Monday, June 27, 2016

Book Club Pick: The Children

The Children
by Ann Leary
St. Martin's Press
2016
246 pages
ISBN: 9781250045379

Praise for The Children:

“In this deeply satisfying novel about how unknowable people can be, intrigue builds with glass shards of dark humor toward an ending that is far from comic.” ―Kirkus, starred review

“The Children is populated by comically quirky characters reminiscent of Anne Tyler at her best. But in Ann Leary's capable hands, they come alive as funny, wise, sometimes confused but always hopeful as they navigate a plot rich with unexpected turns. Leary's unique voice and perspective make this the novel you won't be able to put down this summer.” ―Ann Hood, author of The Obituary Writer

"[Leary's] characters are a delightful blend of strong personalities, all with their own little touch of delicious evil, and her darkly comic send-ups of New England wealth, nouveau riche, and Internet culture should keep readers absorbed until the final, most shocking secrets are revealed."Publishers Weekly

"A witty, touching, unputdownable novel." ―Good Housekeeping

“A fast-paced, darkly funny novel.” ―Popsugar

"A read-in-one-sitting romp, Leary’s wry and searing satire of affluence and elitism comically yet steadily builds to a sobering and malevolent finale". ―Booklist


My review:


Hypnotic, fantastic, provocative, dark and oh, so very captivatingly cunning, The Children is this summer's guilty pleasure. This novel has it all: a fairy tale family who has an old  money  background, a sprawling lake front estate,  a trust that patriarch Whit Whitman has in place after his death in which his two sons inherit and his widow and two step-daughters are allowed to live in the home until Joan's (his wife) death, secrets, lies, and mysteries abound!

Twenty-nine year old Charlotte never leaves the property. Her life revolves around her secret on-line life. She writes a mommy blog about her fictional family: her handsome, loving husband and her two beautiful children--all of whom do not exist except in Charlotte's fictionalized world. She gains giant corporate sponsors who pay her to basically blog. The diaper company, of course, has no idea Charlotte is a fake and neither do her millions of followers. Her blog is so popular she's one of the Top Ten Mommy Bloggers according to The Huffington Post. She hides her true identity by not using her real name and never posting photos of her "children," and she also invents fake blog readers who comment on her blog posts as if they are her real neighbors. All this chicanery is just enough for her to gain thousands of mommy blog readers.

The story is told through Charlotte's eyes, who is an incredible and novel storyteller. Readers will not know whether to believe Charlotte's version because she is a fake and a liar of supreme proportions.

Favorite son golden boy Dartmouth educated and athletic god Spin comes home to introduce the rest of his family to beautiful and charismatic Laurel, a girl who is too good to be true. Once a celebrated skier of Olympic talent, she sets her dreams for gold aside after an injury but still manages to excel in yoga and gains online near celebrity status. Stepmother Joan and her grown girls are ready to hate Laurel. Charlotte begins to engage in Internet sleuthing to discover flaws in Spin's new fiancé. Step-sister Sally doesn't question anything about Laurel's past and seems to accept Spin's choice.

There's something about Laurel. Something sinister. Behind that perfect smile and beautiful face lies the mind of a sociopath, and although she suspects something Charlotte has no idea of the consequences Laurel will bring upon everyone involved.

The property is worth millions, but sons Spin and Perry can do nothing to it as long as Joan lives. Their fate is sealed by their father's trust. Wedding plans are set into motion and everything leading up to the wedding begins to snowball.

Secrets are about to be revealed and readers will savor every gleeful word. If you loved The Girl on the Train and Gone Girl, you will love The Children.

I LOVED this novel! The narrator choice is sheer genius. Pick this one up and you won't be disappointed.

Highly recommended for adult readers. Book clubs will love this book!

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Romantic Travel Pick: Two Summers

Two Summers
by Aimee Friedman
Point
2016
368 pages
ISBN: 9780545520072

Sweet, upbeat (for the most part), fun, and entertaining, Two Summers will find its audience who long for a quick beach read. A fresh take on a parallel stories book. Summer Everett is excited to be going to France for the summer to see her absentee, somewhat famous painter father. He skipped out on Summer and her mother after being noticed by the art world. Summer's mother is less than optimistic to see her only child visit her father. Summer has conflicting emotions of whether she should stay home and watch while her  best friend Ruby falls in love or should she go into uncharted territory and visit her dream country France?  What if her mother is right? What if her father is less than thrilled to see her?

She opts for France. On the airline ramp, Summer's phone rings. It's nearly dead and she decides not to answer it. This one decision is the turning point of the book. It is the ring of an unanswered phone that seals the fate; it is the kismet that changes the outcome of each story. One story tells the story of Summer landing in France, finding her father's house, discovering his living situation and his absence (once again!), finding romance, following her mother's footsteps during her college years, seeing the same sights her mother saw, and learning that decisions made early in life have lasting repercussions.

The other story is the story of Summer staying home and seeing how a possible crush will play out. Either way, Summer will have to go through changes and make decisions. Family secrets are reveled that will change Summer forever.

A light, quick read for those long, hot dog days of summer. YA romance readers will be thrilled.

Highly recommended grade 8-up. Mature situations. Family drama.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received the ARC from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.


Thursday, May 26, 2016

Fantasy Romance Adventure Pick: Rebel of the Sands

Rebel of the Sands
by Alwyn Hamilton
Viking
2016
314 pages
ISBN: 9780451477538


Editorial Reviews

Review

Raves for REBEL OF THE SANDS:* “Romantic, thrilling, hilarious, and just plain great fun.”—Kirkus Reviews, starred review

* “This atmospheric fantasy combines magic, mythology, and the Wild West to create a riveting tale...an exciting, romantic adventure that is unique and all its own.”—Booklist, starred review

* “If the best of the Old West and the coolest parts of Arabian Nights had a baby who then rebelled by going steampunk, the result would be this gem of a book.”—BCCB, starred review

* “Readers will be drawn into the story and won’t want to put this book down.”—School Library Connections, starred review

Rebel of the Sands is a winning bit of storytelling, as well as a homage to storytelling itself. It evokes such disparate influences — 1,001 Arabian Nights, Hindu lore and Navajo myth, as well as, inevitably, the triumvirate of Tolkien, Lucas and Rowling — that at times you wonder whether Hamilton can pull it all off. She can. She has circled a spot on the map and claimed it for her own.”—The New York Times Book Review

“Debut author Hamilton combines elements of Western and Middle Eastern civilization and lore with her own mythology, crafting an enticing, full-bodied story . . .  successfully mingles romance with thrilling stakes, and hints at a welcome sequel.”—Publishers Weekly“A perfect combination of American Westerns and Arabian myths . . . Fans of Sarah Maas and Victoria Aveyard should give this one a try.” —VOYA

Rebel of the Sands is vivid, romantic, and wildly entertaining. You will cheer for Amani the whole way as she escapes the bonds of oppression and finds her own power, and you will mark your calendar for the sequel.”—Rae Carson, bestselling author of the Fire & Thorns trilogy

“Buckle up for a wild ride! Rebel of the Sands is a stunning debut full of irresistible energy, heart-stopping action, and a new voice that sings.”—Alison Goodman, New York Times bestselling author of Eon and Eona

As sweeping as the sands of time, the epic story of Amani Al'Hiza and the kingdom of Miraji, will excite and delight scores of readers. Amani refuses to be pigeon holed as just a lowly girl in this male dominated  kingdom. Amani can shoot a gun better than any man. She is fierce and a fighter, competitive in every aspect of her being. She longs for escape from the small and backward desert outpost of Dustwalk. Its sad shops and even sadder people are stifling.

Hoping to win a shooting match, Amani disguises herself as a boy and enters (I think, give a girl a gun, and I'm in). It is soon clear that even if she wins, the crowd of betters and thugs will never let her escape with her winnings. It's down to three competitors. The blue eyed Bandit (Amani), a handsome foreigner, and a very drunk, very loud behemoth. Amani and the newcomer make a deal to throw the game and the house will still pay them and the drunk will win. An epic brawl breaks out with Amani and the man fleeing.

Now penniless, Amani doesn't know what to do. The gods are smiling upon her when a Buraqi enters her village. If she is able to catch the magic beast, she can use it to escape and later sell it at a huge profit. Amani and Jin escape the town and the Sultan's forces by train, This is the first leg of their journey which will test their strength and spirit.

Secrets will be revealed and old magic will come alive as Amani and Jin manage to keep each other alive and on the move. Vivid world building and breakneck action will keep readers turning the pages. Think Arabian Nights and  epic western. Some may find the foreign names a bit of a mouthful, but like Russian novels, if you can get past the names, the story is intense.

Highly recommended grade 8-up. Mature situations.

FTC Required Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Southern Charmer: Tupelo Honey

 
Tupelo Honey
(Kindle)
Lis Anna-Langston
Mapleton Publishers
2016
247 pages

Now available as Kindle

Tupelo Honey will tug at your heartstrings and sing off the pages.  Set in the 1970s in a small Southern town, the story of young Tupelo begins with a picture of her daily existence. Tupelo's home life can only be described as broken and painful. Her mother is a wretched, broken, mean drug addict with a salty mouth and she shows Tupelo no motherly love but instead inflicting  intense abuse--both  physical and mental. Thank goodness for the kindness of strangers. Mother's then boyfriend Nash is charming and sweet to Tupelo and believes in her. He becomes a constant in her life even though her crazy mother continues to push him away. Eventually Nash is lost to Tupelo when her mother grabs her and takes a "vacation" to California. Tupelo is homesick and using her wits figures out a way to trick a cop into sending her home. What Tupelo lacks in parents, she makes up in moxie.

Another coping mechanism is the existence of Moochi, Tupelo's imaginary dog/man friend who helps her out in tight situations. Tupelo is able to hold conversations with him and he gives her good advice and ideas.

Grandmother Marmalade does all she can for her granddaughter--taking her in when her own daughter has a bout with drugs or booze. Marmalade has her hands full with her two grown sons. Mental illness cuts a large swath in this family with both of Tupelo's uncles suffering from possible schizophrenia.

Readers will love Tupelo and empathize with her struggles to find a home and be loved. Through heartbreak, pain, fair, loss, desperation, Tupelo never loses her enthusiastic voice. Tupelo Honey is a wonderful book that teaches us  many lessons about love and family. It is a shame that it contains profanity which may keep it off of middle grade and middle school lists. I understand the use of the profanity. It is used primarily by Tupelo's drugged out, no good mother.

Readers will cheer for  Tupelo as she navigates the problem adults which seem to plague her life. When she sees Nash again I wanted to jump up and down for her! This is one book that proves that although  you can't choose your family, you can  choose where you belong.

Highly recommended grade 5-up with warning of profanity, drug abuse, violence.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

YA Pick: The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett

The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett
Sourcebooks Fire
Chelsea Sedoti
2017
400 pages
ISBN: 9781492636083

Available January 2017

Twisted and taut, The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett will pull at your heartstrings, make you angry, and leave you breathless. Set in a small town that nobody cares about and where nothing interesting ever happens, the story opens with the disappearance of a popular cheerleader. Lizzie is the golden girl that every boy dreams about and every girl tries to be or at least align herself with in the glorified atmosphere that surrounds Lizzie.

Introvert, passive Hawthorn throws  herself into the search for clues in Lizzie's disappearance. Although she hates Lizzie and is secretly jealous of her, Hawthorn will do anything--literally--to find the truth.  Driven by curiosity and a strange passion for wild storytelling, Hawthorn paints a picture of what might have happened to Lizzie.

Did she just disappear? Or did someone wish her harm? Hawthorn does not buy the idea that Lizzie's boyfriend Enzo did it. Maybe Lizzie somehow magically shed her human form and became a wolf. She was--after all--fascinated by wolves. Hawthorn begins to research werewolf lore obsessed with the idea that something magical must have happened to Lizzie.

In order to carry out her ruse, Hawthorn takes a job (Lizzie's old job) at a nearby diner. There she meets tortured musician and Lizzie's ex-boyfriend Enzo. Now Hawthorn is in the position she's always wanted. She is living Lizzie's charmed life. She has the boyfriend and the job.

The closer Hawthorn gets to  Enzo, the more she finds herself falling in love with him. This is all wrong. Enzo is an adult--several years older than Hawthorn. That, and the possibility that he's a murderer should be enough to give Hawthorn a pause, but it doesn't. If anything, it seems to drive her into his arms. Hawthorn's thoughts are  almost too painful to read at this point.


Hawthorn has a difficult time processing what really happened to Lizzie. With her imaginative storytelling behind her, Hawthorn is forced to face facts. How many times does a person lie to herself and to others? What if your entire persona is a lie? What if reality and persona are completely at odds? Wise Yoda-like hippie Sundog tells Hawthorn, "You only know the part of the story people want you to see."

The book comes to an end with Hawthorn learning about real life, not the magical dream world she seems to have built. The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett is difficult to digest. It will haunt readers long after they have finished the book.

Recommended grade 9-up. Teen behavior, mean girls, bullying, mature content, teen sex.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received the ARC from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.






Tuesday, May 17, 2016

32 Innovative Tools

Noodle Tools Article--32 Innovative Online Tools To Use

Educators and students need to know about these tools! Includes math tutorials, videos, presentations tools, even a tool that can help you manage time, and what about a tool that automatically dims your computer screen to lighting? These are AWESOME!

Monday, May 16, 2016

Middle Grade Pick: Save Me a Seat

Save Me a Seat
by Sarah Weeks & Gita Varadarajan
Scholastic Press
2016
240 pages
ISBN: 9780545846608


* "A novel treatment of a familiar situation delivered with fizz and aplomb." --"Kirkus Reviews, "starred review


My Review:

Save Me a Seat is a solid middle grade pick with short chapters and told in alternate chapters by two narrators. Ravi is a recent immigrant from India and new to America and New Jersey. Although his has a genius I.Q.,  he is mistaken for needing special attention. Ravi is hurt and mystified. Don't these grown ups know it's his accent that is hampering him, if anything. Joe is much bigger than his classmates. He lumbers around and has trouble concentrating when there's background noise around him. Due to this, his teachers think he's "slow."

Ravi knew it would be hard starting out in a new school, but it's more like going to a different planet. In Ravi's old school in India, he had been the top of the pecking order: the best and brightest. At his new school, he's the foreigner who talks funny and eats weird smelling food for lunch.

Ravi and Joe don't seem like they'll become friends, but when a school bully strikes, it may be time to unite. It's much easier to face a bully, when you have a friend along.

Grown ups in Save Me a Seat are absolutely clueless as to how bullying works and how to stop it. Every suggestion one of them makes only makes the problem worse. The boys will have to deliver their own comeuppanse .

Recommended middle grades and reluctant readers and anyone new to a school. A great immigrant story which will resonate with many.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received this book form the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Kizoa Video Texas Library Convention

Texas Library Convention 2016

Check out this short Kizoa presentation of images from the Texas Library Convention in Houston, Texas, April 19-22, 2016. Free books, swag, awesome events and luncheons and authors, authors, authors!

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

YA Book Giveaway: Love & Gelato

 
This is one sweet summer read! Debut author Jenna Evans Welch has a true winner on her hands. Part romance in the Tuscan sun, part adventure, Love & Gelato is pure joy.
 
 
I have FIVE free copies of this awesome new debut! For your chance to win, simply post a comment to the blog and be sure to include first name, city, state and email. Deadline for posting comments is Thursday, May 19 at noon MST. Winners will be chosen randomly by Randomizer and notified on May 19. Please check your email  on that date. Winners have 24 hours to respond to my email. Books will ship from New York. Good luck and start posting!



See what others are saying:

Review

"Lina’s capacity for and understanding of love transform beautifully over the course of the novel; the book is not solely about her personal romance but also other characters’ interwoven love stories. A good addition for teens with wanderlust." (School Library Journal)

"Lina narrates in a breezy style, her mother's journal entries interwoven to provide revelations at carefully paced intervals.Seasoned with luscious descriptions of Renaissance architecture and Italian food, a sure bet for fans of romance fiction and armchair travel." (Kirkus)

"Readers will be caught up in this story of romance, family, and what it really means to be loved." (Booklist Online)

"The reader will find it difficult to put this book down." (VOYA starred review)


Monday, May 9, 2016

High School Pick: The Great American Whatever

The Great American Whatever
by Tim Federle
Simon & Schuster
2016
274 pages
ISBN: 9781481404099


Reviews:


"The Great American Whatever knocked me out. Tim Federle writes with a rare voice — original, authentic, engaging." (Rob Thomas, author of Rats Saw God and creator of Veronica Mars)

"A raw nerve of a book—so perfectly tender and funny and true. My heart now belongs to The Great American Whatever. Officially. Completely." (Becky Albertalli, author of Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda)

*"Federle’s first foray into YA is an accomplished effort, dramatic and distinguished by carefully developed, appealing characters... whimsical, wry, and unfailingly funny." (Booklist, starred review)

*"A Holden Caulfield for a new generation." (Kirkus Reviews, starred review)

"The mix of vulnerability, effervescence, and quick wit in Quinn’s narration will instantly endear him to readers." (Publishers Weekly)

*“Even under the weight of grief, Quinn’s conversational and charming narrative voice effervesces, mixing humor and vulnerability in typical Federle style." (School Library Journal, starred review)

"Recommended for mature teens who want to be inspired." (VOYA)

"Federle’s YA debut takes its place in the lineage of Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower and John Green’s coming-of-age tales." (Horn Book Magazine)

*"What sets this fantastic novel apart is Quinn's brilliantly realized, often hilarious first-person voice, from laugh-out-loud asides to heart-wrenching admissions...Charming and imaginative." (Shelf Awareness, starred review)

“Federle has triumphed. He’s written a moving tale about grief that’s also laugh-out-loud funny.” (The New York Times Book Review)
 
My Review:
 
Laugh out loud, rolling on the floor funny, comic, hysterical, laughter ensues, if I had just drank chocolate milk I would probably shoot it out my nose, side-splitting, slap yo mama funny! Tim Federle is the real deal. He can write comedy if he ever needs a side job, but that's not going to happen anytime soon.
 
The Great American Whatever is the perfect teen angst book of 2016 and Quinn the perfect "every" boy. When Quinn's beloved older sister dies in a horrific (is there any other kind?) car accident, Quinn takes grief and self blame to a whole new level. He stays in his room, not moving, not eating, not bathing, not reading or watching television, not doing anything. For months. His mother tries to rouse him, but with her own failure as both a mother and wife, she is wallowing in self pity herself. The world as they both know it has changed in an instant. Lucky for Quinn, he has a great friend who won't take no for an answer. Geoff literally drags Quinn out the door and to a party.
 
Quinn meets a cute boy and is excited when the boy gives him a note with his phone number on it. Too bad Quinn can't find his cell phone. He has not seen it in months. Since that terrible night when he got his last text from his sister, right before she died. The book is full of grief, but Federle makes grief hysterically funny.
 
Quinn goes on a date with cute boy Amir and gets drunk. The next day, Quinn says, "This is the kind of hangover people write horror movies about, movies that are never funded because they're too graphic....a hangover feels like...a sledgehammer eloped with a swing set and they honeymooned in your head."   
 
Once he is able to tell his story out loud to Amir, Quinn is able to forgive himself and move on. He will always feel a void where his sister/film maker/director used to be, but when he discovers that his dream was not her dream, it is an a-ha moment.  Quinn sees life through the script of a movie. It has been his dream to write and produce films and he now has the chance to go to film school. Another quirk that sets Quinn apart is his love of movies--all types of movies from old black and white, to spaghetti westerns, to horror. He gives teen readers ideas on what movies to be sure and see. Hopefully they will take notice.
 
If Hollywood can get the right writers (Tim Federle, maybe?) The Great American Whatever would be a fantastic teen movie or even a comic sit-com.
 
Highly, highly recommended grade 9-up. Mature situations, profanity.
 
FTC Required Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.   

Friday, May 6, 2016

Picture Book Pick: If Not For You

If Not For You
by Bob Dylan
Illustrations by David Walker
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
2016
32 pages
ISBN: 978145164881


Reviews:
  • "A floppy-eared dog and his pup treasure each other’s company in anthropomorphic domestic scenes that every child will recognize.... The palette and technique of the acrylic illustrations are soft and rounded using broken lines and delicate highlights. They provide a warm and fuzzy feeling that adds to the theme of love between a parent and child. The lyrics to Dylan’s 1970 song “If Not for You” are the text. VERDICT: Walker has done a fantastic job of interpreting Dylan’s song for children."
  • – School Library Journal, March 2016
  •  
  • "Walker illustrates the 1970 Dylan tune with an adorable parent-child canine pair. Using minimal backgrounds and props to keep the focus on the relationship, Walker masterfully conveys emotions in his acrylic illustrations...the pictures are so poignant that parents could make up their own words."
  •  
  • – Kirkus Reviews, March 2016
My Review:
 
 
Publishing coup! Simon and Schuster (Atheneum) somehow got Bob Dylan's consent to publish his lyrics "If Not For You" in  a children's picture book. This is a match made in heaven. Note to publishers: Dylan has quite the music catalog. You may want to lock him down into publishing more of his earlier work.
 
Sweet little love song "If Not ForYou" lives again for a whole new generation. In this rendition, illustrator David Walker captures sweet moments between dog parent and little puppy. The cover alone is worth a smile. A red balloon, a happy bluebird and parent holding onto the little one's hand as little one seems excited  (up on tiptoes). and the loving way the parent dog looks at his/her baby is priceless.
 
Walker captures the charm of the poetry and the dogs are loveable and huggable. The bluebird is their constant and joyful companion. This is one smile for a mile of a book!
 
Great grandparents might have to break out the old vinyl and play "Girl From North Country" (Dylan with Johnny Cash version the best) for the kiddies after reading this one.  
 
This is also a great gift for any true Bob Dylan fan. With Father's Day coming up and Mother's Day looming, this is the perfect book.
 
FTC Required Disclaimer: I received the book from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.
 
 
 
 


Book Club Pick: The Atomic Weight of Love

The Atomic Weight of Love
by Elizabeth J. Church
Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
2016
333 pages
ISBN: 9781616204846
NOW available

#1 Indie Next Pick, May 2016

Reviews:


“Church's debut novel explores the relationship between sacrifice and love...Church's commentary on the American nuclear family, particularly the expectations placed on women, showcases iterations ranging from doting housewives and mothers who are content in their roles to the rebellious. Each sentence drives the plot further, exploring love's limits and its spoils. But it's Church's exploration of Meridian's role in her relationships that is the most gracefully executed feat of the novel. Meridian's voice is poignant, a mixture of poetry and observation...An elegant glimpse into the evolution of love and womanhood.” Kirkus Reviews

“Oh, what a incandescent debut! From the atomic bomb tests at Los Alamos to the Vietnam War protests to the fascinating lives of crows, Church follows one extraordinary woman, who is brave to enough to challenge the times, take defiant wing, and chart her own extraordinary flight path. So engrossing, I couldn’t wait to read another page, and so alive, I never wanted the story to end.” —Caroline Leavitt, New York Times bestselling author of Is This Tomorrow and Pictures of You

My Review:

A  sweeping epic, The Atomic Weight of Love,  has everything a book needs: a strong woman who challenges herself and her times, the promise of passionate lifetime love, a trip across America, a husband (who is much older)  and  has top secret clearance during WWII, an intelligence and passion for living and work, and all the unanswered questions of life.

Meridian follows her scientist husband to Albuquerque where she will stay while he works on a secret government project in Los Alamos. Alden and his team are working on  a way to defeat the enemy: the atomic bomb. He cannot tell Meri what he's working on but he says, "It has the power to end the war...It also has the power to end life as we know it. It will change the world." Meri herself is a scientist, and as spouses, Alden and she have lengthy scientific discussions.  She is a brilliant student of ornithology and  just beginning  her labor of love: the study of crow behavior.

Putting her graduate studies on hold, Meri follows Alden back to Los Alamos after the war and feels defeated herself. She longs to finish her degree and do real work in her field and questions whether her work is less important than Alden's simply because she's a wife. She doesn't want to be like the other wives of Alden's colleagues and she refers to them as "fungible" (great word: look it up).

Meridian becomes a housewife and tries to fit in--throwing dinner parties, making special meals, trying to make friends with fungible women, but it's all not enough. She feels lost and trapped. She continues to observe crows in the canyon and one day is surprised to meet a young man, a soldier back from Viet Nam. Suddenly, everything changes for her.  Mari experiences true freedom for the first time in her life and it's exhilarating and it's frightening.

The Atomic Weight of Love is full of promises, those kept and those let go. Circumstances can change in a fleeting second and the weight of life's decisions and those we love influences the decisions we make. Meridian looks back not with remorse but with knowledge and love.

Recommended for adult readers and book clubs. This is not a feel good book. This is a book about real life and it's not uplifting but nonetheless an important read. Hundreds of thousands if not millions of women, like Meridian,  have encountered ties that bind, ties that choke, ties that kill.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.





Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Middle Grades Pick: It Ain't So Awful, Falafel

It Ain't So Awful,Falafel
by Firoozeh Dumas
Clarion Books
2016
370 pages
ISBN: 9780544612310


Editorial Reviews

"Filled with humorous touches and authentic cultural references, Dumas’s story will resonate not just with young immigrants but with any readers trying to adapt to new situations."
—Publishers Weekly

* "Dumas’ semi-autobiographical novel is both funny and affecting...Readers will be thoroughly invested in Cindy’s story, whether holding their breath or laughing out loud, and always hoping that the Yousefzadehs will come out on top."
—Booklist, STARRED review

* "[A] fresh take on the immigrant experience—authentic, funny, and moving from beginning to end."
—Kirkus Reviews, STARRED review

"[It Ain't So Awful, Falafel] is funny, affecting, and nuanced...The novel doesn’t sugarcoat the issues, but it balances these serious notes with preteen antics and melodramas that Blume would be proud of; Cindy’s voice will undoubtedly draw in readers from all backgrounds."
—Horn Book

"...keeps readers engaged with the very real and relatable difficulties of finding friends after moving, dealing with family issues both domestic and abroad, and discovering one’s own identity in middle school."
—School Library Journal

“Firoozeh Dumas’s unique gift is her ability to use her wry, bold, but always gentle wit to tell serious stories about family, heritage, and loss. . . . In this era of suspicion and paranoia, [this book] offers a tender and compassionate glimpse into the immigrant experience.” —Khaled Hosseini, bestselling author of The Kite Runner

"This book is a sheer delight—rambunctious and rich. . . . Firoozeh Dumas writes with the perfect light touch that makes us wonder once again: Who is running the big world and why not this person, please?"  —Naomi Shihab Nye, novelist and poet

My Review:

It Ain't So Awful, Falafel speaks to the heart. Immigrants from Iran, Cindy (Zomorod) Yousefzadeh and her parents move from Iran  to Compton to Newport Beach, California, and begin living the great American dream. In America, they have freedom of speech, freedom of religion, they can own property, work and play where and when they want to, they make life choices, dress how they choose, and enjoy all the freedoms that Iranians didn't have.

Cindy begins middle school and has a difficult time navigating. Some kids are rude--making fun of her foreign sounding name and teasing her about Iran. One even asks her about her camel! Lucky for Cindy, she is able to make friends with Carolyn, a budding journalist. The girls do usual "girl" things: they shop, eat pizza, go to movies, listen to music and talk about boys.

Cindy is excited about her new favorite holiday: Halloween. When she first came to the U.S., she thought Halloween was just wearing a costume to class. She had no idea kids went house to house trick or treating. When kids started ringing their doorbell, Cindy's family gave each of them a piece of fruit until they ran out.  The family then started handing out pickling cucumbers. Cindy says, " Iranians always have massive amounts of little cucumbers in their houses. If there is ever an emergency that requires huge amounts of small cucumbers, Iranians will be instant heroes."

Life in America is looking up--that is until the Shah is ousted from Iran and hostages are taken. American anti-Iranian sentiment runs high, and Cindy's engineer father loses his job. Someone in Cindy's condo community is sending her family hate messages. First the  hater tampers with their garbage can and then leaves  a dead hamster on their doorstep which Cindy hides from her parents. As their savings dwindle, Cindy takes a part-time job, delivering flyers.

Once the neighbors find out about the display of hate, will they rally around Cindy's immigrant family? It takes a village to raise a child. What does it take to help an immigrant  family in need?

I loved this little gem! Full  of historical details and anecdotes about Iran and typical Iranian families, It Ain't So Awful, Falafel rings true. It is entertaining and interesting. Readers will be charmed by Cindy and the friendship between Caroline and Cindy is sweet and sisterly.

Highly, highly recommended grades 5-up.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.



Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Crime Thriller: The Girl I Used To Be

The Girl I Used To Be
by April Henry
Christy Ottaviano Books
Henry Holt and Company, LLC
2016
240 pages
ISBN: 9781627793322

Available May 3, 2016

Editorial Reviews

 

"A must-have for YA mystery-thriller collections."-School Library Journal

“The author's expertise at plotting a murder mystery and knowledge of police procedure are evident.” ―Publishers Weekly on The Point Last Seen Series

“Fast-moving and well-constructed . . . A quick, thrilling read that doesn't skimp on characterization.” ―Kirkus Reviews on The Point Last Seen Series

“A psychological mystery wrapped in a thriller with a smart and resourceful heroine. Great read!” ―Alexandra Sokoloff, screenwriter and bestselling thriller author of The Harrowing on The Girl Who Was Supposed to Die

“A thrill-packed story with twists and turns you'll never see coming. Hop on board for an adrenaline fueled ride!” ―CJ Lyons, New York Times–bestselling author of Blind Faith on The Girl Who Was Supposed to Die

“The reader must wait with bated breath to see when and if the characters will uncover the truth as the suspense builds to a fever pitch near the end of the book” ―VOYA on The Night She Disappeared

“Fans of intense page-turners . . . will love this one.” ―School Library Journal on The Night She Disappeared

“It's a riveting story. . . . Each chapter is a surprise, and the tension builds steadily until the inevitable climactic face off.” ―Publishers Weekly on The Night She Disappeared


My Review:

April Henry is the go to storyteller  for YA crime novels, and The Girl I Used To Be  solidifies her position. Seventeen year old Ariel Benson was raised in foster care after her father murdered her mother and then  disappeared. For several years, her grandmother keeps Ariel until the older lady has a heart attack and dies. A knock at the door one day rocks Ariel's world; her father's remains have turned up near where her mother was murdered and judging from the appearance, he was probably killed the same day as her mother. Now Ariel has two murdered parents and the killer is still on the loose.

Ariel (Olivia) travels to Medford, Oregon, to her father's funeral. She doesn't tell anyone her real name and spies on the funeral guests hoping  to get a vibe on her parents' possible killer. Olivia decides to rent her grandmother's house and stick around town hoping to solve the questions of who and why?

Cute guy and ex-neighbor Duncan suspects Olivia is Ariel and proves it when he sees a scar she's had since childhood. She begs him not to tell anyone who she is, and he offers to help her find the killer. Duncan says that no one will suspect anything if he asks questions; he's lived in Medford his whole life, while Olivia is an outsider who will raise suspicions. The two will need to work fast to discover the killer before he can kill again.

There are twists and turns and a pretty good whodunit. Mystery and crime readers will want to read The Girl I Used To Be.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received the ARC from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review. 

Monday, May 2, 2016

Book Release and Blog Tour: Anything You Want


Anything You Want
By Geoff Herbach
May 3, 2016; Tradepaper, ISBN 9781402291449

Book Info
Title: Anything You Want
Author: Geoff Herbach
Release Date: May 3, 2016
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Summary:

Expect a bundle of joy—er, trouble—in this hilarious, heartwarming story from the award-winning author of Stupid Fast

Taco’s mom always said, “Today is the best day of your life, and tomorrow will be even better.” That was hard to believe the day she died of cancer and when Taco’s dad had to move up north for work, but he sure did believe it when Maggie Corrigan agreed to go with him to junior prom. Taco loves Maggie—even more than the tacos that earned him his nickname. And she loves him right back.

Except, all that love? It gets Maggie pregnant. Everyone else may be freaking out, but Taco can’t wait to have a real family again. He just has to figure out what it means to be dad and how to pass calculus. And then there’s getting Maggie’s parents to like him. Because it’s would be so much easier for them to be together if he didn’t have to climb the side of the Corrigan’s house to see her...



Buy Links:
Barnes&Noble-  http://ow.ly/4nkqH2
BooksAMillion- http://ow.ly/4nkrdo 
Indiebound- http://ow.ly/4nkrrI

About the Author:

Geoff Herbach’s books have been listed in the year’s best by YALSA, the American Booksellers Association, and many state library associations. They’ve won the Cybil and the Minnesota Book Award. Geoff grew up a very nerdy jock in Southern Wisconsin and now teaches creative writing at Minnesota State University, Mankato.

Social Media Links:

Twitter: @geoffherbach

Excerpt from Anything You Want:
When did this start? Duh, dingus. Last spring.
Last spring, I decided I was completely emotionally ready for her, so I asked Maggie Corrigan to prom and she said, “Boom,” and poked her finger into the middle of my chest.
I said, “Boom? That’s good, right? That’s a yes?” Maggie Corrigan is intense. She’s wild and crazy and intense and I had to be prepared.
We stood in the hall at school, leaned up against her locker as a bunch of freshmen, a total wad of screaming monkeys, ran by on their way to gym.
Maggie shouted, “Yeah, for sure, Taco! Boom!” She poked me again.
“What?” I shouted back, because I couldn’t hear over the freshmen.
“I totally want to go to prom with you!” she shouted.
“Really?” I shouted back
Then she grabbed my face and she pulled my ears so my head came down to her face and she French kissed me right there in front of all those freshmen. She, like, kissed my ass off. My shoes and pants almost exploded from my body, because she kissed me so hard.
She’s spontaneous like that. I knew that then, but not like I know now. And, you know what, dingus? Doesn’t matter, because I love her. I think I’ve loved Maggie Corrigan since before time. In a past life, I was probably the court clown and she was probably the Crazy Queen of Holland, and I’m pretty sure we were doing it behind the king’s back. If we weren’t doing it, we were probably going on long naked walks in the forest where we stroked unicorns and lay upon the dewy moss to gaze upon the sky.
All the freshmen monkeys in the hall shouted stuff like, “Get a room,” and “More tongue,” etc. Freshmen are pretty funny. I’ve always liked them.
That day will go down in history, for sure. I really needed Maggie Corrigan’s intensity, energy and love right about then.
The year before Maggie kissed my ass off, Mom died. Six months after Mom died, Dad took a job driving truck at a mine up north, because we needed more money to float the boat. Two months after Dad left for the mine, Darius, my older brother, got a drunk driving ticket, which he said he didn’t deserve, because he only had like two beers after work—it’s just that his blood doesn’t register alcohol like normal peoples’ blood, because it’s a mix of O+ and A -, which is rare, so the cops didn’t know what they were doing when they gave him the breathalyzer. Okay, dingus, that didn’t exactly make sense to me, but that’s good old Darius! Anyway, he lost his Pepsi product delivery route and went to work at Captain Stabby’s, this fish sandwich place, for about half the money. Dude smelled like fish 24/7.
So things were crap and I began to lose the pep in my cucumber. I was seriously beginning to think my mom was wrong about everything, and maybe life really is terrible, like Darius always says. But then I spent a few weeks following Maggie Corrigan around school and saw how she laughed until she fell on the floor, screamed when she got mad at her friends, cried when she was sad about the basketball team losing, and smiled so hard it looked like her face might break when I told her I liked her handwriting. After that I thought, “That’s what Mom was talking about! Life is beautiful!” and so I summoned my good feelings and my optimism, and I asked Maggie to prom. A week later, we were boyfriend and girlfriend and going at it in the hall between every class period.
Literally. Going at it!
Dr. Evans, our principal, had to bring us into the office to ask us to stop all the public displays of affection, (she called them “PDAs”) because our exhibits of love made some people uncomfortable—like those going through hard break-ups or maybe the divorce of their parents.
Maggie and I tried, but we couldn’t stop going at it. Sometimes, to hide from people who might feel sad, we climbed into the costume loft behind the auditorium. Sometimes we took our clothes off, mostly so we could try on costumes, but also because it was pretty great to get naked. Maggie would hang out up there in her underwear, pretending she had to find the perfect costume on the rack–but really she just liked being naked with me.
Right on. I liked it, too. See why I love Maggie?