Sunday, October 16, 2016

Review: The Bookshop on the Corner

The Bookshop on the Corner The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Sweet and surprising. The story's main scenes take place in Nowhere, Scotland. I'm making that up but it's pretty close to true. A village where there are still readers but no library or bookstore. Made me determined to begin a Free Little Library.

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Review: The Burning World

The Burning World The Burning World by Isaac Marion
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have some pros and cons for this book. You might be unimpressed by my cons.

First of all, this is a continuation of Warm Bodies. What happens next? It is action packed. First off, read Warm Bodies. I don't think it will make sense without that background. I absolutely loved R and M was a very close second. All the characters stay true to the way they were written in Warm Bodies. Which brings me to one con; the language. Julie and Nora have particularly foul mouths. That said, I should have been prepared since they are the main offenders. But we are introduced to more.

Back to my pros: the storyline is intriguing. Had I read a physical book, I would have cheated to find out whether or not R ever recalls his previous life and name and how it connects to the current conflicts they are encountering. That s what really kept me reading. The content is gross, vivid, suspenseful, extremely humorous, and moves along.

My last con is my own disappointment that it didn't end. The ending was appropriate but it needs another book for a conclusion. I'm ready for their happily ever after.

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Friday, October 14, 2016

Review: Lilac Girls

Lilac Girls Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I started reading Ravensbruck by Sarah Helm many months back. It is very well researched and written and I'm sure I'll give it a solid 5 stars. I read the chapters on the "Rabbit" research then one more chapter and decided I just needed a break.

Lilac Girls is told first person POV by three women. Caroline Ferriday, an amazing woman in New York City, who caught the attention of the author years ago, after Caroline had passed. Herta Oberhauser, the only female doctor at Ravensbruck who took part in the experimental surgery under Goebels (sp?) who also stood trial in Nuremberg after the war. The last progonist is Kasia, a Polish girl who was captured in her hometown of Lublin and sent to Ravensbruck and was later selected as a "Rabbit." Kasia's story is true but a conglomeration of people that were "Rabbits" at the time.

I found the book very addicting from the very beginning without knowing that I was returning to my Ravensbruk reading. Yet the moment I got to the Ravensbruck parts, I began recognizing names and events. This led me back to the original book I was reading and I re-read those two or three chapters. Dorothea Binz was truly sadistic. Less was known about Herta, as a person, but I liked the way Kelly fleshed her character out to be the one she was. The author stays true to all things known of Dr. Oberhauser and only creates scenes that strengthen what is already known yet adds depth to her character. I liked that the author did not try to make her out as an evil villain yet also did not try to change her true character to be one that was empathetic. She was he who she was and I thought the author did a wonderful job of adding the depth.

The book does not go into the same detail as historical documents which makes it easier to stomach. It's still a difficult read during the concentration camp days but is broken up by scenes of Caroline Ferriday in New York which is a much needed reprieve. Caroline is, by no means, a shallow socialite, yet she becomes much more conscientious as her character develops. She is likable from the get-go.

The author adds a note at the end of the book which explains much of what I have just summarized but the story came about when she found an article on Caroline Ferriday and, upon further research, realized that Caroline was an unsung hero. Her objective was to bring Caroline to the attention of the reader but in doing so, she also needed to include Herta and the experiments in Ravensbruck. I'd say she did an extraordinary job.

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Review: One True Loves

One True Loves One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This author simply has a way of describing concepts in a way I hadn't considered. First of all, let's start with the story. Emma marries her high school sweetheart then becomes a widow on her anniversary. Well written grieving, although abbreviated, I liked it. She starts moving forward and finds an old friend. There's an attraction and then love. Different love from Jesse, but steady and sure. They are engaged when Jesse is rescued. He wants to resume the old life but too much has changed.

It's a little like Castaway but from Helen Hunt's character's perspective. Except she wasn't married to Tom Hanks. Emma was married to Jesse. She loves Jesse. She loves Sam. Both love her. She can't have both. It would have been easy to write one of the men as a jerk. Fortunately, the author does not do this. I felt like there was a clear favorite and the other didn't get the attention he deserved. On the other hand, I think the real point of the book was the truism that Emma's sister says. Love is not about the other person. It is about the person you are when you are with the one you love. Although it's worded much more nicely.

The ending is beautiful although I'd like to have known a few more details regarding both men. But that really wasn't the point. The point was who the protagonist feels more authentic when in that relationship. I think that is a good concept to come away with. There is no "One." There is a choice of which lens to view ourselves, our partner, and our relationship.

I really enjoyed the book.

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Review: All the Missing Girls

All the Missing Girls All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

4.5 Stars.

Wow. Often I read a book and get pulled into the story then it ends weak. Because this book was so engaging, I made the assumption the ending wouldn't measure up. It pretty much did. So much so that I want to reread the book to see if it is consistent, although I'm sure editors did this. It is completely unexpected.

The book begins 2 weeks ago. Nicolette gets a call from her brother that their father is deteriorating and the money situation is getting dire. It's time to take guardianship of him and sell the house. Come from Philadelphia to North Carolina now. And she does.

Somewhere in that first day the reader knows that Nicolette's best friend disappeared 10 years ago in June, right after high school graduation. The case has never been solved. Nic arrives and makes contact with key characters; her brother, Daniel, her father, and her high school boyfriend, Tyler. She calls her fiancé in Philadelphia and lets him know she has arrived. A few scenes are set up in a way that might or might not be significant. Kind of slow and not terribly interesting but short.

The next scene is 2 weeks later. Things have vastly changed. A neighbor named Annaleise has disappeared and the case of Corinne has been stirred up. Clearly, answers in some areas have come in the last two weeks. It's an all out crisis and the reader doesn't know what happened but by then you're hooked. Then the story works backward one day at a time to the moment we left off two weeks ago. Only every day is told at the beginning of the day which may be midnight or might be noon. Regardless, each piece fits together and the picture comes into focus. Doubt and suspicion is cast on every character then withdrawn due to previous day events.

I can't believe the author pulled it off. I have one niggling question about the night at the fair between Nic and Daniel. Besides that, it was the best thriller I've read in a long time.

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Review: The Lost Girls

The Lost Girls The Lost Girls by Heather Young
My rating: 0 of 5 stars

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.

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Review: Harmony

Harmony Harmony by Carolyn Parkhurst
My rating: 3 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.

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