Saturday, November 16, 2013

Friends with Boys, by Faith Erin Hicks

Courtesy of Google
I LOVED this book!  I always wished I had a brother or brothers.  J  I do gain one brother when I get married next year – admittedly it’s a little different, since I did not grow up with him. 
This graphic novel is about Maggie, who is about to attend her local high school after having been home-schooled her whole life.  She has three older brothers and has never really socialized with anyone but her family.  At school, she has to navigate a new environment and figure out how to make friends.  Friends with Boys is a great coming-of-age story with compelling characters.  I love the dynamic Maggie has with her family and how she handles high school. 

The art is fantastic! My fiancĂ© read this as a web comic and later bought the trade paperback when it was released to support Ms. Hicks.  I could not put it down – I understand it was agonizing having to wait for each successive page.  ;) I recommend to teenagers and adults.  

Tiger Eyes, by Judy Blume

Talk about books I haven’t read yet – hasn’t this one been out for more than twenty years??  Well, better late than never!  As a child, I made it through a few Judy Blume books; the Fudge books were favorites of mine, but I think I need to revisit and re-read Are You There, God?  It’s Me, Margaret and Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself.  Perhaps I just did not relate to the title characters; to be honest, I cannot give a clear answer on why I did not read more of Judy Blume growing up. 
Courtesy of Google
I really enjoyed Tiger Eyes.  It is about Davey, a girl who is coming to terms with her father’s sudden death.  Her mother moves her and her brother temporarily to stay with relatives in the Southwest – far away from their home on the East Coast where the tragedy occurred.  Davey finds her aunt and uncle overbearing, overprotective and overeager to keep Davey preoccupied with activities and outings in their efforts to help her through her grief.  In other words, they’re well-meaning, but Davey is having none of it.  On the one hand, she is a typical teenager and wishes to assert herself and be more independent from the adults in her life.  She does a lot of soul-searching and we see her identity develop and grow throughout the course of the story.  On the other hand, she is dealing with serious trauma, and only she can work herself through it.  No one else can do it for her.  She mirrors her mother, who in handling her own grief becomes self-absorbed and distant from her family.
What struck me about this book is that the entire time I was reading it, it felt genuine.  There is nothing presumptuous or contrived about the story or the characters.  The motivations and actions taken by everyone are convincing and natural.  The dialogue is not forced.  The ongoing pain of loss and the concomitant acceptance of death are wrenching.
Recommended for teenagers and adults.

Truce, by Jim Murphy

Courtesy of Google
I did not know too much about World War I before I read this book aimed for young readers.  I think we barely scratched the surface of both the world wars in my history classes.  I do not think there is anything wrong, either, with an adult reading a children’s history book if one is looking for a simplified history of a previously unknown or seldom-studied topic.  Books aimed for children often provide a great introduction for the adult to various subject matter, especially that of science or history, which may be presented in a more complex manner in a book geared for adults. 
Jim Murphy elegantly tells the story of what is known as The Great War, focusing most of it on the events leading up to the famous Christmas Truce.  There are many photos and illustrations, and a useful map that helped me place where all the countries and trenches were in relation to each other.  His writing is truthful without going into too many of the gory details: I believe young children do not need to be exposed that soon to the terrible atrocities of war.  I recommend the book to anyone ten and up.

The Godfather, by Mario Puzo

Courtesy of Google
This is not a book for children.  Depending on the person, it might not even be a teenager’s cup of tea.  Having finished it a few weeks ago, I honestly do not know if I would have appreciated it as a teenager the way I do now.  As time has passed, I hesitate before I assign age ranges to books I read.  There are obviously books that should not be given to young people to read, and this is one of them.  But I would say an emotionally mature 15-year old could read and enjoy The Godfather. 
This story is not just about the Mafia as an organization, but about the men who are part of it.  The main characters are very complex, and the reader can see how they tread the line between what we believe to be good and evil.  On the one hand, we have these men who simply want to get by on life on their own terms: they’re quite entrepreneurial.  They also strongly value family and family life; their wives and children live comfortably and well.  On the other hand, their business practices are brutal and cold-blooded.  They do negotiate and to an extent are even reasonable, but fear is a weapon they wield with great skill and authority.   They have incredible power and connections: their footholds in various circles, whether they’re political, professional, or the general public, put an interesting spin on the importance of what we call “networking” today. 

It’s a fast-paced read that will keep a curious reader engaged from the start.  It’s a thriller, a romance, and a drama, and thought-provoking in every way.  It’s about human beings, their imperfections, and their triumphs.  If you’re in the mood to read about the mob, I recommend this one.

Back from Being AWOL

Hello, to anyone who comes across this blog in your browsing searches!  It's been a while, and I apologize.  I realize that bloggers need to provide a consistent stream of posts to keep people interested. Well, I obviously have not been doing that.

What was I doing?  Oh, this and stuff.  Working. Getting my CPA license.  Reading books. Moving around.

This evening on my way home it hit me that I need to write more book reviews, because I hadn't written them in awhile, and I love doing them. I've read several books since the Shiver trilogy, and I am now getting around to staying better on top of my online presence and e-mail.

The goal is to put up a few new posts every month, in between work, reading, wedding planning, grocery shopping, and commuting.  It's taking me longer to read books these days, which will factor into how often I post.

I hope these reviews help those of you who are looking for something to read!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Shiver, Linger & Forever (the Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy), by Maggie Stiefvater

Normally I do not go in for werewolf love stories, but these books were actually quite a fun read.  Grace lives right next to the woods, and for years she has watched and heard the wolves that roam the trees.  There is one particular wolf which Grace sees from her window quite often.  
Sam has a dual life: in the cold months he is a wolf, and in the warmer summer months he lives as a human.  When Grace and Sam meet for the first time, she is sure that he and the wolf she sees are one and the same.  But how can they stay together with Sam’s inevitable transformation come wintertime?
These are best read by readers 15 and up.   They’re lighter reads, but are better written than a lot of the other similar literature out there (Stiefvater also wrote The Scorpio Races, reviewed earlier this year—an excellent read).  I recommend it as an “instead of Twilight” series.  

The Casual Vacancy, by J.K. Rowling

All right, everyone- I am one of the biggest Harry Potter fans out there, which is why I put Harry Potter completely out of mind as I read Ms. Rowling’s new literary work. 
It is a very good read.  She is, as ever, and excellent writer, and despite the harshness and dark elements of her story, she draws you into the lives of her characters as skillfully as any good storyteller. 
It seemed to start out as a social satire, but as I read further I could see that there was a definite line of thinking that the author is pushing us, as readers, to pursue. 
I highly recommend this book: I enjoyed reading it and appreciate what Ms. Rowling is capable of, no matter how far off it is from her debut series!  That being said, THIS IS NOT A CHILDREN’S BOOK.  It is really for readers 16 and up.  It is not a beach read either: the subject matter is very heavy, so be in the right mindset when you read The Casual Vacancy.