The Giver by Lois Lowery

I decided to read the book before seeing the movie after I heard mixed reviews about the movie. Not a surprise since I try to almost always to read then see, in that order. I have no idea how I have not read this book before now.

This book explores the notion that ignorance is bliss. In the story, everyone is united by a “sameness” as a result allows them to live in peace, cooperation and well-being. Everyone is equal and everything is chosen for you, including your spouse, your occupation, even your children. When Jonas is selected to be the Receiver of Memory, his mind is opened to the dark secrets of the society he was born into. He finds out that life is not always as easy and structured as his first twelve years have taught him. He is confronted with the basic realities of  the human condition. Pain, fear, desire and death among a few. One thing the book made me consider was that we as a society do not cherish or value our freedom. The simple fact that we can choose our profession, a spouse or not, and other things is a luxury that we take for granted. The book explores the flip side of peace. We could have peace but what could we lose as result? What would we willingly give up?

The other aspect of the story that I loved was the importance of memories. While people were protected from pain and suffering, there was an importance given to keeping the memories alive by allowing one person to have the burden the stories of the past. This society is in stark contrast the that of native groups who use verbal, oral methods to preserve their history. “The worst part of holding the memories is not the pain. It’s the loneliness of it. Memories need to be shared.”

As far as the writing style goes, I liked the simplicity of the storytelling, the matter-of-fact tone of the narrator. The Giver is the first book of a quartet. I plan to read them all.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

“All monsters are scared.
That’s why they’re monsters.”

I can’t say that I am sitting here to write a review of The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman.No, this is more of a reaction. This story had me holding my breath almost the entire time I read it, which I did in one sitting. It is a reader absorbing fairy tale that has made Neil Gaiman one of my favorite authors.This story is a morphing between Coraline, same author and It by Stephen King. It is hard to tell if the terrifying events that the little boy is living through in the story is really happening to him or if it is all in his imagination. Either way you are there in his friendship with Lettie, feeling the magic and hiding from the nightmares. You want to put it down, to escape but the book will not leave your hand.

Magically written, wonderfully hypnotic and it will completely suck you in. You will find yourself submersed in the ocean at the end of the lane.

 

A Life of Bright Ideas by Sandra Kring

I enjoyed this sequel as much as I did the first book! I hope I find there is a third book. In this book we see the girls, Winnalee and Button as they grow from awkward teens to adults, whether they want to or not. Quiet Button takes a sewing job in her mother’s bridal shop to help her Aunt Verdella raise her whirlwind six-year-old brother.She writes letters to the boy from her high school, her best friend, who is sent to Vietnam and she hopes he will come to love her as more than a friend. Winnalee is the classic hippie free love type. She’s been to Woodstock. She and Button are like night and day. Their steadfast friendship is put through the wringer as Button begins to notice there is a lot more to Winnalee’s carefree personality than she first realized. Winnalee, in the second half of the book shocks Button with a announcement that changes everything.

You can read A Life Of Bright Ideas as a stand alone novel, but you will miss out on the full enjoyment of the story if you don’t read A Book of Bright Ideas first. Kring’s characters are so real you close these books thinking that you will see them again.

There are a few minor storyline issues in the book that the editor should have caught. For example, having a scene take place downstairs but then writing that they heard a car horn downstairs. These blips in scene did not take away from the story, but did give me pause. Either way, the story was wonderful and I am glad I found it.

What is happening here?

I am learning a lesson. I am certain that God is teaching me to trust him. I am struggling with the fact that I am happier now than I have been in years, yet there is this an underlying issue that I am not ready to face. As I think about who I am and what that means for me I am stunned that I ever worry about anything.

I am a child of God. Think about that a minute. A child of God. We belong to the creator of the universe. He created us to love and to be loved. Some Christians, at times me too, we focus on Jesus and the fact that He died for us. We worry and fret that we are lowly and not worthy of His sacrifice. We forget that He came off that cross and rose to a higher purpose. He did not mean for us to wallow in muck of our sin and unworthiness. He wants us to follow Him. Not just in what He did in His life and death, but what He did after. We leave Him on the cross in our hearts when we should follow Him for the rest of the story. Take Him down from the cross already.

We need to remember that the story did not end at His death. We are to live in the truth that He has already defeated the enemy and we are to share in the glory of God. Share the story and live as if we are already there in the presence of God. We are to love God, share the love of Jesus with everyone, seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving
our neighbor as ourself. We are to strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being. To do that we simply need to love and let love guide all our actions.

It’s that easy. Get out of that muck, love everyone and live for Jesus. I promise  it will be worth it.

Leave the Covers Alone

I realize I am a bit behind in this argument, but I was disgusted when I saw the 50th anniversary cover for Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar. The blurb on the back cover notes that the novel’s protagonist, a young writer at a magazine in New York, “grapples with difficult relationships and a society which refuses to take women’s aspirations seriously.” That description and the hideous cover do not reflect the soul of the story. The Bell Jar had received slight critical acclaim when released in America, over the objections of Plath’s mother, in 1971. It has long been valued not only as a glimpse into the psyche of Plath, but as a witty and disturbing coming-of-age story. The Bell Jar is an autobiographical novel that aligns closely to the events of the author’s life. It is not some chick lit story that the newest cover seems to portray. The Bell Jar has had several covers through the years, but this one is so far from the original and the worst one yet.

5f9149dd8831191596c69706767444341587343

What is this trend of revamping older book covers?  I do not understand the need to modernize the cover of a classic. It takes away from the mystique and allure of the books and distracts from the original intent. If I wanted to recommend my favorite classic to a friends, I would not choose an addition with a new modern cover. I prefer old dusty and as original edition as I can get my hands on when it comes to classic fiction.

The other cover upgrade that distressed me was Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë. The new cover is similar to New Moon the second book in the Twilight saga and there is a big bold sticker on the front that says “Edward and Bella’s favorite novel” Really? Why do I care that two fictional characters claim to love the book? That does a great injustice to Brontë and yes to Meyer as well.

Please dear publishers leave our classic, most loved and favorite novels’ covers alone. There is more to books than sales. Respect the book as is, please people!

The Book of Bright Ideas by Sandra Kring

I have to admit, I am not much of a chick lit reader. I was looking for something light and happy to read, so I picked this up just because of the cover alone. I thought this looks like a happy-go-lucky chick lit book. It is short so I thought I would give chicklit a shot. I was wrong.

What I read made me laugh out loud for real and cry like my heart was breaking at other parts. It is a story about two lost girls one 20 something and one 9 years old. Freeda, the older sister is running from life and the little sister, Winnalee is running to life. They find themselves in a small town full of friendly county farmers and begin to consider to stop running. For a Summer, they impact their neighbors in life altering ways that last for years.

The book is written in first person in the voice of Evelyn, otherwise known as Button. She is also 9 years old. She becomes friends with Winnalee and they spend the summer looking for fairies. Button has a knack for spying on adults and the twists and turns of adult relationships a spun through the pages as Button opens her big ears and listens when she shouldn’t.

This book was fun and light as well as heartbreaking.  Great characters and a good if not somewhat predictable ending. I found myself hating that it was over, then I discovered a sequel!

 

Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S.King

As YA fiction goes this was right up there with reality TV. It’s hard-core true life. Vera, a high school senior, is coping with the death of her best friend, the departure of her mother when she was twelve and the distance of her father. All the while trying to work part-time to save for a college future so she doesn’t end up like her parents. Sounds about normal, right? Add a mix of booze and low self-esteem and hold on for the ride. The characters could be your friends or family. It is all told through Vera’s first person narrative. With raw realism a twisted story evolves around a fairly normal teenage. I know adults that would have cracked dealing with what she had to endure.

I like the style and humor. The characters are witty and very developed, surprisingly so especially given that one protagonists is dead at the beginning of the story. The layout of short chapters mirrors the way Vera’s mind works. She doesn’t think ahead and is living in the moment through most of the book. Not for young teens, but young adults can relate to Vera. I haven’t been a teenager in a long time and I had no trouble relating  to her. The mother in me often wanted to yell at her and discipline her too!

Great book, edgy story that will stay with you long after you finish it.