30. March 2015 · Write a comment · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Tammy

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford, 301 pages, read by Tammy, on 03/26/2015

Newly widowed, Henry Lee is returning to visit the neighborhood where he grew up when he comes across a crowd gathered outside the Panama Hotel. The hotel sits on the corner between what was once Chinatown on one side and Japantown on the other side. It has been boarded up since the fifties but is now being restored. The new owners make an incredible discovery. In the basement they find the belongings of Japanese families who were rounded up and sent to Internment camps during World War II. After Pearl Harbor all those of Japanese decent even second generation American’s are suspected of being spies for the enemy. Families tried to save possessions with value and personal meaning with friends or in storage of businesses owned by those sympathetic to them.

Seeing the new owners of the hotel open a Japanese parasol takes Henry back in time to the 1940s when his world was a jumble of confusion. His father who experienced war with the Japanese in his homeland of China as a boy is obsessed with the war and making sure Henry grows up to be an American. Henry’s parents send him to the exclusive Rainier Elementary where he is the only non-white student. At best the kids ignore home at worst he is harassed and beaten up. Until one day while working in the cafeteria he meets another scholarship student, Keiko Okabe. She is a young Japanese American who doesn’t even understand Japanese when her parents speak it. Through this troubled time Henry and Keiko form a lasting friendship.

Now it is forty years later and Henry is certain the parasol belonged to Keiko. He begins a search for her families belongings in the packed dusty basement of the hotel while dealing with the lose of his wife six months ago and reconnecting with his son.

23. March 2015 · Write a comment · Categories: Adult Books, Angie, Fiction, Historical Fiction · Tags:

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, 531 pages, read by Angie, on 03/21/2015

My mom recommended this book to me and I am so glad I finally read it. It is a powerful story, told beautifully. It is a story of love and loss and survival and death. It is the story of two children coming of age during WWII. Marie-Laure is a beloved daughter of a Paris museum locksmith. She has grown up surrounded by the museum and all its treasures. When she goes blind her father builds a replica of their neighborhood so she can find her way around. He also spoils her with little puzzles and treasures. Warner is an orphan living in a children’s home in a mining town in Germany. He is mechanically brilliant, building a radio from scratch and repairing things in the town. He fears being sent to work in the mines and dying like his father. He is protective of his younger sister Jutta, but doesn’t really know how to help them. When he is given the opportunity to attend a Nazi technical school he jumps at the chance. School is a lot more brutal than he thought it would be, but he finds a way to survive.

Marie-Laure and Warner’s stories are told alternatively through their childhood and the present day at the end of the war. They both end up in Saint-Malo on the French coast. Marie-Laure and her father have fled Paris ahead of the Nazi occupation and taken up residence with her great uncle Etienne. Her uncle was traumatized by WWI and doesn’t leave the house; he suffers bouts of PTSD that leave him hiding in his room for days. Marie-Laure’s father again builds a model of the neighborhood so she can find her way about, but then he disappears. Warner has become part of a radio unit that hunts down insurgents. Their quest has led them to Saint-Malo. Little does he know that the radio broadcasts giving out information to the French resistance is the same one he listened to as a child on his homemade radio. Etienne has again taken to the airwaves after being convinced by his housekeeper to join the fight. Warner is intrigued by the blind girl he sees coming out of the house and finds himself protective of her and Etienne. Their stories intersect during the last days in Saint-Malo as it is being bombed by the Allies.

Interspersed with all of this is the story of the Sea of Flames, a singular blue diamond with a heart of fire. It has traveled the world before ending up in the Paris museum. It is said to be cursed, offering immortality to its bearer but death to all those you love. Marie-Laure’s father was entrusted with its safe keeping when he fled Paris. A Nazi officer has been pursuing it across France as he also evaluates other jewels confiscated by the Nazis. He is dying and is determined to get the jewel in the hopes of saving his life. His search leads him right to the door of Marie-Laure.

I loved this book and really had a hard time putting it down. It is beautifully written and Marie-Laure and Warner came alive on the page. I couldn’t wait to see how their stories would finally intersect. This book really brought out the lives of ordinary people in the war. Even though Marie-Laure and Warner are extraordinary in their own ways, there stories are ones shared by others during that time. They are doing what they can to survive and remain themselves. I thought the ending was perfect. It wasn’t a happy ending, yet it was in many ways. This book is definitely worthy of all the praise that has been heaped upon it.

19. March 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction

The Actual & Truthful Adventures of Becky Thatcher by Jessica Lawson, 224 pages, read by Angie, on 03/15/2015

Becky Thatcher has just moved to St. Petersburg, MO. The family is grieving the death of her brother Jon. Mrs. Thatcher has withdrawn almost completely from her family and Judge Thatcher has thrown himself into work. Becky is determined to honor her promise to Jon and have as many adventures as possible. She becomes friends with Amy Lawrence and Sid Sawyer almost immediately. She also makes an enemy of Tom Sawyer when he tattles on her and gets her in trouble. Becky takes part in a bet the boys have about who can steal something from the Widow Douglas who everyone believes is a witch. Trouble starts when Widow Douglas is accused of grave robbing. Becky and Amy know it was actually the notorious Pritchard Brothers who did the grave robbing and Becky decides she has to find a way to clear Widow Douglas’s name.

This was an interesting alternative preview to Mark Twain’s books. Lawson takes a lot of aspects of the the Mark Twain and Huckleberry Finn stories and gives them a backstory. Sam Clemens himself is staying at the Widow Douglas’ house while his steamboat is being repaired. He collects the stories around him for his future books. I liked the fact that a lot of the adventures Tom Sawyer ends up having in Twain’s books are imagined as the adventures of Becky Thatcher. In this book, Tom Sawyer is a tattle tale and brown noser who has no friends whereas Becky is the adventurer who brings down the Pritchard Brothers. It was a nice twist.

18. March 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Historical Fiction

The Zoo at the Edge of the World by Eric Kahn Gale, 240 pages, read by Angie, on 03/14/2015

Marlin is a stutterer and has a lot of problems communicating with people. He has no problems talking to the animals in his father’s zoo however. Marlin’s dad is the famous adventurer Ronan Rackham and he created The Zoo at the Edge of the World in the Amazon jungle. The Zoo attracts wealthy tourists from Europe who come to see the amazing jungle animals and wild circus. Ronan’s latest capture is a jaguar the locals believe is a man-eater. Marlin is drawn to the jaguar and one evening while he is talking to it the jaguar talks back. Suddenly, Marlin can hear all the animals talking and they can understand him as well. This comes in handy when he has to save the zoo from his tyrannical, bullying brother, his crazy father and the scheming duke who is trying to encroach on the jungle.

I was intrigued by the premise of a zoo in the jungle during Victorian times. It is an interesting and plausible idea as the world was expanding for people during that time. Adventurers were discovering parts of the world never before seen by Europeans. I also liked the idea of a Marlin learning to deal with his communication problems and the fact that he is bullied by his brother. Talking animals I can do without, mainly because I thought it took away from the reality of the rest of the story.

18. March 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Lisa

Seven Stories Up by Seven Stories Up, 240 pages, read by Lisa, on 03/16/2015

In this companion to Bigger than a Bread Box, a leap back in time and an unlikely friendship changes the future of one family forever.

Annie has never even met her grandmother before.  In fact, she’s never had much family to speak of.  So when she and her mother pull into the drive of her grandmother’s home in Baltimore, Annie can hardly contain her excitement!

But when she actually meets her grandma, the bitter old woman doesn’t seem like someone Annie could ever love, or miss.  Until one magical, stormy night changes everything.

It’s impossible that Annie could have jumped back in time. . . right? But here she is in 1937— the year her grandmother was just her age!

Molly is an invalid. She lives by herself, on the top floor of a hotel.  She seems a little lonely, but friendly and fun, nothing like the horrible old woman Annie just met.

Annie entices Molly down from her room, and together the two girls roam. They sneak around the grand hotel, and explore the brick streets of old Baltimore. Carnivals and taxis, midnight raids on the kitchen.  The two grow closer.

But as Molly becomes bolder, and ventures further from the safety of her room, Annie begins to wonder how she’ll ever get back home. Maybe she’s changed the past a little too much.

From Goodreads.com.

12. March 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Lisa, Mystery

Everything I never told you by Celeste Ng, 297 pages, read by Lisa, on 03/11/2015

Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet . . . So begins this debut novel about a mixed-race family living in 1970s Ohio and the tragedy that will either be their undoing or their salvation. Lydia is the favorite child of Marilyn and James Lee; their middle daughter, a girl who inherited her mother’s bright blue eyes and her father’s jet-black hair. Her parents are determined that Lydia will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue—in Marilyn’s case that her daughter become a doctor rather than a homemaker, in James’s case that Lydia be popular at school, a girl with a busy social life and the center of every party.

When Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, the delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together tumbles into chaos, forcing them to confront the long-kept secrets that have been slowly pulling them apart.

From Goodreads.com.

05. March 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Teen Books

Circle of Stones by Catherine Fisher, 298 pages, read by Angie, on 03/04/2015

Bladud is a Druid king forced out into the wilderness because of an illness. After wondering in the wilderness he finds a healing spring that cures his illness. He builds a temple to the goddess Sulis in appreciation for her healing. He erects a circle of stones and his people return to him.

Zac is apprenticed to architect Jonathan Forrest who is going to build the King’s Circus in Bath. Forrest is obsessed with druids and designs the Circus to mimic ancient druid structures. Zac is down on his luck after his father gambled away their fortune. He resents his lack of means and being the assistant to a mad man like Forrest. He has to decide if he is loyal to his master or to his idea of who he should be.

Sulis has just moved to Bath and into one of the houses on the Circus. There was a tragedy in her past that has put her in witness protection for the last ten years. Bath offers a fresh start with new foster parents in a new city and a new name. However, she believes she is being stalked by the man from her past. She has to come to terms with the truth of her past in order to create a new future.

These three stories all revolve around the same place but are very different. I thought some of the stories worked better than others. I loved Sulis’s tale and thought the reveal about the tragedy in her past was really well done. I like how her story tied in the story of the Circus and the other two characters. I wasn’t that interested in Zac’s story mainly because I really didn’t like him as a character. I wanted more information about Forrest and less whining from Zac. Bladud’s story was the briefest with the least amount of details. The three characters each had their own style of chapters with different fonts and styles of writing. I was also occasionally thrown by the probably historically accurate spelling, punctuation and writing of the Zac chapters. I thought this was an interesting, different type of novel and quite enjoyed the uniqueness of it even if I didn’t enjoy every part as much as the whole.

03. March 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Madeline

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd, 384 pages, read by Madeline, on 02/10/2015

Hetty “Handful” Grimke, an urban slave in early nineteenth century Charleston, yearns for life beyond the suffocating walls that enclose her within the wealthy Grimke household. The Grimke’s daughter, Sarah, has known from an early age she is meant to do something large in the world, but she is hemmed in by the limits imposed on women.

Kidd’s sweeping novel is set in motion on Sarah’s eleventh birthday, when she is given ownership of ten year old Handful, who is to be her handmaid.We follow their remarkable journeys over the next thirty-five years, as both strive for a life of their own, dramatically shaping each other’s destinies and forming a complex relationship marked by guilt, defiance, estrangement and the uneasy ways of love.
As the stories build to a riveting climax, Handful will endure loss and sorrow, finding courage and a sense of self in the process. Sarah will experience crushed hopes, betrayal, unrequited love, and ostracism before leaving Charleston to find her place alongside her fearless younger sister, Angelina, as one of the early pioneers in the abolition and women’s rights movements.

Inspired by the historical figure of Sarah Grimke, Kidd goes beyond the record to flesh out the rich interior lives of all of her characters, both real and invented, including Handful’s cunning mother, Charlotte, who courts danger in her search for something better.

This exquisitely written novel is a triumph of storytelling that looks with unswerving eyes at a devastating wound in American history, through women whose struggles for liberation, empowerment, and expression will leave no reader unmoved.

From Goodreads.com.

26. February 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Lisa

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd, 384 pages, read by Lisa, on 02/25/2015

Hetty “Handful” Grimke, an urban slave in early nineteenth century Charleston, yearns for life beyond the suffocating walls that enclose her within the wealthy Grimke household. The Grimke’s daughter, Sarah, has known from an early age she is meant to do something large in the world, but she is hemmed in by the limits imposed on women.

Kidd’s sweeping novel is set in motion on Sarah’s eleventh birthday, when she is given ownership of ten year old Handful, who is to be her handmaid.We follow their remarkable journeys over the next thirty-five years, as both strive for a life of their own, dramatically shaping each other’s destinies and forming a complex relationship marked by guilt, defiance, estrangement and the uneasy ways of love.
As the stories build to a riveting climax, Handful will endure loss and sorrow, finding courage and a sense of self in the process. Sarah will experience crushed hopes, betrayal, unrequited love, and ostracism before leaving Charleston to find her place alongside her fearless younger sister, Angelina, as one of the early pioneers in the abolition and women’s rights movements.

Inspired by the historical figure of Sarah Grimke, Kidd goes beyond the record to flesh out the rich interior lives of all of her characters, both real and invented, including Handful’s cunning mother, Charlotte, who courts danger in her search for something better.

This exquisitely written novel is a triumph of storytelling that looks with unswerving eyes at a devastating wound in American history, through women whose struggles for liberation, empowerment, and expression will leave no reader unmoved.

Description from Goodreads.com.

25. February 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Historical Fiction, Kim B, Teen Books · Tags:

Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman, 401 pages, read by Kim B, on 02/14/2015

prison night fogI enjoyed reading the book. It is a good way to introduce young adults to the years preceding the Holocaust and the events leading up to it. Plot was good and characters believable.

23. February 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction

Nine Open Arms by Benny Lindelauf, 264 pages, read by Angie, on 02/20/2015

The Boon family is moving yet again. The father has decided they are going to start making cigars and moves the family to the country. The house is a ramshackle place with the front door in the back and no porch. There is a lot of room for the big family though and the girls christen it Nine Open Arms for how wide the place is. Sisters Fing, Muulke and Jess love having their own room and not sharing with their four brothers, grandmother and father, but they don’t like that there is no running water or that there appears to be a tombstone in the cellar. They also live right across the road from the cemetery where they get their water. While their father and brothers are trying to figure out the cigar business, the girls are trying to discover the secrets of Nine Open Arms.

The story goes between the Boon family in the 1930s and the story of Nienevee and Charley Bottletop in the 1860s. The family learns about the story of the house from Oma Mei and her crocodile, a suitcase filled with pictures from which Oma Mei tells her stories. This book is translated from the Dutch original and for the most part the translation works rather well. I loved the quirkiness of the story and the timeless feel of it. I don’t think this is a book that every reader will appreciate though. I am not sure if it is the story itself or the fact that it was originally written in another language for another culture, but there were things that didn’t always come through how I imagine the author intended. Of course, since he wasn’t writing for an American reader, it might be exactly how he intended. There was just something so charming about this story that I really enjoyed even if there were hiccups in the telling of it.

19. February 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Historical Fiction

How to Catch a Bogle by Catherine Jinks, Sarah Watts (Illustrations), 320 pages, read by Angie, on 02/18/2015

Birdie is the bogler’s apprentice. She helps Alfred the bogler by luring bogles out into the open with her singing and then Alfred kills them. Bogles are monsters who like to eat children so it takes a child to lure them out. Alfred and Birdie help all kinds of people throughout Victorian London. Birdie loves what she does even if she is sometimes afraid. Alfred and Birdie don’t have a lot but they have a room and food and each other. One day they are hired by Mrs. Eames who wants to learn more about bogles. She is a scholar and is appalled that Alfred puts Birdie’s life in danger. She keeps sticking her nose in and offering all kinds of suggestions on their work. Birdie and Alfred don’t really appreciate her help until they discover Dr. Morton. Dr. Morton wants to summon bogles and gain control over them. He has been sacrificing children to obtain his demon bogle. When our heroes interfere in his plans he comes after them. Birdie, Alfred, Mrs. Eames and their friends must work together to stop the evil Dr. Morton.

I really enjoyed this book, but I am not sure I will read the rest of the series. I liked the uniqueness of the story and the characters. Birdie and Alfred were fantastic. Victorian London is sometimes a hard sell with young readers and there is a bit of vocabulary in this book that could be challenging to that age group. However, if they stick with it I think they will enjoy it.

06. February 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Madeline

The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman, 343 pages, read by Madeline, on 01/10/2015

After four harrowing years on the Western Front, Tom Sherbourne returns to Australia and takes a job as the lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, nearly half a day’s journey from the coast. To this isolated island, where the supply boat comes once a season and shore leaves are granted every other year at best, Tom brings a young, bold, and loving wife, Isabel. Years later, after two miscarriages and one stillbirth, the grieving Isabel hears a baby’s cries on the wind. A boat has washed up onshore carrying a dead man and a living baby.

Tom, whose records as a lighthouse keeper are meticulous and whose moral principles have withstood a horrific war, wants to report the man and infant immediately. But Isabel has taken the tiny baby to her breast. Against Tom’s judgment, they claim her as their own and name her Lucy. When she is two, Tom and Isabel return to the mainland and are reminded that there are other people in the world. Their choice has devastated one of them.

M. L. Stedman’s mesmerizing, beautifully written novel seduces us into accommodating Isabel’s decision to keep this “gift from God.” And we are swept into a story about extraordinarily compelling characters seeking to find their North Star in a world where there is no right answer, where justice for one person is another’s tragic loss.

The Light Between Oceans is exquisite and unforgettable, a deeply moving novel.

Description from Goodreads.com.

06. February 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Historical Fiction, Teen Books

Like Water On Stone by Dana Walrath, 368 pages, read by Courtney, on 01/25/2015

1914, Ottoman Empire: The Donabedian family members have a good life. They mill grain, grow grapes and spend warm summer evenings playing music with friends and neighbors on the rooftop. Unbeknownst to the younger family members, unrest is brewing and their lives are about to change forever. The three youngest siblings are the stars of this story. There’s Shahen, who dreams of moving to America, Sosi, Shahen’s twin sister, who has recently fallen in love with a local boy, and Mariam, the five-year-old baby of the family. As political discontent grows, neighbors advise the family to leave, but their father firmly believes that their Turkish and Kurdish friends will help protect them from the soldiers. Unfortunately, things begin getting bad very quickly. The eldest sons are arrested and later massacred along with other men of fighting age from the village. One night, word comes that violence is on its way. The parents make the brave and devastating decision to send their remaining children off into the night. The three siblings then begin an epic journey over the mountains with little more than the clothes on their backs. All along, an eagle keeps watch over the family and helps to keep the children safe as they hide from soldiers and traverse the unforgiving mountainous landscape.
This novel-in-verse is one of the more heart-wrenching tales I’ve read in recent memory. It’s also the first time I’ve read any fiction about the Armenian Genocide of 1915. This family’s story is heartbreaking, but even worse is the knowledge that these children were the lucky ones. They manage to escape the worst of the violence and are spared from seeing what happens to their parents (though we do, thanks to our friend, the eagle). Since this novel is written in verse, it moves very quickly. The language is beautiful, even if the subject matter is not. The narrative cycles through each of the siblings in addition to the eagle. Readers will breathlessly turn the pages to see what happens to these kids. The inclusion of the eagle adds a touch of magic realism, as well as an effective quasi-omniscient narrator. The end of the book includes an author’s note, a glossary and a list of resources for further exploration of this horrific historical event.

By the time this book even starts, Kit has had an interesting life. As an orphan, he was picked up by a traveling circus and was known for his show riding before his age hit the double digits. Times changed though and Kit gave up the circus circuit for a more stable life as a servant to a nobleman. Life is uneventful until one night, when his master comes back to the house late at night, bleeding out from bullet wounds. As it turns out, the kind man that Kit thought was a relatively normal fellow is actually one of the most notorious highwayman in the country. In an attempt to go and seek help, Kit dons the clothes his master, Whistling Jack, grabs his French Bulldog, Demon and flees on his horse, Midnight. Jack instructed Kit to go and find a witch in the woods right before scrawling out an indecipherable will. After a daring escape that nearly gets Kit killed, he manages to stumble upon the very woman he was supposed to find. The witch informs him that he must now finish his master’s quest, which involves a number of fantastical beings whose existence was previously unknown to Kit. Kit tries to refuse, but since not completely the quest will end in his death, Kit has no real choice to but to comply. The quest? To rescue a fairy princess who is betrothed to the King of England. Finding the princess is easy. Getting her to cooperate is another matter altogether. Dodging both human and fairy enemies, Kit and Princess Morgana have little more than their wits to rely on as they seek safe passage to neutral territory.
This swashbuckling adventure story is a little bit slow to start with, but picks up steam as the main characters reveal themselves. The plot is very involved and the pacing is a bit quirky. Real historical details add a realistic edge to an otherwise whimsical tale. The occasional footnote provides clarifications primarily of the historical nature. Throughout are illustrations of various scenes and characters. The timing of the illustrations can be disruptive from time to time, but they’re a nice overall addition. There’s a lot of clever wordplay, though some of the vernacular may confuse younger readers. Fans of fantasy or historical adventure won’t be disappointed.

06. February 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction · Tags:

The Children of the King by Sonya Hartnett, 272 pages, read by Angie, on 02/05/2015

Cecily and Jeremy are evacuated to the country with their mother before the London Blitz. They take refuge with their uncle Peregrine in Herron Hall. On the way they adopt an evacuee named May to stay with them for the duration of the war. Fourteen-year-old Jeremy is not happy to be evacuated. He believes he is old enough to contribute to the war and to stay in London with his father. He is angry at being stuck in the country. Twelve-year-old Cecily is a selfish, bossy girl who wants things her way. She wants May to be her pet and follow orders but May has a mind of her own. The girls explore the countryside and discover the ruins of Snow Castle. There are two mysterious boys at the castle who intrigue and frighten the girls by turns. In the evening, Peregrine tells the children the story of a duke who wants to become king and must take care of the two princes in his way.

I really wanted to like this book more than I did. I think one of my issues was the fact that none of the children were really that likeable. Cecily in particular is completely unlikeable. May was the only one that had a decent personality and she wasn’t that developed. I really enjoyed Uncle Peregrine however and really wanted more of him. As an adult reader, I knew immediately who the story Peregrine tells is about. It is clearly meant to be the story of Richard III and the princes in the tower even though they are never identified by name. I liked the story, but didn’t buy the connection to Snow Castle. I guess as long as the truth is unknown any speculation as to the fate of the princes is valid, but I just felt this was a stretch. I didn’t feel like the two boys at the ruins really added anything to the story and the story could have been just as good if not better without them.

04. February 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Courtney, Graphic Novel, Historical Fiction, Mystery

Kill My Mother by Jules Feiffer, 150 pages, read by Courtney, on 01/06/2015

This is actually a difficult one to write a review of. I enjoyed reading it, but I’m not 100% certain I caught all the nuances. We’ve got multiple time periods, a trio of femme fatales the all kind of look alike, perpetually drunk private investigators, old Hollywood, a whip-smart heroine and her angry-crazy daughter. It begins in the ’30’s and ends up a decade later during WWII. It’s a very involved story and any synopsis I could provide would do a disservice. In fact, there were many points where I wasn’t sure what was even happening. The vibe is distinctly noir and the tale is plenty engaging. I have never read anything by Feiffer before, so I was unfamiliar with his extremely sketchy style of drawing. For me, it was difficult to discern which character was which and what exactly was happening in many of the scenes. Thus, I can’t say that this graphic novel worked all that well for me, though I still enjoyed reading it.

03. February 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Noelle

We Are All Welcome Here by Elizabeth Berg, 187 pages, read by Noelle, on 01/30/2015

Set in Tupelo Mississippi during the Freedom Summer of 1964, We Are All Welcome Here by acclaimed author Elizabeth Berg chronicles the effects of one mother’s indomitable spirit from the blossoming perspective of her thirteen year old daughter, Diana.
After contracting polio at the age of 22 while pregnant, Diana’s mother, Paige Dunn, becomes the only woman to survive successful childbirth in an iron lung. Abandoned by her husband, paralyzed from the neck down, and dependent on breathing apparatuses and caretakers, Paige exhibits incredible courage and willpower to raise Diana as a single mother.
Although others in their small Mississippi town find their family’s situation pitiable, life is nothing less than full in the Dunn household. Diana is raised in part by Paige’s steadfast caretaker, Peacie, whose caring intentions but sharp remarks are often misunderstood by Diana. The bond between Peacie and the Dunn women drives the storyline into deeper themes of equality and humanity. As events unfold throughout the Freedom Summer of 1964, Diana’s understanding of life is taken beyond the selfish whims of her childhood as she develops a deeper respect for the ideals shared by Peacie and her mother.
Readers can find inspiration in the remarkable strength, love and determination demonstrated by characters throughout the book. In a forward by the author, the reader learns how this book was inspired by the real lives of mother and daughter Pat Raming and Marianne Raming Burke.
As a reader, I was particularly taken with the human detail of Berg’s writing. Her descriptions of physical sensations and everyday emotional occurrences were often so spot-on; they left little echoes in my own body. I also enjoyed the strong and undeniably adolescent voice given to Diana, the narrator. Although there were some plot elements at the end which tied together a little too neatly for my liking, I very much enjoyed this book and look forward to reading more of Berg’s work.
Fans of The Help and The Secret Life of Bees will enjoy this unique and enlightening coming of age novel.

30. January 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction

The Madman of Piney Woods by Christopher Paul Curtis, 384 pages, read by Angie, on 01/29/2015

This is a companion book to Elijah of Buxton and takes place several years after the events of that book. Red and Benji are two boys who live around Buxton. Red is an Irish lad who lives with his father and grandmother. Father is a judge and grandmother is a irritable racist who hates pretty much everyone and everything. Benji is a black boy who wants to be a newspaper man. He writes headlines for the big events in his life and even gets an apprenticeship at a newspaper. The two independently meet the Madman of Piney Woods who is a hermit living in the woods. Benji and Red meet about half-way through the book and become friends despite the differences in their backgrounds.

It took me a long time to read this book. It was pretty slow going and I just didn’t find it that interesting. I wanted to like it more. I enjoyed Benji and Red, but found their just wasn’t enough going on in the book to keep me reading. For being the title of the book the Madman didn’t play nearly as big a role as I thought he would. I also wasn’t sure how this tied to Elijah of Buxton except the setting until the very end when Elijah was introduced again. There is a lot of good historical information in this book and as always Curtis’ writing is wonderful. I just wasn’t feeling this book however.

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley.

27. January 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction

The End of the Line by Sharon McKay, 119 pages, read by Angie, on 01/27/2015

Beatrix is left on a tram in Amsterdam when her mother is pulled off by the Nazis. She is taken in by older brothers Hans and Lars who operate the tram. They claim she is their niece and take her into their home. Together with their elderly neighbor Mrs. Vos they risk their lives to protect the little girl. Another neighbor Lieve helps teach Beatrix catechism so she can pass as Catholic. Hans and Lars do their best to make Beatrix a part of their family and love her dearly. The new family survives the deprivations and starvation of the war until they are finally liberated.

There is something about holocaust stories that always tug at my heart. This is a wonderful little story about two brothers who saved a young girl. I loved the humor of the two old bachelors trying to figure out how to handle having a little girl in their midst. Mrs. Vos was an awesome character as well, full of take-charge attitude and good sense. This book would serve as a good introduction to the deprivations suffered during war. The horrible things that happened are hinted at but not explicitly shown. War is horrible and that comes through loud and clear without a lot of terrible details that might scare young readers.

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley.