Friday, February 27, 2015

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

"Sometimes books don't find us until the right time."

"Every word the right one and exactly where it should be.  That's basically the highest compliment I can give.  I'm only sorry it took me so long to read it."

"Why is any one book different from any other book? They are different, A.J. decides, because they are.  We have to look inside may. We have to believe. We agree to be disappointed sometimes so that we can be exhilarated every now and again."

"It's so simple, he thinks. Maya, he wants to say, I have figured it all out.
But his brain won't let him.
The words you can't find, you borrow.
We read to know we're not alone.  We read because we are alone.  We read and we are not alone.  We are not alone.
My life is in these books, he wants to tell her.  Read these and know my heard.
We are not quite novels.
The analogy he is looking for is almost there.
We are not quite short stories.  At this point, his life is seeming closest to that.
In the end, we are collected works."

"We aren't the things we collect, acquire, read.  We are, for as long as we are here, only love.  The things we loved.  The people we loved.  And these, I think these really do live on."

This was a book about books and and love and loss. And people that fall into your life at the most unexpected times and change you in the most unexpected ways.  This was one of those books that I couldn't put down.  I read the first pages and fell in love with the story from the very beginning.  It was one of those books that seemed to have a little bit of everything in it - mystery, romance, literature.  And I loved the incorporation of short stories at the beginning of each chapter.

My daughter was about a month old at the time and, after putting her to bed completely exhausted, I somehow stayed up reading the entire thing - it was so good!  a bit like a Hallmark movie at times, but totally worth it.  Highly recommended for anyone that loves books as much as I do! And so many great quotes!

This book was #7 on my top ten list of 2015.

Monday, February 23, 2015

The First Part Last by Angela Johnson

"I can tell you how it is to feel as brand new as my daughter even though I don't know what comes next in this place called Heaven."

Bobby and Nia are typically upper-middle class teenagers living in New York City.  They have a good relationship, supportive families, and plan to go to college, but their lives change quickly when Nia finds out that she is pregnant.  The couple struggles with telling their parents about the pregnancy and the idea of being young parents and eventually decide to give the child up for adoption.  While giving birth to the baby, Nia suffers from eclampsia that leaves her in a permanent coma.  Bobby then decides to raise their daughter himself and names her Feather.  He struggles balancing being a young and single parent with school and his social life while suffering with the lose of his girlfriend.  Bobby shows a lot of love and caring for his daughter and decides to move to Heaven, Ohio near his brother and his brother’s family at the end of the book.

I found this book really interesting and enjoyable to read.  It was fairly short, but offered a unique perspective on the topic of teenage pregnancy.  I liked that the book was written from the perspective of the father and focused on his taking responsibility for the pregnancy and raising his daughter on his own.  The book was told in a very unique way and altered between the past and present.  I was really surprised about what happened to Nia at the end of the book and felt that it was beneficial to readers to slowly tell Bobby and Nias story dealing with the pregnancy in between scenes from the present.  I think the book will send a positive message to teenagers both in making decisions to prevent pregnancy and with being young parents.  I would recommend this book to young adults, especially those that are young parents.

Hole in My Life by Jack Gantos

"Someone once said anyone can be great under rosy circumstances, but the true test of character is measured by how well a person makes decisions during difficult times."

In this memoir, Jack Gantos begins his story when he is a senior in high school where he is spending the year away from his family after they moved from Florida to the Virgin Islands.  Dreaming of becoming a writer, Jack finds himself left with little money for pay for his college tuition.  He begins working for his dad where he meets Hamilton and Rik who promise him $10,000 to sail from the Virgin Islands to New York City to sell a large amount of hash to dealers.  After a six-week trip, Jack arrives in New York and is captured by the FBI for drug trafficking.  He is sentenced to up to six years in jail.  Jack spends the next fifteen months behind bars where he works as an x-ray technician and begins to write his thoughts in a journal.  He is released early because he applies to a university for creative writing and moves in with a family friend near the college.

I don’t normally enjoy memoirs (or nonfiction) and wasn’t really looking forward to reading this book. I figured it was just another book I was going to have to get through, but I ended up really enjoying it.  I really liked the author’s narrative style and was engaged with his story from the beginning.  It was fast paced and got the story across without being too drawn out and preachy like many memoirs that I have read.  I really appreciated that he did not blame others for his actions and focused on dealing with the consequences of being involved with drug trafficking.  The book ended on a positive note showing that he was able to make the best out of his terrible situation.  I would recommend this book to all young adults.  It was a good read and showed how one bad decision can lead to a stream of criminal and dangerous events.  

Saturday, February 21, 2015

The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

★★★★ 1/2
"When we're afraid, we lose all sense of analysis and reflection.  Our fear paralyzes us.  Besides, fear has always been the driving force behind all dictators' repression."

In this autobiographical graphic novel, the author tells of her life growing up in Tehran, Iran during the Islamic Revolution.  It was originally published in four volumes from 2000 through 2003.  The story begins when she is ten years old in 1980 and focuses on Marjane’s life with her family.  There are many changes that she faces, such as having to wear a veil in public in the increase threat of being bombed. Marjane struggles to understand the difference between her life and home and the image she must portray while in public and tries to keep herself informed by reading books and participating in demonstrations.  The author witnesses several family members and friends being arrested during the new ruling and they are eventually put to death.

Supported by her family’s encouragement, Marjane is a very outspoken young lady and often goes against authority, especially in her strict school.  When she is sixteen, her parents send her to a French school in Vienna to provide her with a good education and keep her away from the revolution.  There she makes a few friends, but is constantly moving around and feels she no longer has a home to belong to.  Missing the much-needed support from her family, Marjane gets involved with a number of boyfriends and drugs.  After a breakup with a serious boyfriend, she finds herself lost and ends up on the streets.  After four years in Vienna, Marjane returns home to Tehran.  Here, she struggles to fit in as well.  She eventually marries and attends a graphic design program at a local college.  After a few years her marriage falls apart, but Marjane finds support from her parents and grandmother.  The story ends with her leaving Tehran to continue her art education in Europe.

I really enjoyed reading this book.  It was told from a unique view poit of a young girl growing up in the Islamic Revolution and her journey to find her place in the world.  The book gave a lot of information about the war and Islamic culture in an interesting way.  I appreciated Marjane’s honesty in telling readers of the mistakes she made and how she learned to cope with the tragedies around her.  I also really enjoyed the artwork and how it complemented the story.