Mini Review #8: My Spring Collection

So, as many of you know, this semester I have been living in Children’s land for the past four months due to my Children’s Literature class. But, even though I had 45 children’s books to read this semester, I still through in a couple of non-children’s books too (especially over spring break!). But, as I didn’t have time during this semester to write up full reviews, here are some mini reviews of the books that I have read over the past couple of months that I just couldn’t go without mentioning!

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18222767A Death Struck Year by Makiia Lucier, 288 pages

A deadly pandemic, a budding romance, and the heartache of loss make for a stunning coming-of-age teen debut about the struggle to survive during the 1918 flu.

For Cleo Berry, the people dying of the Spanish Influenza in cities like New York and Philadelphia may as well be in another country–that’s how far away they feel from the safety of Portland, Oregon. And then cases start being reported in the Pacific Northwest. Schools, churches, and theaters shut down. The entire city is thrust into survival mode–and into a panic. Headstrong and foolish, seventeen-year-old Cleo is determined to ride out the pandemic in the comfort of her own home, rather than in her quarantined boarding school dorms. But when the Red Cross pleads for volunteers, she can’t ignore the call. As Cleo struggles to navigate the world around her, she is surprised by how much she finds herself caring about near-strangers. Strangers like Edmund, a handsome medical student and war vet. Strangers who could be gone tomorrow. And as the bodies begin to pile up, Cleo can’t help but wonder: when will her own luck run out?”

My Snippet Review: I love viruses! Most of the books about viruses are science fiction, end of the world type stories. This book was a real opportunity for me to read a historical fiction book about a real pandemic, and that was an absolutely fascinating experience! I didn’t really know much about the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918, so reading a story set during that event really immersed me into a [fictional] real-life scenario. Each of the characters in this novel are brave and strong, and I know that these fictional characters represent the brave Red Cross volunteers that helped out when this tragedy struck. I really enjoyed the historical elements of this kind of story! I hope to find more like it!

My Bookshelf Rating: A Middle Shelf Book! (3.5 out of 5 Stars). (Middle and High School)

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Beautiful Music for Ugly Children by Kirstin Cronn-Mills, 262 pages 13221769

” ‘This is Beautiful Music for Ugly Children, on community radio 90.3, KZUK. I’m Gabe. Welcome to my show.’

My birth name is Elizabeth, but I’m a guy. Gabe. My parents think I’ve gone crazy and the rest of the world is happy to agree with them, but I know I’m right. I’ve been a boy my whole life.

When you think about it, I’m like a record. Elizabeth is my A side, the song everybody knows, and Gabe is my B side–not heard as often, but just as good.

It’s time to let my B side play.”

My Snippet Review: This book won the Stonewall Award for Young Adult Literature in this year, and I think it deserves that honor. This is the story of an young man transitioning from being Gabe part-time to being his true transgendered self full-time. This is a story of how this journey affects Gabe’s relationships with his friends and family, with acquaintances, and with himself. He finds his voice through his weekly radio show, and that allows him to open up and play his “B-side” permanently. This is a very real and personal story about the struggle to be who you know you are in a world that may have a hard time accepting you. And it is powerful.

My Bookshelf Rating: A Fourth Shelf Book! (4.5 out of 5 stars!) (High School)

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2728527The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows, 274 pages

“ I wonder how the book got to Guernsey? Perhaps there is some sort of secret homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers.” January 1946: London is emerging from the shadow of the Second World War, and writer Juliet Ashton is looking for her next book subject. Who could imagine that she would find it in a letter from a man she’s never met, a native of the island of Guernsey, who has come across her name written inside a book by Charles Lamb….

As Juliet and her new correspondent exchange letters, Juliet is drawn into the world of this man and his friends—and what a wonderfully eccentric world it is. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society—born as a spur-of-the-moment alibi when its members were discovered breaking curfew by the Germans occupying their island—boasts a charming, funny, deeply human cast of characters, from pig farmers to phrenologists, literature lovers all.

Juliet begins a remarkable correspondence with the society’s members, learning about their island, their taste in books, and the impact the recent German occupation has had on their lives. Captivated by their stories, she sets sail for Guernsey, and what she finds will change her forever.”

My Snippet Review: This was a reread for me; I originally read this before I blogged, back when I was in college. And I absolutely loved it then. I wanted to revisit an old favorite, and I also wanted to see if, since I started blogging, my opinion of this book would change.

It didn’t. This story is every bit as beautiful as I remembered it being. Told in letter correspondence after World War II ends, this is the story about how one random event can change the course of your life forever. The characters in this story are quirky and loveable, and the story of the Literary and Potato Peel Society is one that you just can’t help but fall in love with.

My Bookshelf Rating: A Fourth Shelf Book! (4.5 out of 5 Stars!) (High School)

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United We Spy by Ally Carter, 480 minutes 13580951

Cammie Morgan has lost her father and her memory, but in the heart-pounding conclusion to the best-selling Gallagher Girls series, she finds her greatest mission yet. Cammie and her friends finally know why the terrorist organization called the Circle of Cavan has been hunting her. Now the spy girls and Zach must track down the Circle’s elite members to stop them before they implement a master plan that will change Cammie—and her country—forever.

My Snippet Review: A solid conclusion to an exciting series! Liz finally gets to join in the adventuring! Lots of rescue missions, death threats, and Cammie and Zach moments! And honestly, the ending to this series really just leaves me wanting her to write an “all grown up” series! Please, Ally Carter! If you are looking for a great series to listen to on audio, listen to these! They are exciting and thrilling, and Renee Raudman makes each of the characters come to life through her FANTASTIC narration!

My Bookshelf Rating: A Fourth Shelf Book! (4 out of 5 Stars!) (Middle and High School)

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17349222This is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett, 690 minutes.

” ‘The tricky thing about being a writer, or about being any kind of artist, is that in addition to making art you also have to make a living.’

So begins This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage, an examination of the things Ann Patchett is fully committed to—the art and craft of writing, the depths of friendship, an elderly dog, and one spectacular nun. Writing nonfiction, which started off as a means of keeping her insufficiently lucrative fiction afloat, evolved over time to be its own kind of art, the art of telling the truth as opposed to the art of making things up. Bringing her narrative gifts to bear on her own life, Patchett uses insight and compassion to turn very personal experiences into stories that will resonate with every reader.

These essays twine to create both a portrait of life and a philosophy of life. Obstacles that at first appear insurmountable—scaling a six-foot wall in order to join the Los Angeles Police Department, opening an independent bookstore, and sitting down to write a novel—are eventually mastered with quiet tenacity and a sheer force of will. The actual happy marriage, which was the one thing she felt she wasn’t capable of, ultimately proves to be a metaphor as well as a fact: Patchett has devoted her life to the people and ideals she loves the most.”

My Snippet Review: FANTASTIC. Inspiring. Wonderful. And listening to Ann Patchett read it is just LOVELY. A great listen about life, love, writing, friendship, loyalty, and bookstores. There is really not much else to say. If you enjoy memoirs, and if you enjoy memoirs about writing and books and stories and life, then I would definitely recommend either reading this one or listening to it!

My Bookshelf Rating: A Top Shelf Book! (5 out of 5 Stars) (High School?)

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So, there is a sampling of some pretty great reads and listens from the past couple of months. Hopefully I will be back in my normal blogging routine.

Have you read any of these? What did you think?

Love and Summertime!,
Jennifer

 

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