Ms. Thomas's Bookblog

Beautiful and Haunting

All the Light We Cannot See: A Novel - Anthony Doerr

When I was extremely happy to find this book at a used book stand for three dollars, my fiance asked me what it was about. I told him "I'm not sure exactly, but I know it's about two people growing up during World War II, and every one has said how good it is."


A week later, when I had finished it and was gushing about how wonderful it was, he asked me again. "It's about a genius orphan boy in Nazi Germany, and a blind girl growing up in Nazi-Occupied France. And radios. And triangles. And a cursed diamond. But mostly it's about how our lives intersect in a million little ways with the lives of others." He replied that it sounds complicated. I said, "Not so much."


The truth is that it's not really complicated at all. Despite flashing back and forth both in time and between characters, All the Light We Cannot See is very easy to follow. Characters' names are distinct, and the way that the characters look at and interact with the world is different enough that it's not at all difficult to remember if you're in France with Marie-Laure and her father, or in Germany with Werner. The characters and their environments also change enough that it isn't difficult to remember 'when' you are, either.


I have read reviews that complain that the ending is confusing, and you never find out where the diamond actually is, but I disagree. The ending is pretty straightforward, and there's even a little section at the end from the "POV" of the diamond, to let you know exactly where it is and what happened to it.


This book is beautifully written, and it deals with life in WWII Europe in a way that feels authentic and calls for minimal suspension of disbelief. The characters' actions, struggles, and fates all seem very real, even as you ponder whether or not the "curse" ever actually existed.


Basically, read the book.

The Night Circus - Erin Morgenstern
""I know," Celia says. "You're not destined or chosen, I wish I could tell you that you were if that would make it easier, but it's not true. You're in the right place at the right time, and you care enough to do what needs to be done. Sometimes that's enough.""
All the Light We Cannot See: A Novel - Anthony Doerr
"“But it is not bravery; I have no choice. I wake up and live my life. Don't you do the same?”"

Baby's in Black: Astrid Kirchherr, Stuart Sutcliffe, and The Beatles

Baby's in Black: Astrid Kirchherr, Stuart Sutcliffe, and The Beatles - Arne Bellstorf One of the best parts about working in a library is that I get to read books before the patrons are able to check them out (Sorry, student who had to wait a week for House of Hades). This was one that I snatched right out of the box and had to read the moment I got home. I LOVE The Beatles, and the story of Stu and Astrid is something that it can be hard to find information about.

As others have commented, this book doesn't really add anything 'new' to the story of The Beatles' time in Hamburg, but it's still a good read. I recommend it to my students, although I do always warn them that you need to pay attention to the illustrations, or you might get confused (all of the characters look very similar, a stylist choice I like, but that confuses some readers). For my students who like The Beatles' music but don't know much of the history behind the band, this is a great read.

Vintage Cakes: Timeless Recipes for Cupcakes, Flips, Rolls, Layer, Angel, Bundt, Chiffon, and Icebox Cakes for Today's Sweet Tooth

Vintage Cakes: Timeless Recipes for Cupcakes, Flips, Rolls, Layer, Angel, Bundt, Chiffon, and Icebox Cakes for Today's Sweet Tooth - Julie Richardson OMG make the Mississippi Mud Cupcakes. Just do it now. Make sure there are other people around to help you eat them, though.

This is a good cookbook with some really solid recipes. I've had to fiddle with a few, but they've all worked out really well in the end. I've yet to make a recipe from this book that hasn't been a hit with at least one member of my family. There aren't pictures of every recipe, which is a turn-off for some, but it's still a beautiful book.

Catherine, Called Birdy

Catherine, Called Birdy - Karen Cushman The first time I read this book was with my ELA class in middle school, but I HATED it SO MUCH. I was excited to read it, too, because I've always been interested in the general time period when it's set and because I love epistolary novels. But I really, really hated it.

I went back and reread it recently, and I still feel pretty much the same way. The main character struck me as being too "teenager-y" for the 14th Century. She seemed more like a kid from today who had been given lessons on what life was like, rather than someone who had grown up in that time period and was a product of that life.

Crime and Punishment

Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Alex Jennings, David McDuff I read this book as a junior in high school, and I fell in love. I'm generally a fast reader, but it took me at least two months to read the first time. Yet I was always excited about it and never got bored.

I recommend it to some of our avid readers at the high school where I work, and though some have turned it in without finishing it, they've all said they enjoyed it and plan to return to it one day.

Private Peaceful (Booklist Editor's Choice. Books for Youth (Awards))

Private Peaceful (Booklist Editor's Choice. Books for Youth (Awards)) - Michael Morpurgo I read this book once a year, usually around Armistice Day. It is absolutely heartbreaking, even now that I know how it ends. The first time I read this book, Tommo's situation only became clear towards the end of the novel, and when it did... I was gutted. The juxtaposition between Tommo's current predicament and his childhood with his brother Charlie is beautifully done.

This book helped to make it clear to me just what World War I did to England and to villages across the UK. It would be an amazing supplement to lessons about WWI and how it changed the physical, social, and economic landscape of Europe.