Year of the Bookwormz: 2011

52 weeks. 2 friends. 1 challenge.

Book #46: LibraryLove November 12, 2010

ROOM by Emma Donoghue

Book description~ To five-year-old Jack, Room is the entire world. It is where he was born and grew up; it’s where he lives with his Ma as they learn and read and eat and sleep and play. At night, his Ma shuts him safely in the wardrobe, where he is meant to be asleep when Old Nick visits.

Room is home to Jack, but to Ma, it is the prison where Old Nick has held her captive for seven years. Through determination, ingenuity, and fierce motherly love, Ma has created a life for Jack. But she knows it’s not enough…not for her or for him. She devises a bold escape plan, one that relies on her young son’s bravery and a lot of luck. What she does not realize is just how unprepared she is for the plan to actually work.

Told entirely in the language of the energetic, pragmatic five-year-old Jack, ROOM is a celebration of resilience and the limitless bond between parent and child, a brilliantly executed novel about what it means to journey from one world to another.

First, I want to say a special thank you to both Little Brown & Hachette Book Companies for sending me a complimentary copy of Emma Donoghue’s ROOM to read and review on the blog. Shortlisted for the 2010 Man Booker Prize, I had a gut feeling that this book be such an amazing read, I selected it for December book club discussion sight unseen. I couldn’t be happier and can’t wait to discuss this book at length. This year is all about reading outside my comfort zone and for someone who isn’t particularly fond of small spaces, this book fit the bill.

For Jack’s 21-year-old ‘Ma’, ROOM is a story about survival; for Jack, ROOM is his whole world and he is content with the 11×11 space he’s be confined to, up until his 5th birthday, when his life is turned upside down. Kidnapped when she was 19 years old, Ma’s incredible story of a mother’s love is so strong, she puts everything aside to create a safe world for her son, her only reason for living, with what little she has. Ma loves her son and holds strong to hope.

Without spoiling the awesome plot twists, ROOM will shock you, but you will keep on reading because the idea alone, is gripping and enthralling. I don’t know about you, but I cannot even wrap my MIND around the idea of being held captive for 7 years, from 19-26, then to mother a child from my captor, and be forced to raise him in captivity?? And the implications if we ever got out? Emotionally? Developmentally? Psychologically? What would life be like? How would I explain the grass, the sky, the rain, a barking dog to my son? For Ma, love for her son propelled her to do the impossible; plot escape…

“Jack, he’d never give us a phone or a window. We’re like people in a book, and he won’t let anybody else read it.”

ROOM is officially on my short list of life-changing novels. No matter who you are, I can guarantee you will feel changed by this book. I literally could not put this book down. I was so consumed by it, which conveniently created an awesome diversion from my reality of the last 3 weeks. Sidebar: My mom is still in the hospital, although finally on the upswing. Being by her bedside brought such comfort so when she slept, I would read. My husband and Mom love to hear the synopsis of the books I read, so of course, they were both so intrigued because this is loosely adapted from a true story, they kept joking with me to hurry up and finish because they too, wanted to know Jack and Ma’s fate.

“I drove myself crazy looking at my watch and counting the seconds. Things spooked me, they seemed to get bigger or smaller while I was watching them, but if I looked away they started sliding. When he finally brought the TV, I left it on twenty-four/seven, stupid stuff, commercials for food I remembered, my mouth hurt watching it all. Sometimes I heard voices from the TV telling me things. “

Even halfway through this book, before I’d gotten to the twist, I was so engaged and haunted. I’ve been texting back and forth with some of the book club babes who have already stepped into ROOM; this is definitely a book you’ll want to discuss with friends immediately after!

“I keep messing up. I know you need me to be your Ma but I’m having to remember how to be me as well at the same time and it’s…”

I love the choices Donoghue made, and she is truly an artist of the written word. I felt like I was with Jack the entire time. Her ability to believably create a world where as the reader, we are seeing the world through Jack’s 5-year-old naive eyes, was done is such a genuine way. The first 20 pages or so, I was a bit thrown off by the ‘child-speak’ tone, I had to get my bearings. ROOM reminded me of Flowers for Algernon a bit. But once I sunk my teeth into the story, I didn’t notice the choppy language because it added so much depth to the story.

“I mean of course when I woke up in that shed, I thought nobody’d every had it as bad as me. But the thing is, slavery’s not a new invention. And solitary confinement- did you know, in America we’ve got more than twenty-five thousand prisoners in isolation cells? Some of them for more than twenty years. As for kids, there are places where babies lie in orphanages five to a cot with pacifiers taped into their mouths, kids getting raped by Daddy every night. Kids in prisons, whatever, making carpets till they go blind. “

Rich in intensity and naivete, the book is paced perfectly. Although I definitely finished ROOM wanting to know more and wanting to keep reading, Donoghue does such a perfect job of tying up the novel giving it a truly satisfying ending.  I want to write so much more but a) I simply WILL not give anything away because I really want you to read ROOM!, and b) I’m so beyond exhausted and now must go pack for a week-long business trip.

Aye carumba!

5/5 stars

46 down, 6 to go!

In progress- Anything But Typical

xo♥xo,

LibraryLove

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Book #43: LibraryLove October 24, 2010

Strangers At The Feast by Jennifer Vanderbes

Book description~  On Thanksgiving Day 2007, as the country teeters on the brink of a recession, three generations of the Olson family gather. Eleanor and Gavin worry about their daughter, a single academic, and her newly adopted Indian child, and about their son, who has been caught in the imploding real-estate bubble. While the Olsons navigate the tensions and secrets that mark their relationships, seventeen-year-old Kijo Jackson and his best friend Spider set out from the nearby housing projects on a mysterious job. A series of tragic events bring these two worlds ever closer, exposing the dangerously thin line between suburban privilege and urban poverty, and culminating in a crime that will change everyone’s life.

I must first thank Alexis Gargagliano and Wendy Sheanin at Simon & Schuster for sending me a copy of Strangers at the Feast to read and review. From the moment I read the inside book jacket, I couldn’t wait to read this novel, as the autumn weather rolls in and the season of giving thanks draws near.

Race, class, and family are three of the big ideas at the heart of Strangers as the Olson family members observe and learn things about each other around the Thanksgiving Day table they would never have expected….

Through the use of multiple narrators, Strangers is told in what is becoming the most popular writing-style.  The story unfolds on Thanksgiving Day in 2007, through each of the Olson family member’s eyes, both in past and present. We are led inside the hearts and minds of both Eleanor and Gavin’s characters, as the Matriarch and Patriarch of the family, but also inside their children’s and spouses hearts and minds. Instead of the typical construction of a novel,  where the rising action develops in a ‘steady-little-tug-boat’ type way, in Strangers, as the reader, we are strung along until the very last possible moment and then foiled completely and utterly.   I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough and could never have predicted the way the story would unfold.  Normally, I would criticize this; instead, Vanderbes does the artful job of burying little ‘Easter Eggs’ for the reader to discover, piquing curiosity enough to keep turning the page along the way.

“At worst, he thought Ginny would overcook the turkey. He’d been prepared, out of sibling loyalty, to drench slices of Ginny’s holiday char in his mother’s gravy and give a heartfelt yum.  But he’d counted on stuffing, vegetables, dessert. Was this her plan? Deprive them of football and food and teach them some kind of history lesson? See! This is what Thanksgiving was like for indentured servants in seventeenth- century Virginia!”

If one hadn’t read the book jacket to know there was a catastrophic twist coming, you’d simply read this book thinking this was a nice multigenerational story, written with excellent characterization, about enjoying Thanksgiving and learning about each other’s struggles, many of which are buried quietly and deep under the surface…until you read the bombshell on page 149 ending the chapter with this:

“Denise opened the door, through it would be hard later for Ginny to remember if Denise used her keys. Everyone was talking and carrying things. It would be difficult to say with certainty if the door had been locked.”

Chills ran up and down my spine. I wondered what on earth would happen next. Yet it took another 100+ pages to finally work us up to the peak of the rising action, which was indeed worth the wait!

“As the detective expected, the case got the entire city talking. Diana Velasquez was the reporter who finally realized that five white adults plus two dead, unarmed black kids equaled one major story. Having worked at the paper for a decade, she knew to double-check the police blotter every night in the hopes that the cub reporters missed something. She knew that a shooting in the North End would sell papers. When word got out about the stone knife in Kijo Jackson’s pockets, a Siwanoy Indain relic, Diana dubbed the incident the Thanksgiving Day Massacre. “

Tragedy strikes the Olson Family at a most unlikely time- their Thanksgiving meal, as a result of a previous business decision that rocks the family, neighborhood, and city for years to come.

Intrigued? Pick up Strangers at the Feast; you won’t want to put it down.

This Thanksgiving, what will you be thankful for?

4/5 stars

43 down, 9 left!!!!!!!! In the homestretch. Zzzz

In progress- The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake (audiobook) and Burnt Toast

xo♥xo,

LibraryLove


 

Book #15: LibraryLove March 7, 2010

Raven Stole The Moon by Garth Stein

Book description: In this haunting debut, Garth Stein brilliantly invokes his Native American heritage and its folklore to create an electrifying supernatural thriller. When a grieving mother returns to the remote Alaskan town where her young son drowned, she discovers that the truth about her son’s death is shrouded in legend—and buried in a terrifying wrinkle between life and death.

Coloring powerful legend with universal emotions, Garth Stein masterfully evokes our most primal dreams and fears. Remarkably vivid and relentlessly suspenseful, Raven Stole the Moon marks the arrival of a stunningly imaginative new talent.

Has anything ever been stolen right out from under you? Can you describe the feeling that comes over you when you mourn the loss of a friend or loved one? It’s pretty intense and hard to articulate with the proper nuance, yes? Does it feel like your whole world has gone dark? Almost as if the moon is no longer present in the night sky to guide you on your way? Have you ever gotten out of bed in the middle of the night and struggle finding your way without a nightlight, feeling lost just on the way to the bathroom? That’s what Jenna, Raven’s main character must have felt when her young son Bobby, drowned in an unfortunate  accident. The surrounding events and its toll on Jenna and her husband Robert, are the basis of this novel.

One of my FAVORITE things about reading is to uncover through my inference, or the author’s intent, the meaning behind the book title. For me, Raven was not just about the Native American fable Stein spells out in the book. But rather the idea that sometimes a life loss sucks the light out from under us and a dark cloud moves in. Anyone with a heart can relate to this.

Don’t want to dwell, but for most of us who have one time or another felt that immeasurable loss, I recommend you read Raven. And if you’re going to read this book, I recommend you take a sick day, take a vacation, do whatever you can to hole yourself up for uninterrupted quality reading time! You will NOT want to put this book down. If you do, it’ll make you cranky because you want to keep reading- trust me, I know from experience 😉

Due to a jam-packed birthday celebration schedule (I know, woe is me, where’s the violin? saucer of milk?), this week didn’t afford me the opportunity for much uninterrupted reading time. However, I sacrificed sleep to read, it was that good! I say the above, because although Raven was SUCH a departure from Stein’s second novel, Art of Racing in the Rain, which is on my short list of best books I’ve ever read, their differences make them each all the more powerful in my eyes.  They’re both amazing books for different reasons. I don’t want to give too much away about either book, but I recommend you read Art of Racing first, as I did.  I love to hear about how/when books find you and their impact on your life. After reading Art of Racing, I felt so fulfilled, satisfied with the ending, and with a goofy grin on my face. I told all my friends. Many of them went to their local libraries and both read it AND loved it immediately. It  forever changed, for the better, the relationship I have with my pets.  Because I loved Art of Racing so much, I decided to check out Stein’s other novels on Paperbackswap last fall. Sure enough, one of the (now out of print) copies was available! I had a stockpile of credits, so there it sat on my bookshelf. I grew busy with library books and book club reads that I forgot all about it. Last Sunday, Planetbooks mentioned she’d been approached by Stein’s new publisher asking if she’d kindly read and review it, as she did for Art of Racing, to promote the re-release and drum up some more interest and internet/blog traffic. When Planetbooks mentioned it, I nearly leapt out of my seat and suggested we read it together. We could compare notes and send texts back and forth sharing our thoughts. I’ve had the book and been waiting to read it, this was the perfect excuse. She had a short window of time and needed to read and review it within a week, to coincide with Raven’s re-release. Knowing myself, I knew that this would be no problem for me, and that I was actually just finishing another book that same evening and could start the following day!

I’m really looking forward to getting to meet Garth Stein at one of his book events this year. Chatting with one of my favorite authors will be a dream come true for me. Art of Racing will without question remain one of my top five books of all time, but recommend you give Raven a try- the action never quits!

5/5 stars

15 down,  37 to go!

In progress- Three Cups of Tea (Audiobook), Waiting for Daisy

Xoxo,

LibraryLove