Posts from the ‘Book Review’ Category

A Review of Weird NY

Weird New YorkWeird New York by Chris Gethard

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I picked up this book at the gift shop of the New York State Museum. Now, I’m really glad that I did! It’s got the look and feel of a coffee table book – you know, the sort you leave on your table when guests arrive as a conversation piece. The pages are thick and most of the pictures are bright and colorful.

Inside, is a collection of weird stories from all over New York State. Some are of places that are supposedly haunted. Others are just interesting or odd landmarks – strange things that you won’t find anywhere else. It was fun to see some that were close enough for me to visit and others that I can consider visiting one day. It’s also a great reminder to stop and look a little closer at some of the things you encounter on a regular basis. After all, just because I’ve heard of Pratt Rock (for example) all my life doesn’t mean it’s not an interesting place to visit. It made me want to look into some of the lore a little closer to home, as well.

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Review of The Last Unicorn

The Last UnicornThe Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was another one of those books I read having grown up watching the movie. I couldn’t read any part of it without comparing the two, because both were so well done. I feel like the movie was a truly faithful retelling of the book. There were differences: The village of Hagsgate was never mentioned in the movie. Schmendrick’s backstory wasn’t really filled out as much in the movie as it was in the book. Haggard’s men-at-arms never appeared in the movie.

Having noted the differences and similarities between the two mediums, I’ll leave that conversation aside by saying one last thing. Read the book, if you enjoyed the movie! You’ll enjoy the book every bit at much – perhaps even more.

This book is a keeper and one that I’ll read again at some point. I loved every moment of reading it and I’m glad that I decided to read it. Schmendrick is my absolute favorite character and I feel like I could easily imagine more adventures for him and Molly, just as I could for Lir and for the unicorn. All the characters took on a life of their own for me as I read.

Having read the book, I can see how the movie – particularly the character of Schmendrick – really influenced both my love of fantasy and my expectations of magic. I won’t tell you how things turn out for him by the end of the book, but I will say… I loved it! I also loved the little cat and how (just as in the movie), he found Molly at the end. Over all, it was a lovely book that I would encourage anyone to read at least once in their life.

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Review of It’s a Purl Thing

(It's a Purl Thing) (Chicks with Sticks, #1)(It’s a Purl Thing) by Elizabeth Lenhard
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was given to me by a writer friend, because she knew that I enjoyed knitting (I also crochet). I have to say… when I first started reading it, I wasn’t sure I’d like the story. However, once I got into the story and started meeting the rest of the characters, that all changed. I found myself drawn along with the characters – happy when they were happy, sad when they were sad, etc.

It has the feel of a teenager sort of book. The main characters are all in high school. They’re just getting their first crushes, etc. They also have… drama! When things start to go a little sideways, Scottie feels like her whole world is unravelling. That might annoy some people, but… I found it to be very realistic. It made the characters more relatable, perhaps because the author didn’t drag it out for too long.

All in all, I’m really glad that I read this book. I may even try to find the next one in the series. I’m looking forward to trying the free patterns that are included in the end of the book.

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Review of Write the Story

Write the StoryWrite the Story by Piccadilly
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I used this book for my July Camp NaNo. For each day of the month, I’d select a different prompt and use it to write another section of my project. Each prompt had a topic and ten words to include in the piece. There was a lot of variety in the prompts, which lent itself well to writing and made for quite the challenge. I didn’t use all the challenges, but I’ve used many of them (I’d used about 30 of them previous to July, so… I’ve used about sixty total now).

If you’ve got writer’s block and you’re looking for something to get the creative juices flowing, this is a great tool. If you’re just looking to challenge yourself (as I did), this works great! I didn’t write directly in the book (since it actually belongs to my sister), but you could if you really wanted to do so. I’d really love it if there was another volume, with more challenges and words to use.

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A Review of Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMHMrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O’Brien
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was a little girl the movie, The Secret of NIMH, came out. I was at an age when the idea of mice and rats being able to speak to each other – personifying them – was right up my alley. I also liked the fantasy aspects of the movie. I went into this book knowing that it was not going to be the same, but I wasn’t sure what had been changed from the book to the movie.

Oh, my! Certain things were pretty close to the same – Mrs. Frisby (though it was Mrs. Brisby in the movie, I always called her Mrs. Frisby) still had to move her family out of their house before the garden was plowed. She still went to the rats for help and, ultimately, helped them in return. There were other similarities too. However… whoa! There were huge differences.

In some ways, the book is far less dramatic. There was also no fantasy in the book. Everything that happens is firmly in the realm if science fiction and is limited to the rats (and some mice) being used in an experiment by NIMH. I’m not going to consider this a bad thing, but I do wonder why the decision was made to add the things that were added. Normally, things are left out when you change a book into a movie, not the other way around.

I’ll conclude by saying this: Reading the book will not change my love of the movie. They are so different that I feel like I can love them both for what they are.

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A Review of Italian Shoes

Italian ShoesItalian Shoes by Henning Mankell
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is not the sort of book that I would normally read. However, it was loaned to me by a friend, who suggested it. He enjoyed it and he wants it back (so that he can read it again), so I decided to read it immediately and get it back to him.

I told my sister and a friend of mine about the story and both of them had the same reaction that I did to it. It’s an odd story, but fascinating. Fredrik’s life is a bit of a train wreck. I felt like I spent the entire book waiting for him to get his act together. That was, I think, what the story was truly about. He’s been running away from himself all his life. When the woman he once loved comes back into his life, she forces him to stop running.

The author leaves some dangling threads at the end, but… I think that the main character has finally turned the corner. Since that was the goal of the book, whatever else happens from there on out does not matter. The story is finished.

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A Review of Coraline

CoralineCoraline by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book reminded me a great deal of Alice in Wonderland/Through the Looking-glass, particularly since I’d just read both books before I’d begun this one. It is very much a children’s book, but there is a scary, intense edge that might be too much for sensitive children.

I loved Coraline! The characters were all really memorable and, in some cases, realistic. Those who weren’t realistic… well, they weren’t really meant to be either. My favorite character was the cat, though I was a bit biased. He reminded me so much of my Sam! I could totally see Sam saying the things the cat said, if he was actually able to speak. Pippin, my other cat… less so, but he was totally Sam!

I loved that it wasn’t as easily solved as Coraline hoped. The little extra twist of having succeeded, but it wasn’t quite over – the evil hadn’t been defeated – was great!

I also watched the movie this past weekend. It was equally enjoyable, with the added character of Wybie. One thing I liked better about the book was that Coraline didn’t need rescuing. The cat helped, but she ultimately defeated the evil through her own abilities and courage, not because someone came along at the last moment to lend a hand.

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A Review of Alice in Wonderland/Through the Looking-glass

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking GlassAlice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’m glad that I finally got around to reading this book. I’ve seen the Disney version of Alice in Wonderland and I’ve got a DVD with a different version (both movies, running back to back, in live action format). However, there’s just something about reading the source material for movies like that – you can see the changes that were made.

The stories themselves are fun and dreamlike, which suits them very well since both stories have Alice waking at the end, as if from a dream. The characters were so memorable and fun. This is a good book for younger readers, who will enjoy the story as it appears. I also think that more mature readers can see the story on other levels – the wittiness of the characters will amuse them. It’s definitely not a story that’s meant to be taken too seriously.

The poetry interspersed throughout the books – particularly Through the Looking Glass – can be distracting at times. However, Carroll was both a novelist and a poet, so I enjoyed them all the same.

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A Review of To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a MockingbirdTo Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I want to start this review by saying that I’m really glad that I finally got around to reading this book! After years of hearing that this book was about how a court case affects a girl growing up in the south during segregation… it was so much more than that!

The court case didn’t happen until the second part of the book. It was like… three chapters and it was over and I already knew how it would turn out (even if Jem didn’t).

This book was really about a girl and her brother growing up in the south during segregation. It was about how Jem broke his arm – the incidents building up to that point in their lives. It was about Scout going from being a little girl to being a young lady. How she learned about people – love, hate, fairness, friendship, etc. It was a coming of age story with the court case as background (because her father is a lawyer).

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I’d recommend it to anyone who likes historical novels. I’d recommend it to people who like coming of age stories. I’d really recommend it to everyone!

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A Review of Ella Enchanted

Ella EnchantedElla Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is one of those books that I heard about when I was still in school, but never got around to reading. I’m glad that I took the time to do so now!

The blurb both on here and printed on the back of the book give you a really good overview of the story. What nothing I’ve read mentions is… this story is a retelling of Cinderella! It’s something I didn’t realize until I got to the point where she was (view spoiler). I really loved how Levine put her own spin on the classic tale. In fact, I loved it enough that I’m going to look into reading some of her other books. Fairest might be a retelling of another classic fairy tale and I read The Goose Girl a short enough time ago that I’m fairly certain A Tale of Two Castles is Levine’s take on that story.

I’d recommend this book to anyone who enjoys fairy tale retellings, but I’d also recommend it to readers who like strong female characters or fantasy stories.

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