Friday, October 18, 2019

Freeform Friday: 15 of my Favorite Book Memes

Sometimes a meme comes along that said it all just right.  Here are a few of my favorites:
















Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Dear Mother: Poems on the Hot Mess of Motherhood - Bunmi Laditan

Summary:  In her first collection of poetry, Bunmi Laditan captures the honesty, rawness, sheer joy, and total chaos of motherhood.  With the compassion and wit that made her a social media sensation among mothers around the world, Laditan puts into evocative and relatable words what so many of us feel but can't quite express.  For mothers who love their children with a fiery fierceness but know what it s to feel crushed at the end of those long days, Dear Mother is like a warm hug that says, "I get it."  (Summary from book flap - Image from amazon.com)

My Review:  Bunmi Laditan and I have been friends for a while on Facebook  And, of course, by 'friends' I mean that I follow her page and pretend we are besties but we've never actually spoken.  I read (and reviewed) her novel, Confessions of a Domestic Failure when it came out, and was thrilled when I finally was able to get my grubby hands on Dear Mother: Poems on the Hot Mess of Motherhood.

I had two concerns when I picked up this book from the library.  First, I don't normally go out of my way to read poetry.  It's not my preferred genre and, quite frankly, I don't always "get" it.  I don't like having to decipher things --  like, is the parrot in the poem actually a parrot or a symbolic representation of the existential crisis faced by the suburban mailman?  Hard pass. Anyway, even though I love Bunmi I was still a little nervous.  Thankfully, I needn't have worried.  Almost all of the poems are fairly brief with an easy to interpret message.

My second concern was how the book would make me feel.  Last year, I reviewed another book on motherhood that I rated poorly because, while it dropped some serious truth bombs, it came off rather negative.  I am a struggling mom of four, with a serious inner critic.  Believe me when I say, I don't need any more negativity in my life.  I need uplifting solidarity.  Y'all, Dear Mother is that book.  Over and over again, it got me on levels I didn't even know I had.  To give you an idea of what I'm talking about, I'm going to give you a glimpse into my thought process while flipping through the book: 

Ooh.  I liked that one.  I reeeeaaallly like that one.  *FLIP*
Mhmmmm. Yes. So true. *FLIP*
Wow. She totally understands. *FLIP*
Oh, man.  I think that one is my favorite!  *FLIP*
Nope. This one is definitely my fave. *FLIP*
AUUUUGH. HOW DID SHE KNOW?!   *FLIP*
New favorite!! *FLIP*
Same, girl. Same. *FLIP*
So. Spot. On. *FLIP*
AWWWWWWWWWWWWW. *FLIP*
Yes. This.  Just the other day!!  *FLIP*
BEST. POEM. EVER!!!!  *FLIP*

and Repeat,
with very few exceptions.

I personally connected with 95% of the poems in this book. That's a LOT. Like, a LOT a lot.  Some packed a huge emotional punch and were deeply personal, brimming with all the feels, while others were sarcastic, funny, flippant, or just plain truth I'd always felt deep in my bones that someone finally put into words.  Asking me to pick a favorite poem would be like asking me to pick a favorite child. You love them all for different reasons.  That having been said, I feel like a review wouldn't be complete without a few examples, so here are a few of them. Keep in mind, I'm basically flipping through and picking some that grab me:

I LOVE THIS ONE... 

The triumph of motherhood cannot be found
in the quest for perfection
It exists solely in the daily decision to ---
in the face of fatigue
in the reality that it is not yet dawn
in the knowledge that more mistakes will be made -- 
show up.

AND THIS ONE...

motherhood doesn't push you
out of your comfort zone
it takes the comfort zone
blends it with tequila
and forces you to
take shots

OR THESE TWO...

dear mother,                                                  I want you to grow
                                                                     sail, fly soar
no                                                                 but baby
they would not                                               promise me
be better off                                                   that every so often
without                                                          you'll return to the nest
you                                                                and let me look at your wings.

OR THIS ONE...

On days I don't feel loved
evenings I drown in my solitude
sure that no one's heart will ever flutter
at my presence again
you run into my arms 
and remind me
that to someone
I am everything.

OR THIS...

When I'm with them
I dream of peace
crave silence
fantasize about beaches
fruity frozen drinks
the only sound being
the sea lapping frothily against the sand
But only a few hours into my
solitude
my heart begins rumbling its hunger
and my body aches
to have their small bodies against mine
feel my lips on their buttery cheeks
What kind of madness is this

AND FINALLY...

I've never scaled Everest
or jumped out of a plane at 12,000 feet
But I have taken three kids
to the grocery store at five o'clock
so don't tell me I'm not living
dangerously.

Bwaaaahahhhahhaa! How true is that??

Honestly, I could go on sharing her poems forever but that might raise some copyright issues.  Whether Bunmi Laditan writes about the all-consuming love of parent for child, anxiety, the pain of loss, or the sheer joy, bone-tired, utter terror of it all, she manages to capture motherhood perfectly in all its forms. Her poems felt like a weary but welcome fist raised in solidarity for all the mamas out there whose fierce love could power jet engines even if they still sorta want to lock themselves in the bathroom for some much-needed alone time. 

In case it wasn't clear -- I love this book.  Like the willing-to-embarrass-myself-in-a-public-forum kind of love.  I would recommend it to any mom out there who wants to feel a little less alone and like maybe, just maybe, they are doing okay.  I know that when I finished it (me, the hot mess with the massively vocal inner critic), I finally felt like I just might be enough.  And between you and me, that is saying something.

My Rating:  5 Stars

For the sensitive reader:  There are a few poems about the loss of a child that aren't graphic, but still desperately sad.  They might be triggering to someone who has suffered a similar loss, but also might be cathartic.  

Monday, October 14, 2019

The Dollmaker - Nina Allan (With Author Interview)

Summary: A love story of two very real, unusual people, and a novel rich with wonders that shines a radically different light on society's marginal figures.

Stitch by perfect stitch, Andrew Garvie makes exquisite dolls in the finest antique style. Like him, they are diminutive, but graceful, unique and with surprising depths. Perhaps that's why he answers the enigmatic personal ad in his collector's magazine.

Letter by letter, Bramber Winters reveals more of her strange, sheltered life in an institution on Bodmin Moor, and the terrible events that put her there as a child. Andrew knows what it is to be trapped; and as they knit closer together, he weaves a curious plan to rescue her.

On his journey through the old towns of England he reads the fairytales of Ewa Chaplin--potent, eldritch stories which, like her lifelike dolls, pluck at the edges of reality and thread their way into his mind. When Andrew and Bramber meet at last, they will have a choice--to remain alone with their painful pasts or break free and, unlike their dolls, come to life.
  (Summary and pic from goodreads.com)


I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

My Review: There are two exciting things about this review. 1) This book comes out tomorrow! Talk about hot off the presses! 2) I sent the author three questions and she answered them for us, and I've included them in this review. It's always fun to see what an author says about their work! Check those out at the bottom of my review.

Do you know what is super exciting? It’s October! YESSSSSS!! I know there are many, many of us who love fall more than anything. I love fall. There is something to love about all the seasons, sure, but there is something about fall. AmIRight?! I don’t mess around with fall—I start my creepy/scary/disturbing books/podcasts/movies early just in case I feel like I don’t get enough of it. Let’s be real, here, I do spend a lot of the year listening to podcasts that deal with all things of this ilk, but in fall it just seems like its sacrilege not to. Maybe it’s the exceptional foliage colors we’ve had this year, maybe it’s because I’m really leaning in to All The Things Fall, or maybe it’s just something special about this year—but I am here for it! And I am happy to admit that this isn’t just a rant, The Dollmaker was a fun and creepy little addition to my fall reading.

At first description you maybe wouldn’t lump antique, classical dolls and the ornate and delicate procedures that go into designing and making them as creepy, but this story is just a little macabre, which was great. I love reading books about things that I don’t know a lot about, and I love feeling that I am allowed in to a world and a subculture that I may not come into contact with in my normal life. Sure, my grandma loved dolls and bought me a few Madame Alexander dolls when I was younger, but this is beyond that. This is about dolls and doll aficionados who take it all to a whole new level—specialized, expensive dolls. Dolls that are not necessarily beautiful, but instead expressive and life-like. Doll collectors who are extremists, and the people on the outside who don’t understand what they’ve given up and what they’re giving away.

This story was layered and nuanced as well. There were complex relationships and social biases, as well as preconceived notions about people and who they are based on what they look like. There was quite a bit of discussion of trauma of all sorts, and some of that was related to people judging each other on what they looked like. It made for a dark and complex world wherein you felt like you walked the proverbial mile in another’s shoes and found that you had no idea what they had been up against, even if you thought that you might have.

Through all of these complex relationships and complicated storylines there were creepy—very creepy—short stories by a dollmaker. The stories were disturbing and just plain weird, which was awesome. Sometimes it was daunting to think of taking on the next story and I would wait until I had sufficient time to sit down and read it and cogitate it. I have lots of books that I can bring with me places and pop in and out of with ease, but this was not a book like that. Although there were parts of the story that were less complex, the short stories written by the dollmaker were not the kind you wanted to turn your back on. One false move and things changed. Also, the short stories had a tendency to mimic the real lives of those reading them, which made for a sense of foreboding and dread on behalf of the characters reading the story. See what I mean? You need this for your creepy seasonal reading.

Overall I enjoyed the book a lot. It made me uncomfortable at times due to some of the insensitivity of the characters in the book towards other characters, but I appreciate that kind of discomfort. It makes me question myself and societal norms and re-evaluate what I think and how I treat others. That’s one of the great things about reading—it challenges you in a way that you may not suspect, and allows you to question yourself and your beliefs at your own pace.

I recommend this book for anyone interested in groups of people who may not be on your radar, anyone who enjoys topics with a macabre undertone, and anyone up for a good non-traditional (re: not a ghost story) Halloween-season read.

My Rating: 4 Stars

For the sensitive reader: This book doesn’t have language, but has quite a bit of sex in it, and sometimes the sex is not consensual, although I wouldn’t consider it violent. There is definitely sex, sometimes taking place among same-sex partners.

Author Interview:

1.    What led you to the world of dolls and dollmakers? Why did you choose this as the backdrop for your story?

Dolls fascinated me as a child. While holidaying with my family, I loved to acquire costume dolls from the countries we visited, and many of these dolls later became characters in my earliest stories. When I was in my early teens, an aunt gave me a large, brightly illustrated book on the history of dolls and dollmaking, which further deepened my interest. What I enjoyed most, I think, was the idea of dolls almost as a separate species, like us and yet unlike us, living in a world that appeared to mirror our own and yet that was at the same time entirely strange. I always loved novels and stories that involved dolls – a favourite of mine was Rumer Godden’s The Dolls’ House – again because of the potential they seemed to hold for strangeness, and for the wildest leaps of the imagination. The core inspiration for The Dollmaker was the character of Andrew Garvie, who sprang into my head more or less fully formed. I knew instinctively that he would be a dollmaker – that is simply who he was. The details of his world fell into place around him very naturally.     

2.    Is Ewa Chaplin based on a real dollmaker? Why is she given the role of go-between and interpreter of lives and truth (with her stories)?

Some of the historical dolls and dollmakers mentioned in the book are loosely based around real makers and real factories, but Ewa is completely her own person, and a powerful symbol of creativity and endurance. What I found most compelling about her as a character is the freedom she gave me, to dive deeper into the fantastical realm, not only to give free rein to the imaginative possibilities of fairy tales, but to reveal how the often dangerous stereotypes present in some traditional fairy tales might be subverted and recast as a source of empowerment. Ewa’s stories are the most outspoken part of the narrative – her characters are bolder and sometimes scarier, and there is a sense that both Andrew and Bramber become emboldened by reading about them, that Ewa’s stories give them courage – as stories often give courage to those who are encountering difficulties in their own lives. I have heard some readers argue that it is Ewa, not Andrew, who is ‘the dollmaker’ of the title, a kind of queen behind the scenes, and I don’t think it’s my place to disagree with them!   

3.    Do you consider your book to include magical realism? Why or why not? 

I would say yes, it probably does. I think many readers might argue that Andrew’s ongoing dialogue with Ewa’s doll, ‘Artist’, is an example of magical realism, although I’m sure there are others who will remain convinced that everything that happens between Andrew and ‘Artist’ is a figment of Andrew’s overstressed imagination. I am more than happy for readers to interpret my texts any way they want to – that is the true beauty of writing, when it finds an indentity and a meaning beyond the writer, when it rightfully becomes the property of its readers. I have no objection to labels like magical realism, if they are useful to readers and critics in providing a common lexicon – I use these labels myself. The danger comes when genre labels are used not to distinguish but to restrict. Unfortunately this does still happen, especially in the case of science fiction and horror. These genres are very broad churches, encompassing some groundbreaking writing, and should be recognised as such.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Free Form Friday - Interview with a Librarian: Recommendations for Reluctant Readers Part 2

Welcome to Free Form Friday! Today we have an interview with a children's elementary school librarian. Join me for Part 2 of a great discussion with my good friend Olivia on how to get reluctant readers reading, including LOTS of really great recommendations. I promise you'll find some books you hadn't heard of before and some excellent suggestions to get those reluctant readers in your life reading (and loving it!). You'll definitely find something you'll enjoy as well. We've broken this interview up into bite-sized chunks for you, beloved readers, and although they don't need to be watched in order, you can catch Part 1 here. Part 2 promises to have more great recommendations and ideas about picture books and young readers, so please watch and enjoy!



Library Liv's Recommendations:

Little Fox in the Forest, Stephanie Graegin
Free Fall, David Wiesner
Flora and the Penguin, Molly Idle
Journey, Aaron Becker
Quest, Aaron Becker
Return, Aaron Becker
Where the Wild Things Are, Maurice Sendak
Hello Lighthouse, Sophie Blackall
We Don't Eat Our Classmates, Ryan T. Higgins
Home, Carson Ellis


Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Glass Sword - Victoria Aveyard

HOLD UP.  Don't even think about reading this summary or review unless you've read the first book in this series, the Red Queen, which was reviewed several years ago and, again, back in September.  Just don't.  There are too many spoilers.

Summary:  If there's one thing Mare Barrow knows, it's that she's different.

Mare Barrow's blood is red - the color of the common folk - but her Silver ability, the power to control lightning, has turned her into a weapon the royal court tries to control.

The crown calls her an impossibility, a fake, but as she makes her escape from Maven, the prince - the friend - who betrayed her, Mare uncovers something startling: She is not the only one of her kind.

Pursued by Maven, now a vindictive king, Mare sets out to find and recruit other Red-and-Silver fighters to join in the struggle against her oppressors.  But Mare finds herself on a deadly path, at risk of becoming exactly the kind of monster she is trying to defeat.

The electrifying next installment in the Red Queen series escalates the struggle between the growing rebel army and the blood-segregated world they've always known - and pits Mare against the darkness that has grown in her soul.  (Summary from back of book - Image from amazon.com)

My Review:  Take a big breath before starting this book. Maybe do some stretching exercises. Go to the bathroom.  Set your phone to Do not disturb or I will murder you.  Okay, now you're ready.

Glass Sword picks up right where Red Queen ends and takes off running.  In the first hundred pages scuffles ensue, new threats arise, friendships are tested, and a brazen escape occurs, all before Mare and a few of her cohorts set off on a special mission.  Together, they must find and rescue other newbloods, people like Mare with red blood and silver abilities, before Maven can slaughter them and bring Mare back under his control.  I loved the discovery of each of the newbloods and learning more about their specific gifts.  Most of them were different from anything the straight Silver-bloods had on hand and it was interesting to watch the evolution of those gifts and how they worked together to accomplish the rebels' objectives.  It was all very X-men and I ate it up.

Although neither book in the series is particularly romance-driven, there are still three men in this book with feelings for Mare.  As if managing a rebellion weren't enough, Mare must also keep Kilorn firmly friend-zoned while fighting her romantic connection to Cal, the disgraced heir, who has lent himself to the rebel cause for now.  She's also being straight-up hunted by Maven (a very good baddie) whose feelings for Mare lean more towards homicidal ownership than healthy affection.  You'd think this would help Mare get some closure, but she still can't quite let go of the feelings she held for the overlooked princeling she thought she knew.  I reserve judgement as I haven't figured that situation out yet (so stay tuned...).  Taken as a whole, it's a lot of relationship drama for one book, but I felt the author managed to handle this part of the story without letting it overwhelm the rest of the story, which was entertaining in it's own right.

One of the darker aspects of the book are Mare's occasionally questionable tactics.  While she is absolutely loyal and fierce in defense of the cause and those she loves, Mare can also be vicious, vengeful, and unmerciful towards the enemy. She uses people to serve her own purposes, morphs into someone she feels she needs to be in order to win certain battles, and I'd be lying if I said it was an easy pill to swallow.  When other characters call her on the behavior, it raises some interesting questions in her mind and in the reader's: How do you win a war, and do what must be done, and still retain your soul?  Must you become a monster to fight a monster?  How far is too far?  Such is the battle that rages in Mare.

Aside from getting to know the newbloods one of my favorite aspects of Glass Sword was how Mare and others begin to see that blood doesn't necessarily define a person as good or evil.  At one point, Mare muses on this shift: 
Once I thought blood was the world entire, the difference between dark and light an irrevocable, impassable divide.  It made the Silvers powerful and cold and brutal, inhuman compared to my Red brethren.  They were nothing like us, unable to feel pain or remorse or kindness. But people like Cal, Julian, and even Lucas have shown me how wrong I was. They are just as human, just as full of fear and hope.  They are not without their sins, but neither are we. Neither am I.
That slow change in perspectives keeps the story moving and, I'm sure, will play out more as the series continues.  With that in mind, let me leave you with a wee tip. This book ends with a brutal cliffhanger. Like, if I were reading this right after it's release I'd be all AAAAAAAACK NOOOO!!! and scrambling to see when the next book came out.  The good news, is it's already out (as is the next one).  You're going to want to have the third book, King's Cage in very close proximity when you finish.  In an effort to be a well-rounded reader, I promised myself I would read one non-fiction book before I start anything else and, not to be too dramatic, the wait might kill me.  Wish me luck.

SIDENOTE:  As in the last book, I have this sneaking suspicion that this book is set in post-apocalyptic North America, specifically the East Coast of the United States.  The cities have names like Naercy, Delphi, Wash, Tuck, Cancorda, Siracas, etc.  Squint a little and it's not too hard to see New York City, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Nantucket, Concord, and Syracuse there.  I don't know if this will play out later in the story, or if it's important at all, but I find it very interesting and am constantly looking for clues to confirm my suspicions.

My Rating: 4.5 Stars

For the Sensitive reader:  Plenty of violence that ends in loss of life, some very young. Some in-bed snuggling, but no sex, and if I counted right, there were three swear words (all of the bi*** variety).

Monday, October 7, 2019

How Could She - Lauren Mechling

Summary: An assured and savagely funny novel about three old friends as they navigate careers, husbands, an ex-fiancé, new suitors, and, most importantly, their relationships with one another

After a devastating break-up with her fiancé, Geraldine is struggling to get her life back on track in Toronto. Her two old friends, Sunny and Rachel, left ages ago for New York, where they've landed good jobs, handsome husbands, and unfairly glamorous lives (or at least so it appears to Geraldine). Sick of watching from the sidelines, Geraldine decides to force the universe to give her the big break she knows she deserves, and moves to New York City.

As she zigzags her way through the downtown art scene and rooftop party circuit, she discovers how hard it is to find her footing in a world of influencers and media darlings. Meanwhile, Sunny's life as an It Girl watercolorist is not nearly as charmed as it seemed to Geraldine from Toronto. And Rachel is trying to keep it together as a new mom, writer, and wife--how is it that she was more confident and successful at twenty-five than in her mid-thirties? Perhaps worst of all, why are Sunny and Rachel--who've always been suspicious of each other--suddenly hanging out without Geraldine?

Hilarious and fiercely observed, How Could She is an essential novel of female friendship, an insider's look into the cutthroat world of New York media--from print to podcasting--and a witty exploration of the ways we can and cannot escape our pasts.
  (Summary and pic from goodreads.com)


My Review: I want you to think over your life and come up with the three most catty women you know. Go ahead. I’ll wait. Ok, now it’s best if these women know each other, and possibly they have some interactions that lead to everyone eye rolling about how ridiculous they are. Its best if they’re frenemies with a long and storied past. It’s best if they talk about each other all the time behind each other’s back, and if they end up basically back together with the promise of all the drama just starting over again, that would be best. Have you thought of three women? If you haven’t, that’s okay. You can just read this book.

I heard about this book on the Kirkus Reviews podcast, “Fully Booked.” They interviewed the author, and the editors were very excited because they felt like they related to this book and knew these women. In fact, an author blurb on the front says “I know these women. I am these women.” Now, maybe you live in a place where there are lots of cutthroat women who are basically jerks. Phony relationships, jealousy, unkindness. Ugh. Admittedly, I don’t live in New York and so I’m not familiar with the cutthroat business of publishing these women are in. I do belong to and work in many organizations where there are a lot of women (predominantly women) and I am aware of what it is like to be around competitive women. I mean, I know a few women like this, but I try to steer clear. I just absolutely don’t have time for this kind of negativity in my life, and I think that’s why it took me so long to read this book. I’m usually a pretty fast reader, and this isn’t a really long book. However, it took me weeks to read, which is pretty much unheard of for me, especially if I like the book. I can’t say I hated this book. I mean, any time we’re given insight into the human psyche I find it valuable (varying degrees of valuable, let’s say). However, I really can’t say I liked it, either. It was just so petty and catty and the women were pretty horrible. It was actually hard to like or relate to anyone. I just kind of felt like they all should get their comeuppance and I would walk away with feeling peace about that. It’s hard to read a book where you don’t really like anyone, right? I mean, even in my own life if there are people I don’t like that’s fine, because there are plenty of people I do. This book left little to like.

There is a part of me that believes this book was tongue and cheek, or possibly somewhat mocking. The author could possibly have just really wanted to write a book about the horrible world that these women live in, what it has done to them, and what they have done to each other. If so, she has very much succeeded. The soul crushing that has happened in these women’s lives just permeates throughout everything in this book in a take-no-prisoners sort of way.

The writing is decent, and the storytelling as well. It’s a little confusing because a lot of the characters have similar, non-descript names, and they overlap in each of the character’s lives, so sometimes it’s a little hard to keep track of who is who and who is doing who and who is hating who etc., etc., etc., but that was very minimal and for the most part I got the gist.

If you really enjoy reading about women’s relationships—they’re touchy and difficult and they don’t always survive, I think you will find this a very interesting read. If you’re in the publishing world (like the people of Kirkus Reviews, who really enjoyed this book) I think you’ll dig this book. If you hate reading about catty women who basically try to destroy each other, you should probably move along.

My Rating: 2 Stars

For the sensitive reader: This book was surprisingly light on the language and sexual content.

Friday, October 4, 2019

Freeform Friday Book Spotlight & Review: Bad Day - Ruby Roth

First things first, I was given this book for free in exchange for an honest review.

Hey all!  We are already fully scheduled out to January, but I wanted squeeze in this spotlight and my thoughts on Bad Day by Ruby Roth.

What do you do when you feel overwhelmed?  In Bad Day, things are not going well for Hennie.  Small things loom large, going from bad to worse as the day-that-never-ends goes on.  But with a deep breath and some quiet reflection, Hennie begins to make sense of his feelings and discovers the power of turning inward.  Affirming and funny at wonderfully relatable moments, this timely mindfulness resource helps children process their inner lives, guiding them toward self-empowerment and resilience.  

My thoughts:  Bad Day tells the story of a young child named Hennie who is having a rough day.  He's grumpy and upset and doesn't understand why he feels this way so he just wants to be left alone and does not want to talk about it.  Given time to settle and think, Hennie is able to process his day, mindfully get to the root of his feelings, and eventually realize his own strength.  I love how the illustrations were kind of 'scratchy' in the background when Hennie was struggling and gradually less so as he calmed.  It's a subtle thing, but it added to the story, soothing the reader as Hennie himself felt soothed.  I absolutely adore books that help children cope with their emotions as well as those that give parents new ways to approach a tough situation, and this book does both.  Bad Day is definitely a keeper.  It is recommend for children age 3-7 years (preschool through 2nd grade) and is available anywhere books are sold.


Now, I fully admit that being a mom doesn't necessarily make me an expert on raising them.  I wish it did, but I still haven't received my certificate.  I imagine it'll come around the same time as my Hogwart's acceptance letter.  If my (admittedly inexpert) review isn't enough, here are some slightly more educated thoughts on the book.
"Bad Day will become your household's go-to book in rough moments, teaching children to reflect, monitor, and manage their feelings." - Dr. Jenn Mann, MFT, PsyD, author of The A to Z Guide to Raising Happy, Confident Kids
"A beautiful book that tackles a subject not only necessary, but rarely address.  Parents are frequently frustrated by what they interpret as stubbornness when their children 'clam up.'  Ruby's book speaks for kids, so parents can better understand and deal appropriately with their child's distress."  - Lynne Bernfield, MA, MFTC, author of When You can You Will
"A powerful message about the capacity we all have to bring awareness to invebitably tough moments and transform our story to inspire possibility and resilience."  - Elisha Goldstein, PhD, creator of A Course for Mindful Living
"From my introvert child to my extrovert, it's been hard to find the perfect conversation-starter about expressing feelings until Bad Day.  Ruby manages to get right what so many parents miss -- the option of teaching our children to sit in a tough moment and release it on their own." - Chloe Jo Davis, conscious-parenting spokesmama and founder of GirlieGirlArmy.com
 The author, Ruby Roth, has received international attention for her sensitive, yet frank, books for children.  Follow her @ruby_roth and learn more about her at www.RubyRoth.co

Have a fantastic Friday!

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Serenity: Leaves on the Wind (Firefly Class 03-K64) by Zack Whedon with Georges Jeanty, Fabio Moon, & Dan Dos Santos

Summary:  In the film Serenity, outlaw Malcolm Reynolds and his crew revealed to the entire 'verse the crimes against humanity undertaken by a sinister government -- the Alliance.  Here is the official follow-up to the film, the crew has been in hiding since becoming everyone's most wanted, and now, when they are forced to come out, one of their own is captured.  More secrets uncovered by River lead these former Browncoats on a dangerous mission against the Alliance that, with hope, will bring them together again...

Television writer Zach Whedon (Southland, Halt and Catch Fire) continues the saga of Joss Whedon's space cowboys in Leaves on the Wind, along with Whedon alum artist Georges Jeanty (Buffy the Vampire Slayer).  Also collected here for the first time, is Zack's short story "It's Never Easy with artist Fabio Moon (Sugarshock, Casanova)(Summary from back of book - Image from amazon.com)

My Review:  Several years ago I came across the Firefly TV series on Netflix.  It was only one season so I binged it rather quickly and loved it so much that I dragged my husband in to re-watch it with me. We don't always like the same shows, but we both looooooooved Firefly.  When the show was canceled (through no fault of its own), it's loyal fans (aka Browncoats) rallied and helped raise enough money for a full-length feature film to give the series some closure.  That movie is called Serenity.  While I entered the fandom a little too late to be involved in the movie-making, I do consider myself to be a loyal 'Browncoat'My husband and I have watched the series several times and recently introduced our teenage daughters to it as well.  Mind you, we had to do a little bit of fast-forwarding in a few of the episodes, but our daughters have joined the Browncoats as well.  In the wake of finishing the series, my daughters were looking for any Firefly-related reading they could get their hands on and so I scoured our local library for anything in the fandom.  This graphic novel came up, as well as a few others and a fiction series and I put them all on reserve.  While I'm not generally a fan of graphic novels, I am always willing to make an exception for those attached to my favorite books or shows (like the Wires & Nerve series attached to Cinder). 

The first thing I noticed when picking this book up from the library was the absolutely phenomenal cover art by Dan Dos Santos.  It is a thoroughly spot-on depiction of the main character Malcolm Reynolds.  However, when I started reading, I realized that aside from the cover and the chapter break art, Georges Jeanty was responsible for the majority of the content which didn't resemble the cover art or the characters as much as I expected or wanted (see image below).  This could be normal for graphic novels, but, as I'm a newbie who expected the book to match the cover art, I was heartily disappointed.

Image result for serenity leaves on the wind

One of my favorite things about the Firefly tv series, aside from how much I just love the characters, was that each episode is chock full of quotable quips like "I swear by my pretty floral bonnet, I will end you!," "Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal!," and "Well, my time of taking you not seriously is certainly coming to a middle."  With a Whedon of any kind attached the project, I was hoping for more of the same kind of wisecrackery and I didn't really get it.  Oh, there was a chuckle or two...but I wasn't reading with a giant goofy grin on my face (which is exactly how I watch the series)...and, again, I was disappointed.

As for the story.  Well...it was okay.  Because of all the previously listed reasons, I felt kind of disconnected from the story.  I don't really want to spoil the major events, but there were some old characters I didn't expect to see again and some new additions to the story that weren't so much surprising as satisfying.  My least favorite part of the book was that a certain much-awaited romantic relationship came to fruition, if you will, in a rather abrupt, matter-of-fact way. It felt completely devoid of emotion and still managed to show more skin that I felt was necessary.  O.o  I will say that I liked the short story "It's Never Easy" tacked on at the end, better than the main content. Somehow, it felt a little more like seeing old friends than the rest of it did, though the artwork was even further afield.

Ultimately, this graphic novel just didn't live up to my (admittedly high) expectations.  I definitely wouldn't recommend it to someone who hasn't watched the show -- they'd be utterly lost.  However, I fully recognize that I'm not the authority on Firefly or graphic novels, so it's possible that an avid fan of both might have a different experience than I did.  If that is the case, please don't consign me to the special hell reserved for child molesters and people who talk at the theater. Just leave a comment letting me know what you liked about the book.  I'd be interested in your perspective.  I happen to have the second book in the series, Serenity: No Power in the Verse, sitting right next to me at this very moment, and I might give it a try to see if things improve (and to peruse Dos Santos new artwork).  UPDATE:  I didn't much care for the main story (except for Jaynes new sweater!),but I loved the adorable short story, The Warrior and the Wind, and heartily admired all of  Dos Santos stunning artwork.  I hope to have better luck with the fiction series I requested when it finally comes in at the library. (UPDATE: I did. Have better luck, I mean.  Stay tuned!)

Until then... I'm a leaf on the wind....

My Rating:  3 Stars (but 5 for the cover images and chapter break art).

For the sensitive reader:  There  *might* be some swearing (if you speak Chinese) but I can't be certain.  In the series they used Chinese sometimes when angry, but I was never quite sure what they were saying.  There are a few instances of drawn intimacy or near intimacy.  You don't see "parts" but you get the general idea of what's going on.

Monday, September 30, 2019

The Invited - Jennifer McMahon

Summary: In a quest for a simpler life, Helen and Nate abandon the comforts of suburbia and their teaching jobs to take up residence on forty-four acres of rural land where they will begin the ultimate, aspirational do-it-yourself project: building the house of their dreams. When they discover that this charming property has a dark and violent past, Helen, a former history teacher, becomes consumed by the legend of Hattie Breckenridge, a woman who lived and died there a century ago. As Helen starts carefully sourcing decorative building materials for her home--wooden beams, mantles, historic bricks--she starts to unearth, and literally conjure, the tragic lives of Hattie's descendants, three generations of "Breckenridge women," each of whom died amidst suspicion, and who seem to still be seeking something precious and elusive in the present day. (Summary and pic from goodreads.com)

My Review: I always love a good ghost story. Paranormal is fun, is it not? And while I have not personally gone ghost hunting or anything of that sort (I’m too scared) I am one of those people who enjoy lots of paranormal outlets—books, podcasts, TV shows, etc. I know I’m not alone here. I’m part of a Facebook group that is linked to a podcast I enjoy and there are all kinds of paranormal-loving weirdos on there. Millions. So chances are, maybe you like ghosts, too?

This was a fun ghost story. At first I wasn’t sure what to expect, as it seems that so many times I pick up a book I think might be about a ghost (okay, not like ALL the time) but it ends up having a perfectly normal explanation. What fun is that? If I’m reading a ghost story, I expect it to be about ghosts! When I was in fourth grade I remember reading Wait Till Helen Comes by Mary Downing Hahn. It was one of my faves and I know I checked it out a lot, but this particular time I was reading when I was supposed to be doing long division (which I can no longer do, even in a pinch) and my teacher came up and touched me on the shoulder and I jumped so high and was so scared. I still remember my heart racing. That is one legit scary book. It’s still scary. It has withstood the test of time. Anyway, that is the kind of scared I want to be when I read ghost stories. If I’m not getting a cold creeping dread like I did when Helen was luring that girl down to the pond to drown, then it’s just not the real deal.

So did this book do that? Not really. There were definitely some scary bits in it, and maybe it was just because of the excessively sunny atmosphere I’m surrounded in right now what with it being summer and all, but it wasn’t super scary. The story itself should have been scary—it had some great history and some great back story, but save for a few places here and there, overall it wasn’t that scary. (Or maybe I’m just an adult now and so those moments in fourth grade aren’t as easy to come by? Say it isn’t so!)

I really enjoyed the premise of this book and I think the story was interesting and easy to connect to on lots of levels. The people were realistic-feeling, and the writing, while not overly fanatically notable, was decent and didn’t detract from the telling of the story, which is always really important. There was a good story arc and a good resolution, too, even if it isn’t always the resolution you were looking for, nor was it super shocking.

I purposely put this book in the end of September reviews because although I read it in the summer, I think it would be a great seasonal read for Halloween. There are some really creepy ghost happenings and some really creepy atmospheric elements that I think would lend itself really well to October and fall and all things Halloween. If you’re looking for a great book to help enhance your mood, this is a good one. It isn’t too serious or too complicated, and it’s not hard to read or get into. It’s a solid ghost story with some good back story and legit creepiness.

My Rating: 3 Stars

For the sensitive reader: There is some language.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Free Form Friday - Interview with a Librarian: Recommendations for Reluctant Readers #1

Welcome to Free Form Friday! Today we have an interview with a children's elementary school librarian. Join me for a great discussion with my good friend Olivia on how to get reluctant readers reading, including LOTS of really great recommendations. I promise you'll find some books you hadn't heard of before and some excellent suggestions to get those reluctant readers in your life reading (and loving it!). You'll definitely find something you'll enjoy as well. We've broken this interview up into bite-sized chunks for you, beloved readers, so enjoy Part 1 today and watch for the next part in two weeks.



Links to Liv's recommendations Part 1:

Press Here, Herve Tullet   (Read our review here)
Mix It Up!, Herve Tullet   (Read our review here)
I am a Tiger, Kari Newson, Ross Collins (Illustrator)
The Book with No Pictures, B.J. Novak

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

The Bobcat - Katherine Forbes Riley

Summary: The Bobcat is Katherine Forbes Riley's magical debut novel in which Laurelie, a young art student who suffers in the aftermath of a fraternity rape, has grown progressively more isolated and fearful.  She transfers to a small college in Vermont and retreats into her imagination, experiencing the world through her art, comfortable only in the company of the child she babysits, and most at ease in the woods. One day she encounters an injured bobcat -- and the hiker who has been following it for hundreds of miles.  In them Laurelie recognizes something as reclusive and wary as herself.  As she moves with them toward recovery and reconnection she also finds her voice as an artist, and a sense of purpose, maybe even a future, comes into sight.  Then the child goes missing in the woods, threatening the fragile peace she has constructed.

With the hypnotic intensity of Emily Fridlund's The History of Wolves and Fiona McFarlane's The Night Guest, Riley has created a mesmerizing love story in lush gorgeous prose that examines art, science, and the magic of human chemistry.  (Summary from back of book - Image from amazon.com)

**This book was given to me for free in exchange for an honest review.**

My Review:  For the most part, I read whatever I feel like reading and don't generally accept books from publishers for review.  I've been burned too many times by books that publicize well but end up being real stinkers when they come in the mail.  These glorified doorstops usually end up sitting in my to-be-reviewed stack making me feel guilty for not wanting to finish them.  I am telling you all this so that when I say that The Bobcat is the first book I have accepted for review in years, you'll understand the significance of that statement.

The main character of The Bobcat is a young woman named Laurelie, who is struggling to cope with the aftermath of sexual trauma.  In an effort to escape the fear that lurks around every corner of her college town, Laurelie moves to another town and into a small house on the edge of the forest where she spends most of her time in the wood, accompanied by a young boy in her care.  One day the two explorers stumble upon an injured bobcat being followed by a mysterious hiker.  And from there, the story goes to interesting places that I will let you discover on your own...

In the opening chapters, Laurelie is nearly overcome with anxiety as she navigates daily life -- skittish, terrified, and reclusive.  The writing was so evocative that I often succumbed to a case of emotional transference as my anxiety rose and fell congruent with hers.  I thought the author did a fantastic job of capturing the physical, emotional, and psychological reactions of someone who has endured significant trauma (i.e. the increased dread of social situations, avoidance of certain activities, or the visceral reaction someone might have faced with a crowded room, an unexpected noise, or a close talker).   Even fictionalized, it was interesting to see the effects of trauma so authentically rendered on paper. 

As the story evolves and different characters weave in and out of her life, Laurelie settles ever so slowly into a new way of being.  I loved following her transformation, not only emotionally, but through her artwork, and in her interactions with other characters.  The hiker, specifically, seemed to sense her apprehension and she in turn sensed his own, as if they had a mutual, unspoken understanding that they would approach each other with care.  In her depiction of their physical relationship, the author often focused on things like movement, breathing, and facial expressions.  I didn't understand why until much later in the story when a key revelation sharpened things up a bit and it all made more sense.  Somehow Lorelie's nervousness around the hiker gradually dissipated and all that heightened awareness, transformed into a gentle romance that felt natural and inescapable -- like gravity or the pull of the tides.  It may not have been your stereotypical romantic fluff, but that was just fine by me.

One of my favorite aspects of the book was a writing technique that I have never seen before (well, never noticed before).  The author conveyed Laurelie's reclusivity and the protective distance she was trying to maintain from the world by not giving the other character's proper names.  Rather, Laurelie chose not to think about them in terms of their names, mentally referring to them as simply 'the hiker', 'the boy', 'the landlady,' 'the linguistics major', etc.   I love that something as simple as a name, or the lack thereof, could evoke a feeling of self-imposed isolation around the main character.  And okay, so it took me a chapter (or three) before I realized what she was doing, but I was floored by the effect.  This effectively kept everyone at an emotional arms length, pinned on the fringes of the story, until Laurelie was ready to let them in. Towards the end of the story, a name or two would subtly tip-toe its way onto the page and WHAM take me completely by surprise.  Those 'namings' felt particularly significant and (I think) symbolized another step on Laurelie's gradual progression the path toward healing.

Most books I read are one-and-done's.  I open the book, read it with varying degrees of enjoyment, finish, write my review, and move on to the next book.  Not so with The Bobcat.  Okay, yes, I will do all those things, but this one will linger a bit.  As I sit here trying to coax my thoughts out through my fingers, there is this twisted knot in the center of my chest - a feeling I get when I am teetering on an emotional precipice.  I am equal parts glad I read the book and sad that it is over.

My Rating: 4 Stars

For the Sensitive Reader:  No swearing that I can recall.  Although the story begins after Laurelie is raped, the event is revisited in her memories.  The author's description of the rape is fairly PG (if you could ever call something like that PG).  There is one sex scene that is fairly mild/vague (and strangely cathartic given the character's past)

Monday, September 23, 2019

How High the Moon - Karyn Parsons

Summary: In the small town of Alcolu, South Carolina, in 1944, 12-year-old Ella spends her days fishing and running around with her best friend Henry and cousin Myrna. But life is not always so sunny for Ella, who gets bullied for her light skin tone, and whose mother is away pursuing a jazz singer dream in Boston. 

So Ella is ecstatic when her mother invites her to visit for Christmas. Little does she expect the truths she will discover about her mother, the father she never knew and her family's most unlikely history. 

And after a life-changing month, she returns South and is shocked by the news that her schoolmate George has been arrested for the murder of two local white girls. 

Bittersweet and eye-opening, How High the Moon is a timeless novel about a girl finding herself in a world all but determined to hold her down. (Summary and pic from goodreads.com)

My Review:  I have a couple friends who are school librarians (because I’m cool like that, ya know?) and one of them was kind enough to share a list of books with me that she’d received due to being a librarian. We totally geeked out over it, and went over some other lists as well. One of my favorite lists was of the top books being checked out in school libraries today. It’s fascinating stuff, people. Some books just never get old, and some have resurgences. We had a good time looking through and finding books that we had loved as children that were still beloved today. This book was on a list of new and upcoming books, and when I checked it out and logged it on goodreads I can see that it hasn’t gotten a lot of traction yet, and so this is your chance to hop on the bandwagon before it leaves you behind.

There were several things I really enjoyed about this book. First off, I always enjoy looking into someone else’s world that I don’t normally experience. Ella, the main character, lives in a small town in South Carolina in 1944. This timeframe allows for many things to be going on in Ella’s life. It’s still the Jim Crow south, and so Ella gets bullied by other African-Americans for her light skin. Also, some of the children in the book have fathers who are off at war. Ella’s mother has gone to pursue a career in jazz singing in Boston, so she is left to live with her grandmother. One of her classmates is accused of killing two white girls. Ella goes to visit her mom in Boston and learns some new things about her mother. See what I mean? There is a lot to be covered in one girl’s life. As with many well-written middle grade books, I appreciated the way in which these situations are handled—children often don’t feel the need to beat around the bush, and so these issues were taken on directly. They were, of course, confusing for Ella (as they are for all of us, even as adults), but I appreciated the candor in which they were handled. And not all the questions were answered, which I also appreciated. Although there is some satisfaction in a book that neatly ties up all the loose ends, this is not one of those books and I liked that. These were complex issues that expanded generations and also many lives of the characters, and so to have them be unresolved or resolved in ways that weren’t necessarily how one would hope made the book feel realistic and the characters authentic.

The writing of this book was good, although I didn’t find it as effortless and flawless as some. That was okay, though. It certainly didn’t detract. It was just awkward at times. The story flowed well, though, and took the reader on quite the journey through the lives of the characters. I did feel, at times, that the author almost took on too much—like she had all these ideas of things that should be addressed in today’s society and perhaps could be done by addressing it in a historical fiction fashion, but with all of them together in a fairly short book it just felt like there were a lot of things brought up. I am deliberately being vague here because there is one particular nuance in the book that just added another layer to an already sticky situation. It didn’t detract from the book and I feel like it was a great thing to address, but there were so many things addressed that sometimes I worry about the efficacy of addressing All The Things in one short story.

I think this is a really good book, and one that will introduce a lot of issues and possible discussions in a natural way. I think that were a middle grade reader to read it they might have to go through it a few times to catch everything, and I think it is one that parents would like to be involved in when their children read it just because there are so many things going on that should be addressed if they haven’t been already.

My Rating: 4 Stars

For the sensitive reader: Although there is no language or overt discussion of sex, there are difficult issues discussed including racism, murder, same-sex attraction, and war. It may not be appropriate for all readers.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Freeform Friday: Raise Awareness for Banned Books (and do it in STYLE)



This Freeform Friday, I've decided to highlight the plight of the Banned Book.  
Psst, Banned Books Week is coming up Sept 22-28!  

As an American citizen and anti-censorship advocate, I fully support the 1st Amendment which allows freedom of expression through words spoken or written.  I may not like what someone has to say.  I may, in fact, loathe it.  However, in the words of Noam Chomsky "If we don't believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don't believe in it at all." 

In honor of Banned Books Week and in celebration of the freedom that I have to read and write whatever the shmell I want, I'd like highlight some fairly cool banned book goodies I have found after some careful combing of the interwebs (and don't worry...there's some book recs at the end).

NOTE: This post does NOT contain affiliate links.  
None.  Zip.  Zilch.  Zero.  
I don't make a single penny off posting the stuff I find. 
I just like to share cool book stuff with the world.

Click here to take a closer look.................................................................or here.
























I want this quote from Ray Bradbury on EVERYTHING... 
Ray Bradbury Medium Dystopian Sci Fi Literary Quote Poster image 0

Or how about this poster of the entire banned book, The Giver, for your dorm room wall?
The Giver

And I loved these glow-in-the-dark buttons that discourage censorship!
Censorship Leaves Us in the Dark Buttons 12

This button referencing George Orwell's banned book 1984 needs to be mine. 
It also comes in red hat form, but I'm trying to keep things focused on books...
....and I don't wear hats.

And lastly, the Noam Chomsky quote I love in book bag form. *Swoon*


Now, just in case you are a little short on funds this week, I don't want to leave you high and dry.  Here are ten of my favorite banned or challenged books or series, in no particular order (except F451...cuz dang), that I'm sure you could find at the library.  Oh, and I've linked to our reviews if we have them.

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
1984 by George Orwell
Charlotte's Web by E.B. White
Hunger Games Series by Suzanne Collins
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
The Lorax by Dr. Seuss
The Little House Series by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Kabul Beauty School by Deborah Rodriquez
The Giver by Lois Lowry

Need more?  Click here to read all of our past posts about banned books!

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