Truth

The Biggest Lie in the History of Christianity by Matthew Kelly was a Christmas gift to all parishioners of my church.  I read this book in a day, and found the author’s straight-forward, repetitive style to be thought-provoking and true.

The book establishes that our world is suffering.  I think we can all agree to this fact on multiple levels.  People have become complacent in doing nothing, or sleepwalking through life.  The “biggest lie” is that holiness isn’t possible.  When people believe this lie, they will continue to sleepwalk through life.

Kelly stresses that holiness is in fact possible and attainable through performing Holy Moments.  They are acts of pure beauty, love, and kindness that can ultimately change the world.  Holy Moments are founded on a relationship with God; they are collaborative acts.  Not only will they change the world, but they will create pure happiness for those creating them.

 

Want or Need?

Need by Joelle Charbonneau is a disturbing read about the extremes some will take to satisfy their own desires.

Kaylee is the main character of the novel.  She has made herself into an outcast because of her manipulative and overbearing ways of trying to find a kidney donor for her sick brother.  She has one true friend, Nate.  He shows her the Need website, which promises to fulfill a need in exchange for a bizarre task along with posted photo proof.  The tasks start seemingly basic, such as leaving cookies on a doorstep. Not so harmless when it’s discovered that the cookies are full of peanuts, proving fatal to the girl with severe allergies receiving them.

It becomes clear that there is a sinister hand playing the people of Nottawa against each other.  When the teens involved realize their part in the deadly events occurring, most choose to stay silent rather than risk getting in trouble.  Kaylee is determined to find the source of Need, especially when she realizes that her friend Nate has been kidnapped.

The ending reveals Need’s creator.  I felt it was tough to imagine someone going to such lengths out of revenge and for the government purpose described.  I found the book a bit dragged out in parts and hard to swallow in others.  But the premise is definitely interesting and it makes you think about how far people might go for what they need/want.  This very distinction (need versus want) is a repeated idea throughout the novel and an important theme.

Mantis, Wolf, Boy

Book orders are in and I managed to skim read three elementary reads.

My Awesome Summer by P. Mantis by Paul Meisel is a comical account of a season in the life of a praying mantis.  It begins with P. Mantis’s birth and his evolution to adulthood.  The illustrations are bright and the narration is informative and funny.  In a matter of fact tone, he describes hiding from predators (spiders, etc), and eating many of his siblings.  Very cute!

A Well-Mannered Young Wolf by Jean Leroy is about a hungry young wolf who offers three would-be dinners a last request before eating them.  Each one asks for something that sends the wolf back to his house for supplies.  Of course, his prey has fled by the time he returns.  Except for the final catch, a little boy who promises he won’t leave.  Ultimately the wolf gets his dinner and the boy goes unharmed.

I may have already reviewed this one, (it seems really familiar and I’m too lazy to look back), but here goes!  The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig is a story full of meaning.  The illustrations show Brian as a faded boy that nobody notices.  Teachers don’t pay him much attention and his classmates don’t see him at all.  A new student arrives in class and Brian reaches out in support.  This begins a friendship, and through illustrations and events, we can see that Brian is no longer invisible.  Sometimes, it takes that one person to make a difference for someone.  Very sweet!!

Pure Protectors

The Blood Guard by Carter Roy offers some quirky humor, fantasy and plenty of action.  This is another 2018 Intermediate Nutmeg nominee.

Ronan discovers that his mom is a member of the Blood Guard.  This is a secret group whose mission is to protect the thirty-six Pures throughout the world.  This is an important job since the world as we know it would be overcome with evil if too many Pures are ever killed.  To achieve their task, Blood Guard members have unique abilities, such as super speed, incredible “Matrix”-type fighting skills and for some, eternal life.

Ronan’s dad has disappeared, and his mom sends him off with a Protector (Jack) from the Blood Guard.  Their directive is to head to Washington D.C.  Early in the trip, Ronan ends up joining with a girl from his old neighborhood named Greta.  Throughout their journey they face many life-threatening situations as they come across the Blood Guard’s enemy, the Bend Sinister.  This group is determined to kill every Pure, and they are close to accomplishing their goal.

Ronan discovers a lot about his own capabilities (and more about his dad) in the process of arriving in D.C. and reuniting with his mother.  The story leaves off with understanding that there will be a sequel.  I’m not one for sequels normally, but I may have to look for this one.

 

Role Models

The Best Man by Richard Peck is another 2018 Nutmeg nominee I can check off my list.

The plot revolves around main character Arch.  The story connects two weddings that he is in, beginning with his first at six years old.  This first wedding introduces him to Lynette Stanley, who becomes a friend of sorts (even though she’s a girl).

Lynette’s mom becomes their long-term substitute teacher during their fifth grade year.  Overlooked paperwork also gives their class the very handsome, enigmatic Mr. McLeod as a student teacher.  They have quite a school year, becoming the envy of the sixth graders, and ending with the revelation that Mr. McLeod is gay.

Throughout the year, and the next couple years which whiz by, Arch discovers that his Uncle Paul is also gay.  As you can guess, the final wedding is between his uncle and former student teacher.  Arch has taken cues about being a good man from his beloved grandfather (who passes away during the story), from his dad, his uncle and his teacher.

The choppy narrative style and plot made this a slow read for me.  It is a coming of age story (of sorts) with some decent lessons, but overall not appealing to my tastes.

Shivering Dolls

Frozen Charlotte by Alex Bell was a recommendation from my daughter.  I consider this book both creepy and confusing.

It starts with a Ouija scene between Sophie and her friend Jay.  Anything with a Ouija has an automatic creep factor for me! Sophie mentions her dead cousin Rebecca, and it seems that in doing so she brings Rebecca’s spirit into their world.  Unfortunately, the Ouija also predicts that Jay will die that night (SPOILER- he does).

Shortly after this, Sophie goes to stay with Rebecca’s family (who she hasn’t seen in years), while her parents are on vacation.  Her uncle hides away most of the time with his art and sorrow, her aunt is in a hospital for mentally disturbed patients, and Rebecca’s remaining siblings (Cameron, Piper and Lilias) seem weary of Sophie’s presence.  It turns out that their home has been haunted/cursed by Frozen Charlotte dolls ever since the house was formerly an all-girls school.

Sophie makes it her mission to figure out more about Rebecca’s death.  In the process, more and more strange violent events occur at the hands of these bizarre dolls which are kept in a case in Rebecca’s old room.  Piper also wears a necklace of their body parts (weird, right??).  It turns out that friendly, perfect Piper isn’t at all what she seems.  Sophie and her cousins almost lose their lives due to Piper and the dolls.

The confusing points: why would Rebecca (who was killed and wants to share the true story of her death) injure an innocent waitress when she first appears and seemingly predict Jay’s death?  Why are there so many of these little possessed dolls all over the place?  How did they get possessed in the first place?  Is Piper evil all on her own, or is it because of the dolls?  Why hadn’t anyone gotten rid of them a long time before all this (instead of embedding them into the walls of the house)??

Since the creepiness started to get a bit muddled for me, I would say I can’t give this book quite as high of a rating as my daughter. But I can definitely see how it would appeal to teen girls who don’t mind creepy and somewhat gory subject matter.

Winding Tracks

I am so glad that I finally read Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline.

This is actually two stories in one.  One belongs to seventeen-year-old Molly in present day Maine.  She has been shuttled from one foster family to another for years.  She is caught stealing a library book, Jane Eyre, and her boyfriend manages to finagle a way for her to earn community service hours as her punishment.  She will help clean out the attic of his mom’s employer, Vivian.  This experience begins a relationship between Molly and Vivian, who have more in common than realized at first glance.

Vivian begins telling Molly her life story for one of Molly’s school projects, beginning with her family’s immigration from Ireland.  When a fire erupts in her NYC apartment, Viv’s family is killed.  Nine-year-old Viv (then named Niamh) is placed on an orphan train along with other family-less children.  These children end up in Minnesota, and are lined up and signed away to a new life.  Vivian’s experiences begin with families looking for cheap labor and nothing more.  She finally ends with a kind couple that own a store.  This store becomes her business and she does well with it.  There is additional heartache in her life,  but I don’t want to give away all the details!

I loved the links between Molly and Vivian, down to the detail of both keeping a cherished item from their pasts (the claddagh from Vivian’s grandmother and the charms from Molly’s dad).  Their pasts have hardened them, yet they are open to each other.  In fact, they have provided each other with an important change in life.  Their connection is one of several in this story in which events twist to bring the exact right person along at just the right time.  I think this is true in real life too.

This story ended with tears of the best kind, and for me, is story telling at its finest.