Saturday, April 29, 2017

Review: The Girl Before

The Girl Before The Girl Before by J.P. Delaney
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This audiobook was tough going--I kept getting the "then" and "now" confused, but I guess the women were supposed to be similar, so I'm sure I wasn't the only one. I really would like to see the house--it was the most interesting thing in the novel!

There is a twisted, domineering man thing going on during the whole book--enough to make me feel uncomfortable while listening. I don't like how all these psychological homey mysteries have "girl" in the title either--I think it's time to start boycotting them from my personal reading list.

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Thursday, April 27, 2017

Review: Difficult Women

Difficult Women Difficult Women by Roxane Gay
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow. Can't believe I haven't read anything by Roxane Gay before. If I were teaching a college lit course, I would be all about adding one of these stories into my curriculum. Breathtaking and powerful and so truthful it sometimes hurts! Some were not my favorites, but then I thought about why they weren't, and that made me like them more. This book make me remember how much I love GOOD short story collections. There doesn't seem to be one story out of place in this book.

My favorites: I Will Follow You, Difficult Women, North Country, Break All the Way Down (I really did break down while I read this one), and A Pat.

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Monday, April 24, 2017

Review: Traffick

Traffick Traffick by Ellen Hopkins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So glad Hopkins continued this series, because I was hoping for good things for the characters who were in Tricks. Of course, it's never easy to get out of the life of prostitution, but I appreciated the stories of these teens as they attempt to survive. Heart-wrenching.

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Friday, April 21, 2017

Review: Police at the Station and They Don't Look Friendly

Police at the Station and They Don't Look Friendly Police at the Station and They Don't Look Friendly by Adrian McKinty
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

McKinty is a genius--I love his mysteries. It helps that I usually listen to the audio version, so as I read this paperback original, I could hear the Derry and Belfast accents in my mind. And it was lovely. Detective Sean Duffy is a member of my guilt-free three, thank you.

Once again, Duffy is caught up in an impossible murder case in the middle of the Troubles. IRA, corrupt RUC, and girlfriend problems plague Duffy, but, as always, he solves the case and survives. I'm glad that it seems like there will be at least one more book in the series. Looking forward to it!

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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Review: Perfect Little World

Perfect Little World Perfect Little World by Kevin Wilson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Enjoyable adult novel about a young mother who decides to join the infinity family project, a 10 year study of raising 10 children in a communal fashion. It's all psychologically based, and not a cult, but Izzy does join the commune, er, family, because she's afraid that she doesn't have the support system (and money) to raise her baby. The audiobook was an easy listen, if a bit slow in the middle, and the ending was too wrapped up and "perfect" for me.

And I really had an issue with Izzy. She has an affair with her high school art teacher, and then ends up falling in love with another older man who is an authority figure? Ewwww.

But Kevin Wilson really gets families--I loved The Family Fang and I was on the Alex Award committee that selected Tunneling to the Center of the Earth: Stories. His way with words is outstanding! I'll keep reading his books.

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Review: Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions

Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I wish my friends were still popping out babies--this is a book I would give to mothers at a baby shower! Adichie may have written these letters to her friend, but I'm so glad she published them. Quick and powerful read about how to raise your daughters (and inadvertently, your sons). I'm adding A LOT of quotes to Goodreads so I can keep track of my favorites.

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Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Monday, April 10, 2017

Review: A Taste of Honey

A Taste of Honey A Taste of Honey by Kai Ashante Wilson
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in a Goodreads giveaway.

I love the concept--gay romance in a fantasy world, but the writing style is just not for me. Flowery and overwritten at times, and then abruptly the opposite. I stopped on page 53, a third of the way through the small novella.

Sentences like this don't appeal to me: "Ah, this was why his wayward gaze alit so often on whom it shouldn't, going back to peek howevermuch snatched away: those taut bellies and hard thighs of men heroically scrawled in scars."


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Sunday, April 9, 2017

Review: Why Mermaids Sing

Why Mermaids Sing Why Mermaids Sing by C.S. Harris
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book #3 in the Sebastian St. Cyr series--great for historical mystery buffs like myself. Fast, easy read with a poetic killer who wants justice for some nasty stuff that happened after a ship mutiny. Plenty of romantic drama, too. No high literature here--just great weekend reading for me! Looking forward to reading what happens to Lord Devlin in the next book.

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Review: Tricks

Tricks Tricks by Ellen Hopkins
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I've always been a fan of Ellen Hopkins--she writes what teens want to read. Years ago, I won an author visit from her to my high school, back when Crank was a bestseller, and it brought much needed awareness to meth use and abuse in my community. Here she's done it again with a topic that no adult ever wants to talk about--human trafficking and teen prostitution. From the point of view of 5 teens, we hear their story and their slow descent into prostitution. It's never on anyone's to-do list, but it just happens sometimes, when teens feel like they have no other choice. Or when their boyfriend convinces them it's the sexy thing to do. Or when their parents kick them out of the house. Or when they escape from the crazy religious cult camp. Ugh. This was a hard listen in audiobook format--I wanted to find these kids and adopt them.

I never want to live in Las Vegas.

And I'm going to be more aware about this kind of abuse now--it happens everywhere, including central Illinois. I'll never forget the conversation I had with a cop who said sex trafficking wasn't a thing in this area. Um, teens might not be tied up in the back of semis (that we know of--but I bet they are on I-70 occasionally), but this stuff is happening. And it needs to stop. And now I'm off to donate money to my local sexual abuse non-profit.

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Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Review: Third Strike

Third Strike Third Strike by Zoë Sharp
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Man, I love this series. It's really one of the best mystery series I've ever read, and I've read a lot of them! Charlie Fox is still in America, living with her boyfriend/spy/kickass hot guy, and recovering from her injuries that occurred in the last novel. When her English parents begin acting even more formal and horrible than usual, she discovers that her mother is being held hostage, and her respected surgeon father is being publicly humiliated. And thus the ball gets rolling. The medical mystery/conspiracy was a tad out-of-hand, but I didn't care--I enjoy Charlie and Sean, and can't wait to read the next book!

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Friday, March 31, 2017

Review: The Unquiet Dead

The Unquiet Dead The Unquiet Dead by Ausma Zehanat Khan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Loved, loved, loved this mystery! Love how an international disaster (the Bosnian massacres) hit close to home in Canada. I remember watching "stuff" on TV about Bosnia, but I was in college and didn't pay attention as much as I should have. Disgusting, horrible crimes against humanity. In this novel, two detectives from Community Policing are asked to solve a crime. Or what might be a crime--a local man fell (jumped? was pushed?) off a cliff.

I love that Det. Khattak is Muslim, and that his partner Det. Getty tiptoes around his religion, while not appreciating his attraction to beautiful women. This book reminded me of Alex Award winner Finding Nouf, which I loved. I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the books in this series.

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Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Review: I Capture the Castle

I Capture the Castle I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm pretty sure I read this back in the day when I used to buy paperbacks at Waldenbooks at the mall and go read them at the cookie shop while my mom shopped.

It's still a sweet, innocent coming-of-age tale that was published way back in 1948.

I don't recommend this audio production. Way too many audible breath intakes and the music was rather random--sometimes starting during the talking, and other times starting after. I'm assuming that the music meant that a new journal entry was starting, but I'm not sure since I don't have a print copy available.

This is a tale of young love, first kisses, eccentric fathers, sexy step-mothers and romance when your only choices were the neighbors!

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Monday, March 27, 2017

Review: Chester Raccoon and the Almost Perfect Sleepover

Chester Raccoon and the Almost Perfect Sleepover Chester Raccoon and the Almost Perfect Sleepover by Audrey Penn
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The PDF of this book to be published in May 2017 was generously provided to me by Tanglewood Publishing via NetGalley for review.

I'm the oddball who isn't a huge fan of the Kissing Hand book, but I loved how this book centers around a little raccoon who isn't quite ready to spend the day (night for humans) with his friends yet. Homesickness kicks in, and Mrs. Rabbit has to walk him back to his mother.

I guess little ones will giggle at the "stinky puffs" of the skunk, but I was more startled by the mother using "might be politer" instead of "more polite." I ended up looking up the usage in Oxford to see if there's a difference in usage by location.

Yay for another book by a small, independent publisher in the Midwest! Tanglewood is located in Terre Haute, Indiana, only a short drive up the road from me.

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Sunday, March 26, 2017

Review: Dreamland Burning

Dreamland Burning Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Setting: Tulsa, Oklahoma

Why I read: I've danced on the Cain's Dance Hall floor in Tulsa (so do the characters in the novel) and Debbie Reese's review about this book (see it on Goodreads).

My take: Both main characters are mixed race and wealthy, and realizing that money doesn't mean much when racist people surround you. Will tries to survive during the 1921 race riots in Tulsa, when the whites in town rioted and burned a wealthy African-American neighborhood and killed way too many people because of their color. His mom is a Native American, so Will isn't exactly pure according to the KKK, which tries to recruit him. In modern day Tulsa, Rowan is a 17-year-old girl with a white dad and a lawyer African-American mother. She never even thinks much about race because she's surrounded by wealthy white people, until she starts volunteering at a medical clinic on the bad side of town. Nice to see that her best friend is asexual--it's not a huge theme in the book, just a fact.

Their stories intermingle when Rowan finds the skeleton of an African American buried in her backyard. Lots of mystery here--who is the person? And the suspense doesn't disappoint. Loved how Rowan has to visit the elderly to find out the local history--it would be great if a high school class could read this as a class novel before visiting local nursing homes for an interview project.

Lots of racial issues here--Jim Crow, Native American, African American, mixed races, and hiding history. I'm sure this one will end up on many best lists. Thanks to reading Debbie Reese's review, I read this looking through her lens. I'm hoping that someone will take up the call to write a YA novel just about the Reign of Terror in the Osage Nation--please!

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Review: Amelia Lost: The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart

Amelia Lost: The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart Amelia Lost: The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart by Candace Fleming
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Candace Fleming is visiting my county later this week, so I wanted to read more of her books before I heard her speak. Amelia Lost is a great example of how an informational text can build suspense. Children who may not have heard much about Amelia would wonder--was she rescued? if not, was her plane found?

I appreciated the side bars, and how she cultivated her image. She knew how to be a celebrity, all while making sure she got what she wanted during a time when not many females did!

Quick easy read for older teens and adults, but that doesn't mean that this isn't for all ages. Great read!

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Review: Dreamland Burning

Dreamland Burning Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Setting: Tulsa, Oklahoma

Why I read: I've danced on the Cain's Dance Hall floor in Tulsa (so do the characters in the novel) and Debbie Reese's review about this book (see it on Goodreads).

My take: I'm glad this book was written, but it was educational without being pretty. Both main characters are mixed race and wealthy, and realizing that money doesn't mean much when racist people surround you. Will tries to survive during the 1921 race riots in Tulsa, when the whites in town rioted and burned a wealthy African-American neighborhood and killed way too many people because of their color. His mom is a Native American, so Will isn't exactly pure according to the KKK, which tries to recruit him. In modern day Tulsa, Rowan is a 17-year-old girl with a white dad and a lawyer African-American mother. She never even thinks much about race because she's surrounded by wealthy white people, until she starts volunteering at a medical clinic on the bad side of town. Nice to see that her best friend is asexual--it's not a huge theme in the book, just a fact.

Their stories intermingle when Rowan finds the skeleton of an African American buried in her backyard. Lots of mystery here--who is the person? And the suspense doesn't disappoint. Loved how Rowan has to visit the elderly to find out the local history--it would be great if a high school class could read this as a class novel before visiting local nursing homes for an interview project.

Lots of racial issues here--Jim Crow, Native American, African American, mixed races, and hiding history. I'm sure this one will end up on many best lists.

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Saturday, March 25, 2017

Review: These Shallow Graves

These Shallow Graves These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I can't believe that I didn't finish this one--usually I love historical fiction with teen female characters. But I just couldn't take the main character's ignorance, and the way she openly decided to shirk her upbringing and "step put" with a poor newspaper man. I know it happened at the time, but it just didn't ring true to me. I stopped during Disk 6 and moved onto the next audiobook.

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Friday, March 24, 2017

Review: Papa's Mechanical Fish

Papa's Mechanical Fish Papa's Mechanical Fish by Candace Fleming
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Virena has a papa who is constantly in his workshop, inventing things that don't usually work. When he's inspired to build a mechanical fish after fishing with his family one day, he makes a lot of mistakes. Each time, his family is there to rescue him from the water, and he rushes back to his workshop to make improvements. Eventually, he creates a huge submarine, and the entire family goes for a ride.

I would have given this 5 stars, if the family had allowed Papa to test the submarine before jumping in as a family. They were cautious before his other failures, but are convinced his later invention works! No way!

Hilarious and expressive illustrations by Boris Kulikov, and the background information and sources at the end are expected now with nonfiction titles.

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Monday, March 20, 2017

Review: Carve the Mark

Carve the Mark Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I had to read this one to see what the fuss was all about! If you don't know what I'm talking about, read a few of the most commented reviews in Goodreads.

Honestly, this just wasn't a very well written book. The action of the Divergent series is present, don't get me wrong, but I was a little confused about the actions of the characters and the reasons for their actions. The book is overly long and could have used some tightening and shortening up, too.

Thanks to my recent awareness of my own white privilege, I do read books through a different lens, and the whole mention of color in this book was weird. Much of it felt like an old western novel--the us vs. them, and the objectification of anyone who is different. I found the whole concept of pain and power to be unsettling. There is rape in this book, even if there is no actual penis penetration. People use power over others to get what they want--A LOT. I found that disturbing, along with the Stockholm syndrome--they fall in love with their captors. Ick.

I did love the idea of carving the kills on your arms to mark your victories, so it will be interesting to see how all the controversy will be handled in Book #2 in the series.

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Review: Stand-Off

Stand-Off Stand-Off by Andrew Smith
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have a love-hate relationship with Andrew Smith. I gave 5 stars to Winger, Grasshopper Jungle, and 100 Sideways Miles, but then I didn't care for The Alex Crow. With Stand-Off, Smith reverts back to what I love about him--teenage boy protagonist who is troubled, yet a sweetheart. Can I be the supportive librarian at Pine Mountain school, please, so I can help take care of these kids and offer them bibliotherapy? :)

Ryan Dean hasn't dealt with losing his best friend from the first book in the series, and now he returns to his private school determined to be a a**hole. He is paired with a scrawny 12-year-old kid as a roommate (Ryan Dean is a 15-year-old senior), and he's determined to not be friendly to him. Grief is a b*tch, and Ryan Dean struggles with it for his entire school year, but his girlfriend, rugby coach, and new friends help him through it.

Loved how the grief process was written in this one, as well as the whole conversation about consent, heterosexual and homosexual.

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Monday, March 13, 2017

Review: Flawed

Flawed Flawed by Cecelia Ahern
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

The audiobook was nice because of the lovely accent, but, whew, this book is corny. Perhaps teen readers who are new to dystopia would enjoy it? But I read all those books ten years ago, and this one has nothing new. In fact, parts infuriated me--the "logical" main character didn't act logically, she was a moody teenage girl in a world that where everyone was supposed to be perfect, and I felt like I was listening to a Sunday school sermon at times instead of to a YA book.

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Review: A Twist in Time

A Twist in Time A Twist in Time by Julie McElwain
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It wasn't a good idea to read this book at the same time as When Gods Die. Both have the Prince Regent in them, along with strong women who don't fit into their time, and plenty of historical details. Abigails, twinnys--my head was swimming with the vocabulary of society of Regency England.

Kendra Donovan is still caught in the past--she can't figure out how to time travel back to her modern FBI life. This time she's investigating the death of a lady who has been found stabbed violently with a stiletto. Complete with an investigation board with names that she crosses out, she boldly interrogates the rich and privileged of the times, thanks to the help of her protector, the Duke, and his nephew and her love interest, Alec.

It's very Outlander-ish, so this is a great readalike, with a beautiful cover!

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Review: When Gods Die

When Gods Die When Gods Die by C.S. Harris
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm a big fan of this regency series--would love to see it turned into a BBC series. The fat and lazy Prince Regent is in trouble this time because a married woman ends up dead in his rooms. He's so drunk that he's not sure exactly what happened, but a whole conspiracy is set into place. Sebastian St. Cyr isn't your typical Viscount because he's been in love with his actress Kat for years, and he's willing to dress down to mingle with the masses to solve crimes when the Bow Street Runners are acting up. Looking forward to the next book in the series!

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Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Review: The Rising

The Rising The Rising by Heather Graham
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Review to come in SLJ AB4T column. This novel could have easily been published for teens.

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Review: Renato and the Lion

Renato and the Lion Renato and the Lion by Barbara Dilorenzo
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Gorgeous watercolor illustrations for a picture book that gently teaches about the art and history of Florence, Italy. When soldiers march into the city and his museum-working father walls up the important statues before moving his family to America, little Renato wants to wall up his favorite stone lion that sits in the piazza. Years later outside the New York Public Library, Renato tells his granddaughter about the lion he used to know. He's persuaded to return to Italy to introduce his lion to the family, and to say "thank you."

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Monday, March 6, 2017

Review: Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I feel guilty now that I haven't been recording The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. After listening to reading him read his memoir, I'll have to set my DVR because I love him even more. This memoir is brilliant--his rise to fame is told simply, yet readers will be amazed at where he came from. I thought I knew a bit about apartheid in South Africa, but his explanation of the differences between whites, blacks, and "coloreds" shocked me. He was illegal! He had to play inside walls so that cops wouldn't see the color of his skin! What?????

The appropriation of American culture and definition of poverty fascinated me, and I appreciated his explanation of how poor people need the tools to get out of poverty--not just the education. Fascinating to think that the gift of a CD burner contributed to his success!

Please buy this for your high school libraries and push it to your teens--it's his coming-of-age story, and teens will connect with his tales of dating, abuse from his step-father, sibling relationships, and his loving, yet volatile relationship with his mother. This memoir is good stuff.

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Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Review: Rain Dogs

Rain Dogs Rain Dogs by Adrian McKinty
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Adrian McKinty is a genius, and I'm so impressed to find a Irish police procedural that makes me feel and dream. It doesn't hurt that Gerard Doyle is the narrator of these audiobooks--his command of Belfast neighborhood accents, along with Irish, American, and English accents, makes him one of my favorite narrators.

CID Sean Duffy is working riot duty for the great Ali's visit to Belfast and an English journalist turns up dead in locked Carrickfergus Castle. Surely it's impossible for Duffy to have two locked room cases, right? As he says, he's no Miss Marple! With the usual dark twists and turns of late 1980's Belfast, there's a conspiracy that reaches across borders to Finland and England involving pedophiles, former Nazis, and crooked business deals.

This series just gets better and better. I actually had tears in my eyes at the end of the audiobook because I care so much for this Duffy character--what's up with that?

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Thursday, February 23, 2017

Review: Rejected Princesses: Tales of History's Boldest Heroines, Hellions, and Heretics

Rejected Princesses: Tales of History's Boldest Heroines, Hellions, and Heretics Rejected Princesses: Tales of History's Boldest Heroines, Hellions, and Heretics by Jason Porath
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book rocks. Seriously. So many infamous women who caused trouble and kicked ass. Love the informal writing style, and I think it's hilarious that the author/blogger used a rating scale of 1-5 for maturity and even included trigger warnings so readers could skip over some if warranted. I, of course, immediately read the ones labeled like a R-rated movie!

This is published adult, but could easily be purchased for a high school library. I wish I had found this last year because I would have written about it for SLJ Adult Books 4 Teens.

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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Review: Another Brooklyn

Another Brooklyn Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Beautiful! But there was almost nothing on the third disk of the audiobook. At first I thought that Harper Audio messed up--where was the rest of the book? How can it end that way? I want to know MORE about Syvia, Angela, Gigi, and August! So I was disappointed that the book was so short. I wanted to spend more time in this Brooklyn, even if there were creepy child molesters and heroin addicts lurking in every stairwell.

Woodson developed the setting perfectly--I felt like I knew what Brooklyn was like during the summer the lights went out, and what it felt like to walk down the streets, and to peer out of painted-closed windows.

Selfish me--I'm hoping for a return to this world by Woodson. Probably not going to happen, but I can hope. I want to know more about the close friendships and the events that made them drift apart. That's seriously the only thing that kept me from five-star loving this audiobook--I wanted more than a novella.

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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Review: The Crossing Places

The Crossing Places The Crossing Places by Elly Griffiths
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Other readers freaked about this author's use of the present tense in this first of a mystery series, but I didn't mind it all! Yes, Ruth is a tad stereotypical--40ish, single, overweight English forensic anthropologist, but I enjoyed her off-the-cuff remarks and confusing situations. She's not the best at common sense decisions, even if she's a bone expert. I'll add Book #2 to my To Read list for the next time I need a quick British mystery with a female-lead.

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Review: The Crossing Places

The Crossing Places The Crossing Places by Elly Griffiths
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Other readers freaked about this author's use of the present tense in this first of a mystery series, but I didn't mind it all! Yes, Ruth is a tad stereotypical--40ish, single, overweight English forensic anthropologist, but I enjoyed her off-the-cuff remarks and confusing situations. She's not the best at common sense decisions, even if she's a bone expert. I'll add Book #2 to my To Read list for the next time I need a quick British mystery with a female-lead.

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Review: Anna and the Swallow Man

Anna and the Swallow Man Anna and the Swallow Man by Gavriel Savit
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I know this won the Odyssey, but I was bored silly after an hour of listening. Yes, the narration was good, but he was also making me sleepy on this sunny afternoon! My mind kept wandering and I kept having to rewind, and that's never a good sign for me when I'm listening to an audiobook. Literary, yes, but my 6th grade self would have hated this book.

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Saturday, February 18, 2017

Review: Scythe

Scythe Scythe by Neal Shusterman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I think this might be Shusterman's best yet, and he's written some good ones like Unwind and The Schwa Was Here. I'm looking forward to the sequel since this is the first of a trilogy. I'm impressed that it won a Printz honor for literary-goodness, but this futuristic perfect world had some unexpected twists and turns that surprised me. There are some sophisticated comments and ideas for teens who get those, and yet it has enough action for kids who don't understand the higher level thinking portions. In this perfect world, population control has to be performed by scythes, since there is no disease or natural death. Two teens become apprenticed to Scythe Faraday, and their training and education is a whirlwind of surprises, heartache, scheming, and, of course, saving the world. Give to teens who like adventure, scifi, dystopia, horror, action, and, well, just about anything.

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Review: Killing Floor

Killing Floor Killing Floor by Lee Child
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Eh, I'll pass on this series. It's very commercial, and I understand why it's made tons of money for Lee Child and Tom Cruise, but the narrator said "cocked and locked" about Reacher's handgun one too many times for me. Lots of action, cheesy dialogue, and unreal events--perfect for a Hollywood blockbuster! (And for my dad)

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Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Review: This Land Is Our Land: A History of American Immigration

This Land Is Our Land: A History of American Immigration This Land Is Our Land: A History of American Immigration by Linda Barrett Osborne
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Why did I read this? So I can sound half-way intelligent when I'm arguing with someone who wants to build a stupid wall or keep people from coming into my country because of their religion or skin color. This book is so freaking relevant.

From Chapter 1: "But if immigrants continue to live in their own communities and speak their own language, they make some Americans uncomfortable." and "Germans (many settled on farms in the Midwest) also drew criticism for being un-American because they wanted to keep speaking German, send their children to German-language schools, and develop German-language newspapers--in other words, to keep their own culture."

Substitute Muslim for Catholic and Arab for German in Chapter 1 and you have what many people who live around me believe right now. People now don't understand how the Irish or Germans were bullied and discriminated against, because they only see that their entire communities have been built on the backs of those immigrants.

I had a wtf moment in Chapter 3: "It wasn't until the 1940s that Asians from some countries were allowed to become citizens. Finally, in 1952, an immigration and naturalization law removed the barriers to all Asians gaining American citizenship." Seriously? Why did I never learn about THIS in high school or as I studied for my history minor in college????

From Chapter 6: "In 2011, more suspected terrorists were caught trying to enter the United States through Canada than through Mexico, according to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency."

I feel like I'm a better person because I read this book--I hadn't heard of many of these previous acts by our presidents and governments, and, wow, did we make a lot of mistakes. Sad to think that we haven't learned much from them. These are the conversations we should be having in our classrooms. Civics. Bring it back, please.

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Saturday, February 11, 2017

Review: The Silent Songbird

The Silent Songbird The Silent Songbird by Melanie Dickerson
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I enjoyed The Golden Braid so I wanted to give another one of these historical Christian novels a try. But, whoa, this one didn't suit me. I believe the 12-year-old me would have loved it, but the 41-year-old me rolled my eyes a lot at the cheesy dialogue and predictable plot.

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Thursday, February 9, 2017

Review: The Girl Who Drank the Moon

The Girl Who Drank the Moon The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What a lovely read! So glad this won the Newbery--it's one of the best fantasies I've read in a long time! And I think teens and adults will love it, too. Like all fantasies, parts of the book are familiar--quests, witches, dragons, bad authority figures--but Barnhill combines it all with grace and humor and tons of magic.

I did think that Gherland was going to be redeemed at the end--didn't the book hint at it? I was hoping for forgiveness.....

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Monday, February 6, 2017

Review: The Sins of the Father

The Sins of the Father The Sins of the Father by Jeffrey Archer
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I really felt like I listened to the second half of Book #1 of this series--it even ended with a cliffhanger! I feel like I know Harry Clifton pretty well by the end of this Book #2, and I'm looking forward to seeing what happens with him in the next few books! He fights for America during World War II in this volume, while the mother of his child is stuck in America during the war away from their child in England. But will or won't Harry Clifton renounce the title and legacy due him as the illegitimate son of Lord Barrington? Evidently I have to read the next book in the series to find out....

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Friday, February 3, 2017

Review: Imprisoned: The Betrayal of Japanese Americans during World War II

Imprisoned: The Betrayal of Japanese Americans during World War II Imprisoned: The Betrayal of Japanese Americans during World War II by Martin W. Sandler
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I've been on a children's and YA nonfiction kick lately, thanks to the the newest awarding of the latest Sibert and YALSA Nonfiction award books. This one is a few years old, but my community college owns it so it was an easy checkout. And, oh, so good. And so relevant with the recent "America First" rhetoric prevalent in my parts of America lately. The whole book read like it was screaming, "Warning! Warning!" to me.

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Thursday, February 2, 2017

Review: Du Iz Tak?

Du Iz Tak? Du Iz Tak? by Carson Ellis
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Proof that I'm too old for a new language, but I still like looking at cool pictures of bugs.

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Review: Freedom in Congo Square

Freedom in Congo Square Freedom in Congo Square by Carole Boston Weatherford
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Easy read aloud about slavery that celebrates the one afternoon off New Orleans slaves received to congregate with friends in Congo Square. Real history (as noted in the foreword and author's note at the end) for children, a few new vocabulary words for little ones, and bright, bold pictures.

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Review: Leave Me Alone!

Leave Me Alone! Leave Me Alone! by Vera Brosgol
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Loved the plot here--hints of classic fairy tales with modern-day green aliens with walkie-talkies. Every kid and parent will understand the "Leave me alone!" parts, even if they don't get why the old lady wants to knit until the end!

And very cool that this author also wrote Anya's Ghost!

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Review: Sachiko: A Nagasaki Bomb Survivor's Story

Sachiko: A Nagasaki Bomb Survivor's Story Sachiko: A Nagasaki Bomb Survivor's Story by Caren Stelson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fascinating true story of Sachiko Yasui, who was 6-years-old when the atomic bomb dropped on her family's home in Nagasaki. In stark words, she tells how her family members died--cancers, radiation sickness and severe burns, all while letting readers know how those things weren't to be discussed. Horrific.

My only fault was that there were too many interrupting side stories during Sachiko's tale at the beginning of the book. I wanted to read about her and wanted the background info to be available in smaller columns on the side so I could skip when needed.

I was pleasantly surprised by the inclusion of Helen Keller, Gandhi, and Martin Luther King, Jr.--who knew?

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Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Review: We Are Growing!

We Are Growing! We Are Growing! by Laurie Keller
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book WON the Geisel award for learning-to-read books, and I understand why! Part of the Elephant & Piggie series, those two fav characters are the ones reading this EXCITING book about grass growing. Snicker. Kids would love adding the -est to all the words they are learning as they learn to read, and the grasses are so DRAMATIC! My 14-year-old daughter and I both loved this one.

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Review: Good Night Owl

Good Night Owl Good Night Owl by Greg Pizzoli
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book won an honor for the Geisel award, and so I had to read it with my 14-year-old daughter. She didn't get it, which is why I had to explain to her that her 4-year-old self would have found it hilarious that the poor owl destroyed its house because of a noise.

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Review: Second Shot

Second Shot Second Shot by Zoë Sharp
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Poor Charlie just keeps getting shot! She still hadn't fully recovered from her last trip to America (in the previous book) and now she's back to working as security for a mother and child. Supposed to be an easy protection gig--how hard is it to keep away the press and an ex-boyfriend? But Charlie ends up shot and severely wounded, and her security team is threatened. The mystery is big--people aren't telling the truth, and, of course, Charlie ends up saving the day. While being a complete badass.

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