Blankets by Craig Thompson

Title:  Blankets
Author:  Craig Thompson
Release Date:  August 6, 2003
Publisher:  Top Shelf Productions
Page Count:  592
Genre:  Graphic Memoir

As soon as I started reading graphic novels (which was just a few months ago), I started noticing interesting-sounding ones everywhere.  Blankets was one of the first I saw that I was interested in, but its 500+ pages sort of intimidated me at first.  I wasn’t sure that I’d enjoy reading so many pages of pictures and text together.  Once I realized how much I’m really enjoying this genre, I took the plunge and picked up Blankets from my library.  I’m very happy I made that decision because this book was really very good.

I have to say that at first it was difficult for me to know how to classify this one.  The book jacket itself calls Blankets a novel, but Amazon.com calls it a memoir and it seems to me that the book is composed of Thompson’s experiences growing up.  So I’m going to go ahead and call it a graphic memoir, but someone feel free to correct me if I’m wrong here.  Either way, the book is basically a story of Craig Thompson and how he grew up with strict Fundamentalist Christian parents and a younger brother who he loved/hated all at once, how he came to form his own opinion of the church he was raised in, how he met and had a relationship with his first love, and how he became the adult he is today.

This really was a very touching, very sweet story.  Thompson chronicles his childhood in an honest way, but in a way that encourages the reader to laugh along with him too.  He and his brother didn’t have the perfect life as kids, but I’m sure there are plenty of people who grew up in much the same way – strict parents, Christian summer camp, questionable baby-sitters, etc.  While I felt sympathy for some of his not so great experiences, I also laughed out loud at the ways in which he depicted some of these experiences.  I particularly loved reading the portions of Blankets that centered on Raina, his first girlfriend.  Their relationship was so typically high-school and so adorable that I couldn’t help wanting to read more.  I remember my first serious relationship – I was about the same age – and reading Thompson’s story made me remember all those emotions (in a good way!).

I don’t have a lot of experience with graphic novels/memoirs, so I can’t say that I am really able to critique the illustrations in the book at all.  But I will say that I enjoyed them – the pictures and words corresponded very well together, and Thompson was able to tell a complete story with just pictures in a few places throughout the book.  I truly felt like I got to know the characters, which is not always easy to do with so few words.  Overall, Blankets is a wonderful graphic novel/memoir that is not to be missed.

For more blogger reviews of this book, please visit the Book Blogs Search Engine.

A Disobedient Girl by Ru Freeman

A Disobedient Girl
Ru Freeman
July 21, 2009
Atria
384 pages
Multicultural Fiction

A Disobedient Girl is the story of two Sri Lanken women, Latha and Biso.  Latha is a young girl, a servant of a wealthy Sri Lanken family, and her best friend is Thara, her masters’ daughter.  Thara and Latha remain best friends until they are in their teens, when a huge wedge comes between them and instead of Latha being banished from their home, she is sent to be Thara’s servant in her home with her new husband, Gehan.  In alternating chapters with Latha’s story, we have Biso’s story.  Biso is a mother with three young children who one day gathers up the courage to leave her abusive husband with all three children in tow.  The four of them journey to the home of a distant cousin, with Biso hoping and praying that this family member will find it in her heart to take in her and the children and thus save them from her terrifying husband.

When I first began reading A Disobedient Girl, I have to admit that I was a bit confused.  The stories of Latha and Biso are told in alternating chapters, but the format of their stories are very different.  Latha’s is told in third person, over the span of many years, and Biso’s is told in first person, over the course of only a few days.  While this really threw me for a loop in the beginning of the story, once I got used to the format, I really got involved in these women and their stories.

Both Latha and Biso were just so easy to sympathize with.  Latha was a servant, but she always had a feeling that she was better than “just a servant” – that she was every bit as worthy as the family she worked for.  Unfortunately, this feeling is exactly what got her into trouble as a teenager and caused her and Thara to stop being best friends.  Even with all the troubles and issues in her life, though, Latha always stayed true to herself.  She wasn’t always proud of her actions, but she always felt like she had just as much a right to act a certain way or have certain things as Thara did.  And as an adult, when Latha basically raised Thara’s children without the help of either of their parents, it was so easy for me as a reader to empathize for Latha and feel the love she had for those girls through the pages.

Biso was easy to sympathize with because she loved her children SO much.  Her love for them was palpable.  She took so many chances in this story, so many risky moves just because she felt as though she had no choice but to get her children away from their abusive father.  She knew they could not grow up thinking that it was okay for a father to treat his wife in the ways that her husband treated her.  The amount of turmoil and strife that Biso and her children went through in just a few short days was astounding.  But through it all, Biso was amazed to see how much her children loved one another and depended on one another for support – even moreso than they depended on Biso herself.

While reading A Disobedient Girl, I kept thinking that these two stories had to be related somehow.  It may have distracted me a little from the reading, to be honest, trying to figure out how Biso and Latha’s stories intertwined.  But it all came together in the end, and all my guessing could not have prepared me for the ending to this book.  It was definitely dramatic, definitely heartbreaking, but I think it was a perfectly rounded out novel, looking back on it.  The book definitely made me upset but it was an excellent read and now that I’ve had a few days to think on it, I really appreciate how everything came together.

Ru Freeman really is a fantastic author, and I absolutely hope to read more from her in the future.  A Disobedient Girl was truly a stunning novel, one that I won’t soon forget.

I read this one for a TLC Book Tour.  Thanks to the ladies of TLC as well as the author for this opportunity!

Sunday Salon

Good morning Saloners!  It is 8 am on Sunday morning and I am sitting here freezing my butt off because it is COLD outside.  Cold weather does not make me a happy girl, so I will just have to suffer through it in the upcoming months. :(

I don’t know if I have ever told you guys this, but every other Sunday morning at 11 am I teach Sunday school at my church (well, we don’t call it “sunday school”, we call it The Great Adventure, or TGA for short).  I have three-year-olds, and they are tons of fun – they brighten my week every time I get to have time with them.  The reason I’m telling you this is that it’s my week today, so I need to get this post typed up and in order to get in the shower and get out of here.  After church I will most likely head on out to my sister’s to spend some time with them.  As most of you know by now, I try to spend time with as much family as I can every Sunday, my niece especially.

Anyway, this week I read and reviewed The End of Poverty, which I tried to like but didn’t really understand, The Hunger Games, which I of course loved, and Blindness, which I also loved.  Well, Blindness really freaked me out so I don’t know if “loved” is the right word.  But it was a seriously amazing book.  I also did a fun little meme where you can learn a bit more about me.

I’m currently reading:

I am really enjoying In the Woods although it’s taking longer than normal to read, I think because I don’t read mysteries all that often so I have to get used to the groove of reading a mystery.  Twilight of a Queen is okay so far, I am interested in the story but it doesn’t wow me (at least, not yet).  The Promised World is the one that I just started yesterday, so I’m only about 60 pages in, but let me tell you, it took all my willpower not to race through the book last night and abandon the other two.  It has sucked me in from the start and I have a feeling I’m going to love this one.

For all of you who were lucky enough to attend one of the book festivals this weekend, a) I’m super jealous that you’re all becoming friends IRL and I haven’t gotten a chance to meet ANY of you yet, and b) I want pictures soon!  I’m really hoping I can come to BEA when a lot of other people are, but money is tight and vacation time at work is not very plentiful so we will have to see when the time comes.  Perhaps you guys want to come to Chicago sometime? ;)

Happy Sunday everyone!

Blindness by Jose Saramago

Blindness
Jose Saramago
September 1, 1998
Harvest Books
352 pages
Fiction, Suspense

I have been hearing great things about Blindness for awhile now – it was highly recommended by some of my favorite bloggers, so I figured that the RIP IV challenge would be the perfect opportunity to finally pick it up.

Blindness fits the RIP vibe perfectly – it is CREEPY for sure.  The book starts out innocently enough, with a scene of a traffic-y street, people driving home from work during rush hour, when suddenly one of the cars just stops in the middle of the road.  The man starts yelling from his car that he just became blind in a split second.  Another man drives him home and helps him into his house only to become blind himself a few hours later.  The first blind man goes into an eye doctor’s office to figure out what is wrong with him, and while he’s there he “infects” most people there with the blindness, including the doctor himself.

Well, as you can imagine the government gets pretty freaked out by the pandemic blindness and sticks all the blind people in an abandoned insane asylum, where they are trapped with armed guards outside ready to shoot should they attempt to leave.  And inside the asylum some of the most horrific things that you can imagine occur – I don’t even want to tell you about what happens, it’s bad enough to read it once.  Through all this, one woman (the doctor’s wife) somehow remains unscathed by the blindness, and as she pretends to be blind so she can stay with her husband, she ends up in the asylum too – and thank God for her.  A group of seven of the blind people eventually form a sort of group, and she is their only hope amidst all the craziness that happens.

Okay, like I said – this book is seriously scary.  As in, reading Blindness made me seriously think of what would happen if we all ACTUALLY became blind – it really would be mass chaos, like in the book.  Saramago made the book so realistic that it creeped me out to no end.  Because of this, I cannot tell you how good Blindness is – it is an AWESOME book.  Awesome.  I was in shock while reading it, I wanted to close my eyes and run away, but I could not stop reading.  It was completely gripping.  Unputdownable, really.

The characters in Blindness are never given proper names.  They never learn each other’s names, so the reader never learns them either.  I get why Saramago did this – when they could not see each other, all they had were voices to differentiate, and they did not need names.  In addition, they became totally different people after they were blind; their names no longer represented the people they had become, their names became irrelevant.  It was a great technique and although it sort of annoyed me that they had to say “the girl with the dark glasses” instead of her name every time she did something (etc) it definitely worked.  Another thing that worked was the huge run on paragraphs and no dialogue tags or much punctuation whatsoever.  While it took me awhile to get used to this, and it would make me mad in almost anything else, it totally worked for Blindness.  It was just a totally freaky, eerie book, and the format matched that vibe.

I’m really trying to effectively communicate what a fantastic book Blindness is, but I get the feeling I’m not doing such a great job of that.  All I can say is, this is a supremely awesome book and it should be read by all.  Because it’s just THAT captivating.

I am curious about the movie that was recently made based on this novel.  Has anyone seen it?  Can it possibly live up to the amazingness of the book?

More reviews:

ABC’s of me

I’ve seen this one around a lot, so I thought I’d play along. :)

Available or single? neither – happily married.

Best Friend? I have a few… my husband, my mom, my friends Melissa and Tracy.

Cake or Pie? Am I allowed to say both?

Drink of choice? white wine, coffee, diet pepsi, water… I enjoy a great variety of beverages. 

Essential item for every day use? computer… both at work and at home.

Favorite color? green.  But I like a lot of colors.  Blue, purple, yellow are more favorites. 

Google? yep, it is essential.

Hometown? Buffalo Grove, Illinois

Indulgences? books. white wine. ice cream. sweatpants (this sounds weird, but I love sweatpants and can always find a reason to buy another pair).

January or February? neither.  I HATE winter with a passion. 

Kids and their names? no kids.  Three cats – Bailey, Oscar, and Annabelle, and one niece, Adrianna.

Life is incomplete without…? my sweet husband by my side

Marriage date? June 4, 2007

Number of siblings? two brothers and one sister, all younger than me.

Oranges or apples? apples

Phobias and fears? I’m mildly claustrophobic, I have a huge phobia of public speaking, and I really don’t like bugs of any kind when they find their way into my house.

Quote for the day? “I cannot live without books”  Thomas Jefferson

Reason to smile? all the TBR books on my shelves. my adorable niece running towards me for a hug with a huge smile on her face. my fave TV shows being back for the fall. 8 hours of sleep every night (recently I’ve been accomplishing this!). fun date nights with my hubby. 

Season? summer all the way.  I am a hot weather girl – I love the sun, the pool, the ocean, getting a tan, drinking cold drinks outside, etc.  Which means I’m unhappy that it’s almost winter. :(

Tag 3 people? nah.  You guys can play if you want!

 Unknown fact about me? I can touch my nose with my tongue and also make a three-leaf clover with my tongue.

Vegetable you hate? eggplant.  so mushy – yuck! 

Worst habit? not being able to stick to a budget

X-rays you’ve had? I have a heart condition, so I’ve had a ton of chest x-rays. 

Your fave food? Mexican… YUM.

Zodiac sign?Capricorn. December 29th is my bday!

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games
Suzanne Collins
September 14, 2008
Scholastic Press
384 pages
Young Adult Fiction, Suspense

I’m not sure that there’s anyone left in the blogosphere who hasn’t read The Hunger Games yet.  In fact, I am 99% sure that I’m the LAST blogger to have read this book.  Why did I read it?  Well, because of all of you, of course!  I haven’t heard ONE bad thing about this novel.  Not a one. So I finally decided that it was time to for me to see what all the hype is about.

And let me tell you, this book is one example of when hype is well-deserved.  I’m not going to bother with a summary because even I knew way too many details about this book before I started reading it, so I’d rather spare the last soul on earth to read The Hunger Games a plot summary with the assumption that you probably already have an idea of what this one is about.

I closed the book and thought, “wow”.  I really did.  I started The Hunger Games one afternoon, read all through the day until dinnertime, and went right back to reading it before bed until I finished it.  I could NOT not know what would happen.  It was simply impossible for me to fall asleep that night without finishing the book.  It was just that suspenseful, just that entertaining.  Like I said, the hype was well deserved.

Let me also tell you that I didn’t like this book just for the suspense and the story.  While the story was pretty awesome and I caught myself holding my breath during parts of the action, I was captivated by Katniss.  Everything about her (besides her name – ugh) was awesome.  I do have a soft spot in my heart for strong female characters in books, especially main characters, because let’s face it, there’s simply not enough fantastic female characters in books.  But Katniss was everything I want every teen girl in every book to be – she was intelligent, independent but still attached to her family, strong physically and emotionally, yet with moments of weakness that make her very realistic.  I really, really loved her and had no problem rooting for her throughout the book – I needed her to succeed.  That’s how much I felt for her; I knew she had no choice but to win.

All I have to say about this one is, you guys were all right.  Every one of you who gushed about The Hunger Games – I get it now.  This book is fantabulous.  And I’m hoping that my library will get Catching Fire to me sometime in the near future so I don’t have to wait too long to find out what else will happen with Katniss.

Like I said, a ton of bloggers have reviewed this one, so I’ll just give you a small sample of the other reviews out there:


The End of Poverty by Jeffrey Sachs


The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilites for Our Time
Jeffrey D. Sachs
December 2005
Penguin
416 pages
Nonfiction, Economics

Reading The End of Poverty really illuminated for me the fact that economics is just not my thing.  I may care about these issues, I may be passionate about the idea of ending poverty forever, and I may THINK that this book will help me to reformulate my ideas and beliefs about how this can happen.  While all these things are true, I still had a really, really hard time with this book.

I hate that.  I feel as though I’m not smart enough to grasp the concepts Sachs set forth here.  I know that’s not true, but this econ thing is just not for me.

Why don’t I attempt to explain the premise of the book?  Basically, after Jeffrey Sachs spent twenty-some-odd years advising different countries on how to deal with their economic issues, he decided that it’s actually possible, and in fact would be remarkably simple, to eradicate poverty on this planet if we do the right things.  Sachs first spent several chapters detailing the work he’s done in other countries, what’s been accomplished in some of the poorest places in the world and what has yet to be done, and then puts together a systematic and common-sense analysis of what we can do, what we NEED to do, to eradicate extreme poverty from the face of the earth for good.

I most enjoyed the chapters detailing Sachs’ work with different governments and economics experts around the world.  I found it fascinating to read about the progress that has been made in some places, in such short time periods, with little aid from other countries.  Obviously a lot more needs to be done, in those countries and others, or he wouldn’t have had to write the book, but the progress that’s been made in some places is remarkable to read about.

But when Sachs starts talking facts, figures, and graphs, my eyes start to glaze over and I have a hard time getting the information into my brain (and making it stay there).  I’m sure most of what he put forth makes perfect sense, but I had an extremely rough time analyzing his arguments.  I am just not good with all the numbers, plain and simple.

I feel like I’m smarter for having read and attempted to understand this book.  And there were parts I definitely enjoyed, definitely learned something from.  But generally, economics is just not my thing, and I suppose I need to be okay with that.