Book Reviews by Ms. Lacy

  • All the Light We Cannot See

    by Anthony Doerr Year Published: 2014

    This is the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction winning book written by a local author. This book is also a National Book Award Finalist.  Additionally, he won an award for adult fiction which appeals to young adults.  I was fortunate to hear Anthony Doerr speak about his inspiration and writing process at Meridian Middle School. It took him ten years to write the novel.  To hear how much research he did in order for it to be as historically accurate as possible, it is no wonder it took so many years.

    The book is split between the narration of two characters: Marie-Laure, a blind French girl, and Werner, a member of Hitler’s Youth.  The timeline of the book is not linear so it starts with the siege of Saint-Malo in France during World War II, then back to Marie-Laure and Werner’s perspective childhoods, back to the war.  Back and forth. It also picks up on the narration of one or two other characters for a short time.  Nevertheless, all the characters are interwoven, and it is spellbinding unweaving all those connections.  Eventually, Marie-Laure and Werner end up in the same French town.  But that is all I can say because you need to read it for yourself.

    I highly recommend this book to everyone.  It took me three days over Winter Break to read this. 

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  • Behind the Beautiful Forevers

    by Katherine Boo Year Published: 2012 Non-fiction, Social Science

    This book has taken me to the slum of Annawadi located between the luxury hotels and Mumbai International Airport in Mumbai, India. To the story of a few Hindu and Muslim families whose lives intersect at jealousy and hope, bringing destruction and a sense of self. And so many more human emotions that I’ve never experienced in my life.

    Journalist Katherine Boo explores the question of what it takes to rise from poverty and what it means when one family rises above another. Corruption is deeply rooted in the interactions between the slum dwellers and any form of authority.

    Beyond her focus of poverty, there’s also the rigid gender rolls imposed upon the women and young girls, leading to many suicides.

    Horrifying, shocking, and unjust events are narrated in this book, and many people might respond with how fortunate they are not to live there. However, I don’t know that it’s overly fair to compare our lives to their lives just to make us feel better. Instead, I read books like this one as a way to better understand humanity throughout the world.

    I hesitate to also judge and say that they are “happy” because “happiness” is a human construct. One that we talk about here in the US but I don’t know what it means in India. Therefore, I cannot determine their happiness.

    But I can see the humanity in Manju’s desire, as a teenager, to be the best possible teacher for the young kids who attend the school her mother set-up only to take advantage of the organizations that fund it. In Sunil’s determination of not becoming a teenage thief in order to supplement his income. And his personal struggle once he does become a thief. In Abdul’s dedication to his job as a garbage picker, single handedly building a better life for his family at age 17. And in his convictions to stick to the truth when he is falsely accused of setting a woman on fire and how he could have gotten out of it had he agreed to pay the corrupt officials who held his fate in their hands.

    This story is a beautiful work of non-fiction that helps me to better understand our world and the people who live in it.

    I highly recommend it.

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  • Buzz Kill

    by Beth Fantasky Year Published: 2014 Young Adult Fiction
    Millie Ostermyer lives with her father, attends high school, writes for the school newspaper, and has nostalgia for Nancy Drew books.  When she finds the hated Coach Killdare's murdered body, she channels Nancy Drew's detective skills to help clear the name of the number one suspect: her father.  However, Coach Killdare had a laundry list of people who might have motive to kill him including former a player and the head cheerleader.  Along the way, Millie begins to unveil another mystery that of the new student and star quarterback Chase.
     
     This book proves to be a fast and fun read.  Millie is a humorous first person narrator who can also delve into and deal with more serious issues like coping with the death of her mother and learning startling facts about those in her life while investigating the murder.  
     
    If you enjoy realistic fiction and mystery mixed with a little romance then this is the book for you! 
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  • Captains of the Sands

    by Jorge Amado Year Published: 1937

    This is a Brazilian "classic" recommended to me by my Brazilian husband.  While I was reading books like To Kill A Mockingbird for school as a teenager, he was reading this book for his school.    

    The story of the Captians of the Sands takes place on the streets of Salvador, Bahia, Brazil.  The Captains of the Sands are a gang of "abandoned" or orphaned boys trying to survive the streets through deciet and thievery.  Although they do not have parents, there are still a few adults who care for them, help them out, and many of the boys look up to them.  This book reveals many cultural aspects of Brazil--like the fact that each character goes by a nickname and not their real name.  But what this book has in common with other non-Brazilian books is that it shows the plight of the poor.  And although these boys may live in a tropical climate, their situation is much like the children in The Jungle by Upton Sinclair and Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens.   

    What struck me the most about this is the cultural differences in not only how people live in our two countries, but how much different the literature is.  I have also noticed this stark contrast with other Brazilian literature I have read.  "Classic" American literature is more reserved in what it discusses, where "classic" Brazilian literature is more unabashed in its telling.

    I recommend this to those who enjoy learning about cultures through literature. 

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  • Code Name Verity

    by Elizabeth Wein Year Published: YA Fiction

    Admittedly, I have not finished the book. Yet.  Being a teacher is really getting in my way of reading.  All that grading and planning!  However, I find this book so intriguing that I feel like I can already recommend it.  The narration strays from the norm.  The main character has been captured by the Germans in France during WWII.  She has been tortured and has given up code sets and other information to the Germans.  The book is actually what the main character writes on recipe cards and sheets of music when divulging the information.  She writes as a narrative yet at times she references those who have captured her and what is going on at that moment.  

    She repeatedly references how she is a traitor and how awful that makes her feel.  Certain specific information about where she is being held is underlined. Because of this and the name of the book, I feel like there will be a twist and perhaps she isn't giving up important information.  

    I can't wait to find out! 

    I have finished the book, and I stand by my recommendation.  Half way through, the narration switches to a different character and tells of the events that occur while "Verity" is held as a prisoner of war.  I don't want to say too much more, other than this is a heart-wrenching novel that poses the question "How far would you go to save your best friend?"  The answer for these two girls will stay with you for quite some time. 

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  • Eleanor & Park

    by Rainbow Rowell Year Published: 2013 Young Adult Fiction
    Everything about this book makes me love it.  It breaks the mold of the traditional YA female characters who are thin and beautiful but doubt themselves at every turn of the book.  Set in the 1980s, Eleanor is a heavy set teenage girl with wild curly red hair who embraces the eclectic fashion of the times--or maybe she starts it.  Regardless, this makes Eleanor stand out as different from her peers.  While you might be thinking, "Oh, this is a book about a girl who is bullied but somehow manages to make it through," it is yet so much more.  We also have to factor in Park whose mother is Asian and father is American and seems to fit all the stereotypes yet doesn't.
     
     
    The first person narration switches between Eleanor and Park.  With this, we witness the evolution of Eleanor and Parks relationship from both their perspectives.  They move from contentious to lukewarm to passionate all while riding the bus to school each day.  This unusual setting for a romance makes it all the better and more realistic.  Their love sneaks up on them and springs from their mutual love of comic books.  However, the book is about more than just their love, it deals with poverty, abuse, isolation, and the struggles of a teenage relationship.  The characters leave their mark on you while your reading and they stay with you after the book is finished.     
     
    I started this book when we took off in Boise and finished it before we landed in Brazil.  Although a thin book, the story itself won't let you put it down.  This book is for those who enjoy realistic fiction, the 1980s, and comic books.  
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  • Everyday

    by David Levithan Year Published: 2013 Young Adult Fiction
    Everyday "A" wakes up as a new person.  The person could be male or female but is always the same age as A.  A is able to access that person's memories in order to move through the day as that person.  This is A's life.  A doesn't seem to mind only having one day relationships with people.  Until, of course, A meets Rhiannon. A wishes to stay with her but can't.
     
    This book is thought provoking and poignant.  A lives the life of so many types of people. A wakes up as someone who is a drug addict, as someone whose brother is a drug dealer, as someone who has killed her brother in a car accident, as someone who has crippling depression and wants to commit suicide, as someone who is obese.  And when A is each of these people David Levithan is able to compassionately write about each of the characters in way that makes you feel like you truly understand those people.  
     
    The big question of the book is A's gender.  Is A male or female? But the real question of the book is "does gender matter when you fall in love with a person? Shouldn't the person count not the gender?"  This is something Rhiannon and A struggle with as their relationship evolves. 
     
    I really can't say that this book is for just one type of person or interest.  This is a book that everyone should read.  
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  • Fangirl

    by Rainbow Rowell Year Published: September 3, 2013 YA Fiction

    Rainbow Rowell is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors.  Her characters are not quite the typical YA teens which makes for an interesting read.  

    Cath and Wren are twin sisters who have shared everything their entire lives.  Because that is what twins do.  Or at least did before Cath and Wren went to college at which point Wren breaks the news to Cath that she does not want to room together.  Cath has a hard time adjusting to college life and life without her sister.  Cath has a strange and somewhat mean roomate who has a boyfriend who is extremely friendly and spends all his free time in Cath's dorm room.  To deal with all of this (or not to deal), Cath recedes into her fanfiction world of Simon Snow (suspiciously similar to Harry Potter) through her blog where she has thousands of followers. Along the way she fights with her sister, befriends her roomate, and falls in love for the first time.   

    I love how the book goes from the plot to exerpts from Simon Snow and exerpts of Simon Snow fanfiction.  I'd like to read some fanfiction but I'm afraid I would easily become obssessed which I don't really have time for right now.  I have other obsession to work on. 

    Wonderful book!  I wanted to immediately reread it. And now that I have written about it here, I really want to reread it. 

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  • If I Stay

    by Gayle Forman Year Published: 2009 YA Fiction

    An emotional book that explores the question "is my life worth living when all of my family is lost to me in the living world?"  The narration and flashbacks make for an ingruiging storyline that helps its reader evaluate whether Mia's life is worth it knowing who she has lost and what is left in the world for her.  I like this book and I would like to read the second one, but I can't say I loved it or that it is fantastic. (See, I don't love every book I read.  Just most of them.)  

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  • Mystic City Trilogy: Mystic City

    by Theo Lawrence Year Published: 2014
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  • One Past Midnight

    by Jessica Shirvington Year Published: 2014
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  • Revolution

    by Jennifer Donnelly Year Published: 2010
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  • Round Ireland with a Fridge

    by Tony Hawks Year Published: 2001 Non-Fiction, Humor
    Comedian Tony Hawks makes a bet that he can hitchhike around Ireland with a mini-fridge.  Humorous book but I lost interest at times. Two stars. 
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  • Side Effects May Vary

    by Julie Murphy Year Published: 2014 Young Adult Fiction

    About a girl who has cancer. Although it is not fair to compare it to The Fault in Our Stars, I can't help it.  The characters in this book are just not as memorable or enduring.  However, no one in the book is dying from cnacer.  Instead the main character is in remission after she thought she was going to die.  She must make up for the things she did while sick and confront her feelings about her best friend.  

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  • The Art of Hearing Heart Beats

    by Jan-Philipp Sendker Year Published: 2012 Literature

    Romantic book set in another country.  I liked it for many reasons, one of which is that it shows how different cultures treat those with disablities.  A daughter sets out to discover the truth behind her father's true love who happens to not be her mother. 

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  • The Beginning of Everything

    by Robyn Schneider Year Published: 2013
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  • The Devil in the White City:

    by Erik Larson Year Published: 2003 Non-Fiction, History
    Five stars for those who love history and suspense.
     
     
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  • The Lumatera Chronicles: Finnickin of the Rock

    by Melina Marchetta Year Published: September 29, 2008 YA Fantasy

    Absolutely love this fantasy series.  A student read it and did a project on it in class. From that, I could see that it looked really good.  Boy, was it!  I couldn't put it down and immediately checked out the second book Frio of the Exciles. 

    Finnikin of the Rock deals with the overthrow of a kingdom and the excile of its people.  Finnikin, unwilling at first, sets out with a strange girl Evangalin to recover the kingdom of Lumatere.  This book has a major twist in it. (My student told me the twist, but regarldess the book was still fantastic.) The plot is intense but can be confusing at first keeping track of the character and kingdom names--the difficulty of reading fantasy! 

    Love it!

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  • The Lumatere Chronicles: Froi of the Exiles

    by Melina Marchetta Year Published: October 3, 2011 YA Fantasy

    This book picks up three years after the end of the previous book.  This one, for the most part, follows the character of Froi, a miscreant from the previous book.  He is charged with going to Charyn to assassinate their king.  This book also has a twist.  Because I assumed it would have one, I was able to predict some of the twist not all of it. Regardless, the book kept my attention and I finished it quickly.

    So far this series has been wonderdful.  I have reserved the last of the series, but I am hoping it will be just as good as the other two.

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  • The Lumatere Chronicles: Quintana of Charyn

    by Melina Marchetta Year Published: September 26, 2012

    I typically avoid series because I need the story to be done before I get started.  I can't wait for them to be published.  It's killer.  Luckily this series is complete.  I am waiting on the book from the library, so it's not even in my possesion yet.  But that is a good thing so that I can finish Code Name Verity before this one arrives. 

    I'm hoping it will be fantastic and that I can gues the twist in this one.  I'm sure the author will stick to that--well, I hope.  Plus I want to know the conclusion to all of the characters story.  

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  • The Night Circus

    by Erin Morgenstern Year Published: 2012 Fantasy

    Love this book!  Read it for a second time this summer.  Involves a battle between two magicians--one knows who the opponent is, the other doesn't. Great shifts in narration too!

    Everyone should read this!

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  • The Raven Cycle: The Raven Boys (Book 1)

    by Maggie Stiefvater Year Published: September 18, 2012 YA Fantasy

    I just started listening to this book and I am only on chapter 3.  I'm hooked!  I listen to it only when I workout or do housework.  And, man, am I excited to do either of those again just to keep listening to the book.  

    This one is more of a YA fantasy fiction in which the main character (really not sure who the main character is yet.  It seems to alternate between two characters. Regardless.) Blue learns early in life from her clairvoyant family that she will kill her true love with her kiss.  Although she is not clairvoyant herself, she adds to the power of her family.  On St. Mark's day she and her aunt go to the churchyard to gather the names of those who will die in the next year.  Blue can't see them, except for one boy.  She can see this boy because he is either her true love or she will kill him.  Dun, dun, dun!  But he is in the churchyard that night as well looking for those who can see the dead.  So clearly he has a belief in this as well.  

    Fabulous! 

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  • The Raven Cycle: Blue Lily, Lily Blue (Book 3)

    by Maggie Stiefvater Year Published: 2014
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  • The Raven Cycle: Dream Thieves (Book 2)

    by Maggie Stiefvater Year Published: 2013
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  • The Ring and the Crown

    by Melissa de la Cruz Year Published: 2014 Young Adult Fantasy
    Fantasy novel that includes witchcraft. Fast and fun read.
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  • The Scorpio Races

    by Maggie Stiefvater Year Published: 2013
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  • The Secret Side of Empty

    by Maria E. Andreu Year Published: 2014
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  • We Were Liars

    by E. Lockhart Year Published: 2014 Young Adult Fiction

    As an interesting juxtaposition to Behind the Beautiful Forevers, my this book has taken me to a fictional, upper-class, privileged family from the Eastern United States in We Were Liars by E. Lockhart.

    The story takes place on Beachwood Island, a seemingly private island with expansive and elaborate homes owned by the single family of the book.

    While I liked the book, I wonder if I would have liked it better had I not been reading Behind the Beautiful Forevers at the same time. In the first book, a mother can’t even say if she knows the age of her son because her only concern is that her children have enough to eat to make it to the next year. In the second, the mothers are pushing their children to turn against their cousins just so they can gain the best inheritance.

    Two totally different stories.

    However, We Were Liars still reflects humanity even though they are well-off and only seem concerned about money. Humanity is not just reserved for those who suffer in poverty.

    I don’t want to say much more about it because not knowing much about the plot adds to the mystery of the novel.

    I also recommend this book.

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  • Will Grayson, Will Grayson

    by John Green and David Levithan Year Published: 2010 Young Adult Fiction

    Five Stars! This is a book for everyone!  Tiny Cooper almost steals the show from Will Grayson and the Other Will Grayson.  Which of course, if Tiny Cooper knew I said this, he would just die!

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