The Front Porch will print book reviews by librarians in Northeast Denver, rotating to a different library each month. This first month, reviews are by Emily Funk and Kristi Harder from Sam Gary Branch Library.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
A young boy is swept into a magical story of menacing evil versus enduring virtue when he discovers that a paranormal power has overtaken his family.
Neil Gaiman brings us a rare Gaiman treasure—a fantastical novel written for adults. However, along the way he forgot that his novel was intended for the grown-up variety. This magical story, revolving around a 7-year-old boy, contains all the childlike sensibilities of a juvenile story. The one or two “adult” scenes are ambiguous enough that most young readers will be as oblivious as the main character. Regardless of the intended age, the novel is delightful and engaging.
Night Film by Marisha Pessl
An eerie tale of a washed-up reporter who is certain that the recent suicide of an iconic filmmaker’s daughter was actually no suicide. Scott McGrath is determined to solve the case, becoming obsessed with the Cordova family and Ashley’s short life.
Intermingled with social media elements, like newspaper clippings and web photos, this enigmatic noir will have you gripping the book as the suspense builds. Just as I thought the momentum would fade, Pessl recaptures your interest. While it’s slightly longer than I usually have the patience for, and could have justifiably been a couple hundred pages shorter, I immensely enjoyed this creepy thriller.
Serena by Ron Rash
Set amid the harsh Appalachian Mountains in 1929, George Pemberton and his wife Serena create an immense logging company, controlling the land, trees and individuals around them. For the Pembertons, especially Serena, manipulation and control exceed mere talk, employing violence to solve any problem that arises.
While many reviewers have given Serena four or more stars, I find myself struggling to give it three. The concept of the story has the potential to be gripping and evocative, but it lacked well-formulated characters and continuity. The climax could have been more significant and meaningful. The movie version, starring Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper, is due to be released in 2014.
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
Theo Decker’s life is forever changed when his mom is killed by a terrorist bomb in a New York art museum. Inexplicably, escaping the museum he takes a famous painting, the titled Goldfinch. What follows is Theo’s sometimes tragic but eventually triumphant coming-of-age story where he struggles to come to terms with loss and the meaning of life.
I found it un-putdownable. Dickensian in scope, this fascinating story is not a quick read but the payoffs are huge. Tartt does an excellent job of making the reader feel Theo’s loss, at a heart-breaking young age, and the years of being cast adrift that follow. This story will stick with the reader long after the book ends.
Young Adult Fiction:
Reality Boy by A. S. King
Gerald is famous, but not in a good way. When he was 5 his family was featured on a reality show, and he earned himself the nickname “the Crapper.” Gerald takes anger management classes, but he still doesn’t feel completely in control of the deep anger until he meets Hannah. He realizes he doesn’t have to accept peoples’ opinions about him. This is a tough and heartbreaking coming-of-age novel filled with wonderful writing and a unique point of view.
Flora & Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo
Flora, a 10-year-old self-professed cynic, lives with her inattentive mom after her parents’ divorce. She doesn’t see her dad much and misses him. Her neighbor, who has a strange, temporarily blind boy living with her, gets a new vacuum cleaner so powerful that it sucks up a squirrel. Saving the squirrel, Flora soon learns that he is a wise, flying, poetry-writing rodent with superpowers. She has to save to the squirrel from her mom who has an evil plan for him. Poignant and hilarious, this is a must-read for 3rd or 4th graders.
Librarians who wish to contribute reviews should contact Madeline Schroeder at firstname.lastname@example.org.