Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Freedom

FreedomFreedom by Jonathan Franzen

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I read this in one weekend, although it's almost 600 pages long. Mainly because I flew cross country in the same weekend and had 12 hours to kill on planes and airports. I felt like I was immersed in the family drama of the Berglands and when I surfaced, I felt like I'd lived a few lifetimes. This is mainly due to Franzen's wonderful writing, that draws you and makes you care for (almost) all his characters. The novel is (not surprisingly) about Freedom--what it really means to be free, the sacrifices we make in the name in freedom, and how we may not really want the freedom we're all so desperate for. At one point, the husband, Walter, meets up with his homeless, alcoholic brother, Mitch, who spends his days fishing--he has no responsibility, no cares--"I'm only good at taking care of me," he declares. Walter replies, "You're a free man." "That I am." And yet, who would envy a drunk by the river?

The only character I didn't care for was the son, Joey. His chapters were filled with more post-adolescent sexual angst than I cared to know about. Besides, I never quite understood what changed him from selfish and self-serving to being the great husband/son he became. There is a bit too much ranting, and most of the characters go through a period of depression which can be depressing to read, but all in all it is a believeable, interesting family drama.



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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Gods Behaving Badly

Gods Behaving BadlyGods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Yes, Alyssa, you told me not to read this book, but after reading all of Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson novels with my kids, I was itching to read a grown-up retelling of Greek gods in the modern day. Besides, with kids named after Greek gods how could I not read it?

Yes, the gods are very naughty and their lives are so miserable and boring it makes you rethink what being a god actually means. But it was a light, funny read--I laughed out loud serveral times--and at the core is a love story so sweet and pure you just have to root for them. I'll admit that the gods complaining about how decrepit their house is, and how boring their lives are can be a more than a little boring and redundant to the reader. But in the end, there is a hero, a battle (sort of), and a happily ever after--so it's all good.



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Life as We Knew It

Life As We Knew It (Last Survivors, #1)Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This was a recommended book for my upcoming 7th grader. It's the diary of a 16-year-old that chronicles her life before and after an astroid hits the moon and knocks it closer to earth. Tsunamis and earthquakes and volcanos begin to ravage the earth. Miranda, her brothers Matt and Jon, and her Mom must deal with one catastrophe after another. My daughter and I had a great discussion about what Miranda cared and worried about before the moon was struck, and what she cared and worried about after enduring so much. We also talked about the different ways her friends handled the situation: running away, becoming religious (and the ways religion could comfort us, and how we could turn religion around and think of bad things as God's punishment). I couldn't help but focus on "Mom" and how she had the forsight and determination to stockpile food, chop wood, conserve resources--preparing for the worst. (Next time you have to teach a self-reliance class and are looking for a new way to approach it, just assign this book--it makes you realize that even if you think you have enough food, you probably don't). I thought the characters were well-developed, and althought the situation was far out, the reaction to the situation was very real. In the end, there is a (somewhat) happy ending that was a little contrived but that's why we like our YA books.



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Nothing But the Truth

Nothing but the TruthNothing but the Truth by Avi

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I'm bribing my kids to read their recommended books for the summer from school by promising them lunch out if they read one. The idea was to get them to read their books and having a discussion while enjoying lunch out. My soon-to-be 8th grader opted for $5 instead, but he still had to disscuss it with me. It was an fast, easy read with "documents" and discussions in transcript form--no internal dialouge, no adverbs to describe how the person said something. What was interesting was how much information a conversation or letter could convey even without these descriptors. And it was a great book to use to discuss what the "truth" was, and how individual circumstances could change the "truth" people saw. It was also insightful to discuss "rules" and "rights" with my teen, and I was surprised by where his sympathies lay. This is such an easy read and yet has a lot of discussion points, I would recommend it for a teen book club.



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