Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Mini Review: Good Father by Diane Chamberlain

The Good Father
by Diane Chamberlain
Mira (January 2012)
Literary Fiction

What's It All About?

Four years ago, nineteen-year-old Travis Brown made a choice: to raise his newborn daughter on his own. While most of his friends were out partying and meeting girls, Travis was at home, changing diapers and worrying about keeping food on the table. But he's never regretted his decision. Bella is the light of his life. The reason behind every move he makes. And so far, she is fed. Cared for. Safe. But when Travis loses his construction job and his home, the security he's worked so hard to create for Bella begins to crumble….Then a miracle. A job in Raleigh has the power to turn their fortunes around. It has to. But when Travis arrives in Raleigh, there is no job, only an offer to participate in a onetime criminal act that promises quick money and no repercussions. With nowhere else to turn, Travis must make another choice for his daughter's sake. Even if it means he might lose her.

Who Should Read It?

Read it if you like the character-driven domestic fiction that Jodi Picoult or Barbara Delinsky deliver. Also, you probably will like this book if you enjoy alternating narrators. 3 stars.

What Else Should I Read?

What If I Don't Believe You?

Don't take my word for it! Check out these reviews:

Read In a Single Sitting | Mom's Small VictoriesBooks in the City

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

This Librarian's Quick Picks: Left Out by Tim Green

Follow my blog with Bloglovin Left Out 
by Tim Green
HarperCollins (Sep. 2016)
Sports fiction


All Landon Dorch has ever wanted is to be like everyone else. His deafness and the way he talks have been obstacles all his life. But now he finally sees his chance to fit in. Bigger and taller than any other seventh grader in his new school, Landon plans to use his size to his advantage and join the school’s football team. But the same speech problems and the cochlear implants that help him hear continue to haunt him. 
Just when it looks like Landon will be left out of football for good, an unlikely friend comes along. But in the end only Landon can fight his way off the bench and through a crowded field of bullies bent on seeing him forever left out.

Who Should Read It:

Great for 5th-8th graders...and here's the curriculum guide.

What Else You Should Read:

Monday, November 28, 2016

Nonfiction November Week 5: Discovered Bloggers!

Week 5: (Nov 28 – Dec 2) – (LoryNew to My TBR: It’s been a month full of amazing nonfiction books! Which ones have made it onto your TBR? Be sure to link back to the original blogger who posted about that book!

Yes, I've added lots of nonfiction books to my reading list, but more importantly, I've discovered lots of amazing bloggers this month! Here are a few of the new (to me) blogs I've added to my favorites and a nonfiction book I discovered through them this month:

Sarah's Book Shelves

B.B. Toady

Emerald City Book Review

And last but not least, I can't forget Doing Dewey. Katie's blog isn't new to me, but she's the person that introduced me to Nonfiction November in the first place! This has been such a fun event that really reinvigorated my love of blogging and I can't wait to participate again next year. 

Friday, November 25, 2016

Books By Theme: What to read after Small Great Things

book cover of Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult fiction
Jodi Picoult’s new book Small Great Things explores racial prejudice through three perspectives: Ruth, a black nurse charged with the murder of a white supremacist’s baby; Turk, the white supremacist; and Kennedy, Ruth’s white public defender who, while well-intentioned, harbors racial biases of her own.

After last week's fiction and nonfiction pairing post, I couldn't stop thinking about how relevant this book is right now to our country and what nonfiction books would follow Picoult's book nicely. 

Here are my picks:

Between the World and Me
by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Between the World and Me speaks to issues of race at a time when young black men continue to die at the hands of police officers with disturbing regularity. In this sense, Coates's book is quite timely. Moreover, his central thesis is deeply disturbing: "There is nothing uniquely evil in these destroyers or even in this moment. The destroyers are merely men enforcing the whims of our country, correctly interpreting its heritage and legacy." Some readers may shrink from such language, but his argument is as rhetorically sound as it is passionately delivered. "I cannot hide the world from you," Coates explains to his young son. Between the World and Me is an unrelentingly frank work expressed so perfectly that the truth of it resonates with every word.

Autobiography of a Recovering Skinhead
by Frank Meeink

Frank’s violent childhood in South Philadelphia primed him to hate, while addiction made him easy prey for a small group of skinhead gang recruiters. By 16 he had become one of the most notorious skinhead gang leaders on the East Coast and by 18 he was doing hard time. Teamed up with African-American players in a prison football league, Frank learned to question his hatred, and after being paroled he defected from the white supremacy movement and began speaking on behalf of the Anti-Defamation League. A story of fighting the demons of hatred and addiction, Frank's downfall and ultimate redemption has the power to open hearts and change lives.

Waking Up White
by Debby Irving

By sharing her sometimes cringe-worthy struggle to understand racism and racial tensions, she offers a fresh perspective on bias, stereotypes, manners, and tolerance. As Irving unpacks her own long-held beliefs about colorblindness, being a good person, and wanting to help people of color, she reveals how each of these well-intentioned mindsets actually perpetuated her ill-conceived ideas about race. She also explains why and how she's changed the way she talks about racism, works in racially mixed groups, and understands the antiracism movement as a whole. Exercises at the end of each chapter prompt readers to explore their own racialized ideas. Waking Up White's personal narrative is designed to work well as a rapid read, a book group book, or support reading for courses exploring racial and cultural issues.

The New Jim Crow
by Michelle Alexander

With dazzling candor, legal scholar Michelle Alexander argues that "we have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it." By targeting black men through the War on Drugs and decimating communities of color, the U.S. criminal justice system functions as a contemporary system of racial control—relegating millions to a permanent second-class status—even as it formally adheres to the principle of colorblindness. In the words of Benjamin Todd Jealous, president and CEO of the NAACP, this book is a "call to action."

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Mini Review: Daredevils by Shawn Vestal

book cover of Daredevils by Shawn Vestal literary fictionDaredevils
by Shawn Vestal
Penguin (April 2016)
Literary Fiction

What's It All About?

Fifteen-year-old Loretta slips out of her bedroom every evening to meet a so-called gentile. Her strict Mormon parents catch her returning one night, and promptly marry her off to Dean Harder, a devout yet materialistic fundamentalist who already has a wife and a brood of kids. Then Dean’s teenage nephew, Jason, falls for Loretta. A Zeppelin and Tolkien fan, Jason worships Evel Knievel and longs to leave his close-minded community. He and Loretta make a break for it. They drive all night, stay in hotels, and relish their dizzying burst of teenage freedom as they seek to recover Dean’s cache of “Mormon gold.” But someone Loretta left behind is on their trail…

Who Should Read It?

Read it if you liked The Lonely Polygamist by Brady Udall, HBO's Big Love, or The Book of MormonVestal evokes the ’70s and the West masterfully, but I found it hard to connect with or care about any of the characters. I was in no hurry to finish it. 2 stars. 

What Else Should I Read?
What If I Don't Believe You?
Don't take my word for it! Check out these reviews:

BrizzleLass Books | Blogging for Books | Insomniac Bibliophile

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

This Librarian's Quick Picks: Panda Pants

Panda Pants by Jacqueline Davies book cover picture bookPanda Pants
by Jacqueline Davies
illustrated by Sydney Hanson
Knopf, 2016
Picture book

Witness a hilarious battle of wills in which a young panda tries to convince his father that pants make perfect sense.

Why You'll Love It:
  • The warm-hued, soft-textured illustrations with sweet, adorable animals only add to this touching story.
  • Pairs perfectly with Paul Schmid's A Pet for Petunia for two delightfully funny tales that would be perfect for teaching persuasive writing.
  • Hanson has a knack for drawing ridiculously cute, expressive animals, and she does so here, with the facial expressions reflecting the dialogue wonderfully.

Who Should Read It:
Great for PreK-2nd graders.

illustrations from Panda pants by Jacqueline Davies picture book

What Else You Should Read:

Monday, November 21, 2016

Nonfiction November Week 4: Become the Expert

Today’s Nonfiction November (hosted by Katie at Doing Dewey, Lory at Emerald City Book Review, Rachel at Hibernator’s Library, Julz at Julz Reads, and Sarah's Book Shelves) topic is book experts:

Be The Expert/Ask the Expert/Become the Expert: Three ways to join in this week! You can either share 3 or more books on a single topic that you have read and can recommend (be the expert), you can put the call out for good nonfiction on a specific topic that you have been dying to read (ask the expert), or you can create your own list of books on a topic that you’d like to read (become the expert).

I'm choosing to become the expert on genetics since one of my nonfiction goals is to read more science nonfiction and these books have been on my to read list for awhile. 

violinist's thumb by Sam Kean book cover nonfiction scienceThe Violinist's Thumb: And Other Tales of Love, War, and Genius, as Written by Our Genetic Code
by Sam Kean

Kean explores the wonders of the magical building block of life: DNA. There are genes to explain crazy cat ladies, why other people have no fingerprints, and why some people survive nuclear bombs. Genes illuminate everything from JFK's bronze skin (it wasn't a tan) to Einstein's genius. They prove that Neanderthals and humans bred thousands of years more recently than any of us would feel comfortable thinking. They can even allow some people, because of the exceptional flexibility of their thumbs and fingers, to become truly singular violinists. Kean's vibrant storytelling once again makes science entertaining, explaining human history and whimsy while showing how DNA will influence our species' future.
Your Inner Fish by Neil Shubin book cover nonfiction science
Your Inner Fish: A Journey Into the 3.5 Billion Year History of the Human Body
by Neil Shubin

Neil Shubin, a leading paleontologist and professor of anatomy who discovered Tiktaalik--the "missing link" that made headlines around the world in April 2006--tells the story of evolution by tracing the organs of the human body back millions of years, long before the first creatures walked the earth. By examining fossils and DNA, Shubin shows us that our hands actually resemble fish fins, our head is organized like that of a long-extinct jawless fish, and major parts of our genome look and function like those of worms and bacteria.

Gene An Intimate History by Siddhartha Mukherjee book cover nonfiction scienceThe Gene: An Intimate History 
by Siddhartha Mukherjee

Weaving science, social history, and personal narrative to tell us the story of one of the most important conceptual breakthroughs of modern times, Mukherjee animates the quest to understand human heredity and its surprising influence on our lives, personalities, identities, fates, and choices. Throughout the narrative, the story of Mukherjee's own family—with its tragic and bewildering history of mental illness—cuts like a bright, red line, reminding us of the many questions that hang over our ability to translate the science of genetics from the laboratory to the real world. 

Friday, November 18, 2016

Books By Theme: So Funny It's Scary!

scared surprised baby monkey photo

The Zero Degree Zombie Zone by Patrik Henry Bass

Bakari Johnson's worries about running for fourth-grade hall monitor against popular Tariq suddenly seem less important after he's sucked into an icy, otherworldly dimension. The wicked, spiky ice king Zenon has lost a magical ring in Bakari's school, and he's sending Bakari back to find it…or else Zenon's hordes of ice zombies will invade the school! Unfortunately, to complete the quest, Bakari and his friend Wardell will have to convince Tariq and his queen-bee cousin, Keisha, to help them. Cartoon illustrations keep the action front and center in this fast-moving supernatural adventure.

The Last Kids on Earth by Max Brallier; illustrated by Douglas Holgate

After monsters attack the town of Wakefield, 13-year-old foster kid Jack is among the few who haven't been zombified. Venturing out of his treehouse fortress, Jack uses his video gaming skills to tackle various "Feats of Apocalyptic Success," which include assembling a team of other survivors (such as his science-geek friend Quentin, middle school bully Dirk, and pet monster Rover), and rescuing his crush, June Del Toro (whether she needs rescuing or not). Blending wisecracking characters with splattering monster guts, this cartoon-illustrated series-starter is sure to draw in fans of Paolo Bacigalupi's Zombie Baseball Beatdown.

Lumberjanes: Beware the Kitten Holy by Noelle Stevenson and Grace Ellis; illustrated by Shannon Watters and Brooke Allen

From the outside, Miss Qiunzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet's Camp for Hardcore Lady Types looks like a pretty typical Lumberjanes scout camp. But cabin-mates Mal, Molly, April, Jo, and Ripley are earning their merit badges through some pretty bizarre supernatural activities: arm-wrestling giants, battling three-eyed beasts, and escaping traps in an underground cave, to name just a few. If you're hooked on this upbeat, high-octane comic book starring kick-butt heroines who believe in "friendship to the max!", we've got good news for you: this collection is the 1st of many in the ongoing Lumberjanes series.

Zombie Tag by Hannah Moskowitz

In a world where the paranormal is possible, 12-year-old Will believes that the recent death of his older brother, Graham, doesn't have to be permanent. After researching a previous zombie uprising, Will finds a way to raise all the dead people in town, including Graham. However, real zombies turn out to be the opposite of exciting, and having slow, unfeeling zombie Graham around only makes Will miss his brother more. Zombie Tag offers an unusual combination of horror, humor, and bittersweet emotions; for zombie stories with less shambling and more brain-eating, try John Kloepfer's Zombie Chasers.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Mini Review: Freedom's Child by Jax Miller

Freedom's Child
by Jax Miller
Crown (June 2015)
Fiction thriller

What's It All About?

Living in witness protection to hide from her late husband's violent family, Freedom Oliver risks her life in order to save the kidnapped daughter she gave up for adoption.

Who Should Read It?

Read it if you're okay with a pretty far-fetched and melodramatic plot. If Sons of Anarchy and Jodi Picoult had a baby, this book would be the result.

2 stars.

What Else Should I Read?
What If I Don't Believe You?
Don't take my word for it! Check out these other reviews.

The Dysfunctional Mother Blog | What Danielle Did Next | Mission: Incomplete

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Kid Lit Quick Pick: Frazzled - Everyday Disasters and Impending Doom

Frazzled Everyday Disasters and Impending Doom by Booki Vivat book cover middle grade fictionFrazzled: Everyday Disasters and Impending Doom
by Booki Vivat
Harper Collins, 2016
Fiction chapter book


Nervous about middle school because her family does not get her and her friends know exactly what they want to do, Abbie Wu searches for her own passion before discovering a knack for leadership when injustices in the cafeteria come to light.

Why You'll Love It:

  • This one's perfect for fans of the Wimpy Kid series and anyone who will appreciate rooting for a witty underdog.
  • The humorous, doodlelike artwork makes her struggles entertaining and relatable.
  • The multicultural cast of characters, including kooky Aunt Lisa and scary Ms. Skelter, turns up the charm and humor scale.

Who Should Read It:

Great for 3rd-6th graders...and here's the book trailer!

What Else You Should Read:

Monday, November 14, 2016

Nonfiction November Week 3: Book Pairing

This week's Nonfiction November topic is hosted by Sarah at Sarah’s Book Shelves.

Book Pairing: This week, pair up a nonfiction book with a fiction title. It can be a “If you loved this book, read this!” or just two titles that you think would go well together. Maybe it’s a historical novel and you’d like to get the real history by reading a nonfiction version of the story.

I'm really excited about this week's topic, so I won't be able to stop with just one pairing. I love historical fiction and I love nonfiction, so I find it quite natural and entertaining to read a fiction book on a topic and then follow it up with a nonfiction buddy on the same topic. I find the fiction an easy way to get familiar with something before I delve into the nonfiction side.

The Spymistress by Jennifer Chiaverini & Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy by Karen Abbott

The Spymistress is a thrilling novelization of the life of Elizabeth Van Lew, a Civil War hero who risked everything to steal Confederate secrets during the Civil War. Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy chronicles the adventures of four female Civil War spies, including Van Lew.

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah & Ravensbrück by Sarah Helm

The Nightingale is the story of two French sisters trying to survive the German occupation during World War II. The younger sister joins the Communist resistance, ferrying downed airmen across the border to safety. Ravensbrück details the deathly existence of Nazi Germany’s only concentration camp built solely for women.

Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson & An American Plague by Jim Murphy

Both are utterly compelling accounts of the yellow fever epidemic that ravaged Colonial Philadelphia. Rich details, based on extensive research, highlight the previously neglected care-giving role of African-Americans. Although both books are geared towards a middle grade audience, I thoroughly enjoyed - and learned a lot - reading them as an adult.

I, Elizabeth by Rosalind Miles & The Life of Elizabeth I by Alison Weir

In I, Elizabeth Miles traces, through the queen's own voice, Elizabeth's turbulent years as a princess in Henry VIII's court, her uneasy status during the brief reigns of her brother Edward and sister Mary and her decades on the throne. In the nonfiction counterpart, Weir uses myriad details of dress, correspondence and contemporary accounts to create an almost affectionate portrait of a strong, well-educated ruler loved by her courtiers and people alike.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Books By Theme: Espionage

espionage spies man listening through wall with a glass

"One mark of Elizabethan success is that the queen survived to die in her bed in 1603.
But it was a near-run thing."
~ from Stephen Alford's The Watchers

watches by stephen alford book cover nonfiction
The Watchers: A Secret History of the Reign of Elizabeth I
by Stephen Alford

Catholic foes at home and abroad plotted tirelessly to murder or overthrow England's Queen Elizabeth I; in turn, her chief "spymaster," Sir Francis Walsingham, established a dazzlingly complex network of agents who safeguarded her long reign with ruthless cunning and efficiency. The Watchers illuminates 16th-century spygames in an action-packed narrative laced with masterful understanding of Elizabethan society's greatest hopes and fears. Fans of the period will love this "irresistible" (Booklist) read; political history buffs interested in the roots of modern espionage -- or the fine line between national security and repression -- will, too.

good spy by Kai Bird book cover nonfictionThe Good Spy: The Life and Death of Robert Ames 
by Kai Bird

In The Good Spy, author Kai Bird builds a comprehensive profile of CIA intelligence officer Robert Ames, who died in the 1983 bombing of the American Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon. Ames specialized in Arabic language and Arab history and politics, becoming a recognized expert who served as a key policy advisor to U.S. decision makers. Committed to finding solutions to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Ames emphasized fact-finding and rational policy analysis despite American partisan political pressures and decreasing stability in Lebanon and Iran. This page-turner portrays a family man and dedicated professional within a detailed history of the region, along with information about the bombers and where they were as of the book's 2014 publication.

spy who loved by clare mulley book cover nonfiction
The Spy Who Loved: The Secrets and Lives of Christine Granville 
by Clare Mulley

In The Spy Who Loved, author Clare Mulley vividly depicts the exploits of Christine Granville, one of the few female British special agents operating behind enemy lines during World War II. Despite the British Intelligence Service's opposition to women's participation, she provided invaluable assistance to the Allied cause, employing her remarkable facility with languages, considerable courage and physical ability, and charismatic personality. Mulley did extensive documentary research on Granville (who was murdered in 1952), making up for her associates' reluctance to supply personal recollections of her exploits. For additional page-turning accounts of female British intelligence agents, try Sarah Helm's A Life in Secrets or Marcus Binney's The Women Who Lived for Danger.

good hunting by Jack Devine book cover nonfiction
Good Hunting: An American Spymaster's Story
by Jack Devine with Vernon Loeb

Jack Devine, who retired in 1999 as the associate director of overseas operations for the CIA, served under U.S. presidents from Richard Nixon to Bill Clinton. In this compelling memoir, he relates the history of covert actions during that period, details several instances of mole-hunting in the Agency, and discusses the state of intelligence work since his retirement: he continues to support the use of covert operations while expressing doubt about the current emphasis on paramilitary actions. Whether you're fascinated by spycraft or more interested in the undercover history of the late 20th century, you'll find Good Hunting an engaging and informative read. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Mini Review: Lost Girls by Heather Young

The Lost Girls
by Heather Young
William Morrow, 2016
Literary Fiction

What's It All About?

In the summer of 1935, six-year-old Emily Evans vanished from her family's vacation home on a remote Minnesota lake. The loss devastated the family. Sixty-four years later, Emily's sister Lucy writes the story of that harrowing summer in a notebook that she bequeaths, along with the lake house and a hefty investment portfolio, to her grandniece, Justine.

“How terrible to die without finishing a book, she thought. Never to know the end of the story.”
Who Should Read It?

Read this book if you don't mind waiting a REALLY long time for any action to happen in the plot. The book builds and builds to a rather anti-climactic climax that is ultimately not very surprising. 

I'd give it a pass.

What Should I Read Instead?

What If I Don't Believe You?

Don't take my word for it! Check out these other reviews: 

Smart B***hes, Trashy Books | The Misstery

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Kid Lit Pick: Samson in the Snow by Philip Stead

Samson in the Snow
by Philip C. Stead
Roaring Brook, 2016
Picture Book


One sunny day Samson, a large and friendly woolly mammoth, encounters a little red bird who is looking for yellow flowers for her mouse friend (whose favorite color is yellow). As she flies off with the flowers, Samson wonders what it must be like to have a friend. He wonders this for so long, in fact, that he falls asleep and wakes up to a world covered in snow. In the midst of a blizzard, Samson finds and shelters the little red bird and flower-loving mouse in a tender tale of kindness and unexpected friendship.

Why You'll Love It:

  • Stead returns to themes he's made his own: friendship, acceptance, and love for small, ordinary objects that most people overlook. 
  • The contrast between the very large and the very small contributes to the story's magic, and so does Samson, a hero who is tender, patient, and loyal.
  • Stead has tackled the illustrations without his partner and wife, Erin, this time around, and the pictures have a sturdy feel, grounded by the mastodon's large, reddish-brown figure. 

Who Should Read It:

Great for PK-2nd grade.

What Else You Should Read:

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