book review nonfiction

Book Review: When They Come for You: How Police and Government Are Trampling Our Liberties – and How to Take Them Back

The title alone is a mouth full. If you don’t think that you need to read this book, then you aren’t paying attention. It’s not a conspiracy theory book or some prepper manifesto. It is a study of actual events that have happened in the US in recent history. Well written, well researched, I’ve got nothing bad to say except that I wish it wasn’t right or needed.

You may have heard some of these stories; in the back of your mind, you might even be concerned that your civil liberties are in danger. The stories within this book won’t make you feel better about that.

Before you start thinking that this is biased toward one political party or the other, be assured that it is not. There are examples from all sides, in nearly all fields. From the published statistics of the number of people shot by police each year to removing children from their parents without cause. Your rights as a citizen have eroded almost yearly.

I was taking most of this book with a grain of salt until I got to the extensive endnotes. There is research to back up each claim listed within the text.

Although the stories can be frightening as it’s easy to see yourself in the face of these ordinary citizens, there are also many stories where people fought back against these civil injustices and won. No matter what you think about the way things are going in the United States today, this book is well worth your time to read.

book review Graphic Novel YA fiction

Book Review: PumpkinHeads

Better than candy. Well, maybe not peanut butter cups. This short and sweet graphic novel takes place at a Pumpkin Patch, where Josie and Deja work each Halloween season. If you are trying to grab on to the last bit of Halloween magic, this is precisely the right book.

Next year they’ll both be at different colleges, but on this last night, they spend their time doing all the things they always meant to do together at the Farm.

It’s such cute and wholesome while at the same time effortlessly representing diversity, bisexuality, male/female friendship, consent, etc. as it should be.

The story is nothing that you can’t guess, and that’s part of its charm. It’s two teens at a Midwestern pumpkin farm doing the things teens do. It’s both touching and comical.

The art is fantastic, and you should read it with some spice cake and a Pumpkin Spiced Latte.

book review YA fiction

ARC Review: Safe Harbour

Safe Harbour is one of the best YA books I’ve read this year. Do I always say that? I feel like I say it too much, and yet if there is a cap to favorite books, I’ve to exceed that number.
Harbour’s story was both believable and heartwrenching. Even though things did not turn out as bleak as I had imagined, I still cried at the end. Fourteen-year-old Harbour is in Toronto with her dog alone. Her Dad dropped her off there and left her with some strict instructions to follow until he got back. He tells her that the government is looking for them and so she has to be extra cautious and suspicious of everyone she meets.
As you can imagine, she meets both good and bad people while she is living on the streets. The good being a librarian who helps her get a card and a kind social worker at a shelter. The bad are realistically bad, a guy who seems nice, but who is probably a sexual predator and some mentally ill homeless dudes. The story doesn’t gloss over the real problems of the homeless. Harbour and her street friends eat out of dumpsters and spend some cold nights outdoors.
The ending has a Box Car Children type ending, which, although it isn’t an ending that most teens would encounter, made a great ending for this fictional tale. All the loose ends were tied up — all in all, a book that will tug on your heartstrings. And maybe make you grateful for what you have.

You can pre-order it now prior to it’s November 16 release date.

book review YA fiction

Book Review: His Hideous Heart

This book appeared just in the knick of time. I planned an American poetry unit for this Winter and hoped to add something more- current? To our Poe readings. This collection is so much better than anything that I thought I was looking for. This anthology includes so many talented writers that I feel obligated to list them all in this review:

Dahlia Adler  (Editor), Kendare Blake  (Contributor), Rin Chupeco  (Contributor), Lamar Giles (Contributor), Tessa Gratton  (Contributor), Tiffany D. Jackson  (Contributor), Stephanie Kuehn  (Contributor), Amanda Lovelace (Contributor) , Marieke Nijkamp  (Contributor), Emily Lloyd-Jones  (Contributor), Hillary Monahan  (Contributor), Caleb Roehrig  (Contributor), Fran Wilde  (Contributor)

Both of the reimagined and original tales are both printed in this book. I think we’ll read the new version and then the original and do a compare/contrast type thing during our Literature Study.

All the stories stick the original horror type premise in a newly imagined sometimes modern twist. This is a high school book. I wouldn’t use it as a read-aloud for grade-schoolers unless you’ve previewed it ahead of time. It is excellent for older teens, though, lots of diversity and inclusion in the characters of these sometimes terrifying stories. My favorite was The Oval Filter (The Oval Portrait) by Lamar Giles. In this story, a college football star’s dead girlfriend shows up in his Instagram feed, which is scary enough. But also, she’s trapped in an oval filter that appears to be suffocating her behind the screen. The stories touch on some heavy themes, such as, Animal death, homophobia, suicide, implied transphobia, torture, misogyny, and substance abuse.

Most of the stories would fit perfectly into Black Mirror episodes. This book would be an excellent gift for the holidays. Teens/New Adults in your life will probably never pick up a book of Poe Tales unless it’s this one. I checked it out of the library and then promptly purchased it to keep in our home library.

book review Graphic Novel YA fiction

Book Review: Spell on Wheels

This is another title that I chose after watching an OwlCrate Video. Those gals and I seem to have similar tastes in books. Luckily, it was available online from my library with no wait, and I was able to get immediate gratification. It’s the last of my non-Cybils reading for awhile.

Anyhow, if you are looking for a quick, fun graphic novel read that’s seasonably themed- look no further than this slightly, spooky title. This trade paperback collects the first five issues of Spell on Wheels. The story features three witches ( Andy, Jolene, and Claire)- normal girls with a healthy sense of boundaries as well as excellent fashion sense. 

We learn about the trio, their relationship with one another, and their magical abilities as we follow them on their journey.

The story begins with their house being burglarized, and then they go on a mission to get all their magic belongings back.

The thief is selling their stolen items. And their quest leads them all over as they track each piece down. At each location, they get more hints as to who the thief is and why he targeted them. The people they meet along the way are memorable in and of themselves. 

There are no throw-away characters here. We meet people from all walks of life. They are diverse in almost every way. There’s also feminist themes, a lot of humor, and it takes a dig at an emotionally abusive relationship while it supports positive relationships. 

After all the awesomeness in the storyline, it almost seems like you wouldn’t also get great art- but you do. Bonus points for realistic body types.

This title would be a great way to introduce a teen to graphic novels.

You can pick up a copy of this just about anywhere. Plus, there is a sequel which will be out in 2020!

book review YA Non fiction

Book Review: The History of the World in Fifty Dogs

I knew I’d love these essays. I’m a big fan of dogs and history, so I was enthusiastic about this book from the get-go. Then I got to this line:

“Good bois were all over Egypt- it’s Unde-NILE-able.”

I enjoy the right mix of internet punning with my history. Don’t be fooled by the cartoon appearance; this book is for teens. It turns out you can mix cute art, funny banter, and history in a book that YA readers can use as part of their studies.

We borrowed it from our library on release day. By the time I was halfway through reading it, I knew I’d be adding it to our homeschool reading list. The fifty essays are only a couple pages long each, but they are full of facts about dogs, the people who took care of them, and the period of history. I’d love to include this book as a spine for a World History course. It’s not quite enough on its own. But, paired with a good world history encyclopedia and some other interest-based nonfiction titles, and you could have a year of high school history.

The first chapter contains the origin of dogs’ domestication and ends with an essay about some breeds that are extinct now. Just about every significant civilization utilized dogs in some capacity and the way this reads, history comes alive through the dogs that we all love. What better way to get teens interested in historical events?

I’d give it one million stars if I could- engaging nonfiction is hard to find.

book review fiction romance

ARC Review: Meg and Jo

From the publisher:

The March sisters—reliable Meg, independent Jo, stylish Amy, and shy Beth—have grown up to pursue their separate dreams. When Jo followed her ambitions to New York City, she never thought her career in journalism would come crashing down, leaving her struggling to stay afloat in a gig economy as a prep cook and secret food blogger.

Meg appears to have the life she always planned—the handsome husband, the adorable toddlers, the house in a charming subdivision. But sometimes getting everything you’ve ever wanted isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

When their mother’s illness forces the sisters home to North Carolina for the holidays, they’ll rediscover what really matters.

One thing’s for sure—they’ll need the strength of family and the power of sisterhood to remake their lives and reimagine their dreams.

Reading this take on Little Women was so fun. This story centers more on the older two sisters (as the title implies), but all the characters you’ll want in a retelling make an appearance. It’s not a spoiler to tell you there will be a second book centering on Amy and Beth.
Now, if you somehow skipped reading Little Women, that doesn’t matter, this stands alone as a modern-day Romance novel. If you did read the original, I think you’ll love the modernization of the March Family.
I enjoyed the alternating chapter viewpoints, and overall it was like a doughnut for my brain. I’d call it a beach read, only you can’t buy it till December, so maybe a Christmas Break read whether you are on a beach or not.

book review YA fiction

Book Review: The Light at the Bottom of the World

A watery world is pretty much my worst possible Dystopian setting. I’m no fan of the water and living on a planet that is all water, and no air disturbed me a bit. The writing itself is descriptive and poetic. You’ll be amazed at the world-building. I’d compare it to Harry Potter and The Hunger Games in the atmosphere.

It’s a terrific SciFi novel. Teenager Leyla McQueen, a British/Afghan Muslim submersible racer, is a delight. She’s optimistic and is the kind of character that you want to succeed. The year is 2099, and all of surviving humanity is living underwater after an asteroid hits Earth. You’ll get plenty of British scenery (from the Old World), even though things have changed in the new reality of life on Earth. The descriptions of this modern society were captivating. So much is new, while people act out in the same ways that they do now.
Without giving away spoilers or too much plot, it’s hard to say more. I feel that with some stories, it’s best not to know too much before you read it yourself.
If you need to label it, I’m honestly not sure if it’s more dystopian, science fiction, or political conspiracy? In any case, once you start reading, it’s a hard book to put down.

It’s genuinely unlike, while still being amazing, most of the YA that I’ve read this year! Grab a copy on October 29, 2019.

book review romance

Book Review: Finding Christmas

Dipping my toe back into the Romance genre again and I couldn’t be more pleased with this go around.
This is another book that reads like a Hallmark Christmas movie. Emmie spends a lot of time setting up a treasure hunt type challenge for her current boyfriend, Grant. Although, in my estimation, he put Emmie and her feelings last on his priority list.
He knows she loves Christmas, and he is ambivalent at best. She thinks if he completes this hunt, he’ll magically turn into the jolly elf boyfriend of her dreams. Of course, there is a twist of fate.

Emmie’s (just a friend) friend Sam accidentally finds the first clue and follows it. He’s pretty into the whole thing, and it’s clear from the get-go that they are the better match.

Christmas Point is one of those cookie-cutter TV towns where everything is perfectly decorated, and the roads are wholly plowed while snow is falling. I pictured it being a mix of Stars Hollow (from Gilmore Girls) and any small town of black and white film fame.

So, yes predictable in plot, but (shrugs) that can be just what you need as a reader. It’s a bit of fluff that will take your mind off whatever your real problems are that week. This would be an excellent read for Christmas break, it’s light and got me thinking about decorating for Christmas even though it isn’t quite Halloween.

book review MG fiction

Book Review: Naked Mole Rat Saves the World

Ah, anxiety my old friend. All I knew about this book was that the MC sometimes turns into a naked mole rat when she feels anxiety. Being a person in the real world, I do not turn into any animal (sad, but true) but man, I could relate to the anxiety that characters in this story feel.

Off the top of my head these words comes to mind: quirky, weird, layered, intense, and helpful. I think kids will get a kick out of the magical realism aspect (kit turning into a naked mole rat) while still making connections to any anxiety that they themselves may feel.

Although the animal transforming may make this seem light and airy, it really isn’t. This book is full of big, heavy, not fun topics and as such all are not resolved. That said, I loved it.

Kit and her friend Clem both go through some rough times and both react to their stress in different ways. The chapters alternate between the two view points and it’s really well done.

I think middle grade readers will commiserate with these characters and could even pick up some coping mechanisms from them.

All in all, a thumbs up from me.