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Book Overload

08th October 2009

The stack of books on my desk, waiting to be reviewed, is insurmountable.  I will never get to them all.  So for the sake of time, I need to do a combo post.  Here are the books I’ve been reading the past few weeks.  Most of them have been fantastic:

The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf–Two young girls are missing in the woods.  Told through multiple perspectives, the families work to find their girls, and one of the girls, Callie, works to regain her voice.  I had a hard time putting this one down.

Day After Night by Anita Diamant–A fictional account of the October 1945 rescue of Jewish detainees from the Atlit internment camp in Israel.  A grim reminder that the plight of the Jews didn’t end with the surrender of Germany.

The Road of Lost Innocence by Somaly Mam–The autobiographical account of Somaly Mam, who was sold into prostitution in Cambodia as a young girl, was able to escape, and returned to help other girls.  An amazing and heartbreaking story that continues today.

While I’m Falling by Laura Moriarty–A college student and her mom try to figure life out.  I love the way Moriarty writes about mother-daughter relationships.

Blood on the River: James Town 1607 by Elisa Carbone–A fictional account of Samuel Collier, page to Captain John Smith and his journey to Jamestown.  I read this after having visited Jamestown Settlement.  The book brings the familiar story to life.

The Last Book in the Universe by Rodman Philbrick–I can’t believe I didn’t discover this book earlier!  A love of reading and writing saves a dystopic civilization.  Great book.

Lost and Found by Andrew Clements–Twin brothers take turns going to school, and in the process, discover who they are as individuals.  Not my favorite by Clements, but well done nonetheless.

Shackleton’s Stowaway by Victoria McKernan–One of the most amazing adventure stories I’ve ever read, based on the real journey made by Ernest Shackleton and his crew as they attempted to cross the Antarctic continent in 1914.  Highly recommended.

Quinn and Sprout live with their mother, aunt and grandma.  They see their father every other weekend.  Quinn tries to make it all work and makes numerous excuses for her fun-loving yet distant father, until she discovers something about him.  His house is filled with “trophies” that he has stolen from the many women he has married and divorced.  In an impulsive act, Quinn reaches out to her stepsister, Frances Lee, and the 3 sisters together embark on a journey to return the trophies to their rightful owners.  On their journey, the girls discover much about what true love really is and isn’t.

High school girls (and their moms) should read this book.  It’s one of the best books about dating (even though it’s a novel) that I’ve ever read.  Without being preachy or condescending, the characters, both old and young, share what they’ve learned about true love and men who are worth loving.  Some examples:

  • “This is who he is, who he will always be, and no amount of your love is going to change that.” p. 69
  • “When it comes to relationships, second thoughts should be promoted.”  p. 139
  • “Love is never unsafe.” p. 176
  • “A relationship–it shouldn’t be too small or too tight or even a little scratchy.  It shouldn’t be embarrassing or uncomfortable or downright ugly.  It shouldn’t take up space in your closet out of a guilty conscience or convenience or a moment of desire.  Do you hear me?  It should be perfect for you.  it should be lasting.  Wait.  Wait for 100 percent.” p. 312

New Mercies by Sandra Dallas

17th August 2009

Dallas veers from her typical story setting (Midwest plains) and sets this book in Mississippi.  Nora travels from Colorado to Mississippi to claim an inheritance from an aunt she never knew.  As she settles her aunt’s estate, Nora uncovers some secrets in her family tree, and finds peace in her own life as well.

If I didn’t know how outstanding Dallas’ books could be, I would’ve said this one was pretty good.  But I know her books can be so much better.  The two things I enjoy the most about Dallas’ books are the strong friendships that her female characters develop, and the unique and powerful conversations they enjoy together.  New Mercies didn’t have those strong friendships, and the character development felt kind of flat.  I had to struggle to finish this one.

Lia is consumed with guilt over her friend Cassie’s death.  Unable to cope with her feelings, she wrestles to maintain control over her eating instead.  An emotional and disturbing book about the destructive power of eating disorders, and the strength needed to overcome them.

Riding Lessons by Sara Gruen

08th February 2009

Annemarie returns to her family’s ranch with her teen daughter in tow after her husband announces that he’s leaving.  Her life is a mess, and the ranch is the once place where she can hope to find healing.  Nothing spectacular, but a decent story nonetheless.