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


The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd December 11, 2015

Filed under: adult fiction,adult historical fiction,Uncategorized — Bethany @ 5:18 pm

Invention of WingsSarah Grimke is a smart, opinionated girl living in early nineteenth century Charleston, South Carolina. Her wealthy family owns a number of slaves, including Handful, daughter of the family’s seamstress. On Sarah’s eleventh birthday, Handful, whom the family calls Hetty, is given to Sarah as her maid. Sarah tries to release ownership of Handful and is denied. This begins a lifetime of fighting against the institution of slavery in her home and later the country. The stories of Sarah and Handful are told in alternating chapters throughout much of their lives as they both strengthen their bond and move into their separate roles in society; Sarah, born into privilege but a slave to her gender role, and Handful, born as a slave and free only to dream of what is outside the walls that surround her.

Wow, this was a powerful and thought-provoking book! Even more so when I read the author’s note at the end and found out Sarah and her sister Angelina were based on real people, early advocates for abolition and women’s rights. Sarah, Angelina, Handful, and Handful’s mother Charlotte were well-developed characters who changed the world in big and small ways with their daring and spunk. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who likes historical fiction and strong female characters.

5 out of 5 stars


The Impersonator by Mary Miley April 25, 2014

Filed under: adult fiction,adult historical fiction,adult mystery — Bethany @ 10:44 pm
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ImpersonatorLeah is in the one place she calls home, the vaudeville stage, when she notices a man staring at her from the audience. He catches up with her after the show, calling her Jessie. She politely corrects him, then goes about her business. He returns later with a proposition. His niece, Jessie Carr, disappeared in 1917 at age 14. This year would have been her 21st birthday, the year she was supposed to inherit the family fortune. Since there is little hope the real Jessie will ever return, her uncle wants Leah, whose resemblance to Jessie is uncanny, to pretend to be Jessie. She would impersonate Jessie long enough to convince the family and their lawyers, then receive the fortune and split it with him.

Leah doesn’t like the plan one bit and refuses to play along. But when she loses her job, she has few options and agrees to become Jessie. With Uncle Oliver’s coaching and her own acting abilities, Leah makes a convincing Jessie. However, as Leah conducts her own secret investigation of the real Jessie’s whereabouts, she realizes there might be more danger to their plan than her true identity being discovered.

This was a nice, light mystery. The details about vaudeville were a unique addition to the setting. I would recommend this book to teens or adults who like historical fiction or mysteries. It’s very clean, too, so I would feel comfortable giving it to anyone interested in the subject.

4 out of 5 stars


The Silver Star by Jeannette Walls August 14, 2013

Silver StarIn 1970, twelve-year-old Bean and her fifteen-year-old sister, Liz, figure their mother has just left for another one of her trips to find herself. She left them money to buy enough pot pies for a couple weeks and everything is fine for awhile. When she doesn’t return after a month, the girls start to wonder. When Bean comes home to find a police car in the driveway, Liz comes up with a plan. They spend the last of their money on two bus tickets to Virginia to visit their uncle.

When they arrive in Virginia, their reclusive uncle reluctantly welcomes them into his home. Bean meets nearby relatives and learns the truth about her father; she fits in at their new school while Liz struggles to find her place. For extra spending money, the girls find a job babysitting and doing odd jobs for powerful mill foreman, Jerry Maddox. When something happens that changes Liz forever, Bean realizes she must be the one to step up and take charge for the first time.

This story was a wonderful coming-of-age story. This is my first time reading a Jeannette Walls book and it won’t be my last. I would recommend this to those who like realistic fiction.

5 out of 5 stars


The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls by Anton DiSclafani July 11, 2013

Yonahlossee Riding CampThe story begins as fifteen-year-old Thea Atwell’s father drops her off at the Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls. Thea has been sent away from the only home she has ever known, a perfect swath of Florida land, her pony, Sasi, and her twin brother, Sam. The year is 1930 and the county is in the midst of the Great Depression; however, the Atwell family’s citrus farms continue to be prosperous and Thea finds herself around other girls from wealthy families where social status is of the utmost importance. As Thea navigates the complicated social structure and feels abandoned by her family, she takes an intense interest in the headmaster’s family and tries to forget the terrible situation that caused her expulsion from her family and home.

I loved this book. It was full of drama, passion, bits of history, family struggles, sexual awakening, and the emotional roller coaster of being a teenager. The story of why Thea was sent away is told in flashbacks – a plot device I enjoy  if it’s done well. The story has some mature content; I would recommend to older teens or adults.

5 out of 5 stars


The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton January 17, 2013

Secret KeeperIn 1961, when Laurel was sixteen years old, she witnessed her mother commit a crime. Fifty years later, in 2011, Laurel comes back to town for her mother’s 90th birthday and sees a photograph of her mother as a young woman with a friend named Vivien.  What follows is Laurel’s search for the truth of what happened that day.  As she finds out more about her mother’s past, she realizes that she is not the only one whose teenage dreams led her down a different path in life.  Told in flashbacks between her mother’s experiences in World War II London and the current time, a mystery unravels and long-kept secrets are revealed.

This is an exciting historical fiction/mystery. Two plot twists kept me guessing until the very end.  I really enjoyed the story and stayed up late to find out the answers to Laurel’s questions. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys family dramas, World War II era stories, or mysteries.

5 out of 5 stars


A Good American by Alex George September 9, 2012

The story begins in 1904 with Jette and Frederick, young lovers in Hanover, Germany.  When Jette becomes pregnant out of wedlock, they flee Germany and head for America for a fresh start.  Originally set for New York, they end up in New Orleans and, by a series of events, eventually settle in Beatrice, Missouri.

The story covers three generations of Meisenheimers.  Frederick, who arrives fresh off the boat without a word of English, his son Joeseph, and his grandson, James (the narrator of the story).  It is a heart-warming story full of triumph, tragedy, and love for family, with lots of interesting characters thrown in along the way.

I’d heard good reviews and decided to give this book a try.  What a great story!  It made me laugh in some parts, tear up in others.  I liked that it had the stories of multiple generations, and I really enjoyed the narrator.  I would highly recommend this book.
5 out of 5 stars


The Submission by Amy Waldman August 23, 2012

A jury gathers to choose the winning submission.  The contest was to design a memorial to the victims of 9/11.  Once they have chosen, they open the envelope to discover the winner is an American Muslim.  Not surprisingly, this revelation is quite unpopular.  Widow Claire Burwell, on the committee to represent the families, feels trapped between her love of the design and the pressure from the families to keep a Muslim away from their memorial.  Architect Mohammed Khan, creator of the winning design, is a young, talented, and somewhat arrogant man born in America.  He is not religious but finds himself fighting for what is fair, what is right in the aftermath of choices that other have made.

The Submission was one of the finalists for the 2012 One Book, One Lincoln program.  Out of the three, it was the best to stimulate discussion and best fulfilled the purpose of the program.  It was well-written, but I found myself frustrated as I neared the end, not caring about any of the characters at that point.  Just pick it or don’t pick it!  The most interesting and complex character was illegal immigrant from Bangladesh, Asma Anwar, who lost her husband in the attacks, but her story was not enough to rescue the book for me.

2 out of 5 stars


11/22/63 by Stephen King December 21, 2011

What would you do if you could go back in time and save someone’s life?  That is the decision high school English teacher Jake Epping must make.  One spring day, he gets a call from Al, the local diner owner.  Al is dying and needs to show someone a secret before it’s too late.  Al’s diner contains a portal to the past, a specific day in 1958.  He wants Jake to do what Al cannot:  go back in time and prevent JFK from being assassinated. But the past does not want to be changed; it will stop Jake at any cost.

This one of the best books I have ever read.  It had everything- history, romance, suspense, and time travel.  Once I started reading, it was hard to tear myself away.  I wasn’t enamored with the ending, but I’m not sure it could have ended any other way.  Highly recommended.


The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows November 13, 2011

This story is an epistolary novel- a story told through correspondences between characters, in this case letters.  It begins in January of 1946.  Writer Juliet Ashton is looking for a topic for her next book when she gets a letter in the mail.  A man, Dawsey Adams, from the island of Guernsey, located in the Channel Islands, contacts Juliet, saying he found her name in an old book.

In subsequent letters, Juliet learns of the origins of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.  During the wartime German occupation, neighbors come together for a secret dinner party to dine on a roasted pig.  After the dinner, they are caught after curfew by German soldiers.  One of the neighbors makes up the Guernsey Literary Society on the spot to avoid being arrested.  They continue their ruse, meeting and discussing books, dining on one of the few food choices during wartime- potatoes.

As Juliet learns more about the people in the society, she decides to write their story.  The best way to write the story is to go there- which she does.  What she finds there is so much more than a story.

This is a heartwarming historical fiction about community, friendship, and how people can be brought together by the strangest circumstances.


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