Middle Grade Review – A Rambler Steals Home by Carter Higgins

A Rambler Steals Home by Carter Higgins, HMH Books for Young Readers (February 2017), Advanced Reader’s Copy courtesy of NetGalley (all opinions are my own)

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So beautifully written, A Rambler Steals Home is a joy to read with its poetic language. Derby and her family are ramblers, but each summer they settle down beside the James Edward Allen Gibbs stadium in Ridge Creek and call it home for the summer. But this year, not everything has stayed the same in their absence, and Derby needs to find a way to tweak her image of home while helping others do the same.

This was such a touching, poignant and heartwarming story that captures summer in a small town. I loved the rich characters and quote worthy descriptions, and was disappointed the story was done so soon. I would definitely recommend this book, especially for a summer read.

4/5 stars

NetGalley 10 Book Reviews Badge

10 Book Reviews

I love using NetGalley, but the summer is a busy time for me, and I’m still working to balance it, the blog, and my bookstagram account. It was an accomplishment for me, though, to reach this milestone, and I hope keep boosting this number.

Adult Fiction Review – He Said/She Said by Erin Kelly

He Said/She Said by Erin Kelly, Hodder & Stoughton (April 20, 2017), Advanced Reader’s Copy courtesy of NetGalley.

Thank you to @NetGalley for an advanced reader copy of this book in exchange for an honest review; all opinions are my own.

There’s been so much buzz surrounding this book that I had to give it a try, even though it’s not my usual genre.

An excellent example of “griplit”, He Said/She Said tells the story of Kit and Laura, a couple who become enmeshed in the life of Beth, the victim of a vicious incident. From the prospective of the two characters over several years, we see how an unexpected discovery, and the choices that follow, change the trajectory of everyone’s lives. This unpredictable story makes the reader question how far some people will go to be heard them, while others protect their secrets.

Although I found this book slow to start as the story set itself up, its twists kept me invested in the outcome. I think it will definitely appeal to those who like an intriguing, psychological story, with a bit of a twist.

4/5 stars

Adult Nonfiction Review – Daring to Drive: A Saudi Woman’s Awakening – Manal al-Sharif

Daring to Drive: A Saudi Woman’s Awakening by Manal al-Sharif, Simon & Schuster (June 13, 2017), Advanced Reader’s Copy courtesy of NetGalley

 

One of my reading goal for 2017 is to read more nonfiction about women’s lives. So when I saw that NetGalley had this book, I decided to request it.

I knew nothing about Manal al-Sharif before I picked up this book. I knew nothing about the lives of women in Saudi Arabia. Honestly, I even had to look on a map to find Saudi Arabia. But this is a book that will stick with me because of the extent to which it opened my eyes.

Manal’s story begins with her arrest for driving a car, an activity that, although not illegal, is something that women are not allowed to do. It then jumps back to her life growing up in Saudi Arabia, her family, her education, her job, her marriage and motherhood. Throughout her story, the necessary dependence of a woman on her husband or male relatives is clearly demonstrated, and the details are astonishing to many of us who know the freedoms of life in Canada. A woman is not allowed to be alone with a man, to the extreme that a male paramedic is unable to enter the home of a woman who is alone to administer medical  care, and a woman in labor is not allowed to go to a hospital by herself. At times, it was hard to absorb the limitations placed on women in 2017, and I found it eye-opening and sobering.

Manal went to jail for her disobedience, and though she was eventually released, her life was drastically changed by her activism. Her campaign for Women2Drive, and to push for the right for women to drive, made international headlines, but ultimately resulted in her choosing to leave the country. She paid a high price for actions, but paved the way for women to follow and continue the fight.

I appreciate Manal’s candor and honesty, and feel better educated about the lives of women in Saudi Arabia after reading her story.

4/5 stars

Middle Grade Review – The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart – Stephanie Burgis

The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart by Stephanie Burgis, Bloomsbury US (May 30, 2017), Advanced Reader’s Copy courtesy of NetGalley.

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This was a very fun chapter book with an interesting premise.

Aventurine is a young dragon tired of waiting to be old enough to go out on her own. She sneaks out of her cave, and while she is exploring, she runs into a young boy. He is making the most wonderful smelling drink, which she learns is hot chocolate, and he offers some to Aventurine. Unfortunately, it’s enchanted with magic, Aventurine is turned from a dragon into a human girl, and the boy disappears.

Aventurine bumps into a couple who take her to a nearby town, and it is here she wants to pursue her new passion for chocolate. But first she must escape a woman who wants to make her an unpaid maid, convince someone she’s worthy of a chocolate apprenticeship, figure out how to trust humans that she’s always been told are the enemy, and find a way to come to terms with no longer being a dragon.

The concept of a dragon becoming a human (instead of a human turning into some mythical creature) was original, and Aventurine was brave and spirited.  I did have some issues with the fact that she never went looking for the boy who changed her into the human, and it felt like she too easily accepted that she was now a human. Despite this, the book was entertaining and flowed well. It will appeal to readers who enjoy dragons (and chocolate!), and works well for a younger audience.

4/5 stars

 

Weekly Review: May 28th – June 3rd

June has arrived,

and it’s starting to feel like summer. This week, I’ve been busy trying to figure out a priority list for all the library holds and NetGalley approvals that came in at once. My top 10 TBR list for June is more like a top 20 this month, but here are a few of the titles that have made it on my list (I finished Carve the Mark yesterday, and really enjoyed it!)

I’m excited to tackle Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Summer Reading Guide. This week, I finished The Dry by Jane Harper (5/5 stars, this one was SO good) and Hourglass: Time, Memory, Marriage by Dani Shapiro (3/5 stars). And I also added to Anne’s beautiful sign with some of my scrapbook supplies to make a poster for my wall so I chart my progress (notice the little yellow dots in some of the top right hand corners of books).

 

I am also participating in two June photo challenges, #raisingreadersjune (you can followBecky and her and the challenge on Instagram at @beckys_bookshelf) and #AlltheBooksJune (co-hosted by Christy from http://www.thereaderbee.com and Lori from http://www.pureimaginationblog.com). You can follow me on Instagram to see how I make out.

 

This week I plan to finish The Fall of Lisa Bellows, and also read Beartown for the MMD bookclub next week. We’ll see how the week goes and if I might be able to squeeze The Forbidden Temptation of Baseball, an upcoming release I got through NetGalley by which I’m really intrigued.

Happy Reading!

 

The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women by Kate Moore

  • The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women by Kate Moore, Sourcebooks (April 2017), Advanced Reader’s Copy courtesy of NetGalley.

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Wow. I’m not sure where to begin. I’d heard rumblings about this book, then I saw it on NetGalley and decided to request it. I was a little put off by how long it was, and although I still think there was more detail than was necessary, I read right to the end because of the story.

In the early part of the 20th century, radium was believed to be a wonder drug, and was used for all kinds of health ailments. It was also discovered that a radium-based paint could be used to paint the dials of watches so that they would glow in the dark. At the start of World War I, these watches were in high demand, and the women who were employed as dial painters were sought after, and well paid, for their work. The work required a very fine-tipped brush to do the precision work, and the women were taught put the tip of the brushes into their mouths to make the tips even finer. Not only were they ingesting radium each time they did this, they were covered in the dust, and often glowed from the material that settled on their clothing and bodies.

Soon, many dial painters started experiencing mysterious illnesses, particularly issues with their teeth, jaws, and bones. The companies learned early on that perhaps radium wasn’t as safe as they had originally thought, but did nothing, and denied that these women were sick with any workplace-related ailment. The cover-up continued as more women because sick, and started dying, and were unable to take on the powerful corporations who continued to lie about the medical test results.

This book is quite graphic in its descriptions; the effects of radium poisoning were horrific, and the suffering these women experienced was terrible. Still, although it was a sad and infuriating read, it’s important to shed light on this piece of history. In many ways I was reminded of how I felt when I read Hidden Figures or The Immortal Life of Henrietta Laks; these were women whose stories have had a significant impact on our history, but of whom we’ve never heard.  For that reason alone, I encourage readers to give this one a try.

4/5 stars

 

 

 

 

 

MMD Challenge for Fun – May Update

I started off the MMD Reading for Fun Challenge with great gusto, but I’ve been sidetracked by shiny covers and NetGalley ARCs. I only have two categories left, and I have both The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan, and Last Will by Bryn Greenwood lined up on my Kindle to fill in the last two categories. I wonder if anyone has a reading challenge for June to complete the reading challenge you’re working on?

Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson

Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson, Bloomsbury (February 2017).

I’m a huge fan of Anne Bogel from Modern Mrs. Darcy. When I discovered her back in the early winter, I felt like I had finally found a kindred spirit. I joined the Modern Mrs. Darcy (MMD) Book Club in January, and since then, I’ve read some of the most enjoyable books (This is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel was our February selection, and is my favorite book this year…so far). I was almost counting sleeps until her Summer Reading Guide came out last week, and I have yet to be disappointed by one of her picks.

Our May selection is the YA novel Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson. I just finished it last night, and I was so impressed. It tell the story of Jade, a Black teenager, who attends a predominantly white high school. Jade comes from a poor neighborhood, with a mom who does her best to provide while working long hours, but wants more for Jade than she had. Jade is a smart girl, and wants desperately to have an opportunity to be part of the study abroad program at school. But instead, Jade gets an selected for the Woman to Woman, an organization that provide mentorship for African American girls.

There’s been a lot of talk this year about The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, a book I loved and often recommend, which also deals with racial issues confronting American teenagers. What I enjoyed about Piecing Me Together was the positive role models and opportunities offered Jade. I love that she was able to find someone who cared and wanted to help her, although her mentor, Maxine, often didn’t know how to go about providing it. It felt honest, and realistic, and I felt I learned something when I finished it.

I highly recommend the MMD Bookclub if you’re looking to join an online group of book lovers, and I’d definitely suggest you check out the Summer Reading Guide, (because, as Anne says, summer is too short to read bad books).

2017 Summer Reading Guide

I look forward to our discussion of this book later this week.

4/5 stars

Photo Bombed!

When you want to squeeze in a few minute to read before work, but your dog has other plans.