“Cinder” is set in the future: it’s about a girl who is part cyborg. She lives in present-day China with her mean stepmom, two stepsisters and her best friend — who is a computer. She works as a mechanic and meets the prince of her country when he seeks her out for a job. On top of this, an evil queen is desiring to marry the prince. Further complicating things, a terrible disease is infiltrating the city and a cure is desperately being sought. I like this book because it’s fun and quick to read, the story is different with the creation of a Lunar world and it plays off of Cinderella.
Three words that describe this book: Futuristic, Science, Fiction
You might want to pick this book up if: You enjoy young adult novels, quick reads or easy/enjoyable plot lines.
The young ladies with the glamorous opportunity to paint the first luminous watch dials and navigational instruments come to life as Kate Moore takes you through America’s love affair with radium. “The Radium Girls” is so much more than a sordid tale of corporate greed. It is a celebration of the lives and spirits of the ladies who lived each day to its fullest despite being charter members of the “Society of the Living Dead.” Kate Moore’s work is laudable in that she brings the human dimension to the forefront while uniting the social, economic, scientific, medical and legal facets of the story. This book is well-rounded and thoroughly researched. It is inspiring, heart wrenching, infuriating and timely. Mollie, Grace, Catherine and their comrades would be proud. These women have finally had their stories told in a way that allows us to understand their roles and sacrifices in improving industrial health and safety, workers’ rights, labor laws and medicine. The final line of the postscript continues to haunt me: “How quickly we forget.”
Three words that describe this book: well-researched, visceral, captivating
You might want to pick this book up if: you are interested in early 20th century history, environmental/industrial health or you want to know a little bit more about that antique, glowing watch in your family.
“Every Heart a Doorway” shows you a whole different side of fantasy and adventure that you may have never considered. What happens when kids fall into portals and doors to mysterious new worlds? And then what happens to them once they return? This short novel covers the heartbreak and despair of characters who found their homes, but cannot return. This school for children teaches them to come to terms with reality, and how to accept the fact they may no longer be able to return to their magical land of whimsy and fairies, or wicked lands of vampires and lords of death. McGuire effortlessly seams magic, realism and humor in this short novel. My only complaint is that I wanted more!
Three words that describe this book: Fantasy, Magic, Mystery
You might want to pick this book up if: You are looking for a short, unique and fascinating read. This book will make you wonder what exactly happened to those children in the classic fairy tales we loved as kids.
The premise of “Outliers” is that extraordinary success is difficult to achieve without opportunity and fortuity. The book abounds with examples: The Beatles having the opportunity to hone their craft in Hamburg, Germany; Bill Gates’ computer club membership in high school and proximity to the University of Washington computer lab; the legendary lawyer Joe Flom getting castoff work from white-shoe law firms; European and Asian children having longer school years than American children; Canadian youth hockey players gaining an advantage over their peers based on the month of their birth, and other examples too numerous and nuanced to describe here. The author does not argue that opportunity automatically begets success. Time on task and hard work are necessary prerequisites to success, in his view, but he also argues persuasively that being in the right place at the right time, or even being born at the right time, can have tremendous consequences. I liked the book because it challenged conventional wisdom and was thought-provoking.
Three words that describe this book: Fascinating, provocative, counter-intuitive
You might want to pick this book up if: You appreciate ideas that cause you to reexamine conventional wisdom.
“A Bend In The Road” is about two individuals who have suffered losses in their lives. They meet and wind up deciding to get to know each other better. The story is about their past and present lives.
I enjoyed the book, and it kept me interested in its storyline. I did not wanting to stop reading. It is more than a feel-good love story: it’s about real life, and how things are beyond our control and may not always be what they seem. As we go through life, what we do has both direct and indirect impacts on others’ lives, whether we intend for it — or even realize it.
Three words that describe this book: hope, forgiveness, love
You might want to pick this book up if: you want to relax, see into someone’s life and how they overcame huge hurdles of grief and moved forward.
There are many good books in the world, but they don’t all stay with you. When you read a book that speaks to your heart and your world and you can’t stop thinking about it in terms of how your life is different because of it, then you know you’ve found something special.
“Small Great Things” is one of those books. I’ve read a number of Jodi Picoult’s books over the years, and although this one has the major hallmarks of her work — gripping courtroom drama, monumental twist at the end — it feels different. The characters, with the exception of Turk, the white supremacist, are all people whose hearts are basically in the right place and who have their lives together. This doesn’t feel like reading a novel, where you can see the artifice. It feels like reading about real people you know.
She’s not subtle in addressing her theme. Race is present on every page. It’s addressed through the eyes of well-intentioned white people, black people trying to fit in, and black activists trying to make white people see what they (we) don’t want to see. She even takes us into the point of view of Turk, a white supremacist, and in so doing helps us see how people become what seems incomprehensible to most of us. Continue reading “Reader Review: Small Great Things”
“I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings” is a memoir of Maya Angelou’s childhood, sharing the events and people who were important to her as she entered into adulthood. It discusses issues emphasizing family and relationships, racism, classism, sexism (along with other ‘isms that were important in her life), self-discovery and personal growth. While many of the events highlight her ability to survive in uncertain circumstances (which seems to be a strong family trait), her tales denote the strength in those who have endured and not the scars or self-pity that such damaging situations can create. It is one of those rare books that can stir up tears and giggles with its honestly and authenticity — it is both serious and light-hearted, a true reflection of whom I felt the author to be. I felt like I knew a real person (someone I knew to be an admirable person) before the first chapter had ended. Ms. Angelou has the power to bring forth and normalize the most common of human experiences while also surviving some of the most horrendous and terrifying (and not at all common) situations. I am even more in awe of her after finishing this book.
Three words that describe this book: Vulnerable, Inspirational, Real
You might want to pick this book up if: You’re working through the list of “1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die.”
I picked “Heroes In the Night” from a library display because I had not heard of Real Life Superheroes before. The author becomes interested in Real Life Superheroes (RLSH), and then tries to learn more about them through online resources, meeting and interviewing some, and eventually going along with several on their nighttime crime patrols and other activities. Tea Krulos offers fair, balanced insights from RLSH participants, their family members, critics of the movement and others, such as law enforcement members. Krulos’ writing style is very contemporary and hip, but at times this annoyed me. His witty observations and remarks sometimes seemed to get in the way of the stories he was trying to share. I liked the balanced reporting of RLSH that do less-dangerous activities, like environmental clean-ups, supporting very sick children and raising awareness of causes such as veganism. An average person, like myself, could choose to do many of these things.
Three words that describe this book: Offbeat, geeky, yet inspiring
You might want to pick this book up if: You have ever wished that superheroes could be real. That is possible, and you could even become one!
“Eligible: A Modern Retelling of Pride and Prejudice” by Curtis Sittenfeld is the fourth installment of The Austen Project. Sittenfeld stays true to Jane Austen’s narrative, character development and humor in her retelling of Elizabeth Bennet’s story.
Liz Bennet and her sister Jane are both nearing 40 years old, and living in New York City working as a magazine journalist and a yoga instructor, respectively. When their father has to undergo heart surgery, they return home to Cincinnati to care for him and their family for the summer. Mrs. Bennet eagerly tries to set Jane up with Chip Bingley, the former star of the reality show, “Eligible,” who also happens to be a financially well-off emergency room doctor and bachelor. Chip’s best friend, Fitzwilliam Darcy, a brain surgeon and California estate owner, proves to be quite proud and sees himself as being better than living in Cincinnati, which irritates Liz, causing her a strong dislike of his character.
Sittenfeld develops these classic characters not just in a modern setting but with modern issues facing today’s Americans such as race, financial distress, job satisfaction and sexual orientation. CrossFit and smartphones play a prominent role.
Three words that describe this book: funny, romantic, sequel
You might want to pick this book up if: You like Jane Austen and the future novels that she has inspired.
Gabriel Wyner’s “Fluent Forever” is a book describing how to learn any language rapidly and effectively. It mostly assumes you are going to use a “spaced repetition” system for the primary means of learning and memorizing. I listened to the audio version of this book on Hoopla, and then listened to the Benny Lewis’ “Fluent in 3 months” audiobook. Wyner makes things more accessible, and he has a more encouraging, sympathetic voice that some may need in order to encourage them to try learning a language. Wyner’s methods are more specific, but less daunting than Lewis’ (compare Wyner’s 30 minute commitment per day plus weekend binges with what Lewis says should ideally be a two hour daily commitment), and they struck a chord with me as something that could be quite helpful. Flashcard learning may not for everyone. Consuming both books in quick succession allowed me to pick and choose from two different philosophies as I began to chart my own course for language learning. I am only one week into the spaced repetition studying, so I cannot say how well it works for me yet, but so far it is fun and I want to do it every day.
Three words that describe this book: encouraging, specific, inspiring
You might want to pick this book up if: You tried learning a language and failed, but would really love to do it.