Wednesday, April 27, 2016

What I Read Wednesday

Almost didn't make it, but I desperately wanted to finish a book before posting.

Tell Me Three Things
There's something about cutesy, quirky YA romance books that get me every dang time. They're so predictable, and yet, so enjoyable. Jessie is new to her rigorous prep school in LA. Jessie is new to LA, even, having moved from Chicago to California following her dad's remarriage after the death of her mom. As she realizes that she'll never fit in there, she receives an email from an anonymous boy calling himself Somebody/Nobody. SN offers to be her anonymous guardian angel and tell her all the ropes at school, but he won't reveal who he is. Although she eventually starts to fit in, Jessie still relies on SN and desperately wants to know who he is. Although it was fairly obvious to me who SN was, it was still an enjoyable read.

The Great American Whatever
After the loss of Quinn's sister, he gives up on pretty much everything he loves--movie making, script writing, spending time with his friends. When summer rolls around, Quinn's best friend Geoff decides that enough is enough and drags Quinn out of bed, out of the house and back to reality--though a new reality for both. The details of Annabeth's death are put forth slowly by Quinn, intermixed with his own torment over how to tell his mom he's gay and his feelings for the cute new college guy who he meets through Geoff.
I really liked this book. The characters were all likable and the storylines were real, if a bit stretched at times.

Dodgers: A Novel
East, his brother, and two other gang members are sent by East's uncle to Wisconsin to kill a judge who is going to testify in a trial. East has never left the projects of LA, let alone ventured into the Midwest, so it's an adjustment, as well as dealing with his temperamental younger brother. This was a pretty amazing book, to be honest. It was a coming-of-age story in a way, but with a slightly different twist. Most of the storyline involves the journey to kill the judge, then it takes on a life of its own. I definitely found myself rooting for East who, in spite of the world he grew up in, seemed desperately to want to rise above.

Girls & Sex: Navigating the Complicated New Landscape
Have girls? Work with young girls? Know a girl? Read this book. Read it. The world teen girls are navigating now is a different world than the one in which most adult women grew up. Sexting, hook ups, nude selfies, blow jobs being the new good night kiss. It's scary, but also so important that we teach girls to advocate and ask for respect, to only do something if they want to do something--not because they're expected to--and that sex should be a two-way street. Also, of course, to teach our boys that being too drunk to really understand consent means it isn't consent and that girls aren't in existence to be pleasure givers. I had an incident at work recently where two boys came to speak to me because a female friend had her butt grabbed in the cafeteria. She urged them not to say anything, saying it wasn't a big deal, but they felt it was a big deal and they wanted to report it. I was--and still am--so proud of them, but also so very troubled by the easy acceptance of girls to things like this and that passivity is really covered in depth in this book.

The Two-Family House: A Novel
1947, Brooklyn. Two babies are born at home in the midst of a blizzard, born by the wives of two brothers who lives in the same two-family house. It is an unusual night, made even more unusual by circumstances that aren't immediately revealed. As the years progress, Teddy and Natalie--the two babies--grow to be the best of friends, while their mothers' relationship becomes strained and angry at times. This book is told from varying perspectives, from Helen and Rose, to their husbands and their children, as well. The characters, though there are many, are all well fleshed out and the story captivating. I had to put this one down at work today after silent reading time, and it was so not easy!

What are you reading?

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

What I Read Wednesday

I only read one book this week--too busy outside hiking and enjoying the sunshine!

The Last Painting of Sara de Vos: A Novel
Sara de Vos, as a woman painter in the 1600s, was ahead of her time. The first female painter appointed to the Guild of St. Luke, Sara pushes the envelope by painting landscapes. Thought to be weaker, women were mostly encouraged to paint indoors as exposure to the elements would surely be fateful. Once married and a mother, debt and the plague take both away from Sara.
Sara's only lasting painting echoes her defiance to the society at the time--"At the Edge of the Wood" featuring a young girl on a hill viewing a village. This painting hangs over the head of the bed of Marty DeGroot on his wife. Marty is a wealthy Manhattan lawyer in the 1950s, both powerful and intelligent. After a dinner party, he becomes aware that "At the Edge of the Wood" has been replaced with an almost identical forgery. He sets out to find out who deceived him, eventually crossing paths with Ellie who was behind the forgery.
The story twists between Sara, Marty, and Ellie, eventually interweaving their lives in ways that go beyond the portrait. I absolutely loved this book. Although the plot was complex and it was something I read slowly, the author told a beautiful story.

What are you reading?

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

What I Read Wednesday

Seconds Away (Book Two): A Mickey Bolitar Novel
Book 2 in the Mickey Bolitar series. A good continuation of the first book. I really think this would be a great middle level book for boys. Excitement, adventure, some violence and a male protagonist. I enjoyed it.
Found (A Mickey Bolitar Novel)
And the end of the trilogy. Still would definitely recommend this one for upper elementary and middle school boys.

Girl in the Blue Coat
YA Holocaust fiction is always a good read because I feel like it often skims the surface of the Holocaust without being too overwhelming for younger readers, but at the same time, it encourages them to look more into history. It is Amsterdam 1943. Hanneke spends her days running black market errands for her boss. Unlike many characters in Holocaust fiction, Hanneke is helping rich gentiles who are "put out" by all the war rationing. While delivering to one of her clients, Mrs. Jannsen, she asks Hanneke to help her find something outside of her usual--a person. Specifically, a Jewish girl named Mirjam who up and vanished out of the hiding space behind Mrs. Jannsen's pantry. Initially reluctant, Hanneke agrees and finds herself thrust into the heart of the resistance movement.
This was an easy, engaging read. It gave a good view of Holocaust history, how so few people realized the extent of German atrocities.

A Mother's Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy
I was torn between reading this book and not because I felt it would be difficult. It was. It definitely was, but I finished it in one day because I couldn't tear myself away from Sue's story of how the boy she loved grew up to commit one of the most notorious school shootings. I remember Columbine because I was a junior in high school at the time. I remember thinking, this could never happen here... but it could. It could happen anywhere.
I think it's important to try to put yourself in the shoes of the women who raise children who grow up to do evil acts. It's easy to blame the mothers. I know I blamed Nancy Lanza after Newtown, but she wasn't left alive to absorb the blame as Sue Klebold did and has. Some of the critiques for this book blame Sue Klebold for making too many excuses for her son, for blaming Eric, but what I saw was a mom confused and stunned by her son's actions even all these years later and to some extent, excuses might help her process. Who knows? I certainly don't and certainly hope I never have to know. I think it's a lot easier, too, to find red flags now in a post-Columbine world than it was at this time. I had never done a lockdown drill in my life until after Columbine, and it's important to remember that this, unfortunately, started a new world of schools not being as safe as one could imagine.

All Stories Are Love Stories: A Novel
I found this book a little slow to start, but once it picked up, I really enjoyed it. This book circulates around three main characters: Max, Vashti and Gene. Max and Vashti have a history and on February 14th, she goes to see him on his birthday. After they're together, a major earthquake hits San Francisco and Max and Vashti are trapped beneath the rubble of an auditorium, along with a group of others. Gene is a geologist who knows more about earthquakes than most, yet he is still left wandering the streets of the city trying to get home to his partner. As the story unfolds, the three become connected in ways they never could have imagined. What I loved about this book is that the earthquakes almost became a character themselves, setting so much into motion. I was definitely drawn in by this book once I got beyond the exposition, and I absolutely loved how the author brought it all together.

What are you reading?

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

What I Read Wednesday

As Close to Us as Breathing: A Novel
This book circles around the loss of Davy, with his sister Molly narrating the story. The reader knows that something happens to Davy at the family's beach house, but it's not immediately apparent what happened. In the midst of this, we are given the backstory between Davy's mother, Ada, and her two sisters, Vivie and Bec, and how their lives and loves and losses have intertwined and continued to intertwine as time moves forward. There were times when I struggled to follow along with the many different stories, but overall, I enjoyed this book and the way the story circled around Davy but was also about so much more.

Lost & Found: A Novel
Millie's mom abandons her in a department store, following the loss of Millie's dad. For awhile, Millie hides out beneath the clothes rack, then stays after the lights go out. Through a series of events, Millie ends up beneath the wings of two 80 year olds who set out to reunite Millie with her mom. Along the way, the two create quite an adventure for Millie. I loved this book. It made me smile and it made me cry. It was an unlikely story but still very enjoyable.

The Nest
The Plumb family is beyond dysfunctional. Melody, Beatrice, and Jack are faced with the loss of their trust fund, following their brother Leo's drunken accident in which he severely injures a 19 year old waitress. Melody has been living beyond her means for awhile, counting on the trust fund (the nest) to send her twin daughters to college. Jack is struggling financially, but doesn't want to let his husband know. Beatrice is a writer who just can't seem to finish her overdue novel. The perspective switches between family members as the story progresses. I loved this one. I definitely did not want to cut short my time with the Plumb family.

Amy & Roger's Epic Detour
This is a book that if I were in the intended age level, I really would have enjoyed it. As someone older than the intended age level, I still really liked the story, but I struggled to imagine leaving my child to finish out senior year of high school alone after losing her father in a tragic accident--an accident for which she blames herself. Regardless, this is the plot line, so following it, Amy's mom asks her to drive her car from California to Connecticutt, where Amy's mom now lives. However, Amy won't drive, so Amy's mom arranges for Roger--son of a former friend of the family--to drive back across the country with Amy. The two decide to, as the title suggests, take a detour along the way. I did enjoy this book for the story itself, and I can definitely see teen girls loving it.

What are you reading?