It's been a while since I recommended some good books here on Bookmom Musings, and there's no time like the present. First up on my good-books-you-might-want-to-check-out list today:
For those of you who like grown up books (and even those who might not), The Help by Kathryn Stockett is an excellent choice. I like me some action, sword fighting, and magic as much as the next mom, so this book isn't my normal fare. I read it on the recommendation of my sister-in-law, who now considers it one of her favorite books. And I'm glad she talked me into reading it.
From Publishers Weekly:
This optimistic, uplifting debut novel . . . [is] set during the nascent civil rights movement in Jackson, Miss., where black women were trusted to raise white children but not to polish the household silver. Eugenia Skeeter Phelan is just home from college in 1962, and, anxious to become a writer, is advised to hone her chops by writing about what disturbs you. The budding social activist begins to collect the stories of the black women on whom the country club sets relies and mistrusts enlisting the help of Aibileen, a maid who's raised 17 children, and Aibileen's best friend Minny, who's found herself unemployed more than a few times after mouthing off to her white employers. The book Skeeter puts together based on their stories is scathing and shocking, bringing pride and hope to the black community, while giving Skeeter the courage to break down her personal boundaries and pursue her dreams. Assured and layered, full of heart and history, this one has bestseller written all over it.
I decided to read The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson after reading that a friend of mine was giving away a copy on her blog, and that this is one of her favorite books. I had to hunt it down and read it after hearing that. (Note to author friends: word of mouth is the best advertising; this post is a case in point.) I have to admit that the book was better than I expected, and very well-written.
From School Library Journal:
Seventeen-year-old Jenna Fox awakens after more than a year in a coma to find herself in a life—and a body—that she doesn't quite recognize. Her parents tell her that she's been in an accident, but much of her past identity and current situation remain a mystery to her: Why has her family abruptly moved from Boston to California, leaving all of her personal belongings behind? Why does her grandmother react to her with such antipathy? Why have her parents instructed her to make sure not to tell anyone about the circumstances of their move? And why can Jenna recite whole passages of Thoreau's Walden, but remember next to nothing of her own past? As she watches family videos of her childhood, strange memories begin to surface, and she slowly realizes that a terrible secret is being kept from her. Pearson has constructed a gripping, believable vision of a future dystopia. She explores issues surrounding scientific ethics, the power of science, and the nature of the soul with grace, poetry, and an apt sense of drama and suspense. Some of the supporting characters are a bit underdeveloped, but Jenna herself is complex, interesting, and very real. This is a beautiful blend of science fiction, medical thriller, and teen-relationship novel that melds into a seamless whole that will please fans of all three genres.
I had never heard of the book Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher until a writers conference where the agent who represents Asher used it as an example in one of her classes. And the things she said really perked my interest, so I had to get my hands on a copy. I had a really hard time putting it down, even though the subject (suicide) is a painful one. The book is written from two points of view, a sixteen year old boy and a sixteen year old girl, both in first person. And it really works!
When Clay Jenson plays the casette tapes he received in a mysterious package, he's surprised to hear the voice of dead classmate Hannah Baker. He's one of 13 people who receive Hannah's story, which details the circumstances that led to her suicide. Clay spends the rest of the day and long into the night listening to Hannah's voice and going to the locations she wants him to visit. The text alternates, sometimes quickly, between Hannah's voice (italicized) and Clay's thoughts as he listens to her words, which illuminate betrayals and secrets that demonstrate the consequences of even small actions. Hannah, herself, is not free from guilt, her own inaction having played a part in an accidental auto death and a rape. The message about how we treat one another, although sometimes heavy, makes for compelling reading.
And last (because I had to get at least one good fantasy on here):
I'd seen the cover for Blackbringer, by Laini Taylor before, but to be honest I didn't really like it. Something about the bird. Then I picked up the book from the library for my oldest kidlet and he devoured it in a matter of hours. Then he came begging to know if the next one in the series was out and could I please get it for him ASAP. With a recommendation like that I decided to give this book a try, and from the get go I was pulled into the world of Dreamdark.
Laini Taylor does an excellent job of creating a three-dimensional world with it's own history, relationships, and special language, without dragging the reader down in Tolkien-esque indulgences into songs and ancient history with names you can't pronounce. This had just the right feel of a different world for me, and I was out hunting for the next book as soon as I finished.
Magpie, granddaughter of the West Wind, is born of dreams. When Humans—"mannies"—start letting loose devils in the world, faerie Magpie and her band of rough-and-tumble, cheroot-smoking crows must start hunting them down. The tale takes its time in unfolding, with lovely echoes of its literary antecedents from Tolkien on down. Magpie also learns it is she who must keep the dark from swallowing the world. She finds where the dragons, and her ancient heroine, Bellatrix, have gone, and she wakes an ancient djinni.The tapestry of the world needs reweaving, and a blond, tattooed princeling needs a way to remake his malformed wings. This all braids together into a radiant conclusion. Vibrant language overcomes a surfeit of telling rather than showing. 'Pie is one tough faerie, and the way is open for more tales about her to come.
Hopefully that gives you a few ideas for some summer reads. Have you read any good books lately? My To Be Read pile is smaller than it has been in a while and I'm looking for some good stories to feed my book habit.