Tatiana de Rosnay’s Sarah’s Key


Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay | LibraryThing

Rosnay, T. . (2010). Sarah’s key. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin. 9781250004345

Reasons for Reading : I recalled my mom reading this book a few years before the movie hit American theaters. Also, working on my library’s contribution to the Holocaust Museum Houston’s Butterfly Project led me to Sarah’s Key. I checked out the book from HCPL.

Summary: Beginning in Nazi-occupied Paris in 1942, the French police arrest a ten year-old girl and her family in the Vel’ d’Hiv Roundup. The girl manages to lock her younger brother in a secret cupboard in the family’s apartment. She promises to return in a few hours.

The girl’s story alternates with that Julia Jarmond, an American journalist living in 2002 Paris with her French husband and daughter. Her editor asks her to write an article commemorating the sixtieth anniversary of the Vel d’Hiv Roundup. As Julia investigates, she stumbles upon a fateful connection to Sarah, that little girl who stowed her brother in the secret cupboard. This link may lead to better living for Julia or the undoing of her marriage.

What I Liked : Author de Rosnay created rich characters in Sarah and Julia. The latter narrated her of the novel and de Rosnay conveyed the thoughts of an American outcast quite authentically. Sarah’s point of view was related in third person.

I adored Jules and Genevieve. These people offer hope for humanity. They’re the sort that deserve Nobel Peace Prizes.

Also, I found it sobering to learn the French police’s involvement in the Holocaust. It just shows how far brainwashing can go.

What I Disliked : This story made me very sad. Obviously, the key issues weren’t the happiest. I promise that I went into reading this book with my eyes open.

The first part of the book alternated between Sarah’s 1942 and Julia’s 2002. Then, the second part of the book didn’t. Without revealing the end, I wasn’t too keen on losing one of those points of view.

Before I forget, Julia’s husband was horrendous!

Four Out of Five Pearls

Song: Linkin Park – In The End – YouTube

Setting : Paris, France, Germany, Poland, New York City, Boston, Italy

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For more on Tatiana de Rosnay’s Sarah’s Key, check out the following sites:

 

The Book of Proverbs


Scroll of the Book of Proverbs | Wikipedia

Proverbs – NIV archaeological study Bible: An Illustrated walk through Biblical history and culture. (2005). Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan. 9780310938521.

Proverbs is the first book I read under the heading of “Poetry” in the Read through the Bible Challenge. Many say that this is the oldest book in The Bible.

Attributed to Solomon, Proverbs offers wisdom and direction for one’s conduct. Since this book has thirty-one chapters, Proverbs is ideal monthly reading.

8 Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,
for the rights of all who are destitute.
9 Speak up and judge fairly;
defend the rights of the poor and needy.

For more onProverbs and Bible-Reading Challenge, check out the following links:

Jennifer Close’s Girls in White Dresses


Close, J., & Card, E. J. (2011). Girls in white dresses. New York, NY: Books on Tape/Random House Audio. 9780307939340

Girls In White Dresses by Jennifer Close | LibraryThing

Girls In White Dresses by Jennifer Close | LibraryThing

Reasons for Reading : I desperately sought out another audiobook for my work commute. I spot this on one of the shelving carts.

Summary: Broken into short story-like chapters, author Jennifer Close relays various vignettes about twenty-something single women. The main characters – Isabella, Mary, and Lauren – have much experience as bridesmaids. Throughout Girls in White Dresses, these three and others have the chance to share snippets of their lives.

What I Liked : These stories were pretty humorous. The chapter entitled “Hope” had me laughing my head off when I wasn’t nodding in agreement.

I felt I knew these characters pretty well before the end of the first chapter. I don’t completely identify with these women but I’ve met people similar to these characters.

What I Disliked : This pertains only to the audiobook version – the sole narrator did something weird with her voice when she read Lauren’s parts.

Additionally, it wasn’t always simple to keep track of the who was who in each chapter. Maybe that’s why the narrator gave Lauren an odd voice.

Three Out of Five Pearls

Song: Glee – My Favorite Things (Official Video) – YouTube

Setting : New York City, Chicago, Boston

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For more on Jennifer Close’s Girls in White Dresses, check out the following sites:
 

Kathryn Stockett’s The Help


The Help by Kathryn Stockett | LibraryThing

Stockett, K., Lamia, J., Turpin, B., Spencer, O., & Campbell, C. (2009). The help. New York, N.Y.: Penguin Audio. 9780143144182

Reasons for Reading : First, numerous people requested The Help. Second, the several hundred people on the waiting list gave witness to the buzz. Lastly, the movie hit theaters. I definitely wanted to read the book before I saw the film. Per advice, I requested the audiobook version from HCPL.

Summary : It’s 1962 in Jackson, Mississippi and Mrs. Elizabeth Leefolt’s maid, Aibileen readies the house for the white ladies’ bridge club. Aibileen and her best friend Minny are African American maids working for the society ladies. Mrs. Leefolt leacer her chubby toddler daughter, Mae Mobley, for Aibileen to raise while keeping up appearances for her best friend, the villainous Hilly Holbrook. Mrs. Leefolt’s other best friend, writer Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan, just graduated from Ole Miss and joins them for bridge.

As Hilly pushes Elizabeth to get her maid her own “bathroom” (more like an outhouse), Skeeter quietly asks where her beloved family maid, Constantine, has gone. Minny, the best cook in Jackson, works for Hilly’s senile mother until Minny’s mouth gets the best of her.

Seeing the injustice around them, Aibileen, Minny, and Skeeter conjure up a book – the true telling of what it’s like for an African American maid in The South.

What I Liked : I loved hearing the various voices reading the different parts of the story. Minny’s part was read by Octavia Spencer, who played the maid in movie.

Several of the events in the book amused me greatly but I won’t spoil 🙂 those.

What I Disliked : While I wanted to know what different characters thought, I felt the only authentic voice was that of Skeeter. I think the sections by Aibileen and Minny were well-written but I wondered how much Stockett could know about these women.

Four Out of Five Pearls

Song: Bob Dylan – Times They are a-Changin – YouTube

Setting : Jackson, Mississippi

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For more on Kathryn Stockett’s The Help, check out the following sites:

Francine Pascal’s Sweet Valley confidential: Ten years later


Sweet Valley Confidential: Ten Years Later by Francine Pascal | LibraryThing

Sweet Valley Confidential: Ten Years Later by Francine Pascal | LibraryThing

Pascal, F. (2011). Sweet Valley confidential: Ten years later. New York: St. Martin’s Press. 9780312667573

Reasons for Reading : I read the Sweet Valley books when I was in upper-elementary school. While I didn’t consider these books the most edifying literature, I enjoyed the adventures of twin sisters, Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield. My favorites were The Wakefields of Sweet Valley and The Wakefield Legacy: The Untold Story, which told of the twins’ ancestors. Maybe this foreshadowed my interest in genealogy.

Summary: Creator Francine Pascal revisits the world of Sweet Valley. Everyone is a decade older than when they were last seen. Now, the Wakefield twins aren’t on speaking terms. Elizabeth is pursuing her dream of journalism in New York and avoiding Jessica, who betrayed her. What did Jessica do that pushed the normally merciful and loving Elizabeth away from Sweet Valley? Oh, she just fell into bed with Elizabeth high school sweetheart – Todd Wilkins. Can Elizabeth ever get over such a betrayal?

What I Liked : It was good to see these characters from my girlhood. While I didn’t dislike Jessica, Elizabeth was always my favorite.  

Also, I liked seeing storylines resolved.

What I Disliked : Pascal seemed to think that since this was a book for “adults,” that she needed to make the characters drink, curse, and have lots of sex with various partners. I could understand that Elizabeth was mad at Jessica but she seemed just vile in this book. Oh, and did Alice Wakefield really need to drop the “f-bomb” at grandma’s birthday dinner at the country club?

Then, there were some spelling/grammar errors throughout the book.

One Out of Five Pearls (My lowest rating yet!)

Song: Sweet Valley High (Full Theme Song) by Kathy Fisher – YouTube

Setting : Sweet Valley, California & New York City

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For more on Francine Pascal’s Sweet Valley Confidential: Ten Years Later, check out the following sites:
 

Rachel Cohn and David Levithan’s Nick & Norah’s infinite playlist


Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn | LibraryThing

Cohn, R., & Levithan, D. (2006). Nick & Norah’s infinite playlist. New York: Knopf. 9780375835315

Reasons for Reading : Okay, as a music lover, I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to read a book about other music lovers. I requested Nick & Norah’s infinite playlist through HCPL.

Summary : Nick sees his ex-girlfriend heading his way at a concert. He turns to the girl next to him, Norah, and asks her “Will you be my girlfriend for the next five minutes?” Thus, the adventure of Nick and Norah begins.

What I Liked : The idea of a five minute relationship has potential for a great novel. Mostly, Cohn and Levithan navigated this concept well.

I appreciated how Cohn wrote from Norah’s point of view while Levithan handled Nick’s angle. Also, I liked that Cohn wrote the part of the female character and left the male character to Levithan.

It was cool seeing how Nick’s bandmate came through for him, too.

What I Disliked :  While I know a few things about music, I barely knew of the existence of “queer core.” Also, I didn’t like the dig at Weezer.

I doubt Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist would be good for the less mature teenager. There’s lots of cussing (i.e. the name of Nick’s band) and sexual situations.

Three Out of Five Pearls

Song: (Where’s Fluffy Music) – Last Words – YouTube

Setting : New York City

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For more on Rachel Cohn and David Levithan’s Nick & Norah’s infinite playlist, check out the following sites:
 
 

Judy Blume’s Forever. . .


Blume, J. (1975). Forever: A novel. Scarsdale, N.Y: Bradbury Press 9780027110302

Reasons for Reading : I remember loving all the Judy Blume books I read as a child – Tales of the Fourth Grade Nothing, Superfudge, Just As Long As We’re Together, etc. As I grew, I read Deenie and It’s Not the End of the World. When I read Wifey as a high school senior, the book scandalized me. From what everyone told me about Forever…, I decided not to try it until November 2011. I requested and checked it out from HCPL.

Summary: When Katherine meets Michael at a New Year’s Eve party thrown by best friend Erica’s cousin, she immediately catches his eye. Soon, the two high school seniors are dating and can’t get enough of each other. Michael wants to “go all the way” with Katherine. Ready for true love, Katherine agrees that their love is a “forever thing” . . . but is it really?

What I Liked : I wish Judy Blume had been my Life Science teacher. She doesn’t back away from the pros and cons of teen sex. The book even began with a note from Blume on how Forever… was published before HIV prevalence. The characters were identifiable, especially narrator Katherine.

What I Disliked : I didn’t care for Michael. I thought he pushed Katherine around the proverbial baseball diamond. Simply put, he pressured her into having sex with him.

Four Out of Five Pearls

Song: The Shirelles – Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow

Setting : New Jersey

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John D. Luerssen’s Rivers’ Edge: The Weezer Story


Rivers' Edge: The Weezer Story by John D. Luerssen | LibraryThing

Luerssen, J. D. (2004). Rivers’ edge: The Weezer story. Toronto: ECW Press. 9781550226195

Reasons for Reading: As a child, one of things my family saw to was that I listened to good music. Now, I’m not necessarily talking about classical, opera, or show tunes. No, I mean Oldies – real Rock ‘n’ Roll,  MoTown, Rhythm & Blues (rather than R&B), and Jazz. Country Western wasn’t considered music 🙂 . So, while I owned  Debbie Gibson and MC Hammer tapes, I also heard my dad’s records of Elvis Presley, The Ventures, The Beach Boys, The Animals, etc (not an exhaustive list). On road trips, we listened to one of his favorites – Buddy Holly. Let’s just say the other kids weren’t down with these old guys, especially that nerdy guy on my t-shirt.

Fast forward to 1994, my classmates and I weren’t just listening to Nirvana and Ace of Base, but to Weezer, a new group where frontman Rivers Cuomo crooned “I look just like Buddy Holly.” Like the pioneer rocker, Cuomo also wore horn rimmed glasses. Yeah, life went on but Weezer continued to resonate. Thus, growing up listening to Weezer made me want to read a book about one of my all-time favorite groups. At first, I requested John D. Luerssen’s Rivers’ Edge: The Weezer Story via Inter-Library Loan (ILL). Ultimately, I purchased the book from Amazon.

Summary: Undeterred by the group not endorsing his proposed biography, Luerssen set out to write about Weezer, a music group he enjoyed. He describes Weezer’s ascent to super stardom and chronicles the bands ups (Blue Album, Green Album, and Maladroit)  and downs (Pinkerton – “El Scorcho,” and “The Good Life.”)

At the center of this narrative is founder Rivers Cuomo, a brilliant musician and introvert who dons “Buddy Holly” glasses and other articles of nerdiness. Other founding members are the humorous drummer Patrick Wilson (definitely in “Keep Fishin‘”), “not second string to anyone” bassist Matt Sharp (check him out in this performance on The Late Show), and guitarist Jason Cropper. When Cropper left, he’s replaced by “Sass Master” Brian Bell (see the “The Impossible Bend“). Sharp left and was replaced by Mikey Welsh (Green Album – can be seen in “Hash Pipe” and “Island in the Sun“.) Welsh exited, his void being filled by current member Scott “Shrine Dog” Shriner (look at “Photograph” and “Dope Nose.”) Luerssen offers a “no stone unturned” account of this contemporary group.

What I Liked: It was good finding out what Cuomo’s songs meant to Cuomo and what they all felt about making videos, particularly “Undone – The Sweater Song.”

I admired Bell’s support of Cuomo during their hiatus and the loyalty of unofficial fifth member Karl Koch, fans Mykel, Carli, and the Rebel Weezer Alliance.

Lastly, I loved how I could recall where I was when most of these events took place – definitely when reading about NASA Commander William McCool.  In other words, we’re contemporaries.

What I Disliked: This book was published in 2004. That means the book predates the following:

Also, I didn’t care for the tangents of the band member’s other projects. Sorry, I’m not that crazy about “Friends of P.” Doesn’t the title suggest that it should focus on Rivers Cuomo, anyhow?

Then, there’s the belaboring of Cuomo’s affinity for Asian women. Of course, the book came out before Cuomo married in 2006. Cuomo address this in the general media in 2007 “Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo on Asian Women.” Luerssen paints Cuomo as a fetishist control freak, too.

Oh, and before I forget, I would’ve loved for this book to have an index!

Three Out of Five Pearls

Setting: United States

Song: Weezer – Say It Ain’t So – YouTube

You Might Also Like:

  • Rachel Cohn and David Levithan’s Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist
  • Sidney Bechet’s Treat It Gentle
  • Jack Kerouc’s On the Road

For more on John D. Luerssen’s Rivers’ edge: The Weezer story, please check out the following links :

Some More  Weezer Links:

Stephanie Perkins’ Lola and the Boy Next Door


Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins | LibraryThing

Perkins, S. (2011). Lola and the boy next door. New York, N.Y: Dutton Books. 9780525423287

Reasons for Reading  – Reading Anna and the French Kiss left me wanting …So, I requested Stephanie Perkins’ second novel, Lola and the Boy Next Door from HCPL.

Summary: Lola wishes for three things in life – 1) To arrive at her winter formal dressed in a Marie Antoinette-inspired ballgown she created, 2) For her parents to approve of her older, rocker boyfriend, and 3) To never again see the Bell Twins, Calliope and Cricket. Yet, as she constructs her fantastic costume, her folks won’t approve of her boyfriend Max, and the Bell Twins return to the house next door. Now, Lola can no longer avoid old feelings for Cricket, the boy next door. With a great set of colorful characters, Lola endeavors to navigate these troubled waters.

Review: I got a kick out of most of the characters in this books. I enjoyed their quirks and their extraordinary talents – Lola’s costume design, Cricket’s inventions, Calliope’s ice skating, etc. I also liked seeing Anna and St. Clair from Perkins’ first novel – Anna and the French Kiss. The only thing I didn’t care for about Lola and the Boy Next Door was Lola’s very mature relationship with her boyfriend Max. I thought Max was a real jerk and felt he knew better than to pursue a relationship with a minor. Nonetheless, all of this was real enough with just a dash of girlhood fantasy. 

Four Out of Five Pearls

Song: “Lola”- The Kinks – YouTube

Setting : San Francisco

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For more on Stephanie Perkins’ Lola and the Boy Next Door, check out the following sites:

Richard Peck’s Princess Ashley


Princess Ashley by Richard Peck | LibraryThing

Peck, R. (1988). Princess Ashley. New York: Dell. 9780440202066

Reasons for Reading : I remember reading this book in junior high. When I decided I wanted to look at Princess Ashley again, I realized that I would have to request it through Inter-library Loan (ILL).

Summary: Chelsea Olinger begins high school in a new town. She plan to blend in with the wallpaper. Chelsea remains true to this plan until she glimpses Ashley Packard, queen bee of the sophomore class. Shortly, Ashley handpicks Chelsea as a member of her clique. Chelsea can’t believe her luck and ignores the words of wisdom of her mother and devoted friend Pod Johnson regarding Ashley’s true character.

Review : Normally, I don’t care much for male writers telling a female’s story in first person narrative. Yet, I think Peck overcame this pretty well. I appreciated Peck’s description of fads and trends as well. These characters stand out for the familiarity.

Four Out of Five Pearls

Song: Mean Gurl by Gina Rene and Gabriel Rene – YouTube

Setting : I’m guessing somewhere in the Southwest USA.

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For more on Richard Peck’s Princess Ashley check out the following sites: