Monday, September 1, 2014

summer reading list

The Leap Year Boy by Marc Simon – what an odd little story. Alex Miller is born on leap day, the third son of Abe and Irene Miller, and in the ensuing 6 years, his body grows so slowly that by the time he is six, he is the size of an 18 month old. Well except for his arms which grew 3” one night. He is unusual in more than his body size as his brain and his cognitive abilities grow at an increased rate. He is though, after all, just a six year old boy, however unusual, and everyone except his family, it seems, wants to take advantage of him to profit in some way.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern – Set in the late 1800s, a challenge is issued and accepted and two children, Celia and Marco, are trained and prepared for the competition. When they reach adulthood, a venue is created by a small group of people who do not know how they are being manipulated to provide the playing ground. Then, one day, “The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it, no paper notices plastered on lampposts and bill boards. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not.” As the circus travels around the world, the feats and illusions and attractions grow ever more complex and mysterious fueled by the magic of the two combatants who are irrevocably bound together by their masters. As the circus takes on a life of it's own and garners a great following, the two players come together and start to collaborate instead of compete, much to the displeasure of their masters, and fall in love not knowing that the contest is over only when one of them can no longer continue and there is only one survivor. When they finally learn the truth and a binding spell is undone, Celia attempts to give the circus a life of its own but things are slowly deteriorating and the circus and it's patrons and participants are all at risk when it all starts to come apart. I really liked this one, well worth the read.

The Life Of Pi by Yann Martel - I wanted to see the movie but I wanted to read the book before I saw the movie. Unfortunately, the movie came and went and I had not read the book even though I had looked for it once at the library. I wasn't looking for it particularly the last time I went but there it was as I was wandering through the aisles, presented to me. I picked it up. An extraordinary tale and told in a way as to be perfectly believable. A 15 year old boy is the only survivor of a sinking cargo ship. His family, zoo keepers in India, are traveling to Canada for a new start after selling their zoo and the animals. They are accompanying and caring for some of the animals that are being transported to foreign zoos on the cargo ship when it suddenly sinks. This is the story of his survival when he finds himself sharing the 35' lifeboat with a Bengal tiger for 225 days.

The Arrivals by Melissa Marr - A short easy to read story about an alternate world where some individuals are brought through a wormhole from our world. The first two, brother and sister Jack and Katherine, have been there 28 years and they are in charge of a small band of 'arrivals', trying to work against Ajani, a cruel man who is basically trying to become king of the world. Arrivals don't age and they don't die, mostly. They can be killed, but they wake up after 6 days until the time they don't and nobody knows why some really die and some never do. When an arrival dies, a new ones arrives. They are from different time eras but they all have one thing in common, they have all killed another person. Jack and Katherine are befriended and aided by one of the local species, the bloedzuigers, a clan of beings whose blood has restorative and other properties who have a special interest in Ajani's defeat. By truce and agreement, Jack and Ajani let the new arrivals decide who they want to be with but when Chloe, the newest arrival, is tricked into Ajani's camp, Jack and his band decide to retrieve her.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn – a love story of sorts. Nick and Amy fall in love with the people they are each pretending to be and marry and for the first two years things are fine. Then they both lose their jobs and Nick's mother is diagnosed with cancer and his father with Alzheimer's and so Nick uproots them from NYC and moves them back to his small dying hometown in Missouri to help his twin sister take care of the folks and start a new life. With the last of Amy's trust fund that her parents set up for her and then requested back after their own fortunes declined, Nick and his sister Margo open a bar. On Nick and Amy's fifth anniversary a neighbor calls the bar to tell Nick that the door to his house is open and the indoor cat is out. Nick rushes home to find Amy missing and the living room looking like a scuffle took place. Clue after clue as well as incriminating evidence turns up pointing to Nick as the murderer of his wife except, no body. Nick finally understands that his wife is alive and well and is framing him as punishment for his lack of attention. The story is told in turns by Nick and Amy and we slowly learn just how fucked up these two people are and how their respective upbringings molded them into those fucked up people. I was expecting a different ending, a clear closure but that's not what I got. It's a good book, a good story, the second I have read by this author who doesn't give in to feel good endings.

Insurgent by Veronica Roth – I got tired of waiting for my grandgirl to finish the next book so I got it from the library. This is the next book in the 'Divergent' series. The story picks up where Divergent leaves off. We learn that at the heart of the war started by two of the 5 factions using mind control, is the attempt to keep certain information secret from the general population, information that would change everything, shatter the perceived reality and social structure, if it was known to all. As people either remain loyal to their faction or rebel and join up with the opposition, the Factionless attempt to use this opportunity to take control by allying themselves with the resistance to Erudite's and Dauntless' war to control the status quo. Our heroine Tris turns herself in to Erudite to be studied and then executed in an attempt to prevent her friends from committing suicide via mind control, a threat issued and acted upon in order to get her to do that very thing. The leader of Erudite understands that the divergent mind does not succumb to the mind control technique and she wants to learn why so as to be able to control them along with the rest of the population. With people's loyalties slipping, one never knows if an enemy is an enemy or a friend and so Tris is eventually rescued. But then she and a few others return to the lion's den after she learns that the information that her parents were murdered for, that the war was started for, to prevent it's dissemination is going to be destroyed by the resistance and it is Tris' goal to make sure that all the knowledge of Erudite, being the science faction, is not destroyed, but they fail, almost and the takeover by the Factionless succeeds, almost.

Allegiant by Veronica Roth – The third and final installment of the series except she wrote a sequel called Four which I haven't read. I don't think it's a sequel so much as just four stories about Four (Tobias). Allegiant finds our brave band headed for the fence that surrounds the city to find out what the truth is beyond that will change their lives forever and maybe not in a good way. Although the Amity faction has fields just outside the fence Tris, Tobias, and the rest go far beyond and into the wild lands. They are intercepted by a man and woman and taken to a research facility where they learn that the 'cities', like Chicago, are experiments in an effort to undo the genetic damage that humans caused by tinkering with the g-nome. The divergent are actually 'healed' and until Erudite started killing all the divergent, they were left in the city to help the repair the gene pool. Back in the distant past humans tried to improve themselves with less than stellar results and a devastating war broke out between the GPs (genetically pure) and the GD (genetically damaged). When the war was over the scientists convinced the government that through these experiments they could repair the gene pool. Because the GDs are treated as deficient, they are discriminated against so many opt to live in the wild lands out of the reach of government control. When the truth is discovered Tris and her group come up with a plan to end the discrimination.

Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi - Boy runs away from her abusive father when she finally fears for her life. She buys a ticket for the last stop on the last bus outbound for the night. When she arrives, she finds a boarding house and rents a room and begins to look for work. When she double dates with a friend from the boarding house she meets Arturo, the local widower with a young daughter, Snow, who everyone dotes on. Boy marries Arturo and when she has a daughter of her own, Bird, she learns the family secret, that Arturo and his family and Snow's mother and her family are light skinned coloreds passing as white for Bird is born dark and all who look at her know her heritage. Boy learns that her husband has an older sister who was sent away to live with relatives because she also was too dark. When Boy realizes that Arturo's mother will never accept Bird, she sends Snow to live with her estranged aunt. The story is told by Boy and then by 13 year old Bird and then through letters that Bird and Snow write to each other and back again to Boy. The now grown Snow visits and Snow and Boy reconcile. Then the story goes off on a weird tangent concerning Boy's father and I found it a very unsatisfying end to the previous story, which didn't really end, it just went off on a tangent. Or maybe I just didn't get it.


  1. I read "Life of Pi" years ago and loved it -- and then I read Yann Martel's next book, "Beatrice and Virgil," and it was TERRIBLE. Like, really, unspeakably, unpublishably terrible. So terrible that it made me doubt Yann Martel really wrote "Life of Pi."

    Your review had made me curious about "Gone Girl." I might try that one.

  2. So who is Snow? I got lost with that.

    I read Life of Pi years ago and liked it. I felt badly for the orangutan.

    Leap Year Boy and the one about the circus sound wild, but good.

    I had heard about Gone, Girl, but from your review it sounds like i would hate the ending!

    Thanks for the reviews, Ellen.

  3. I read the first two Divergents. I have Gone Girl right here, unread. I enjoy reading about fucked up people. Makes me feel better about my less than perfect self.

  4. Yes, Gone Girl and Life of Pi were both excellent. I haven’t read any f the others. I am not into Fantasy at all so I probably wouldn’t enjoy the Divergent series.

  5. I really love The Night Circus, too. I hope she writes another book...

    I have a copy of Boy, Snow, Bird... you've made my curiosity want to put it higher on my to-be-read list. It seems I like suffering *blink*

  6. Leap Year Boy sounds weird...must read. I adored The Night Circus and Life of Pi. I couldn't believe they made a successful movie out of Life of Pi, but they did; you should see it now. I felt constantly manipulated reading Gone Girl, and I hate it when somebody gets away with murder. Still, what a gripping book.


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