People of the Book

Title: People of the Book

Author: Geraldine Brooks

Summary from Goodreads:

In 1996, Hanna Heath, an Australian rare-book expert, is offered the job of a lifetime: analysis and conservation of the famed Sarajevo Haggadah, which has been rescued from Serb shelling during the Bosnian war. Priceless and beautiful, the book is one of the earliest Jewish volumes ever to be illuminated with images. When Hanna, a caustic loner with a passion for her work, discovers a series of tiny artefacts in its ancient binding – an insect wing fragment, wine stains, salt crystals, a white hair – she begins to unlock the book’s mysteries. The reader is ushered into an exquisitely detailed and atmospheric past, tracing the book’s journey from its salvation back to its creation.

In Bosnia during World War II, a Muslim risks his life to protect it from the Nazis. In the hedonistic salons of fin-de-siècle Vienna, the book becomes a pawn in the struggle against the city’s rising anti-Semitism. In Venice during the time of the inquisition, a Catholic priest saves it from burning. In Barcelona in 1492, the scribe who wrote the text sees his family destroyed by the agonies of enforced exile. And in Seville in 1480, the reason for the Haggadah’s extraordinary illuminations is finally disclosed. Hanna’s investigation unexpectedly plunges her into the intrigues of fine art forgers and ultra-nationalist fanatics, and her experiences will test her belief in herself and the man she has come to love.

Inspired by a true story “People of the Book” is a novel of sweeping historical grandeur and intimate emotional intensity – an ambitious, electrifying work by the acclaimed author of “Year of Wonders” and “March”.

Personal Review: I listened to this book on audiobook format. The book was read by Edwina Wren. What I liked about this is that it was read with an Australian accent and considering that this books main character is Australian, it is nice to have the voice meet the character.

Now, for this review, I have decided to try to review as I go along so that the review is better done and more inclusive… so my thoughts will be in the moment, and not a week or so after finishing the book. This may or may not be the way I do my reviews in the future. Either way, spoilers ahead!

Hanna: (Sarajevo, Spring 1996) Honestly, thus far has many of the reasons why I tend to stay away from “Adult” novels and tend to stick to “Young Adult” books. The casual treatment to sex, where characters fall into bed together after have exchanged about 10 sentences is not something I appreciate, and honestly, that is what happened. Main character, Hanna Heath, seems to fall into bed with the man in Bosnia, Ozren, after she starts eating and he laughs at her for eating like a big and then she licks his fingers… I was like, is this seriously for real. To me, at least, sex means something. I don’t appreciate casual sex, and reading about it in books tends to annoy me, especially when we haven’t even gotten past four chapters. In addition, Hanna’s relationship with her mother is annoying. It is something that I encounter frequently in Young Adult books, but it is something that I write off because they are teenagers, and hence are allowed to be immature… but this is a grown women. I wanted to be like, “Seriously, grow up.” I mean, purposely trying to avoid your parent… scheduling things in such a way so that you don’t have to meet up, it is just petty. And then there is Hanna’s blatant disregard for the wishes of the Ozren concerning his sons medical information. He specifically said that he didn’t want to have his son’s medical information looked at by anyone else, and yet she manages to somehow get a hold of it, in means that seem decided unethical, and takes them to be looked at to satisfy her own selfish desires, no regard to his wishes at all. Personally, I believe that if there is help available, then it should be given to a person suffering, but you should never go against the wishes of another person to do something like this. It really made me angry!

An Insect’s Wing: (Sarajevo, 1940) In this section of the book, we meet the character Lola. She is a Jewish girl living in Sarajevo during the time of the Nazi invasion. She manages to escape and becomes a partisan for a period, though she is forced to abandon her family to their death in order to escape. Along the way, she makes several friends, though she eventually loses them all, whether through death or through moving on. In the end, a Muslim family in Sarajevo ends up hiding her. It is only in the last few pages that we come across the reason why Lola’s story is involved in a tale about a Rare Book. The Muslim family she stays with are the ones who take the book out of the Museum and hide it so that the Nazi’s can’t get it. This is interesting for a number of reasons. The first is that the book is a Jewish book and so to see a Muslim man rescue it was really cool. The second is the bravery involved in rescuing this one book from the hands of the Nazis. I have read a lot of World War Two stories, but I have never seen one where a Muslim family protects a Jew and so to see that portrayed in this story was really amazing. I hope that we encounter Lola and find out more of her story later in the book and that we haven’t had the end of our time with her.

Hanna: (Vienna, Spring 1996) Well, this was an extremely short section. I am still not quiet warming up to Hanna. I hate pushy females and she is a pushy female. However, I am intrigued by the tale of this book. I am glad that we found out a little bit more about the Muslim man from the previous section. Turns out that he survived the war and then went to Prison for six years for being a “Nazi Colaborator” even though the charges eventually got dropped. I am also intrigued about the story of Werner and what his part in the War was.I like the back and forth of times in the book so you see more first hand what was happening at the time, rather then a retelling by some random character, however, it makes it hard to keep names and stories straight.

Feathers and a Rose: (Vienna, 1894) The hypocracy of this section annoyed me so much. Another plus to YA books. The characters we meet in this short section are all seeded in sex and affairs. And when the Jewish Doctor discovers that his wife is having an affair, he blows up, despite the fact that he has constant affairs. That is annoying. I understand that it was the way of the time, but seriously, is it so hard to stay in your pants? Affairs annoy me… Everyone in this section is extremely selfish. Stealing and selling things to get more money, affairs, duels. It was all too much and I didn’t sympathize with any of the characters.

Hanna: (Vienna, Spring 1996) Good Lord, but Hanna bugs the heck out of me. I want to scream at her, “GET OVER YOURSELF!” After having met her mother, though, I can understand how she came to be so self-absorbed. It is frustrating and annoying, but so is her mother. For all of their age and maturity, they are both immature. I am enjoying the tale of the book, though. I like seeing where it has come from throughout its time.

Wine Stains: (Venice, 1609) Is it impossible to have a good character in history? Must every one be amoral? My complaint in this section… the Rabbi with the gambling addiction. He receives money that is to be used to help the poor in his congregation, and he gambles it all away. He is suppose to be a righteous man and an example, but instead, he just is proud and thinks that God’s power is with him. Doesn’t he know that there are Scriptures that tell you not to gamble?  However, I found that the story of the book  interesting. The inquisition is an interesting point in history and seeing how the book survived that time.

Hanna: (Boston, Spring 1996) Ah, but this section was so much better. In it, Hanna’s mother gets in an accident and comes to share the story of Hanna’s father with her. They actually have a decent conversation and act like grown ups. Hanna was again childish in the end, but at least she was likeable for the majority of these 40 pages. In addition, when a married male friend of hers makes a move to have sex with her, Hanna tells him no and tells him off. That was not expected considering everything else we have seen about Hanna.

Saltwater: (Tarragona, 1492) This section was a lot better than the previous sections. Don’t get me wrong, there were still things that annoyed me, but I am choosing to over look them for the sake of having one pleasant section . The characters were very pitiable, even Rosa, the wife of the converted Christian who wished who unborn child would die, because there was something so desperate and sad about her situation. It makes me sad to know that we will not encounter these characters again. I felt bad for Reuben who had really converted and come to love his new faith, but the torturers of the Inquisition still wore him down to confess to something that wasn’t all together wrong.I was sad for the mother who had to act as though her son was dead because he had left their faith. It reminded me of Fiddler on the Roof and the one daughter. The things that the Jews have encountered throughout history is just so inhumane that it is astounding.

Hanna: (London, Spring 1996) Hanna is the most annoying frustrating female character I have ever come across. She is such the drama queen. Okay, that might be overly dramatic… but she annoys the heck out of me. If I wasn’t so close to the end, I would have written this book off a long time ago. After the previous section, I have absolutely no pity for her and her “problems”. And then she finds out that Ozren’s son has died and she is angry that the man on the other end of the phone was short with her. Then she just “has to” go Sarajevo, because she can’t leave the the man alone with his grief and it all has to be about Hanna (can you hear the disdain dripping from my comments). Anyway, so no happy thoughts in this section.

A White Hair: (Seville, 1480) Ah, but I loved this section. It is about the slave girl who created the beautiful pictures in the book. It was so sad to see how she was used by various people and all she desired was her freedom, and yet she showed such compassion. She loved the captive forced bride of the king, who was raped by her husband. She loved the deaf mute son of the Jewish Doctor who she was gifted to. All these people she should resent, she tried to help. This was one of my favorite sections in this book and it really touched my heart!

Hanna: (Sarajevo, Spring 1996) Can I repeat that Hanna is the biggest drama queen? I could go on and on in this section about why she is one of my least favorite characters out of all the books I have read, but it would be pretty repetitive from the previous sections so I will just say that none of my opinions about her have changed…

Lola: (Jerusalem, 2002) Oh, I am so glad we got to see Lola again. I had to go back and check my notes and see that it really is the same character. However, why does everyone in this book have to be so loose? Why does every single section have to involve sex? I feel like it really detracts from the story. Call me a prude, but I felt like all the mentions of “lovers” and “mistresses” and “ask me to do things to pleasure him that I was not comfortable with” didn’t add to the story and was completely unnecessary.However, it is nice to know what happened to Lola and to see the book in her hands again!

Hanna: (Arnhem Land, Gunumeleng, 2002) The end of the relationship between Hanna and her mother is so annoying and stupid. Hanna is such an immature brat. I have seen teenagers with more maturity than her. Yeah, her mother is not even close to the best mother in the world, but the way she acts is so pathetic. And then that quits her job because she is filled with self-doubt. Hanna is so annoying, I can’t even bare it. I mean, it has me wanting to quit the book with only 30 pages left. I was left unsurprised by the ending.

Final thoughts and feelings: I hated this book. Honestly, it had so much potential but most of the characters were very unlikable and I ultimately did not like much of anything about it. Hanna was one of the most annoying, self-involved people ever. There were many subplots that were unimportant and raised issues that didn’t need to be brought up. I wanted to like this book because it has a pretty cover and the plot sounded interesting, but in the end, I absolutely hated it.

Rating: 1.5

Cleopatra: A Life

Title: Cleopatra: A Life

Author: Stacy Schiff

Summary from Goodreads: 

Her life spanned fewer than 40 years, but she was the last Egyptian pharaoh and one of the most influential women of the age. She married twice, each time to a brother; she poisoned one and waged a war against the other. To this day, the life of Cleopatra VII (69-30 B.C.) intrigues us. This adept biography by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Stacy Schiff tells us why it should. The true story of the woman behind the myth.

Personal Review: I wanted to like this book. Really, I did. I mean, come on, just look at the cover. It is so pretty. Does anyone know if that is a picture that can be bought? Because I would like to hang it up in my house. And, yes, before you ask, I am one of those people who judges a book by its cover. If you book doesn’t have a “pretty” cover, you won’t even get me too pick it up enough to read the back cover. Dramatic covers work too.

Anyway, so I wanted to like this book. However, the problem I always have with adult books was very much evident in this book. Ms. Schiff frequently used big words that I did not know. Whenever an author does that, it always makes me feel like they are trying to show how superior they are. It annoys the heck out of me. It is like I am trying to read your book, please don’t make me pull out my dictionary so I can figure out what in the heck you are trying to say!

In addition, the way Ms. Schiff wrote this book, there was one point where in my head I asked “Are you a vampire?” (Can you guess that I primarily read YA books?) The reason I was asking this question? Well Ms. Schiff wrote with such “authority” frequently saying that every other interpretation in history was wrong so I can only conclude that she was actually present at the event. She also must have had Edward abilities to read minds, because she knew what was going through Cleopatra’s head. I found her are of ultimate authority to be very off-putting, especially when she constantly criticized other interpretations throughout history.

The next thing that annoyed me, is another thing that is frequently found in adult books… the agenda. The beginning and the end of this book had such a blaring feminist agenda that I found myself angry. Now, I am one of those few female bloggers that actually hates books with a feminist agenda. If a book gets categorized as feminist, I tend to steer clear. I mean, before you try to slit my throat, I am happy that women can be equal to men, and I am in no way arguing “barefoot, pregnant, and in the kitchen” but books with this agenda annoy me. Let them be strong females without having to think to themselves all the time how difficult it is to be a female and a warrior because the men never take you seriously. I consider Katniss Everdeen a good example. She was a strong female, but she never had to shove the fact that she was a girl in everyone’s face. End of random tangent.

Speaking of random tangents… this author went off on way too many. There were times when I would suddenly realize that we were in another time and I had no clue when that happened. The beginning 100 pages weren’t necessarily in chronological order and so it made it really hard to follow what was happening. The middle of the book was great and I was able to follow along great, but the beginning was so hard to follow. Then, in the end, the author went on for quiet a while after Cleopatra was dead. I mean, I was glad to find out what happened to her children, or at least Cleopatra Selene, but then it seemed to go off on another random tangent.

My final annoyance with this book is that many times it seemed to concentrate more on Marc Antony or Octavian than it did Cleopatra. She would disappear for tens of pages and then all of a sudden pop back in again. It made me feel like I was at times reading someone else’s biography.

However, with all of that bad stuff aside, there were aspects that I liked. First of all, I never really learned much about Cleopatra. I loved studying history, but World War II is my favorite, and the Greeks and Romans among my least favorite, so Cleopatra never really featured in my studies. I am so glad to know more about her life. In addition, I appreciated the author’s attempt to relate to the reader through modern examples. Sometimes it was a bit much, but other times it helped me to understand the situation better.

In conclusion, I could have lived without reading it, but I am glad that I did. I feel a bit smarter and I know more about Cleopatra and who she was and where she came from.

Rating: 3.5

So have you read Cleopatra by Stacy Schiff? Did you agree with me about anything? Disagree? Think I am delusional? Anyone else find the cover simply stunning??? Let me know!

BTT: Soundtrack

 

 

 

What, if any, kind of music do you listen to when you’re reading? (Given a choice, of course!)

 

Most of the time, I prefer to read in total silence because I have the attention span of a knat and if I have background music on, I will distract myself. However, on Pandora I have a station that I called “Study Music” – I made it while in college. Anyway, that channel is built off of Yiruma and any related music. I guess that would be called New Age, though I am not sure. The kind of music I have on when I am reading is very different then the kind of music I listen to when I am not reading. I am a country girl with a mix of rock and pop… lol, it can be sort of eclectic. Anyway, I am going to try to put a youtube link for a Yiruma music video in this post. I have never done this before so I hope it works….

This is The River Flows in You by Yiruma. I find it really emotional. I don’t really like classic music and I like words in my music, but Yiruma (and most especially this song) always makes me feel so peaceful inside. What do you think?

 

 

My Confession

So, in this post, I am going to divulge some personal things about my life. No, not any of those “Stop there, TMI” personal things, but just like, “Hey World, this is who I am” things.

So, to get the ball rolling, I am going to confess to being a Football Fanatic. No, not American Football, I am talking about Real Football… Soccer. Yes, I am an American, but I blog and read articles in a “world” that calls it Football. I am a Fan of German Soccer. My favorite club is Bayern Munich and the German National Team is my favorite National Team. So, Kate, what does this have to do with books and blogging, you might be asking yourself. Well, I will tell you. When I say I am fanatic, I mean I am addicted. Like if I don’t get a fix almost every night, I go insane. Even as I am writing this, I have a game going in the background.

(Philipp Lahm, Lukas Podolski, Bastian Schweinsteiger)

Now, if you follow German Soccer at all, you might know that the season is over. But I am an addict… I already admitted that, and there is this hand/evil website called ESPN 3… they have games. They have old games. And you can watch them for free.I am watching Bayern vs Bremen right now, first game of the season. So even though the summer is here and there are no games that my team are playing, I can not even turn it off to pick up a book and read. I am not one of those people who is adverse to rewatching a match. I have rewatched every Germany World Cup match at least 20 times since the World Cup. I know the plays and who scores what and when, but it is so comforting to me, and with each rewatch, I get to know the players style a little more. Feel free to call me pathetic. But when I have a bad day and I don’t know if how to deal (currently unemployed and this economy is not making it easy to find a job) putting on one of those World Cup matches is the one thing that will always lift my spirit. I used to turn to books, but I am in kind of a slump right now.

(two of my favorite players: Benedikt Höwedes and Manuel Neuer)

I have another addiction that is not book or Bundesliga related also. Cross stitching. Now, really, I can blend this addiction with either of the other addictions (football and books). I can listen to an audiobook and stitch or I can watch a game and stitch. However, I tend to get annoyed with audiobooks, so usually it ends up being the game.

(One of my current projects that I am working on for my soon to be 10 year old sister. Called Passion Flower Angel from Dimensions)

Now, this isn’t going to become one of those blogs where everything under the sun is talked about and the posts with book updates become few and far between… I just thought that I would let you know why there has not been an update in a while. I am about halfway done with People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks, and I am doing a different style review then normal. I will see how that works, and based on feedback will decide from there.

Sorry for any of you who found this update boring or whatever. I appreciate it if you made it all the way through.

What Happened to Goodbye

Title: What Happened to Goodbye

Author: Sarah Dessen

Summary From Goodreads: 

In the past two years, Mclean Sweet has moved four times. At each stop, she assumes a new persona, but it never quite works. Whether she’s an effervescent cheerleader or an intense drama queen, nothing can permanently dispel the turmoil and rage at her mother since her parents’ divorce.

Sarah Dessen’s novel about a teenager and her restaurant manager father captures the vulnerability that young people often experience after the dissolution of their family. A compelling story; strong characterization; and with a touch of romance.

Personal Review:

Well, since I tend to start every review with a preface, I figure I might as well start this one with a little preface as well. I listened to this on audio. I have now decided that some books I can handle in Audio format and some I cannot. In the future, I will not be listening to Sarah Dessen books in audio form because I don’t tend to like female narrators… their voice grate on my nerves, and this one most especially.

This book is all about McLean Sweet finding her way back to who she really is. After her parents divorce, she decided to stay with her Dad. This lead to a huge, ugly custody battle between her parents. For McLean, it was bad enough that her mother cheated on her father… but she had to go and cheat on him with the coach of their favorite basketball team. To McLean and her father, this was the ultimate betrayal. And then, as if that wasn’t bad enough, it seemed so easy for her mother to move on and create a replacement family. New husband, new childroom… it seemed as though there was no real room for her.

So she choose the nomadic lifestyle with her dad. He is hired by various restraunts to come in and fix their places. They moved four times in two years, and with each new move, McLean chooses a new person to become. She has been Lizbet, Beth, Eliza, and with each name is a different person… Cheerleader, Goth, All-around joiner. When she arrived at the latest move, she decided to be Liz… But as much as she tries, she couldn’t shake the name McLean.

And with that begins the journey back to finding out who she really is. She makes friends with an eclectic bunch of kids. Through a series of events, they are all roped into putting together a to scale model of the town in honor of their town’s 100th birthday.

Throughout this book, I found McLean’s treatment to her mother to be very obnoxious and childish. I get that cheating hurts and the divorce hurts, but the way she treats her mother is entirely unacceptable. I would never dream of treating my mother that way, even if she cheated on my mother, remarried, and had new kids. Anyway, end of random rant.

Rating: 4.5

Did any of you experience the same problem with McLean? Have you read this book? What did you think? What is your favorite Sarah Dessen book?

The Truth About Forever

Title: The Truth About Forever

Author: Sarah Dessen

Summary from Goodreads:

Sixteen-year-old Macy Queen is looking forward to a long, boring summer. Her boyfriend is going away. She’s stuck with a dull-as-dishwater job at the library. And she’ll spend all of her free time studying for the SATs or grieving silently with her mother over her father’s recent unexpected death. But everything changes when Macy is corralled into helping out at one of her mother’s open house events, and she meets the chaotic Wish Catering crew. Before long, Macy joins the Wish team. She loves everything about, the work and the people. But the best thing about Wish is Wes—artistic, insightful, and understanding Wes—who gets Macy to look at life in a whole new way, and really start living it.

Personal Review:

Short disclaimer before this review… like so often, I need to be more diligent in doing my reviews as soon as I finish the book. The other problem that I had with this review is that I have read another Sarah Dessen book since this one, and so things might blend a little bit in my mind. Please forgive me for that.

I love Sarah Dessen. She is one of my favorite author’s EVER. I love her works. I love how they all take place (for the most part) in the same town. It makes it all that much more real to me. It makes me feel like I am viewing snapshots of the lives of various people who live in this town.

When we are first introduced to the character of Macy Queen, we see a introverted girl who is 100% dedicated to her boyfriend and the “plan” that they have made. She credits him with having patience with her and explaining things so that she can understand it. He is a brainiac and “intellectually superior to her” and so because of that, she melds her life to his. His friends are hers. He activities are hers. When he leaves for the summer, she covers for him at his job. She doesn’t have any friends of her own, much less a life of her own.

One night at a party her mother threw, she fell into a job with this catering company. They are totally disorganized and different than the atmosphere of the library. At first she just works for the catering company when she can, but as soon as the job is over, she returns home and studies and follows her perfectly planned life.

Then one day, she dares to sign a letter to her boyfriend “love, Macy” and he freaks out and says that he needs space. That she is expecting too much from him. This leads her decide on the spur of the moment to go out with the group from catering after a job one night. This leads to a total evolution of Macy into her own person. She isn’t following everyone else’s plan for her life, but her own.

Watching the evolution of Macy Queen into a new person was one of the best things about this novel. It was great to watch. In addition, the back store about her family learning how to cope with the death of her father several years prior was great. It was very realistic.

This was another great novel from Sarah Dessen and I highly recommend it. It wasn’t my absolute favorite of Sarah Dessen’s, but it was one of my favorites.

Rating: 5

Have you read this book by Sarah Dessen? Any of her others? What did you think?

Booking Through Thursday

 

 

Booking Through Thursday is a fun weekly question and answer session, based on books, of course. This week, the question is:

All things being equal (money, space, etc), would you rather own copies of the books you read? Or borrow them?

I love owning books. If I had unlimited money to buy books with, I would definitely own them instead of borrowing them. This is for a couple reasons. Aside from loving the look of books on my shelves, I am an incredibly moody reader. I choose what to read based on my mood, but having Library due dates kind of forces you to read on their schedule instead of yours. Additionally, I tend to get more books than I can read by the due date and so I end up having to return books before I have finished them/started them. Then I have to request them again. It is very annoying. I would much rather own the books than borrow them.

But as life stands, I can not afford to buy all the books that I want and so I must borrow them 😦