August 2014 archive

Review: All the Light We Cannot See

From GoodreadsMarie Laure lives with her father in Paris within walking distance of the Museum of Natural History where he works as the master of the locks (there are thousands of locks in the museum). When she is six, she goes blind, and her father builds her a model of their neighborhood, every house, every manhole, so she can memorize it with her fingers and navigate the real streets with her feet and cane. When the Germans occupy Paris, father and daughter flee to Saint-Malo on the Brittany coast, where Marie-Laure’s agoraphobic great uncle lives in a tall, narrow house by the sea wall.

In another world in Germany, an orphan boy, Werner, grows up with his younger sister, Jutta, both enchanted by a crude radio Werner finds. He becomes a master at building and fixing radios, a talent that wins him a place at an elite and brutal military academy and, ultimately, makes him a highly specialized tracker of the Resistance. Werner travels through the heart of Hitler Youth to the far-flung outskirts of Russia, and finally into Saint-Malo, where his path converges with Marie-Laure.

Andrea’s Thoughts:  I will admit, it took me a while to get through this on audio, but that was 100% a “it’s not you, book, it’s me” thing. I actually really, really loved this book. The audio was decent-nothing spectacular, but completely unremarkable (in a good way!! No annoying or distracting voices or accents). The story lines were good- I really enjoyed both sides.

I think I’ve mentioned before that I’m a big fan of WWII fiction, and this is one I’ll recommend. Werner’s perspective as that of a Hitler Youth is an unusual one, and one I think I liked. The author didn’t really focus on the propaganda, but Werner is faced with some moral situations where the Nazi Party’s craziness is shoved down his throat and he’s forced to choke or swallow.

I’d definitely recommend this book, either in written or audio format. In case you’re interested…The audiobook was 16 hours long- I think I listened to it at 1.25x speed so it was a bit shorter in actual listening time.

Review: Lost at Sea

Lost at Sea, by Bryan Lee O’Malley

Like Jenny, I read Isla the minute it came out because Stephanie Perkins. And I liked it, but I’ll spare you back to back reviews, however I was totally inspired by Josh’s graphic novel obsession. I go in phases with graphic novels- I will read 10 back to back and not touch another one for 10 months. I mainly prefer graphic novel memoirs, but venture out into fiction from time to time, and this was one of those times!

Bryan Lee O’Malley is best known for his Scott Pilgrim books, but this slim little road trip novel came before all of those. This was originally published in 2002, way before I knew that there was such a thing as graphic novels. It is a pretty typical story about a girl who is confused and torn and on a road trip with kinda-strangers who quickly become kinda-friends.

And I hate this, because I sound like such a freaking snob, but “typical” is a pretty good way to describe the whole thing. I thought that the drawings were adorable and fun, but nothing earth shattering. I thought that the characters were cut-outs. And I thought that the stuff that the main character was going through was just exactly the same as every other book about 18 year olds that I’ve ever read.

It’s a book about being awkward and feeling alone and going home and finding friendship in unexpected places and finding out how people view you. These are important lessons and had I read this as a younger person, I probably would have been in love but as an adult, it all just seems overdone and trite. There are a lot of threads that were kind of left hanging that could have been much cooler had they been followed up.

BUT!

Yeah, there’s a but. If you have never read graphic novels before, this would be an awesome jumping in spot. It’s short (I read it in probably 40 minutes) and simple to follow and just sweet. There is an air of nostalgia here that younger readers probably won’t grasp but was possibly the sweetest part for me. Conclusion: a fine intro graphic novel, but if you’ve been around the genre, this one is fine to skip.

 

Review: Mind Games series

Mind Games and Perfect Lies by Kiersten White

From Goodreads: Fia was born with flawless instincts. Her first impulse, her gut feeling, is always exactly right. Her sister, Annie, is blind to the world around her—except when her mind is gripped by strange visions of the future.

Trapped in a school that uses girls with extraordinary powers as tools for corporate espionage, Annie and Fia are forced to choose over and over between using their abilities in twisted, unthinkable ways…or risking each other’s lives by refusing to obey.

In a stunning departure from her New York Times bestselling Paranormalcy trilogy, Kiersten White delivers a slick, edgy, heartstoppingly intense psychological thriller about two sisters determined to protect each other—no matter the cost.

Jennie’s Thoughts: I am a HUGE fan of Kiersten White. Her blend of hilarious with the fantasy with the emotions with the kick-ass characters = my constant adoration. Seriously, she writes amazing lower-YA, though this series brought out a darker side of her work.

These books pack a punch, literally. Fia is a fighter, and she’ll do whatever it takes to protect Annie, even when it hurts. I loved the sister bond, and especially loved how it evolved and grew and morphed as the pages turned and into the second book. Possibly my favorite aspect of the entire series was that.

As always, White’s world building is a thing of beauty, complex and rich without weighing down the reader. I might have wanted to live within the Paranormalcy series, but I can’t say the same is true for this one. It’s harsh and dark and scary! But also hopeful and romantic and full of non-stop action!

I highly recommend this series. If you don’t normally read on the lower end of YA, give it a shot. I think you’ll like it!

Review: Isla and the Happily Ever After


Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

From Goodreads:
From the glittering streets of Manhattan to the moonlit rooftops of Paris, falling in love is easy for hopeless dreamer Isla and introspective artist Josh. But as they begin their senior year in France, Isla and Josh are quickly forced to confront the heartbreaking reality that happily-ever-afters aren’t always forever.

Their romantic journey is skillfully intertwined with those of beloved couples Anna and Étienne and Lola and Cricket, whose paths are destined to collide in a sweeping finale certain to please fans old and new.

Jenny’s thoughts:
*Dreamy sigh*

Stephanie Perkins yet again knocks it out of the park.

I had the pleasure of listening to her speak at the Isla launch party at Perkins’s home bookstore in Asheville, NC, before I started reading, and I was really excited (although skeptical) when she said she gave Isla and Josh happiness much earlier in their story than with Anna/Étienne or Lola/Cricket.

How, I wondered, are the happy so early on if there is certainly some sort of angst-filled conflict that’s going to have me mentally shouting “OH, COME ON!” to the characters? Because that’s what Perkins does in these books. She teases you as the sees-the-light reader and makes you wait for the teen painful conflict to pan out.

The high school version of me related well to Isla – low in the friend department, high on the nerd scale, socially awkward and more quiet than she’d like to be. I’m not sure how Josh ever felt so insecure next to Étienne because he’s every bit as swoon-worthy, if not moreso because his charm isn’t something he shares with the world. I appreciate people/characters who hold back their best parts for their special people.

Like the first two books in this awesome series, Isla will make you want to travel. In the event that your bank account disagrees with this wanderlust, it’ll make you peruse Google Earth like it’s your job. Yes, I definitely checked out the places Isla and Josh visited from the comfort of my own couch.

The first half of the book is either suspense or happiness, then you get about a quarter of it in more suspense and less happiness. The final chunk … well, I won’t say how much of what takes place, but I will say I was practically bouncing in my seat when we were reunited with Anna, Étienne, Lola and Cricket. Those scenes (that scene?) was simply magical.

Perkins ends the series on a high note – a blissed-out, swoonerific, delicious high note. These books are a staple in my home library, a set I often return to when I’m in a reading slump or even just a life slump. They’re full of happy places, quick wit and characters I just can’t get enough of.

Stephanie Perkins, why are you so awesome?

Moms Answer: Current KidLit Favorite

Here at We Still Read we’re reading more than just our own books, we’re reading kiddo books, too. And we’re always on the hunt for new favorites to introduce to our kids, so we thought we’d share our favorites and ask for you to share yours in the comments!

Jacki: Isaac is absolutely obsessed with Star Wars right now. It has sparked his imagination in a million ways and he could talk about it all day long. When he saw this at the library, I thought I’d have to revive him, he flipped out. It’s a hilarious little comic book about Darth & Luke’s relationship when Luke was a boy. It is clever and adorable.

Jude, like every other little boy on the planet, is in love with things that go. I can get him belly laughing with this book of funny sounds that different Diggers make. There is a train one too that we used to get from the library over and over, but now Diggers is the all time fave and when we saw it at a discount bookstore last weekend, Jude did a delighted scream and hugged it. It became his. Obviously. Because if you can resist a sweet little 2 year old squealing over books, you are a monster.

 

Jennie: My oldest is 5 and I picked this up off the library shelf on a whim and she’s been loving it. The experiments, learning new stuff, and the tidbits of information in the book.

My youngest is 18 months and he’s in love with this book. We’ve had it since my oldest was a baby and it’s been well loved. The bright colors interested him as a baby, too, but now he likes to say each word after we do, shouting out the things on the pages when he knows them. (Really, this whole line of books is amazing. We have probably five or more and love them!)

Andrea: Now that Megan is reading, I’m definitely searching for more books all the time. I have snagged a ton of good ones from @dibbleanddash flash sales on Instagram! Most recently we picked up Madeline and the most awesome illustrated copy of The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe I’ve ever seen. Megan’s also starting to come up with her own stories, so I’m looking forward to finding some books with strong creative characters.

Ian is just over 19 months, so his favorite books get a lot of rotation. Right now his obsession is some of Megan’s old Curious George books- we had a whole box of those teeny short board books with colors, or numbers 1-5, or opposites. He LOVES the books about opposites, probably because it has pigs and he loves all things FARM.

Jenny: We did something new at the library last week. We went into the kids’ non-fiction section. WHOA. We have temporarily skipped out of picture books to feed Toby’s current obsession with the weather (he begs to check the weather app on my phone multiple times each day to scope out the radar and “see who’s getting storms today,” and we answer a lot of questions about weather conditions and possibilities).

We left with a big stack, but the three below have been our favorites. The first has some awesome hands-on experiments we’re working through. The second is above ETC’s level (they’re 3.75 years old), but we look at the photos and talk about the diagrams. The third isn’t technically about weather, but it shows some different weather conditions, and ETC love looking at the gorgeous photos and talking about where they’re from.

   

Review: Creativity Inc.

Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces that Stand in the Way of True Inspiration, by Ed Catmull

So we, in our house, are big huge Pixar nerds. Shaun & I went to the theatre and saw them before we even had kids (Our last pre-baby date was to see Toy Story 3.), Isaac can quote Cars and Cars 2 to a spooky degree and has 9,000 little die cast cars, and Jude says “Incredibles” and can’t say cat. So, it’s like that.

We are also Apple people. Shaun has only read a handful of books since we’ve been married and 3 of them have been about Apple or Steve Jobs. He read a blurb about Creativity, Inc. somewhere and told me about it. Before he was done explaining, I had gotten it delivered to my Kindle from the library and requested a paper copy for him. I jokingly said that we’re going to have book club about it, but I finished way before him so I’m going to tell you guys about it first.

I have seen a couple of little things about Pixar’s office and had a little bit of background from Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs, but the history and story here is just phenomenal. Ed Catmull is one of the founders of Pixar- he decided in his head that he wanted to make a computer animated movie before that was even almost a thing. He made the first real 3D computer animations and was passionate about it.

That passion is what carries this book. Not only his passion for 3D animation, but his passion for a creative workplace, for his co-workers, for an amazing story… these things are his heartbeat and he has worked for decades to transfer this passion to the people that he manages.

There are chunks of this book, then, that are directly related to how to manage a team. If you are in the workforce, especially in a creative job, I would say drop everything in your life and read this. I’m not, however. I have never worked in an office environment and I haven’t worked at all for over 4 years but even I walked away inspired. If you are a writer (I know we have some that hang around here :) ) I would also seriously, seriously recommend you read this because there is so much good advice on the creative process and how to let that play out.

I really loved learning a lot of backstory behind all these movies that we watch non-stop and this company that we totally respect, but the highlight for me was hearing Ed Catmull’s heart and his musings on creativity. This is a good, quick read and I recommend it without reservation.

Review: Sinner by Maggie Stiefvater

Sinner by Maggie Stiefvater

From Goodreads: Sinner follows Cole St. Clair, a pivotal character from the #1 New York Times bestselling Shiver Trilogy. Everybody thinks they know Cole’s story. Stardom. Addiction. Downfall. Disappearance. But only a few people know Cole’s darkest secret — his ability to shift into a wolf. One of these people is Isabel. At one point, they may have even loved each other. But that feels like a lifetime ago. Now Cole is back. Back in the spotlight. Back in the danger zone. Back in Isabel’s life. Can this sinner be saved?

Jennie’s Thoughts
: I love a good broken and damaged boy in books, especially the way Maggie Stiefvater writes them. And, ohhhhh, did she deliver with Cole. I loved his character in the Shiver series, so when I read she was doing a standalone with him and Isabel as the focus…I was thrilled. I probably screamed with joy.

By the third or fourth page I was hooked, without feeling lost or out of place, even though it had been so long since I read the previous books in the series. And Isabel is such written so bright (not smarts, but just her emotions and anger are FIRE bright) and then there is Cole. One hot rocker mess of a werewolf, Cole. And I swooned and cried (yes, I admit it) and cheered and swooned some mroe.

And some of the secondary characters just stole my heart, including Cole’s driver. I loved this book so, so, so much, mainly because COLE but also because of the whole story! And you know, I didn’t even mind a bit that the whole paranormal craze as supposedly passed. Then again, I’d read Maggie’s auto parts list if she pubbed it!

Have you guys read this? Did you love it?

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