Bethany's Readers' Advisory

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

The Longest Night by Andria Williams March 23, 2016

Longest NightBased on true events that took place in Idaho Falls, Idaho in 1959-1961 as the military was experimenting with nuclear power, The Longest Night is a tale of family, trust, secrets, and the drama those things create. The story begins as Paul and Nat Collier and their two young daughters move to Idaho Falls. Paul has just completed training with the U.S. Army to be an operator at a small nuclear reactor 50 miles outside town. Nat, a free-willed California native, is adjusting to life raising two young girls in a small suburb taken over by military families. Both are figuring out how to navigate their new home, from uncomfortable dinner parties at the commanding officer’s house to the rumor mill generated by Army wives. When tension at Paul’s workplace leads to an unexpected deployment, Nat’s loneliness threatens to rip their relationship apart. Will their family survive when physical and emotional disasters strike?

This was a quiet drama set in an interesting period in recent history. It’s both comforting and frustrating to know that the joys and struggles of middle class Americans are essentially the same in 1959 as in 2016. The author’s note informs readers that Paul’s job and the disaster that occurs there are based in fact. I did a bit of research (read: Wikipedia) to find out more about Idaho Falls and its history and found myself wanting to reread parts of the book. Overall, I think the author did a nice job capturing that era and the life of a young Army wife stifled by social norms in a small town. I would recommend this book to adults who like historical fiction and family drama stories.

4 out of 5 stars

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The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley March 11, 2016

War That Saved My LifeThe story begins as Ada is punished for looking out the window of the dingy one-bedroom London apartment she shares with her mother and younger brother Jamie. Ada is nine years old and has never been allowed to leave the apartment. Her mother tells Ada that people would be disgusted by her twisted foot. She accepts her lot in life. At least she has Jamie to keep her company. But when Jamie starts school and spends more and more time away, playing outside with his new friends, Ada realizes the little she has in life is slipping away.

Ada begins to prepare. For what, she doesn’t know. She teaches herself to walk on her crippled foot. It is painful, but she is used to pain. When Jamie comes home from school one day, he says a war is coming and they are sending the children away from the city into the safety of the country. Ada realizes this is her chance to escape her cruel mother, the nights spent locked in the cupboard as punishment for the slightest infraction, the life spent trapped. She and Jamie run away and find themselves thrust into the home of Susan Smith, a strange but kind woman. Ada finally has a life of freedom, but can she really trust that things are as good as they seem? Or do all good things come to an end?

This was an outstanding historical fiction novel about vulnerability, trust, and redemption. Ms. Bradley’s books pack an emotional punch and present history in an interesting and relatable way. I would recommend this to older children and teens. I also think this would be a great read aloud for a classroom.

5 out of 5 stars

 

West of the Moon by Margi Preus

Filed under: ages 10-14,drama,fantasy,Uncategorized — Bethany @ 5:24 pm
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West of the MoonAstri’s father left Norway for America, promising to send for her and her sister as soon as he could. Unfortunately, her aunt and uncle sell her to a nasty goat farmer before she receives even one letter. After months of punishing physical labor and mistreatment, Astri escapes her captor, pausing only long enough to retrieve the mysterious girl also being held captive by the goatman and her younger sister. The strange trio must stay ahead of the goatman and make their way toward America, armed only with a stolen troll treasure, a magical hairbrush, and the hopes of fairy tales and their own imaginations.

This was an interesting story and a refreshing departure from the typical young adult novel. The descriptions of the Norwegian countryside and the ambiguity of the time period added to its fairy tale-like quality. An added bonus came in the author’s note at the end, explaining the story was inspired by a line from her great great grandmother’s diary. Norwegian words and folklore make for an intriguing tale. I would recommend this to teens and adults who like fairy tales and stories with a bit of magic.

4 out of 5 stars

 

The Steep & Thorny Way by Cat Winters

Steep and Thorny WayThe story begins as Hanalee Denney, the daughter of a white woman and a black man, sets out with a small handgun hidden under her skirt to kill her father’s murderer. It’s almost too easy- Joe Adder is naked, bathing in the small pond behind the shed where he’s been hiding out since getting out of prison. But before she can pull the trigger, Joe tells her he’s innocent… and the true killer is closer to her than she might think. Hanalee needs answers and finds surprising friends and foes along the way. The Steep and Thorny Way is an atmospheric tale of racism, fear, intolerance, and friendship set in rural Oregon in the early 1920s.

This is my third Cat Winters book, and it’s been my favorite so far. Her books have all featured a strong female character who defies social norms and are historical fiction with a spooky supernatural twist. This book tackles some big issues (bigotry, the KKK, eugenics, homosexuality) in an interesting and engaging way. I appreciate historical background and author’s note at the end; they added context and acted as a springboard for further research on the subject. I also appreciated that story was romance-free. Yay, no stupid love triangles! I could see this as a good book club choice- lots of good discussion points. I would recommend this to teens and adults.

5 out of 5 stars

 

 
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