The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson

Impossible Knife of MemoryFirst Impressions
I pay attention each year to teen books that have award “buzz”: books that others in the library and publishing world are talking about as exceptionally good and/or unique. This novel by the author of the teen classic Speak has been getting some very good reviews, so I gave it a listen.

Drive-By Summary
Hayley and her decorated, war-hero, war-damaged father have spent the last five years driving a semi around the country, avoiding the memories and demons chasing them. Trying to find a “normal” life, they settle into Andy’s childhood home and Hayley enrolls in high school. But the demons follow close on their heels: memories, delusions and alcohol-induced rages that threaten to destroy not only their normalcy, but their lives.

Sound Bite
Readers, Julia Whelan and Luke Daniels, make Hayley’s world come alive and Whelan, particularly, gives Hayley an air of authenticity.  You can listen to a brief audio preview here: https://www.brillianceaudio.com/product?i=10026

My Favorite Character
I really enjoyed Hayley’s love interest Finn, who is fascinated by her, but struggling with his own family issues.

Words to Live By
People who have to announce that they are trustworthy deserve to be lied to.

Recommended For
Adults and teens who like real-life fiction and character-driven tales of family conflict, struggle and perseverance.

Final Say
This book is a great choice for readers who are looking to delve into the dark reality of PTSD and its effects on children and relationships will find a moving, sometimes harrowing, occasionally wryly funny story of trying to keep a life fractured by war from falling completely apart.

You can pick up The Impossible Knife of Memory at your local Bellingham Public Library location!

– Jennifer

Not Just for Teens! Ripper by Amy Carol Reeves

RipperFirst Impressions
I am obsessed with tales of Jack the Ripper because no one really knows who he was. [Editor’s note: It looks like they might have?!]  This book, the first in a series, offers an alternate history of Jack’s reign of terror.

Drive-by Summary
Arabella Sharpe, orphaned and at the mercy of her grandmother, is finding life within the stifling cage of social propriety boring and unfulfilling. Her grandmother has decided to “toughen” Arabella’s character by sending her to Whitechapel to volunteer at a woman’s hospital. Life there is rough and dark, but Arabella has resolved to stay and help no matter what the cost. She is soon a first-hand witness to the dilemma of the poor and unwanted when things take an even worse turn.  Aided by her “visions”, Arabella gets deeply involved with a secret society bent on catching a monster. She quickly becomes instrumental in solving the gruesome clues left by a deadly serial killer as she follows “him” through London’s East End.  This book is definitely a page-turner with a twist on a story that has been told and retold.  You will not be disappointed with this series.

My Favorite Character
I love Arabella’s character and the strength it takes for her not to turn and run away.  She does not settle into a life of comfort and makes her own decisions to be an active member of a society that sees her as a mere object.

Words to Live By
At the beginning of each chapter, there are quotes from Jane Eyre which remind us of how women were regarded during the Victorian era:

“I was weary of an existence all passive.”

“Women are supposed to be very calm generally; but women feel just as men feel; they need exercise for their faculties and a field for their efforts as much as their brothers do; they suffer from too rigid a restraint, too absolute a stagnation, precisely as men would suffer; and it is narrow minded… to say that they ought to confine themselves to making puddings and knitting stockings, to play on the piano and embroidering bags.”

Recommended For
This is a young adult book, however, the story kept my adult-self intrigued to the last page and have now moved on to the next book in the series.  Also, this series is the author’s debut novel.  She has a PhD in Nineteenth Century British Literature which gives this series the realistic edge that conveys the social conformities and how, during that time, things had to change.

Final Say
It is not often that I come across a well-written and pragmatic mediation on the purpose of life in a novel.  This series will teach and leave the reader with a sense of curiosity about the indignations of how people regard one another according to the social norms of the time.

You can check out Ripper today!

-Keyla

Summer Reading Reviews, Week 4

Here are some more reviews from our Summer Reading for Adults participants. Enjoy!

After I’m Gone by Laura LippmanAfter I'm Gone
4 Stars

This is a great mystery that kept me guessing until the end. The detective character was great and I’d love to see him in more books.

 

 

How Not to Calm a Child on a Plane by Johanna SteinHow Not to Calm a Child on a Plan
4 Stars

Laugh out loud and read out loud funny. These hilarious autobiographical essays chronical parental misadventures from a not so hallmark card perspective. A quick, quirky and effervescent summer read.

 

Rustic Wedding Chic by Morgann HillRustic Wedding Chic
1 Star

These crafts scream “I have lots of time but very little crafting talent.” Projects that might be cute for kids but seem elementary for adults, most cross the line from quaint to tacky.

 

 

Fablehaven: Secrets of the Dragon Sanctuary by Brandon MullSecrets of the Dragon Sanctuary
4 Stars

Yes, this is a book for middle schoolers but I love this series! There was a wonderful twist in this book; it caught me completely by surprise! The main characters are growing and learning, they’re great kids!

Summer Reading Reviews, Week 1

Here are three awesome reviews that we received from Summer Reading for Adults participants during the first week of the program.

Trickster’s Choice by Tamora PierceBook Cover
Rating: 4 Stars
Superb YA novel that fives voice to the adolescent struggle to find engaging purpose set in a fantasy world with importat stakes that comment on conditions in our society. GREAT read!

 

 

Northwest Foraging by Doug BenolielBook Cover
Rating: 5 Stars
The beauty of this book is that the chapters are written in categories: easy to identify, good-tasting and highly nutritious, of special interest to hiker/camper, of special interest to the city dweller, and seasonal plants. All poisonous plants are clumped together making it easy to identify any plant before you pick something you may regret touching. I was happy to see so many different types of uses for each plant. I have learned all about what types of berries are available in the wild that are easy to gather.

 

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara KingsolverBook Cover
Rating: 3 Stars
Kingsolver is at her best when she writes nonfiction. Her depth of research shows.

 

 

Would you like to see your review here?  Review a book, using this form, and turn it in at any Bellingham Public Library location for a chance to get your review featured on Read More! and to earn a prize.

Not Just for Teens: All the Truth That’s In Me by Julie Berry

All the Truth That's In Me book coverFirst Impressions
I can’t remember exactly why I put this book on hold, but I seem to recall reading a review that intrigued me. The cover is startling, and I liked the premise of two girls going missing but only one coming back alive, shrouded in mystery, so when I found it waiting for me on the hold shelf, I delved right in.

Drive-By Summary
When two girls go missing, one is found floating in the river after a few days and, four years later, the second walks back into town, maimed and mute. No one uses her name anymore and Judith (for that is what they used to call her) lives like a ghost, unable and unwilling to detail where she has been and what she has seen. She watches her neighbor boy (now a man) – her love – and her narration is directed towards him. When an enemy attack causes her to take action that has ramifications she could never have predicted, it throws them both into a quagmire of lies, secrets, love and death.

My Favorite Character
Judith is such an fascinating character, whom we see from an interesting angle with her narration towards her neighbor and childhood crush, Lucas.  Through the course of the book she finds her strength, sense of self and, ultimately, her voice.

Words to Live By
“I feel my sadness float away, my regret and humiliation. I can forgive myself for the fool I’ve made myself before you. The awkwardness is over. My body is empty, and empty is a great relief.”  – Judith

Recommended For
Teens and adults who are looking for an original voice and a story rich with language and strong, memorable characters.

Final Say
Unwinding like a puzzle, in a setting that is not defined but feels historically familiar, this story is a lyrical, mysterious, chilling and romantic exploration of human nature.

You can delve into the mystery of All the Truth That’s In Me at the Bellingham Public Library.

— Jennifer

Not Just for Teens: Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan

Two Boys Kissing book coverFirst Impressions
David Levithan’s novel Every Day is one of my all-time favorites. I knew I had to read this highly buzzed about novel as soon as it came out!

Here is a great interview with David Levithan that discusses Two Boys Kissing  in some detail: http://blogs.wsj.com/speakeasy/2013/10/24/david-levithan-explores-gay-teenage-love-in-two-boys-kissing/

Drive-by Summary
The story of two high school students, former boyfriends Craig and Harry, who are trying to break the Guinness World Record for longest kiss, intersects with the concurrent activities of other, local young gay men: an established couple, a new romance and a disassociated young man. All the stories are told through the omnipotent narration (or chorus) of an earlier generation of gay men, many of whom lost their lives to AIDS.

My Favorite Character
Avery, a trans boy with pink hair who falls for Ryan at gay prom.

Words to Live By
“One of the kids who asks to pitch in is eleven years old. His name is Max, and his dad brought him to see this.

Max is a marvel to us. He will never have to come out because he will never have been kept in.”

– The Chorus

Recommended For
Anyone who likes stories of love and perseverance. Of stories that transcend gender or sexual orientation. This is not a “gay” story; it is a love story.  (Actually, multiple love stories.)

Final Say
The chorus might turn some people off, and I’m not sure if the chorus’ character (as it is, in fact, a character in this story) won’t come across as preachy to some readers.  I struggled with that at the beginning, but I believe the author tied it all together, making what could seem preachy instead a message of hope for the future.  David Levithan’s prose is full of beauty and poetry and a dozen lines will resonate with you before you finish this book.

You can find Two Boys Kissing at the Bellingham Public Library.

— Jennifer

Bloody Jack by L. A. Meyer

Picture of Bloody Jack Pre-Loaded AudiobokFirst Impressions
A book about pirates?

Drive-by Summary
On further investigation, this is not just any ordinary pirate: she is an orphan girl named Mary. She lived on the streets of London until, in a moment of terror, she flees for her life on a ship going anywhere.  She is brave, she is sassy, and she has great insight to the life at sea.  She dresses like a boy, renames herself Jacky Faber, and does everything her mates do to remain on board. Her life is now a little more secure than when she was living on the streets of London.

My heart is with Jacky Faber during the entire length of this adventurous series.  She remains a girl at heart, yet on the sea she becomes known as “Bloody Jack.” Eventually, Mary gives back to the children of the streets by buying a place of respite and providing money gained from her adventures at sea to take care of those who had fallen on hard times.

The reader, Katherine Kellgren has made this adventure so realistic that I was sad when the story ended.  I had not felt so connected with a book before.

Sound Bite
We don’t have a clip of Katherine Kellgren reading Bloody Jack, but here she is talking about some of her most anticipated 2012 audiobook titles:

Doesn’t she have a delightful voice?

My favorite character
Jacky Faber, of course!

Words to Live By
“Shorn of hope and hope betrayed. Yet by hope uplifted and by hope is saved.”

Recommended For
Sailors and landlubbers alike will love this audiobook since the reader will give you the thrill of being on a pirate ship complete with songs, ditties, and tales from afar.

Final Say
I prefer reading over listening to audiobooks. However, Katherine Kellgren will keep you on the edge of your chair with the quality she brings to each character.  At times you may believe that there are multiple readers because of the diversification of her voice and tone.  Listen to Bloody Jack once and you too will be hooked.

You can get Bloody Jack at the Bellingham Public Library.

— Keyla

Not Just for Teens: Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys

Out of the Easy book coverFirst Impressions
I’m trying to read all the books that are possible contenders for the Printz Award (the award given by the American Library Association for the best fiction book for teens). Out of the Easy is one of those contenders and has great-word-of-mouth buzz, so I picked it up.

Drive-by Summary
Jo, daughter of a prostitute, named after a madam, is coming of age in post-World War II New Orleans. Finding herself caught in two worlds, she is as comfortable reading poetry and working in a book shop as she is firing a shotgun and cleaning the brothel where her mother works. Desperate to get “out of the easy” and go to college, Jo goes up against obstacles including gangsters and her own mother, and finds help in unlikely places.

My Favorite Character
Willie, the madam who has a huge impact on the person Jo becomes, is fascinating. I wish she had her own novel so we could read her story.

Words to Live By
“I no longer wondered why Ray and Frieda were afraid of the dark. I was too.” – Jo

Recommended For
Anyone wanting to read a rich coming of age story with strong, believable characters. Anyone wanting a change of pace from teen fantasy and dystopia.

Final Say
Jo’s New Orleans is richly drawn and filled with multi-faceted characters. The author does a good job of not creating caricatures, but rather well fleshed-out people whose presence makes Jo’s story come alive.

Extra CreditWant to know  more about Out of the Easy?  Here is author Ruth Sepetys talking  about the world and people that inhabit her book:

 

You can find Out of the Easy at the Bellingham Public Library.

— Jennifer

August Reads

It feels like the librarians’ reading took a turn for the dark (if interesting) this month!

Delirium by Lauren Oliver.  Lena looks forward to receiving the government-mandated cure that prevents the delirium of love and leads to a safe, predictable, and happy life, until ninety-five days before her eighteenth birthday and her treatment, when she falls in love.
– Madeline

Saga Vol. 2 by Brian K. Vaughan.  The smash-hit ongoing epic graphic novel continues. Thanks to her star-crossed parents Marko and Alana, newborn baby Hazel has already survived lethal assassins, rampaging armies, and alien monstrosities, but in the cold vastness of outer space, the little girl encounters something truly frightening: her grandparents. – Jennifer 

Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes.  A time-traveling serial killer is impossible to trace– until one of his victims survives. In Depression-era Chicago, Harper Curtis finds a key to a house that opens on to other times. But it comes at a cost. He has to kill the shining girls: bright young women, burning with potential. He stalks them through their lives across different eras until, in 1989, one of his victims, Kirby Mazrachi, survives and starts hunting him back.
– Katie

The Last Man by Vince Flynn.  When a CIA black ops master with ties to disreputable figures in Afghanistan goes missing, Mitch Rapp is ordered to track down the missing man at all costs and finds himself enmeshed in a dangerous plot involving the interests of numerous countries. – Diane

Pilgrim’s Wilderness: A True Story of Faith and Madness on the Alaska Frontier by Tom Kizzia. Documents the story of Robert “Papa Pilgrim” Hale and the antiestablishment family settlement in remote Alaska that was exposed as a cult-like prison where Hale brutalized and isolated his wife and fifteen children. – Beth

Dad is Fat by Jim Gaffigan.  The comic writes about his life with five children in a 2 bedroom apartment in New York City.  He is lucky to have a terrific wife. – Deborah

Delirium Pilgrim's Wilderness Saga Vol. 2 Shining Girls The Last Man Dad is Fat