June Reading

Well, blogging once a day for a month ended quite anti-clamatic… more to come about that later.
Turns out, I got a little distracted by the amazing Leeperland wedding extravaganza! (Which is, of course, no surprise to anyone.) It was an incredible event and I am so happy for my dear friends.
And also in the meantime, I forgot to add the reading of June…

The Book Thief, Markus Zusak (Book Club 1)
*The review below is what I wrote when I initially read this book in January. I re-read it again this month, and loved it just as much. Without a doubt, it is an amazing book.
I heard little bits and pieces about this book before I read it, but really did not know what to expect. I was especially intrigued that it is considered a young adult novel. Let me tell you… if I would have read this book when I was a teenager, I would have been so in love with it. Because, as an adult I thought it was incredible. The story takes place in Nazi Germany and is told by Death. That’s right, Death tells the story. What an amazing spin! The story follows a young girl, Liesel, who moves in with an interesting foster family after her brother dies and her mother is no longer able to care for her. The foster family keeps a Jew in hiding in the basement, which shapes the young girl’s mind about current events. For being a book centered around such a dark time; the compassion, curious and defiant nature of Liesel make you question how young adults would think/behave in such crisis. I know that as a young adult I would have admired, felt empathy and heartache for young Liesel because as an adult I was proud with her, related to her and cried when she did… It’s so good, this book is so good.

Winter Garden, Kristin Hannah
This book is not one I would generally chose for myself. I am not a huge fan of Kristin Hannah, she reads to me a lot like Jodi Picoult, or Nicholas Sparks. Where it seems there is always the same story line, just new characters and a twist of new drama. But, a gal I work with is a huge Kristin Hannah fan, and knowing that I am not a fan, suggested I still read this book. She swore to me that it was not like her others, and I would not be “disgusted by any romance.” I can’t say I loved it, but I can’t say I am disappointed to have read this book either. It is a story of a seemingly cold mother and her two daughters. The daughters are just getting to know their mother during their adult life, through her tales of her past, growing up in Russia. All of this only begins as their father is on his death bed, and of course, makes one of the daughters promise to have their mother tell her story. So could it be a Lifetime movie? Yeah, probably. Am I alright with having read Winter Garden? Of course, it was a nice change of pace. Would I read another Kristin Hannah book anytime soon? Doubtful.

The House of Tomorrow, Peter Bognanni
I can’t lie… I had pretty big expectations for this book. I can’t really say my expectations were let down, but, they were just let there, let still, I don’t know. I wasn’t impressed. The story is about a 17 year old boy, going through quite a self-discovery experience as he has spent all of his life very sheltered, living with his quack grandma (in rural Iowa) in a geodesic dome. I felt like most of the story was very cliche, and pretty anti-climatic. The reviews promised teenage angst at it’s finest, and I just didn’t feel it. It seemed a little too short, and lacking depth.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Rebecca Skloot
I was first intrigued about Henrietta Lacks when the girls group that I work with started studying her legacy. Lacks was a poor, black, mother of five children who died in 1951 from cervical cancer. Without her knowledge (or the knowledge of anyone in her family) doctors took samples of her cervix and found immortal cells, which have been named HeLa cells and have helped pave the way for vaccines and various other treatments. The story of Henrietta’s life is told through a journalist’s trail trying to contact Henrietta’s family. Although there were times that this book got a little medical (and had some serious biology references, that I admittedly had to look up) I loved the balance between Lack’s life story being told, her family’s current situation and how the medical field has benefitted (and progressed) because of HeLa cells.

Loving Frank, Nancy Horan
There is no sense in waiting to say it, I loved this book and I am very sad it sat on my book shelf for months before I read it. The story told is based on the affair between Frank Lloyd Wright and Mamah Borthwick Cheney. Horan (the author) uses parts of Mamah’s personal journal entries and creates a fictional story based on the affair that people don’t know much about. The characters make this story so much more than a tale of an affair. As a reader you go feel the passion, heart ache and pride that Mamah experiences as a feminist, mother and lover. It was an incredibly told story, and I would love to read it again and discuss it. Anyone in??

The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, Tom Wolfe
I started reading this story when I got it for a birthday gift in 1999. But, at that time I only made it about half way through and then kept it on the shelf until this summer, 11 years later. Wolfe tells the story of Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters and the revolutionary bus rides, LSD experiences and Day-Glo obsession. Reading about the wild ride of a hippie lifestyle makes you feel high yourself. You are confused at times, trying to keep things straight, reading a little slower trying to get things right… but just feel really good about the whole thing.

When the Elephants Dance, Tess Uriza Holthe
This story is based on Holthe’s father’s experiences in the Philippines during World War II. It is set around a group of families that are hiding together in the basement during the end of the war. Family members have to venture out to find food, and eventually to search for other family members that are missing. The story is told through a weaving of past and present. The elder family members tell stories of their past to lessen the effects of war, and while the present story is still occurring. Holthe tells an incredible story through this book; one that is heart breaking, and often repulsive at times, but in the same breath, a story of loyalty and strong family ties.

Cutting for Stone, Abraham Verghese
I don’t think I have ever read a book where the characters were so incredibly created as they are in this story. This book is amazing, I don’t know how else to describe it. It is told by Marion, who is an identical twin (that was actually separated at birth) born to a nun and a doctor in Africa. The story tells the tale of compassion, family connections, loyalty and personal struggles and achievements. Throughout the entire book I was able to feel the characters and truly relate to their emotions. Verghese makes the reader part of the story. Through the triumph and heart ache you can’t help but be empathetic.

I only have one week of summer break left, and still a stack of books I was hoping to finish before then! Here’s hoping that the start of this school year is quite a bit less chaotic than last year’s start, and I still have some time to get through that stack.

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