Wow. I finished this one in record time, after hearing about it for months and months. I knew what the key was about, but the "event" happened half-way through the book, and I couldn't imagine what the rest of the book would be about. Again, wow.
I don't want to give too much away, but the gist is that a Jewish family living in Paris is rounded up by the French police (in collaboration with the Nazis). The secret to the key is heart-breaking, but that is only part of the story. The very ending was just a little too pat for me, but it's still an excellent Holocaust novel. This would be a great one to use with students--I already use The Book Thief with my Honors freshmen and Parallel Journeys with the Honors sophomores. Like Parallel Journeys, this story shows us another side of the Holocaust--it wasn't just Germany and the Nazis.
I was fortunate to have Michael Perry as the luncheon speaker for my Wisconsin Council of Teachers of English convention in Eau Claire in 2010--what a treat! Anyone who lives in Wisconsin can relate to his stories and humor. Perry so perfectly captures the small-town Wisconsin voice. Click here for a link to his recent interview with Larry Meiller on WPR about his latest novel, The Jesus Cow.
Well. I will start by saying that Jeannette Walls is an excellent author, and I thoroughly enjoyed her writing style. This is NOT a novel, which makes this a fascinating read. Walls was raised by both a father and a mother who would, I imagine, consider themselves "nonconformists." That's a nice way of saying that these children basically raised themselves. I can't tell you the number of times I wanted to reach into the pages of this book and absolutely throttle the parents who would put their children through this kind of neglect. They weren't physically abused--but what kind of mother hides under the covers devouring candy bars while her kids are freezing and hungry? The very fact that the kids mostly turned out fine is, if nothing else, a miracle.
My favorite book of the summer! The book is narrated by Enzo, the dog companion of a semi-pro racecar driver. The book is told as a flashback, hearkening back to the beginning of the relationship between Enzo and his human, Denny. Enzo chronicles the additions (and losses) of family members in a decidedly philosophical and human manner. I read it with my own "Enzo" (Nikita) at my feet--it will definitely make you ponder what your pets are thinking!!
Surprise, surprise--a book I actually read! Thanks, Luka, for the loan. I took all semester on this one, just because I was trying to read it during SSR time at school, and then I got sick of nibbling on the edges and just had to jump in and finish it! An incredibly powerful book about love and loss and 9-11, as seen through the eyes of a 9-year-old narrator, Oskar, who would have a unique take on life without the loss of his father in the Twin Towers. I found the most surprising character to be that of the mother, who I thought was very hands-off and uncaring through much of the book, only to find that the greatest gift is for a parent to allow a child to follow their own path in life (but she does it in the most incredibly loving way imaginable). I think I need to read more from this author!
OK, I am officially addicted to Audible :) ANYWAY, another keeper. Hoffman does an incredible job telling the story of the eviction of the Children of Israel from Jerusalem and their subsequent survival on Masada until they are overrun by the Romans. The narrator shifts effortlessly between four women who all come to Masada in very different ways. Don't feel intimidated by the historical context or setting in ancient Israel--Hoffman writes this novel in a way to make it accessible to everyone. Another book I simply did not want to see end.
Apparently this was recently made into a miniseries. I missed it, but according to other book club members--read the book.
Fascinating look at the old "nature vs. nurture" debate. What happens when a person raised as an "X" finds out they're really a "Y"? "Calliope" Stephanides is born a hermaphrodite--with both male and female organs. Unfortunately, something that is generally taken care of with surgery in infancy was overlooked until Callie was 14--and only then does s/he find out that, while being raised as a girl, genetically "she" is a "he". Eugenides traces this abberant chromosome back through the generations to grandparents who were a little TOO closely related, and then follows the genetic mutation through the generations until it finds a home with Cal. I found the novel fascinating (ok, confession--another Audible audiobook), and I waited with bated breath for Callie to find out the truth. Frankly, during the school year, if it weren't for audiobooks, I'd NEVER "read" anything!! Anyway, a gender-bending ride that kept me listening until the very end. **Advisory--Definite adult situations (it is called MiddleSEX after all--but actually, that's the name of the neighborhood in Detroit that they move to)**
OK, I don't know that I can adequately describe in this space how much I LOVED THIS BOOK!!! I think you first need to love Pride and Prejudice. Then, you need a sense of humor. Loving fantasy fiction wouldn't hurt. Roll this all together, and you get this wild ride of a book!! I cannot tell you the number of times I quite literally laughed out loud! (Confession time again--listened to the Audible version). Having said that (and small spoiler alert here**), whenever poor afflicted Charlotte Lucas tried to communicate in her half-zombie voice, I nearly drove the car off the rode I was laughing so hard! I already love Elizabeth Bennett, but when she cuts off the coach driver's leg to save him from the zombies, and then ninja-flips over the horses to lead them to safety, well, that's just icing on the cake. And, hey, can it hurt that we will get kids to actually READ Jane Austen (a LOT of the book is still P&P, after all!)? Seth, you're a genius (actually, I guess your agent is a genius, but your name is on the book, so take the credit, baby!) I'm thinking about doing a mash-up myself--Vanity Fairies anyone?
Another non-fiction book that I found fascinating! First off, Audible, I listened to half the book and then said, "Hey, I know that voice!" Of course I did; I had listened to John Boy say goodnight to Mary Ellen every week for how many years? Richard Thomas does an outstanding job narrating the story. I've always been a Lincoln fan, and Swanson is the consummate historian, weaving facts and anecdotes into an incredibly readable tale of murder and escape. Even though we know the outcome, I still found the chase for Booth thrilling "reading."
A book I was shocked to be completely drawn into. I put it on my SSR list only because I had multiple copies of it and thought it would be "guy-friendly." I was right about that, but I found myself totally enjoying the story of how Genghis becomes khan. This is the start of the narrative, with the "boy who would be khan" born as Temujin. The story follows Temujin's family as his father is betrayed and murdered, his mother and siblings are cast from the tribe and left to die, and Temujin survives despite the odds. I couldn't wait to find out how he would get his people back again, and I was thrilled to find out that there are at least another four books in the series! The Audible narration, with Stefan Rudnicki's rich baritone, was spellbinding to listen to. Unfortunately they change narrators for Book 2, so I'm holding off until I have time to read it myself.