Thursday, February 28, 2013

A lot of books (there is no cohesive title for this post)

Out of Captivity: Surviving 1,967 Days in the Colombian JungleOut of Captivity: Surviving 1,967 Days in the Colombian Jungle by Marc Gonsalves

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

3.5 stars. (This was a loooong book, too long in my opinion. Sometimes it felt like *I* was a hostage in the Colombian jungle.) The authors (the former hostages) are just regular guys so the depth and quality of their writing was surprising. I know there was a professional author helping them out, but he seemed to take a pretty light hand in editing their story.

Summer of My German Soldier (Summer of My German Soldier, #1)Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a book from the early 1970s and it shows. There are some weird things going down in this book that I don't think translate very well to today, the main one being that SPOILER Anton is 22 and P.B. is TWELVE. I thought she was fourteen until the very end of the book but even that was squicking me out a bit. Finding out that she was twelve did not help matters. END SPOILER

HOWEVER. There is definitely some value in this book and it gets some things juuuuuust creepily right, like when the protagonist finally tells her mom in a moment of bravery that she doesn't like her, and her mom just stares back and then walks over to the phone and makes an appointment with the town's most horrible hairstylist and schedules a perm for her daughter right then and there that she knows will turn out awful. The author knows what she's doing, is what I mean, or rather, she knew what she was doing 40 years ago when she wrote this. It doesn't stand up so well now. Though I wonder if I'd feel the same about a great many books I read as a kid that are now 30+ years old.

The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes - and WhyThe Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes - and Why by Amanda Ripley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was a really good survey of the kinds of emergency situations people find themselves in and the different ways they react. It's like a crash course in layperson emergency response - what people did/did not do before trained help made it to the scene, and how those decisions affected the survival rate. It reminded me of The Gift of Fear: Survival Signals That Protect Us from Violence but on a larger scale. Definitely some valuable lessons to learn, many of which we plan on teaching to our kids. (Jeremy and I both read this book and we both felt like it dumbed things down, though. It sometimes took a Malcolm Gladwell approach and just told a lot of stories in order to prove a point.)

SteelSteel by Carrie Vaughn

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This book reads like the dream of a 13-year-old competitive fencer who just stayed up all night watching all the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. Except not that good.

The Night CircusThe Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

4.5 stars. Something is keeping me from full-on LOVING this book. I'm not quite sure what it is yet. The reading experience itself gets five stars for sure, though - this book was always a treat to pick up. I appreciated that it was mysterious without being overly weird or dark dark dark. It reminded me a lot of The Master and Margarita, except without the religious or symbolic depth. And that isn't necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes you want to read a book that tells a great story without getting bogged down in anything heavy. The Night Circus does that very well.

The NotebookThe Notebook by Nicholas Sparks

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I knew I wouldn't like this book and I still read it (I'm between holds coming in at the library, ok??). Sorry, almost everyone else in America: The Notebook is not for me. Can we still be friends?

The Raven Boys (The Raven Cycle, #1)The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater


This is going to be one of the most divided reviews I've ever written. Here goes.

For what this book IS and DOES, I love it. LOVE. Five stars, all around. It's the Hardy Boys + Nancy Drew, all grown up and without the cheese, because the ghosts or the coincidences or the noises in the attic are real, instead of turning out to be Mr. Peabody trying to scare the county away from taking his land (or whatever). The first third of the book was especially delicious, but the entire thing was very shivery and mysterious. And because I'm familiar with Ms. Stiefvater's storytelling style (from The Scorpio Races), I was content to let the story alternately meander and pick up the pace until the end, when everything is very quickly drawn together.

HOWEVER. For what this book ISN'T and DOESN'T, it is an almost-failure. Seriously, I'd give it one star. Two, maybe? I gave a scathing review to Abandon, saying that it had "nothing even approximating a complete story arc contained as a whole within its pages." To my great disappointment, the same can be said about this otherwise fantastically lovely book. There's a line in The Raven Boys about Maura's visions of death being only "promises," and that's what this book ends up being full of, too. So many promises...and so little delivery. I could not believe that the book ended when it did. Nothing was resolved. NOTHING. Three or four chapters out from the end, I was still prepared to give this a glowing review. Now, I'm not sure what to say (as you can tell from all these words I've written).

Another minor complaint: many very good books require their readers to be more credulous than they might otherwise be in order to truly, thoroughly be enjoyed. This is true sometimes for The Raven Boys, too. Specifically, I had questions throughout the book about SPOILER Blue's mother's ability to predict the people who would die in the next 12 months. So did she see Noah? Do we even know for sure it was Gansy in the vision? Why isn't the whole town beating down a path to her door?? END SPOILER. But if I just let it go, it was fine.

Allll that said...I still totally enjoyed reading this book and I still kinda love it and in the end, I would probably still recommend it.

(This last bit will make sense to very few people, but The Raven Boys had delightful shades of The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks. Really. It's like a bizarro TDHOFLB where the boys let her into their club and we get to see what happens.)


Crys said...

You read a Nicolas Sparks book???? No, I'm sorry, we cannot be friends :)

Suzanne Bubnash said...

I confess to having read a Nicholas Sparks book. My excuse is that it was for book group. I am not penitent though, because this one, Three Weeks With My Brother, is non-fiction and explores a painful family past. Parts are almost unbelievable, but I did appreciate that his siblings were able to forge on as a family after their very odd parents were gone.

I would give The Unthinkable 5 stars. Not because it is a perfect book, but because it caused me to change the way I look at my surroundings and the action around me. I have always been an observant person, even to the point of thinking "what would I do right here, right now, if such and such happened." Yet that isn't enough to be fully prepared to act in a rational manner. It is valuable to learn what the natural human responses are, so that if we find ourselves reacting in one of those unhelpful ways, we are more likely to pull ourselves out of it and be proactive.

Lucia- insert creative nickname said...

Hey, how's the library there? I love how easy it is to request books at my library here, and I've been wondering how that situation is there. How about the kids section?

Bridget said...

The library at AUS is fantastic for adult non-fiction; somewhat less so for fiction. You can request books and sometimes they will buy them, but since the procurement process is complicated it often takes several months. The Unthinkable is from the AUS library, the Colombian hostage book is from a friend, and the rest are Kindle or audiobook. The kids' library situation is a little harder. Miriam's school has a good library so she gets books from there, and she also reads some on my Kindle.

Stacie Perkins Palmer said...

I remember reading Summer of My German Soldier when I was 12 or 13 and loved it--go figure! I probably had a crush on Anton...

I didn't like The Notebook either, Bridget. You're not alone!


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