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

 

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff February 9, 2016

Fates and FuriesFrom the outside, it seems young married couple Lotto and Mathilde are the perfect couple. They are madly in love, attractive, and intelligent. But marriage is never perfect, no matter how much we want it to be. The first half of the book focuses on Lotto, born Lancelot, the golden child. Beneath his charisma, good looks, and “life of the party” personality, he harbors a deep mourning for his childhood and the adoration of his mother. The second half of the book reveals the truth about Mathilde’s life pre-Lotto. The unshakably supportive wife of a genius is not without secrets of her own. This story reassures us, in its own dark way, that even the most picture-perfect are flawed and prone to cracking under the pressures of life.

I have mixed feelings about this book. It was complex and well-written, but it had plenty of dark, uncomfortable moments. It dragged on in some scenes and didn’t give us enough in others. I didn’t care for the twist near the end and felt the story would have been fine, maybe even better, without it. Overall, though, I liked it and am still thinking about the characters days later. I would recommend this to adults who like drama and literary fiction.

3.5 out of 5 stars

 

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 Were Liars By E. Lockhart August 11, 2015

We Were LiarsFor years, Cadence and her cousins, the Liars, have spent their summers on the private family island. During summer fifteen, however, there is a mysterious accident. When Cadence wakes up afterward, she doesn’t remember what happened. No one will talk to her, no one will explain. The next two years are a haze of amnesia and debilitating headaches. She tries to piece together what happened that summer and thinks going back to the island will bring back memories. And it does…

The ending was so stunning that I literally gasped out loud. This book will haunt me for a long time to come. I would recommend this to older teens and adults.

5 out of 5 stars

 

Gabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero July 19, 2015

Gabi a Girl in PiecesHave you ever wanted to read someone’s diary? Here’s your chance. Gabi is a senior in high school. Her life isn’t perfect. Her best friend got pregnant without even telling Gabi she was having sex. Her other best friend just came out to his parents and got kicked out of the house. Her father is addicted to meth and might or might not come home at night. And Gabi’s mom is always on her case about not being easy… even though Gabi’s never been past first base. Some things about life are good, though. She has her friends, she’s figuring out how to use poetry to express her feelings, and she has food… so much good food. Things just might turn out okay.

This was one of the best books I’ve read all year. It dealt with a number of controversial topics in a realistic way. Gabi’s voice seemed authentic and her reactions to difficult situations were unflinchingly honest. I have already recommended this book to a number of teen girls and mothers.

5 out of 5 stars

 

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty April 22, 2014

What Alice ForgotAlice wakes up on the floor with a crowd of concerned people standing over her. When she realizes she’s passed  out at the gym, she is so confused. She doesn’t work out. And she’s pregnant. Why is everyone acting like she’s not making sense?

When her sister arrives at the hospital, things get even more confusing. Alice knows she’s 29 years old, has a loving husband at home, and is pregnant with their first child. Her sister gently breaks the news- Alice is 39, is on the brink of a nasty divorce, and has three kids at home. When Alice gets home from the hospital, she tries to regain her memory of how things came to be. But does she want to remember the past 10 years when things are so different… and wrong?

As I said in an earlier post, I’ve fallen in love with this author. This book was my favorite of the three I’ve read. Alice’s memories of her life when things were happy and carefree had me crying with regret for the way things had deteriorated for her. I wondered how I would feel having woken up with no memory of the past decade. Would I want to go back to the person I was back then? The answer is no for me, but you will desperately want it for Alice. This book is highly recommended for women who like realistic fiction and family drama.

5 out of 5 stars

 

 
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