Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Quilter's Homecoming by Jennifer Chiaverini

After reading The Hunger Games series, I was in need of something a little more comforting.  The Quilter's Homecoming by Jennifer Chiaverini was just what I wanted.  This book in the Elm Creek Quilts series follows Elizabeth, Silvia's cousin, on her journey from Elm Creek Manor to her new home in California in 1925.  Elizabeth and her husband, newlyweds, embark on quite the adventure of striking out on their own toward a cattle ranch that he has purchased.  Things don't go quite as planned, but the couple endures and (spoiler!) triumphs.  The story is also interspersed with a tale that begins fifty years previous of the family that owned the ranch for generations.  The two narratives weave together beautifully and I couldn't wait to find out how it would all resolve.  I just love these books.  Have you read them yet??

Monday, October 17, 2011

Catching Fire and Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

I recently finished Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins and I would have posted about it, but I couldn't stop myself from moving immediately on to Mockingjay.  So, what did I think?  Actually, that is a pretty good question.  I was riveted, that's true.  I didn't want to put it down.  I thought about it a lot when I wasn't reading it and the story line has even infiltrated my dreams.  But did I like it?  Well, not really, but maybe that is because it's not the kind of story the reader is supposed to like, exactly. 

These are such dark novels and I am frankly astounded that they are considered Young Adult literature.  At certain times, the events are downright gruesome.  I have never been a fan of distopian novels and so I admit that maybe this just isn't my thing.  Nearly every person I have talked to who has read the series has raved about it.  "These books are so good!  You have to read them!"  "The movie is coming out soon- you have to read them first!"  "Oooo...these books are amazing!"  "The best books ever written!"  But as for me, when I asked a friend if she had read them, she told me she hadn't yet but that her sister loved them and keeps telling her she just has to read them.  To that, my response was that I'm not sure I would say that.  I don't know that I could tell anyone they just have to read this series, but I would be interested in discussing it with people who have read them. 

To be honest, I was kind of a relieved to come to the end.  Too many people died, some of them I could argue should have lived.  I know no one wants to see a beloved character die.  I understand that it adds significantly to the meaning of the person's death if it is a character to whom the reader has become attached.  And yet, there were a couple of characters that just should have been allowed to live.  One of the critiques of Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer is that no one important died in the end and it wasn't realistic.  Meyer's response was that she couldn't let any of the characters who meant so much to her die.  And besides, who cares if it was unrealistic?  It was a vampire/werewolf novel- none of it was realistic.  And so I think the same could have happened at the end of Mockingjay.  I know, I'm being a baby about this, but since this blog is only reflective of my opinions, I'm okay with that. 

If you have read this series, I would love to hear your take.  If you haven't read it yet, I hope I haven't spoiled it too much.  Now I think I will go find something a little cheerier to read.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

These is My Words by Nancy E. Turner

The book club selection for October is These is My Words by Nancy E. Turner.  Oh, my!  What a book!  When I first picked it up, I noticed the small print and was afraid it would take me a long time to finish.  When I began it, I was afraid it was going to be a slow read.  Once I was about thirty pages in I realized how wrong I was.  A historical novel written in the form of a journal, These is My Words tells of a young woman pioneer in the Arizona Territory.  Sarah Prine as portrayed in the novel is not a real woman but is loosely based on the stories handed down about the author's great-grandmother.  This book is written in such a way that it was difficult to remember that she wasn't real.  I also began to wonder if she had a giant "S" on her undershirt and a cape she kept tucked up in her bonnet.  If you like strong women characters, this is just the book for you.  There were several instances that I actually cheered out loud.  Sarah is my hero! 

I have heard there are two sequels, Sarah's Quilt and The Star Garden, and that they are good.  I may continue my reading, but I haven't decided yet.  I really can't recommend this one enough.  It is one of my new favorite books!

Now please forgive me for a spoiler, (please don't continue if you haven't read this book yet!)

but I feel like I have to say I loved this book all the way until the end.  It's the end that made me angry.  I know life was hard.  I know people died, but why, oh why did it have to end the way it did?!?  I wasn't just sad- I was angry.  I may have even thrown my book down and stomped down the hall for a few minutes.  And then I decided to just ignore it.  I refuse to believe it ended the way the author wrote it and I will just make up my own ending because I can.  How is that for juvenile? 

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

For over a year I have had friends tell me I just had to read The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.  One friend even bought the series for me.  I agreed I would read it, but I just hadn't gotten to it yet.  Finally last week, I decided I would read just the first one before I had to move on to my book club book for this month.  I was right when I thought it wouldn't take me very long to read.  I was wrong when I thought I wouldn't mind waiting to read the other two books in the series.

I wasn't very far into the book before I began to question my ability to stomach the storyline.  Since I am quite possibly the last person to get into this series, I won't worry too much about spoilers, but be forewarned.  Children forced to fight to the death?  That is horrific!  And this is considered a Young Adult novel?  Well I suppose a teenager is likely to have a slightly different perspective than a mother might have, so perhaps it sits differently with them.  For me, all I could think was "Who lets this happen?"  And don't try to tell me it was the only way to avoid total destruction.  Someone would have to totally destroy me before I would stand by and let someone take away my child and make a game of his or her death.  Did you ever read "The Lottery"?  It is a short story written by Shirley Jackson in 1948 and is considered classic American literature.  The Hunger Games felt oddly similar, yet much more gruesome. 

Once I was able to continue with my reading, I was able to enjoy the adventure aspects of Katniss' ordeal, but I am still disturbed.  I know- it's a book, it's not real.  As I've mentioned before, I become very involved in what I read.  Could this ever really happen?  In what kind of world?  What events could possibly lead up to such a thing?  It is my understanding that some of these questions will be addressed in the rest of the series.  While I am thoroughly sickened, I am also very interested in knowing what will happen next.  I will read the rest of the series, mostly because I can't stop now. 

What did you think?  Were you as distressed as I was?

Circle of Quilters by Jennifer Chiaverini

The ninth book in the Elm Creek Quilts series, Circle of Quilters by Jennifer Chiaverini was as much a joy to read as each of the other Elm Creek Quilts novels I have read.  In this novel, the Elm Creek Quilters are searching for new quilters to add to their group.  Each chapter is an applicant's biography and it's own fully developed story.  At the end of each chapter, I thought, "Oh, that person should get it", but of course I liked the next person just as much.  That is one thing I really like Chiaverini's novels- nearly every character is likable and flawed at the same time.  I am really enjoying this series.