Do you ever read a line in a book that is so startling or profound or just mindlessly silly that you read it again? Isn’t that the best!
Welcome back to my monthly book review! I know this is a science blog, but I am a reader too! I always have a book or two that I am in the middle of reading and I love to read book reviews! So, here are five that you can try!
Throughout the post, for your convenience, you’ll find Amazon Affiliate links, which means Amazon compensates me if you purchase something through that link, at no extra cost to you. This helps keep this little blog running!
LOCAL KNOWLEDGE by Liza Gyllenhaal
This is the story of Maddie and Paul. These two were high school sweethearts that married despite her father’s disapproval. In fact, her family was estranged from her due to this marriage. A secret background story exists that involves a friend named Luke.
The story jumps back and forth from their early years and present day as you learn the secrets of this family. In the middle of the mess is a new “friend” named Anne. Anne and her husband have purchased a new home from Maddie who is a realtor in the small town she grew up in. She and Maddie become friends and Maddie’s teenage daughter begins to babysit Anne’s children. The secret is revealed little by little as these new relationships begin.
To be honest, I almost stopped reading this about halfway through the book. I didn’t like Anne’s character at all and just wanted the author to get on with the story. The last 100 pages were so much better and it did become a page-turner at that point. A lot is revealed that I didn’t expect! Try it and just know to stick to it all the way to the end!
RAYMIE NIGHTINGALE by Kate DiCamillo
This book is about Raymie Clarke whose father has run away with a dental hygienist. That fact alone makes this not a read aloud option for me. I just can’t see myself trying to explain this to a group of kids. Raymie has decided to enter a beauty pageant and when she wins, her photo will be in the newspaper and her dad will see it. This will make him interested in her and he might come home. She is told she must learn to twirl a baton so she can win the pageant. She meets two other girls at baton lessons- named Louisiana and Beverly and they all become somewhat friends.
There are other stories running throughout the book, including a missing cat the girls try to rescue by breaking into an animal shelter where they take a dog instead. After taking the dog the girls try to travel back home in a shopping cart, which gets away from them and dumps Louisiana and the dog into a lake where she must be rescued. This all happens at 5 in the morning. They also break into the home of the baton teacher and take a baton. Again, I would not want to explain any of this to kids…..just sayin’.
There are other threads running throughout that are just confusing and there’s a lot of fantasy happening with dreams and voices and visits from a neighbor that has died. I will be honest and tell you I did not love this book. Mind you, this author wrote one of my favorite books of all time- The Tale of Despereaux and she wrote Because of Winn Dixie. This was an interesting read, but not even close to the genius that is the Tale of Despereaux. Raymie Nightingale is not for younger students (my opinion). Try it because it has gotten great reviews!
EVERYTHING I NEVER TOLD YOU by Celeste Ng
Beautiful book, well written, with vivid descriptions and conversations. I loved this book.
It’s the story of James and Marilyn, a mixed race couple in the 1960’s when this was not a commonplace event. Their three children are half Chinese and half American and must deal with constant teasing and name-calling. In today’s world we would call this bullying, but in the 1970’s it was not unusual to see even adults making fun of Asian’s facial features.The book begins with these three words:
“Lydia is dead. “
You find out that quickly that the eldest daughter has died and then bit by bit you learn more about the family dynamics and the expectations of both parents for their children, especially Lydia. The two oldest children are in high school and Marilyn is intent on having Lydia become a doctor and she pushes her to take extra classes at school and a local college. The son Nath is mostly ignored concerning his own pursuits, including the fact that he has been accepted at Harvard. The third child, Hannah, is completely ignored and is often portrayed as lonely and scared. There are a few surprises along the way, especially with a neighbor and with the things that all the characters know, but do not talk about. I would highly recommend this book because of its startling writing, but it is a little sad.
THE HONEST TRUTH by Dan Gemeinhart
Interesting little book! I bought this one because Amazon recommended it due to other purchases. This is a children’s book, although I would say middle school to older students. It does have some violence in one scene where the main character is attacked and beaten badly so I might not read it aloud to younger kids. I do think it would make a fabulous book to read during a study of poetry as haiku plays a big part of the book.
The story is told by two characters. The main character is Mark, a 12-year-old boy with cancer and in his last big adventure before he dies (or perhaps as his dying act) he decides to run away from home to climb Mount Ranier. He leaves with his dog, Beau, and travels by bus, on foot, and with a stranger to get to the mountain. Once there he does begin a trek up the mountain but encounters some danger with a crevasse and the intensely cold storm that is occurring.
The story is also told by Jess, Mark’s best friend, who keeps his secret about where he is traveling. Both of them write haiku throughout the book. Mark writes about things that happen to him and usually includes a poem. In every entry of the story made by Jess, she begins and ends her passages with haiku.
The book is beautifully written and I think you will like it. The only reservation I have is the content for really young kids. Mark makes some really stupid choices (getting in a car with a stranger, walking in a city alone in the dark, and going out on a mountain when it is freezing and stormy). I am not sure what his point was in doing these things and not sure what kids might take away from this. It would have been better had the author chosen to delve a little more into the choices Mark made, especially given that he is only 12. How does a 12-year-old decide to run away, climb a mountain, and die there? The other thing that bothered me throughout the book is the little dog. It’s one thing to set off to do something stupid, but to endanger the dog as well is just not good. I kept reading a few times just to make sure the little dog was okay!
A MAN CALLED OVE by Fredrik Backman
This is a beautiful story about Ove. Ove, whose mother died when he was young and he was then raised by his dad to be a hard-working, humble and kind and honest human, however a man that stands up for what he believes in. When his dad dies he learns about life the hard way, including trusting a purchase of home owner’s insurance to a traveling salesman that turned out to be a scam artist. Ove is a shy and very negative person with some definite OCD tendencies.
He meets Sonja accidentally and his life begins as they fall in love and marry. Some events happen that I won’t disclose to create a grumpy 60-ish man that only wants to be left alone to die. Ove then meets new neighbors who constantly interfere with his solitary existence and his plans to kill himself. This includes a pregnant woman, her clumsy and inept husband, her two children, neighbors that have been friends in the past, and a decrepit cat that roams the neighborhood. The book alternates between Ove’s present-day encounters with his loony neighbors and his life story as a young man and with Sonja.
Ove is a grumpy and sometimes mean person, yet he will help people in the oddest ways. He can fix anything and build anything and will do so, albeit grudgingly. You will love him, especially as all the stories of Ove and his neighbors come to an end in which all the stories overlap.
The book has some startling moments that you do not expect and I caught myself a few times lowering the book to think about what had happened. The ending is laugh-out-loud funny and bittersweet. This is a must-read.
Thanks for checking my review and I hope that in the next book you read you find that golden line to read again and marvel over!