Push by Sapphire

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Push by Sapphire


I had only two words to say when I finished this book at four this morning… holy crap! (Okay, so those aren’t exactly the two words that I said but one of my most loyal blog followers is only 10 so edited myself a tad bit. Hi, Erik!)


Clarieece Precious Jones was only 12 years old when she gave birth to her first child.


At 16, Precious, she hates to be called Clarieece, is still in middle school and pregnant with her second child. Despite the fact that she can’t read, she goes to school every day and gets decent grades. Math is her favorite class. She’s been held back a few times but eventually the teachers pass her on to the next grade. But now, she is suspended from school for being pregnant.


Precious is an extremely lonely girl. She has been raised to believe that she is nothing. She has endured horrific abuse at the hands of both of her parents. She has no friends, no family to care for her, no one to love her. Sometimes she prays that she won’t wake up in the morning.


After being kicked out of school, she is accepted into an alternative pre-GED program where she finally has the courage to tell her teacher that every page in the book looks the same. Under the guidance of a caring teacher and the friendship of the other troubled girls in her class, Precious begins a difficult journey to freedom, as fleeting as it may be.


I bought this book a few years ago, right after the movie was released. And in that time it has lived on the bookcase in my bedroom. Every time I go to the shelf to pick a new book I passed over this one, the red spine staring out at me. So, when I had to choose a book that started with the letter P for my April reading challenge, I decided that I would finally get around to reading Push.


Last night, or this morning since it was 2am, I was getting ready for bed, and I decided to read the first few pages to see how I liked it. Big mistake.


Two hours later I was finished, it was 4am, and I was wide awake thinking about what I had just read.


Push is horrifying and amazing, heartbreaking and hopeful, all at the same time. Sapphire allows Precious to tell her own story, in her own words. As I read, I found that I was hearing the voice of Precious telling me the story. I forgot that Sapphire existed. I forgot that Precious was a figment of her imagination; that the entire story was make-believe. To me, that is the mark of an excellent story-teller.


At less than 200 pages, it’s a fast read, even for people who don’t read quite as quickly as I do. *wink*


It isn’t an easy story to read simply due to the subject matter. And it’s certainly not a happy story. Precious endures horrific abuse which made my heart hurt for her as I read. I will admit that I cried once or twice. But in the end, it was worth it.


Before reading the book I did want to see the movie. And while I can typically separate books from their cinematic counterparts, I’m not sure I want to see it anymore. Not just because of the abuse and violence that must be depicted in the film, but because I’m just not sure that a film could do the simplicity of the book the justice that it deserves.


5 stars

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The Gift of the Magi and Other Stories by O. Henry

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The Gift of the Magi and Other Stories by O. Henry
“A story of sacrificial love, The Gift of the Magi is a classic for the Christmas season and beyond. A husband and wife cannot afford to give each other presents unless they give up their own greatest treasures. With touching twists, O. Henry unfolds a story of profound implications.”
I think I should preface this review by saying I’ve never been a fan of short stories. However, I am completely in love with O. Henry. I first read The Gift of the Magi in one of my high school English textbooks and from that moment on, I was a fan. Not just a fan of the story (which is amazing), but of Henry’s style of writing as well. I love irony and sarcasm and O. Henry is a master of both.
William Sydney Porter, born 11 Sept 1862 in Greensboro, NC, is best known by his pen name O. Henry. O. Henry’s short stories are known for their wit, wordplay, warm characterization and clever twist endings. (He is buried in Ashville, NC, where my mom and I are planning a short vacation later this spring. I’ll have to make note to visit his grave.)
You may have heard of the O. Henry Award, which is a prestigious annual prize named after Porter and given to outstanding short stories.
In 1952, a film featuring five stories, called O. Henry’s Full House, was made. The episode “The Cop and the Anthem” stars Charles Laughton and Marilyn Monroe. The other stories are “The Clarion Call”, “The Last Leaf”, “The Ransom of Red Chief” (starring Fred Allen and Oscar Levant), and “The Gift of the Magi”. There have been several other film version of “The Gift of the Magi” made as well.
The O. Henry House and O. Henry Hall, both in Austin, Texas, are named for him. O. Henry Hall, now owned by the University of Texas, previously served as the federal courthouse in which O. Henry was convicted of embezzlement from the bank he worked in. (He was sentenced to five years in prison but was released after three.)
Porter has elementary schools named for him in Greensboro, North Carolina (William Sydney Porter Elementary) and Garland, Texas (O. Henry Elementary), as well as a middle school in Austin, Texas (O. Henry Middle School). The O. Henry Hotel in Greensboro is also named for Porter.
It’s difficult to write a review of short stories because it would be so easy to give away the endings. I’ve never read an O. Henry story where I knew how it would end before I read it. His gift of irony without bitterness is fabulous. At only 159 pages, this book is a quick read. Even if you pick it up every once in a while and read one story at a time, rather than reading it straight through, you’ll be done before you know it and ready for more.
Stories included in this edition are:
The Gift of the Magi (my favorite)
Lost on Dress Parade
The Trimmed Lamp
The Handbook of Hymen
Brickdust Row
The Count and the Wedding Guest
The Furnished Room
The Last Leaf
The Making of a New Yorker
The Man Higher Up
While the Auto Waits
Whistling Dick’s Christmas Stocking (the first story published under the pen name O. Henry)
A Newspaper Story
The Ransom of Red Chief (Mama’s favorite)
The Whirlgig of Life
Confessions of a Humorist
Another bonus of this edition, if you want to own it as I did, so that you can read a little O. Henry whenever you want, it’s only $10.00 at B&N. It’s also available for the Nook for $1.99.
Hardcover
159 pages
Published 10 Nov 2008 by BARNES & NOBLE PUB.
ISBN13: 9781435108790

 

5 stars

 
For more info on O. Henry, check out wikipedia.

Ramona’s World (audiobook)

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Ramona’s World (audiobook) by Beverly Cleary

“There’s never been anyone quite like Ramona Geraldine Quimby! And now, the irresistible, irrepressible star of Beverly Cleary’s best-loved and bestselling series is back — in the paperback version of her first book in 15 years. Now, Ramona is a fourth grader, struggling with her spelling; feuding and flirting with her old nemesis, Yard Ape; and joyfully making her first real girlfriends. She’s also dealing with life as a middle child — coping with her teenage sister, Beezus, and their new baby sister, Roberta — and simply learning about growing up. But through it all, Ramona remains funny, outspoken, and amazingly real! Ramona’s World is out of this world…a book that’s definitely worth the wait!”

I read every Ramona book as a kid. Over and over and over again. So, a few years ago, when I discovered that Beverly Cleary had written a new Ramona book I was ecstatic. Who cares that I was in my 20’s, I had to have it!

Cleary’s talent and ability to write children in a realistic and believable voice is in no way diminished by her own age. At 95 years old, Cleary must still be a child at heart! Of course, this is one of the many reasons that she is one of my favorite authors.

I love listening to the Ramona books on audio. If I’m driving to one of my stores at the beach, I can usually listen to one book in the morning and another in the afternoon. Stockard Channing narrates the books brilliantly. She has taken on the personality of Ramona to me. She reads with emotion, whether it’s anger, hurt, embarrassment, or humor, she is dead on every time.

Audiobook
Published November 2nd 2010 by HarperCollins Publishers (first published 1999)
ISBN13: 9780061774126
Charlie May Simon Children’s Book Award (2001)

5 stars

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Audiobook)

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Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
Read by Elijah Wood

“Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain’s sequel to The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, became an instant success in the year of its publication, 1884, but was seen by some as unfit for children to read because of its language, grammar, and “uncivilized hero.” The book has sparked controversy ever since, but most scholars continue to praise it as a modern masterpiece, an essential read, and one of the greatest novels in all of American literature. Twain’s satiric treatment of racism, religious excess, and rural simplicity and his accuracy in presenting dialects mark Huck Finn as a classic. His unswerving confidence in Huck’s wisdom and maturity, along with the well-rounded and sympathetic portrayal of Jim draw readers into the book, holding them until Huck’s last words rejecting all attempts to “sivilize” him.”

Mark Twain wrote Huck Finn as a sequel to Tom Sawyer. His original plan was to follow Huck into adulthood but after working on the book for several years he lost interest. When he eventually came back to Huck’s story, he abandoned his idea of telling Huck’s life story and decided instead to write it as a sort of continuation of Tom Sawyer.

Personally, of the two, Huck Finn is by far my favorite. I never really liked Tom. He’s just… annoying. Meanwhile, I find Huck fascinating. He has much more common sense than Tom. He’s deep down a better person I think, than Tom. Sure, he lies and “borrows” but he hates to hurt anyone’s feelings and he has a strong conscience. Even when he logically disagrees with his conscience due to the social constraints of the time period, emotionally, he tends to know what’s right and what isn’t.

It’s been years and years since I read Huck Finn; probably close to twenty years or more. But I read a review online the other day that mentioned this audio edition read by Elijah Wood. I hightailed it to audible.com as fast as possible and bought it. I listen to a lot of audiobooks on my iPod since I drive so much for work. At over ten hours long, this was almost four days worth of listening.

I’m a fan of Twain’s writing. He describes things so well. He uses commonplace descriptions to allow the reader to draw the picture in their head of the scene he’s creating. He also strikes a nice balance between narration and dialogue. I love the fact that Huck tells his own story from his own point of view as well. Twain really brings Huck, as well as the other characters, to life. And listening to Elijah Wood read the story… it was like I was riding down the highway with Huck sitting in the front seat next to me. And the story has laugh out loud funny moments. There were whole sections where I laughed like a fool driving down the road. I can also admit that there were some times that I cried.

Wood did an amazing job with the different accents and dialects that Twain gave his characters. At first I was very aware that I was listening to Elijah Wood but after just a few minutes, it stopped being Elijah and became Huck and Jim and Tom and even Pap.

Huck had it rough there’s no doubt. His Pap was abusive. He felt unloved. He considered himself to be stupid and eventually he came to question his own morals and character. He never sat down and felt too sorry for himself though. He dealt with adversity and made his way the best way he could. Though we know today that Huck had character and morals to spare, in those days he considered himself very close to a traitor to his race for his actions to help Jim. He struggled with his own conscience and the differences between what he felt in his heart was right and what he had been taught was right.

Huck Finn has created controversy for years and years. It is the fourth most banned book in the United States. It has been considered obscene, immoral and racist. As usual, the censors have it all wrong. Twain tells a story of a boy who is anti-racist in a time when it would cause him to be ostracized by society. Because of the use of the “N-word” throughout the book, people assume it must be racist but in actuality Twain used the language and vernacular of the time. If anyone doesn’t read this excellent example of classic American literature because of the use of a word they disagree with, they are missing out.

Audiobook
Published November 9th 2010 by Audible, Inc (first published 1884 in England, first published 1885 in US)
ASIN B004BDL7N6

5 stars

Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone

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Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone by J. K. Rowling

“When a letter arrives for unhappy but ordinary Harry Potter, a decade-old secret is revealed to him. His parents were wizards, killed by a Dark Lord’s curse when Harry was just a baby, and which he somehow survived. Escaping from his unbearable Muggle guardians to Hogwarts, a wizarding school brimming with ghosts and enchantments, Harry stumbles into a sinister adventure when he finds a three-headed dog guarding a room on the third floor. Then he hears of a missing stone with astonishing powers which could be valuable, dangerous, or both.”

It was 2000 when I first read Harry Potter. My friend Super Suz recommended the series to me but I put off reading it for ages. I wasn’t into reading much young adult stuff back then and my argument for not reading them was that I wasn’t interested in reading children’s book. How book-snobbish of me.

It was around the time the first film was coming out and I was hearing a lot about the controversy that was being stirred up over witchcraft and censorship. Censorship and banning books is one of my pet issues so it piqued my interest in the books a bit more. I finally broke down and borrowed the first three books.

I read them all in less than a week! I couldn’t put them down. Didn’t want to put them down either! I was hooked from chapter one of the first book. I immediately told my mom that she needed to read them. After she read them, she and my daddy went to see the first movie. After they saw the movie Daddy decided to read the books as well. Now we’re all three addicted to the entire series.

I own several copies of all seven books. This edition of HP & TPS is a Bloomsbury edition that they put out to satisfy adult readers in the UK. Adults didn’t want to be seen on the train reading books with cartoon covers so they released these with adult covers to satisfy that audience. These editions are hard to find as they are only sold in the UK. I was able to get mine on eBay but even then they’re hard to find at a good price.

I read the entire series once a year. I always try to stretch it out and read one book a month so it’ll last for seven months, but I usually end up reading them all back to back and finishing them in a month or less.

Paperback
332 pages
Published July 10th 2004 by Bloomsbury Publishing (first published October 1st 1998)
ISBN13: 9780747574477
British Fantasy Award (1999), Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adolescent Literature (2008), British Book Award for Children’s Book of the Year (1998), Smarties Prize (1997), Prijs van de Nederlandse Kinderjury for 6-9 jaar en 10-12 jaar (2002)
Prijs van de Nederlandse Kinderjury for 6-9 jaar en 10-12 jaar (2002), American Booksellers Book Of The Year Award for Children (1999), West Australian Young Readers’ Book Award (WAYRBA) for Younger Readers (2000), Rebecca Caudill Young Reader’s Book Award (2001), South Carolina Book Award for Junior Book Award (2001), Grand Canyon Reader Award for Teen Book (2000), Charlotte Award (2000), Nene Award (2000), Massachusetts Children’s Book Award (2000), Colorado Blue Spruce Young Adult Book Award (2001), Blue Hen Book Award for Chapter Book (2001), Nevada Young Readers’ Award for Young Reader Category (2000), Sasquatch Reading Award (2000), Golden Archer Award for Middle/Junior High (2000), Indian Paintbrush Book Award (2000), Carnegie Medal Nominee (1997), ALA’s Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults (1999)

5 stars

The Giver

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The Giver by Lois Lowry

“Jonas’s world is perfect. Everything is under control. There is no war or fear or pain. There are no choices. Every person is assigned a role in the Community. When Jonas turns twelve, he is singled out to receive special training from The Giver. The Giver alone holds the memories of the true pain and pleasure of life. Now, it is time for Jonas to receive the truth. There is no turning back.”

A Newbery Award winner, this book is one that I can read over and over again and I pick up different subtleties each time.

Jonas lives in a supposed utopian society but as he becomes older he finds that fairness comes at a price.

I just read the book a few months ago but I find myself wanting to read it again now, just because it makes me question things. Perhaps I’ll pick it up again this week. At only 179 pages, it’s a pretty fast read. I definitely recommend it for kids as young as middle school, but adults should read it too.

Paperback
179 pages
Published January 24th 2006 by Delacorte Books for Young Readers (first published March 29th 1993)
ISBN13: 9780385732550

Newbery Medal (1994), British Fantasy Award (1994), Horn Book Fanfare Best Book (1994), Garden State Book Award for Teen Fiction Grades 6-8 (1996), Rebecca Caudill Young Reader’s Book Award (1996)
Rebecca Caudill Young Reader’s Book Award (1996), Grand Canyon Reader Award for Teen Book (1995), Pacific Northwest Library Association Young Reader’s Choice Award for Senior (1996), New Mexico Land of Enchantment Award (1997)

5 stars

Something Wicked This Way Comes

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Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury

“The carnival rolls in sometime after midnight, ushering in Halloween a week early. The shrill siren song of a calliope beckons to all with a seductive promise of dreams and youth regained. In this season of dying, Cooger & Dark’s Pandemonium Shadow Show has come to Green Town, Illinois, to destroy every life touched by its strange and sinister mystery. And two boys will discover the secret of its smoke, mazes, and mirrors; two friends who will soon know all too well the heavy cost of wishes. . .and the stuff of nightmare.

Few American novels written this century have endured in the heart and memory as has Ray Bradbury’s unparalleled literary classic SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES. For those who still dream and remember, for those yet to experience the hypnotic power of its dark poetry, step inside. The show is about to begin.”

Read for the first time when I was middle school, this Bradbury classic has lost none of the magic I first experienced twenty years ago.

I was looking at my bookcase one night, trying to decide what to read next, when this book suddenly fell from it’s spot (where it was laying FLAT on top of some other books way in the back of the bookshelf!) to the floor in front of my feet. Being that it was written by Bradbury (who has creepy down pretty well), and being that the book is what it is, I took that as a sign I should choose it to read next. Some friends suggested that I remove it from my house altogether! But I read it, enjoyed it as much, if not more so, than I did twenty years ago (now that I understood things better), and put it back on the shelf. In a different spot. Where it can definitely not fall off again.

Mass Market Paperback
304 pages
Published March 1st 1998 by Avon (first published 1962)
ISBN13: 9780380729401

5 stars