Archive for November, 2013|Monthly archive page

Eleanor & Park

In YA Book Reviews on November 28, 2013 at 2:33 am


 by Rainbow Rowell

YA Romance Contemporary Fiction/©2013/328 pages/Recommended for 7th Grade and above

 Publisher’s Blurb (Amazon):

“Eleanor & Park reminded me not just what it’s like to be young and in love with a girl, but also what it’s like to be young and in love with a book.”—John Green, The New York Times Book Review

Bono met his wife in high school, Park says.
So did Jerry Lee Lewis, Eleanor answers.
I’m not kidding, he says.
You should be, she says, we’re 16.
What about Romeo and Juliet?
Shallow, confused, then dead.
I love you, Park says.
Wherefore art thou, Eleanor answers.
I’m not kidding, he says.
You should be.

Set over the course of one school year in 1986, this is the story of two star-crossed misfits—smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try. When Eleanor meets Park, you’ll remember your own first love—and just how hard it pulled you under.

Awards: Eleanor & Park is the winner of the 2013 Boston Globe Horn Book Award for Best Fiction Book; a Publishers Weekly Best Children’s Book of 2013

My Thoughts:

This book was not what I expected, but yet it did not disappoint. It is well written, with great descriptive detail and authentic teen-age dialogue (bad language and all). I think Rowell is a master of character development and plot. The story is told from the perspective of both main characters, who are totally different from each other and come from very different circumstances. I really like Eleanor and Park, who are not your typical characters, but truly unique individuals. I liked how their relationship developed from beginning to end. It goes beyond being just a quirky love story when Eleanor and Park have to deal with some very grown-up issues, but a love story – and a very tender one at that – it is. This is a book you will read and want to talk about, and one you won’t soon forget.

My Rating: 5/5

You might also like: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Great Quotes from the book:


Other reviews:

The Page Sage


See You at Harry’s

In YA Book Reviews on November 27, 2013 at 3:23 am


 by Jo Knowles

Middle-grade Realistic Fiction/©2012/310 pages/Recommended for 6th grade and up

Publisher’s Blurb (Goodreads):

Starting middle school brings all the usual challenges — until the unthinkable happens, and Fern and her family must find a way to heal.

Twelve-year-old Fern feels invisible. It seems as though everyone in her family has better things to do than pay attention to her: Mom (when she’s not meditating) helps Dad run the family restaurant; Sarah is taking a gap year after high school; and Holden pretends that Mom and Dad and everyone else doesn’t know he’s gay, even as he fends off bullies at school. Then there’s Charlie: three years old, a “surprise” baby, the center of everyone’s world. He’s devoted to Fern, but he’s annoying, too, always getting his way, always dirty, always commanding attention. If it wasn’t for Ran, Fern’s calm and positive best friend, there’d be nowhere to turn. Ran’s mantra, “All will be well,” is soothing in a way that nothing else seems to be. And when Ran says it, Fern can almost believe it’s true. But then tragedy strikes- and Fern feels not only more alone than ever, but also responsible for the accident that has wrenched her family apart. All will not be well. Or at least all will never be the same.

My Thoughts:

This is a very serious read, and you will find yourself crying a lot. Yet, I still say it is well worth the read. It reminded me in many ways of Bridge to Terebithia by Katherine Paterson, another excellent book. See You at Harry’s was especially strong in terms of character development. Quiet, introspective Fern is the narrator, who shares her perspective of of each of her family members in such a way that readers are able to sympathize with each of the characters. Fern’s voice is distinct and engaging, often with shades of unintentional humor. I especially give Knowles credit for the way she depicted the brother’s changes and how the family dealt with that. The plot had some twists and turns, meaning that things didn’t happen as I was thinking they would, but they resulted in making the emotions become even more palpable, and the characters more real. Relationships are an intrinsic part of the the story line particularly the bond between Holden and Fern—and later, with Sara, as well as Fern’s friendship with Ran and Cassie—which also adds a minor love triangle to the mix. This novel covers some heavy themes: guilt, regret, responsibility, loss, one’s role within a family, and moving on, and Knowles manages to weave these issues within her story seamlessly and sensitively.

My Rating: 5/5 Stars


In YA Book Reviews on November 24, 2013 at 4:03 am


by VinceVawter

Coming-of-age Novel/©2013/246 pages/Recommended for 6th grade and up

Publisher’s Blurb (Amazon):

For fans of To Kill a Mockingbird, The King’s Speech, and The Help. A boy who stutters comes-of-age in the segregated South, during the summer that changes his life.

An 11-year-old boy living in Memphis in 1959 throws the meanest fastball in town, but talking is a whole different ball game. He can barely say a word without stuttering, not even his own name. So when he takes over his best friend’s paper route for the month of July, he knows he’ll be forced to communicate with the different customers, including a housewife who drinks too much and a retired merchant marine who seems to know just about everything.

The paper route poses challenges, but it’s a run-in with the neighborhood junkman, a bully and thief, that stirs up real trouble–and puts the boy’s life, as well as that of his family’s devoted housekeeper, in danger.

My Thoughts:

One reviewer summed up my thoughts exactly with this comment: “An unforgettable boy and his unforgettable story.” I loved everything about it – the main character (you don’t learn his name until the very end – just one of the many memorable moments in the book), the plot, the setting, the multiple themes and life lessons, and the writing. This first-time author nailed it from start to finish. The 1959 Memphis setting is well drawn with interesting and significant details.  I appreciated that many of the central characters are adults, unusual in a book for young people, and they are complex and well developed. The portrayal of the narrator’s stutter is particularly skillful, providing readers with a real sense of the frustrations, impact and multiple issues involved. The reason the author was able to achieve this becomes clear when you read the author’s note at the end where he shares that this story is more memoir than fiction. I also fully appreciated the author including incidents in the story that highlight and emphasize the power of words, writing, and reading. The narrator begins the story explaining why he is typing it all out, “I trust words on paper a lot more than words in the air.”  I loved how Mr. Spiro, one of my favorite of the central characters, answered the boy’s question about how he could be smart like him by showing him his house full of books – thousands of books. And I loved their discussion about poetry when the boy shared a poem he had written with the older man. Another memorable moment. The author just kept them coming, one right after another. Definitely, an unforgettable book, right up there with To Kill a Mockingbird, The King’s Speech, and The Help exactly as promised.

My Rating: 5/5

The Wishing Spell

In YA Book Reviews on November 23, 2013 at 6:28 pm


by Chris Colfer

Fantasy/©2013/438 pages/First in a series/Recommended for ages 8 and up

Publisher’s Blurb (Goodreads)

Alex and Conner Bailey’s world is about to change, in this fast-paced adventure that uniquely combines our modern day world with the enchanting realm of classic fairy tales.
“The Land of Stories” tells the tale of twins Alex and Conner. Through the mysterious powers of a cherished book of stories, they leave their world behind and find themselves in a foreign land full of wonder and magic where they come face-to-face with the fairy tale characters they grew up reading about. 
But after a series of encounters with witches, wolves, goblins, and trolls alike, getting back home is going to be harder than they thought.

My Thoughts:

Very creative and highly entertaining read, with a fresh look at fairy tales, but don’t look for a complicated plot and deep character development.  It is definitely on the younger end of “young adult”, but I think that it would serve well as a book that would be a good stepping stone to more complicated young adult books.

My Rating: 3/5 Stars

Other Reviews:


In YA Book Reviews on November 21, 2013 at 5:02 am


by Marie Lu (Book 3 of the Legend Trilogy)*

YA Dystopian Novel/©2013/369 pages/Recommended 7th grade and up

Publisher’s Blurb (Amazon):

The explosive finale to Marie Lu’s New York Times bestselling LEGEND trilogy—perfect for fans of THE HUNGER GAMES and DIVERGENT!

He is a Legend.
She is a Prodigy.
Who will be Champion?

June and Day have sacrificed so much for the people of the Republic—and each other—and now their country is on the brink of a new existence. June is back in the good graces of the Republic, working within the government’s elite circles as Princeps Elect while Day has been assigned a high level military position. But neither could have predicted the circumstances that will reunite them once again. Just when a peace treaty is imminent, a plague outbreak causes panic in the Colonies, and war threatens the Republic’s border cities. This new strain of plague is deadlier than ever, and June is the only one who knows the key to her country’s defense. But saving the lives of thousands will mean asking the one she loves to give up everything he has. With heart-pounding action and suspense, Marie Lu’s bestselling trilogy draws to a stunning conclusion.

My Thoughts:

The epic Legend series comes to a very satisfying conclusion with Champion. It has heart-stopping action, a wild roller-coaster ride of emotions, and twists and turns you don’t see coming. I couldn’t put it down. That is high praise for any book, but especially for the last book in a trilogy. By the time you get there, you have a lot of time invested and you have an idea of how you want things to go. Sometimes that third book is a total let-down. Not so with Champion. I won’t spoil it for you, but suffice it to say it is worth your time to read it. You will not be disappointed.

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

Similar Books: If you liked this series, you might also like the Razorland series (Enclave) by Ann Aguirre, Dust Land series by Moira Young

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In YA Book Reviews on November 18, 2013 at 10:45 pm


 by Ann Aguirre (Book 3 of the Razorland Trilogy)

YA Dystopian Novel/©2013/420 pages/Recommended for 7th grade and up

Publisher’s Blurb:

The epic conclusion to Ann Aguirre’s USA Today bestselling trilogy. The horde is coming. Salvation is surrounded, monsters at the gates, and this time, they’re not going away. When Deuce, Fade, Stalker and Tegan set out, the odds are against them. But the odds have been stacked against Deuce from the moment she was born. She might not be a Huntress anymore, but she doesn’t run. With her knives in hand and her companions at her side, she will not falter, whether fighting for her life or Fade’s love.

Ahead, the battle of a lifetime awaits. Freaks are everywhere, attacking settlements, setting up scouts, perimeters, and patrols. There hasn’t been a war like this in centuries, and humans have forgotten how to stand and fight. Unless Deuce can lead them.This time, however, more than the fate of a single enclave or outpost hangs in the balance. This time, Deuce carries the banner for the survival of all humanity.

My Thoughts:

I have to say that the series started slow for me; I was interested but not passionate about it. Elements about Enclave bothered me, which made me ambivalent about continuing. That said, there was just something about it that made me want to keep going, and I am glad that I did. Sticking with it all the way through, I found Horde to be a very satisfying conclusion to the series. I liked the main characters and the complexity of the plot. The battle scenes were epic, but they were too violent for me. I did a lot of skimming through those parts, if truth be told.  I did, however, appreciate the author’s writing style and use of similes and metaphors (stars like ice chips and a kiss like a breezy summer’s day). Fade and Deuce were my favorite characters, but I also liked Stalker and how he changed as the story progressed. For a character who was so despicable at the start, he certainly redeemed himself in the end. I appreciated how the author tied up all the loose ends and didn’t rush the ending to do so. All in all, a good read.

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

Similar Books: If you liked this book, you might also like The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins, Divergent Trilogy by Veronica Roth, and Legend by Marie Nu

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Mozart’s Last Aria

In My Book Club Books on November 17, 2013 at 9:01 pm


by Matt Rees

Publisher’s Blurb (Goodreads)

The news arrives in a letter to his sister, Nannerl, in December 1791. But the message carries more than word of Nannerl’s brother’s demise. Two months earlier, Mozart confided to his wife that his life was rapidly drawing to a close . . . and that he knew he had been poisoned.

In Vienna to pay her final respects, Nannerl soon finds herself ensnared in a web of suspicion and intrigue—as the actions of jealous lovers, sinister creditors, rival composers, and Mozart’s Masonic brothers suggest that dark secrets hastened the genius to his grave. As Nannerl digs deeper into the mystery surrounding her brother’s passing, Mozart’s black fate threatens to overtake her as well.

Transporting readers to the salons and concert halls of eighteenth-century Austria, Mozart’s Last Aria is a magnificent historical mystery that pulls back the curtain on a world of soaring music, burning passion, and powerful secrets.

Book Club Discussion: The general consensus was that this book is a good read. We all appreciated the historical information, as well as the plot and characters. We found it fascinating that Mozart had an equally talented sister and mused about what her life might have been like today had she lived during this century.

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Book Club Dinner

Hosted by Joni

November 16, 2013


Wine: German Riesling

Austrian Cheese Spread with Pumpkin Seed Oil

Golden Austrian Cauliflower Cream Soup

German Cucumber Salad

Spaetzle Baked with Ham And Greyere

Assorted Bavarian Desserts

Chocolate Martini