Book Review: Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok

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girl translationGirl in Translation 

Written by Jean Kwok
Read by Grayce Wey 
Published April 29, 2010 by Riverhead
Audio Format: Published April 29, 2010 by Penguin Audio
Genre/Topics: Adult Fiction, Cultural, Coming-of-Age
304 pages, 9 hours 

Three Word Review: Determination, Heartbreak, Family Bond

Kimberly Chang is an 11-year-old who recently emigrated from Hong Kong to New York. Kim was an excellent student in school, but she now struggles due to lack of English skills and peer discrimination. Gradually, Kim’s determination helps her through language barriers, understanding American customs, and forming a few friendships. She lives in two worlds: school and home. Kim is in translation between trying to excel in school while helping her mother work  in a clothing fabric and living in very poor living conditions. She is determined to work hard and never settle for less than she’s capable of.

Girl in Translation was another enjoyable audio book. Grayce Wey does a good job providing a clear voice while also giving an ‘Asian’ accent during the dialogue that I was able to understand. Wey expressed each characters’ voice and emotions. I thought this book was enjoyable and would recommend, but I probably wouldn’t read it again.

Book Review: The Story of Beautiful Girl by Rachel Simon

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beautiful girlThe Story of Beautiful Girl 

Written by Rachel Simon 
Read by Kate Reading 
Published February 1, 2011 by Grand Central Publishing 
Genre/Topics: Adult Fiction, Disability, Relationships
340 pages, 12 hours 

Three Word Review: Heartwarming, Unique, Beautiful

This book mainly surrounds three individuals whose lives were effected by one event. The event begins when Lynnie a young white woman with mental disabilities and Homan a deaf African American man escape from the School for the Incurable and Feebleminded so that Lynnie can secretly give birth. They leave the baby in the hands of Martha, a widow who prefers a quiet lifestyle. Lynnie is caught by officials and sent back to the school, but Homan escapes and is now on the run. Lynnie and Homan understood each other and were deeply in love. Homan called Lynnie ‘Beautiful Girl’. The book changes perspectives from Lynnie, Homan, Martha, and Kate who works at the school. The event occurs in 1968, and their lives are told for the next four decades. The Story of Beautiful Girl truly is a beautiful story how each individual somehow connects and loves each other in their own way. I highly suggest this book.

I listened to The Story of Beautiful Girl and absolutely enjoyed the reading. Kate Reading provides a unique voice to each character and makes the story come alive. Lynnie sometimes has trouble speaking and Reading’s narrative expresses her speech difficulties.

Book Review: The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

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devil in the white cityThe Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America

Written by Erik Larson 
Read by Scott Brick
Published  October 17, 2002 by Vintage 
Audio Format: Published October 17, 2002 by Random House Audio 
Genre/Subject: Nonfiction, History, Crime, Chicago’s World Fair
464 pages, 15 hours

Three Word Review: Creepy, Intriguing, Informative

I’ll start by providing a warning that The Devil in the White City is not a children’s book. Erik Larson writes basically two ‘books’ into one book. Larson states right from the beginning that the book is not fiction and any quotations are from research sources. The magic is that it’s a nonfiction history book that reads like fiction. The first ‘book’ is about the formation of the World’s Columbian Exposition or better known as the Chicago’s World Fair. The second ‘book’ is about a serial killer’s actions during the same time as the fair in Chicago. The focus switches between two men: Daniel Hudson Burnham an architect whose ideas helped create the fair and Henry H. Holmes a young doctor and murderer. The Chicago’s World Fair at first didn’t seem possible with the grand ideas and buildings that needed to be built. Individuals knew it had to be better than Paris’ recent exposition and a design grander than the Eiffel Tower. The Chicago’s World Fair brought new items and ideas that fascinated individuals. One trip into the fair wasn’t enough to experience it all. At the same time, Holmes charms individuals, mainly young women, to do whatever he pleases.

This isn’t a book that I would normally pick up, instead it was read for my book club. Personally, I enjoyed learning more about the Chicago’s World Fair and the history during this time period than the murders planned by Holmes. Don’t let the murders scare you away, because it really never goes into details. Instead, the book examines his relationships and how he charmed anyone. If you enjoy history, architecture,  and a brief look into the mind of a serial killer than you may enjoy this unique nonfiction book.

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

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The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe 

Written by C. S. Lewis 
Read by Michael York
Originally published on October 16, 1950
Published by Harper Audio
Genre: Adventure, Fantasy 
Audio Edition: 4 hours, 22 minutes
Ages: 8+, 208 pages 

Welcome to the land of Narnia. There are two methods to read The Chronicles of Narnia: either by the date published or chronically order. I decided to read the series in the order C.S. Lewis first published them, so The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe makes it the first book. We meet Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy Pevensie for the first time.

To avoid bombs during World War II in  London, the four Pevensie children live with a wealthy professor in the country. The house is large and mysterious. It is during a game of hide and seek that Lucy discovers Narnia through the wardrobe. Next Edmund journeys into Narnia and meets the Queen. Soon all four children magical enter the world of Narnia.

The White Witch has cast an evil spell that makes it always winter.  The children begin an adventure quest to remove the Witch. Aslan the brave lion slowly takes back power as winter melts away. The children find themselves in the center of a prophecy when two sons of Adam and two daughters of Eve return to Narnia to eliminate the White Witch.

They meet talking animals and mythical creatures in the land of Narnia. I won’t address C.S. Lewis’ Christian themes, but The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is a wonderful start for all ages. Please join me as I read the entire series.

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Book Review: Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator

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Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator 

Written by Roald Dahl 
Read by Eric Idle 
Published on August 12, 1972 by Knopf Books for Young Readers 
Audio Edition Published July 6, 2004 by Harper Festival
Ages: 8+, 176 pages
Audio Edition: 3 hours and 30 minutes 
Genre: Fantasy 

Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator picks up right where Charlie and the Chocolate Factory concludes. Charlie has won the chocolate factory prize and is now in the glass elevator with his entire family. Inside the great glass elevator are Charlie, Mr. Willy Wonka, Grandpa Joe and Grandma Josephine, Grandpa George and Grandma Georgina, and Mr. and Mrs. Bucket. They are riding high into space. Along the way, they encounter Vermicious Knids, Gnoolies, a space hotel, a strange communication with the President of the United States, unique vitamins that increase and decrease your age, and more crazy adventures with Mr. Willy Wonka. I enjoyed Charlie and the Chocolate Factory more, but you’re in for another delightful Roald Dahl treat with this book.


Book Review: Hatchet by Gary Paulsen

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Written by Gary Paulsen 
Read by Peter Coyote 
Originally Published by Aladdin on January 1, 1987 
Ages: 10+, 208 pages 
Audio Review: 3 hours, 42 minutes 
Audio Edition: Published by Listening Library on April 27, 2004
Topics: Survival, Adventure

On a trip to visit his recently divorced father, thirteen year old Brian Robeson is the only survivor in the small single engine plane crash after the pilot has a heart attack. After the pilot dies, Brian steers the plane as best as he can and lands inside the Canadian wilderness. The only items he has for survival are his clothes and the newly bought hatchet from his mother. Brian faces many challenges as he braves the wildness alone to survive. In order to survive, Brain must stay physically and emotionally strong. He often has flashbacks about his parent’s recent divorce, which is painful because he feels he wouldn’t be in this situation if his parents were still together. Brian knows that if he is going to survive the wilderness then he needs to think positive. His personality changes as he becomes more patient and corrects previously made mistakes. Brian gains patience as he learns to closely watch and think before making any quick and reckless actions. He learns skills to fish, start a fire, build a shelter, and defend himself. Hatchet is the first book in the Brian Saga series. Gary Paulsen won a Newbery Honor Award for Hatchet.

I enjoyed listening to this audio version of Hatchet. Peter Coyote’s voice was clear and provided emotion during the reading. There was sometimes music and sound effects during suspenseful moments. Some readers may become disinterested, since Brian is the only character for most of the book and there is no real conversation. However, Hatchet kept my interest as Brian encountered challenges for survival.