Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Summer Reading Update

How did you do with reading this summer? Did you meet your goal?

I set a GoodReads goal to read 52 books this year. A wifi-free summer helped me catch up with that; I read 13 books in 6 weeks!

Here's the run-down. I saved my most intriguing read for last.

* In the comments: I'd love to hear some of your summer faves!

Fire Witness, by Lars Kepler
(target audience: Adult)

Page-turner murder mystery with detective Joona Linna solving a strange case in Sweden. The case involves girls at a foster care home, a victim who has covered her eyes in her moment of death, and a psychic who says she can see visions from the past and may be able to help the police.

We Were Liars, by E. Lockhart
(target audience: Young Adult)

Starts off like a preppy summer romance/family drama. By the end, both the reader and the narrator are emotionally wrecked. This is a highly original story of a teen girl trying to make sense of her own history, relationships, and the magic that happens during a lifetime of summers on a Cape Cod island.

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, by E. Lockhart
(target audience: Young Adult)

Loved Frankie. She's at a preppy high school, challenging some of the traditions that involve only boys. When she acts as part of the "boys club" without them knowing, she shakes up the whole school and expectations about what it means to be girl these days.

The Art Forger, by Barbara A. Shapiro
(target audience: Adult)

Art-heist, romance, academic thriller (is that an oxymoron?), and a peek into the tricks and trade of forgers, painters, and gallery owners - this novel is a fun page-turner. I loved the connection with the Isabella Stewart Gardener museum in Boston, one of my favorites, and the infamous theft that happened there in 1990.

Anything But Typical, by Nora Raleigh Baskin
(target audience: Middle Grades)

Twelve year old Jason narrates the story of his online friendship with "Phoenix Bird", a girl he meets on his favorite story-writing website. She seems to really understand him, a surprising new feeling for him since his autism usually makes it hard to connect with others. Because it's told from his point of view, we sometimes worry that he's getting a bit too confident in the relationship which creates a sense of dramatic irony. 

Doll Bones, by Holly Black
(target audience: Middle Grades)

This creepy doll-comes-to-life book wasn't my thing, but everyone else seems to love it. It's about three kids who play an imaginary game which becomes more and more real. The doll pictured on the cover sits watching from underneath her glass dome; she's just a doll...or is she?

The Thing About Luck, by Cynthia Kadohata
(target audience: Middle Grades)

Japanese-American tween, Summer, works with her grandparents as a cook for a team of migrant workers during the wheat harvest. Her grandparents and their traditional ways are both a source of strength and stress as she befriends a cute boy and works through issues with the farmer's wife, the boss of their cook crew.

Caminar, Skila Brown
(target audience: Middle Grades)

This novel in verse is told from the point of view of Carlos, a boy in Guatemala during the Civil War in 1981. Rich but simple language connects us to the emotional turmoil of the situation - the confusion between solider and rebel, family alliance and political belief. 

Reality Boy, by A. S. King
(target audience: Young Adult)

Teen boy, Gerald, is trying to live down his infamous role as a "crapper" of a kid on a reality TV show when he was little. Struggling with anger issues and a messed up family, he finds some solace in two new friendships: one with a girl at work, another with a circus hand (yes, you read that right)

If I Stay, by Gayle Forman
(target audience: Young Adult)

I wanted to read this one quickly before the movie comes out! This story is told by Mia, a teen girl who has been near-fatally injured in a car accident. As she lies in a coma, she can hear the people around her pulling for her and encouraging her to "stay" with them. Flashbacks to times with her boyfriend, her struggles and successes in music, and her thoughts of the future intermingle with the present. Her choice is not an easy one considering the life she would return to.

Just One Day, by Gayle Forman
(target audience: Young Adult)

Allyson has always been on the straight and narrow path: good student, career-minded (pre-Med!), and obedient. But then she meets a boy who sweeps her off her feet and over to Paris for a day; nothing will ever be the same after. The freedom, independence, and self-reliance she feels makes it impossible to return to her former ways. Tension build as she loses and then tries to find the guy who started her down this path.

Wintergirls, by Laurie Halse Anderson
(target audience: Young Adult)

This is the completely absorbing story of a teenage girl struggling with anorexia. She narrates it, giving us access into her thoughts and conflicting inner voices. When her friend is found dead in a motel room, any healing she had begun stalls. She begins seeing visions of her friend and we realize, before she does, how precarious her health is. Dramatic and tense with complex adult characters and family relationships.

No One is Here Except All of Us, by Ramona Ausubel
(target audience: Adult)

This is story of an isolated Jewish village in Romania reads like an allegory or fable. The villagers decide to save themselves from the encroaching war (WWII) by starting a new world. They throw out their clocks, traditions, and start to question all previous ways of being. New possibilities open up about what it means to be a family, a daughter, a friend.

The story has the feel of a fable: The main characters have names, but most villagers are described by their occupations. It's told in first person, but there's no way our narrator could know all that's described. We have the sense that the story exists everywhere at once.

One of the aspects I enjoyed reading most was the process of starting "new". In this time of dystopia as a hot genre, it was interesting to read about a community deciding what to keep and what to let go from their culture.

I found this completely consuming and, at times, totally disturbing. It's not for everyone - certainly not for those looking for straight WWII historical fiction. This is much more - a story of family, faith, culture, and our roles therein.

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