Book Reviews by Today, I Read…

A Continuous Book Review and Vocabulary Assignment

July 21

Comments: 2

Another Book Binge, and This Time I Didn’t Even Need to Leave Home

by Ann-Katrina

Remember how I was saying it’s nearly impossible to leave the house and not come home with a bunch of books? Well, it seems that I don’t even need to leave anymore. The books, they will find me. And I think I kind of like it this way.

Two books came in for review on Monday. First up courtesy of Simon & Schuster is a middle grade fantasy adventure titled Jack Blank and The Imagine Nation by Matt Myklusch. Second is Passing Strange by Daniel Waters (that cover is the UK version, btw), third book in the Generation Dead saga, courtesy of Price Minister.

Jack Blank and The Imagine Nation by Matt MykluschPassing Strange by Daniel Waters

The next two just arrived two, courtesy of the UPS lady. I ordered them from Amazon after they sat in my “to be ordered later” shopping cart for a few months. Both are a set of short stories for children. First is The Devil’s Storybook by Natalie Babbitt and the second is Half-Human compiled and edited by Bruce Coville.

The Devil's Storybook by Natalie BabbittHalf-Human

That, combined with the other books on my shelf waiting to be read should keep me busy for a little while.

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February 27

Comments: 7

Review: Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt

by Ann-Katrina

Tuck Everlasting Cover

Title: Tuck Everlasting
Author: Natalie Babbitt
ISBN: 978-0-312-36981-1
Story Length: 136 pages
Genre: Children 10+

Is eternal life a blessing or a curse? That is what young Winnie Foster must decide when she discovers a spring on her family’s property whose waters grant immortality. Members of the Tuck family, having drunk from the spring, tell Winnie of their experiences watching life go by and never rowing older.

But then Winnie must decide whether or not to keep Tuck’s secret—and whether or not to join them on their never-ending journey.

Three Quick Points About Tuck Everlasting

  • Point 1: Pensive. If I were to sum up this book in one word, that would be it.
  • Point 2: Ethereal. If I were to sum up this book in another word, that would be it.
  • Point 3: Bittersweet. If I were to sum up this book in one final word, that would be it.

My Thoughts on Tuck Everlasting

(Below are my thoughts on the book. If you want a full run down, you can read the story summary, which includes spoilers.)

I am terribly in love with this book, despite its melancholy.

First, there is the writing itself. On the surface, it looks simple, but there is an elegance in that simplicity. The descriptions are painted with an ethereal quality, quite like a daydream, and it has a steady undercurrent not unlike drifting lazily down a stream.

Next is the characters. Each one seems to have a life outside the pages of this book. Even when I finished reading, I could still imagine these people in miniature size continuing to live out their lives.

Winnie Foster was a bright, curious, and mature young girl, but she was still a little girl who did little girl things. Jesse Tuck was the epitome of impetuous youth, despite 104 years of experience. Miles Tuck was a weathered and pensive man, quite possibly due to his lot in life. Mae Tuck was a jubilant woman who somehow made me smile every few seconds. Angus Tuck was a wise, and sometimes persnickety, man who, more than anything, was ready to leave this world.

And the man in the yellow suit…what can I say about him? It’s been a long while since I remember disliking a character so swiftly as him. A true villain indeed. He was greed incarnate. But I did end up pitying him a bit at the end.

Then there is the story. A young girl tired of her life of confinement sets out on a mission of adventure, and finds exactly that—in an unexpected way. There’s plenty of tension—being held captive in a strange place with strange people; plenty of growth—what it means to truly live; and plenty of learning—what it means to do the right thing.

Finally, the message. There are so many nuanced messages woven in the story, including tolerance, greed, procrastination, choice, but the one recurring theme is that of life and death. Specifically, what does it really mean to live? And when you have immortality bestowed on you, do you continue to live at all?

Some parts of this book made me laugh and some parts choked me up. For instance, there’s a section where Tuck takes Winnie out in the rowboat and lodges it on a fallen tree trunk to illustrate his point:

“It goes on,” Tuck repeated, “to the ocean. But this rowboat now, it’s stuck. If we didn’t move it out ourself, it would stay here forever, trying to get loose, but stuck. That’s what us Tucks are, Winnie. Stuck so’s we can’t move on. We ain’t part of the wheel no more. Dropped off, Winnie. Left behind. And everywhere around us, things is moving and growing and changing. You, for instance. A child now, but someday a woman. And after that, moving on to make room for the new children.”

Winnie blinked, and all at once her mind was drowned with understanding of what he was saying. For she—yes, even she—would go out of the world willy-nilly someday. Just go out, like the flame of a candle, and no use protesting. It was a certainty. She would try very hard not to think of it, but sometimes, as now, it would be forced upon her. She raged against it, helpless and insulted, and blurted at last, “I don’t want to die.”

“No,” said Tuck calmly. “Not now. Your time’s not now. But dying’s part of the wheel, right there next to being born. You can’t pick out the pieces you like and leave the rest. Being part of the whole thing, that’s the blessing. But it’s passing us by, us Tucks. Living’s heavy work, but off to one side, the way we are, it’s useless, too. It don’t make sense. If I knowed how to climb back on the wheel, I’d do it in a minute. You can’t have living without dying. So you can’t call it living, what we got. We just are, we just be, like rocks beside the road.” –pg 63-4

That was the moment that my heart broke for the Tucks. That was the moment I finally drank in all that it meant for them to live forever because forever is a long time to watch the world drift by.

But ultimately, the lesson is: life is what you make of it, regardless of how long you’re given.

This is a book I wish I’d read as a child, and it’s a book I will certainly read again, multiple times (and to my future children). A beautiful story, though bittersweet.

Rating: Required Reading [A] (?)

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February 22

Comments: 2

Micro Read-a-Thon Update, Reviews in Queue, and the Week Ahead

by Ann-Katrina

The weekend is over. And it flew by. I barely had a chance to savor it. But, let’s not dwell on that, otherwise I might start twirling around really fast in an effort to time travel and that definitely wouldn’t be pretty.

Sunday was supposed to be dedicated to a mini read-a-thon, but due to some improper planning on my part (and lack of sleep the night before), it was transformed into a micro read-a-thon—two books and four short stories in six hours. I just missed the mark…by about four miles.

I did manage to finish one book (Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt) and get three quarters of the way through another (The Devouring by Simon Holt)—keep reading for some book notes. I also learned that I read much slower when I’m tired.*

Reviews in Queue

There are so many books around here begging to be reviewed, but I’ve been putting it off. I’m not sure why. Maybe there’s a mental block. Maybe it has something to do with the changes to the review system.** In any event, here are a few waiting for their moment on the chopping block:

Topless ProphetTopless Prophet by Alan Markovitz (with Thomas Stevens)

Before you read the title, see the cover image, and scoff, let me first explain the reason for requesting the book. I enjoy books on business and success—when they’re well done. If you can weave that valuable knowledge into an entertaining memoir, all the better. Plus, I enjoy a hint of risqué. And that’s precisely what Topless Prophet is.

It’s not as smut-filled as one might assume at first glance and deals more with Markovitz’s life growing up and entering the adult entertainment business, plus it dispenses some excellent advice (and inspiration) which could be applied in almost any situation. It’s also an interesting look behind the scenes of a high class strip club.

Tuck Everlasting by Natalie BabbittTuck Everlasting

When I finished this book, I wondered why I hadn’t read it much sooner. I was also left in awe at how quickly it floated by.

This book was a much faster read than I’d anticipated, but it has so much to offer. Words fail me.

It’s one book that I can squarely recommend for both children and adults. For the child, there’s an entertaining story about a girl who’s tired of the status quo and ends up on an adventure with a peculiar immortal family and learning about life in the process, and there’s a heavier message for the adults.

The question posed on the front cover is no joke: What if you could live forever?

The DevouringThe Devouring by Simon Holt

When I first read the description at Amazon, I thought it sounded sufficiently interesting. Then I read a few reviews and they all had something in common: they said the book was frightening. Still, I didn’t believe them. I’ve read (and watched) so much horror and thriller and blood-soaked thrasher stories that they rarely phase me anymore. Then I began reading…

…and it is frightening.

It’s not your traditional frightening. Nothing seems overtly out of place until you realize the cold air you feel blowing across your arms and legs is not natural or that the smell of carnival popcorn doesn’t belong in your bedroom or the woman sitting on the bed is not actually your long-gone mother. Or that your soul has been replaced by something dark and no one around you knows. It’s a slow chill that snakes through you until you’re numb. That’s the kind of frightening it is.

It’s not without its clichés, but I still can’t wait to finish this one.

The Week Ahead

I don’t often publish “week ahead” posts, but I figure: I’m here, I’m typing, so why not?

Since embarking on this little reading experiment, I had to put aside Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson—of which I’m halfway finished and it rocks—so I’ll probably finish that up this week, then move on to something weightier; Mrs. Kimble by Jennifer Haigh (which I snagged thanks to a recommendation by Sravana) or Bird in Hand by Christina Baker Kline perhaps.

Suite ScarlettMrs. KimbleBird in Hand

After that, I’m sure I’ll want to move on to something light and carefree, or maybe some non-fiction. Goody Hall by Natalie Babbitt, Mister Monday by Garth Nix, and The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot are good candidates.

Goody HallMister MondayThe Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Since I tend to be a moody reader, we’ll have to wait and see to be certain.

*I decided to use a track timer while reading. At the end of each chapter, I pressed the ‘Lap’ button. It was interesting to see bottlenecks or fluctuations based on my posture or overall alertness.

**After an unscientific survey performed a while back, I’ve decided to break my reviews up into two parts posted separately. One part will be the summary and vocab words (I originally planned to do vocab, but never actually did it) and the second part will be my thoughts on the book.

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February 8

Comments: 2

Recent Arrivals: Natalie Babbitt Galore!

by Ann-Katrina

When I was younger, I caught the tail end of a movie called Tuck Everlasting. It looked beautiful. And when I found out it was based on a book, I knew I wanted to read that book.

Years drifted by and despite wanting to watch the movie from the beginning and read the book, it slipped my mind. Now I’m making up for it…it seems, in spades. But something tells me I’ll enjoy Babbitt’s style, so I’m going out on a limb and stockpiling.

Tuck Everlasting The Eyes of the AmaryllisGoody Hall The Search for Delicious

Tuck Everlasting: Is eternal life a blessing or a curse? That is what young Winnie Foster must decide when she discovers a spring on her family’s property whose waters grant immortality. Members of the Tuck family, having drunk from the spring, tell Winnie of their experiences watching life go by and never growing older.

But then Winnie must decide whether or not to keep Tuck’s secret—and whether or not to join them on their never-ending journey.

The Eyes of the Amaryllis: When the brig Amaryllis was swallowed in a hurricane, the captain and the crew were swallowed, too. For thirty years the captain’s widow, Geneva Reade, has waited, certain that her husband will send her a message from the bottom of the sea. But someone else is waiting, too, and watching her, a man called Seward. Into this haunted situation comes Jenny, the widow’s granddaughter. The three of them, Gran, Jenny, and Seward, are drawn into a kind of deadly game with one another and with the sea, a game that only the sea knows how to win.

Goody Hall: An out of work actor, Hercules Feltwright, stumbles into a job tutoring Willet Goody, the only child of a widow living in a large, lonely house. Willet quickly involves his tutor in the search to discover the truth surrounding his father. The mystery unfolds with the discovery of hidden treasure, a gypsy séance, and the frightening exploration of a tomb of Midas Goody.

The Search for Delicious: Twelve-year-old Gaylen, the king’s messenger, is off to poll the kingdom, traveling from town to farmstead to town on his horse, Marrow. At first, it is merely a question of disagreement at the royal castle over which food should stand for Delicious in the new dictionary.

Then Gaylen’s quest leads him to unusual characters, including a minstrel who sings about a mermaid child, and Ardis, who might save the kingdom from havoc. And soon it seems that the search for Delicious had better succeed if civil war is to be avoided.

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