Monday, September 18, 2017

The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley 316 pages

Ada and her brother Jamie life in a tiny flat in London with their mother.  It is right before WWII is really getting going, Hitler is threatening Europe, but hasn't invaded yet.  Ada, who is 10, has never stepped foot outside her flat.  Her mother forbids it, saying that Ada is a disgrace because of her club foot.  She is horribly abusive to both children, especially Ada.  When children are evacuated out of London, Ada forces herself to leave the only room she's ever known.  She and Jamie end up with Susan in a smaller village by the sea.  Ada falls in love with the resident pony, Butter and learns that she has much more to offer the world than simply sitting by a window and wishing for better.  This was a heartbreaking book, you kept wanting to tell Ada that she was misunderstanding, that she was not bad or stupid, but the book never cheated.  It was told from Ada's perspective, which added the majority of heartbreak to the story.  I cannot recommend this book highly enough.  I absolutely loved it!  It is a nominee for the Mark Twain Award this year.  I listened to it on audio read by Jayne Entwistle, who did a wonderful job bringing so much warmth and believable voice to all the characters.

Ghost Story by Peter Straub 483 pages

This is classic horror at its best.  I finally got around to reading it, because in researching horror trivia, it kept coming up as a must read.  I'm very glad I did!  This was one of those books that was difficult to stop reading...chapter breaks or not.  I found myself staying awake far later than I should to carry on with it.  A group of older men has a club called the Chowder Society.  They get together in their finery and tell each other ghost stories.  They are driven to tell these stories, but they share a terrible secret from their youth.  It seems the past is coming to haunt them and people in their tiny New England town begin dropping like flies.  There were some wonderfully spooky bits and some downright terrifying.  I highly recommend this one to anyone who loves a good horror story, especially ghostly.  It's dated, but still holds up really well.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Witherwood Reform School by Obert Skye 231 pages

Well, this story proves that sometimes you don't get the happy ending you want from a children's book.  Poor Charlotte and Tobias have found themselves trapped at Witherwood Reform School.  It wasn't their fault...well, okay, there were the tadpoles in the gravy, but honestly...did they really deserve this?  Witherwood is awful.  Backbreaking chores, frightening staff, deadly animals in the garden, these are all most distressing. But they don't even get pillows on which to rest their heads at night!  Well, Tobias is determined to break out.  With luck, he and his sister will escape, track down their dad and live happily ever after.  Too bad luck seems to be in short supply these days.  I highly recommend this book to 4th graders and up.  It's funny, and like the blues, it kind of makes you realize your own situation isn't so bad after all.

Tuesday Club Murders by Agatha Christie 256 pages

The Tuesday Club Murders is a collection of short stories, but the premise is pretty fun.  A group of people get together for dinner, one of them a former Scotland Yard detective, and the conversation turns to murder.  Miss Marple is there with her nephew and no one really thinks much about the fact.  They decide to make a game of the murder talk.  They introduce particularly baffling mysteries and take turns trying to solve them with the clues at hand.  Only the one telling the story knows the truth, but Miss Marple unerringly arrives at the correct answer every single time.  Shocked and a bit amused, the group must acknowledge that hers is a mind you wouldn't want to try to match wits with.  Later in the book, a new group is gathered, with much the same outcome.  Then an actual murder occurs and Miss Marple knows, just knows, who the killer is, but can't prove it.  Never fear, she has friends in high places and justice will be served.  Joan Hickson read this audiobook.  It was quite enjoyable.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Beartown by Fredrik Backman (translated by Neil Smith), 432 pages

Swedish author Fredrik Backman is one of my favorite authors.  He tends to write sweet tales about eccentric characters who find love and validation through friends.  That is not this book.

Beartown is a dying town deep in a forest and they have one point of pride - the hockey club and its various teams.  Something bad happens to someone and the aftermath threatens to destroy the club and the town.

Yowza, this was brutal and powerful.  Racism, rape, bullying and peer pressure are all explored.  I loved this in a whole different way from my normal awe of Fredrik Backman.  We have this in print, ebook and on audio at the library, and if I have my way we'll have it as a book club selection soon too.

Dangerous Minds by Janet Evanovich, 319 pages

This is book #2 in Evanovich's new Knight & Moon series.  The series name refers to the two main characters, eccentric gazillionaire Emerson Knight and his Girl Friday, Riley Moon.

In this outing they are trying to find an island stolen from Knights' friend, Wayan Bagus, a Buddhist monk.  It turns out the U.S. Department of the Interior and the National Park Service, in particular, might have something to do with the island's theft and later disappearance.

The book never really caught my attention, but I slugged through.  I think Evanovich might have phoned this one in from her own tropical island escape.


Friday, September 8, 2017

Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley 292 pages

Micah has grown up listening to his grandpa Ephraim's stories about Circus Mirandus.  That's why even though his grandfather is seriously ill, he has lots of hope.  Circus Mirandus wasn't just an ordinary circus, it was magic.  In fact, one of its performers is the most magical person Micah can imagine.  The Light Bender was the highlight of all of Grandpa Ephraim's stories.  The best part, the part that gives Micah hope is that the Light Bender owes his grandpa a miracle.  They just have to find him before it's too late for the miracle to matter.  This story is so beautiful.  It was unexpected and heartbreaking, but also so much fun.  You will love Micah and his grandfather, you will hope right along with them that the Light Bender comes in time.  More than anything, you will strain to hear the music composed of pipes and drums calling you to magic.

I listened to this on audio read by Bronson Pinchot.  It was wonderful.

Save Me a Seat by Sarah Weeks 216 pages

Ravi has just moved to the US from India.  In India, he was a bit of a star at his school.  He was an exceptional student and gifted athlete.  He has high expectations for how brightly he will shine in his new school.  However, his teacher can't understand him.  And his classmates laugh at him.  He is still confident that all he really needs is a friend.  He's sure that the coolest kid in class, also Indian, but born in America, will see his worth and everything will be fine.  Unfortunately, there's more to the cool kid than first meets the eye.

Joe has gone to the same school since Kindergarten.  For most of that, he's been pretty miserable.  He has been picked on and struggled with a learning/hearing difference.  Fifth grade is looking even less promising than any other now that his mother has taken a job as lunch monitor.  As if this wasn't all bad enough, his only two friends moved away.  The coolest kid in class finds delight in tormenting Joe.

This story spans just the first week of school for these two boys.  If they recognize they have a common enemy and learn to appreciate one another, it might work out.

This was such an amazing story.  I loved the two main characters and really enjoyed listening to it on audiobook.  Chapters alternated between the two boys' perspectives and handled both of them wonderfully.  I highly recommend this for anyone who likes real life stories.


Restart by Gordon Korman 243 pages

How much of who we are is by design and how much is by influence?  We may never really know.  This book was an interesting look at that very subject.  A boy who has literally terrorized a school, so much so that one of his classmates had to move to a boarding school to escape the torment, takes a serious tumble and ends up with amnesia.  He doesn't know his parents or his friends.  He also doesn't know himself.  He doesn't remember the terrible things he's done, he doesn't understand why people at school give him lots of space when they see him coming.  Slowly he learns about some of the horrible things he's done and can't square that Chase with the Chase he has become.  Worse, there are people who would rather he returned to being the brutish thug he'd been.  A new circle of friends (former victims) and his family hope he can hold on to who he is at his core, this new Chase who hates the things he did in his old life.  As his memories start to return and his friends try to rope him into misdeeds, it becomes difficult to know how to steer himself through his new existence.  This was such a fascinating story.  It brings the nature vs. nurture question to the forefront and also makes one wonder what makes a bully.  I recommend this for all ages and think it would be a great book for a classroom discussion.

Just One Damned Thing After Another by Jodi Taylor 335 pages

St. Mary's is full of historians.  Sounds drab to some, I'm sure.  However, these historians aren't your stuffed shirt, elbow patch stereotypes.  In fact, they are a highly trained, physically powerful crew who put themselves in danger with every research project they are assigned.  Why?  Because they use time travel to study history.  Max is new to the facility, but she's well suited to it.  Right up until sabotage and double crossing can make the whole thing fall apart.  This book was so well written.  The dialogue was fast and smart, and the story itself was highly engaging.  I recommend this to folks who love science fiction with humor.  History buffs might like it, too...but don't get hung up on the accuracy!  It's great if you just want to jump on and enjoy the ride.