Pages: 339
Rating: G

Summary: When Tara, a self-proclaimed shrinking violet, steals the school mascot, a goat, in order to make some friends with the popular crowd and gets caught, she gets herself in a heap of trouble. In addition, her parents decide that instead of taking her on their summer trip to Madagascar to study the courtship rituals of the Bamboo Lemur, she must go stay with her aunt, uncle, and bratty cousin Emily St. Claire in Willow Falls. Tara thinks it's a good time to start over; she'll be turning 13 after all, so she might as well make the best of it and perhaps even attempt to break out of her shell (in a non-criminal manner). What Tara doesn't know is that this charmed town has something big in store for her on her 13th birthday. It's not a typical birthday. But then again, nothing is Willow Falls is exactly typical!

My Thoughts: Eh. This is a book that's all well and good for a preteen. I'd say it's definitely interesting, with weird twists you don't expect, but I felt like some of it was overdramatic, and a lot of the stuff Tara does or has to deal with in the book just works out WAY too easily. There aren't really any true obstacles. Everything she comes up against seems like an issue for all of like 10 minutes and then the problems are solved in some quick and simple way that in real life would probably never happen.

Also, I was annoyed because there are a few mysteries in the book that don't really get solved because they have to do with other characters and apparently they have their own books, 11 Birthdays, and Finally. So that bothered me. You get to hear the end of Tara's story, but there are these two odd characters Leo and Amanda and something fishy is going on with them the entire book, yet it ends without you ever getting to find out what's going on with them.

Like I said, this is definitely a clean and wonderful book for the 10-14 age group, but I found a lot lacking in it from an adult perspective.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Hidden Places

Author: Lynn Austin
Pages: 429
Rating: PG

Summary: A deep yearning for home had led Eliza to Wyatt Orchards ten years ago. Now widowed with three young children, she faces mounting debts and the realization it is all up to her. But she has no idea how to run an orchard alone. When a stranger appears at her doorstep, Eliza guesses he is no different than the other out-of-luck characters searching for work during the Depression. But the familiarity with which Gabe tends to the farm raises unanswered questions. With a vulnerable heart, she is unwittingly drawn to his gentle ways. But Eliza also fears that Gabe hides a past and motives that could jeopardize all she has fought to attain for herself and her children....

My Thoughts: Lynn Austin is slowly becoming a favorite author. I loved this book just as much as I loved the other book by her that I've read, A Woman's Place.

The book opens with Eliza burying her father in law, the last male member of the family she married into. It's the middle of the Depression, and she soon finds out she is close to losing her farm. She desperately needs a miracle, which comes in the form of crazy Aunt Batty, and a wandering hobo named Gabe. The Wyatt family has many hidden difficulties and problems. Frank Wyatt, Eliza's father-in-law, was an abusive, greedy man, who never showed one speck of love or pride in his children or family members. That has caused quite a lot of pain and problems.

As the story goes on, it becomes necessary for Eliza to learn of the painful and shocking history of the Wyatt family. It's heartfelt and raw and very real. You also eventually get to hear Gabe's story, slowly, and it's pretty amazing. Eliza knows she never truly loved her first husband, Sam Wyatt, who died of tetanus. She only married him because she loved the idea of having a real home to live in. So when Gabe comes along, and Eliza feels herself falling in love with him, she is afraid that something bad will happen and she will not be allowed this happiness as punishment for all the lies she told Sam.

There is definitely a very Christian message to the book, basically saying that we should not think that the bad things that happen to us in life are punishments from God that we deserve. God is not cruel, he is loving and he wants us to find happiness and hope in life. Unlike other Christian books I've read, this one does not feel overly sweet or overbearing with the Gospel message in it. It doesn't seem forced, is what I'm trying to say. All the talk of God and his love for us just seems to fit naturally into the story, which was definitely nice.

The only beef I had with this book was I wasn't really impressed with Eliza's background story. Hers is the final "secrets of the past" story that comes out, such as what happened between her and her father, and where she really came from. Compared to Batty's story and Gabe's story, Eliza's just seems petty and ridiculous in comparison. But maybe that was the point. Sometimes we have legitimate reasons to be upset and think that life is out to get us, and other times we're just looking at it completely wrong and being childish and prideful about something that really is not that big of a deal.

I would recommend this book, it's definitely a "feel good" story, and I now plan to read even more books by this author.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Invention of Hugo Cabret

Author: Brian Selznick
Pages: 525 (However, over half of the pages are pictures. It only took me 2 hours to read the entire book)
Rating: G

Summary: Orphan, clock keeper, and thief, Hugo lives in the walls of a busy Paris train station, where his survival depends on secrets and anonymity. But when his world suddenly interlocks with an eccentric, bookish girl and a bitter old man who runs a toy booth in the station, Hugo's undercover life, and his most precious secret, are put in jeopardy. A cryptic drawing, a treasured notebook, a stolen key, a mechanical man, and a hidden message from Hugo's dead father form the backbone of this intricate, tender, and spellbinding mystery.

My Thoughts: This is definitely a different kind of a novel. Like I said, over half of the pages in this book are pictures, which is why you shouldn't let how thick it is change your mind about reading it. It's almost like a mixture between a book and a movie, because often there will be several pictures in sequence and those pictures will tell a section of the story. Then the words pick up where the pictures left off. It's an unusual experience. Because of the amount of pictures, I think this would be a good book for all ages. I enjoyed it thoroughly, especially since it was such a quick and fun read. Here are a few of the illustrations that appear in the novel.

I decided to read this book because the movie "Hugo" is based off of it. Now I want to see the movie. If you've seen the movie, you know the basic plot. But you should still check out this book just because of the new experience it provides you to interact with the book almost as if it is a movie in and of itself. I think this is one worthy of joining my personal bookshelf at home.