Wonderstruck features parallel narratives that later intersect in a heartwarming story about family. Ben feels alone since his mother died, and he has...moreWonderstruck features parallel narratives that later intersect in a heartwarming story about family. Ben feels alone since his mother died, and he has to live with an aunt and uncle who don’t seem to want him. Deaf in one ear, Ben loses his hearing entirely in an accident in the course of the story. Armed with only a few items he has found and lacking the ability to hear, Ben sets off in search of the father he never knew. Fifty years earlier, Rose lives with her father, and must work with a tutor she dislikes due to her deafness. She pines over one particular movie starlet as she gazes across the water to New York City. Both alone and unable to hear, Rose and Ben meet under the most unlikely of circumstances and find kindred spirits in one another.
I hadn’t read The Invention of Hugo Cabret, so Wonderstruck was an entirely new experience for me. I quickly became charmed by the alternating narratives told in text and image, and the story went by very quickly for me. I also thought that the images representing Rose’s story worked very well, because it was able to better represent her experiences as a deaf child who seemed to experience the world largely through what she saw around her rather than the words that were spoken to her.
Selznick does a great job with characterization in this story. I was particularly impressed with how fully formed Rose was, even though for the first bit of the book we only saw her through glimpses.
Much of this book revolves around museums, collecting, and curating. I think this is both an educational idea, and a really fun one for kids who will read this. Museums are fun, and almost all of us collect items that are dear to us and represent something throughout our lives. To show the connection between the two might go a long way toward encouraging young readers to take up an interest in history, art, and themselves.
I did pass this book on to my 4th grade sister, and can’t wait to see what she thinks of it. Her eyes lit up when she first started flipping through it, and I feel confident that she’ll enjoy the experience of reading this book.(less)
Willa has always felt like she needed to do her best and stay under the radar. Living with her mother in a house paid for by her step-father's ex-wife...moreWilla has always felt like she needed to do her best and stay under the radar. Living with her mother in a house paid for by her step-father's ex-wife for Willa's step-sisters, she's always done without while her step-sisters had whatever they wanted. Willa never knew her father, and so it comes as a surprise when she learns that he has just killed the half-sisters and step-mother she never knew she had. Now the country is scandalized by the horror he has brought down upon his family, and Willa feels the urge to understand. She wants to know who her father was, her mother's secrets, and if she has any of his bad blood inside of herself.
Blood Wounds is a really terrifying and touching story because it is the kind of thing that happens all the time, yet we all think it could not happen to us. Murder-suicides are a sad fact of life in 20th and 21st century America. This book takes a look at those who are left behind to pick up the pieces after one of these terrible events occurs. It also shows the way that some people want to blame the family of the murderer, although they aren't the ones at fault. Willa never even knew her father, yet the townsfolk look down on her just for having been his daughter. It's a good lesson to remember when we read about these kinds of crimes in the newspaper.
Reading through the story, you really feel for Willa and her situation. Things weren't great for her even before her father went on his murder spree, with her being the poor daughter next to two spoiled step-sisters. Things are even worse now: her school views her as the daughter of some hick killer, while her father's hometown sees her as the rich daughter who left and never looked back. There's a lot of family drama at play, and most readers will be able to relate to a relationship at some level, even if you didn't grow up in a household like the one presented. The conflicts are universal.
This book is heartbreaking, so don't go into it looking for laughs. I was really glad that the storyline wasn't complicated by some romance, which would have cheapened the drama. Blood Wounds was a heartbreaking book to read, but still drew me in and made me think.(less)
Midshipman Deryn “Dylan” Sharp and prince-on-the-run Aleksandar, secretly heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, are still serving on the great airship,...moreMidshipman Deryn “Dylan” Sharp and prince-on-the-run Aleksandar, secretly heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, are still serving on the great airship, the Leviathan. After leaving the Ottoman Empire in the last book, the crew is heading east to meet up with a very brilliant but odd inventor in Siberia. Deryn is still keeping a major secret from Alek, and they will need to come to terms with the truth and each other if they are to truly be able to work together to try to end the war.
I loved the first two books in this series, Leviathan and Behemoth, so I was greatly looking forward to reading the series conclusion. Goliath does not disappoint! There is action, romance, adventure, and a cast of characters from history who spice up the pages of this book. Goliath was my favorite of the three books because we already know and love the main characters, Deryn and Alek, and we finally get to see how the story ultimately resolves.
Deryn is daring as ever in this book, but Alek now really steps up to the plate and makes a huge contribution to the war effort. This allows Deryn and Alek to become more of equals, and strengthens their relationship.
My only beef with this book is kind of a minor one. Nikola Tesla is a character that pops up, and he’s presented as being nuts. In the Tesla-Edison smackdown, I’ve been strongly Team Tesla for years. I can’t complain too much, though, because everything in this book is fictionalized, so alternate-history Tesla can be as crazy as he wants. Maybe this character will actually inspire readers to go seek more information about the actual man.
As always, the illustrations in this book add delightfully to the story. Westerfeld describes a lot of Klanker and Darwinist technologies, and the drawings help to solidify those images, especially when depicting battle scenes. Sadly, the galley did not include the gorgeous endpapers that I’ve so grown to love from the past two books, so I’m going to need to find a finished copy so I can see what genius design they’ve come up with this time for the WWI map of Europe.
This is series that just gets better, so I really encourage everyone to give it a try, especially if you’re a fan of alternative histories, WWI, steampunk, or just stories involving spunky girls who pretend to be boys and princes who pretend to be peasants.(less)
Susan is dying to move into a bigger place in Brooklyn, but doesn’t know if she and her husband will be able to afford it since she’s recently quit he...moreSusan is dying to move into a bigger place in Brooklyn, but doesn’t know if she and her husband will be able to afford it since she’s recently quit her lawyer job to take up painting. Then, the perfect apartment becomes available, and with such a low price, they move in immediately. Everything seems wonderful, except for the room Susan has chosen to be her studio. As her concerns with the apartment grow, so does the strain on their relationship and domestic situation. And Susan is also waking up with mysterious bites. Bedbugs are running rampant, but it seems that she is the only one who can see them or is getting bitten. Susan is left to question whether they are really bedbugs, or something more demonic.
I wanted to like this book. It had all the trappings of a fun psychological thriller, with dark tones and was capitalizing on a recent American fear. Who hasn’t heard the sensationalist stories of bed bugs in New York hotels? Plus, many people are very afraid of insects, so the thought of tiny creepy crawlies can result in the kind of book you don’t want to read at night.
Unfortunately, I had a hard time getting through it. The main character, Susan, was really annoying to me. She’s always complaining about something, yet she doesn’t work and doesn’t ever paint, even though they’re paying a nanny to watch her daughter during the day to free her up for making her art. And even though they’re struggling to make ends meet on her husband’s salary, she’s constantly going out to eat and even goes to the salon for a manicure, pedicure, and wax. I just kept feeling like this is an example of what is wrong with America. The book would have worked much better for me if she would have been a person I could root for, instead of against.
There was also repeated mention of something that happened at the beginning of the book (not a spoiler). She notes that a mother pushed her twin babies off of a rooftop, killing them. I kept expecting the story to cycle back to this, to tie it in in some way, but it didn’t. It was just there, maybe meant to flavor the novel? I couldn’t tell, but it irked me that it never was worked into the larger plot.
Things got better about 2/3 of the way through. It seemed that the book was really going to go the psychological route, which pleased me greatly. The tension increased, and Susan began having “issues.” Then, the entire spirit of the book did a big 180. I don’t know why he did it, but the bedbugs ended up being something entirely different than the story was working them up to be, and it didn’t work for me. The ending left me feeling absolutely incredulous, and very unhappy that I had invested so much time for such a poor payout.
I think this book will find its audience, but that audience was not me. I also think that Winters writes well, and the idea for the story was really good. It came down to characterization and ending for me, which bummed me out. Still, there were some nice moments of creepiness, and I felt itchy when going to sleep after putting the book down.(less)
After he accidentally fires his father’s Japanese rifle, Jack is grounded for the summer. The only exception is when he helps Miss Volker, the old lad...moreAfter he accidentally fires his father’s Japanese rifle, Jack is grounded for the summer. The only exception is when he helps Miss Volker, the old lady that lives down the road. Somehow, Jack’s summer is far from dull–the Hell’s Angels invade the town, his father has him cut down his mom’s corn crop to build a runway, and he helps Miss Volker write the obituaries for all of the old ladies mysteriously suddenly dying in town. In a meandering series of hilarious events that all seem to lead back to Eleanor Roosevelt, Jack has one wild summer.
In his latest book, author Jack Gantos writes a story that blurs the line between autobiography and fiction, all while keeping the reader rolling with laughter. This is a much different book than his autobiographical Hole in My Life. Dead End in Norvelt is much closer to Gantos’s Joey Pigza books. The entire story is lighthearted, with quick pacing and plenty of jokes and silliness. While he doesn’t quite have Pigza’s ADHD, Gantos’s character still has a wandering attention span and lust for life and everything interesting.
What I really love about this book is the way that seemingly unrelated events or characters are mentioned, yet it all ties together in the end. The way he weaves the story is reminiscent of Louis Sachar’s Holes, so I think fans of that book should definitely try to get their hands on a copy of this. Each of the characters in the novel are most definitely characters in the true sense of the word, and I loved seeing Jack’s interactions with his parents, and especially with Miss Volker.
It’s hard to describe this book without giving away plot points, or making it sound like a bizarre jumble, so I’ll finish by just saying that I absolutely adored this novel. It’s my favorite Gantos book so far, and a great pick for older elementary aged kids up to adults. It’s hard to find humor that’s employed so seemingly effortlessly, while being able to engage a broad audience of readers. This is highly recommended for anybody who wants a book that will take your mind away from any troubles you have, and really give you something to smile about.(less)