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Archive for July, 2008

After finishing this book, I am amazed that I was never required to read it for school. I found this book to be poignant and beautifully, yet simply written. The similarities between the main character in this book, Francie Nolan, and the author of the last book I reviewed, Jeannette Walls, of The Glass Castle, reiterate to me the lives these women experienced are more common than one might think.

We watch Francie as she travels the terrain of her childhood and adolescence in her beloved Brooklyn, which she describes as dreamlike and different from any other place in the world. The simple prose used by Betty Smith in this book evoked such an emotional response from me as I read about Francie and her family and their life of poverty and hardship and love and joy. The gradual awakening of Francie to her true lot in life and her continued optimism in the face of that lot, is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit. I found the descriptions in this book of a girl who gradually learns the truth about life and the people in her life to be honest and true, heartbreaking, beautiful and re-affirming, all at the same time. Yet again, here is a book in which the main character could easily have given in and been crushed under the weight of what she had been dealt by society and birth, but didn’t. Francie should be a shining light in the darkness for all of us who experience hardship.

Francie is told by her English teacher to write about beauty. When asked by Francie, what is beauty, the teacher offers her a quote from Keats, “Beauty is truth, truth is beauty.” This book is filled with both. I highly recommend A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, with its simple and beautiful and true message about the power of family, love and hope.

I give this book 5 out of 5 bookmarks.

Reviewed by: Anna

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This is a creative retelling of the classic story, the Beauty and the Beast. But in this story, the beast, is the Princess. I love books of this nature, retelling classic fairy tales, but with an interesting twist that completely sets it apart from the original version. I personally think that the retellings are better in some way or another, but that might just be my opinion. I’m not sure exactly what it is, whether the story is just better, or if it’s because I’ve heard the originals so much, that these interesting twists are refreshing. Prince George of Kendel has had a secret to keep his whole life, one that he dare not speak of, for the harshest punishment would be death. Princess Beatrice, Prince George’s betrothed, has a secret she cannot tell either, and these two characters who claim to be so different, do not realize that their alikeness is slowly drawing them together.  As soon as you open this book, I guarantee, you will not be able to put it down until you have finished.  You instantly become attached to the characters, you have to know what will happen when Prince George visits the kingdom of Sarrey?  Why is Princess Beatrice so cold?  Why does her hound never leave her?  What could George possibly be missing?  When they are happy, you are happy.  When they weep, you weep.  It is as simple as that.  This was such a powerful and deep story of love, mystery, and great source of magic so powerful, no one person can even attempt to understand it.  So, if you are in need of a more adventurous, fantastical, romantic read, pick up The Princess and the Hound.  I promise you’ll never want to put it down.

I give this book 5 out 5 bookmarks!

Reviewed by: Austen A.

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The Glass Castle

After reading The Glass Castle, by Jeannette Walls, I am grateful

This memoir is an extraordinary story of growing up in abject poverty. Brilliant and talented enough to get jobs, the eccentric parents of Jeannette Walls refused to be tied down by normal societal conventions, such as regular work. Life-long self learners, the Walls parents passed this love of learning onto their four children. They passed on many other lessons as well. How to feed oneself from a very early age, how to deal with hunger when there was no food how to be resourceful, resilient and fearless, are a few of the “gifts” the Walls children learned from their life-loving, but often selfish parents.

I must admit that these children, growing up as they did, with loving but often unattentive and neglectful parents, do appear to be supremely capable of dealing with whatever life has in store for them. They have already dealt with almost everything one can imagine. I look over at my own children, traditionally raised, but molly-coddled, by comparison to the Walls children, and I wonder if, by preserving their childhoods for as long as possible, I haven’t made some inevitable life lessons a little harder to learn. Does that proverbial slap in the face of life’s realities settling in on us hurt more if we receive it when we are young, or if we put it off?

The Glass Castle is so reminiscent of the American classic A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, that I found some of the similarities remarkable. But, perhaps, the lesson meant to be learned here is not that these stories (both memoirs, in truth) are so unique and rare, but that they aren’t unique and rare. They serve to shed light on truths that have been common to many American for generations. What is, perhaps, rare is taking such a close and intimate look at these truths. in addition, for all of the hard truths that these stories share, and which are so honestly and simply told, what I as a reader was left with was a sense of hope. There is always hope. That is the real truth. That is the true gift.

So, read The Glass Castle and feel grateful. This is a story which shows us how to be grateful for every blessing life bestows, whether it came easily or painfully. A gift is a gift, and there is always hope.

I give this extraordinary story 5 out of 5 bookmarks.

Reviewed by: Anna

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I personally thought that this book is a great read for any young girl (or boy) who likes to read about troubles and annoyances at home, embarrassing families, and tricky romances. When I first started, it nearly put me to sleep with extremely long and overly complicated descriptions, but if you find a way to read past that, things quickly pick up. Though many may think of Jane Austen and think it rather boring with out even seeing the book, or even attempt to read it, you may be surprised by how attached you become to the characters and how the author instantly appeals to all of readers no matter who they are. The language, may be hard to understand at first, but if you just keep moving forward, you will begin to understand it a little better. Every teenage girl can relate with Elizabeth and Jane Bennet, because they deal with many of the problems that girls today deal with. They have parents that can be totally embarrassing at times, they have competition with siblings for attention, they deal with extraordinary feelings of love and hate and things that they cannot even begin to comprehend. Their parents do not always approve of who they like and they don’t always approve of who their parents have picked out for them. I think that this book was a definite page turner! Even if you don’t like this book the first time round, you should definitely give it a second go, because, in my opinion, this is a book that all women should read at least once in their lifetime! My favorite part of the whole story would have to be when Elizabeth stays with her friend, Charlotte Collins, and she visits Lady Catherine de Bourgh. I really think that it shows just how witty and real and courageous Elizabeth is by calling Lady Catherine on her outrageously rude behavior! Kudos to her! So, if you have nothing else in mind for your summer reading, try picking up Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, I guarantee you will be absolutely captivated!

I give this book  5 out of 5 bookmarks!

Reviewed by: Austen A.

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