Wednesday, January 31, 2018

January 2018 in Books

What a great way to start the reading  year!  So many good books this month.  I read a lot (15) but 6 of those were juvenile fiction and really quick reads.  Here's the recap:

Before We Were Yours - Lisa Wingate - historical fiction - five stars - Such a good book!  It's inspired by actual events and the Tennessee Children's Home Society which functioned in the early 19th century and was run by a woman named Georgia Tann.  She was basically selling babies to wealthy couples.  She resorted used methods like kidnapping (as in the case of the kids in the family in the book) to working with the police or hospital personnel to have kids taken from their parents 'legally'.  It was such a sad story, and really has me wanting to read more about the topic.

One for the Murphys
 - Lynda Mullaly Hall - juveline fiction - five stars - Ellie checked this out of the library for me to read.  She had read it earlier and thought I would really like it.  It's about a girl who is placed in temporary foster care while her mother is in the hospital and her step father is in jail.  The circumstances in which this occurs are a bit murky but become clear during the course of events.  She goes to to live with the Murphys, a new foster family, and reluctantly becomes part of their family.  She grows a lot and she in turn makes a real difference in their lives.  Another great book for helping kids learn about foster care and what it is about.  It's probably a very rosy picture of it, but I thought it was great that the story resonated enough with Ellie for her to want to share it.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane - Neil Gaiman - fiction - five stars - A modern twist on a fairy tale.  A man goes home for a funeral and ends up at the home of an old friend, and then he remembers a chain of events from his childhood - a tale of good and evil, responsibility, sacrifice and friendship.  It's not a long book, but left me thinking for quite some time afterwards.  Loved it.

Short - Holly Goldberg Sloan - juvenile fiction - four stars - I was drawn to the title and the cover of this book, and it's written by an author that Ellie and I read last year (Counting by 7s), so I thought I would give it a try.  It's about a girl who is short.  Her mom signs her and her younger brother up to play munchkins in a summer stock production of the Wizard of Oz.  She's not enthusiastic and is also dealing with the loss of her beloved dog, but she goes and gets drawn into the world.  She becomes friends with older cast members and the director, she learns about the theater and she loves it.  I realy like this book for kids because it deals with trying something new, putting yourself out there, dealing with loss, and becoming comfortable with who you are.

The Misfortune of Marion Palm - Emily Culliton - fiction - three stars - I really thought I was going to like this book, but I really didn't.  Basically there was no one to like in the book.  It's about a woman who runs away because she has been embezzling from her daughter's private school and they are about to do an audit.  Her husband thinks it's because he has been cheating on her (again) and the kids are really not particularly likable.  There's an interesting twist in the end, but the book really left me feeling unsympathetic towards any of the characters.  The only book from this month that I would skip reading.

Home of the Brave - Katherine Applegate - juvenile fiction - five stars - Basically you should read everything Katherine Applegate writes.  This is another book that Ellie forced on me, literally, she kept asking me if I  had started it yet.  Her class read it together and she liked it so much she used some of her Christmas money to buy her own copy.  It's the story of Kek an African refugee who is sent to the US to live with his a aunt and cousin who previously emigrated after he is separated from his mother in a refugee camp.  The transition and uncertainty about his mother is difficult as is the transition from Africa to the mid-west in the middle of winter.  But he is such a positive person and a great role model for young readers.

Seven Days of Us - Francesca Hornak - fiction - four stars - The whole time I was reading this book I thought someone should make it into a movie.  It's kind of perfect for a Christmas movie because of the compressed time frame (a week right around Christmas) and the kind of larger than life personalities involved.  It's the story of a family forced into quarantine together during the holidays when the older daughter returns from treating an epidemic in a foreign country.  It's extremely predictable.  There was one major twist at the end, but the rest was very expected.  Not in a bad way, but like I said kind of in a movie way where you see all these story lines converging. 

The Fourth Stall Part II (The Fourth Stall, #2) - Chris Rylander - juvenile fiction - four stars - The sequel to one of Ellie's Battle Books.  This time someone is messing with Mac's school and there's a danger that it will close.  He has to find out who is sabotaging the school.  Just as enjoyable as the first book, I like the quirkyness of the plot and characters and situation in general.  It's a great read for guys.

The Guise of Another - Allen Eskens - fiction - five stars - The second book by the author of The Life We Bury which I read, and loved, last year.  The main character is Alexander Rupert, the brother of Max Rupert the detective from the first book.  Max appears in this book as well, but it is a stand alone work and you don't need to have read the first book.  Alexander is under investigation by internal affairs for possible theft of evidence (money from drug busts).  He's relegated to missing persons, but picks up a case that might be (and is) big.  A man dies, but he was impersonating another man.  Who is he and what happened to the other guy?  Lots of twists and turns, so good I couldn't put it down.

Daughters of the Dragon - Williams Andrews - historical fiction - five stars - I remember reading about this book when it was first published and thinking I needed to read it, but promptly forgot about it.  When I saw it in the library the other day I immediately put it in my bag.  It's the story of a Korean woman who was taken to China by the Japanese during WWII to work at one of their 'comfort stations'.  Such a hard story to read, she went through a lot, lost so much, and prevailed nonetheless.  There's an overarching mystery about a comb that she has as well.  Apparently this is the first in a trilogy that the author has planned and I'm really excited to read the coming books.

A Man Called Ove - Fredrick Backman - fiction - five stars - This one has been on my list for quite some time, but I kept putting it off.  Probably because while I did enjoy his book My Grandmother Told Me to Tell You She's Sorry, it took me a long time to get into, and I wasn't sure if would be the same kind of slow burn and I haven't been in the mood for slow books.  I'm so glad I finally read it though.  It progresses much faster than the other.  It's about Ove who has had a hard life, and unfair life, and is ready to be done with life.  And then a new family moves in next door and everything changes.  He's slowly drawn back into community, it's a wonderful story about renewal, family, forgiveness, roots.  Loved it.

Lady Cop Makes Trouble (Kopp Sisters, #2) - Amy Stewart - detective - four stars - I read the first book in this series last year.  It was OK, but not as good as I thought it would be, but I thought I would give it another try.  I really did like this one better.  I feel like you probably needed all the character development and back story in the first book, but I liked the focus on the mystery/cases in this book much better without all the background stuff.  In this book Constance inadvertently loses a prisoner and must find him or else the Sheriff will lose his job and may himself be incarcerated.   

Wishtree - Applegate, Katherine - fiction - five stars - Remember when I said you should read everything from Katherine Applegate?  Well after I finished Home of the Brave we were looking at her books online and talking about how we needed to read this one, so Ellie went and got it from the school library for us.  Did you know that trees can talk?  They can, though they are not supposed to.  Wishtree tells us his story, of all the things he has seen in the past.  In the present day, a new family has moved in, an immigrant family who many in the neighborhood don't want to have around.  Wishtree tries to help the daughter find a friend, to preserve a sense of community and peace.  It's a lovely, sweet, welcoming story.

The Heavens May Fall
 - Allen Eskens - fiction - five stars - I had to read the next book after finishing The Guise of Another (don't be surprised to see the fourth book on my February reading list!).  Again, this book stands alone.  Max is involved in the murder trial of the wife of a defense attorney who he has clashed with in the past.  One of his good friends is defending the man who Max believes is guilty.  Their friendship is strained, add to that the mystery of Max's wife's death, and this one really had me guessing.  

Rise: How a House Built a Family - Cara Brookins - memoir - four stars - I love perusing the new books at the library because you never know what you'll find there.  This one looked really interesting.  It's the story of a family traumatized by emotional/physical abuse, that is starting over.  With very little money, they decide the only way to afford a house is to build it themselves.  With some help from family, good samaritans, and the internet, they manage to get it done.  Kind of amazing, I can't even fathom attempting this.  The only part I didn't like about the book were the parts where she talks about meditating.  She has visions of these two characters who talk to her/center her/encourage her.  Could have done without those interludes.

Next up in my stack:  The One in a Million boy, Give a Girl a Knife, Spies in the Family, and The Confusion of Languages. 

How about you?  Would love to know what you read this month!


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  2. As always, impressed by the volume and variety of your reading - and so appreciate your recommendations. Just placed a request for The Life We Bury at my library. Currently reading Seven Fallen Feathers: incredibly well-written, incredibly sad and disturbing exploration of the plight of seven First Nations youth in the Thunder Bay area. Also on my shelf: Dan Brown's Origin (pure escape!) and the first The Land of Stories, which I plan to pass along to my SIL to read to my niece and nephew once I'm done. I really need to build more reading into my days...

  3. You're going to thank yourself for keeping track of all these reads! I'm going to thank you one day too, when I get back into more reading too. :)