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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: book review, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 26 - 50 of 2,789
26. By the Stars by Lindsay B. Ferguson




By the Stars by Lindsay B. Ferguson

Over the years, I have been asked to review many, many, many books. Because I haven't blogged often in the last couple years, I have mostly ignored email requests for reviews. When Lindsay B. Ferguson emailed me, I had to chuckle. She is my neighbor, and I was aware of her upcoming debut novel, but she didn't realize who I was. :) I told her that I'm a blogging slacker, and we decided not to have my blog be part of her big blog tour. You see...It gets sticky reviewing books for people you know. What if you hate it?

But...I bought the book on my Kindle the day it was released, and I wasn't just pleasantly surprised, I LOVED IT. I love that it is based on a true story, and I can't wait to talk to Lindsay about what exactly is history and what she created. I love the characters. I love the romance. I love it all. And you know what it really made me want to do? Like big time? Go dancing! Can we resurrect dance halls, please?

I know that among my friends, Edenbrooke by Julianne Donaldson, was extremely well-liked. Edenbrooke was the first in a collection of "Proper Romances". For friends who love Edenbrooke and other clean romance novels, By the Stars should be your next read!

From Amazon: "When Cal finally gets a chance with Kate, the girl he's loved since grade school, their easy friendship quickly blossoms into a meaningful romance. Spirited and independent, Kate keeps a guarded heart due to a painful past, and Cal wants nothing more than to gain her trust. But World War II soon cuts their time far too short, and Cal prepares to part from her - possibly for good. After he's gone, what Kate does next changes everything. 

In the suffocating jungles of the Philippines Cal encounters the chilling life of a soldier and deadly battles of war. With Kate's memory willing him on, Cal must put his trust in God to survive if he hopes to ever return to her. Inspired by a true story, By the Stars is a love story that stands the test of time and the most intense obstacles."

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27. Book Review: The Fallout by S.A. Bodeen

Title: The Fallout
Author: SA Bodeen
Published: 2013
Source: Local Library
Summary: After living for six years in an underground bunker, mistakenly believing that the world had ended aboveground (and that his twin perished in the apocalypse), Eli and his family are trying to readjust to the real world - which was not destroyed. But their father's deception isn't over yet.
First Impressions: A pretty reasonable teen suspense novel, if a little on the quiet side for the genre. I really liked that Eli is very much a caretaker of his younger brothers and sisters, and in some ways his older sister. This nurturing aspect isn't one you see in teen male characters enough.
Later On: I think you really have to have read Bodeen's prequel, The Compound, to understand a lot of the family undercurrents that are moving underneath this story, particularly the messy stew of guilt and resentment that festers between Eli and his twin brother as they try to readjust to having each other again.
I think this did wrap up a lot of the threads from the earlier book, especially the uneasy adjustment to actually living outside the bunker again. The subplot about their older sister's parentage felt a little tacked on until it folded into the main story about their father's deceptions and machinations.
More: I couldn't find a review to share from my blogroll, probably because this is three years old. If you reviewed this, let me know!

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28. Book Review: The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow

Title: The Scorpion Rules
Author: Erin Bow
Published: 2015
Source: NetGalley
Summary: Far in the future, most wars have been suppressed by a world-level AI, who holds children of world leaders hostage and kills them if their parents declare war on each other. Greta is one of these "prisoners of peace", resigned to her lot, resolved to face her possible fate with dignity. Into her calm, ordered existence comes Elian, neither resigned nor dignified, and shakes her world down to its foundations.
First Impressions: THIS DESTROYED ME ON AN EMOTIONAL LEVEL OH HELP
Later On: Now that I've calmed down.
This is an ugly book.
This is a beautiful book.
This is a book about people and AIs and countries and politics that are all ugly and beautiful and flawed and amazing. My favorite character was Tallis, the megalomaniac AI who holds all their lives in his digital hand, and somehow manages to convince you that his approach actually makes sense. Until you remember that he's a megalomaniac AI who's basically holding the entire world hostage. And then he's still actually one of my favorite characters.
My favorite thing about it was that Elian was not Greta's love interest. He becomes very special to her. He forces her to rethink the world and herself, but the love story is between her and fellow princess/prisoner Xie. That said, their love story never would have happened except for the way that Greta's worldview changes after Elian comes on the scene, so it's all interwoven in the most beautiful of ways.
I'll be honest. If you weren't able to handle the Hunger Games' level of brutality and harrowing personal choices, you will struggle with The Scorpion Rules. But this is a book that's worth the discomfort and the emotional destruction, for the questions it asks about duty, politics, personal freedom, and the individual's obligation to the world.
More: A Chair, a Fireplace, and a Tea Cozy
Charlotte's Library

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29. Book Review: Earth Girl by Janet Edwards

Title: Earth Girl
Author: Janet Edwards
Published: 2013
Source: Local Library
Summary: Born with a rare allergy to anywhere besides planet Earth, Jarra is shackled to the home soil, mocked and derided by the rest of humanity who are living among the stars. Tired of being called an ape and a throwback, she pretends to be a regular human when she enters college (an archaeological program that takes place in the ruins of New York City), but it's a deception that can't last forever.
First Impressions: Really interesting world and setup, but I felt distanced from the characters and stakeless.
Later On: For a girl with so many roadblocks supposedly in her way, Jarra sure seemed to sail right through all her difficulties, including her budding relationship with fellow student and non-"ape" Fian. She was also good at everything, although the author provided excellent logic for it due to her Earth upbringing.
The world-building was pretty nifty and intricate, even if the author did occasionally bring the whole story to a screeching halt to tell us about the war between Planet A and Planet B that did Thing C to the interplanetary relations.
I guess my reaction to this could be summed up with "the things that annoyed me and the things that the author gave us good reasons for were, in fact, the same damn things, WTF."
More: Charlotte's Library articulates some of my feelings on this, and also brings the perspective of an Actual Archaeologist.

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30. Using “Under the Mesquite” to Help Medical Students Gain Cultural Awareness

We are always excited to hear about uniquGuest Bloggere ways in which our books are being used, and were thrilled to come across this review of Under the Mesquite that outlines how to use the book in a very special way: to help medical students gain cultural awareness and insight into the experiences of patients from different backgrounds. Author Mark Kuczewski kindly gave us permission to cross-post this review from the Reflective MedEd blog.

Helping medical students to gain cultural awareness and insight into the experience of patients and families from backgrounds different than their own is no small task.  And the search for poignant materials that are easily fit within the demanding environment of a medical school curriculum is never-ending. The good news is that I can unequivocally recommend Under the Mesquite by Guadalupe Garcia McCall (Lee & Low Books, 2011). This narrative will help students to gain insight into the meaning of illness within families, especially within the context of a particular contemporary newly-arrived Mexican-American family…

The author, known as “Lupita” within the story, recounts experiences from her high school years when her mother suffered from cancer and underwent extensive treatment, sometimes for long periods at a medical center far from home. Because the author’s father accompanies his wife on these journeys, Lupita, the oldest daughter, takes on responsibility for the family. We are treated to her perspective in coping with her mother’s illness from spy work to find out the secreto that the adults guard in their hushed whispers to the difficulties that come when her parents are away such as being unable to keep order among her siblings. Lupita paints a portrait of a prudent family that begins a savings account with the birth of each child but whose resources are exhausted by the medical bills leaving her struggling each day to procure food to put on the table. And we come to know the importance of the arts, acting in school plays and writing in journals, as means to channel her anxieties and craft something beautiful.Under the Mesquite cover image

Of course, the particular flavor of the narrative comes from the perspective of one who has significant roots on both sides of the border. She simultaneously gives us a window into the challenges of growing up bicultural and navigating the conflicting demands of loyalty to la familia that nurtured her and pursuing the dream of achieving a different kind of life that is available in the new world. The author lets us taste the bittersweet nature of this ambivalence both in her day-to-day growth as she is accused by her adolescent peers of trying to be something she is not as she loses her accent and in the more profound and cyclical heartbreak of separation. She relates her grief at abandoning her precious sunflowers when her father uproots her from her familiar home in Mexico and she in turn must break his heart as she heads off to college to pursue her dreams.

In sum, this book is among the most usable I’ve found with medical students for two reasons. First, it meets the main requirement of being an enjoyable and quick read. This autobiographical account is most likely to be devoured within a single day.  The author is a superb writer and some of our medical students repeatedly commented that they wish she said more in most passages. Second, she enables us to easily identify with her struggles. Because all adults were once adolescents, we have a framework regarding the struggle for self-discovery and identity into which her cultural context is infused. She enables us to access the different through the familiar. Guadalupe Garcia McCall is a first-rate guide and mentor to those of us who seek insight into the Mexican-American experience and the particular strengths and means of coping that a family steeped in this hybrid culture might possess.

Mark G. Kuczewski, PhD, is the Chair of the Department of Medical Education and the Director of the Neiswanger Institute for Bioethics at the Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.


Purchase Under the Mesquite by Guadalupe Garcia McCall here.

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31. Book Review: Spinning Starlight by R.C. Lewis

Title: Spinning Starlight
Author: R.C. Lewis
Published: 2015
Source: Netgalley
Summary: A retelling of Hans Christian Anderson's The Wild Swans - iiiiiiin spaaaaaaaaaaace. Liddi is the youngest daughter of a famous family of inventors, one who has so far failed to make her mark. After her many brothers are kidnapped and imprisoned between dimensions Liddi escapes her home planet and flees to one that's been cut off from the rest of the system for eons. She's still cursed to silence by a chip in her throat that will kill her brothers if she speaks a word, and she somehow must find a way to free her brothers.
First Impressions: I liked the inclusion of Liddi's fame and her mental newscasts. The plot spent a lot of time floundering around on the new planet before she actually started doing things though.
Later On: This didn't stick with me very well, but I thought the whole idea of different planets and the brothers being caught in hyperspace wormholes as a stand-in for transformation into swans was a neat one. I always enjoy a fairy tale retelling, especially when things are tweaked to fit into the world they're set in.
More: I had a terrible time finding reviews of this amongst my favorite blogs. If you reviewed it, let me know!

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32. Book Review: Daughters Unto Devils by Amy Lukavics

Title: Daughters Unto Devils
Author: Amy Lukavics
Published: 2015
Source: NetGalley
Summary: Pregnant (what was with me and the pregnant girls this month?) and trying to hide it, Amanda Verner goes with her parents and her family to what they think will be a wonderful new homestead on the prairie. AHAHAHA. They are soooooo wrong.
First Impressions: This was horrific. And the ending was a complete downer. Pitfall of the genre.
Later On: Somehow I keep reading horror novels even when I know how much I hate the darkness of them. So take this review with that particular grain of salt. It's not the gore I mind so much (although this one was pretty extreme in this book, both directly and by way of horrifying images), but the creeping feeling that the dark is undefeatable and only rarely escapable. However, if that's what you like, this is the book for you.
Aside from that, this didn't hang together terribly well for me, and the explanations furnished about why various characters acted the way they did were too little, too late. And I would have liked a little history about why that patch of prairie was particularly haunted or cursed.
More: Bookshelves of Doom reviewed this for Kirkus and she liked it a whole lot more than I did.

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33. If you’re a Gutsy Girl-Read This!

gutsy girl

March is Women’s History Month and we’re bringing the month to a close by celebrating in grand style. Before women make their history, they first had to have some focus, bravery, and perseverance to get them there. Let’s face it, all women have hurdles to jump over, but every woman that makes, and contributes, to history qualifies as a “Gusty Girl!”

Before we continue, we need to pause for a…..

WARNING !!!

” Many of the situations that the author encounters in this book have inherent dangers and can lead to serious or even fatal injuries. One particular undertaking-Climbing the Golden Gate Bridge-is also illegal and should not be attempted. Readers should not venture into any of these situations without professional instruction, suitable training, and proper supervision. Neither the publisher nor the author assumes ay responsibility for any injuries incurred by the reader.”

This is the first page of one of the greatest reads of the year. You’re probably in one of two camps after reading this warning. The first camp can’t wait to find out what could be in this book to create such a warning and the second camp will run as fast as they can. Just so you know, I’m in the first camp BUT I greatly advise people of the second camp to take a deep breath and read it anyway. There’s something for everyone to help unveil the gutsy in all of us.

First I had to know more about that Golden Gate Bridge story and second I just had to know more about author Caroline Paul, what type of woman is she and what escapades in her life led her to write a guidebook for tween girls about creating such adventures? The Gutsy Girl:Escapades for Your Life of Epic Adventure is probably one of the finest reads I’ve picked up so far in 2016.

gutsy girl guide cover

Backstory

Author Caroline Paul was one of the first women on the San Franciso firefighting force as well as an experimental plane pilot, throughout the pages of her book we also learn that she is a recovering/rescue scuba diver. All this from a woman who says she was the biggest scaredy cat in the world as a child. Caroline greatly believes that girls are taught to be frightened by being instilled with the language of “fear”, while boys are fed that bravery and resilience are the goals to aspire to.

The Gutsy Girl: Escapades of Your Life of Epic Adventure is her antidote to empower tween girls to embrace their own bravery and resilience. This book is FUNNY and extremely imaginative and really intelligently written. Inside she shares her own stories one by one and the lessons and bravery she learned. Not all of them have happy endings but all of them have a take away to a new understanding of who she is or was at that time. This book is also part manifesto using language, insights, and encouragement into bravery and shear gutsiness. This is a guidebook however, and guidebooks mean you have to take action. Caroline Paul has also placed many great and inventive activities called Daring-Dos, as well as journal pages to reflect on ones own Daring-Dos experiences.

gutsygirl1

While sharing her escapades, author Caroline Paul is brilliant about showing the boundary lines between being gutsy and being stupid. She is always cautioning against being reckless and the difference between recklessness and being adventurous . She just doesn’t say it once, it’s sprinkled everywhere throughout the book in many different ways.

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Some of My Favorite Parts

I learned some fun new things….

The illustrations in The Gusty Girl :Escapades for Your Life of Epic Adventure are done by her partner Wendy Macnaughton who also has a great sense of humor. One of my favorite illustrations is the Gutsy Girl International Phrase Book. It had me howling probably because I’ve needed to ask these very questions of people in far off lands and unknown languages.

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Did you know this about how to know what temperature it is ?

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So cool right ?

Something To Do

Writer Caroline Paul wasn’t always brave, or adventurous.

I had been a shy and fearful kid. Many things had scared me. Bigger kids. Second grade. The elderly woman across the street. Being called on in class. The book Where the Wild Things Are. Woods at dusk. The way the bones in my hand crisscrossed.

Being scared was a terrible feeling, like sinking in quicksand. My stomach would drop, my feet would feel heavy, my head would prickle. Fear was an all-body experience. For a shy kid like me it was overwhelming.”

She gives great examples of current gutsy girls and women. Some known most we’ve never heard of but I’m so glad to know about them now.

Right within the pixels of Jump Into a Book we’ve had the pleasure of reviewing books based on Gutsy Girls. Here are a few of my favorites:

Below you’ll find a list and some links to some more gutsy girls. Go discover them and see what their bravery and adventuresome spirit inspires you to do.

Please Meet

Laura Dekker who set sail on the boat she made and remodeled with her father. Just shy of her 15th birthday, she set sail around the world to become the youngest person to ever circumnavigate the globe ALONE.

Learn more about her here. She also has a blog and a book called One Girl, One Dream.

Gutsy girl 6

Marie Antoine started climbing trees as a kid for fun. Now she does it as her job. She’s one of the few botanists who work in the canopies of the world’s largest trees the redwoods. From 325 feet up in the air, you’ll find her munching her lunch and taking a little snooze in the hammock she brings along. That’s a long long way down. One of my personal daring dos is to climb up into a Redwood tree. Just thought I’d share that. I first learned of Marie from the book The Wild Trees by Richard Preston which talked about her and her husband Stephen Stillet and the work they do way up there. Here’s a great look at their lives.

gutsy 7

Shark Whisperer Cristina Zenato grew up is the African Congo. She is an accomplished diver. Christina calms the sharks by rubbing around their nose and mouth along small jelly filled holes. This quiets the shark into a semi-paralytic state for up to 20 minutes. During the time the sharks are hypnotized, Christina pulls out fishhooks, removes parasites from their skins, and extracts various samples for scientific research. In lieu of being fearful of these large sea creatures, she calls them family and says they are greatly misunderstood. Do you know who else says that ? My eldest daughter, “Bun-Girl” who also has had her own adventures with sharks.

To find out more about Christina Zenato  have a look here.

This book honestly speaks to girls and women of all ages. I found it to be timeless in it’s appeal. She beckons us to embrace the spirit of adventure or at the very least to explore the idea. She shares what it means to be brave, that perseverance is how to get through it, that we don’t need to be perfect just present and the most important take away for being a Gutsy Girl is to laugh at oneself a lot. That’s an important skill especially when trying to do nearly impossible things.

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Are you a Gutsy Girl?

 

Ready to get your “sleuth” on? My Secret Codes, Mysteries and Adventures Activity PDF for kids will keep young minds percolating for HOURS!

Inside young super detectives will discover:

*19 pages of sleuthing fun for your family to enjoy.
*Use Pilot Frixion Pens and craft paper to create Invisible Secret Notes!
*Make I Spy Cookies!
*Discover a President of the United States who was a Master Code Creator!

This free activity guide is a great way to encourage kids to pull books off of shelves, discover the power of imagination and build a new excitement and anticipation for reading. Fill out the info below and grab your FREE copy. Enjoy!

secret codes

My free gift to YOU!

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The post If you’re a Gutsy Girl-Read This! appeared first on Jump Into A Book.

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34. Amazing Fantastic Incredible: A Marvelous Memoir by Stan Lee

Touchstone, 2015

If you are looking to add more non-fiction to your collection, then look no further!  Well...look further than this book but definitely add this one to your collection.

Stan Lee, creator and Marvel characters Spiderman, The Hulk and the Fantastic Four has FINALLY created a comic book memoir of his life.  Starting with his very humble beginnings, he narrates his life from there and his journey through the halls of comic bookdom, including some amazingly talented people he was not only able to meet but work with as well.  He tells about his stint in the military during World War II writing beside the likes of Theodor Geisel and other notable cartoonists that would become famous in their own right.  Lee also lovingly shares the story of his romance with his wife of six decades and the reader is able to see how their relationship had on Lee's professional career.  He takes us all the way to present day where people watch for his cameo appearance in any Marvel movie.

What made Stan Lee such an icon is the fact that he changed the face of comic book writing, broke through some huge barriers put up by corporate suits and federal laws (on comics, of all things!) and continued the popularity of comic book from page to screen while continuing to write to audiences ranging from children to adult.

And if you think this is just another memoir, think again.  Lee manages to expertly weave the history of Marvel Comics from page to screen and beyond so the reader not only gets a glimpse of his life, but a timeline of Marvel from its early beginnings to present day.

Another interesting facet of this book is the narrator himself.  Yes, it's Stan Lee (and artist Colleen Doran did a stellar job of creating real life superheroes...got to see it to understand what I mean) but in the audience is a little boy who is fascinated with his tale and inserts himself into Lee's narration.  Lee knows that little boy well because....it's himself.  He weaves narrator and audience into a beautiful story of past and present which any comic book fan will devour.

Highly recommended by JH/HS and beyond.  As only Stan Lee can do so well.


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35. Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston

Hermione Winters is about to start her senior year of high school. As summer draws to a close, she heads off to cheer camp with her coach and her teammates, including Polly, her best friend and co-captain, and Leo, her boyfriend. Knowing this will be the last time she attends the camp, Hermione intends to make it the best one ever, to work hard, to enjoy the challenges and the routines and the music and the friendships, and to set a good example for her teammates and friends.

Then, on the night of the camp dance, Hermione is raped - her cup of punch drugged by a boy, she blacks out and wakes up in the hospital. The night holds no memories for her past the blackout. She cannot remember the face of her attacker, nor does she have any recollection of what he actually did to her. All she knows is what the doctors, nurses, and detectives have put together from examining her.

Her town is small; everyone knows what happened. The hallways of her school are filled with whispers and judgmental looks, and her relationship with her boyfriend dissolves. But Hermione doesn't withdraw from social interaction or change schools - the latter doesn't even occur to her. She doesn't like being the subject of gossip or scorn or pity. She remembers who she was, she knows who she is, and she is determined to stay true to herself while dealing what has happened.

Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston was above and beyond what I hoped it would be. Compelling writing, complex characters, realistic dialogue - there is much to praise here. This book could have been riddled with cliches; it was not. It could have been predictable or saccharine; it was neither. The events and reactions were feasible, believable, never farfetched or contrived. The story was layered and nuanced, allowing for warmth and humor sometimes when you least expected it (and most needed it).

Hermione tells her story in first-person narrative. She is an intelligent, resilient, mature young woman who is stronger than she knows. The characters that surround her are so vividly drawn - especially Polly, the fierce and loyal best friend who is equal parts fire and compassion - that any one of them could have a book of their own. And that is one of the loveliest things here: that the supporting characters are truly supportive of Hermione, that she is not dealing with this alone - and also that the supporting characters have their own arcs, their own problems and heartbreaks and priorities.

There is so much I want to say about this book. How it treats subjects such as sexual assault, doctor's visits, therapy, and victim shaming head-on, honestly and openly; how it encourages cheerleaders to be seen as athletes, not airheads; how it includes a variety of characters of various ages and personalities; and, most of all, how it allows its protagonist to be human, to wrestle with emotions and choices and ultimately emerge triumphant not because of or in spite of what happened/happens to her, but because of how she chooses to see herself, not a victim, not a statistic, not diminished, and how she chooses to live, unashamed, undeterred, always moving forward.

I knew before I was raped that this year would be the end of something. I just thought I'd be able to control the ending.

And, again, the magnificent writing: the choice of words, the steady pacing, the characterizations; the importance of a chair, a song, a friend; the details of a waiting room, a quiet house, an exuberant squad; the feeling of flying -- There is so much to applaud here.

Both thought-provoking and profoundly memorable, Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston is a triumph. I encourage people to read and re-read this book and to share it with others. Don't be surprised if you find yourself both crying and smiling as you turn the final page - and then start reading it all over again.

If you like this book, you will also like Swollen by Melissa Lion and All the Rage by Courtney Summers.

Exit, Pursued by a Bear is included on my Tough Issues for Teens booklist.

This review was originally published at my blog, Bildungsroman.


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36. With Malice by Eileen Cook

HMH Books for Young Readers, June 2016

Jill and Simone have been best friends since they were little girls.  As they grew up, their friendship stayed intact even though the girls couldn't be more different.  Now, in their senior year of high school, their paths suddenly diverge in a tragic way...

Jill continued to live with her mother after the divorce.  It's not that she doesn't love her father...it's more that she doesn't belong in the new family with the big house and new wife.  Jill knows her father supports her, financially, if not emotionally, and she's relying on this for her future.  Jill has always been a dedicated student and Ivy League college is waiting for her after graduation. 

Simone's life is much different.  She doesn't have the financial support to be able to leave after college.  And....she hasn't always been the most studious of girls.  What Jill has in academics, Simone more than makes up for in popularity.  People are naturally attracted to her and because of this, Simone knows how to work a crowd. 

One trip changed their lives...

Both girls were excited to go on a study abroad program in Italy sponsored by their school. Now, after the trip, Jill is recovering in a hospital, her memories affected by aphasia.  Simone didn't come home.  An incident involving both girls only left one alive. 

But Jill isn't only plagued by aphasia.  She is being investigated by the Italian police in a murder case, where she is the leading suspect in the murder of her best friend.  One intentionally wrecked car, one knife, two girls.  Jill isn't only surrounded by her family, but also by lawyers and a media team, trying to repair the negative reputation she is getting on social media.  Now the Italian police want to extradite her back to Italy to possibly stand trial.  Her future is slipping away from her. 

Slowly, the investigation begins to open wider and people are coming forward with eyewitness accounts of the girls friendship turning ugly as well the involvement of an Italian with a sketchy background who became involved with both girls.  And slowly, Jill is beginning to recall what really happened.

Suspenseful, intriguing, provocative.  Cook writes a novel filled with all of these components as well as some very interesting characters.  The reader won't know who to trust because of the secrets and lies everyone is telling.  Or are they truly lies?  That's what so amazing about this book- there are such subtle twists and turns the reader won't know the truth until the very end.  And when they get there, they will be stunned.  And THAT'S what makes this a great YA read!  Highly recommended.   

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37. Book Review: These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly

Author: Jennifer Donnelly
Published: 2015
Source: NetGalley
Summary: Privileged, spoiled girl at the turn of the century finds her world turned upside down when her father is murdered and she seeks to solve it. Also journalism and feminism and a love story with a young journalist.
First Impressions: So conflicted about this book. Really, I am. On the one hand, the mystery was . . . not at all mysterious. On the other, the feminism was so real. (Also, the end. Seriously LOTR syndrome as far as ends go.)
Later On: I keep going back and forth between whether the MC was realistically naive or just groan-worthy dumb. One that kept coming up in discussions with other readers was how she missed that a house was a brothel and women were prostitutes, in spite of being familiar with the writings of Nelly Bly. Actually I thought this was very realistic because it's one thing to read about something like that, and completely another to identify it in the wild.
I also appreciated that she faced realistic consequences for her choices throughout the book, both from her family and the society she was raised in, and from the new friends she's made in the underbelly of New York City.
And yeah. So. Many. Endings. Every story thread and character had to be wrapped up with its own scene and imagined future.

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38. Book Review: The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz

Author: Laura Amy Schlitz
Published: 2015
Source: NetGalley
Summary: A 14-year-old farm girl runs away from home and pretends to be older so she can get a lucrative job with a Jewish family. As she works for and learns from them, she comes to know more about her own Catholic faith and herself.
First Impressions: In spite of the kerfuffle, I found this to be a very thoughtful examination of faith and how faiths intersect. Also I loved her voice.
Later On: I still feel strongly that this is a great book about faith, about growing up, and about learning how to think for yourself and understand how little you truly know of the world. A large part of its appeal for me, personally, was how resonant her Catholicism is throughout this story. She struggles to do better and be better as a way of reconnecting with the mother she barely remembers. Sometimes this can lead to utterly cringe-inducing moments, such as when she clumsily attempts to convert one of her employers' grandchildren, believing that he will go to hell if he remains Jewish. Of course, this is discovered by the grandmother, and the resultant scene is an examination of how offensive and presumptuous it is to impose your belief system on others.
However, I'm not Jewish, and I haven't had direct experience with having to put up with the kind of painful stereotypes (cheap, rich, heathenish) that she initially applies to the family she's living with.
If you want some really good, in-depth conversation on that, and its function within this novel, and how kids may interpret that, follow the links below.
More: Heavy Medal The discussion is mostly in the comments. Also raised is a salient point about some throwaway lines from Joan about what she calls "wild indians" and what we call now Native Americans or First Nations (always my favorite of the two terms in spite of my American-ness.)

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39. A Night Divided by Jennifer Nielson


      On the morning of Barbed Wire Sunday, the people of East Berlin woke up to the sound of sirens. Investigating, they found that the government had found a way to stop them from leaving: the Berlin Wall. It was a great fence separating East Berlin from West Berlin. The two parts of Germany had been on tight terms for a while, and rumors of a third world war were plentiful.

      The one hundred yards of smooth dirt leading up to the wall was called the "Death Strip." And the fence slowly evolved over the years into a 11.8 foot cement wall. Guardtowers were set on top, where soldiers would point their guns at anyone trying to escape East Berlin.

      For twelve year-old Gerta, the rise of the Berlin Wall takes something more than freedom from her. A couple of days before Barbed Wire Sunday, her father and brother had traveled into West Berlin. The fence had split her family into two parts just like Germany.

     Gerta knows she must take her remaining family members in the East to meet her family members in the West. But escaping isn't easy, and getting caught means death.

  The German police threaten Gerta's family often, but the violence is minimal up until the end. I recommend it for 11+.

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40. A book with a plug - whaaat?

A book with a plug! Whaaat?

For car trips, young readers, struggling readers, and sheer entertainment, you can't beat a picture book/audio book combo for younger kids. 

Though schools and libraries may still keep book/CD kits in their collections, the truth is, CD players are not that common anymore. Newer computers don't come with a standard CD/DVD drive, cars don't always have them, and the only people I know who still have "boom boxes" are children's librarians.

That's why I was happy to receive a copy of  a new VOX (TM) "audio-enabled" book.  In my photo, the book is plugged into the wall for charging, but I did that just for show because a book with a plug cracked me up!  In truth, it arrived fully charged and ready to go - no plug required. (I didn't test it for battery performance.)  The audio recording and speaker are built right into the book and operated by a simple control panel - power, play, pause, volume, forward, and back. There is also a standard headphone jack. The audio is of comparable quality to any conventional children's book.  The book itself also seemed as sturdy as any, and was not overly heavy or burdensome.

Perhaps other companies have similar offerings, but this is the first book of its type that I've seen.  I think it has possibilities, and that the days of the book/CD kit are numbered.  I passed my copy along to a school superintendent who agreed that it might be a useful addition to his school's collection.  I did not inquire as to the price.  I was interested solely in the format.

If  you can get your hands on one, it's worth checking out.

(I'm not going to review the book, Don't Push the Button!, but will merely note that it is in a vein very similar to the wonderful Press Here by Herve Tullet. Kids will likely enjoy it.)

My review copy was provided by VOX Books.

Note:
As always on my blog, I review books and materials for educational purposes only, and receive nothing of value other than the review copy, its associated marketing materials, and the occasional thanks or consternation of its author or publisher.

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41. Book Review: Tonight the Streets Are Ours by Leila Sales

Author: Leila Sales
Published: 2015
Source: Edelweiss
Summary: Arden is recklessly loyal. That's how she defines herself. But when her boyfriend ditches her on their anniversary, she takes an impulsive road trip to New York City with her best friend to meet her favorite blogger, and finds all her conceptions of everybody she's ever known getting severely shaken up.
First Impressions: Oof, this was good. Complex characters, no total villains, a girl getting to know herself. I puffy heart you Leila Sales.
Later On: For a book with so many completely smackable people, I liked this very much. Seriously - I wanted to slap every character at least once, and the main character more than once. Arden has a hell of a victim complex going on, but the flip side of her doglike loyalty was that she passively, silently resented those who didn't live up to her standards. I thought this would be the story of a girl shedding all the crappy people in her life, and instead found that it was the story of a girl learning to see the flaws in those she loves, including the mother who abandoned her, and still take them as a whole person.
More: Cuddlebuggery did not agree - or more accurately, she agreed, but she couldn't be having with the same things that actually made the story work for me.

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42. Book Review: Faceless by Alyssa B. Sheinmel

Title: Faceless
Author: Alyssa B. Sheinmel
Published: 2015
Source: Review copy from publisher via Edelweiss
Summary: After she loses a good portion of her face to an electrical fire and has to get a face transplant, Maisie struggles to adjust to her new life and finds some things are irrevocably changed.
First Impressions: Ahhhh. This was very good and her emotions felt tremendously realistic. I did think the breakup with Chirag was not quite as cut and dried as she thought it was.
Later On: I still think there was something of an unreliable narrator going on, where Maisie saw her breakup with Chirag as a foregone conclusion from the moment of her accident, while I saw her pushing him away during the complex emotions of her initial adjustment period and them growing apart throughout her recovery. I really appreciated how people were unsure of how to react to her, even the people she was closest to, and she found herself making friends that she never would have connected with before her injury.
Ms. Yingling Reads

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43. The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann


The Unwanteds By Lisa McMann


      In the world of Quill, creativity is bad. It counts as an infraction, and on the day of the Purge, every thirteen year-old is put into three categories: Wanted, Necessary, or Unwanted. Wanteds are honored, Necessaries become slaves, and Unwanteds are sent to their deaths.When Alex Stowe is sent to the Death Farm after the Purge, he discovers that being Unwanted doesn't bring death... it brings the discovery of a whole new world called Artime.

       In Artime, creativity is allowed. Even encouraged. The wild-haired leader, Mr. Today, helps each artistic Unwanted learn that they can hold their title like a badge. Because in Artime, creativity is a magical gift... and a weapon.

       It's the first book in the Unwanted Series, and I am so excited for the last one to come out in April! If you like dystopian novels and magic, then you should totally try this book out!

-Grace

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44. Undertow Book Review

Title: Undertow Author: Michael Buckley Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers Publication Date: May 5, 2015 ISBN-13: 978-0544348257 384 pp. ARC provided by publisher Undertow by Michael Buckley is a Romeo/Juliet story about a human girl named Lyric and a sea prince named Fathom set in modern day New York. It's not subtle in its parallels to current immigration fears as the sea folk known

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45. Book Review: Vivian Apple at the End of the World by Katie Coyle

So here's my new format. The reviews won't be quite as in depth as they once were, but I think I'd gotten to the point where I felt such a pressure to say deep things that I wasn't saying anything at all. I have several months' worth of reading with half-written reviews, so hopefully I'll have enough to post twice a week for quite some time. Because they will be so brief, I'll also be linking other bloggers' reviews at the end if you want to get more info.

Let me know what you think!


Author: Katie Coyle
Source: ARC from KidlitCon
Published: 2014
Summary: The Rapture has happened (or has it?), and Vivian Apple is left alone in a rapidly disintegrating world except for her best friend and a mysterious boy named Peter. A quixotic cross-country road trip through a dangerous landscape of left-behinds and Believers may hold answers.
First Impressions: This had interesting things to say about the intersection of religion and business in modern America. I really do wish that Harp had gotten an arc other than being her best friend.
Later on: As someone who's always on the lookout for books that discuss faith, I was a little wary of this one's apparent "Religion Ebil!" stance. But Coyle kept my interest by making Vivian keep puzzling over her parents' conversion and what it did to them, and why it meant so much to them, as well as yearning for a similar experience but knowing she wouldn't get it from the Church of America. There was also a lovely, if heavy-handed moment, with a Catholic family near the end that establishes religion =/= ebil.
I still wish Harp had gotten an arc. She was mostly there to be a wild and crazy girl, and to support Vivian when she needed it. She didn't seem to grow or change throughout the book. I tried to read the second book and couldn't quite get into it.
Bookshelves of Doom

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46. Throwback Thursday: The Accidental Diva

The Accidental Diva by Tia Williams 2004
Putnam

Incredible Quote: "What he didn't tell Billie was how naive she sounded, telling him what hustling was about. In the fifth grade, he had more game in his size-five Adidas kicks than anyone at that party could ever hope to have. He hustled to survive. It was either get out there and sell the shit out of some crack, or eat grape jelly for dinner and hope the rat that bit you in your sleep wasn't carrying anything lethal. When Billie talked about hustling and playing the game, what she really meant was that she was ambitious. She was a go-getter. She set high goals for herself and met them, exceeded them. But the bottom line was that she had been born into a supportive, loving, comfortably middle-class family that took care of her and nurtured her and provided as security blanket. Jay came from nothing. Worse than nothing" (186).


One Sentence Review: A diverting read that is excellently paced and notable for both its now-outdated culture references and relevant social commentary on a number of topics ranging from class to fashion to race with a distinctive (in the best way possible) narrative voice.

I love this distinction Ms. Williams makes in her novel. I never realized that people describing themselves as "hustlers" bothered me until I read this passage and found myself nodding in agreement. Especially when celebrities use the term, I just find it ridiculous (excluding those who actually came up from nothing as opposed to those born to famous parents, etc etc) and Ms. Williams perfectly illustrates why. If you're thinking this quote is a bit heavy and shying away from this novel, never fear. This quote is expertly woven into a romp of a read that straddles the line between light and social commentary. It was exactly what I needed to end 2015, a lot of fun to read while making witty observations about being "the only" and exploring class issues that it managed to not only hold my attention but also cause me to pause and think after reading a passage. 

The only negative I can see is that it confirmed my fears about the beauty industry in terms of its shallowness. But it's a unique (for me) professional setting for a book so it kept me turning the pages. This book was published in 2004, 12 years later it's sad that we're still having the same conversations. Through Billie the author tackles cultural appropriation (which Bille calls "ethnic borrowing" in the beauty and fashion industry and maybe it's just because of the rise of the Internet and public intellectuals and blogging but it had honestly never occurred to me that people were having these conversations pre-Twitter. That demonstrates my ignorance and I was happy to be enlightened while also being sad that white gaze still has so much power over beauty standards. Although it is getting better because it is harder for beauty companies, fashion companies and magazines to ignore being called out when they "discover" some trend people of color have been naturally gifted with/been doing/wearing for years.

Aside from the pleasing depth of the novel, it's a quick paced read. I actually felt caught up in Billie's sweeping romance and just as intoxicated as she did, I didn't want to resurface from her studio apartment. Honestly I'd like a prequel so that we can live vicariously through Billie, Renee and Vida's college years. And I'm so happy her friends served more of a role than just providing advice at Sunday brunch. Also Billie's family dynamics were absolutely hilarious and unexpected. 

I dealt with similar issues to Billie and Jay although not on as large a scale, granted I'm not a professional (yet) but I can relate to the class issues that come up in a relationship with two different economic backgrounds. And not to be a cliche but especially when it's the woman who comes from the comfortable lifestyle and the preconceived notions that we have/that other have about us, difficulty is involved and so on a personal level I was able to really connect with Billie (and better understand Jay).

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47. Ira’s Shakespeare Dream – Perfect Picture Book Friday & Diversity Day

Title: Ira’s Shakespeare Dream Written by: Glenda Armand illustrated by: Floyd Cooper Published by: Lee & Low, May 2015 Themes: African Americans, biography, Ira Aldridge, Shakespeare, acting, diversity, abolition of slavery in the USA Ages: 7-11+ Genre: Picture Book Biography Opening: IRA COULD NOT KEEP STILL as he waited in the balcony of … Continue reading

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48. Weekend Links-booklists that help kids understand the Presidency.

Welcome to Weekend links! All of the drama affiliated with politics and the election can drive some of us nuts, but it is also a wonderful opportunity to share the world of American Presidents with your young readers. Here are some great book picks and booklists that help kids understand the Presidency and politics.

Check out this past blog post of mine that encourages parents, homeschoolers, teachers and librarians to take A Look back at Past President’s Day Booklists and Activities!

President Squid is a hilarious picture book from Caldecott award winner Aaron Reynolds. With a good deal of tongue and cheek it explores the ideal qualities of a good president. One resident of the sea, Squid, feels he would be perfect for the job. Why you ask ? Well because he lives in a big house, know a lot about lots of things, does all the talking, bosses people around, but mostly importantly, he wears a tie. That’s all anyone needs to be president right?

President's Day Books

Back in November 2012 of  I created a very fun booklist in honor of the upcoming elections season.

President booklist

Monster Needs Your Vote is a hardcover children’s book with vibrant illustrations from Wendy Grieb that is a great book about teaching kids to take a stand and fight for what they believe in.

monster needs your vote

When Monster learns he is too young to vote, he runs for president instead! Through trial and error, he rallies his community together to save his local library from closing. This picture book features people of all ethnicities and religions coming together in the name of education, democracy and reading-a trifecta of awesome! Read the full review here.

monster needs your vote

Dog and Cat for President: The narrator asks the intriguing question all Americans want answered: Who would win if a cat and dog ran for President of the United States? Cat and dog lovers will both agree that this is a fun rhyming tale with a political heart. Both sides of the campaign are humorously depicted in a clever way that young readers will relate to and understand. The illustrations are rich, bold and colorful. “Cat or Dog for President” will keep readers engaged and laughing from beginning to end. Read my full review here.

index

Here’s the link to the Presidential Fun Kit to create all these fun Election-themed activities.

Presidential Fun Kit

I am very excited to be an ambassador for Tinker Crate! Kiwi Crate/Tinker Crate delivers fun hands-on experiences every month. Tinker Crate is for the 9-16+ crowd and a monthly crate will contain 2-3 themed projects designed by our experts to be fun and educational. I love this service because it not only inspires young makers with tools for learning and discovery; it also encourages them to explore science, engineering and technology. I’ve always been an advocate for using imaginations via books or play so this company is a perfect fit for my book-ish passions.

Go HERE to view all of the amazing exploration, activities, science projects and use specific promo code JUMPBOOK30 at Kiwi Crate for 30% off your first crate subscription!

The post Weekend Links-booklists that help kids understand the Presidency. appeared first on Jump Into A Book.

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49. The Battle of Darcy Lane by Tara Altebrando



The Battle of Darcy Lane by Tara Altebrando is a great pick for our middle school readers!

All Julia really wanted to do this summer was hang out with her best friend, Taylor - and maybe her neighbor/friend/secret crush Peter, too. Then Alyssa moves into the neighborhood. Julia immediately doesn't like her; Taylor does. And just like that, Julia's best friend has a new friend, and Julia has a rival.

Alyssa is really into a ball-bouncing game called Russia. At first, Julia doesn't care for it, but then she realizes that she might be able to beat Alyssa at her own game. Over the course of the summer, while Julia tries to hang on to her friendship with Taylor, she also attends band camp, bonds with Peter over a TV show she's not supposed to watch, and challenges Alyssa to an epic game of Russia. She also avoids cicadas and tries to talk her parents into letting her move into a different room in their house.

Julia's an only child, born to parents who love her and - get this - love each other. It's refreshing to read a book in which the parents are happy together, and it's wonderful to see how the child reacts to that relationship. In this case, Julia feels left out, not only because she is the youngest member of the household AND the only kid AND she has to go to bed earlier than her parents, but also because her parents are so close, she feels like there's no room for her sometimes - like she's interrupting something. There's a beautiful moment in which Julia overhears her parents talking outside, their voices drifting up to her window:

They were laughing a lot, and they sounded like something other than a husband and wife, something other than a mom and dad: they sounded like best friends.

Not only does this perfectly capture their relationship, it also ties back to Julia's concerns about her own best friend. Taylor is spending more and more time with Alyssa and less time with Julia. Teasing, confusion, and jealousy ensue. (Goodness, I don't miss middle school!) But thankfully, instead of being your typical mean girl story, this book offers something more plausible, something more satisfying and more age-appropriate, with the Russia showdown and the additional revelations in the denouement.

The Battle of Darcy Lane is a solid story for young readers. It's kind of like a modern-day Now and Then. Julia tries to test the boundaries a little a couple of times, and she sometimes struggles over the right thing to do, but overall, she has a pretty good head on her shoulders. Though the word "tweens" or the term "tween fiction" may not appeal to everyone, it's appropriate when you consider what it means: between. When you're eleven and twelve, you might feel trapped between your little kid years and your teens, torn between wanting to feel more grown up and wanting to stay a kid. This is best exemplified by the scenes in which Julia feels compelled to put away her dolls and knickknacks, even though she still kind of likes them.

Tara Altebrando has a knack for depicting honest relationships between protagonists and their families and friends, and I regularly recommend her YA books to teens looking for realistic modern-day stories. Now I can give The Battle of Darcy Lane to slightly younger readers. I also plan to read her other middle grade novel, My Life in Dioramas.

And who knows - maybe I'll have the opportunity to play Russia somewhere along the way, too.

This review was originally published at Bildungsroman.

The end of the book includes instructions on how to play the ball-bouncing game referred to as Russia or Onesies, Twosies. I also found instructions at the website howstuffworks.com. Have fun!


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50. Book Review: All the Rage by Courtney Summers

Author: Courtney Summers
Source: Public Library
Published: 2015
Summary: When a popular, well-liked girl disappears, Romy Grey can't shake the feeling that there are things being hidden. But nobody will listen to her because she's the girl who accused the town golden boy of rape.
First Impressions: Oh god, is there a lot to chew on here. Agh. I may have to write about this.
Later on: While there is an outside plot, this is really the story of part of Romy's journey to better. She's not healed or fixed and she never will be, but the events of the book work to bring her to a place where she can start to see herself as someone who is worthy of her life, worthy of being listened to and respected, and worthy of love.
I find it interesting that while the boy who actually committed the crime that underpins the current-day plot was not the same boy who raped Romy, he was in the same group. But the real villains of this piece are the adults, in particular the sheriff who's clearly of the "if her skirt was too short she was asking for it" camp regarding rape. There's so much here that shows how many messages we get about girls, about sexuality, about worth, every day. This needs to go on the shelf right next to Speak for books about how girls are victimized by our society.
More: Stacked
A Chair, A Fireplace, and a Tea Cozy

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