Rainer Maria Rilke

"Live a while in these books, learn from them what seems to you worth learning, but above all love them. This love will be repaid you a thousand and a thousand times, and however your life may turn,-it will, I am certain of it, run through the fabric of your growth as one of the most important threads among all the threads of your experiences, disappointments, and joys."--Rainer Maia Rilke

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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A female Percy Jackson!

The Dig: Zoe and Zeus by Audrey Hart
(Adolescent Fiction/Fantasy)
Finally--a female Percy Jackson!  I have been waiting and waiting and wondering when an enterprising author would hit upon the idea and I have finally found it.  Zoe is all the best of Percy--funny, spunky and prone to a lot of trouble which made for one great read.

After wandering into a forbidden temple while on a trip with her archaeologist uncle and aunt, Zoe is transported to ancient Greece.  Really ancient Greece-1000 BC or so.  To find her way back, she must travel to the oracle (isn't there always an oracle) and follow said directions.  Of course, along the way, she must endure trials on Mt. Olympus, rescue various creatures from destruction and get in a catfight with a teenaged Hera.

Did I mention she also meets and falls in love with a cute teenage boy who saves her on more than once occasion.  Maybe because he's Zeus and, like, the god of everything.  His friends and girlfriend Hera are not happy with the arrangement and throw even  more deadly obstacles in the path of the star-crossed lovers. 

There is so much to like about this book.  Right away, from the very first paragraph, I felt like I knew Zoe and she was talking straight to me.  That kind of connection isn't often found in books and I relished it, reading way past the time I usually give to myself and burning a few dinners in the process.  It has a great message in it for young girls and isn't just mindless drivel like many of the girly books out there.  This is one heroine a young girl could really sink her teeth into and learn a valuable message about to boot; namely, that, the trials and obstacles in life often teach us about what we are made up of and teach us what we want in life and what is really  important.  The perfect combination of romance and adventure.

The book is a first in a trilogy so be prepared to keep reading--the first one ends in a cliffhanger that wasn't satisfying at all.  Now, I just have to wait for the next installment!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A Moving Story of Veterans

Breaking the Code:  A Father's Secret, a Daughter's Journey and the Question That Changed Everything by Karen Fisher-Alaniz
I hate to admit this because it will make me seem hard-hearted but I have never really been all that patriotic.  I don't attend Veteran's Day activities; I don't lay wreaths at Memorial Day; I've never attended a Veteran's Day parade; no American flags fly in my yard.  I suppose it is because no war has ever touched my life.  None of my family members ever served in the service and I know no one who has ever been in a war or battle.  While I have often read war stories and shuddered at the brutality of war, none of them ever really touched me in a personal way.

Until this story.

Breaking the Code is the true story of a daughter who finds a connection to her father through his memories of war.  One day, out of the blue, the father hands his daughter two notebooks full of letters that he wrote home during the war.  While she had heard all these stories as a child, she really didn't appreciate the significance of them.

As she reads more, the full story of her father emerges and she, as well as the reader, is astonished to discover what he went through and what a true hero he is and was all along.  That is the real power of this book--to look beyond the age of a person and validate the experiences they bring to our lives.  This intergenerational story will have you looking beyond the wrinkles and familiarity when you gaze at your parents and grandparents and will make you wonder what amazing and wondrous stories have you been missing all these years?

This is also a story for all Veterans and their families and serves as a reminder of the validation they need after returning to American soil.  Even though they return to a normal life, those painful and nightmarish memories still stay inside, bottled up.  This book helped me to realize that those sacrifices of war and service last long after any battles have ended.

It is also a story of PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) and brings home how it can affect soldiers and their families years later; how one event can haunt and affect families.  In the end, this book is a plea to not forget our Veterans and to remember and celebrate their service. 

Sunday, November 13, 2011

A Classic Revisited

A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett
(Children's Classic but Fun for All Ages)
I am so glad that between every few new fiction books I revisit an classic.  This one was a great friend from my childhood and what a delight to see Sara again!

The story is about a young girl named Sara, who is the apple of her father's eye.  He is stationed in India and when she comes of age, he wants to have her educated and 'finished'.  He sends her to a boarding school in England and subsequently dies, leaving her an orphan.  She is reduced to a servant in the same boarding house but she still keeps her hopeful outlook towards her fellow creatures. Little does she know her father's best friend is looking for her, ready to bestow wealth and a home on her--if only he could find her.  In a true Victorian twist of fate, Sara is eventually rescued and finds a home with a loving benefactor.Sara is an odd, eccentric girl who is as optimistic as Pollyanna (another BFF from my childhood) but Sara does have a bit of a temper as well.  This makes the story just that much more fun, as a perfect young lady is sometimes hard to stomach.

This book was a delight and pleasure and it is easy to see why it is a classic for any age.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Sick and Twisted Presidential History

The President is a Sick Man:  Wherein the Supposedly Virtuous Grover Cleveland Survives a Secret Surgery at Sea and Vilifies the Courageous Newspaperman Who Dared Expose the Truth by Matthew Algeo

This story is about a little-known incident in US history; at least it wasn't known to me and I like to think I have a fair handle on historical tidbits.  Sometime shortly after his second inauguration, a cancerous lesion was found in President Grover Cleveland's mouth.  In order to avoid the gossip and newshounds, he secretly boards a private yacht and has surgery that removes 1/3 of his upper jaw.  How secret?  It is only now just being dished out in this juicy book.

Sound fascinating?  Maybe my description isn't; the book most certainly is!  This is an engrossing (very gross!) account of both surgical technique and life during this time in American history.  The trivia in the book is absorbing.  Who knew that a book on Presidential trivia would keep me up late at night determined to see what happened to a President I had hardly even heard of, or at least never really considered before?

The author does an incredible job of setting the stage for the reader and letting us know what else is going on in the world so that when we read it, the accounts of the surgery and the President's life makes more sense than just a straightforward history lesson.  This book passes way beyond some conspiracy theory.  There is so much proof in the way of first-hand accounts in the newspapers and interview transcripts of those who were involved that it almost reads like a detective novel.  The medical illustrations and records are irrefutable. 

Which leaves me wondering.....if a thing such as this can occur, what else have the Presidents lied to us about?

A book that has you thinking and leaves you thinking....my favorite kind!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Strange Steampunk

Camera Obscura by Lavie Tidhar
(Adult Steampunk)
One of the many complaints about steampunk from those who dont' like the genre is that they are too dark and retro-futuristic, which is an attention-intensive and sometimes hard read.  But that wasn't my complaint with this book.  To be brief, it was creepy and I didn't like ti.

MiLady de Winter is a private eye investigating for a mysterious organization.  A series of murders leads her to the trail of an ancient object capable of giving the dead new life, or new animation rather.  Great premise!


I felt like I walked into this book in the middle of the story.  While I knew this book was a sequel, it read like the second half of a story I knew nothing about.  There was too much pre-history needed for a full comprehension and I felt off-kilter the whole ride, never catching up. 

The book very much reminded me of Kafka's The Metamorphosis, a story I have always hated.  The resemblance is eerie.  And, much like that classic, the reader's connection to de Winter changes and turns, eventually severing altogether.  As a reader, I lost the story with the break and didn't particularly care what happened to the creature who used to be the main character or the original mystery that intrigued me in the first place.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Naughty Jane Austen!

Love and Friendship by Jane Austen

That Jane, she is such a naughty writer.  For those of you who think her the height of Victorian respectability and prudence, delve into the tale where she shows her wickedly funny side.

This is a collection of letters, rather than a traditional novel.  She wrote this in notebooks prior to becoming an adult and it reads like the 'rough drafts' it probably was.  Actually most of the book reads like a really funny Saturday Night Live skit.

It is a story told through letters about a young couple in love.  Naturally, one of them dies and the other is left to carry on in a cruel and wicked world.  Sound sad?  Not an all!  The entire thing is a parody of the sentimentality that was so popular in the novels of the time. A tongue in cheek classic that was delight from the first page.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Sweet Story Indeed

Sweet Jiminy by Kristen Gore
(Adult Fiction)

Jiminy Davis's life is spinning out of control.  She decides to drop out of the rat race of her present reality and back into a familiar past--her grandmother's home in Mississippi where she spent a summer as a child.  However,  the past isn't quite as sweet as she remembered it. 

While Jiminy is trying to take a break from the stresses of life, she uncovers a 40-year old secret concerning a namesake she didn't even know existed.  She latches on to the mystery like a pit bull and won't let go, hoping this new focus will allow her to forget her problems.  Instead, she ends up riling up an entire town and a family that would rather just let the dead stay buried.

I truly enjoyed this story.  It had likable characters and was full of surprises.  I wasn't sure what to expect and this one had twists and turns at every corner.  This was no formulaic fiction story and didn't follow typical patterns.  I was able to relax with this story and just allow it to sweep me away from my cares--much like the main character wanted!

In addition to the great story, there was a striking message underneath it all that really resonated with today's current news and culture.  The obvious parallels between the Blacks from the 1950's and 1960's and the way that Hispanics are treated today is so very disturbing.  Overall, a great read with some great messages.