Sunday, December 4, 2016

Charles Dickens for the win!

I think October wins for the amount of books I was reading at the same time. I think at one point I was dabbling in 6 books. I always love when you're on the wait list at the library for a couple of books and they all become available on the same day. For awhile there it felt like finals week. I always used to get an eye twitch during finals week.

And who would have guessed that a Charles Dickens book would swoop in and take the lead as my favorite book read this year? (I've previously always made it a point to avoid Charles Dickens.)  Let's hear it for Charles!


Category: A book written by a female author
The Children of Noisy Village, Astrid Lindgren
Goodreads review: 5 stars

Good thing I have kids to help me knock out a huge portion of my reading challenge. Astrid Lindgren is best known for Pippi Longstocking, which is one that we have on CD, and we enjoy listening to it on road trips. The girls and I enjoyed Noisy Village. It's got short and snappy chapters and it comes equipped with pictures, so it held Maren's attention. Our narrator is Lisa, a little girl in a village in Sweden, called Noisy Village. What's ironic is that she doesn't live in a village, nor is it really that noisy. Her house is surrounded by two other homes on either side of hers, and there are six children total, and they're all great friends. It really feels like a little girl is telling the stories. Clara giggled during the part when Karl ties bows in Bill's hair while he's asleep. Our favorite chapter was when Lisa and Anna have to go to the grocery store over and over because they keep forgetting things from their list. I did have to do some quick-on-my-toes censoring—because there's a part that spills the beans about Santa Claus! So keep that in mind. I highly recommend this book for little girls.

Category: A book published this year
Pax, Sara Pennypacker
Goodreads review: 3 stars

The thing that initially caught my attention about this book was the illustrator! We looooove I Want My Hat Back and This is Not My Hat. I was disappointed that their weren't more illustrations. The beginning of this story channeled my childhood Fox and the Hound trauma. Cue Goodbye May Seem Forever. Anyway. Pax has been getting a lot of great reviews, but I didn't quite catch on to the magic of it all. The storyline is vague and mysterious. I'm sure it was written that way on purpose, but I didn't really see why. Why not give us more details? SO here's the gist: Peter rescues a baby fox and has kept him as a pet for 6 years (or something), but one day his father has to go to war and Peter has to go live with his grandfather. His fox, Pax, isn't invited. So they drop him off in the woods. The story is actually told both in Peter's perspective, and in Pax's perspective. Later that night, in his grandfather's home, Peter is filled with grief and guilt over deserting his fox, so he leaves right then to go find Pax. Only a day into his journey to find him, Peter trips and breaks his ankle. He's rescued by a lady—I can't remember her name—who lives alone in the woods. She sets his ankle and agrees to help him recover enough so he can get back to finding his fox—as long as he agrees to help her with a few things as well. Meanwhile, Pax is trying to survive in the wild when he's never lived in the wild before. He befriends some other foxes. Anyway, it's well written. I didn't unenjoy it. But the vagueness of the war was confusing to me. What time period was this story supposed to be? And where was it all taking place? I just wanted more details, I guess. And then there was Peter's relationship with his father. I wanted to understand more about that as well. The ending was expected, but a let-down all the same. So that's that.

Category: A book with a number in the title
A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens
Goodreads review: 5 stars

Tom is the one that convinced me to read this. Ever since Great Expectations (which I was assigned in high school and didn't finish), I've steered clear of Dickens, because that guy is just too smart for me. So I put up a decent-sized fight about it, but Tom felt convinced I would like it. And he was SO right! But for reals, the first 25 pages of this book? What on earth was I even reading?? I'm glad I didn't give up though. Because this book is ah-mazing. AMAZING. I never expected to like it as much as I did, considering how difficult it is to read—plus the two main characters (Lucie Manette and Charles Darnay) are pretty flat. It's Sydney Carton who won me over. Why doesn't he try harder to get Lucie? Why does he think so lowly of himself?! Why does he think he'll never be able to change? I loved the scene when Mr. Stryver is informing Sydney of his intentions to marry Lucie. It's hilarious. Throughout the scene Sydney keeps throwing back more alcohol to handle it all: "Sydney Carton drank the punch at a great rate; drank it by bumpers, looking at his friend." His character is so much more complex than Darnay's that you just can't help rooting for him, despite his drinking problem. Oh, and then—subject change—when Darnay decides to head to France without first telling Lucie about it—he writes her a letter to find after he's gone! Oh no, buddy. What in heaven's name are you thinking? Anyway, I recommend this book to anyone who is a romantic at heart. (Even though the love story is hardly what this book is about.) The writing was so dense and poetic at times that I feel certain I was only scratching the surface at understanding it all. After I read it I felt SO enthused, that I nearly vowed to read everything that Charles Dickens has ever written. Someone talk me out of it.

Category: A book written by someone under 30
Red Rising, Pierce Brown
Goodreads review: 3 stars

This book takes place in the future. I was planning on plopping it in the Future category, until I realized I didn't have a book picked out for someone under 30. Props to Pierce Brown for publishing a book before turning 30! That really is an amazing accomplishment. I mean, what had I managed to do before turning 30? I had a couple of kids, so I guess that's something. I guess. I mean—it's no book. So what's this book about? Pfffff. It's about everything. Well, no. But it's got a little bit of everything. Horses on Mars? You betcha! It's over-the-top dramatic with plenty of killing and a weird emphasis on dancing, if that's something you're into. It feels very Hunger Games-esque with a side of Game of Thrones and a dollop of Harry Potter. It just has too much going on. I found the plot slightly hard to follow. And the dialogue too, sometimes. Like, for example, someone would say something like (this is just a Season example, but it'll help if you read it in the movie-guy preview voice): "Does this mean what I think it means?!?" And then the next person would be like, "Yes, it DOES mean what you think it means." And then I'd be over here going, "Uh, guys? What does it mean? I don't know what it means! What's going on in your heads??" And Darrow? (He's the main character.) He's not full of himself, or anything, so THAT'S a relief. Good heavens to Betsy grief. But despite it all—it did hold my attention. Maybe someday if I get bored I'll read the rest in the series! Errrr, well, I mean, I don't know. It's a solid maybe.

Category: A book based on or turned into a TV show
The Cold Dish, Craig Johnson
Goodreads review: 3 stars

Tom and I have gotten into the Longmire Netflix series. It's pretty good, albeit a tad on the dramatic side at times. It's about a sheriff in Absaroka County, Wyoming. Tom and I joke that Wyoming is the most dangerous place to live, apparently, because Sheriff Longmire is solving a grisly murder in every episode, not to mention all the drug dealers and kidnappers who gravitate to his town. The series is based on Craig Johnson's Walt Longmire series, The Cold Dish being the first in the series. I was interested to see how closely the Netflix series follows the books. Here's one difference you'll find: F words. Boy howdy this book is full of profanity. The book has a lot of police and weapon jargon that went over my head. The book was also a little slower paced than I was expecting, and it ends differently than I was expecting—so that was a fun twist. I enjoyed the dynamics between Walt and Henry, just like the Netflix series portrays it (until the end of the 6th season, 'cause they're fighting, silly boys.) Anyway, I can give a definite recommendation to the Netflix series, but I cannot say I'd recommend the book. It's not really my genre.

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