Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers is a classic novel that I never had the chance to read as a child! I have, of course, loved the film with Julie Andrews since the age of 10, when I first saw it. The enchanting scenes and stern loving that Mary Poppins offered really spoke to me as a child. The novel, though different from the much beloved film, did not disappoint this reader.
Blown in by a strong wind, Mary Poppins is given a job as nanny to the four children who reside at Number Seventeen Cherry Hill Lane. The children are Jane, Michael, and twins: John & Barbara. The twins are still infants and while I understood the need to cut their characters from the movie, I found that they added a lot to the novel version. They were funny and had many deep thoughts and ideas about Mary Poppins.
Jane and Michael were just as rambunctious as their film-counterparts, though they minded Mary much better in the book. The birthday party at the zoo and the trip to buy gingerbread stars from Mrs. Corry & her two daughters were my favorite bits of their adventures… and BOTH were really lacking/missing from the film version.
All in all, I REALLY enjoyed this novel. So much so that I want to read this to my children before they ever catch a glimpse of the film. It was magical and fun and everything a children’s novel should be. It reminds me of the novel Peter Pan! Fun and a bit dark, like life. DEFINITELY recommend reading this classic if you haven’t picked it up yet!
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt is a non-fiction novel about the death of gay prostitute Danny Hansford. The novel describes the life of Danny Hansford and his lover Jim Williams in Savannah, Georgia. The novel does not read like a non-fiction at all! It reads more like a fictional retelling of non-fiction activities.
Honestly, I felt that this novel was all over the place. I couldn’t even nail down what was going on in the story. I found myself easily distracted during my read-through. Not a suggested read. Not well written and uninteresting. I expected more from such a widely talked about novel.
Emma Donoghue‘s Room is the incredibly heartbreaking fictional story of a young boy who is born and raised inside of a single room in a shed where his mother is held captive and raped on a nightly basis. Wow. No way to avoid the blatant truth of the story.
The story is told through the young boy’s eyes and his attachment to his mother’s own personal hell is hard to take. He feels safe in room, with their Sunday treat and sleeping in the closet so Uncle Nick (their captor) can’t see him. His mother really struck me as a strongly written character. She was written in a very realistic manner and I found myself understanding her mood swings and occasional bouts of depression.
The poor little boy is just coping in his room, with tv and his books and toys. His focus is on their daily allotment of food and his mother really focuses on giving her adequate nutrition and education in their limited surroundings. Eventually, his mother comes up with a grand plan to escape, but she will need the little boy’s help. He is not interested in leaving the safety of room, but he goes along with his mother’s desperate plan to free themselves from the shed in Uncle Nick’s backyard.
This story is hard. Hard to read. Hard to swallow. Hard to think about and imagine what women who have lived in similar circumstances to this fictional novel have gone through. As a novel, I found it dragged a bit in the middle… just a lot of monotony, but the overall message was fantastic! Definitely a great novel, but have some tissues at the ready!
I finally got with the program and decided to check out Veronica Roth‘s Divergent. I know this review will be lame and WAY behind the times for some of you, so bear with me. I didn’t know what to expect from Roth’s novels and I’ve got to say, having finished the entire series, I’m less impressed than I thought I would be. But I digress…
Divergent is the story of a dystopian city set in an future Chicago where emotions and original thought have been deemed dangerous and anyone who showcases divergent thinking or behavior is singled out and made to conform. There are five different factions each sixteen year old must choose between: Abnegation (focus on selflessness), Dauntless (focus on bravery), Erudite (focus on knowledge), Amity (focus on peace), and Candor (focus on truth). Anyone else see the similarities to the Harry Potter houses? The Dauntless would be Gryffindors, the Erudite would be Ravenclaws, the Amity would be Hufflepuffs, and Candor would be Slytherins (though Candor doesn’t fit as nicely in the Slytherin box).
Beatrice Prior was born into an Abnegation household, but on her choosing day, she chooses to join Dauntless, even though her aptitude test showed her to be divergent and fit into a multitude of factions. The Dauntless training is rigorous and death defying and Beatrice, who now goes as Tris, finds herself struggling to stay in the top ten initiates group.
I would have liked if Tris’ strength was more inward, but I feel like she needed a man (the Dauntless trainer who goes by Four) to keep her head above water. I felt like the romance was a bit forced and odd, BUT despite that, I liked the twist at the end. I felt like the twist gave the plot more structure.
Overall, I’d say 4 stars for originality maybe 3 for content. It was a new and interesting story, but I wasn’t all that attached to Tris. I like to feel emotionally attached to my characters.
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood is not a tale for the faint of heart. It’s a dystopian novel set in a futuristic United States which has been overthrown by a totalitarian Christian society. The handmaids are women who are basically used as fertility machines to furnish rich officers and their wives with children.
I decided to read this novel because of the reviews I had seen online naming it one of the best novels of our generation. My interest was piqued and without having heard anything else about the novel, I decided to borrow it from the library.
WOW. It was not what I was expecting at all. The story follows Offred [Of-Fred], a handmaid who is staying with Commander Fred and must produce an heir for the high ranking official and his wife. No romance, no speaking, her only allowed contact with Fred is a ceremony in which his wife holds her hands while Fred takes advantage of Offred’s body. It’s disturbing and frustrating and scary.
That being said, I could NOT STOP READING THIS BOOK. I was entrapped and trying to understand this new world with it’s strange rituals and attempts to reverse the population decrease. It’s scary to ponder what could cause such a cold and unfeeling world to be created. I enjoyed the novel, if only for it’s shocking quality. 3.5 stars!
A Thousand Splendid Suns is my second foray into Khaled Hosseini‘s writing. After finished all three of his novels, I have to say that A Thousand Splendid Suns is, by far, my favorite of his works.
The story follows the lives of Mariam and Laila, two Afghan women who end up in a polygamist relationship with a man named Rasheed. The novel is split into four parts: Miriam’s childhood and early marriage to Rasheed, Laila’s privileged childhood, the relationship that forms between the two women, and Laila’s life after her marriage to Rasheed.
It’s mostly the story of an unusual mother/daughter relationship and the place of Afghan women in their culture. It’s such an empowering and yet, disturbing, story. The women of Afghanistan are often portrayed as demure and subservient, but Khaled Hosseini paints an entirely new portrait of them as fighters with extreme inner strength.
I loved this novel. I loved the women most of all. They were real and their stories were powerful and meaningful. It makes me wonder how many Afghan women are suffering through lives of quiet desperation. Very powerful work, five stars from this blogger!
Cathy Marie Buchanan‘s The Painted Girls is inspired by the real-life Parisian model Marie Von Goethem. It is the story of three sisters whose father died years beforehand and whose mother is an alcoholic. The teenage girls are trying to keep up with rent and put some food in their bellies, that’s all. They go through more than their fair share of heartache and pain.
The only worthwhile job in their arrondissement in Paris is one of a ballerina at the Opera. The oldest sister Antoinette works at the Opera as a stand-in/extra after having effectively failed out of the Etoiles (dancers for the Opera Ballet). Marie, the middle daughter, finds herself speeding through the ranks of the ballet classes and ends up being cast in a stage production. Marie models for Degas on the side, solely for the money he pays his models. The youngest sister, Charlotte, is an overzealous young ballet dancer with no true understanding of the financial straits the family is going through.
When Antoinette becomes enamoured with a no-good street rat and ends up in jail herself, Marie finds herself as the sole provider for their family. She takes on a job at the local bakery AND another modelling job for a creeper who is exploiting her. Things are anything but easy in Marie’s life and she finds herself quitting the Opera ballet to pursue a happier (albeit poorer) life.
These girls! The story had it’s icky moments, that’s for sure, but overall, I found myself really looking forward to reading more and more. The characters are so flawed, but I still felt like I understood them and their issues. A great story!
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold was heartbreaking and innocence shattering. I’m glad I didn’t read this in high school before I was ever hurt or jaded, I think it would’ve been too shocking for me to handle at 15.
Ironically, the story is about 14-year-old Susie Salmon who was raped and murdered by a neighbor and is in heaven watching her family deal with the tragedy of her being gone. Susie’s story is about connections and relationships and how to cope with the things in life that do not make sense. It’s hard to hear a story about parents who have lost a child. I have trouble thinking about their pain and feeling it with them. Their pain is so real.
Although it was not a happy novel, I thought the story was incredibly well written. Alice Sebold knows how to reach your heart and squeeze it tight! I’m glad I read it, but you definitely have to be in the right mood to read this novel. I’d give it a 4.5 as far as writing goes!
The Elite is book two in Kiera Cass‘ Selection trilogy [I reviewed book one, The Selection here]. There are six girls left in the selection vying for Prince Maxon’s heart. America Singer is still in the running and totally unsure of her feelings for the prince. She goes between two extremes… really wanting Prince Maxon to be hers and only hers and wanting to run away from all the responsibility being with Maxon would bring [*gulp* being a PRINCESS?!].
To make matters worse, the castle is under constant rebel attacks and America can’t blame them. People in the kingdom are tired of the class system currently in place. Their vicious attacks tear apart the castle and leave the king, queen, prince, and all of the elite girls in constant danger.
This is like a reality tv show I can’t stop watching. I STILL have no clue what America wants or what she’ll do. Why am I still interested in what’s going to happen? EXCELLENT writing. I love the characters and am totally into the story, even if it is slightly disappointing to be so unsure of what I want for the characters. Great read… definitely suggest you pick up this series from your local library.