My first review from this summer is Olivia Twist, which is a new take on the classic Oliver Twist story. In this new rendition, Olivia WAS Oliver when she was younger. When her mother dies in childbirth, Olivia's caretakers wisely raise her as a boy so she can survive the streets unmolested. She successfully passes herself off as Oliver, even to the Artful Dodger, until a random pickpocketing episode brings her face to face with her biological great uncle, who takes her in and allows her to reveal her true gender.
Years later, Olivia again comes in contact with the Dodger, now in the guise of handsome Jack MacCarron. Olivia is about to become engaged to one of the most eligible bachelors in town, but Jack throws a monkey wrench into those plans. Much heavy breathing follows, but it's all very PG-rated.
I found this to be a thoroughly enjoyable remake of the Dickens classic with a satisfying ending and enough action and suspense in the middle to keep me listening. This would be a great YA recommendation.
In case you just crawled out from under a rock, A Game of Thrones takes place in the land of Westeros, where seven kingdoms are ruled from one almighty Iron Throne. When we join the story in Book 1, King Robert holds sway, and he has just arrived at the home of his trusted bannerman Eddard Stark, accompanied by his "lovely" wife Cersei Lannister, her twin brother Jaime, her other brother Tyrion (The Imp), assorted children, etc.
Over the course of six books (so far I think), the story unspools to include realms beyond the seven kingdoms, magic, murder. And dragons. So, for those following along: genre = fantasy. The HBO series took place over eight seasons and went beyond the point where George R.R. Martin had written the books, which caused some pretty major controversy in the final episodes when major character may have acted in ways that many fans thought the characters would not have acted. Chaos ensued. Meanwhile, Martin can sit back and relax, because he still has books to write, and they DON'T HAVE to follow the series! Winner winner chicken dinner!
Strictly speaking about the writing, Martin has to rank up there with Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Terry Pratchett, etc. for the breadth and depth of the world he's created. His characters are people you want to spend time with (well, some of them are) and are definitely people you will argue with your friends about (I definitely did). The whole point of the series is to determine who in the end is going to sit the Iron Throne. I know who does in the series (again--REALLY?) But will Martin choose the same conclusion? Only time will tell.
Molly, too, is looking for acceptance at her foster home, and she finds she has much in common with Vivian in her early years. When things finally blow up for Molly, Vivian is there to offer her solace and, in return, Molly helps Vivian to fill in missing pieces of her life. A great read for teens and adults.
Strictly from a teaching standpoint, this would be a great book to use for an integrated unit in ELA/Social Studies integrating American Indian Studies (Act 31) and Environmental Literacy and Sustainability (sense of place). Molly's character is half American Indian, so American Indian symbolism is investigated in the novel. Also, the characters of Molly and Niahm/Vivian both experience shifting settings as they are constantly moved, which would lend itself to an investigation of a sense of place. Molly also has a school "Portage Project" which would make a wonderful actual integrated project for this novel in ELA and Social Studies. My teacher heart is so excited with this concept!
The story takes place in the winter of 1945, as the Nazis are losing World War II, and the Russians are pushing West through Poland. The four main characters eventually find themselves at the port in Gotenhafen, trying desperately to flee before oncoming troops, and their stories converge onboard the Wilhelm Gustloff
Each of the main characters has something significant to hide, so much of the first part of the book is spent in keeping their secrets. Once they reach the Gustloff, the tension continues to build until the climactic disaster and aftermath. I have to say, the character of Alfred was one of the creepiest, most irritating characters I've encountered in a while, but Sepetys does a fantastic job creating four completely realistic main characters.
As I was reading it, the novel didn't strike me as YA, but it is from the Penguin Teen division, and I would certainly recommend it for the classroom. I also love that Sepetys shares much of her research and some verbatim interviews at the conclusion of the novel which will enhance the knowledge of readers. Definitely a recommended read.
As usual, Chloe ends up in the middle of the nefarious plans of not one, but two baddies, but in the end, all is resolved. Boyfriend Roelke shows up in Brown County just in time to save the day (the first time), but ends up getting clocked in the head (the second time). There were some wonderful scenes toward the end of the novel, in both Chloe and Seraphine's lives, that got me a bit choked up. Great installment in this fun series!
Once in office, we have a front-row seat as Buttigieg's team tackles South Bend's revitalization with initiatives like erasing the eyesore of 1,000 vacant houses in 1,000 days, teaming with Notre Dame students in the Smart Sewer project, or installing the River Lights artistic lighting feature at the Jefferson Boulevard Bridge. One of my favorite parts of the book was Pete's morning run, where we get a guided tour of South Bend's past and present.
More importantly, this is a book about what could be the future of politics in this country--thoughtful, unifying, fact-based, forward-thinking, inclusive. Opening this book at the end of the day was a welcome reprieve from the constant barrage of vitriol coming out of Washington. I look forward to following Mr. Buttigieg's political career which I'm predicting, sadly for South Bend, will involve a move East one day. At least we can hope that the political pendulum will swing back in this direction again!
It's no secret that Achilles and Patroclus end up in Troy, embroiled in the war to win Helen back. Achilles was literally made for war--he's unbeatable. Unfortunately, this doesn't endear him to the kings of Greece, and when a battle of honor ensues between Achilles and Agamemnon, it ends with putting Patroclus in harm's way, with devastating consequences.
I was curious to see how Miller would handle the death of her narrator before the end of the book, but the narration continues almost seamlessly. In the end, both Achilles and Patroclus are at peace, but that peace is provided from a most unexpected quarter. All in all, an entirely engaging visit back to the Trojan War and a touching look at the love of two heroes.
Again, each for very different reasons, Josephine, Dovey and Sophronia remain unmarried for years, and each takes a very different path toward independence. However, the Suffrage Movement and the befriending of Susan B. Anthony unites them in a cause that they can all agree on, and in the end, they all find happiness where they least expected it. A great Audible listen!
I found this latter part of the book fascinating, as Miller explores the relationships of Odysseus' two sons with their respective mothers. Circle also comes across as a goddess (or at least a nymph) with a conscience, as she continues to be consumed by guilt over her part in the creation of Scylla, the six-headed monstrosity which eats men by the half-dozen. I read this within days, and then Marissa alerted me to Miller's previous book The Song of Achilles. Which I am, of course, consuming right now!
I have to admit, I almost like the books more for the relationship building between Chloe and Roelke than I do the murders. I still love the connections I can make to people and places that I know about here in the Midwest (Chloe stopped for pie at the Norske Nook!) The one bone I have to pick with the books is that the murder (or culpritS, in some instances) are, IMHO, really difficult to put together from the clues that Chloe is gathering. When the big reveal finally happens, it is generally so out in left field that I have no idea how Chloe figured it out (and sometimes she doesn't figure it out). One thing I really like about murder mysteries is gathering the clues along with the main character and seeing if I can come up with "whodunit". I will say that I did figure out the villain in Heritage of Darkness, but not why that person was the murderer. So I'll keep reading (of course)--maybe you'll have an easier time chasing down the bad guys!
|Books You Gotta Read||
Books You Gotta Read