Sunday, December 4, 2016

Britt-Marie Was Here

Britt-Marie Was Here
by Fredrik Backman

Genre: Fiction

Synopsis:  Britt-Marie can't stand mess.  A disorganized cutlery drawer ranks high on her list of unforgivable sins.  She begins her day at 6 a.m. because only lunatics wake up later than that.  And she is not passive-aggressive.  Not in the least  It's just that sometimes people interpret her helpful suggestions as criticisms, which is certainly not her intention.  She is not one to judge others-no matter how ill-mannered, unkempt, or morally suspect they might be.

But hidden inside this socially awkward, fussy busybody is a woman who has more imagination, bigger dreams, and a warmer heart than anyone around her realize.

When Britt-Marie walks out on her cheating husband and has to fend for herself in the miserable backwater town of Borg-of which the kindest thing one can say is that it has a road going through it-she is more than a little unprepared.  Employed as the caretaker of a soon-to-be demolished recreation center, the fastidious Britt-Marie has to cope with muddy floors, unruly children, and a (literal) rat for a roommate.  She finds her herself being drawn into the daily doings of her fellow citizens, an odd assortment of miscreants, drunkards, and layabouts-and a handsome local policeman whose romantic attentions to Britt-Marie are as unmistakable as they are unwanted.  Most alarming of all, she's given the impossible task of leading the supremely untalented children's soccer team to victory.  In this small town of bighearted misfits, can Britt-Marie find a place where she truly belongs?
from the book jacket

Review:  I was hesitant to pick this book up but something drew me to checking it out from the library.  I started reading it and I found Britt-Marie to be very quirky but intriguing.  I started reading and found myself liking her character with all the eccentricities.  Once Britt-Marie got to Borg, I became much less interested in the book as I was really confused by the other characters in the story and the book became way to quirky for my taste.  For someone who appreciate the quirks in people, I'm sure this would be a much better fit for them.

Rating: abandonded

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Hope: A Memoir of Survival in Cleveland

Hope: A Memoir of Survival in Cleveland
by Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus
with Mary Jordan and Kevin Sullivan

Genre: Memoir, Nonfiction

Synopsis:  On May 6, 2013, Amanda Berry made headlines around the world when she fled a Cleveland home and called 911, saying: "Help me, I'm Amanda Berry...I've been kidnapped, and I've been missing for ten years."

A horrifying story rapidly unfolded.  Ariel Castro, a local school bus driver, had separately lured Berry and two other young women, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight, to his home, where he trapped them and kept them chained.  In the decade that followed, the three were frequently raped, psychologically abused, and threatened with death if they attempted to escape.  Years after she was taken, Berry had a daughter by their captor, a child she bravely raised as normally as possible under impossible conditions.

Drawing upon their recollections and the diary kept by Amanda Berry, Berry and Gina DeJesus describe the unimaginable torment they suffered and the strength and resourcefulness that enabled them to survive.  Pulitzer-Prize winning Washington Post reporters Mary Jordan and Kevin Sullivan interweave the events within Castro's house with original reporting on the efforts to find the missing girls.  The full story behind the headlines-including details never previously released on Castro's life and motivations-Hope is a harrowing yet inspiring chronicle of two women whose courage and ingenuity ultimately delivered them back to their lives and families.
from the book jacket

Review:  I don't know why but I find memoirs such as these very intriguing.  I really love to see how people overcome such horrible tragedies, maintain positive attitudes and hope, and move on with their lives with such positivity and determination.  I certainly wish that things like this never happened to anyone and I am so glad that the end result was freedom.  These two women showed their strength over and over again in this book and I admire them and the survivors that they are.  Amanda and Gina speak frankly about what their lives were like during the ten years (for Amanda) that they were held captive.  The entries are written from journal entries that Amanda kept so most of the story is written in short snippets.  Between the journal entries from Amanda and Gina were short articles and stories written from the outside perspective.  The writing style in both the diary entries and the short articles is fairly simplistic and I had to remind myself that Amanda was abducted at the age of 16 and Gina at the age of 14 and therefore unfortunately missed out on schooling (Gina mentions late in the book after she escaped that she didn't finish 7th grade so she had to make up a lot of education at the age of 23 so she could finish high school).  I do wish that Michelle Knight would have co-authored the book as well so we could have gotten her perspective of being in the house but I may need to read her book to hear her side and what happened to her since she was held captive the longest.

Rating: 4 stars

Sunday, November 27, 2016

When I Found You

When I Found You
by Catherine Ryan Hyde

Genre: Fiction

Synopsis: Nathan McCann though he didn't want a family.  But when he finds an abandoned newborn in the woods, he feels an inexplicable bond with the boy and tarts to make plans to raise the child as his own-until the baby's grandmother steps forward to claim him.  Nathan makes a request of her, though: to one day bring the boy to meet his rescuer.

Fifteen years later, the widowered Nathan gets his wish when the boy and his grandmother show up on his doorstep.  Named Nat and now an angry teenager with a criminal record, the boy is once again in need of rescuing.  Nathan takes Nat in, swearing to never abandon him, Nathan believes that with love and patience anyone can change.  And he just might be right.
from the back of the book

Review:  The premise behind this book was captivating.  A man finds a baby in the woods and feels an instant connection and wants to remain in the child's life forever.  A boy grows up in a lovless home and rebels against his grandmother.  The grandmother figures that the man can help the boy and he does.  Nathan is a saint, never loses his patience, and always has the answers.  He was a little too good to be true.  He also seemed emotionless.  There were emotions from Nat but not from Nathan.  I wanted more from the book.  The story moved weaved in and out of Nat's and Nathan's lives for many years and we really get to see how their relationship grows and changes.  It was a very heartwarming story.

Rating: 3.5 stars

Wednesday, November 23, 2016


by Leisl Shurtliff

Genre: Juvenile Fiction, Fractured Fairy Tale

Synopsis:  In a magical kingdom where your name is your destiny, twelve-year-old Rump is the butt of everyone's joke.  But when he finds an old spinning wheel, his luck seems to change.  Rump discovers he has a gift for spinning straw into gold-as much gold as he wants!  His best friend, Red, warns him that magic is dangerous, and she's right.  With each thread he spins, he weaves himself deeper into a curse.

To break the spell, Rump must go on a perilous quest, fighting off pixies, trolls, poison apples, and a wickedly foolish queen.  The odds are against him, but with courage and friendship-and a cheeky sense of humor-he might triumph in the end.
from the back of the book

Natalie's Review: I really like this book because I like how they solve the problem that Rump had.  This is the true story of who Rumpelstiltskin is.  In the first place Rump didn't have part of his name but at the end he finds out his name.  Other people would like this book because it is kind of funny and that it has fairy tale characters in it like Rumpelstiltskin and Little Red Riding Hood.  There were pixies in the story and they were funny because they would bite people when someone stepped on their nest or when people gold.

Noah's Review:  I thought this book was spectacular because I like mixed up fairy tales and ones that are made funnier and better.  This book is better than Rumpelstiltskin because it tells more about Rump's life and how he learned how to spin straw into gold.  I also liked that he didn't know his name and how he learns his whole name at the end.  People who like made up things and stories that are based on other stories will like this book.  I rated this 4 stars because there weren't exciting events that happened in the first few chapters.

Editor's note: There are many fairy tales and characters that are alluded to in this story but the book never comes out and says that other fairy tale characters are in the story.  These were just passing comments and not connected to the story but it is interesting to see if kids can figure out what character/fairy tale the author is referring to.

Natalie's Rating: 5 stars

Noah's Rating: 4 stars

Monday, November 21, 2016

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts One and Two
by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany and Jack Thorne

Genre: Play, Fantasy

Synopsis:  Nineteen years after the Battle of Hogwarts...

It was always difficult being Harry Potter, and it isn't much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband, and a father of three school-age children.

While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted.  As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: Sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.
from the book jacket

Review:  I really enjoyed this continuing story of Harry Potter but I may have liked it so much because I love all the previous Harry Potter stories and I miss having new ones.  I did miss the magic of the books and the flowing writing that was present in the novels since this book is written as a play.  At times it seemed a little abrupt but I think that is due to not seeing characters act out the lines.  I also had a hard time aging Harry, Ron, Hermione, Ginny, and Draco and that made some of the lines and actions a little funny/silly.  So many of the characters that we know and love from the previous books were present and their personalities were the same.  Ron provides some comic relief to Harry's and Albus's seriousness.  The series has moved on so that we are set up to read more about Harry's son, Albus and his antics at school rather than Harry's forty-year-old life.  We do see a lot of Harry in this book but I could see how the next screenplays (if there are any) might be more focused on Albus's life.  Harry does bother me a little in this book as he still seems to carry some of that teenage angst attitude that he had in the later books but hopefully he grows up a little after this book (I'm talking like they are real people!)  I think it would be really interesting to see this play on stage and see the emotions and actions carried out in real life.

Rating: 4 stars

Friday, November 18, 2016

Out of My Mind

Out of My Mind
by Sharon M. Draper

Genre: Juvenile Fiction

Synopsis: Eleven-year-old Melody has a photographic memory.  Her head is like a video camera that is always recording.  Always.  And there's no delete button.  She's the smartest kid in her whole school-but NO ONE knows it.  Most people-her teachers and doctors included-don't think she's capable of learning, and up until recently her school days consisted of listening to the same preschool-level alphabet lessons again and again and again.  If only she could speak up, if only she could tell people what he thinks and knows...but she can't, because Melody can't talk.  She can't walk.  She can't write.

Being stuck inside her head is making Melody go out of her mind-that is, until she discovers something that will allow her to speak for the first time ever.  At last Melody has a voice...but not everyone around her is ready to hear it.

Review:  I can't imagine not being able to share your thoughts with others and having others think that you are not capable of intelligence.  My heart just ached for Melody at the beginning of the book when we hear her thoughts and frustrations with not being able to communicate.  My heart broke when students, and staff for that matter!, were so insensitive to her and said such hurtful things about her.  My heart was torn to pieces by the hurt Melody feels at the end.  This book could be very eye opening for young people to not judge people by what they look like and to treat everyone kindly.  I think this book has such a positive message for kids.

Rating: 4 stars

The Other Daughter

The Other Daughter
by Lauren Willig

Genre: Historical fiction

Synopsis:  Raised in a poor yet genteel household, Rachel Woodley is working in France as a governess when she receives news that her mother has died, suddenly. Grief-stricken, she returns to the small town in England where she was raised to clear out the cottage...and finds a cutting from a London society magazine, with a photograph of her supposedly deceased father dated all of three month before. He's an earl, respected and influential, and he is standing with another daughter-his legitimate daughter. Which makes Rachel...not legitimate. Everything she thought she knew about herself and her past-even her very name-is a lie.

Still reeling from the death of her mother, and furious at this betrayal, Rachel sets herself up in London under a new identity. There she insinuates herself into the party-going crowd of Bright Young Things, with a steely determination to unveil her father's perfidy and bring his-and her half-sister's-charmed world crashing down. Very soon, however, Rachel faces two unexpected snags: she finds she genuinely likes her half-sister, Olivia, whose situation isn't as simple it appears; and she might just be falling for her sister's fiancé...
from GoodReads

Review:  I found this book on the new audiobook section at my library and was intrigued by the premise not realizing that I had added it to my to-read list a year and a half ago!  As I started listening to the book, I was trying to figure out if I really cared.  Rachel seemed to be whiny, immature, and demanding of other people.  I also thought that some of the events and attitudes did not seem to fit with the time of the book but perhaps I just don't know what England society was like in the 1920s.  Sometimes I thought I was back in the 1800s in England.  There was not enough story to make this book move along quickly.  Once you get to the end, the story changes to be a romance and there was really nothing leading up to the end that would make you think the Rachel was romantically involved with someone.  Everything didn't connect in this story for me.

Rating: 2 stars