Bethany's Readers' Advisory

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

In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume January 23, 2016

In the Unlikely EventThe story begins in 1987 as the main character, Miri, travels back to her hometown of Elizabeth, New Jersey. In the early 1950’s, 15-year-old Miri and her friends and family experience a series of tragic and unexplained events that set the course for the rest of her life. That year, Miri gets her first glimpse of love, loss, hope, and broken promises. The stories of many Elizabeth residents unfold alongside Miri’s and allow the reader to experience the fear and uncertainty of this tumultuous time in New Jersey’s history.

It had been quite a while since I’d read a Judy Blume book. After the trauma that resulted from reading Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret as a young teen, I was wary. However, the story sounded interesting so I took the leap. The concept was good, but the execution was lacking. There were way too many characters introduced, too many stories to keep straight. My opinion of the story improved when I read the author’s note and found that the plane crashes, which I originally thought bordered on absurd, actually happened in real life. I suppose I would recommend this book to people who grew up in the 50’s and would appreciate the cultural references. (For example, why would someone put off having a pregnancy test to avoid killing a rabbit? I had to look it up. Weird.)

3 out of 5 stars

 

My Own Two Feet by Beverly Cleary

Filed under: adult biography,adult memoir,Uncategorized — Bethany @ 12:27 pm
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My Own Two FeetMy Own Two Feet is the second part of the autobiography of beloved author Beverly Cleary. The story begins in the 1930’s as Ms. Cleary is leaving her home in Portland, Oregon to attend college in California. Readers learn about her college experiences, her struggles to fund her education in a post-Depression economy, her relationship with her parents, her early career as a librarian, and her beginnings as a children’s book author.

This book was absolutely fascinating! I loved the Ramona books growing up and have found that they’ve stood the test of time. Ms. Cleary says that she was inspired to write children’s books when, as a young librarian, a group of boys asked her for books about kids like them and she found there was nothing to give them. I really liked reading about her life as a female college student in the 30’s. She was really quite brave and as independent as she could be during an era where young women went from being under the wing of their parents to their husbands. It was also interesting to learn that librarians now face many of the same dilemmas as they did over 75 years ago. Her story of being assigned to further destroy ratty books to justify throwing them away under the watchful eye of tax payers made me laugh. I would recommend this book to adults, especially librarians, who want to know about this strong and interesting woman.

5 out of 5 stars

 

The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood December 31, 2015

Filed under: adult fiction,dystopian fiction,Uncategorized — Bethany @ 10:08 pm
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Heart Goes LastThe economy has plummeted and things on the east coast are dire. Married couple Charmaine and Stan, once hardworking newlyweds fixing up their first home, are living in their car. Stan sleeps in the driver’s seat with the key in the ignition so they can quickly get away in case of trouble, of which there is much. Charmaine is bolstering their meager existence with tips from her bar job. Stan does the only thing left and seeks out his conman brother to repay a loan. Just when things seem most bleak, Charmaine sees the commercial on TV for the Positron Project, a social experiment in which people sign away their troubles for the promise of steady employment and a clean, safe home of their own. She and Stan sign up right away. Even the thought of regular showers is worth giving up their freedom at this point.

Everything seems fine at the beginning. The couple has a home of their own, some money to buy the essentials, and fulfilling jobs. The only catch is that they must share. Every other month is spent apart, living in a prison, while another couple uses the house. The system is set up to be economical and efficient. Only when attractions begin to brew with their “alternates” (the other couple who shares their house) do Stan and Charmaine realize they may have gotten in too deep.

I read Margaret Atwood’s famous book The Handmaid’s Tale this fall and LOVED it. This book began with a similar theme, the aftermath of a breakdown of society, the loss of freedoms previously taken for granted. I really liked the beginning of the story with Stan and Charmaine cheerfully signing their lives away to a social experiment. The idea of Consilience, with the alternating months between the home and prison, the job assignments, the carefully controlled social interactions, were fascinating. But then it got weird. The whole sexual thing was unsettling. Eventually things went from weird to goofy. I was interested in the story throughout, but I wish it would have gone a different direction. I would recommend this to adults who like dystopian futures and have a dark sense of humor.

3 out of 5 stars

 

The Night Sister by Jennifer McMahon December 27, 2015

Filed under: adult fiction,adult mystery,Uncategorized — Bethany @ 11:50 pm
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Night SisterIt’s 2013. Piper gets a phone call in the middle of the night. At first she’s worried it’s bad news about her very pregnant sister, Margot. But the news is about her childhood friend, Amy, whom she’s barely talked to since the summer of 1989. Amy has allegedly killed her family and then herself in her childhood home at the Tower Motel in London, Vermont. Margot called Piper to tell her about the one clue left behind, a photo scrawled with the words 29 ROOMS, a message only Margot and Piper understand.

What follows is an eerie tale that passes along the dark secrets of the Tower Motel from sisters Rose and Sylvie in 1955 to Amy, Piper, and Margot’s grisly discovery in 1989 to the horror in 2013.

This was a page-turner! The story was creepy but not terribly scary. The transitions between the different timelines were smooth and easy to follow. I was impressed with the writing and plan to check out other stories by this author. I would recommend this to adults who like mysteries. Just don’t read it alone at night.

5 out of 5 stars

 

Favorite books of 2015 and beyond December 18, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — Bethany @ 1:55 pm

When I tell people I’m a librarian, they often ask about my favorite book. Answer: I don’t have one. How could I possibly pick just one favorite? I do, obviously, have some books I like more than others. I keep track of all the books I read on Goodreads; each year I make a Top Ten of 20xx shelf. Some years, I’ve had more than 10 favorites. Other years, there are less than 10. My criteria isn’t well defined. It might be a book that I just really liked, that I was thinking about when I wasn’t reading it, that I talked about at great length afterward, and/or that I missed the characters like they were real people when it was over.

Here are the titles that made the Top Ten of 2015 list (in no particular order):

  • The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
  • The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  • Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King
  • The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson
  • Gabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quinteros
  • And We Stay by Jenny Hubbard
  • The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
  • The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

On my list for Top Ten of 2014 were:

  • 100 Sideways Miles by Andrew Smith
  • Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith
  • Winger by Andrew Smith
  • Reality Boy by A.S. King
  • What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty
  • Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
  • Night Film by Marisha Pessl

And for good measure, my Top Ten of 2013:

  • Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
  • The Future of Us by Jay Asher
  • Joyland by Stephen King
  • The Silver Star by Jeannette Walls
  • The Yonahlassee Riding Camp for Girls by Anton DiSclafani
  • The Round House by Louise Erdrich
  • Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight
  • Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
  • Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
  • The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton

I’d highly recommend all of these books. Happy reading!

 

Landline by Rainbow Rowell December 17, 2015

LandlineJust a few days before Christmas, Georgie tells her husband Neal the bad news. Even though they’ve already booked a trip back to his hometown of Omaha, Nebraska for Christmas, something came up at work and she can’t go. She knows it’s bad timing; she knows their marriage is in trouble. What she doesn’t know is how bad things are about to get. Neal goes to Omaha without her and takes their two daughters. He won’t answer his phone. Something is wrong and Georgie doesn’t know how to fix it. In a bizarre turn of events, Georgie discovers the cure for their relationship may be as simple as talking to Neal on the landline phone in her childhood bedroom. But is a little magic all they need… or even what they want?

I like Rainbow Rowell as an author. I LOVED her book Eleanor & Park. I like that she’s from Nebraska and got a little thrill every time I saw the word Omaha. (Close to my childhood home.) However, this book fell flat for me. I liked the flashbacks to the beginning of their relationship and the time travel-ish element, but the plot, the characters, and the ending were all a bit dry. This won’t be the last Rainbow Rowell book I read, but I probably won’t go out of my way to recommend it.

3 out of 5 stars

 

We Should Hang Out Sometime by Josh Sundquist

We Should Hang OutJosh Sundquist’s story begins when he is 25 years old and realizes he has never had a girlfriend. Sure, he came close. In 8th grade, he went out with a girl from his youth group for 23 whole hours. In high school, he spent the whole summer hanging out with a girl that he never worked up the nerve to kiss. There was a disastrous prom date and a failed attempt to declare his intentions on a canoe. As he looks back through his love life, he doesn’t understand where things went wrong. In attempt to figure out the fatal flaw in his date-ablility, Josh tracks down the girls who got away and asked them what happened. Their answers lead to a surprising revelation.

Highlights of the book:

  • Josh’s discussion with his extremely conservative Christian parents about him transitioning from home school to public school. My favorite line in the book: “It was a well-known fact among Christian homeschoolers that public schools were bastions of gangs, drugs, teen pregnancy, rap music, pop culture, secular humanism, witchcraft, and body piercings.”
  • A golf date that resulted in him trying to correct his prosthetic foot that had gotten turned in the wrong direction.
  • The aforementioned failed attempt to declare his intentions on a canoe in the middle of a lake.

I really enjoyed this book. It was a quick read. I finished it within a few hours. I laughed out loud many times. Even though he struck out a lot, his confidence and his continuous efforts to get out and try again were admirable. I can see why he became a motivational speaker; he has the ability to turn a perceived failure into a story his audience can relate to or at least sympathize with and turn it into a learning experience.

I would recommend this book paired with Laughing at My Nightmare by Shane Burcaw. Both touch on overcoming adversity using humorous and relatable life stories.

5 out of 5 stars

 

 
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