Monday, December 28, 2015

What I Read...in December

Hi! I am a terrible book blogger, huh? I'm reading, just not finding time to wrap it all up. 2016 resolution to get back on track with that. Since we're in the midst of an ice storm and I'm all caught up on cleaning and laundry and my kids are tired of spending time with me, I figured I should get this done now before another Wednesday comes and goes. Anyway, I hope you're looking for books to read because I've got them!

More Happy Than Not
Aaron lives in the projects in the Bronx. He's grappling with his father's suicide (in their bathtub) and how to best balance his girlfriend and his friends. In the midst of this, Aaron begins to develop an attraction to his friend Thomas and this makes him consider whether or not he should get something called a Leteo procedure, which makes you forget painful memories--like your father's suicide and struggling with your sexuality. As the story unravels, it appears that Aaron's life on the surface isn't quite as his life is beneath, something that is slowly unfolded to both Aaron and the readers. This novel grabbed me. I thought it would be more sci-fi because of the Leteo Institute, but it wasn't, not at all. It was real and painful to go through Aaron's journey along with him, to realize that he had more behind him than even he realized.

Once We Were Brothers
Elliot Rosenzweig is a respected man in the city of Chicago. Known for his philanthropic ways, as well as for being a Holocaust survivor, no one questions or doubts that he's anything less than a wonderful man. Until he's attacked at a gala event and accused of being a high-ranking Nazi official, Otto Piatek. Although he denies claims that he lived through the Holocaust in a vastly different way, he also drops charges against Ben Solomon, his attacker--a Holocaust survivor who once lived closely with Piatek and claims he would recognize him anywhere. A friend brings Ben to Catherine Lockhart to defend his case, a case she originally sees as a losing battle, until she the evidence begins to unfold itself.

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda
Simon Spier is struggling with how to reveal that he's gay, plus also... all the normal teenage stuff. Through the means of social media, Simon begins emailing another gay boy at his school, a boy who goes by the moniker Blue. Simon begins to hint pretty strongly at who he is, but Blue doesn't reveal himself as easily. This, of course, causes angst in Simon as he tries to guess Blue's identity, while also trying to figure out how to tell his parents and his friends. I loved this book. Loved it. Simon and his friends were so real, but I think I loved his parents the most. This was just an all-around wonderful read.

The Game of Love and Death
I was afraid this book would be too much like The Book Thief, with Death as an actual character, but it wasn't. Love and Death play a game, involving two babies--Flora and Henry. Living only blocks apart but being born into different worlds, the game is over if Flora and Henry can put aside their differences and fall in love... or if they don't. In one case, Love wins. In the other, Death. Of course, a game isn't without its fair share of meddling, in this case by Love and Death taking on human forms. In the end, only one will prove to be more powerful. And in the actual end of this book, I was in tears.

We Are All Made of Molecules
This book was good, albeit a little too easily tied together. Stewart is 13 and smart, although socially awkward (perhaps on a spectrum, even). 14 year old Ashley is socially with it but intellectually not. The two are brought together when Ashley's mom gets divorced, starts seeing Stewart's dad and Stewart and his dad eventually move in. What follows is an adjustment period for everyone, especially Ashley. I liked this book for what it was, an engaging story and easy entertainment.
Nicolette lives in a world where faeries are real, where she's saddled with no parents and an evil stepmother and two step-sisters. Yes, this is definitely Cinderella with a twist. On her 16th birthday, she discovers a hidden workshop in her house and discovers that although faeries are banned in her world, she can make magic just like her mom. I loved this book for the magical twist on Cinderella. Although it was nothing new, it took the old and made it new.

Mosquitoland
Mim Malone is drug from the Midwest to Mississippi, aptly dubbed Mosquitoland, by her father and new stepmother after her mother becomes ill and is hospitalized. After finding what she thinks is a letter from her mother begging for her to visit, Mim steals her step-mom's money and gets on a bus for Ohio. Along the way, she meets travelers, some good and bad, and discovers quite a bit about her family and who truly loves her.

Challenger Deep
This book. Wow. I feel like YA books either glamorize or gloss over mental illnesses, but this book did neither. Caden Bosch is on a ship headed for the Challenger Trench. But Caden Bosch is also a high school student who is suddenly... changing. No longer attentive in class or to his friends and family, Caden has lost himself. He finds himself by walking miles a day, until his feet bleed, and by trying to learn about the ship and the crew and why he's on this journey. This book seamlessly weaved together Caden's real world and Caden's surreal world, but it made mental illness real and stark. There was nothing glamorous about what Caden was going through, but you felt for him, really felt for him. He didn't ask for the tricks his brain was playing, nor did he ask for his world to be suddenly rocked. There were times when this book was almost too hard to read, but in the end, it all came together. In a world where we like to ignore mental illness and certainly don't fund it enough, this book should be read by everyone.

Wolf by Wolf
The year is 1956 and in this dystopia, the Nazis won World War II. Hitler lives to seize more and more control of Europe, Asia and Africa, as the Aryan race takes new, terrifying power. Yael is a death camp survivor, a victim of Nazi experiments who is left with the power to alter her appearance. She uses this power to enter the Axis Tour, a sort of Nazi Amazing Race with the winner holding the Iron Cross and representing the great Aryan nation. Yael enters as the only female winner, a girl named Adele Wolf, with the ultimate goal of winning and then killing Hitler, hopefully being the spark to start a revolution. Through this, Yael remembers the dead who came before her and wonders if she can be ruthless enough to win at all costs.
I loved this book because I mean, who hasn't wondered what if? What if Hitler won? What if Japan joined in alliance with Nazi Germany? Where would it end? Although this book doesn't answer that question, it certainly explored it.

The Walled City
Told from he perspective of Jin, Mei Yee, and Din, life inside the Walled City (a real historical thing--look it up!) is both bleak and dangerous,whether you are a criminal, a girl forced to work in a brothel or a street kid trying to survive, it isn't easy. Jin ran away from home after her sister Mei Yee was sold into sex slavery. She suspects Mei Yee is in one of the brothels, but must figure out how to find her. Din is a rich kid who made a mistake and now must earn his way back into his society. The three stories come together in one tale of survival. Loved this story and loved the very brief piece of history within it.

What are you reading?

5 comments:

Barb Ruess said...

Thank you for adding yet more titles to my "to read" list! My reading this month has ranged from meh to delightful to creepy...

1. Welcome to Braggsville: Liked the premise but the execution got bogged down a bit too much for my taste. A group of college students visits the deep south (home for one of them) and cause all sorts of trouble. Thought provoking but not great.

2. The One and Only Ivan: I got this to read with my 11yo only to find out his teacher was reading it to their class. So I read it anyway. Sad but touching story. Really good.

3. Fates and Furies: I loved it. Loved the hard edge the second half perspective gave to the story.

4. Nod: Creepy world in which no one sleeps and everyone goes a little crazy. Loved the subplot dealing with layered meanings of words... and lack of words... and too many words. Read like a short story, including a very abrupt ending.

Theresa Mahoney said...

Mosquitoland was just meh for me. I had to force my way through it.

The Game of Love and Death sounds interesting. I've added it to my 2016 reading bucket list.

Right now I am reading Quarantine series. A little gruesome at times, but so far, I am enjoying them.

Stephanie Precourt said...

I've been picking up and putting down a lot lately but it might be the season and not having enough time to actually dig in, but finally I got into Did You Ever Have Family and will probably finish tonight. I am excited to see a good review for Challenger Deep- I've had that one on hold at the library and it's ready to be picked up!

Steph

Lyndsay W said...

I just finished Fifteen Dogs. It's the 2015 winner of the Giller Prize (Best Canadian Fiction). I had read (or more accurately TRIED to read) a few of the finalists but wasn't loving them.... this one I like though.

Kelli Taylor said...

Love the book ideas from the post and the comments. I recently read Kissing in America by Margo Rabb which was pretty good. Then I read My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry by the author of A Man Called Ove. I enjoyed it but not quite as much as Ove. Now I'm reading Harper Lee's Go Set a Watchman.