I’ve decided to change things up a bit this year with my book reports — instead of writing about all the books I’ve read in a given month, I’ll highlight my main recommendations. You can still follow my reading pile on Goodreads, and I do try to write reviews now and then over there if something really moves me, but I’ll post my faves here every month or so and try to focus on one audio book, one read aloud, and one recent release.
In January I listened to In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom by Yeonmi Park. A friend of mine had recommended it, and I am drawn to memoirs of survival, particularly when they involve breaking free from an oppressive culture. I love books that are difficult to read and stay with you long after they end. This was no exception. Parts of the book made me cringe as I listened to Park detail the hardships she faced while living in North Korea and then being forced into human trafficking in her attempt to escape. It is impossible not to be moved by her perseverance and resiliency, and of the sacrifices made by her mother. I appreciated the fact that she explained the history of her home country, the honesty with which she told her story, and the bravery required to openly speak out against a place that is known for its treatment of traitors. Park’s story is only one. There are no doubt other stories, some more extreme and painful. And as global citizens, it is our duty to listen.
My younger son and I read the second book in Todd McClimans’ American Epochs series, a book called Time Underground. I met Todd on Twitter when I won a copy of his first book in the series, Time Traitor, which I read aloud with my older son. The series follows two boarding school friends who discover a time machine and travel back in American history. McClimans, history teacher turned principal, knows his stuff, and I love the fact that I can use literature to bring history alive to my sons. I even recommended the series to our school librarian, who loved it. Time Underground is about the Underground Railroad, and when one of the main characters discovers a distant relative did not survive his attempt to escape slavery, she goes back in time to try and save him. The present day chapters in the beginning were a little slow, but once she travels in time it was definitely a page turner, and the boy let out a loud, “NOOOO” each night I closed the book and said it was time to go to sleep. A sure sign of a good read.
Lastly, a new release I stumbled upon and enjoyed was Brave Deeds by David Abrams. I’ve started a new writing project and the main character works as a funeral guard for the Navy Reserves. I discovered the novel while searching the library catalog for research materials. I’m a sucker for a good, gritty military story, especially ones that showcase war’s effect on humanity. Brave Deeds follows a group of men on a day long journey to the memorial of their leader, and what I liked most about the book was its unique use of first person plural narrative. I’ve only seen that done once before (in The Weird Sisters) and it was the perfect way to show how the men were separate individuals functioning as one unit. I noticed some reviewers complaining that the narrative was disjointed, jumping around from present to past, but I think that was a deliberate and effective story telling device for this piece. The language is raw and realistic, and Abrams does a wonderful job weaving in each character’s back story wound. I will definitely be checking out his other work.
As always, happy reading everyone!