Kitty, My Rib by E. Jane Mall
4 of 5 stars
A fictionalized biography of Katherine Luther, wife of the great Protestant reformer, Martin Luther.
Katherine had been an object of interest before to the citizens of Wittenberg. People had stopped and stared at the runaway nun but had soon accepted her and become used to her. Now she was again a special object of interest. She was the wife of the famous Dr. Martin Luther.
Katherine von Bora (Kitty Luther) is one historical character that has always been of special interest to me. This brisk biographical novel of her life was incredibly well-researched, and gives the reader a glimpse into the incredibly difficulties this pastor’s wife faced in her fascinating life. From escaping a convent to marrying the most well-known “heretic” of the time, dealing with the loss of two children, putting up with Luther’s idiosyncrasies and the pressures of his ministry, and finally struggling to make a living as a widow whom her husband’s followers seemed to forget about almost immediately after his death.
The writing style is a bit dated; I think a modern writer might try to get into Katherine’s head a bit more, whereas this seems to at times just jump from one event to the next without a lot of time for reflection in between. The author also assumes that the reader knows at least a bit about Reformation history and the history of the world at the time. Concepts such as indulgences, diets, electors, and other people and events in Reformation history are referred to, but not explained.
Overall: A touching (yes, even tear-jerking) story of Luther’s wife and helper and the daily life that they enjoyed together
The Beautiful and the Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald
4 of 5 stars
Young, educated Anthony Patch marries beautiful society girl Gloria Gilbert, and together they live from one party to the next as they await the inheritance they expect to receive from Anthony’s grandfather.
Full review coming in September for Classics Retold project!
Overall: Taking pages from his own life and downfall, Fitzgerald’s chronicles of the doomed protagonist are still powerful almost a century later.
The Day the Voices Stopped: A Memoir of Madness and Hope by Ken Steele
3 of 5 stars
The story of Ken Steele, who from the ages of fourteen to forty-six battled persistent, vicious voices in his head and struggled with finding help for his schizophrenia.
[T]he voices were always waiting in the dark, prepared to take advantage of any opportunity, any slight break in my confidence, when they would take over and aim me toward self-destruction.
This memoir was incredibly intense, the kind of story that you don’t easily forget. Ken Steele’s daily struggles for over three decades brought him down to such depths — alcoholism, prostitution, a seemingly never-ending series of psychiatric wards rife with abuse, even rape. His ‘voices’ are absolutely terrifying, the kind of demonic things horror stories are filled with; that alone made this a difficult book to read.
The information that he shares here, though, gives such a clear picture of the struggles people with schizophrenia face that it would be nearly impossible to not feel sympathy for Ken Steele and others who suffer the same illness. He presents a strong cry for mental illness awareness, and the humane treatment of mentally ill patients. The final section picks apart mental health legislature over the last decades, showing the pros and cons of different bills.
Overall: A painfully honest, uncensored look at one man’s struggle with schizophrenia. Not pretty, but an important message regardless.
A friend recently passed on to me a list of summer reading programs that I thought I’d share!
- Local Public Library – Public libraries often have some of the best summer reading programs for kids. Check your library’s website or periodicals for information!
- No Time for Flashcards -
- Goal: read daily to earn a daily entry
- Prizes: monthly prize packs, grand prize $50 Amazon.com gift card
- Scholastic Summer Challenge -
- Goal: based on minutes read
- Prizes: virtual badges, book and audio chapters, activity sheets
- Sylvan’s Book Adventure -
- Grades: K-8
- Goal: pass quizzes on any book in the book list (8,000 to choose from)
- Prizes: temporary tattoos, free candy bar coupon, ebooks, etc.
- Barnes & Noble (May 22 – Sept 4)
- Grades: 1-6
- Goal: Read 8 books
- Prize: Free book (from appropriate grade level list)
- Chuck E Cheese (good through Dec 31)
- Goal: Read every day for two weeks
- Prize: 10 free tokens
- Half Price Books (Jun 1 – Jul 31)
- Ages: under 18
- Goal: Read 300 minutes
- Prizes: Gift cards
- H.E.B. (ends Sept 1)
- Goal: Read 10 books
- Prizes, including t-shirt
- Pizza Hut -
- Details still to come
- Pottery Barn (May 16 – Aug 26)
- Goal: Read every book on recommended reading list
- Schuler Books (Jun 1 – Aug 31)
- Grades: K-8
- Goal: read 20 books
- Prizes: earn up to three $5 gift cards
- Showcase Cinema (Jul 10 – Aug 7)
- Goal: Read a book and write a review
- Prize: Free movie ticket
- TD Bank (May 6 – Sept 30)
- Ages: under 18
- Goal: Read 10 books
- Prize: $10 in a new or existing Young Saver account
Know of any more? Leave a comment to add to our list!
Skippyjon Jones by Judy Schachner is the latest obsession of my kiddos (“Jimmy John Jones” to the preschooler and just “John” to the toddler). This spunky kitty-boy who thinks he’s a Chihuahua goes on all sorts of imaginative adventures in his closet, which, depending on the day, might be ancient Egypt, a circus big top, or the surface of Mars (which, did you know, is red because it’s covered in chili powder?). On his journeys, he takes on the persona of Skippito, the great Spanish swordfighter, and meets up with a crazy group of Chihuahuas who go by the name Los Chimichangos.
It’s cute, silly fun if you don’t mind the Dora-the-Explorer-like spattering of Spanish vocabulary (including a few made-up words where the author just adds “-ito” onto the end of an English word), and the illustrations are very well-done.
NEW this week…
Far Far Away by Tom McNeal
3 of 5 stars
Jeremy Johnson Johnson has the ability to hear ghosts — in particular, the ghost of Jacob Grimm, who has sworn to protect Jeremy from the Finder of Occasions, a hidden evil who is waiting for an opportunity to strike again.
Besides, what harm could come from a visit to the bakery in the company of three pretty girls?
That’s what I told myself.
But in this matter, as in others, I would be proved wrong.
At first, I wasn’t entirely certain what to think of this novel. I liked the fact that it was narrated by the ghost of Jacob Grimm, and the unusual character and place names (such as a town called Never Better) hinted at other fantastical elements. Watching Jeremy open up and begin to enjoy life under the influence of the spunky copper-haired Ginger made it feel like a sweet coming-of-age story, but that’s not really what it was either.
In fact, I spent most of the first 2/3 of the novel wondering where the plot was going. Mysteries were hinted at, but the action doesn’t really start until after page 250, at which point the book takes an entirely different turn than I ever expected. While this turn was unexpected, intense, and tied together a number of story elements that had previously seemed somewhat random, I still completed the story with the feeling that the last 1/3 came kind of out of nowhere.
Overall: A modern-day fairy tale, though not the Disney version.
NEW this week…
Rush by Eve Silver
The Game series #1
2 of 5 stars
After a near-death experience, a teen finds herself getting “pulled” into an alien-hunting alternate reality where she and a group of friends must fight their impending invasion of earth.
“Don’t listen to him. We still have real lives. They just get temporarily interrupted every now and then.”
Awesome premise. I loved the Ender’s Game-type setup, a world under threat of an alien invasion. Being “pulled” via time travel to the battleground, where then, if you succeed, you’re thrown right back to where you were, and if you don’t, then you die in real life, too. The “battle” scene involved high stakes, high energy, intensity.
But, that’s where it all kind of falls apart. This book does NOT stand alone; it simply sets the stage for the rest of the series, and ends in a frustrating cliffhanger. Not only that, but SO MANY things are unresolved, things that the main character spends the entire book wondering about and asking about and getting cryptic half-answers about, to the point where I, as the reader, felt like I was being toyed with. The answers that were given were either so obvious that you feel like throwing the book across the room for dragging it out for so long, or were so convoluted that they only raise more questions.
Overall: Great premise, but wait for the full series (or at least the next book), because this one isn’t satisfying on its own.
3 of 5 stars
When child violin prodigy Daniel Horowitz learns the story of his family’s priceless violins that were lost during World War II, his mentor Rafael Gomez vows to help him discover what happened to them.
“Don’t you see? It is the gift from your poppa. We must find that violin and we will find your heritage, Dan. Then you’ll play for the whole world.”
Books about the Holocaust have a way of being heart-wrenching and poignant simply by their subject matter, and this book was no exception. This book starts with a tale of modern-day child violin prodigy, then tells the story of his family’s violin and how it was lost when they were sent to the concentration camps, followed by the story of how the violin came to its current owner and the special meaning it held for him, and finishes up as Daniel’s mentor tries to re-connect the violin with its rightful owners. I was impressed with the layers of musical and historical knowledge that was woven through this book.
Strangely, though, I feel that the weakest section was that of Simon in the concentration camp. I didn’t feel as connected to these characters, so even when there were fatalities, it was simply stated, accepted, and didn’t bring forth an emotional response. The pacing through the entire book was a bit slow, and it took me awhile to get into the story.
Heads up: This book does contain some profanity and sexual content.
Overall: A book for music lovers who have an interest in history
Thursday, May 30th: From L.A. to LA
Monday, June 3rd: Mom in Love With Fiction
Tuesday, June 4th: That’s What She Read
Wednesday, June 5th: Diary of a Stay at Home Mom
Thursday, June 6th: A Patchwork of Books
Monday, June 10th: Bloggin’ ‘Bout Books
Tuesday, June 11th: Excellent Library
Wednesday, June 12th: Lisa’s Yarns
Thursday, June 13th: A Bookish Affair
Monday, June 17th: Drey’s Library
NEW this week…
Another Little Piece by Kate Karyus Quinn
2.5 of 5 stars
Annaliese is found after being missing for a year with no memory of her past except for strange visions which make her wonder if perhaps she isn’t who she thinks she is at all.
“I think I must have gotten carsick,” I said feebly.
“Annaliese was never carsick.”
The mom didn’t seem to notice that she had referred to Annaliese as if she was a different person from me, a person who now existed only in the past tense.
Well… that was… intense. What I thought was going to be a psychological thriller/mystery turned out to be more of a paranormal thriller/horror, and a rather gritty one at that. Although it was not at all what I expected, it kept me guessing and kept me wanting to read on to see what would happen. Most of the characters seemed to have some sort of complexity to them, and the familial relationship was refreshingly positive.
That being said, there was way more gore, casual sex, gore, violence, and — did I mention gore? — than I normally prefer to read about. Add onto that Insta-Love with a guy whom I was pretty convinced was a stalker and a whole bunch of flashbacks and I can’t say it was one of my favorite YA books I’ve read lately, but it was certainly different.
Overall: Gory, creepy, but an interesting premise.
I was fairly impressed with this movie adaptation. The cinematography was beautiful, and the story held fairly true to the novel. My husband (who hadn’t read the book) described it as Castaway with a tiger instead of a volleyball.
The biggest differences in the film compared w/ the novel:
- Man (or tiger) overboard! Pi fell out of the boat a LOT in the movie, far more than in the book. There was even a scene where the tiger falls out and Pi helps him back in, which most definitely was not in the book, but did somewhat help cement their codependent relationship.
- Love interest?! In the movie, Pi has a love interest in India.
- No confrontation w/ the religious leaders. In the book, there’s a great scene where all three religious leaders from Pi’s various places of worship show up to talk to him at the same time, and end up having an argument with each other over the true religion. This was cut out of the movie.
This was a really ambitious story to take on in movie form, and I was pleasantly surprised with how well it was done. Obviously, you miss some elements, like how Pi applies his knowledge of animals in the wild and animals at the zoo in order to train the tiger. Also, scene where Pi presents the insurance men with two stories about what happened on the boat is much clearer in the book. If you watch it without having read the book, be aware, it’s not a fast-paced story.