This month is kind of up and down in terms of books. I read some really fantastic books and some that were a disappointment and a slog to get through. Here's the recap:
We Are All Made of Stars - by Rowan Coleman - fiction - 5 stars - I loved this book. I picked it up off the new shelf at the library on a whim and I'm so glad I did. There are lots of interweaving stories going on, but the linchpin is Stella, a nurse at a hospice who befriends the patients there, helps them write final letters to loved ones, and is also dealing with her crumbling marriage to her husband who came home from Afghanistan wounded. There is a lot of sadness here, but also healing and hope.
The Secret Keeper - by Kate Morton - fiction - 4 stars - While her mother is dying, Laurel returns home and tries to unravel a mystery about her mother's past regarding a violent incident she witnessed when she was 17. I've read several of Kate's books. Usually they are 5 stars, this one dragged a little for me. It just seemed a bit more plodding in terms of the progression. I think it was the real time interactions with Laurel and her siblings. I kind of just wanted to get back to the story and that mystery more than present day. Definitely still worth the read, but just not as great as her other books.
Moonshadow: Rise of the Ninja - by Simon Higgins - juvenile fiction - 4 stars - This is one of Ellie's Battle Books. I thought it was a good story, it's about a boy who is raised by an order of Ninjas and must complete a mission. I liked that it talked about the hero having to make choices/follow his gut, and that even under difficult circumstances he allowed the good in him to prevail. This one wasn't Ellie's favorite, but I think if you have boys they would like it.
Once We Were Brothers - by Ronald H. Balson - historical fiction - 5 stars - Such a good book. About a man in Chicago, present day, who recognizes a boy his family took in who then betrayed the family during the Holocaust, and his quest to see that man brought to justice. It was a really interesting look at how someone who started off good, was corrupted by the Nazis and turned on those he loved.
The Paris Architect - by Charles Belfoure - historical fiction - 5 stars - Another WWII story about an architect who designed hiding spaces for Jews during the war. He starts off being in it only for the money, but along the way changes. I really enjoyed the descriptions of the hiding places, and where he put them, and his transformation.
Chickens in the Road - by Suzanne McMinn - non-fiction - 4 stars - This was a random book I picked out of one of those Free Little Libraries. It's about a woman who, after divorcing her husband of many years, goes back to her roots, buying a farm in West Virginia with her then significant other and tries to make a go of living on a farm. She collects all sorts of animals, learns to milk, make cheese, can, etc. It was a really interesting story about totally changing the way you live, and remaking yourself.
Travel Team - by Mike Lupica - juvenile fiction - 4 stars - Another of Ellie's Battle Books. About a boy named Danny Walker who is an amazing basketball player, but also very short. He doesn't make the travel team, and his famous (also short) dad who is somewhat estranged comes back into town to reconnect, and ends up coaching a second travel team for others who didn't make the team. Obviously this one is more geared towards boys, but Ellie seemed to really like this one too. She tried out for the hockey travel team in the fall and didn't make it, so I think this resonated with her. I also liked how much the boy worked at getting better and being better, something I feel like is a great message for kids these days, and also how he learned responsibility and good sportsmanship.
The Baroness: The Search for Nica, the Rebellious Rothschild - by Hannah Rothschild - biography - 3 stars - I really wanted to like this book. I've heard a lot about the Rothschilds from other books and thought this would be interesting. It was a little bit. I enjoyed the part about her growing up and what she did during the war, but most of the books seemed more centered on her life after the war. She leaves her husband/children, moves to New York City, hangs out with jazz artists, one dies in her suite. I don't know. It really just dragged for me.
Pugs of the Frozen North (A Not So Impossible Tale) - by Philip Reeve - juvenile fiction - 4 stars - One of Ellie's Battle Books, this was a very short read, kind of a fantasy story about a boy who gets trapped near the North Pole with 66 pugs. I know, sounds weird. I feel like this one is a good level below many of the other Battle Books, and maybe is on the list so that students that are less into reading can participate. I feel like it is more suited to Carina than Ellie, but it's a cute story.
Roller Girl - by Victoria Jamieson - juvenile graphic novel - 4 stars - Another of Ellie's Battle Books, this one is a graphic novel, so a really quick read. It's about a girl who goes to see a roller derby and then decides she wants to learn how to do that. It turns out to be a lot harder than she thought, meanwhile she is also dealing with issues with her best friend. I liked that it dealt with the friendship stuff....we are starting to deal with girl drama with Ellie, so it's nice to have points of reference for discussion. I also like how she thinks roller derby will be so easy and she can pick it up quickly, but it's really hard work and perseverance that makes her better. There were a couple things I didn't care for, including that a mean girl calls Astrid (the main character) Ass-Turd. It's kind of minor, but it's one of those things where I feel like they could have used some other mean term that isn't so edgy and it would have been fine. Anyway, overall it was a good book with some really good messages.
True Believer: Stalin's Last American Spy - by Kati Marton - biography - 3 stars - Another big disappointment. I have read Kati's other books and have really enjoyed them. She is a wonderful storyteller, and that is what I really felt was missing from this book. It's the story of Noel Field, and American who spied for the Communists before, during, and after WWII, part of which time he worked for the State Department. He was a very idealistic communist, and after the war was jailed by Stalin for 5+ years accused of collaborating with the Americans. Anyway, this was just so dry and boring, I found myself falling asleep at times. It was more more encyclopedic than storytelling which is sad as it's a fascinating story, but the book was such a slog.