Saturday, August 25, 2012

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Jessica at Quirky Bookworm created a summer reading program--one of my favorite things ever! Click over to her website for other reviews of Cinder.

Read while home alone? definitely
Tissues needed? maybe a few
Overall rating: 4 stars

A rather twisted Cinderella story with a little Snow White thrown in, Cinder is set in a future world that has seen four world wars. Young Crown Prince Kai crosses paths with Cinder, a mechanic, in a variety of places and begins to admire her. Cinder isn’t who she appears to be and tries to dissuade the prince from pursuing her. A horrible illness is rampant in their area, claiming people dear to both Cinder and Kai. Cinder learns even more secrets about herself that could jeopardize her “happily ever after.”

The first few pages of Cinder were not easy for me (I don’t usually choose fantasies)—I thought about just giving it up, but luckily I kept reading and found that I really enjoyed this book. There were enough nods to the Cinderella story to make it familiar, but it also delivered plenty of surprises. My main complaint about the book is that it’s the first in a series of four that will be released over the next few years. That’s a LONG time to wait to see what happens next! Cinder is Marissa Meyer’s debut novel, and I think it is a big hit!

What fairy tales were your favorite as a child? Which tale would you like to see as a novel? Cinderella has been redone many times—which versions do you like/dislike? 

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Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Shoemaker’s Wife by Adriana Trigiani

Read while home alone? yes
Tissues needed? Yes, many. I wish someone had told me before 
                          I took this book to the gym…
Overall rating: 3.5 stars

The Shoemaker’s Wife tells the story of Ciro, a young orphan boy living in a convent in Italy. He encounters some tough breaks in his life but works hard, keeps a positive attitude and makes the most of the situations in which he finds himself. Not far from Ciro’s convent home lives a hard-working family with 5 children, including a daughter named Enza. Ciro and Enza cross paths several times both in Italy and America but an ocean, uncooperative relatives, World War I, poor timing, and significant others impede their happiness together. Many adventures await Ciro and Enza once they’ve created lives in America!

Adriana Trigiani is one of my favorite authors, but I didn’t enjoy this book as much as her others. She does a beautiful job of painting pictures with words—it’s easy to imagine Enza’s life on the mountain and the village Ciro called home—but sometimes there’s a little too much description for me and I want to get into the plot. The Shoemaker’s Wife seemed to have a lot of build-up to an inevitable event, and then things started happening very quickly. All in all though, I look forward to Trigiani’s next book and will reread some of her older books. If you are a fan of Italy, shoemakers, historic fiction, and/or immigrant stories, you should give this a try…when you have time!

Have you had anyone come into and out of your life like Ciro and Enza? If you were making a fresh start, where would you go? Who are your favorite authors? Do you enjoy ALL of their books?

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

City of Scoundrels by Gary Krist

Read while home alone? probably, but it gets a little graphic in parts
Tissues needed? no
Overall rating: 4 stars

City of Scoundrels is a nonfiction account of Chicago during the summer of 1919 when chaos reigned. A blimp on a test flight over the city crashed, a little girl went missing, the transit workers went on strike, and there were horrible race riots. Mayor Thompson was loved by many, but not by most of the local papers or by the Illinois governor. How can all of this bedlam lead to a modern city?

In the author’s note at the beginning Krist writes that the book is purely factual. He didn’t create dialogue or embellish facts. This concerned me. I thought City of Scoundrels would be a really dry, tough to read history text. I was wrong. Krist’s writing style was smooth and kept my interest. It wasn’t a fast read for me, but it was enjoyable. I did skip some of the descriptions of destruction—I had a good enough picture in my head and didn’t need it to be elaborated. This style has made me curious about Krist’s other books, and I’m going to check them out.

Beyond the writing style, I enjoyed the content. I think Chicago is an awesome city, but I had no idea about its history. The book made me curious about how native Chicagoans would respond to it. Certainly that summer, specifically 12 days of it, were action packed and altered many things, but what other time periods could be written about in this way? If you like history and/or Chicago, this is the book for you!

This just in:
After I mentioned this book to a couple of friends, they recommended that I read The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson. It's also set in Chicago, but in the 1890's during the time of the World's Columbian Exposition. It details the creation of the fair, as well as the activities of a serial killer in the area. 

The Devil in the White City was more history book than story for my tastes, so I didn't find it as compelling as City of Scoundrels. It was interesting, though, to read about some of the people: George Pullman, Phillip Armour, Marshall Field, and Frank Lloyd Wright, as well as items introduced at the fair: Juicy Fruit, electric dishwashers, shredded wheat cereal, and Pabst Blue Ribbon, to name a few. 

Like City of Scoundrels, Larson's book details another era that changed Chicago...and the rest of the world. I didn't enjoy The Devil in the White City as much, but again, if you're a fan of Chicago and/or history, you should give it a try.

What time period would you use for your city/state to illustrate the biggest changes? Does your city have as much rich history as Chicago? How would things have been different in Chicago if any one of the big events of 1919 had NOT happened? And what if the World's Fair hadn't come to Chicago?