Wednesday, November 30, 2016

November in Books

Here's this month's book list.  A lot of juvenile fiction.  I needed to finish up Ellie's Battle Books (her school is having a trivia contest based on a particular set of books and I told Ellie I would read them all with her).  The battle is actually on Friday, and Ellie is one of her class representatives, so keep your fingers crossed that she does well!  Besides that, I will say that it's possible I read my favorite book of the year this month.  Which one?  Read on to find out....

The Little Paris Bookshop - by Nina George - fiction - 3 stars - Story about a guy who has a bookstore on a barge/boat in Paris.  He has a bit of a mid-life crisis after reading a letter from his significant other who left abruptly 20 years before and the journey that ensues.  I really wanted to like this book more, but in the end I have the same opinion of it as I do of Saving Private Ryan.  Has a good opinion and a good end, but I wish they had cut out some of the towns in the middle...they all kind of felt the same and it was a bit of a slog to get through the middle part.

Half a Chance - by Cynthia Lord - juvenile fiction - 4 stars - This was a recommendation from Ellie and a good one at that.  It's about Lucy who moves to a new home on a lake and becomes friends with a neighboring family.  It's a great story, but I really appreciate how it gives kids an understanding of Alzheimer's - what it looks like in the early stages, how it affects people as well as the family, and also touches on issues of honesty, and friendship.

Dimestore:  A Writer's Life - by Lee Smith - biography - 4 stars - There was a time in life where 90% of the books I read were biographies.  I'd just wander through the aisle and pick out books about people who looked interesting.  I'd never actually heard of this writer before, but now I'm going to have to try out her fiction and see if I like it.  It was a great peek into growing up in Appalachia, written as a series of essays/sketches.  I liked the kind of bite size chunks of story.

Silverwing - by Kenneth Oppel - juvenile fiction - 5 stars - This is another of Ellie's Battle Books and I really enjoyed this one.  It follows the journey of a bat who gets separated from his family during their annual migration, and in finding them again manages to save the day.  This is actually the first in a series, and we've got plans to finish up the series together as we both really liked this one.

As Close to Us As Breathing - by Elizabeth Poliner - fiction - 5 stars - Such a good book!  Follows the story of a family, kind of jumping between the past (the year that the protagonist's brother dies at the beach) and the present.  I really love how the story was woven together.  You know the whole time that the little brother will die, but the details don't come until pretty late in the book, and it is really more about the cascading effect of it on the members of the family.

How They Choked:  Failures, Flops, and Flaws of the Awfully Famous - by Georgia Bragg - juvenile non-fiction - 3 stars - This is another of Ellie's Battle Books.  It's a series of 14 sketches of famous people and talks about character traits that led to their downfall, or that prevented them from being really successful.  The good thing is that it introduces them to people they might not necessarily know of or might have a skewed 'hero' view of, for example Isabella of Castile, Montezuma, Ferdinand Magellan, Vincent Van Gogh, Amelia Earhart.  The sketches are pretty short, but this is a kids book and there were some things that are just thrown in there, not explained, but that you might have to explain, for example syphilis gets mentioned in passing.  Thank goodness Ellie didn't come ask about anything like that!

Ordinary Grace - by William Kent Krueger - fiction - 5 stars - OK, this might be my favorite book of the year.  If you haven't read it, you need to.  I'm normally a pretty fast book reader, I'm all about plot and I don't care about character development, but this book actually made me want to read more slowly.  It's the story of a particular summer in the protagonist's life and a series of deaths that occur in the small town in which he lives.  It discusses grace and justice and forgiveness, seriously you need to read this one.

I, Q. Book 6, Alcatraz - by Roland Smith - juvenile fiction - 4 stars - The conclusion of the I, Q. series.  This was a little predictable in terms of who the bad guy is, and got into a little weirdness with the Knight's Templar, but still a good book and satisfying end to the series, and overall I give the series 5 stars.

Children of Monsters:  An Inquiry into the Sons and Daughters of Dictators - by Jay Nordlinger - non-fiction - 3 stars - I was kind of fascinated by the topic of this book - how do the kids of bad guys (Mussolini, Stalin, Pol Pot, etc.) turn out?  It was a good book for a quick sketch of the kids, but didn't get into their lives in depth, which is what I had been hoping for, so basically it was a mis-match of expectations.  It was still interesting, but left me wanting to know more.

Big Little Lies - by Liane Moriarty - fiction - 5 stars - Liane Moriarty hasn't written a bad book yet, at least not that I've read.  Her books are funny, fast paced, great plots, interesting characters, this was no exception.  I really enjoyed how it all came together, and she has a great way to taking characters with very difficult situations and plots such as death and abuse in this book and still creating a very funny book.

Redwall - by Brian Jacques - juvenile fiction - 5 stars - Another wonderful Battle Book.  The librarian at Ellie's school really did a great job picking them all out.  This is a story of the creatures of Redwall Abbey who are being attacked by a villain, it involves an unlikely hero, a quest, lots of battles, really well crafted, and I'm happy that it's a series too, so we'll definitely be reading more about these critters!

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend - by Katarina Bivald - fiction - 4 stars - I had heard really good things about this book, so was excited to read it.  I'll admit the first quarter of the book I was kind of skeptical, it was a slow start, but in the end a great book/story about a woman from Sweden who goes to visit her pen pal in a small town in the U.S. only to discover that she's died.  Her reaction, the town's peoples reaction and how it all comes together was done really well.  I didn't realize it when I borrowed it, but this was actually written in Swedish and translated into English.  And actually the first book for this month - Paris Bookshop - was translated into English from French.

The Map Trap - by Andrew Clements - juvenile fiction - 4 stars - A nice, quick, short read.  It's about a boy named Alton who is obsessed with maps, and he even draws them.  I loved the idea of the different types of maps he created and the different data he used.  It's a bit of a mystery and also talks about friendship.

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