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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