Bethany's Readers' Advisory

The place to go for readers' advisory on books for children, teens, and adults

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson March 25, 2011

Filed under: adult drama,adult fiction,adult mystery — Bethany @ 11:22 pm
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The story begins as journalist Mikael Blomkvist is convicted of libel and sentenced to jail.  Still reeling from the unfortunate series of events, Blomkvist is contacted by the lawyer of a wealthy businessman, Henrik Vanger.  Against his better judgment, Blomkvist agrees to leave Stockholm to spend a year writing the Vanger family history and investigating the disappearance of Henrik’s niece, Harriet, over forty years before.  What begins as a seemingly fruitless task turns into an obsession.  When Blomkvist brings in tough, tattooed Lisbeth Salander, the two reveal a dark side to the Vanger family from which they cannot turn away.

I bought this book in an airport, facing a long flight with nothing to read.  I now see why it was a bestseller.  The story is fast-paced and addictive, with a dark, violent side I was not expecting.  The Vanger story was my favorite part; the corporate scandal was not nearly as intriguing.  I am eager to read the next book in the series.

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Running with Scissors: A Memoir by Augusten Burroughs

A disturbing look at the life of Augusten Burroughs.  After much fighting, his parents divorced, leaving Augusten to live with his mother.  She is obviously mentally ill and seeks help from an unorthodox psychiatrist, Dr. Finch.  Burroughs goes on to describe his inclusion into the Finch household, eventually being adopted by the doctor.  The filthy living conditions, unrestricted children, and the general lifestyle of the Finches is horrifying and, at times, shocking.

I am not easily offended, but reading this book made me feel the need to take a shower.  I alternated between recoiling in horror and laughing.

 

The Terrible Secrets of the Tell-All Club by Catherine Stier March 8, 2011

Filed under: realistic fiction — Bethany @ 10:19 pm
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Jealous of her older sister and her dreamy boyfriend, fifth grader Kiley develops a crush on T.J.  But how can she find out if he likes someone else?  She has a flash of brilliance: the Tell-All Club.  She thinks of 50 questions to ask her classmates, Anne, Josh, and T.J.  The answer to question 50, Who do you like?  (REALLY like, not just as a friend kind of like) will tell Kiley what she needs to know.  After the email goes out, though, the members of the Tell-All Club not only don’t know who likes whom, but end up with hurt feelings and confusion.

This was the Full House of books.  The main character inadvertently gets herself into trouble, conflict ensues, and the whole thing results in everyone learning a lesson and making up.  Not much substance or character development to this quick read.  Not recommended; there are better short books out there.

 

Penny From Heaven by Jennifer L. Holm

Filed under: historical fiction — Bethany @ 10:15 pm
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The year is 1953.  Penny Falucci is eleven years old, living in New Jersey with her mother and grandparents, Me-Me and Pop-Pop.  Frankie, her cousin, is her best friend, even though he sometimes gets himself and her in trouble.  Penny’s father died when she was young, but she still gets to spend time with his big, boisterous Italian family.  Penny likes spending time with her dad’s side of the family; they actually talk about her dad, although no one will tell her how he died.  There are times during the summer of 1953 that Penny can imagine heaven; it’s filled with butter pecan ice cream, Brooklyn Dodgers baseball, and swimming pools.  After an accident, she learns her life is pretty close to heaven as it is.

A nice story about a girl growing up.  The dialogue was authentic to the setting and time and the characters were fun, especially Frankie.  Recommended for upper elementary and middle school age girls.

Newbery Honor Book

 

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman March 4, 2011

A baby wanders out the open front door, away from his family that has just been murdered in their home.  He toddles into an old, abandoned graveyard, away from the killer.  A dark, shadowy figure keeps the killer away; the wispy figures the graveyard vote to keep the baby there, safe from harm.  And so Nobody Owens grows up in the graveyard and spent his days learning about history from those who were there and ghostly skills like Fading and Dreamwalking.  As he gets older, he learns lessons about the dangers of the outside, specifically the killer who continues to search for the boy who got away.

An interesting tale of a boy raised by ghosts in a graveyard.  There are a few spooky parts, but overall the story is endearing; the ghosts love and protect Bod as their own child.  Highly recommended for upper elementary or middle school.  Good book for boys.

Newbery Medal Winner

 

Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking Rat by Lynne Jonell March 2, 2011

Emmy is always trying to be good.  Not that it does her any good.  Even though she has straight A’s on her report card and does everything her nanny, Miss Barmy, says, no matter how bizarre, her parents are always away on trips and her classmates act like she doesn’t even exist.   When the Rat, the talking class pet that only she can hear, tells her she should try being bad to get some attention, she thinks about it.  Emmy skips ballet and stumbles upon an antique store called The Antique Rat.  Inside, hidden in the back room, she makes a surprising discovery.  When this draws the attention of the sinister Professor Vole and the mean class Rat shows up at her bedroom window, Emmy begins to realize the strange things going on in her life might be connected.

Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking Rat is an awesome, unique story filled with mystery and fantasy. Emmy is clever and brave, the Rat is arrogant and witty, and Miss Barmy is just plain evil.  Highly recommended for girls and boys in 3rd grade and up.

 

Do Not Pass Go by Kirkpatrick Hill

Deet is responsible, organized, and careful.  Even though he lives with his mother, father, and two younger sisters, sometimes he feels like he’s the only adult in the house.  One night they get a phone call that changes everything.  During a traffic stop, a police officer found the pills Deet’s father used to stay awake at work and arrested him for posession of drugs.  At first, Deet is ashamed.  How could his father be in jail?  What were the kids at school going to say?  But later, when his mom has to go back to work, Deet decides to visit his father in jail.  Instead of finding scary, hardened criminals like he’d seen in movies, most of the inmates are just normal people.  They even seem nice.  His experiences visiting the jail, learning about the friends his father made there, and meeting other visitors cause Deet to rethink his opinions of his parents, his classmates, and the mistakes people make.

Although Deet was a responsible, analytical boy from the beginning of the story, he discovers that being an adult is not as easy as he once thought.  Do Not Pass Go is an emotional, authentic story about a boy learning that even good people can make mistakes, sometimes with heavy consequences; life goes on and all we can do is learn and grow.

 

 
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