Monday, July 27, 2015

Double DutchDouble Dutch by Sharon M. Draper
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another wholesome book that is probably a 5 star book for girls age 11-15, 3 stars for H.S. girls, and likely a 2 star book for boys. It's a clever little story about 8th graders, each of whom has an important secret he/she keeps to himself/herself out of fear of embarrassment and not fitting in with the theme of don't judge someone unless you really know them.

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Dead End in NorveltDead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Very good 3.5 stars which I boosted to 4 rather than reduced to 3 stars because it is very funny, very clean, and very wholesome, a combination becoming increasingly difficult to find in YA literature. It has entirely quirky yet believable characters. This is a great book for preteen to adult readers. The audio is narrated by the author, and is a combination of fact & fiction from his own childhood. I giggled and laughed throughout.

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Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Sycamore Row (Jake Brigance, #2)Sycamore Row by John Grisham
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

3.5 stars. Typical Grisham courtroom drama, but with no suspense at all to see who will get the money. . . said best by Patrice Hoffman, another goodreads reviewer: "I stuck around all 400+ pages to see who would win the verdict. I suffered through repetition, boredom, and no suspense at all to see who would get the money. Would it be the crappy offspring or the maid? This is what makes Grisham novels addictive. He paints the courtroom portrait like none other. In the midst of a boring novel he plops down a scene in the courtroom that pulls me in once more."
Grisham can do better. This novel seemed cranked out rehash that is two hundred pages too long, with characters that are very forgettable.I wanted to know the ending but didn't always enjoy the journey.
I don't have even a single favorite quote from this book.

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The Tutor's DaughterThe Tutor's Daughter by Julie Klassen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this beautifully written Regency era romance/mystery novel. Reminiscent of Jane Eyre, there appears to be a mysterious stranger (a mad woman in the attic?) who is prone to wandering around late at night. That mystery is solved about halfway through the book but there are many more sinister goings-on which kept me anxiously turning the pages. The character development is excellent--believable and consistent. The various plot threads, with plenty of unexpected twists, are skilfully woven together and the romance is charmingly done. Klassen is known as a "Christian author" who tastefully weaves her message into her fiction without beating you over the head with it. Here is an example:

“Do you not pray, Miss Smallwood?'
She avoided his gaze. 'No.'
'God is speaking to you every day,' he said softly. 'You might return the favor.'
She raised her chin. 'I don't hear Him.'
'Do you listen?'
She looked at him, clearly offended, then turned away again. 'I used to pray, until I found God was not listening, at least not to my prayers.'
...[He] heard the inner voice of caution but barreled ahead. 'He was listening. But He doesn't always answer the way we would like Him to.”

Downtown Abbey fans along with readers who love Jane Austen and Daphne du Maurier, will enjoy this entertaining book.

More favorite quotes:
“We all of us die, Miss Smallwood,' he interrupted. 'But we don't all of us make our lives count for something. How much better to die saving another soul than to stand safe on shore and do nothing while others perish?”
"Thunder and turf!"
“Make your life count, Henry David Weston. For when you reach the end of your days, you will not look back and wish you'd garnered more money, or power, or fame. You will look back and wish that you had been a better parent, spouse, friend, and Christian. And you will wish for just a little more time with those you love.”

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Sarah (Women of Genesis (Forge))Sarah (Women of Genesis by Orson Scott Card
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Because this is the story of one of my favorite heroines I feel like I should give this a better rating, but a 3 star "liked it" is the best I can do. It is well researched and interesting, but not entertaining. I didn't love the writing, in part because the dialog is, well...lacking, as is the one-dimensional character development. Somehow these wonderful characters were not "fleshed out." I feel he did a better job with Rebekah. I very much enjoyed reading his "afterword."
Favorite quotes:
“Faith doesn't mean you never doubt. It only means you never act upon your doubts.”
“Sometimes happiness consists of finding the right balance of misery.”

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Dad Is FatDad Is Fat by Jim Gaffigan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Very funny book by a great stand up comedian. Parents of young children will especially enjoy it.

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A Spool of Blue ThreadA Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I have enjoyed her earlier books far more than this. The characters are well drawn and believable. The descriptions are excellent. But the story is not tight, with an ending that seems unfinished.

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Mr. Churchill's Secretary: A NovelMr. Churchill's Secretary: A Novel by Susan Elia MacNeal
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fun read: The plot moves along quickly and is engaging. This is obviously the introduction for a series of war time thrillers with Maggie as the girl who saves England with her intelligence and pluck. I also read #2 in the series but it was mot as good.

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The Truth According to UsThe Truth According to Us by Annie Barrows
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a wonderful book about small town life and hidden stories waiting to be uncovered. The quirky characters, the 1938 Great Depression setting West Virginia, and the intertwined stories made this a difficult book to put down. Good insights regarding the "truths/lies" of both written and oral history and the importance of loyalty and forgiveness. Anne Barrows is the co-author of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society which I also loved. I listened to the full-cast audio version which is very well done.

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The Boy on the Wooden BoxThe Boy on the Wooden Box by Leon Leyson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a moving memoir of Leon Leyson about his 5 years, from age 12 to age 17, in Poland, and Germany, during the Holocaust. With thanks to Oskar Schindler he survived the horrors that killed six million Jews. He did not share his experiences until the movie, “Schindler’s List,” was released in the mid 1990’s. His narration of events is straightforward without the gruesome details of other Holocaust stories. From the publisher: “It is the only memoir published by a former Schindler’s list child. Most notable is the lack of rancor, the lack of venom, and the abundance of dignity in Mr. Leyson’s telling. The Boy on the Wooden Box is a legacy of hope, a memoir unlike anything you’ve ever read.” I highly recommend this short narrative as an appropriate YA read for ages 12 - adult. The audio version is excellent.

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