Thursday, June 1, 2017

May 2017 in Books

A World Gone Mad: The Diaries of Astrid Lindgren, 1939-45 - Astrid Lindgren - non-fiction - 5 stars - This was kind of fascinating.  Lindgren, a Swede, is best known for authoring the Pippi Longstocking series.  Sweden was neutral during WWII, so her experience is totally different from anything I had ever read before.  While there were shortages, it was obviously nothing like in the rest of Europe, it was also really interesting to hear more about Scandinavia during the war, and how Sweden if forced to choose would likely have picked the Germans over the Russians.

The Fortunes
- Peter Davies Ho - historical fiction - 4 stars - This is a book composed of four 'short stories' about Asian Americans, beginning with a man who was a railroad baron's valet and moving forward in time.  I really enjoyed the first two, which were a little better grounded in historical sources, so more fleshed out.  The third was OK, but the fourth who was an entirely fictional character I really wasn't a fan of.

The Princess Diarist - Carrie Fisher - memoir - 3 stars - I randomly picked this up in the new book section of the library, probably because the new Star Wars movie had just come out, but this wasn't exactly what I thought it was going to be.  For some reason I thought it was a memoir triggered by her rediscovering her diaries from when Star Wars was filming.  There is some of that, but then the diaries themselves are published, and really who wants to read a 19 year old's diary?  Anyway, I did like reading about how she got cast and the chapters of prose, but the diary which is 1/3-1/2 of the book, meh.

A Piece of the World
- Christina Baker Kline - historical fiction - 5 stars - I read her book Orphan Train and loved it.  This book is another piece of historical fiction loosely based on the story behind Andrew Wyeth's painting Christina's World.  The story focuses on the life of Christina Olson, a friend of Wyeth whose home and surroundings were the subject of many of the paintings.  She had a genetic disease which, by the end of her life, left her basically a cripple.  It's a sad story, but one of perseverance and strength as well.  Highly recommended.

Stateless in Shanghai - Liliane Willens -  biography - 4 stars - Another unique look at the time period surrounding WWII.  The author's parents were Russian Jews who left Russia well before the war and settled in Shanghai.  They came with almost nothing, but did well for themselves and were relatively well off in the foreign society although they were considered stateless.  Really interesting descriptions of Japanese occupation as well as the time period following WWII during the war between the Nationalists and Communists and the difficulty in emigrating to the U.S.  She actually had to go through Japan to get to the U.S.  This was a slow read, a lot of detail, but really interesting.

Home Sweet Motel(Welcome to Wonderland, #1)
- Chris Grabenstein -  juvenile fiction - 4 stars - This is one of the new Battle Books for the fall battle.  We are big fans of Chris Grabenstein, especially his Lemoncello series, and in fact he actually came to Ellie's school last week to talk to the kids, very cool.  Anyway, this is the first in a series about P.T. Wilkie and the Wonderland Motel his family owns which is in danger of being repossessed.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Original Screenplay - J.K. Rowling -  screenplay - 4 stars - I haven't seen this movie yet, but plan to.  The story is about Newt Scamander, which if you've read the Harry Potter books, is the author of one of Harry's textbooks, so this is a turn of the century story about a magician.  He comes to the U.S. to return a magical creature to it's natural habitat and then becomes entangled in/with the magicians of NYC.  Parts were predictable, and parts were a surprise, but a good story all around.

Gregor the Overlander(Underland Chronicles, #1)
- Suzanne Collins -  juvenile fiction - 5 stars - Another of Ellie's new battle books.  I really enjoyed this one.  Another quest type story about a boy Gregor who accidentally gets sucked into the Underland with his sister.  He is identified as the person referred to in a prophecy and he also learns that his father who disappeared two years prior is in the Underland.  He sets off with a band to rescue his father and to end the war that they are in.  A couple major twists that I didn't see coming and the best part is that it's the first in a series.  This would be a great one for boys.

Crenshaw - Katherine Applegate - juvenile fiction - 5 stars - I loved her book The One and Only Ivan, and I've been wanting to read this one for a while.  It's the story Jackson whose family is having a difficult time.  After his dad was diagnosed with MS several years ago they spent a period of time homeless, and now are on the verge of being evicted from their apartment.  I love that this deals with difficult issues in a way that is understandable for kids.

A lot of heavier stuff this month that I balanced with some JF.  I'm working my way laboriously through another difficult book, actually I've been working on it for a week or so, but have had to break it up with Gregor/Crenshaw.  I should be able to knock it out in June, but will have to mix it up with some lighter reading.  Also on deck for June:  The Orphan's Tale and The Last Days of Cafe Leila.  What have you been reading?


  1. When I actually get back on the book train, I'm coming to read all your monthly reviews. It's great you do them bc I have so many I've read and can't recall what the heck happened. Haaaaa! :)

  2. I love checking out your monthly reviews and am always so impressed with how you find the time to read so much and that you read so many different types of books! I'm glad if I finish one book a month! The astrid memoirs sounds very interesting, know it got a lot of good reviews here in Sweden when it came out. Books I have enjoyed the last couple of months would be Small great things - Picoult, the light between oceans and the nightingale, but I suspect you've read them long ago (-: Hugs!