I did a fair amount of reading this summer for fun and wanted to get some quick thoughts up about the books I read. The following books are from the upper end of what I read.
I had really mixed feelings about this one mostly because of my own personal reading preferences. While reading the book I was totally into it. The writing was wonderful and the story engaging. I liked the characters. But, it’s essentially a romance and I’m not feeling romances right now. Maybe on a less personal-preference note, why do all these books have to have a romance in them? Maybe I’m just an old married lady, but do teens want romance in everything? (This is definitely a teen book with an attempted rape or two.) I think the story would have been plenty interesting enough without the romance in it. Two girls, one Asian, one black, trying to make it across the U.S. during the period of Western Expansion? That’s a good story with a lot of problems without the complication of love and squishy feelings. Still, while I was reading it I really enjoyed it. Well worth adding to a library collection or simply picking up to read. Also the cover is beautiful.
I absolutely love this series. It’s a fun, quick mystery with some other interesting character development going on. Mary is half Lascar, but can pass as white and often does. She was also orphaned very young and has a checkered past that’s given her a lot of baggage. I thought this was a great conclusion to the series and read it in day. The question is, why do I accept the romance in this one, but not other books? I don’t know. I suspect because despite some of the issues they tackle these books are lighter in tone. It’s also definitely not a focus, but still a major plot point, if that makes any sense at all. Lee obviously has a love of this time period and I would give the series to any middle or high schooler who likes Victorian England and mysteries.
Jane Eyre is my all-time favorite book. I reread it once every year or so and still love it after reading it the first time my freshman year of high school. The Cottage in the Woods is Jane Eyre meets fractured fairy tales. It is beautifully written and just really well imagined and executed. That being said at 400 pages and with a younger feel with the fantasy/fairy tale aspect it might have a niche audience. Still, it’s brilliant and everyone should read it.
I love novels in verse and this one didn’t disappoint. We picked up a copy at ALA in June and talked a bit with Nelson (she was delightful). Apparently she lived in Sacramento and, according to her book more than once, which added a nice personal connection. This is a memoir of her childhood growing up moving around the country as an Air Force family and her growing awareness of the Civil Rights Movement. I think her personal awareness of the time period really adds something to the history and I think the book would make a great read aloud or read together for any class that studies it.
Another great novel in verse from Marilyn Nelson. We got the ARC of this at ALA and I wanted to preview it before I passed it on to any of the kids in my lower school library. American Ace covers some of the history of the Tuskegee Airmen through a boy who has learned that his grandfather was not actually his grandfather. There is both the history of the Airmen and a lot of personal details about how Connor and his family take this news. I think we skipped this bit of history when I took American history THREE TIMES. Jeez, Louise. That’s ridiculous. Let’s get wonderful books like this into kids hands so we don’t have to rely on textbooks to give us a broad picture of our history. The book is totally appropriate for upper elementary (simply based on reading level) on up into high school.
Holy crap this book was so, so good. It’s also incredibly violent. But so, so good. Larbalestier can write. She really brought the neighborhood to life and it’s a character of its own in the book. There is a lot of tension and suspense, but there is a ton of character development. And these characters are damaged. Their baggage drives the story as much as the action does. I love ghost stories too and the addition of Kelpie’s ability to see ghosts was My one “complaint” was that I didn’t realize it takes place over the course of one day.