Book Review: Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt

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wolveswTell the Wolves I’m Home

Written by Carol Rifka Brunt 
Published by Random House on June 19, 2012 
Genre/Topics: Adult Fiction, coming-of-age, AIDS, Family 
355 pages 

Three Word Review: Friendship, Loss, Renewal

It is 1987, and fourteen-year-old June Elbus feels that her one and only friend is her uncle Finn. Finn recently died to AIDS and June is heartbroken and feels at a loss until she receives contact from an unlikely source, Finn’s boyfriend Toby. Slowly Toby and June form a unique friendship and secretly meet sharing stories about how Finn impacted their life. June learns that some things she loved about Finn were actually from Toby. There are misconceptions and prejudices about AIDS and the family wants nothing to do with Toby who they believe wrecked Finn’s life. Both June and Toby feel they need to take care of the other to fulfill Finn’s last wishes.

Tell the Wolves I’m Home had a unique plot and I felt for both June and Toby. We discover friendships in any situation to fit our need and awaken our spirit. It was also interesting to read a book that dealt with AIDS when society questioned exactly what it was and their fears. I suggest Tell the Wolves I’m Home for a fresh reading perspective.

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: Brooklyn

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Written by Colm Tóibín
Published by Scribner on January 1, 2009
Genre/Topics: Adult Fiction, Historical Fiction, Coming-of-Age, Immigration 
262 pages 

Eilis Lacey grew up in a small city in Ireland during the 1950s. She lives with her mother and beautiful older sister. A visiting Irish priest from Brooklyn, New York, offers Eilis a job. She begins her journey to America for the first time where new adventures await. She becomes a sales girl at a department store, however she desires to work in an office setting. Gradually, Eilis adjusts to her new lifestyle and suddenly finds herself in love. She’s often not sure what to include in the letters she writes home. Surprising news from home causes Eilis to second guess events in her life.

I enjoyed Brooklyn as you read about her becoming a young woman experiencing New York. The book kept my interest and there was depth to the characters. I quickly read to discover how Eilis would handle new events in her life. Unfortunately, I was sad when I finished the book so quick. I recommend this book.

Book Review: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

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A Tree Grows in Brooklyn 

Written by Betty Smith 
Genre/Topics: Fiction, Coming-of-Age 
Published in 1943
512 pages 

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is the beautifully told story about a young girl’s coming-of-age in Brooklyn, New York, in the early 1900s. Francie Nolan faces many struggles growing up, but she’s very determined to not let this stop her. Some struggles that face her family are poverty and a father who is often drunk. When Francie is born, her mother, Katie, is told that the key to succeed is an education. Katie instructs her children, Francie and her brother Neeley, to read one page of Shakespeare and a page from the Bible every night. The family has a close relationship and they work together, such as Francie and Neeley collect junk for money that they contribute to the household.

The tree growing in Brooklyn, New York, refers to a tree that grows outside Francie’s bedroom. It is unlike any tree, because it is able to grow through difficult environments. The symbolism is that Francie also is able to grow in any situation. Here is a quote from Francie’s perspective of the tree:

Some people called it the Tree of Heaven. No matter where its seed fell, it made a tree which struggled to reach the sky. It grew in boarded-up lots and out of neglected rubbish heaps and it was the only tree that grew out of cement. It grew lushly, but only in the tenements districts.

Francie’s mother feels her children won’t have her struggles, but instead will flourish and become successful in life. Here is a quote from Katie’s perspective as she compares the tree to her children:

Everything struggles to live. Look at that tree growing up there out of that grating. It gets no sun, and water only when it rains. It’s growing out of sour earth. And it’s strong because its hard struggle to live is making it strong. My children will be strong that way.

Francie is always curious about her surroundings and the fact that her family struggles with money doesn’t stop her curiosity. She’s fond of books her entire life. She often feels as though she is alone with few girl friends, but her wonder and curiosity takes her places and she’s never truly alone. Here is a quote that describes Francie’s love of books:

Oh magic hour when a child first knows it can read printed words!…From that time on, the world was hers for the reading. She would never be lonely again, never miss the lack of intimate friends. Books became her friends and there was one for every mood. There was poetry for quiet companionship. There was adventure when she tired of quiet hours. There would be love stories when she came into adolescence and when she wanted to feel a closeness to someone she could read a biography. On that day when she first knew she could read, she made a vow to read one book a day as long as she lived.

This is the second time I read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn almost exactly a year ago. I apologize for the lengthy review, but this is one of my favorite books. This time I read the book on my kindle and I’ve never made so many highlights throughout the book that captured my attention. Basically the book is just about a girl and her family making the best of their situation and thriving to succeed, but it feels like so much more than that. I highly recommend this book.

Book Review: Little Women

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Little Women 

by Louisa May Alcott
Published: 1868
Ages: 10 & up

I just finished reading this book for the third time. Perhaps I enjoy Little Women, because you can see yourself as one of the main characters. Maybe I enjoy this book because I have two sisters who each have her own personality yet we like spending time together. I would describe this classic as a coming of age with personal struggles, family relationships, and four unique perspectives as the girls become young women. I can’t give this book an age frame, since it’s on many ‘book lists’. The first time I read this book I got it from the adult fiction section at the library. However, this book truly can be enjoyed for readers who like a glimpse into a different time frame, wholesome writing, and similar life struggles as their own. There are out dated words that you may need to look up, which was helpful reading with my kindle. I’ve also listened to this book.

Little Women takes place in Concord, Massachusetts, in the nineteenth century. It is the story of Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy who begin at the start of the book from the ages of sixteen to eleven, respectfully. Technically, the book is divided into two sections that the reader clearly picks up. The March family was once well off, but due to the war they lived somewhat in poverty. As the oldest, Meg is mature, sometimes motherly, and follows society expectations. Jo wishes she was born a boy who is a writer, fairly independent, and outspoken. Louisa May Alcott’s own life is supposedly closest to Jo. Beth is timid, stays close to home, and is a gentle soul who helps others. Amy is an artist, proper, and plans to marry rich. Throughout the book, you witness illness, coming out parties, Christmas celebrations, courting, importance of religion, future dreams, marriages, and children. Little Women is a fairly long book for younger ages, but I still think many ages will like it.

Book & Film Review: Flipped

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by Wendlin Van Draanen

Ages 10 & up, 224 pages

Flipped is an adorable book about young love and coming-of-age. The first time Juli Baker looked into Bryce Loski’s eyes she flipped for him and desires her first kiss. They meet in second grade when Bryce moves across the street. Bryce wishes he could have space from Juli even though they hardly talk. The book flips perspectives between Bryce and Juli, so the reader learns their struggles as they deal with life and feelings. Bryce’s grandfather lives with his family and he questions Bryce why he isn’t Juli’s friend. Bryce hasn’t realized that Juli is the ‘girl next door’ with spunk and tries everything to get rid of her. Gossip, misunderstandings, and situations occur and their feelings for each other flip: Bryce soon can’t stop thinking about Juli and Juli doesn’t want to speak to Bryce ever again. Will they ever flip for each other at the same time? Flipped is a very humorous and sweet book with adolescent love struggles.


Directed by Rob Reiner

PG, 90 minutes – 2010

I saw the movie before I read the book. I didn’t even realize it was based upon a book until the credits. Bryce Loski is played by Callan McAuliffe and Juli Baker is played by Madeline Carroll. The film is set during the late 1950s and early 60s, unlike the book that didn’t really provide an exact time frame. I thought the movie was very close to the book and the reader won’t be disappointed. It’s a family friendly movie with no violence, perhaps three swear words used the entire film, no real ‘sensitive’ topics (besides their feelings for each other), and provides wonderful awkward moments during junior high that I’m sure many viewers can relate to. I highly suggest this delightful movie!