Bethany's Readers' Advisory

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

The Steep & Thorny Way by Cat Winters March 11, 2016

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

 

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 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

 

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

 

Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek By Maya Van Wagenen

Filed under: nonfiction — Bethany @ 10:31 pm
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Popular_comp9.indd“School is the armpit of life.” This was how Maya’s friend Kenzie described it. Maya agreed. Her description of her school was something most of us can understand. There are jocks and popular people and not-so-popular people and cliques and gossip and drama. Maya thought there was no way to change your standing in the social structure of school. But one day she came across an old book from the thrift store. It was written in 1951 and called Betty Cornell’s Teen-Age Popularity Guide. She decided to spend her 8th grade year following all of the advice in the book, no matter how embarrassing or complicated. She wrote this book about her experiences. Some things were pretty easy such as stand up straight to look taller and thinner. Some things were hard such as sitting at every table in the cafeteria and talking to everyone in school at least once. She learned a lot, not all of it good, but sometimes with surprising results. This a true story about Maya’s real life and how it changed from one old-fashioned self-help book and a lot of courage.

This was an absolutely charming book about a girl making the best of her situation. I felt like I could relate to Maya’s struggles and wished I would have been as brave and confident as she became by the end. As I read this, I thought of several teens who would enjoy it as much as I did.

5 out of 5 stars

 

Everything That Makes You by Moriah McStay July 30, 2015

Everything That Makes YouFiona Doyle knows what it’s like to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. When she was 6, an accident during a family outing left her face terribly scarred. Fi Doyle never had that accident. Fiona is a music buff; she has a guitar and notebook after notebook full of songs she’s written but will not sing or play for anyone. Fi is a star lacrosse player destined to play for Northwestern. But when Fi has an accident, her life is changed forever.

Fiona and Fi are two different stories for the same person, each with different joys and sorrows, talents and shortcomings. For anyone who has ever wondered, “What if…”

I liked the Choose Your Own Adventure series when I was a kid. I would read through it making one set of choices, then read it again and make the opposite choices. It is interesting to think how one event can change the course of your entire life. This book had some thought-provoking moments and some cheesy moments. I would recommend it to teens who like realistic fiction with a lighter touch.

3 out of 5 stars

 

The Here and Now by Ann Brashares May 1, 2014

Here and NowThe author of the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series is back with a YA book in a completely different genre: science fiction with elements of dystopian future. Seventeen-year-old Prenna immigrated to New York four years ago. She did not come from another country; she came from another time. Prenna and her community were living in the 2090s, a time plagued with a lethal blood disease transmitted by mosquitoes. Everyone lived in fear of being bitten until things were so bad that they knew they had to get out. Those who were strong enough traveled to the year 2010 and settled down around New York. The community had to stick together and follow very strict rules about what they needed to do to fit in and what they couldn’t do to risk harming the “time natives” they were living amongst. Prenna pushes the limits with Ethan, a boy from school who seems to know her better than anyone, even though she’s tried to do her best to keep her distance. When she is given information by someone she thought was a crazy homeless man, his story shocks her and causes her to question everything she’s been told for the past four years. Could this man be telling the truth? And how does Ethan fit into the equation?

This was a very interesting story. It is certainly different from other books by this author. Like many time travel imaginings, this story addressed how seemingly innocent actions by those who have traveled back in time can have dire consequences in the future. It also touches on the implications of our current use of fossil fuels and their effect on the the environment in the future. I would recommend this book to older teens or adults who would appreciate the story and the message behind it.

5 out of 5 stars

 

Allegiant by Veronica Roth April 27, 2014

AllegiantIn the final book of the Divergent trilogy, Tris and the others are now living in a factionless society. Some people want to return to the factions, others do not. Much violence and unrest exists in their formerly orderly society. When Tris, Four, and others are chosen for a special mission, they learn the shocking truth of how their society came to be and where it will go from here. Chapters are narrated alternately by Tris and Four, and as before, sometimes they agree, sometimes they are at odds with each other. When no one knows who to trust, every decision is life and death.

There were a lot of people unhappy with the ending of the Divergent trilogy. I wasn’t one of them. I was surprised by the ending, but I was pleased that it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows and devoid of all conflict like the last Twilight book. I also appreciated that while Tris was concerned about Four’s well-being, she also did her own thing and wasn’t shy about disagreeing with him when she thought he was wrong. In the end, Divergent continues to be my favorite of all of the dystopian series I’ve read.

4 out of 5 stars

 

 
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