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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: book review, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 26 - 50 of 2,779
26. 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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27. 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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28. 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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29. 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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30. 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.

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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31. 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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32. 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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33. 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!


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34. 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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35. 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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36. 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.


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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37. 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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38. Throwback Thursday: The Accidental Diva

The Accidental Diva by Tia Williams 2004

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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39. 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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40. 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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41. Kishaz Reading Corner: Archer's Voice by Mia Sheridan

About the Book

When Bree Prescott arrives in the sleepy, lakeside town of Pelion, Maine, she hopes against hope that this is the place where she will finally find the peace she so desperately seeks. On her first day there, her life collides with Archer Hale, an isolated man who holds a secret agony of his own. A man no one else sees.

Archer's Voice is the story of a woman chained to the memory of one horrifying night and the man whose love is the key to her freedom. It is the story of a silent man who lives with an excruciating wound and the woman who helps him find his voice. It is the story of suffering, fate, and the transformative power of love.

THIS IS A STANDALONE SIGN OF LOVE NOVEL, INSPIRED BY SAGITTARIUS. New Adult Contemporary Romance: Due to strong language and sexual content, this book is not intended for readers under the age of 18.

Buy the Book

Here's what I'm giving it:

Rating: 5 stars

Here's why:

Disclaimer: I got this book from the public library and have received no compensation from the author or publisher for this honest review.

So many words and not enough to describe this amazing read. I don't give out 5-stars unless you bowl me over. Consider myself knocked down and totally happy about it.

Archer and Bree are one of the most complex couples I have read in recent memory and it is that complexity that brought laughter, tears, joy, sadness, cheers and more from me as I read this book in one day.

These two characters, as well as the supporting cast, breathed from the pages of this novel. I was so invested that I got irritated every time I had to stop reading to deal with my real life. If I could hide out in a fictional world for a day, theirs would be one I would choose to visit.

Gripping, raw and spellbinding....even these words don't do it justice.

Would I recommend this? Yes and I want to read more in this series.

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42. Kishaz Reading Corner: A Princess by Christmas by Jennifer Faye

Disclaimer: I received no compensation from the author or the publisher for this honest review.

About the Book

A royal kiss under the mistletoe

Prince Alexandro Castanovo arrives in snowy New York intent on protecting his royal family from scandal. And when Reese Harding—down-to-earth and heart-stoppingly beautiful—finds room for him at her inn, it seems like the perfect twist of fate.

Not long ago Reese's world came crumbling down, shaking her foundations. But this enigmatic stranger intrigues her! She's learned to be wary of secrets…but when she discovers Alex's true identity, might there be enough magic in the air to make this regular American girl a princess by Christmas…?

Buy the Book

Here's what I'm giving it:

Rating: 4 stars

Here's why:

I won this copy in a giveaway and I was happy with the novel overall. Reese is a very guarded young woman who is taking care of her mother while struggling to repay the debt left by her deceased father.

Prince Alexandro Castanovo enters her life and everything gets turned upside down. I'm a sucker for Cinderella-ish style stories and this was a nice decent read.

Would I recommend this? Yes, it's a good solid read.

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43. The Stumps of Flattop Hill Book & Art Exhibit

Good art can be a little dark and disturbing. In the case of a new exhibition at the Whitney Library Gallery, it can also be classified as creepy, spooky, kooky, mysterious and more than a little fun. The show features dark drawings and haunting images, much of them from a new children's book, "The Stumps of Flattop Hill," by Las Vegas-based author Kenneth Kit Lamug.

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44. Maya’s Blanket: La Manta De Maya Book Review #ReadYourWorld

Multicultural Children’s Book Day is nearly here!

MCCBD2016 Sponsor and multicultural publisher Lee and Low, since it’s inception, has been committed to multicultural and diverse literature for children. We are honored to have them as a Silver Sponsor of this year Multicultural Children’s Book Day

What if the objects we love most in our lives i.e. blankets, stuffed animals, dolls, toys etc could be creatively used, recycled, and treasured so that they’d never leave us?

Maya’s Blanket by Monica Brown and illustrated by Caldecott winning artist David Diaz is such a tale.

Maya's Blanket

This is a bilingual book. The left hand page is in English with some key Spanish words, and the right hand page is in Spanish. David Diaz does a magnificent job in portraying the story in his artwork of vibrant colors and wonderful character drawings.

Maya's Blanket

From the loving hands of her grandmother, Maya receives a magical blanket that keeps bad dreams away. As she loves and uses her blanket, it becomes frayed so Maya and her grandmother transform the blanket into a dress which she ends up spilling red juice on. From here Maya’s blanket is progresses through a series of other items such as a skirt, shawl, scarf, hair ribbon, and finally a bookmark. When at last even the magical bookmark is lost, all that is left are her memories of her magical blanket and all of it repurposed glory. So Maya wrote a book to capture and hold her treasures in.

Maya's Blanket

Maya’s Blanket is a Junior Library Guild Selection. We’re honored to have the Junior Library Guild sponsor this year’s Multicultural Children’s Book Day Classroom Challenge. Teachers, we’re giving away a beautiful FREE hard-covered book to your classroom. Have a look here to find out how you can bring a Junior Library Guild Selection to your classroom.

Classroom Reading Challenge

Something To Do

no sew

No Sew Blanket

Maya’s grandmother made the blanket for Maya but through all of it’s other transformations it had the creative helping hands of both Maya and her grandmother. This no sew blanket is such a blanket. It takes less than an hour, around 40 minutes, and is fun project to do together. At the end you’ll have a cozy blanket and the memories of making it.

You Will Need:

  •  2 coordinating fiber fleece fabrics, 2 yards each.
  •   Sharp fabric scissors
  •   1 tape measure
  1. Take your first piece of fabric and lay it down on the floor.
  2. Cut off the two salvedge sides.

3. Do the same thing with the second piece of fabric.

No Sew Set-up

  1. Lay your first piece of fabric face down on the floor.
  2. Take your second piece of fabric and lay it on top of the first with the wrong side down, right side facing up.
  3. Take your tape measure and measure a 4 inch x 4 inch square on each corner.
  4. Cut a 4 x 4 inch square out of each corner.
  5. Take your tape measure and spread it out from one 4×4 corner to the next. Lock the tape measure in place.
  1. Cut one inch slits which are 4 inches long around each side of the blanket.
  2. Now it’s time to knot the blanket. Take one cut slit of fabric. You will have two pieces of fabric per cut. One from the top and one from the bottom. Just make an over hand knot on each slit all around the blanket.

Enjoy your new blanket.

Spanish Language for Kids

Maya’s Blanket not only is bilingual but uses a series of Spanish words inside the English side of the story.

After reading the book, see how many words you remember and know the meanings of.

Fascinated about the Spanish language ? Would you like to learn more ? Have a look at these really fun YouTube channels that will have you speaking Spanish in no time.

Little Pim

Little Pim is the leading language program for young children. Winner of over 25 awards, Little Pim’s Entertainment Immersion Method makes it fun & easy for babies, toddlers and preschoolers to learn.


Rockalingua is a collection of Spanish songs, videos, worksheets games and other teaching materials for kids.

Calico Spanish

Free Spanish lessons for kids, schools, family and after school programs. Wonderful curriculum!!!

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The post Maya’s Blanket: La Manta De Maya Book Review #ReadYourWorld appeared first on Jump Into A Book.

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45. Vacation

I'm on vacation this week - escaping the cold.

Until I get back, perhaps you'll enjoy my recent reviews for AudioFile Magazine:

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46. A Book Review of “Jesus Today—Devotions for Kids”

Jesus Today
Our eleven-year-old son enjoys reading from this book for his morning devotion. However, my husband and I receive refreshing encouragement from this adaptation of Sarah Young’s ECPA 2013 Christian Book of the Year, Jesus Today.  

The 368-page book contains 150 devotions.  Each devotion, approximately 200 words in length, is presented on a left page followed by three or four corresponding scriptures on the right page.

I love the way Young writes—as if Jesus is talking to the reader.  I have to give credit to Tama Fortner who adapted the book for younger readers. She does a great job presenting the devotions in a simple and easy to understand manner. Yet, the devotions are not watered down.  They remain quite meaty.

An example of this is in the following excerpt from devotion #141, Leave Room for Mystery.

“… My ways are often a mystery to you—like why bad things happen to good people, or good things happen to bad people. You wish you could always know what I’m thinking, but your knowledge only goes so far.”  

“… When there is something you can’t make sense of, trust Me—and trust that there are some things too wonderful for you to know.”

This devotion is followed by 1 Timothy 3:16, Job 1:20-22, and Job 42:3. These are wonderful  things to ponder and discuss, right?

Read more »

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47. What People are Saying About Dee and Deb Off They Go ~ Kindergarten First Day Jitters

What people are saying....

An adorable story of twin sisters and their first day of kindergarten. They are in separate classrooms and are concerned who they will have to share their secrets and to play with. Dee meets a girl named Casey in her class, and after a fun day with her, shares with Deb about her day and learns about Deb's day as well.

There are no more than one or two sentences on each page, which makes for easy reading. The illustrations are bright and beautiful. I hope the author will share more of Dee and Deb's adventures with us in the future. ~ Teresa Kander, Amazon reviewer


Award-winning author Donna M. McDine has written an adorable picture book about the first day of kindergarten. She uses her first hand knowledge (having a twin sister of her own) to share what it might be like for separated twins on the first day of kindergarten. 

Many kids have fears regarding the first day of school, but this first day of school is especially worrisome for twins Dee and Deb. 

Deb and Dee head off for their first day of kindergarten together, but become separated when Dee goes to the K1 classroom and Deb goes to K2.

The rest of the book centers on Dee and her fears of being lost and alone without her twin sister for back up. But as usually is the case, Dee makes a friend, and the day flies by. Reunited at the end of the school day, Dee and Deb have so much more to talk about with their own accounts and experience of the day. And Dee can hardly wait for tomorrow.

The colorful and contagious illustrations are provided by Jack Foster.

<!--[if gte mso 9]> Normal 0 false false false EN-US JA X-NONE <![endif]-->
He shows not just the similarities between the twins (their too-cute pigtails and matching outfits), but also their differences (Dee and Deb must be fraternal twins.) 

A truly entertaining book for any child embarking on the journey to kindergarten. ~ Suzanne Puvis, author of Destined for Deception

Thank you Teresa and Suzanne.... I appreciate your time and interest! 


Best wishes,
Donna M. McDine
Multi Award-winning Children's Author

Ignite curiosity in your child through reading!

Connect with

Dee and Deb Off They Go Kindergarten First Day Jitters ~ December 2015 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc.

A Sandy Grave ~ January 2014 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. ~ 2014 Purple Dragonfly 1st Place Picture Books 6+, Story Monster Approved, Beach Book Festival Honorable Mention 2014, Reader's Favorite Five Star Review

Powder Monkey ~ May 2013 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. ~ 2015 Purple Dragonfly Book Award Historical Fiction 1st Place, Story Monster Approved and Reader's Favorite Five Star Review

Hockey Agony ~ January 2013 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. ~ 2015 Purple Dragonfly Book Award Honorable Mention Picture Books 6+, New England Book Festival Honorable Mention 2014, Story Monster Approved and Reader's Favorite Five Star Review

The Golden Pathway ~ August 2010 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. ~ Literary Classics Silver Award and Seal of Approval, Readers Favorite 2012 International Book Awards Honorable Mention and Dan Poynter's Global e-Book Awards Finalist

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48. Negroland

Negroland: a memoir by Margo Jefferson 2015
Pantheon/Knopf Doubleday

IQ "Average American women were killed like this [by men in crimes of passion] every day. But we weren't raised to be average women; we were raised to be better than most women of either race. White women, our mothers reminded us pointedly, could afford more of these casualties. There were more of them, weren't there? There were always more white people. There were so few of us, and it had cost so much to construct us. Why were we dying?" 168

There is so much to unpack here, so many quotes I want to discuss, which I will do later on in the review but if you only want to read one paragraph I'll try to make this one tidy.

One sentence review: There is something new to focus on with every reading and like all great works of literature there is something for everyone, the writing is flowery but I mean that in the best way possible.

I fell in love with the life of Margo Jefferson and the history of the Black American elite (think Our Kind of People). I would say I'm on the periphery of the Negroland world so much of what Jefferson describes is vaguely familiar to me but obviously I am not a product of the '50s and '60s so that was all new to me. I appreciated Jefferson's honesty that she finds it difficult to be 100% vulnerable, I imagine that is part of why she chooses to focus so much on the historical. But at least she doesn't pretend that she will bare her soul, but she still manages to go pretty damn far for someone who believes it is easier to write about the sad/racist things. Jefferson eloquently explores the black body, class, Chicago, gender, mental illness and race from when she was a child into adulthood with a touch of dry humor here and there. Jefferson is the epitome of the cool aunt and I want to just sit at her feet everyday and learn (I was fortunate to hear her speak at U of C and it was magical, her voice is heavenly and she's FUNNY).

I understand complaints that the narrative is disjointed but Jefferson always manages to bring her tangents back to the main point. It is not simply random ramblings the author indulges in, each seemingly random thought serves a purpose that connects to the central theme of the chapter/passage. Jefferson does not owe us anything, yes she chose to write a memoir but she also chose to write a social history. She explores some of her flaws and manages to avoid what she so feared;  "I think it's too easy to recount unhappy memories when you write about yourself. You bask in your own innocence. You revere your grief. You arrange your angers at their most becoming angles. I don't want this kind of indulgence to dominate my memories" (6). For someone raised to be twice as good and only show off to the benefit of the Black race, Jefferson thankfully manages to let us in on far more than I expected when it comes to the Black elite.

Jefferson comes at my life when she says, "At times I'm impatient with younger blacks who insist they were or would have been better off in black schools, at least from pre-K through middle school. They had, or would have had, a stronger racial and social identity, an identity cleansed of suspicion, subterfuge, confusion, euphemism, presumption, patronization, and disdain. I have no grounds for comparison. The only schools I ever went to were white schools with small numbers of Negroes" (119). I too attended majority white schools and have often wondered if I would have had an easier time identifying with other Black students in college (and even high school) if I had gone to majority Black schools instead of remaining on the periphery. She goes on to explain her impatience because she felt that for the first few years of school she was able to live her life unaware of race and I would agree, there were only a few incidents but mostly I felt free. So she's right, it's a trade off and ultimately we all end up in the same white world. I still think I should have gone to an HBCU just to see what it's like, to force myself to confront my own privilege but I managed to do that at my PWI and there's no point in worrying about it anymore. It's this matter-of-fact tone Jefferson uses throughout the book that I adored, she largely avoids sentimentality. Although she somehow manages to fondly look back at Jack & Jill which makes me sad that I don't share the same happy memories of the group and based on conversations with a few others on Twitter I am not alone in that (someone should research the history of Jack & Jill and explain why it has become so awful although I have my own theory).

Much has already been said about how candidly Jefferson discusses depression, an aspect of mental health that was not discussed in the Black community. Thus I do not wish to dwell on the topic since writers far more articulate than I have mentioned it in their reviews, but I appreciate her talking about it and I know what she means. Slowly but surely the 'strong Black woman' facade is being allowed to crack and we are all the better for it. I wish she had delved a bit into Black women and eating disorders because she mentions how much she loved Ballet and the ideal beauty standards of the Black elite (no big butts or noses for example) but maybe this is not something she witnesses personally. Jefferson mentions that when Thurgood Marshall and Audrey Hepburn died around the same time, she and her friend felt guilty for caring more about Hepburn's death because of all she symbolized for them. At first I raised my eyebrows at this sign of racial disloyalty but she notes what Hepburn meant to her; "And the longing to suffer nothing at all, to be rewarded, decorated, festooned for one's charms and looks, one's piquant daring, one's winning idiosyncrasies: Audrey Hepburn in Funny Face and Breakfast at Tiffany's. Equality in America for a bourgeois black girl meant equal opportunity to be playful and winsome. Indulged" (200). And I understood exactly what she meant. It's why I cling to Beyonce, Carmen Jones (and Dorothy Dandridge by extension), Janelle Monae etc etc. I can't think of a Black manic pixie dream girl but I'd love to have a Black girl play one, to be able to complain about a character we have long been denied.

On Black men & women; "But the boys ruled. We were just aspiring adornments, and how could it be otherwise? The Negro man was at the center of the culture's race obsessions. The Negro woman was on the shabby fringes. She had moments if she was in show business, of course; we craved the erotic command of Tina Turner, the arch insolence of Diana Ross, the melismatic authenticity of Aretha. But in life, when a Good Negro Girl attached herself to a ghetto boy hoping to go street and compensate for her bourgeois privilege, if she didn't get killed with or by him, she usually lived to become a socially disdained, financially disabled black woman destined to produce at least one baby she would have to care for alone. What was the matter with us? Were we plagued by some monstrous need, some vestigial longing to plunge back into the abyss Negros had been consigned to for centuries? Was this some variant of survivor guilt? No, that phrase is too generic. I'd call it the guilty confusion of those who were raised to defiantly accept their entitlement. To be more than survivors, to be victors who knew that victory was as much a threat as failure, and could be turned against them at any moment" (169). Jefferson embraces feminism and pushes back on the constraints of Black womanhood.

I've already picked this book up and re-read random passages which is rare for me so soon after finishing it the first time (this is what happens when you have a towering TBR pile). I took an African American Autobiography class in college and I really hope this book gets added to the syllabus. It combines so many topics of interest to me, acknowledges so many greats in Black history, exposes some secrets of the Black upper class (passing, brown paper bag test) while combining history and memoir, absolutely captivating. I instinctively knew I would need to buy this book (ended up getting it autographed) and I am so glad I did. The cover is phenomenal.

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49. Free ebooks Review: Sparked by Sheena Snow

Disclaimer: I received no compensation from the author or publisher for this honest review.

About the Book

Metal will Clash

In a not-too-distant future, robots composed of metal for bones, electric cords for veins, and synthetics for skin are now available. For purchase. Eighteen-year-old Vienna Avery’s home is going to change forever, now that her mom purchased an Italian Chef Robot to cook and reside in their house.

Secrets will Unfold 

The government claimed robots were indifferent, unthinking pieces of metal and elastic—assistance for the help of humans. Vienna never believed much of what the government said. The pieces didn’t always fit. And now Vienna knows why, because she’s uncovered the government’s secret: that robots have emotions, sucking Vienna into the underground world of feeling, thinking, and sovereign robots.

Sparks will Fly 

Alec Cypher is everything a robot is not supposed to be: deep, dark, and dangerously human. And for some reason, he wants to save Vienna from the government’s prying, vindictive eyes. Going forward, Vienna will have to learn to trust robots and battle the growing feelings she never thought possible . . . feelings for the green-eyed, soul-searching robot named Alec.

Buy the Book

Here's what I'm giving it:

Rating: 3 stars

Here's why:

The reason I chose this read was because of the blurb. It looked like it would be a good sci-fi story and I always like reading about robots that search/want to be human (you can thank Star Trek's Data for that).

I wanted to like this one, really I did. And there were moments that were good. But so many were not. The confusing POV, the internal stream of Vienna's thoughts which were a jumbled mess, and the constant shifting of locations gave me whiplash.

Character development was uneven though I felt that the robots had more depth to them than the main character. The concept of human cyborgs is not new and I wish the author had done more with it.

Would I recommend this book? I'm on the fence. There is a sequel. I might reserve judgment until after I read it. Or I might not. I'm not sure.

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50. Opting Out: Losing the Potential of America's Young Black Elite

Opting Out: Losing the Potential of America's Young Black Elite by Maya Beasley 2011
U Chicago Press

IQ "Further, because racism is endemic and built into the structure and institutions of American life, attacking inequalities in a minimal number of areas via a small number of channels is limiting. [...] Radicalized occupations are neither ineffectual nor obsolete, but they are no longer sufficient to create the wide-ranging, long-term changes that are needed by the African American communities these students wish to serve. It is therefore imperative that black college students become better informed about the full spectrum of career opportunities that are compatible with their community service goals" (143).

One sentence review: A thought provoking read that greatly contrasted with my own personal experiences which was somewhat confusing but the author makes some extremely vital points in concise language that deserves to receive more attention.

I have no problem with the premise of this book as outlined in the quote, we need more people of color in STEM, business, films and law. I personally can attest to this "The emergent trend is that black students with segregated social networks are selecting occupations that directly target the black community and ones in which they will not feel isolated. In contrast, those with integrated networks are choosing a more varied set of careers which are generally higher-paying and higher status with less of a direct emphasis on African Americans" (73). HOWEVER to me there is a disconnect between that quote and Beasley's findings on stereotype threat. Her findings (after interviewing Black and white Stanford and Berkley students) found that stereotype threat affected Black students' career decisions. I do not completely buy this. I do not understand how she does not explore the possibility of a correlation between class, diverse social networks and stereotype threat. Granted I'm not sure the university I went to is considered "elite" but when I look at the Black people I know who had diverse friend groups and went to all white schools and participated in mostly white activities, they are entering field where Black people are not dominant. Myself included. It just does not make sense to me that someone who grew up in an environment like the one I just outlined would then resist entering predominantly white fields. Beasley notes that they are often discouraged by their parents who are in similar fields, my parents have never told me not to enter a career simply because of white people. Sure they prepared me as best as they could for the little comments that might come my way but they never took a warning or discouraging tone. I'm willing to chalk this up to generational differences. The book is published in 2011 but cites a lot of studies from the 90s/early 2000s so maybe things really have changed in the last few years. But I read this book and had no idea who she was talking about when discussing the patterns of upper middle class Blacks.

Now with that being said, her research backed up some of my personal experiences as well, such as the alienation some Black students feel when they chose not to fully immerse themselves in the on campus Black community. But I wish she had further explored why Black students from working class or lower middle class families are more active than those who come from a wealthier background (and yes I have a few thoughts on the matter but I won't get into it). The importance of connections and how that leaves marginalized groups behind is also well addressed. I do not want to give this book a bad review because it conflicts with my worldview; I thought it was an extremely interesting read that presented intriguing findings and analysis. However I think this would have been more effective if she surveyed a greater variety of students maybe waited a few years or talked to students at an Ivy League or liberal arts college in the East. I hope she does a follow up. I would love to hear other people's thoughts in the comments.

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