Thursday, August 4, 2016

The Lost Girls by Heather Young

The Lost GirlsThe Lost Girls by Heather Young

Covering two time periods, a great aunt recounts the story of one summer at a lake in Wisconsin in notebooks in a house that is falling apart and cold. In the meantime, the grand niece is holed up in the house with her daughters, running from crazy people in her life.

I liked both stories and found the unfolding of the mystery to be well paced. I didn't see a strong connection between the two stories except that both women are flawed and not always likeable and make really poor choices. Good book with two interesting storylines that left me scratching my head.

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

Dark MatterDark Matter by Blake Crouch
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Interesting and engaging story from start to finish with the added complication of String Theory and quantum physics, none of which I understand. That said, the book and story is not difficult to read or follow. With so many different contingencies, where does one reality begin and another diverge? Jason Dessen is looking for HIS reality because any other reality presents him with a life he doesn't want but one Jason already took his reality. How does he get it back? Interesting twists and turns.

Mischling by Affinity Konar

MischlingMischling by Affinity Konar
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Loosely based on a couple of actual twins that survived Mengele's experiments, this book tells the story of Stasha and Pearl, identical twin sisters. What is unique about this book is that it is told through the POV of 12 year old girls in Aushwitz and the POV of twins that share a connection of which Mengele was studying. If one twin is maimed, does the other twin experience the pain? What happens when one twin is put in an isolated cage and experiments on?

Mengele is painted in all his clinical and apathetic glory yet strangely enamored by his twins. At the same time, seeing them as near pets. Although pets would be treated better.

The book is difficult to rad due to the subject matter. On the other hand, the author carefully intimates about some of the more horrible details that a person with more knowledge on the subject will understand while a younger audience might miss it. Not that the book is lightweight by any means. Simply that 12 year old protagonists describing some things won't understand all of it and that uncertainty is carried over to the reader with careful consideration.

Excellent historical information told in a unique manner. Must read.

Faithful by Alice Hoffman

FaithfulFaithful by Alice Hoffman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really like Alice Hoffman's writing style. I don't know what it is that grabs me but I start a book by her and don't put it down until the wee hours of the morning when I'm finished. She somehow taps into the subconscious reasons we do things and end up with a well written narrative that somehow gives the reader hope and perspective. This book is about Shelby who begins by identifying and defining herself by an event that was tragic for another family. She drifts through the next few years without making a definite plan and finds herself beginning to make plans, realizing how others' love for her is more defining than what she has done, and eventually finding perspective and and gratitude for those who loved her when she didn't love herself.

It's a complicated story of finding yourself through the tumultuous young adult years with the added burden of guilt but well worth the read. I highly recommend it.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Harmony by Carolyn Parkhurst

HarmonyHarmony by Carolyn Parkhurst
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

This is a very interesting story with well written perspectives and characters. I read an advanced reader's copy so it will probably be more smooth when it comes out, but very good premise.

The book is told from different perspectives; Alexandra, a mother of two daughters. One has a diagnosis of PDD-NOS. the other is neurotypical. The main perspective is by 11 year old Iris, the NT child. Then there is Tilly, the different one. The family (including a father) sell everything to start a camp called Harmony targeting children who are different or on the autism spectrum.

I think the author does an exceptional job describing a parent's thought process and the simultaneous reactions to both protect and to punish a quirky child. To be honest, what parent hasn't watched their particularly quirky, anxious kid and questioned if he or she might be PDD? When you've seen one autistic child, you've seen one autistic child. Not otherwise specified.

As a guidance counselor in a middle school at the end of the year, I am preparing my spreadsheets for the high school counselors as I pass my students on. I stopped using boxes and check marks long ago. They are meaningless. How do I convey to the high school counseling office with simple check marks that J. has only been speaking for a year and he mostly echoes what you say but he needs the modeling to help him ask questions? Or that M. does very well in school, identifies himself as high functioning and needs his lunchtime to come to your room to decompress with a computer game. He calls it his sanctuary and does not wish to interact. That he is a deeply feeling being but unable to express it? How do you communicate that when the students call out a greeting to him, it is not collegial but mocking? Yet when he sits at the piano he communicates and expresses perfectly through his fingers? Or that when C. does not answer immediately, he is processing. His thinking skills are sharp but his processing is very slow.

These are unique students on the autism spectrum. The only thing they have in common is their extreme difficulty in interacting with others and they have all used their clothing as tissues and are unable to understand that others are repulsed by it. But they are each precious and unique.

The very best part of the book is the end where Parkhurst likens PDD as having a child with wings. If I could summarize it, I would but it beautifully illustrates how parenting a child with autism means that we have to change the rules to fit their special abilities to fly or have wings. If you read nothing else of the story, read the end.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

The Peculiar Miracles of Antoinette Martin by Stephanie Knipper

The Peculiar Miracles of Antoinette MartinThe Peculiar Miracles of Antoinette Martin by Stephanie Knipper
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

3.75 Stars
This book grabbed me right in the beginning and kept me right to the end. I really loved the way the author wrote from Antoinette's POV in addition to the other main characters. It is the peculiar way of an autistic brain that I much enjoyed. Particularly as Antoinette is often treated like she is "retarded (word used on the book, not mine)" when really she thinks just fine. She thinks her tutor that comes to teach her is irritating because she talks to her like she's a baby. Antoinette is perfectly capable of understanding what is going on around her. She also understands things differently.

The dynamics between the sisters and between the old neighbors is well developed and progresses well. The only problem I had with the book was the sudden ending and the way it ended. I guess I felt like all of the characters were deserving of a happy ending and really would have wanted to understand better why one made the choice that was made.

Still, it was a very well written book.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

And I Darken by Kiersten White

And I Darken (The Darken Trilogy, #1)And I Darken by Kiersten White
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I liked the book quite a bit simply for the fact that, besides the fact that the protagonist is a girl, it is historically accurate of the real Count Dracula. The historical setting definitely puts a lot of Lada's later decisions. S(he) was trained in the art of impaling by the Ottoman Empire itself very early in her life. The real Count really did spend a few years as a poker chip in a power play between his father and the Ottoman Empire. There really was a brother who converted to Islam.

This is an excellent snapshot and introduction to a very real character from history - literary liberties taken only so far as changing the gender - and puts a different spin with relationships, politics, and childhood experiences. Well done!