Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Yonahlossee Riding Camp For Girls

Author: Anton DiSclafani
Rating: 4/5 Stars
Reviewer: Lydia

The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls is a confused novel. Part coming-of-age story, mystery, and historical novel, this book manages to touch on such disparate topics as horseback riding, the Great Depression, and incest—yes, incest—within the slim volume between its covers. On paper it sounds like a train wreck, but somehow, DiSclafani manages to weave all of these threads together. It doesn’t always translate into a seamless story, but it was an interesting read nonetheless.

Thea Atwell is a young girl growing up in the 1930s sent away to an exclusive private camp for girls. While isolated from her family due to mysterious circumstances, Thea embarks upon a sexual awakening while exploring her true identity. This is a true coming-of-age story which explores the themes of friendship, romance, and family, and how love complicates each of these categories.

DiSclafani has created a truly sensual story with his first novel. My only criticism of the book is that it does not adequately portray the time period in which Thea’s story is set. I was halfway through the book before realizing that the story takes place during the 1930s, since the characters speak and behave in very modern ways. DiSclafani needed to take more time in fleshing out the story and its environment, time period, and setting. The Yonahlossee Riding Camp For Girls would be better suited to a more current time period in order to be wholly believable and worthy of 5 stars.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Sixty-Eight Rooms

The Sixty-Eight Rooms
Author: Marianne Malone
Rating: 5/5 Stars
Reviewer: Aleece

Summary: Ruthie thinks nothing exciting will ever happen to her until her sixth-grade class visits the Art Institute of Chicago, where she and her best friend Jack discover a magic key that shrinks them to the size of gerbils and allows them to explore the Thorne Rooms--the collection of sixty-eight miniature rooms from various time periods and places--and discover their secrets.

Review: The mixture of fantasy and history that are intertwined throughout this book is simply stunning.  The Thorne Rooms themselves are wonderful in their own right but to come alive in the book made them so much more magical.  The characters were very believable and their curiosity that they showed was a little more than the average person, but still made you wish you were the characters too.  The story was told beautifully, and because it was so enjoyable it was an extremely quick read.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Troll's Eye View:A Book of Villainous Tales

Collected by: Ellen Datlow (Editor) , Terri Windling (Editor)
Rated: 4/5 Stars
Reviewer: Todd

Summary: Everyone thinks they know the real story behind the villains in fairy tales--evil, no two ways about it. But the villains themselves beg to differ. In this anthology for younger readers, you'll hear from the Giant's wife (from Jack and the Beanstalk), Rumpelstiltskin, the oldest of the Twelve Dancing Princesses, and more.

Review: This anthology was an amusing read and is a reminder of the joys of a tale retold. This anthology is perfect for children who love the classic fairytales; because not only is every story delectable in its way, they also plants the seeds of important lessons. Lessons such as no matter how a story is a told it there is always is another view; that there is more to person, even a villain, than what is usually shown. And of course the lesson, one that gets forgotten with sad ease, that who a Villain and Hero are depends entirely on the point of view.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Everything I Need to Know I Learned From a Little Golden Book

Everything I Need to Know I Learned From a Little Golden Book
Author: Diane Muldrow
Rating: 5/5 Stars
Reviewer: Helen

Summary: The author has taken illustrations from the classic Little Golden Books and added some good advice for life.  For example:  “Let your children know you love them.”  This was the best advice given.

Review: We’ve all owned, read and loved our Little Golden Books and carried on the tradition with our children. This was a weekly treat when we went shopping—one Golden Book for each of them. The artwork is amazing taken from the original books, with vintage illustrations; a wonderful walk down memory lane.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

In the House Upon the Dirt Between the Lake and the Woods

Author: Matt Bell
Rating: 5/5 Stars
Reviewer: Lydia

There are no words to describe Matt Bell’s first book; mesmerizing, confusing, and surreal only begin to scratch the surface. Although the long title may sound pretentious, it fits with the level at which this book operates. This book cannot be just read; it must be read and re-read, savored and puzzled over.

The book contains no dialogue, and is set in a fictional place somewhere between reality and a fairy-tale. There are mythical monsters, a moon which falls out of the sky, and a woman who can sing objects into existence. It is a heartbreaking novel centered around one unnamed family—primarily the husband and wife—who long for a child but are unable to conceive one. The novel ruminates on marriage, and what happens to that union when it is based solely upon the desire for children.

While the book is complex and at times a dense read, the language is too beautiful and full of imagery too ignore. In the House Upon the Dirt Between the Lake and the Woods is a massive undertaking, and I think Bell achieved his goal of creating a dreamlike and fantastic world. I eagerly await his next novel.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Aaaarrgghh! Spider!

Aaaarrgghh! Spider!
Author: Lydia Monks
Rating: 5/5 Stars
Reviewer: Christi

Summary: A clever spider is lonely and longs to become the family pet.

Review: This story is a lot of fun! It’s such a great premise – the spider on the wall who wants to be the family pet. I’m scared of spiders so I understand when the family isn’t happy to see the spider “dancing” for them. Though spider tries a few more times to show the family what a great pet he is, they’re still just too scared and keep taking the spider outside. One day the family goes outside and sees all these beautiful sparkly webs in the backyard and decides they might like a spider for a pet. All seemed well until he brought over some of his spider friends to meet his new family….Aaaarrgghh Spider!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Burial Rites

Author: Hannah Kent
Rating: 4/5 Stars
Reviewer: Lydia

Burial Rites is a grim yet extremely powerful story which details the story of the last woman to publically beheaded in Iceland before capital punishment was abolished. Hannah Kent’s tireless research reveals the life and death of Agnes Magnúsdóttir, a fiercely independent yet emotionally wrecked woman accused of murdering two men. Burial Rites does not argue her guilt or innocence; rather, the story focuses on Agnes’s last days of forced labor on a countryside farm and her relationships with those around her.

Kent’s writing vividly captures 1830’s life in the brutal and unforgiving Icelandic landscape. As Agnes’s date of exaction looms closer, both the story’s characters and the reader/listener simultaneously become closer to Agnes. I listened to the audiobook version of this novel, and the narrator does an excellent job of capturing all the character’s emotions.

By the end of the story I felt sympathy forAgnes and those around her. I believe that her story was very well-drawn, although certain other characters remained weakly defined throughout the novel. That, combined with a somewhat slow narrative pace makes me award the book 4 out of 5 stars. Regardless of any shortcomings, the story of Agnes Magnúsdóttir is a powerful rumination on life, love, friendship, and death which will stay with you long after the last page.