Wednesday, July 1, 2015

June Book Reviews - The Underneath, Charlotte's Rose, Bird by Bird and more

Signed, Skye Harper by Carol Lynch Williams

This is a sweet coming-of-age story written by one of my favorite authors. I mean, she's a great writer, but out of all the authors I personally know, I really love this gal. Personally. She's lovely and kind and generous and just an all-around peach.

Signed, Skye Harper is about 15yo (14yo? I can't remember) Winston, whose mother took off years ago to find her fortune in Hollywood, leaving Winston in the care of her grandmother. When they get a letter from Skye Harper (Mom, AKA Judith Fletcher), Winston and Nanny drive across the country in a stolen motor home with a one-legged rooster, a dog named Thelma, and an unexpected stowaway. Winston learns a lot about family and love and learning to trust.

This book is full of unforgettable characters and the settings just breathe. I could see it easily as a movie. Much more easily than I see Paper Towns.

It's a lovely, feel-good book. As Carol said, "This is a happy book. There's a little bit of murder in here, but not a lot. It's the happiest thing I've written."

All The Truth That's In Me by Julie Berry

Historical YA fic, All The Truth That's In Me follows the story of Judith, who disappeared from her town (set in a somewhat vague Puritan time period) and reappeared two years later, unable to speak and subsequently ostracized by her entire community.

This book is told in 2nd person POV. This is very strange and takes a while to get used to. Also, the MC has some idiosyncrasies that were difficult for me to get on board with, but in the end, I am always glad to come across a story about a girl struggling to find her voice and speak her truth.

Charlotte's Rose by A. E. Cannon

So Ann Cannon is another one of my favorite authors. She is brilliant and sweet and I love her fashion sense.

Charlotte's Rose is the story of a 12yo girl who volunteers to carry a newborn baby across the plains after the baby's mother dies in childbirth.

I don't actually read a lot of LDS fiction, in spite of the fact that I'm LDS. I have a few reasons for this, none of which I will discuss here. But knowing the quality of Cannon's writing and how freaking funny she is, I knew it would be okay.

This book is wonderful. It's well written, tender, thoroughly researched, and most of all, funny. This book is very very funny. I was laughing throughout. But there were also some very heavy moments dealing with grief, loss, and hardship. I think this type of emotional balance is very important in a book like this. It would be very easy for the narrative to get weighed down with the difficulties, both physical and psychological, that the characters face. Injecting the narrative with humor is the perfect way to create an enjoyable and memorable way to tell such stories. There is always a danger of melodrama with dramatic subjects, and Charlotte's Rose never gets bogged down that way.

Cannon also has beautiful prose. There were some lines that just sang. And the MC's snarky tween voice was spot on.

You won't find very many LDS fic recommendations from me, but this is one of them. And it wouldn't just be good for LDS kids, I think it would appeal to a wide range of readers, especially those with an interest in history.

Appropriate for all readers.

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

I finished reading this when I was in Yellowstone. I don't have anything really to say about it other than it was completely magical to read this surrounded by the majesty that location. I'm not being sarcastic.

If you are a writer, and you haven't yet, you need to read this book.

The Underneath by Kathi Appelt

I don't know where I've been that I haven't read this book yet, but when I was at WIFYR, people kept mentioning it.

This book is amazing. The prose is gorgeous. The story is compelling, about the transformative powers of both love and hate. The drawings, by one of my favorite illustrators, David Small, are perfect.

I don't think I could describe it any better than the Goodreads blurb, so here it is.

There is nothing lonelier than a cat who has been loved, at least for a while, and then abandoned on the side of the road.

A calico cat, about to have kittens, hears the lonely howl of a chained-up hound deep in the backwaters of the bayou. She dares to find him in the forest, and the hound dares to befriend this cat, this feline, this creature he is supposed to hate. They are an unlikely pair, about to become an unlikely family. Ranger urges the cat to hide underneath the porch, to raise her kittens there because Gar-Face, the man living inside the house, will surely use them as alligator bait should he find them. But they are safe in the long as they stay in the Underneath.
Kittens, however, are notoriously curious creatures. And one kitten's one moment of curiosity sets off a chain of events that is astonishing, remarkable, and enormous in its meaning. For everyone who loves Sounder, Shiloh, and The Yearling, for everyone who loves the haunting beauty of writers such as Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Flannery O'Connor, and Carson McCullers, Kathi Appelt spins a harrowing yet keenly sweet tale about the power of love — and its opposite, hate — the fragility of happiness and the importance of making good on your promises.
Highly recommended.


What do you think?