Above – Roland Smith

As a mom I have been quite successful at sharing a love of reading with  my children. This success has also given me one of my greatest challenges: finding books for my teenage son to read. This young man loves to read, reads often, and unfortunately for me, he reads fast. When I found Beneath by Roland Smith, well it kept my son in reading material for an afternoon. However, there was to be a sequel to Beneath and, as only I can do, I completely and absolutely forgot about it until a couple of weeks ago. Thankfully my library had a copy!

Above immediately jumps back into the action with the lives of two brothers: Coop and Pat. The brothers escaped from an underground cult and turned the information over to  the FBI. Now, Coop and Pat are on the run from the cult leaders. They are joined by Katie, granddaughter of the cult leader, who has spent her entire life beneath. Can these three stay together and stay safe? Will LOD succeed in his plan for a new life with his underground cult?

I will confess that I read Above before it made the rounds with my older kiddos. While the relationship between sons and parents is disappointing, it is one of the reasons why Coop and Pat are such great brothers. No matter what life throws in their path, they have each others back. I love their relationship. Some of their conversations and interactions make me smile and chuckle.

Above provides an enjoyable action and adventure read. While there is conflict and violence, it isn’t overdone.  Even with a male and female interest/relationship, there was no inappropriate content or language. Our library had this shelved in the Young Adult section, but I am unsure why. My eleven year  old daughter even read this with no issues.

I definitely recommend Above if you are looking for books for boys. My girls (11 and up) would recommend it as well. Make sure you read Beneath first!!

What’s On My Nightstand

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Last year I failed at my plans to share about the books I was reading regularly. I  told myself that I would do better in 2017. What’s On Your Nightstand is a great way to hold myself accountable, so I am going to try to participate each month.

What I Read in January:

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend (Katarina Bivald) – This was recommended on my library’s website. I perused a few reviews and saw it compared to 84 Charing Cross Road (which I loved) and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society (another book  I loved). I had no expectations that this would be a gripping, powerful story. I was looking for a light enjoyable book that used the love of literature as an element of the story.

Unfortunately this was a disappointment. The main character, Sara, was not interesting or engaging. While other characters added some life to the story, you never learn enough about them to pull it all together. I cringed at the depiction of “Christians”. The weak pastor who is lead by the uptight town busybody. There is also much focus on various views of appropriate relationships. This is one selection that I can not recommend. I may need to re-read 84 Charing Cross Road.

The Lilac Girls (Martha Hall Kelly) – It is no secret that I am drawn to stories set during World War II. Naturally, I had to read Lilac Girls. Lilac Girls brings together the lives a New York socialite, a Polish teenager, and a young, female German doctor. The story travels from New York, Poland, France, and the concentration camp, Ravensbrück.

For me. this story lacked a continuity and depth compared to other WWII books I have read. What I found interesting is a fact I realized when I finished the book. The New York socialite, Caroline Ferriday was a real person; her name and work for those ladies that suffered in Ravensbrück was new to me. I wonder if she would be pleased with how she was portrayed?

Trouble (Gary D. Schmidt) – Can we go wrong with Mr. Schmidt? I do not think so. Trouble introduces us to Henry Smith. Henry is from a well-established family in Maine. His life is forever changed when his brother, Franklin, is hit by a car.  Henry is driven to hike Mt. Katahdin to try to make sense of what has happened. This is a story of grief, hurt, friendship, sacrifice, prejudice, and love. Henry learns that Trouble can’t be kept away.

My teens and I all enjoyed reading Trouble. Schmidt has a gift at telling a moving story in a subtle way. As always a bit of comic relief is offered up to balance the emotional impact of the story. I also appreciate books that give some great male characters for me teen son to read.

Counting Thyme (Melanie Conklin) – I read a bit about this several months ago and passed over it. Then I saw a review of it at Semicolon and was swayed to give it a go.  Thyme, age 12, I think, has to move across the country so her brother, 5, can have cancer treatment. Thyme struggles with wanting to go back home and knowing her brother needs to be here.

Conklin does an excellent job of showing the various aspects of Thyme’s relationships, struggles, and emotions. The other characters in the story are engaging. I must confess that I wish I had a Ravioli. It is a sweet story of a family that is facing a serious struggle and need each other to stand strong. An excellent middle grade read. There is a bit of young “romance” that is handled appropriately and sweetly. Just noting that for those who prefer books with no romantic leanings.

What will I be reading in February? /So far I have these selected:

  • The Woman in Cabin 10 (started tonight and not sure if I will push through)
  • Above – Roland Smith
  • Gertie’s Leap to Greatness  – Kate Beasley
  • Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
  • The Circle – Dave Eggers

I have a few more requested but I’m not sure if they will be available in February or not.

What is on your nightstand?
What's On Your Nightstand

(Pop back in  later this week when I’ll share what I have been reading aloud with my children.)

 

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Ashtown Burials – N. D. Wilson

Up until the summer of 2015, my children and I were living under a rock and oblivious to the author, N. D. Wilson. The rock was rolled aside when I brought home Boys of Blur and read it aloud. We all enjoyed it and “Read a book, yo!” is still a favorite family slogan.

It has been a year since we spent time with Charlie and Cotton. We jumped right into The 100 Cupboards series and had quite the adventure with Henry York. It is continually brought home from the library to be enjoyed again and again. A little Crazy Berry Juice was called for after a reading of Leepike Ridge. We just recently finished the three books in the Ashtown Burials series.

Cyrus, Antigone, Nolan, Rupert, Niffy…they have become treasured friends. Reading the Ashtown Burials was a time of “read, read, and read because we have to know how this book ends” and “I don’t want this to end!”  While targeted at the 8 to 12 year old readers, this series is perfect for a family read aloud.

Ashtown Burials gives the perfect blend of excitement, adventure, history, family, and friendship. All of this brought together by a wonderful cast of characters that will soon be like old friends. Conversations about the Smiths happens regularly around our table.  There have been discussions on good vs evil,  immortality and death and what living truly means. We have laughed over the antics of Cyrus and love his relationship with Rupert.

Not to ruin this series for those who have not read it, but the ending of Empire of Bones (Book 3) was bittersweet for me. It was what I expected for one character but it still was tough one to take. It led to some of the above mentioned discussions.

Don’t ask my children to choose between Ashtown Burials or The 100 Cupboards. Some will groan in distress and other will refuse to answer such an unfair question. It gets even better if you ask them to choose between characters: Cyrus or Henry? Rupert or Uncle Frank? It is great fun as a parent to have this small moments of torture.

Across the board, Mr. Wilson has become a treasured author in our home. Wilson’s writing “makes you feel like you are right there watching everything happen”.  One of my teens has declared Wilson one of the best authors ever. We might be some of his biggest fans.

If you happen to live under a rock like us and haven’t read the Ashtown Burials, we highly recommend it. Hopefully it won’t be long before Book IV: The Silent Bells will be published.