Posted by: jennclimenhaga | March 10, 2011

The Glass Castle

Walls, Jeannette.  The Glass Castle: a memoir. Toronto:  Scribner, 2006.  Print.

In this touching memoir, we enter the world of Jeannette Walls and her voyage to survive a childhood less ordinary than most.  With an alcoholic father and a mother with a altered view of reality, Jeannette and her siblings must do what they can for each other.  From spending her youth dumpster diving for food or hiding money from her parents, to living on Park Ave. in New York City, Jeannette defeats the odds and survives.

Captivating and honest, The Glass Castle reads like fiction, but as we often know, truth is often stranger.  In addition to this book being full of hardship, it is also full of warmth and sincerity as the reader learns that love can really be a garbage bag full of small bills won in a poker game; or the brightest star in the sky given as a gift on Christmas Eve.

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Posted by: jennclimenhaga | March 3, 2011

The Disappeared

Echlin, Kim.  The Disappeared. Toronto:  Penguin Canada, 2010.  Print.

Set in the tumultuous period of the Cambodian genocide, The Disappeared is a story of love within a period of hate.  The story begins in Montreal, with protagonist Anne Greves remembering the bittersweet joy of meeting musician Serey, the man who captured her heart.  When, after only a brief time together, Serey returns to Cambodia to try and find his parents, Anne is left to wonder what ever happened to him.  Fast forward eleven years and Anne is watching television following the withdrawal of the Vietnamese and the arrival of the United Nations into war torn Cambodia when she thinks she sees Serey in the crowd.  Determined to fill the hollow feeling within, Anne sets out to find him.

Haunting and gracefully written, The Disappeared is a novel with power.  It’s simple sentences are deceiving, for within each well chosen word hides emotion and rawness unlike I’ve ever read.  A book of both beauty and truth, I would recommend this book without hesitation.

Posted by: jennclimenhaga | March 2, 2011

The Librarian Returns

 

Ah, to be back at my desk!  For those of you who read this blog and know me, you will  know that I’ve taken a ten month hiatus to spend my time reflecting on something totally  unrelated…getting beyond a diagnosis of breast cancer.  After spending ten months away  from my desk, my work, and sharing my love of literature, I’m ready to return to the  world of blogging!

I read a lot of books in the past ten months, not all of them were fiction, a lot were treatment related, and some were ones that were sitting on my shelf for years.  However, with the hope of keeping my sanity I have decided not to blog about any of them.  Instead, I’m going to start off with a fresh slate, with the hopes of reading and blogging about some fabulous reads that are still in my future (which I’m anticipating will last a long long time.)

Posted by: jennclimenhaga | May 14, 2010

The Girl Who Played With Fire

When two journalists and a prominent Swedish Advokat are murdered, Lisbeth Salander is the prime suspect.  The only thing that the police cannot figure out is her motive.  Her only hope comes in the form of  Mikael Blomkvist, who, while Salander is in hiding, must try and recreate Salander’s last moments before he can convince both himself and the Swedish police of her innocence.

Although the plot of this book was interesting, my honest opinion is that it needed major editorial work.  Not only did I feel a lot less compassion for the characters, [compared to The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo] I found the pace to be murky and cumbersome.  I also disliked the frequent harsh language, and wonder if it was an issue of translation.  Either way, it did not add to the tone of the book, and frequently I found myself questioning the author’s intent.  This is one book where I’m actually thinking the movie might be better as it would have to cut out much of the unnecessary drudgery.

Posted by: jennclimenhaga | May 13, 2010

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Mikael Blomkvist, a journalist with an iconic sense of morality, is pulled into a forty year old mystery when he is hired by a former business mogul, Henrik Vanger.  Also drawn into the mix is Lisbeth Salander; a haunting young women with an unusual talent for finding trouble.  When Lisbeth and Mikael start digging into the past, they realize that despite decades passing, someone wants their secrets to remain buried.

Larsson’s ability to create warm, yet seriously flawed characters means that you will want to read this book right to the end.  With enough suspense to keep you intrigued,  just the right amount of foreshadowing, and an ending with major shock factor, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo will hook readers into its pages in mere minutes.

Posted by: jennclimenhaga | April 26, 2010

Don’t Think Twice

Lohans, Alison.  Don’t Think Twice.  Saskatoon, SK: Thistledown, 1997.  Print.

Jan Carlson’s life changes when her sixteen-year-old daughter Lisa runs away from home.  Left to pick up the pieces of a breaking relationship with her husband and hope for her daughters return, Jan is petrified when she thinks of all the places Lisa could be.  Not content to sit and do nothing, Jan starts writing her memoir in hopes of one day sharing it with her daughter.

Jan’s story of growing up in small town California during the 1960’s may be fictional, but the story and the themes are powerful all the same.  Dealing with some pretty hefty subjects, Don’t Think Twice was a good read with strong protagonists, and a subject matter that is appealing to young adult and adult readers alike.

Posted by: jennclimenhaga | April 23, 2010

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

Bradley, Alan.  The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie.  n.p.: Anchor Canada, 2009.  Print.

Flavia de Luce is on the case after finding a man in her garden, just minutes from death.  Soon her father is arrested for the crime and Flavia knows that time is of the essence if she hopes to keep her father from swinging for murder.

Sassy and smart, Flavia de Luce is one of the best protagonists to come along in ages.  Bradley’s writing is smooth and elegant, with just enough flair to make it impossible to put down.  The world he creates is so realistic I can almost hear the creaking of the stairs as Flavia sneaks up them just one more time…  I can’t wait to pick up the next adventure!

Posted by: jennclimenhaga | April 21, 2010

Summer of Fire

Bass, Karen.  Summer of Fire.  Regina:  Coteau Books, 2009.  Print.

Forced to spend the summer in Germany with her aggravating sister Cassandra, Del isn’t sure which is worse – her sisters demanding rules, or the distance between her and all of her friends.  When Cassandra’s neighbour Luise asks Del to read the diary of her grandmother, Del sees it as a way to make a little extra money.  Soon though the story of Luise’s grandmother who was raped at sixteen and pregnant as a result in Hitler’s Germany, captivates Del as she comes to terms with her own  problems.

As a novel, this book had me hooked right within the first chapter (always a good sign.)  I was in awe of both the historical plot line, and the ability of Bass to create such believability and sorrow with her words.  Not very often am I moved to tears within the first half of a book, but Summer of Fire delivered more emotional punch than I was expecting.  I mostly enjoyed the story of Garda (Luise’s grandmother), but I saw the merit of Del’s story and how it might resonate with teens today.  I found that the first three quarters of the book were the best, and it dragged on a bit towards the end.  One plot line involving Del in particular was a little far fetched, and I wish that it would have been edited out for length and clarity.

I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a good read, as well as anyone interested in historical fiction that jumps off of the page as if it were happening today.

Posted by: jennclimenhaga | March 20, 2010

The Luxe

Godberson, Anna.  The Luxe.  New York:  HarperCollins, 2007.  Print.

The setting is 1899 New York, where high society rules the city.  Elizabeth Holland is the perfect lady with one little secret; she is in love with the wrong man.  As her family faces financial difficulty, Elizabeth must choose between the man she loves and the man whose wealth could save her family.

Although I found this book frustrating in plot, it was also highly addictive.  Obsession with the famous and wealthy has always been a part of our culture, and this novel adapts that obsession to historical fiction quite well.  Although I will never find this series among my list of “must reads,” it is mindless entertainment fitting for vacations and the beach.

Posted by: jennclimenhaga | March 19, 2010

Mare’s War

Davis, Tanita S.  Mare’s War.  New York:  Alfred A. Knopf, 2009.  Print.

Octavia and Tali have the unfortunate task of spending their summer holidays accompanying their eccentric grandmother across the United States  in order to attend a family reunion.  Soon though, the tale of their grandmother’s role in World War II captures their imagination as they start to understand the adversities that their grandmother faced as a young African American women growing up in the 1940’s.

As this tale wove in and out of the past and present, I was acutely aware of my ignorance in one of the most fascinating parts of World War II; the role of women in areas such as the U.S. Women’s Army Corps.  Although this book brought a distinctly American point of view, I still found it engaging with good characterization.  This would be an interesting novel to use in the classroom to examine the history of racial discrimination in the United States.

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