“Spirit run: A 6,000-mile marathon through North America’s stolen land” by Noé Álvarez

Rated 3 stars *** ARC. Catapult. To be published March 3, 2020. 213 p.

Spirit runMigrants, and the hard labor of low paying jobs in fruit factories, abound in the lush apple country of Selah Washington, near the author’s childhood home of Yakima. Noé is a smart student, and wants to make life different for his family. He has dreams of going to college and earning enough money to free his mother from her monotonous, back breaking job at the apple factory. He wants to make a difference.

When his dreams get tangled up in the stress of reality, Noé  likes to run. He dreams of the day he can escape Yakima yet, when he gets a full scholarship, dreams turn to nightmares. He believes his insecurities that say he’s not good enough and, soon, can’t keep up with the workload. When he finds out about a run from Alaska to Argentina for Indigenous Indians Noé decides to drop out of college to participate. In the process he discovers the good and bad of human nature. His journey of self discovery, as well as his foray into understanding his parents, is chronicled in this book.

The problems he encountered, as well as the agonies of running an ultra marathon, are interspersed with reflections of his place in the world. The open ending, the seeming lack of a concrete plan for his life, along with continued disappointment that he’s working class made the book a bit of a disappointment. There will always be those of us who will never get to live a life of leisure without having to work, and I hope Noé can come to peace with that reality.

Despite my misgivings I will recommend this book to Adult readers as there are lessons to be learned, and experiences to be hashed through, which would make for good discussions in book groups.

“The storyteller’s secret” by Sejal Badani

Rated 5 stars ***** ebook. 2018. Lake Union Publishing.

The storyteller's secretFor years Jaya had been desperately trying to have children but, raised by a mother who was never affectionate, she internalized her feelings as the number of miscarriages mounted. Jaya’s inability to talk about her losses and feelings about them resulted in a rift in her marriage as she fell into a deepening depression that left no room for anything other than the loneliness of her womb.

When Jaya learns her grandfather is dying and that her mother refuses to see him, she travels to India to uncover information about her mother’s past. There she meets Ravi who, though an Untouchable, was her grandmother’s trusted friend and servant. He tells her about Amisha, her beautiful, brave, strong grandmother who lived when Great Britain ruled India. This was during a time when women had no say in how their lives were lived, but Amisha wanted to be a writer, to tell stories, and to learn English. She wanted to be heard and to be seen.

Through Ravi’s stories Jaya learns about her mother, her grandmother and her heritage, the sacrifices Ravi made for Amisha and her family, as well as the sacrifices Amisha made for her daughter. In time Jaya learns to walk tall in the pride of those who’ve gone before her, gaining Amisha’s strength to face her future and to live it with purpose.

This book was AMAZING. It completely took my breath away, and made me cry. Amisha’s story is very powerful, as is Ravi’s. I know other readers will feel the same way.

Highly recommended for Adult readers.

 

 

 

“Breaking Dawn: Twilight #4” Stephenie Meyer

Rated 5 stars ***** 2008. Little, Brown and Company. 756 p.

BreakingDawnThis last book in the incredibly successful “Twilight” series is so much better than the others. Of course everyone knows Bella and Edward get married, as that was so inevitable. What wasn’t expected is her sudden pregnancy, and what happens because of that pregnancy, which is the reason for the book. Her entrance into the world of vampires has been expected since “Twilight,” but new things about this world are revealed to readers, which are very unexpected.

“Breaking dawn” breaks new ground in that Bella is much more self-assured and, though she does have a few insecurities, I think she’s finally grown up. There is a lot more laugh out loud humor, especially from Jacob, that will keep readers chuckling. The love between her and Edward is so much more pronounced, which shows me that I was right in choosing him over Jacob.

It’s interesting Meyer left the ending a little open ended, as if she expected to continue the not-quite-over conflict in another book. However, it’s been 9 years and nothing else has been written, so I guess she left it to the reader’s imagination to come up with our own sequel. That’s too bad. I would’ve liked the series to continue, and to have had some unanswered questions be answered. Goodbye Edward. I’ll miss you.

Now that I’ve reread the entire book series, I’m off to watch the movie series again. Can’t get enough of Robert Pattison aka Edward.

Recommended for ages 14 and older.

“Eclipse: Twilight #3” Stephenie Meyer

Rated 5 stars ***** 2007. Little, Brown and Company. 629 p.

Eclipse“Eclipse” continues the exciting story of Bella Swan and Edward Cullen by adding Jacob Black as a love interest, with both vying for her attention. Despite her feelings towards Edward, Jacob is sure she’ll choose him while Edward is determined to step away if that is her desire. Bella is unable to make a decision, as she loves both of them, but will have to make a choice whether she likes it or not. In the meantime, the Cullens and werewolves from La Push are forced to team up to try and stop an army of newborns who have one goal in mind – to kill Bella.

It’s easy for readers to split into Jacob vs. Edward camps, as each have redeeming factors. On the plus side Jacob is tall, dark haired, muscled, handsome, very fast, generates extremely warm body heat, understands Bella, and would do anything for her. On the negative side he’s at least 2 years younger, is a bit immature, and can change too quickly into a werewolf (especially when angry), which could be dangerous to Bella.

Edward’s positives points are that he’s tall, lighter haired than Jacob, chiseled and incredibly handsome, has mesmerizing eyes and breath, is very fast, has a velvety speaking voice, understands Bella, and would do anything for her. On the negative side he’s extremely cold, as hard as marble, is so strong he could accidentally crush Bella if he’s not careful, and regularly needs to hunt for blood since he is a vampire.

There are many instances where Jacob and Edward clash, including some humorous ones and, when you’re done, you’ll have to decide. Who would you choose? I like Jacob, but find myself in the Edward camp. His gentleness, protectiveness and incredible love for Bella are too hard to resist.

Meanwhile I’m still annoyed at Bella, as she continues to find too many ridiculous reasons to be insecure around Edward, keeps getting in his way, and generally gets on my nerves.

Recommended for 14 and older.

“New Moon: Twilight #2” Stephenie Meyer

Rated 5 stars ***** EBook. 2006. Little, Brown and Company.

NewMoonIn this second book of the wildly successful “Twilight” series, Bella is heartbroken because Edward broke up with her. He told her he didn’t love her anymore, and felt it would be best if he and his family went away forever so she could move on with her life as if he’d never existed. True to his word, he disappeared – taking her heart and sanity with him.

Without Edward, Bella falls into a deep depression, which goes on for seven months. Her only escape from the unbearably lonely days and nights without Edward is time spent with Jacob Black, a young Native American from the nearby reservation who is an old family friend. As her friendship with Jacob intensifies, she learns of how he and others from his tribe turn into werewolves to protect their land from vampires – their natural enemies. As she continues spending time with him, she wonders if he can be enough to help her forget Edward. Could the love of a younger, but handsome and strong teen werewolf, help her forget the unforgettable and breathtakingly handsome vampire who broke her heart?

Bella is at her worst in “New Moon,” as she goes on and on about the hole in her body Edward left when he disappeared. She refuses to try to heal herself, and wallows constantly in self-pity. Readers will quickly get annoyed with her. The very bright spot in the book is the character of Jacob Black who, though briefly mentioned in “Twilight,” gets full billing in “New Moon.” Again make sure to read the book before you see the movie, as Taylor Lautner’s handsome face will forever be associated with Jacob.

Recommended for ages 14 and older.

“Chasing shadows” Swati Avasthi

Rated 3 stars *** 2013. Alfred A. Knopf. 305 p.

ChasingShadowsSavitri, Corey, and his twin sister Holly have been friends for the past eleven years. Their fierce devotion to each other, and shared love for freerunning, have made them inseparable. With just a few months left of school, they plan to go to nearby colleges in Chicago. Though Savi has been accepted to Princeton, she is sure she and Corey can continue dating and that she can remain best friends with Holly. However, the day she gathers her courage to tell them she was accepted at Princeton is the day Corey is shot dead, Holly is put into a coma, and she becomes the lone witness to a crime.

Days turn into weeks as Savi tries to come to grips with Corey’s loss and her guilt for not being able to save him, try to remember details for the police, and help Holly through her recovery. Meanwhile Holly’s will to live comes from the voice inside her head that assures her it knows how to bring Corey back from the Shadowlands where she last saw him being taken captive. All she has to do is to listen to the voice and do what it says. If she does, she can bring Corey back home.

Deeply affected by Corey’s loss, Savi and Holly tell their stories in alternating chapters and through graphic novel inserts. Readers will not only receive an education on freerunning, but will also learn about the love between a brother and sister as well as true friendship and how being loyal to someone might involve making tough, unpopular decisions.

It took me awhile to get into this book as I found the detailed freerunning explanations to be boring. However I liked the graphic novel inserts as it helped frame Holly’s thoughts and made them more understandable. Holly and Savitri’s emotions were raw and real, and the author did an excellent job exploring and detailing how each confronted and dealt with their pain.

Recommended for ages 14 and older.

“Every hidden thing” Kenneth Oppel

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. Published October 11, 2016. Simon & Schuster. 357 p.

everyhiddenthingWith the Westward Expansion of the 1800’s came land grabbing and Native American battles, along with the discovery of dinosaur bones buried in rock. At that time the study of dinosaurs was relatively new, with fame and bragging rights associated with their unearthing. The intense rivalry by paleontologists Edward Drinker [Drinkwater] Cope and Othniel Charles Marsh, to find the biggest and best of these bones and claim them as their own, became known as the “Bone Wars.”

Using these real life occurrences as background for his historical novel, Oppel introduces readers to Professors Bolt and Cartland. After being sent fossils from the largest dinosaur he’d ever seen, Professor Bolt and his son Samuel travel west to find the “Rex,”. Unbeknownst to him Professor Cartland and his daughter Rachel were on the same train, also seeking the Rex.

While engaging in regular conversation as a way to spy for their fathers, Samuel and Rachel fall in love. However, with the competition between their fathers heating up as each gets closer to discovering the Rex’s location, Rachel and Samuel’s love will be tested in ways neither had ever expected.

I really enjoyed learning about these paleontologists, as I had never known fossil hunting happened during the Westward Expansion. Besides the rivalry of two historical paleontologists, Oppel’s carefully researched novel also includes the impact of the expansion on the lives of the Sioux Indians and how some reacted. Though billed as a Romeo and Juliet type novel, “Every hidden thing” is much more. It is history come to life.

Highly recommended for ages 14 and older.