While the Net was Sleeping…

November 21, 2012 at 2:09 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Too many Sandra Bullock allusions for one heading?  I think so, but I don’t feel like Starting from Scratch.  Heehee, see what happens when I go without my internet for 3 whole days.  The cheesy humor that only I find funny gets out of control.  And this post isn’t even about Sandra Bullock.

It’s about the fact that my internet was down for 3 days and in that time the Kiddo and I went on a bit of a young adult binge.  If you follow my blog, or my life, you know we read a lot of picture books.  This last weekend, however, we just couldn’t help ourselves.  After finishing Pippi Longstockings, the kiddo seemed more and more interested in sitting through me reading chapter books, and there were two in particular calling my name.

The Magician’s Elephant and Kenny & the Dragon had both been sitting on the shelves for quite sometime.  I impulsively bought each from Half Price Books in hardback because the price was too wonderful, the illustrations on each were beautiful (and I’m a sucker for beautifully illustrated fantasy books), and I thought one day the kiddo would enjoy devouring these.

With The Magician’s Elephant I was moved first by all the deep blue hues. Rich blues and grays give the impression of a romantic gloom I find fascinating. Of course, after it was off the shelf and in my hands, the elephant sealed the deal. I adore elephants and half our lives consists of elephant art and books with elephants on the covers.

The fonts, the illustrations, the beautiful fairy tale… what is not to like about this wonderful book? Everyone should have a copy of Kate DiCamillo’s tale of family and keeping promises. It makes for a great Thanksgiving and Christmas season read, and I highly recommend sharing it with your children by the fire.

Kate DiCamillo is famous for Because of Winn Dixie, The Tale of Despereaux, and countless others.  She has made quite a name for herself in the book-world as a trustworthy storyteller, but this is the first I’ve actually read of her work, and what a testament it was! My two year old sat through the whole book in one morning.

Of course, author Kate DiCamillo can’t take credit for the art, that is the fine work of Yoko Tanaka. She has quite a bit of published work and still manages to stay in the non-book art scene at galleries and group shows and such, according to her online bio which is actually more of a resume. I’m excited about keeping track of her future ventures as well, because I’ve really fallen in love with what she did for The Magician’s Elephant.

 Tony DiTerlizzi became a part of our lives when I first grabbed a copy of The Spider and the Fly picture book. Of course, I was familiar with the dark tale, but DiTerlizzi’s art really sucked me in. It was not until later that I discovered he was the same DiTerlizzi who wrote and illustrated The Spiderwick Chronicles. What a clever, talented man! Where I previously lamented over whether the kiddo was ready for such a gothic tale as Spider and the Fly, Kenny & the Dragon is a story of friendship and book-love for any age. Again, everyone needs a copy. We will probably re-read this in the Spring or Summer.

Side note: I totally want a bicycle like Kenny’s, it’s so cool.

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Water for Elephants: 24 Hour Fairy Tale

April 20, 2012 at 4:55 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , )

Title: Water for Elephants

Author: Sara Gruen

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: I read from the Algonquin Books, a division of Workman Publishing, movie cover edition

Length: 445 pgs.

When I first see a book, I mentally catalogue it.  I see On What Grounds, Cleo Coyle, mystery by author, C’s.  I see On Art and Life, John Ruskin, philosophy by philosopher, R’s.  Water for Elephants, Sara Gruen, general fiction by author, G’s.  I see Shadow of the Wind, Carlos Ruiz Zafon, general fiction by author, R’s.  I see Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire, Amanda Foreman, History, British biographies by subject G’s.

At second glance, it becomes a more personal catalogue: bubble bath, afternoon, 24 hour, week, over time.

A bubble bath read is a Cleo Coyle Coffeehouse mystery series.  Roughly 200 pages, usually purchased in paperback format, I can read it in an hour to an hour and a half.  John Ruskin’s On Art and Life is part of my Penguin Great Ideas books collection, they are small, but involve a little more brain power than a fun, cozy mystery, I will spend an afternoon on one of these books.  Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen? I saw ladies pick this up for their book clubs, I weighed it in my hands, and thought: I’ll read that… looks like a romantic 24 hour fairy tale.  You see the pattern.

Yet I waited.  I impulsively buy many things when it comes to books… bubble bath reads because I read them often; Great Ideas books because I collect them; week longs because work like Carlos Ruiz Zafon is heaven to me; history and science books because I have an insatiable thirst for knowledge.  But 24 hour reads get brushed under the rug fairly often.  They are often times catalogued as fluff I don’t have time for.

The movie came and went, the movie edition came by the hundreds.  Still, I passed it up.

Finally, my best friend bought a copy during a Valentine’s Event hosted at the Half Price Books in Humble (Buy your favorite love story, get a chance to win a dinner for two at Italiano’s).  Now, for a book reviewer, blogger, and aspiring novel writer, you’d think I had a best friend who reads with me.  You probably envision a girl that goes and gets coffee and pours over reading material only to gab about it later with her bestie.  Well, I have very close friends that I do that with, but Danielle isn’t one of them.  My best friend absorbs books on her own, stews over them in her mind, and then cherishes them and tries to not breathe a word of them with another soul lest she ruin the magic of the experience.  Point? She wont read with me.  But I found out what book she bought at that event, and I picked up a copy of my own on clearance.

24 hours of entertainment for 25 cents – heck yeah!

Now, granted, I wasn’t reading Water for Elephants for 24 hours straight.  Just between baby, husband, event planning, house cleaning, playdates, meals, emails, pampering, and dog walking, it took me 24 hours to finish it.  If however, you are going on a vacation and have a chance to read it all in one sitting… I HIGHLY recommend doing so.

The New York Times Book Review calls Water for Elephants “An enchanting escapist fairy tale” and despite the sociopathic husband of the love interest who gets off on beating animals and people and lording over a small community of travelling circus hooligans, it really is a bit of a fairy tale, and its definitely an escape from your own reality.

Water for Elephants reads a bit like a Kate Morton novel, but at a quicker pace, with lots of layers, old age, storytelling, and flashbacks.  Unlike Kate Morton, this first person narrative is written from the perspective of the man in the saga – rather than aged ladies.  Where Kate Morton’s fabulous books strike me as having a very female target audience, I feel that marketed a bit differently, Sara Gruen has the potential to engross a population of male readers who have missed out under the impression that this fairy tale is a romance novel.

Gruen has done extensive research into depression era, of circuses, and of elephants, and it shows.  Although Water for Elephants is about two people finding their fairy tale life in the midst of harsh circumstances, its ultimately the greatest coming of age story I’ve read in a long time.  You’ve got a virginal college boy experiencing the death of his parents and loss of all his future plans, running away to join the circus, telling you the story of his life, all his trials and tribulations, from a nursing home at age ninety – or ninety three.  From becoming room mates with a dwarf, losing his virginity, learning the fine art of train hopping, planning a murder, witnessing a murder, and falling in love, and becoming an unsung hero, Gruen leads you effortlessly through the life of an ex-circus vet, and its wonderful.

I haven’t seen the movie yet, but when I do, I’ll tell you all what I think.

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