Monday, March 25, 2013

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore

This children's book has multiple levels of wonderful and is certainly perfect for anyone who loves books and their powerful influence. If you have a bookish child make room on their shelf for this lovely addition.

The picture book is actually based on the Academy Award winning short film and both share the same story with elements of other films and real life scattered through. In the French Quarter of New Orleans, Mr. Morris Lessmore is contently enjoying his books when a hurricane moves in (much like Hurricane Katrina) and overturns the world with a powerful tornado. Somewhat like The Wizard of Oz, the world is lost of color and becomes black and white. Mr. Morris wanders lost and confused until he spots a woman being carried away by flying books. She is the first splash of color to enter the landscape since the storm. 

Morris meets a book (who came down from the flying woman) and urges Morris to follow him -- which Morris happily does. He discovers a library filled with moving books and color fully returns to his life. Morris sets out to restore the area by handing books to the people (and color returns to them as well). Time passes and Morris ages. He spends his time with his books in this grand library and even writes his own. 

Old and frail, he finishes his book and dedicates it to the library he has called home before a strong breeze blows him away. 

Lovely, isn't it? I enjoyed the short film but there is something special about holding a book and taking as long as you wish to look over the pictures. I kind of want to buy this book just for myself, even though I have no children. 

For a closer look, check out the short film posted below:


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

52 Lists - Week 11

I have heard whispers of the 52 Lists project from various bloggers and my curiosity got the best of me. Off I went to discover the 52 Lists by Moorea Seal which is a really fun and fantastic concept. A list for each week of the year and for this list maker, I fell in love with the idea instantly. 

I hope you enjoy and if you're interested, visit Moorea Seal's 52 Lists page so you can partake in this as well!



Monday, March 18, 2013

Her

I am an only child and with that, I've always been envious of people who have siblings, let alone twins. The idea of having a sibling is always something magical in my mind. I glorify it and imagine the bond they must share and am, generally, envious of what my cousins have all experienced with their siblings. Even as a child I was determined that if I became a mom I would have two children so that my child wouldn't have to suffer the fate of being an only child. Multiples are a whole other area of siblingdom that I've always been interested in and something I am sure I will never quite understand. With that, I feel single-born people may not grasp the emotional heartbreak a twin (or triplet, and so on) may feel if they lose their other half but I am going to try and review this to the best of my ability as someone without a sibling.

Her, a memoir, is emotionally exhausting. This can be a good thing; emotional books sometimes are needed to suck the reader out of the land of fiction and force them to look at reality and that sometimes very horrible things still happen. They aren't fiction, they are reality.

Cara and Christa were unexpected by their father, planned by their mother, and welcomed into a home that wasn't entirely stable enough for two little girls. Their early years consisted of being shared by their father and mother and then moving away with their mother and new stepfather who appears a little too controlling for my own comfort. They room together in college and even afterwards live close enough to one another that they can see each other often enough that they are never truly separate from one another's lives.

Christa, our author, goes back and forth between discussing her twin's downfall to memories of their past and the structure that made them who they are/were as adults. She includes poetry, diaries, letters, and anything else from their past and doesn't hold anything back. It seems that Christa wants you to understand her sister completely. To truly know her. And with that, maybe you will understand the utter destruction her twin's death caused.

After Cara is brutally raped her life begins to spiral down. A failed marriage and then a failure to keep clean leaves Cara an alcoholic and addict. Christa tries to help her sister in every conceivable way but things do not get better. The weight of Cara's addiction doesn't only affect Cara directly but Christa as well. When Christa is told that Cara was found dead from an accidental overdose, her world crumbles. Christa slowly begins to mirror her sister's end of life struggle although she time and again makes statements that she does not want to be like her sister. In her misery and mourning, Christa's life crumbles as well. Her husband leaves her and control over her life escapes her. She is a broken shell; a twinless twin. 

But slowly, Christa begins to take control of her life and live again. She learns to exist without her twin, although I am sure the hole Cara left will never be filled. 

This entire book was hard for me to get through. I, myself, am still mourning a death in my family and have been rather sensitive to the subject of death of loved ones. I understand the pain, although this level is far and beyond what I've experienced. The book doesn't have much of a positive note until the very end. Through out most of it you are being beaten by the Christa's heartbreak. For this, I approve of the book. The loss of someone, especially to something that could have been prevented, is painful. Had Christa sugar coated this experience it would have been fake and a horrible read. I struggled with the book not because it was a poor read but because it was a tough subject. This isn't a book for the faint of heart but it is something worth reading. 

For Christa, I am sorry for her loss, but thankful she has regained a reason to live and seems happy. I'm grateful that she wrote this and allowed me to take a look into a very personal time in her life. It's a book worth reading but remember that it is of a very heavy subject matter.

Note: I received this courtesy of Henry Holt & Co. I received no monetary gain from reviewing this book.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Booking Through Thursday - March 14th


Brought to you by the site Booking Through Thursday, each Thursday readers are asked a question (mainly book related) and answers are shared.

This weeks questions are: 
Does your current mood affect your reading? Affect your choices? I know there are plenty of books I enjoy, but only if I'm in a particular kind of mood–or books that can lift me out of a bad mood without fail. Surely I’m not alone?
My Answer:
A big reason I started this blog was because I wanted to record how books made me feel when I read them. Whatever goes on in my life at the time I read a book has affects my reading comprehension and almost always, if I return to a book I read in the past, I'll remember what was going on in my personal life first before I remember the subject manner of the book. Sometimes, when I'm looking to read a new book, I'd rather read something of a certain subject strictly because I'm not "feeling" the other subject manner possibilities and that is often mentioned in my reviews.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

52 Lists - Week 10

I have heard whispers of the 52 Lists project from various bloggers and my curiosity got the best of me. Off I went to discover the 52 Lists by Moorea Seal which is a really fun and fantastic concept. A list for each week of the year and for this list maker, I fell in love with the idea instantly. 

I hope you enjoy and if you're interested, visit Moorea Seal's 52 Lists page so you can partake in this as well!


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Currently - March 12th

Often times book bloggers either over share (and stray from reviewing books) or share too little about their lives. I want to share a little bit about myself so that you, the reader, will know who I, the writer, am. I have no intention of turning this into a personal blog but after seeing Currently posts from Sometimes Sweet I felt that it would be a nice break every once in awhile. 
Watching: Community, a show which I've enjoyed each season, but this season I feel a little off. Last season I couldn't wait for the next episode and I still very much love all of the characters but there is just something that doesn't click this time around and that makes me sad. Apparently a lot of other fans feel the same way. Boo.

Listening to: My 8tracks station. Is that sad? I generally make my own mixes and I enjoy writing the descriptions and the likes. I have an ipod shuffle and am too lazy to make the mixes on there so I just listen to my mixes on 8tracks at work. It's sort of wonderful. Of course, I listen to other 8track mixes (you can see what ones I like here)

Thinking about: The future and how to prepare for it. That sounds sort of dire, I know, but it's meant in the most positive of ways. I have so many places I want to go and explore and I know I'm fully capable of doing all of that... so long as I plan accordingly. I feel rather horrible that I've been extremely antisocial since returning from Florida in November (when I lost my grandfather) but part of that is due to the fact that I am still very much in mourning. Besides that, I just can't be social in the sense of going out and doing things. I need to save every penny I can so that I may do what I want to with my future. That, for the main part, consists of reigning in student loan debt, taking more classes to help my career, and travel. The travel is the exciting thing. I would rather be anti-social now, because I don't want to spend extra money, then be able to tour the UK next year for two weeks!



Loving: The spring-like weather we had this past weekend. I spent Saturday and Sunday with family and was able to take a walk with my eldest cousin and his two kids. It seemed everyone had the same thought as the walking paths were very busy!

Reading: King Arthur's Enchantresses, I wanted something with a substance of history and a brush of the literature classes I once attended in college. Thus far, this book has been exactly what I've been looking for and I'm really glad to be learning more of the history of the character Morgan le Fay.

Making Me Happy: Hearing birds chirping early in the morning, seeing robins hop around on the ground, and the sun setting later and later.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Dancing in the Dark

As a former dancer, any book that focuses on dance will generally catch my interest which is exactly how I was drawn to Dancing in the Dark. An added bonus was that the main character, Ditty, is an Orthodox Jew.

For the first 21 years of my life I lived in what is called the Borscht Belt in New York. It was a popular tourist destination for New York Jews, particularly Orthodox. I grew up around these people when they visited in the summer but never was able to get close enough to them to understand too much of their religious practices. Much of the talk which swirled in my area about their practices I didn't know if it was fact or fiction. Still, after all these years I have some interest in the subject and it drew me more towards Dancing in the Dark.

The book is, first off, written simply and to the point. There isn't fancy prose or philosophical language. You are presented with a story, more like told the story, and that's that. For this, I was left feeling a little bored as I didn't truly feel that I was part of the story. Here is Ditty, here is her life, here is what happened... but I hadn't much emotional attachment to her. Overall, she as a character (all the characters, really) were very flat. They didn't have much substance nor much character growth.

The author claims from the very beginning that she was not raised within the Ultra-Orthodox lifestyle of which she is writing about so I only wonder how much of this is based on actual fact or assumption. As someone who knows very little about Judaism in general, I was left wondering (particularly after intense moments of "Religion Is Band and Brainwashing") how accurate or believable this story is. Maybe I'm not the right person to be reviewing this, maybe this would be better off reviewed by someone who really understands this religion.

Still, the overall vibe of the story is that this particular sect of the religion is brain-washing, belittling of women, and very controlling. Like I said, Religion Is Bad. I feel the author wanted you to feel for Ditty and cheer her on in gaining independence and doing what she wants. Forget that she's abandoning her entire family and homeless, forget that she's somehow managing to take all of these dance classes without her family knowing, forget all of the stuff that makes sense. In a way, I feel that the author used this religion as a plot device for Ditty to live out her dreams. And by her, I mean the authors.

In many ways, this book reminded me of a story I wrote when I was in fourth grade. I very much wanted to learn to dance and be on Broadway so I wrote notebooks and notebooks of this story depicting how I just so happened to get lucky enough to run away to New York City and join a Broadway show. Everything just fell right into place! But as an adult, I feel that story was created by a child with a wild imagination and no true idea of how the world works and just how tough it can be to "make it." For Dancing in the Dark, I feel it's much the same. Yes, there is the drama of this Orthodox girl going against her beliefs and wishes to do what she wants with the likelihood of losing her family in the process, but I feel that the goal of Achieving the Dream overshadows the reality of what this fictional character would really be going through if this was real life.

I enjoy dance, always have, and books about dance always attract me. But this novel fell a bit short of my expectations, which is a shame but truth, and I was left a little disappointed. What I want to know is what an Orthodox Jew feels about this tale; that is a review I want to get my hands on.
Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley, courtesy of Flux. I was to review this book a few months ago but due to family emergencies, I was unable to read the book until recently.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Booking Through Thursday - March 7th


Brought to you by the site Booking Through Thursday, each Thursday readers are asked a question (mainly book related) and answers are shared.

This weeks questions are: 
Clocks change this weekend here in the US, which means one less hour to read … does anybody else begrudge that hour like I do? Wish the Powers That Be would just pick a time-frame and stick to it instead of inflicting clock-driven jet lag on an innocent public twice a year? 
(Yeah, so not a question so much about reading … except, of course, you do need to use your electric light to be able to read, so the hour it gets dark IS relevant!)

My Answer:
I may be one of the few, but I love Daylight Saving Time. I'm not one for winter, not one to enjoy the long dark hours during that time, and while the earth does its own thing and gradually shifts so that the sun is up longer I really rejoice when that additional hour of sunlight is added on. I hate leaving for work in the dark and returning home in the dark after spending an entire day in an office without a window. I don't see the sun during the winter and it drives me nuts. But come spring (and daylight saving) I'm suddenly seeing the sun before I get on my bus and it's still up and shining when I get off at the end of the day. By Sunday, it will be up for another hour -- long enough for me to jog to the gym, work out, and come home without having to worry about meandering through a poorly lit country area so that I can work out. I feel that I get more done during this time of the year (spring, summer, fall) and I'm always sad to have longer nights than days.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

52 Lists - Week 9

I have heard whispers of the 52 Lists project from various bloggers and my curiosity got the best of me. Off I went to discover the 52 Lists by Moorea Seal which is a really fun and fantastic concept. A list for each week of the year and for this list maker, I fell in love with the idea instantly. 

I hope you enjoy and if you're interested, visit Moorea Seal's 52 Lists page so you can partake in this as well!


Besides this, I am at home for the day with a snow day on my hands and not quite sure what to do with it. We're being blasted by quite an impressive snowstorm and I'm enjoying my time off. It's been awhile since I've seen significant snow and I have to say I am enjoying watching it fall. 

Just for fun, I took a quick video from the back porch of my flat. It's calming to see the falling snow! Even if I generally dislike winter, I can appreciate a early spring snowstorm as I know it won't linger for long. 


video


Monday, March 4, 2013

Labyrinth

I made a mistake when approaching this book: I watched the film first.

No, no, this isn't that Labyrinth with David Bowie, a host of muppets and a very young Jennifer Connelly. This is completely different and the film I'm referencing is the two part mini-series which aired around Christmas. Honestly, it caught my eye because the lovely Katie McGrath was in it and I'm glad the mini-series was brought to my attention because I really enjoyed it. 

When I discovered that it was based off a book I was pretty excited -- if I loved the show so much I would definitely love the book more. I mean, it has history and mystery and betrayal, it was awesome to watch and surely would be even better to read. 

I had the opportunity to buy myself some books as a belated Christmas gift to myself and Labyrinth ended up being one of the selected few. It was hefty in its paperback form -- 500 pages and not a regular paperback so it took up a lot of room in my purse -- and took me awhile to get through. 

Having seen the show before reading the book I ended up with certain expectations. I suspected I would see more of Oriane, the "evil" sister of one of the main characters Alais, and I suspected it to be a little more... short. Of course, this makes no sense because the film is quite long but it felt like I flew through the film while with the book I felt like it took me an awful long time to make it from one part to another.

I waited, with each dramatic scene in the book, for the next scenes I suspected would happen because of the film I had watched and for that I feel my review and opinion of the book is a little skewed. 

Many people have compared this book to the Da Vinci Code and I can't speak up for that, having never seen the movies or the books myself, but from what little I know of it I can see the resemblance. The novel follows a group of people who are sworn to protect the Holy Grail complete with symbolic rings and three important books which contain the secrets to the true Grail. 

Alais, our main girl, is entrusted with these secrets in her home of Carcassonne but she has more to worry about than just keeping the secret of the labyrinth. Her sister, Oriane, is the main force that is going after the secret but their town is also threatened by an attack from the crusades. 

Besides this, the reader flip flops from Alais' time to the present day when Alice -- a volunteer at an archaeological dig -- stumbles upon two skeletons and... a ring with the labyrinth imprinted on it. Alice is immediately sent on a roller coaster where, despite the passing of so many years from Alais' time to the present, the secret of the labyrinth is still sought after. Marie Cecile, a beautiful, determined woman, and numerous others are hunting for the secret and determined to do whatever it takes until they find the truth of the Labyrinth.

In this, the past and the present reflect one another in a true testament of history repeating itself. With Kate Mosse's writing I feel that she gave a lot of great description yet seemed to fail on giving more insight to the villains. There were so many bad guys running around the present day that it was hard to keep track of who was playing on who's team but at least the stubborn Marie Cecile appeared in enough chapters that I had a clear picture in my head of what type of person she was. For Oriane, the original villain, I feel her chapters were brief and not entirely focused. More times than not you were witnessing her flirtations and sex scenes but given little to work with for figuring out her motive for hating her sister so much besides jealousy. 

The book excelled in description and painting clear pictures of the scenery, scents, and sights but I was left thinking, at times, that the book was drowning by too much description. It made the book inch along and at times I felt like I had repeated the same scene already when, in fact, it just seemed to happen more than once in the span of the book. 

The end of the book I devoured in a matter of hours but the start of it, for me, was quite hard to get into despite my excitement and interest in the subject and storyline. For the mini-series: they really did follow the main points of the book. I feel they did a wonderful job with handling the important aspects of the story. 

For the book... well, there are many other books to this series but will I pick them up? Likely not. But there is another book by the author that interests me. So while this book didn't really do it for me, not enough for me to continue with the series, I'm certainly not shutting out any future reads by this particular author. She can write and I appreciate her attention to history, it's simply that Labyrinth was a little too long and started off a little too slowly for me.