Reading Challenge September Wrap Up

I think this is a record, because I only read one book this month and it didn’t even check off a box. I don’t know if I’m necessarily losing steam, but I have been spending a lot of time listening to podcasts this month rather than reading. I should probably get going because I have three months left and 11 boxes to go.

I finished Betrayed by Jeannette Windle October 1 (yesterday), but it didn’t make the cut off for the September books. The only book I completed in September was The Martian. Which was a fantastic book, and the narration from the audio book was excellent. We will be discussing it for my book club in less than a week, and the movie comes out today.

Other books I’m working on still include Lady Chatterley’s Lover. I need to discipline myself into reading at least one chapter a day to knock it out, because I’m unfortunately not enjoying it very much. I would give up on it like I did Emma, but I’m over halfway through it and it knocks off two boxes.

I ordered the book based on its cover from Paperback Swap. It’s called Penelope by Rebecca Harrington. The cover is a waffle with the Harvard logo on it, and it’s bright pink, which is what caught my eye when I was in Barnes & Noble for another reason. I also have my Christmas/number book at the ready. What I should start looking for is a book published this year. I have a few that I’m interested in, I just need to pick one.

Well, this isn’t much of an update since I am still where I ended last month. Hopefully October will be a month full of good reading!

100 Picture Books: 70-66

Sweetpea’s newfound interest in books has moved along the project again, as things were stalling a little when she wasn’t interested and it was difficult to carve out snuggly reading time with Peanut with a little sister tugging on us. Both girls now are bringing books for us to read fairly frequently throughout the day. It has become a teaching tool about taking turns!

rhyming dust bunnies70. Rhyming Dust Bunnies by Jan Thomas

This book was short but very cute. There are 4 dust bunnies in an array of colors, and they spout of rhyming words together, except one who isn’t shouting “look out!” They quickly dodge an incoming broom, but in the middle of another bout of rhyming action, they get sucked up into a vacuum cleaner. It is the perfect length for a preschooler’s attention span, and somewhat educational too.

The author has written a sequel entitled Here Comes the Big Mean Dust Bunny! There is also a cute activity where kids can fill in the speech bubbles with that they think the dust bunnies might be saying. The School Library Journal article on the book includes pictures of most of it, and some people dressed up in costumes of the dust bunnies, so that’s new and different.

51hXWiuxGYL69. Moo Baa La La La by Sandra Boynton

This book has been a favorite for a long time. It may have actually been one of the first books that we ever read to Peanut. I’ve memorized it, since there’s only about 100 words or so. It’s pretty short and cute, with animal sounds and rhyming. Peanut is a bit out of the age range for it, as with the previous Boynton, but it is perfect for Sweetpea. Our copy looks very well-loved, although this time around, neither girl seemed particular interested in it.

This book was published the same year as But Not The Hippopotamus, along with 6 others that are still in print and quite beloved by kids. I would consider this batch of 8 books kind of the beginning collection of Boynton books that are great to have in a collection. We have most of them. They haven’t aged a bit.

The-Three-Pigs-Wiesner-David-978061800701168. The Three Pigs by David Wiesner

This book was interesting, and broke the 4th wall a bunch. The story starts off with the basic Three Little Pigs story (not the Disney-fied one – the pigs get eaten in this one!) but right before the wolf is about to have bacon for the first time, his huffing and puffing sends the little pig right out of the page! That pig goes along and rounds up his buddies, and they all go exploring in some other stories. They find a dragon to scare the pants off the wolf, and then they live happily ever after. It was cute.

This book is our second from Wiesner, which is interesting because I had never heard of him before. He has a great blog on www.davidwiesner.com which lets readers into the process of drawing picture books, with sketches and commentary. I couldn’t find anything specific on the pigs book, but I bet if you dig in there, you can find something.

63196b9fc430c918d09ea40c38cf60b367. Bedtime for Frances by Russell Hoban

I requested this book from Paperback Swap awhile ago, and it came up briefly and then my request got cancelled. I worried that it would be another book I would have to shell out some dough for, although it turns out that it may have been a good thing, because the audiobook I managed to find was a surprise hit. It is a collection of all four Frances stories, with Bedtime for Frances as the first one. It’s basically a little girl (illustrated as a badger) that stalls for bedtime as many different ways that she can.

This story, and a few other Frances tales, were adapted into a 6 episode animated series by Jim Henson studios. The audiobook was read by a woman with an English accent (who played the mum in Mary Poppins, no less!), so now in my head, Frances is pronounced that way forever. Frawwwwnces. And thus, Parker has been introduced to audiobooks and there goes listening to music in the car forever.

chrysanthemum-big-book-image66. Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes

Peanut loved this book, but I tell you, I got really tired of reading the name “Chrysanthemum” out loud. In the book’s 30 pages, I had to read the name 51 times. And usually, three times in a row. The message of the book is actually pretty great. This little mouse girl was given this name, and she loved it. But when she got to school, she was mercilessly teased because it was too long and also the name of a flower. In the end, a teacher comes to her defense and says that when her baby girl is born, she is going to use the name Chrysanthemum for her because it is perfect.

Meryl Streep lent her vocal talents to an animated version of the book, and it won a whole bunch of awards.

 

 


Another batch coming, including my first Seuss! I’m hoping to get some more momentum on this project as I’ve started it over a year ago and I still haven’t gotten halfway through it! Life with children is ever unpredictable.

Review: The Martian

the-martian-coverThere are so many things about this book that make it unlikely that I would have read and enjoyed it, it seems strange that I would have happened upon a recommendation that intrigued me so much that I opted to actually read it. First, it’s about space. Space is not only a topic that I don’t seek out, but I actively avoid it. I frequently lament that we should forget about space and focus on the planet that we have. Second, it’s about being stuck in space, which is something that brings up feelings of anxiety in me. And third, it’s heavy in the science, which normally would make me fall asleep while reading. Despite all of these things that I normally don’t like and try to avoid, this was a really fantastic book.

Part of the appeal of this book is the humorous way that the protagonist shapes the beginning of the narrative. I think the lack of context in the beginning (it starts off with a series of log entries by Mark Watney, the astronaut stranded on Mars, and later fills in third person omniscient narrative) is actually a selling point to non-technical readers. The book doesn’t waste time filling in the blanks and gets straight to the problem of the book. We don’t even really get what went wrong with the mission that left Watney stranded until about midway through the book. It keeps the pace brisk, yet with enough hand-holding to keep the interest of a lay reader.

The book follows a formulaic narrative that could maybe get a little tiresome if it wasn’t for the humorous asides and everyman perspective we get from Watney. Something goes wrong, Watney panics. He comes up with a risky yet plausible plan. It mostly works, although a few things fail. He complains about 70s pop culture. Something else breaks, and we begin again. This general idea repeats about 4-5 times throughout the book, but somehow it isn’t as noticeable until you begin to describe the plot to someone else.

I have mixed feelings about the ending, but not because it wasn’t what I hoped for. Perhaps because it was incredibly predictable with no last minute twists, it didn’t have as much of an impact. It’s not a book that really sticks in your mind or that delivers a big punch. This isn’t a bad thing, per se, but it doesn’t have a WOW factor.

One thing that this book does incredibly well is have a diverse group of characters who have believable motivations and personalities. There was an overwhelming amount of white guys, but that is unfortunately pretty reflective of space exploration in general. Watney’s main contact at NASA is someone of Indian heritage named Venkat Kapoor, there are several Asians both on NASA’s team and in China (duh), where some of the story takes place. Apparently the character of Mindy Park is Korean, which I couldn’t tell from reading, but that’s also pretty cool. There’s also a German crewmember on the Ares 3 mission.

I’m planning to see the movie and maybe get some more context and visual help on some of the more sciencey things, and see how it compares to the picture in my head of the story. For a book like this, I felt like maybe what I was imagining was pretty far off the mark since I don’t have any love for space, and therefore, very little context over what elements of the story of purely fiction or what is science.

This book fulfills no requirements for the challenge.

100 Picture Books: 75-71

This was the first bunch of picture books I got after Sweetpea was born and quasi-interested in books. There was a large gap between the previous bunch because of sick kids yadda yadda. Since this bunch, she has become much more interested, and so it will be neat to see which books each kid gravitates toward, since there is a good mixture on the list of “baby” type books, and books that are more suited to an older child’s attention span.
Cloudy_with_a_Chance_of_Meatballs_(book)75. Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett
This was Peanut’s favorite in the batch. I wasn’t as big of a fan. It’s a story within a story, where the grandpa tells the story of Chewandswallow, a town that has food for weather, and the weather begins to get worse and worse, so everyone leaves. I felt like the ending was too abrupt and unsatisfying, but the images of giant food entertained Peanut enough to ask for repeated readings. She especially liked the giant pancake squashing the school.
Most people know already that this book was developed into two fairly successful films that don’t follow the story at all. There were also two book sequels, released in 2000 and 2013. The author and illustrator were married at one time, but have been divorced for quite awhile, and continued to work together on these books.

I want my hat back cover74. I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen

I actually had to just look this book up with my tried and true YouTube method of unattainable books. We had this on loan from the library for awhile, but it was Mr. Meags that read the book to Peanut, and for some reason, she refused to let me read it to her. She wanted to skip to the last page, and that was the only part of the story she was willing to admit existed. There’s an entertaining stop-motion animation if you are so inclined.

Basically, a bear is walking along and asking several animals he comes across if anyone has seen his hat. Later on, he realizes that one of the animals, a rabbit, HAS seen his hat, and lied about it. So basically, he goes and eats the rabbit. Then a squirrel asks if he has seen a rabbit wearing a hat, and he says “No, don’t ask me any more questions!” Apparently, the bear eating the rabbit was a bit much for Peanut.

This book is the first I’ve noticed that has a New York Times book review. So it must be special. It even spawned a meme.

38-273. May I Bring a Friend? by Beatrice Schenk de Regniers

This was a favorite. It has a simple rhyme that is kind of melodic to read, which lots of repetition. Peanut requested it a lot. Each time the King and Queen invite the narrator for tea, or lunch, or whatever, he asks to bring a friend, and it is always a different animal. Peanut liked to point out the animals and name them when prompted. At the end, the narrator invites the King and Queen to the zoo to meet his “friends.” It’s very charming.

The author of this book also worked with Maurice Sendak, and wrote a few books under a psuedonym. Writing was a second career for her, as she was a social worker for the US and in a Yugoslav camp.

But-Not-the-Hippopotamus

 

72. But Not The Hippopotamus by Sandra Boynton

This is one of my favorite Sandra Boynton books. We have many of her board books, as they are great for small children. Peanut is almost 4 and was not as enthralled with this book as younger kids might be, but it was still good. Peanut’s little sister, here to be known as Sweetpea, was marginally interested, but as she hasn’t quite hit one year yet, so all in good time.

The story is about animals doing fun things, but the hippopotamus is continually left out. Near the end, the animals all come and ask the hippo to join them, but now the armadillo is left out. It’s cute, and rhyming, and the illustrations are in that classic Boynton cutesy style. The book is an older one, published in 1982, but continues to be in print. Spoiler alert – we will be seeing more of Boynton.

Stellaluna0171. Stellaluna by Janell Cannon

I had seen this one frequently in libraries on display and when I worked at Barnes & Noble, but I had never flipped through it before. Peanut seemed to like it okay, although it didn’t really hit home for her until we saw some bats in a habitat at the zoo. It kind of clicked for her then. But the story is cute, about a baby fruit bat that gets separated from its mother and falls into a birds nest. Stellaluna tries to fit into the nest life with the other birds, but she finds it difficult. Eventually, she is reunited with her bat family, but remains friends with her bird “siblings.” The final few pages have some educational notes about bat species.

This book is apparently even more famous than I perceived. It has been made into a film, was featured on Reading Rainbow, and won a slew of awards. Not to mention, it has also been adapted into a puppet stage production. The author has written some other books, but none of them seemed familiar.


I hope you enjoyed this list and maybe found some new books you are interested in reading to the rugrats in your life. Next up, our first audio book and now I can never not have children’s stories playing while I drive the kids around…

Reading Challenge August Wrap Up

Still going at a decent pace this month with my reading. I can’t believe it’s already September and school is back on. It feels like summer vacation just started! Without more preamble, let’s get into the books I read in the final weeks of summer vacation.File Sep 01, 5 35 22 PM

First up was my book club pick for August, Toni Morrison’s Beloved. It was on someone else’s idea list and therefore I had no idea what I was getting into (which, really, is a recurring theme with my book choices it seems). I did expect to have a pretty amazing reading experience, just because it sells a lot of copies and had a movie made about it and seemed to be more high brow than a lot of books that I normally read. But, as I mentioned in my review, it didn’t have the emotional punch that I was expecting, mostly because it was just so confusing. I don’t think I will be picking up any other Toni Morrison books unless I have a really compelling reason to.

I gave another shot at finding a badly reviewed book with a Google search for “worst reviewed books on Amazon”. I also tried this same search for Goodreads, but those lists are all user generated and long. This list that I found was somewhat curated and, although outdated, had some real stinkers in it. The only book that my library’s digital collection had was You’ve Been Warned by James Patterson. And it was legitimately bad. It was still readable enough that I finished it in a couple of days, so I guess that was pretty painless. I wanted to see how many copies it had sold, to see if it would maybe qualify for a true Worst Bestseller, but I didn’t really find much data on that.

I had a lot of contenders for my 100+ year old book since there are so many great older books, and most of them are free to access by ebook, which makes them easy for me to read. I decided to choose a book that I hadn’t read in school and also that seemed to be well-reviewed by friends. It was actually the recent trailers for a new iteration with James McAvoy and Daniel Ratcliffe that pushed me over the edge to reading Frankenstein. The reason that I didn’t read this in school was because I was in the middle of a deep depression and basically an existential crisis, and I had pretty much checked out of my classes. But now I really wish I had been able to hear what the lecture on this book would have been because I’m sure it would have been really fantastic.

The final book that I finished this month was Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. by Judy Blume. Yet another book where my expectations were clearly much to high for what this book actually turned out to be. We chose this for our book club selection and I will be interested to see how everyone else felt about it. Judy Blume is having a resurgence in popularity right now because she recently released a new novel and has been doing a lot of interviews for it. Unfortunately, I feel like this is one book that is very dated and hopelessly stuck in another era.

As for what else I’m reading, I’m still reading Lady Chatterley’s Lover, which as I mentioned last time, is going slowly because I am reading it on my phone and I just don’t enjoy the iPhone reading experience. I decided to finish reading Twilight after all for my book that I started but didn’t finish requirement, and I’m also hoping the love triangle makes an appearance because that box has turned out to be much more difficult than anticipated. My next book club pick is Spook by Mary Roach. I also probably need to pick my book for the one published this year. I feel like time is running out so I’m trying to combine boxes as much as possible. Whenever I can knock out multiple boxes with one go, I always feel like I’ve accomplished something.

I read 4 books this month, which brings me up to 27 books. And I checked off 4 more boxes, bringing me up to 37 total. 12 boxes to go! This means I need to get going, but I am past halfway through the list. I have my Christmas book picked out, but there’s still some choices that I need to make about other books. I’m trying to work on the first column of choices first and then start going down the next one. The image is a little wrong though, because I checked off the love triangle box, assuming that the You’ve Been Warned storyline may have counted but I decided that an affair is not a love triangle so I’m back at square on with that.

100 Picture Books: 80-76

So far, I’ve been able to track down most of these books through frugal means. Most of them I’ve gotten through the library. One (Fortunately) was through InterLibrary Loan (fancy!). But Zoom at Sea was nowhere to be found, so I bought a used copy off eBay. Total cost of this series so far: $4.
A version of this post appeared on Zwolanerd.com.
MadelineRescue180. Madeline’s Rescue by Ludwig Bemelmans

I used to love the cartoon of this series and so I recognized the story here. It’s the one about the dog that saves Madeline from drowning, and the girls decide to keep her. Peanut didn’t enjoy this book, although I can’t figure out why. It has rhymes, and dogs, but she only wanted to read it once and then she was done with it. Too bad, I liked it.

In case you wanted to see that cartoon for yourself, here it is! This was the second Madeline book, out of 7 total, one of which was only published in 1999, almost 40 years after the previous Madelines (and posthumously). The author reportedly emigrated to the USA after shooting someone, so that’s new for this list.

8e73be9bbcf5aceaef29b1fb4f4c4331

79. Pierre by Maurice Sendak

I can barely count this book as having been read, because it was supposed to be delivered 3 weeks ago and either the mail delivery person left it at the wrong house or somehow it got lost while being carried inside, because I haven’t laid hands on it although it shows as delivered. (Good thing it was a free Paperback Swap trade.) So, we watched a YouTube video of someone reading the book. Twice.
Pierre doesn’t care, and he says I don’t care so much that he happens upon a lion while his parents leave him at home alone, and he is eaten. Luckily, they cart the lion to the hospital and hold him upside down and out falls Pierre, who is now reformed and cares very much.
Peanut liked it, she wanted to watch the video a couple of times. I think it would be okay to read out loud, although I didn’t care for the reading on the video. This book was part of a larger collection, called the Nutshell Library. It also spawned a song sung by Carole King, which you can also find on YouTube.
n4679078. Zoom at Sea by Tim Wynne-Jones
This book tells the story of a cat that loves to float on the water. It would be incorrect to say this cat loves the water, because he doesn’t really touch it. He likes to float around in the bathtub, and is overjoyed to discover his Uncle Roy has a connection to the sea. He shows up at an address and the woman inside, Maria, magically turns the interior of her house into the sea.
I had this book (and another Zoom volume) as a kid. I had difficulty tracking it down, and it wasn’t until I realized it was a Canadian book that it clicked. I ended up ordering an old library copy from eBay, since the copy I had is long gone. Peanut sort of liked it. While researching this book I located a puppet production of the book AND the SLJ blog about this very list!
CM_flotsam77. Flotsam by David Wiesner
At first, I thought this was going to be lame because it has no words and only pictures. But as we went along, it was pretty neat. The “story,” as it is, essentially shows a little boy finding an underwater camera with picture of a picture of a picture etc, several layers down. The boy takes his own picture, then chucks the camera back into the sea. The illustrations get the point across very well, and words probably would have been contrived and convoluted.
This makes the first book that appears to have a dedicated website, but it hasn’t been updated since 2006. Apparently there was a contest for finding actual flotsam or something, which was the purpose of the website. It’s also the first book that contains a story despite having no words – the very essence of a “picture book”.
250px-Eloise_book_cover76. Eloise by Kay Thompson

This book is kind of a stream of consciousness about a 6 year old girl living in the Plaza Hotel in New York City. It’s written in the manic breathless way that 6 year olds sometimes talk. She also repeats certain phrases like “and charge it please thank you very much,” and “for Lord’s sake,” that is obvious she has overheard adults say. I’m aware that this book is very famous and beloved, but I don’t see the appeal at all. It is really long, at 62 pages, for a children’s picture book. Peanut got bored about halfway through. I ended up skipping pages to get to the end. It’s not easy to read aloud either, as there is no punctuation. I often felt out of breath while reading.

As with Flotsam, this book also has a dedicated website, but it is more in the fanpage vein than official, as the author has passed away. Eloise was apparently inspired by Liza Minelli, since she is the author’s goddaughter. It also began its life as a book for adults, and was revised into a children’s book, and underwent many edits over the years. I thought I recognized the name of the author, and it turns out it is the same Kay Thompson as in that version of Jingle Bells made popular by Andy Williams.


The next batch won’t be late as we have already read and enjoyed most of them! The moral of THIS story is that Pierre is hard to find. My guess is that the blunt “would you like to die” from the lion is too much for most parents.

Review: Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.

AreYouThereGod11

This book seems to be the quintessential preteen book for girls. I am 32 and have never read it, but it was still out there in the ether and I knew mostly what is what about: periods and wanting to not be flat-chested. But this book just didn’t live up to the expectations I had. I wonder if there were not and continue to not be any books that deal frankly with puberty.

This book isn’t really about those things though, and it suffers from lack of real direction. By far, the more interesting plot line is what is happening between her parents, and the battles over religion. In some ways, we are shown glimpses of adult problems through the viewpoint of an 11 year old girl who honestly could not care less about it. That angle I find interesting. A story within a story, if you will. But the actual forefront of the story about Margaret navigating 6th grade in a new school and the onset of puberty was severely lacking.

Aside from the staggering amount of typos, this has not aged very well. I was also a little disappointed to discover that the book had been updated and edited in order to reflect changes in feminine hygiene products (we no longer use something called menstrual garter belts, they have adhesives now). There are a lot of things in this book that don’t make sense in the context of the modern age, and I feel like those other things should have been left in to give a more complete picture of what growing up in the 1970s was like. My biggest problem was the character of Mr. Benedict, the 6th grade teacher. Blume explains that he is new and this is his first year teaching, but this guy is completely inappropriate. In what way is it okay to give a student the 3rd degree on how they feel about religious holidays? Don’t give a writing prompt of “I hate” if you don’t want students to strongly dislike things. Of course, in 2015, most public school teachers probably stay far away from discussing religion with students.

Another huge issue is the complete dropping of plot threads. There are no resolutions in this book. The book ends during summer vacation, when we don’t know how Margaret did on her year-long project (what teacher assigns a non-graded year-long paper?), how things resolve between her and both sets of grandparents, how her mother feels, even how she feels at all about religion other than a big shrug, and if anything will ever come of her and Moose. Instead, we get Margaret starting her period. Hurray, she’s not the last one of her “friends”.

Also, in reference to those “friends”. They call themselves the “PTS’s” or some such nonsense, and they are horrible to each other. Are they supposed to be the “popular” girls, or just a clique? It’s really hard to tell since, although there are more girls than boys in her 6th grade class, the only other girl that is ever mentioned is Laura Danker, who apparently has boobs and is tall, and all the boys can’t stop teasing her. Margaret even thinks her 25 year old teacher is attracted to Laura, which is bananas. These kids are 11 and 12!

I want the story about Margaret’s mom, Barbara. She seems to be the most interesting person.

2 stars.

This book fulfilled no requirements for the challenge.

Review: Frankenstein

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The story of Frankenstein that is in the public consciousness is so far removed from the actual novel that Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley wrote, that I can hardly equate the two. I could see glimpses of things that are considered part of the Frankenstein lore, but it seems that the popular idea of it couldn’t be more off the mark of Shelley’s intention if it tried. So, if you haven’t read the novel (or at least a synopsis, although I’m not sure how you could really get an idea of the novel from just that), this is going to sound completely opposite to the idea of Frankenstein that you may have.

It’s popular these days to reiterate over and over that Frankenstein wasn’t the monster, he was the man who created it. But, is that really true? Sure, the creature that Victor Frankenstein assembled and brought to life never had a proper name (the wretch or fiend is the most common way it is addressed), but Victor himself is a very dangerous man. He sort of admits this in the narrative, but in many ways the horrors that he experiences are compounded by how little ownership he takes in the whole thing. Honestly, this male ego that he displays is still kind of around, most recently depicted in that terrible Gamergate nonsense. Instead of going after the monster immediately upon realizing that he should not have imbued a creature with life, he just pretends it didn’t even happen. Victor (I’m going to keep referring to him by his first name so as to not cause confusion) is able to delude himself completely until he receives word that his younger brother has been murdered.

He returns to the scene of the crime in order to grieve and make sense of everything, when he sees the monster in a flash of lightning, at a distance. He suddenly realizes that the monster murdered his brother. Then, when a servant (sort of, hard to explain) of the family is accused of the crime, he doesn’t even speak in her defense, despite knowing that she is innocent. He is too afraid to be seen as a nutjob to talk to the court himself and insist that he saw the murderer. So poor Justine receives the death penalty. Sure, he feels bad about it, but not bad enough to do anything. What a sociopath.

He goes on some sort of spiritual quest or something to be alone in the mountains, and comes across the creature. He insists that Victor listen to his story of what has happened to him since his creation. The story is pretty sad, because essentially he spies on some poor people that live in a French cottage, learn their language and customs, helps them out by supplying firewood every day, and then when he introduces himself those people get out of town as fast as possible. He realizes that he will never be able to have companions, and that he will be forever alone. He asks Victor to create a female mate for him so that he will have companionship. Victor suddenly grows a conscience and refuses (albeit partway through the creation of Mrs. Monster). The monster is enraged, and murders his best friend (although I seriously felt some homo-erotic vibes going on between Victor and Henry Clerval. Just me?), and tries to pin it on Victor. Victor is so distraught that he goes into some kind of catatonic episode for several months, waking to find himself in a jail cell or dungeon.

Through events that I couldn’t entirely follow, Victor is released into the care of his father, who asks him to put all this tragedy behind him and marry his adopted sister. (Ah, the 1800s when this wasn’t weird at all.) He agrees, mostly because the monster had threatened him, saying he would reappear on his wedding night, which, Victor assumes – since the world begins and ends with himself – that the monster is threatening to kill him. I don’t know if the readers of this book in the early 19th century saw this coming, but I know anyone reading this blog right now totally knows that Elizabeth is gonna get it. Afterward, Victor has one plan in mind, and that is revenge. Especially since his father dies days later, in apparent grief over Elizabeth’s murder.

He isn’t successful. He chases the monster pretty far north, and in exhaustion and from exposure, dies after conveniently telling the whole story to a ship’s captain. So not only was he not successful in killing the monster, he waited way too long to do it. He avoids responsibility the entire time. In some of his less lucid catatonia, he apparently wails about how he has murdered his family members and friends, but he doesn’t ever really own up to his part in this entire thing. His end goal after he is alone is to seek revenge. He never reflects on what damage he has inflicted on the creature he created.

Victor and his monster aren’t so different. When Victor has everyone taken away from him, he also turns to violence. The monster has nothing, so Victor’s object is to kill him. The monster wants revenge too, but mostly he wants Victor to really feel how miserable his existence is. I’m sure books could be and have been written about all of the themes in this book. It was seriously amazing.

The only slight detraction was the writing itself. Modern book publishing is an entirely different animal, and editing really helps get ideas across clearly and concisely. This book could have benefited from some editing, although it is way more readable than many other novels written hundreds of year ago. There are a lot of lengthy poetic descriptions of things and feelings that don’t really add much to the story. It’s not a fast-paced thriller like a modern day version would be. But the horror element is definitely not the core to the story. Science run amuck, personal responsibility, and what makes a true monster are much more interesting themes in this story.

4 stars.

This book completes the book more than 100 years old, and a book you were supposed to read in school but didn’t requirement for the challenge.

100 Picture Books: 85-81

This batch was slightly off for a few reasons. It seemed like the books I liked best were not Peanut-friendly. The ones I disliked, she gravitated toward. Goes to show, you can’t predict kids.

The first iteration of this post, on Zwolanerd.com, was missing The Giving Tree because I somehow skipped it.

Imagen escaneada85. The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

This is the first book on the list that we already had an have read a bunch of times. If you haven’t read this one (and I only read it for the first time after we bought it for Peanut), a boy spends a lot of time sitting under, playing around, and eating the apples of a tree, presumably in his backyard but we aren’t ever told. Over time, the boy grows up and has less need of the tree, except for the primary resources that he can extract from it (apples to sell, wood to build with, etc), and the tree freely gives everything she has but misses the company of the boy. In the end, the boy is an old man, and too old to do much of anything but sit. So the tree offers her stump – all that’s left – and the boy stays with the tree, presumably dying right there. And since the boy is with the tree, the tree is happy.

If you think about this too much, it is really messed up, but I get that it’s a somewhat sweet story of love and friendship, and even forgiveness. Critics/readers are pretty divided on the whole thing, and there’s a collection of essays on the book that go between positive and negative interpretations. Personally, I take the book as a parent-child relationship, and see it as how children take and take and parents give and give, and there are no hard feelings from the parents, despite how they could be seen as being “used”. I feel like as a parent, you give of yourself, and your children take those “pieces” of you, like apples or branches, and create something with them. I hope that in the end, they reflect on those sacrifices and appreciate it.

Oh, and I should mention that Peanut really likes this book a lot, in case the fact that we’ve read it a bunch of times didn’t make that clear.

not-a-box85. Not a Box by Antoinette Portis

This is a short one, where a Rabbit has a cardboard box and imagines all the different pretend things the box can be. The box and Rabbit are in black and the imaginary things are in red. This is another one where the reader needs to make inferences, and I felt like I had to explain it. She didn’t really ask for it to be read too many times.

The book was inspired by the author’s own childhood play and use of cardboard boxes, with one specific memory of sitting in a box with her sister being the catalyst. She also chose a bunny because it would be easy to keep the character gender neutral.

bear_snores_on84. Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson

This book was cute and easy to read because it is written in rhyming stanzas. A bear is sleeping in a cave and all the neighboring animals come and have a party in his cave while he sleeps. Peanut didn’t really seem to enjoy this one although it seemed to be one she should like. We have a different book about the same bear that she enjoyed.

This author is pretty prolific and we have read many of her books before, so I was surprised to read that Bear Snores On was her very first! Maybe that’s the problem, it suffers from New Writer Syndrome.

VisitorForBear83. A Visitor For Bear by Bonny Becker

This one was definitely a favorite. A bear (a different bear) is making his breakfast and a mouse keeps somehow sneaking in. The bear insists on no visitors but eventually the mouse wears him down. He realizes that he does like visitors after all. It was pretty cute and Peanut requested it several times.

I was delighted to discover this book is the first in a series. This was the author’s first book (a lot of first books on this list so far!), and came up because the mouse just “popped into” her head, much like the mouse does in the story.

fortunately82. Fortunately by Remy Charlip

Not sure what I was expecting from this book, but this wasn’t it. It’s a pretty short story, with alternating phrases. Fortunately, such and such happened, but unfortunately, this happened. Then fortunately… And repeat until the end. It got a little annoying to read. But Peanut asked for it a couple of times and seemed to enjoy it, although her favorite page was the tunnel with tigers stuck in it, mostly because she liked tracing the shape of the tunnel with her fingers.

This book was acquired and republished by Simon and Schuster in 1969 replacing the “fortunately” with “what good luck,” and “unfortunately” with “what bad luck.” It reverted back not long after, but acquiring the modified book can be a rare find and worth some cash.

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Books 80-76 are on their way, including the first purchase I’ve had to make to complete this project!

Review: You’ve Been Warned

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When I set out to find a badly reviewed book for this challenge, I was anticipating a doozy. I have to admit, it could have been worse. Probably an unpopular opinion, but this isn’t any worse than Twilight. In fact, in this book’s defense, I actually finished it in about 3 days. So, it at least intrigued me enough to keep going at a fairly rapid pace.

But make no mistake, this is not a good book. Apparently Mr. Patterson churned out 6 other books the same year this one came out (2007), so his mind wasn’t exactly on crafting a work of art. And it’s not clear who actually wrote it, or how the work was otherwise divided by two authors.

The basic plot is that Kristin Burns is a photographer who has apparently made some bad choices and had a lot of trauma in her life. She takes some photos of a police scene outside of a hotel and notices that her photos are developing weirdly. Specifically, certain portions have a translucent quality. After awhile, strange people start interacting with her, including people she knows are dead. They keep trying to warn her to stay away from the married man she is sleeping with. But it turns out she’s been dead too this whole time … I think. Maybe. She might be dead. Or maybe not. It’s hard to tell.

There are a lot of problems with this book. Let’s start with superficial nitpicks. The author is constantly name-dropping brands in a way that make it sound like product placement. The phrasing is rough. Sometimes I needed to re-read sentences a few times to understand the meaning. Kristin’s decent into madness seems bizarre and hard to follow. If she was dead the whole time, the book didn’t do a good job of explaining that. Kristin’s interior monologue is ridiculous. When the other woman is introduced, she is given a mafia nickname – Penley “the Pencil”. All the chapters (which are all about 3-4 pages) end on a cliffhanger.

But my biggest problem is how the book seems to blame Kristin for being a scared teenager, giving birth in a hotel, and losing her baby. The book could have gone into some interesting territory. She was molested as a child by her pediatrician. Her father committed suicide after her mother told him he was worthless. Then she gets pregnant and gives birth without assistance in a hotel, after which the baby dies? (I kinda want to know what happened to the boyfriend there, it’s never clear if they break up or he just disappears.) By this point, Kristin is probably all kinds of messed up. Maybe she thinks she is a garbage person and only deserves a married man. But the book never addresses those interesting threads it could have taken. The character of Kristin instead seems like a master of completely distancing herself from her past, and acting like since Michael and Penley don’t have a perfect marriage, then the affair is completely justified. She even admonishes herself for “cheating” by going on a blind date. How’s that for cognitive dissonance? You are already cheating lady, by sleeping with a married man.

This book would have been way better if it was completely dismantled and rewritten. I felt like I was reading it that I couldn’t really get at the character of Kristin, and my initial thought is that two men just don’t know how to write the experience of a woman convincingly. Maybe that’s not totally fair, but it does seem to not really encapsulate the female experience. Poor writing is poor writing, however, so maybe it would have been less noticeable in a better crafted book.

1 star

This book fulfills the book with bad reviews requirement for the challenge.