Tag Archives: family

LaRose by Louise Erdrich

LaRoseLaRose by Louise Erdrich

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’m a big Louise Erdrich fan and this novel did not disappoint. Set on the outskirts of a Native American reservation the story begins with tragedy: a neighbor accidentally shoots and kill’s his neighbor’s 6 year-old son while hunting in their adjacent woods. In an effort to provide solace and justice to the suffering family, he and his wife, who is a half-sister to the child’s mother, “give” their youngest son LaRose to the family. The rest of the story is dedicated to the collective grief the two families suffer and the family histories that led them to this point. The story is gripping at times with lots of foreboding and beautiful metaphors. The characters are complex and well-wrought and the history of mistreatment and exploitation of Native Americans is palpable throughout. A highly recommended read. ~ Ms Dimmick

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Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger

Ordinary GraceOrdinary Grace by William Kent Krueger

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Beautifully written with achingly wrought characters, it’s hard to conceive of this novel as a murder mystery because at its heart is is a coming of age story for two unremarkable midwestern boys in the summer of 1961. Drawn more than told by 13 year-old Frank, or rather 50 year-old Frank reflecting on the disastrous events of the summer he reckoned with racial prejudice, class, bullying, sex, passion, grief, murder, miracles, and faith and was thrust into adulthood. Krueger’s descriptions of summer in Minnesota in the 1960s are so evocative you can hear the chirping of the crickets and taste the Kool-Aid on your tongue, all the while turning pages swiftly to discover the next foreshadowed disaster to befall this charming small town. Echoes of To Kill a Mockingbird are felt here, with the strong sense of place, the flawless moral bearing of Frank’s father, Pastor Nathan Drum, and the loss of innocence that comes from eavesdropping on adult conversations that are not meant for children’s ears. This one will stick with me for a long time to come. ~ Ms Dimmick

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Filed under Historical Fiction, Mystery

The Passion of Dolssa by Julie Berry

The Passion of DolssaThe Passion of Dolssa by Julie Berry
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Positively delightful. Historical fiction at its best — tastes like fiction, imparts knowledge like nonfiction. Dolssa, a naive, noble young mystic, barely escapes being burned for heresy in late 13th century France, and is taken in and nursed back to health by Botille and her two peasant sisters in the seaside village of Baja. First repelled by the course sisters and their unfamiliar ways, Dolssa loses her passionate connection to Jhesus and fears that he has forsaken her forever. Circumstances force Dolssa to call upon her beloved to aid villagers in need, including the kindly but strange sisters, and she discovers a mystical ability to heal others. Word of Dolssa’s miracles quickly spread to the Christian inquisitors from whose grasp Dolssa narrowly escaped, and Botille fears that her act of charity toward the young mystic will bring tragedy upon the entire village. If you’re curious about domestic Crusades in Europe, the Inquisition, and you enjoy stories about strong women facing seemingly insurmountable challenges, then you’ll love The Passion of Dolssa. ~ Ms Dimmick

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Let the Great World Spin, by Colum McCann

Let the Great World SpinLet the Great World Spin by Colum McCann

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I found this at once a challenging and affecting book. Set predominantly in the violent, gritty New York City of the 1970s, this story brilliantly weaves together a slew of disparate lives: an Irish monk and his beloved brother, a mother-daughter pair of prostitutes, a hippy artist, two grieving mothers; one an aristocrat and the other a black woman living in public housing; and the tight rope walker who stunned the world with his audacious walk between the twin towers. The setting and tone are dark and depressing, but the characters’ feelings and motivations are so vividly drawn that I developed a deep empathy for them all. McCann does a masterful job of thrusting the reader deep into psyche of each of his highly distinct characters. Others have described this as a social novel, an apt but perhaps oversimplified description. Read this for a glimpse at pre 9/11 New York City, and a window onto a world vastly different from your own. ~ Ms Dimmick

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Dumplin’, by Julie Murphy

Dumplin'Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Willowdean is the overweight teenaged daughter of a former beauty queen living in North Texas. You might think that would give her a bit of an insecurity complex, but Dumplin’, as her disappointed mom calls her, is actually quite content, and even confident, in her own skin. It’s that confidence that draws other girls who don’t fit the typical teenage beauty standards to Willowdean for friendship and guidance. It also attracts Bo, the hot private school boy who works with her at a fast-food restaurant and surprises her with his undeterred admiration. When Willowdean and her gang of atypical friends decide to enter their small town’s beauty pageant, a series of amusing and endearing escapades ensue. This book is pleasant read filled with the predictable teenage drama that romance, friendship and high school can bring, but stamped with its own brand of uniqueness in its small town North Texas setting (I had to Google pictures of homecoming mums to see what on earth they were!), its Dolly Parton sound track, and of course, its challenge to the American ideal of female beauty. Read this if you’re looking for some light, breezy, young adult romantic fiction. This is not the book for you if you’re seeking genuine depth or high literary quality. ~ Ms Dimmick

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Student Review:Go Set a Watchman, by Harper Lee (reviewed by Joseph S.)

Go Set a WatchmanGo Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

In Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman, taking place while civil rights and political tension changed the South, Jean Louise “Scout” Finch returns to Maycomb and sees her old home in a new light. At the age of 26, Scout has been living in New York City, trying to become more independent from her family. On her annual visit to see Atticus, her aging father, Scout sees something that makes her question everything she knows about her beloved home. Go Set a Watchman covers the differences in beliefs on racial equality between New York City, Scout’s new home, and Maycomb, Scout’s old home.

Go Set a Watchman was a highly anticipated book when it first came out. Many people loved To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee’s previous novel, and wanted more of it. Although To Kill a Mockingbird was an amazing book and you should read it (you have probably read it by now if you are looking at this review), Lee’s new novel is not worth the read for the most part. Not only was it incredibly boring, but the narrative clumsily switched between first and third person. Recommending this book to anyone is difficult because even though it was bad, it could interest someone. Those who are curious to know why it was so bad should read the book and decide for themselves. However, anyone who did not enjoy To Kill a Mockingbird, and those who absolutely loved To Kill a Mockingbird will most likely be disappointed. Student: Joseph S.

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Student Review: The Lightning Thief, by Rick Riordan (reviewed by Brandon L.)

The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, #1)The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The thriller of Rick Riordan’s The Lightning Thief exhibits the adventures of Percy Jackson. Zeus’ lightning bolt is stolen and Poseidon, his brother, is blamed for the theft. Zeus demands his weapon is to be returned by the summer solstice. As Percy and his mother leave for vacation, an unlikely event occurs and the two are separated; Percy enters Camp Half-Blood and Sally, his mother, is held captive. In Camp Half-Blood, a very important topic is covered. Percy learns more about who he actually is; he learns about his identity. When the demigods discover that he is the son of Poseidon, they set him, along with his friends Grover and Annabeth, out on a quest to retrieve Zeus’ lightning bolt. If they don’t before the summer solstice, a war will break out between the gods. Out in the real world, all of the monsters are set out wanting to kill Percy. But during these adventures of fighting these creatures and reaching places of dismay, Grover, Percy’s protector, and Annabeth, daughter of Athena, ultimately help Percy get to the Underworld, where they believe the bolt is, and bring it back to Olympus. Though this is his main goal to others, the topic of love overthrows this goal. Percy’s love for his mom makes the retrieval of Zeus’ lightning bolt seem small. Percy’s ultimate goal is to be with his mother again. Whether he chooses to risk his life to stay with his mom, or to stay safe and live with his kind in Camp Half-Blood, it ultimately shapes who he is meant to be.

Readers of all different kinds of genres will enjoy Rick Riordan’s The Lightning Thief. Whether comedy, or mythololgy is interesting to the reader, it has a little bit of both. The personality of Percy and his friends will make a reader laugh out loud. At the same time, the adventures they take down relate directly to ancient Greek stories. It also exhibits the love between friends as well as love between family members. A reader that is into the explicit fight scenes that are present in violent books, this one might disappoint as the fight scenes do not go deep into the blood and gore. But whether the reader believes it will definitely not be interesting, or it will be the greatest ever, everyone should read this book. ~ Student: Brandon L.

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Filed under *Student Review, Action/Adventure, Comedy, Fantasy

Student Review: The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini (reviewed by Alyson S.)

The Kite RunnerThe Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The book I read was The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini. The book is about Amir, a boy in Kabul and his servant Hassan. Amir is having trouble connecting with his father (Baba) and spends most of his time writing. Amir is jealous of Hassan’s relationship with Amir’s father and tends to tease Hassan on the fact that he is illiterate. After a traumatizing experience between Assef ( a bully) and Hassan, Amir and Hassan’s relationship is never the same. Amir sees the incident, but doesn’t say anything. Amir and Baba have to go to America because of the fighting going on in Afghanistan. Amir grows up and becomes a writer and gets married. Amir receives a letter from Rahim Khan (Baba’s friend) and has to return to Kabul in relation to Hassan’s son. Some topics the book covers are guilt, redemption, and father-son relationships. I think that other people should read this book because it conveys strong messages and reveals some truths about society. Readers that should avoid this book are children because the book has some mature scenes and messages that children would not understand or are ready for. Readers that would enjoy this book are mature adults who enjoy stories that are dramatic and have powerful messages.~ Student: Alyson S.

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Student Review: The 5th Wave, by Rick Yancey (reviewed by Aaliyah J.)

The 5th Wave (The 5th Wave, #1)The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The 5th Wave written by Rick Yancey is a must read book for surviving an apocalypse.
It revolves around the life of Cassie Sullivan surviving an alien apocalypse. The aliens are known as “others” and their attacks come in waves, destroying the planet. You never know when the next one will come and you do not who you can trust. Everyone was taken to a “safe” place and the children were moved to an army base while the adults stayed, unsure of their fate. Cassie didn’t make it to the bus for the children and witnessed many deaths, including her father’s. Now, her only goal is to make it to the army base and find her brother. During that journey she almost dies herself and is saved by a stranger. When she finally reaches the army base, it is not what she expected. Overall, Cassie must deal with losing everyone she cares about and falling in love with an “Other” while looking for her brother. This book is based off of survival, trust and relationships. Cassie struggles to survive the apocalypse, only believing in herself because she is unsure of who to trust. She needs to find her brother but, has some guy troubles along the way. The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey is a must read book because it is interesting to see what would happen during an alien decimation. This book should attract science fiction readers such as people who read The Hunger Games. It should not attract readers who do not enjoy futuristic reading. Although, The 5th Wave was depressing, I still would give it 4/5 stars because it was extremely engaging. ~ Student: Aaliyah J.

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Blackbird House, by Alice Hoffman

Blackbird HouseBlackbird House by Alice Hoffman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this poignant collection of interlinked short stories. The outer Cape Cod setting was so evocative for me, and following the generations of owners of a particular home from its construction during the pre-colonial era to modern day was enthralling. The stories are often dark and tragic, with a touch of mysticism. Even though the characters shift from story to story, their development is so rich that they feel as robust as those in a full length novel. What resonated most was the author’s depiction of love, whether between a long-married couple, or a mother and child, it was authentic. Hoffman’s love is palpable. This is a really short and delicious read. Try it even if you don’t think you like short stories, because they flow together beautifully with the original homestead providing the architectural framework for several lifetimes of love, pain and salvation. ~ Ms Dimmick

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Filed under Historical Fiction