Recollections: Reviews by a Book Lover


Review: The Girl in the Blue Coat

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I received an advance reading copy of the Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse from the publisher.

I’ll start off by saying that World War II historical fiction is one of my favorite genres. With that said I really enjoyed Girl in the Blue Coat.  It is well researched and thought provoking.

There is so much going on in this novel.  Amsterdam has been taken over by the Nazis.  Hanneke (the main character) is working for a funeral home, while also working in black market trades.  She is grieving the death of her boyfriend, while struggling to provide for her family.  Then one day Hanneke is asked to find a missing girl who is Jewish.  Hanneke has always felt her black market work was her way of rebelling against the Nazis, but she isn’t sure she wants to take on something that will be even more dangerous.  Soon she is thrust into the world of the underground resistance, discovering just how ugly Hitler’s war machine is, all while trying to find a young girl before it is too late.

This book has a lot going for it.  It’s part mystery. It deals with grief, and finding the courage to do the right thing.  Many people risked their lives during WWII to help in resistance work.  It was often difficult to know who could be trusted, and even more difficult to make the tough decisions about what chances the resistance could and couldn’t take when it came down to it.  Hanneke doesn’t want to get involved with the resistance, all she wants to do is find Mirjam.  The resistance wants Hanneke’s help in finding hard to find goods to help feed people in hiding.  They will help Hanneke but not at the cost of putting anyone else involved in the resistance in harms way. And Hanneke isn’t sure how much she wants to get involved in the resistance because she is the only one her parents have to take care of them. The more Hanneke learns about what the Nazis are really doing the more she understands  what is truly at stake.

I was up late reading this book every night wanting to know if Hanneke would succeed and at what price.

This book goes on sale April 2016, and if you love World War II historical fiction as much as I do then it needs to be on your must read list.  It is a beautifully written story about love, grief, war, and redemption.

 

 

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Banned Books Week 2015

Banned Books Week 2015 is coming up (Sept. 27-Oct. 3).  Every year I create a display at my library to celebrate our Freedom to Read.  I try to get the display up early each year, and this year was no different.  So last week I proudly set up my display in the hour before we opened to the public.

I was proud of this year’s display. I decided to plaster the display cube with the titles of banned books over the years and the reasons for why they were challenged.  Then I wrote Banned, Challenged, Censored, and Restricted on the four sides of the cube in red Sharpie.  I then chained up the books on the top of the display, and filled in the rest of the display cube with banned books. My display was up for less than 48 hours when a patron complained to my manager about the display.  The patron felt the books displayed and the content written on the display were inappropriate for a public library, and didn’t understand why we would have such materials in the library to begin with.  I told my manage that all the material written on the display came from the American Library Associations Banned Books Week page, and the majority of the books on the display are award winners and classics.  I think the patron missed the point of the display, since she wanted the books removed (specifically Two Boys Kissing, which I adore).  However, I do think the incident highlighted the importance of protecting our Freedom to Read, and how important it is to create displays and host programs that garner discussion on why it isn’t right for one person to decide what is appropriate for every other person to read.

Feel free to censor yourself, but please don’t try to censor me.

Below are pictures of my (apparently offensive and what I now consider most successful) display:

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April Showers Book Display

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April Showers Book Display…I’m a little late with this post.


Women’s History Month Display

Women’s History Month Display

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Blind Date with a Book Display

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February’s Blind Date with a Book Display in honor of Valentine’s Day.

All books were wrapped in paper to disguise the title.  The first line of the book was printed on the front of each.  Hopefully patrons will be intrigued by the first line and pick up something they wouldn’t normally read. 


Banned Books Week

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I created a display last week to celebrate Banned Books Week. I wanted the books to look like they were in jail for their “alleged” crimes. I wrapped each book in orange wrapping paper, and gave it a Department of Corrections ID (the book’s call number). On the back of each book was a list of the reasons the book has been banned or challenged. I titled the display “Orange is the New Book”


Let’s Get Graphic: Graphic Novel Roundup

I’ve been reading a lot of graphic novels lately, probably more graphic novels than books actually. Below are some of my favorites.

The first 3 are Advanced Reader Copies through Netgalley:

Picture from GoodReads

Picture from GoodReads

First one I’ll mention is The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen & Sonny Liew. It doesn’t come out until July, so I’m going to hold off on a full review for now. I will say it’s about the Green Turtle, the first Asian American super hero, and I will say I really enjoyed it. Fans of Gene Luen Yang won’t be disappointed. My copy was an e-galley through Netgalley.

 

Picture from GoodReads

Picture from GoodReads

The Return of Zita the SpaceGirl by Ben Hatke comes out this month. This is the third installment of Zita the Spacegirl. Again my copy was an e-galley through Netgalley. I loved the two previous Zita’s, and I loved The Return as much as the first two. I love Zita’s spunk and determination. She is loyal and a true friend to all who need her help. If you are looking for a graphic novel with loveable characters then check out Zita, you won’t be disappointed.

 

Picture from GoodReads

Picture from GoodReads

The last e-galley I read recently was This One Summer by Jillian and Mariko Tamaki. Every summer Rose and her family go to a Lake House in Awago Beach. Rose hangs out with Windy, whose family also always vacations there. Rose’s parents are constantly fighting, so Rose and Windy find ways to distract themselves, like swimming, going to the local convenience store, and watching horror movies. This is the summer of growing up, transitioning from child to teen, and learning all the heartbreak and wonder that come along with it.

 

Great graphic novels I’ve read lately that are already out include:

 

Picture from GoodReads

Picture from GoodReads

Zombie’s Calling by Faith Erin Hicks. Joss loves zombie movies, but will her knowledge of the rules of a zombie movie be enough to save her and her roommates when her university is taken over by a zombie plague? Great story, loveable characters, and I personally appreciated the commentary on the price of higher education (as I, like Joss, will be paying off my college education for the rest of my life).

Picture from GoodReads

Picture from GoodReads

Mind the Gap by Jim McCann. I’m on volume two of this graphic novel series, and I am HOOKED! Elle is attacked in the subway station, and now she is lying in a hospital in a coma. Who tried to kill Elle and why? Elle’s spirit is detached from her body and trying to put all the pieces together. This is a fantastic thriller with a supernatural twist. I’m really intrigued by this story, and I can’t wait to get volume number 3.

MorningGlories

Morning Glories by Nick Spencer. I picked up with graphic novel series at work because the back said it was about six brilliant new students at a sinister boarding school. I love a good boarding school story, add mystery and something deadly lurking and I’ll pick it up! I’m on volume #3 so far and I haven’t been disappointed. The twist and turns are never ending. The teachers are straight up evil, almost drowning the 6 student on their first day. There is a weird cult and strange medical experiments. So far this series is keeping me hooked and on the edge of my seat.

 


Review: Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

Me and Earl

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
By Jesse Andrews

 

What it’s about: Greg Gaines is just trying to get through high school by flying under the radar. Earl Jackson is Greg’s only friend (although he prefers to refer to him as a coworker), and together they make movies they never let anyone else watch. Greg is very satisfied with the way his senior of high school is going, he has no real friends but he is friendly to everyone and therefore no one actively dislikes him or makes fun of him. But as mothers will often do, Greg’s mother puts a kink in his high school plans to have no friends. A girl Greg knew in middle school (and kind of dated but didn’t because his intention in talking to her had been to make another girl jealous) is diagnosed with leukemia. Greg’s mom tells him he has to hang out with her because he was so good at making her laugh when they used to hangout.

 

What I thought: Greg tells you right away that this book is not a romance nor is it a book in which he learns some great life lesson from hanging out with the dying girl. I appreciated the honesty. And he is honest about it not being a romance. Whether he learned anything from it is up for debate. Greg visits Rachel and tries to cheer her up. Sometimes his attempts are successful, other times they’re not. Then one day Earl brings some of their movies to the hospital for Rachel to watch. Greg is extremely annoyed with him, but Earl puts him in his place. Rachel’s cancer seems to hit Earl harder and in a different way than it affects Greg. Despite what Greg thinks Rachel loves the movies and so Earl brings her different ones to watch. She respects that Greg doesn’t want anyone to see them and she never shows anyone. Greg has no real plans for his future. He avoids the topic of college with his parents, saying he would just go to Pitt. He’s grades end up suffering though because of the time he is spending with Rachel, and also because of how his mother ruined his life (that’s all I’ll say because I don’t want to ruin it for you). Rachel wants Greg to apply to film school, he thinks it’s a terrible idea, but maybe in the end Greg did learn something from his time with Rachel.

 

I highly recommend Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. I’ve heard if you like The Fault in our Stars than read this when I’ve read stuff about Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. While I think those who love TFIOS will love this book as well, it isn’t exactly like TFIOS.

 


Infernal Devices – Book 1 & 2

After reading all of the Mortal Instruments books to date by Cassandra Claire, I have to admit I have become addicted to the sci fi world she’s created. There’s something fun and exciting about having all these demons, angels, vampires, werewolves, and superhumans called shadow hunters all in one novel running around and fighting each other. So I decided to check out the Infernal Devices, which is a prequel to the Mortal Instruments and follows the tale of another heroine, Tessa Grey.

 
Tessa starts off the first books captured by some evil witches who are holding her for some authority figure called “The Magistar”. One thing I do like about Claire’s writing is that she definitely knows how to dive right into the action parts. Within a chapter or two she is being rescued by some shadowhunters, most notably a boy named Will Herondale. His personality matches up with Jayce’s from Mortal Instruments very much, which makes me a little sad because it seems like she’s almost recycling the same character with a different name.

 
Anyway, after she is rescued, she goes to live with the Shadowhunters at the institute, which is the same institute from the Mortal Instruments book, so that is a nice tie in. The Shadowhunters have offered to help her find her brother in exchange for her helping them find the Magistar. I should mention at this moment that Tessa has the power to transform completely into another person, which was why she was being held by the witches, they were honing her power before turning her over to the Magistar. Of course, there is a love triangle in the books, involving Tessa, Will, and Will’s parabatai Jem. For those who haven’t read the Mortal Instruments book, which you don’t need to in order to enjoy these, Will and Jem are basically closer than brothers, according to the parabatai bond. Naturally, this makes things complicated for the relationship part.

 
Without spoiling anything, they eventually find out who the Magistar is in book one, and spend all of book two trying to track him down, all while Charlotte and Henry, the caretakers of the institute, are fighting to hold onto the institute amidst the governing body of the shadowhunters trying to take it away from them for letting the Magistar get away. I’m trying not to spoil anything, but they are very entertaining reads, and I’m excited to finish the 3rd book in the series.


Review: Fat Boy vs. the Cheerleaders

Fat Boy vs. the Cheerleaders by Geoff Herbach

Picture from goodreads

Picture from goodreads

My copy is an Advanced Reader Copy from the publisher.

What it’s about: Gabe (aka Chunk) has a rule he learned from an old woman who used to clean his house, “Better laugh than cry.” For most of high school he has pretty much lived by that rule. Someone is making fun of him for being fat? Then do a dance and make everyone laugh. But when the soda machine money (to which Gabe has given a lot of money) stops going to the band, and starts going to the cheerleaders’ dance squad, well, Gabe is done laughing. It is an all-out war between the band Geekers and anyone who gets in their way, and Gabe is the unlikely leader.
What I thought: I loved this book. I was laughing out loud throughout – which for me is always a sign of a good book. I love how much Gabe grows and changes as the story goes on. Gabe’s friends call him Chunk (yes that is a Goonies reference for all you who know great movies ) and other kids (like the Jocks) choose other words to describe Gabe’s size which are much harsher. So Gabe gets called names a lot, and with his anger over the soda pop money comes the realization he doesn’t like being called fat. Gabe is no longer laughing because the only time it’s better to laugh than cry is when you can’t do anything about it. Gabe can do something about it, and he does. He starts working out with his Grandfather (you’ll love his grandfather) and eating healthier; he isn’t going to let food and soda control him, or use it as a way to deal with how he feels. Gabe starts to take control of his life health wise. He also starts to realize he also calls people names, and maybe the jocks, cheer bitches, and Goth, may not like those names any more than he likes being called fat. As for the war over the vending machine funds, well Gabe learns what it means to be a leader. He also learns a lot about his fellow classmates and friends.
I love Fat Boy vs the Cheerleaders because I was laughing throughout, but also because I saw Gabe grow. As you read the book, you see as Gabe realizes, yes he is picked on but he is also the one who picks on others too. He just never realized he was name calling too. Gabe realizes a lot and you can’t help but cheer him on.
I highly recommend this book.