Liz's Ten Second Reviews
"The Four Winds" by Kristin Hannah: A weak heart that carries the strongest love is the strength our heroine finds as she is launched into the world as a young woman. Tested beyond her own perceived endurance Elsa is challenged by all those close to her; she stays true to her principles and has the satisfaction of knowing despite her doubts that she has done her best. A novel for those who trust in truth and human decency as the cornerstones of a good life.
"Flashback Girl" by Lise Deguire: I am so pleased that this local author's book was one of the top sellers of 2020 at Yardley's favorite bookstore! This memoir feature a resilient and engaging young woman who discovers a life-long strength despite being burned extensively at 4 years old. Lise brings much hope and a fresh view on the world to those who read this sad, intense and ultimately rewarding story of human endurance and grit.
"How Much of these Hills is Gold" by C. Pam Zhang: Two sisters abandoned after the death of their parents . . . Survivors in the wildness of the West; witnesses to the racism of white adventurers and victims of the destitution of a failed gold rush. A thought-provoking tale that weaves the family's past as the girls press forward to a future that is potentially anything but survivable.
"The Lighthouse Keeper's Daughter" by Hazel Gaynor: This moving story, based on a courageous young woman, Grace Darling, breaks your heart . . . Grace is a champion of modesty when describing her own daring rescue of a woman shipwrecked near her lighthouse home. Intertwining this story is another tale of a hundred years later: Mathilda, who finds herself on the other side of the Atlantic. Both Mathilda and Grace struggle with the responsibilities of family and the desire to be loved . . . Each heroically choosing to be true to herself.
"Florence Adler Swims Forever" by Rachel Beanland: An Atlantic City, New Jersey story; great for those who appreciate a glimpse from early 20th century when characters lived in what appears to be a simpler time. Tough choices; social status and wealth demarcations and rigid society norms make for a compelling read to find the truth of a life in mid-twentieth century.
"Hitting a Straight Lick with a Crooked Stick" by Zora Neale Hurston: This is a joyous take on human interaction, political skill and societal machinations. Zora is at the top of her game describing people living their best lives for the entertainment of us dear readers! I enjoyed every story and wish there were more to be found. The humble politeness of the characterizations match the full-witted humor of the stories' plots. A gem of a short story collection.
"The Light of Days" by Judy Batalion: This non-fiction book tells the work of Polish Women Jews; heroines during the Greman occupation of Poland during WWII.
It is a difficult book to read.
It is an important book to read for three reasons:
"Hamnet" by Maggie O'Farrell: Eloquently written; sublimely plotted and characterizations that mesmerize . . . as I read this book I was astonished at the pace, the creativity and the pure joy of reading this rewarding book of a single story with many intrigues. I recommend for anyone interested in the mystery of human and nature connections and the magical properties of human intuition.
"Owls of the Eastern Ice: A Quest to Find and Save the World's Largest Owl" by Jonathan C. Slaght: What an adventure and what fun . . . if you like cold, love cold and embrace cold and do not mind reading about cold for 350+ pages! The rough living, unlikely adventures and catastrophes of all kinds . . . (and the cold) is outweighed by the zeal and care for a lovely, unique, strange and other worldly creature that endures and adapts (so far) despite several challenges. And the endeavor to care about other creatures in our world despite great odds is a precious lesson in perserverance and wonder for the natural world.
"The Dead Are Arising - The Life of Malcolm X" by Les Payne: Les Payne has written a book that describes Malcolm Little X's hard life as he carries just beneath the surface a sense of destiny and purpose. A mis-understood hero to many the Life of Malcolm X develops the rational education and evolution of a great mind, strategic intention: an amazingly resourceful leader. Much can be learned and appreciated about the civil rights movement and the realities of black life mid-twentieth century America with this extremely well written, researched and quite timely book.
"The Book of Eels" by Patrik Svensson: Yes! I read it!! Eels are not appealing at all to me - and I am glad I did: this book explains the ecological niche of a creature while telling a human family story; specifically, a father and son discovering together the world of eels. It is a wonderful education about nature, breadth of the conservation movement and the importance of scientific thought.
"A Thousand Mornings", "House of Light", and "Felicity" by Mary Oliver: Everything about Mary Oliver's poetry works for almost everyone: its ease of understanding, its simplicity, its concern for the natural world. Most importantly her poems give you permission and the opportunity to reflect and learn.
"A Woman of No Importance" by Sonia Purcell: Virginia Hall was an amazing person with unbelievable energy, organizational skills, ability to work with anyone and completely focused on defeating the Nazis. She was a powerful force that created opportunities for the Allies to completely undermine the western land war and occupation by the Germans.
Megan's Ten Second Reviews
"Gregor the Overlander" by Suzanne Collins: Gregor the Overlander is a great story about a boy named Gregor and his little sister, Boots. Collins writes about their adventure into an underworld fantasy world where human sized spiders, rats, elves, cockroaches, and bats exist. When Gregor arrives, he soon figures out that he is supposed to be the savior of the elves, and he must uphold a sacred prophecy. While Gregor would much rather find the fastest way to escape, and get out of the underworld, he realizes that he must stay and be the hero that his newly made friends need him to be. Collins writes this book incredibly well, and the twists and turns are sure to keep you on the edge of your seat!
"Twilight" by Stephanie Meyer: Twilight is a phenomenal book about the small, dreary, town of Forks. When Bella Swan moves there to live with her dad, her expectations are incredibly low; until she meets fellow classmate (and vampire) Edward Cullen. Bella is overwhelmed by his godlike figure, and the two quickly fall in love. However, the overhanging threat of Edward putting Bella in danger, will cause them to experience many problems, until eventually, Bella is confronted with her worst nightmare. Meyer writes this book exquisitely, and her constant use of interesting structure and flow will be sure to please any reader.
Tracey's Ten Second Reviews
"Leave the World Behind" by Rumaan Alam: This book terrified and fascinated me. Two families of differing race, class, and social stations that have never met before come together in a time of crisis and unknown threats. The ultimate exploration of how people find common ground and care for one another in desperate times.
"Stamped" by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi: This young-adult version of Ibram X. Kendi's "Stamped from the Beginning" was an excellent way for my family to approach discussing racism in our society, how we arrived at our current state of racial tension, and what we can do to support anti-racism in our daily lives. A real eye-opener for kids and adults alike.
Amy's Ten Second Reviews
"The Vanishing Half" by Brit Bennett: The two main characters are twin girls. They grew up in a small southern town and run away. As they become adults, they separate and live in different states, each sister has unusual adult lives. This story focuses on racism and how one sister passes herself off as white. The story has many twists and turns, it kept me interested until the last page.
"The Only Woman in the Room" by Marie Benedict: A stunning beauty married to Freidrich Mandl did not realize who he was, an officer with the Third Reich. As she plans her escape she makes sure to get as much information about the Nazis plan to murder the Jews and anyone else they feel is not pure enough. She moved to Hollywood and became Heddy Lamarr screen star. She was a scientist and came up with a plan to help win World War II.
"All the Devils Are Here" by Louise Penny: Louise Penny has written another plot twisting mystery involving the Gamache family. The family matriarch, Stephen, is critically injured and the family knows this is no accident. This book kept me on the edge of my seat until the very last page. I highly recommend this book as well as Ms. Penny's other many books she as written.
"Escaping Viet Nam" by Harriet Hill and H'yoanh Buonya: This is a true story of how one girl tries to escape persecution by the North Vietnamese Army, the Viet Cong. H’Yoanh’s journey led her into the jungles of the Highlands. She was captured by PolPot’s killing regime and lived with the soldiers doing whatever was asked of her. This book is a wonderful story about how one woman perseveres over tremendous hardships. I recommend this book.
"The Splendid and the Vile" by Erik Larson: I enjoyed this book so much I didn’t want it to end. Eric Larson is an amazing storyteller. The reader experiences each facet of how decisions were made to win the second world war. This book captures Winston Churchill’s leadership of England when Hitler declared war and bombed Britain killing 45,000 people. We learn about Winston Churchill, his family and advisers that helped him with war strategies. I highly recommend this book. I enjoyed it so much I might just read it again!
"The House of Broken Angels" by Luis Alberto Urrea: This book gives the reader an insight into a family that loves one another and has the highest respect for the family matriarch – Big Angel. The family is gathering for the grandmother’s funeral and the next day will celebrate Big Angel’s birthday. Although we come to know the family and how dysfunctional they are, we feel a strong bond to the characters and their lives.
"Saint X" by Alexis Schaitkin: A family goes on a vacation to a tropical resort. Everything is wonderful until Allison, the older sister of Claire, goes missing. It is said that she was murdered by an island resident. When the family goes home and Claire grows up she becomes obsessed with trying to find out if her sister was indeed murdered. I couldn’t wait to find out what happened to Allison on that island. This book is a real page turner.
"Migrations" by Charlotte McConaghy: The main character Franny Stone goes on a journey to save the Artic terns and track their migration. She hitches a ride on a fishing boat and the story takes many twists and turns. We discover that Franny has other reasons for this journey. Franny has had an unusual life. Reading each chapter, we are told another small piece. When we reach the end of Franny’s journey her motives for this trip are revealed.