Bethany's Readers' Advisory

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

Just One Day by Gayle Forman June 13, 2013

Just One DayStraight-A student, Allyson Headley’s parents send her on a European tour as a graduation present. Teen Tours is a whirlwind of museums, cathedrals, picturesque sites, and photo opportunities. Most of the other kids go to bars to take advantage of the lower drinking age, but not Allyson. She watches movies in her hotel room and goes to sleep early. On the last day of the trip, her friend Melanie convinces her to skip out on the evening’s activity to go to an impromptu outdoor Shakespeare performance. That’s when Allyson sees him. After the performance, she does something completely unlike her. She talks to the tall, cute boy from the play. The next day, she runs into him again and is talked into spending just one day with him in Paris. This magical day changes her life forever.

The plot of this book was fairly predictable. Straight-laced female does something daring that changes her life and opens up things she would have never dreamed about before. Allyson really grows as a character and sets her life on a course that makes her happy instead of pleasing her overbearing mother. I would recommend this to older teens and adults who like realistic fiction and travel fiction.

4 out of 5 stars

 

 

Hattie Ever After by Kirby Larson May 1, 2013

Hattie Ever AfterAfter leaving Uncle Chester’s homestead in Montana, Hattie is ready to move on. She is given the opportunity to travel to the big city, San Francisco, and decides to go and pursue her dream of being a reporter. Upon arrival, Hattie sets out to find out why her uncle referred to himself as a scoundrel, to find her uncle’s long-lost flame, and to make her way into the newspaper office.  Will she make it on her own? Will Charlie wait for her to follow her dreams? Things are different in the big city and make Hattie realize that she has a lot to learn along the way.

I loved Hattie Big Sky and was excited to learn there was a newly-published sequel. The writing is simplistic and the story is innocent; this is a book I could recommend to upper elementary or homeschool patrons as well as anyone else who is looking for historical fiction. I didn’t like the sequel as much as the original, but the time period (early 20’s) is interesting and Hattie is a likeable character.

3 out of 5 stars

 

Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple November 9, 2012

When her 15-year-old daughter announces she’d like to go on a family trip to Antarctica, life takes a turn for Bernadette.  She hates Seattle and is content staying home, away from people.  Bernadette hires a virtual assistant in India to make arrangements for the trip and to stop her pesky neighbor’s nagging about their yard.  When a harmless prank against said neighbor goes wrong, it starts of chain of events unknown to anyone until it’s too late.  When Bernadette disappears, her daughter Bee collects a paper trail of information to try to find her mother.

After an interview with the author on NPR and a review in Entertainment Weekly, I was chomping at the bit to read this book.  It was just as bizarre and interesting as I thought it would be.  Told in somewhat of an epistolary format through emails, conversations, faxes, and Bee’s narration, the reader learns about Bernadette’s hatred of Seattle, her past as a famous architect, her pesky “gnat” neighbors, and the culmination of events that leads to her disappearance.  Quirky, funny, sad, intriguing.

5 out of 5 stars

 

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

Harold Fry is recently retired, living alone with his wife who can barely tolerate him.  One day he gets a letter in the mail from a former coworker.  She is near the end of her life, in hospice care after a battle with cancer.  Harold is so moved by this letter, from a woman he knew so long ago, that he decides to reply.  He puts the letter in his pocket, slips on his shoes, and tells his wife he is going to the mailbox.  However, when he gets to the mailbox, he doesn’t stop walking.  He goes to the next mailbox, and the next, past the post office and keeps going.  He doesn’t want to stop.  Eventually Harold is hungry and stops at a garage for a burger.  There he meets a young woman who tells him about the healing power of belief and faith.  Harold makes a big decision.  He will walk to Queenie and she will not die before he gets there.  He calls the hospice and leaves a message for Queenie to wait for him.

The journey is difficult.  Harold’s wife doesn’t believe he’ll make it a day.  His only exercise has been to walk to and from the car.  He doesn’t have proper shoes or equipment.  But with positive thinking and support from strangers, Harold’s pilgrimage turns into a life-changing journey for many.

I love a good travel book where I can entertain my fantasy of breaking away from the everyday monotony of life.  Harold’s journey shows that it’s never too late to make changes in life and that sometimes it takes a change of scenery to put things in perspective.  This is a quiet story of redemption and forgiveness.

4 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

 

Crossed by Ally Condie

This sequel to Matched tells Cassia’s and Ky’s stories in alternating chapters.  Both are doing hard labor, far away from the quiet suburb where they met.  As Cassia struggles to get back to the boy she loves, Ky struggles to survive.  With a brief cameo from Xander, Cassia’s Match, we learn only that he is still willing to fight for her and that he has a secret.

As often happens with the second book in a series, Crossed was a little slow compared to Matched.  It was more about the journey than any real action until the ending, which sets the scene for the third book.  Even though I didn’t enjoy the second book as much as the first, I was still invested in the characters and rushed to the library to get the third book in the series… that doesn’t come out until November.

4 out of 5 stars

 

AWOL on the Appalachian Trail by David Miller June 12, 2012

Filed under: adult adventure,adult non-fiction — Bethany @ 10:56 am
Tags: , , ,

In 2003, David Miller (trail name AWOL) left his unsatisfying job as a software engineer to hike the Appalachian Trail.  His wife and three daughters at home, he hiked alone the 2,172 miles from Georgia to Maine.  Part journal, part travel guide, Miller’s story tells of the pain, the joy, and the friendship he encounters along the way.

After reading Wild by Cheryl Strayed and A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson, I was ready to learn more about the reality of hiking the Appalachian Trail.  The day-to-day accounts of the distance he traveled, the shelters he slept in, the equipment he used, and the towns he visited gave a realistic look at what it is like to thru-hike this trail.  I would recommend this book to anyone who is considering a long-distance hike or would like to read a well-written account of AWOL’s experiences on the AT.

5 out of 5 stars

 

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson May 24, 2012

Filed under: adult non-fiction — Bethany @ 5:47 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Shortly after moving to New Hampshire with his family, Bill Bryson discovered a trail.  Upon further investigation, he realized it was the infamous Appalachian Trail which stretches from Georgia to Maine.  After some research and many visits to his local outdoor supplier, Bryson is prepared to hike the 2,100 mile trail.  His sometimes surly, out-of-shape friend Stephen Katz decides to join him.  The two set out on a hike that is much more than either of them were prepared for.  Along the way, they meet wild animals, fellow hikers (some more normal than others), and some frightening small towns.  The story of Bryson and Katz on the trail is interspersed with well-researched information about the National Park Service and the history of the AT.

After finishing Cheryl Strayed’s book about the Pacific Crest Trail, I wanted to know more about the Appalachian Trail.  Bryson’s book was just the thing.  It was interesting, funny, and honest.  Whether you are an avid hiker, a couch potato, or something in between, I would recommend this book.

4.5 out of 5 stars

 

Wild by Cheryl Strayed May 3, 2012

In her devastation after her young mother’s death, Cheryl’s life falls apart.  Her family scatters, her marriage ends, and everything she used to believe is lost.  While running an errand at the hardware store, she runs across a book that will change her life.  The Pacific Crest Trail, Volume I: California sticks in her mind until she makes a decision: she’s going to hike the Pacific Crest Trail.  Shortly afterward, she straps on her heavy backpack for an 1,100 mile journey through the Mojave Desert in California to the northern border of Oregon.  She has no experience as a long-distance hiker and encounters many wild animals, extreme weather conditions, and hardships on the way to healing her broken spirit.

This book was well done and really held my interest.  I don’t think I would attempt a trip like the one she describes, but it made for a great story.  It’s similar in subject to Eat, Pray, Love, but better.  I would recommend this for any adults who like to read memoirs, books about travel, or stories about life journeys.

5 out of 5 stars

 

The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt by Caroline Preston April 30, 2012

The book begins in 1920 when Frankie Pratt is graduating from high school.  After her dad died, Frankie didn’t think she’d be able to go to college.  She was able to get a scholarship to Vassar where she rubbed elbows with the rich girls who were in school only to find a husband.  Frankie didn’t want what the others wanted; she wanted to be a writer.  After finishing school, she moved to New York City where working for a magazine is not as glamorous as she had expected.  A failed romance and a brief stint overseas change Frankie’s mind about what she wants in life.

The format was fun; everything was scrapbook-style photos, drawings, and mementos interspersed with short bits of text.  I liked Frankie’s spirit and the story line was interesting.  I would recommend this to those who like historical fiction or a short, easy read.

4 out of 5 stars

 

 
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