Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Royalty Rules Reading Challenge
Young Adult Challenge
What's in a Name Challenge (Color)
First in a Series Challenge
Wow, four challenges in one. And a great book to cover all four.
Royalty Rules: This book is mainly about Harry Crewe, a young orphan girl who is transplanted to a dry and arrid country. She remains curious about the people and place surrounding her. Raised as a tomboy, Harry does chafe at the restrictions placed on young ladies in her new home but she strives to comply. Her life changes with the visit of Corlath, the king of a neighboring and suspiciously different country. Corlath is compelled to kidnap Harry and train her to become one of his Riders, a select group of warriors.
Young Adult: The fantasy involved in the magical kingdom of the Hill People will delight most young people as will the characters of Harry and Corlath. Harry is stubbornly persistent is trying to achieve her goals, learning the ways and language of the Hill People, and just showing Corlath (not sure what but she shows him). Corlath is wonderfully puzzled by her. I loved Harry's horse, Sungold, and the hunting cat, Narknon. They are clearly devoted to Harry and McKinley endows them with some great human characteristics.
What's In A Name: This book was my choice for the color portion of the challenge. The blue sword doesn't actually show up until about halfway into the book, but it plays a key role in the final showdown between the Hill People and the invading force from the North.
First in a Series: Even though The Hero and the Crown takes place in an earlier era than The Blue Sword, the piece about the author claims this is the first book in the series. I am anxious to read The Hero and the Crown as I really enjoy the way Mckinley tells a story. Wonder if there are more books to the series?
Rating: 4.75
Posted by Framed at 8:20 PM

Melissa said...
Nope. Just those two. But McKinley's one of my favorite authors, for the reason you mention: I love the way she tells a story. She's got two different versions of Beauty and the Beast (Beauty and Rose Daughter), and I even liked her vampire book, Sunshine. But I have to admit that Blue Sword and Hero and the Crown are my favorites of hers.
2/14/2008 11:40 AM
Jeane said...
I love these two. They were the first McKinley's I read, and remain my favorites (although Beauty is a close third!)
2/14/2008 6:52 PM
Nymeth said...
I've only read Beauty but I really like the way she writes. This one sounds great too!
2/15/2008 4:29 AM
Melanie said...
Beauty is my favourite of hers, although these 2 books are also great. I liked Sunshine as well; I think it was the first vampire book I actually liked, and it got me started on a few others!
2/15/2008 11:29 AM
Islandsparrow said...
Have you tried the Kingdom series by Cynthia Voigt? Elske is my favourite - another strong female protagonist.
2/16/2008 6:11 AM
Andrea said...
I loved these books, too! For the longest time I thought they were a trilogy and I kept searching for the 3rd, but obviously it isn't out there. Beauty is one of my all time favorite books, you should add it to your TBR list!
2/16/2008 7:54 PM
Booklogged said...
A couple of my nieces on hubby's side of the family recommended this book to me. I really enjoyed it. From the comments I think I'll add Beauty to my TBR list.
2/16/2008 9:31 PM
valentina said...
How come I've never heard of this one?Must get it in! Sounds like a fantasy I'd like to read one day or another...
2/25/2008 2:56 PM
Katie Michelle said...
I'm glad you liked it. I LOVED it. Hope that you enjoy Hero and the Crown when you get to it. It's wonderful, in my opinion better than this one. Though this one is AMAZING!
3/02/2008 1:19 AM
Eigon said...
What I liked about this book was the flavour of the British Raj about it, quite different from what I was expecting.

Look Me In The Eyes by John Elder Robinson

Friday, February 08, 2008

Walk in Their Shoes Challenge
All John Elder Robison knew his entire life is that he was different from everyone else. Not until he is forty does he learn that he has Asperger's Syndrome, a form of autism.
From the book cover:
"Look Me in the Eye is the moving, darkly funny story of growing up with Asperger's at a time when the diagnosis didn't exist. A born storyteller, Robison takes you inside the head of a boy whom teachers and other adults regarded as "defective," who could not avail himself of KISS's endless groupies, and who still has a peculiar aversion to using people's given names (he calls his wife "Unit Two). He also provides a fascinating reverse angle on the younger brother he left at the mercy of their nutty parents--the boy who would later become Augusten Burroughs and write the bestselling Running with Scissors.
Ultimately, this is the story of Robison's journey from his world into ours, and his new life as a husband, father, and successful, small business owner. It's a strange, sly, indelible account-- sometimes alien, yet always deeply human."
I found most of this book to be totally engrossing. As Robison describes his thought processes and how he can't understand "normal" people, you catch a unique glimpse into how his mind works. When a Laurie tells him that her friend is having an affair with a man who drives a motorcycle like John's, John's mind races to find the correct response. He failed.
"Thinking about conversations like the one I had with Laurie makes me mad. People approach me, uninvited, and make unsolicited statements. When they don't get the rsponse they expect, they become indignant. If I offer no response at all, they become indignant at that. So there is no way for me to win.
Given that line of reasoning, why talk to people at all? Well, many autistic people don't, possibly for that very reason. But, for some reason, I want the Lauries of the world to like me. To not think I am weird. I can be eccentric, but I don't want to be weird. So I persist. I try to say the things a "Normal" person would say."
The parts of the book I did not enjoy as much are the ones that deal with Robison in his work life. His career as the special effects engineer for the rock band, KISS, and later as developer of high tech games for Milton Brady just weren't as interesting to me although it certainly illustrated his impressive intelligence and abilities. I just found the descriptions of his struggle to learn to live and be accepted by most of the people he met to be truly inspiring. And his childhood was heartbreaking.
"As a functional Aspergian adult, one thing troubles me deeply abouth those kids who end up behind the second door. (Door Number Two being the choice to not be able to function in society.) Many description of autism and Asperger's describe people like me as "not wanting contact with others" or "preferring to play along." I can't speak for other kids, but I'd like to be very clear about me own feelings: I did not ever want to be alone. And all those child psychologists who said "John prefers to play by himself" were dead wrong. I played by myself because I was a failure at playing with others. I was alone as a result of my own limitations, and being alone was one of the bitterest disappointments of my young life. The sting of those early failures followed me long into adulthood, even after I learned about Aspergers."
I almost didn't read this book because I didn't like Running with Scissors, his brother's book (didn't finish it). I consider this book a must read for anyone who has a friend or family member dealing with Asperger's Syndrome. Robison's experiences of dealing with his shortcomings while developing his talents is a great lesson for anyone.
Rating: 4.25
Posted by Framed at 11:09 PM

Booklogged said...
I think I'm going to scratch a book I already have on my list for this challenge and read this one instead. It sounds good and that cover picture makes me want to gently hold that little boy. What a picture!
2/09/2008 1:25 AM
John Elder Robison said...
I'm glad you enjoyed my book and the insights into my differences. I see from your profile that you're in Utah. I'm appearing at the University of Colorado in Boulder in mid-March (schedule is on my blog)if you're within driving distance. We'll be talking about these very things.
2/09/2008 6:28 AM
Jeane said...
I've been interested in this book for some time now. I really appreciated your review, and now I'm even more convinced I want to read it!
2/09/2008 7:42 AM
Kristy said...
I read about half of this book last year. I didn't dislike it, but I temporarily lost interest. I have a nephew with Asperger's. I think I lost interest because it didn't surprise me all that much. I see my nephew accomplishing more and more each day. I do plan to finish it this year. I am glad you liked it and I hope it draws more attention to Aspergers.
2/09/2008 7:51 AM
writer2b said...
I had an adult student once in a writing class who had Asperger's Syndrome. Some real genius, as well as some real difficulty and frustration when it came to relating to others. It might have gone very differently for him if he'd been diagnosed younger.Thank you for this review, and for the excerpts. It sounds like a book that makes one rethink "normalcy" a bit.
2/09/2008 9:06 AM
Maw Books said...
The book cover alone has got me interested in this one. Sounds like an intriguing read, especially as I've just finished reading The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time an Rules. I might as well round out my reading about autism. Another one that was just recommended to me is Born on a Blue Day by Daniel Tammet, it's a memoir written by a man with the same diagnosis.
2/09/2008 12:12 PM
gautami tripathy said...
I love that book cover. It is gonna be on my TBR pile.Now, don't hate me. I have tagged you yet again. This meme is created by me:non-fiction all the way--a meme
2/13/2008 8:43 AM
SuziQoregon said...
This one sounds interesting - thanks for telling us about it!!
2/15/2008 10:16 AM
Susan said...
Thanks for the book review. I have a nephew with Asperger's, and he is going through some of the things the author describes - especially the loneliness, because he (my nephew) can't connect with kids his own age. he is desperate for friends, but that ability to connect isn't there. It is heartbreaking. I will have to put this book on my TBR pile for this year. Thanks!

I Married the Klondike by Laura Beatrice Berton

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

The Canadian Book Challenge-Yukon Territory
I had originally chosen "The Call of The Wild" as my book to read for the Yukon Territory, but I didn't really want to read it again. So I asked my old friend,, for suggestions and found this little gem. In 1907, Laura Thompson leaves Toronto at the age of 29 to teach kindergarten in Dawson City. She plans to leave after a year, but stays for twenty-five. In this fascinating and thoroughly delightful memoir, we are invited to experience the decline of the jewel of the once great Klondike Gold Rush. Laura includes everything from the strict social mores of the time, the regimented visiting schedules, physical hardships, northern lights, the rough miners, the ladies of the night, proper Englishmen and down-and-out social misfits hiding in the gulches above the Yukon and Klondike rivers. Her chatty but objective prose draws you into a frigid climate that almost seems appealing. Along the way, she marries and raises two children. Her son, Pierre Berton, grew up to become one of Canada's most prolific non-fiction authors. He writes this about his mother's book:
"I Married the Klondike has become a minor Canadian classic, read by thousands, first as an intensely human adventure and, second, as a piece of social history. It has been anthologized, serialized, translated and excerpted for the schools . . .In her twilight years it brought my mother a modicum of fame, which she thoroughly enjoyed."
Berton shares the history of the close of that era with humor and love. Here are a few quotes to illustrate:
"We had struggled for hours up a steep, tangled gulch, our feet deep in the wet caribou moss and our legs and ankles bruised by sharp rocks. Then, suddenly we broke out on to a sunlit hillside. On its upper reaches, fairly dancing with the joy of life, was a grove of young white birches. Lower down, towards the valley, lay acres and acres of wild flowers--clumps of blue lupins, larkspur five feet tall, monkshood and great feathery bunches of white Baby's Breath. We never spoke of that scene to each other again, but it was one of the reasons why we were returning."
"In the very cold weather a thick fog settled over the Yukon valley. It appeared as soon as the thermometer sank below forty, and, looking out from our windows, we could pretty well judge the temperature by its density. If the houses a short block away were invisible we knew it was forty below. If those half a block away were invisible, it was fifty below. If Service's** cabin across the street was shrouded, then we could be certain it was fully sixty below zero."
**Robert W Service was a Canadian poet who wrote "The Cremation of Sam McGrew", a poem Berton explains the origin of.
Klondike Rose, the old deaf prostitute, was asked by Berton if she would like something to read, but she replied that she did not care for books. "Someone gave me a Bible once and I tried my best to read it," she said, "but I came on so many dirty stories that I closed it up and never opened it again."
This book presents a birdseye view of a time and place that has been romanticized in books and movies. It is steeped in wonderful historical facts presented in an entertaining and charming manner.
Rated: 4.5
Posted by Framed at 8:24 PM

John Mutford said...
It's great that this was a pleasant read. I once read Claire Mowat's Outport People simply because she was married to Farley Mowatt and was very disappointed (then I've never been a fan of him either, so that shouldn't have been surprising). When was this published and do you think it would have been had her son not been Pierre Berton?
2/06/2008 8:01 AM
Nicola said...
I'm so glad to see you liked this book. I've always meant to read it but haven't really heard any opinion on it. Will have to make sure I get to it, sounds good.
2/06/2008 11:05 AM
Booklogged said...
Will you be mooching this book? Sounds like a good one to read on a hot summer day. To think we are shivering our little goosebumps off at -4 degrees!
2/06/2008 11:28 AM
Teddy Rose said...
Thanks for the review. I had heard of this book before, but didn't know much about it. On to my TBR it goes.
2/06/2008 5:22 PM
Framed said...
John, it was published in 1954. After I read about Pierre Berton, I thought he probably had a lot of influence in getting the book published. But I didn't know who he was until after I read it. I know you didn't care for his book that you just read. Are there any you would recommend?Nicola and Teddy, Thanks for visiting. I think you would enjoy this book a lot if you like delving into history. Booklogged, it's on its way.
2/06/2008 7:08 PM
Nicola said...
Framed, I'm not John but the Berton's that I enjoyed the most are Vimy (about the battle of Vimy Ridge during WWI) and The Dionne Years (about the Dionne Quintuplets).
2/07/2008 7:20 AM
John Mutford said...
I LOVED The Arctic Grail.

Twilight by Stephanie Meyer

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Chunkster Challenge
Young Adult Challenge
First in Series
Chunkster Challenge: At 498 pages, this certainly met the criteria of a chunkster. However, it doesn't read like a huge tome. I finished it in two days. Then I read Salamander and decided to read Twilight again because I couldn't quite make up my mind how to review it. This time took three days. I liked it both times.
TBR: This book has been my TBR list for really a long time. However, it wasn't until my daughter raved about it that I started to move it up the list. I was waiting for all three books to come out in paperback and then I would buy them all. But my daughter loves me so much that she gave me Twilight in paperback for Christmas. Happy Holidays!!
Young Adult Challenge: I've enjoyed most young adult books that I have read recently. However, the first time I read Twilight, I thought the content a little too adult. That scene in the forest meadow was much more sensual (at least to me) than the explicit sex scenes that I have read in other books. Whew! And it was totally necessary for the progression of the story, unlike any other true sex scene I've read or skipped in other books. In case you're worried, there is no sex in this book, just a few kisses. Plus there is that one chapter that was very scary and violent. I expressed my concerns to a couple of colleagues and they let me know that teenagers are pretty darn knowledgeable these days. I guess I knew that. So I read it again and was completely fine with the whole book. I love the character of Bella. She doesn't really fit in with the other kids, though she tries. And what a klutz she is. How can you not love her? The amazing thing is that Edward loves her in spite of her clumsiness and her human failings. Maybe because of it. And admit it. Most women would love to have someone like Edward love us. He is so perfect. Of course, he's been around for 97 years so he's had time to become more perfect than most men. And many times girls are attracted to dangerous boys. What could be more dangerous than a vampire? There are some subtle messages that we wouldn't want to tell our young readers in case they avoid this book, but here's what I picked up: 1-Bella is willing to make sacrifices for those she loves; she moves to Forks, WA so her mom can spend more time with her new husband; she cooks for her dad without complaining; she puts her life on the line to save her family, Edward and his family. 2-Because he loves Bella, Edward is able to control his desires and urges in order to protect her and keep her safe. Of course, she would probably die if he didn't, but still the lesson of controlling urges is a good one. 3-Dang, there were a couple more that have completely left my brain. It is such a sieve. Oh well, I would recommend this book to most 14-year-olds girls up to 90-year-olds. I don't see it appealing as much to boys although there are some good lessons on how to romance a girl. One guy friend of mine objected to the theme of vampires; but most of these vampires are constantly striving to overcome their baser nature. As should we all. There's another lesson! I really didn't read this book looking for these lessons. It is a rolicking fun read that stands on its own. And it has it all: romance, suspense, adventure, and humor.
First in Series: There are two more books published in this series and another coming in the fall, I believe. I truly wish they were available in paperback; but I may have to borrow Cassie's 2nd and 3rd books even though I've heard No. 2 is not as good. It deals more with Jacob Black, a young Native American teenager who Bella befriends in Book One. He's another character I liked so I look forward to reading more about him.
Rating: 4.75
Posted by Framed at 6:57 PM

Maw Books said...
Ahh . . . The Twilight Series. I read this series this last fall. As I only started blogging well after that, I've been debating on whether or not to write a review on them. They certainly are popular. Especially here in Utah, as Stephenie Meyer is a BYU grad. So far I haven't actually met any teenagers reading this book. Everybody I know who loves these books are women, especially moms. I guess these books are a great escape! And guess what? Even my husband has started it.I enjoyed the entire series. Twilight was not my favorite, I thought that they got better as they went along. I own the first two and have yet to order the third. You will enjoy the next two. I'm looking forward to the fourth book although I'm not sure how she's going to extend the story. I thought the series could have ended with the third. Also very curious as to how the movie will turn out. Guess we'll have to wait and see.
2/03/2008 9:05 PM
Alyson said...
Excellent review! I'm glad you enjoyed this book...I can't believe you read it twice already!
2/03/2008 9:48 PM
gautami tripathy said...
Come, pick ypur award. It is on my poetry blog. Just clck on my name here.
2/04/2008 3:31 AM
Cassie said...
Yay!! Someone else who read it twice in a row...almost. You can totally borrow the other two books whenever you like.
2/04/2008 9:42 AM
Melissa said...
"I thought the content a little too adult. That scene in the forest meadow was much more sensual (at least to me) than the explicit sex scenes that I have read in other books."I'm glad I'm not the only one who thinks that... and it's why I won't let my 11yo read it. Yet. I have to admit, I'm curious about the movie, though.
2/04/2008 1:03 PM
Booklogged said...
Am I the only woman over 20 who didn't love this book?! I thought it was okay, but had no desire to reread it or to read the rest in the series. I say adult women should check out Colleen Gleason's Gardella Vampire Chronicles. I found them to be much better than the teen vampire series.
2/04/2008 4:38 PM
Framed said...
Yes, Booklogged, you are the only one. But you loved the Outlander series (it was okay) and Twilight was more romantic and shorter. Plus you loved Poisonwood Bible, need I say more? I am excited to read Colleen Gleason. I love my autographed copy.
2/04/2008 10:29 PM
Cath said...
Everyone I know seems to be reading Twilight so I think I'd better get a copy and get reading because it sounds like I'm missing something! Need to finish what I'm reading first though, which is, oddly enough, The Poisonwood Bible. :-)
2/05/2008 1:05 AM
Andrea said...
I couldn't have put it better myself! I didn't review this book because I didn't think I could do it justice, but you did a wonderful job of it.
2/05/2008 9:12 AM
Andrea said...
This post has been removed by the author.
2/05/2008 9:12 AM
Katie Michelle said...
I'm very happy that you liked it. I love this book, and the other two. I'm very excited for the Fall when the fourth book, Breaking Dawn, will be coming out. I am also looking forward to...well, I don't know when, but the author is also making a fifth book called Midnight Sun. It is Twilight through Edward's eyes. You can read the first chapter on Stephenie Meyer's website:'ll have to scroll down and find the link. If you are going to read it, (which I suggest. It's hilarious!) then make sure to give yourself plenty of time. It is a full chapter, and her chapters tend to run about 10-12 pages long. So, give yourself a few minutes. Glad you enjoyed it!
2/08/2008 2:16 PM
April said...
I have this one as well as the 2nd and 3rd in the series and can't wait to read it/them! I have my copy listed as part of the Chunkster Challege also - so it works out well, lol.
2/08/2008 8:44 PM
Virginie said...
Hi! I read the series last year, and to be honest I was so hooked that aftr the third I couldn't read anything else, so I just read the three books again;o)

Salamander by Thomas Wharton

Friday, February 01, 2008

Canadian Book Challenge: Alberta
Nicholas Flood is a printer who creates fantastic and beautiful works of art. He is commissioned by Count Ostrovy to live at his castle to create a one-of-a kind book to join the Count's burgeoning library of rare and exotic books. Flood's book is to have no beginning or end, a fitting addition to the castle where the walls and bookshelves move like clockwork, and the entire dungeon is devoted to the machinery that keeps the whole place in a constant state of flux. Flood falls in love with the Count's daughter, they are discovered, Flood is imprisoned for ten years and the Countess disappears. This is just half of the story. The remainder deals with Flood's travels around the world with his strange companions in search of the ingredients to complete his life's work, and to find the Countess. Along the way he meets a wide array of fascinating characters who each has a story to tell.
This book is part fantasy, part history, part romance, and just plain weird. I usually don't like odd books, but I really enjoyed this one once I got used to Wharton's style of writing and the breaks and flows of the story (quite like the constantly moving castle). Those who enjoy a book that you can puzzle over, will love this one. And if you are like me and just want to enjoy the story, you can do that as well. Wharton writes wonderfully and there are some great quotes about books:
Someday books would even spill into this valley and the people down there would scoop them up out of curiosity and drink, and learn the taste of knowledge, which always left one thirsty for more.
Within every book there lies concealed a book of nothing. Don't you sense it when you read a page brimming with words? The vast gulf of emptiness beneath the frail net of letters. The ghostliness of the letters themselves. Giving a semblance of life to things and people who are really nothing. Nothing at all. No, it was the reading that mattered, I eventually understood, not whether the pages were blank or printed. The Mohammedans say that an hour of reading is one stolen from Paradise.
My father liked to say that by multiplying the number of books in the world we multiply the number of readers. And with each new reader the ranks of the book-burners thin out a little more.
Sometimes you wish to escape to another part of the book. You stop reading and riffle the pages, catching sight of the story as it races ahead, not above the world but through it, through forests and complications, the chaos of intentions and cities. As you near the last few pages you are hurtling through the book at an increasing speed, until all is a blur of restlessness, and then suddenly your thumb loses its grip and you sail out of the story and back into yourself. The book is once again a fragile vessel of cloth and paper. You have gone everywhere and nowhere.
Rating: 4.25
Posted by Framed at 7:23 PM

Court said...
That certainly sounds like an interesting book. I think I'm going to have to add it to my TBR list.
2/02/2008 6:39 AM
Cassie said...
Oooh that sounds good. I might have to borrow this one.
2/02/2008 1:35 PM
Terri B. said...
This sounds very interesting. I hadn't heard of it until I read your review.
2/02/2008 3:47 PM
Terri B. said...
This sounds very interesting. I hadn't heard of it until I read your review.
2/02/2008 3:47 PM
Teddy Rose said...
You have peaked my interest with this unusal sounding book. On to my TBR it goes.TeddySo Many Precious Books, So Little Time
2/02/2008 9:40 PM
gautami tripathy said...
I am having a hard time finding boks for the Canadian Challenge.I will see if I can get it somehow.
2/03/2008 12:13 AM
Framed said...
Cassie, I will bring it out on Thurs.Gautami, I found it on Amazon from a used book seller.
2/03/2008 11:07 AM
Booklogged said...
Hey, maybe this one will get you in the mood for Jasper Fforde?! Sounds like one I would enjoy.

Five Children and It by E. Nesbitt

Friday, January 25, 2008

19th Century Women Authors
This is the third book I've read by Ms. Nesbitt, and I have to say I was disappointed. I know it's children's literature, but it seemed particularly childish to me. Still I did laugh in a couple of spots, so there were good points.
This is the story of four children whose parents leave them alone at the summer home with just the servants and their baby brother. While exploring, they decide to dig a hole to China in a gravel pit and instead discover a strange creature. The creature grants them a wish every day; and the wishes never turn out good. So the children get into all kinds of trouble even though their wish always ends at sunset. Some of the wishes include being beautiful (no one knows who they are); having wings (they fall asleep on the roof of the church and wake up after sunset); and wishing anyone would want the baby so they wouldn't have to watch him (they spend the rest of the day rescuing the baby from people who decide they should have the baby). It sounds really cute, doesn't it? I just must not have been in the right mood.
Rating: 3
Posted by Framed at 6:05 PM

pussreboots said...
Your assessment of Five Children and It is spot on. I think I enjoyed it more than you but I agree that it was rather childish. It's not one of Nesbitt's strongest novels.
1/25/2008 10:39 PM
Nymeth said...
I've been meaning to try E. Nesbit's novels, because I do enjoy her short stories. Looks like this wouldn't be a good one to start with.
1/26/2008 12:48 PM
Petunia said...
This is a fun one to read aloud to children. I thought it was more entertaining than The Railway Children.
1/26/2008 2:26 PM
Jeane said...
I did like this book as a kid, but I think it's one I couldn't re-read as an adult.
1/26/2008 7:21 PM
Darla D said...
I recently reread this one to my kids, and we all enjoyed it. Nymeth, you might try starting with The Story of the Treasure Seekers, which I think is my favorite (or at least the one that made me laugh out loud the most).

Nothing to Regret by Trisit Pinkston

Monday, January 21, 2008

Book Around the States: Utah
Back to History Challenge
To Be Read Challenge
I have to admit that I've been a little apprehensive about reading this book. I have come to know Tristi Pinkston as she comments frequently on my blogs (See A Rose in Bloom to see that she is a true Alcott fan) and I love to read her blog (Link is on my sidebar). I have even bought beauty products from her. Truly a multi-talented lady. But what if I didn't like her book??? Silly me. This is a well-researched book dealing with the Japanese Americans after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, truly a blight in the history of this country. Tristi depicts so well the nature of hysteria and prejudice that first occurred in our country during the Salem witch trials and have most recently been displayed after September 11 against Muslim Americans. From the back of the book: "Ken Sugihara was a student at Berkley when the Japanese attached Pearl Harbor in 1941. Suddenly he and his parents found themselves the victims of wartime hysteria, interned at a Japanese Relocation Center in the middle of the Utah desert. When Ken is asked to enlist in the United States Army, he struggles to find forgiveness to serve the country that wrongfully imprisoned him. But as love for his country overshadows his resentment, he successfully completes a mission of espionage which changes his life forever. Nothing to Regret is a story of prejudice and acceptance, defeat and triumph, and the power of the Atonement to heal us all." Along with a description of life in the internment camp, where the Japanese conducted themselves with great dignity, Tristi includes stories of the Spy School in Virginia, (I'd love to know how she researched this) life in wartime Japan, and the devastating bombing of Hiroshima. I could not put the book down while I read about Ken's suspenseful work in Japan.
I had initially hoped to read a book for Utah that did not carry Mormon doctrine in it and probably should not have picked an LDS author; but I wanted to read about a period of US and Utah history that I was quite unfamiliar with. Besides, the LDS culture is quite a part of Utah; and I found Tristi's portrayal of her beliefs which I share to be very tasteful and moving.
At the end of the book, is a page dedicated to welcoming donations to build a Topaz museum near, Delta as a "proper memorial for this sad and yet strangely hopeful event in our history, one that teaches us the value of the indestructible human spirit." I'm not sure if the museum has been built since this book was published. If so, I would like to visit it.
Rating: 4
Tristi, if you prefer that I not use the cover art from the book, please let me know. I can easily delete it.
Posted by Framed at 5:41 PM

Booklogged said...
This sounds really good. I'm curious - is the main character, the young Japanese man LDS or is the doctrine woven into the story?
1/23/2008 8:34 PM
Framed said...
Early on, there's very little mention of religion other than the fact that the Sugiharas are low-key Shintos. Ken joins the church about half-way through the book.
1/23/2008 9:30 PM
Tristi Pinkston said...
Hi Framed,The spy school information came from the book listed in the bibliography, "The Secret World War II." That's a really interesting book and well worth the read.The Topaz museum has not yet been built, but they are still raising the money and hope to have it soon.Thanks for the review!
1/24/2008 9:55 AM
sage said...
Here from Gautami's blog... this book sounds good and as a former non-Mormon resident of Utah, I've been out near Topaz, although not been to the site (it's been disassembled, from what I've been told) Interestingly, Utah has a significant Japanese minority. The area in Salt Lake City around the Delta Center was a Japanese neighborhood and six years ago you could still find a Japanese Chrisitan Church(Presbyterian/United Church of Christ) along with a Buddhist Church (they even called it a church, which I thought was odd), along with a sushi bar! As for books about Utah--I'd highly recommend Terry Tempest Williams "Refuge" She ties in ecological changes on the Salt Lake along with her mother's battle with cancer--a powerful book. She is Mormon, but don't let that stop you from reading it. Another, by a non-Mormon that is sheer fun would be Edward Abbey's "Monkey Wrench Gang."
2/04/2008 7:02 AM
Framed said...
Thanks for the recommendations, Sage. I do enjoy Mormon fiction but usually the humorous ones that poke fun at our little foibles. I did like Dean Hughes' "The Children of the Promise" series which gives an wonderful glimpse into life in Salt Lake City during WWII.
2/04/2008 10:40 PM
Bookfool said...
It's nice to finally read a review of one of Tristi's books! I'll have to look this one up, thanks!

Below the Salt by Thomas Costain

Monday, January 21, 2008

Chunkster Challenge
Back to History Challenge
The Royalty Rules Reading Challenge
Decades Challenge - 1950
When I was in high school, I loved Thomas Costain's books; read every one I could find. I even bought The Tontine which was a huge book and read it a few times. But I had never heard of Below the Salt until I saw it on a Bookmooch inventory. At 480 pages, it is one of Costain's smaller books, but just as interesting.
The book begins in the late 1950's as John Foraday is interviewed and then flown west to meet the great, aging senator Richard O'Rawn, who was once engaged to John's grandmother. It seems that Richard has a story to tell about his experiences during the time of the Plantagets and the signing of the Magna Carta. We never really know how O'Rawn accomplishes this feat; reincarnation, a dream, whatever; it doesn't really matter. What is fascinating is the story he tells about feudal England under the heavy hand of King John. Richard of Rawen is a poor landholder with a Saxon father and Norman mother. He is sent to be trained under William the Marshall along with his former serf and best friend, Tostig. While Richard becomes a great knight, Tostig is the more intelligent and sensible of the two, learning to read and becoming accomplished in several languages. During their travels in France and at the bequest of William, they meet Prince Arthur, Geoffrey Platagenet's son and rightful King of England, and his beautiful sister Eleanor. John murders Arthur and takes Elanor captive. History claims she died in 1241 while still a prisoner. Costain proposes another take on the story. Richard of Rawen falls in love with Eleanor, Tostig with her look-a-like half-sister, Giselle; and the two attempt to rescue both women from captivity. Eleanor escapes while Giselle remains behind pretending to be Eleanor.
This is the basic story that the senator asks John Forady to write in a novel which is then published, creating a stir for the ancestors of Princess Eleanor and Richard of Rawen, who fled to Ireland. I found it an imaginative rewrite of history with some wonderful details of that time period. The signing of the Magna Carta in the meadow at Runnymeade with key players like Stephen Langdon, Archbishop of Canterbury; the intrigues with the Pope in Rome; jousting and the perilous nature of traveling in that era; along with descriptions of the harsh lifestyle that the serfs endured were some of the historical features I enjoyed. Keep in mind, this book was published in 1957 at the height of the Cold War. Costain uses the character of Senator O'Rawn's present-day concerns to compare the lack of freedom under communism to that endured by most before the signing of the Magna Carta. The King and the feudal lords controlled marriages, the land, even the time that the serfs could spend on their own livelihoods after taking care of their lords' interests. All in all, a very satisfying book for these challenges.
Rating: 4
Posted by Framed at 5:07 PM

Booklogged said...
I've never heard of this one either. Sounds good. You have really been reading a lot so far this month. Have you quit your job and your calling?
1/23/2008 8:39 PM
Carrie K said...
I keep hearing about this book, one of these days I'll have to read it.
1/24/2008 12:35 PM
hes said...
I read this book several times since it was first published when I was in high school and found it very enjoyable. One of Costain's better works.If you like English history, he wrote four books between 1949 and 1962 on the Plantagenet kings. These are not novels, but are readable and interesting. The names were: The Conquering Family, The Magnificent Century, The Three Edwards, and the Last Plantagenets. I recommend all four.
3/06/2008 8:53 PM
Anonymous said...
I am so glad google found this post. I've been trying to remember the name of this book for years. I, too, loved it when I read it in High School. Many thanks for the title. A copy is on its way to me from Amazon. :-)
3/17/2008 9:02 PM
Suzie said...
Thanks for posting about this. This book has been a favorite of mine for many years since my father recommended it to me. The only thing that I could possibly say against it is that the type seems to be getting smaller and smaller with each reading!

A Rose in Bloom by Louisa May Alcott

Monday, January 14, 2008

Challenge: 19th Century Women Authors
After reading Eight Cousins, I promptly decided to read the sequel and see if it was as charming. And Alcott has a pretty good handle on charming. The book takes up six year after Eight Cousins as Rose returns from two years abroad with her guardian, Uncle Alec, and best friend and maid, Phebe. Naturally she is as beautiful and sweet as ever, Phebe is even more beautiful and an accomplished singer; well the whole scenario is just begging for romance. And Alcott does not disappoint. Rose's problem is that she is an heiress and doubts the motives behind the protestations of many of her swains. One stands above the others: her cousin, Charlie. But Charlie has his own problems and the romance does not follow to a smooth conclusion. However, much of the story is predictable including the one who finally wins Rose's heart. While I still liked the book, I found the language a bit too flowery as in this last paragraph: "Please God, we will!" he answered fervently and, looking at her as she stood there in the spring sunshine, glowing with the tender happiness, high hopes, and earnest purposes that make life beautiful and sacred, he felt that now the last leaf had folded back, the golden heart lay open to the light, and his Rose had bloomed." Gag. I guess I'm not much of a romanticist. I enjoyed much more when the book makes gentle fun of Steve and his fiance', Mac's fumbling at his first formal ball; and Aunt Myra's hypochondria. Alcott also manages to quote a number of passages from Emerson and Thoreau, who were her neighbors in Concord and throws in some valuable life's lessons as well. So while this is a very worthwhile book that I liked better than Little Women, Eight Cousins remains my favorite. Besides, the cover of this book looks like a Harlequin Romance. Jeez.
Rating: 4
Posted by Framed at 9:19 PM

Heather said...
GAG is right! The style of book is so alien to us now isn't it?
1/16/2008 10:16 AM
Bookfool said...
LOL! I love you two guys gagging. I've never even heard of these two books and I don't know if I could handle them. I gagged on one of her books - can't remember the name - and gave up.
1/17/2008 8:15 PM
Carrie K said...
Oh no! I must have read them pre-gag reflex because I love them all. They're my go-to comfort books. Please God that I will never lose the tender happy feelings of my youth - wow, that really is hard to sustain/read. ;) I still love them though.
1/18/2008 5:09 PM
Sherry said...
I just read a set of books by another author in which the 1990's heroine travels trough time back to the 1890's, and the author makes the point that "gentlemen" and "ladies" of that time really did talk that way and treat each other with much more respect and less cynicism and informality than we are accustomed to hearing.
1/19/2008 9:56 AM
Laura said...
All of Alcott's books were favorites of mine when I was in elementary school, but I find that I haven't enjoyed them as much as an adult. Probably due to innocence being replaced with cynicism.But I still remember Eight Cousins and A Rose in Bloom as two of my favorites that I recommend others try.
1/19/2008 12:16 PM
nessie said...
I hate when they ruin the book with the cover. I will includ it in my awful book cover section.
1/19/2008 4:34 PM
Tristi Pinkston said...
It all depends on the version of the book you get. My copy has a really nice cover.Oh, and please don't gag! That was the writing style of the time and it's part of our literary education to be familiar with that. It's not necessary that we enjoy it, but it's important that we know that the portion wasn't just badly written -- it was very well written for the time it was in.And yes, I'm getting passionate again here. :)
1/20/2008 3:07 PM
Framed said...
Yeah, but . . . How's that for a well-thought-out and intelligent rebuttal?Let me just say that I loved "Eight Cousins". Alcott waxes a little sentimental but you can't help but agree when she's talking about the beauty of youth. And I didn't mind the dialogues in "Rose" (Rose is great when she's putting her suitors in their places), but I thought that last paragraph was over the top. And I have every intention of reading "Jo's Boys." Any romance in that?
1/21/2008 4:39 PM
Anonymous said...
i really love this book. but i just hate not knowing who she marrys! but thats the same with all alcotts books.

Eight Cousins by Louisa May Alcott

Saturday, January 12, 2008

TBR Challenge
Young Adult Challenge
Numbers Challenge
Book Around the States - Massachusetts
19th Century Women Authors
What a lovely pice of work this is. I believe I liked it better than Little Women because I was disgruntled when Jo didn't marry Laurie. In Eight Cousins, the heroine is way too young to be thinking about romance. My particular volume is a delightful old edition from Nelson Doubleday, Inc. (no dates, but I'm sure my mother bought it before I was born) with beautiful black-and-white illustrations and one full-color drawing. Even the end pages are covered with drawings from children's literature. Someday I will have to take the time to figure out what stories they represent. I wonder what happened to the other books from this series and why I never read Eight Cousins before.
Rose Campbell is orphaned at the age of thirteen and her new guardian is Uncle Alec, a forty-year-old doctor who she knows very little of. Of course, he is wonderful and she seeks to please him as he determines to experiment with her upbringing to see if she can be made healthy and happy. Helping with the year-long experiment are seven aunts, seven cousins, and a house maid about her age. The experiment is almost too successful as Rose grows healthy and a bit too strong-minded for a young lady in that day and age. The book is so light-hearted and innocent, but brimming over with morals and good advice. Alcott manages to make commentary about the need for parents to spend time with their children and really get to know them, the importance of moral courage and standing up to peer pressure, the value of exercise and diet, and, something lacking now, courtesy and respect for others. I enjoyed this book so much, that I promptly decided to read its sequel, A Rose in Bloom, even though it's not on a single challenge.
Rating: 4.5
I'm not sure if the book is set in Massachusetts, it is never mentioned; but it feels like the Massachusetts shoreline and Alcott grew up and lived in Concord, Massachussets, so I'm counting it.
I've added Rose in Bloom to the 19th Century Women Authors Challenge.
Posted by Framed at 10:08 AM

Sherry said...
Eight Cousins is my favorite of Louisa May Alcott's books, and I think you'll like ROse in Bloom as well, even though in the second one Rose IS old enough to think of romance.
1/12/2008 10:47 AM
sally906 said...
I have just gone and ordered both of these books. I loved Little Women and Jo's boys - so assuming I will love these too :)
1/12/2008 2:37 PM
sage said...
Never got into Alcott's books, but thanks for stopping by and commenting on my review of Rock Springs--yes, the town is going through a boom--at least it did 4 years ago when I was last there. I lived a little over 10 years in Utah--an interesting state for a gentile (as the relief president, you'll know what I'm talking about). I like your idea of picking a book per state--that's clever and your book for NC (a Valley of Light) is wonderful even if it's written by a Georgian. Your book for Wyoming (Where Rivers Change Directions) was my book of the year for 2004--the one I recommend in my Christmas letter.
1/12/2008 4:50 PM
Bohae said...
I never got to reading Eight Cousins...but it's sitting comfortably in my bookshelf right now - I hope :) Oh yeah, and thanks for the comment you left on my blog ;)
1/13/2008 2:02 AM
Alix said...
I've never heard of this book but it sounds sweet. I wanted Jo to marry Laurie too I always thought it really strange that he married Amy instead and no one minded!Thanks for visiting and do read The Glass Castle if you get a chance it's very interesting.
1/13/2008 12:10 PM
Andrea said...
I read Eight Cousins when I was younger and loved it. And I also really enjoyed the sequel. I liked that even more because there IS some romance in it! You're right, I liked both even better than Little Women. Have fun reading A Rose in Bloom!
1/13/2008 3:02 PM
Tristi Pinkston said...
I love love love Eight Cousins, and Rose in Bloom rocks. However, and I kinda need to point this out -- if Jo had married Laurie, it would have been totally out of character for her. She wanted more time to discover who she was. Laurie was her friend but he wasn't the steady anchor she needed. She found that in the Professor -- he kept her anchored to the ground so she could sail as high as she wanted to.I get very passionate about Alcott. :)

Mercy Among the Children by David Adams Richards

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Challenges: Canadian Book Read - New Brunswick Back to History Challenge

I chose this book for the Canadian Book Read, but found it draws an interesting look at the era after World War II up into the early seventies. It's a time when people find it quite unacceptable if you are very different, especially in a small, insulated town. There are references to the Beatles, growing technology, and quite a bit touching ecology and environmental concerns. The narrator is Lyle Henderson who tells the story of his father and mother and how their lives affected the lives of their three children. Sydney Henderson is an extreme passivist who marries the beautiful but slightly simple Elly and brings here to live with him in poverty. Something about Sydney reminds me of the main character in Taylor Caldwell's "Ceremony of Innocence." Sydney isn't quite an innocent but he is an object of scorn and derision by others. The derision becomes quite abusive leading to him being framed for murder and sabotage. Elly is an object of pity to those who think she is abused and enslaved by her odd husband. In fact, the two share a truly beautiful love. "And Sydney told that the day, and those bubbles of air and those wonderful fingers of starlight, were there just for her. . . .She thought of this and was suddenly happy with her lot. For as Sydney told her, no one owned the ice, or the sunlight spiralling down into it, or any other sunlight, nor crisp autumn days, and no one had authority over her enjoyment of the world. That was given to her by something--someone else. He told her that when he was a boy he had become convinced that nothing man did or said mattered until this was understood." Unfortunately, Lyle cannot accept his father's pacifism and fights to establish his place in society. Autumn, the albino daughter, seeks her way in less moral ways. Percy, the baby, grows to be a loving and soft-hearted child. When Lyle urges his father to retaliate, he refuses. "I will not tell you this again. But do you understand? They cannot do this and not destroy themselves. This will lead to their destruction . . . Men don't set things like this in motion, it always spirals out of control. That's why the men are outside. And it is out of control because men do not control themselves. I don't want to see you become involved and then lose yourself too." This statement basically foreshadows much of what happens in the last half of the book. Sydney is such a principled man that you admire him but wish he would be less unbending for the sake of his wife and children. It is a sad book and not easy to read, but beautifully written. I can understand why Richards won the Giller Prize for it. Rating: 4.25
Posted by Framed at 8:53 PM

Carrie K said...
So it's a great book to read when you want a well written book that will tear your heart out?
1/11/2008 1:16 PM
Teddy Rose said...
Thanks for the great book review. I have this one on my TBR and looking foward to reading it.
1/19/2008 6:27 PM
John Mutford said...
I've only read his non-fiction, which I wasn't crazy about. I really should try one of his novels.

The Hundredth Man by Jack Kerley

Sunday, January 06, 2008

First in a Series
Book Around the States: Alabama
I'm not sure how long this book has been on my TBR list, but I managed to mooch it one day and finally got around to reading it. Truth be told, I was not expecting much so I was very pleasantly surprised. This is Kerley's debut novel and includes two detectives, Carson Ryder and Harry Nautilus. The book begins with the grizzly murder of a young man that appears to the first of a serial killing spree. Along with the solving of the first and second murders, we learn more about Carson and how he came to be a detective after only three years on the force. Carson has a PhD in psychology and no job prospects when he meets Harry who suggests he join the police force. After solving a crime that had baffled more experienced cops, Carson is promoted to detective and paired with Harry on a special pscho squad. I found the character of Carson Ryder to be a mixture of incredible intelligence, great sensitivity, huge vulnerability and an almost career-ending hostility to those in authority that he doesn't respect. Harry is a older, more experienced policeman who knows the ropes and reins in his brash partner. He is a charming mix of sarcasm, gossip-mongering, and worldliness. The murders are pretty gory, Carson's past upsetting, and a hold-on-to-your-seat rush to the ending. All in all, a great suspenseful mystery along the lines of James Patterson and Patricia Cornwall. There are two sequels and another coming out next year. I plan to read them all. Carson Ryder is a fascinating character.
Rating: 4.75
If you're interested, I'm adding this book to my Bookmooch Inventory.
Posted by Framed at 8:25 PM

SuziQoregon said...
Oh I'm a huge fan of Carson and even more so, Harry! So glad to see you enjoyed this one :-)
1/06/2008 8:53 PM
Joy said...
Glad you liked this, Framed. I've only read 2 out of the 4 thus far and hope to pick up another one this year.I think he's got a standalone being published in 2008. ???Don't forget to link for the First in a Series! :) (That is if you want to, no pressure, just a reminder.)
1/07/2008 7:18 AM
nessie said...
The great thing about low expectations is they usually end up being pleasent surprises. I recently purchased tons of "first in a series" to diversify my reading selection - expectations low since I chose books never recognized or heard a whisper about. To date, its been a rewarding risk! Best.
1/07/2008 9:54 PM
Literary Feline said...
I am glad to hear you enjoyed this one, Framed! I enjoy the series quite a bit.
1/08/2008 10:12 PM