Tag Archives: 4 Stars

The Button War by Avi

In Poland, four friends find the Great War right at their doorstep and embark on a war of their own, trying to find (steal) the best button from the military men’s uniforms. It’s quite depressing and filled with horror and death, as one would expect in the middle of a war, but it is told from the viewpoint of a twelve-year-old so it’s tone is kind of innocent. The writing is excellent for the most part. The only thing I really didn’t like was most of the time the dialogue attributions were so-and-so said, followed by what they said. That is quite awkward to read out loud (it probably wouldn’t have seemed so stilted if I head read it silently to myself). I recommend it to older elementary kids on up to adults.

4 (out of 5) Stars

Books Read in 2020: 28
Pages Read in 2020: 6693
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Filed under Historical Fiction, Middle Grades, Reason: Bedtime Story for the Boys

Identical Strangers by Elyse Schein and Paula Bernstein

Told in a back and forth style, Identical Strangers recounts how identical twins separated in infancy and adopted by two different families as part of a nature vs. nurture study found each other and set out to learn about the study and to discover who their biological mother was. It’s quite interesting and includes tidbits of information scattered throughout about topics ranging from twinning to what we know about twins who were separated and find each other later to mental health issues. Sometimes the narrative dragged on and got repetitive. Sometimes the women were rather insufferable and not very likable. Overall I enjoyed the book, however, and actually learned quite a bit.

4 (out of 5) Stars

Books Read in 2019: 126
Pages Read in 2019: 32,107
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Filed under Memoir, Reason: LitHub Bingo

Gangsterland by Tod Goldberg

With a gangster assassin main character who you can’t help but like, Gangsterland follows Sal Cupertine as he is shipped out of Chicago after making a huge mistake and becomes Rabbi David Cohen of Las Vegas. It’s a little bit slow to get started, but once I got into the story, I really started caring about many of the characters and what happened to them (side note: don’t get too attached because a whole lot of the characters die before the end). There is a fair bit of bad language, but no more than I expected from the author having listened to a bunch of episodes of his podcast, Literary Disco. If you like crime/mafia novels, you’ll love this one!

4 (out of 5) Stars

Books Read in 2019: 118
Pages Read in 2019: 30,449
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Filed under Realistic Fiction, Reason: I Like the Author, Reason: LitHub Bingo

The Reflections of Queen Snow White by David Meredith

A twist on the old fairy tale, The Reflections of Queen Snow White sees Snow White as an old widow stumbling upon her stepmother’s mirror. Her life and strength are told in vignettes the mirror pushes her through. It’s well done and I enjoyed it a lot. The only problem is there are many words where the wrong one is used (such as shuttered vs. shuddered). I recommend it to people who enjoy new versions of fairy tales.

4 (out of 5) Stars

Books Read in 2019: 101
Pages Read in 2019: 25,707
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Filed under Fairy Tale

The Jungle by Upton Sinclair

Upton Sinclair intended to show the plight of poor immigrants, but instead he brought the disgusting things that ended up in food processed in meat packing plants at the turn of the century to the public consciousness. Things changed (such as the Pure Food and Drug Act), but not what Sinclair had intended or hoped. The story itself follows an extended family of Lithuanian immigrants, particularly Jurgis, the man at the head of the family. Jurgis works in meat packing, loses his wife and child, lives as a hobo, discovers his wife’s cousin has become a drug-addicted prostitute due to their circumstances, ends up in jail more than once, becomes a scab and then a socialist, and so much more. Basically, if it could happen to a poor immigrant, it happened to Jurgis. It is an interesting view of that time period and shows how poor immigrants, like now, have always been looked down on and willing to take jobs most people won’t just to survive. I enjoyed reading it a lot right up until the socialist diatribe of the last two or three chapters. Then it just became a lecture, which makes some sense since it was originally published as a serial in a socialist publication and Sinclair himself was a socialist. I recommend reading The Jungle to all adults (though you really won’t miss anything if you just skim the last couple chapters).

4 (out of 5) Stars

Books Read in 2019: 98
Pages Read in 2019: 25,064
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Filed under Classic, Reason: LitHub Bingo

All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot

Covering his first two years as a vet from the time he arrived to work for an established vet until he got married, All Creatures Great and Small reads like a collection of short stories, sometimes about life in Yorkshire and sometimes about attending animals. The pace is slow, really helping to get the a feeling of life on the early mid-1900s English countryside. It’s an enjoyable book, I only wish he had been a little heavier on the veterinary part of his life. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading about animals.

4 (out of 5) Stars

Books Read in 2019: 97
Pages Read in 2019: 24,807
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Filed under Memoir, Reason: LitHub Bingo

The Darkdeep by Ally Condie and Brendan Reichs

A little bit creepy. That’s the best description of The Darkdeep. A foggy island, four kids, a weird pool in the basement of a houseboat, and something that reads your mind and makes your worst nightmare pop into existence. At times, the story lags and gets repetitive, but it certainly keeps you reading because, seriously, what the heck is the Darkdeep (not to mention the thing in the jar and why are there slugs all over the secret room… so many questions). I recommend this book to middle grade kids and whole families. It would make an excellent read-aloud.

4 (out of 5) Stars

Books Read in 2019: 94
Pages Read in 2019: 23,891
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Filed under Middle Grades, Reason: I Like the Author, Reason: LitHub Bingo

Snow Treasure by Marie McSwigan

The brave children of Norway are tasked with riding sleds filled with gold bullion literally under the noses of the occupying Germany troops in order to get the money to America and keep it from falling into enemy hands. The story is well-written and interesting. I highly recommend Snow Treasure to tweenage kids.

5 (out of 5) Stars

Books Read in 2019: 81
Pages Read in 2019: 21,727
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Filed under Historical Fiction, Middle Grades, Reason: LitHub Bingo, Reason: Pre-Reading for Adrian

Seriously Mum, What’s an Alpaca? by Alan Parks

Moving from England to Spain to breed alpacas might be crazy. But as Alan Parks discovered, it’s also incredibly rewarding. Seriously Mum, What’s an Alpaca? chronicles the first few years of their adventure. If it could go wrong, it probably did. Written with typical British self-deprecating humor and wit, this book is quite an enjoyable read. Some chapters end with a bit as if it was written by one of the animals and I found that weird and distracting. I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys travelogues, and particularly travelogues written by British people (which are the best ones in my opinion).

4 (out of 5) Stars

Books Read in 2019: 80
Pages Read in 2019: 21,531
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Filed under Memoir, Reason: LitHub Bingo

Some Gave it All by Danny Lane and Mark Bowser

Danny Lane came home from his year in Vietnam in 1969 with two purple hearts, a whole bunch of other medals for his bravery and heroism, and PTSD. In 2006, he ended up with swelling in the brain that held him in a flashback for several months. Some Gave it All is his story both of his year fighting for ground and losing it again in an increasingly unpopular war and his fight against the PTSD that held him forty years later. It is told in a casual way as if he was sitting in front of you describing everything right to your face rather than in a book. It could use some light editing as some words were misspelled and tenses occasionally changed even within the same sentence (though that could be a style choice given the conversational manner of the book; either way I didn’t like it and found it distracting). I recommend this book to mature teens and adults interested in the Vietnam War (note that there are graphic descriptions of injuries and death and many curse words, though most have *s in place of some of the letters).

4 (out of 5) Stars

Books Read in 2019: 75
Pages Read in 2019: 20,393
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Filed under Non-Fiction, Reason: LitHub Bingo, Reason: Pre-Reading for Cameron