2017 Really Recommendable Reads

gift stack of books

December 15, 2017

10 Categories of Really Recommendable Reads for 2017

Choosing the year’s best books is my most difficult reading task! I think that separating the books into categories might help me share with you which were the best reading experiences for me. I hope you had a great reading year, and that we share an appreciation for some of these selections. or that they will be ideas for your TBR. Most of the selections are fairly new releases (all except four were published in 2017).

*In no particular order

gift stack of books

Most Unforgettable Character

Eleanor Oliphant

 

I’m still thinking about brave, traumatized, quirky, and lonely Eleanor … and hoping for a sequel!

Brief review found here in this post.

Short listed for the COSTA Award (new authors)

Read it before seeing the movie!

More Information Here

 

 

 

 



gift stack of booksMost Poignant

Both of Backman’s novellas rank among my favorite reads of the year. And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer deals with Alzheimer’s and a grandfather’s relationship with his young grandson. The deal of a Lifetime provides a reflection of a successful man as he faces the end of his life.

And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer review found here and more information found here.

The Deal of a Lifetime review found here and more information found here.



gift stack of booksMost Escapist

castle of water 2

 

Literary Fiction + Adventure!

I read this page turner in one day! Beautiful prose and a great selection for a vacation or travel read.

Full review here

More Information here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



gift stack of booksMost Controversial and Relevant Social Issues

I learned a great deal from both of these books and I consider them worthwhile and important reads, and both would be great for book club discussions. In addition to many important themes, they both involve the theme of racism. While Small Great Things is written for adult readers, The Hate U Give (often referred to as THUG) is appropriate for mature older high school and YA and all adults. (please note: both books contain possibly offensive language or situations.)

Small Great Things review included in this post here and more information here.

The Hate U Give review here and more information here.
The Hate U Give movie information here.
Do you think THUG should be banned in schools? See article involving a Texas school district here.



gift stack of booksMost Apt to Build Compassion and Understanding

Wonder has become a must read in many classrooms across America as it builds compassion for others who look different, and it is a great read and lesson in kindness for all ages. Full review here. Have you seen the well done movie adaptation? More information here.

Ginny Moon explores autism from a 14-year-old girl’s perspective. My full review here. More information here.



gift stack of booksMost Dramatic Themes

Beartown: themes of family, parenting, competition, loyalty, courage, community, belonging, friendship, small town struggles and values, hope, a girl’s “no,” etc.

Little Fires Everywhere: most interesting mix of characters and themes of mothers/children, secrets, privilege, teenage love, perfection, racism, friendship, suburban dysfunction, adoption vs. parental rights, etc.

Beartown: brief review included in this post here and more information here.

Little Fires Everywhere: full review here and more information here.

 



gift stack of booksMost Overlooked Genre (for me!)

News of the World

 

 

I highly recommend this beautifully written western! I don’t usually seek out westerns but the historical fiction aspect appealed to me. I highly recommend this for its beautifully written prose and sweet theme. My hubs also enjoyed this one.

There’s talk of a movie with Tom Hanks!

A brief review included in this post.

More information here. 

Movie information here.

 

 



gift stack of booksMost Personal Connection

Far From the Tree

 

If you remember last week’s post, Far From the Tree was on my TBR for 2018, but I was tempted to pick this up right away because of the themes of adoption/foster care and the meaning of family. In the past few years my hubs and I have established contact with his bio sister (he’s adopted) and they arranged to talk and meet for the first time; in addition, I searched out my bio cousin who had been placed for adoption as a baby. Both relationships have provided immeasurable joy and have enriched our family. #drawawidercircle  is how I would tag this in Instagram. Although this is a YA selection, it can be enjoyed by adults as well. If adoption has touched your life, this will wreck you in the best possible way!

Full review coming in next week’s blog post!

My reservations are (1) the author’s use of quite a few f-bombs (I don’t understand why this language is so prevalent and almost mandatory in YA books….but I’m probably showing my age or highly sensitive nature here) and (2) the author throws too many themes in here in my opinion (divorce, alcoholism, sexual identity, racism, etc), and these themes (although important) are somewhat distracting from the adoption/unplanned pregnancy/foster care/meaning of family themes which are the focus of the book. Nevertheless, I highly enjoyed the overall read and found it exceptionally meaningful on a personal level and highly recommendable ….. more next week!

More information here.



gift stack of booksMost Courageous and Determined Fight for Women’s Rights

Pearl That Broke its Shell

 

Inspiring, with against-the-odds, bravery, and women’s rights themes, this historical fiction is a fast-paced page turner that provides great insight into the lives in which some women are born. Memorable and unforgettable. A must read on your TBR.

Brief review found in this post here.

More information here.

 

 

 

 

 

 



gift stack of booksMost Delightful Historical Fiction

I read extensively in the historical fiction genre and have many great recommendations for you (see note below) ! However, most of them are extremely heavy reading. Therefore, for this category, I’d like to focus on the lightest histfic I’ve read this year. (and then I’ll list the others as runners up).

Chilbury

 

Enjoyable read about a remarkable group of women working to serve their community during WW 11.

Full review here.

More information here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Runners Up in Historical fiction:

The following is a list of the other equally great historical fiction selections I’ve read this year:

Salt to the Sea; Between Shades of Gray; (not reviewed on the blog but it’s as well written as Salt to the Sea and its main character is connected with a character in Salt to the Sea); The Orphan’s Tale; The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane; Dreamland Burning (YA); The Alice Network; Before We Were Yours; America’s First Daughter; Refugee (YA); Gentleman in Moscow (not reviewed…and not a book I loved at first, but I grew to love and appreciate the beautiful prose and its intriguing premise! It’s been well reviewed on Amazon and Goodreads)



*Linking up this week with The Broke and the Bookish for Top Ten Tuesday: Our favorite books of 2017 and with Modern Mrs Darcy: Quick Lit: 9 Excellent Books for Gifting This Season.



Happy Reading Bookworms!

“Ah, how great it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

“I love the world of words, where literature and life connect.”
~Denise J Hughes



Extras:

Check out these other popular and favorite bloggers and their “best of” the year lists:

Modern Mrs. Darcy: Favorite Books 2017

Loud Library Lady: Most Memorable Reads of 2017

Loud Library Lady: My Friends’ Most Memorable 2017 Reads

Broke and the Bookish: Top Ten Tuesday:
(bloggers link up to share their top ten reads of the year posts…my post this week is linked there…check out the others)

The Caffeinated Bibliophile: Christmas Book Guide: Christian Fiction Books

Making Here Home: Brilliant books for kids…recommended by kids

Top Shelf Text: A Very Bookish Holiday (follow the link in the post for bookish gift ideas)

Modern Mrs Darcy: Quick Lit: 9 Excellent Books for Gifting This Season

…and, last, something to consider as you set your own reading goals for 2018…

Modern Mrs. Darcy’s 2018 Reading Challenge

 



Looking Ahead!

Far From the Tree

Far From the Tree full review next week.



Sharing is Caring!

I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along, promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow.



Let’s Discuss!

Which books did you read that were best of the year for you? Do your best reads overlap at all with mine?
Are there any that you’ve read that you would highly recommend to me?



 

journey of a lifetime reading meme

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2018: Here’s Looking at You!

December 8, 2017

How many books are on your TBR (to be read) list? Currently, I have 76 on my Goodreads “to read” shelf. It’s a bit unwieldy, and in this post I prioritize a few selections to read as I anticipate setting reading goals for the new year (I looked for the books on my list with the highest Goodreads ratings). Hopefully, some of these will be good candidates to review for future posts.

I’m always intrigued by new books and inspired by reviews, so this list is subject to change (depending on reviews, library availability, or kindle sales)! However, at this moment in time, this list represents my reading priorities for winter (*listed in no particular order).



Believe it or not, I actually ADDED books to my TBR while writing this post! It’s hopeless!



Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI
by David Grann

(runner up for the 2017 Goodreads Choice Awards in the history & biography category and New York Times bestseller; Amazon rating: 4.6 Stars;
Genre: Native American History, biographies/memoirs)

Killers of the Flower Moon

Information Here


Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder
by Caroline Fraser 

(rated one of the top ten books of the year by the New York Times;
Amazon rating: 4.1 Stars; genre: biographies/memoirs)

Prairie Fires

Information Here


Force of Nature
by Jane Harper

(sequel to The Dry; early Amazon rating: 4.4 Stars; release date: 2/6/18;
genre: mystery/detective)

Force of Nature

Information Here


84, Charing Cross Road
by Helene Hanff

(an older, highly recommended best selling title that’s been on my TBR for years;
Amazon rating: 4.5 Stars;
genre: correspondence/letters)

84 Charing Cross Road

Information Here


Our Souls at Night
by Kent Haruf

(an older, highly recommended best selling title that’s been on my TBR for years;
Amazon rating: 4.3 Stars;
genre:  mystery/thriller/suspense, family life, literary fiction; movie trailer)

Our Souls at Night

Information Here


As Bright as Heaven
by Susan Meissner

(Philadelphia 1918; release date: 2/6/18; genre: historical fiction, mothers/children, Spanish flu epidemic)

As Bright as Heaven

Information Here


Far From the Tree
by Robin Benway

(YA fiction, National book award finalist; Early Amazon Rating: 4.7 Stars;
genre:  social & family issues, siblings, adoption)

Far From the Tree

Information Here


The Library at the Edge of the World
by Felicity Hayes-McCoy

(A book about books is my favorite! Set in Ireland; early Amazon Rating: 4.1;
genre: women’s fiction,  small town & rural living, mothers/children)

Library at the Edge of the World

Information Here


Eden
by  Jeanne McWilliams Blasberg

(Amazon Rating: 4.7 Stars; genre: fiction, multi generational family saga)Eden

Information Here


 The Kommandant’s Girl
by Pam Jenoff

(since reading The Orphan’s Tale by Pam Jenoff, I’ve wanted to read this earlier work; Amazon rating: 4.5 Stars; genre: historical fiction, Jewish)

Kommandant's Girl

Information Here


Beartown Sequel: Us Against You
by Fredrik Backman

Last but not least! I have to wait 6 months for the sequel to Beartown!
(sequel release date: 6/5/18)

Beartown

(no image for sequel available)

Us Against You
by Fredrik Backman

(release date: 6/5/18; genre:  contemporary fiction, sports)

 

Beartown Information Here

Us Against You Information Here


Happy Reading Bookworms!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes


Updates:

Last week I mentioned I was deciding between Lincoln in the Bardo and The Bear and the Nightingale. Unfortunately, neither one worked out. I had wanted to buddy read Lincoln in the Bardo with my hubs but he was the first to download the audio version and wasn’t interested in the read, also my bookish friend indicated that it was “more depressing than memorable.” So I decided to go with the fairy tale/folk tale The Bear and the Nightingale, and I read 59% before abandoning it to the DNF (did not finish) stack. Both books have received rave reviews, so it’s not the books, it’s me. The Bear and the Nightingale is not one of my typical go to genres and this is the main reason that it was abandoned. Even though, it’s a well written Russian folk tale/fairy tale, it includes an abundance of fantasy and magical realism which are usually not elements I seek out in my reading. If it were a short story, I think it would’ve been an ok read for me, but it goes on and on and on, and after a while it became tedious. It’s also part of a trilogy which I knew I wouldn’t be continuing. However, if a Russian fairy tale/folk tale, fantasy, and magical realism appeal to you and you love skillful word building and exquisite imagery….this may be a great choice for you.


Extras:

A Wrinkle in Time

 

Will you be rereading (or first time reading) Wrinkle in Time before the movie comes out in March?!
Wrinkle in Time Trailer

 

 

 

Have you seen the 2017 Goodreads Choice Awards list? How many titles have you read?

Also, my Bookstagram (Instagram for bookish posts) buddy, The Loud Library Lady  (@theloudlibrarylady) released her list of most memorable books of 2017 …. check out her blog! https://theloudlibrarylady.com/

Did you read that The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas was banned by a Texas school district. What do you think? Have you read it? Here’s my review.
It will soon be a movie.


Looking Ahead

Next week, I’ll attempt to gather a list of my best and most memorable reads for 2017. This is a daunting task for me! I have so many favorites!


Sharing is Caring!

I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along, promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow.


Let’s Discuss!

I’d love to hear in comments what’s on your TBR or what you’re currently reading. Have you already read a book on my TBR list? Do you have any must read suggestions for me?

 

 

 

 

 

No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency: The House of Unexpected Sisters

December 1, 2017

Before Louise Penny’s popular Inspector Gamache series set in Three Pines, there was Mma Precious Ramotswe of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series set in Botswana, Africa.

No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency: The House of Unexpected Sisters
by Alexander McCall Smith

House of Unexpected Sisters 2

Genre/categories: women’s fiction, contemporary fiction, detective/mystery, African culture (Botswana)

Summary:

The House of Unexpected Sisters is the eighteenth installment of this charming, easy reading series. All the usual characters are present, reflecting on life, drinking tea, embracing tradition, and investigating human nature in sunny Botswana. In this newest story, Mma Ramotswe is challenged with four problems to solve: she is asked to investigate the unfair firing of a female employee, she is faced with an unwelcome visit from someone in her past, she learns about a potential risk to her assistant’s husband’s business, and she bravely meets an unexpected family member that causes her to question the integrity of her beloved father who is “late.” Loyal readers will be rewarded with a delightful read. Amazon Rating (December): 4.6 Stars

My Thoughts: 

In the most soothing of ways, the story is predictable to the other stories in the series: readers grow to appreciate the beauty of Africa (Botswana is almost a character in the story); there’s always time for a cup of tea at work or a visit with your dearest friend and confidant (Mma Potokwani); and the characters are likable, quirky, and seem real. Mma Romotswe founder and owner of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, is a “traditionally built woman,” gentle, honest, inclusive, compassionate, full of common sense, thoughtful, gracious, and wise. In fact, she always chooses kindness and forgiveness as her response and never revenge. Idealistically, she believes that people are good and kind and want to enjoy themselves and take care of each other. She is a proponent of the old Botswana morality and the traditional ways (especially the old way of greeting others). The focus of her work at the Ladies’ Detective Agency is on righting small injustices.

“Both of these matters had been resolved satisfactorily, which meant in Mma Ramotswe’s view that all those concerned had been persuaded to see reason. That, she felt, was the key to the solution of any problem: you did not look for a winner who would take everything; you found a way of allowing people to save face; you found a way of healing rather than imposing.”

It seems as if Alexander McCall Smith enjoys these characters as they are consistently and warmly drawn from story to story. From the way the story is told, readers might infer that the author greatly admires and respects his main character and her philosophy of life.

Family is an important theme in this heartwarming story (and in the others). She takes care of everyone who comes into her life as family.

“Families come in different ways, she thought: sometimes they are given to you, but sometimes you find them yourself, unexpectedly, as you go through life. That is perhaps not all that well-known, but it is still true.”

Even though this is an eighteen book series, readers could easily read The House of Unexpected Sisters as a stand alone. It might be a little tedious or repetitive for readers who’ve read all the stories, but Alexander McCall Smith does an excellent job of providing all the background information a reader needs to understand the story and characters.

I’ve read all the books in the series and I think this one stands out as one of the best. If it’s been a while since you’ve read one, I’d encourage you to pick this up.

I admit that my rating of 4 stars is subjective because reading these books is like coming home to old friends. If I had read this as a stand alone and didn’t have an emotional attachment to the series or characters, I think my objective rating would be 3.5.

I recommend The House of Unexpected Sisters to those readers who are familiar with the series, for readers who love Africa, for readers who desire a quick, easy, escapist read, for readers who need a comforting read at the moment (perhaps to relieve stress or to take on vacation or to recover from a surgery), and for readers who want a “clean” read with a touch of humor for themselves or as a gift for a lady (no graphic violence, language, or sex).

I caution readers against binge reading or speed reading the series. They are best read as stand alone stories…perhaps one every few months. Even though it’s comforting to return to the homes of old friends, I think life might be boring if every evening were spent with them. The books in this series need to be read when you’re in the mood for a slow-paced, character driven story with an abundance of reflection and description. It could be classified as the coziest of the cozy mysteries genre and a true comfort read. It seems that we always feel like we can be better people after spending time with Precious Ramotswe

cup of tea

Make yourself a cup of tea, and read this for yourself and meet Mma Precious Ramotswe!

My rating: 4 Stars

twinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-star

House of Unexpected Sisters

Buy Here

Meet the Author, Alexander McCall Smith

Alexander McCall Smith

Alexander McCall Smith was born in what is now Zimbabwe and taught law at the University of Botswana. He is now Professor of Medical Law at the University of Edinburgh. He has written more than fifty books, including a number of specialist titles, but is best known for The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, which has achieved bestseller status on four continents. In 2004 he was awarded British Book Awards Author of the Year and Booksellers Association Author of the Year. He lives in Scotland, where in his spare time he is a bassoonist in the RTO (Really Terrible Orchestra). More information at http://www.alexandermccallsmith.com/

 


Extra:

A Wrinkle in Time

Do you reread classics or have you read one for the first time as an adult reader?

Do you plan to reread (or read) Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle before the movie releases in March 2018?

More Information Here

Official Trailer Here


Happy Reading Bookworms!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society


Looking Ahead!

Help me decide between Lincoln in the Bardo and The Bear and the Nightingale
for my next read.

Let me know in the comments if you’ve read either one.

Lincoln in the Bardo

Lincoln in the Bardo Information Here

The Bear and the Nightingale

The Bear and the Nightingale Information Here

***12/2, edited to add that I’ve chosen The Bear and the Nightingale as my next read. (I suggested to hubs that we could buddy read Lincoln in the Bardo and after he listened a bit to the audio version, he decided that it wasn’t a good read for him.)


Sharing is Caring!

I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along, promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow.


Let’s Discuss!

I’d love to hear if you’ve read any of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series or if you have an opinion on what I should read next.

The Deal of a Lifetime

November 24, 2017

What would you be prepared to sacrifice in order to save a life?

What footprints are you leaving in your life? For what or how will you be remembered?

The Deal of a Lifetime
by Frederik Backman

The Deal of a Lifetime 2

Genre/categories: literary fiction, contemporary fiction, adult fairy tale, ambition, self reflection, end of life

Summary:

In true Backman style, this is an intricately woven story of an unlovable, complex, and flawed character whom we begin to understand and care about as he faces the end of his life. Written as a last message from father to son and told like a fairy tale for adults, it’s a story of a legacy, ambition and success at all costs, fear of failure, the meaning of life, the commodity of time, an accounting of one’s life, and a father/son relationship. I hesitate to give details of the plot in this summary because I don’t want to spoil your read. Briefly, it’s the story of a successful and famous man in the mid years of his life counting the personal cost of his achievements and striking a last deal to make things right.

Although it’s sold as a novella, I consider it a short story. In reading Amazon reviews, I found that several readers that gave a 3 Star or lower rating cited their disappointment at the shortness of the work when they were expecting something longer for the price. I think this definitely affected the overall Amazon rating.

Amazon Rating (November): 3.8 Stars

My Thoughts:

This is a poignant, sad, thought-provoking, and compelling fairy tale for all adults who are contemplating the meaning and purpose of their lives. It’s a captivating and endearing last message from father to son.

In my opinion, this brilliant short story requires at least two reads. The first time through, I was preoccupied with the story line; and the second time, I focused on its deeper meaning and gained a greater appreciation for this beautifully crafted story. (I also raised my star rating!)

Be sure to read Backman’s forward as he explains his purposes for writing the story. This is an excerpt:

“Maybe all people have that feeling deep down, that your hometown is something you can never really escape, but can never really go home to, either. Because it’s not home anymore. We’re not trying to make peace with it. Not with the streets and bricks of it. Just with the person we were back then. And maybe forgive ourselves for everything we thought we would become and didn’t.”  ~Backman

In the story, the man (self-described as ambitious, famous, rich, powerful, and an egoist) and a five-year-old girl are both in the hospital and battling cancer.  Every night, “a woman in a thick, grey, knitted jumper walks the hospital’s corridors. She carries a folder. She has all [their] names written inside.” Here begins the story of a man making the final deal of his lifetime.

“…I’ve killed a person. That’s not how fairy tales usually begin, I know. But I took a life. Does it make a difference if you know whose it was…..Does it make a difference if I killed a good person? A loved person? A valuable life?”
 ~Backman’s opening lines

If we were in an IRL book club together, these are some discussion questions I might ask:

  • Did the deal the man make release him from accountability for his life’s choices?
  • Did the deal the man make continue to demonstrate his selfishness and need for power or does it reveal his selflessness?
  • Now that you’ve read the story, does the title have more meaning for you?
  • In the story, Backman says that the man’s wife has already given her life for her family. What do you think this means and can you relate to this sentiment? Is this an old-fashioned or out dated idea?
  • Do you concur with Backman that time is our only commodity?
  • How do you evaluate the point of view from which the story is told? Is it a concern that we don’t hear the son’s perspective? Do you think the man has an accurate perception of the son’s feelings toward his dad?
  • Discuss the validity of this quote (part of the justification for how he’s chosen to live) : “Happy people don’t create anything, their world is one without art and music and skyscrapers, without discoveries and innovations.
    All leaders, all of your heroes, they’ve been obsessed. Happy people don’t get obsessed, they don’t devote their lives to curing illnesses or making planes take off. The happy leave nothing.”

Recommendation:

I love this book! I’m highly recommending it for fans of Backman, for those who appreciate the beauty of short stories, and for readers who might enjoy a thoughtful adult fairy tale about the purpose and meaning of life.

My Rating: 4.5  Stars
(if it had been a bit longer, I would’ve rated it 5 stars, but at the same time I acknowledge that it takes tremendous skill to write a profound short story)

twinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-starhalf twinkle-twinkle-little-star

The Deal of a Lifetime

Buy Here

 

Meet the Author, Fredrik Backman

Frederick Backman

 

Fredrik Backman, a blogger and columnist, is the New York Times bestselling author of A MAN CALLED OVE and MY GRANDMOTHER ASKED ME TO TELL YOU SHE’S SORRY. Both were number one bestsellers in his native Sweden and around the world, and are being published in more than thirty-five territories. His other novels are AND EVERY MORNING THE WAY HOME GETS LONGER AND LONGER, BEARTOWN, and BRITT-MARIE WAS HERE. He lives in Stockholm with his wife and two children. Visit him online at his blog: FredrikBackman.com, on twitter @baLoockmanland, or on instagram @backmansk.

 

 

***Linking up with Puppies and Pretties for Reading Lately/November 2017


Happy Reading Bookworms!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society


Extras:

Emily of New MoonAs part of the Modern Mrs. Darcy Book Club, I read Emily of New Moon  (November selection) over the past two weeks. Somehow I missed reading this classic when I was a younger reader. Great literature can be enjoyed by all ages, and I enjoyed the read! If you haven’t read this, I’d encourage you to pick it up. In general, I encourage readers to occasionally read or reread a classic. It’s always amazing to me to read these older stories and appreciate  the freedom , choices, and power women have today compared to the past, and to gain understanding of how restrictive ideas for women’s behaviors were portrayed and how that came to affect our lives as women in my generation grew up. It always makes me more cognizant of the words I use today when talking with young women. I want to be part of empowering women to be all they are created to be.

A Wrinkle in Time

 

Do you plan to reread Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle before the movie release in March 2018? Or if you don’t know Meg as a literary hero, I urge you to pick up this science fiction story soon! The movie trailer will release this weekend (Sunday November 26), but there is a teaser trailer available now (see link). More Information Here
Movie Information Here

 

Wonder

 

 

 


Looking Ahead!

I’m giving myself a break from heavier reading this next week as the season gets busier and returning to the lovely, delightful, and relaxing No 1 Ladies’ Detective series by Alexander McCall Smith for the recent installment (#18): The House of Unexpected Sisters

Do you follow and read the series?

House of Unexpected Sisters

 

 

 

 

Summary and Purchase Information Here

 

 


Sharing is Caring!

I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along, promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow.


Let’s Discuss!

Have you discovered Fredrik Backman’s work? Which of his books have you read? Do you have favorites? They are all very different!, thus ranking is a difficult task. However, this is  an attempt to rank my favorites: A Man Called Ove, Beartown, And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer, The Deal of a Lifetime, Brit-Marie Was Here, and My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry Which were your favorites? Gift yourself with some Backman while you’re shopping this year!

The Other Alcott

November 17, 2017

My favorite book to review: a woman author’s debut novel about strong, independent women! The author says that she is “drawn to historical figures, especially women, who linger in the footnotes of history books yet have fascinating stories waiting to be told.”

Was Little Women one of your favorite reads as a younger reader? I think Little Women was my first “book hangover,” and I felt so accomplished reading a “long” book!

The Other Alcott
by Elise Hooper

The Other Alcott 2

Genre/categories: historical fiction, women’s fiction, biographical, sisters

Summary:

If you’ve read Little Women, you are familiar with the author, Louisa May Alcott. It’s also well known that Miss Alcott’s family provided inspiration for the book and its colorful characters. While many readers loved spirited Jo March (the character based on the author Louisa May Alcott), Jo’s younger sister Amy March was not quite as popular with readers. In Elise Hooper’s new release and debut novel, The Other Alcott, the author reimagines the world of the Alcotts from the perspective of Louisa’s real life younger sister, May (Amy in Little Women). Hooper’s story explores the relationship between Louisa and May which might have been fraught with jealousy, competition, and sibling rivalry.  Through Hooper’s story telling, we follow May as she studies and travels abroad to carve out her own career as an artist in a man’s world at a time when women who wanted a career often had to forgo dreams of a family. Although the publication of Little Women substantially helps the struggling Alcott family financially, May experiences conflicting feelings about the way she was portrayed in the book through the character of Amy. Eventually, this causes May to want to distinguish her own life from the selfish, spirited, and spoiled character of Amy. So in real life, the optimistic, stylish, outgoing, and creative May pursues art in Boston and in Europe. At first, she is convicted about not working too hard (as she’s seen her sister do) because she also values happiness and enjoyment of life. This is a story of art, ambition, and of a brave, determined young woman finding her voice and establishing her identify. Amazon Rating (November): 4.7 Stars

My Thoughts:

Like returning for the reunion of the Gilmore Girls or Full House or other beloved shows, I am drawn to the Alcott story because Little Women was one of my first positive literary experiences with a “long” book. As I indicated above, it was probably my first “book hangover.” I’m sure I’m in good company in being captivated by Jo’s  independent and feisty spirit; thus, peering into the Alcott family through reading The Other Alcott is enticing.

“At a certain point, you just have to move forward and hope for the best. You have talent. For more than just art. I envy your ability to rise along over the waves that threaten to tug the rest of us down. You’re unsinkable.”   ~Louisa to May

Although the relationship between Louisa Alcott and her sister May is highly imagined, the story is well researched and the historical details are evident in the various settings and fascinating event descriptions.

If you’re an art student or artist, you might enjoy reading about the years May spent in European art studios, competitions, and communities establishing friendships, skills, and her artistic reputation.

I appreciate important themes of determination, making difficult choices, complicated sibling relationships, feminism in the late 1800s, reconciliation, and forgiveness. In May’s words, “The bar has been set high in my family for what a woman can achieve.”

“…You have to work endlessly to make your visions a reality. Stake a claim to your ambitions. If you wait around for other people to define you, you’ll be saddled with their expectations–and that’s dangerous territory for a woman.” 

In addition, I appreciate the author’s extra information in the Afterward. Sometimes readers forget about the extensive research that is required of authors writing historical fiction.

While I rate this a solid 4 stars, there are two areas of weakness for me. One, I would have enjoyed more action to propel the story forward. And two, I would like to have felt a deeper emotional connection with the characters. These are minor concerns as I enjoyed the overall reading experience. It almost felt like reading a sequel of my beloved Little Women.

The Other Alcott is recommended for readers who appreciate themes of how women achieved careers and independence in an earlier time, sibling relationships, and ambition.  Of course, The Other Alcott is also recommended for childhood fans of Little Women. Last, I recommend this for readers who are looking for a solid, easy reading historical fiction selection, and for readers who might be looking for a “clean” read (no cautions for language or violence).

My rating: 4 Stars

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The Other Alcott

Buy Here

Meet the Author, Elise Hooper

Elise Hooper

Although a New Englander by birth (and at heart), Elise now lives with her husband and two young daughters within stone-skipping distance of the Pacific Northwest’s Puget Sound. When she’s not writing, she’s in her classroom trying to make American history and literature interesting for high school students.

She’s drawn to historical figures, especially women, who linger in the footnotes of history books yet have fascinating stories waiting to be told. THE OTHER ALCOTT is Elise’s first novel.

Please learn more: http://www.elisehooper.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/elisehooperauthor/
Instagram: elisehooper
Twitter: @elisehooper


Extra:

Little Women

Some readers love to reread Little Women during the Christmas Season because the story begins at Christmas time. This would also be a great time of year for a first read.

If you’ve never read Little Women or would like a reread, get it FREE if you have Kindle Unlimited (Amazon Prime) or at 99 cents for Kindle.

Purchase the Kindle Version of Little Women Here for 99 cents.

 

 

 


Happy Reading Bookworms!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society


Looking Ahead!

The Deal of a LifetimeI’m eager to read Fredrik Backman’s newest novella release, The Deal of a Lifetime.

Backman is author of Beartown,  A Man Called Ove, And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and  Longer (novella), and Britt-Marie Was Here. 

I’m anticipating this will be the perfect read for Thanksgiving week. Will you “buddy read” with me?

Purchase Information Here.


Sharing is Caring!

I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along, promote, and/or share my blog. We recently reached 2,000 views (and counting). Every share helps us grow.


Let’s Discuss!

I’d love to hear if you read the classic Little Women in your younger years. Or perhaps you read or reread it as an adult? Or maybe you haven’t yet read it and it’s on your TBR.

I’d also like to know if you are on the Backman bandwagon. If so, which of his works are your favorite?

 

 

Top Ten Books I Want My Grandchildren to Read

November 14, 2017

Do you have “books” written on your Christmas shopping list? If you’re looking for books as gifts for middle grade through YA readers this season, this post might give you some ideas.

Top Ten Tuesday

We’re linking up today for Top Ten Tuesday with The Broke and the Bookish (above meme belongs to Broke and Bookish). Their prompt for this week is “Top Ten Books I want my Future Children to Read”…. that boat has already sailed, so I’m adjusting that to grandchildren….but this is a great top 10 list for any child in your life! Also linking up today with Modern Mrs Darcy for Quick Lit November 2017.

These 10 books are separated by age range but are in no particular order, and links to my reviews are included. These are books I recommend that parents/teachers/grandparents read alongside their children because of the rich discussion and teaching opportunities, and great literature can be enjoyed by all ages. Although specific themes are listed for each selection, the larger overarching themes for all selections include “diversity, building compassion, and understanding.” Follow links for full reviews.




“Top Ten Books I Want My Grandchildren to Read”




Middle Grades (grades 4-8, ages 9-13)

Wonder by R.J Palacio

Wonder

Join hundred of thousands of other middle grade readers across the nation in reading this best seller!

Themes: kindness, compassion, friendship, acceptance, bullying, fitting in

My Full Review Here

Purchase Information Here

Movie Releases November 17! (trailer here)


Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai

Inside Out and Back Again

Read about the refugee/immigrant experience from a Vietnamese perspective. Beautifully written in free verse.

Themes: new culture, leaving your homeland, friendship, bullying, fitting in,
family loyalty, traditions, finding your voice

My Full Review Here (scroll down to second review on page)

Purchase Information Here


Stella By Starlight by Sharon M. Draper

Stella by Starlight

If you’re looking for an appropriate diverse and historical fiction selection for a middle grade reader (ages 9-12), I recommend this poignant story of Stella’s experiences with racism and finding her own voice as an African-American girl living in the segregated South (1932, Bumblebee, North Carolina to be exact).

Themes: prejudice, racism, finding your voice, writing, family loyalty,
community support

(I did not do a full review of this book but you can check out the Amazon summary using the link below)

Book summary and purchase information here.




Mature High School through Young Adult

Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham

dreamland burning

Historical Fiction selection for mature high school through YA which culminates in the Tulsa, Oklahoma race riots of 1921.

Themes: racism, prejudice, finding your own voice, determination, bravery

My Full Review Here  (Scroll down page to find review)

Purchase Information Here


Refugee by Alan Gratz

Refugee

In this mature middle grade through high school historical fiction selection, we live the refugee experience from three perspectives. (a note of caution: even though this is shelved as middle school, I suggest this selection for mature middle grades because of its difficult themes of war and survival)

Themes: refugee experience, survival, leaving your homeland, kindness of strangers, family support, children forced to make adult choices

My Full Review Here

Purchase Information Here




Young Adult (YA)

The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls

Glass Castle

Young adults might find this poignant memoir of homelessness and neglect engaging.  This book first came to my attention when my high school grandson shared with me that his class was reading it and that it was meaningful to him, and of course I wanted to share that reading experience with him. The movie was released in August and is now available on DVD.

Themes:  homelessness, family dynamics, sibling support, overcoming difficult circumstances, survival

My Full Review of Book and Movie Here

Purchase Information Here


The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Book Thief

World War 11 historical fiction from a young German girl’s perspective.  This is appropriate for older high school students through YA. An excellent movie was released in 2013. I have not written a full review of this book because I read it years ago, but you can find an Amazon summary by following the link below.

Themes: Holocaust, survival, kindness of strangers, sacrifice, friendship  

Amazon Summary and Purchase Information Here


The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

The Hate You Give

This very current and relevant read deals with difficult racial themes, and also allows us a glimpse into Starr’s life as an African-American teenager living between her mostly white private school and her poor black inner city neighborhood. (***caution: language) I recommend this book for YA or especially mature older high school students who might be interested in a story they could see on the nightly news involving a confrontation between a police officer and an African-American male.  This book is currently in movie production.

Themes: racism, prejudice, friendship, family support, finding your voice,
code switching

See the Movie Promotion Here

My Full Review Here

Purchase Information Here


Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

Salt to the Sea

For YA or mature older high school readers, an intense World War 11 historical fiction story from four different perspectives.
(note: serious survival themes)

Themes: World War 11, intolerance, survival, friendship, loyalty, 

My Full Review Here (scroll down page to find review)

Purchase Information Here



Ginny Moon by Benjamin Ludwig


Ginny Moon

For YA or mature high school readers, a highly engaging and page turning story of a 14 year old girl who is on the Autism spectrum. Ginny Moon was recently listed on Amazon’s list of 20 top editor picks for 2017.

Themes: Autism, adoption, persistence, determination, differing abilities,
finding your voice

My Full Review Here

Purchase Information Here





Happy Reading Bookworms!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

Looking Ahead!

I’m on track to review The Other Alcott by Elise Hooper on Friday’s blog.

The Other Alcott

Information and Buy Here

Sharing is Caring!

I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along, promote, and/or share my blog. We reached 2,000 views this week. Thanks! Every share helps us grow.

Let’s Discuss!

I’d love to hear if you’ve read any books from the Top Ten list? Do these look like reading selections your children or young adult would appreciate? Do you search out diverse reads when buying books for your children?

Wait Till Next Year

This book is loads of fun for baseball fans (especially Dodgers, Yankees, or Giants fans)! (Might even be a great Christmas gift!)

baseball, glove, bat

From loyal baseball fans, the refrain “Wait Until Next Year!” can often be heard after suffering a disappointing loss. In fact, it was after the Dodgers’ loss in Game 7 of the recent World Series that a fan vehemently shouted these exact words captured by a reporter’s microphone and camera. At that time, I was reminded of Goodwin’s book that had been on my TBR list for some time and that it had been declared one of my husband’s favorite reads last year. In honor of the recent, well-played, and highly spirited 2017 World Series, I decided it’s timely to read and review this popular memoir.

Wait Till Next Year
by Doris Kearns Goodwin

Wait Till Next Year

Genre/categories: Biography, memoir, baseball, small town life

Summary:

Doris Kearns Goodwin writes an endearing memoir of growing up in the late 40s and 50s as family, baseball, neighborhood, and church provided the secure and stable foundation for her life. Memorably, her Long Island neighborhood was divided between Dodgers, Giants, and Yankees fans. Through baseball she learned how to tell a great narrative and to keep hope alive, from her mom she grew to appreciate the joy of reading, and from her father she experienced the joys and disappointments of baseball. During the Dodgers’ scrappy early years, Doris and her father were ardent and loyal fans and they lived out the slogan “wait until next year” over and over again.

“It was that October [of the’49 World Series] that I first understood the pain, bravado, and prayer woven into the simple slogan that served Dodgers fans as a recurring anthem: ‘Wait till next year.’ ”    ~Doris Kearns Goodwin

Doris tells of meeting baseball heroes, of nail-biting games, of having to confess at Confession that she wished the other team’s players would be injured so Dodgers could win, of the exciting World Series win in 1955, and of her sorrow as the Dodgers left Brooklyn in 1957.  She was so devastated by the loss of her team that she avoided baseball for years after the Dodgers left, and when she was convinced as a young adult to attend a Red Sox game, she transferred her loyalties, started keeping score again, and passed on her love of the game to her son. In addition to the loss of the Dodgers, she also tells of the loss of her mother at an early age.  Amazon Rating (November): 4.5 Stars.

My Thoughts:

Doris Kearns Goodwin is a Pulitzer Prize winning author, a role model for women, and well-known and respected for her presidential biographies . Some may know her from the Ken Burns’ Baseball documentary on PBS.

This is more than a great memoir; it’s a nostalgic, tender, humorous, and kind-hearted reflection on family and suburban living, current events, and social issues in the late 40s, 50s, and 60s. She describes a time when baseball was the national pastime, when parents didn’t worry about their children playing outside until dark, when children knew all the local shopkeepers, and ran in and out of their friends’ homes throughout the long summer days. She bonded with her father by learning to keep score in an official score book and then recounting the game for him (like an announcer) when he arrived home from work. Kearns Goodwin enjoyed a special relationship with her father (described later) and this helped form her interests, abilities, and skills as a historian and story-teller. In addition, as a youngster with spunk and an activist spirit, she devised a plan for her entire neighborhood to seek shelter in case of a bomb during the Cold War, and she wrote a heartfelt letter to President Eisenhower during the Little Rock Nine desegregation crisis.

Kearns Goodwin was encouraged to discover that her hope in the next game and the next season (wait till next year) could be applied to life in general and this idea helped her gain hope after the devastating loss of her mother.

Thoughts From the Hubs:

My husband thoroughly enjoyed Kearns Goodwin’s memoir because he loves history and because he spent his early years in New York and some of his fondest memories are listening to baseball games on the radio and attending a few games with his grandfather. Also, he’s an ardent baseball fan. He wants readers to know that if you’re not a die-hard baseball fan or the mere mention of baseball’s greatest players are less than thrilling, you can still enjoy this memoir because it’s about so much more than baseball. My husband suggests that for Kearns Goodwin, her memoir describes the excitement of an era where family life is centered around parents and small town communities, and the pursuit of the American Dream, including corner store business opportunities for entrepreneurs, first time home ownership, and later, the purchase of a television. Children strongly identified with their parents’ opportunities and pleasures and were brought into an adult world via sports, not so much for children to pursue their own opportunities but for them to appreciate and imitate character traits and to identify with the opportunities of others. Her father quietly used love of the game, the discipline of record keeping, loyalty to the team, and attention to detail to shape her character. Loyalty was a virtue alongside the American Dream…loyalty to family and friends and teams. Her early life was local and very much centered in the town and neighborhood in which she lived. Her self concept and self-worth were tied into her role in the family, her Catholic religion, and her team.

“I was a Catholic, a resident of Southard Avenue, a Dodgers fan,
a Rockville Centre girl.”     ~Doris Kearns Goodwin

My husband’s rating: 5 Stars.

Recommended?

I enthusiastically and highly recommend Wait Till Next Year for readers who love reading about a curious, enthusiastic, highly spirited, and thoughtful girl, who appreciate the retelling of history from a personal perspective, for baseball fans, and for those who love a well written memoir. It is sobering to think about her memoir next to J. D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy because they certainly didn’t share the same types of experiences. My Rating: 4 Stars

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Wait Till Next Year

Buy Here.

Meet the Author, Doris Kearns Goodwin

Doris Kearns GoodwinDoris Kearns Goodwin won the Pulitzer Prize in history for No Ordinary Time, which was a bestseller in hardcover and trade paper. She is also the author of Wait Till Next Year, The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys, and Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream. She lives in Concord, Massachusetts, with her husband, Richard Goodwin. More information here: http://www.doriskearnsgoodwin.com/

 

 


Happy Reading Bookworms!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society


Extras:

Readers might be interested to know that two books I have reviewed on the blog were recently listed in the ‘top 20 books for far in 2017’ according to Amazon editors.

Ginny Moon (review)

Beartown (review)

In other news, will you be seeing Murder on the Orient Express this weekend?! Have you read the book?

Murder on the Orient Express

Book Information Here.

Movie Trailer Here.

Last, Wonder is soon to be released! (November 17) I can’t wait!

Wonder

Review Here.

Movie Trailer Here.

 


Looking Ahead!

Gah! I indicated last week that I had planned to read The Other Alcott….it’s still on my TBR and planned for a future review. In my reading life, I operate better from Inspiration than Demand. I do indicate all my current reads on Goodreads if you want to see what I’ve listed there. This is all to say that next week remains undecided. Except that on Tuesday I’m working on a special blog post titled “Top Ten Books I hope My Grandchildren Read.” (You might glean some ideas for children’s or young adult’s gifts!)


Sharing is Caring!

I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along, promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow. This week we reached approximately 2,000 overall views! Thank you!


Let’s Discuss!

Have you read Wait Till Next Year? I’d love to hear your reflections.

Will you be seeing Wonder or Murder on The Orient Express in theaters?

What are you currently reading?

 

Ginny Moon

November 3, 2017

Do you appreciate reading stories from a differing abilities perspective? Do you know someone with Autism or would you like to experience what that would be like? Are you a professional whose work involves persons on the Autism spectrum? If you wonder what life looks like from the perspective of Autism, please continue reading and be encouraged to add Ginny Moon to your TBR.

Ginny Moon
by Benjamin Ludwig

Ginny Moon

Genre/categories: Contemporary Fiction, coming of age, autism, family life, adoption, differing abilities

Summary:

Ginny is fourteen, adopted, autistic, and is committed to saving her “baby doll.” In her fourth home since having been removed from her biological mom’s care, she has now been adopted by her “forever mom” and “forever dad.” For years, Ginny has been troubled about something that happened the night she was taken away from her biological mom and cannot think about anything else until she makes it right. Her “forever” parents and her counselor don’t seem to understand the extent of Ginny’s commitment to her past, so Ginny is left with no choice but to attempt an escape.  Amazon Rating (November): 4.5 Stars

My Thoughts:

As you discover the cause of Ginny’s preoccupation and consuming worry, you will love Ginny and your heart with break for her as she sacrifices everything and risks it all to make it right.

The author speaks from an authentic voice because he also adopted an autistic child. Ludwig does a phenomenal job of unlocking Ginny’s inner world for the reader. Ginny loves Michael Jackson, eats nine grapes for breakfast, needs lists and rules, always notes the time, takes things literally, and is “special” in more ways than her autism….she’s a “smart cookie,” determined, compassionate, an innovative problem solver, loyal, a survivor, and brave.

Frustrating parts of the story for me were the adults who could have dealt more effectively with the abuse and trauma that Ginny had experienced in her first home, and they could have focused more on communication and understanding the desperation behind Ginny’s actions. It saddened me that Ginny had to act in extreme ways to deal with her anxiety and worry, and I wish she had received more support.

Overall, this is an important and meaningful read. Readers will fall in love with Ginny and be touched by her deep desire to belong (can’t we all relate?!), her struggle being stuck on the “wrong side of forever,” and her desperation to get back to make things right.

If you work with or know of children with autism, you appreciate that each one has different needs and that there’s a great deal to learn about working with communication challenges and rigid and literal thinking. As a teacher, I’ve had some experience with students on the autism spectrum and Ginny reminds me so much of a former student. I kept visualizing my student through Ginny’s actions, expressions, and thinking. They were eerily similar and I immediately cared a great deal for Ginny.

For me, a small weakness in the writing was (in Ginny’s words) the “tedious” use of certain words/phrases such as “forever mom,” “forever dad,” “forever home,” and “baby doll.” I realize this was an author’s  technique to demonstrate a certain exactness and rigidity in Ginny’s thinking; however, because I enjoyed an audio version of the book the repetition of words was a bit bothersome. If I were reading, I probably would’ve skimmed more over these words.

Recommended for all readers who appreciate reading books from different perspectives, who care deeply about autism, and who root for characters with lots of heart.

My rating 3.5 stars (founded up to 4 stars on Goodreads).

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Ginny Moon

Buy Here

Meet the Author, Benjamin Ludwig

Benjamin LudwigA life-long teacher of English and writing, Benjamin Ludwig lives in New Hampshire with his family. He holds an MAT in English Education and an MFA in Writing. Shortly after he and his wife married they became foster parents and adopted a teenager with autism. Ginny Moon is his first novel. His website is available at http://www.benjaminludwig.com, and he tweets @biludwig.

 


Happy Reading Bookworms!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes


Extra:

I promised last week that I would read and review Young Jane Young. I read it but decided to lead the post with Ginny Moon because I rated it higher and for me it was a more meaningful read.

Young Jane Young
By Gabrielle Zevin

Young Jane Young

Genre/categories: contemporary women’s fiction, feminism, politics

Summary:

Monica Lewinsky reimagined.

Still with me? This story is about a woman who is reinventing her life after interning for a congressman as a college girl and gets into a Monica Lewinsky type scandal. The story is told from five distinct female voices: younger Jane (Aviva), older Jane, Jane’s mother, Jane’s daughter, and the congressman’s wife.

Amazon Rating (November): 4.2 Stars

My Thoughts:

Even though contemporary fiction with a feminist focus is not my go to genre, I was enticed to give this a try because (1) Zevin is the author of The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry, a favorite read; and (2) it was selected by the Modern Mrs. Darcy Book Club as the October read, and I trust their recommendations.

Strengths:

The five voices through which this story is told are certainly distinctive. Sometimes my experience with multiple voices/perspectives is that they all sound like the author. In Young Jane Young, the voices are refreshingly different. Also of note is that the voices do not move the story forward, rather they retell the story from their unique perspective. It’s interesting that two of the voices are her younger and older self.

I’m always looking for important themes in books. One important theme in the book is the importance of one’s good name. We hear from younger Jane’s mom, and I’m sure you’ve heard this wise advice from your own parents, too, that your good name is all you have.

“In this life and the next one, all you have is your good name.”
~Rachel Shapiro

Your good name has always been important but even more so in current times because your online history lives on forever.

Another theme that would lead to good discussion involves the double standard. In young Jane’s experience, she has a relationship with an older married congressman. She gets shamed and is forced to rebuild her life, while the man apologizes, is forgiven, and continues with his career and recovers his public image.

In addition to a couple of relevant themes, another important strength of the story for me is that it ends on a redemptive and hopeful note as Jane is found rebuilding her life, gaining confidence, and finding her voice.

Weaknesses:

I will always give you my honest opinion, so I do need to address some weaknesses (which affect my rating). First, I felt like some of the writing choices were gimmicky. For example, the young Jane chapter is told in a choose-your-own-adventure format and second person point of view. Choose-your-own-adventure books are popular in elementary school (you or your children most likely have read a few). In a way, it’s a clever connection and metaphor for those times in life when we reflect on our previous choices and wonder what would’ve happened if we’d made a different choice; however, to have the entire structure of the chapter shaped around this concept seemed gimmicky. In addition, I thought the second person POV was difficult to read for an extended amount of text in that it was a jarring departure from more traditional first or third used in the rest of the book. You know what I mean?! An additional weakness for me also involved structure in that we find the daughter’s entire chapter written in email format as she communicates with a new pen pal from Afghanistan. This was not only distracting because it added en entirely new cultural context and character to the story, but it also seemed like an impersonal glimpse into serious events that were happening, as we hear only the daughter’s side of the conversation in a second hand way. Continuing with a couple more weaknesses, it seemed to me that at times the author was checking off her list of political agenda items to address, and most of these issues are not a match with my issues. Furthermore, I would have appreciated an epilogue. Specifically, I felt more resolution needed to happen for the daughter. Finally, I was disturbed by the lack of good men in this story. With the exception of young Jane’s intern friend, the men were not upstanding role models. I didn’t appreciate the portrayal of generally badly behaved men. The above concerns affected by rating and ability to recommend this book. My Rating: 2,5 Stars (Rounded up to 3 Stars on Goodreads)

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Young Jane Young

Buy Here

Many readers give this book high ratings, so I encourage you to read more reviews before deciding whether or not to read the book. Readers who are looking for a light and engaging vacation/beach/plane read focusing on feminism and politics might enjoy this. For a really exciting vacation read, I might suggest an alternative Castle of Water (reviewed here).

Meet the Author, Gabrielle Zevin

Gabrielle ZevinGabrielle Zevin has published six adult and young adult novels, including Elsewhere, an American Library Association Notable Children’s Book, which has been translated in over twenty languages. She is the screenwriter of Conversations with Other Women (starring Helena Bonham Carter and Aaron Eckhart), for which she received an Independent Spirit Award nomination. She has also written for the New York Times Book Review and NPR’s All Things Considered. She lives in Los Angeles.

 


Looking Ahead!

I’m sorry….I haven’t yet made a final decision about what I’m reading and reviewing for this next week. Sometimes it depends on what’s available at the library! However, The Other Alcott is high on my TBR list! What are you reading or thinking of reading?

The Other Alcott

 

 

 

More Information Here.

 

 


Sharing is Caring!

I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along, promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow.


Let’s Discuss!

Have you read Ginny Moon or Young Jane Young? Is either one on your TBR?  How do you feel about reading a book from a differing abilities perspective? I’m curious what you think about the portrayal of Ginny if you have an autistic child. What are you reading this week? What book are you most looking forward to reading this fall? I’d love to hear from you!


***Linking up today with Puppies & Pretties/Reading Lately.

Wonder

October 27, 2017

You were probably an ordinary kid. Did you ever experience a terrifying first day in a new school?

Consider Auggie. He feels ordinary inside but no one else sees him as ordinary. As he expresses: kids don’t scream and run away if you’re ordinary….they don’t stare.

This is the advice 10-year-old August Pullman receives from his parents on the first day of school:

“There are always going to be jerks in the world, Auggie,” she said, looking at me. “But I really believe, and Daddy really believes, that there are more good people on this earth than bad people, and the good people watch out for each other and take care of each other.”

Because the movie Wonder releases in theaters on November 17, 2017, it seems timely to provide a review of the book.

Movie Trailer here.

Wonder
by R. J. Palacio

Wonder

Genre/categories: Middle grade through adult contemporary fiction,  growing up, difficult discussions, family life, friendship, character traits

Summary:

On the inside, ten-year-old August Pullman feels very ordinary. But as he says, ordinary kids don’t make other kids run away screaming and they don’t get stared at wherever they go. Auggie was born with a rare genetic abnormality that affected the formation of his face. Because of extensive surgeries and an attempt to protect him from cruelties of the outside world, Auggie’s parents have home schooled him. The reader meets 5th grade Auggie as he’s being enrolled in a traditional school for the first time. Will he be accepted? Will he find friends? Will he find a hostile or friendly environment? How will adults in his life support him? The story is told from six perspectives (August, Via–his older sister, Summer–a friendly caring peer, Jack–a student leader who struggles in his role as friend, Miranda–his sister’s best friend and a close family friend, and Justin–Miranda’s boyfriend) plus a bonus chapter from Julian’s point of view (Auggie’s nemesis).  Amazon Rating: (an amazing) 4.9 Stars

My Thoughts:

If you plan to see the movie, don’t miss out on reading the book first!  It’s an easy, engaging, thoughtful, inspirational, and meaningful read with valuable discussion possibilities for the entire family.

As we venture to school with Auggie, we feel his daily apprehension and celebrate his courage and determination. Even though he thinks of himself on the inside as an ordinary kid, we know he doesn’t look ordinary and his severe facial abnormality could cause him to be the object of unkind actions by his peers and to experience bullying.

Throughout the story, the narrative changes perspectives with each chapter. This helps us get a 360 degree understanding of Auggie’s world and also allows us to see the nice circle of people who care for him and support him. In addition, it allows the reader to understand that everyone battles something. Because this is written for a children’s audience, it does have a happy ending where ‘good” people are rewarded and the “bad” get their punishment. I like that there is an epilogue (extra chapter) in the current version of the book that follows Auggie’s nemesis Julian and we see how Julian changes and grows in empathy and compassion

The story takes a dramatic turn when Auggie overhears his friend Jack’s derogatory remarks about him; he is discouraged and devastated, and everything changes as he has to fight to rebuild what he’s lost. Through these authentic middle grade voices, we learn about true friendship, risk, and the importance of kindness.

I especially admire Auggies’s English teacher who each month presents the idea of precepts to live by and encourages students to write their own…an example of a precept he presents is “When given the choice between being right or kind, choose kind.” In an attempt to establish the habit of writing precepts as a lifelong practice, he encourages students to email their precepts to him in the years after graduation. Auggie’s 5th grade  precept is “Everyone in the world should get a standing ovation once in their lives because we all overcometh the world.”

The following is a sampling of the types of quotes you will find from the adults in the story:

“Kinder than necessary,” he repeated. “What a marvelous line, isn’t it? Kinder than is necessary. Because it’s not enough to be kind. One should be kinder than needed. Why I love that line, that concept is that it reminds me that we carry with us, as human beings, not just the capacity to be kind, but the very choice of kindness. And what does that mean? How is that measured? You can’t use a yardstick. It’s like I was saying just before: it’s not like measuring how much you’ve grown in a year. It’s not exactly quantifiable, is it? How do we know we’ve been kind? What is being kind, anyway?”

“….If every single person in this room made it a rule that wherever you are, whenever you can, you will try to act a little kinder than is necessary–the world really would be a better place. And if you do this, if you act just a little kinder than is necessary, someone else, somewhere, someday, may recognize in you, in every single one of you, the face of God.”

“It’s not just the nature of kindness, but the nature of one’s kindness. The power of one’s friendship. The test of one’s character. The strength of one’s courage–” 

Don’t miss out on this inspirational story filled with heart, heroes, and humor and which inspired the Kindness Movement. I expect that Wonder will become a beloved classic in upper grade classrooms and in family libraries. Highly recommended for every reader who believes in the power of teaching through a story and for every family who is in the process of building empathy, compassion, and kindness. I believe good literature can be enjoyed by all ages!

“Courage. Kindness. Friendship. Character. These are the qualities that define us as human beings, propel us, on occasion, to greatness.”

My rating: 4.5 stars (I tried to read this and rate it from a kid’s perspective. As an adult reader, however, I lowered the rating by half a star because it could have included more beautiful writing and some adults seem stereotypical and could have been more fully developed.)

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Buy Here.

There is an additional book, Auggie & Me. It’s not a sequel, rather a companion read and an extension of Auggie’s world with three additional points of view.

Auggie & Me

More Information about Auggie & Me Here.

The Kindness Movement and Sign the Pledge Here.

The author interviews kids about kindness here.

Movie Trailer here.

 

Meet the Author, R. J. Palacio

R. J. Palacio

R. J. Palacio was born and raised in New York City. She attended the High School of Art and Design and the Parsons School of Design, where she majored in illustration with the hopes of someday following in the footsteps of her favorite childhood author-illustrators, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Maurice Sendak, and the D’Aulaires. She was a graphic designer and art director for many years before writing Wonder. We’re All Wonders, which is based conceptually on the themes of her novel, represents the fulfillment of her dream to write and illustrate her own picture book. R.J. is also the author of Auggie & Me: Three Wonder Stories and 365 Days of Wonder: Mr. Browne’s Book of Precepts. She lives in Brooklyn, where she is surrounded by magical water towers, with her husband, their two sons, and their two dogs, Bear and Beau. Learn more about her at rjpalacio.com or on Twitter at @RJPalacio.


Happy Reading Bookworms!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
Denise J Hughes


Extra:

In my last post, I indicated that I would read and review If the Creek Don’t Rise. I did read it; however, I decided that Wonder would be the primary focus of my review this week so that I can encourage you to read it before the movie releases. Here’s my brief review of If the Creek Don’t Rise.

If the Creek Don't Rise

If the Creek Don’t Rise
by Leah Weiss

Genre/categories: Literary Fiction, historical fiction, small town, rural, Appalachia, hillbilly culture

Summary:

Young Sadie Blue lives in the North Carolina mountain town of Baines Creek and suffers abuse at the hands of her drunken husband, Roy Tupkin. When a new teacher comes to town, Sadie begins to think of finding her voice and of a life that doesn’t include Roy.

Amazon Rating: 4.5 Stars

My Thoughts:

Harsh and hard realities of life in this remote Appalachian community make If the Creek Don’t Rise a gritty and sobering read. Young Sadie Blue is pregnant, abused, mistreated, and struggling to find her voice. Only a few chapters are from Sadie’s POV. The story is told from multiple viewpoints giving readers a good perspective of her life and the hillbilly community. Some characters offer hope and healing while others are despicable. Sadie does find her voice in a way that surprised me (but maybe it shouldn’t have given her situation and the hillbilly culture). As a teacher, I hoped to learn more about the new teacher’s contribution to the youth of the community….I’m always looking for hope and redemption in a story….but after the teacher’s strong introduction, she fades into the background of the story. This is also disappointing because she is important to Sadie. Overall, I enjoyed the read and the excellent writing; however, I hesitate to recommend it because I don’t think it’s a read that everyone would enjoy. It’s gritty and a bit dark but certainly an impressive debut novel. I would encourage you to read additional reviews.

My Rating: 4 Stars

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Buy Here.


Looking Ahead:

My library hold of Young Jane Young finally came in so I think I’ll read and review that for next week. I’m a bit apprehensive because it borders on “chick lit” and that’s not my  usual genre. However, it’s a selected read for my online book club at Modern Mrs. Darcy and will be a good break from some heavier reads.

Young Jane Young

 

 

 

More Information Here.

 


Sharing is Caring!

I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along, promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow.


Let’s Discuss!

I’m curious if you’ve read Wonder! Do you have children that have read it? I’d love to hear your (or their) reflection. Do you plan to see the movie? How do you feel about teaching character traits such as empathy and kindness through literature? What are you reading this week?

 

Refugee

October 20, 2017

Trust me: This is a great read!

See us, he thought. Hear us. Help us.

Refugee
by Alan Gratz

Refugee

Genre: Middle Grade through Adult Historical Fiction, global issues

Summary:

Refugee is the story of the refugee experience from three unique perspectives:

  • 12/13-year-old Josef and family are Jewish and attempt to escape Nazi Germany in 1938 aboard a ship bound for a country(Cuba) that will accept them.
  • 12-year-old Isabel and family are Cuban and flee riots and unrest in Cuba in 1994 on a homemade raft pointed toward safety in Miami, Florida.
  • 12-year-old Mahmoud and family are Syrian and seek to escape war-torn Aleppo in 2015 and relocate to Germany.

Even though these families are separated by continents and decades, their stories share certain similarities. Each journey is fraught with harrowing adventures, frustration, courage, resiliency, heartache, injustice, persecution, dangers, children assuming adult roles and responsibility, loss of childhood innocence and joy, and loss of family members. However, the families have hope that drives them forward. Amazon Rating (October): 4.8 Stars (this is a very high rating in which 88% of the stars are in the 5 star category)

My Thoughts:

Refugee is an important story because it gives refugees a face and a name, and the timeliness of the Syrian refugee family is relevant to current events.

I appreciated the tightly woven plot and seamless transitions between points of view. As the author worked to tie the stories together, the reader notices that all three journeys to safety involve a boat and that children are forced to take on adult responsibilities and worries. In addition, the kindness of strangers and glimmers of hope keep them going forward in each story.  Interesting parallels involve Josef fleeing Germany in 1938 and Mahmoud’s family escaping to Germany in 2015; furthermore, Josef’s family tried to gain entry into Cuba in 1938 and Isabel’s family sought to flee Cuba in 1994.

This story is engaging from page one and unputdownable. I never felt like I was reading a middle grade selection except to reflect on how middle grade readers might react to certain parts of the story. Yes, the story has 12-year-old narrators, but it’s the story of families and how they support each other in the most difficult circumstances. Even though adults will enjoy this story, it’s easily accessible for middle school readers (appropriate language, straight forward writing style, and not overly graphic or violent). That being said, the content is difficult at points (some events can be emotional and some historical perspective is probably needed). I recommend this for mature middle graders who are able to read this with a parent or teacher, and it will easily hold an adult’s interest as well and lead to excellent discussion opportunities.

The most powerful parts of the story include the author’s unique structure and smooth transitions between points of view of three refugee families. The POV from innocent children was especially powerful and moving, especially as the oldest children were forced to handle adult responsibilities and make difficult decisions. One powerful idea in the story was Mahmoud’s understanding of being visible or invisible. He learned through his life in Aleppo that being invisible helped him survive and avoid bullies; however, he quickly realized that refugees couldn’t stay invisible if they wanted help from the world. It’s only when people are visible (make waves, rock the boat) that people will notice them and take action. In his own words:

“They only see us when we do something they don’t want us to do,” Mahmoud realized. The thought hit him like a lightning bolt. When they stayed where they were supposed to be–in the ruins of Aleppo or behind the fences of a refuge camp–people could forget about them. But when refugees did something they didn’t want them to do–when they tried to cross the border into their country, or slept on the front stoops of their shops, or jumped in front of their cars, or prayed on decks of their ferries–that’s when people couldn’t ignore them any longer.

Even though some readers might consider the ending slightly contrived as two of the families intersect, I appreciated a somewhat uplifting ending.

Refugee rates as one of my most memorable reads of the year and highly recommended for readers age 12 through adult who are searching for a riveting histfic read, for parents and/or teachers who are looking for diverse reads to build global empathy and understanding of the effects of war and oppression and the refugee crisis, for book club members who are interested in discussing challenging themes.  *Caution: It’s my opinion that even though this is shelved as middle grade (grades 5-8), younger children in this range might find the occasional violence and harsh realities too much for them. It’s actually perfect for high school readers who already have helpful historical knowledge of the events. I would encourage parents to “buddy read” it with their younger children. It might be an especially interesting read for any families who have relatives that came to America as a result of being “sponsored.”

My Rating: 5 Stars

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A book for younger middle grade readers (but also enjoyable for adults) with a similar refugee theme might be Inside Out and Back Again (reviewed here as an “extra” in this post).

Refugee

Buy Here.

Meet the Author, Alan Gratz

Alan Gratz

I’m the author of a number of books for young readers, including Refugee, Ban This Book, Prisoner B-3087, Code of Honor, Projekt 1065, the League of Seven series, and The Brooklyn Nine. I live in the mountains of western North Carolina with my family, where I enjoy reading, playing games, and eating pizza.

 

 

Happy Reading Everyone!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society


Extras:

Turtles all the Way DownIn last week’s blog post, I indicated that I would review Turtles all the Way Down by John Green this week. I read it, but then I read Refugee after that and loved it so much more that I changed my mind on the blog’s focus this week–because, above all, I’m committed to bringing you recommendations for the best of what I read. I’m including a brief reflection of Turtles All The Way Down here in the extras in case you were looking forward to the review and are a John Green fan!

 

Genre: YA, social and family issues, mental illness, coming of age

Strengths:  This book deals with a very important subject and I’m assuming the author represents an authentic voice…..I appreciate that the reading experience allowed me to gain additional understanding of OCD and I loved Aza and was deeply moved by her thoughts, angst, and experiences. It is important to know that the inspiration for this book came from John Green’s own personal experiences with OCD.

Weaknesses: There is a lot going on—which probably is typical of a teenager’s life and the YA genre (mother/daughter relationship, best friend, school, coming of age, boyfriend, lizard, crime solving, astronomy, abandoned/neglected boys, etc); and the plot was meh because there were too many things happening on multiple fronts and many details that didn’t make sense in the story (e.g. a high school kid gets $50,000 and doesn’t tell her mom?). Other readers have highly rated this book and/or love John Green so I encourage you to read it and form your own opinion.

My Rating: 2.5 Stars rounded to 3 Stars

For the Amazon rating, summary, and purchase information click here.


Reminder: This Christian histfic Kindle book is FREE in the month of October! (*note: I haven’t read it, but it seems interesting … and I have Viking heritage! For free, I’m trying it!)

God’s Daughter
by Heather Day Gilbert

God's DaughterAmazon Rating (October) 4.4 Stars

Amazon Summary: In the tenth century, when pagan holy women rule the Viking lands, Gudrid turns her back on her training as a seeress to embrace Christianity. Clinging to her faith, she joins her husband, Finn, on a journey to North America. But even as Gudrid faces down murderous crewmen, raging sickness, and hostile natives, she realizes her greatest enemy is herself–and the secrets she hides might just tear her marriage apart. Almost five centuries before Columbus, Viking women sailed to North America with their husbands. God’s Daughter, Book One in the Vikings of the New World Saga, offers an expansive yet intimate look into the world of Gudrid Thorbjarnardottir–daughter-in-law of Eirik the Red, and the first documented European woman to have a child in North America. This novel is based heavily on the Icelandic Sagas and is written from a Christian worldview. Get the Kindle version FREE Here.

Looking Ahead:

I have a couple of ideas from recently published titles regarding my next read, but I haven’t finalized my selection. I’m waiting for Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin (contemporary chick lit fic) to become available on Overdrive (library app) and I recently bought If the Creek Don’t Rise by Leah Weiss (Appalachia settinh) which looks promising. Subject to change if I find something better! What are you reading this week?

Sharing is Caring!

I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along, promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow.

Let’s Discuss!

I’d love to hear in comments if you’re planning to put Refugee on your TBR. Does the topic of refugee crisis interest you? Do you enjoy reading diverse books? Do you seek out titles that differ from your go-to genres? Do you think middle grade and/or YA selections can be appreciated by adults? Or would you rather that I not alert you to outstanding fiction for different ages?