Tuesday Top Ten

unique

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the Broke and the Bookish. Book bloggers create their own lists based on the chosen topics and post links to our lists. It’s a way of all sharing our thoughts and our love of books.  And who doesn’t love lists??

So this week’s challenge was to list the top ten most unique books that I’ve read.  They can be unique for any reason – the narrator’s voice, the point of view, the setting, the characters – whatever it is that made them stand out in my mind as unique.

  1. The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick – Told through both words and beautifully intricate and moving illustrations, Selznick’s works are like nothing else I have ever seen.
  2. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman – OK, nearly anything by Neil Gaiman!  But this adult fairy tale is in a class of its own.
  3. Maus by Art Spiegelman – A graphic novel about the Holocaust.  Sounds strange, but it works, amazingly.
  4. Monster by Walter Dean Myers –  Steve is in juvenile detention, awaiting trial, and tells the story of how he got there through a screenplay running through his mind, along with journal entries.
  5. Attachments by Rainbow Rowell – Alternate chapters tell the stories of two women through their email correspondence.  It sounds like it could be clunky, but it worked.
  6. ttyl by Lauren Myracle – The entire novel is told through instant message transcripts between a group of teenage girls, it at least left me with a better vocabulary of messaging shorthand!
  7. The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo – Edward Tulane is a conceited china rabbit (yes – you read that right, but trust me – it works!) who is lost by his owner and goes on a journey of redemption, to learn of love and loss, from garbage piles to the bottom of the ocean to a hobo camp and beyond..
  8. Burial Rites by Hannah Kent – The first book that I’ve ever read about historical Iceland and the beheading of women.  Definitely different.
  9. Life After Life by Kate Atkinson – Ursula Todd is born on a snowy night in England 1910.  Strangled by the umbilical cord she does not survive.  Until she is born again, and dies again, and is born again…  Through each of her lives she is born into the same family, and meets many of the same people, but her life is different each time.
  10. Mr.  Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan – An unique melding of the ancient and technology with one of the quirkiest cast of characters.

 

Flora & Ulysses

floraFlora is a cynical child, a comic book fan who has memorized all of the issues of Terrible Things Can Happen to You.  Ulysses is an unsuspecting squirrel, who after being sucked into a vacuum cleaner, becomes an unsuspected superhero.  Gifted with the powers of flight and poetry (yes, poetry!), Ulysses and Flora experience a series of adventures as they attempt to thwart the super-villain (Flora’s romance-writing mother).  Along the way they get help from an unlikely set of characters – the temporarily-blind boy next door, William Spiver, his wacky Aunt Tooty, Flora’s socially inept father, and the odd Dr. Meecham.  There are giant donuts, bad poetry, shepherdesses, and a bag and a shovel.

The story moves quickly and is at times laugh-out-loud funny.  Flora’s cynicism can be both amusing and sad as she struggles with her parents’ divorce and her mother’s inattention.  These are the illuminated adventures, so parts of the story are told through charming comic strips where we get to see Ulysses in action!  Unfortunately, as cute as the comics were, it did make it more difficult to read aloud.  Ultimately, Ulysses is the star of the show (I will never look at a squirrel the same again!) and helps Flora to be less of a cynic, to learn to believe and love and hope.

I was so excited to get my hands on Kate DiCamillo’s newest book!  As I’ve discussed before, I love Kate DiCamillo, and I have read all of her books with my kids.  My favorite book to read aloud of all time is The Tale of Despereaux and The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane broke my heart.  Flora & Ulysses was different, although that doesn’t make it bad, it just wasn’t what I was expecting.  And while my family enjoyed it, and “Holy bagumba!” is now my daughter’s favorite exclamation, I was hoping for just a little something more.

Title:  Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures
Author: Kate DiCamillo
Genre: Kids
Pages: 240
Publication: Candlewick, September 2013

Tuesday Top Ten

toptenbookquotes

 

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the Broke and the Bookish. Book bloggers create their own lists based on the chosen topics and post links to our lists. It’s a way of all sharing our thoughts and our love of books.  And who doesn’t love lists??

So this week the challenge was the Tuesday Rewind – go back and pick a topic that you really liked or one that you missed from a previous week.  Since I haven’t been doing this for too long I had a lot to choose from and decided to go with a list of some of my favorite book quotes.  I may have ended up with more than ten… and there were so many more that I wanted to add!

First, two quotes from the amazing Book Thief by Markus Zusak…

  1. I have hated words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right. 
  2. I wanted to tell the book thief many things, about beauty and brutality. But what could I tell her about those things that she didn’t already know? I wanted to explain that I am constantly overestimating and underestimating the human race—that rarely do I ever simply estimate it. I wanted to ask her how the same thing could be so ugly and so glorious, and its words and stories so damning and brilliant.
    None of those things, however, came out of my mouth.
    All I was able to do was turn to Liesel Meminger and tell her the only truth I truly know. I said it to the book thief and I say it now to you.
    I am haunted by humans.

And then I will move on to another ten…  😉

  1.  The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go. – Dr. Seuss,  I Can Read with my Eyes Shut
  2. Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book. – John Green, The Fault in Our Stars
  3. Promise me you’ll always remember: You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.  –  A.A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh
  4. “Once upon a time,” he said out loud to the darkness. He said these words because they were the best, the most powerful words that he knew and just the saying of them comforted him.  – Kate DiCamillo, The Tale of Despereaux
  5. “Harry — I think I’ve just understood something! I’ve got to go to the library!”
    And she sprinted away, up the stairs.
    “What does she understand?” said Harry distractedly, still looking around, trying to tell where the voice had come from.
    “Loads more than I do,” said Ron, shaking his head.
    “But why’s she got to go to the library?”
    “Because that’s what Hermione does,” said Ron, shrugging. “When in doubt, go to the library.” 
     –  J.K. Rowling, The Chamber of Secrets
  6. “But you want murderous feelings? Hang around librarians,” confided Gamache. “All that silence. Gives them ideas.”  – Louise Penny, Rule Against Murder
  7. Walking the stacks in a library, dragging your fingers across the spines-it’s hard not to feel the presence of sleeping spirits. –  Robin Sloan, Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore
  8. “The books are to remind us what asses and fools we are. They’re Caesar’s praetorian guard, whispering as the parade roars down the avenue, ‘Remember, Caesar, thou art mortal.’ Most of us can’t rush around, talk to everyone, know all the cities of the world, we haven’t time, money or that many friends. The things you’re looking for, Montag, are in the world, but the only way the average chap will ever see ninety-nine per cent of them is in a book. Don’t ask for guarantees. And don’t look to be saved in any one thing, person, machine, or library. Do your own bit of saving, and if you drown, at least die knowing you were headed for shore.” – Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451
  9. “It’s like the people who believe they’ll be happy if they go and live somewhere else, but who learn it doesn’t work that way. Wherever you go, you take yourself with you. If you see what I mean.” – Neil Gaiman, The Graveyard Book
  10. From time to time, I do consider that I might be mad. Like any self-respecting lunatic, however, I am always quick to dismiss any doubts about my sanity.  – Dean Koontz, Odd Thomas

Top Ten Books I Recommend The Most

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the Broke and the Bookish. Book bloggers create their own lists based on the chosen topics and post links to our lists. It’s a way of all sharing our thoughts and our love of books.  And who doesn’t love lists??

So this week the challenge is to list the books that we recommend the most.  Each experience with a book is intensely personal, recommending a book is dangerous business.  What you love may not be loved by others since every person’s experience with a book is distinct.  You may not love the books that I love, but these are those that I love enough to recommend to others…

  1. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak – If I had to pick one book that has impacted me the most, which I found to be the greatest book I have ever read, this would be it.  I believe that we are watching a classic be born and someday I will be telling my grandkids that I remember when it was a new release!  If you have not read this book please do so, immediately.
  2. Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan – A fantastic coming-of-age story about two boys (all they have in common is the name) who are figuring out who they are, how to be that person, and how to find acceptance.  There are a ton of coming-of-age books out there, but I have never read one that tells the story so beautifully.
  3. The Giver by Lois Lowry – Can a utopian society really exist?  What has to be given up?  And is it worth the price?  What if you decide it isn’t worth the cost?  There are a lot of books out now that deal with dystopian societies, but this is definitely my favorite, dealing with the core questions artfully.
  4. The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny – I love the Inspector Gamache series and it only gets better with each book that is released.  While there are a lot of mystery series that I enjoy, this series has a depth and beauty that I have not found elsewhere.  The character development, history, settings, depth of interactions and emotions, make this my favorite to recommend for mystery lovers.
  5. The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick – An inspired work of art.  The story is told through a combination of words and amazing illustrations and is done seamlessly.  His second book, Wonderstruck, is just as wonderful and I recommend both of these books to children and adults alike.
  6. Whatever it Takes by Paul Tough – I am passionate about the importance of education, particularly literacy.  This book about Geoffrey Canada’s work in starting The Harlem Children’s Zone is information and inspiring.
  7. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand – The story of Louis Zamperini’s life, from his delinquent childhood to the Berlin Olympics through harrowing experiences during World War II, is an amazing tale of perseverance and faith.
  8. The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo – My favorite DiCamillo book and the book that I enjoyed reading to the kids the most.  A new fairy tale – another one that I will tell my grandkids about someday!
  9. The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein – Both humorous and heart-wrenching, the story of people as told from the point of view of a dog.  Sounds a hokey but somehow it really does work, leaving you loving the soul of this amazing animal.
  10. Going Home: Jesus and Buddha as Brothers by Thich Nhat Hanh – I love the writings of Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist monk exiled from Vietnam.  This book is a conversation between Jesus and Buddha, centered in compassion and the similarities that are at the core of both beliefs.

Because I <3 Kate DiCamillo!

I’ve mentioned my fondness for reading out loud to my kids.  We do occasionally read picture books; I find them fascinating, particularly the illustrations and the complexity that can be found in stories simply told.  But mostly we read chapter books out loud.  We have read everything from classics (Heidi, Little Women, The Secret Garden, Dickens, etc) to newer releases (Ungifted, Homesick, Liar & Spy, The Graveyard Book, etc).  I think we have all enjoyed everything that we have read together, there were no real losers, and we enjoy the time together regardless, but some of our favorites have been novels by Kate DiCamillo.  She weaves magical tales that are completely absorbing, include captivating illustrations, and are a pleasure to read aloud (Dickens – not so much!).  Since I believe we have completed all of her children’s novels, I thought I would share a summary of them and what I particularly loved about each.  Don’t dismiss these novels just because you don’t have kids – or because they’re too young or too old – these are great stories for any of us!
Image“The world is dark, and light is precious. Come closer, dear reader. You must trust me. I’m telling you a story.”  This is how The Tale of Despereaux begins and you are completely enchanted until the very end.  DiCamillo has written a modern-day fairy tale, the story of a mouse that is not like other mice, with his love of music, books, and the princess.  The story of a rat that lives in the darkness but is enchanted by light.  And the story of a slow-witted servant girl who simply wishes to be a princess.  Their stories all come together as the author directly tells you, the reader, this intertwining story in beautiful and thoughtful language.  While I loved all of her books, this was by far my favorite (a mouse that loves to read – how can you go wrong?).  The movie?  Don’t bother!

   Title: The Tale of Despereaux
   Author: Kate DiCamillo
   Genre: Children’s Fiction
   Pages: 272
   Publication: Candlewick, 2003

ImageEdward Tulane is a conceited china rabbit (yes – you read that right, but trust me – it works!) who is lost by his owner and goes on a journey of redemption, to learn of love and loss, from garbage piles to the bottom of the ocean to a hobo camp and beyond.  “Open your heart. Someone will come. Someone will come for you. But first you must open your heart…”

   

  Title: The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane
   Author: Kate DiCamillo
   Genre: Children’s Fiction
   Pages: 228
   Publication: Candlewick, 2006

ImageOpal moves with her father, the preacher, to Florida where she finds Winn-Dixie, a big, ugly, loveable dog who will be the friend she needs so desperately, while helping her to make friends in this new place.  She spends the summer learning the stories of Otis (the ex-con running the pet store), Franny (the local librarian), and Gloria (the blind woman who sees into Opal’s heart), while also using Winn-Dixie to get her father to tell her about her long-gone mother.  Opal will start to grow up, learn how to make friends, and begin to understand forgiveness, all with the help of a dog named after a grocery story.  “It’s hard not to immediately fall in love with a dog who has a good sense of humor.”  The movie based on this book is definitely worth watching AFTER you read the book (let’s face it – the book is ALWAYS better!).

   Title: Because of Winn Dixie
   Author: Kate DiCamillo
   Genre: Children’s Fiction
   Pages: 288
   Publication: Candlewick, 2000

ImageA fortune teller answers Peter’s question with an odd answer – an elephant will lead him there.  The question?  Peter is an orphan and wants to know if his little sister is still alive.  The same day, a magician will somehow conjure an elephant which will bring together the lives of Peter, a society matron, a beggar, the magician, a policeman, a sculptor, and a nun in a series of events that will eventually lead him to his answer, and will provide answers to others as well.  “That is surely the truth, at least for now. But perhaps you have not noticed: the truth is forever changing.”

   Title: The Magician’s Elephant
   Author: Kate DiCamillo
   Genre: Children’s Fiction
   Pages: 208
   Publication: Candlewick, 2009

ImageRob’s mother has died of cancer and he and his father move to Florida looking to find a new life.  Rob is terribly unhappy when he meets someone else new at school, Sistine, who is also struggling with the hope that her father is going to come and get her.  When Rob discovers a caged tiger in the woods, the events that follow will allow him to understand what it means to be free, to open up and forge a friendship with Sistine, learn to forgive his father, and deal with his grief.  “Rob had a way of not-thinking about things.  He imagined himself as a suitcase that was too full… He made all his feelings go inside the suitcase; he stuffed them in tight and then sat on the suitcase and he locked it shut. That was the way he not-thought about things.  Sometimes it was hard to keep the suitcase shut.  But now he had something to put on top of it.  The Tiger.  Rob imagined the tiger on top of his suitcase, blinking his golden eyes, sitting proud and strong, unaffected by all the non-thoughts inside straining to come out.”

   Title: The Tiger Rising
   Author: Kate DiCamillo
   Genre: Children’s Fiction
   Pages: 128
   Publication: Candlewick, 2001