Swing Sideways by Nanci Turner Steveson

Swing Sideways by Nanci Turner Steveson
(Harper Collins ~ May 3, 2016)

My 11 YO daughter handed me this book after finishing it and said, “Mom, this is my absolute favorite book ever. You need to read it, but then I need it back so I can read it again right away.” She fell in love with the city-girl-in-the-country storyline and was so excited that she, a born and bred country girl, could check off every single item on Annie’s list of country things she wanted to accomplish in her summer of freedom.

Naturally, when a child gives a book that kind of endorsement, this librarian mom immediately starts reading! And I LOVED it! I loved the sweet innocence of this story, but also the harder topics of cancer, eating disorders, and anxiety that were a large part of the story but not preached about.

I will be purchasing this title for both of my school libraries and can’t wait to read Steveson’s other book GEORGIA RULES next!

Refugee by Alan Gratz

Refugee by Alan Gratz
(Scholastic – July 25, 2017)

Thank you to Scholastic and Edelweiss for the digital galley of this title – all opinions are my own.

REFUGEE is hands-down the most important upper middle grade book of the year. It is the MUST READ read aloud title for every single middle school teacher this coming 2017-2018 school year, and I don’t say that lightly given that I read so so so many books! If WISHTREE is my required read aloud for grades 1-4, then REFUGEE is assigned for grades 5-8.

Gratz weaves three refugee stories expertly in this tale, leaving readers racing to figure out how they are connected in the end. Josef is escaping Nazi Germany in the 1930s, Isabel is leaving Castro’s Cuba in 1994, and Mahmoud is fleeing Syria’s civil war in 2015. All three stories involve persecution, danger, and the horrors of the refugee’s plight, but they also give faint glimmers of hope about the kindness of certain strangers. All three children end up on boats during their journeys, telling stories that even most adults in the US are unaware of regarding these refugee crises. Our students and children need to know of the events in this book, and Gratz does an excellent job of providing the historical basis for the stories in his author’s note. He also gives suggestions on how to help.

I can’t speak strongly enough about how important REFUGEE is, but am proving it by ordering 12 copies of this book for my school libraries and am planning a staff book club for my middle/high school this coming fall centered on this book. Teachers and librarians, get this book immediately so you can read it before you share it with your students. If you are an adult reader with no classroom to read it aloud to, gift it to a school, library or child you know! If you want an adult title to pair it with, I highly recommend EXIT WEST by Mohsin Hamid.

REFUGEE is officially on my BEST of 2017 shelf.

 

Beautiful Bodies by Kimberly Rae Miller

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Beautiful Bodies by Kimberly Rae Miller
(Little A ~ July 25, 2017)

Thanks to the publisher for providing me with a finished copy of this book for review – all opinions are my own.

Heartbreaking and intensely relatable with scientific research interwoven between stories of Miller’s personal journey, BEAUTIFUL BODIES is required reading. No one in modern society can deny how diet-obsessed US culture has become, and Miller has a perfect view of this world via her writing career and her own fixation on weight and body image.

As a 30-something mother of 3, I have personally struggled with much of what Miller describes and have read extensively and worked with professionals on diet culture, Intuitive Eating and body acceptance, leading me to officially throw away my scale in May of 2016. Knowing that exact date indicates how personal Miller’s story is to me and how much I appreciate her frankness in how she shares her story……and how much it means to me that she never claims to be “fixed”. Her refusal to tie this book and issue up with a bow is indicative of the true nature of the problem and the lifelong nature of weight obsession. The science and historical anecdotes shared throughout the book were fascinating and gave me a much better understanding of how many current diet and exercise trends came to be in the modern world.

I applaud Miller for writing this book and for pushing this issue to readers – BEAUTIFUL BODIES needs to be read not just by women, but by every woman, man who knows a woman, and especially parents. Understanding how complex and rooted in history our fixation on body size is can at least bring the topic up for discussion – a worthy goal for all if we hope to break this cycle.

Adult Review: Cicada Summer by Maureen Leurck

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Cicada Summer by Maureen Leurck
(Kensington Books – July 25, 2017)

One of my favorite reads of summer 2017, CICADA SUMMER brings my home state of Wisconsin to life in this vibrant and beautiful story. Alex is an incredibly strong female character and her fixer-upper passion is an absolute joy to read about as you cheer her along on her quest to bring a historic home back to its former glory in Lake Geneva, WI.

CICADA SUMMER has home renovation details to drool over, as well as family, romance and second chances…..this is a must-read!

Thanks to the author and publisher for providing me with a finished copy of this book for review purposes – all opinions are my own.

Adult Review: Elinor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman


Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
(Pamela Dorman Books – May 2, 2017)

Love, love, loved! Eleanor is one of the most unique and lovable characters I have read, while being simultaneously the saddest and most ravaged by life. I can’t review this book very well without spoilers because all I want to do is talk about all the parts I loved and all the people I loved……and I did NOT see the part at the end coming, and the !!!! You see? This is one I just need to talk about and not actually review. Just loved it, though. It’s a love letter to all the people who have suffered trauma in our world and risen in spite of it. Hallelujah for Eleanor Oliphant – I just want to give her a HUGE hug, although she wouldn’t appreciate it at all 😉

I listened to the audiobook from Audible, and the audio narration was amazing and definitely added to the story with the Scottish accents. Would highly recommend this version if you are a fan of audiobooks!

YA Review: Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart


I was so excited to get my hands on this copy of Lockhart’s forthcoming young adult suspense novel from the #KidLitExchange network of reviewers!

Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart
(Delacorte Press – September 5, 2017)

What a unique story and format! Bravo to Lockhart for writing this fast-paced YA suspense novel in reverse chronological order and keeping me guessing throughout the entire book. It reads like a spy novel and will definitely satisfy fans of the author’s hit title WE WERE LIARS. Trying to figure out just who Jule was surely kept me on my toes, and the grittiness of the story was refreshing in today’s realistic YA market.

I was expecting a bit more of a shocker at the end (or was it the beginning??) but I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

Thanks to the #kidlitexchange review network for this review copy – all opinions are my own.

Adult Review: Goodbye Vitamin by Rachel Khong

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Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong
(Henry Holt – July 11, 2017)

Heartfelt and dryly hilarious, GOODBYE, VITAMIN takes readers into the life of Ruth for a year as she returns home at age 30 to help care for her father who is losing his memory. My heart ached for the entire family, but just as I was starting to descend into despair, all of a sudden there would be a phrase or scene so witty or shocking that I would find myself laughing out loud. Khong manages to write about a truly horrible situation, and one almost any of us could find ourselves in, with brevity,
brutal honesty, and hope.

GOODBYE, VITAMIN is written diary style, but also includes segments of a journal of Ruth’s father about her as a child, and at times she is also writing TO her father. It was a delight to read about such identifiable and mundane moments (postal service-related fears, for example!) in the midst of the anguish over Alzheimer’s.

There is grief in abundance in this book, but humor and heartwarming anecdotes and events balance it out. Highly, highly recommend. I can’t wait to read more from Rachel Khong!


This was one of my Book of the Month Club selections, and I won’t lie – I’m obsessed with BOTM. I post about them constantly on Instagram and I hoard the special editions on a special book shelf. OBSESSED. If you are at all interested in joining, and want to use my referral link, I have linked it here. If you join by using my link, I get a free book credit and you get 3 months for $9.99 each and a free tote. BOTM has an amazing Instagram community too – just check out the #bookofthemonth posts! I’m sure you’ll see me there…….

Picture Book Review: Fallingwater

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Thanks to Macmillan Children’s Publishing for providing me with a review copy of this book – all opinions are my own. 

Fallingwater: The Building of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Masterpiece by Marc Harshman & Ann Egan Smucker
(Roaring Brook Press ~ October 17, 2017)

Thanks to Macmillan Children’s Publishing for providing me with a review copy of this book – all opinions are my own. 

As a school librarian in Wisconsin, I have a large number of students every year choosing Frank Lloyd Wright as their topic for their Wisconsin Heritage Fair projects, so I was absolutely delighted to see the subject of this new book! I have already pre-ordered two copies for my elementary school library, and will be encouraging my 4th grade teachers to purchase copies for their classrooms as well.

FALLINGWATER is the true story of how Wright’s masterpiece by the same name in Pennsylvania came to be, and describes in detail the process of designing and the inspiration behind the unique structure. The text of the story is detailed enough to use for research, but spare enough for a rich whole class read aloud including discussion of Wright’s career and extensions involving images and exploration of Fallingwater itself. There is a very thorough author’s note and artist’s note in the back pages that will be excellent for research purposes, and the finished copy will also include a bibliography and source notes.

The illustrations by LeUyen Pham are absolutely stunning and manage to capture the uniqueness of Fallingwater, and in the artist’s note Pham discusses how difficult it was to replicate the structure on paper. This book would be excellent for use in art classes for discussions on architecture and illustrations of architecture.

Highly recommended for all school libraries and classrooms in general, but a required purchase for those in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

This galley will now be passed on to the #kidlitexchange review network.

 

 

Adult Review: The Captain’s Daughter by Meg Mitchell Moore

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The Captain’s Daughter by Meg Mitchell Moore
(Doubleday ~ July 18, 2017)

Thank you to Doubleday Books for providing me with a finished copy of this book for review – all opinions are my own.

THE CAPTAIN’S DAUGHTER is an exquisite story about motherhood, marriage, grief and being true to your roots, with much of the book being set in a gorgeous Maine fishing town. If you don’t at least THINK about crying while reading this book, I’m fairly certain we can’t be friends. It has ALL the feelings.

Moore has touched on the very deepest thoughts in a mother’s and daughter’s heart and combined them to expose just how complex modern womanhood can be. Eliza is just so incredibly real, with achingly beautiful moments and also moments in which she is fairly unlikable – just like the rest of us. As she struggles to mother her daughters while also coming to terms with her father’s failing health and her marital issues, Eliza manages to maintain grace and kindness in her interactions with her new young friend Mary as Mary becomes in desperate need of a mother figure. I loved reading about their heartfelt feelings about parenthood and childhood and was able to relate to them so so closely. Everything involving Eliza’s father Charlie made me love him so much and wish I knew him – he just jumps off the pages and is one of the most realistically written characters I have read in a long, long time.

This is a tearjerker with bright moments of humor and insight that needs to be on your bookshelf – it is a book of the ages and one that will stay with me for a long time to come.

Adult Review: Scot on the Rocks by Brenda Janowitz

Scot on the Rocks by Brenda Janowitz
(Lux Publishing Group – July 1, 2017)

Brenda Janowitz has re-released her very first novel on its 10th anniversary!

Fun, frothy and indulgent, SCOT ON THE ROCKS is a bright and fast-paced story that will be sure to please fans of Bridget Jones and the Shopaholic series by Sophie Kinsella. While Brooke’s story had its share of light moments, I was impressed with the importance of her legal career in the story – it added depth that I really appreciated. There were also laugh-out-loud moments in this story that made it a lot of fun to read and I raced through the book.

Fans of chick lit, pick this one up! It is available on the Kindle store for $3.99 (!!!) and is also included in Kindle Unlimited.

Thanks to the author for providing me with a digital copy of this book for review – all opinions are my own.