Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork

Marcelo is 17 and getting ready to begin his senior year. Marcelo is different from others. He hears music during the everyday moments of his life, and he sees the world in a different way from some people. He is diagnosed as having Asperger's syndrome. He has attended a special school throughout his life and has worked in the stables at his school taking care of the horses during the summer.

Marcelo is very intelligent and his father thinks that it is time for Marcelo to stop working at his school and move out into the real world. He wants Marcelo to work in his law firm mail room for the summer so that Marcelo can see what the world is really like outside of his school. Marcelo's experience in the mailroom brings him into contact with a lovely young woman named Jasmine. Jasmine is a spunky young lady, and she shows Marcelo the ropes. During this summer at the law firm, we follow Marcelo at his job and experience the world as he experiences it. He is disturbed when he one day finds a picture of a girl whose face is destroyed on one side. He becomes determined to find out what happened to this girl and to help her if he can. His search will show him more of the real world that he even knows.

This book was GREAT. First, it's wonderful to read. I loved Marcelo's voice as a narrator. He was honest, and I knew he was reporting things to me in a truthful way. He worked out issues in his head and as the reader, you just got to follow along and see how he came to the conclusions that he came to. I felt like when I was reading Marcelo and seeing the world through his eyes, that I was seeing the world in a more pure way. He hasn't been tainted by hurt, and cruelty, and many of the sad things in the world, and I saw with fresh eyes when reading this book.

The characters in this book are all wonderfully written, too. I felt that they were all good people, even if the book showed a bad side of them. People in real life are complicated. You may trust someone and then they hurt you. It's hard to reconcile these feelings, but that's life. Life is full of contradictions, and Marcelo finds this out as he interacts with all the other characters in the book, good and bad.

I think this book is a must read for everyone, young adults and adults. It's a great story with a memorable character. We all can learn a lot from Marcelo.

Grade: A

Monday, August 3, 2009

The Luxe by Anna Godberson

So, honestly, as a grown-up, I felt a little guilty for picking up The Luxe at the bookstore, but I really loved that dress on the cover!  I was hoping for some turn of the century, gossip-girl-like drama, and that is exactly what I got with this book.

The Luxe takes place in 1899 in Manhattan, and it was really fun to be taken back to the times when people "called" upon one another and attended fabulous parties.   Not that people don't attend parties now, but back then the parties were different.

The main characters are Elizabeth and Diana Holland, two New York sisters who are very much at the center of the social scene in Manhattan.  Elizabeth has been away in Europe, and her return starts the action of the story.  She and her sister have to appear to have lots of money, when the  truth is that  they have none.  Their father died and since then their mother has had to pay off his large debts, leaving the girls with nothing but their reputations....kind of reminds me of Rose and her mother in the movie Titanic.  With this knowledge weighing on her, Elizabeth has to play her part well and try to find a good match.  The wonderful and rich Henry Schoonmaker is single and a great catch that girls would die for. The only problem is that she sort of loves someone else...

Of course there must be a bad girl to add to this mix, and that's where Elizabeth's friend Penelope comes in.  Penelope is the wild girl (reminds me of Blair on Gossip Girl) and she always makes sure things are stirred up.

So against this backdrop, the girls, the guys, and the parents all try to match each other up.

I like the writing style of this book.  It was easy to read, but unique, too, because Godberson starts each chapter off with a little "real life snippet" of something:  a letter, a newspaper article, a line from the gossip column of the paper...and then the chapter starts from there.  Each chapter is focused on one of the girls, too, so you get to see things from each girls point of view.

I really enjoyed the book.  I did sort of figure out how things would unfold before they did, but it was ok, and still a fun book to read.  I did get the sequel, Rumors, and plan to read it soon.  All in all a fun book with old school girl drama, which, really, isn't that different from the girl drama of today.  I recommend this book to readers who are interested in drama, relationships, and love.

Grade:  B

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Nothing makes me madder than when people are mean to a sweet orphaned child.  Cinderella was treated badly.  Harry Potter had to sleep in the cupboard under the stairs.  We read these stories all the time.  Jane Eyre begins just like many of them, with a young girl struggling to live in a house where no one loves her.  Her parents are dead, her aunt hates having to take care of her, and her cousins are mean bullies. 

But somehow, Jane makes it.  This story was amazing.  I will admit that I tried to read this book twice before I actually got through it, but I loved every step of the way.  It's not as easy to zip through a classics as it is to read, say, The Luxe, but it's very rewarding.  

Jane moves from her aunt's house to a school called Lowood.  Lowood is home to other orphan girls, and here Jane gets an education and actually makes a friend or two.  The reader then follows Jane on the journey of her life.  Jane moves on and finds herself eventually as a young woman traveling to Thornfield Hall to be a governess to a bubbly young girl named Adele.  

Thornfield Hall is creepy.  Old and sort of empty, Jane wonders about the people who live and work there.  She doesn't meet the master of the house, and the servants say he doesn't come around a lot.  There are strange screams and cries and laughter that Jane hears, too, which concern her a bit.  Once Jane becomes a resident at Thornfield, though, her life will never be the same.  

I definitely recommend this book.  I really loved it.  It's a gothic novel and has spooky settings and situations.  There's a little mystery, and even more, there's love.  Ghosts and love in one book is a lot of fun.  The language was great, and I really got to know and like Jane as a person. She is calm and humble, and I learned a lot by watching her deal with all kinds of people.  

Grade:  A

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Back with My Summer Reading List

Wow, I have completely neglected my book blogging this summer.  I have read a lot, though.  I am going to have many reviews of my summer books coming in the next few days.  Here's what I have read and will share:
The Luxe
Jane Eyre
The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing Volume II -  The Kingdom on the Waves
Catching Fire
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Marcelo in the Real World
I still have about two real, full weeks of summer vacation left, so I plan to read lots more before school starts, and I always read lots even during the school year.