Al Capone Does My Shirts (Review)

Al Capone Does My Shirts Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko
This book has amazing depth for such simplicity. Choldenko grabs you with a unique setting, and then hooks you with real people. A pure delight. She really recreates an older era, the 1930s, where society was different, and takes you into that era like no other book I’ve read.

I only have one “beef” with this book…and it’s a minor inconsistency. In one small quote, Moose regrets that he’ll have a normal life, but his sister won’t, saying that he’ll graduate from high school, go to college, get married and have kids…The only problem with this is that college wasn’t an assumed route by everyone back in the 30s. In fact, college as a rite of passage, that is the feeling entitlement to go to college, is only 2 or 3 decades old.

Other than this, simply an excellent book.

View all my reviews.

A Boy and His Tiger

And so it goes with God. These words will now haunt me. The last words that Pi Patel utters in Yann Martel’s triumph: Life of Pi. I was enraptured by Martel’s story-telling, his thought-provoking philosophy wrapped into the most beautiful language I have EVER read in novel. But the ending…the ending, that’s what will keep me awake at night. I won’t tell you the ending, but I will say this: Life of Pi is a must-read. And if you want the real experience, listen to it on your Ipod–Jeff Woodman (the narrator) is nothing short of brilliant. Martel’s book–a thoughtful and riveting adventure about a shipwrecked boy stuck on a boat with a Bengal Tiger–is a never-ending stream of up and down, tragedy, triumph, chaos and order. I have never read such a beautiful fictional story in my life–in fact, I couldn’t help but wonder if it were true. I’d like to believe it’s true, after all, I think that’s how Pi Patel would want it. That is the brilliance of this book. You feel like you know Pi. You feel like it was real.

And that’s all I’ll say about this boy and his tiger. You’ll have to read it to experience it.

Ok, maybe I’ll say just one more thing, Martel’s boy and tiger made me reminisce about another wonderful story about a boy and his tiger:

Early Review of Breaking Dawn

So apparently, a lot of people are finding me through Google looking for early reviews of Breaking Dawn, the 4th installment in Stephenie Meyer’s wildly popular vampire novels.

Being a fan…I’m flattered you’re coming here. But, since I don’t have any inside-access to the publisher or to Stephenie’s publicist, and thus, do not get an early review copy…all I can give for an early review is this:

“I’m sure it’s going to be drop dead fantastic.”

And yes, you can quote me on that….and then if you happen to meet a publicist for Stephenie, tell them to send me a book…and I can give a real review.

Oh…and if you don’t like my vague and disappointing “review”…here’s a “just as disappointingly-vague” review of the book by Stephenie Meyer herself:

The Potter Plotline

Ok, it’s been a year since the official end of the Harry Potter craze…and sure, Jo Rowling and WB will do their best to keep it going with a theme park, and splitting the 7th movie into two movies (what will they call them, Harry Potter 7a and 7b?). But I’m wondering when the official “This is a Potter” Plotline reference will be made for the first time…you know, when someone says, this is another Harry Potter story. It’s akin to the reference to a story as a Dickens story, or something to that effect. The Potter plotline goes something like this: a little boy who has little to no value in society, is repressed, blah blah blah, discovers a secret power that makes him all of a sudden important, goes through the hard knocks to meet his destiny and succeed. Along the way, there are sacrifices, tragedy, but all adds up to make the hero of the story.

I guess you could say that that IS the Dickens plotline, but that totally destroys my point, so I’ll move on…pretend I didn’t mention that.

I bring this up because I’m starting to find that a lot of books follow the Potter plotline. The Bartimaeus trilogy is one example, but it would be unfair to limit that great book series in that way (plus, the trilogy is more about power than it is about a young boy who becomes something great).

Actually, a recent book that I started reading and had to put down is what inspired this tangent…Rick Riordan’s Lightning Thief. The Indie Girl and I checked this one out on the recommendation of friends who said it was one of the best books they had read. In short, we only got through the first fourth of the book before we were quickly tired by it…it’s all about a boy who’s labeled a trouble maker who eventually finds out that he is a hero in waiting and he goes to a summer camp to learn skills. It’s a carbon copy of the Potter Plotline, only it’s set against real life Greek Mythology, rather than magicians and witches.

In short, I think it’s been fantastic that Jo Rowling’s work has inspired worldwide reading…I’m just concerned that it’s also inspired worldwide copying and pasting…expanding the story to limitless backgrounds and situations.

Of Sequels and Trilogies: Bartimaeus and the Empire Strikes Back Syndrome

Golem\'s EyeI’m starting to notice a trend, and was wondering if you’ve noticed it too. The more I see and read, the more I think that the 2nd installment in a trilogy is one of the best. Empire Strikes Back is a dark horse favorite for a lot of people, me included, in the trilogy, and there are quite a few recent movies and books I’ve watched or read, and have noticed the same thing. For example, in the Twilight Book Series by Stephenie Meyer, New Moon (Book 2), has got to be the best–the anxiety, the emotion, the despair and recovery Meyer builds in that book far outweighs any book she has written. Shrek 2 was the best movie in that trilogy (especially better than the pathetic third installment). And the same rings true for the Bartimaeus Trilogy…

I just finished book two The Bartimaeus Trilogy: The Golem’s Eye. Simply incredible book.

First, as I was going through The Golem’s Eye, I came to the realization that Stroud’s original hero (Nathaniel) is a bit of a tragic character. In fact, rooting for him is like rooting for Draco Malfoy in the Potter series. Nathaniel is every bit as power hungry and brainwashed as was Draco. In book two, Stroud introduces a new hero…or heroine, Kitty Jones.

Second, the story was much more involved and fast paced than book one. It took a good few hundred pages before things started getting interesting in The Amulet of Samarkand. The story was good, but was fairly straightforward, without many plot divergences or multiple story lines. In Book two, there are at least 3 to 4 legitimate story lines…it’s like reading a Choose Your Own Adventure Book…only you get to choose who you’re rooting for.

Finally, the depth added to the real hero–Bartimaeus–brings you into the story and is quite engaging. So, in short, Book 2 is a great read*…I highly recommend it.

*Ok, I should say, great “listen”…since I’ve been listening to the books on CD. I have to put a plug in here, because the reader for this series is amazing. Simon Jones, a Broadway regular, really makes this series worthwhile. His voices and especially his interpretation of Bartimaeus, have kept me listening, even when I get urges to turn it off and listen to the new Death Cab…

Revisiting an Invasion…(Review of The Host)

I recently launched into a new book….now, before I go on, I have to confess, I was never a book reader as a kid, but, after I got through all 7 Potter books, I said to myself, that was thousands of pages of reading…I have time for this kind of stuff!

So, back to the point. I’ve become quite a closet fan of Stephenie Meyer. Her Twilight series is adored by teenie bopper girls the world over…but, I have to say, I like her writing style (plus, most of her books have some foundation in some really great music. Check out her playlists..she often writes an entire book based on a Muse album, or some other great indie band). It’s riveting and thought-provoking. I just picked up her newest book, The Host, for my wife, the Indie girl.

My first reaction–it’s a new spin on an old theme. She’s basically re-wrote Invasion of the Bodysnatchers, the classic 50s movie, with an angle on romance and mystery. I have to say, I like it. It’s intriguing. She also personalizes the “snatchers” more, which makes the read even more invigorating…from the get go, she has you wondering which side you should really be on. Overall, I’d say it’s definitely worth picking up…Don’t be fooled by the copy-cat story premise, it’s got some deeper plot scenarios and, as usual, the most in-depth development of characters I have seen since Mark Twain.