through the shelf thursday

Son by Lois Lowry (Through the Shelf Thursday #10)

Title: Son (The Giver #4)
Author: Lois Lowry
Genre: YA Science Fiction/Fantasy
Description from Goodreads:

They called her Water Claire. When she washed up on their shore, no one knew that she came from a society where emotions and colors didn’t exist. That she had become a Vessel at age thirteen. That she had carried a Product at age fourteen. That it had been stolen from her body. Claire had a son. But what became of him she never knew. What was his name? Was he even alive?  She was supposed to forget him, but that was impossible. Now Claire will stop at nothing to find her child, even if it means making an unimaginable sacrifice. 

Son thrusts readers once again into the chilling world of the Newbery Medal winning book, The Giver, as well as Gathering Blue and Messengerwhere a new hero emerges. In this thrilling series finale, the startling and long-awaited conclusion to Lois Lowry’s epic tale culminates in a final clash between good and evil.

Date I Finished Reading: February, 2013

My Rating: 3 of 5

My Review: (also on GoodreadsAmazon):

Lois Lowry changed how I appreciated books.

Whenever I read The Giver as a young man (I’m assuming I was in middle or early high school) it changed my life.  It is one of the three stories that truly stuck with me growing up (the other two being The Lottery and Of Mice and Men).

The setting was haunting and the characters were real, at least they were to me.  I understood what Jonas was going through and was immersed in his trial and wanted to see him overcome.

I wish I could say the same for Lowry’s fourth – and final – book in the Giver series, Son.  It was good and I am very glad I read it, but it left me wanting a different ending.  A very different ending.

The plot line is intriguing; being able to go back and learn about the girl – Claire – who had to give her babe Gabe up in the first book.  Seeing her point of view as the story unfolds.  I was pulled in right away and turning the pages.  I liked how Lowry developed Clair and her character.

I enjoyed the first 2/3 of the book.  We know what Clair is after and there is a nice twist in the second act of the book that curtails that longing for a bit.  Lowry does a great job changing the pace and the scenery and helping Claire to grow.  She is in a new surrounding with new people…the exact opposite of the gated life she has known.  The story drags in places, but it can be overlooked because the characters are endearing and the focus never veers off Claire.

Then we get to the last act of the book and…the story jumps the shark (so to speak).  The whole point of the book is that Claire is trying to find her ‘son’.  Well, through a series of events, she finds him, but there is no interaction.  Lowry builds some plot points to try and keep Claire from her son, but they don’t work, at least not for this reader.  The supposed conflict to keep them apart is contrived and when Claire and her son finally do meet…nothing.  Lowry has dragged me through this emotional attachment for no payoff, yet the final scene she still expects me to care about the characters?  I don’t think so.  I was very, very disappointed.

If you have read the other books in the Giver series, it’s worth the read, I promise.  But it will unfortunately (probably) not live up to your expectations.  And writing that makes me sad, but in the end I’m thankful for the journey.

Have you read ‘Son’?  What did you think?

Review of ‘Bitterblue’ by Kristin Cashore (Through the Shelf Thursday #9)

TitleBitterblue
AuthorKristin Cashore
Genre: YA Fantasy
Description from Goodreads:

Eight years after Graceling, Bitterblue is now queen of Monsea. But the influence of her father, a violent psychopath with mind-altering abilities, lives on. Her advisors, who have run things since Leck died, believe in a forward-thinking plan: Pardon all who committed terrible acts under Leck’s reign, and forget anything bad ever happened. But when Bitterblue begins sneaking outside the castle–disguised and alone–to walk the streets of her own city, she starts realizing that the kingdom has been under the thirty-five-year spell of a madman, and the only way to move forward is to revisit the past.

Two thieves, who only steal what has already been stolen, change her life forever. They hold a key to the truth of Leck’s reign. And one of them, with an extreme skill called a Grace that he hasn’t yet identified, holds a key to her heart.

Date I Finished Reading: January 4, 2013

My Rating: 3.5 of 5

My Review: (also on GoodreadsAmazon):

I really, really wanted to like this book, I truly did.  I LOVED Graceling.  It was the book that started my love affair with YA fiction not too long ago.  Then I read the sequel, Fire, and was not impressed.  But I loved the character Bitterblue enough in the first book, and respected Cashore’s writing, to at least finish the series.

In the last of the trilogy, we find Bitterblue, now on the cusp of womanhood, in full reign of her kingdom, but still trying to overcome the grasp that her father has held on the kingdom, and her, for so many years.  Is there conflict, yes.  Are there great characters, yes.  Do we feel for Bitterblue and her plight, yes.

But…(there’s always a but, huh)!

Cashore does a great job building up the past and how horrible King Leck was, but the conflict – now, in the present – never seems immediate enough.  I never felt like Bitterblue was in any real danger.  Because of this, I had to keep reminding myself that she was actually in her late teens, and not the same small child I had read about in the first book.  The conflict from her father in the past is strong enough to be real, but it just doesn’t work for me.  Cashore is never able to bring any real urgency.

Why?  One of the reasons is because the characters in the book (which are plenty) are stiffled inside the castle.  The majority of the book (the VAST majority of the book) takes place inside the castle.  There was a moment towards the beginning where Bitterblue wants to get out and explore the city, meeting new people, learning of secret plots, and it really helped the story move along.  The introduction of Saf as the love interest and mysterious rogue worked for me, but just when it was moving forward and I felt a little breathing room, everything moves right back into the castle.  So many characters crammed into the confines of the same space got crowded.  I think Cashore had a hard time as well trying to figure out what to do with them.  Saf, the one character I wanted to know more about, almost became a byword for the second half of the novel, with no real relationship built up between him and Bitterblue.  What gives!?!?

Maybe it was just too much.  The book did NOT need to be 500 pages long.  Cashore has a wonderful, witty dialogue with characters that came out in this book, that was enjoyable, but over time became unimportant because I lost track why I was reading.  At the end of the day it was a good book, worthy of the time.  I understand Bitterblue’s motives and what she is trying to accomplish.  There was resolution, I just don’t agree with the plot and storyline that Cashore chose to bring it about.

Have you read ‘Bitterblue’?  What did you think?

Review of ‘Unbroken’ by Laura Hillenbrand (Through the Shelf Thursday #8)

Title: Unbroken
Author: Laura Hillenbrand
Genre: History, Biography, World War II
Description from Goodreads:

On a May afternoon in 1943, an Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean and disappeared, leaving only a spray of debris and a slick of oil, gasoline, and blood.  Then, on the ocean surface, a face appeared.  It was that of a young lieutenant, the plane’s bombardier, who was struggling to a life raft and pulling himself aboard.  So began one of the most extraordinary odysseys of the Second World War.

The lieutenant’s name was Louis Zamperini.  In boyhood, he’d been a cunning and incorrigible delinquent, breaking into houses, brawling, and fleeing his home to ride the rails.  As a teenager, he had channeled his defiance into running, discovering a prodigious talent that had carried him to the Berlin Olympics and within sight of the four-minute mile.  But when war had come, the athlete had become an airman, embarking on a journey that led to his doomed flight, a tiny raft, and a drift into the unknown.

Ahead of Zamperini lay thousands of miles of open ocean, leaping sharks, a foundering raft, thirst and starvation, enemy aircraft, and, beyond, a trial even greater.  Driven to the limits of endurance, Zamperini would answer desperation with ingenuity; suffering with hope, resolve, and humor; brutality with rebellion.  His fate, whether triumph or tragedy, would be suspended on the fraying wire of his will.

Date I Finished Reading: November 27, 2012

My Rating: 4 of 5

My Review: (also on Goodreads, Amazon):

I have been on a young adult kick lately, so this is the first adult book I have read in a while.  A friend of mine lent it to me and told me it was one of the best history books he had ever read; not just about World War 2, but in general.  The author, Laura Hillenbrand, is well known for her triumphant Seabiscuit (which I did not read, but loved the movie); so with all the buzz around the book and my friend’s recommendation I gave it a shot.

I’m so glad I did.  What an AMAZING story!  If the book wasn’t so well documented it would be hard to believe it was true.  We read the story of Louie Zamperini and how he goes from rough teenager, to Olympic runner, to World War II airman, to floating survivor, to tortured (physically) POW, to tortured (emotionally) war survivor, to a redeemed man who finds peace in his life.

Honestly, you couldn’t make this stuff up; and that’s where Hillenbrand’s success lies…she didn’t make it up. She spent almost a decade researching and meeting the people that affected Zamperini’s life: family, fly-mates, even the POW guards.  We become intimate with not only the main character, but those around him.  Her style of writing gives us depth, but personally it’s also one of the flaws of the book.  I want substance, I want to know about other people, but Hillenbrand seemed to go on tangents where one minute I was reading about Louie and the next minute I was reading about somebody completely different (and wondering why I wasn’t reading about Louie).  That is one reason I gave the book a 4 – it wasn’t because of the story, but more because I disagreed with the writing, or how it was put together.  I wanted the book to focus on Louie.  Bring in family and friends and enemies, I want to know about them, but keep the focus on Louie.

Another issue I had with the writing is there were times when Hillenbrand seemed to repeat herself.  I would spend a page reading about how a time in Louie’s life and how he felt and I would feel like I was right there, eating it all up.  Then she would share another tidbit, maybe a couple of paragraphs of side information, which was fine.  But then she would go back to talking about the same information as before, but do it in a way as if she had not been talking about it…like she was introducing it for the first time; with the same vigor and seriousness that she had the first time.  I felt like she was trying to draw me in…again.  And it wasn’t needed.  This happened multiple times.

So again, the story itself and all the characters involved gave me an insight to World War II and POW camps that I would have never imagined and made me want to turn the page to find out more.  My respect for those in uniform has grown exponentially.  The stats alone are enough to make anyone pause.  There is not a single doubt that the author did her homework, and the people come out in the story, but at times the writing made the story repetitive and maybe a little forced.   I’m not sure if the book knows what it wants to be.  While the book seems like it wants to be a biography, I can’t really say that it is…100%.  It’s like Hillenbrand wanted to fit as much information about aviation and POW camps from WW2 into one man’s story.

But, all that aside, a phenomenal story very much worth the read!

Have you read ‘Unbroken’?  What did you think?

Review of ‘Freakling’ by Lana Krumwiede (Through the Shelf Thursday #7)

UPDATE: I will be interviewing the author of Freakling, Lana Krumwiede, for my next ‘Tips on Writing Tuesday;, November 13th.  Stop back by to enter to win your own autographed copy!

Title: Freakling
Author: Lana Krumwiede
Genre: MG Sci-fi/Dystopian
Description from Goodreads:

In twelve-year-old Taemon’s city, everyone has a power called psi—the ability to move and manipulate objects with their minds. When Taemon loses his psi in a traumatic accident, he must hide his lack of power by any means possible. But a humiliating incident at a sports tournament exposes his disability, and Taemon is exiled to the powerless colony.

The “dud farm” is not what Taemon expected, though: people are kind and open, and they actually seem to enjoy using their hands to work and play and even comfort their children. Taemon adjusts to his new life quickly, making friends and finding unconditional acceptance.

But gradually he discovers that for all its openness, there are mysteries at the colony, too—dangerous secrets that would give unchecked power to psi wielders if discovered.

When Taemon unwittingly leaks one of these secrets, will he have the courage to repair the damage—even if it means returning to the city and facing the very people who exiled him?

Date I Finished Reading: October 30, 2012

My Rating: 4.5 of 5

My Review: (also on Goodreads):

The premise of Freakling is what drew me in.  Young boy, just starting his teenage years, lives in a city where everybody has the same power – that’s a pretty good twist.  The power to move things with your mind – psi – is also intriguing in how Krumwiede applies it to the book; not only does it serve as a useful tool for action, but it also has a more symbolic purpose as well.  Is it possible for somebody to “lose their identity” when everybody has the same identity (i.e. psi).  Very interesting premise.

Writing characters that use their minds to move things seems no easy task to me, but Krumwiede does a good job of making it visual.  She has built a very dystopic, interesting world full of people who have become self-gratifying and almost prideful in their power.  As soon as the story starts, their is tension, especially between Taemon and his older brother, Yens.  Yens is possibly the True Son, the one who has been prophesied about to help bring balance, and he is a die hard psi worshiper.  He has no use for Taemon and his weak ways.  As a MG novel, Krumwiede does a great job pulling the reader in and having them be able to relate to the characters.  As the book progresses, more characters are introduced: the town leader who wants control, the girl that is a friend but possibly something more, the best friend, the quirky neighbor who might not be what they seem.  All of these characters are served well in the book and are given a unique voice by the author.

I also love the names in the book.  They are very personal and help to bring you into the story.  For example, Taemon calls his parents “mam” and “da”; just that subtle use really helps with setting the stage and drawing you into the world.  There is something personal, deep about it.  Authentic.

As the story progresses and we follow Taemon at home, through school, and the conflict that ensues, the pacing is good and the conflict builds and doesn’t seem forced.  And the book is not just all action.  As with any good MG book, Krumwiede desires to get the reader to think.  I love the contrast between the so-called “easy” life of those who have psi, and the perceived “duds” in the non-psi colony.  Those with psi have been taught to believe they are better than the those without.  The thought being how can someone without psi have a happy, productive life with they actually have to “do” something.  Taemon, and reader, grow through the story to a better understanding of what is fundamentally important.

While I really liked the ending, and felt it held true to the story, I felt it was rushed and ended too fast (which might actually be a good thing, because I wanted it to keep going).  I wanted it to have a little more closure, a little more time to take a step back and digest everything that had just happened, instead of being more like a cliffhanger.  I don’t know if that’s what the author’s intents were, that’s just how it felt to me.  But otherwise, the ending was very satisfying and, honestly, I did not see it coming (which is always good):-)

A very strong, debut novel with an interesting premise and great world.  Even though the premise seems to trend more toward boy readers, I say the psi-centric premise and the relationships in the book make it a great read for boys and girls and will give them a lot to think about.

Have you read ‘Freakling’?  What did you think?

Review of ‘Graceling’ by Kristin Cashore (Through the Shelf Thursday #6)

Title: Graceling
AuthorKristin Cashore
Genre: YA Fantasy
Description from Goodreads:

In a world where people born with an extreme skill – called a Grace – are feared and exploited, Katsa carries the burden of the skill even shedespises: the Grace of killing. She lives under the command of her uncle Randa, King of the Middluns, and is expected to execute his dirty work, punishing and torturing anyone who displeases him.

When she first meets Prince Po, who is Graced with combat skills, Katsa has no hint of how her life is about to change.

She never expects to become Po’s friend.

She never expects to learn a new truth about her own Grace – or about a terrible secret that lies hidden far away…a secret that could destroy all seven kingdoms with words alone.

Date I Finished Reading: Sometime in early 2010

My Rating: 4.5 of 5

My Review: (also on GoodreadsAmazon):

I started working on my YA novel (Maiden) in late 2008.  During all of 2009 I would go to the bookstore with my good wife on date night, strolling the aisles, looking at what was new in young-adult fiction.  I knew where my story was heading – strong female protagonist, set in another world with a medieval feel, fighting, castles and action.  Specifically, I knew that eye color was going to play a big part of the story line.

Everything in the bookstores back then was vampires, supernatural, dark…it was all the same.  Then I saw the cover for Graceling and instantly fell in love with it.  The first thought that ran through my mind, “That could be the cover to my book!”  I just HAD to read it.

I instantly fell in love with the world, the characters, and the story.  The idea that there are people that have a Graceling – an advanced skill or special ability – that were identifiable by eye color…very intriguing.

The action starts off early and the conflict is explained very well.  We know what Katsa can do, what she wants, what she doesn’t want, and inevitably, what she has to do.  The formation of the Council, to me, is a little forced, but necessary for the story moving forward.  Some of the travel scenes in the book, as they move from place to place, get weighed down and take too long.

Other than that, the story shines.  I feel like I understand Katsa and can relate to her.  Po is a fantastic character as a male hero/love interest and – I would wager – one of the best in recent YA literature.  Their relationship builds steadily and over time, it’s not forced, and the dialogue is wonderful.  One of Cashore’s gifts is that she is a wonderful writer and her personality comes out on the page.  She certainly has a unique voice!

There are many fight scenes throughout the book and Cashore handles them very well, not overly technical, helping them add to the story.  The side relationships and characters – which are few – are appropriate and add depth to the story without dragging it down.

The resolution to the book is also extremely satisfying.  We are not supposed to like Randa, her uncle King, and we don’t.  We certainly are not supposed to like the mysterious King Leck, and we don’t.  The way Katsa is allowed to overcome her own physical, emotional, and mental obstacles is real.

A great story with likable characters who overcome conflict to save the day – that’s exactly how a story is supposed to be.  But Cashore’s strong voice and ability to bring me into the story, that’s what makes this one extra special.

Have you read ‘Graceling’?  What did you think?

My Favorite ‘Harry Potter’ Book (Through the Shelf Thursday #5)

Maybe you’ve heard of a book series called Harry Potter!?

I jest, of course you have.

This week, as I have been finishing up the second revision to my next YA novel, I have felt even more respect than I did (which is a lot) for J. K. Rowling and the world she created in Harry Potter.  Trying to write a fantasy novel, set in another world, with parallel story lines is a beast…and I’m only planning a trilogy.

So that got me thinking, “What do I like about the Harry Potter books?” and “Which one is my favorite and why?”  I’m sure you were also asking yourself, “I wonder which Harry Potter book is Chris’s favorite?”  Hence, this post:-)

Without question, my favorite book in the series is the third – Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

Why?  Plenty of reasons, but mainly two:

1) The character development. The building up of Sirius Black is alone worth the read, but then when you add in Lupin…wow! There are so many questions she builds throughout the book and, to me, she answers them wonderfully and at the same time staying true to the characters and the world she has built. To give Harry someone to have in that parental role was critical at this point in the story, and Sirius Black was perfect for it.

2) The foreshadowing. The first time I read it I had no idea Lupin is a…well, you know. The imagery she builds with the settings and scenes…amazing! Scabbers – WOW! Mooney, Wormtail, Padfoot and Prongs…didn’t have a clue, but what a treat it was to find out. As a writer, it is delightful to see someone spin magic like that.

As you are reading, it’s so simple, yet so well planned out and executed…all in favor to move the story forward. The author doesn’t use gimmicks or tricks just to be fancy or for a quick laugh.  I know she cares about these characters and she lets them to decide the pace and the outcome of the story. The characters are growing and learning and the conflict and the fight is real and we are watching it happen.  Most importantly… I care.

Brilliant!

I loved it – there is nothing more to say (well, there is probably LOTS more I could say, but…):-)

What’s your favorite book in the Harry Potter series?

Review of ‘Warrior Heir’ by Cinda Williams Chima (Through the Shelf Thursday #4)

TitleThe Warrior Heir 
AuthorCinda Williams Chima
Genre: YA Fantasy
Description from Goodreads:

Before he knew about the Roses, 16-year-old Jack lived an unremarkable life in the small Ohio town of Trinity. Only the medicine he has to take daily and the thick scar above his heart set him apart from the other high schoolers. Then one day Jack skips his medicine. Suddenly, he is stronger, fiercer, and more confident than ever before. And it feels great – until he loses control of his own strength and nearly kills another player during soccer team tryouts.

Soon, Jack learns the startling truth about himself: he is Weirlind, part of an underground society of magical people who live among us. At their helm sits the feuding houses of the Red Rose and the White Rose, whose power is determined by playing The Game – a magical tournament in which each house sponsors a warrior to fight to the death. The winning house rules the Weir.

As if his bizarre heritage isn’t enough, Jack finds out that he’s not just another member of Weirlind – he’s one of the last of the warriors – at a time when both houses are scouting for a player.

Date I Finished Reading: July 17, 2012

My Rating: 3.5 of 5

My Review: (also on GoodreadsAmazon):

I wanted to LOVE this book so bad. The cover is awesome (and what originally drew me to it). The idea was intriguing.

Jack is a regular everyday teenager who just HAPPENS to have a lot of weird people that live on his street, including a caretaker named Nick Longbeard (really?) and Aunt Linda who pop in and out of his life. He also almost died when he was a baby and has a special medicine he has to take from this VERY unique Dr. from England who comes to check on him once a year, very herbal and granola like.

Jack is 17 and it’s the day of soccer tryouts and today of all days is the ONE day that Jack forgets to take his medicine….

Unfortunately, that’s mostly how the book starts and I had to roll my eyes already – a 17 year old who has never forgotten to take his medicine? Really?

Anyway. I don’t know. The writing was okay, but to me the biggest thing were the characters. I just didn’t really care about them. The author is trying to talk like a teenager and relate to teenagers…I just had a hard time buying. There were some interesting scenes and the story did progress, but there were a lot of plot holes and not a lot of development that pulled me in.

Also, the relationship between Jack and “the girl”; if that would have played out even semi-romantic or built better tension or made me want to root for them I would have enjoyed the book better. But nothing. A couple of pecks on the cheek, some hugs…it’s like there was no tension at all. With the story plot I guess I understand why she avoided it, but it could have been included so easily and made the story so much better (IMHO).

I did finish the book and the end did get a little more interesting. I promised myself about 75% of the way through that I was only going to give it 3 stars, but the last couple of chapters wrapped the book up better than I thought it would (except for the boy/girl plot) and set the stage up that I might actually want to read the second one, so I had to go with 3.5.

Not a horrible read and not a waste of time, but I didn’t consider it anything fresh or original.

Dear reader: What did you think of the book?

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!?

Fascinating!

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.

Powerful!

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.