Friday, June 29, 2007


Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Another Once Upon a Time Bonus

In "Good Omens' we are introduced to Crowley, a fallen angel, and Aziraphale, an upstanding angel. They have been around since the beginning.
"I said, that one went down like a lead balloon," said the serpent.
"Oh. Yes." said the angel, whose name was Aziraphale.
"I think it was a bit of an overreaction, to be honest," said the serpent. "I mean, first offense and everything. I can't see what's so bad about knowing the difference between good and evil, anyway."
"It must be bad," reasoned Aziraphale, in the slightly concerned tones of one who can't see it either, and is worrying about it, "otherwise you wouldn't have been involved."
"They just said, Get up there and make some trouble," said the serpent, whose name was Crawly, although he was thinking of changing it now. Crawly, he'd decided, was not him.
"Yes, but you're a demon. I'm not sure if it's actually possible for you to do good," said Aziraphale. "It's down to your basic, you know, nature. Nothing personal, you understand."
"You've got to admit it's a bit of a pantomine, though," said Crawly, "I mean, pointing out the Tree and saying 'Don't Touch' in big letters. Not very subtle, is it? I mean, why not put it on top of a high mountain or a long way off? Makes you wonder what He's really planning."
"Best not to speculate, really," said Aziraphale. "You can't second-guess ineffability. "

This is the first use of the idea of the ineffable plan or the Lord's plan. It all comes down to Armageddon 6000 years later and how the legions of darkness plan to bring it about in preparation for the Final War. Of course, Aziraphale and Crowley, once Crawly, have been around since the beginning and they quite enjoy this world. So they are not too excited about seeing it come to an end and each of them spending the rest of eternity in boring heaven or burning hell. But Crowley follows his superiors' orders by bringing the Antichrist as a baby to a hospital of nuns who worship Satan. Then he plots with Aziraphale that together they will oversee the child's upbringing to hopefully change the inevitable ending:
"And it'll be for the child's own good, in the long run," said Crowley, "We'll be godfathers, sort of. Overseeing his religious upbringing, you might say."
Aziraphale beamed. "You know, I'd never thought of that," he said. "Godfather. Well, I'll be damned."
"It's not too bad," said Crowley, "when you get used to it."
Unbeknownst to any of the minions of heaven and hell, the baby was mixed up in the hospital and they are bringing up the wrong child. Eleven years later, events come to a head which is exciting, riveting and hilarious. This book is full of fun, quirky characters, not the least of which are the Four Horsemen of the Apocalyse: Death, Famine, War and Pollution. (Apparently Pestilence retired in the 30's), and the Hell Hound who is loosed to find the Antichrist and become his pet and companion in bringing the world to an end. When he finds Adam Young, (yes, he is the real one) the boy names him Dog and the hound quickly changes to a small mixed breed mutt who also discovers the joys of being a dog on the earth instead of in hell. Crowley stands out though. The demons are always funner, aren't they? He has such a refreshing outlook:
"Now, as Crowley would be the first to protest, most demons weren't deep down evil. In the great cosmic game they felt they occupied the same position as tax inspectors--doing an unpopular job, maybe, but essential to the overall operation of the whole thing. If it came to that, some angels weren't paragons fo virtue; Crowley had met one or two who, when it came to righteously smiting the ungodly, smote a good deal harder than was strictly necessary. On the whole, everyone had a job to do, and just did it.
And on the other hand hand, you got people like Ligur and Hastur, who took such a dark delight in unpleasantness you might even have mistaken them for human."
It's hard to imagine a book about the end of the world to be so entertaining as well as thought provoking. A few months ago, I asked for recommendations for books to make you laugh out loud. Well, this novel certainly deserves to be on that list.
Rating: 4.75
Posted by Framed at 8:36 PM

booklogged said...
This is one I've wanted to read for some time now. I think Terry Pratchett is so clever and funny. Pairing the efforts of these 2 authors could only turn out good.
5/24/2007 10:25 PM
Cassie said...
Ooh this sounds fun. I'm adding it to my list for sure.
5/25/2007 8:16 AM
Stephanie said...
This is one I've wanted to read for a long time too! It's on my list. Boy, you must be an incredibly fast reader!! Wish I had more time (of course, if I did, I'd probably spend most of it blog hopping!)
5/25/2007 12:56 PM
Nymeth said...
This book is a little miracle for me. My two favourite authors writing a book together! Of course it could only turn out as brilliant as it is.The last time I read this was too long ago. Thanks to your review I am now itching to re-read it!
5/26/2007 3:45 AM
naridu said...
I've also been eyeing this one off for a while, though I was under the impression that it was a bit more serious. Now I know its a bit more giggle filled I'll definitely chase it down. cheers :)
5/27/2007 5:47 PM
Sherry said...
I read that Pratchett and Gaiman were influenced in this book by G.K. Chesterton ----whose birthday happens to be today.
5/29/2007 8:25 AM
Matt said...
I read the first couple of pages of this at a Borders store and took it off my list of books to read. It just didn't grab me in those pages, but maybe I need to give it another try. The pairing of those two authors is definitely intriguing.
5/29/2007 10:32 AM
Kim said...
For as much as I like Pratchett and Gaiman, I can't believe I haven't read this yet.Thanks for the post, it's reminded me yet again that I need to :)
5/31/2007 12:43 AM
Jill said...
Now that I think of it, it did make me laugh out loud as I read it.
6/02/2007 6:22 PM
Carrie K said...
I'd just read Good Omens recently and thoroughly enjoyed it. I love the quotes you picked out from it, nice review!
6/14/2007 9:57 PM
Bookfool said...
Oh, I'll have to put this one on the wish list. I love books that make me laugh.
6/15/2007 12:43 PM
Carl V. said...
I am so glad you enjoyed this one. It definitely has its laugh out loud moments


Stardust by Neil Gaiman

This is my very first Neil Gaiman book so many thanks to Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings for offering some great drawing prizes to those who read Gaiman's books. "Neverwhere" has bene on my list for months, but the library didn't have it. I'm so glad that I gave Stardust a try. It is a beautiful fairy tale with just the right amount of the needed fairy tale elements: good hero, wicked witch, enchantments, magic, etc., but with a twist. Tristran Thorn is the hero, but not the typically handsome, overwhelmingly charismatic hero. In fact, he's quite shy. But he falls in love and makes a promise to retrieve a fallen star for his lady love and the tale falls in place from there. The fallen star has turned into a girl, Yvaine, who is a deliciously angry character. The witch is truly evil, cunning and ruthless. I really enjoyed the family of seven brothers who make up the ruling family for the land of Faerie. We first meet them at their father's deathbed, three living and four spirits who were each murdered by their brothers. The last male of the family living becomes the new ruler. Gaiman's descriptions are fantastic, so beautifully scripted and evocative. Here's a couple of the many wonderful passages:
"Still, he was alive, and the wind was in his hiar, and the cloud was scudding through the sky like a galleon at full sail. Looking out over the world from above, he could never remember feeling so alive as he did at that moment. There was a skyness to the sky and a nowness to the world that he had never seen or felt or realized before."
Don't you love the words "skyness" and "nowness." And sailing on a cloud (sigh).
"Tristran heard something he had never heard before: a beautiful melody, plangent and strange. It filled his head with visions, and filled his heart with awe and delight. The music made him think of spaces without limits, or huge crystalline spehres which revolved with unutterable slowness through the vasty halls of the air. The melody transported him, took him beyond himself."
The story doesn't have your typical fairy tale ending but it still very satisfying, bittersweet and beautiful. I can't wait to see the movie in August. My biggest regret is that I didn't get to read an illustrated version, but I will probably buy one because it sounds like a absolute must for my library.
Rating: 4.75
Posted by Framed at 6:35 PM

booklogged said...
I liked Stardust better than Neverwhere, but both are good. Yes, skyness and newness are wonderful words.
5/21/2007 8:29 PM
Bookfool said...
I'm hoping to read Stardust, soon, so I'm skipping over your review but I'm thrilled to see you liked it. I've seen nothing but positive reviews (hence, the itch to read it ASAP!).
5/21/2007 8:37 PM
Nymeth said...
Do get the illustrated version. It's definitely worth it.And the ending is one of my very favourite things about the book.I'm glad to see you liked it!
5/22/2007 2:28 AM
Cassie said...
I saw the preview for the movie and didn't pick up on it that this was the same book. The movie looks really good. We may have to go see that together, but maybe I'll read the book first.
5/22/2007 8:47 AM
kookiejar said...
Gaiman is such a talented writer. He never fails to evoke just the right mood or description. I'm so glad he is very young and will be writing for many, many years to come. So glad you liked this one.
5/22/2007 11:18 AM
Stephanie said...
Oh....I want to read this one too!! American Gods was my first Gaiman (which I read a few months ago) And the wonderful Carl suggested Anansi Boys for a folklore book. What a wonderful book it was!! I saw the illustrated version of this at Barnes & Noble last week. I may just have to go back!
5/22/2007 11:33 AM
Framed said...
Booklogged, I'm thinking "Neverwhere" for a RIP challenge if the library gets it in.Bookfool, I can't wait to see how you like it.Nymeth and Stephanie, the artwork I've seen is so gorgeous. I don't see how I can pass it up. Except it is kind of pricey for me.Cassie, definitely read the book first. I saw the preview for the movie right after I finished the book and I can't wait to see it.Kookiejar, In my mind, I pictured Gaiman as older until I saw his picture on the jacket. That's just from reading blogs. But his picture matches his books.
5/23/2007 7:45 PM
Literary Feline said...
Stardust sounds like a great book. It was a group read in a group I belonged to a few years ago, but I wasn't able to get to it then. I still haven't managed to read it, but I hope to, especially now that I've had the opportunity to sample some of Gaiman's work. Thanks for the great review!
5/23/2007 8:52 PM
Bellezza said...
I sent this book to Booklogged (whom I believe is your sister?) for a Buy A Friend A Book prize. I almost wish I would've read it myself first, so I'd know all about what everyone else is reading! :)
5/27/2007 5:37 PM
Matt said...
Haven't yet read anything by Neil Gaiman, might be the only reader on earth that hasn't. I have two of his other books on my reading list, need to add this one. Saw the movie trailer and looks good, but I think I want to read the book first, better get on it.
5/29/2007 10:38 AM
Carl V. said...
Yay!!! Neil Gaiman!!! I am so glad you enjoyed this and hope you read many more of his books. Stardust is wonderfully magical and showcases just how special a relationship Neil has with words. I love it, glad you did as well.

Thursday, June 28, 2007


A Wrinkle in time by Madeleine L'Engle

I found this novel to be absolutely delightful. It has a wonderful message about the beauty of each individual's uniqueness and how important our freedom of choice is.
Meg Murry is a teenage misfit. She deals with her differences through rebellious behavior, anger and by tuning out the world. Her 5-year-old brother, Charles, is also odd but he wisely chooses silence as the best way to deal with his detractors. The Murry family also includes a scientist mother and ten-year old twin boys who are as normal as possible. Unfortunately the father has been missing for two years and gossip in the small town runs rampant. Meg is determined to find her father and with the help of Charles, a school mate, Calvin, and three old women, an adventure of a lifetime is embarked upon. A sci-fi/fantasy, the novel keeps you on the edge of your seat as Meg and her cohorts travel through time and space to confront the evil IT and try to retain their individuality aginst IT's overwhelming mind power. My favorite quote is when Mrs. Whatsit compares life to a sonnet:
"It is a very strict form of poetry is it not? There are fourteen lines, I believe, all in iambic pentameter. That's a very strict rhythm or meter, yes? And each line has to end with a rigid rhyme pattern. And if the poet does not do it exactly this way, it is not a sonnet, is it? Calvin: You mean you're comparing our lives to a sonnet? A strict form, but freedom within it? Yes. You're given the form, but you have to write the sonnet yourself. What you say is completely up to you."
This edition contains an appreciation by Anna Quindlen, "On its surface, this is a book about three children who fight an evil force threatening their planet. But it is really about a more primal battle all human beings face, to respect, defent and love themselves."
As an added treat, the book also contains L'Engle's acceptance speech for the Newbery award. I especially like her closing remark: "A book, too, can be a star, "explosive material, capable of stirring up fresh life endlessly," a living fire to lighten the darkness, leading out into the expanding universe."
I am debating whether to go ahead and buy the other three books that come in a set with this one. And then, there are four more after that. Any advice?
Rating: 4.75
Posted by Framed at 7:18 PM

Sherry said...
Yes. A Wind in the Door and A Swiftly Tilting Planet continue the story of Meg, Calvin, and Charles Wallace. However, the three books are very different from each other. I think you will like them all.
5/19/2007 8:19 PM
Nan said...
My favorite thing about this book is the house!
5/19/2007 11:47 PM
Quixotic said...
I just finished reading this book too. I thought it was lovely. Will be posting more thoughts later on today.That Mrs Whatsit quote is one of my favourites too. I think I will be collecting the others in the series, might wait a little while though, as I have so many other books to get through.
5/20/2007 4:03 AM
Framed said...
I bought this one at Walmart and the other three were there also. Very good price. Imagine my chagrine when I came home and found I already had "A Wrinkle in Time." I do that all too often. But the Walmart copy had L'Engle's acceptance speech which I found very interesting, especially in light of this challenge.
5/20/2007 7:05 PM
Cassie said...
Are you sure that Wrinkle in Time copy isn't mine? I remember reading it when I was young. So just stack it with the rest of my books. (: I think I'll read it again someday.
5/21/2007 9:10 AM
Framed said...
No, Cassie, it's a brand new book and it was on the shelf with all my other brand-new books that need to be read. But you can have it. What that probably means is there is another copy laying around somewhere.
5/21/2007 6:03 PM
Tristi Pinkston said...
I love this book in the most sincere way possible. What I highly suggest is that you not watch the movie. The movie can't even come close to capturing the book and makes the whole thing seem really dumb, which it's not.I've read the whole trilogy, which rocks, and most of L'Engle's other books as well. She rocks!
5/21/2007 6:47 PM
Tristi Pinkston said...
Um, -- I didn't edit my comment very well, as you can tell by my saying "she rocks" twice. But what can I say -- she really does!
5/21/2007 6:48 PM
Fence said...
I have this one waiting for me. Looking forward to it as there only seems to be good reports of it.
5/22/2007 5:10 AM
sally906 said...
I read this for my banned book challenge - is an amazing book isn't it.I didn't realize there were more in the series - so may have to look them up
5/24/2007 4:11 AM
Bellezza said...
I, too, read A Wrinkle in Time for Carl's Challenge. Well, actually, I've read it several times as one of my favorite books, but for his challenge I wanted to go through the time quintet. There are five in this series:A Wrinkle In TimeA Wind in The DoorA Swiftly Tilting PlanetMany WatersAn Acceptable TimeI find Madeleine to be such a fascinating author, and I love the way she addresses issues of faith. If you wish, you could see what I had to say in my review on my blog. But, you added the wonderful quote from her which I've never read before. Thank you for enlightening me further!


Leven Thumps and the Whispered Secret by Obert Skye

Friday, May 18, 2007

Fifth "Once Upon a Time" Challenge
"Have you ever wondered about what's on the other side of your dreams? Well if you do, this is the book for you. This book is about a 14 year old boy named Leven, who is the destined savior of Foo (a magical world where humans dreams are stored.) and with the help of his friends will keep Foo from danger. His friends are Geth (the rightful king of Foo who has been turned into a toothpick), Clover (a 3 inch tall sycophant who is the guardian of Leven), Winter (a girl who has the power to freeze things), and many other characters. " CSS Middle School Review on
Once I got into this novel and figured out what was going on (it's been two years since I read the first book in the series, "Leven Thumps and the Gateway to Foo"), I really enjoyed it, better than the first. While the first book takes place mostly in Reality, the second roams the realm of Foo. The fantasy is very creative, full of flights of imagination. It's amazing what a human's dream accomplishes in the land of Foo. There are some good heroic characters, even more evil meanies, and tons of oddities popping up along the way. Here are a couple of quotes which made me chuckle:
"It's not easy starting something new. Few things are more intimidating that walking into a brand-new situation and having to make the best of it. Maybe your parents moved during your ninth-grade year and you had to make new friends in a foreign country where everyone else spoke a different language from yours. That's uncomfortable, and, and any well-meaning adult might say, "a character-building experience." But what if you feel like you already have enough character, and you don't want to leave all your friends and go to a foreign country with different money and food and a big school where the other kids ignore you and make you wish you were a treasure chest or a dog bone or anything buried deep beneath the earth and out of sight? What then? Well, you do as your parents tell you, and hope you don't perish from too much character development." Makes you wonder about Skye's earlier year??
"The waitress looked at him as if he were the sole reason she would never date again, took the menu from him, and walked away." This cracked me up.
The biography of the author is quite unusual as well: "Obert Skye was born on a stormy night in the back of a fast-moving taxi. He is tall, but not towering, and persistent but not perfect. He once read an entire book upside down. Obert spends his time telling all who will listen about the existence of Foo and the importance of dreams. Obert presented this manuscript as a true story when he first approached the publisher; editors suggested that his recital of events would sell a lot more copies as a piece of fiction. He initially rejected the idea. Three days later, looking as if he had raced halfway across the world, he suddenly appeared in the publishing company's boardroom and agreed to the terms, saying the story of Foo was too important not to be told. Aside from that, Obert is a fairly ordinary fellow who says he is simply hoping to repair what he has mistakenly done."
While this is not the best fantasy book I have ever read, I thought it was fun to read and a great book for young teens. A few warnings: You have to read the first book first, don't wait too long before reading the second, and it's best not to dig up buried secrets.
Rating: 4
All in all, I consider this challenge to be a huge success. Each of the five books I read were wonderful in their own way. It's a hard decision, but I'm going to say "Outlander" was my favorite. Of course, I'm going to read a Neil Gaiman book as a bonus, so things may change.
Posted by Framed at 9:02 PM

Nymeth said...
This post has been removed by the author.
5/20/2007 5:04 AM
Nymeth said...
I daresay that reading Neil Gaiman is really likely to make things change :PWhich one are you thinking of reading?This one sounds interesting. I like the passages you shared!(Sorry about the deleted comment, that was a mistake of mine).
5/20/2007 5:06 AM
Framed said...
Nymeth, I'm reading "Stardust" and really enjoying it. He does write beautifully. I also checked out "Good Omen" which he co-wrote with Terry Pratchett.
5/20/2007 7:00 PM
Cassie said...
I remember you saying you didn't really like the first one so I'm glad this one was better. I don't know if I need to read it. Maybe someday.
5/21/2007 9:09 AM
Kim said...
His biography cracked me up. Thanks for sharing :)


Personal History by katharine Graham

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

2nd Nonfiction Challenge

This authobiography tells the story of an incredible woman. Katharine Meyer was born into a family of wealth to intelligent and ambitious parents. Unfortunately, she always felt insecure and backward. She then married a brilliant and driven man, Phillip Graham, who took over the Washington Post from her father and ran it until his death. During the marriage, Kay was content to take a backseat and bask in her husband's limelight. Through life circumstances, she became the publisher and head of the great Washington newspaper and guides it through many crises including Watergate and a 4-month pressmen's strike. The book gives a fascinating back room glimpse into historical events that we only get to read about in the papers and we are introduced to all kinds of famous, interesting, talented, and powerful people. Just the story of Watergate alone is good reason to read this book, but, trust me, at 625 pages, there is plenty more to read about. However, the most interesting aspects of Kay Graham's story are her personal struggles and the growth she makes in her life. I found that she was very objective and even self-deprecating about her own role in events, considering that many called her the most powerful woman in the world. She doesn't give herself credit for very much of the successes that the Post and other business ventures enjoyed while she ran the company. This was a wonderful opportunity to see how the rich and powerful really live and how they affect the course of events in this country. Thanks to Lisa for sending me this book. Ya gotta love bloggers.
Rating: 4.5
Posted by Framed at 5:48 PM

Cassie said...
Man you read way too fast for me. Glad you liked the book. I don't find the subject very interesting so I'll pass on it.
5/16/2007 8:29 AM
nessie said...
Ah! I would love to read this. I really enjoy bios - my fav non fiction.The autobio of golda maier was great too. highly recommended.
5/16/2007 4:05 PM
Framed said...
Cassie, I don't know what you're talking about. This book took a week and a half.Nessie, if my brother decides not to read this, I'll send it to you. Golda Maier sounds like a great read. Thanks for the suggestion.
5/16/2007 10:07 PM
Stephanie said...
I have this book and have been wanting to read it for ages, but I've never gotten around to it. Katharine Graham was a great lady!


River Secrets by Shannon Hale

Sunday, May 06, 2007

4th Once Upon a Time Challenge

River Secrets is the last of a triology that Hale wrote about the land of Bayern and its neighboring countries. One of these neighbors is Tira who has been at war with Bayern. This novel tells about the efforts of leaders to create a lasting peace by sending ambassadors to the opposite country. As part of the group sent to Tira from Bayern, Razo cannot understand why he was selected since he has no noticable talents and is really quite small. Many feel it is because of his close friendship with Queen Isi (Book One-The Goose Girl) and her lady-in-waiting, Enna (Book Two-Enna Burning). We soon learn of Razo's unique qualifications as he finds he has quite a bit to contribute. As always, Hale's writing is flawless, her characters well-drawn, and the story contains both drama and humor. It is proably my least favorite of the three stories, but still a wonderful book.
Rating: 4.75
Posted by Framed at 5:58 PM

booklogged said...
Why didn't I read this one when I was reading all the other Shannon Hale books? Who knows, but I need to find time to squeeze it in.
5/06/2007 9:29 PM
Nymeth said...
I really need to start reading Shannon Hale.
5/07/2007 7:43 AM
Melissa said...
I find it fascinating the different reactions people can have to the same book. If I had to rate the trilogy, I'd put Goose Girl first, River Secrets second and Enna Burning third. So, the question is: why is it your least favorite?
5/07/2007 1:05 PM
Framed said...
Melissa, probably because I read it quite quickly after Enna Burning and it just seemed quite similar. Not quite the same sense of wonder.
5/08/2007 9:50 PM
Stephanie said...
Oh great....another trilogy to add to the list!! Looks like a good one though!


Mayada, Daughter of Iraq by Jean Sasson

Saturday, May 05, 2007

1st Non-Fiction Challenge

Jean Sasson met Mayada when she traveled to Iraq to write about how its women were handling living under the sanctions imposed on that country. Mayada, as an upper-class educated Iraqi, was hired as her interpreter; and the two became close friends. Several years later, Sasson was unable to reach Mayada and later learned that she had been imprisoned for the space of a month in a Baghdad prison. This book tells of her imprisonment as well as her interactions with Saddam Hussein and other leaders in his regime. Mayada is descended from the ruling class of the Ottoman empire and both her grandfathers were well-respected leaders of Iraq when it began its own government in 1921. Because of her ancestry, she was given an insider look at Hussein and others. Descriptions of their cruelty was chilling. During her one-month stay in prison under false charges, Mayada is subjected to relatively light torture only once. However, the women she meets in her over-crowded cell are not so lucky and their sometimes daily tortures are horrendous. They are called the shadow women, perhaps because no one outside the prison knows where they are, maybe because they are so afraid and speak in whispers as they share their stories, or it could just be that most really don't know what crime they are accused of. Only one woman is truly guilty of a crime. After losing her passport, she tried traveling with her sister's to visit a sick relative. A great crime against the state for which she suffered great atrocities. The saddest element for me was that after Mayada escaped from Iraq in 1998 and after the country was liberated in 2003, she was never able to learn the fate of these women. This book brought home the lesson of how absolute power can corrupt so absolutely. It is a sad commentary on a country that is now torn between its own inside factions and the world outside. I liked this book for the history of Iraq and would like to learn more about Sati Al-Husri, Mayada's grandfather, but something about the narrative just missed with me.
Rating: 3
Posted by Framed at 4:40 PM

Cassie said...
Sounds like such a sad book...Sign me up! Just kidding. Though I think it is on my list. Sounds like an interesting read
5/07/2007 9:14 AM
Framed said...
I'm currently reading another memoir of a modern woman, Kathrine Graham, that I think is much better.
5/08/2007 9:52 PM
Lotus Reads said...
When my mom visited me last summer, she picked this book off my shelf and read it...she really seemed to enjoy it, but I am holding out because there are so many Iraqi and Afghanistan memoirs around at the moment, it's hard to know which ones to pick! Since you've only rated it a 3, it doesn't make me want to rush it to the top of my TBR pile.


Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome

Thursday, May 03, 2007

1930's Decade
Ransome wrote a series of children's books in the 30's that quickly became widely accepted and enjoyed. "Swallows and Amazons" is the first of that series. It is the story of the Walker family, four children, their mother and baby sister who spend their vacation on a lake while their father serves in the Royal Navy. The parents give permission for the four to spend a week or so camping on an island about a mile away and off they sail to explore and conquer. Mother visits the island occasionally and arranges for them to sail across the inlet to a nearby farm to pick up milk each morning. These children have wild imaginations, and the novel revolves around the adventures they get into, some real and some created. They are the "Swallows" and the "Amazons" are two girls who also like to camp out on the island and said around the lake. It's amazing to me to think of children seven to twelve years olds out on their own for days on end in the middle of a lake. What a wonderful age of innocence. I did have a problem with all the sailing and boating terms that Ransome freely injected into the story, but, if you like to sail, you would like this book. In short, it is a charming tale of bygone days where kids were freer, more creative and more self-sufficient. Someday I hope to have the time to read more of the series.
Rating: 3.75
Posted by Framed at 8:19 PM

booklogged said...
It's sad that could never happen in today's world. I remember as a child having time to wander and be away from adults a lot more than kids can now.
5/03/2007 9:07 PM
sally906 said...
I loved this book as a child - it is on my list to get my hands on a new copy for my meaningful books from my childhood collection
5/04/2007 4:03 AM
Bookfool said...
This sounds so lovely. I think I'd be stunned reading it, though, for the thought of leaving children on their own. What an innocent time that must have been.


The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

"Z" Author, 9th TBR, Last Chunkster & Decade 2000

I know I'm probably the last person on the planet who hadn't read this book. When I started it, I was afraid I would be the only person on the planet who didn't like it. But the change was so subtle, I was surprised to find myself absolutely caught up in the story. Most of you already know the story so I won't recap that; I'll just share what I loved about this book.
1. The characters are so well-drawn and compelling. You can identify with each one and Zusak has a knack for making them become more important to you as the story evolves.
2. Death narrates the story with a sense of self-deprecation, humor and almost a touch of humanity. "He does something to me, that boy. Every time. It's his only detriment. He steps on my heart. He makes me cry." Besides Liesel, the book thief, I would classify Death as the main character of the book. All the action revolves around these two. Death describes the colors associated with the deaths of different humans. "People observe the colors of a day only at its beginnings and ends, but to me it's quite clear that a day merges through a multitude of shades and intonations, with each passing moment. A single hour can consist of thousands of different colors. Waxy yellows, cloud-spat blues. Murky darknesses. In my line of work, I make it a point to notice them." And, against his will, Death is fascinated by the book thief. Choosing Death as the narrator was sheer genius.
3. Zusak's use of the language. He creates new words out of the commonplace by adding prefixes and suffixes to place just the right emphasis on what he is trying to convey. Ex: "the oldened young man". He paints pictures that are so vivd you become part of the scenery and the characters become your friends.
4. The importance of words. "She was the book thief without the words. Trust me, though, the words were on their way, and when they arrived, Liesel would hold them in her hands like the clouds, and she would wring them out like the rain." In this novel, you see both the joy and beauty that words can create as well as the hatred and the ugliness.
5. The glory of books. "She walked over and did it again, this time much slower, with her hand facing forward, allowing the dough of her palm to feel the small hurdle of each book. It felt like magic, like beauty, as bright lines of light shone down from a chandelier. Several times, she almost pulled a title from its place but didn't dare disturb them. They were too perfect."
6. I was able to see another view of Nazi Germany. I've read several books that describe the horrors of what happened to 6 million Jews, but this novel is told from the viewpoint of the common people of Germany. It certainly condemns the atrocities of the Nazis and the racism of its citizens, but it also shows the compassion, love, and loss felt by others. The characters are ordinary people who must live their lives in terrible circumstances.
7. This book made me feel so much. In reviewing certain sections for this review, I tear up. While reading about the parade of Jews, I wanted to cry and I had goosebumps on my arms. They watched the Jews come down the road like a catalog of colors. That wasn't how the book thief described them, but I can tell you that that's exactly what they were, for many of them would die. They would each greet me like their last true friend, with bones like smoke and their souls trailing behind." The last chapter was heart-wrenching and I did cry. Even with all the sadness, the book is life-affirming and the ending is very satisfying. "I wanted to tell the book thief many things, about beauty and brutality. But what could I tell her about those things that she didn't already know? I wanted to explain that I am constantly overestimating and underestimating the human race-- that rarely do I ever simply estimate it. I wanted to ask her how the same things could be so ugly and so glorious, and its words and stories so damning and brilliant."
8. I will read this book again, probably many times. As others have said, it is a must-read. It is far and away the best book I have read since starting my reading blog.
Rating: 5+++
Posted by Framed at 10:05 AM

Melissa said...
You're not the last person to read this. I may be. I still need to get around to it. Sigh.
5/01/2007 12:55 PM
Alyson said...
I haven't read it yet either, so don't feel bad. Congrats on finishing your A-Z challenge.
5/01/2007 2:24 PM
Amanda said...
I'm so glad you read this! I also started it and was afraid I didn't like it, but once at the end it instantly became the best book I have ever read. It is my new obsession!
5/01/2007 2:27 PM
Les said...
Beautiful, beautiful review!! I'm sitting here at my desk with goosebumps, tears in my eyes, a lump in my throat, and a smile on my face. I loved re-reading all those glorious passages and am tempted to stop my current book and re-read this brilliant work once again. I chose it for my staff selection at B&N this month and I've already sold one copy to a customer. It's one of those books that I want the entire world to know about! Truly the work of a classic.
5/01/2007 2:45 PM
Joy said...
So glad you joined the club! :) It truly is a very good book!
5/01/2007 2:57 PM
booklogged said...
Framed, your review is beautiful. I felt just like Les did as I read your thoughts. I've been holding my breath since you posted Zazoo, knowing that your were reading The Book Thief next. I was hoping you would like it and glad you did. Now the question we've all had after finishing a great book - What do you read next, knowing nothing else will be able to match up?
5/01/2007 6:28 PM
Jill said...
Well, actually Melissa (above) and I are the last two people who haven't yet read it. Soon, very soon...
5/01/2007 6:28 PM
booklogged said...
Forgot to say Congratulations on finishing up both the title and author A-Z read. I think that's highly commendable.
5/01/2007 6:29 PM
hellomelissa said...
this has been on my amazon wishlist since i read booklogged's review, but no kind soul (ahem, HUSBAND) has yet bought it for me.
5/01/2007 9:03 PM
SuziQoregon said...
Fabulous review!! I'm so glad you liked it as much as I did. I'm going to send a link to your review to my sister-in-law who recently finished my copy of this book.
5/01/2007 10:13 PM
Carey said...
I better add my name to the not read yet. Coincidently I started it this morning on my ride to work - due to a long commute I am listening to it on CD. Thanks for the heads up that it gets better as the book goes on.Congrats on finishing the A-Z Book & Author.
5/02/2007 9:14 AM
Carey said...
I better add my name to the not read yet. Coincidently I started it this morning on my ride to work - due to a long commute I am listening to it on CD. Thanks for the heads up that it gets better as the book goes on.Congrats on finishing the A-Z Book & Author.
5/02/2007 9:15 AM
Lisa said...
Congrats on finishing your A-Z!! That's great.I think #6 is one of the things I loved about this book too...I've read so many Nazi Germany books from the perspective of Jews...That's very valuable, but we tend to think that all Germans in that time were just atrocious. This book really shows the kind of intimidation going on in the country at that time, and just how hard it would have been to defy the regime.Oh, I loved this book. I almost want to tell people not to read it, because once you've read it, you can never have the experience of reading it for the first time ever again!!!!!
5/02/2007 3:06 PM
Wendy said...
Ah, wonderful, beautifully written review which captured exactly the reasons I too LOVED this book and put it on the top of my list of all-time favorite books. Your review made me want to read The Book Thief again.
5/02/2007 5:02 PM
Framed said...
I just read all these comments and got goosebumps again. How can a book do that? I'm doing a summary post of my A to Z soon. It was a fun challenge.Book, I'm reading "Swallows and Amazons", a complete about-face from "The Book Thief." It was hard to want to read anything else.
5/02/2007 7:07 PM
Stephanie said...
This is my favorite book so far this year!! I absolutely loved it!!
5/03/2007 6:03 AM
Bookfool said...
Oh, yes, yes, yes, yes. I agree with you on everything you said. It's just the most moving, brilliant book. I tell everyone they must read it. I'm sure there are many people who haven't gotten to it! Honestly, every time I read a review of The Book Thief, I envy the reader who just had the joy of reading the book for the first time. It's definitely on my all-time favorites list to stay.
5/04/2007 7:23 PM
3M said...
This was one of my favorite books read this year, too.Congrats on finishing your A to Z!!
5/05/2007 6:15 PM
Literary Feline said...
Congratulations on getting through the alphabet! I have yet to read this book, but hope to next year. Wonderful review!
5/07/2007 9:53 PM

Saturday, June 09, 2007


Zazoo by Richard Mosher

Saturday, April 28, 2007

"Z" Title
Finding this gem was true serendipity. I looked for a "Z" title at the library and found this in the young adult section. The title sounded much more interesting than "Zorro." Plus I thought it would be a short, easy read. Amazingly, I had never heard of it before.
First off, I would never classify this book for anyone under the age of 14. There are some adult themes and disturbing memories. But the prose is sheer poetry, and the poetry, fantastic. Absolutely lyrically beautiful. Mosher captures so well the workings of the adolescent female mind. All of his main characters are fascinating: Zazoo, the Vietnamese girl who feels like any other French girl; Grand-Pierre, the WWII resistance hero; Juliette, Zazoo's best friend; Marius, the sixteen-year-old boy who is the catalyst for change; and Monsier Klein, the pharmacist and holder of many secrets. This is just a quiet, well-told story about love (so many love stories), war, growing up, growing old, forgiveness and accepting life.
Zazoo is an almost-fourteen year old Vietnamese adopted at the age of two by Grand-Pierre and brought to live in his mill on a canal in France. Together, they enjoy swimming and skating the canal, eating oatmeal, and writing poetry. While rowing in the canal, she meets a strange boy whose questions set off a chain of events. Old, buried secrets start to unfold. Zazoo learns to deal with some pretty wrenching details of her adoptive grandfather's activities during WWII, as well as his failing mental capacity all while falling in love herself. I couldn't put it down, it was such a wonderful story. Here's an example of the beautiful writing:
"Up the river I rowed, by the light of the shrouded moon and the dim, distant streetlamps. Stroke after stroke, bending my back, glad to be pulling, pulling, bending my legs and pulling again with my mittened hands until I was warm top to toe except in some darker place I supposed must be my heart.
Since a rower sits facing the stern, it was good I knew the river's shallows and angles, the twists where its current was tricky. The moon was so wrapped in snowy clouds that I saw only vague shapes, and steered from old habit. Rowing was fine in the dark, in the falling snow. My boat didn't whisper hero or coward, Gestapo or Vietnam. It didn't whisper at all, only groaned with the pull of it's oars."
"I sobbed down the front of his jacket. He crooned to me, my sad old man and the only hero I had, in the kitchen of my only home, the Mill of a Thousand Years, the Mill of a Thousand Tears."
And I have to include a couple of the shorter poems. They are all lovely.
is where the river flows
humming through the willows.
Home is milkweed in your hair,
with hemlock moss your pillows.
Home, if only you could know,
is anyplace I see you--
it's in your heart
and from the start
I've known my home would be you."
"The sound of a nightingale's silence
is louder than anyone's cry.
The tread of your long-ago footstep
echo whenever I sigh.
The water gone still and unmoving
can't freeze in my memory's eye--
it ripples and waves,
it whispers your name,
it hears you say "Soon" one more time."
Rating: 5
Posted by Framed at 6:11 PM


Dragon's Gate by Lawrence Yep

Friday, April 27, 2007

"Y" Author
I heard Lawrence Yep speak at the Great Salt Lake Book Festival last fall. He was so delightful that I immediately bought a book for him to sign. Not only did he write a short note in the book, he also drew a cartoon dragon. What a guy! "Dragon's Gate" is the third in a series of eight books called "The Golden Mountain Chronicles." The Golden Mountain stand for America. In this Newberry Honor winner, Yep tells the story of 15-year-old boy who is forced to leave China after killing a Manchu and joins his father and uncle digging a tunnel for the transcontinental railroad. Otter soon learns that America is not really a golden mountain, but through the course of the book, he develops wisdom, discipline, determination and courage. The story of an actual strike by the Chinese workers is well-told here. It took a while for me to really get into the book, but then I became captivated by Yep's straightforward prose and his wonderful characters. His descriptions of the harsh, frozen world of the Sierras drew such vivid pictures in my mind. Isn't it amazing how so many groups of people emigrated to America and played such a vital part in building the country in spite of such horrible treatment? Learning more about this little-known episode of American history is just one more reason to read the book.
Rating: 4
Posted by Framed at 6:49 PM

booklogged said...
Why did we both buy the same book? We didn't coordinate that very well, did we? Anyway, it sounds like a good book.
7:22 PM
Tristi Pinkston said...
Laurence Yep is one of my favorite authors. He has such a way of putting things and sucking his readers in to other cultures.
9:15 PM
Joy said...
Great review...I'm intrigued! :)
6:52 AM
Cassie said...
He was probably the least interesting speaker at the festival but this book does sound interesting.


Yankee Doodle Dead by Carolyn Hart

Thursday, April 26, 2007

"Y" Title
If you love light-hearted mysteries, put this "Death on Demand" novel on your list. Annie and Max Darling are one of the cutest couples residing in mystery land. Annie is a hard-working serious owner of a mystery book store with the delightful name of "Death on Demand." They live on the island of Broward Rock off the coast of South Carolina so there are a lot of great southern references. You'd think a small island would be a safe place to live, but people get murdered here regularly. (This is the 10th book in the series.) Usually the victim deserves what he/she gets, certainly in this book; and it's fun to try and guess who the did the dastardly deed. (I was right on this time.) Each book I've read contains a description of the contest Annie holds at her store by displaying pictures local artists have painted depicting scenes from 3 different mysteries. The one who guesses them correctly wins a free book. I have not yet been able to guess one single mystery based on the description of these pictures. And Hart is constantly dropping the names of mysteries by way of Annie's merchandise, or a heroine she is trying to emulate while solving various murders about the island. I've read some fun mysteries that I read about in these books. Here's some enticing titles included in "Yankee Doodle": "AToast to Tomorrow" by Manning Coles, "In the Teeth of Evidence" by Dorothy L Sayers, (One of Annie's cats is named Dorothy L. The other is Agatha) "The Trouble with a Small Raise" by Camilla Crespi, and "Fat-Free and Fatal" by Jacqueline Girdner. This particular story revolves around the power struggle involved with the library board's plans for the 4th of July celebration. Let's just say the fireworks aren't only confined to the night sky. Annie and Max race around the island searching for clues and asking really nosy questions and finally solve the case. Like all the books in this series, Hart includes quirky characters, fun dialogue, and a quick pace. This book won't make you think very hard but it is a fun place to escape. I wanted to share a couple of quotes about mysteries:
"Annie knew the fury wasn't directed at her. Nonetheless, she thought plaintively, this wasn't what summer was all about. But, as she took a deep breath and practiced saying no in her mind, this is what mysteries were all about--anger, power and fractured relationships. Annie wanted to contain misery between the bright covers of books where everything came out right in the end."
"Annie had plunged into many different lifestyles in the thousands of mysteries she'd read, from Dorothy L. Sayers's England to the World Wars to Robert Van Gulick's exploration of seventh-century China, from Steven Saylor's ancient Rome to Sparkle Hayter's zestfully up-to-date Big Apple, from Alistair MacLean's World War II adventures to Tony Hillerman's Navajo and Zuni reservations, but not a one had give her a pointer on the mores of being an officer's wife
Rating: 4
Posted by Framed at 6:51 PM

booklogged said...
Sounds good, but I have recently mooched 20 or so mysteries, so I better hold off on this series for awhile. I hope to get back to mysteries sooner than later!
12:01 AM
Cassie said...
wow, you are moving right along. I'll pass this one up as well as you know my feelings on mysteries.


Sky Burial by Xinran

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

"X" Author
Xinran is a journalist who, in 1994, met an old woman with an incredible story. Sharing that story with Xinran resulted in this fictionalized version of Shu Wen thirty-year odyssey as a Chinese woman in the harsh highlands of Tibet. In 1958, after 100 days of marriage, Wen's husband, a doctor, is reported by the army as being killed while on duty in Tibet. Unbelieving, Wen, also a doctor, joins the army and requests an assignment where she can search for Jijun. Through a series of events, she ends up living with yak herdsmen for almost thirty years. Eventually, they help her with the search and she learns the ultimate fate of Jijun back in 1958. While I learned some interesting things about both China and Tibet, the actual story seemed very slow to me. (Keep in mind that I had just read "Outlander") The title page calls it "an epic love story of Tibet," but the love story is not very compelling or epic. Other than the fact that this actually happened to her, I was not pulled into the events of Wen's thirty years. I am glad to have my "X" Author and Title finished.
Rating: 2.75
Posted by Framed at 6:06 PM

booklogged said...
I think I may have liked it a little more than you, though I remember it wasn't the best book I've ever read.
6:51 PM
Tristi Pinkston said...
Thanks for the blog -- it always saves me time to read your comments because then I know whether or not I want to try something!
1:06 AM
sally906 said...
I really enjoyed this book - I read it for an A-Z challenge in 2005. She has written some other books too - I remeber thinking I should search them out at the time :)
4:51 AM
John Ottinger said...
I thought you might be interest in the New Notions 5 reading challenge.
11:03 AM


Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

Monday, April 23, 2007

3rd Once Upon a Time and 6th Chunkster
The first four books of the Outland series have been sitting on my shelf for months now taking up a lot of space. They are really Big.
But I listed the first on my Chunkster Challenge and on the "Once Upon a Time Challenge" to give me the gusto to dive in. And it only took me 3 days to read all 850 pages. It was so hard to put down. A true swashbuckling tale. The story begins in 1945 with Claire and her husband, Frank, on a genealogical search in the highlands of Scotland. Somehow, Claire finds herself traveling through time to the year 1743 and all kinds of peril and adventures. And, let's not forget, romance. More than a fantasy, this book is a romance. Truthfully, some passages take me back to my college days when I was consumed with reading what I classified as "smut historical romances." Thankfully, the cover is not plastered with a buxom, half-clad wench falling on the massive chest of an impossibly handsome male model. I could have done without all the sex which was pretty graphic. And Jamie Fraser was a little too perfect and sensitive for a 23-year-old, 18th-century Highlander. But enough nit-picking. This novel was amazing. The characters are fascinating. Gabaldon's descriptions are breathtaking and add to the flavor of the story, not detracting from it. There was adventure after adventure. And the romance . . . . well, too perfect or not and way too young for me, I am in love with Jamie. Who wouldn't be? And Claire faces her dilemma of choosing between the present and the past with a natural confusion that I found endearing. She is such a modern woman trying to fit into this male-oriented culture. My best description of this novel is --- Pure Entertainment!!
Rating: 4.75
Posted by Framed at 9:15 PM
booklogged said...
Yay, you read it and liked it! I had a feeling you would. Some of the sex scenes are pretty steamy, but the rest of the book was so good. Good for you - six chunksters down. I have one more to go and am barely into another. So basically, two more to go.
10:22 PM
Alyson said...
Big books that are really good scare me a little. Really, I love them, but I steer clear of them (at least while I'm in school) because I won't do anything else while I'm reading those kinds of books. Maybe someday I can read this one, or maybe I'll listen to it.
12:24 AM
Quixotic said...
I've been toying with the idea of trying Gabaldon's work for ages. Now I've finally broken the ice and jumped into George R.R. Martin's work, perhaps it's time to try out another biggy!Glad you liked it, thanks for the review!
2:42 AM
SuziQoregon said...
Yay!! Glad you liked it. I agree the steamy scenes could be heavily edited, and it wouldn't diminish the books at all. It's a long and complex series.
9:03 AM
kookiejar said...
I loved this one two. I'm about the start the third in the series. It's amazing the detail she puts into the story.
11:26 AM
Les said...
I've been a bit hesitant to start this series simply because the books are so darned big. But if you were able to finish this one in just 3 days, I'm encouraged! Thanks for the review. I'll have to snag a copy to add to my toppling tower of books. :)
11:52 AM
Melissa said...
I still blush whenever I think of this book, mostly because of the steamy scenes. I'm sure my husband wouldn't mind it if I read it again, though. :)Glad you liked it.
11:59 AM
hellomelissa said...
i'm on the 5th said it all... pure entertainment. and by now, it's comfort lit to me... familiarity.
6:32 PM
Marina said...
Maybe it's time for me to pick this one up...husband and I are trying for kid #2.
8:43 PM
Nymeth said...
Scottish Highlands in the 18th century... that sounds wonderful! Thanks for the review.
4:59 PM
Chris said...
An old favorite of mine. I love her work.
5:29 PM
Chris said...
This post has been removed by the author.
5:29 PM
Bellezza said...
It is surprisingly fast for such a long book, isn't it? I could never read it in three days, as you did, but I did the last half in about three days. At first, I thought it a bit strange in terms of time travel. Then, I got hooked. I haven't read past Outlander, yet, but maybe I will someday. By the time you finish such a novel you almost feel as if you knew the characters like family!

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