Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Mrs. B's 2009 Book Reviews -- 4 Stars (Part One)

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I haven't forgotten!

Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer

There is really not too much to say about this one since it’s the 3rd of the series (and I’ve already reviewed the 4th) other than I thought this one and the 1st in the series were by far the best written and (relatively) plausible. I thought the interchange between the three main characters in the saga (Bella, Edward and Jacob) was well done. However, in hindsight, I probably wouldn’t have given it a four, since I very rarely give fives, but, what’s done is done. Ok, let’s say 3 ½, then!

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

This received one of my coveted four stars because it was such a completely unexpected delight! I think it is a must read for anyone who has any interest whatsoever in the circus and/or carnival days of old as the author certainly did a fine job in researching every squalid aspect of life in a second-rate circus during the Depression-Era. Even if you’re not that interested in the circus, you’ll most certainly find the tale both intriguing and heart rendering. The primary story (the circus in the 1930s) is told in tandem with a fast forward to the future thread whereby the main character (Jacob) is living out the end of his days alone in a nursing home with nothing much to look forward to save a potential outing to a visiting circus (which is nothing like the circus he knew). The characters Gruen introduces are spot on; both in the past and the present. You find yourself wondering how Jacob ended up in such a sorry state and will, likely, be a bit perplexed at the completely wonderful ending to the book. After I read this, I was lucky enough to visit the Ringling museum in Sarasota, FL and was totally enthralled. This is also a very quick read; if you pick it up and start it, you’ll likely finish it within hours.

The View From Saturday by E.L. Konigsburg (Book Club Selection)

The was the 2nd of our two children’s selection for last year, both by Konigsburg (I gave the other, written 30 years prior to this one, three stars). This is a delightful story of four incredibly bright 12 year olds, who, thanks mostly to one of their teachers (who has recently returned to teaching after becoming a paraplegic) come together as a team to vie for a coveted academic award for their middle school. It turns out that they have some things in common other than academia, too. It’s a great story of family and friendship. I wish it had been around to read when I was a twelve year old! Parents of middle school aged children; check this out for your kids!

The Last Kingdom (CD), The Pale Horseman (CD) and Lords of the North (CD) by Bernard Cornwell

These represent #1, #2 and #3 of Cornwell’s Saxon Series (I previously reviewed #4 and gave it three stars). Quite by chance, I picked up #1 in the library last winter. I was completely and totally hooked after the first CD. As I was preparing to leave for a long drive to Florida in a few weeks, I went back to the library and picked up #2 as well. I can assure you, my drive both to and from Florida was that much more enjoyable for having this tale to listen to!

Uhtred is born a Saxon; the 2nd son of an aristocrat in 9th century Northumbria (England). Circumstances arise such that he is both orphaned and subsequently adopted by a Viking. He thus grows up a Viking, and, in fact, feels more like a Viking than a Saxon and comes to love his adoptive father much more than he ever did his original. Throughout the course of the Saxon Series and as Uhtred grows into a fine warrior, he is continually torn between his Saxon heritage (represent primarily by Alfred the Great, King of Wessex with whom he has a decided love-hate relationship) and his beloved Vikings. Uhtred is a fantastic character, as are the myriad of others that flow through the series. I got my husband hooked on these books; we just got the fifth in the series the other day. I’m hoping it will come out on CD prior to my drive to Florida in a month as the gentleman who has read the first four (Jamie Glover) is wonderfully entertaining!

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