Saturday, February 23, 2013

Sister by Rosamund Lupton

Originally published in 2010 by Piatkus Books.
Audiobook narrated by Juanita McMahon.

Both tear-jerking and spine-tingling, Sister provides an adrenaline rush that could cause a chill on the sunniest afternoon — which, perhaps, the friendly company of a sister or two (or, in a pinch, a brother) might help to dispel.
          ~ Liesl Schillinger
(See the full New York Times Sunday Book Review here.)

I found Sister to be a solid mystery story, and I liked the character development, particularly the relationship between the two sisters. On the other hand, I found the structure - the character Beatrice writing a letter to her dead sister Tess about giving testimony in the murder trial - distracting and sometimes confusing. I would still recommend the book, though, and I will be looking for more mysteries from Lupton in the future.


Monday, February 18, 2013

The Lions of Little Rock
by Kristin Levine

Published in 2012 by G. P. Putnam's Sons. 298 pages.
Audiobook read by Julia Whelan.

I absolutely loved this one (which was one of the 2012 Cybils finalists)!

The Lions of Little Rock provides a great exploration for middle grade readers of racism (and to a small extent sexism) in the late 1950s. It introduces such important figures as Emmett Till, whose 1955 murder was a catalyst for the Civil Rights Movement, and the Little Rock Nine, the African-American students who entered Central High in 1957 - and it looks closely at the perhaps lesser-known "Lost Year" that followed the 1958 closure of Little Rock's high schools to prevent their integration and the work of the Women's Emergency Committee to Open Our Schools.

This history lesson is wonderfully presented through the eyes of twelve-year-old Marlee as she tells us of her experiences that year, the things she learns and the ways she grows, specifically through her relationships with her family and her new friend Liz. Marlee's voice was just perfect.

I "read" this one via audiobook, excellently performed by Julia Whelan - who I've also heard read the wonderful The Sky is Everywhere and the interesting Forgotten.

By the way, for those who would like to learn more about Emmett Till, I recommend Chris Crowe's Getting Away with Murder.


Sunday, February 17, 2013

Son by Lois Lowry

Published in 2012 by Houghton Mifflin. 393 pages.

I had hoped that Son would be my final read of 2012 - but I ended up finishing it on New Year's Day. It was a wonderful first read of 2013!

The Giver is one of my all-time favorite books. (I blogged about my January 2008 re-read via audiobook here.) Late in 2012, in anticipation of the publication of this conclusion to that story, I read both of what were previously published as "companion books" - Gathering Blue and Messenger - both of which were great.

After finishing Messenger, I tried to summarize the themes of The Giver, Gathering Blue, and Messenger in three words, and I concluded with choosing, valuing, and healing - with the emphasis of all three being on community.

Filled with symbolism, Son brings together themes and characters from the previous novels of The Giver Quartet in a powerful and thought-provoking way. It had me contemplating the nature of good and evil, and it had me thinking about spiritual gifts. It also had me experiencing the healing properties of community and the transforming power of love - as well as considering the social and political implications of it all.

I particularly loved the portion of Claire's story that paralleled the timeline of The Giver. Oh, and I particularly loved the portion of Claire's story that immediately followed. Oh, and I particularly loved how the stories of Jonas and Gabe (from The Giver), Kira and Matty (from Gathering Blue and Messenger), and Claire came together.

Yes, I loved the entire book!


Sunday, February 10, 2013

Favorite Reads of 2012

Before we get too far into 2013, I want to post a list of my favorites of the 80 books I read in 2012. On goodreads I gave five stars ("it was amazing") to six books. I gave another 56 books a four-star rating ("really liked it"). Here are my favorites of those 62 good reads:

  • Highly- and widely-recommended book that ended up meeting my expectations: Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

  • Young adult novel that made me wish I were eighteen years old and falling in love for the first time: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

  • Favorite book that I subsequently recommended to my thirteen-year-old son: After Ever After by Jordan Sonnenblick

  • Favorite book recommended to me by my thirteen-year-old son: Curveball: The Year I Lost My Grip by Jordan Sonnenblick

  • Best experiences with books I was offered for review: The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D. by Nichole Bernier and Return to Exile by E.J. Patten

  • Longest book I read (which was worth every page): 11/22/63 by Stephen King

  • Book I joyfully read in one sitting: Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead

  • Best beginning to a new series: The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

  • Most hoped-for sequel: Dreams of Joy by Lisa See

  • Best look at today's political climate: The Oath: The Obama White House and the Supreme Court by Jeffrey Toobin

  • Favorite book that I was not interested in the first time I saw it: With a Name Like Love by Tess Hilmo

  • Most thought-provoking dystopian novel: Divergent by Veronica Roth

  • Most thought-provoking memoir: Traveling with Pomegranates: A Mother-Daughter Story by Sue Monk Kidd and Ann Kidd Taylor

  • Favorite "I'm glad I finally got around to reading this one" book: Life of Pi by Yann Martel

  • Favorite re-read: Doomsday Book by Connie Willis

  • Biggest "pleasant surprise" (resulting from my low expectations of a self-published debut novel): The Sand Bar by Rebecca Bryan

  • Hardest book to put down: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

  • Favorite young adult novel exploring an aspect of history I knew little about: Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

  • Favorite young adult novel exploring a geographic area I knew little about: Red Glass by Laura Resau

  • Best cathartic experience: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

  • Favorite scene: The "cameo" of Frances Hodgson Burnett in The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

  • Books with the biggest impact on my life: One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp and Flunking Sainthood by Jana Riess

  • What were your favorite reads of 2012?