Wednesday, April 2, 2014

February/March Reading


Life's been pretty busy lately, but now that I'm going into the home stretch of the school year, I have had a *little* more time to read, and my latest crop of books has not disappointed.

Just a reminder as to the significance of the ratings:
5 stars = life-changing (and I try not to use this one lightly)
4 stars = loved it
3 stars = liked it
2 stars = it was okay
1 star = wouldn't push it onto my worst enemy

Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool

Even though I've struggled to enjoy YA lit as much as I used to (maybe just because many of the themes no longer seem to apply to my life), I have been impressed with the recent Newbery winners coming out, including this one. Moon Over Manifest is the story of a girl who was dropped off by her vagabond father into his boyhood town for the summer while he went to go find some work while traveling around. The story is set during the Prohibition-era, and the town of Manifest has a lot of secrets up its sleeve.

The cool thing about this story is that it weaves two different time periods from that same town together, and you're not sure until the end how everything fits together. Also, since I've gotten pretty interested in the idea of immigration in the 1800's since doing some of my own family history, I really enjoyed the historical element of the story.

Overall, the book starts out a bit slow, but by the end, I thought it was a real stunner.

My Rating: 3.5 stars
Cleanliness Rating: Squeaky clean!

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

This was a bit of a wild card for me---it had been on one of my reading lists forever, and when I happened to come across a copy at a secondhand store, I decided to finally pick it up and check it out. Although I hadn't heard anything about the book before, I am SO glad I read this. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is the story of a young girl growing up in poverty in New York during the early 1900's, and it basically follows her as she grows up into a woman.

The fascinating thing about this story is that there's not much plot to it---it's not like other books, where a major conflict is introduced right at the beginning and several sub-conflicts are introduced later on and then all resolved at the end. No, the interesting thing about this book is that it reads like normal life, but like normal life written in the most gorgeous, simple prose you can imagine. I highlighted multiple sections of this book just because they were so beautiful and because they resonated so strongly with my own childhood experiences.

If you're feeling a bit nostalgic and want a book that's relatable and not too intense, then pick this one up.

My Rating: 4.5 stars
Cleanliness: Although some things like attempted rapes and loose morals are implied within some of the characters, the book is pretty clean because it's written from the child's perspective.

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Although apparently this book was made into a movie, I'd never heard anything about it until I started reading it--all I basically knew was that it was the first book listed on my "1,001 Books You Must Read Before You Die" list. Basically, this book is all about a not-so-distant futuristic society where human cloning is taking place. As the British government allows for human cloning, a sharp division arises as to how the clones should be raised--should they simply be kept alive and healthy, without any regard to their feelings or intellectual development? Or should they be raised as humanely as possible, despite the fact they're only being created for the sole purpose of saving their models' lives?

It's a pretty fascinating concept for a book, and it brought up some crucial questions when it comes to advancing science and medicine. Although the book didn't end with things tied up as well as I normally like, it did leave me thinking for days afterward.

My Rating: 3.5 stars
Cleanliness: The clones's attitudes towards sex is really nonchalant and open (since they can't reproduce), so there are a few places in the book that are a bit uncomfortable. Overall though, much of the sexual things are implied rather than drawn out too much.

To Be a Runner by Martin Dugard

Since I've long since known that I'm much more motivated to run when I'm reading inspirational stories and tips about it, I've been trying to keep a running book or two constantly revolving into my reading pile. This particular book is a fabulous collection of little essays all about pretty much every aspect of running---starting out, bad weather, racing, going for the gold, etc. I found that reading a chapter or two right before a long run helped keep me focused and optimistic, and I've copied down several motivational quotes from this book to remember during the hard moments of training.

Pick this up for a bit of pre-running motivation stimulation.

My Rating: 4 stars
Cleanliness: Overall, it's pretty clean, but there are a few instances of strong language and awkward referrals to various body parts or functions.

Have you read anything noteworthy lately? Anything you'd recommend?

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