Thursday, September 25, 2014

My Top 10: Books! (Because I was chalenged!)

So this "challenge" post ( you know, the "pick ten books that have stayed with you... don't think too much! Tag 9 friends to find out what their ten books are, and the person who nominated you so they can see your list" one...)  has been floating around Facebook for a few weeks now, and I thought that in honor of Banned Books Week, which it happens to be this week, I'd post my answers here as well as on my page, since many of the books that have made a lasting impression on me have at one time or another been either banned or challenged.

To me, (and I KNOW some of you will disagree), banning books is just silly. I understand wanting to shelter and protect your kids, but do this by making sure the books your kid is choosing are age appropriate, reading the books first, and being open to discussion about the topics in the books. And maybe stop being so uptight about things (I'm looking at you Harry Potter banners! Last I checked, magic wands aren't real, and these books are not corrupting our children's minds! Giving them hope, and instilling a love of reading? Yes! Corruption. Not so much.).

1. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
I didn't have to read this in school, which is probably why I loved it so much. I feel like even though it was written in the 40's and takes place in the early 1900's, the ideas throughout the book (trying to overcome family issues, the importance of education, pursuing dreams, etc.) still ring true today.

2. To Kill A Mockingbird
Again, I never read this one in school. Actually, it wasn't until just over a year ago that I read it for the first time. I love Scout's undying hope and innocence, and the way she tries to see the good in people. Which I'm sure has all to do with the relationships between Atticus and his children, really listening to what they have to say and being respectful of them. An example all of us parents can learn from, I'm sure.
This is also one of very few cases where the movie, starring the impeccable Gregory Peck(whom Harper Lee hand picked for the role.), is just about as good as the book.

3. The Book Thief

Speaking of banned books, this book which has been banned/challenged itself, is about a little girl in Nazi ruled Germany who, get this, STEALS banned books! What!? Liesel is a being fostered by a German couple after her mother can no longer care for her. This family also happens to be harboring a Jew. Such a fantastic, and so very sad, story, which happens to be narrated by Death himself.

The film version of this book also did a pretty good job sticking to the story, and the casting is perfect. I definitely recommend watching it after you read the book, if your heart can handle it.

4. Great Expectations

This one I did read in school! We read this in 9th grade, and I just loved the lively, interesting characters, how visual it was, and the plot twist. I could never understand what Pip saw in Estella, and this is the first time I can remember NOT wanting the characters to end up together. And poor Miss Havisham.

If I were you, I'd totally skip the 1998 movie version. It was so not good, and nothing like the book. In fact, I'm not sure there's been a truly decent film version, and there have been many movies made based on this book.

5. The Bridge to Terabithia

This was the first book to ever make me cry. I was probably going into 4th or 5th grade, and I was at my Grandparent's house visiting during summer vacation. Going to the library was always a highlight whenever I stayed there. She checked this book out for me, and I DEVOURED it! And absolutely sobbed at the end. I've since reread it, and it still gets me. Such a great tale of friendship, love, and tragedy.

6. Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers
I'm not normally a fan of non-fiction, but this one sucked me right in! Mary Roach keeps it interesting and entertaining, without being disrespectful. And I totally want to donate my body to science now!

7. Harry Potter. ALL of them!
Does one really need a reason to love Harry Potter? After all, there are so many. Adventure, humor, love, loss, friendship. Magic! I first read these when I was in my late teens, and it's the only series I've reread multiple times, just because it's that good. JK Rowling got kids (and adults) to READ! And that is so important. I'd rather have my kids fall in love with reading by reading these books about magic, than never to experience the love of books because I couldn't get past the darkness that is in them. Rowling wrote them to grow with the reader, therefore, when Harry is 17 in the last book, the reader should be of the same mind. (You know your kid better than anyone. If you don't think they can handle it, hold off until they can. But PLEASE don't hold off on these wonderful, beautifully written books forever. Besides, your kids will get to them sooner or later!) 
And yes. I loved every one of these movies as well. Maybe not as much as the books, but they're still some of my favorites to watch as a family.

8. The Fault in Our Stars

The last book I've read that made me sob! Like a baby. I knew what was coming. It was no secret. In a book about kids with cancer, it's never a secret. It still hit me hard. The characters are witty and fun and full of life despite the cancer. Hazel and Gus will stick with you for a long time. Okay> Okay.

Definitely check out this movie. It may not be exactly the same as the book, but man, they did a good job. And Shailene Woodley IS Hazel.

9. The Shopaholic series

Not because they're good, but because they're a fun escape. I've been keeping up with the antics of Rebecca Brandon (Nee Bloomwood) for the past 10 years, and I'm not giving up anytime soon, especially with the next book coming out next month! Becky Bloomwood-Brandon feels like a good friend. A good friend, whom I sometimes want to slap some sense into!

Skip this movie! Although Isla Fisher is adorable, it tries to cram the first three books into one movie, and loses it's charm completely.
10. Pride and Prejudice
But of course. How could I not include P&P?
Once again, I never read this in school, which, again, is probably why I love it so much. I love to get lost in the language. And oh that Mr. Darcy. I even tried to get my husband to name our son Fitzwilliam after Darcy, but no such luck. (I did get to name him after Walt Disney, so it wasn't too sad...). It's funny that even after a couple hundred years, this book is still so true on so many levels. If it's one you didn't like because you were forced to read, it may surprise you to find that if you go back to it now, you might just enjoy it after all.

Honestly, 10 book that have changed my life in some way or another, and stuck with me through the years, is not enough...

So, now YOU can accept the challenge! What are your 10 ten books that have stayed with you or touched you in such a way, that you still think about them?

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Book Review: Palisades Park

Palisades Park by Alan Brennert

The 1930's are a time of great dreams for the Stopka family, who own a French fry concession stand at the fabulous Palisades Park in New Jersey. After seven year old Toni Stopka sees a high dive act perform for the first time, she knows that is what she wants to do, even while The Great Depression, WWII, and even the Korean War threaten to tear her family apart.

This book was magical for me! I don't know if it's just this era (Mainly the 1930's through the 1950's), which I absolutely love, or the idea of having such a grand amusement park at your every whim (I could practically smell the fresh French fries and candy floss, and hear the sounds of the rides and their riders!), or even the fact that there's mention of Doc Carver's High Diving Horse and Diver act, which is what my favorite childhood movie, Wild Hearts Can't Be Broken, was about, but I loved this book, and I've been recommending it left and right since even before I finished it.
Alan Brennert is also the author of the books Moloka'i and Honolulu.

I give this book an A.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Book Review: 11/22/63

11/22/63 by Stephen King

When Al finds a portal to 1958 in his diner, he talks Jake Epping, a local English teacher,  into going on a mission back in time to stop the assassination of JFK from happening. But they find you really can't change the past without drastically changing the future.

I'm not usually a reader of Stephen King novels, mostly because he creeps me out. But I actually really enjoyed this book. I loved how King made references throughout to some of his other books (IT, Shawshank Redemption, The Body, etc.) and how I really didn't know what was going to happen next. It was also interesting to know that King spent over a decade researching the JFK assassination for this book. 11/22/63 is a little long, but well worth the 700 pages or so.

I give it a B+.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Book Review: Sarah's Key

Sarah's Key by Tatiana De Rosnay
American journalist Julia Jarmond is living in Paris with her French husband and their daughter, when she is asked to write an piece for her magazine on the Vel' d'Hiv, a roundup by the French police of the Jews living in Paris during WWII. When she finds that for the past sixty years her in-laws have been living in an apartment that had belonged to one of those Jewish families, her discoveries threaten to destroy her family.

 I really liked this great work of historical fiction. It really brought to light the terrible conditions of the  Vel' D'Hiv, which I had never heard of before, and the sad, yet hopeful, story stayed with me for a long time after I finished reading the book.

I give this one an A.

If you liked this book, you might also want to try The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak.