Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Middle-Grade/Teen Review – The Carpet People

I wasn’t sure how to classify Terry Pratchett’s charming fantasy The Carpet People. It was originally written for a general audience, published as a serial in the newspaper, by the now-famous writer when he was only 17 years old. I think it will appeal to all ages, from middle-grade readers all the way up to adults, especially those who like whimsy and clever, fanciful adventure.

As the name suggests, The Carpet People is about a whole population of tiny beings who live unseen among the carpet fibers. In fact, there are different races and tribes of people and even animals living in the wilds of the carpet. This story focuses on a tribe called the Munrungs, which is part of the Dumii Empire. Specifically, the story is about two brothers. Glurk, a physical and slow-thinking man, took over as Chieftan when his father, old Grimm Orkson, died. Glurk’s younger brother, Snibril, is more of a cerebral young man who was taught to read and write by Pismire, the tribe’s shaman.

When danger threatens their village, the nomadic Munrungs set off on a journey across the carpet. It’s a dangerous journey, and along the way, they meet other people whose customs and habits are much different than the Munrungs. Eventually, they must overcome their fears of each other and band together to defeat their common enemy.

To be honest, I’m not normally a fan of classic fantasy stories with made-up people and beasts and worlds, but Pratchett’s unique story is very clever, filled with humorous word play and lots of action. It easily kept me entertained while I listened to it on audio, read by a talented narrator who conveyed Pratchett’s sense of whimsy. The audio also included a note from the author at the beginning, explaining how he first wrote The Carpet People and then recently revised it for this reprinting, and the unedited version of the original serial story included at the end.

Later, I found out that the paper version is actually filled with Pratchett’s own illustrations, amusing line drawings that bring the Munrungs to life on the page, so this might be a case where the book has an advantage over the audio. I also suspect that I may have missed some of the clever word play in listening rather than reading, though the audio was very entertaining. You can take a peek at some of the illustrations or listen to a sample of the audio at the Amazon link included at the bottom of this post.

Overall, I enjoyed this clever and thoughtful story about tribes of tiny people living in the carpet.  Believe it or not, this was my very first Terry Pratchett novel (his books have sold over 80 million copies!), so I think I will be reading more of his work.

Listening Library


Monday, April 28, 2014

It's Monday 4/28! What Are You Reading?

Ah, the quiet solitude of a Monday morning! I really need this today, after a hectic weekend. My husband is visiting his dad in Oklahoma, so it was just me and my sons this weekend, doing all the running around, errands, cooking, cleaning, etc. I am feeling exhausted and also overwhelmed by all I need to do so am hoping to have some quiet catch-up time this week.

I didn't write any reviews at all last week because we took a mini-vacation since it was my son's spring break. We went camping for a couple of days near the gorgeous Chesapeake Bay. It was wonderful to be outdoors and surrounded by so much natural beauty for a couple of days, even if all the usual mess and to-do lists were still waiting when we got back home! I posted a few pictures of the trip on Snapshot Saturday.

So, with our camping trip, we had plenty of reading time last week:
  • I finished The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy for one of my book groups. It was well-written though a bit confusing at times and quite depressing. You know from the beginning that it ends in tragedy, so it was a bit heavy for my tastes, though I look forward to discussing it.
  • I needed something light, fun, and easy after that, so I am reading The Dream Thieves, Book 2 of The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater. I loved the first book, The Raven Boys, and my son recently enjoyed this one, so I am glad to get to it before I forget everything that happened in the first book!
  • I just realized I haven't started a new audiobook yet since I didn't really have any time alone last week - I'll have to pick one out today. I did enjoy some of my favorite book podcasts this weekend.
  • My husband, Ken, is reading Faithful Place by Tana French and may have finished it by now. He loves her books and was enjoying the Irish slang in this one! When he finishes it, he'll be reading something on his Kindle during the rest of his trip.
  • Jamie, 19, is still reading The White Tree by Edward W. Robertson on his Kindle. This is book one of the Cycle of Arawn series. He said it's very long, and he had a lot of quizzes and tests last week in college so not much reading time. He recently cashed in a $75 gift card, so packages from Amazon have been arriving at the house daily - he is so happy to have so many great books lined up!
  • I think that Craig, 15, must be finished or close to finishing MacBeth by now for his Brit Lit class. This week is state testing.
Like I said, no time for writing reviews last week, so my only post was:

Snapshot Saturday, with photos from our camping trip near the Chesapeake Bay.

I hope to catch up on reviews this week.

What are you and your family reading this week?    

What Are You Reading Monday is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, with a kid/teen version hosted by Unleashing Readers.     

Monday, April 21, 2014

It's Monday 4/21! What Are You Reading?

Whew, I'm a bit late posting today - it's going to be a super-busy week! My younger son is home on spring break, so we went shopping this morning and will be heading out for a couple of days of camping later this week (unfortunately, it's supposed to get colder and wetter again). Not my usual quiet Monday morning routine!

Anyway, here's what we read last week:
  • I finished Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys, a wonderful YA novel set in New Orleans's French Quarter in 1950. I loved it and read it very quickly.
  • Now I am reading The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy for one of my book groups. This one I'm not loving so far, though it has its moments. It's set in India and is the story of two fraternal twins whose lives are forever changed by the events that occur in one day when they are children.
  • I finished listening to Loud Awake and Lost by Adele Griffin, another YA novel, on audio in record time. I really enjoyed the compelling story about a teen girl trying to piece together her missing memory after a horrible accident.
  • My husband, Ken, is reading Faithful Place by Tana French. I got him started on this series last year and gave him this third novel as a gift for Christmas. He really enjoys both the mysteries and the writing style.
  • Jamie, 19, finished The Killing Moon by N.K. Jemison, a book I gave him as a gift last year, and loved it.
  • He is now reading The White Tree by Edward W. Robertson on his Kindle. This is book one of the Cycle of Arawn series. It was one of 26 free books that he recently downloaded! He is both an avid reader and a bargain hunter.
Despite a very busy week last week, I managed a few blog posts:

Review of Gap Creek by Robert Morgan, a historical novel.

Weekend Cooking/Review of Against All Grain Cookbook

Summary of Books Read in March

What are you and your family reading this week?    

What Are You Reading Monday is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, with a kid/teen version hosted by Unleashing Readers.    

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Books Read in March

I thought I was late with my monthly summary last month! ha ha Here it is, April 19 already. Where did the last 3 weeks go?? Then again, spring itself has been late this month, so my blog fits right in.

March was a light reading month for me, with only four books completed, though one of those was 650 pages. Here's what I read in March:

Only four books, all fiction, but a nice range of age groups, and I enjoyed them all.  I think my favorite of the month was The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, which I ended up liking much more than I expected to.

Update on 2014 Reading Challenges:
I added just one state to my Where Are You Reading Challenge 2014 this month.  For the third month in a row, I read just ONE book from my TBR shelves for my 2014 TBR Pile Reading Challenge. I really need to stop getting books out of the library and get cracking on all the books I already have!  I listened to one more audio book for my 2014 Audio Book Challenge, so that one's going well so far. I finally read one nonfiction book!  Still not a single classic, though.

What was your favorite book read in March?

Monday, April 14, 2014

It's Monday 4/14! What Are You Reading?

Wow, 80 degrees here yesterday and today - we seemed to have gone from snow and winter right to summer and skipped the nice part where it's in the 50's and 60's entirely!

I had another very busy week (are there any other kinds?) but managed to do quite a bit of writing...but not book reviews. So, I hope to catch up on those this week.

We enjoyed our books last week:
  • I finished Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick and loved it! The movie was great, but the book is even better, with more emotional depth. It is filled with both joy and heartbreak. Not everyone in my library's book discussion agreed - some didn't like the book. Unfortunately, I used up all of my limited energy going to book groups on Wednesday (that one and my neighborhood one in the evening), so I didn't feel well enough to go and hear Quick speak Thursday evening. I was sorry to miss that, but I watched a few videos of him on Youtube - it's hard to find interviews and videos specifically about the book - most are about the movie!
  • After plowing through three book group books in a row, I was ready to enjoy a teen/YA novel, so I picked up Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys, a Christmas gift from my husband. I was blown away by her first novel, Between Shades of Gray, and this one is set in New Orleans, where we used to live, so I am loving it so far.
  • I also started a new teen/YA novel on audio, Loud Awake and Lost by Adele Griffin. It's excellent so far, about a teen girl recovering from an accident and slowly regaining her memory of what happened in the six weeks before. I'm hooked!
  • I am still reading a nonfiction book, Time Management from the Inside Out: The Foolproof System for Taking Control of Your Schedule - and Your Life by Julie Morganstern. I had to return the library's copy, but I ordered my own (updated version) with an amazon gift card from Christmas. I am currently following its advice, trying to get better at estimating how long tasks will take me (something I am finding I'm not very good at!).
  • My husband, Ken, has been reading Brilliance, a suspense novel, by Marcus Sakey on his Kindle.
  • My son, Jamie, 19, returned to school from spring break, so his reading slowed down a little bit, but now that he has the reading bug again,  he's trying to keep it up! He read book 2, The Lost Heiress, of Catherine Fisher's The Relic Master series.
  • Now he is reading The Killing Moon by N.K. Jemison, a book I gave him as a gift last year, recommended by a fellow book blogger!
  • Craig, 15, is still reading MacBeth for Brit Lit.
No blog posts at all last week, other than the Monday posts - I really wasn't exaggerating about having no time for book reviews! Look for some reviews this week, plus other goodies.

What are you and your family reading this week?    

What Are You Reading Monday is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, with a kid/teen version hosted by Unleashing Readers.   

Monday, April 7, 2014

It's Monday 4/7! What Are You Reading?

Ah, Monday morning...quiet house and no one to take care of but myself for a few hours. I started the day off kind of oddly...I cleaned out my sock drawer! Maybe an unusual way to start the day, but it gave me a big motivational boost. I have been feeling pretty overwhelmed lately, and I know that the clutter in the house is part of the problem. My college son went back to school yesterday after a week at home for spring break, and the sudden disappearance of all his stuff all over the first floor (he never really unpacked - just sort of dumped everything on the floor!) inspired me to take a tiny step in the huge job of decluttering. So, I am feeling pretty proud of myself, with a big bag of stuff to throw away, a smaller bag to donate, and a sock drawer that now closes without excess effort. My life is better already!

We did a lot of reading last week, especially my son who celebrated his break with books:
  • I finished The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera. I'm still not sure how I feel about this modern classic novel - it was strange. It's a mixture of philosophy, politics, literature, and sex, all rolled into a rambling narrative that often left me saying, "Wait...what??" It will definitely be an interesting book group discussion on Wednesday!
  • Yesterday, I moved onto Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick, a novel I have really been looking forward to reading. I doubt I will finish it in time for the discussion at the library Wednesday, but I do hope to go listen to the author on Thursday evening. This is our all-county read book for this spring.
  • I finished listening to The Carpet People by Terry Pratchett, a clever fantasy novel written by the famous, knighted author when he was only 17 years old! It was a lot of fun.
  • I have also been (slowly) making my way through a nonfiction book, Time Management from the Inside Out: The Foolproof System for Taking Control of Your Schedule - and Your Life by Julie Morganstern. I had to return my copy to the library, but I was getting enough out of it that I ordered my own, updated copy last week. The sock drawer is just the beginning!
  • My husband, Ken, was away last week and reading Brilliance, a suspense novel, by Marcus Sakey on his Kindle.
  • Jamie, 19, went on a reading binge for his spring break! He read five books since last Monday (plus another few last weekend). First, he tackled one of his favorite series, Beyonders by Brandon  Mull. He quickly re-read book 2, Seeds of Rebellion, and then read the latest release (and the last book of the trilogy), Chasing the Prophecy. He reaffirmed that it remains an all-time favorite!
  • Next, he re-read a favorite on his Kindle, The Sorcerer's Ascension by Brock E. Deskin, Book 1 in The Sorcerer's Path series.
  • Mid-week, he hit Barnes & Noble with some friends, armed with several gift cards. One of the books he bought - and immediately read - was Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes. He enjoyed it and is looking forward to reading the rest of the series.
  • Finally, he re-read The Dark City, Book 1 in Catherine Fisher's Relic Master series. Next he plans to re-read Book 2, The Lost Heiress, and then turn in some Amazon or Target gift cards for book 3. I love that he ditched plans to buy a video game with the gift card and now wants to spend it all on books!
  • Craig, 15, is still reading MacBeth for his Brit Lit class. He got 95% on his first quiz, so I think it's going pretty well.
 Despite having a very busy week, I managed a few blog posts:

Review of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon, a novel about friendship.

Review of Monsters of Men, Book 3 in Patrick Ness' incredible teen/YA Chaos Walking trilogy.

Saturday Snapshot, with photos of last week's trip to St. Michaels, MD

Weekend Cooking post, with some tasty dinner ideas.

What are you and your family reading this week?    

What Are You Reading Monday is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, with a kid/teen version hosted by Unleashing Readers.  

Friday, April 4, 2014

Teen/YA review: Monsters of Men

I finished book 3 of the Chaos Walking series, Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness, back in December. I considered just skipping the review, since I had already reviewed book 1, The Knife of Never Letting Go, and book 2, The Ask and the Answer. Even though it took me a few months to find the time, I still want to review this third and final book of the trilogy because I found it so compelling and thought-provoking. So, I promise a short review with no spoilers…and if you’ve already read this novel, please leave your thoughts in the comments section because I am dying to discuss it!

The Chaos Walking trilogy begins in an unknown time and place where everyone can hear everyone else’s thoughts (the never-ending internal cacophony is known as Noise). In books 1 and 2, some details are slowly revealed about how and why this society developed. In this third book, Todd and Viola are back (two very endearing and strong – though young - main characters).  This final book is all about war, as you may have guessed from the title. The evil Mayor Prentiss is still seeking as much power as he can take, a group of rebels is using more and more violent methods to stop him, and a third party, the Spackle, are joining in the battle (you’ll have to read books 1 and 2 to learn more about them). Against this backdrop, the ever-present Noise continues, as Todd and Viola move toward adulthood and have to make decisions that could affect the future of all of their fellow citizens.

Like the first two books, book 3 is action-packed, filled with violence, battles, and increasing horrors. But this trilogy is so much more than action/adventure in a mysterious dystopian/science fiction environment. Ness fills the series – and especially this final book – with thoughtful and thought-provoking complications. In this case, both Todd and Viola are constantly facing serious, life-changing decisions with deep moral implications. They wrestle with issues that have plagued mankind for centuries: Does the end justify the means? Is violence for the right reasons any better than violence for the wrong reasons? If you choose the lesser of two evils, is it still evil?

The backdrop of war makes all of these issues very real and imperative for the two young heroes. Through it all is the constant stress and chaos of the Noise echoing in everyone’s heads. Like in the best dystopian fiction and science fiction, the author makes us think about our own society. Ness certainly wants us to consider the moral implications of both war and terrorism, and I think the Noise is a symbol of what’s occurring in our own world right now – the ever-present, nonstop flow of information from multiple sources every moment of every day.

I highly recommend this series to teens, young adults, and adults of all ages. It is a fast-paced, interesting, compelling story that is also thoughtful. This is my favorite kind of dystopian fiction – the kind that gives you insight into our own society and makes you think – in a similar vein as The Hunger Games trilogy (especially book 3, Mockingjay, which also focuses on war) and the Unwind series. I can’t wait to read more from Patrick Ness.

603 pages, Candlewick Press