Book Reviews: From the Bush

I love reading. A nerdy and embarrassing amount. Like when I was a young teenager, my mom had to ground me from books. It’s sad but true…nothing else would work (!).

I worked at a library all through college and then when we were in Alaska, I was in charge of keeping the library relatively organized. It was the best job ever. The only issue was that as I’d go through books, I would discover more and more that I wanted to read. There was no check out/ due date system established so I took advantage and just carted the book to our house when it caught my eye. I created myself quite the stack. I didn’t get to all the books I set aside…but I did get to quite a few of them.

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A handful of the books I read in Alaska. There were more. 

Anyhow, I want to start doing a book review here on the blog and I thought this would be a good place to start. The good thing here is that since I read so many darn books out there, I get to be picky with the ones I share this time around. Meaning that all of these come highly recommended by me. I will remind you, though, that while this was a community library, it was funded by the school district…so the books I’d go through and consequently read are definitely catered toward young adults. Which is totally fine by me.

Fiction

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My Name is Not Easy by Debby Dahl Edwardson

Luke knows his I’nupiaq name is full of sounds white people can’t say. He knows he’ll have to leave it behind when he and his brothers are sent to boarding school hundreds of miles from their Arctic village. At Sacred Heart School things are different. Instead of family, there are students – Eskimo, Indian, White – who line up on different sides of the cafeteria like there’s some kind of war going on. And instead of comforting words like tutu and maktak, there’s English. Speaking I’nupiaq – or any native language – is forbidden. And Father Mullen, whose fury is like a force of nature, is ready to slap down those who disobey. Luke struggles to survive at Sacred Heart. But he’s not the only one. There’s smart-aleck Amiq, a daring leader – if he doesn’t self destruct; Chickie, blond and freckled, a different kind of outsider; and small quiet Junior, noticing everything and writing it all down. Each has their own story to tell. But once their separate stories come together, things at Sacred Heart School – and in the wider world – will never be the same.
My Review: The other teacher recommended I read this book to get a better picture of Alaska, and while the book is set in the 60s, I’d say that it still has issues that are relevant today. It’s definitely a historical fiction and very interesting and insightful regarding the time period. At first, I was a little put off by the author’s tone. It seemed kind of morose (and I’m not sure that’s the right word) and I truthfully almost didn’t finish it. But as I got further into the book, I was more impressed that the author’s tone is very intentional and appropriate; Edwardson is incredibly talented. The book made me cry and I had to let it simmer for a day or two after finishing it before I could decide what I really thought. And ultimately I decided it’s a really good book and definitely worth the read. (Be sure to read the author’s notes at the end of the book…super interesting!)

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The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall

This summer the Penderwick sisters have a wonderful surprise: a holiday on the grounds of a beautiful estate called Arundel. Soon they are busy discovering the summertime magic of Arundel’s sprawling gardens, treasure-filled attic, tame rabbits, and the cook who makes the best gingerbread in Massachusetts. But the best discovery of all is Jeffrey Tifton, son of Arundel’s owner, who quickly proves to be the perfect companion for their adventures. The icy-hearted Mrs. Tifton is not as pleased with the Penderwicks as Jeffrey is, though, and warns the new friends to stay out of trouble. Which, of course, they will—won’t they? One thing’s for sure: it will be a summer the Penderwicks will never forget.
Review: This book is one of those kinds that is completely enjoyable from start to finish. It’s timeless. It’s fun. It’s written for a younger audience (like 8-12 maybe???) but after reading it, I was discussing the book with Ben and we came to the conclusion that a truly great author can write a book that every age will enjoy. And this is one of those books. It’s a sweet story of some sisters on a summer adventure. There’s plenty of shenanigans and cute little lessons and probably every family in the world should read this book together at bedtime, mmmkay? I loved it and Ben did too.

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As Easy as Falling Off the Face of the Earth by Lynne Rae Perkins

Wait. The train was moving. Ry could hardly tell at first, but now he knew. It was gaining speed, and he wasn’t fast enough to catch it. He had only gotten off for a minute, just to make a phone call—and now it was gone. He was in the middle of nowhere, alone. Maybe it was the middle of nowhere, but to Ry, it felt like the beginning of something. Something that would take him in cars, planes, boats . . . over an ocean and back. Something like an adventure.

Review: I almost didn’t include this one….but then I decided to because I really did totally love it. It’s definitely a teen read but it is absolutely hilarious. Like I was seriously laughing out loud during several parts of it. It’s very well written. And can I just say that I find it totally hilarious and awesome when an author inputs her opinion throughout the story? I mean, she really has to do it right, but it can be so funny. Perkins does that occasionally throughout the novel and it was just straight up amusing. Cracked me right up.

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Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale

When Lady Saren refuses to marry a man she fears, she and her maid, Dashti, are locked in a tower with just a tiny flap open to the outside world. As food runs low and the weather changes from broiling hot to unbearably cold, it is all Dashti can do to make them comfortable in their dark prison. Not long after their confinement begins, Saren’s suitors arrive-one welcome, the other less so-and she orders Dashti to speak to them. Impersonating Lady Saren is a crime punishable by death, but Dashti will have to play the role many times if she is to save them both from the tower and the dangers outside. As she takes control of their desperate situation, Dashti begins to understand her own astonishing talents and believe that even a low-born maid can find true love.

Review: I’ve read a few books by Hale and I really enjoy her writing. This book took me right back to age 13 or so when I read princess books almost exclusively. However, this story is very unique and not at all predictable. Hale has created a different world for this book and it’s totally convincing. I loved the main character-she was different than your usual princess heroin but she still kicked butt. This book wasn’t super amazing or anything like that, just a good, well-told story that kept me wondering.

Non-Fiction

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Swimming to Antarctica by Lynne Cox

Lynne Cox started swimming almost as soon as she could walk. By age sixteen, she had broken all records for swimming the English Channel. Her daring eventually led her to the Bering Strait, where she swam five miles in thirty-eight-degree water in just a swimsuit, cap, and goggles. In between those accomplishments, she became the first to swim the Strait of Magellan, narrowly escaped a shark attack off the Cape of Good Hope, and was cheered across the twenty-mile Cook Strait of New Zealand by dolphins. She even swam a mile in the Antarctic. Lynne writes the same way she swims, with indefatigable spirit and joy, and shares the beauty of her time in the water with a poet’s eye for detail. She has accomplished yet another feat–writing a new classic of sports memoir.

Review: Guys. This book is crazy amazing! The title refers to Cox’s peak experience as a long distance/cold water swimmer, but the book chronicles her life and adventures with swimming-and she’s accomplished a lot more than swimming to Antarctica! Truthfully, the book kind of made me think that I’ve done nothing with my life…but somehow Cox illustrates all of her incredible feats with so much humility. It’s not at all boastful or braggy. I also felt that the book was inspiring. Cox used her skills as a swimmer to further research on the human body, to enliven patriotism and to unite countries. Like, seriously. It makes me think that pretty much any skill or talent could be used to benefit something in some way. Incredibleamazingastoundingawesomewow. Read it.

 

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Marley and Me by John Grogan

The heartwarming and unforgettable story of a family and the wondrously neurotic dog who taught them what really matters in life.

Review: So I watched this movie before I read the book, and let it be known that the movie is in my Top 3 Favorite Movies Of All Time List…which, hello, only has 3 movies in it! I will defend it forever and always that it is NOT a dog movie-but a movie about life! Everyone-animal lovers and not-should watch this movie! It’s wonderful! Now I totally and completely 100% loved the book, but the truth is that it’s definitely more for animal lovers and not so much for the opposite (non-lovers and haters just couldn’t appreciate it). So if you hate animals, stop reading now and go watch the movie. Lovers? Read on! Oh my goodness-this book was so hilarious. It was another book where I found myself laughing out loud at Grogan’s anecdotes about his crazy dog. I think it was so amusing because much of the time I was thinking “OMG! Our dog does the SAME thing!” And then he’ll switch gears and you’ll find yourself misty eyed because you’ve felt that same stupid love for your crazy stupid pet. And likely you’ve had that tender moment when your pet just knew that he/she needed to calm down for a sec to give you some love and snuggles. Oh dear, anyone who likes animals or who has ever had a pet should read this book. It’s a winner and a half.

4 thoughts on “Book Reviews: From the Bush

  1. I can’t believe I haven’t read any of these!! I have attempted reading some of Hale’s books before…but for some reason haven’t really gotten into them. The Penderwicks style or genre remind me of some books I have read as an adult but were really meant for like 10-year-olds. But they are still fun!

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  2. I hope you made it to Into Thin Air (it’s on your pile). It’s a great one! Thanks for the other recommendations. I love a good read so darn much!

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