book review

The Story that Changed Me (Through the Shelf Thursday #3)

The Lottery by Shirley Jackson (1948)

When I was in elementary and middle school I did not read or write that much.  I HATED writing and only read what I was forced.

But, I do remember reading The Lottery by Shirley Jackson.  I can’t remember exactly what grade I was in (must have been in the fifth or sixth grade), but I will never forget sitting at my desk, and finishing it as part of our class assignment.  The story itself is short and was inserted into our textbook.

It changed me.

It changed how I felt about reading and the power of the written word.  I remember finishing the story and for the first time in my life being moved.  The author had emotionally invested me into the story enough that I cared about the characters and the outcome.

She made me respect what was happening in the world she created.

What was the lottery?

Why could the children participate?  When I read the story for the first time I remember thinking, “Wait a minute, why can these kids play?  My parents play ‘the lottery’ and I can’t, that’s no fair!”

Everyone seemed so keen on doing it, yet there was a calmness about it. Everyone wanted to know who was going to win, but it didn’t seem like anybody was very excited to win. Hmmm!?


The imagery, the foreshadowing, the mood, the climax, and then back to regular life like nothing ever happened.  At a young age I was left speechless, wondering if it was all true?

Simple story that you can either enjoy for story, or you can discuss for the underlying themes (which are MANY).  In both categories, it’s in a league of its own.

Do you remember the first story that really affected you?


Review of ‘Enna Burning’ by Shannon Hale (Through the Shelf Thursday #2)

Title: Enna Burning
Author: Shannon Hale
Genre: YA/MG Fantasy
Description from Goodreads:

Enna and Princess Isi became fast friends in The Goose Girl, but after Isi married Prince Geric, Enna returned to the forest. Enna’s simple life changes forever when she learns to wield fire and burn anything at will. Enna is convinced that she can use her ability for good–to fight Tira, the kingdom threatening the Bayern borders–and goes on secret raids to set fire to the Tiran camps and villages. But as the power of the fire grows stronger, she is less able to control her need to burn. In her recklessness she is captured by the Tiran army and held captive by a handsome, manipulative young captain who drugs her to keep her under his influence. Can Isi and her old friends Finn and Razo rescue her without sacrificing themselves? And with the fire still consuming her, will Enna find a way to manage the gift that threatens to destroy her?

Date I Finished Reading: September 10, 2012

My Rating: 3.5 of 5

My Review: (also on Goodreads, Amazon):

I love Shannon Hale’s writing style.  You can tell that she takes it serious and wants every single sentence to mean something and to help us understand the characters better.  But…

While I enjoyed Enna Burning, it was a disappointment after reading The Goose Girl – the first title in the Books of Bayern series.  In all honesty, it almost didn’t feel like the same Enna from the first book.  And I understand that, in a way, that’s the point.  She has a new conflict in her life that is taking her places she has never been and she is trying to figure out how to handle them…I get that.  But the problem was, as a reader…I just didn’t care as much.

The parts I was interested in (i.e. using the fire during battle or the mysterious group called the tata-rook) seemed to move faster than I would like, or with not as much depth.  The parts that I thought were not as important or could have been glossed over seemed to draaaag on (i.e. Enna being held captive by Sileph).

I thoroughly enjoyed the interaction with Enna and Isi again, and for me that’s what kept me involved in the story.  The parallel between wind and fire was beautifully told and helped to bring a solid conclusion to the book (hence the reason I gave it a 3.5).

I guess I just wanted it to be more than it was – but what it is is still very, very good.  Oh, the dilemma of high expections…truly unfare to the reader (and the writer).   SIDENOTE: I still love you Shannon Hale! 🙂

Dear reader: What did you think of the book?

My Favorite Book of All Time (Through the Shelf Thursday #1)

What is the best book you have ever read?

Think about that for a second…that’s a tough one.

After much thought and contemplation, I have come up with an answer and, more importantly, the reasoning behind it.

The best book I have ever read is Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck.

Why is it my favorite? Because I care about the characters in this story more than any other story I have ever read. Whenever I see the cover, hear the name, see the DVD at the video store (it’s also a fantastic movie) or talk to somebody about it, all I can think about is Lennie and those damn rabbits and George and that little shack on a few acres and…my heart wells up.

John Steinbeck drew me in and made me love those characters so much because they were imperfect, they were flawed, and in a way, they were me. They had the same desires and dreams, the same fears and apprehensions, and, at the end of the day, I wanted them to succeed because, in a way, if they did then I would.

The plot develops simply.  The characters – all of them – are real and add to the story  There are moments of laughter, of sadness, of hope and ultimately despair. And you want to talk about the “human condition” (as so many oft like to do) – the climax to Of Mice and Men has the most honest lecture I’ve ever read on the human condition. In some ways you see it coming and in some ways you don’t, but in the end it’s not played out as a gimmick, there is no shock value, it is pure utter sadness and pain because what happened HAD to happen…it was the only way.


John Steinbeck, in this very, very tiny novel, proved what every writer is taught in Writing 101 – make it short, sweet and to the point. I’m so grateful he did.

I know how it ends and yet it doesn’t change the fact that I still root for Lennie to get those damn rabbits and George to settle down in that little shack.

What a story!

What’s your favorite book of all time?   I would love to hear about it.