Archive | October, 2015

World War TwoTwoTwo

27 Oct

Both of the books I finished this week are WWII stories. You’d think two in a row would be one too many, but they were very different from each other and kind of nice as counterparts.

godinruinsThis has been in my To Be Read stack for…oh…a long time. I finally picked it up because my well-read aunt said it made her Top Ten list this year. And guess what? It was pretty great. Much like its companion novel Life After Life, A God in Ruins takes Time and really plays around with it. In this one, we are back and forth and all over Teddy’s life – from childhood to his time as a pilot in the war to marriage and fatherhood and grandfatherhood. To say much more would be to spoil this long but worthwhile read. 4 stars (and maybe a spot on my top ten. Maybe).

crooked heartsCrooked Hearts reminded me a lot of the YA novel I just read last week called The War that Saved My Life. After so many years of reading, having never read about the children evacuated from London (sent to the country for safety), to have read two in two weeks is pretty crazy. This one was also great – the story of young orphan Noel sent from his aunt and uncle’s flat in London to live with Vee – a sketchy sort of character that I was sure I’d never come to like. Shock of all shocks, I came to love her. And Noel. And everything about this story that takes place during the war but is not really about the war. 4 stars.

A New Project, Week 1

17 Oct

This past Saturday was my first back at the bookstore and boy was it glorious. 4 complete hours of talking to adults and thinking about books. In order to fill a Saturday gap, I’ve been asked to brush up on my Middle Reader (ages 8-12) and Young Adult reading so that I can help those customers on Saturdays. It’s nice to have a project. I came up with a big long list of books that piqued my interest and am setting about to read them week to week (at least for the first few weeks). I’m going to bundle them on here weekly, since most of them are fast and pretty much all of them are engrossing I think I can do one a night most nights.

jellyFirst, I tackled The Thing About Jellyfish, a debut by Ali Benjamin. The back flap on this one says that it’s about a 7th grade girl, Suzy, grieving the death of her best friend (who drowned over the summer). Really now why would you want to read about THAT?? it’s so sad sounding. But to write it off simply because of its tearful premise would be a mistake. It was awesome. And not so much about death and grieving as about figuring out who you are, how you fit in and what things inspire you. It all starts for Suzy when, on a school field trip, she reads about a certain kind of deadly jellyfish. Convinced that her friend died of a jellyfish sting, she starts her research. Along the way she discovers a passion for science and also a place in the crazy, awful world that Middle School can be. 5 stars, and my fingers are crossed that I’ll be able to convince people to buy it this holiday season. It’d be a killer combo with Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything (the YA version), as suggested by the author in the afterwards.

After a night off for one of my book clubs, I started Jennifer Chambliss Bertman’s Book Scavenger. A really great mystery for kids who love to read, who love ciphers and scavenger hunts.

bookscavengerThis is the story of Emily and her traveling family – her parents are on a quest to live in each of the 50 states. Emily, a middle schooler, is sort of fed up with the whole thing by the time her family moves to San Fransisco at the start of the novel. She really wants to grow some roots, make some friends, etc. She is involved in a nationwide game called Book Scavenger – a game in which books are hidden in public places and the players get points for finding a book (based on an often ciphered clue) and for hiding a book that gets found. Emily, her brother Matthew and her new neighbor – her first true friend – James accidentally come upon a hidden book that leads them on a wild treasure hunt. 4 stars.

CrenshawI had really high hopes for this one, as I loved loved loved The One and Only Ivan. However. It did not wow me. It has a great premise – a young boy finds his family on the brink of homelessness (again) and his old imaginary friend, a ginormous cat named Crenshaw reappears. I wish it had been more about Crenshaw, as it was I think it focused too much on being poor/hungry/nearly homeless and not enough on the imaginary friend (obviously the story is about poor/hungry/homeless, but it could have been something great instead of something just heavy). 2.5 stars.

warThis one is the best thing I’ve read so far. It takes place during WWII and should be more of the same war-story stuff, but wow was it different and good. It’s the story of a young girl named Ada, 11 years old with a club foot. Her AWFUL mother is just AWFUL and treats her HORRIBLY, making her stay inside their 3rd floor apartment, hitting her when she voices an opinion and locking her in a cabinet for minor mistakes. Ada’s younger brother Jamie is allowed to run wild with the neighborhood boys since he’s not “crippled.” When the war hits London, most of the children were evacuated to the country – thought to be a safer place to spend the war. Jamie is set to go, but the mother refuses to let Ada, saying that she can stay and be bombed. Ada, who you will love, teaches herself, painfully, to walk (something she has been forbidden to do, crawling instead) and sneaks onto the train with her little brother. They end up in the car of a woman named Susan and the story goes from there. It’s not so much about WWII as it is about Ada realizing that she has worth, that she has a brain, and that she is not the repulsive hindrance on society that her mother had led her to believe. 4.5 stars.

circusOHMYGOSH guys, this is it. I wish this book was 100000 pages longer. It was SO GOOD. And today was the perfect day to read it. Remember The Night Circus? Remember what a treat that was to read? Well tonight the Nelson hosted a Night Circus party – complete with performers. Looking at the pictures made me decide to start Circus Mirandus tonight when all the dishes were done and everyone else was asleep. I liked it better than Night Circus. I liked it so well that once I return my copy to the library I’m going to buy one for my own library. Here’s the story: Micah is 11 and living with his grandfather, Ephraim. Ephraim is dying. Ephraim is full of wonderful stories of magic and a secret traveling circus called Circus Mirandus – a circus he stumbled upon when he was a child during the war. In the waning days of his life, Ephraim calls in a miracle he was promised by the Lightbender – one of the circus’ star acts. And then the miracle unfolds. Gosh it was so good. 5 stars, plus a place on my shelf of favorites.

 

BIG news, and two books.

3 Oct

Guys, guess what?? I’m going back to the bookstore. Before you get TOO excited, it’ll only be Saturdays from 10am to 2pm. And only definitely through the end of the year. I’m pretty excited and can’t wait until my first Saturday – NEXT Saturday – to get here. Hopefully I’ll find the other 8 books that belong on my 2015 Top Ten list.

 

I’m not sure either of these books will be on The List, but they were both good in their own rights.

rosie projectThis one has been out for a while and the queue at the library is still 100+ deep. Here’s why: it’s good! Fast and funny with short chapters, oddball characters that you root for until the end. Lots of situational humor and funny twists. 4 stars.

undermajordomoAnd then Undermajordomo Minor by Patrick deWitt. This one was whackadoodle. All of the reviews compare it to the films of Wes Anderson (The Royal Tenenbaums, The Grand Budapest Hotel, etc), and once I read that I was able to go with the flow a bit more easily. It’s pretty bizarre. There were two scenes that were borderline obscene, but otherwise I thought it was a nice change of pace (for me). I can think of a handful of quirky readers who would like this, but it definitely is NOT for everyone. Not for my mom, not for our book club. 3.5 stars.