The Bear and the Nightingale

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The Bear and the Nightingale

by Katherine Arden

October 2017

This review will be brief because I did not love this book. Initially I  was excited about it because it has been on by list for a while and then I saw it at the library. One of the reasons I was looking forward to it is because I love fairy tales and The Bear and the Nightingale is based on Russian folk lore. I was so intrigued and unfortunately I was disappointed. I tried for about half the book to get into it and enjoy it and I couldn’t. I was thrown in part because each character was referred two by at least two different names. The writing was beautiful, but it was too abstract for me. It was very ethereal and as a result it was hard to picture and follow at points. I ended up skimming the second half just to find out what happened to the characters.

Summing it up: while the writing was beautiful in it’s own way, I did not enjoy reading the book and I do not recommend it.

Best, Abbey

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A Man Called Ove

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A Man Called Ove

by Fredrik Backman

August 2017

Every summer my Book Club watches a movie and does a pot luck. It’s amazing. We usually choose a movie based on a book we have read or could choose to read on our own. So this summer we chose, A Man Called Ove. We hadn’t read it for our club, but it had been on my TBR list for a while. Generally speaking, it’s really important to me to read the book before watching the movie, so I was determined to read the book before our meeting. I’m so happy I did. The book was phenomenal and the movie made a lot more sense because I read the book first. Side note: I enjoyed the movie as well! I loved the tone of the whole book. It was lighthearted, especially for the serious subject matter. The book made me feel the whole gamut of emotions. I laughed and cried and truly enjoyed the whole story.

A Man Called Ove is the story of an older Swedish man named, Ove. He has had a hard life, filled with loss. His one love was his wife and she has recently passed away. In addition he just lost his job of several decades. He is lonely and depressed and decides to kill himself because there is nothing left to live for. He takes care of his unfinished business and goes to hang himself, but the rope breaks. Ove is a bit of an odd man and likes things in his neighborhood to be a certain way, like no driving through the residential area. New neighbors move in and do their best to befriend Ove, but he wants nothing to do with them, especially since they do things differently than he does. Spoilers: He tries again and again to kill himself, but every attempt is interrupted for one reason or another. Ever so slowly, Ove opens up to his neighbors and begins to change and see hope. He begins to have reasons to stick around. From helping his new neighbors, to a boy from town, to a wayward cat, to a nemesis (who now has Alzheimer’s). People need him and he begins to realize that he wants to be there for them and not kill himself. It is beautiful watching Ove move from tragedy (losing his dad when he was a teenager, losing his only unborn child when he and his wife were in a bus accident, and seeing his wife lose her mobility in the same accident) to love (like when he gives his new neighbor’s daughter an iPad for her drawing). He has a beautiful story and continues to develop his friendships with his neighbors, living a fulfilled, happy life. In the end he dies in peace and happiness, with the cat by his side.

Summing it up: the story was so heartwarming. I really loved it and I highly recommend it.

All the best, Abbey

P.S. How do you pronounce, “Ove?” In the movie it was, “o – veah.” But I’ve heard it “ooov” and “of” too. Thoughts?!

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH

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Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH

by Robert C. O’Brien

Summer 2017

I’ve heard about Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH here and there over the years. I didn’t know anything about it except that it was well-known and had won an award (a Newberry Medal). I ended up sitting down and reading it this summer and I loved it! I thoroughly enjoyed the storyline, writing, and characters. It was a simple story with endearing values. I loved all the things that Mrs. Frisby did for her children. She really went to lengths to help her children. There was a bit of a puzzle at the beginning of the book involving Mrs. Frisby’s husband, and I really enjoyed seeing all the pieces fall into place about his backstory as the story went on. It was very creative and unexpected. The ending was a little vague, which was sad and a little frustrating. But the rest of the book was so good that I’m overlooking that. I enjoyed the process of reading this book and I really look forward to reading it to my boys.

Mrs. Frisby is a widowed mouse left to take care of her young mice children. Spring is on the way and she needs to move her family to their summer home. However, one of her sons is sick and cannot be moved. This puts the whole family at risk of death because their home is in the field of a farmer who will be ploughing soon. In an act of desperation, Mrs. Frisby goes to visit the wise owl in the woods. He tells her to ask the Rats of NIHM (who live nearby the farmhouse). Mrs. Frisby is terrified, but as a mother is willing to do whatever she needs to for her children. She then embarks on a journey full of terror and suspense. Spoilers: her adventure is fraught with intrigue and discovery, from meeting the rats, to learning that they were great friends with her late husband, to working with them to move her house around a rock to be protected from the plough. She also learns about her husband’s past and how he became friends with the rats. He and other mice, along with a group of rats, were captured and brought to a science lab where they were experimented on. The great experiment? To see if rats and mice could learn to read. The answer? Yes. Soon the rats and mice outsmarted the scientists and escaped, however only two mice survived, including Mrs. Frisby’s husband. They founded a society of sorts and settled by the farm house where they established a high tech home with running water and electricity. The rats are very smart and hope to build a new home where they will not be stealing resources from the farmer. By the end of the book, the rats successfully help Mrs. Frisby and she in turn helps them by discovering that the scientists suspect the rats’ location and warning the rats. They are able to move in time, but loose a few of their people. The vague ending is that you’re not totally sure which rats don’t make it, and it might be one that is very likable. That being said, it is a mostly happy ending.

Summing it up: I really enjoyed this book and I highly recommend it!

All the best, Abbey

It Runs In The Family

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It Runs In The Family

by Richard Manning

March 2017

In an attempt to broaden my reading scope, I decided to add some biographies to my reading list. It Runs In The Family intrigued me and it turned out to be a fascinating book. I was most captivated by Manning’s writing. It was enchanting and drew me in throughout the entire book. I did find his style a bit choppy as he jumped from topic to topic a bit haphazardly. Because of that, I found myself putting it down, but then drawn to pick it back up nonetheless. Manning covers a huge range of topics from politics to global warming to religion to family. His memoir covers his journey growing up in a fundamentalist family with a detached father and abusive mother. Manning becomes a journalist, breaking away from his religious upbringing. He draws on his past to learn why he is the way he is: for instance, he suffers from depression and he realizes it’s because feelings of loneliness run on both sides of his family (just manifesting itself differently). I found Manning’s memoir interesting with its broad range of topics, and fascinating with its conclusions.

Summing it up: I thoroughly enjoyed this memoir and recommend it!

All the best, Abbey

Rainy Day Sisters

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Rainy Day Sisters

by Kate Hewitt

January 2017

I spotted Rainy Day Sisters on my library’s new shelf and it looked like the perfect quick, happy read. And it was! I absolutely loved this book. I read it in two sittings and thoroughly enjoyed every second. The writing was so good, the characters unique yet real, and the plot sweet and endearing. I can’t say enough good things about this perfect little book.

Lucy has just lost it all: her job, her boyfriend, and her reputation. She wants to escape Boston and her old life. Her half-sister Juliet offers a solution. Juliet lives in Hartley-by-the-Sea, a snug little coastal town in northern England and invites Lucy to live with her for four months to get back on her feet. There’s even a receptionist position open at the local elementary school as the previous receptionist is away on maternity leave. Lucy, the eternal optimist, anticipates a warm welcome and a fresh new start from day one. However, her sister greats her with coolness and her job gets off to a rocky start: it’s overwhelming and her boss is stern (though also, unfairly young and hot). Lucy’s tempted to go home, but her determination wins out and she decides to stay and do her best to get her new start. Spoilers: Before Lucy came to England, she worked as a barista at an art gallery and as an artist. Her gallery agrees to show her work, but before the opening, Lucy’s mother (who is an established, popular artist herself) writes a scathing article saying how awful Lucy’s art is and how she won’t help her make her way just because she is her daughter. Lucy is crushed, she had wanted her mom there as her mom, not as the famous artist, and didn’t want her name to help her. The gallery refuses to open her display and her boyfriend breaks up with her because he has two sons and the “bad press” will hurt them. It’s is a horrible blow which sends Lucy away. However, being in Hartley-by-the-Sea is good medicine and Lucy falls in love with the town, and ever so slowly the town falls in love with her. The children at the school adore her, the tattooed postman starts warming up to her, and she begins to make friends with her co-workers. Her boss, Alex has a 12 year old (Bella) and a 7 year old (Poppy), and is a widower of almost 2 years. Bella keeps getting into trouble at school and finally gets suspended. Lucy keeps and eye on her and figures out that she’s getting bullied because she doesn’t have bras (her dad is clueless). Lucy steps in and helps Bella buy bras and broach the subject with Alex. She starts to have feelings towards the whole family and they her, but it’s complicated since she’s leaving soon. Her relationship is complicated with Juliet too. Juliet’s 11 years older than Lucy and their mother chose to have Lucy through a sperm donor (Juliet’s father was never in the picture). Juliet was never loved by her mother and always got the short end of the stick, so she’s resented Lucy for all of Lucy’s life and can’t seem to get past the resentment and bitterness. Slowly, as Lucy refuses to run away from the obvious problem between them, Juliet begins to break down and explain her feelings. Finally things start falling into place. Juliet and Lucy have a breakthrough and Juliet tells Lucy she doesn’t want her to leave. Lucy realizes that Hartley-by-the-Sea is her home. She has friends, love, and hope for a future. Lucy decides to stay and she and Alex get together, much to the delight of Bella and Poppy. She starts teaching an art class at the school, and her relationship really blossoms with Juliet. Then, Lucy’s mother calls and says she has cancer and needs Lucy to come home. Even though her mother is awful, Lucy feels she doesn’t have a choice. Promising to return to Hartley-by-the-Sea at some point, Lucy leaves only a week before Christmas. Everyone is glum and not convinced Lucy will come back, Alex even asks to put their relationship on hold. Lucy’s return to her mother puts everything in perspective. She realizes her mother is selfish and has no love for Juliet, she realizes that she misses Hartley-by-the-Sea and her life with Juliet, and she realizes that she’s meant to be with Alex and a hiatus is not ok. She’s stays with her mother through her surgery and then surprises everyone by flying home for Christmas where she declares her love for Alex, and tells Juliet she wants to stay with her. Everyone is thrilled and it’s such a happy ending. The final lose end that gets tied up is between Juliet and her mother. She finally gets answers that she’s wanted for years. Her mother doesn’t know Juliet’s father because one night she got drunk and raped, but she has no idea who did it. She tried to love Juliet, but found she couldn’t no matter how hard she tried. Juliet is angry and crushed, but is relieved for the closure. Through Lucy, she has also warmed enough to find love. She and her neighbor have been friends, but she’s been to icy to allow for anything to happen. Now that her guard is down, they are able to connect and fall in love. It was such a beautiful story filled with complications and pain, that broke through to love and hope. The characters grew and changed and that’s my favorite kind of story!

Summing it up: I highly recommend this perfect, sweet little read!

All the best, Abbey

The Tales of Beedle the Bard

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The Tales of Beedle the Bard

by J. K. Rowling

December 2016

This book was so good. I sank into it and drank up every word as if it was a calming cup of tea. I’ve always loved fairy tales. The Blue Fairy Book was an early favorite of mine. There’s something about them that feels like home. I immediately liked the tales themselves, but then it got so much better with the commentary. It was clever and funny and gave a depth that I really enjoyed. The illustrations were beautiful in top of everything else. Totally enthralled with Rowling’s book!

 

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Summing it up: I loved it and highly recommend it!

All the best, Abbey

Quidditch Through the Ages

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Quidditch Through the Ages

by Kennilworthy Whisp (aka J. K. Rowling)

November 2016

Because I was so enthralled with the Harry Potter series, I had to keep reading Rowling’s other works, starting with Quidditch Through the Ages.  It was so cute and fun to read! It was a quick read, but lovely to go back into Potter’s world a little bit. I’m looking forward to working through the rest of Rowling’s books. One thing I especially liked were the illustrations like these:

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Summing it up: I definitely recommend this fun, quick read!

All the best, Abbey