While I think Malala’s story is an inspirational one I think this book was very poorly written. Malala is the Pakistani girl who was shot by the Taliban and became an international icon for girl’s schooling. She and her father had both been very outspoken opponents to the Taliban’s closing of girl’s schools and the reduced opportunities for education for girls in Pakistan. After she was shot she was taken to England to receive treatment. I believe in her cause and think more people need to stand up to the Taliban as she does. However, this book was pretty hard to listen to. Maybe if I had read it instead of listening to the audio I might have been able to brush off the weaknesses of the text; however, listening to the story just highlighted how poorly written the book really was. The book is set up as her autobiography where she talks about her family history, her childhood, her fight for education and the aftermath of the shooting. Interspersed with that is a lot of Pakistan history and especially history of her beloved Swat Valley. The problem with this book was the lack of cohesive storytelling. It was almost like the co-author took notes as Malala was speaking and instead of putting those notes into a cohesive story she just typed them up verbatim. So the story jumps topics and is more of a stream of consciousness telling than anything else. It may or may not get back to the point or it just might start on another tangent and completely abandon original topic. And this stream of consciousness will be broken up as a part of Pakistan history has to be explained so the reader will understand where her opinion is coming from. Some of this may have been translation but I think most of it has to be the responsibility of the co-author Christina Lamb. I had high hopes for this story and was deeply disappointed. I would not recommend it. If you want to be inspired by Malala I would probably recommend finding some of the articles about her and reading those.
I am not sure why it took me so long to get around to reading this final book in Jonathan Maberry’s Rot & Ruin series. I love this series and I loved this book. It was the perfect ending to the series.
Benny and the gang have made it across the desert and to the safe haven of Sanctuary. Of course nothing is quite what it seems. The military staff at Sanctuary is very secretive and won’t tell them anything about what is happening. The Reapers led by Saint John are still out there and headed to the Nine Towns. Chong was bitten in the last book and is becoming more and more like a zombie. This is the first time Benny, Nix, Lilah and Riot have a chance to take a moment and take stock of themselves and what they have discovered in the Rot & Ruin. They are not the same people they were when they started this trip to find the mysterious plane. They thought they would find all the answers and all they found were more questions. There is also the case of the missing Dr. McReady. She was supposed to be on the plane they found in the desert and she supposedly has a cure for the reaper plague. The teens set off with Captain Joe Ledger to find her and the cure and bring an end to the zombie nightmare.
What I love about this series is the fact that even though it is about zombies it really isn’t about zombies. It is about the inhumanity of man and how without society’s strictures man becomes the monster. Zombies are just mindless disease carriers. They have no thought or rationale, but man chooses to do evil or good. This theme is more explicitly stated in this book than in some of the others, but it is an important theme. Benny has to find the person who can fight and win against Saint John. He has to do decide if doing what has to be done to win will make him cross that line in becoming a monster himself. In some ways this book is about redemption; the redemption of Benny, Chong, Nix, Lilah, Riot and even Joe and the redemption of mankind. Is mankind worthy of saving? Or should they allow everyone to be released to the darkness. I really loved how this series ended; it was perfect and felt natural. Humanity is worth saving and there is hope in the world.
Tana wakes up the morning after a party hungover in a quiet house. She discovers a house full of corpses, all murdered by vampires apparently. In her desperate dash to leave the house she stumbles upon her ex-boyfriend Aiden tied to a bed and a chained up vampire. Aiden has obviously been bitten and is going Cold (first stage to becoming a vampire). Tana frees both of them and they all three escape the other vampires in the house. The group decides to head to the nearest Coldtown. Coldtowns were set up after the vampire outbreak 10 years ago. They are basically parts of cities, or whole cities, where the vampire outbreak ran out of control. Officials walled off the infected and the non-infected alike and made sure no one could leave. Tana, Aiden and Gavriel pick up a brother/sister pair who are also headed to Coldtown. They make their way in and chaos ensues. Tana is just trying to survive, but things don’t always work out how you want them to.
I thought this was an interesting take on a vampire book. I like the fact that it is set in our world and that the actions of one rogue vampire changed the face of society. Vampires were hidden for centuries until this one started a feeding without killing spree across the U.S. Tana is kind of stupid during the book. She is in shock for the first half and just flying by the seat of her pants in the second. Not sure she ever really had a decent plan as she just kept heading into danger. I thought the most interesting aspect of the story was Gavriel and the revelations from his past. I liked the flashbacks of both Gavriel and Tana but did feel like they sometimes pulled the reader away from the main story at the wrong times. This was a fun book and a nice change of pace from some of the other vampire books out there.
Splendors and Glooms is a 2013 Newbery Honor Book and kind of reinforces my idea that the Newbery Award is not about books that kids would choose to read themselves. It is about books that adults think kids should read or need to read. Which means the books are generally not popular and are not going to be books kids will pick up on their own. Splendors and Glooms is a heavy book that deals with some very tough topics like child abuse, unwanted male attention, death and evil all the while set in Victorian England. It is a long read with a lot of descriptive language reminiscent of Victorian literature. It is a book that I would actually say is more geared towards older kids because of the situations and language (there are a couple of swear words).
Splendors and Glooms is the story of three children: Clara, Lizzie Rose, and Parsefall. Clara is a privileged girl who is the only surviving child of a cholera epidemic that killed all her brothers and sisters. Her house is one of mourning even years after the fact. Lizzie Rose is a child of the theater who was orphaned when her parents died who plays at being a lady. Parsefall is another orphan who was rescued from the workhouse, loves being a puppeteer and picks a pocket or two. Lizzie Rose and Parsefall live with Grisini the puppeteer. He doesn’t treat them very well, barely feeds them and makes them work for him. The three meet when Clara begs to have Grisini do a show at her birthday party. She disappears the next day with no trace. Then Parsefall and Lizzie Rose discover a new puppet who looks just like Clara and come to believe that Grisini is a magician who turned her into a puppet. Grisini disappears leaving the children on their own until they discover a letter from Cassandra asking them to come live with her. Cassandra is a witch who has visions of being consumed by fire because of the fire opal she possesses. Grisini tells her that a child must steal it from her in order to free her (thus the request for the kids). The kids arrive at her country castle and start trying to figure out what is going on and how they can get out of it.
So not my favorite book. The story was overly dramatic and gruesome at times for a children’s book. The ending was way too simple to be realistic and diminished the drama of the previous 400 pages. And the plot got a little convoluted and a bit boring to tell you the truth.
The old gods walk among us in the United States of Asgard. They are real and they are everywhere. Soren Bearskin is pledged to Odin as a berserker. It is a family legacy he does not want and fights against. Astrid Glyn is a seether pledged to Freya. She reads the future through visions and prophecy. When Balder the Beautiful fails to rise Soren and Astrid team up to find him and bring him back to the world. Their journey will take them all over the United States of Asgard. They find Baldor but he is not the god they know. They have to take him to find Idun’s apple orchard so he can remember the go he was. Their journey is not without its dangers and they are not prepared for the end.
I really like books that bring mythology to the modern age and this one doesn’t disappoint. It is an interesting if sometimes confusing new world. I like that the Norse gods came to America and pretty much took over and made it their own; however, there wasn’t enough world building for me in this book. I wanted to know how they came here and when and how the United States of Asgard was formed. I truly enjoyed Soren and Astrid’s journey and Baldor was a hoot. I think this is a good start to a series, but I hope the future books explain a little bit more about the world other than giving places new names.
Adolf Eichmann was a Nazi commander in charge of emptying Europe of its Jews. He commanded the transportation of Jews from their homes to the ghettos to the camps and to their extermination. He was an essential part of the Final Solution to the Jewish Problem. At the end of WWII, he escaped Germany and ended up in Buenos Ares, Argentina. He lived there in freedom for 15 years before he was identified by a local girl and her Jewish father. Israel was contacted and soon a team of Mossad agents where in Buenos Ares with a plan to capture Eichmann and bring him back to Israel to stand trial. This is their story. It is a compelling story of how the Israelis tracked down Eichmann, confirmed his identity, captured him, and secreted him out of Argentina. The trial of Adolf Eichmann brought the story of the Holocaust into the public consciousness. Survivors were able to tell their stories and the world was ready to listen. This trial was a turning point in the story of the Jews. It is a powerful story and one I hadn’t heard before. Definitely worth the read.
Sarah Grimke is the daughter of a prominent Charleston family and on her 11th birthday is given Handful as her own personal slave. Sarah doesn’t like being a slave owner. She is intelligent and wants to be the first female jurist. Unfortunately, her family doesn’t support either her ambitions or her feelings on slavery. Sarah grows up to be an old maid, a Quaker and an abolitionist, all things her family can’t stand. She heads off to Philadelphia and his followed by her sister Angelina. Together they embark on an abolitionist speaking tour around New England. Their views are radical and dangerous, but they persevere as two of the first women to speak about the rights of women and slaves.
Sarah’s chapters are interspersed by Handful’s story. Handful and her mother are slaves of the Grimke’s and seamstresses which make them very useful to the family. Her mother Charlotte has an independent streak and sneaks out of the house repeatedly meeting up with a free black man and eventually becoming pregnant. When she gets in trouble she runs away, is eventually caught by a slave stealer and sent to a rice plantation. Handful develops her own independent streak which lands her in the workhouse and lame. Eventually, after many years, Charlotte makes her way back to the Grimke house with her teenage daughter Sky. The family is more determined than ever to get free one day.
Sarah and Handful’s friendship crosses social and racial lines but that doesn’t mean it isn’t important. Sarah teaches Handful to read and Handful helps give Sarah the conviction she needs to find her own path. I enjoyed this story even more after I realized it was about real people. Sarah and Angelina Grimke are actual historical figures and Sue Monk Kidd tried to stay as true to their stories as possible. While Handful is a fictional character her story rings true as well. This is a powerful story and two women and their desire to be free.