Editor’s note: This review was submitted by a library patron during the 2018 Adult Summer Reading program. We will continue to periodically share some of these reviews throughout the year.
“The Worst Hard Time” is an engrossing and compelling description of the causes of the Dust Bowl in the 1930s and the seemingly apocalyptic daily existence in the Dust Bowl. It was an incredibly difficult time for the people who lived there, although it was basically caused by farming practices. The reader lives through all of it — wet sheets on windows to keep out the dust that turns to mud; swarms of grasshoppers; mounds of dust at the front door, etc. It was a very hard life, and the book clearly conveys that. It’s an overlooked part of the 20th century.
Three words that describe this book: engrossing; descriptive; demoralizing
You might want to pick this book up if: You want to learn more about a significant but now overlooked part of the 20th century.
I read other books by Ruta Sepetys so I decided I wanted to read “Salt to the Sea” as well. I also wanted to read it since it has been nominated for the Gateway Readers Award.
Well, let me say that this book did not disappoint. I started reading it in the morning and I finished it all in one day — it was that good. I am so glad to know that Sepetys does quite a bit of research when writing her books. I even decided to check out a recommended website once I had finished reading the whole book.
I will admit that it was a little hard to start the book since it kept jumping around between different character points of view, but once I got into the story I started imagining what the characters looked like. My favorite character was Joana since she was leading a group of refugees across the war torn land. I empathized with other characters, but she seemed like the strongest of them all.
I think the character I didn’t like was Alfred, the boy soldier/sailor. He seemed to full of himself and thought more highly of himself than others did. He was so focused on daydreaming about his girl that he often did not get any work done. He was only thinking of himself when Florian asked for help. Alfred only was concerned with getting a medal or getting more recognition than he deserved. Continue reading “Reader Review: Salt to the Sea”
“Persepolis” is a graphic novel about a girl coming of age during the Islamic Revolution in Iran. The author introduces the book as her firsthand account of living in Iran, saying that she wrote it because she doesn’t want people to forget what happened, nor judge all of Iran on the bad things that happened there.
The book is a heartbreaking combination of humor and horrible, an unspeakable reality of the events that transpired in Iran. I learned a lot about the progression of events that led this somewhat progressive, educated society into a repressive theocracy. Seeing it through the eyes of a young girl helped me to understand not only the historical aspects, but also made it personal.
Three words that describe this book: Historical, heartbreaking, humorous
You might want to pick this book up if: You want to try out a graphic novel! This is a great one.
“Twain’s End” will change its reader’s concept of Samuel Clemens. From his privileged upbringing to his pampered later life, he was not the Mark Twain from rural Missouri he tried to present. His interactions with women throughout his life are the heart of this story, from his relationship with his slave nanny to his complicated love of his secretary/companion Isabel. His treatment of Isabel during their seven year relationship is infuriating at times, yet fascinating. The author had access to the diaries of Isabel and thoroughly describes the limited options of an educated but poor woman at the turn of the 20th century. There is even a side plot regarding Helen Keller and her teacher, which was also disturbing.
Three words that describe this book: Mind-changing, disturbing, well-researched
You might want to pick this book up if: you have been a Mark Twain fan and enjoy historical fiction.
“Lost Signals” is a collection of short horror/suspense stories that all include radio transmissions or other forms of electronic communication as a theme. I really liked it because I like short stories and almost every story included was tightly woven. I am fascinated with numbers stations and other unsolved mysteries of this nature. The theme did get a little repetitive when reading three or four stories in a row, so I recommend this as an occasional read (with a cup of coffee or when you have a 10 minute block of time to kill), rather than a one-sitting book.
Three words that describe this book: Unsettling, Suspenseful, Eerie
You might want to pick this book up if: You like urban legends, unsolved mysteries and abandoned buildings.
“The Best We Could Do” is a memoir written as a graphic novel. I read this to fulfill a requirement in the Read Harder Challenge and loved it. Graphic novels don’t do much for me, but it really worked for her memoir. I loved so much about this book. The story of her family and coming to terms with her relationship with her parents.
Three words that describe this book: Enlightening, heartfelt, and memorable.
You might want to pick this book up if: You like to read about other cultures.
I re-read “A Confederacy of Dunces” by John Kennedy Toole as part of my Adult Summer Reading Program checklist (re-read a book you loved). It was a favorite among my friends in college, and re-reading confirmed why we loved it. It’s absolutely brilliant — laugh out loud hilarious, magnificent in its detail, timeless in its character portrayals and so good that you just don’t want to put it down. Not a word in the book is wasted. Ignatius Reilly is one of the all-time great characters in fiction. The tragedy, of course, is that John Kennedy Toole committed suicide never knowing that his manuscript — and now classic work of fiction — would be published.
Three words that describe this book: Hilarious, Brilliant, Timeless
You might want to pick this book up if: You want to laugh, and you appreciate clever writing.
“Carnegie’s Maid” is the story of Clara Kelley, an Irish immigrant, who takes on the role of another Clara Kelley who died on her voyage to America, and who becomes the personal lady’s maid to Andrew Carnegie’s mother. She uses her wits to not only excel in her new role, but also to learn the inner workings of the Philadelphia business society. Along the way, she falls in love with the iron magnate himself, and convinces him to use his wealth to make the world a better place for all.
This was a good story, if a little spare in places. We are told repeatedly that Clara is educated, bright and resourceful; unfortunately, her actions in the story don’t necessarily show us those traits. This leaves the readers feeling as if they need more to make the story feel complete. This is an interesting look into the lives of servants to the American nouveau riche, and while not a life-changing testament to the power of philanthropy, still a worthy summer read.
Three words that describe this book: interesting, entertaining, historical
You might want to pick this book up if: You’re a Downton Abbey fan or are interested in the stories of servants to the wealthy and famous.
A wonderful little story. In the book “The Reminders,” author Val Emmich gets into the heads of a talented young girl and a grieving middle aged man, and we get to experience the universal truths that emerge from their thoughts and interactions. Joan’s interesting memory condition and Gavin’s fame and misfortune are unique narrative elements, but the real gold this book mines is simply in the friendship that develops between them. I’m certainly not exactly like either of them, but I understand them and I want to befriend them. Also, while being a rather low-key story, there are quite satisfying plot points for each character and a great climax and denouement.
Three words that describe this book: Quirky, Light, Compelling
You might want to pick this book up if: You want to spend several hours grinning as you come to appreciate two remarkable people.
“In the Unlikely Event” was thoughtful, suspenseful and fascinating. I always love a good book about people and their lives and stories; this one is no exception. I enjoy the way Judy Blume writes and have been reading her books for years. I loved all the characters. Although the number of characters was a little overwhelming and hard to keep track of at times, Blume does a good job of reminding you who the characters are and how they fit into the book. This book follows the lives of those who lived through the tragedy of three plane crashes which happened in their neighborhood within a matter of a few months. The plane crashes actually happened but the characters and the story are a work of fiction. It seems so unbelievable but the way the tragedy affects the characters is intense, heartbreaking and not at all surprising. I really enjoyed this book and highly recommend it to others.
Three words that describe this book: touching, real, exceptional
You might want to pick this book up if: You like to read about others’ lives and how people react in the face of tragedy.