Friday, June 25, 2010

Water for Elephants by Sarah Gruen

I borrowed this book from my Mom forever ago and finally got a chance to pick it up.  I've been wanting to read it forever and it totally lived up to my expectations.  I'm really interested to see the movie when it comes out probably next year.

Right now Jacob Jankowski is ninety, or ninety-three...something around there.  He's in a nursing home and trying to make it through each day of sitting around and eating the terrible mushy food.  But in the past Jacob is a young man about to finish veterinary school at Cornell.  Just before he sits for his final examinations - his world changes forever.  He won't be taking over his father's veterinary practice like he thought.  He finds himself alone and on the road.

Jacob hooks up with the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth and his life becomes an adventure he'd never imagined.  He finds work, actually gets to tend to the animals after a while, and meets a very beautiful woman.  He learns the ways of the circus, interacts with all of the crazy characters and workers, and he makes it.

But life in the circus isn't always easy.  Money isn't always there.  And it's really hard to work anywhere if you fall in love with your boss' wife....

In the book ninety or ninety-three year old Jacob thinks back about his time with the circus and the reader gets to experience a time and place like none other.  I felt like I was right there.  The descriptions of the circus and the people came to life.  You like Jacob from the beginning and you are on his side throughout as he navigates a life he never dreamed he would be living.

I would definitely recommend this book to everyone.  It's so fun and unique.  I used to watch Carnivale on HBO before they ended it and it brought wonderful memories of that show back to me.  A great read for all.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Last Summer of the Death Warriors by Francisco X. Stork

I loved Marcelo and the Real World by Stork, and Death Warriors is a close second.  His male characters are just wonderful dudes.  In this new book, a boy named Pancho is almost a senior in high school.  His father is killed in a freak work accident and then his sister (who is older but mentally slow) mysteriously dies in a hotel room. 

Pancho believes his sister was murdered.  He gets sent to a home for boys - basically an orphanage.  It's not bad, maybe nice actually.  Regardless of what "the system" is going to do with him, he knows what he will do with himself.  He is g oing to find the man who murdered his sister and kill him. 

He can't just sit alone and plan this all out, though, because from the moment he arrives at the home, he is matched up with a boy named D. Q.  D. Q.  is a young many who just found out that he has a really rare cancer disease.  The two boys hang out.  Pancho wouldn't say they're friends, but after time passes, the two become close.  Pancho helps D. Q. and takes him to treatments.

D. Q. is working on his Death Warrior Manifesto - his writings about "sucking the marrow" out of life and living his days to the fullest.  These ideas are completely the opposite of Pancho's - who doesn't even see life any more or care what happens to him if he carries out his plan.

The book follows the relationship of the two.  It's funny and honest.  D. Q. is a character that gets in your heart.  He just knows what people needs.  We all know people who seem to "see" more than others...people who are just tuned in.  D. Q. is one of those people. 

The story wasn't as suspenseful for me as Marcelo, but I liked it a lot.  A good read.  I will continue to look forward to more by Stork.