Monday, July 30, 2018

Boardwalk Summer by Meredith Jaeger

Boardwalk Summer was a great summer vacation read.  I took it with me for the long drive to visit my sister in Iowa.  Boardwalk summer had everything I love in a novel – I love two points of view modern day and historical.  I love a good mystery and I especially love great characters.  I found this book very engaging.

In 1940, Violet Harcourt is unhappily married to Charles in beautiful Santa Cruz California.  Their marriage started off wonderful, but Charles temper soon has Violet fearing for her life. She dreams of becoming a star and enters the Miss California pageant with her friend Evie without admitting she is married (being married would disqualify her).  When she wins, she thinks her dreams have come true, but she hasn’t bargained for the temper of her husband. 

In 2007, Marisol (Mari) Cruz is a single mother raising her daughter.  She is a history major, but her daughter’s birth right after she graduated from college has her stuck living with her parents, working in a restaurant and raising her daughter Lily.  She revers her late Grandfather Ricky Cruz who was a performer on the Santa Cruz boardwalk in the 1940’s. After she gets a weekend job as a historian on the boardwalk for the City, she starts to dig into her grandfather’s past more and discovers he was friends with the mysterious Violet Harcourt.  She also discovers that Violet committed suicide in 1940. What drove Violet to this desperate act?  While solving this historical mystery, Mari also meets newcomer Jason and finds herself willing to feel love again.

I really enjoyed this story.  I loved the historical fiction back drop.  I really loved Violet’s trip to Hollywood and seeing the dark side of fame.  It was also interesting to delve into domestic violence in a time when there wasn’t much help for abused ladies.  I really enjoyed the mystery as well, I wasn’t sure what direction it was going to take.

The novel alternated between Violet’s viewpoint in 1940 and Mari’s viewpoint in 2007 which I enjoyed.  I loved Mari’s story as well and really wanted to see her pull herself up by her book straps and follow her dreams.  

Overall, Boardwalk Summer was a very engaging novel that is a perfect take along for any summer vacation.  I want to read more by this author as I had a hard time putting this book down!

My Grandmother Told Me To Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman

My Grandmother Told Me to Tell You She’s Sorry is a unique story with great characters.   It was the May pick for the Kewaunee Library Book Club.  I was engrossed with the first half of the book, but then I missed book club and put it aside to finish up some other books I needed to review for my blog.  I just finally finished reading it.  It was a great book that dealt with grief.

Elsa is seven years old and lives in a flat in a building full of characters.  She lives with her mother and stepfather with her eccentric grandmother next store and a whole host of unique people throughout the building. Elsa is a gifted and extremely smart seven-year-old who has a hard time fitting in at school. At home though, she has her beloved Grandmother who spins tales for her that consists of both truth and fiction in a magical fairy tale world.  As her Grandmother sickens and dies from cancer, Elsa uses these tales to solve a mystery that her Grandmother left her.  She keeps on a trail of letters her Grandmother left and passes them on to their intended with the words “My Grandmother Told Me to Tell You She’s Sorry.”  Along the way, Elsa gets to know more deeply everyone who lives in her building and how they are interconnected.  She also begins to understand her parents and grandmother more. 

Although Elsa is only seven, this felt like a coming of age novel.  Elsa is learning how to deal with grief, how to deal with being bullied, and about people and what makes them work.  It was an exceptional and interesting story and I really enjoyed it.  I would like to read more books by this author.  I’ve seen his books highly recommended the past few years and it was great that book club and my best friend Jenn finally got me to put one of his books on the top of my list.

I also really liked the cover on this book.  It really intrigued my seven-year-old daughter Penelope and she wanted to know what I was reading.  It was interesting to compare Elsa’s maturity level with Penelope. Penelope is very smart, but Elsa was something else. Elsa is very much more like a teenager than a typical seven-year-old girl.  This is why Elsa has problems at school as she is gifted, and the other children do not understand her.

I also loved how the story wove fairy tale elements throughout the novel and Elsa used them to understand her world.  It made for a magical story.  I also enjoyed Elsa’s love for Harry Potter.

Favorite Quotes:

“Elsa knows what ‘antagonist’ means, because you do if you read quality literature.”

“Elsa hears how the drunk starts singing her song.  Because not all monsters look like monsters.  There are some that carry their monstrosity inside.”

“Harry Potter is important for everyone!”

“The mightiest power of death is not that it can make people die, but that it can make the people left behind want to stop living, she thinks, without remembering where she heard that.”

“It’s difficult ending a fairy tale. . . . the problem is this whole issue of heroes at the ends of fairy tales, and how they are supposed to ‘live happily to the end of their days.’  This gets tricky, from a narrative perspective, because the people who reach the end of their days must leave other show have to live out their days without them.”

Overall, My Grandmother Told Me to Tell you She’s Sorry is an exceptional coming of age tale that has great eccentric characters.

Book Source:  The Kewaunee Public Library and borrowed from my best friend Jenn

Friday, July 27, 2018

The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary

Title: The Mouse and the Motorcycle
Author: Beverly Cleary
Read by: William Roberts
Publisher: Random House
Length: Approximately 2 hours and 25 minutes
Source: Kewaunee Public Library

We are participating in the Family Reading Challenge at our local library, Kewaunee Public Library.  With kids ages 12, 9, and 7, the best way for our entire family to read together this summer is to listen to audiobooks on our road trips.  The Mouse and the Motorcycle was a selection on our library list and I thought it was a book the kids would enjoy.  I remember enjoying a teacher reading it to my class back in elementary school.  My husband Ben had not read the book before.

Ralph is a mouse living with his family on the second floor of an old hotel in California.  One day a middle size boy, Keith, and his family come to visit.  Keith can understand Ralph and is the best thing that has ever happened for Ralph as number one, he has a motorcycle that Ralph can drive around the hotel and two, he provides “room service” to the mice when he brings up food from his meals for the mice.  After Keith gets sick and his parents can’t get him any medicine, will Ralph be able to save the day?

The entire family enjoyed The Mouse and the Motorcycle.  Ben and I laughed at the very accurate descriptions of the messes different size children leave that would be tempting for mice.  Times have not changed in that regards since the book was written in 1965.  It was interesting though how when Keith got sick that in 1965 at night, there is no solution with no stores being open to obtain medicine.  While in my little town there are no 24-hour stores, I could drive 20 minutes and find one.  Also, they wanted to give Keith aspirin, which is now known to be something you don’t give kids as they could get the fatal Reye’s syndrome. Two children died in my small Michigan home town of Reye’s syndrome in the 1980s.

For the kids, they just really loved the adventure and mishaps of Ralph on his motorcycle.  I know there are two more books in the series and we may have to check them out!  I am hoping the kids don’t get any ideas about keeping a pet mouse now . . .

William Roberts was a great narrator and we all enjoyed his sounds effects for the motorcycle and the ambulance.  It was a fun book to listen to on our journey.

Overall, The Mouse and the Motorcycle was a good family audiobook to listen to on our long drive.  It was entertaining for both parents and our kids ages 7 to 12 with one girl and two boys.