4 stars · fiction · history · romance · young adult

All the Earth, Thrown to the Sky by Joe R. Lansdale

All the Earth, Thrown to the Sky

Author: Joe R. Lansdale

Pages [hardcover]: 240

favorite characters:
lloyd & jane

summary:

Jack Catcher’s parents are dead—his mom died of sickness and his dad of a broken heart—and he has to get out of Oklahoma, where dust storms have killed everything green, hopeful, or alive. When former classmate Jane and her little brother Tony show up in his yard with plans to steal a dead neighbor’s car and make a break for Texas, Jack doesn’t need much convincing. But a run-in with one of the era’s most notorious gangsters puts a crimp in Jane’s plan, and soon the three kids are hitching the rails among hoboes, gangsters, and con men, racing to warn a carnival wrestler turned bank robber of the danger he faces and, in the process, find a new home for themselves. This road trip adventure from the legendary Joe R. Lansdale is a thrilling and colorful ride through Depression-era America.

review:

 I have to say, this book surprised me in the best way! I’ve always loved learning about the Great Depression . . . ever since I first read the Kit Kittredge American Girl Doll books. Anyone know what I’m talking about? She lived during that time period, was one of my favorites, and so this has really stuck with me, from then until now. Of course, Jack’s story has almost nothing in common (except, you know, the years, and there’s also a girl who wants to become a reporter). Instead, it’s filled with gangsters and circuses, nice old ladies and evil policemen. Pretty much everything you could want in a book, right?

I liked Jack, and his vaguely reluctant friends, though I wasn’t sure I ever got a clear picture of who they were. Death was surrounding them, beating out their childhood innocence before they had a chance to grow out of it themselves, and they all have to deal with hardships no one should face. While this understandably changed their personalities and motives, I couldn’t understand why at some parts they still seemed flat. In others, they were bright, vivid, and anything I could want from a fictional character. Overall, I found myself cheering them on, wanting them to succeed. And be happy for once!

I loved how the various gangsters were incorporated into the plot, bringing in an entirely new level of danger. People tend to romanticize the whole criminal aspect of this era, and that can easily be done, but I like how inAll the Earth, Thrown to the Sky, the line between who is good and who is evil is often blurred. No one is completely good or bad and this is captured wonderfully in the plot.

This is another great book for those looking to read more historical fiction for young adults. That’s what attracted me in the first place, and I really enjoyed the ride. The ending, while disappointing at first, fit in brilliantly with the story and capped off a Depression-era quest for truth and justice.

FOR THE HISTORY BUFF INSIDE OF YOU. 4/5 stars

5 stars · fiction · history · romance

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

 

Water for Elephants

Author: Sara Gruen

Pages [paperback]: 331

Opening Lines: Only three people were left under the red and white awning of the grease joint: Grady, me, and the fry cook. Grady and I sat at a battered wooden table, each facing a burger on a dented tin plate.

Memorable Quote: “Keeping up the appearance of having all your marbles is hard work, but important.”

Favorite Characters: Walter, Marlena, Jacob, & Rosie

Available now!

Summary:

Though he may not speak of them, the memories still dwell inside Jacob Jankowski’s ninety-something-year-old mind. Memories of himself as a young man, tossed by fate onto a rickety train that was home to the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. Memories of a world filled with freaks and clowns, with wonder and pain and anger and passion; a world with its own narrow, irrational rules, its own way of life, and its own way of death. The world of the circus: to Jacob it was both salvation and a living hell.

Jacob was there because his luck had run out – orphaned and penniless, he had no direction until he landed on this locomotive ‘ship of fools’. It was the early part of the Great Depression, and everyone in this third-rate circus was lucky to have any job at all. Marlena, the star of the equestrian act, was there because she fell in love with the wrong man, a handsome circus boss with a wide mean streak. And Rosie the elephant was there because she was the great gray hope, the new act that was going to be the salvation of the circus; the only problem was, Rosie didn’t have an act – in fact, she couldn’t even follow instructions. The bond that grew among this unlikely trio was one of love and trust, and ultimately, it was their only hope for survival.

Review:

I came into this book not expecting much at all, and ended up excessively loving it! This is one of those stories where you think you’ve figure out exactly how everything is going to go . . . And then nothing turns out the way you thought it would.

Books that have a frame for the story like Water for Elephants had will, if done well, really get me to know and love the characters. Having Jacob’s narration of the circus events interrupted by ‘present day Jacob’ was a nice little detail. I definitely felt sad for the ninety-something year old, feeling nearly helpless and lonely. As he feels he’s losing control of his life, his mind slips back to the past, and through these lapses we’re told the story.

I never knew anything about how circuses traveled about in the past, and hearing about the cutthroat America during the Great Depression certainly brought an overpowering feel of reality to the story. Jobs were few and far between, and those that had them did anything they could to keep them. Describing the desperate times, the hobo jungles, and the pay cuts served to present a great representation of the time period.

I loved hearing about the different circus acts, though I know that was but a miniscule part of the story. The tiny facts and funniest little things kept my interest and had me smiling. This book is definitely dark and depressing at moments. At others, it is brilliantly bright and full of hope. Any novel that can pull off both sides of the spectrum nearly flawlessly is excellent in my book.

I give Water for Elephants 5/5 stars. It was fantastic, and I’ll definitely have to check out the upcoming movie now! I really recommend it. I have a feeling it is one of those books I will never forget.