Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Marcel the Shell with Shoes On: Things About Me by Jenny Slate & Dean Fleischer-Camp

This goofy picture book is a random, run-on series of disjointed thoughts by a cute little shell. If you've seen the popular video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VF9-sEbqDvU), you'll recognize much of the story. But it's still worth revisiting. Seven million times. Because I still laugh every time.

As a stand-alone, the book is still funny. Little kids think and talk the same way Marcel does - in strings of tangentally related thoughts on their everyday life. Marcel's size offers a different perspective on everyday objects, and you'll probably never look at bread the same way again.

I bought the book, and donated it to the library for Christmas.

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Soldier's Wife by Margaret Leroy

The tiny island of Guernsey, off the coast of France but part of the UK, was occupied by German forces during WWII. Island residents who hadn't fled lived under Nazi rule for five years.

In this book, a young wife lives out the occupation while caring for two daughters and her elderly mother-in-law while her husband serves overseas. A group of German soldiers take up residence in the vacant house next door to Vivienne - just across the hedgerow and definitely within earshot. How the two groups interact and relate throughout the war becomes our story.

A couple of years ago, "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society" by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows was on the best-seller list and covered a similar subject matter. Honestly, I also thought it covered the topic better. "The Soldier's Wife" takes a more melodramatic tone and a certain Harlequin-romance element sneaks around the edges of the storyline.

But while I saw the ending coming from a bomber's distance away, there were enough interesting twists to keep me reading. I find the idea of living in wartime a great dramatic foil and an interesting subject - I just wish this hadn't been quite so close to the previous book.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Immortal Beloved by Cate Tiernan

Absolutely not another vampire book. Really! (Just immortals - they're not vampires. :))

Nastasya (Nasty to her reprobate friends) is about 400 years old. She's seen and been everywhere, so by now she's desperately looking any kind of a thrill: alcohol, drugs, sex - the usual kinds of debauchery. But then something happens, and Nasty begins to wonder if there's more to life.

So she goes into hiding, finding a commune-of-sorts especially for immortals like herself. Reluctantly she begins mucking the barn, growing spinach, scrubbing floors, meditating and studying crystals - in short, trying to learn to be a better human (who lives forever).

It makes perfect sense to me that if you are forced into immortality, at some point you could lose your morality. Nasty's quest for a better self is agonizing, and she spends a lot of time sabotaging her own journey. That makes it a story that will resonate for many people. And while I understand the marketing of a supernatural novel is easier in the teen market, I really think a lot of "mature" readers will find this book engaging.

The writing is captivating, and the story also encompasses ancient flashbacks, modern-day romance and family drama, and hints of a much bigger storm brewing on the horizon for Nastasya. This is the first book in a trilogy, but I didn't feel like the story was incomplete. While the end certainly doesn't wrap everything up in a neat bow, I was satisfied and still curious about the next book's release date (pushed back to Jan 2012).