Bookworm Burrow

Book reviews on over 125 different books from several different genres. Use the search or categories to see more.

This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald November 14, 2008

Filed under: Book Reviews,Books,Fiction,Historical Fiction,Juvenile — Julie @ 9:43 am

this-side-of-paradiseThis Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald fits into the historical fiction genre and was first published in 1920. It is recommended for readers 16 and up.

This Side of Paradise takes place around the time of World War I and follows the life of Amory Blaine. There was an amazing lack of plot to this book. Fitzgerald was praised for his realism but I think it’s a bit too real for my taste. I imagine that this is what a book about me would be like: a whole lot of nothing. The novel describes a bit about his parents and family life. Then jumps to an incident with a girl when he was fourteen. Then later we jump to when he’s in college. There are a lot of chapters and sections about his philosophical ideas about government and personalities. We learn about his love life. He goes to the war. Then comes back and falls in love with Rosalind who breaks his heart when she chooses to marry someone else for money. Amory then goes into a big depressive state and wonders without a job until the end of the book. There are a lot of little things in the book that would make for good discussion like how he takes the hit for his friend when he is found doing something illegal, but overall it’s just not my cup of tea. I would rather something with more plot and a little more excitement.

 

Five Weeks in a Balloon by Jules Verne November 8, 2008

Filed under: Book Reviews,Books,Fiction,Historical Fiction,Juvenile — Julie @ 4:13 pm

five-weeks-in-a-balloonFive Weeks in a Balloon by Jules Verne fits into the adventure fiction genre and was published in 1851. It is recommended for readers ages 16 and up.

This book did not hold my attention quite as well as Around the World in Eighty Days did. It was a little more on the scientific side and less on the adventure side. There were a lot of complex ideas and explanations of the balloon and various other inventions. Also due to the fact that it was written over 150 years ago it is not as politically correct as it could be and some of the words and phrases used to describe the African people were outdated at best. However, there were many interesting incidences that occurred at intervals just close enough to make we want to keep reading. The story follows Dr. Samuel Ferguson, Joe, and Dick Kennedy’s journey across the African continent in a balloon. They encounter hostile climates, people, and terrain but for the most part they are able to fly over them with ease in their masterfully crafted balloon. Many people, including Kennedy, said it was an impossible feat and doubted their ability to cross because no one had before them. In the end they made it but not without difficulty and suffering along the way. Overall it was an interesting read, informational and historic but not terribly exciting.

Other reviews available:

Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne

 

Gap Creek by Robert Morgan October 5, 2008

Filed under: Book Reviews,Books,Fiction,Historical Fiction — Julie @ 7:10 pm

Gap Creek by Robert Morgan fits into the historical fiction genre and was published in 2000. It is recommended for adult readers.

Gap Creek is set in South Carolina and tells the story of a couple newly married at the turn of the century. Julie, the wife, was a hardworking woman who grew up in a house of mainly girls and was often called upon to do the more difficult chores during her father’s long illness and then after his death. This hard work prepared her to be a better wife and to work hard at her marriage. Hank, on the other hand, was born prematurely and was often spoiled and given extra portions at meals and less work at chore time. This resulted in his being quick to anger, unable to admit faults, and demanding. Through the novel we learn of the couple’s hardships as they try to work through their difficulties that they brought to the marriage and that were inflicted though the deeds of others. They experience poverty, robbery, floods, and death. These experiences lead Hank to become abusive but they lead Julie to become more humble and willing to make allowances for the problems of others. It is only through a tragic experience that Hank is able to join her in this humility and is able to step up as a husband.

I thought that there were many interesting lessons to be learned from this novel. Julie’s patience and understanding are foremost in my mind. Her husband Hank is abusive and she works to help him overcome his problems instead of fighting back. Several times through the book she had cause and opportunity to bring up his faults but instead chose a kind answer. I think this shows amazing strength and character and can teach us all a thing or two in our relationships. There are times when it is best to just keep quiet and let life run its course. Julie is humble by choice while Hank is compelled to be so through tragedy but the amazing thing is that he does change. In the end of the book Hank is a different man than from the beginning and he makes the effort to become a better person thus leading to one of the great lessons of this novel; change is possible.

 

Hattie Big Sky By Kirby Larson May 20, 2008

Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson fits into the Juvenile Historical Fiction genre. It was first published in 2006 and is recommended for people age 12 and up.

Summary and Review: Hattie Big Sky is the heartwarming Newbery Honor Book that tells the story of Hattie Brooks. Hattie, who was orphaned at age five, had been living with a long line of distant relatives when she got a letter from her dying Uncle Chester who wanted her to come to Montana and prove up on his homestead claim. Unaware of what this really entails and in an effort to escape her life of feeling indebted to everyone Hattie goes out to prove herself. Once she’s there Hattie learns the true meaning of work with the help of a stubborn cow and the never-ending combination of chores and poor weather. While there Hattie writes letters to her Uncle Holt and also to her friend Charlie who is over fighting the Germans. Her uncle showed her letters to a newspaper man and Hattie got paid $15 a month for her tales of life as a homesteader. She also makes some life-long friends, one of which was German born.  In a time where people are leery of anything German Hattie learns what it means to be patriotic in spite of what other people may say, and becomes a strong and independent woman. Larson’s prose is magnificent and full of wit as she describes the troubles and joys common to a Montana homesteader during World War I.

 

The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett May 1, 2008

Filed under: Book Reviews,Books,Fiction,Historical Fiction — Julie @ 2:22 pm

The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

Genre: Fiction

Published in 1989

Recommended Age Group: Adult

Summary: The Pillars of the Earth covers the building of the Kingsbridge cathedral in twelfth century England.  There are five people who guide us through this journey.  Philip, an ambitious monk that serves God through his intelligence; Tom, master builder of the cathedral; Ellen, Tom’s second wife and a practicing witch; Jack, Ellen’s son who later becomes the master builder of the Kingsbridge; and Aliena the destitute daughter of a former Earl who rises unexpectedly to triumph.  It is from these five views, and a few others, that we learn of Kingsbridge and the struggle to build the cathedral amidst threats of weather, poverty, and numerous malicious enemies.

These enemies also play an important role in the book.  The principal villains are: Waleran Bigod, a monk who thinks that the end justifies the means in service to God, and William Hamleigh, a power-hungry man who will stop at nothing to ensure that people fear him because he feels this is the only way to lead.

Through the tale we also learn of the miracles of building of the Middle Ages and the ingenuity of the men at the time.  We are led through time and space on this expedition that not only built a cathedral, but a town.

Personal Notes: I was interesting in the book right from the start.  A friend recommended it to me and wanted me to read it and let her know if it was worth finishing.  This intrigued me because not only do I love recommendations but it was flattering that she wanted to know what I thought.  For me it started well enough but it was slow.  Around 250 pages into it I started reading it because I wanted to and I was thinking about it when I wasn’t reading and thus showing interest.  By page 400 I decided I had to finish because it was so good and I was thoroughly engaged in the story.  It was also at this point that many of the horrible and disturbing scenes with William Hamleigh stopped.  I have to admit that was the only failing the book presented to me.  William rapes quite a few women and I feel that there is needless detail and while it does secure the readers hate for William it also removes some of their virtue.  I feel that the book would have been better if these scenes were smaller because I do see the need for them but not the length.

Overall it was a great book not something to be taken on lightly as it will demand time but it is well worth the effort.

 

Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson January 16, 2008

Filed under: Book Reviews,Books,Fiction,Historical Fiction,Juvenile — Julie @ 2:13 pm

fever-1793.jpgFever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson

Genre: Juvenile Historical Fiction

Published in 2000

Recommended Age Group: 12 and Up

Summary: Fever 1793 is about the yellow fever epidemic in Philadelphia that happened in the late summer of 1793. We follow the epidemic through Matilda Cook and her small group of family and friends. In the beginning of the book Matilda, her Mother, and her Grandfather ran a Coffee Shop. Matilda’s Mother is planning to get her married but Matilda already has her eye on Nathaniel Benson, a painter’s apprentice. They employed a cook, Eliza and a serving girl Polly. Matilda’s Mother got upset when Polly was late and made Matilda do all her chores which she was upset about until she learned that Polly had died mysteriously the night before. Rumors and gossip start to spread about a sickness and since they run the Coffee Shop Matilda and her family get to hear all about it. At first they don’t worry until they hear of more and more fever cases and of people leaving town to escape the fever. After the Mayor was certain it was Yellow Fever rules were set down and panic began. Matilda’s Mother got sick and Matilda and her Grandfather tried to leave town but the neighboring cities would not let them through.

After being stranded without food or water Matilda caught yellow fever and her Grandfather took her to a hospital of sorts to be treated. When they were released they went back to the Coffee Shop but Matilda’s Mother and Eliza were gone. Fearing the worst they shut themselves inside the house. That night thieves broke in and killed Matilda’s Grandfather but were scared away. Matilda wandered through the city alone and found a little girl named Nell with the body of her mother, a fever victim. She took the girl and found Eliza and together they took care of other sick and survived the fever. Nathaniel also survived the fever and he helped Matilda pick up the pieces from the Coffee Shop. All this time Matilda’s Mother was still missing and everyone began to worry that she died. She returned home in a huge gathering that followed President Washington back into town. They figured that if it was safe for him it was safe for everyone. The fever changed everyone greatly, some were better, some worse, but they were all different.

Personal Notes: Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres because I can learn while being entertained. One of the great things about this book is that in the back Anderson made a list of what was factual in the book and told more about each thing so the reader can separate the truth from the story. The story was very engaging and true to life. I enjoyed Matilda’s triumphs and growth through the book. I read the summary on Amazon before I bought the book and it didn’t do it justice. It’s a great read and a lot more fun than it sounds.

 

Number the Stars by Lois Lowry November 21, 2007

number-the-stars.jpgNumber the Stars by Lois Lowry

Genre: Juvenile Fiction

Published in 1989

Recommended Age Group: 10 and Up

Summary: Number the Stars, a Newbery medal winner, is set in Denmark in 1943. The main character Annemarie Johansen is not a Jew but her best friend Ellen Rosen is. In the beginning of the story the Nazis had come into Denmark but they weren’t actually doing anything. As the story progresses so do the Nazis in their discrimination. People go into hiding and businesses close. Ellen’s parents have to run and leave her behind where she pretends to be Annemarie’s sister, taking the place of one who died. They are almost discovered and decide to flee to the coast where fishermen are helping Jews out of the country in secret places aboard their boats. The Nazis use dogs to help locate those secret places but the fisherman have found a secret weapon against the dogs. During the escape to the boats a man drops the secret weapon and Annemarie risks everything to run and return it before the Nazis discover those in hiding.

Personal Notes: I’ve been wanting to read this one for some time but did not own it. It was worth the wait and even though I expected it to be great it was much better than I expected. The story line was new and different from other WWII fiction I’ve read. It is set in Denmark and is from the perspective of a non-Jew. A great read, entertaining, and enlightening.