Title: The Violets of March
Author: Sarah Jio
Length: 222 pages
Why I read it: Book club selection for this month
What it’s about: Newly divorced Emily goes to Bainbridge to visit her aunt Bee, while there she finds a journal that used to belong to her Grandmother.
The good: The descriptions of the beach were so beautiful, it made me want to go to the beach. And I HATE the beach. The way diary entries were captivating, and I wish there were more. I could really feel the love between Esther and Elliot.
The bad: I know this has been pointed out, but a woman who has just gotten divorced because her husband cheated on her is not going to travel to the other side of the country and start dating two guys at once. Secondly, after Emily dumped Greg, where did he go? He just sort of disappeared. Another thing that was pointed out to me was that Bee isn’t really her Aunt. in the diary Bee was a friend of Esther’s, but not a sister, and there was no mention of Bobby’s family at all. Finally, I respect that Bee didn’t tell Emily the big family secret, what with her not being family. It wasn’t her place to tell it. But The fact that so many people knew it, it was a bit cruel to keep telling Emily “I can’t tell you, you have to figure it out on your own”. Especially given that the guy Emily was dating knew the secret.
Final thoughts: I did finally finish this book, but when I went to the book club meeting, I was only 30 pages in. The other ladies in book club, I think shared my opinion that the writing was beautiful, but the story itself was less than stellar. It will not stop me from reading other books by Jio, but this particular book was, for the most part, a flop.
Title: Ballet shoes
Author: Noel Streatfeild
Length: 162 pages
Genre: Childrens, fiction
Format: ePUB ebook
Why I read it: Saw the movie, wanted to read the book.
What it’s about: when she was a child Sylvia was orphaned and sent to live with her Great-Uncle Matthew (GUM for short). In 1912 he leaves and when he comes back he presents Sylvia with a baby (Pauline). Two years later, after returning from a trip to Russia, he presents Sylvia with another baby (Petrova). Another two years goes by and GUM sends another baby (Posey), and a letter saying he won’t be returning for another five years, and he has arranged for finances to last until he returns. Five years pass and GUM has not returned, and with the money running out Sylvia decides to open the extra rooms to rent. among the boarders are Drs. Jakes and Smith who take up teaching the children, Thea Dane, who is a dance instructor, and gets the three girls into the dancing school for free,and Mr. Simpson and his wife. Once Pauline turns 12, she starts her acting career. Patrova also goes into acting, but she would rather be a pilot, or work with engines, and Posey has a passion for dancing. The three children make a vow among themselves that they will make a name for themselves and be in history books. all the while helping Sylvia to make money.
The good: The story is so cute, and I think kids will love it and relate to it. There are few children’s books that can ascend through to adults, and this is one of the few lucky ones. This book is also one of the few that doesn’t need too much fantasy to be loveable. I think that is what is so special about it. It has a realness to it that a lot of children’s books don’t have. Don’t get me wrong, books like Matilda and The secret garden will always have a special place in my heart, but stories that don’t include talking to animals or magic. Not all children will get the opportunity to go to a performing arts school for free and become actresses and dancers, but the realness comes from the home life that is shown. it’s endearing that Sylvia wanted to give the girls what they wanted and also shield them from the knowledge that they were poor ( I think most parents want that). I think that it is also endearing that the girls wanted to make a name for themselves simply to help Sylvia and alleviate her worry over everything.
The bad: I can honestly think of nothing bad about this book. I can’t even find anything to nitpick about with it. that is a rare thing for me.
Final thoughts: I would love to read this to my niece when she is older, this is one book that I would recommend all parents read to their children, or just read it for themselves. Having seen the movie first, I wasn’t completely prepared for the differences. although there were not that many. Two of the major ones were that Mrs. Simpson was absent from the movie. They Made Mr. Simpson a widower and had him as a love interest for Sylvia. But Mrs. Simpson wasn’t a big character in the book to begin with. Also the movie had Sylvia as being ill, but that was never mentioned in the book. I really do love everything about this book. London as the setting the 1920-40s as the time it took place, just everything.
Title: The book thief
Author: Markus Zusak
Length: 574 pages
Genre: Historical fiction
Why I read it: Book club pick for November
What it’s about: This is the story of 9 year old Liesel Meminger growing up in Germany during Hitler’s reign as Fuhrer. Liesel goes to live with the Hubermann’s and while living with them she becomes very close to a Jewish man they take in.
The good: The book is narrated by death, which is an interesting perspective, although death gets a bit cocky at times and ges off on tangents. The whole time reading this, I had to remind myself that Liesel is one of the people on the other side of the fence. Yes, her foster family took in and protected a Jewish man, but before that they were supporters of Hitler in their ways. while the book was subtly highlighting the racism of the time by mentioning the shops that closed down, the neighbors who were gone, and the burning of books, you couldn’t deny that the people who were living in Himmel street were essentially good people.
The bad: The double edged sword of a book that makes me think is often what it makes me think of. The book being narrated by death made me think of my mortality, and resulted in a panic attack. During my bath. Not a great place to have a panic attack about death. But that is a nitpick and not really about the book at all. The bad about the book is the way Zusak never really addressed Liesel’s feelings about Hitler. when the book started she was 9, and she had just lost her brother and had to leave her mother, so yes she wasn’t really thinking of Hitler for a while, and of course at ten and eleven, you aren’t going to question your education, but once Max came into the picture, if it were me, I’d start to question why a whole country was following someone who treated people that way.
Final thoughts: Very few times does a book actually make me think of what I call “the other guys”. I’ll explain ( and I hope I do it well). anyone who has read books about the Holocaust, or done research on the Jews that went to concentration camps knows how horrendous it was. The way that time is described, and the pictures of it are very difficult to listen to and look at. But we must because it is a part of history, and it should never be repeated. It is very easy to forget the voices of the people on the other side of that fence. It’s very easy to condemn the Nazis, but they have a story too. They had to have their reasons for following Hitler. I’m not trying to defend them, I’m just trying to understand why they would do it. and that is the best thing about this book. It made me think.