Sunday, October 16, 2011

Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins

Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins

Book Description:
Gregor is stuck watching his two year old sister, Boots and his grandma for the summer. During the laundry session, his sister looses her ball in the grate and they both get sucked into the Underland. The Underland is filled with giant bugs, spiders, and rats. He just wants to get back home, but discovers two things. The first is that a prophecy foretells a role for him in the future of the humans living in the Underland. And second, the mystery of his father's disappearance is uncovered. The quest all unfolds as the mysterious prophecy plays out.

My Thoughts:
This book started a bit slow for me. I really didn't get into it until about the fourth chapter or so. It did pick up though, and I did enjoy it overall. I really appreciated the research on the different animals used to create their characters and attitudes. I was inclined to go and read about rats and their teeth, to find out if the fact was true or not. I think it is a great book for boys because of the quest and adventure. They would love that part for sure. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Wuthering Heights (audio)~ Emily Bronte

wuthering heights

My plan was to post this on or near Halloween as it is a horrific ghost tale of sorts. But life is crazy now so it’s probably best to get this live. This is a copy of the post from my blog –  edited for Fill in the Gaps.

Reviewed by Shellie: Wuthering Heights ~ by Emily Brontë

A classic masterpiece that is an incredible work of horrific and tragic fiction. It is a shocking “page turner” that I could not put  down.

About:  A tale of a haunting, either imaginary or not. It’s also a story of love and a loss so obsessive that it creates a monster from a man, mangling him into a cruel character that manipulates those around him for revenge, power, and pleasure. His anger seethes into the lives of family and those who he should love and cherish. Sadly, due to the constraints of the time, those around him cannot escape his internal conflict, external tortures, and schemes.

The story unfolds within and around two houses or manors in the late 1700s/early 1800s, in the English countryside. Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange are the names of the houses where the story takes place, among the rock strewn landscape of the bleak, damp and beautiful Yorkshire Moors.

The story is told from the perspective of a new border (Lockwood) who arrives to rent Thrushcross Grange in an effort to escape city life in London. Hoping for idyllic countryside and folk, he finds signet wuthering heightsthings are not at all as he had wished or imagined. He is appalled yet intrigued as to the reasons why there is such lack of normal civility at Wuthering Heights, so he consults the household’s servant, Nelly Dean. Through a series of conversations she tells him the horrible and convoluted tale. As they progress, Nelly’s strong character and moral sensibilities come through as she passes along the tragedy of the young Heathcliff and Catherine, spanning their childhood and beyond.

Thoughts:   John (my partner) is from North Yorkshire, growing up only several miles from where the Bronte’s lived, wrote, and died. So naturally I have visited the area frequently over the years. When visiting one can see the landscape is rocky and harsh with its boggy, peaty waters running through its craggy hills. It is generally damp and cold with summers that can be lovely and warm but only for a moment. This description of the moors is also a metaphor used throughout the novel; it mirrors a conflicted passion between the main characters.

It is accepted that life there was harsh 200 years ago, and still is for farmers working there today. They are known to be surly and cranky, so Heathcliff's temperament was no surprise, yet his extreme cruelty was. He is a character who is sadistic and that overshadows most of the other well fleshed out figures – even the wild, strong-willed, yet spoiled Catherine. I was shocked, thinking the book was categorized as a romance and it that would be light. Boy was I wrong.

You may think that through my description above that I did not particularly like Wuthering Heights. I loved it and think it is an incredible surprise of a horror story. It’s a harshly “romantic” tale and an enduring historical classic. It has a wonderful and deeply conflicted character with a chafing angst. It deserves a 4.5 stars and gets a big “Wow” in my humble opinion.

The version I listened to is included below, as is a paperback I used as reference – the Yorkshire accent is difficult even today, let alone 200 years ago when the book was set and written. Even John as a native Yorkshire-man had difficulty translating it for me. The best part of the particular version I listened to is that the narrator has a “proper” Yorkshire accent and sounds just like my sister in law (a native). It gives the reading an authentic feel.

Audio: Naxos AudioBooks; Unabridged; 11-CD Set; read by Janet McTeer and David Timson; 13 hours, 9 minutes; May 15, 2007; 

Paperback: Signet Classic; introduction by Alice Hoffman; copy shown above also includes an afterword by Juliet Barker; 352 pages; March 1, 2011; 

And now for some visuals - all are near Skipton, an ancient market town in the English North Yorkshire Dales and just a few miles away from where Bronte lived.

These were taken by John and myself in July several years ago:


You can see the rocky hills although most of the heather has been cleared for the cattle.


Here are portioned off areas used for sheep grazing. I would estimate the temperature was in the high 60s on the days these shots were taken, which is warm for the locals. Be forewarned that it can change in minutes to a windy rain-soaked downpour, yes even in July. And in winter it is much colder and often icy, with occasional snow.

Author Bio:   Emily Jane Brontë was born July 30, 1818, at Thornton in Yorkshire, the fifth of six children. Both of Emily's parents had literary leanings. Her mother died of cancer shortly after Emily's third birthday. Her primary residence and the rectory where she lived now serves as a Bronte Museum. Emily's only close friends were her brother Branwell and her sisters Charlotte and Anne. She died of tuberculosis on December 19, 1848 at the age of thirty, and never knew the success of her only novel Wuthering Heights - which was published a year before her death. She was purported to be a reserved, courageous woman with a commanding will and manner.

Wuthering Heights was first published under the pseudonym Ellis Bell, and a posthumous second edition was edited by her sister Charlotte. It met with mixed reviews by critics when it first appeared, mainly because of the narrative's stark depiction of mental and physical cruelty.

Bio information was taken from Wikipedia.

On one trip to England I read a short bio on the family from one of the books in the cottage where we stayed since their home was very near to the area we stayed. From what I read their lives were short and tragic. So very sad. I imagine the area was very bleak in those times. It still often is.

In summary – it is a perfect read for the “scary season” especially for those who are a bit more literary and classics minded and is highly recommended in this audio version.

Thursday, October 6, 2011


"The Undomestic Goddess" by Sophie Kinsella
Product Description(
Workaholic attorney Samantha Sweeting has just done the unthinkable. She’s made a mistake so huge, it’ll wreck any chance of a partnership. Going into utter meltdown, she walks out of her London office, gets on a train, and ends up in the middle of nowhere. Asking for directions at a big, beautiful house, she’s mistaken for an interviewee and finds herself being offered a job as housekeeper. Her employers have no idea they’ve hired a lawyer—and Samantha has no idea how to work the oven. She can’t sew on a button, bake a potato, or get the #@%# ironing board to open. How she takes a deep breath and begins to cope—and finds love—is a story as delicious as the bread she learns to bake. But will her old life ever catch up with her? And if it does…will she want it back?
Mass Market Paperback: 432 pages
Publisher: Dell (October 30, 2007)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 044024238X
ISBN-13: 978-0440242383

MY THOUGHTS: This is the first book from this author that I've read. I liked a review I read somewhere and thought I would try it out. It wasn't exactly what I thought it was. I have to admit I skipped through chapters. This book is kind of not realistic. It leads you to believe that Samantha became a great chief in a very short time. It fell apart at the end. I didn't particularly like the characters in this book. It was readable and that's all I can say about it.

My full review is at Just Books.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park

A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park
Book Description: Tree-ear is an orphan living with a crippled man under a bridge in Korea during the twelfth-century. This bridge is near the village of Ch'ulp'o, known for its remarkable pottery, the delicate celadon ware. Tree-ear has a passion to make his own pot someday. This passion leads him to secretly watch Min, the master potter work. Due to circumstances, Tree-ear becomes a worker for the elderly master. He learns much of the trade, but will Min teach him the art of spinning the wheel? 

My Thoughts: It's a Newberry winner for a reason. It is very good coming of age story where Tree-ear is put onto situations where he must decide to do what is right, or what is easier. I enjoyed the Korean culture that was brought out through the relationships of the characters in the book. 
An example of the glaze color of Celadon.