Beautiful, rich colors illustrate this story about a baby bear trying to make his way home, and the adorable creatures of the forest who help (and occ...moreBeautiful, rich colors illustrate this story about a baby bear trying to make his way home, and the adorable creatures of the forest who help (and occasionally hinder) the baby bear on his way. Thoroughly improbable but delightful nonetheless.(less)
Spare and vintagey illustrations let the words tell the story about Laszlo, the young boy who finds a way to confront his fear of the dark. A lovely b...moreSpare and vintagey illustrations let the words tell the story about Laszlo, the young boy who finds a way to confront his fear of the dark. A lovely book!(less)
Who wants to imagine what life and the world must look like, from the point of view of a Nazi? I’m going to assume that thankfully precious few of us...moreWho wants to imagine what life and the world must look like, from the point of view of a Nazi? I’m going to assume that thankfully precious few of us would desire that—which is one of the reasons why Audrey Magee’s novel is such a bold piece of work. It explores World War II through the eyes of the common soldier Peter and his wife Katharina as they separately struggle to fight for and support the Nazis at the same time as they carefully tend to their marriage, which is forced to flourish under the most difficult conditions.
Peter and his fellow soldiers march towards Stalingrad, ruthlessly pillaging Russian villages along the way, and Katharina and her pushy, opportunistic parents begin to work their way into the Nazi elite, currying favor as rationing grows greater and more and more bombs fall around Berlin. In their letters to each other, they are honest and loving and supportive, and dream of the day with the war is over and they can be together. In that way, these could be the letters of any loving couple separated by war, and you can easily pity them, as well as Peter’s soldier colleagues, as they begin to die in ugly, brutal, pointless ways. The author makes no attempt to sugarcoat or whitewash their anti-semitic and anti-Russian prejudices; nor does she attempt to diminish the power of Katharina and Peter’s love for and fidelity to one another. It’s an absolutely gripping and haunting novel—and also utterly unnerving when you learn the kind of character Peter truly has, and see how it’s been like that all along. (less)
I recently read a book review that makes the summary statement of "Downton Abbey, with the Dark Arts", but alas, I don't think this historical fantasy...moreI recently read a book review that makes the summary statement of "Downton Abbey, with the Dark Arts", but alas, I don't think this historical fantasy really lives up to this statement. Set in 1913 London, it tells the story of Lilith Montgomery, who, upon the death of her father, inherits the title of Head Witch of the Lazarus Coven. She's skilled in the arts of necromancy and spell-casting, and holds the secret recipe for the Elixir, which is basically a potion that can resurrect people from the dead. She's also burdened with absolute secrecy--non-witches must not know who she truly is or what she does; which means both her mother and her illicit painter lover are in the dark about her power. However, war is coming to Europe, and the Coven is threatened, too, by an insidious cabal of sorcerers known as the Sentinels, who want to do all sorts of naughty things with the Elixir.
The story ingredients are solid, but for some reason, the author doesn't mix them together for a delicious novel--it was simply lackluster and NOT at all compelling. It also doesn't know whether it wants to be an adult novel or a YA novel. Save your time and move on to something more tempting, like A Great and Terrible Beauty or A Discovery of Witches. (less)
In early 19th century Charleston—thoroughly invested in the institution of slavery—there is little room for deviating from the expectations placed upo...moreIn early 19th century Charleston—thoroughly invested in the institution of slavery—there is little room for deviating from the expectations placed upon people according to their race, economic status, and gender. Sarah Grimke—one of the many children of a wealthy planter family—learns this early on, as she finds her keen mind and desire to learn thwarted by her elders, determined to keep her untoward behaviors in check. Matters only become more complicated when Sarah turns eleven and is gifted with her very own slave, a fierce young girl named Hetty (“Handful.”) Already questioning the morality of slavery, Sarah soon finds herself defying her family and society in ways that only earn her years of grief and intellectual suffocation, but she nonetheless develops a deep and complicated empathy for Handful and Handful’s mother, one she does not lose even after she manages to break free from the confines of the South and the patriarchy.
This novel, based on the real Sarah Grimke’s life, and on the fictional Handful’s, brings to life beautifully the stifling society that thwarted both Sarah and Handful’s desires and ambitions, and illustrates the struggles for agency that both of them—as well as other women throughout the pages—undergo. A couple of read-alikes to try: Twelve Rooms of the Nile by Enid Shomer (a hauntingly similar exploration of the melancholic longings for life and usefulness that both Sarah Grimke and Florence Nightingale encountered) and The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier (the struggle of a ficitonal Quaker woman to come to terms with her place in 19th century America, and her experiences dealing with the divisive nature of slavery.) (less)
A prettily-illustrated book about kitten Yoko, who is confident in her ability to read signs and wayfind--until she gets turned around and loses her s...moreA prettily-illustrated book about kitten Yoko, who is confident in her ability to read signs and wayfind--until she gets turned around and loses her sense of direction at an airport! The text and illustrations are a little on the busy side, but a pleasant enough story about the self-sufficiency (and caution) we should instill in children.(less)