Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Sky Is Everywhere, by Jandy Nelson

Pages: 288
Rating: PG-13 (two F-bombs and hints about sexual activity, but it doesn't get graphic.)

Summary:Seventeen-year-old Lennie Walker, bookworm and band geek, plays second clarinet and spends her time tucked safely and happily in the shadow of her fiery older sister, Bailey. But when Bailey dies abruptly, Lennie is catapulted to center stage of her own life - and, despite her nonexistent history with boys, suddenly finds herself struggling to balance two. Toby was Bailey's boyfriend; his grief mirrors Lennie's own. Joe is the new boy in town, a transplant from Paris whose nearly magical grin is matched only by his musical talent. For Lennie, they're the sun and the moon; one boy takes her out of her sorrow, the other comforts her in it. But just like their celestial counterparts, they can't collide without the whole wide world exploding.

My Thoughts: One of my new favorite books! I couldn't believe this was a first novel. It's so moving. She writes incredibly well, and there's a poem at the beginning of each chapter, written so exquisitely I sometimes read them several times. Lennie is an amazing character, but it doesn't stop there. Her Gram and her uncle are both slightly whacky. It's amazing how well Lennie's grief and her journey to get past it is captured so well in the pages of this book. Lennie has a bit of a love triangle going because her shared grief with Toby kind of turns into passion, and then she has this amazingly talented, beautiful boy named Joe who she is so ridiculously in love with. Seriously, after reading the parts about how she feels about Joe, I was a romantic mess! In a good way of course. Anyone who has ever experienced any kind of heartache, love, or who has a sister would enjoy reading this book. Sometimes the poems I read made me think of my sisters. I want this book!!!

A Woman's Place, by Lynn Austin

Pages: 448

Rating: PG(it's a very clean book but there is a little bit of violence in it)

Summary:They watched their sons, their brothers, and their husbands enlist to fight a growing menace across the seas. And when their nation asked, they answered the call as well. Virginia longs to find a purpose beyond others' expectations. Helen is driven by a loneliness money can't fulfill. Rosa is desperate to flee her in-laws' rules. Jean hopes to prove herself in a man's world. Under the storm clouds of destruction that threaten America during the early 1940s, this unlikely gathering of women will experience life in sometimes starling new ways as their beliefs are challenged and they struggle toward a new understanding of what love and sacrifice truly mean.

My Review: This is one of my favorite books. This was actually a second read, I read it a few years ago and wanted to read it again. Now it's on my wish list so one day I'll maybe have it in my own personal library. The book follows the lives of four women who are very different from each other, and have each chosen to work in the shipyards for their own personal reasons. They become close friends and they begin to help each other through various difficulties in their lives. For instance, Ginny feels like she is unneeded and that her husband no longer loves her. She works in the factory without his knowledge or permission. Jean has a boyfriend back home who is pressuring her for marriage, but she has always dreamed of going to college first. Rosa feels extremely out of place in such a small town, and feels that everyone is expecting her to be someone other than who she is. Helen has had a harsh life with very little love, even though she never lacked money. She has never really had friends before, and finds herself being drawn into the other women's lives. There is a strain of religion in the book. Helen is struggling to even believe in God anymore, and Rosa is learning about God for the first time.

 Even though this book is rather long, it doesn't feel long at all. It's an easy read, and enjoyable too. I mentioned earlier that there is some violence. The book also deals a little bit with civil rights. The women try to get a black woman hired in the factory, and all hell breaks loose. The foreman is threatened and some violence happens in the shipyards against all those that sympathize with the black workers. It's not terribly graphic or anything, but it's there. It's a really great book, with a surprise towards the end about Helen's childhood love.

The main theme of the book is that women can be useful in places other than at home, and that's what I think the book is really aiming at, but I love it a lot anyway. it's a great, perfectly clean story.

I Gave My Heart to Know This, by Ellen Baker

Pages: 321
Rating: PG-13 (The F-bomb is dropped 5 or 6 times throughout the book. There is a little sex, but it only just vaguely hints at it, and never goes into any kind of detail.)

Summary: In January 1944, Grace Anderson, Lena Maki, and Lena’s mother, Violet, have joined the growing ranks of women working for the war effort. Though they find satisfaction in their jobs at a Wisconsin shipyard, it isn’t enough to distract them from the anxieties of wartime, or their fears for the men they love: Lena’s twin brother, Derrick, and Grace’s high school sweetheart, Alex. When shattering news arrives from the front, the lives of the three women are pitched into turmoil. As one is pushed to the brink of madness, the others are forced into choices they couldn’t have imagined—and their lives will never be the same. 

More than five decades later, Violet’s great-granddaughter, Julia, returns to the small farmhouse where Violet and Lena once lived. Listless from her own recent tragedy, Julia begins to uncover the dark secrets that shattered her family, eventually learning that redemption—and love—can be found in the most unexpected places.

My Thoughts: I really enjoyed this book. It was so hard to put down. I kept wanting to flip forward and find out what was going on. There were so many shocking discoveries and secrets that you have to wait almost the entire book to figure out. The book is more about individuals trying to overcome tragedy than it really is about World War II and the work women did. That's part of the story, but it's really just the background. I really felt for the characters, and found myself almost on the verge of tears because of all the sufferings and difficulties they had. It's definitely not a light read. It's intense and there's a lot of letting go and moving on that has to happen in the book. It's a story of regret and mistakes, and trying to do the right thing, and real life, how difficult it is, and trying to make it all right in the end.

Like I said in the rating, the F-bomb is dropped a few times, but only by Julia's brother, Danny, when he comes to visit. He is the only person who uses such language in the book, and he's not a very prominent character. Just be warned that when Danny comes into the picture, you're going to have to watch out for the language. 

Ellen Baker is a great writer. She really helped me to feel the emotions of the characters and I felt sympathetic for all of them, except for maybe Lena. I feel like there wasn't enough of Lena's story in there. All the other characters get to say their piece and redeem themselves, and you understand how they feel and how they got to where they are, but Lena is kind of left a mystery.