I had bought this book online thinking this would be the perfect gift for my best friend and her husband, newly minted parents. I had visions of them reading this to my goddaughter when she was older. When I got the book in the mail, however, it became apparent after flipping through the first few pages that when Alex was old enough to understand the poems, she would be more than able to read them to herself. So I'm keeping it until then (we'll see if I can still find it...).
While the verse was very witty and the illustrations were cute, I found I couldn't really like the book as much as I felt I should. Maybe it's because I'm very picky about my poetry. Maybe it was because of my preconception this was a children's book. 2/5
2) The Windup Girl by Paulo Bacigalupi (Science Fiction, 359 pages)
I find I have mixed feelings about this book. On one hand, I loved the world building - the futuristic, dark, gritty world that Bacigalupi creates that is very much possible given the current state of big ag's global domination and climate change. I really liked the complex plot with its political, economic, and social manoeuvring. On the other hand, while I truly appreciated his complex shades-of-black-more-than-gray characters, I did not like any of them. There has to be something sympathetic about the characters to get me interested in them, and except for Emiko who was, until the end, relentlessly passive due to her windup nature, they were all people I would not want to associate with. I would have probably loved this book if I could have liked any of the POV characters. 3.5/5
3) The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton (Historical Fiction, 552 pages)
As a little girl, Nell was found alone on a dock in Australia and taken in by a dockmaster and his wife. After her death, her granddaughter, Cassandra, learns this family secret and sets forth to finish what Nell started - the hunt for her true identity. This is a family saga, a mystery, and a tragic fairy tale all in one. I could not put this down, and I had to keep reading to find out the truth behind Nell's abandonment. Morton writes gorgeously, and lushly, and fully pulled me into the world she created. I loved how the story jumps between the present day and points in the past. I'm definitely going to have to hunt out some of Morton's other books.
I just wish Eliza's book of fairy tales is real so I can read it. 4.5/5
4) The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snickett (Juvenile Fiction, 162 pages)
When I first heard about this series, I was thinking "meh" and that I would never read it. As the hype and popularity grew, I was less "meh" and more "maybe, whenever I have some time and if I don't have to pay for it or exert any effort whatsoever." And then the movie came out, and it aired for free at my college way back in the day and I enjoyed it, but it didn't make me run out and get the books. And then a little while ago, Amazon for some reason had most of the series available for free download, so I went ahead and did just that -- except for the three books which wasn't available, one of which was the first one. "Eh," I shrugged. "If I ever get my hands on the first book, at least I'll have the next few ready to read if I like it." I found The Bad Beginning while browsing my library's ebook offerings and checked it out, and finally started the series this evening on my train ride home.
The Bad Beginning is a short little book and I finished it on the train. I have to question if I would have liked it more or less if I hadn't seen the movie first. It has been so long that I had forgotten I'd even seen it until I started reading and my memory started filling in the blanks of the plot. Ah well, on to the next one. 3/5
5) The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly (Juvenile Historical Fiction, 340 pages)
First off, what drew me to this book was the cover. It is absolutely gorgeous, and conceals so many important components of Calpurnia. I know, I know, "never judge a book by its cover" but I'm glad I did. I empathized so much with Callie who followed in her grandfather's footsteps and preferring to use her brain to study to natural world than her hands to sew or embroider. This book made me laugh, sigh with regret, want to scream and shake certain characters, and in the end, hope. 4.5/5
6) 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff (Memoir, 112 pages)
I first saw the movie 84, Charing Cross Road without realizing it was based on a book, though I began to suspect partway through. I was so utterly charmed that I immediately grabbed my computer and started researching the book, Helene Hanff, and Hanff's other books. And then proceeded to buy them all. For once, the movie not only got the story right, it captured the same tone of the book. I loved the back and forth in the letters, and while sometimes months or even a year or more passed between published letters, I never got the sense that the friendship lagged. I do wish more letters had been included, but that is not so much a complaint as a wistful sigh that the book wasn't longer. A remarkable friendship between two people who never even met. 4.5/5
7) The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street by Helene Hanff (Memoir, 144 pages)
I think I may have found a new favorite author. I love her easily quirky and witty writing style. Duchess is Hanff's diary of her trip to London, after the publication of 84, Charing Cross Road. If one knows the backstory, the book starts off bittersweet - Hanff is finally going to London but too late to meet her friend Frank Doel, and too late to see Marks & Co. before it closed.
I couldn't help smiling at Hanff's wit and humor. She took on her new-found celebrity with tongue-in-cheek aplomb (usually). I loved reading about the people she met, the places she saw, the food she ate - her observations of London make me want to go back there (though I didn't much care for it any of the times I was over there) to try and find Hanff's London. 4/5