book reviews

April 2021: Recent Reads

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This post contains links to things I recommend! Some of those links may be affiliate links, which means, at no extra cost to you, I’ll receive a commission if you purchase through my links. Please read full disclosure for more information.

This month went by in the blink of an eye! And it was a great reading month for me, too.

I think I beat my personal record for books finished in one week – though I’ve never actually written that down, so I could be wrong – and I didn’t have to abandon nearly as many books as last month.

I read a delightful mix of nonfiction and fiction. While some of my reads included heavy topics, I read several books from series that are young adult “fluff” as my family calls it – and it was very lovely fluff, indeed.

Just what I needed.

Nonfiction

The Boy on the Wooden Box by Leon Leyson

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Leon Leyson was one of the people saved by “Schindler’s List.” He was just a boy during WWII and was so small he had to stand on a wooden box for the job he had at Schindler’s factory. He produced a quota far under what a man could, but Schindler saved him anyway. Leyson tells his story in this book.

Though I found his prose plainspoken and perhaps a bit choppy at times, his story is, of course, compelling. I recommend this for readers who love WWII stories – especially true ones.

A Woman of No Importance by Sonia Purnell

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This biography reads more like a novel in some places, and Virginia Hall’s work during WWII is simply stunning. She was discriminated against and had a prosthetic leg, yet she singlehandedly did more to help build the French resistance than any other person during WWII – and lived to tell about it (though she didn’t tell about it).

I’ll admit some parts did drag and the book felt a little long, but other parts were so nerve-wracking.

I surprised myself by feeling intense anger (even hatred?) toward the double agent who took down so many of her network when I saw his picture at the end of the book. And I cried at the loss of so many lives. This was a fascinating biography and highly researched. Again, I recommend it.

Off the Clock: Feel Less Busy While Getting More Done
by Laura Vanderkam

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I have a penchant for reading books on time management and productivity. This is another great one! I listened to the audio version, which was read by the author herself.

Vanderkam offers many practical suggestions, couched in what is, quite simply, common sense. Yet she does so with grace, humor, and logical explanations. This is one of those books where you’ll need to just pick one or two things to try at first. (She even recommends that in her conclusion.) I’ll be revisiting this book.

Fiction

American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins

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Talk about intense! I choked up multiple times in this book. The story chronicles the fictional journey of Lydia and her son Luca going from Acapulco, Mexico to crossing the border into the U.S. – illegally, of course – after her husband and her whole extended family is killed by a powerful gang.

This is a heavy read, but I found it worthwhile. Somehow, despite the abrupt ending, and all of the horrors and setbacks they experienced, there was still hope.

Plus, now that I’ve lived in a Spanish-speaking country for a few years, I enjoy books with bits of Spanish sprinkled in, because I don’t need the translation or context that the author provides to understand it. It’s fun 🙂

Note: Trigger warning for violence and multiple allusions to (and one very explicit moment of) sexual assault.

YA Fiction

Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon

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For this book, think The Fault in Our Stars meets Tangled (the movie). It’s a seemingly impossible teen love story between a girl who is allergic to everything outside her totally sterile house and the boy who moves in next door. They get to know each other through the help of Madeline’s nurse and modern-day messaging/emails. She decides she wants to truly live, even if that means she dies.

It was a sweet story and an easy page-turner. I also enjoyed how the author included texting/email conversations and sketches. It added interest to the story. However, I have some beefs with it. One: I know premarital, teenage sex is a reality in real life. But does it have to be in books? Do we really want to encourage that in teens? I mean, at least they used a condom…? Second, I wasn’t really a fan of the ending. I was guessing it was coming, and I won’t spoil it, but it was slightly dissatisfactory.

The Charmed Life Series by Jenny B. Jones – Book 1 | Book 2 | Book 3

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I’ve loved Jenny B. Jones’s A Katie Parker Production series since I discovered it a few years ago but had never tried any of her other books. Then somehow, through a series of clicking and glancing at reviews online, I saw a fellow reader say, “If you liked that series, try Jones’s A Charmed Life trilogy!” So I did.

I didn’t love it as much as the Katie Parker books. First of all, the protagonist here is, at first, just a spoiled brat who is dealing with a lot: she’s trying to adjust to her parents’ divorce, her mom’s remarriage, and their move from NYC to middle of nowhere Midwestern farm life. Sure, it’s culture shock and a lot of emotional upheaval, but she doesn’t handle it well and is very self-centered.

I also disliked all the relational tension in book 3. Can’t there just be some happy, we-do-life-together moments in book relationships without all that sometimes??

Still, true to form, Jones made the series teen romantic comedy. And the books aren’t just romantic comedies: they’re romantic-comedy-mysteries. The last one is even a murder mystery. Even though there are a few things I didn’t love, I read all three in a row in a scandalously short amount of time (less than two days), so there’s still some good story-telling in there! Especially the protagonist’s descriptions/reactions. I just adore how Jones puts words to ordinary things in ways I’ve never thought of before.

Middle School Fiction

Keeper of the Lost Cities Series by Shannon Messenger – Book 1 | Set Books 1-5

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One of my former students recommended this series to me. And you guys. It’s only midweek, but I have the NEXT TWO BOOKS waiting for me on my Libby app. The thing is, I’ve read each of the first three in one sitting, so I probably shouldn’t touch them until I finish report cards this weekend. Sigh.

Sophie is twelve in the first book and finds out that, rather than being human like she thought, she’s actually an elf who was hidden among humans to keep her safe. However, life is not safe for her there anymore, so she is whisked away to the “Lost Cities” – aka the cities where the elves live which are “lost” to humans (but actually just hidden from them).

In elven school, she has to relearn everything she thought she knew about history and science, all while adjusting to living with new foster parents, never seeing her human family again, learning to use the ridiculous number of super powers that her genetic creators gave her, and unravel the mystery of why and who wants to kidnap her.

They’re so good! Great world-building, intense and mysterious with tons of events that just seem to make everything even more convoluted and mired down. Perfect for a long series. The only thing I’m slightly annoyed with is there’s like a love…quadrangle? Sophie is so popular among the boys and all three main boys like her. It’s slightly ridiculous, yet I like each one of their characters. Keefe, in particular, is the best comic relief.

Student Spotlight: Monster Master Review by P.

 Do you hope that you can have a monster that is yours? Do you like jokes that are really funny? If the answer is yes, then this book is for you!!!!!

        Monster Master is a really fun and good book for kids that mainly talks about 4 friends called Buburo, Selina, Dicky and Jiaoji who want to go to the Morburn cross base to become a real monster master.


        I really think you should read this book because on every end of two chapters there will be questions about this book and sometimes even asking about your feelings too. You should read this book also because on every end of the book there will be cards that you can cut, and you can play with other players with the card. The card usually shows the monster’s health, it’s attacking and how it looks. There are many monsters such as Ninetales, Mikadi and so on.

        Before reading this book, I don’t [sic didn’t] like reading that much, but when I started reading this book, I started to like reading more and more.

        I really think you should buy and read this book!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Note from teacher: I’m not really sure if this book series is available in English. I found it in Chinese (the original language) and German. Maybe one of my readers can help me out?


What have you been reading lately? Have you read any of these titles? Let me know in the comments!

P.S. As usual, linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Quick Lit! Head over there for dozens of other readers’ reviews.

4 thoughts on “April 2021: Recent Reads

    1. That’s great to hear! I’d love to hear what you think of them after you read them. I’ll take a look at your recent reads as well!

      Like

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