Wednesday, October 1, 2014

September Book Reviews - 35-44

This was a pretty good reading month for me.  I think it had something to do with No Spend September, most of my children being at school all day, and the fact that I was reading a tons of books for 11 year olds.  Here are this months selections.  So five of this months books were about children at the age of 11-12.  It has a lot to do with my children.  When I walk into my library my children make a bee line for the children's section.  If I'm lucky I get to walk by the YA section and the adult new releases on my way to check out.  The only books I have a chance to really look over well are in this small section of librarian picks for older children.  Those ladies love coming of age books but to honest I've loved them as well.  I like YA books because they read fast, have a little romance, and for the most part are pretty clean but sometimes they drive me a little crazy.  There is some adventure but most of them are romance geared and the girls are often just horribly annoying.  I can't stand the this girl is amazing and beautiful but has no idea and then spends the whole story not really trusting that the hottest, most popular boy likes her.  Look I know in High School all of us are a little insecure even the popular kids but there is no way that beautiful, talented, amazing girl has no idea that she possesses some of these characteristics, I mean really!  Anyway sometimes it just gets a little annoying, but these 11 year old characters for the most part aren't caught up in Romance and instead these coming of age books really deal with some heavy topics.  This is why I love reading, books can tap into deeply emotional places.  These coming of age books really did that for me.

One for the Murphys - Lynda Mullaly Hunt
I've been thinking of foster children a lot recently.  I think part of it is I'm watching the series Bones and two of the characters Bones and Sweets both were foster children.  The second is some friends of ours recently adopted a school age child who came out of the foster system.  A couple weeks ago she posted this short film to try and help the rest of us be aware of the children in the foster system.  It hurt to watch and even now weeks later I can't not think about it.  My sister and I often like to talk about our childhood.  It was bad.  I think we think if we talk about it enough we can make sense of it, make it less painful, manage to give our children a happier life.  The things is as bad as our childhood was growing up, we at least had a mother as a stabilizing force even if sometimes she was a little crazy.  But some kids don't even have that.  They enter the system damaged and unfortunately the system often isn't equip to make a difference. Two of the lines that really struck me, "I am unseen, unheard, unwanted.  That is what I am, if even I am anything."  Painful.  And then at the end there is "I am loveable, I am worthy of care, and that glimmer of light it makes all the difference." 

There is actually a kickstarter right now to try and put together a Removed part two.  Such a beautiful idea.  I love that the directors wrote this film to try and tell the story of what it might be like for a foster care child.  They had been preparing to take in foster care children and kept hearing from everyone, "Oh I couldn't do that, it would be too hard."  And they realized that while everyone focused on the adults and how it would be for the family few people had the background to really empathize, relate, and ultimate understand what the children in the system were going through.  It touched me deeply.  If you have any interest in being part of that you can find the kickstarter here

One for the Murphys just brought the foster care system into my mind again.  Carley Conners has been living with her "flighty mom" in Las Vegas for most of her life.  Then her mom gets remarried and moves the family to Maryland (I think it was Maryland...but I'm not 100% on that, I've read like five books since then so please don't judge me so harshly).  An event happens with her stepfather and she and her mother are both severely beaten.  When she wakes up in the hospital she finds out that she will have to be put in the foster care system since there is no one to care for her while her mother is in recovery.  Carley is sent to the Murphy Family.  Sort of a perfect, Dad is a fireman, mom is a stay at home mom of three adorable kids, family.  She struggles with making friends at school, acting out because of anger, sadness, and insecurity, trying to find her place within the Murphy Family, and trying to work out her feelings towards her mother.  This book was super touching and I cried more than once.  I would definitely recommend it.  I'd also recommend checking out Removed although I warn you first, be prepared to cry.

When You Reach Me - Rebecca Stead
This little gym has a Yearling Newbery, I'm not going to lie I'm a sucker for Newbery Awards.  It follows one year of sixty grade Miranda's life.  She's going through a lot of changes.  Her best friend for most of her life Sal has pretty much abandoned her.  Her mother is trying to decide if getting married and bringing a step father in is the right choice for the family.  Miranda is dealing with school, trying to make new friends, and deal with enemies.  More then once A Wrinkle in Time is mentioned and it becomes key to the main action.  I really enjoyed this book as well.  I am actually a huge sucker for A Wrinkle in Time in this book was a perfect addition to that collection.  There is a little mystery, a little middle school, and a little life.  Great book.

Fourmile - Watt Key
Third on my tweener list, Fourmile by Watt Key.  Foster, 12 years old, is living on a farm with his mother.  His father died the year before in a tragic accident and both his mother and he are just sort of barely carrying on.  The farm is starting to crumble around them and his mother is in a relationship with the very scary Dax.  One day while out fixing the fence Foster meets the very mysterious Gary.  Gary is walking and hitch hiking with his dog and after some reservation Foster's mom hires Gary to help fix up the farm so they can sell it and move.  Gary's presence starts to reawaken Foster from the fog he's entered but his presences angers Dax whose behavior gets scarier and more erratic as time goes on.  This is another great book.

Summer of the Gypsy Moths - Sara Pennypacker
Stella's mother is the definition of flighty and after her grandmother dies Stella is sent to live with her great-aunt Louise on Cape Cod who is also watching a foster child named Angel.  When Louise dies suddenly Angel and Stella decided to hide her death, Angel hoping her aunt will be able to get a job and get her out of the system, Stella hoping she can get her mom to come and straighten up before anyone finds out what has happened.  The girls have to learn to get along and work hard to keep their secret both desperately trying to buy the time they need to get out of the system.  It might not be believable but this was another sad but enjoyable book for me.     
Keeping Corner - Kashmira Sheth
My final tweener book of the month was Keeping Corner.  This book was fabulous!  This is a historical fiction although losely based on Kashmira's own great aunt.  It takes place right around the time that Ghandi was gaining popularity and sway in India.  It follows a year in the life of 12 year old Leela.  She is of the high Brahman caste and has lived a fairy spoiled life.  Leela like most woman in India at that time is a child bride.  She was engaged at two and married at nine but still lives with her parents until her "anu" when she will be moved to live with her husband.  Tragically before she has that chance he is killed by a venomous snake bite.  Suddenly Leela is expected to keep corner.  Her hair is shaved off.  All of her jewelry is taken.  She is forced to dress in very plain clothing and stay in her house for an entire year.  Suddenly she has become a pirah to society.  No one in the village wants to see her, wants to think about her, or wants her bad luck to rub off on them.  When she finally is allowed to leave her house she finds that she has become an object of pity and rejection as well as a target for sexual assault.  Her family is horrified by her misfortune but don't feel like they have the power to go against the costumes of their culture.  Her brother a follower of Ghandi can not except this and somehow manages to convince his parents to allow Leela to be tutored at home hoping she will eventually find a way to get out of the village and have a future.  

History Lessons: A Memoir of Madness, Memory, and the Brain - Clifton Crais
This was the one adult books I managed to snag while walking past the new releases this month.  I hated it!  I mean really, really, really, which is a pity because this is a genera and writing style I usually love, science illustrated with memoir.  The basic gist of the story goes like this Crais had a horrible childhood.  His parents were unhappy, his mother tried to kill him, she tried to kill herself, she and many of her family members spent significant amounts of time in mental institutions, he spent most of his life being shifted around or neglected.  Because of this his brain was unable to form the ability to create memory.  He decided to figure his life out using the tools of his trade as a historian and while writing his memoir explains the science behind why he has no memory.  The potential for greatness was here...but the book was not great.  I struggle to pinpoint what I found so irritating about it, maybe it was just there wasn't enough of anything.  There was a lot of repetition and I just felt like it was missing something.  Not my favorite of the  month.

Trafficked - Kim Purcell
Trafficked follows Hannah from Moldova whose parents have died while committing what apears to be a terrorist attack.  She sneaks into this country to become a maid.  She is lucky enough that she actually makes it to a family to work as a nanny and cleaner but the conditions are horrible.  She finds out that she will be making no money because she is working off a debt she had no idea she owed.  She is expected to work at all hours and is forced to almost never leave the house or talk with anyone.  The father of the family seems to be interested in her sexually.  The mother is extremely jealous and controlling and is constantly threatening to send her to live with a man who owns a brothel.  Hannah is trapped but does enjoy the kids she's been hired to watch and becomes a little obsessed with watching the teenage boy who lives next door.  I think this book did a good job of showing why/how woman and young girls get caught in these slavery/prostitution rings.  This stuff is happening even as I typed this. There was some unnecessary parts about in the story and there is a sexual assualt which is disturbing but I do think it is is an important topic to make people aware of and I think Kim Purcell does a great job of kind of giving you what allows a person to find themselves lured into this sort of life.

The Name of the Star - Maureen Johnson
This was second place for my least favorite book of the month.  YA Rommance/Mystery.  Rory a southern girl moves with her parent to England and decides to spend her senior year in a private boarding school in London.  The city is griped with Ripper Fever as all the Rippers crimes are being committed again by a copy cat...or is it.  Guys this is a ghost story.  Have I ever mentioned on this blog my hatred of almost all things ghost/horror.  The weird thing about that is I loved the Goosebump series as a kid, but now, no thanks.  This story was ok, but just not great.

Gingerbread - Rachel Cohn
16 year old Cyd Charisse is a hellion.  She was kicked out of her posh boarding school.  She is acting out after a new relationship is sort of crumbling around her.  Her parents don't know what to do with her.  Her mother and stepfather decided to send her for a few weeks to meet her biological father in New York along with her much older 1/2 siblings.  Cyd has to come to terms with her own past as well as her own choice to abort her child during her crazy boarding school days, a fact that no one in her family knows anything about and her continued acting out.  This book was pretty good although it is all told by Cyd and sometimes her speech drives me CRAZY!
If I Stay - Gayle Forman
So I totally got pulled into this book because of the trailer for the movie.  Is that silly or what but in my defense the music in that trailer is pretty darn emotion driving.  So I was excited to read the book.  It follows the story of Mia.  She is the sole survivor from her family after a tragic car accident that has left her in a comma.  While she has no way to communicate with her grandparents, the hospital staff, her boyfriend, or her friends her spirit is roaming the hospital and goes between reminiscing about the past and watching her loved ones agonize over her condition and the death of the her mother, father, and little brother.  She spends her time trying to decide if she should stay on this earth or follow the rest of her family on.  I really wanted to love this story.  The premises is heartbreaking but I just couldn't feel it.  I don't know if I was turned off by the "Why does he love me bit" or what but I just didn't get swept up like I hoped.  In sort of a desperate move I turned to pandora.  Mia is a fabulous cellist and is obsessed with Yo-Yo Ma.  I started only reading when I was listening to the Yo-Yo Ma station I set up on my Pandora account.  The plus side is I now use that station to fall asleep like every night.  They have this great little thing on the Pandora App where you can set a sleep time so your station will go off after, 15, 30, 60 minutes, which ever you pick, but unfortunately even the great music didn't do it for me.  I want to go see this movie because I think the story could be great and there is a possibility that the movie just does it better but the book just wasn't as great as I hoped it would be.


  1. I really liked "If I stay" when I read it a couple of years ago. And I loved "When you reach me" by Rebecca Stead. She was here for the BFYR conference a couple of years ago, and I really liked the person that she is, too.

    Did you know that Andrew's little brother was a foster child who his parents fell in love with and adopted? I think the plan had been to continue being foster parents, but then the decision was, no, we will just keep this one that they gave us.

    1. Also...thanks for the reminder to look for Rebecca Stead books. I also really enjoyed her "First Light" book; now I am going to put a hold on "Liar & Spy." So thanks!

  2. Thank you for all the book reviews. I have been wanting to get into a book or two for some leisurely reading but don't know where to start to look for a good book. This helps a lot!

  3. I made note of several of these that my library has. Thanks for the recommendations.

  4. I'm reading Summer of the Gypsy Moths now. So good!

  5. Ever read "Ghost Boy: The Miraculous Escape of a Misdiagnosed Boy Trapped Inside His Own Body"? It sounds awesome and wondered what you thought of it? I'm going to see if it's at my library so I can check it out and read it.



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