Friday, December 08, 2017

Based on Real-Life Events, Historical Novel Tells a Fascinating, Moving Tale

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Tennessee, 1939—Life for the Foss family is hardly glamorous, but they get by as best they can.  Living on a shantyboat on the Mississippi, they take what the river provides, carving out a life among the colorful riverfolk.  Members of the makeshift community stick to their own.  It's only when Queenie Foss' labor goes awry, progressing beyond what the local midwife can handle, that the family has to seek help elsewhere.  With Queenie and her husband in a Memphis hospital, it's up to 12-year-old Rill to keep her four younger siblings in line until their parents return.  When several days pass with no word from her folks, Rill starts to worry.  Then strangers come to the boat, snatching up all five kids.  Thrust into an orphanage under the tyrannical rule of a woman both cunning and cruel, Rill is terrified.  How could Queenie and Briny have abandoned their children?  What will happen to Rill and her siblings now?

South Carolina, Present Day—The daughter of a wealthy, well-respected senator, 30-year-old Avery Stafford is poised to follow in her father's footsteps.  Not sure how she feels about the prospect or about her upcoming nuptials, she's already a bit rattled.  A chance encounter with a nursing home patient who calls her "Fern" leaves Avery feeling even more unmoored.  She's never questioned her place in the world, or the word of her highly regarded family, but now she's forced to ask a troubling question: Who is Avery Stafford, really?

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate is a fascinating novel based on the real-life antics of Georgia Tann, the woman who ran the Tennessee Children's Home Society from the 1920s through the 40s.  After brokering thousands of adoptions, Tann became the focus of a legal investigation that found her guilty of unethical and illegal behavior, which included fraud, kidnapping and child-trafficking.  Although the orphanage was shut down in 1950, Tann died before charges could be brought against her.  Through the fictional Foss family, Wingate brings the horrors wrought by Tann to vivid life.  What results is a riveting novel that is both compelling and touching.  Despite the disturbing subject around which the story rotates, it's a moving, hopeful tale with a predictable, but very satisfying ending.  I loved Before We Were Yours and I'm not the only one—the novel just won the Goodreads Choice Award for Historical Fiction.  If you enjoy engaging historical fiction, you don't want to miss this one.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of The Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for violence, scenes of peril, and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Simple, No-Fuss Recipes and Ideas Make Newest Six Sisters' Stuff Cookbook a Must for Every Season (with a Giveaway!)

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Although I get most of my recipes online these days, I still love flipping through old-school print cookbooks.  It's fun to explore the culinary possibilities inside their pages, marvel at the drool-worthy food photos, and imagine the ooohhs and aaahhs such delights are certain to elicit.  Who cares if I never actually make any of the recipes?  It's a joy just to think about making them!

I've long been a fan of Six Sisters' Stuff, a website run by—you guessed it—six sisters.  These LDS ladies offer recipes, craft ideas, home decor ideas, etc. that are easy, down-to-Earth, and family-friendly.  I appreciate their no-fuss recipes, especially, because they feature common ingredients that are probably already in your pantry.  The recipes come with clear instructions and glossy photographs.  Bonus: the ones I've tried have been delicious.

Celebrate Every Season, the sisters' newest cookbook, is another fun one.  As its title suggests, the collection is organized by month and focuses on traditional U.S. holiday/seasonal cuisine.  There's a variety of offerings, including snacks, desserts, non-alcoholic drinks, appetizers, etc.  At the end of each month/chapter is a section called "Traditions," which gives additional suggestions for fun ways to celebrate the season.  These include craft/gift ideas, recipes (food and non-food), party tips, and more.  I haven't had the time to try any of the recipes yet, but I've definitely got my eye on some (I'm looking at you, Christmas Tree Brownies!).  

If you haven't quite gotten the picture yet, let me just lay it out for you:  This is a thick, beautiful cookbook that's bursting with awesome.  You definitely want to snag yourself a copy.  It would also make a lovely Christmas or birthday gift for any home cook who digs simple, tasty meals.  What a grand coincidence!  It just so happens that I have an extra copy to give away, courtesy of the lovelies at Shadow Mountain.  I'm even willing to brave the post office in December to get it to the winner by Christmas, so be sure to enter the contest.  See the Rafflecopter below for details. 

(Readalikes:  The Six Sisters have published five other cookbooks, all of which should be available wherever books are sold.  Also, be sure to subscribe to their website for lots of free recipes and more.)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


To the FTC, with love:  I received two finished copies (one to keep, one to give away) of Celebrate Every Season from the generous folks at Shadow Mountain.  Thank you!

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Want to win a gorgeous copy of Celebrate Every Season for your very own?  Use the widget below to enter.  Giveaway is open to readers with U.S. and Canadian mailing addresses only.  Contest ends December 18, 2017.  Book will be mailed December 19, 2017—in plenty of time for Christmas giving 😀 


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Steampunk-ish Alternate New York City MG Adventure Fun and Inventive

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

New York City has always been an exciting place full of life, energy, and mystery.  In the alternate city presented in York by Laura Ruby, it's even more so.  It's all thanks to the Morningstarrs, a set of twins who arrive in 1798 to create a technologically-advanced city full of wondrous marvels the likes of which the world has never seen.  The pair realize some of their ambitions, but disappear without a trace in 1855.  Their most enduring legacy?  The Old New York Cipher, a puzzle with clues based on the glittering city itself, ostensibly leads to untold wealth.  Now, nearly 200 years since the Morningstarrs vanished, no one has come anywhere close to solving the cipher.  Many doubt its existence, seeing the whole mess as a joke left behind by troublesome pranksters.

Tess Biederman doesn't agree with the skeptics.  In fact, the 13-year-old is determined to solve the cipher once and for all.  If she fails, her family could lose the home where Bidermanns have been living for one hundred years.  She can't let her beloved building, one of the original Morningstarr constructions, fall into the hands of some soulless developer.  Especially when he's about as sketchy as they come.  Along with her twin brother and their friend Jamie Cruz, Tess will solve the cipher.  She won't stop until she's able to save her home—and that will only happen when she has the Morningstarr treasure in her hands.  Of course, it won't be easy to solve a 200-year-old mystery, especially when you're not the only one hot on the tail of an answer that leads to wealth untold ...

From its striking cover to its action-filled plot, York—the first installment in a planned series—provides a fun, inventive adventure story that has timeless appeal.  It also offers a mystery that's intelligent and compelling.  Young readers will appreciate the nod to their acumen.  They might, however, be put off by the novel's length and detail, both of which do require some patience.  Their fortitude will pay off in the end as York really is an entertaining romp.  It definitely gets long, but it's worth it.  Mostly. True, I didn't absolutely love the book—I did enjoy it overall, though. 

(Readalikes:  Reminds me a little of Escape From Mr. Lemoncello's Library by Chris Grabenstein)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for violence

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of York from the generous folks at HarperCollins.  Thank you!

Monday, December 04, 2017

Appalachian Snow White Retelling Inventive, Intriguing

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Snow-in-Summer Martin lives an idyllic life in the lush mountains of Appalachia.  She frolics in the hills with her lovely mother and wraps herself in the magic of her father's abundant garden.  With a baby on the way, the Martins are all feeling especially content.  For them, life is simple but happy.

Everything changes when the infant and his mother die.  Paralyzed with grief, Lemuel Morton barely seems to remember that he has a daughter.  If it weren't for the kindly ministrations of Cousin Nancy, Snow-in-Summer would be completely forgotten.  Things get even worse when Lemuel marries a mysterious woman whom Snow is convinced must be a witch.  As life becomes increasingly difficult for the young woman, she makes a horrifying discovery—Stepmama, whose power feeds off the life force of others, has plans for her bewitching stepdaughter.  Very sinister plans, indeed ...

I find the people and culture of Appalachia endlessly intriguing, so when Lark recommended Snow in Summer by Jane Yolen to me, I knew I had to read it.  I've never been a big fan of Snow White, but the mountain setting with its natural beauty and magic, both charming and chilling, kept me riveted to the page.  The story is familiar, of course, but Yolen adds enough intrigue to make the tale interesting.  While I didn't absolutely adore the novel, overall I found it entertaining and enjoyable.  

(Readalikes:  A little like Fairest and Winter, both by Marissa Meyer)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for brief, mild language (no F-bombs) and violence

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

Friday, December 01, 2017

Mobile Bookshop Rom-Com A Warm, Fun Read

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

There's nothing 29-year-old Nina Redmond likes more than a swoony, satisfying happily ever after.  Whether that sweeping high comes from her own reading or from helping a hungry reader find the right book, it doesn't matter.  As a London librarian, Nina's greatest joy comes from seeing the perfect HEAs come to fruition.  If only she could find one for herself.

When Nina becomes redundant at work, she's adrift, wondering how to find meaning in her newly unemployed state.  Before she can talk herself out of it, she finds herself traveling to the Scottish Highlands to buy an old bus.  In her mind's eye, she can see what the rusty vehicle is truly meant to be—a mobile bookshop.  London has no need for such a thing, but the folks in tiny Kirrinfief do.  As Nina sets about turning her dream into reality, she becomes more and more comfortable in the tiny Scottish village.  Is it possible she's stumbled upon not just her life's calling, but also a place where she can truly feel at home?  Between her new business challenges, the attention of a handsome Latvian train driver, and the relationship she thinks she might be building with her enigmatic sheep-farming landlord, Nina's once humdrum life has taken some surprising, very intriguing new turns.  What's lurking at the end of that twisty road?  Could it be Nina's long-awaited, much sought-after happily ever after?  

The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan is a warm, fun novel about the power of books to transform lives and communities.  It's also about the risk and rewards of taking a chance, even (especially?) a crazy one.  Nina's a lovable heroine whose passion will resonate with anyone who loves books.  Her antics are entertaining and it's easy to root for her happiness.  Perhaps Nina's HEA, especially with her business, comes without enough struggle (as was suggested by my friend Jenny in her recent review of this novel), but that doesn't bother me all that much.  I enjoyed this one, however far-fetched it may be.  This was my first foray into Colgan territory, but it certainly won't be my last.

(Readalikes:  I feel like I should be able to think of a million comparable titles, but nothing's coming to mind.  Help?)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for language (a few F-bombs, plus milder expletives), sexual innuendo, and mild sexual content

To the FTC, with love:  The Bookshop on the Corner came from my personal library, although I'm not sure how it got there.  #bookhoarderproblems

Thursday, November 30, 2017

YA Epilepsy Novel Compassionate, Hopeful

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Emilie Day likes her small, predictable world which consists of comfortable, time-worn routines: going to school in her pajamas, binge-watching old movies, reading endless books, and spending time with her canine BFF.  With her therapy dog always by her side, she knows she can handle the epileptic seizures that sometimes overtake her.  Even though she's still grieving the loss of her dad, Emilie has her kind mother, her faithful pooch, and an orderly universe where she is safe from outside scrutiny and public humiliation.  It's enough.

When Mrs. Day decides it's time for Emilie to start attending public school for the first time in her life, Emilie freaks.  What if she seizes at school?  The thought of a bunch of judge-y strangers watching her flail around, maybe even pee herself?  Beyond terrifying.  Emilie absolutely cannot let anyone at school know about her epilepsy.  All she has to do is keep her condition secret for three months—the trial period her mom is insisting on—and she'll be back at home 24/7 where she belongs.

To her complete shock, Emilie immediately attracts the attention of the hottest guy in school.  Against all odds, Chatham York actually seems to like her like her.  Obviously, that will end as soon as he finds out what a freak she is.  When the inevitable happens, Emilie will have to choose—hide away forever or take a chance on a brave, new life.

The Thing With Feathers by McCall Hoyle is a clean, uplifting YA novel about trying to fit in when you can't help but stand out.  It tells a hopeful story that will resonate with teens who feel out of place among their peers for any reason.  The tale is familiar and predictable, without a lot of originality to set it apart.  Emilie is empathetic, but not all that likable.  Her whining, self-pity, and selfishness make her hard to take at times.  She's more realistic than Chatham, though, who's too perfect to feel real.  Because of these issues, I didn't end up loving The Thing With Feathers.  I do, however, appreciate its timely messages about compassion, hope, and the importance of stepping out of our comfort zones in order to grow.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me a little of Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for mild sexual innuendo

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of The Thing With Feathers from the generous folks at Blink via those at PR By the Book.  Thank you!

  

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

TTT: Where in the World Did You Go, 2017?


I don't know how you're doing on your 2017 reading goals, but I'm still 54 books behind! My aim  was to read 200 books this year.  I've made the same goal for several years in a row and have never achieved it.  It looks like I probably won't make it this year either.  Oh well. I at least want to beat last year's high of 152 and it would be super swell if I could break my record of 186, which I hit in 2011.  We'll see.  

With this in mind, I've definitely been pondering which books I still want to get to before 2017 comes to a close.  So, I'm going to tweak the Top Ten Tuesday topic today and talk about the Top Ten Books I Want to Read Before 2017 Ends.  The *real* topic is the Top Ten Book on Your Winter TBR List.  Yesterday's high here in the Phoenix area was 81; with record-breaking heat still on the horizon, it doesn't feel very wintery here anyway ...

Before I get to my list, though, I want to encourage you to join in the TTT fun.  This is a great meme, which always helps me find new books to try and new blogs to love.  All you have to do to get on this party train is click on over to The Broke and the Bookish, read some quick instructions, make your own list, and start hopping around the book blogosphere.  Easy peasy.  You don't want to miss it!

Okay, here we go with the Top Ten Books I Want to Read Before 2017 Ends


1.  The Disappearances by Emily Bain Murphy—I'm actually cheating on this one since I finished it last night.  I wanted to mention it, though, because it has been one of my most anticipated reads of the year and it totally delivered.  The cover makes The Disappearances look like a horror novel, but it's not at all.  I'm not sure what genre it is exactly, but I loved the story's intriguing blend of mystery and magic set against a WWII backdrop.  It's an original, intelligent tale that is both enchanting and absorbing.  The Disappearances might just be the best novel I've read this year!


2.  I'll Keep You Safe by Peter May—I adore this Scottish author and his broody mysteries set in the Hebrides.  One of the lovely publicists at Quercus, who knows what a fan girl I am, just sent me a copy of his newest standalone, which doesn't come out until March.  I can't wait to dig in!


3.  As Bright As Heaven by Susan Meissner—I've enjoyed several of Meissner's books, so I'm excited to read her newest.  The novel doesn't come out until February 2018, but there's an ARC winging its way to me even as I write this.  The book is about a couple who arrive in Philadelphia in 1918, excited to give their young daughters a bright new life in the city.  When Spanish influenza hits, their dreams are shattered, and they must find a way to endure a harsh new reality.  The novel sounds sad, but compelling.


4.  Reading People by Anne Bogel—I've mentioned this book before, but I still haven't gotten to it so it remains on my TBR list mountain mountain chain.  I was originally drawn to this title because I thought it had to do with bibliophiles.  Not so.  It's about personality.  I've always been intrigued by pop-psy, so I'm definitely up for a read of this one, which happens to be written by one of our own.  Bogel blogs about books at Modern Mrs. Darcy.


5.  A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens—I try to re-read this holiday classic every Christmas.  It's timeless and inspiring.


6.  Far From the Tree by Robin Benway—Ever since experiencing the joys of adoption for myself, the subject has become a very tender one for me.  I'm always drawn to books about adoption, so this one has been on my TBR pile ever since it came out in October.  It's about what happens when a teen girl goes searching for her biological siblings. 


7.  The Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times by Jennifer Worth—I don't watch a lot of t.v., but I've recently become addicted to Call the Midwife, the heartfelt BBC drama based on Worth's memoirs.  It's a warm, funny, heartbreaking series that never fails to make me cry (which is why I only watch it when I'm alone).  I'm eager to read Worth's stories in her own words.



8.  My Sister's Bones by Nuala Ellwood—Sisters and secrets?  I'm all in.



9.  The Dark Intercept by Julia Keller—I've enjoyed Keller's Appalachian mystery series starring Bell Elkins, so I'm intrigued by her newest, a YA sci fi adventure.  It sounds epic!


10.  The Girl Who Came Home by Hazel Gaynor—I've never read anything by Gaynor, but I'm intrigued by this back-and-forth-in-time novel about the Titanic.  I find books about the maritime tragedy endlessly fascinating.  

So, there you go.  What do you think of my list?  Have you read any of these books?  What else should I read before the year fades away?  What are you planning to read in the next month or so?  I'd really love to know, so please leave me a comment.  I'll gladly return the favor.  

Happy TTT!      

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Welcome to Another Edition of My Dental Hygienist Is Cooler Than Your Dental Hygienist ...

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

"Addictive tech is part of the mainstream in a way that additive substances never will be.  Abstinence is not an option" (9).

I don't know about the rest of you, but I see my dental hygienist to get book recommendations.  Teeth schmeeth!  We chat about what we're reading.  My hygienist ingests a lot of non-fiction, a genre I tend to avoid, so I'm always excited when she steers me toward intriguing, informational texts.  When she started telling me recently about Irresistible by NYU professor Adam Alter, I knew I had to read it.  I'm glad I did, too.  It's an utterly fascinating book that sheds a harsh, eye-opening light on the addictive power of modern tech.

Alter begins by defining behavioral addiction as different from alcoholism, overeating, drug abuse, etc.  Behavioral addictions, he says, "arise when a person can't resist a behavior, which despite addressing a deep psychological need in the short-term, produces significant harm in the long-term" (20).  He cites examples of people so obsessed with playing video games that they don't eat, sleep, or socialize off-line for days on end.  Others can't look away from their phones long enough to push their child on a swing or converse with their partner at a restaurant.  These obsessions are dangerous to the addict's health as well as to that of those around them in ways both physical (driving while texting, for example) and emotional (ignoring one's child or spouse).  Even more disturbing, Alter says, is that these devices, games, and apps are purposely engineered to be addictive.

As chilling as Alter's descriptions may be, he also offers a glimmer of hope.  He talks about successful treatments being used at recovery centers for behavioral addicts.  He also recommends setting limits on screen time, especially for young children, and encouraging them to engage in real-life interactions.  The best way to stop an addiction, of course, is never to start one.  To that end, Alter proposes monitoring the use of addictive technology—both in ourselves and in our children—very closely.  After all, he says, "There isn't a bright line between addicts and the rest of us.  We're all one product or experience away from developing our own addictions" (4).  

Although Alter discusses all kinds of scientific studies and terms, Irresistible is written in a conversational tone that makes it easy to read.  The topic is compelling, Alter's examples are spot-on, and his message of warning comes across loud and clear.  This is an important book, one that is both timely and life-altering.  You're definitely going to want to put down your iPhone and give it a read.

(Readalikes:  I don't usually read books like this, so nothing is coming to mind.  Ideas?)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for language (a few F-bombs, plus milder expletives) and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Worth the Wrestle Insightful, Inspiring

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, we're taught that if we follow the teachings of the Gospel faithfully, everything we experience in life will work out for our good.  Sometimes we foolishly expect this to mean we will never struggle—not financially, not in our relationships, not with our faith, not with the doctrine of the Church.  This is simply not so.  Everyone has their challenges, even if they are earnestly striving every day to live the Gospel.  When these complications come, how do faithful LDS people react?  How should we react?  We're taught to "hold to the rod", look to the Lord, and have faith that He knows what He's doing.  If we do this, we won't question our God, our faith, our Church leaders, the purpose of our challenges, etc.  Too often questioning is frowned upon because it is equated with doubt and unbelief.  But is questioning really so bad?

According to Sheri Dew—current CEO of Deseret Book Publishing Company, a former member of the Relief Society General Presidency, and a popular author and speaker—questions are good.  In her new book, Worth the Wrestle, she says questions should not be seen as threats to our testimonies.  Quite the opposite.  "...questions asked against a backdrop of faith," she says, "and with an earnest desire to learn always lead to spiritual growth and a stronger testimony."  Not asking questions can, in fact, block learning, progression, revelation, and whisperings of the Spirit.  


After offering these refreshing insights, Dew goes on to discuss related topics like how to receive personal revelation, how to stand as a witness even if we don't know everything, and how and why we need to wrestle with our questions.  Most meaningful for me, personally, was the section on understanding the personalized way in which the Lord speaks to us.  I also appreciated Dew's constant reassurance that although receiving answers takes both time and work, if you put in the effort, those answers will come.

If you've ever read a book by Dew or heard her speak, you know her words are always marked by her trademark warmth, wit, and down-to-earth wisdom.  No matter how profound the topic she's addressing, she makes it accessible.  This is the reason I love Worth the Wrestle so much.  It's deep, yes, but not so much that you have to re-read every sentence three times to understand what Dew's saying.  I came away from the read feeling enlightened and inspired, not confused or headache-y from trying to understand.  Dew's approach always resonates with me.  I read Worth the Wrestle at exactly the right time and highly recommend it to anyone who's looking for an insightful, uplifting, and inspiring read.

(Readalikes:  Hm, nothing's coming to mind.  Ideas?)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of Worth the Wrestle from the generous folks at Deseret Book.  Thank you!

Friday, November 17, 2017

Episodic, Unfocused Plot Makes South African Historical Romance Less Enjoyable Than Expected

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Lettie Louw has always felt different from her girlfriends, who are beautiful, flirtatious, and adept at attracting masculine attention.  Getting her heart broken as a teenager propels her to seek education, not love.  After medical school she returns to her small South African hometown to work in her father's clinic.  All around her, Lettie's former classmates are getting married and having children.  Love still eludes the young doctor, who throws herself into her career.  Fulfilled but still lonely, Lettie tries to ignore the aching in her heart, the longing for a blissful romance of her own.  

Marco Romanelli has suffered a broken heart of his own.  After risking everything to protect the Jewish woman he loved, being thrown into a Nazi concentration camp, and barely surviving with his life, he's still trying to recover his health.  When his brother invites him to leave their native Italy and join him in South Africa, Marco goes, hoping the warm, dry climate will help clear his vulnerable lungs.  The last thing he expects is to fall in love with his physician, an intriguing woman who doesn't recognize her own beauty and strength.  

As Lettie and Marco take tentative steps toward the kind of grand romance neither one of them ever expected to find, they encounter stumbling blocks big and small.  When a heartbreaking discovery threatens to tear their world apart, the couple will have to travel a crooked, unimaginable path that will take them in an unexpected direction.  Can their faith and love see them through?

It's hard to describe The Crooked Path by South African author Irma Joubert because, truly, the novel has no plot.  It tells a sweeping story that spans Lettie's lifetime, but it's an unfocused, episodic tale that plods along for nearly 400 pages without really going anywhere.  In trying to cover too much ground, it's unevenly paced, which makes it feel even longer.  I appreciate that the story is squeaky clean and uplifting without being preachy; still, the tome was a chore for me to read.  Maybe Joubert's prose was more impressive before being translated into English, but in the version I read, it's very passive, very flat, and very dull.  The characters are all (well, mostly) perfectly nice—they're also one-dimensional, boring, and pretty much interchangeable.  Overall, then, I just had a difficult time reading The Crooked Path.  While it comes to a satisfying conclusion, the read was not worth the effort for me.  Ah, well.

(Readalikes:  Hm, I'm not sure to what I can compare it.  Ideas?)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for violence and scenes of peril

To the FTC, with love:  I received an ARC of The Crooked Path from the generous folks at Thomas Nelson via those at TLC Book Tours.  Thank you!

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Want more opinions of The Crooked Path?  Follow along on the book's blog tour by visiting the sites below:

Monday, October 23rd: Read-Love-Blog – spotlight
Thursday, October 26th: From the TBR Pile – spotlight
Friday, October 27th: Dwell in Possibility
Monday, October 30th: Fiction Aficionado
Tuesday, October 31st: View from the Birdhouse
Wednesday, November 1st: OMG Reads – spotlight
Thursday, November 2nd: Reviews from the Heart
Friday, November 3rd: Savvy Verse & Wit
Friday, November 3rd: A Chick Who Reads
Monday, November 6th: Diary of a Stay at Home Mom
Tuesday, November 7th: Write Read Life
Wednesday, November 8th: Jathan & Heather
Thursday, November 9th: Read Eat Repeat
Monday, November 13th: Katy’s Library blog and Instagram
Tuesday, November 14th: Just One More Chapter
Wednesday, November 15th: Books & Bindings
Thursday, November 16th: Cheryl’s Book Nook
Friday, November 17th: Bloggin’ ‘Bout Books
Monday, November 20th: Suzy Approved
Tuesday, November 21st: Splashes of Joy
Wednesday, November 22nd: The Sketchy Reader

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Authentic and Uplifting, Forget Me Not an Enjoyable, Empathy-Inducing Read

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

It's hard enough trying to fit in when you're constantly the new girl, but when you have Tourette Syndrome (TS) to boot, it's pretty much impossible.  Calliope "Calli" Snow knows this only too well.  After her mother's latest breakup, the two of them land in St. George, Utah.  Even though she knows she shouldn't, Calli dares to hope this move might be different.  Maybe this time they'll stay in one place for longer than a month, maybe this time she'll be able to make a friend, maybe pigs will suddenly sprout wings and take to the air ...

When a strange girl dressed in weird clothes with golden hair streaming down her back moves into his apartment building, Jinsong P'eng finds himself very intrigued.  The more he gets to know Calli, the more he likes her.  But being friends with someone like her—someone who dresses funny and acts like a freak—is social suicide for a popular guy like Jin.  Can he really afford to take that risk?  This isn't the baseball field; it's real life.  Will he stick his neck out for the vulnerable new girl?

Like Wonder before it, Forget Me Not by Ellie Terry tells the story of a child who longs to be accepted in spite of the things that make them different.  Told in alternating verse and prose, the novel shares Calli's tale from two perspectives—that of an insider (Calli) and that of an outsider (Jin).  Although Forget Me Not is lighthearted overall, the fears and insecurities of both narrators come across loud and clear.  Because Ellie Terry has TS, Calli's perspective rings especially true.  Without feeling heavy-handed, Forget Me Not illustrates the importance of acceptance, the power of empathy, and the joy that can be found in even the most likely of friendships.  Authentic and uplifting, this quick, enjoyable read will resonate with anyone who's ever felt out of place.  And, really, isn't that all of us?

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of Wonder by R.J. Palacio and Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Intriguing MG WWII Novel Sheds Light on Plight of Ukrainian Child Slaves

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Lida Ferezuk isn't Jewish, but that doesn't stop the Nazis from killing her parents and taking her and her younger sister captive.  Their crime?  The Ferezuks are Ukrainian.  According to the Germans, their country no longer exists.  They are now Russian and thus eligible to be put to work for the Nazis.  Even though Lida is only nine, she's forcibly separated from her sister and sent to a labor camp.  Knowing she must be useful in order to survive the upcoming ordeal, Lida lies about her age and vows to stay as strong as possible.

When Lida is ordered to work at a bomb factory assembling explosives for the Nazis, she sees an opportunity to finally fight back against a cruel and vicious enemy.  With eyes on her all the time, it's a huge risk that could cost her her life.  Already weak from starvation and wracked with fear, does she dare to put what little she has left on the line?  If her plan fails, she'll lose everything, including the chance to ever see her sister again.  

Making Bombs for Hitler by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch is a harrowing middle grade novel based on the real Ukrainian slave raids that occurred during World War II.  I didn't know much at all about this topic, so it was interesting to read about it.  Disturbing, but fascinating.  Lida makes for a sympathetic narrator.  It's impossible not to root for her as she tries to help those around her, looks for beauty in even the darkest places, and longs for a reunion with her beloved sister.  The story moves along swiftly, ensuring a quick, exciting read that's as informative as it is interesting.  While Making Bombs for Hitler didn't knock my socks off, I definitely found the novel a worthwhile read. 

Readalikes:  Reminds me of other middle grade WWII novels, including The Devil's Arithmetic by Jane Yolen; Number the Stars by Lois Lowry; and Prisoner B-3087 by Alan Gratz)

Grade:



If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for violence, blood/gore, and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  I borrowed a copy of Making Bombs for Hitler from my daughter's elementary school library.


Monday, November 13, 2017

Eerie Gothic Overtones Make Hawkins' Newest An Atmospheric Psychological Thriller

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

For hundreds of years, the women of Beckford have been dying in a part of the local river that's become known as the "Drowning Pool."  Whether the dead chose a watery grave for themselves or were forced off the craggy cliffs surrounding the spot is part of its mystery.  Nel Abbott has always been obsessed with the Drowning Pool, so much so that she's crafting a coffee table book about its history.  When Nel becomes the latest in a long string of difficult women to die in the Drowning Pool, no one's overly surprised.  After all, the photographer spent lots of time on the cliffs, trying to capture the perfect photo.  She could easily have lost her footing, accidentally plunging to her death.  The more evidence that mounts, however, the more it appears that something much more sinister happened to Nel Abbott ...

Nel's younger sister, Jules, arrives in Beckford—the town to which she swore she would never return—to try to understand Nel's death.  She's also charged with the care of her newly orphaned niece.  Already haunted by the recent suicide of her best friend, who killed herself in the Drowning Pool, 15-year-old Lena grows even more surly and withdrawn in the wake of Nel's death.  Jules, a lonely, childless social worker, has no idea how to comfort Lena, let alone herself.  

Jules is desperate to know what really happened to her sister; her inquiries, however, produce more questions than answers.  Someone in tiny Beckford knows the truth.  Everyone is hiding something, but no one's talking.  Can Jules figure out how Nel died?  Or will her pointed questions lead to her own corpse being dragged out of the murky depths of the Drowning Pool?

With its eerie Gothic overtones, Into the Water by Paula Hawkins, is an atmospheric novel that's as haunting as it is compelling.  It's more layered than The Girl On the Train, but somehow less original.  Still, the story kept me turning pages far into the night.  As engrossing as the tale is, it's also sad and depressing.  Overall, I found it intriguing but not nearly as mesmerizing as Hawkins' debut.  Even though I'm not bowled over by the author's sophomore effort, I'm still anxious to see what she does next.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of novels by Carol Goodman and of the Jess Tennant trilogy by Jane Casey)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for strong language, violence, disturbing subject matter, and depictions of prescription drug abuse

To the FTC, with love:  I bought a copy of Into the Water from Amazon with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger.  Ha ha.


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