What is your reading goal this year?

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Tulip Eaters

The Tulip Eaters by Antoinette van Heugten

(Summary taken from the inside book cover) "It's the stuff of nightmares: Nora de Jong returns home from work one ordinary day to find her mother has been murdered. Her infant daughter is missing. And the only clue is the body of an unknown man on the living-room floor, clutching a Luger in his cold, dead hand. Frantic to find Rose, Nora puts aside her grief and frustration with the local police to start her own search. But the contents of a locked metal box she finds in her parents' attic leave her with as many questions as answers--and suggest the killer was not a stranger. Saving her daughter means delving deeper into her family's darkest history, leading Nora half a world away to Amsterdam, where her own unsettled past and memories of painful heartbreak rush back to haunt her. As Nora feverishly pieces together the truth from an old family diary, she's drawn back to a city under Nazi occupation, where her mother's alliances may have long ago sealed her own--and Rose's--fate."

I'm not going to lie. The first few chapters in this book are gruesome and gory. I almost couldn't handle it. I almost stopped reading. Fortunately, I kept reading. I had to. As a mom I had to know what had happened to Rose and if Nora was able to find her. This is seriously a nightmare scenario. It is every mom's worst fear come true. And every daughter's as well, because that is not what any of us want for our mothers. So on I read and read and read. I couldn't put it down. Some of the characters are well done and compelling, and some of them are over-the-top and not realistic (Amarisa). Nora's reactions seem to be a little extreme, although since I've never been in her position I can't judge. I know I would go crazy. Seriously. I don't think I could sit around and wait. I'm not sure I would go as far as she did, either, though, because I'm too much of a rule follower. Having a missing child may change that though. Momma Bear would most likely come out in ways I wouldn't expect. I felt bad for Nora too. Learning that your life and parents were nothing that you thought they were would be extremely difficult. I really liked Nora's friend Marijke. She was a voice of calm and reason, and supported Nora through all of the craziness. I also liked Richards, although he is only in about half of the book. The Rosen family creeped me out. All of them. Okay, all of them except for Henny. I do not understand their thinking or reasoning, and definitely did not like their justification for doing what they did. I'm not one to hold a grudge for over 30 years, so I had a hard time understanding their mentality. I was especially disappointed with Leah. Their actions were a bit much. 

I liked the pacing of the story and thought it was captivating. I don't know any Dutch, so when the characters started speaking in Dutch I just had to guess. It would have been nice to have a translation on some of it. I enjoyed learning the history of the Dutch during World War II. It wasn't a happy one, but was anything during that time period happy? I liked the title, but I thought the story would be more about the people living during that time; more about the actual people who had to eat the tulips. It wasn't, so I'm not quite sure why it is titled that way. There is a lot of language in this book. There are a lot of "f'" words and lots of others as well. There is an attempted rape, murder, attempted murder, assault, kidnapping, and lots of action. But don't worry, there is also a little romance. I really did enjoy this book. It may have a lot of coincidences and be a little unrealistic, but, like I said, I couldn't put it down until I knew that Nora had Rose safe in her hands. Did that happen even at the end? Oh, you'll have to read it to find out! Once you start, hang on and be prepared for a wild ride! 

Rating: R (This does not follow the moving ratings exactly, it is just my way of saying that it is not appropriate for younger readers.) A gruesome murder, murder, attempted murder, assault, kidnapping, attempted rape, and a lot of language, especially the "f" word.

Recommendation: Adult

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Rent Collector

The Rent Collector by Camron Wright

(Summary taken from an email from the publicist) "Survival for Ki Lim and Sang Ly is a daily battle at Stung Meanchey, the largest municipal waste dump in all of Cambodia. They make their living scavenging recyclables from the trash. Life would be hard enough without the worry for their chronically ill child, Nisay, and the added expense of medicines that are not working. Just when things seem worst, Sang Ly learns a secret about the ill-tempered rent collector who comes demanding money--a secret that sets in motion a tide that will change the life of everyone it sweeps past. The Rent Collector is a story of hope, of one woman’s journey to save her son and another woman’s chance at redemption. It demonstrates that even in a dump in Cambodia--perhaps especially in a dump in Cambodia--everyone deserves a second chance."

Wow! That about sums it up. Wow. This story is amazing. I was hooked from the first paragraph, and could not put it down. I laughed, cried, got angry, felt so blessed, and fell in love with these characters. Sang Ly may live in a dump, but she is an inspiration to me and those around her. Teachers across the world would give anything for more students like her. Her journey and her drive to learn are simply incredible. Sang Ly's attitude about life at the dump is realistic. Some days she hates it, and some days she feels blessed to be there. I can't even imagine. The love she has for Nisay and Ki Lim brought me to tears several times. I know that love. I feel it in myself. Ki Lim is also an inspiration. The love he has for his family also brought me to tears. When he ran around the city looking for Sang Ly and Nisay at all the different hospitals it made me cry. He sticks by Sang Ly, even through all her crazy investigative work and dreams, and supports her always, even though sometimes he may want to roll his eyes and walk away. Sopeap Sin is an amazingly complex woman. She evokes many different emotions in this book. At times I hated her and her gruff ways, and others times her kindness and selflessness humbled me. Thinking of Lucky, a mere child, living by himself at the dump, made me sick to my stomach. How sad. The mother in me just wanted to bring him home with me and take care of him. As you can tell, the characters in this book are so well done. They became my friends, my neighbors, and an inspiration to me. If they can have a positive attitude and a grateful heart while living in a tiny shack in a dump, then I should never have reason to complain. I live in a beautiful home in a beautiful area, I have a fabulous husband and four incredible children. We have doctors and grocery stores, hospitals and pharmacies nearby. I have food to eat and to give to my family. My husband has a good job and I am able to stay at home with my children. We have wonderful families and great neighbors. I am truly blessed. 

I thought the story was amazing. It is a novel, but to find out that Sang Ly, Ki Lim, Nisay, Lucky, and the Healer are all real people brought tears to my eyes. There are pictures at the end showing these people actually living like the characters in the story. I know there is a lot made up, but to know it is based on these real people somehow made it all the better. The writing draws you in and holds you captive, and the lessons this book teaches are priceless. It did jump around quite a bit, but it wasn't too hard to figure out. I loved this book and highly recommend it! There is a little bit of language in this book and some violence. There are beatings and other gang violence, and there is a girl the gangs want to sell into prostitution. Thankfully, that doesn't happen. They live in a harsh environment, so there are a few instances that are hard to read about, but they are some of the moments that the characters grow the most from. This is definitely one of my new favorite books.

Rating: PG-13 (Some language, gang violence, beatings, living in a harsh environment)

Recommendation: 12-13 and up. I've been debating since I finished if I'll let my 12 year-old read it. I think it is okay for him to read, but I don't know if the lessons will be lost on him. And that is a huge part of the story. I'll let you know.

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Three Tales of My Father's Dragon

Three Tales of My Father's Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett

(Summary taken from amazon.com) "The classic fantasy trilogy of Elmer Elevator and the flying baby dragon has delighted children and their parents for generations. Now, on the occasion of their fiftieth anniversary, Random House is proud to bring the three timeless tales together in one beautiful commemorative edition, complete with the original delightful illustrations.  A Newbery Honor Book and an ALA Notable Book, My Father's Dragonis followed by Elmer and the Dragon ("rich, humorous, and thoroughly satisfying"*) and The Dragons of Blueland ("ingenious and plausible, the fantasy well-sustained"*).  Each story stands alone, but read in succession, they are an unforgettable experience.*Library Journal, starred review "

How have I never read this??? Ruth Stiles Gannett wrote it in 1944 and it quickly became a Newberry Honor Book. I went all the way through school, and have now had three children go to second grade, and I haven't heard of it until now. My daughter's second grade teacher had her class read it for their monthly book group. Parents could come too, if they read it. I couldn't be left out so I had to read it!!! Luckily it is a very fast and easy read. It's cute, fun, has some great descriptions, and the kids in the class loved it. It was easy enough for the second graders to read by themselves, and it was very clean. The main character, Elmer Elevator, was cute, resourceful, clever, and had a fun sense of humor. The dragon was a little more whiny than Elmer was, but he had been in captivity, so you can't really fault him. I liked the places they went and the stories told there. Each story taught some very good lessons, and since children are always dreaming about going on adventures, this is a perfect fit. I liked that Elmer worked hard and didn't give up. I didn't love the fact that he just ran away from home, and wasn't ever punished for it, but.....I just talked about that with my daughter and we decided that was not a good choice, and she would never follow his example. I know. I'm crazy. Luckily there aren't any islands with dragons on them anywhere by me, so I think I'm good. I really enjoyed this story and seriously can't believe I've never read it! I definitely recommend it!

Rating: G (Clean!)

Recommendation: Everyone. It would be a fun read-aloud. Reading level second grade.