The Last List of Miss Judith Kratt: A Review

October 23, 2019

The Last List of Miss Judith Kratt by Andrea BobotisLast List of Miss Judith Kratt review

Genre/Categories: Southern Historical Fiction, Family Drama, Small Town/Rural, Racism

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Summary:

Dark secrets and multilayered family drama….

The Last List of Miss Judith Kratt takes place in the small southern town of Bound, South Carolina. We are introduced to elderly Miss Judith Kratt as she begins to take inventory of her important and cherished household items. As she generates the list, we are given the back story for each item. Through these flashbacks to 1929, complicated family drama and dark secrets are revealed.

My Thoughts:

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The Water Dancer: A Review

October 17, 2019

The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates

The Water Dancer review.jpg

Genre/Categories: Historical Fiction, Magical Realism, African-American, Slavery, Underground Railroad

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Summary:

The Water Dancer tells the engaging and powerful story of Hiram Walker who is born into slavery and who has a mysterious and magical power. He is compelled to leave his home and adopted mother as he follows his rebellious spirit and searches for freedom. Hiram connects with the Underground Railroad, masters his mysterious power, and seeks to return home on his own terms to rescue his adopted mother and his love interest.

Amazon Rating: 4.4 Stars

My Thoughts:

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With the Fire on High: A Review

September 17, 2019

With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo

With the Fire on High Review.png

Genre/Categories: Contemporary YA Fiction, Cooking, Multi-Generational Family, Coming of Age

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Summary:

Emoni Santiago is a responsible, creative, and determined teenage mother. In addition to caring for her young daughter, living with and helping to support her grandmother, and navigating her classes as a high school senior, Emoni is well known for her extraordinary cooking skills. For her, cooking is an artistic adventure. A new culinary arts class is offered at her school along with a class trip to Spain. Given all her responsibilities and financial situation, can she possibly risk everything to follow her dreams?

Amazon Rating: 4.8 Stars

My Thoughts:

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If You Want To Make God Laugh: A Review

September 13, 2019

If You Want To Make God Laugh
by Bianca Marais

If You Want to Make God Laugh Review

Genre/Categories: Historical Fiction, South Africa, Family Life

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Summary:

If You Want to Make God Laugh is the story of three unforgettable women living in post-Apartheid South Africa at the time of a growing AIDS epidemic and threats of civil war. Zodwa is seventeen, pregnant, poor, and lives in a squatter’s camp. Ruth and Delilah are middle-aged sisters who live on an inherited, rural farm. While Ruth is an unhappy, disillusioned, and newly divorced socialite, Delilah is a former nun and social worker who is hiding a big secret. A newborn baby will bring these characters together, and this is a story of their precarious relationships, of sibling jealousy, rivalry, and healing, and of found family.

My Thoughts:

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The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek: A Review

August 16, 2019

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek Review

Genre/Categories: Historical Fiction, Southern Fiction, Book About Books, Racism, Prejudice, Poverty

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Summary:

In the 1930s, nineteen-year-old Cussy Carter and her father live in the isolated woods of Troublesome Creek, Kentucky. They are the last of the “blue people” of Kentucky and endure racism and prejudice because of the blue hue of their skin. They are considered “colored.” Dad risks his life and health working long hours in the coal mines and Cussy takes a government job with the historical Pack Horse Library Project. As a “librarian,” she travels across treacherous mountains and dangerous creeks on her mule, Junia, to deliver books and other reading materials to the mountain folk who have few resources. She does what she can to meet their most dire needs. Incidentally, she doesn’t cuss! (She’s named after a town in France.)

Early Amazon Rating (August): 4.7 Stars

My Thoughts:

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On The Come Up: A Review

June 6, 2019

On The Come Up by Angie Thomas

On the Come Up Review

Genre/Categories: Young Adult Contemporary Fiction, Homelessness, Poverty, Family Life, YA Music, Racism

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Summary:

The daughter of a Garden Heights rap legend, sixteen-year-old Bri’s greatest desires include making it as a rapper, making enough money to take care of her mom and siblings, and moving out of the neighborhood. Bri is distracted at school by her rapping goals and neighborhood performances. At home, her mom has lost her job and the family is facing unpaid bills, shut off notices, an empty refrigerator, and the threat of homelessness. Suddenly, Bri not only wants to make it as a rapper, now she has to make it. Bri makes some impulsive decisions as she fights to make her dreams a reality. This is a story about fighting for your dreams against the odds as it portrays the realities of poor and working-class black families. Author Angie Thomas has experience in the art of rapping and her authentic voice fills all the spaces in this realistic story with vivid details of the Garden Heights community and its memorable characters. Although the story takes place in the same community and makes a reference to the shooting at the center of The Hate You Give, this is not a sequel to THUG and can be read as a stand-alone. Each book is a unique reading experience.

My Thoughts:

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Brown Girl Dreaming: A Review

April 10, 2019

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

Brown Girl Dreaming Review

  • Genre/Categories: Non Fiction, Poetry, Memoir, Middle Grade, Racism, Prejudice, African-American, Family Life

*This post contains amazon affiliate links.

Summary:

In free verse, Jaqueline Woodson shares her experience as an African-American growing up in South Carolina and New York during the 60s and 70s. An award-winning book, Brown Girl Dreaming is a poignant and inspiring story of a girl finding her voice and her place in the world. Even though she struggled with reading in childhood, she loved stories and blank writing paper as she held her dream of writing close to her heart.

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We Hope For Better Things: A Review

March 8, 2019

We Hope For Better Things by Erin Bartels

We Hope for Better Things Review

Genre/Categories: Historical Fiction, Civil War, Detroit Race Riots, Interracial Relationships, Prejudice, Racism, Domestic Life

Thanks to #NetGalley #Revell for my free copy of #WeHopeForBetterThings by @erinbartelswrites @ErinLBartels in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. *This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Summary:

Readers of We Hope For Better Things are treated to three distinct stories about three white women who live at different times on the same farm in Michigan. The three women are from three different generations and experience war, civil unrest, and prejudice in their respective stories (Civil War/Underground Railroad, 1960s Detroit Riots, and present day). This engaging and multi layered story includes family drama, secrets, old pictures, a 150 year old farm house, locked rooms, a mysterious trunk, and interracial relationships.

My Thoughts:

Engaging. I like stories that capture my interest from page one, and I enjoyed the easy to follow and fast pace of this multi layered story told from three perspectives. I think the story lines from the past (Underground Railroad especially) were the most intriguing and offer the most opportunity for discussion.

Themes. In addition, I like how the themes were interwoven and connected the stories. Important themes include family conflict, tragic choices, racism, family history, resilience, and faith. We can certainly see that overt prejudice has shown improvement over time….and “we hope for better things” in our present day and future.

Plot. Even though the plot is fast paced and engaging and I liked how the stories intersected, I felt occasionally that the events might be a bit contrived to promote certain themes or move the story line along. This is a minor concern and falls under personal preference.

Diversity. I would like to read reviews of We Hope For Better Things from people of color and gain from your impressions and insights regarding the portrayals in this story (please leave your review link or thoughts in comments). I think I would have appreciated that one of the perspectives had been from a woman of color, but that’s probably difficult for a white author to write. As a reader, does it concern you that a white author writes about racism and prejudice from a white perspective? It might have been interesting for the author to have coauthored this with an author of color. The author candidly addresses the issue of writing this as a white author in her Author’s Note.

Recommended. I recommend We Hope For Better Things for readers who love historical fiction, for fans of family stories with likeable and strong main characters, and for those who desire to read more diversely to explore themes of prejudice and racism. This will make an excellent book club selection because of many discussion possibilities.

*possible trigger warning: still birth

My Rating: 4 Stars

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We Hope for Better Things

We Hope For Better Things

Meet the Author, Erin Bartels

Erin BartelsERIN BARTELS is a copywriter and freelance editor by day, a novelist by night, and a painter, seamstress, poet, and photographer in between. Her debut novel, WE HOPE FOR BETTER THINGS, released in January 2019 and will be followed in September 2019 with THE WORDS BETWEEN US, the manuscript of which was a finalist for the 2015 Rising Star Award from the Women’s Fiction Writers Association. Her short story “This Elegant Ruin” was a finalist in The Saturday Evening Post 2014 Great American Fiction Contest. Her poems have been published by The Lyric and The East Lansing Poetry Attack. A member of the Capital City Writers Association and the Women’s Fiction Writers Association, she is former features editor of WFWA’s Write On! magazine.

Erin lives in the beautiful, water-defined state of Michigan where she is never more than a ninety minute drive from one of the Great Lakes or six miles from an inland lake, river, or stream. She grew up in the Bay City area waiting for freighters and sailboats at drawbridges and watching the best 4th of July fireworks displays in the nation. She spent her college and young married years in Grand Rapids feeling decidedly not-Dutch. She currently lives with her husband and son in Lansing, nestled somewhere between angry protesters on the Capitol lawn and couch-burning frat boys at Michigan State University. And yet, she claims it is really quite peaceful.

Find Erin Bartels on Facebook @ErinBartelsAuthor, on Twitter @ErinLBartels, or on Instagram @erinbartelswrites. She blogs semi-regularly at http://www.erinbartels.com and her podcast, Your Face Is Crooked, drops Monday mornings. Find it on iTunes or at http://www.erinbartels.podbean.com.



Let’s Discuss

Do you enjoy multiple perspective and/or multiple timeline stories?

If you are a person of color and have read or reviewed this, I would love to hear your thoughts or read your reviews (leave thoughts or links in comments)!



Happy Reading Book Buddies!

“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

“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection! Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text



Looking Ahead:

Look for a post about 10 Books That Need a Sequel for next week’s Top Ten Tuesday, a post for Women’s History Month soon, and a review of Sold on a Monday next Friday.

Sold On a Monday



Winter TBR Update

I’ll be updating my Winter TBR as I read and review selections. I have three more quick reads to check off the list before spring! So check back often!



Sharing is Caring

Thank you for reading today! I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along (see subscribe or follow option), promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow. Find me at:
Twitter
Instagram
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Pinterest



***Blogs posts may contain affiliate links. This means that at no extra cost to you, I can earn a small percentage of your purchase price.

Unless explicitly stated that they are free, all books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library.

Book Cover and author photo are credited to Amazon or an author’s (or publisher’s) website.

Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers

March 9, 2018

Colorful Hawaii…friendship…loyalty…pies…romance…racism…brave marines…and a lion

Island Of Sweet Pies and Soldiers
by Sara Ackerman

Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers 2

Genre/categories: historical fiction, WW11, family life, military

Thank you to The Loud Library Lady for a free review copy in exchange for my honest opinion. This review of Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers is part of a Reading Train and all opinions are my own.

Summary:

Surrounded by the tropical beauty of Hawaii in 1944, Violet Iverson and her daughter Ella struggle to stabilize their lives after the attack on Pearl Harbor and the disappearance of Violet’s husband and Ella’s father whom some speculate might have been a spy. After Pearl Harbor, prejudice against the Japanese is common on the island, and the fear and mistrust is difficult for Violet to face as many of her close friends and community members are Japanese and suddenly become the feared “them.” Because Violet and her friends desire to make a little money and also wish to support the war effort, they devise a plan to make sweet pies for the soldiers, Meanwhile, Ella is miserable because she’s keeping a secret, is scared, and refuses to talk about it. More complications set in when Violet develops a close relationship with Sergeant Parker Stone. In spite of Violet’s attraction, she feels guilty because her husband’s disappearance has not been resolved. Readers will need to suspend their belief when they find out that a friendly pet lion is the marine mascot and among the cast of characters.  Goodreads Overall Rating: 4.14

My Thoughts:

Recommended

Readers that are looking for a light historical fiction read with a bit of mystery and romance might enjoy Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers. It’s a quick and easy page turner with memorable characters (including a pet lion!). Readers who call or have called Hawaii home might find this an especially interesting read. The author is from Hawaii and her story is based on stories she heard from her grandmother.

What Worked

I enjoyed the Hawaiian perspective of the war, appreciated hearing about the training for the soldiers, and was saddened about the treatment of the Japanese (the only other time I’ve read about the prejudice against the Japanese is in Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet). Also, I appreciated the realistic story line of a single mom trying to hold it together and the heartbreaking descriptions of ten-year-old Ella suffering from severe anxiety and fear.

Themes

Told from two perspectives (Violet’s and Ella’s), readers will enjoy the strong themes of friendship, hope, loyalty, mother/daughter relationship, secrets, heartbreak and tragedy of war, and the power of choosing love in difficult circumstances.

My Rating: 4 Stars

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Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers

Buy Here

Meet the Author, Sara Ackerman

Sara Ackerman

Born and raised in Hawaii, Sara studied journalism and earned graduate degrees in psychology and Chinese medicine. When she’s not writing or practicing acupuncture, you’ll find her in the mountains or in the ocean.

 

 



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

“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection!
Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text



Looking Ahead

Next week, I’ll review How to Find Love in a Bookshop

How to find love in a bookstore

Amazon information here

What are you reading this week?


Links I Love

Novels and Nonfiction: Top Ten Favorite Classics With Quotes

Top Shelf Text: 50 Books By and About Women of Color
(in celebration of International Women’s Day)

A Wrinkle in Time coming to theaters TODAY March 9! 

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society coming to theaters April 20! 



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 all about what you are 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?