book review: Speak (Laurie Halse Anderson)

I’ve wanted to read this, for a while years after all the hype. (I’m not one of those mid-hype readers.)

Finally I got my motivation, since the author is coming to speak at the NESCBWI conference this April. I’ve already read her historical fiction novel “Fever: 1793” about the yellow fever in Philadelphia – wicked good read.

But I wasn’t too excited about a contemporary high school story. Another girl on the outside, feeling left out etc. etc. etc. But that’s about all I knew about it, and man, was I intrigued as the story unfolded.

This one has it all – it’s an “issue” book, but totally character-driven,  and what characters indeed! Multi-dimensional and very realistic.

Makes me glad I didn’t grow up in Syracuse …

book review: Vita Brevis (Jostein Gaarder)

Yes, Life is Short.

The subtitle of this book is “A Letter to St. Augustin,” and so, yes, I had to have it. That plus one of my favorite authors wrote it. I’ve been slogging through the Confessions for a while now (guess I should add that to the “what Kip is reading” list too!), mostly because Sophie Scholl and her circle of her friends were pretty obsessed with them way back when. More on Sophie Scholl another day.

Vita Brevis was a little hard to track down actually, and I can see why. Thanks to my husband for tracking down a new copy from an online bookseller!! I pretty much dropped the rest of my reading list when this one showed up on our doorstep, and it was well worth it for me.

Not for everyone though. It was a little out there, and it had that “is it fact, or is it fiction?” blurring of the lines that strikes my fancy and drives other people nuts. Like other Gaarder titles, it draws on philosophy, Latin, classics, and historical times, things that amaze and interest me to no end.

I read some of the reviews by readers, and was interested to see that everyone assumed that the forward by Gaarder – that he finds the letters in an antiquarian bookshop in Argentina – was fact. For me, this was as potentially fiction as the rest.  And part of the draw to delving right in, I must add.

On the negative side, it didn’t have the same huge page-turning appeal as Sophie’s World or some of his other works. For me, it was more of a personal interest in St. Augustine’s life, and the fresh perspective from the letter of his former lover Floria – a letter which may or may not be a forgery. Nice.