Book Review: Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan

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This book is classified as juvenile fiction (ages 10+) but as a youth librarian I like to read juvenile and YA novels sometimes!

Summary from Goodreads: Willow Chance is a twelve-year-old genius, obsessed with nature and diagnosing medical conditions, who finds it comforting to count by 7s. It has never been easy for her to connect with anyone other than her adoptive parents, but that hasn’t kept her from leading a quietly happy life… Until now. Suddenly Willow’s world is tragically changed when her parents both die in a car crash, leaving her alone in a baffling world. The triumph of this book is that it is not a tragedy. This extraordinarily odd, but extraordinarily endearing, girl manages to push through her grief. Her journey to find a fascinatingly diverse and fully believable surrogate family is a joy and a revelation to read.

Verdict: 4 out of 5 stars. It was a really sweet book with a lot of great characters. The ending was perfect and I may have even shed a tear!

4-stars

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Book Review: On the Island by Tracey Garvis-Graves

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I picked this one up after someone at work recommended it as her favorite literary love story.

Summary from Goodreads: When thirty-year-old English teacher Anna Emerson is offered a job tutoring T.J. Callahan at his family’s summer rental in the Maldives, she accepts without hesitation; a working vacation on a tropical island trumps the library any day. T.J. Callahan has no desire to leave town, not that anyone asked him. He’s almost seventeen and if having cancer wasn’t bad enough, now he has to spend his first summer in remission with his family – and a stack of overdue assignments – instead of his friends. Anna and T.J. are en route to join T.J.’s family in the Maldives when the pilot of their seaplane suffers a fatal heart attack and crash-lands in the Indian Ocean. Adrift in shark-infested waters, their life jackets keep them afloat until they make it to the shore of an uninhabited island. Now Anna and T.J. just want to survive and they must work together to obtain water, food, fire, and shelter. Their basic needs might be met but as the days turn to weeks, and then months, the castaways encounter plenty of other obstacles, including violent tropical storms, the many dangers lurking in the sea, and the possibility that T.J.’s cancer could return. As T.J. celebrates yet another birthday on the island, Anna begins to wonder if the biggest challenge of all might be living with a boy who is gradually becoming a man.

Verdict: 4 out of 5 stars. It was a fun, fluffy beach read. I definitely enjoyed it but wouldn’t call it serious literature by any means. Also it was a little annoying how they had to keep reiterating that they hooked up after he turned 18. We get it already…

4-stars

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Book Review: The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri

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Summary from Goodreads: Growing up in Calcutta, born just fifteen months apart, Subhash and Udayan Mitra are inseparable brothers, one often mistaken for the other. But they are also opposites, with gravely different futures ahead of them. It is the 1960s, and Udayan–charismatic and impulsive–finds himself drawn to the Naxalite movement, a rebellion waged to eradicate inequity and poverty: he will give everything, risk all, for what he believes. Subhash, the dutiful son, does not share his brother’s political passion; he leaves home to pursue a life of scientific research in a quiet, coastal corner of America. But when Subhash learns what happened to his brother in the lowland outside their family’s home, he comes back to India, hoping to pick up the pieces of a shattered family, and to heal the wounds Udayan left behind–including those seared in the heart of his brother’s wife.

Verdict: 4 out of 5 stars. A good read that spanned at least 60 years! Beautiful writing but it took me a week or two to finish. The ending was perfect.

4-stars

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Book Review: Serena by Ron Rash

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I picked up this book because I read that the movie is coming out this year AND because I found out the author lives in WNC.

Summary from Goodreads: The year is 1929, and newlyweds George and Serena Pemberton travel from Boston to the North Carolina mountains where they plan to create a timber empire. Although George has already lived in the camp long enough to father an illegitimate child, Serena is new to the mountains—but she soon shows herself to be the equal of any man, overseeing crews, hunting rattlesnakes, even saving her husband’s life in the wilderness. Together this lord and lady of the woodlands ruthlessly kill or vanquish all who fall out of favor. Yet when Serena learns that she will never bear a child, she sets out to murder the son George fathered without her. Mother and child begin a struggle for their lives, and when Serena suspects George is protecting his illegitimate family, the Pembertons’ intense, passionate marriage starts to unravel as the story moves toward its shocking reckoning.

Verdict: 5 out of 5 stars. LOVED IT! I totally imagined Jennifer Lawrence as Serena the entire time. (Didn’t see Bradley Cooper as Pemberton though.) She was ruthless. The ending was perfect. Can’t wait for the film to be released!

5-stars

Book Review: A Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash

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I picked up this book because I had heard great things about it and the author is going to be at Malaprop’s (a local bookstore) this Friday! I did enjoy A Land More Kind Than Home so I will be going to the reading/singing of his newest, This Dark Road to Mercy.

Summary from Goodreads: For a curious boy like Jess Hall, growing up in Marshall means trouble when your mother catches you spying on grown-ups. Adventurous and precocious, Jess is enormously protective of his older brother, Christopher, a mute whom everyone calls Stump. Though their mother has warned them not to snoop, Stump can’t help sneaking a look at something he’s not supposed to—an act that will have catastrophic repercussions, shattering both his world and Jess’s. It’s a wrenching event that thrusts Jess into an adulthood for which he’s not prepared. While there is much about the world that still confuses him, he now knows that a new understanding can bring not only a growing danger and evil—but also the possibility of freedom and deliverance as well.

Verdict: 4 out of 5 stars. I loved that the book was set near where I live in western North Carolina. The setting made it even more interesting to me. It was a great story, told from the POV of three different people: the boy Jess, an old woman named Adelaide, and the sheriff. It was heartbreaking as well as disturbing (how people use religion to benefit themselves). There was nothing I didn’t like about the book, but I didn’t give it 5 stars because it wasn’t “unputdownable”.

4-stars

Book Review: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Random Riggs

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This isn’t a book I would normally read, but I picked it up because it was the January selection for Teen Book Club at the library.

Summary from Goodreads: As a kid, Jacob formed a special bond with his grandfather over his bizarre tales and photos of levitating girls and invisible boys. Now at 16, he is reeling from the old man’s unexpected death. Then Jacob is given a mysterious letter that propels him on a journey to the remote Welsh island where his grandfather grew up. There, he finds the children from the photographs–alive and well–despite the islanders’ assertion that all were killed decades ago. As Jacob begins to unravel more about his grandfather’s childhood, he suspects he is being trailed by a monster only he can see.

Verdict: 4 out of 5 stars. I didn’t think I’d like this book. I don’t read a lot of supernatural novels and this one seemed a little weird for me. But I loved the beginning of the book and Jacob’s interactions with his grandfather and Emma. When it got to the “monster” part of the book it got a little too action-y, which means boring for me. Not sure if I’ll read the sequel.

4-stars

Book Review: The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty

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I used this book for the Women Challenge, Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge, and 52 Books in 52 Weeks.

Summary from Goodreads: Only a few years before becoming a famous silent-film star and an icon of her generation, a fifteen-year-old Louise Brooks leaves Wichita, Kansas, to study with the prestigious Denishawn School of Dancing in New York. Much to her annoyance, she is accompanied by a thirty-six-year-old chaperone, who is neither mother nor friend. Cora Carlisle, a complicated but traditional woman with her own reasons for making the trip, has no idea what she’s in for. Young Louise, already stunningly beautiful and sporting her famous black bob with blunt bangs, is known for her arrogance and her lack of respect for convention. Ultimately, the five weeks they spend together will transform their lives forever. For Cora, the city holds the promise of discovery that might answer the question at the core of her being, and even as she does her best to watch over Louise in this strange and bustling place she embarks on a mission of her own. And while what she finds isn’t what she anticipated, she is liberated in a way she could not have imagined. Over the course of Cora’s relationship with Louise, her eyes are opened to the promise of the twentieth century and a new understanding of the possibilities for being fully alive.

Verdict: 5 out of 5 stars. This was a book club pick, and I wasn’t expecting to like it much. Boy, was I wrong… I LOVED it! While others in the club and online have complained that (a) they didn’t like Cora’s husband Alan and (b) the ending was wrapped up way too quickly, I did not find these to be faults. I liked Alan (and Joseph) and thought he had good reasons to act the way he did. I liked Cora most of the time (except when she was being too conservative) and although Louise was annoying, it was interesting since she was based on a real person. The last part of the book did squeeze a large time period into a few chapters but I wanted to see how everyone ended up and I was pleased with the conclusion. An amazing historical fiction novel!

5-stars