Life's hard.

It's even harder when you're stupid.

John Wayne

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Becoming Naomi Leon by Pam Munoz Ryan ★★★★☆

Becoming Naomi LeónBecoming a Lion
Fiction - Juvenile
Reading level: Ages 9 and up
246 pages
Publication Date:  September 1, 2004

Naomi lives in Lemon Tree, CA with her physically disabled little brother, Owen, and their Gram.  They live a simple and mostly contented life together; Naomi has her lists and soap carving while sunny Owen is at the top of his class and never loses at checkers.  When their alcoholic and mentally unstable mother, Skyla, shows up seven years after leaving them at Gram’s everything about their quiet little life comes into question.  Naomi is challenged to figure out who she is; to stop being a mouse and instead become a lion.

Becoming Naomi Leon is a beautifully written story with lovely imagery.  Munoz Ryan has a real talent for understanding her characters; their motivations, desires and, at times, less than noble acts.  She tells a very realistic story of terrible things that happen every day and yet always in her story an element of hope is present.  Naomi is a very relatable and sympathetic character and her situation is more common than it should be.  It is one of the better children’s books I’ve read.  It was a very moving story and I look forward to exploring other books by this author.

SBN13: 9780439269971

Friday, June 22, 2012

Deadlocked by Charlaine Harris ★★★★☆

Deadlocked (Sookie Stackhouse, #12)

A Visit with Old Friends
Fiction – Urban Fantasy/Paranormal - Mystery
327 pages
Publication Date:  May 1, 2012
Sookie Stackhouse #12

While holding a party for Vampire Kind Felipe de Castor, the dead body of a woman, Eric only minutes before fed on, appears on his front lawn.  Sookie with the help of Bill must find out what really happened and why, before Eric’s situation, and thus her’s, becomes even more precarious.

I would call this book an in-between book.  It was missing the usual amount of horrific fun and constant movement from one death situation to the next for Sookie.  Instead, it was more like catching up with your friends in Bon Temps while solving a very complicated mystery encompassing many players.  Sookie turns 28, Tara and JB have their twins, Jason and Michele get engaged, Sam finally sees Jannalynn for who she really is and we even briefly hear from Quinn.  We see the further deterioration of Sookie and Eric’s relationship and finally come to understand Dermot’s and the Fae situation.  Frankly, I really enjoyed Harris’ departure from the usual format.  I have never solely read these books for the action; I also invested in the characters.  My only real complaint was not seeing enough of Pam.  I missed her.

Book 13 is said to be the last book in the series and I feel this one nicely sets it up (perhaps for a lovely happily-ever-after with Sam, at least I hope so).

ISBN-13: 978-1937007447

Friday, June 15, 2012

The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan ★★★☆☆

New twist on the old formula
Fiction - Juvenile - Urban Fantasy/ Adventure
Age Level: 10 and up  Grade Level: 5 and up
516 pages
Publication Date: August 16, 2011
The Kane Chronicles Book 1
Literary awards:  School Library Journal Best Book of the Year (2010), Goodreads Choice Nominee for Favorite Book, Young Adult Fantasy (2010)

The Red Pyramid (Kane Chronicles, #1)Since the death of their mother, under strange circumstances six years before, siblings Carter and Sadie Kane have been raised apart.  Carter spends his time in constant travel with their Egyptologist father, Dr. Julius Kane, while Sadie lives in England with their Grandparents.  Only, allowed to see Sadie two days a year Dr. Kane uses one of his visits to take the siblings to the British Museum where he plans to “right a wrong”.  Unleashing forces beyond his control Dr. Kane is taken prisoner.  In order to save him Carter and Sadie must learn about their Egyptian heritage which includes magic, the blood of Pharaohs and communing with Egyptian gods.  Using the newly acquired knowledge they must quickly learn to master their new skills and challenge the god Set, to save not only their father, but all of Northern America.

Told by both Carter and Sadie this story is a tale similar to Percy Jackson’s with an Egyptian twist.  This, however, doesn’t hurt it.  Riordan found a good formula with Percy Jackson and I can’t fault him for applying it in another series.  He has fairly developed main characters in the Kane Chronicles and nicely incorporates Egyptian mythology into real life to create an interesting story. 

On the other hand, the format took a bit to get used to and this book was far less funny than Percy Jackson.   I did not care for Sadie’s constant and unnecessary derogatory use of the term “God”, nor did Riordan quite pull off her Britishness (calling some “thick” and eating “bangers and mash” does not make a Brit).  I also, while appreciating the glossary, would have liked it more in depth.

Overall it was okay.  I don’t regret the time reading it, but I do hope in the next one Riordan can find a better rhythm.

ISBN13: 9781423113454

Monday, June 11, 2012

Tuesdays With Morrie by Mitch Albom ★★★★★

Tuesdays with Morrie

Deep and impactful
Non Fiction – Biography – Memoir
191 pages
Publication Date: January 1st 1997

“Let’s begin with this idea,” Morrie said.  “everyone knows they’re going to die, but nobody believes it.”

Morrie Schwartz’s spent his life as a teacher, a professor.  When facing his end from Lou Gehrig’s disease, he had one more course to teach to former student Mitch Albom.  With his finally months and the ever in encroaching end he would teach Mitch how to live.

This book has an interesting format and a smooth, graceful writing style.  Short, but impactful.  Just as a FYI this will be the end of my typical review style and from here I proceed into more personal and previously uncharted waters.

I have read this book before, but either from lack of understanding or experience or perhaps something altogether different it really hit me this time in way it didn’t before.  I could look past my philosophical differences with Morrie and really understand the importance of this story. Maybe this is the type of book you have to be ready to receive.

I have seen death up close, both as a child and an adult.  I have experienced the aftermath of sudden death; the suffering and pain of letting go, to the remembering what endures of the person after they have left us.  I have seen wasting death, where an individual and those around them die a little bit each day, until it finally ends.  I have been in the presence of profound grace and acceptance of people facing their end, which I can only wonder at.  What I have learned from all of this is life here on earth is a finite thing and I find comfort in that.  Whatever our beliefs this is something all of us will have to deal with at some point as part of the human experience. 

Sometimes a book is not only important for what it says, but also for how it affects us.  Tuesdays with Morrie reminds me to think on these issues.  In amidst my “busy living” and focusing on things of small importance in the long run, I need to remember life is finite and make the important decisions accordingly.

ISBN-13: 978-0767905923