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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 
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