Friday, August 10, 2012

Books Lately

Need something to read?  Hope your iPad and Kindle are charged up...

Young Adult
If you have not read The Fault in Our Stars, please do so immediately.  This is my number one recommendation of the year so far.  I hereby declare that this book is a YA MASTERPIECE.  It's suitable only for high school or above, and adults will be deeply affected.  I hesitated to read this book because I heard it was a tear-jerker, and I am usually not a fan of making myself depressed on purpose.  However, I agreed to read it with my teachers in May, and WOW it is a book like no other.  I'm not going to lie - I sobbed.  For hours.  On my bed.  By myself.  But, I strangely enjoyed it.  If you've ever had a good book cry, you know what I mean.  First of all, John Green is a GENIUS.  He is just amazing, and I have enjoyed all of his books, but this is the best by far.  The cover and title tell you absolutely nothing about the book, so here's the deal:  This is the story of Hazel and Augustus, two young teens with severe cancer, both in remission when they meet at a cancer support group.  Together, they re-examine life, death, and what it means to leave a legacy.  This book is so intensely realistic, you will feel as if you know the characters.  It is by turns crushingly sad and laugh-out-loud funny.  You will find yourself laughing at the most inappropriate moments.  And you will cry.  A lot.  Do it.

This book is SO WEIRD!!!!!!!!!!  A librarian friend urged me to pick it up, and I'm glad I did, if only for the experience.  There is no text in this book - only pictures.  The book is huge and beautiful - full color, glossy, two page spreads of pictures make up every single page.  Don't buy it - check it out at the library.  OR - you can read the digital edition - there is an app!!  Just look in the iTunes App store.  Talk about crazy - I read the entire book in an hour and when I finished, I said out loud, "What the HECK just happened?!?"  I demanded that Brent read it so that I could talk to him about it, and I proceeded to read it all over again, taking notes this time (nerd alert!) to figure out this enigma of a book.  I am confident that I "figured it out" after reading it 3 times and talking to Brent.  It was SO FUN!!! Essentially, it's a mystery where the protagonist vanishes on the first pages, and you spend the rest of the book figuring out what happened, piecing together clues from the pictures.  If you read this, message me. Let's talk.

Hound Dog True is a feel-good book reminiscent of Ida B.  It's written for a younger audience - about 4th grade - and it will just warm your heart.  Mattie Breen is painfully shy, and her single mom's transient lifestyle has them moving every year.  When they move in with Uncle Potluck, the janitor at Mattie's new elementary school, Mattie decides that she will be Uncle Potluck's apprentice so that she can avoid the other students at lunch and recess.  Of course, things go awfully wrong, and all Mattie wants is a friend that is "hound dog true".  You will just love Mattie.  

I swore off dystopia books for a while because I just couldn't take any more.  But I came back.  I always do.  Divergent is getting a lot of hype right now as the "next big thing" in the wide world of dystopia.  I found it to be a refreshing spin on the classic dystopic tale, partially because parts were so unexpected I just had to keep going.  In futuristic Chicago, Beatrice must choose between one of five factions with which to spend the rest of her life.  After she makes her choice, she discovers she is an "anomaly" who does not fit into any one group and, as a result, the society wants to kill her.  The group she ends up joining is "dauntless" (the brave), and their training consists of many twisted and somewhat violent exercises.  It was like Hunger Games in the sense that as I was reading, I was like, "What the heck am I reading?!?  I kind of like it!"  Never fear, you will find the prerequisite teen romance, action, and questions of "is this society really perfect?"  It's a trilogy, and the second one is already out.

 I've been awaiting The Fox Inheritance for years.  I read Mary Pearson's first, The Adoration of Jenna Fox when it came out in 2009 as a sci-fi thriller.  Jenna Fox was in a fatal car accident with her friends, but her parents, in a last ditch effort to keep her and her friends alive, replaced their minds with computers and their bodies with a high-tech polymer that would never die.  This book, the sequel, tells what happens 260 years later when they are still alive.  I think the summary on Goodreads is awesome, so here it is:  Once there were three. Three friends who loved each other—Jenna, Locke, and Kara. And after a terrible accident destroyed their bodies, their three minds were kept alive, spinning in a digital netherworld. Even in that disembodied nightmare, they were still together. At least at first. When Jenna disappeared, Locke and Kara had to go on without her. Decades passed, and then centuries.  Two-hundred-and-sixty years later, they have been released at last. Given new, perfect bodies, Locke and Kara awaken to a world they know nothing about, where everyone they once knew and loved is long dead.  Everyone except Jenna Fox. It sounds a little chessey, but I truly enjoyed this one.  It kept me going till the very end and was quite thought provoking!

I mentioned The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer on my blog back in March.  It's another very engrossing, very smart read that kept me guessing and made me think.  It's a psychological thriller that turns paranormal at the end.  It's about a teenager, Mara, who wakes up in the  hospital after a terrible accident that killed her three friends.  She has post traumatic stress disorder which causes her to hallucinate and not be able to tell what's real and what's not as she tries to put the pieces of her life back together and figure out what really happened.  This is definitely a page-turner!  

Back to my dystopia obsession - I've been meaning to read Ship Breaker for the last year.  It's won lots of awards.  It's set in a futuristic Gulf Coast Texas, presumably Galveston.  Countless oil tankers and huge ships have washed ashore on a the post-apocalyptic Galveston beach, and kids make a living as "ship breakers" wriggling into tight spaces in ships and stripping them of anything of value to sell on the beach.  It's a violent, harsh world in which survival is the only code.  This is a gritty, fast-paced dystopia that really had my heart racing.  I couldn't put it down!


I know I'm waaaaay behind the times on The Secret Life of Bees, but I am so glad I finally caught up.  This was a delightful summer read to really escape into.  This is the first book I've found that's reminiscent of The Help, which I LOVED (duh).  It's set in South Carolina in 1964 where Lily Owens lives with her abusive father after her mother is killed accidentally in a domestic skirmish when Lily herself, a toddler, finds a gun on the floor and accidentally shoots her mother.  When Lily is 14, her black maid, Rosaleen, is arrested for insulting a group of white men.  She and Lily escape to Tiburon, South Carolina where they stay in the home of three black sisters who are beekeepers.  Slowly, Lily's past comes to light so that she can deal with who she is and where shes comes from.

This is my latest fix for my historical fiction obsession.  This book concurrently tells the story of two women, connected across time:  Sarah Starzynski, a Jew in Paris during World War II and Julia, an American journalist in Paris in 2002 researching the Vel' d'Hiv' roundup.  In the roundup, Sarah's family was seized and taken to Auschwitz where they were ultimately killed.  Sarah escaped from the camp and ran away, finding safe shelter with a family in the French countryside.  This is an intensely realistic and heartbreaking account of the Holocaust that is hard to read at times, but you just can't stop.  As the two women's stories intertwine and come together, you will be mesmerized and touched.

This is totally different from any of the other books on this post - it'a Christian book written by pastor Francis Chan.  This book is life-changing.  I don't recommend reading it quickly from cover to cover.  It needs time to sink in.  I read it as a part of my daily Bible study, one chapter at a time.  It will challenge you and make you think.  I found myself wanting to talk to Brent about every chapter I read as it stirred things within me and provoked lots of reflection.  Basically, it's about the epidemic of lukewarm Christianity in America.  He argues that God's love for us is so great and so CRAZY that if we really understood it, we could not possibly respond with anything less than our very lives.  It's both intellectual and practical, and it will push you, for sure.  I L.O.V.E. this book.


Haley Chance said...

I always love and appreciate your book recommendations! I'm also way behind on The Secret Life of Bees, but since you said it's like The Help, I'm going to have to give it a go. Sarah's Key sounds intriguing - a possible next step from The Book Thief, perhaps? And Crazy Love! My gosh... I started that book over a year ago (ashamedly), and you are right... you have to take it slow and let it sink in. I find myself reading and rereading the first few chapters. I need to pick it up again and plow through. Thanks again for sharing. If you remember to do it, please send me your HOT BOOKS presentations. I've been having a YA itch lately.

The Adam Family said...

Sarah's Key is next on my "must read" list...but thank you for reminding me that I need to put a hold on it at the library! ;-)

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