Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Wednesday=Book Review Time

As promised no ***1/2 stars this week!

Up for this week:  North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell and Just Listen by Sarah Dessen

Why I bought it?  I had rented the movie through Netflix because I love all the BBC classic movies.  I absolutely loved the movie.  It became a quick favorite, and I wanted to read the original.  I couldn't find it at my BN, and so I ordered it online at Amazon.

Brief Synopsis:  This is not the North and South that tells of the US civil war.  No Patrick Swayze.  Sorry Girls!  This story is set in England and tells of an upper-class family from the south that has to relocate to an industrial city in the north because of a significant reduction in income.  Margaret Hale, the MC and daughter in this family, has to adjust to the change of climate, status, responsibilities, and prejudices (that she holds) to make her way in her new life.  The wealthy mill owner, Mr. Thornton, being a tradesman is not of her class, and yet there is something "more" in him.  

If you've seen the movie (you know, I take back my "sorry" above.  There's nothing to be sorry for with Richard Armitage as Mr. Thornton.), I'd still suggest reading the book.  There are some significant changes from the movie.  I have to say, as much as I loved the movie, the book was better (Isn't that the way it usually is?).  The Mr. Thornton in the book is much gentler than the one in the movie, but I understand that the film makers wanted to be sure that a modern audience would understand why Margaret looked down so much on Mr. Thornton, and with his harshness at the beginning of the movie it is not necessary to understand the importance of class ranking in that time period.  (Elizabeth Gaskell was a contemporary and friend of Charles Dickens, so if that helps you with the time period.)

This is one of my all-time favorite books.  I absolutely loved it.  Mr. Thornton, to me, ranks right up there with Mr. Darcy.  

Rating:  *****  

The newest aspect of the book reviews is going to be cleanness score (CS), because I have young family members that will read these reviews, and so I want them and their moms to know what they will get with the books I review, and I think that others of you out there picking books for your kids might like to know.  (Is that enough ands?)  That said--my scale is going to be from 0 to 10.  0 has absolutely nothing the least bit offensive in it and 10 is for those books that have very offensive material.  (I think I can guarantee that there will be no 10s in any of my book reviews, but it will still be on the scale for gauging purposes.) 

CS=3 for slight language, mild violence, social unrest (In a theatre it would probably be rated G or PG max.)

Why I bought it?  I had read another book by Sarah Dessen and loved the way she expressed herself.   It also helped that it has a southern setting, and I like novels set in the south since I grew up there.  I saw it when I was browsing in the BN.  The cover caught my eye, I had liked the other book of hers, and so I read through the inside flap.  It intrigued me, so chaching! Sold!  
Synopsis:  Annabel Greene, the MC, is a model for the local department store and has a TV commercial running for back-to-school that features her as the girl who has it all.  Her reality is far from the fantasy of the commercial.  Her family is treading on thin ice, her self-image is damaged, and her best friend has dumped her and taken all their mutual friends with her in a scandalous scene.  She feels lost and alone and scared.  There's a mystery as to what really happened between her and her best friend.  Even her friend doesn't really know.  Enter Owen Armstrong!  The angriest kid in school who's a stickler for telling the truth and expects it from everyone around him.

Sarah Dessen is a master at this.  She unfolds the story bit by bit, building and then backing away.  Her characters are totally real and raw at times.  The text is sprinkled with nuggets of wisdom, and the honesty is compelling.  There are moments of anguish nestled together with moments of subtle humor--heck, some are laugh out loud funny.  I love this book.  It is another one of my all-time favorites.  Owen ranks right up there as one of my favorite leading men.   

Rating:  *****

CS:  6,  a bit of language throughout, but not a lot--there are a couple of F words though,  some violence, I don't want to give away important plot points, so I'll just state it as some PG-15 situations.  I haven't given it to my 14 year old yet to read, so if that gives you a gauge.  I'm pretty conservative.  I suppose some 13 year olds would think nothing of it.  It would depend on what they are exposed to everyday.  In a theatre it would probably be rated PG-13 on the edgy side.

So there you have it.  A couple of my favorite books.  A couple of my favorite leading men that not everyone is aware of.  Let me know what you think.  Happy reading!


PJ Hoover said...

I immediately thought of North and South (the civil war one). Loved that miniseries. But I diverge :) Nice reviews!

lotusgirl said...


beth said...

I have been meaning to look into Sarah Dresser for awhile now--she keeps cropping up, and has long been on my radar. Thanks for the review!

lotusgirl said...

Beth, the thing with Sarah Dessen's books is that there are cameos of characters from previous books that pop up in the later ones. So it's fun to read them in the order she wrote them so you recognize the cameos. It's not necessary though. The first book of hers that I read was one of the later ones. Eventually, I went back and read them all in order. It's kind of a "This character is still doing well!" type thing for her fans.

Justus M. Bowman said...

I'm afraid to do book reviews because I favor sarcasm and exaggerated criticism.

So, you keep taking care of it for me. Thanks! :)

*goes to read a random 1-star review on Amazon*

Gottawrite Girl said...

Wow, what a thorough review. Excellent! I respect your putting opinions out there, as I always get nervous to stir the pot in any way. Well done!!! And talk soon...

: )


lotusgirl said...

I'm actually really enjoying doing the reviews. I'm not a bona fide critic though and my ratings are based purely on my own personal enjoyment of the books and not their literary merit. Although these two both have some serious literary merit as well as being very enjoyable. For me those things don't always coincide.

Stephanie Perkins said...

Yes, yes, YES! Ohhh, you are too awesome. I posted my love for North & South recently-ish too:

Mmm. Mr. Thornton.

I bought the book but haven't read it yet. Thanks for the reminder!