Friday, June 28, 2013

Book Review: The Teacher’s Funeral: A Comedy in Three Parts

The Teacher's Funeral : A Comedy in Three PartsThe Teacher's Funeral : A Comedy in Three Parts by Richard Peck
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a great book. Set in Indiana in 1904, Russel's one-room school teacher dies at the beginning of the book, a teacher who no one really mourns. The book is all about the events in Russel's life surrounding and following his teacher's death.

This book is filled with quirky characters and schoolroom (and outside of schoolroom) shenanigans. I loved the relationship between Russel and his sister, Tansy. I think what I loved most of all was the quiet father. He doesn't receive a lot of focus in the book, and he doesn't talk much. But the book gives you the sense that he knows exactly what is going on with his children, and he's just letting things play out until he sees a need to step in.

Toward the end, I was laughing out loud as things spiraled along when you thought they couldn't get any worse. Overall, it had a sweet feel to it, and I really enjoyed it. This is my first Richard Peck book I have read. I think I'll have to check out some of his others.

Content: I don't think there's much of anything to worry about in this book. I guess there's some mild violence: a schoolyard brawl and a grouchy aunt who threatens to shoot anyone on her land. That's about it. I don't recall any foul language. I would read it to my own kids as soon as I thought they wouldn't get too spooked by some of the pranks pulled. Some of my older nephews might enjoy it (ages 10-13ish).

I also loved finding out that he wrote the book about his mother trying to become a teacher!

What have you read lately? Anything good?

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Book Review: The Light Between Oceans

The Light Between OceansThe Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was such a beautiful book. It was touching, heart-wrenching, and enthralling. It will have you feeling conflicted from the very beginning.

This book is especially applicable to parents, but it is also a beautiful love story.

I love the writing! In many ways, this book reminded me of the writings of Charles Dickens. I love how Stedman introduced one set of characters, made us fall in love with them, and then brought in another set of characters, told their story, and weaved to two sets together. Also similar to Dickens was Stedman's beautiful use of imagery. She didn't just tell you that men went off to war and didn't come back. She showed you, and she made you feel it.

There was one section at the beginning of Chapter 2 that I especially love for how eloquently it is written. Here is just a snippet:
"Like wheat fields where more grain is sown than can ripen, God seemed to sprinkle extra children about, and harvest them according to some indecipherable, divine calendar.
The town cemetery had always recorded this truthfully, and its headstones, some lolling like loose, grimy teeth, told frankly the stories of lives taken early by influenza and drownings, by timber whims and even lightning strikes. But in 1915, it began to lie. Boys and men from across the district were dying by the score, yet the graveyards said nothing."

That's just a part of the section I love the most. The writing is just masterful. There's so much more about this book that makes it good, but you just have to read it to see for yourself.

This is one I think I need to buy.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Book Review: Gem

GemGem by Holly Hobbie
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is just a gem of a book. Sorry, I had to.

This sweet book starts out with a letter from a grandmother to her granddaughter talking about a very cold winter that seemed to last forever. She says the only thing that got her through that winter was remembering a spring when her granddaughter had found a toad and named it Gem. She spent the winter painting pictures of the toad's life, and the rest of the book is made up of these pictures (without words).

At the end, we read the granddaughter's letter response after she has seen the book her grandmother made.

I thought this was darling. The pictures are beautiful and sweet. I love the correspondence at the beginning and end.

This book has a special place in my heart because of my own little backyard adventurers who will surely be catching toads of their own someday (right now it's slugs and worms).


Sunday, June 2, 2013

Book Review: Requiem

Requiem (Delirium, #3)Requiem by Lauren Oliver
My rating: 2 of 5 stars


I liked each book in this series less than the previous book. (Warning, this will contain spoilers for the preceding books.)


I have no words. This book just didn't do it for me.

Okay. A few words. Too much of it was cliché.

The "moral of the story" in the end was decent, but I think she was trying to be way more poetic than it actually came across.

The action was weak. The moments that I could tell were supposed to be tense or heartbreaking just didn't affect me like a well written book would have. She didn't make me care about the characters enough!!!

One of the major pitfalls for this book was that there was WAY too much swearing. I feel like Oliver thought she needed to increase the amount of swearing exponentially in each book. For me, when an author uses too much swearing in their writing, it just puts their writing in a lower class. And don't tell me that they need swearing to show the hardness of the characters. Dickens wrote about plenty of hard characters who were brilliantly portrayed, and he didn't fill his books with foul language.

I felt like Oliver used swearing especially as a crutch. Whenever something intense was happening, one of the characters started swearing. Somebody dies, something's scary, something makes them angry, and it's "#$%^^, %$##*, *^%$#@!" Those moments would have been so much more powerful, more moving for me if she had fleshed it out with some actual dialogue or some actual body language! There are so many better ways she could have written those moments! Instead, she decided to alienate her reader by forcing foul words into his/her head.

I appreciated that the ending wasn't wrapped up in a tidy little bow. I applaud Oliver for that point. I really thought she would end it with everything wrapped up and blue skies, which would have been way too predictable.

Honestly, I don't hold very high esteem for this series. I say, if you're looking for a great YA dystopian series, read The Hunger Games. If you've read that and are looking for more and don't mind if it's not quite the same caliber, read the Divergent series. If you've read both of those and have to get your hands on something else even if it's just a worthless fluff read, I guess you could read Delirium. But stop there. It's not going to get better if you keep reading.

Content: This book has violence and plenty of swearing. The "sh" word used repeatedly throughout, and the F-bomb dropped more than several times--wouldn't qualify as a PG-13 movie.

So is it just me? Do you find swearing in a book to be a distraction and a sign of a weak writer? Or do you breeze over it so that you don’t even notice? Have you read this series? What did you think?