Tuesday, May 31, 2011

My Thoughts On: Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion

Warm Bodies
by Isaac Marion

R is a young man with an existential crisis-he is a zombie. He shuffles through an America destroyed by war, social collapse, and the mindless hunger of his undead comrades, but he craves something more than blood and brains. He can speak just a few grunted syllables, but his inner life is deep, full of wonder and longing. He has no memories, no identity, and no pulse, but he has dreams.

After experiencing a teenage boy's memories while consuming his brain, R makes an unexpected choice that begins a tense, awkward, and strangely sweet relationship with the victim's human girlfriend. Julie is a blast of color in the dreary and gray landscape that surrounds R. His decision to protect her will transform not only R but also his fellow Dead, and perhaps their whole lifeless world.

Scary, funny, and surprisingly poignant, WARM BODIES is about being alive, being dead, and the blurry line in between. -(summary from book cover)

'R' is a zombie that cannot remember anything of his life before his death. He cannot even remember his name. He knows nothing of his former life as a human. He lives in an abandoned airport with other undead zombies. He spends his time shuffling around that airport and occasionally venturing out into the surrounding city to feed on the brains of the living humans. But R despises the feeding habits of the undead. Unlike the other zombies, he hates the killing and is remorseful about it. He even washes his hands and face of the blood of his victims after feeding.

One day, he eats the brain of a young teenage boy and is able to experience the boy's memories. He sees the dead boy's girlfriend, Julie, and feels a very deep need to protect her. R has no desire to eat her or kill her. R saves Julie from other zombies that try to feed on her and dangerously brings her back to the airport to stay with him. From this point, they start a really strange and awkward relationship that is actually kind of sweet. And it is also from this point that things get really interesting in the story...

This is probably my favorite zombie book ever. Initially in the story, it is the same as all of the other zombie stories...something has happened and the world is in a post-apocolyptic state. People are hiding out in buildings to protect themselves and zombies are slowly taking over the world. But pretty soon, we realize that something is different about R. When he finds Julie, however, he begins to become even more different.

Julie is a teenage girl who has grown up in a barricaded stadium that is ruled by her father. There are soldiers. There is a curfew. Everyone is taught survival classes. There is very little food. Basically, Julie is just tired of living life the way she does and dreams of a better life. When she meets R, the two of them together begin a relationship that makes the reader really want them to succeed, even though one of them isn't even alive!

I love, love, love the way the author chose to characterize R. I love everything about him. I don't think I would have changed a single detail about that zombie! I fell hard for him. I adored the way he had such a primal instinct to protect Julie, even though he shouldn't have had any feelings or emotions whatsoever. His character underwent some pretty profound changes, too, throughout the story. I can't really talk about them without giving the ending away.

When I read books, I am usually able to see them unfolding in my head like a movie. The really good books stay in my memory like movies I've seen before. I almost think I could take this book and make a movie out of it myself...it was that good. I would recommend it to everyone...adults and young adults. Do yourself a favor and put this one on your TBR list!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

My Thoughts On: Room by Emma Donoghue

by Emma Donoghue

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.
My ThoughtsRoom is written from the perspective of Jack, a little boy who has just turned five years old. It is told from his point of view and from his language. Jack tells of his days spent with Ma inside of Room, the 11 x 11 room where they are held captive. Jack has never been to Outside, and Ma only remembers what it was like before her captivity. The only other real person Jack has ever seen before is Old Nick, and he only visits late at night. Jack stays inside of Wardrobe while Old Nick is visiting.

Jack's days are filled with a routine of lots of fun things. Ma has used the few things she has to create a world full of fun and learning for him. He is a happy child and as well-rounded as he can be stuck inside one room for five years. Ma does as well as she can, until one day when she just decides she has been locked up for long enough. She comes up with a plan to get her and Jack out of Room. For the plan to work, Jack has to be very brave.

I cannot tell you what I went through when I was reading this book! From the very highest of happy to the deepest of fear for Jack and Ma...it's all there, in those pages. The language is beautiful. It was so wonderful to read it from the perspective of a five-year-old...in this way, the author was able to present her story with all of the pieces, but it was in the simplistic language of a child. What is even more amazing about this perspective was that I could, as a reader, see things into the story that Jack was not able to see. I could understand the sacrifices his mother was making for him even though he did not understand them. This made the story so much more profound and beautiful.

But the story...the story itself was so gripping. When Ma was describing the escape to Jack, I was fearful. When Jack responded to the story, I was fearful. When the escape attempts were being made, I was insanely fearful. And in the second half of the book, my emotions were up and down and up and down...the second half of the book is a story in and of itself, entirely. Amazing.

I really don't know what else to say about Room except to give it a chance. I would recommend that you read something lighthearted and fun immediately before it and immediately after it. It is heavy but well worth the time you put into it.

This book has won and been short-listed for tons of awards. I totally understand why.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

My Thoughts On: Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen by Susan Gregg Gilmore

Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen
by Susan Gregg Gilmore

Sometimes you have to return to the place where you began, to arrive at the place where you belong.

It’s the early 1970s. The town of Ringgold, Georgia, has a population of 1,923, one traffic light, one Dairy Queen, and one Catherine Grace Cline. The daughter of Ringgold’s third-generation Baptist preacher, Catherine Grace is quick-witted, more than a little stubborn, and dying to escape her small-town life.

Every Saturday afternoon, she sits at the Dairy Queen, eating Dilly Bars and plotting her getaway to Atlanta. And when, with the help of a family friend, the dream becomes a reality, she immediately packs her bags, leaving her family and the boy she loves to claim the life she’s always imagined. But before things have even begun to get off the ground in Atlanta, tragedy brings Catherine Grace back home. As a series of extraordinary events alter her perspective–and sweeping changes come to Ringgold itself–Catherine Grace begins to wonder if her place in the world may actually be, against all odds, right where she began.
Intelligent, charming, and utterly readable, Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen marks the debut of a talented new literary voice.  -(summary from back of book)
My Thoughts:  This story follows Catherine Grace Cline as she grows up with her sister and her father. It is, I suppose, a coming-of-age story with very Southern appeal. It reads very well and is very much like a made-for-television movie.

It took me a few pages to really get into this one. But once I got into it, I was very attached to Catherine Grace. She is stubborn and sweet and in the middle of growing up without a mother, and just when things are looking up for her...her father dies. Then all the family secrets start coming out. And boy I mean big family secrets! The kind that are very scandalous in the South...
"My mama and daddy had certainly left me a mess to sort out, and I couldn't think of a single verse of scripture that was going to comfort me as I came to terms with an adultering daddy, a resurrected mama, and an expectant mistress with an imaginary fiance." -Catherine Grace Cline
There are two things that I really love about this book. The first thing is the food. Every few pages, it seems, the characters are talking about cooking or eating some type of wonderfully fabulous Southern food. And being from the South, this totally appeals to me. Food and eating are so cultural down here, and play such a huge role in the story in several different storylines. I love that. (This book almost made me hungry.)

I also fell really hard for the supporting characters in this book. Catherine Grace is a marvelous and lovable girl. She moved into my heart in a big way...but Gloria Jean owned it. Gloria Jean is the neighbor; she does not have any children of her own and happens to have been Catherine Grace's mother's best friend. Gloria Jean teaches Catherine Grace all of the things that a mother would...and more. She helps her buy prom clothes and teaches her about hair and nail polish. But she also teaches Catherine Grace about love, forgiveness, and acceptance. The rest of the characters all are great, but Gloria Jean is my favorite by far.

(All of these double names are starting to make me confused. Gotta love the South.)

Would I recommend this book? Well, sure! If you love adult fiction and sweet, charming stories that are just...really good...then this is the book for you. If you are a fan of YA paranormal or fantasy, you might want to sit this one out, unless you are feeling in the mood for a good made-for-television movie-type book. It was so fun to read and I'm so glad I did!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Library Loot #2

 Library Loot is a weekly event that is co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Marg from The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader. It encourages bloggers to share the books they have checked out from their local libraries.

I have some GREAT books checked out to me this week!

1. The Giver by Lois Lowry. I've wanted to read this book for quite some time and now seemed like the right time. The dystopian theme seems to be kind of big right now and I love it.

2. The Dead-Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan. I recently devoured Carrie Ryan's first book, The Forest of Hands and Teeth. I couldn't wait to get my hands on this second book in her trilogy and was excited when it was waiting patiently for me at the library.

3. Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion. When I saw this book on the shelf, I squealed. Here is a book about a zombie with emotions. A zombie love story? Yes. Straight into my library bag and onto my shelf. I can't wait to read it.

4. Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld. Scott Westerfeld has been one of my absolute favorite writers for years now. Why I haven't read this series yet is beyond me. There is no time like the present.

5. Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith. Are you kidding me? Why on earth wouldn't I want to read this book? Just look at it! (No sooner did I bring it home than the hubby snagged it to read first.)

6. A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray. This is the first book in the Gemma Doyle Trilogy and my first Libba Bray book. The cover is stunning and I was thrilled to check it out. Can't wait to read it. (I renewed this from my last library trip.)

7. If I Stay by Gayle Forman. This is the first of two books. Both have pretty covers. I am excited to have it in my possession. (This is what I'm currently reading. I'm excited about it. Seems pretty good so far.)

Monday, May 16, 2011

My Thoughts On: Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool

Moon Over Manifest
by Clare Vanderpool

My Thoughts:  12-year-old Abilene Tucker has spent her entire life traveling with her father, Gideon, as he worked on the railroad. But suddenly he has sent her to Manifest, Kansas to live with Pastor Shady Howard, and she does not understand why. Abilene is a little heartbroken and misses Gideon terribly, but she clings to the day at the end of the summer when he will come and get her and take her back home with him.

When I read books that are this well-written, I have a hard time knowing what to say to people. All I really know how to do is recommend the book. But somehow I don't really feel like that is enough. Clare Vanderpool has written her first novel in Moon Over Manifest, and somehow she managed to snag the 2011 Newberry Award for excellence in children's literature. So, right away that tells us that there is something special about this story.

Each of these characters are so unique, so special, and so real that I feel like I now know them. Ms. Vanderpool has not only made them believable to me, but she has made me so emotionally attached to them because of their stories. Quite a few of the townspeople from Manifest, Kansas are immigrants to the United States from other places, and through the reading of this book I was able to gain perspective of what it must have been like for those people to uproot, risk everything, and come here to America to live during the early 1900's. Through her words, I visualized the hardships, the emotions, and the prejudices that they went through. And I totally fell in love with them all...the nice ones and the mean ones.

I have read stories with multiple narrators in the past and I have found myself a bit confused at times. Considering that this story starts out in 1936 and finds its way to 1918, and then switches back and forth, there is the potential for confusion. Not in this case, however. Not only did Ms. Vanderpool make the transition between narrator and time smooth and easy to manage, but the publishers did as well as they made different fonts for the different settings of the story. In addition to the different settings in time, the narration changes between several different characters and a newspaper article.

There are several important things to be taken away from my thoughts on this book:
  1. Abilene Tucker may be a twelve-year-old little girl, but she is one tough cookie. She is going through a lot at this point in her life. She has lots of questions, and she intends on finding the answers. I love, though, the patience in her persistence. I think I could stand to learn a few things from this child, and that is one of the reasons I am so glad that I read this book. (Abilene could possibly show up on my 'favorite book character' lists in the future.)
  2. Please, please, please don't count out a book because it is labeled as a children's book. This book is an absolute gem. It is written for middle school-aged readers, but there is plenty of substance in there for us big people. I have read reviews from people way older than me that loved the way Ms. Vanderpool helped them to reminisce about these times, and I have read reviews from people closer to my age that are thankful that young people are reading enjoyable books with plenty of historical content inside of them.
  3. I believe that this book has the potential to end up on required reading lists in public school settings, if it is not already. My children are a bit too young still for me to be 'in the know' about the required reading in schools these days, so I can't speak on a basis of absolute knowledge. In my opinion, however, this would be a great selection for classroom enhancement or discussion.
Would I recommend this book? Absolutely. To everyone. I spent my Mother's Day reading it in peace, thanks to my husband and children. It was glorious. It is a splendid book and I think Ms. Vanderpool did an excellent job with her first novel.