A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry

raisin.jpgLorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun is a drama that tells the story of a working class African-American family in search of their dreams. Inspired by Langston Hughes poem “A Dream Deferred”, Hansberry gives the reader an inside look at the struggles the Younger family: Walter, Ruth, Mama, Beneatha and Travis. With a life insurance check on its way, the family battles and fights over where the money should go. Mama wants to donate to the church. Ruth wants to move out of the crowded apartment. Beneatha wants to continue medical school. And Walter wants to became a Black man who follows is ambition. Who’s dream will they follow? And can money solve all their problems?

I absolutely loved this story! It was funny, heartwarming, sad, and eye-opening…all the great things you would expect from a drama. This book gives a great insight to the lives of struggling working class families, especially African-Americans during the civil rights era. This is a well told story that will have you rooting for the Youngers and praying it all works out in the end. I give this book a 5 out of 5. Quick yet fulfilling read.

Common sense media: 13+ yrs

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

bnw.jpgBernard has always felt like an outsider. In a world where babies are produced in factories, and their life is predestined, there is an expectation for how everyone should act. Relationships are frowned upon, and regular casual sex is normal and encouraged. But Bernard has a hard time living up to the societal ideals. Well, until he becomes well-known in the society for his trip amongst the savages. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley is a classic dystopian that envisions the world in “Henry Ford’s” time, where machines rule everything and production is a way of life.

This book really is not one of my favorites. I hardly ever decide to stop reading before I have finished a book, but I simply couldn’t take anymore of this one! While the idea and premise behind the novel is interesting, Huxley spends too much time describing scenes and not enough time telling a story. The plot can also be very difficult to follow because there are words and ideas that Huxley uses which are unique to his world, but are not explained to the reader. Overall, I give this book a 2 out of 5. I really wanted to get into it, but I didn’t have the energy to pull apart the book and focus on the detail.

El Deafo by Cece Bell

eldeafoI am a huge fan of graphic novels! Sometimes there is nothing better than reverting back to a child-like state and picking up a book filled with pictures. I think graphic novels are great for those looking for something different, kids that struggle with comprehension and informational texts that would ordinarily be boring. So as you might be able to tell, I was particularly excited about reading El Deafo.

El Deafo by Cece Bell is a graphic novel about her childhood. Being deaf, Cece faced many challenges when it came to friends, doing well in school, and feeling accepted by others. El Deafo is funny and filled with relatable moments about growing up and discovering oneself.

If you are looking a lighthearted novel for a lazy Sunday, I would definitely recommend this one. I love that Bell incorporates so many childhood moments that we can all relate to. I also love the unique perspective of what it is like growing up with a hearing impairment. I know that I personally had a lot of misconceptions about hearing impairments until I read this novel. I would give this book a 5 out of 5. Great, easy read!

Common Sense Media Rating: 9 yrs +

The Giver by Lois Lowry

giver.jpgIf you enjoy dystopian or reading about fictional worlds, this one is for you! The Giver has been around for quite some time and is constantly listed as a must read. I decided to give it a try!

Jonas lives in a society where everything is pleasant, thought out and pain free. When children turn 12, they receive an assignment from their society. This is the job they will do for the rest of their life. Jonas is anxious for the ceremony, so you can imagine how nervous he felt when his name was skipped over. The truth is, Jonas has a special job. He will become the next Receiver, the keeper of memories and an honorable person in society. This job will introduce him to things no one else in the society has ever endured. Will he be able to handle it?

I really enjoyed this book! Its short and sweet. I think one thing that sets it apart from many other dystopians in the detail in which she explains the society. To me, that is one of the most fascinating parts of dystopian. My biggest disappointment was the ending. I was really hoping for more resolution, but instead I was left with SO many questions. I wanted to see it as sweet and fitting, but I really wish there was more. Overall, I give this book a 4 out of 5. Definitely something I would recommend.

Common Sense Media Rating: 11+ years

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

hawkinsThis book has been on several “must read” lists, but I was hesitant to read it at first. However, I recently came across a movie trailer for the book, and I was convinced. I’m very much a read-before-you-watch kind of person. I have mixed reviews about the book, but I am very excited to see the movie.

Rachel is spiralling. She is an alcoholic still mourning the loss of her husband and the life she once lived. Every morning she takes a train to work, which scoots by her old house – and the house of Jess, a woman she’s been watching on every commute. Jess and her husband have a seemingly perfect life, the kind Rachel dreamed of living. But one day, everything changes. Jess turns out to actually be a woman named Megan, and Megan is missing. Rachel thinks she has some answers, but she is also surrounded by speculation and confusion. Rachel’s journey will have you questioning everyone – including her.

I think this book will make a fantastic movie. I actually think that it would have worked out better that way in the first place. While the book was mostly captivating, Hawkins sometimes is too vague and too mysterious for my liking. One of my biggest pet peeves with mystery/thrillers is when characters begin to change so that we will suspect them. I also felt like the vagueness of things became really confusing at times. From the very beginning we get “he” and “she” pronouns with no name so that we question who it is. Which is great…but I don’t want to spend 200 pages guessing. Lastly, the book switches between characters AND time periods. Two of the characters are told in a similar time frame while the other starts a year back. This got really confusing, for me, at times. I had to remember what happened and when. This is why I think a film adaptation will be better – the time can represented smoother. Overall, I give this book a 3 out of 5. I want to give it more, because I did enjoy it, but there were several things that really hindered my ability to read it.

The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty

secretI have seen this book on several “must read” lists in the past few months and decided to finally buy it. And I am sure glad I did! I couldn’t stop talking about it with my friends and family…now they just have to read it too.

In The Husband’s Secret, Cecelia Fitzpatrick comes across a strange envelope one day. It reads on the outside: “For Cecelia Fitzpatrick, my lovely wife, to be opened upon my death”. She knows immediately that it is written by her husband…who is alive and well. The contents of the letter will act as a wave, creating ripple effects upon various people in the community, and it will forever change Cecelia. This book is about the secrets we keep and the lies we live. They say secrets bring people closer, but they can also tear people apart.

This book was absolutely amazing. It was one of those books you can’t put down. I was clearing my schedule to make time for reading! One of the things I really like are the various perspectives the story is written in and how we see the role of secrets in peoples lives. She does a great job of creating parallel stories and keeping a time frame. Especially in the end, when things are very intense, the simultaneous stories helped build tension. Moriarty really keeps you captivated…even until the Epilogue. And man, did she go out with a bang. Incredible. I give this book a 5 out of 5. I would definitely recommend this one.

brown girl dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

brown girl dreamingThis is probably going to be one of the most unfavorable reviews I write. I was really disappointed with this one. I have had brown girl dreaming on my booklist for quite some time. I started adding more multicultural literature to my bookshelf last year, and this one grabbed me from the moment I heard about. It has won so many awards! People love it! What could go wrong…

Brown girl dreaming is the memoir of Jacqueline Woodson written in verse. Jacqueline grew up during a changing time in America, especially the south. Segregation was still going strong and the south didn’t plan on changing anytime soon. Jacqueline’s family is from the south and she spends some of her time there, but mostly she lives in Brooklyn with her mother and siblings. This memoir recites the life of Jacqueline trying to find her place in life. She speaks about the troubles she faces in school, the differences in the north and south, sibling rivalry and everything in-between.

Okay, I honestly can’t write anything more in that summary. I hated this book! I really did. I keep thinking that there is probably something I am not seeing in Jacqueline’s verse, but I was bored to tears. This story could have been left sitting in a diary – I think it would fit better there. I love multicultural literature, and I love memoirs…but not this one. I give it 1 out of 5. Now, I need to start selecting better stories.

Common Sense Media Rating: 10+ yrs