Moon Mission by Sigmund Brouwer

4506A514-2748-4781-83B7-7BD013859B98This black and white tome is a history of the moon missions but written in a rare second-person narrative. Using accounts of the actual missions, this novel (reading like a choose you own adventure) amalgamates the experiences of several moon mission astronauts.

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While the facts and images seem well researched, it takes a particular kind of reader to enjoy the second person perspective. Younger readers might be more open to this style. Indeed, I would consider this a High-Lo reading level – relatively high reading skill but rather low emotional age needed to appreciate.  Overall, the book is an interesting read and should be considered for any young space enthusiast. For the average collection, buy if you have space or history readers or are lacking in this topic area.

Mina vs. The Monsoon by Rukhsanna Guidroz

 

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This is a sweet story about a young girl who is stuck inside during the sub-continent’s monsoon season when she would prefer to be outside playing football/soccer. I loved the pictures and rich art and liberal sharing of new words.

 

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The fact that this is a little girl who wants to play sport is lovely. And her mother’s secret interest in the same sport was also adorable. But I wasn’t too fond of the idea that the monsoons could be chased by music or dancing away. I wonder if children living in that environment will be similarly put off, especially when they know the season to last much much longer than is depicted in this story. I also was put off by the use of “soccer” when the Indians 1) play cricket with more regularity and 2) call it football. I appreciate that soccer is more palatable to American audiences but since we are learning new words, we could teach how American is an outlier is the sports world.

If you are looking for a diversity picture book, this has loads of meat on it with which to start many interesting discussions. But I don’t see it being popular outside of the USA.

The Voice in My Head by Dana Davis

This is a ‘coming of age’ story about African-American twins who diverge in mind and heart when one decides to end her life with dignity after a severe, incurable lung illness and the other starts to hear the voice of “God” in her head.

I am not a big fan of grief reading. I enjoy the occasional Jodi Picoult novel but it isn’t my first choice. So I when I picked up The Voice, I did it to resolve the ‘problem’ I had in needing to find out what actually WAS the voice in Indigo’s head (spiritual, religious, insanity, alien?) While I won’t spoil this answer, I will say that this is definitely one of those books where the journey is the gift. While I went in just to find out this one answer, I left feeling like I had met and shared with Violet and Indigo and their complex and fierce family. The characters here are so realistic in their flaws, so true to their creation and so distinctly individual that I believe they could exist. It is rare that an author can hit the right combination of plot intrigue and character development and beautiful writing to support the story fully but Dana Davis has managed it in spades. I fully expect to see this novel on awards lists next year and frankly, I will question our industry if this book does not receive the accolades it deserves! #TheVoiceInMyHead #NetGalley

WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN ALL MY LIFE?

If you follow me on other social media (FB or the Twitts), I apologize for inundating you with this information but it is SO awesome I can’t stop sharing!

I JUST learned about this amazing Chrome Extension that tells you if the book you are looking at (on @goodreads or @amazon) is in your local library. Please, share WILDLY. You do not even need to log in, just choose a library system!🤓

https://www.libraryextension.com/

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This is so perfect!  I love reading and books and I have quite a few (much to the chagrin of any moving company I have ever done business with).  But I always try my local library first if I can (Peace and Love Phoenix Public Library!)  And many a time, reading a book at the library will solidify that I need to buy it for someone else or for the school library.

I hope you all will add this extension to your Chrome browser.  For my part, I donated to the developer because when something this good appears, it is worth it to me to show in $ how much I appreciate it.

#librarytwitter

The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle

-also sold as the Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle.

I really debated reviewing this book here. First, it isn’t YA. Second, it has been out for a while now. Third, it is painful for me to write a realistic review of a book I didn’t like but I did enjoy.

That isn’t quite the contradiction it seems. I have had the experience of enjoying books but not liking them before. Consider Dan Browne, Dean Koontz, Stephen King. With just a few exceptions*, if I start one of these author’s books, I have to finish them. But I am not drawn in by the words or the characters. I am just being a plot junkie. I have to know the ending and how we got there… it is all about the road, baby. But the vehicle, the company, the music – not worth mentioning. And plot is what made me stick it out for 7 1/2 Deaths. PS. I seem to have a pathological needs for this to be the 7 1/2 LIVES of Evelyn Hardcastle. Forgive me if I slip.

This is a convoluted, somewhat magical, story that takes place in a place devoid of modern conveniences. We are told, as fact, that a guest will murder one of the host. And the unraveling of this murder takes place over the course of one 24 hour period, for 8 different narrators who are actually one character.

Certainly lay, people enjoy different things. I did not realize until reading this book how important it was for me to sympathize and empathize with the main characters. In this story, it is impossible to get close to these characters because they aren’t who they really are. And the character you are supposed to know, he morphs so much he doesn’t really have enough substance to love or hate. So his decisions, falling in complete “like” with several of the female characters, seem a bit contrived. He just seems to stick his neck out there fairly readily for a group of people he doesn’t really seem to have a realistic attachment to.

The explanation of how this repeated day occurs is not exactly given short schrif but is so anathema to the setting of the majority of the plot that it definitely kicked me out of the story world rudely. The true revelation of what is going on, why there is this life recycling is not discovered so much as told. And I am pretty sure there is a ‘rule’ about showing not telling in novels. Still up until this scene, I was desperate to visualize the plot (of the 8 character recycling). I searched online for a mind map or a chart or a timeline – but to no avail. I started to make one myself and then I realized I really didn’t care enough to continue.

With that revelation, I consumed the rest of the novel to be able to close the book so to speak on this story. The lack of compelling word artistry, the constant disintegration of the main character, I just ignored it all and read to the end.

If you are a plot junkie, have at it. Bring a paper and pen perhaps. But if you are set on lyrical words, deep world building, or significant character development, I don’t think you will be happy. Honestly, the title was the best part.

*Exceptions for me seem to be time travel related. I think Koontz’s Lightening and King’s 11.23.63 (less so with the ending) were both some of their most original and compelling writing. Everything else seems to be the same story on rewind.

A Danger to Herself and Others by Alyssa Sheinmel

I read a lot of escapist books. I am definitely after that thousand lives they say readers get to live. More if at all possible. But there are characters who I am glad to not be. And Hannah Gold is one of them. I appreciate that she exists in a kind of abstract way but dang – is there anyway to keep her purely theoretical?

Hannah is the center of our story universe in A Danger to Herself and Others. She is our narrator and our point of view. So we learn, bit by bit, what has come before, what brought her to her small institutional cell, almost as she seems to learn it herself. Which means, that for the course of the book, we readers are living the life of a confused, disturbed, enigmatic teenage girl who is confined in an institution for some unknown but unjust reason. We are surrounded by odd personalities that flit in and out of the story, clearly marred by our character goggles.

The link between this novel and the books I usually pick up to read is the puzzle, the unknowing. I don’t often read thrillers or high drama or romance. I have a sense that I know how the story in these will resolve. I like speculative fiction, magical realism, YA, fantasy and sci-fi because the resolution is not just unknown but not guaranteed. Seriously. Who else had to stop reading after Ned Stark bit it? I had to pause because I was so shocked an author would do such a thing. And then I dived in, ravenous.

That is what ended up happening here. What brought me to this story was the complete uncertainty of what had already happened. Our narrator, who should be our omniscient leader in this, is anything but. Being brought into her world is unsettling and disquieting. This is not exactly the escapism I generally crave. But if YOU do, this is a worthwhile read. The story is well written with believable characters. Even a bit too believable for my taste. While I am usually avoid this genre because of my own bias of perceived predictable endings, I realized as I started to read that with such an unreliable and unfocused and un-remembering narrator, I had no idea where we would end up. But I went along for the dangerous ride because I just had to find out. #netgalley @AlyssaSheinmel #ADangertoHerselfandOthers

Romanov by Nadine Brandes

I am a sucker for Anastasia stories, I do admit. When I was a young girl, her remains had not yet been discovered so there was still significant mystery about what happened to her and I sucked up the Anna stories. I was looking forward to this read and it did deliver. Romanov is the tale of magic being stamped out under the Red Revolution of Lenin. Considering all the other policies, I suspect that if magic had existed, Lenin would have considered it anathema to the Soviet way. This is also a love tragedy, the tale of a princess and a pauper and their ill fated affection. There are brutal moments in this story. They aren’t made any easier by the magic that is supposed to exist. But overall the writing was so well done, the world and character building so lovely, that it is worth the tough moments, even for those of us who read to escape. I was left wondering though…. if the royal family were so lovely, why were they so hated? Was the Tsar really the dedicated humanist we read about? I supposed Romanov did it’s job – now I have to go find out. #netgalley #Romanov

TheBoy, the Boat, and the Beast by Samantha Clark

You don’t know from the get-go if this is an allegorical story or a literal one or something else. And I am not spoiling it for you here.  TBTB&TB was a deceptively simple book to read.  While a readers ability level need not be high to enjoy the book, the story does eventually give way to darker and very realistic elements.  This is about a young boy stranded both emotionally, physically, and metaphysically.  Dissecting these issues of loss and abandonment should be tackled with appropriate students.   If you are looking for a short but intense book that can appeal to a wide range of reading skills, this might be the book for you.

All is Fair by Dee Garretson

All is Fair is a well written, intriguing WWI rescue story with a hint of romance. I read the ARC tonight and in just one sitting. I love a good female empowerment book and our heroine in this novel has moxie, brains, and a good sense of humor. While it is possible that some people will sigh about ‘another rescue’ novel (we have had some incredible ones recently), I especially like this novel for upper middle school and lower high school. It has some complexity that will appeal to a slightly older reading set but (spoilers) a resolution that is somewhat fanciful and a tiny bit incredible. Yet in the details, it is often more realistic than any other rescue novel I can think of. The author’s descriptions of the smell of a wrist watch or the hair oil and petrol oil on a scarf really struck me as adding a truly authentic layer. So, if you have someone new to the genre and/or a reader who adores the genre, All is Fair would be an excellent book to put into their hands.

#netgalley @deegarretson

Unmarriageable by Soniah Kamal

We can all agree that it is rare for a reboot to rival the original. But in this world, where #MeToo and #WeNeedDiverseBooks live, I have found you a single novel that can be a gateway drug to fine literature, world literature, and women’s literature.

Unmarriageable is indeed “Pride and Prejudice in Pakistan.” But more importantly, it is the version of Pride and Prejudice modern students NEED to read. While a modern Westerner can intellectually understand the dilemma of Elizabeth Bennet in 19th century Regency Britain, the predicament of her and her sisters is somewhat removed emotionally for us. Women’s lives got better. Women became able to inherit and work and even marry for love. Having this tale play out in modern day Pakistan adds a level of reality and urgency to the story that is hard to experience from the original with our perfect historical hindsight.

Simply put, Unmarriageable has legs because so many of the original norms Austen wrote about are still at work in the world today. We read stories about honor killings, forced and arranged marriages, preference of boys to girls, shooting of girls going to school from all over the globe (not just South Asia). And in this novel, we see the seeds of how small micro-aggressions lay the ground work for macro-aggressions against the disenfranchised.

Because Unmarriageable is able to step just a bit beyond Austen’s exposure of the misogyny of the day, I hope and encourage educators to read it and consider adding it into your ELA curriculum. Unmarriageable not only presents the plight of women, especially “older” unmarried women, but also touches upon the struggles of gay men, interracial couples, unwed pregnant women, plus sized women, and class biases. And while the setting is Pakistan, many of these biases hit disturbingly close to the mark in Western society too. This book will also give educators an opportunity to teach about Partition, colonial occupation, India-Pakistan relations, Islam, the importance of education to women. And it may help some students realize how little they know about this important, populous and critical area of the world.

So…

Dear ELA Teachers Everywhere,

Please put down your copy of Pride and Prejudice. Just stick in that drawer next to you. Now open your computer and place an order for a class set of Unmarriageable by Soniah Kamal (due out January 2019). Your Jane Austen discussions are about to get wild.

#Unmarriageable #NetGalley @Soniah Kamal