Tuesday, November 25, 2014

All the Light We Cannot See

All the Light We Cannot See
Anthony Doerr

All the Light We Cannot See

Genre: Historical Fiction

Summary (from the publisher):  Marie Laure lives with her father in Paris within walking distance of the Museum of Natural History where he works as the master of the locks (there are thousands of locks in the museum). When she is six, she goes blind, and her father builds her a model of their neighborhood, every house, every manhole, so she can memorize it with her fingers and navigate the real streets with her feet and cane. When the Germans occupy Paris, father and daughter flee to Saint-Malo on the Brittany coast, where Marie-Laure's agoraphobic great uncle lives in a tall, narrow house by the sea wall.

In another world in Germany, an orphan boy, Werner, grows up with his younger sister, Jutta, both enchanted by a crude radio Werner finds. He becomes a master at building and fixing radios, a talent that wins him a place at an elite and brutal military academy and, ultimately, makes him a highly specialized tracker of the Resistance. Werner travels through the heart of Hitler Youth to the far-flung outskirts of Russia, and finally into Saint-Malo, where his path converges with Marie-Laure.

Doerr's gorgeous combination of soaring imagination with observation is electric. Deftly interweaving the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner, Doerr illuminates the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another. Ten years in the writing, All the Light We Cannot See is his most ambitious and dazzling work.


Review:  I don't have the words to describe how beautiful this book was.  You should read it.

Okay, I did have a few complaints about this book, but it was such a deeply moving story with truly beautiful descriptions, and that is what I'll remember for years to come.  Well, the other thing I'll remember is that I wasn't entirely happy with the ending; while I think it was the only ending possible for Werner, that doesn't mean I have to like it.  There was also a fair amount of jumping back and forth between different characters and different times, and I found that needlessly confusing.  But, oh, I felt so connected to the characters, even though I had absolutely nothing in common with them, that their hard decisions and their losses touched a cord in me and made me cry along with them.  And the writing was just lovely, so descriptive and lyrical.

Rating: 5 stars

Ask the Passengers

Ask the Passengers
A.S. King

Ask the Passengers

Genre: Young Adult

Summary (from the publisher):  Astrid Jones desperately wants to confide in someone, but her mother's pushiness and her father's lack of interest tell her they're the last people she can trust. Instead, Astrid spends hours lying on the backyard picnic table watching airplanes fly overhead. She doesn't know the passengers inside, but they're the only people who won't judge her when she asks them her most personal questions--like what it means that she's falling in love with a girl.

As her secret relationship becomes more intense and her friends demand answers, Astrid has nowhere left to turn. She can't share the truth with anyone except the people at thirty thousand feet, and they don't even know she's there. But little does Astrid know just how much even the tiniest connection will affect these strangers' lives--and her own--for the better.

In this truly original portrayal of a girl struggling to break free of society's definitions, Printz Honor author A.S. King asks readers to question everything--and offers hope to those who will never stop seeking real love.


Review:  This is another book where I didn't read the summary very well before bringing it home from the library, because I had no idea that Astrid's secret relationship was with another girl.  Turns out this book is a coming of age story about a girl questioning her sexuality.  I have no problem with that, but it's not a topic I'm particularly invested in or even interested in.  I thought the author did a wonderful job with Astrid's character - she was quirky, funny, sympathetic, loveable and just plain real.  But I found the other characters a bit distracting, especially since none of them were very nice to Astrid.  Her mean mother, hippie father, and uncaring jock sister were a bit too much (couldn't someone be normal?) and her friends and girlfriend also had serious flaws (wake up, Astrid, they're not very nice to you!).  The author makes a lot of interesting points about sexuality and labels, and I can see why young adults would find value and entertainment in this book.

Rating: 3.5 stars

The Rose Garden

The Rose Garden
Susanna Kearsley

The Rose Garden

Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance

Summary (from the publisher):  "Whatever time we have," he said, "it will be time enough."

Eva Ward returns to the only place she truly belongs, the old house on the Cornish coast, seeking happiness in memories of childhood summers. There she finds mysterious voices and hidden pathways that sweep her not only into the past, but also into the arms of a man who is not of her time.

But Eva must confront her own ghosts, as well as those of long ago. As she begins to question her place in the present, she comes to realize that she too must decide where she really belongs.


Review:  This book was entertaining to read, but not spectacular.  The time travel element was reminiscent of Diana Gabaldon's books without the potential for believability or attention to historical detail that her books are known for.  I was bothered that the men from the past were completely unperturbed by the appearance of this mysterious woman from the future, and that Eva seemed to find it surprisingly normal and didn't miss modern day conveniences.  The love story between Eva and Daniel developed too quickly for me, and I would have liked more detail around their story and their emotions prior to their declarations of love.

Rating: 3 stars

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Zac and Mia

Zac and Mia
by A. J. Betts

Genre: Young Adult Fiction

Synopsis:  "When I was little I believed in Jesus and Santa, spontaneous combustion, and the Loch Ness monster.  Now I believe in science, statistics, and antibiotics."  So says seventeen-year-old Zac Meier during a long, grueling leukemia treatment in Perth, Australia.  A loud blast of Lady Gaga alerts him to the presence of Mia, the angry, not-at-all-stoic cancer patient in the room next door.  Once released, the two near-strangers can't forget each other, even as they desperately try to resume normal lives.  The story of their mysterious connection drives this unflinchingly tough, tender novel told in two voices.
From the book jacket

Review:  I'm having a hard time pin pointing what it was about this book that made it that I couldn't rate it higher.  This book started out well and I really enjoyed Zac's perspective.  He was an optimistic, caring and selfless boy in spite of him having leukemia.  Reading from Zac's perspective was what made me continue to read this book.  Mia, on the other hand, was not such a nice character.  She was just grumpy and unappreciative.  I can't begin to put myself in her shoes as I can't imagine what my emotions would be like if I had cancer at her age.  However, she just was too pessimistic to make me enjoy reading the chapters from her point of view.  There was a bond with Zac and Mia and it seemed to come from nowhere.  In the cancer treatment center Zac tries hard to befriend Mia but she wants to part of it.  But then all of a sudden Mia can't stop thinking about Zac.  There needed to be more development of their characters and their friendship especially considering what happens later in the book.

Rating:  3 stars

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Those Darn Squirrels!

Those Darn Squirrels!
by Adam Rubin
Illustrated by David Salmieri

Genre: Picture Book

Synopsis:  Old Man Fookwire is a grump.  The only thing he really likes is painting picture of the birds that visit his little old house near the forest.  When the time comes for the birds to fly south for the winter, Old Man Fookwire hatches a plan to keep them close by: He builds birdfeeders and fills them with yummy seeds and berries in the hopes that his beautiful birds will stick around.

But there are other hungry creatures in the nearby forest, and they have plans too.  This is a story of what happens when a grumpy old man and some mischievous squirrels match wits-with hilarious results.
From the back of the book

Review:  I just love this book because it reminds me of how much my dad hates squirrels-they scare away the birds from the birdfeeders.  The story and the illustrations are hilarious!  And I also love just how clever those squirrels are!  My kids really enjoyed the story as well and would giggle at the antics of the squirrels.  The squirrels definitely showed a lot of ingenuity in this story.  I look forward to reading the sequels to this picture book.

Rating: 5 stars

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

One Plus One

One Plus One
by Joyo Moyes

Genre: Fiction

Synopsis: One single mother.  Suppose your life sucks.  A lot.  Your husband has done a vanishing act.  You're trying to keep your family afloat, with two jobs and two children.  You've always been an optimist, but it isn't easy.  That's Jess Thomas's life in a nutshell, and it's about to get a whole lot more complicated.

One chaotic family.  Jess's oddball teenage stepson is being bullied, and her math-whiz daughter has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that they can't afford to pay for.  Jess has spent her life Doing the Right Thing.  But what if, just this once, she did something that was definitely The Wrong Thing-something that might make all the difference for her family?

One quirky stranger-and a comic road trip.  Ed Nicholls is a brilliant tech millionaire whose life is falling apart when he happens upon Jess and her family stranded on the side of the road.  She's stunned to realize that her knight in shining armor is Geeky Ed-a man she considers obnoxious in the extreme.  But in perhaps his first unselfish act ever, he agrees to drive them-plus their pungent dog, Norman-to the Maths Olympiad and a prize that could change things for Jess's family forever....

One irresistible love story.  In One Plus One, opposites attract, and two fiercely independent people learn that love can be found in the unlikeliest places.
From the book jacket

Review:  I was quite excited when I picked up the latest book by Jojo Moyes since I absolutely loved the first book I read by her-Me Before You.  Sadly, this book did not live up to my expectations.  The storyline was just not captivating or interesting enough.  I found myself bored while reading it and I actually stopped reading it for a while and read another book in between.  I felt compelled to finish the book but after 150 pages or so I questioned why I didn't abandon the book.  I got tired of their ride up to Scotland to the Math Olympiad.  Nothing really happened in the car except for us being reminded that Ed Nicholls had money and Jess and her family had very little money and had to pinch pennies as much as possible.  There just wasn't any action in this story, it was all about character relationships.  I liked the quirky characters in the book and I did want to see Jess get some help and have something go right in her life.

Rating: 2.5 stars

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Faking Normal

Faking Normal
by Courtney Stevens

Genre: Young Adult Fiction

Synopsis:  Alexi Littrell hasn't told anyone what happened to her over the summer by her backyard pool.  Instead, she hides in her closet, counts the slats in the air vent, and compulsively scratches the back of her neck, trying to make the outside hurt more than the inside does.  

When Brodee Lennox- "the Kool-Aid Kid"-moves in with the Littrells after a family tragedy, Alexi discovers an unlikely friend in this quiet, awkward boy who has secrets of his own.  As their friendship grows, Alexi gives him the strength to deal with his past, and Bodee helps her summon the courage to find her voice and speak up.
from the e-book

Review: I found this book to be too young adult for me.  The relationships that Alexi had with her girlfriends seemed very superficial.  Her supposed best friends really didn't seem to have Alexi's best interests at heart. They didn't seem to notice that Alexi was hurting except for one line in the book when Heather tells Alexi that she can't wait to see her real smile again.  Alexi jumps into a friendship relationship with Bodee after he moves into her house and that seemed unrealistic considering what she and her friends (plus most of the other kids in school) felt about Bodee.  Relationship development in this story just happened too fast for it to seem believable.

As for the major event of the book, the author hints at what happens but spends two thirds of the book leaving us guessing as to what exactly happened.  The author also leads us to believe that one specific character was responsible for Lexi's hurt but yet we find out later that we are wrong (hopefully that didn't spoil the book for us).  By the time we actually find out what exactly happened, I was tired of being strung along.  I didn't give up reading (but I did read another book in the midst of reading this one) because I had to know what really happened but I did end up skimming parts of the story.

Rating; 3 stars