Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Aca Lavender by Leslye Walton

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava LavenderThe Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is another finalist I am reading for The 2015 Hub Morris Challenge. This first novel by Leslye Walton is sweeping in its coverage of family history, trials and tribulations of the family members and their enthralling romances. Ava and Henry Lavender are the final members in Beauregard Roux's family tree and oh how I enjoyed Walton's descriptions of her characters, their homes, the climate, their food (OMG, I salivated while reading about all of bakery pastries and breads!!!) and the tragedies of love that permeate this family. The magical realism that is Ava's wings and the many ghosts that follow Emilienne are just a few reasons this book must be read, savored, and luxuriated in...Read this work of art to find out what the strange and beautiful sorrows really are of Ava Lavender, Viviane, and Emilienn. You will not be disappointed!

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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

All the Rage by Courtney Summers

All the RageAll the Rage by Courtney Summers
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

All the Rage by Courtney Summers
Thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin's Press and St. Martin's Griffin for the ARC, All the Rage by Courtney Summers. Wow, what a gripping read! Students will be mesmerized by the self-loathing Romy endures as she navigates losing her friends and gains the anger, ire, and hostility of many around her when she accuses the sheriff’s son of rape and is not believed. Romy is a victim and this book is explosive as it ignores her truth and instead believes those with power , like the police, and student athletes. What will happen to Romy as the abuse and tensions grow? A must read for teens and adults as rape, sexuality, identity, and failure are scathingly explored.


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Thursday, January 22, 2015

Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek: A Memoir by Maya Van Wagenen

Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern GeekPopular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek by Maya Van Wagenen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What a great book! I read this as part of The Hub Morris/Nonfiction Challenge. Popular is a memoir by Maya Van Wagenen and she is only 15! She took this writing challenge from her mother- Finding a 1950s book in her dad's library- Maya decides to perform an experiment during 8th grade. Read the book and use the many tips by Betty Cornell ensuring popularity. Maya's writing is honest, hilarious, heartfelt and I am looking forward to more of her books! Reading how girdles, rag rollers in her hair, and reaching out to other students changed Maya's life was special because of how she wrote and felt. Maya's shy, nerdy personality becomes popular (with many different results) when she reaches out to others like her (and not like her) and says "Hi, I'm Maya." A definite must read!

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Sunday, January 18, 2015

The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion & the Fall of Imperial Russia by Candace Fleming

The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial RussiaThe Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia by Candace Fleming
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is a nonfiction finalist in the Hub Challenge (Morris & Nonfiction). Candace Fleming weaves a thoroughly well researched time in Russian history in which the czar, Nicholas II was totally unprepared and suited to be a ruler. He falls in love and marries Alexandra of Germany and abdicates most of his decision making to her. The problem was that Alexandra believed in a religion dominated by mysticism and she became obsessed with collecting icons, kneeling in prayer and later, a staunch advocate of the charlatan, Rasputin. At a time when Russia needed a strong leader, war erupts and Nicholas drives his country into further distress with his inept leadership. All the while, Fleming weaves into each chapter in a shadowbox-- a look into the lives of the Russian people- peasants, farmers, factory workers and soldiers whose lives were miserable, toiling long hours for low wages and shortages of housing, food, and everything else. An in depth, compelling look at the Romanov family- with their 4 daughters and 1 son -a hemophiliac(both parents decide to keep his life threatening illness a secret from all) is heartbreaking in so many ways. A must read for students and adults!

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Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Story of Owen by E. K. Johnston

The Story of Owen (Dragon Slayer of Trondheim, #1)The Story of Owen by E.K. Johnston
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I read this book as part of the Hub Morris Challenge and what wonderful writing, storytelling, and dragons and their history seamlessly interwoven into a story that features so many strong protagonists! Siobhan McQuaid becomes Owen Trondheim's bard- she is a little nerdy, loves composing and playing music and once she and Owen are late for the first day of school- it is in detention that they become friends and partners in Owen's job as dragon slayer. Both Owen and Siobhan's parents are strong characters too with Owen's aunts (married to each other) who raised him while his father roams the countryside killing dragons. His very famous Aunt Lottie (her wife, Hannah does other kind of training but is not famous) trains him. Together they all decide to change the way dragon slayers are chosen (family lines) and re-write the dragon charter and begin enlisting volunteers to help guard against the ever increasing dragon onslaught. A ripping good read and I am looking forward to more dragon and Owen stories from E.K. Johnston!

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Sunday, January 11, 2015

Gabi, A Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero

Gabi, a Girl in PiecesGabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I read this book as part of the Hub (YALSA) Morris/Nonfiction challenge. We need more books like this! Gabi is a Mexican American BUT since she is so light skinned, even Mexicans don't think she is part Mexican. What I love about Gabi's voice and character is that she is so authentic; she is hilarious in her thoughts and words (she is a wonderful writer and poet- she is compassionate- she is confused) she is just a teen looking for answers. She loves her family but knows they are very dysfunctional in so many ways. Her mother judges her, yells at her, and constantly harps on Gabi to diet and doesn't really see the need for her daughter to go to college or date boys. Her father is a meth addict and Gabi's poem about him on p. 117-122 titled "In Light of the Fear of my Father's Death I Write This Down" is sad, loving, despondent, and honestly to the point. Her best friends, Cindy and Sebastian have their own baggage, but they stick together through thick and thin. Gabi has a good self image about herself but she knows she is not thin and she LOVES TO EAT Mexican food whether it is her mother's, aunt's, or the restaurant- Pep's House of Wings or hidden away in her room. As Gabi tells us in diary format about her senior year and college admission drama, we find a teen who is so so so many things- shy, self-confident, honest, humorous, genuine, hopeful, boy crazy, reluctant to talk back to her parents and elders, and most of all a girl that the reader meets in many different Pieces - A Gordita/A Fatgirl (I loved the cover of this book!!!). I particularly enjoyed the zine she created for a class assignment (with a wonderful teacher, Ms Abernard) beginning on page 193, titled "The Female Body" (her artwork, illustrations and diagrams must be seen and read!!!) It is through her diary, letters to her father, poetry, that Gabi tries to find her way in the world. I love this girl! Highly recommended!

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Thursday, January 8, 2015

Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights by Steve Sheinkin

The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil RightsThe Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights by Steve Sheinkin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have read Bomb and Notorious Benedict Arnold by Steve Sheinkin and I love his writing. His nonfiction reads like thrillers you pick up and read in one night; you keep turning the pages- holding your breath and hang on the edge with each turn of the page. In Port Chicago 50, Sheinkin's research is thorough, and even though it seems words and phrases are repeated...it is pivotal to drive home the unequal, horrible treatment these young African Americans received as sailors for the Navy. No one would listen as the discrimination and degradation continued. No one would listen when these boys were not trained to handle dangerous ammunition. And no one believed them when they said officers placed bets on which divisions could load the most ammunition the fastest. What Sheinkin shows in this must read book is the continued injustice and mistreatment by the Navy, even after the horrible explosion that claimed so many lives and caused fear in those that survived. Even with Thurgood Marshall involved, the trial was a sham with lies and bias by the white officers, prosecutor and the members of the Court toward the 50 young sailors. Highly recommended for students and adults.

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