The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

This book has been on my radar for years, but I didn’t get around to reading it until my 8th grader selected it as her summer reading book. Instead of being disappointed in myself at having waited for so long to read this masterpiece, I’m going to focus on the positive and tell you that it was absolutely worth waiting for.

The Song of Achilles is a glorious retelling of the Greek legend, but instead of the hero himself sharing his exploits, the narrative unfolds from the perspective of Patroclus, Achilles’ childhood friend who later becomes his lover. They first meet as boys, and Achilles takes Patroclus under his wing, setting him apart from the other boys as his boon companion. Patroclus accompanies Achilles to Mount Pelion, and lessons with Chiron the centaur, which is where their friendship begins to shift into a physical relationship. Eventually, the call to war sounds and Patroclus accompanies Achilles to Troy, where the Greeks lay siege to the city-state in their attempt to recapture Helen, who absconded with the Trojan Prince Paris.

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The Most Beautiful Village in the World by Yutaka Kobayashi

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The Most Beautiful Village in the World is a picture book written and illustrated by Yutaka Kobayahi. I was excited about the opportunity to read this book because I wanted to share it with my girls. They always enjoy the books I receive, and their feedback is useful in helping me write my reviews.

This is a slow-paced picture book about an Afghani boy named Yamo who lives in the village of Paghman with his parents. His older brother is off fighting in the war, and because of this, Yamo will get to travel to town to sell the fruit they have picked. Yamo has never been to town before, and is somewhat intimidated when his father asks him to walk around with the fruit. Later, he and his father share tea at a restaurant, and they have enough money to buy a lamb. No one else in the village has a lamb of their own, and Yamo is very proud to be able to return home with their new lamb. Read more

The Lost History of Stars by Dave Boling

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I received a digital copy of this book from Netgalley/the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

The Lost History of Stars is a novel by Dave Boling. I was looking forward to reading this book because it is set in South Africa, just like one of my all-time favorites- The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay. Almost immediately, I realized there was a connection between the books: in The Power of One, the English protagonist is severely bullied by Boer boys at his boarding school as punishment for the abuse their grandparents suffered in concentration camps at the hands of the English. The Lost History of Stars is an account of life in those camps as seen by a teenage girl.

Lettie is sent to a concentration camp along with her brother and mother after their farm is burned to the ground by the English. Her father, older brother, grandfather, and uncles are all conducting guerilla operations against the English. Conditions in the camp are bleak, and disease is rampant. Lettie is rather stoic about her experience, and tries to find pleasure in small moments. One of her most treasured possessions is her English dictionary, which she reads for comfort and to pass the time. Read more

Beautiful Blue World by Suzanne LaFleur

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I received a copy of this book from Netgalley/the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

I am always looking for middle grade books to read with my nine-year-old daughter, and we both agreed that Beautiful Blue World sounded interesting. This is the first book in a new series by Suzanne LaFleur.

Mathilde is a twelve-year-old girl who lives in Lykellig, a city in Sofarende with her family. She has a best friend named Megs, and she goes to school every day. Their lives have changed drastically in recent months; their country has been fighting a war against Tyssia, a neighboring country. There are air raids at night, and food is sometimes scarce.

Mathilde and Megs receive paperwork at school regarding an upcoming examination. The army is looking for children, and are willing to pay generously. No one is sure what the children will be doing for the war effort, but Mathilde knows the money will help her family.   Read more