Margin Notes: Some latest!
About: 1987. There’s only one person who has ever truly understood fourteen-year-old June Elbus, and that’s her uncle, the renowned painter Finn Weiss. Shy at school and distant from her older sister, June can only be herself in Finn’s company; he is her godfather, confidant, and best friend. So when he dies, far too young, of a mysterious illness her mother can barely speak about, June’s world is turned upside down. But Finn’s death brings a surprise acquaintance into June’s life—someone who will help her to heal, and to question what she thinks she knows about Finn, her family, and even her own heart.
At Finn’s funeral, June notices a strange man lingering just beyond the crowd. A few days later, she receives a package in the mail. Inside is a beautiful teapot she recognizes from Finn’s apartment, and a note from Toby, the stranger, asking for an opportunity to meet. As the two begin to spend time together, June realizes she’s not the only one who misses Finn, and if she can bring herself to trust this unexpected friend, he just might be the one she needs the most.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This book was heartbreaking. I am a big crier, but I cried through this ENTIRE book. My eyes were red for over 24 hours after I finished.
The basic premise is that a teen girl (the narrator), June, has a beloved uncle. That uncle, Finn, is gay and dying of AIDS. Finn is the only one who really understands June, so she is devastated by his loss. So devastated that she doesn't see the others around her grieving, and doesn't really notice that Finn had a boyfriend until that boyfriend reaches out to June and they forge a secret friendship (June's family doesn't like Toby very much.) June has an older sister who loves her so much that she's a bit jealous of June's relationship with Finn and struggling with her coming of age and preparing to go off to college; her mom is jealous of Finn's artistic success and sad that she wasn't closer to her brother, and she's angry that he's dying/when he dies; her father is trying to be there for her mother and the rest of the family. June also has a love interest.
I loved the characters in this book-they were really well written and complex in the right ways-sometimes I think authors give characters something hard to deal with to give them depth (i.e. is an orphan, or sick, or mother has cancer and suddenly that character has gravitas), in this book I don't think that's the case at all. The characters are genuine from the get-go: June is quirky and lovely and an oblivious, somewhat self-involved teen. Her sister is struggling to grow up while at the same time she doesn't want to, she has so much promise but doesn't know how to both stay young and grow up. Toby misses the love of his life and is also dying of AIDS.
While this story has a bit of an LGBT bent, I think the true story here is one of loss, love, grief, forgiveness and family. I really loved this one. Highly recommended to all--just make sure you have a box of kleenex handy!
A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin
About: Time is out of joint. The summer of peace and plenty, ten years long, is drawing to a close, and the harsh, chill winter approaches like an angry beast. Two great leaders—Lord Eddard Stark and Robert Baratheon—who held sway over and age of enforced peace are dead...victims of royal treachery. Now, from the ancient citadel of Dragonstone to the forbidding shores of Winterfell, chaos reigns, as pretenders to the Iron Throne of the Seven Kingdoms prepare to stake their claims through tempest, turmoil, and war.
As a prophecy of doom cuts across the sky—a comet the color of blood and flame—six factions struggle for control of a divided land. Eddard’s son Robb has declared himself King in the North. In the south, Joffrey, the heir apparent, rules in name only, victim of the scheming courtiers who teem over King’s Landing. Robert’s two brothers each seek their own dominion, while a disfavored house turns once more to conquest. And a continent away, an exiled queen, the Mother of Dragons, risks everything to lead her precious brood across a hard hot desert to win back the crown that is rightfully hers.
A Clash of Kings transports us into a magnificent, forgotten land of revelry and revenge, wizardry and wartime. It is a tale in which maidens cavort with madmen, brother plots against brother, and the dead rise to walk in the night. Here a princess masquerades as an orphan boy; a knight of the mind prepares a poison for a treacherous sorceress; and wild men descend from the Mountains of the Moon to ravage the countryside.
Against a backdrop of incest and fratricide, alchemy and murder, the price of glory may be measured in blood. And the spoils of victory may just go to the men and women possessed of the coldest steel...and the coldest hearts. For when rulers clash, all of the land feels the tremors.
Audacious, inventive, brilliantly imagined, A Clash of Kings is a novel of dazzling beauty and boundless enchantment—a tale of pure excitement you will never forget.My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I liked this book a lot! It's a long one so I struggled to make it fit into the library timeline, but I really enjoyed the continuing story. I can't wait for the next!
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“What are you reading?”
That’s the question Will Schwalbe asks his mother, Mary Anne, as they sit in the waiting room of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. In 2007, Mary Anne returned from a humanitarian trip to Pakistan and Afghanistan suffering from what her doctors believed was a rare type of hepatitis. Months later she was diagnosed with a form of advanced pancreatic cancer, which is almost always fatal, often in six months or less.
This is the inspiring true story of a son and his mother, who start a “book club” that brings them together as her life comes to a close. Over the next two years, Will and Mary Anne carry on conversations that are both wide-ranging and deeply personal, prompted by an eclectic array of books and a shared passion for reading. Their list jumps from classic to popular, from poetry to mysteries, from fantastic to spiritual. The issues they discuss include questions of faith and courage as well as everyday topics such as expressing gratitude and learning to listen. Throughout, they are constantly reminded of the power of books to comfort us, astonish us, teach us, and tell us what we need to do with our lives and in the world. Reading isn’t the opposite of doing; it’s the opposite of dying.
Will and Mary Anne share their hopes and concerns with each other—and rediscover their lives—through their favorite books. When they read, they aren’t a sick person and a well person, but a mother and a son taking a journey together. The result is a profoundly moving tale of loss that is also a joyful, and often humorous, celebration of life: Will’s love letter to his mother, and theirs to the printed page.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is a wonderful book--it was heartbreaking and honest. I can't imagine how hard it must be to write about the death of someone you love so much, but Will Schwalbe did an outstanding job. This is a book for book-people. It is a love story, about a son and a mother and their love, and then also about their love of books, authors, characters, settings, and the written word. I found this book compelling-I admire Schwalbe's mother and can see why he looked up to her. What an astounding woman! She is the kind of woman you hope to become, and this book is an incredible tribute to her. I highly recommend this book.
Prodigy by Marie Lu
About: June and Day arrive in Vegas just as the unthinkable happens: the Elector Primo dies, and his son Anden takes his place. With the Republic edging closer to chaos, the two join a group of Patriot rebels eager to help Day rescue his brother and offer passage to the Colonies. They have only one request—June and Day must assassinate the new Elector.
It’s their chance to change the nation, to give voice to a people silenced for too long.
But as June realizes this Elector is nothing like his father, she’s haunted by the choice ahead. What if Anden is a new beginning? What if revolution must be more than loss and vengeance, anger and blood—what if the Patriots are wrong?
In this highly-anticipated sequel, Lu delivers a breathtaking thriller with high stakes and cinematic action.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Great follow up to Legend. I really enjoyed this, surprised by the ending, but because of that I hope there's another book in this series!!
The Aviator's Wife by Melanie Benjamin
About: For much of her life, Anne Morrow, the shy daughter of the U.S. ambassador to Mexico, has stood in the shadows of those around her, including her millionaire father and vibrant older sister, who often steals the spotlight. Then Anne, a college senior with hidden literary aspirations, travels to Mexico City to spend Christmas with her family. There she meets Colonel Charles Lindbergh, fresh off his celebrated 1927 solo flight across the Atlantic. Enthralled by Charles’s assurance and fame, Anne is certain the celebrated aviator has scarcely noticed her. But she is wrong.
Charles sees in Anne a kindred spirit, a fellow adventurer, and her world will be changed forever. The two marry in a headline-making wedding. Hounded by adoring crowds and hunted by an insatiable press, Charles shields himself and his new bride from prying eyes, leaving Anne to feel her life falling back into the shadows. In the years that follow, despite her own major achievements—she becomes the first licensed female glider pilot in the United States—Anne is viewed merely as the aviator’s wife. The fairy-tale life she once longed for will bring heartbreak and hardships, ultimately pushing her to reconcile her need for love and her desire for independence, and to embrace, at last, life’s infinite possibilities for change and happiness.
Drawing on the rich history of the twentieth century—from the late twenties to the mid-sixties—and featuring cameos from such notable characters as Joseph Kennedy and Amelia Earhart, The Aviator’s Wife is a vividly imagined novel of a complicated marriage—revealing both its dizzying highs and its devastating lows. With stunning power and grace, Melanie Benjamin provides new insight into what made this remarkable relationship endure.
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
The beginning of this book was really slow for me. I had to give it about 100 pages before I actually got interested. Then, I still found the characters one dimensional and it almost seemed like the author was trying to justify their behavior. The flow was a bit choppy for me as well, time transitioned very slowly, then very quickly and I felt the whiplash. That being said, this book was readable and of interest for anyone interested in the Lindburghs.
Sutton by J.R. Moehringer
About: Willie Sutton was born in the squalid Irish slums of Brooklyn, in the first year of the twentieth century, and came of age at a time when banks were out of control. If they weren't failing outright, causing countless Americans to lose their jobs and homes, they were being propped up with emergency bailouts. Trapped in a cycle of panics, depressions and soaring unemployment, Sutton saw only one way out, only one way to win the girl of his dreams.
So began the career of America's most successful bank robber. Over three decades Sutton became so good at breaking into banks, and such a master at breaking out of prisons, police called him one of the most dangerous men in New York, and the FBI put him on its first-ever Most Wanted List.
But the public rooted for Sutton. He never fired a shot, after all, and his victims were merely those bloodsucking banks. When he was finally caught for good in 1952, crowds surrounded the jail and chanted his name.
Blending vast research with vivid imagination, Pulitzer Prize winner J.R. Moehringer brings Willie Sutton blazing back to life. In Moehringer's retelling, it was more than poverty or rage at society that drove Sutton. It was one unforgettable woman. In all Sutton's crimes and confinements, his first love (and first accomplice) was never far from his thoughts. And when Sutton finally walked free - a surprise pardon on Christmas Eve, 1969 - he immediately set out to find her.
Poignant, comic, fast-paced and fact-studded, Sutton tells a story of economic pain that feels eerily modern, while unfolding a story of doomed love that is forever timeless.
My rating: 1 of 5 stars
Not my favorite--I found the characters not interesting, the story was so slow that even though it was about a bank robber, I kept putting it down and not wanting to pick it back up. Too bad!
Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler
About: I wish I could tell everyone who thinks we’re ruined, Look closer…and you’ll see something extraordinary, mystifying, something real and true. We have never been what we seemed.
When beautiful, reckless Southern belle Zelda Sayre meets F. Scott Fitzgerald at a country club dance in 1918, she is seventeen years old and he is a young army lieutenant stationed in Alabama. Before long, the “ungettable” Zelda has fallen for him despite his unsuitability: Scott isn’t wealthy or prominent or even a Southerner, and keeps insisting, absurdly, that his writing will bring him both fortune and fame. Her father is deeply unimpressed. But after Scott sells his first novel, This Side of Paradise, to Scribner’s, Zelda optimistically boards a train north, to marry him in the vestry of St. Patrick’s Cathedral and take the rest as it comes.
What comes, here at the dawn of the Jazz Age, is unimagined attention and success and celebrity that will make Scott and Zelda legends in their own time. Everyone wants to meet the dashing young author of the scandalous novel—and his witty, perhaps even more scandalous wife. Zelda bobs her hair, adopts daring new fashions, and revels in this wild new world. Each place they go becomes a playground: New York City, Long Island, Hollywood, Paris, and the French Riviera—where they join the endless party of the glamorous, sometimes doomed Lost Generation that includes Ernest Hemingway, Sara and Gerald Murphy, and Gertrude Stein.
Everything seems new and possible. Troubles, at first, seem to fade like morning mist. But not even Jay Gatsby’s parties go on forever. Who isZelda, other than the wife of a famous—sometimes infamous—husband? How can she forge her own identity while fighting her demons and Scott’s, too? With brilliant insight and imagination, Therese Anne Fowler brings us Zelda’s irresistible story as she herself might have told it.
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
I was really excited to read this book--I love the Fitzgeralds. Unfortunately, for me, this book had an inauthentic voice. The southern accent and terms from the jazz era were forced. It was distracting. The writing was repetitive--sometimes I felt like I was being hit over the head with a list of the people the FGs were hanging out with at different parties, or with a theme (how many times do we need to listen to hear about Zelda's parents being old fashioned and the FGs being modern?), the feminism theme could have been great if it wasn't so obvious. There was only one secondary character (other than Scott and Zelda) that was at all developed, and that was Hemingway. The writing didn't have any subtlety. The pace was odd--I liked the beginning, but time passed in an odd way. The time spent in NYC felt like forever, and then the time in Paris felt short, as did her time in the hospitals (she moved around so much and it didn't seem like any of the moving around was important!). Choppy. HOWEVER this makes it seem like I hated the book. I didn't. I just didn't think it was for me.