2

Saturday Review of Books: September 23, 2017

Posted by Sherry on 9/22/2017 in Saturday Reviews |

“Books became her friends and there was one for every mood.” ~Betty Smith, A Tree Grows n Brooklyn

SatReviewbutton

Welcome to the Saturday Review of Books at Semicolon. Here’s how it usually works. Find a book review on your blog posted sometime during the previous week. The review doesn’t have to be a formal sort of thing. You can link to your thoughts on a particular book, a few ideas inspired by reading the book, your evaluation, quotations, whatever.

Then on Friday night/Saturday, you post a link here at Semicolon in Mr. Linky to the specific post where you’ve written your book review. Don’t link to your main blog page because this kind of link makes it hard to find the book review, especially when people drop in later after you’ve added new content to your blog. In parentheses after your name, add the title of the book you’re reviewing. This addition will help people to find the reviews they’re most interested in reading.

After linking to your own reviews, you can spend as long as you want reading the reviews of other bloggers for the week and adding to your wishlist of books to read.

0

Restart by Gordon Korman

Posted by Sherry on 9/22/2017 in 2017, Children's Fiction, General |

Chase’s memory just went out the window. Chase doesn’t remember falling off the roof. He doesn’t remember hitting his head. He doesn’t, in fact, remember anything. He wakes up in a hospital room and suddenly has to learn his whole life all over again . . . starting with his own name.

Even though I enjoyed the ride, I experienced enough disconnect that I just wasn’t buying. This story of a completely evil bully, thief, and tough guy turned into a completely harmless and benevolent thirteen year old kid by a fall off the roof was fun to read, but I didn’t really believe in the premise. Chase and his two sidekicks are so mean, so completely without redeeming qualities before Chase’s accident. They terrorize the entire school; practically the whole town walks in fear of Chase and his buddies. Then, magically (but it’s not magic), Chase loses his memory and becomes a different person. He doesn’t remember the old Chase and all of his nefarious and violent bullying ways, so he is free to become New-Chase, a guy who doesn’t understand why anyone would use his power and popularity as a star football player to torment and intimidate others. Not only does he not understand the impulse to violence and bullying, all of his new inclinations are peace, light, and goodwill. New-Chase defends the oppressed, listens to the elderly, and plays with little children.

The characterization is pretty one-dimensional for most of the minor characters and some of the major ones, too: the grumpy war hero, the blindly affirming mom, the pushy dad, the accommodating principal, the two jerks, old-Chase (pre-accident) himself, Kimberly the clueless girl with a crush, even Brendan the nerd. I never forgot for long that they were characters in a book. And yet, I did enjoy the story during the times that I was able to suspend disbelief.

Readers who buy into Chase’s reincarnation as a good guy will enjoy the humor and the thought experiment in reimagining a bully turned into sweetness and light by a slight concussion and subsequent amnesia. It is fun to watch Chase rediscover himself—until what he discovers is that self is not-so-great. Recommended reading for middle school bullies: “O wad some Power the giftie gie us/To see oursels as ithers see us.” (Robert Burns) Chase rediscovers himself through the eyes of others who do remember Old-Chase, and then he must decide who he is going to be in the future.

0

Beyond the Bright Sea by Lauren Wolk

Posted by Sherry on 9/20/2017 in 2017, Children's Fiction |

This 2017 middle grade novel has definite Newbery award potential. It reads like a Newbery; the style, subject matter, and pacing reminded me of Katherine Paterson (Jacob Have I Loved) or Clare Vanderpool (Moon Over Manifest), both Newbery award winning authors. If Beyond the Bright Sea wins the Newbery or even a Newbery honor, it will become a best-seller. However, if it gets passed over for the major children’s book awards, I doubt if children will take it up and make it a popular classic. It’s that kind of book: if you’re required to read it as a child, you might fall in love, but most children won’t pick it up on their own.

The narrator in this story is twelve year old Crow, a foundling who floated in a skiff onto a tiny island, one of the Elizabeth Islands off the coast of Massachusetts, and into an adoptive family. Osh, the man wo rescued her as a baby and raised her, is something of a hermit with a mysterious past. And Miss Maggie is Crow’s teacher and Osh’s neighbor, a protective maiden aunt-type. At age twelve, Crow has questions about her own past and her birth parents, questions that can only be answered with investigation and stepping out into the wider world to find her heritage.

Beyond the Bright Sea is a book about identity and belonging and the meaning and relative significance of family ties of blood and of adoption. I have a friend, adopted, and just now in her early twenties and investigating her own birth family. She would love this book, I think. In fact, many adopted children, especially those of a different racial heritage from their adoptive parents, would probably enjoy this story since Crow is a brown-skinned girl of uncertain parentage whose foster father, Osh, and teacher, Miss Maggie, are both different from her and from each other in terms of racial heritage. Crow is also different and isolated from the community on the island where she lives in other ways. The islanders, many of them, avoid her because they believe she might have inherited a contagious disease. And Osh is not the most sociable of characters, and of course, they live on a small island, isolated from the outside world of the mainland. So, one question or theme in the book is whether or not humans need community and how they can create a network of family and friendships if some tragedy or turn of events has cut them off from human contact.

Adults might “sell” this book to kids with lures of a search for buried treasure, wild storm adventures, and an orphan child’s quest to find her parents and her other family members. Then, stand back and let the thoughtful and the adventurous readers become captured by the toils of a great narrative and winsome characters. I rather hope Beyond the Bright Sea does win some awards so that more kids, and adults, will discover it.

0

The Button Girl by Sally Apokedak

Posted by Sherry on 9/19/2017 in Fantasy Fiction, General, Young Adult Fiction |

I want to talk one of my adult children into naming one of my grandchildren Repentance Joyous Forgiveness Abounding (Atwater), the name of the main character in this fantasy novel about a world of slaves and masters and societal upheaval. Sixteen year old Repentance lives in the foggy lowlands in a breeder village where the village couples are forced to “button” (marry) and produce slave children or become slaves themselves. Repentance refuses, and thus she suffers the consequence, slavery to the overlords in the City of Ice, Harthill. Repentance spends the entire remainder of the novel learning that her actions not only have consequences for her own life but those actions and decisions also influence the lives and fates of others, usually for the worse.

The Button Girl was absorbing and entertaining. Repentance was a bit slow on the uptake, impetuous and unheeding of the effect of her actions on others. She takes the entire book to learn to control her tongue and her rash decisions. But some of us are like that, passionate and headstrong, with little understanding of the cost of our hasty deeds. The book is firmly in the YA category; although not explicit, there are numerous references to concubinage, prostitution, and rough sex. The prince, Lord Malficc, is the villain, and he’s a lewd and cruel man, although again his cruelty is more implied than explicitly described.

There are a lot of overheard conversations used as a plot device to advance the action. I think that particular contrivance of convenient eavesdropping is a bit overused. And Repentance has way too much time to think about the many and usually horrible implications of her various past and possible future courses of action. But I enjoyed the novel and stayed up late to finish it. The themes, that our choices affect not just ourselves but also other people and that justice can be a tangled and difficult end to pursue, are well demonstrated in the actions and choices of the characters. For those readers who are interested in books about how society is ordered, for good or for evil, and how individuals can work to effect positive change, The Button Girl is a sure bet. Repentance Joyous Forgiveness Abounding Atwater is a lovely girl heroine with flaws who grows into a mature young woman, still flawed but showing true repentance and growth over the course of the novel.

1

York by Laura Ruby

Posted by Sherry on 9/18/2017 in 2017, Children's Fiction, Fantasy Fiction, General |

York, Book One, The Shadow Cipher by Laura Ruby.

This middle grade alternate history and steampunk-ish fantasy had a few awkward phrases and descriptions, and I’m not at all sure that all the loose ends were gathered together by the end of the book. (Understandable, since it’s the first book in a series.) However, Ms. Ruby tells such an absorbing and delightful story that I can forgive a few minor bobbles.

“The city had many nicknames: Gotham. Metropolis. The Shining Starr. The Big Apple. The City That Never Sleeps. These nicknames were not always accurate.”

The main character, the protagonist, of this novel is the City, New York City. But it’s a New York City changed and perhaps improved by the benevolence and inventiveness of the Morningstarr twins, Teresa and Theodore, during the first half of the nineteenth century. The Morningstarrs “performed architectural and mechanical wizardry to make New York City the most dazzling city in the world . . . the gleaming metropolis of the future.” Then, they disappeared, leaving “their land and property to a trust in the city’s name” and “a parting gift: a sort of puzzle, or treasure hunt.” The Morningstarr twins were definitely imaginative and eccentric, and for the next hundred and fifty years and more after their disappearance in 1854, people searched diligently for the clues that would lead them to the fabled Marningstarr treasure. But no one found it.

Enter Tess and Theo Biedermann, also twins, but in the present day, twenty-first century. They live with their family in a Morningstarr building, one of the six buildings left in the city of those that were planned and built by the Morningstarrs. Unfortunately, for the sake of history and for the Biedermanns, there’s an evil real estate developer and millionaire, Darnell Slant, who wants to buy up all of the Morningstarr buildings and make them into over-priced cracker box apartment buildings. Can Tess, Theo, and their new friend, Jaime, solve the Morningstarr cipher/puzzle and find the treasure and stop Darnell Slant?

It sounds fairly standard: evil real estate developer, a puzzle to solve, a race against time. However, the alternate history and steampunk elements of the plot and setting keep it fresh and interesting. The pacing is good, for the most part, and I didn’t really know what to expect most of the time. There are echoes of and allusions to Newbery award winner The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin and New York City history and the movie National Treasure, probably other cultural artifacts, too. Those are the ones I noticed and appreciated.

And the book includes some interesting philosophical speculation, especially in regards to life and technology and puzzle-solving. Is the process of solving a puzzle or playing a game its own reward? Or is it the winning or the treasure at the end that counts? Is any treasure worth any cost? How do you go about counting the cost when you don’t know what the treasure is? What does it mean to “be yourself” and to “believe in yourself”? Does faith in some object or journey create its own fulfillment? What is the difference between living beings and non-living artifacts of technology? Can a machine come to have life and agency? Can it respond to its environment and make decisions? How?

York was a book well worth the time spent reading its 476 pages. Fans of steampunk or New York City or puzzling and ciphers or alternate history adventure would do well to check it out.

Educator’s Guide to York from Walden Press.

Review of York at Charlotte’s Library.

3

Saturday Review of Books: September 16, 2017

Posted by Sherry on 9/15/2017 in Saturday Reviews |

“The Brahmins say that in their books there are many predictions of times in which it will rain. But press those books as strongly as you can, you can not get out of them a drop of water. So you can not get out of all the books that contain the best precepts the smallest good deed.” ~Leo Tolstoy

SatReviewbutton

Welcome to the Saturday Review of Books at Semicolon. Here’s how it usually works. Find a book review on your blog posted sometime during the previous week. The review doesn’t have to be a formal sort of thing. You can link to your thoughts on a particular book, a few ideas inspired by reading the book, your evaluation, quotations, whatever.

Then on Friday night/Saturday, you post a link here at Semicolon in Mr. Linky to the specific post where you’ve written your book review. Don’t link to your main blog page because this kind of link makes it hard to find the book review, especially when people drop in later after you’ve added new content to your blog. In parentheses after your name, add the title of the book you’re reviewing. This addition will help people to find the reviews they’re most interested in reading.

After linking to your own reviews, you can spend as long as you want reading the reviews of other bloggers for the week and adding to your wishlist of books to read.

0

Harvey and Me Update #2

Posted by Sherry on 9/11/2017 in Current Events, General |

Well, I’m still living in a post-Harvey world. I stayed home today for the most part, after having spent every day for the last couple of weeks at my church in Friendswood, Trinity Fellowship. I was helping all I could with the administrative side of our Harvey relief efforts, and I felt so much “survivor’s guilt” and so much grief and sympathy for those who flooded that I just couldn’t focus on things at home. I had to be where I was doing some good to someone else, not because I’m such a good person, but rather because there is just so much need and destruction and chaos.

So, I still couldn’t focus very well on things here at home today, even though I tried. What I really want is to give those ten families from our church of about forty families, one quarter of our membership, the ones who flooded or sustained major damage, another hug. I wanted to ask them again what we could do to help. I wanted to make them another meal or find them a team of strong guys and girls to do some more clean up or pull out sheetrock or spray for mold or wash their clothes or load their furniture that survived into a storage unit or do something. Then, I wanted to call all of the other families that I know who flooded, the ones I haven’t even been able to touch yet, and ask them the same questions, give them the same hugs, listen to their stories, too. But there are so many stories, so much pain, so many households being disrupted and so many precious belongings being trashed.

I needed to take a rest, focus on my family and my library, pull back a little, but it’s hard. I think Houston will have to take it a day at a time. I’ll have to take it a day at a time. In the meantime, keep praying. Keep sending help. Ask the Lord to give us all wisdom about a time to work and a time to rest. I’m sure I’ll get back to bookish posts soon, but right now it’s all too fresh and immediate.

Drone footage that my pastor took in Friendswood on September 9th, Saturday.

3

Saturday Review of Books: September 9, 2017

Posted by Sherry on 9/8/2017 in Saturday Reviews |

“I have read many books, but to little purpose, for want of good method. I have confusedly tumbled over divers authors in our libraries with small profit for want of art, order, memory, judgment.” ~Robert Burton

SatReviewbutton

Welcome to the Saturday Review of Books at Semicolon. Here’s how it usually works. Find a book review on your blog posted sometime during the previous week. The review doesn’t have to be a formal sort of thing. You can link to your thoughts on a particular book, a few ideas inspired by reading the book, your evaluation, quotations, whatever.

Then on Friday night/Saturday, you post a link here at Semicolon in Mr. Linky to the specific post where you’ve written your book review. Don’t link to your main blog page because this kind of link makes it hard to find the book review, especially when people drop in later after you’ve added new content to your blog. In parentheses after your name, add the title of the book you’re reviewing. This addition will help people to find the reviews they’re most interested in reading.

After linking to your own reviews, you can spend as long as you want reading the reviews of other bloggers for the week and adding to your wishlist of books to read.

4

Harvey and Me

Posted by Sherry on 9/8/2017 in Current Events, General |

I’ve been really busy and overwhelmed here in southeast Houston where we received over 40 inches of rain about a week ago. You may have heard something about that storm on the news. Anyway, sorry about the Saturday Review last week and the lack of blog posts this week. We didn’t sustain any damage at our house, but many, many friends and neighbors did. I have dozens of friends who lost almost everything they owned. We’re going to be digging out from under this disaster for years to come.

Here’s a brief video about what’s going on here in Houston now, post-Harvey. You need to know that these are my people, my church, my pastor, my friends and neighbors. I know many of the people in this video. We are brothers and sisters in Christ, and we are family. Please do what you can to help, either here or in Florida as Irma comes through.

Hurricane Harvey Response from EFCA on Vimeo.

Also, if you can share this video on Facebook or on your blog, it will help people to visualize the massive devastation that Houston has sustained and a bit of what I am afraid that Florida is experiencing right now.

4

World War II Novels and Nonfiction

Posted by Sherry on 9/1/2017 in Booklists, General, World War II |

On September 1, 1939, Hitler invaded Poland, and World War II began. So I’ve gathered up for you and for me a list of as many of the reviews of novels and nonfiction set during World War II that I could find while looking through the back posts of the Saturday Review of Books.

Adult Novels:
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah.
A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute.
The Auschwitz Violin by Maria Angels Anglada. Reviewed at Bart’s Bookshelf.
War on the Margins by Libby Cone. Reviewed at Amy Reads.
The Gathering Storm by Bodie and Brock Thoene. Reviewed by Beth at Weavings.
Against the Wind by Brock and Bodie Thoene. Reviewed by Beth at Weavings.
A Thread of Grace by Mary Doria Russell.
The Madonnas of Leningrad by Debra Dean. Reviewed by Mindy Withrow.
My Enemy’s Cradle by Sara Young.
Sarah’s Key by Tatiana De Rosnay. Reviewed at Small World Reads.
Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson.
The Swiss Courier by Tricia Goyer and Mike Yorkey. Reviewed by Beth at Weavings. Reviewed at 5 Minutes for Books.
The Snow Goose by Paul Gallico.
Blackout and All Clear by Connie Willis.
The Postmistress by Sarah Blake. Reviewed at Small World Reads. Reviewed at Diary of an Eccentric. Reviewed at The Common Room. Set in New England and in London.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. Reviewed by Janet at Across the Page. Set on Guernsey Island.
While We Still Live by Helen MacInnes. Sheila Matthews, a young Englishwoman is visiting in Warsaw when the Nazis invade. She stays and joins the Polish underground to fight against the German occupation.
The Kommandant’s Girl by Pam Jenoff. Reviewed at Lucybird’s Book Blog.
The Winds of War by Herman Wouk.
Atonement by Ian McEwen.
Winter in Madrid by C.J. Sansom.
My Enemy’s Cradle by Sara Young.

Young Adult and Middle Grade Fiction:
Eyes of the Emperor by Graham Salibury.
Code Talker by Joseph Bruchac.

The Devil’s Arithmetic by Jane Yolen.
Meet Molly by Valerie Tripp. Reviewed at Diary of an Eccentric.
Twenty and Ten by Claire Huchet Bishop. Reviewed by Nicola at Back to Books. Set in France.
Someone Named Eva by Joan M. Wolf.
Don’t Talk To Me About the War by David A. Adler.
On Rough Seas by Nancy L. Hull. Young adult fiction. Fourteen year old Alex lives in Dover, England in 1939, and he is eventually a hero as he participates in the rescue of the British soldiers at Dunkirk.
Snow Treasure by Marie McSwigan. Reviewed by Nicola at Back to Books. Set in Norway.
Blue by Joyce Meyer Hostetter.
Yellow Star by Jennifer Roy.
Jimmy’s Stars by Mary Ann Rodman
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.
The Devil’s Arithmetic by Jane Yolen.
Weedflower by Cynthia Kadohata
The Fences Between Us: The Diary of Piper Davis by Kirby Larson.
Flygirl by Sherri L. Smith.
Tamar by Mal Peet.
Tropical Secrets: Holocaust Refugees in Cuba by Margarita Engle.
Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys. Reviewed at Books and the Universe. Set in Lithuaina and Siberia. YA.
The Berlin Boxing Club by Robert Sharenow.
The Boy Who Dared: A Novel Based on the True Story of a Hitler Youth by Susan Campbell Bartoletti.
For Freedom: The Story of a French Spy by Kimberley Brubaker Bradley.
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein.
Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein.
The Winged Watchman by Hilda van Stockum.
Children of the King by Sonya Hartnett.
The Winter Horses by Phillip Kerr.
The Green Glass Sea by Ellen Klages.
The Extra by Kathryn Lasky.
Up Periscope by Robb White.
My Family for the War by Anne C. Voorhoeve. Reviewed at Hope Is the Word.
Projekt 1065: A Novel of World War II by Alan Gratz.

Nonfiction:
A Boy’s War by David Michell.
The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom.
Anne Frank: The Book, the Life and the Afterlife by Francine Prose. Reviewed by Girl Detective.
Night by Elie Wiesel.
The Zookeeper’s Wife by Diane Ackerman
Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand. Reviewed at Library Hospital. Reviewed by Alice at Supratentorial.
Lost in Shangri-La: The True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War II by Mitchell Zuckoff. Reviewed at Sarah Reads Too Much.
South to Bataan, North to Mukden by W. E. Brougher. Reviewed by Hope at Worthwhile Books. More about the same book.
Winston’s War: Churchill, 1940-1945 by Max Hastings.
The Mascot: Unraveling the Mystery of My Jewish Father’s Nazi Boyhood by Mark Kurzem.
We Die Alone: A WWII Epic of Escape and Endurance by David Howarth. Reviewed by The Ink Slinger.
W.F. Matthews: Lost Battalion Survivor by Travis Monday
High Flight: A Story of World War II by Linda Granfield. Illustrated by Michael Martchenko. A children’s biography reviewed by Nicola at Back to Books.
Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Prophet, Martyr, Spy by Eric Metaxis. Reviewed at 5 Minutes for Books.
The Port Chicago 50 by Steve Sheinkin.
Home Front Girl by Joan Wehlen Morrison.
The Boy on the Wooden Box: How the impossible became possible . . . on Schindler’s list by Leon Leyson with Marilyn J. Harran and Elisabeth Leyson.
Helga’s Diary: A Young Girl’s Account of Life in a Concentration Camp by Helga Weiss, translated by Neil Bermel.

D-Day: The Invasion of Normandy, 1944 by Rick Atkinson.
The Story of D-Day: June 6, 1944 by Bruce Bliven, Jr. (Landmark Book #62)

Mission at Nuremburg: An American Army Chaplain and the Trial of the Nazis by Tim Townsend.
Churchill and Orwell: The Fight for Freedom by Thomas E. Ricks.
Last Hope Island: Britain, Occupied Europe, and the Brotherhood That Helped Turn the Tide of War by Lynne Olson.
Irena’s Children: The Extraordinary Story of the Woman Who Saved 2,500 Children from the Warsaw Ghetto by Tilar Mazzeo.
For the Glory: Eric Liddell’s Journey from Olympic Champion to Modern Martyr by Duncan Hamilton.

More World War II reads and reviews at War Through the Generations.

What is your favorite World War II-related novel or work of nonfiction?

Amazon Affiliate. If you click on a book cover here to go to Amazon and buy something, I receive a very small percentage of the purchase price.

Copyright © 2003-2017 Semicolon All rights reserved.
This site is using the Desk Mess Mirrored theme, v2.5, from BuyNowShop.com.