The Right Side of Reckless Book Review

Book: The Right Side of Reckless
Author: Whitney D. Grandison
Rating: 4 Out of 5 Stars

I would like to thank the publisher, Inkyard Press, for sending me an ARC.

Even though I am reading more and more adult books these days, I still have a very soft spot for YA contemporary reads. It just makes me feel all of the right feelings and makes me feel good. This one was no exception. While we do have the light nature of a high school romance, we also have the deeper layer of trying to discover who we are and coming back from when we hit rock bottom. I really enjoy these type of coming of age books and getting to learn about the characters as they start to discover themselves and start to get their life in order.

The characters, I thought, were well done. We start out with Rey, who just wants to make everyone happy, even if that means giving up her own happiness. She doesn’t know what she wants and is used to having her whole life planned out for her. She knows that she doesn’t like the life course that people are putting her on, but she doesn’t really want to speak up and say so. As we read and see her character change, we see a different side of Rey. We see her start to say what she doesn’t want and start to make changes. By the time the book is over, we see a much more happier and confident Rey.

Guillermo is the other lead character. He has a past and a rather difficult past. He is just trying to start fresh and rebuild his life. Unlike so many in his situation, he does have a family who loves and supports him. We see him struggle with people still judging him for his past and having to deal with what happened. Like with Rey, we see him go through a number of changes. He starts out as being this guy who sees the world as something out to get him and, then, change into someone who sees just really how lucky he is. We see him gain friendships and earn trust back.

Normally, I don’t like books where two characters are so dependent on each other, but I think it worked here. I do think that without Guillermo and Rey meeting that there characters would not have made the changes they needed and it would not have worked out so well. These two characters just make sense is what I’m getting out.

I do have a compliant against the characters though. Whitney has two non-White leads. Guillermo is of Mexican descent and Rey is Black. While I was reading the book, I had to keep reminding myself of that. I would have liked to see more of the culture included in the book. It just felt like Whitney was saying her characters were diverse for the sake of having diverse characters. Let that diversity come across the page and let the readers see it, rather than just reminding us of their skin tone every now and then.

The story itself is pretty basic. We have the good girl falling for the bad boy and changing him. We see the good girl coming out her shell and becoming the person who she wants. I mean, it’s not anything new, but it still gets to me every time. You know, sometimes you just need a charming and cliché book to make everything okay. Every now and then, you just need a book to boast your mood and that is what this book did for me.

I was able to get into the writing pretty easily. It was serious when we needed to it be and light hearted when needed. I really liked this balance. I think that is what really kept me engaged. By doing it this way, we get to see a more human side of the story and it just makes the whole experience feel more real.

This book comes out on July 13, 2021.


Ariadne Book Review

Book: Ariadne
Author: Jennifer Saint
Rating: 4 Out of 5 Stars

Another Book of the Month pick!

While I have heard the story of the Minotaur before, I had never actually heard of Ariadne, which was what drew me into this title. I love getting to learn about different figures in Greek mythology. Ariadne’s story pulled me right in from the start. We see her start out as this rather insecure and weak girl and transform into this strong and independent woman. We get to see her at her lowest and highest points of her life. The fact that Jennifer is able to do all of this in a book that this just a little over three hundred pages is very impressive.

We follow Ariadne throughout her life. This book starts out with her being a young girl and princess of Crete. We see a little bit of her life before the Minotaur was born, then we see it with the Minotaur, and after words. All of this does come across as being kind of rushed. We get a sense that the author is trying to get as much into this short book as possible. However, I think that those who aren’t familiar with the Minotaur are going to struggle to understand just what the Minotaur is and what it’s role actually was. I guess what I’m getting at is you aren’t familiar with Greek mythology, you are going to struggle with this story. Like I said, I wasn’t familiar with Ariadne’s story, but I was familiar with everything else that was going on.

I really enjoyed the characters. There are some who I would have liked to have seen fleshed out a little bit more. I really enjoyed the depth and layers that we got from Ariadne’s character. I really enjoyed seeing her start out as a young girl and seeing how she changed over the course of her life. We see her and get to experience her inner thoughts and how she viewed everything that is going on. That’s something that we don’t get to see too much in Greek mythology. We don’t really get to see the impact the gods have on the humans around them. With that being said though, there were certain parts that I would have liked to have seen fleshed out a little bit more. A lot of the emotions that Ariadne should have been giving us in certain parts just weren’t there. I would have liked to have seen the side characters fleshed out just a little bit. I felt like there were several characters who we really didn’t get a chance to bond with and form a relationship with. Again, I think this has to do with the length of the book.

Overall, I do think this is a pretty strong book. There are a few things that I would have liked to have seen fleshed out a little bit more.

Sneak Peek: Hurricane Summer

Book: Hurricane Summer
Author: Asha Bromfield
Rating: 4 Out of 5 Stars

I would like to thank the publisher, Wednesday Books, for sending me an ARC.

Oh, wow, guys, this one gave me all of the feels! I had such a great time reading this one. At first, it kind of comes across as your typical YA book, in which a girl leaves her home and goes on a journey of self-discovery one summer. However, there is so much more to it than that. We get to look a real Jamaica and see how most of its people live. We have a deep father/daughter relationship and get to see all of the messy elements of that. We have great character, all of whom have a lot of baggage. This book has a lot packed into it. Asha does an amazing job at giving us everything we need in order to really have a deep bond and connection with the characters and everything around them. It takes a super talented writer to do able to do this.

Tilla is our main character. In the beginning, she kind of comes across as being your typical YA main character. She lives in Canada, but her father lives in Jamaica. We see her longing for a relationship with him and worship when he is around. We see her want to have him in life and to have that father figure. She and her sister spend the summer in Jamaica with him. Throughout the whole book, we see Tilla long for that love and closeness with her father. We, along with Tilla, see her father promise her something and only to end up breaking it. We get to feel her pain and heartbreak throughout the whole story. Plus, we also see her trying to deal with the cultural differences and trying to learn how to deal with that.

With that being said, this book does deal a lot with Jamaican culture. We, like Tilla, get to see it through the lenses of an outsider. The Jamaica that we get in this book is very different than the tourist one. We see the poverty that most of the country actually lives in and get to see what role that poverty plays into people’s lives. There is one character who really jumps out to me. He has this dream, and the talent, to be an artist. Tilla offers him the chance to go back to Canada with her. However, the others, including her own father, tell her that isn’t going to happen just because of where he lives. Not only that, but this character is also darker than the others and not seen someone who has value. This, of course, rocks Tilla. However, it also shows us that even though all of the characters are Black, having darker skin caused people to kind of shut them down. There is also a sexual assault scene and it is written on the page-just giving you a heads up. We get to see the aftermath of that and see how it really affects the girl. However, the boy is not blamed at all and the whole thing is put onto the girl because of the way that she dressed and acted. It is scenes like that that are going to make you feel uneasy. I am glad that Asha included things like this in the book. It shows us that these things do not only happen in the US, but around the world. If it makes you uneasy, then it is something that we need to be talking about and trying to change.
I really thought that this book was going to be able reconnecting to roots and all of that, but it was more than that. We actually do end up with a kind of dark and heartbreaking book. Do not go into this one thinking that it is going to be a fluffy book or one with just a little bit of a dark undertone. No, this book deals with a lot of hard hitting topics.

With that being said, I do not think that younger teens or sensitive readers should pick this title up. There is a lot of abuse, sexual assault, racism, and other difficult topics addressed. The book also uses the Jamaican dialect-I didn’t have any issues with, but if you don’t like that, then it’s up to you.

The only reason, I gave this a four star, was because I didn’t feel anything for the romance and it just didn’t make sense to me. It really felt like the author was trying to force these characters together.

So, anyway, this book comes out on May 4, 2021.


You Will Remember Me Book Review

Book: You Will Remember Me
Author: Hannah Mary McKinnon
Rating: 4 Out of 5 Stars

I would like to thank the publisher, Park Row, for sending me an ARC.

This is one of those books that I knew I was going to like from the first sentence. There was just something really engaging that really pulled me into this. I read one of Hannah’s other books last year and had a great time with it as well. There is just something about the hook that Hannah does right from the first page that is bound to pull you in and leave you wanting more.

The writing is just what we need when it comes to thrillers. We start out quickly with what has already happened, so you as the reader, have to keep going and have to find out what is going to happen. While the writing is really simple, there just something about the way it is presented. We are taken through a series of twists and turns that makes you think you know where this is going, but the doubt placed in there by the writing, will really make you question yourself. You can see where the book is going and where it is going to end up pretty early on, but just the journey Hannah takes you on will just really make you question everything.

Then, there is the matter of the characters. We have characters who seem pretty innocent and pretty basic from the start. However, as you keep reading, you quickly learn that there is more to them than what meets the eye. Everyone has a past and will do anything to keep that past hidden. Just the idea of not knowing who is telling the truth and who isn’t just really makes this book stand out for me. There is nothing more that I love in thrillers than characters who you can’t trust and everyone has something that they would prefer stay hidden. I know this isn’t what everyone likes, but that sense of the unknown just really puts the icing on the cake for me.

Now, I will admit that the plot is pretty basic. We have Jack who wakes up and can’t remember everything. Throughout the whole book, we see him try to make sense of what happened and to relearn not only his past, but everyone’s past. Hannah does a pretty solid job at writing this. I like the idea of a small town haunted by a dark past and how everyone is still really pointing fingers at everyone. I love getting to see Jack and those around try to make sense of what has happened.

The ending is what actually made me take a star away from my rating. I saw the ending coming pretty early on in the book. However, Hannah does try to cover it up a little bit by making you go on a wild goose chase. It still does take a pretty cliché route in my opinion.

Anyway, this book comes out on May 25, 2021.


Sneak Peek: The Woman with the Blue Star

Hello everyone! Today I am teaming up with Park Row to bring you a sneak peek of The Woman with the Blue Star by Pam Jenoff, which came out on May 4, 2021!

What’s It About?
1942. Sadie Gault is eighteen and living with her parents amid the horrors of the Kraków Ghetto during World War II. When the Nazis liquidate the ghetto, Sadie and her pregnant mother are forced to seek refuge in the perilous sewers beneath the city. One day Sadie looks up through a grate and sees a girl about her own age buying flowers.

Ella Stepanek is an affluent Polish girl living a life of relative ease with her stepmother, who has developed close alliances with the occupying Germans. Scorned by her friends and longing for her fiancé, who has gone off to war, Ella wanders Kraków restlessly. While on an errand in the market, she catches a glimpse of something moving beneath a grate in the street. Upon closer inspection, she realizes it’s a girl hiding.

Ella begins to aid Sadie and the two become close, but as the dangers of the war worsen, their lives are set on a collision course that will test them in the face of overwhelming odds. Inspired by harrowing true stories, The Woman with the Blue Star is an emotional testament to the power of friendship and the extraordinary strength of the human will to survive.

Like what you see? Keep reading below for a sneak peek!

Sneak Peek:

Kraków, Poland March 1942
Everything changed the day they came for the children.
I was supposed to have been in the attic crawl space of the three-story building we shared with a dozen other families in the ghetto. Mama helped me hide there each morning before she set out to join the factory work detail, leaving me with a fresh bucket as a toilet and a stern admonishment not to leave. But I grew cold and restless alone in the tiny, frigid space where I couldn’t run or move or even stand straight. The minutes stretched silently, broken only by a scratching—unseen children, years younger than me, stowed on the other side of the wall. They were kept separate from one another without space to run and play. They sent each other messages by tapping and scratch¬ing, though, like a kind of improvised Morse code. Sometimes, in my boredom, I joined in, too.
“Freedom is where you find it,” my father often said when I complained. Papa had a way of seeing the world exactly as he wanted. “The greatest prison is in our mind.” It was easy for him to say. Though he manual ghetto labor was a far cry from his professional work as an accountant before the war, at least he was out and about each day, seeing other people. Not cooped up like me. I had scarcely left our apartment building since we were forced to move six months earlier from our apartment in the Jewish Quarter near the city center to the Podgórze neigh¬borhood where the ghetto had been established on the southern bank of the river. I wanted a normal life, my life, free to run beyond the walls of the ghetto to all of the places I had once known and taken for granted. I imagined taking the tram to the shops on the Rynek or to the kino to see a film, exploring the ancient grassy mounds on the outskirts of the city. I wished that at least my best friend, Stefania, was one of the others hidden nearby. Instead, she lived in a separate apartment on the other side of the ghetto designated for the families of the Jewish police.
It wasn’t boredom or loneliness that had driven me from my hiding place this time, though, but hunger. I had always had a big appetite and this morning’s breakfast ration had been a half slice of bread, even less than usual. Mama had offered me her portion, but I knew she needed her strength for the long day ahead on the labor detail.
As the morning wore on in my hiding place, my empty belly had begun to ache. Visions pushed into my mind uninvited of the foods we ate before the war: rich mushroom soup and savory borscht, and pierogi, the plump, rich dumplings my grandmother used to make. By midmorning, I felt so weak from hunger that I had ventured out of my hiding place and down to the shared kitchen on the ground floor, which was really nothing more than a lone working stove burner and a sink that dripped tepid brown water. I didn’t go to take food—even if there had been any, I would never steal. Rather, I wanted to see if there were any crumbs left in the cupboard and to fill my stomach with a glass of water.
I stayed in the kitchen longer than I should, reading the dog-eared copy of the book I’d brought with me. The thing I de¬tested most about my hiding place in the attic was the fact that it was too dark for reading. I had always loved to read and Papa had carried as many books as he could from our apartment to the ghetto, over the protests of my mother, who said we needed the space in our bags for clothes and food. It was my father who had nurtured my love of learning and encouraged my dream of studying medicine at Jagiellonian University before the Ger¬man laws made that impossible, first by banning Jews and later by closing the university altogether. Even in the ghetto at the end of his long, hard days of labor, Papa loved to teach and dis¬cuss ideas with me. He had somehow found me a new book a few days earlier, too, The Count of Monte Cristo. But the hid¬ing place in the attic was too dark for me to read and there was scarcely any time in the evening before curfew and lights-out. Just a bit longer, I told myself, turning the page in the kitchen. A few minutes wouldn’t matter at all.
I had just finished licking the dirty bread knife when I heard heavy tires screeching, followed by barking voices. I froze, nearly dropping my book. The SS and Gestapo were outside, flanked by the vile Jüdischer Ordnungsdienst, Jewish Ghetto Police, who did their bidding. It was an aktion, the sudden unannounced ar¬rest of large groups of Jews to be taken from the ghetto to camps. The very reason I was meant to be hiding in the first place. I raced from the kitchen, across the hall and up the stairs. From below came a great crash as the front door to the apartment building splintered and the police burst through. There was no way I could make it back to the attic in time.
Instead, I raced to our third-floor apartment. My heart pounded as I looked around desperately, wishing for an ar¬moire or other cabinet suitable for hiding in the tiny room, which was nearly bare except for a dresser and bed. There were other places, I knew, like the fake plaster wall one of the other families had constructed in the adjacent building not a week earlier. That was too far away now, impossible to reach. My eyes focused on the large steamer trunk stowed at the foot of my parents’ bed. Mama had shown me how to hide there once shortly after we first moved to the ghetto. We practiced it like a game, Mama opening the trunk so that I could climb in be¬fore she closed the lid.
The trunk was a terrible hiding place, exposed and in the middle of the room. But there was simply nowhere else. I had to try. I raced over to the bed and climbed into the trunk, then closed the lid with effort. I thanked heavens that I was tiny like Mama. I had always hated being so petite, which made me look a solid two years younger than I actually was. Now it seemed a blessing, as did the sad fact that the months of meager ghetto rations had made me thinner. I still fit in the trunk.
When we had rehearsed, we had envisioned Mama putting a blanket or some clothes over the top of the trunk. Of course, I couldn’t do that myself. So the trunk sat unmasked for any¬one who walked into the room to see and open. I curled into a tiny ball and wrapped my arms around myself, feeling the white armband with the blue star on my sleeve that all Jews were re¬quired to wear.
There came a great crashing from the next building, the sound of plaster being hewn by a hammer or ax. The police had found the hiding place behind the wall, given away by the too-fresh paint. An unfamiliar cry rang out as a child was found and dragged from his hiding place. If I had gone there, I would have been caught as well.
Someone neared the door to the apartment and flung it open. My heart seized. I could hear breathing, feel eyes searching the room. I’m sorry, Mama, I thought, feeling her reproach for hav¬ing left the attic. I braced myself for discovery. Would they go easier on me if I came out and gave myself up? The footsteps grew fainter as the German continued down the hall, stopping before each door, searching.
The war had come to Kraków one warm fall day two and a half years earlier when the air-raid sirens rang out for the first time and sent the playing children scurrying from the street. Life got hard before it got bad. Food disappeared and we waited in long lines for the most basic supplies. Once there was no bread for a whole week.
Then about a year ago, upon orders from the General Gov¬ernment, Jews teemed into Kraków by the thousands from the small towns and villages, dazed and carrying their belongings on their backs. At first I wondered how they would all find places to stay in Kazimierz, the already cramped Jewish Quarter of the city. But the new arrivals were forced to live by decree in a crowded section of the industrial Podgórze district on the far side of the river that had been cordoned off with a high wall. Mama worked with the Gmina, the local Jewish community organization, to help them resettle, and we often had friends of friends over for a meal when they first arrived, before they went to the ghetto for good. They told stories from their hometowns too awful to believe and Mama shooed me from the room so I would not hear.
Several months after the ghetto was created, we were or¬dered to move there as well. When Papa told me, I couldn’t believe it. We were not refugees, but residents of Kraków; we had lived in our apartment on Meiselsa Street my entire life. It was the perfect location: on the edge of the Jewish Quarter but easy walking distance to the sights and sounds of the city cen¬ter and close enough to Papa’s office on Stradomska Street that he could come home for lunch. Our apartment was above an adjacent café where a pianist played every evening. Sometimes the music spilled over and Papa would whirl Mama around the kitchen to the faint strains. But according to the orders, Jews were Jews. One day. One suitcase each. And the world I had known my entire life disappeared forever.
I peered out of the thin slit opening of the trunk, trying to see across the tiny room I shared with my parents. We were lucky, I knew, to have a whole room to ourselves, a privilege we had been given because my father was a labor foreman. Others were forced to share an apartment, often two or three families to¬gether. Still, the space felt cramped compared to our real home. We were ever on top of one another, the sights and sounds and smells of daily living magnified.
“Kinder, raus!” the police called over and over again now as they patrolled the halls. Children, out. It was not the first time the Germans had come for children during the day, knowing that their parents would be at work.
But I was no longer a child. I was eighteen and might have joined the work details like others my age and some several years younger. I could see them lining up for roll call each morning before trudging to one of the factories. And I wanted to work, even though I could tell from the slow, painful way my father now walked, stooped like an old man, and how Mama’s hands were split and bleeding that it was hard and awful. Work meant a chance to get out and see and talk to people. My hiding was a subject of much debate between my parents. Papa thought I should work. Labor cards were highly prized in the ghetto. Workers were valued and less likely to be deported to one of the camps. But Mama, who seldom fought my father on any¬thing, had forbidden it. “She doesn’t look her age. The work is too hard. She is safest out of sight.” I wondered as I hid now, about to be discovered at any second, if she would still think she was right.
The building finally went silent, the last of the awful foot¬steps receding. Still I didn’t move. That was one of the ways they trapped people who were hiding, by pretending to go away and lying in wait when they came out. I remained motionless, not daring to leave my hiding place. My limbs ached, then went numb. I had no idea how much time had passed. Through the slit, I could see that the room had grown dimmer, as if the sun had lowered a bit.
Sometime later, there were footsteps again, this time a shuf¬fling sound as the laborers trudged back silent and exhausted from their day. I tried to uncurl myself from the trunk. But my muscles were stiff and sore and my movements slow. Before I could get out, the door to our apartment flung open and some¬one ran into the room with steps light and fluttering. “Sadie!” It was Mama, sounding hysterical.
“Jestem tutaj,” I called. I am here. Now that she was home, she could help me untangle myself and get out. But my voice was muffled by the trunk. When I tried to undo the latch, it stuck.
Mama raced from the room back into the corridor. I could hear her open the door to the attic, then run up the stairs, still searching for me. “Sadie!” she called. Then, “My child, my child,” over and over again as she searched but did not find me, her voice rising to a shriek. She thought I was gone.
“Mama!” I yelled. She was too far away to hear me, though, and her own cries were too loud. Desperately, I struggled once more to free myself from the trunk without success. Mama raced back into the room, still wailing. I heard the scraping sound of a window opening and felt a whoosh of cold air. At last I threw myself against the lid of the trunk, slamming my shoulder so hard it throbbed. The latch sprang open.
I broke free and stood up quickly. “Mama?” She was standing in the oddest position, with one foot on the window ledge, her willowy frame silhouetted against the frigid twilight sky. “What are you doing?” For a second, I thought she was looking for me outside. But her face was twisted with grief and pain. I knew then why Mama was on the window ledge. She assumed I had been taken along with the other children. And she didn’t want to live. If I hadn’t freed myself from the trunk in time, Mama would have jumped. I was her only child, her whole world. She was prepared to kill herself before she would go on without me.
A chill ran through me as I sprinted toward her. “I’m here, I’m here.” She wobbled unsteadily on the window ledge and I grabbed her arm to stop her from falling. Remorse ripped through me. I always wanted to please her, to bring that hard-won smile to her beautiful face. Now I had caused her so much pain she’d almost done the unthinkable.
“I was so worried,” she said after I’d helped her down and closed the window. As if that explained everything. “You weren’t in the attic.”
“But, Mama, I hid where you told me to.” I gestured to the trunk. “The other place, remember? Why didn’t you look for me there?”
Mama looked puzzled. “I didn’t think you would fit any¬more.” There was a pause and then we both began laughing, the sound scratchy and out of place in the pitiful room. For a few seconds, it was like we were back in our old apartment on Meiselsa Street and none of this had happened at all. If we could still laugh, surely things would be all right. I clung to this last improbable thought like a life preserver at sea.
But a cry echoed through the building, then another, silencing our laughter. It was the mothers of the other children who had been taken by the police. There came a thud outside. I started for the window, but my mother blocked me. “Look away,” she ordered. It was too late. I glimpsed Helga Kolberg, who lived down the hall, lying motionless in the coal-tinged snow on the pavement below, her limbs cast at odd angles and skirt splayed around her like a fan. She had realized her children were gone and, like Mama, she didn’t want to live without them. I won¬dered whether jumping was a shared instinct, or if they had dis¬cussed it, a kind of suicide pact in case their worst nightmares came true.
My father raced into the room then. Neither Mama nor I said a word, but I could tell from his unusually grim expression that he already knew about the aktion and what had happened to the other families. He simply walked over and wrapped his enor¬mous arms around both of us, hugging us tighter than usual.
As we sat, silent and still, I looked up at my parents. Mama was a striking beauty—thin and graceful, with white-blond hair the color of a Nordic princess’. She looked nothing like the other Jewish women and I had heard whispers more than once that she didn’t come from here. She might have walked away from the ghetto and lived as a non-Jew if it wasn’t for us. But I was built like Papa, with the dark, curly hair and olive skin that made the fact that we were Jews undeniable. My father looked like the laborer the Germans had made him in the ghetto, broad-shouldered and ready to lift great pipes or slabs of concrete. In fact, he was an accountant—or had been until it became illegal for his firm to employ him anymore. I always wanted to please Mama, but it was Papa who was my ally, keeper of secrets and weaver of dreams, who stayed up too late whispering secrets in the dark and had roamed the city with me, hunting for trea¬sure. I moved closer now, trying to lose myself in the safety of his embrace.
Still, Papa’s arms could offer little shelter from the fact that everything was changing. The ghetto, despite its awful condi¬tions, had once seemed relatively safe. We were living among Jews and the Germans had even appointed a Jewish council, the Judenrat, to run our daily affairs. Perhaps if we laid low and did as we were told, Papa said more than once, the Germans would leave us alone inside these walls until the war was over. That had been the hope. But after today, I wasn’t so sure. I looked around the apartment, seized with equal parts disgust and fear. In the beginning, I had not wanted to be here; now I was ter¬rified we would be forced to leave.
“We have to do something,” Mama burst out, her voice a pitch higher than usual as it echoed my unspoken thoughts.
“I’ll take her tomorrow and register her for a work permit,” Papa said. This time Mama did not argue. Before the war, being a child had been a good thing. But now being useful and able to work was the only thing that might save us.
Mama was talking about more than a work visa, though. “They are going to come again and next time we won’t be so lucky.” She did not bother to hold back her words for my ben¬efit now. I nodded in silent agreement. Things were changing, a voice inside me said. We could not stay here forever.
“It will be okay, kochana,” Papa soothed. How could he pos¬sibly say that? But Mama laid her head on his shoulder, seem¬ing to trust him as she always had. I wanted to believe it, too. “I will think of something. At least,” Papa added as we huddled close, “we are all still together.” The words echoed through the room, equal parts promise and prayer.

Excerpted from The Woman With the Blue Star @ 2021 by Pam Jenoff, used with permission by Park Row Books.

My Thoughts:

Book: The Woman with the Blue Star
Author: Pam Jenoff
Rating: 4 Out of 5 Stars

I would like to thank the publisher, Park Row, for sending me an ARC.

I will admit that I started out thinking that this was going to be another World War II novel. Come on, you have to admit that there are a lot of them and a lot of them have pretty much the same storyline. While this book does kind of fit into that mold, there was something a little bit different about it. We4 have a group of Jews in the sewers who are trying to avoid being found by the Germans. Sadie, one of the Jews in the sewers befriends a Polish girl, Ella, whose stepmother just happens to be helping the Germans. This sets up our chain of events. We get to see the struggles, the horrors, and the bonds of friendships that form during one of history’s darkest times.

Let me start out by saying that I love the friendship and family aspects of this book. I love that while this is about Poland being the Nazi’s control, we still get to see these bonds. The bonds of friendship formed between Ella and Sadie will tear at you. You will be cheering for them to somehow find a way to stay together, no matter. While World War II does tend to focus on the war aspect of things, this book will remind you that there were people just trying to go about their normal lives and that there was still some good left in the world. The measures that Ella and Sadie take to make sure that they are safe and their friends are safe just really brings it all home. Plus, we through in the family aspect. We see just how far people will go to make sure that those they love are still protected-even if that means making some pretty harsh decisions.

The writing is the type that will make it very difficult to put this book down. Pam has a way of pulling you in and making you want to keep reading. You will become fully invested in the story. The ending, wow, let me tell you that was one of the strongest endings that I have read in a long time. Throughout the whole book, Pam gives you a sense of hope in the darkest of times while letting you still know that everything could in fact go wrong. While we go get a lot of happy moments and little celebrations, there is still this sense of dread and death lingering. We are still in World War II and that threat lingers throughout the whole book. Remember Sadie and her family are Jews.

This sense of feeling like the characters feeling real is what really made me enjoy this book. While it does seem pretty black and white, like with the writing, we find that there are so many layers. We do have some pretty bad people, but once you get to know them and think, you quickly realize that like our main characters, they are just trying to make it a very unforgiving world. Like with the war, the civilian life is complicated and I really like that Pam shows us that. We get to see just how complex and complicated humans can be.
Anyway, I really had a great time reading this. The only reason it got a four star was because I really didn’t like Ella’s point of view as much as Sadie’s. Don’t get me wrong, I really did enjoy Ella…I just happen to think that Sadie had a little bit stronger point of view. It’s just a small thing really.

This book comes out on May 4, 2021.


Malice Book Review

Book: Malice
Author: John Gwynne
Rating: 4 Out of 5 Stars

Did anyone else get A Song of Ice and Fire vibes from this one? I sure did! Now, that’s not a bad thing. I really do enjoy Martin and I would put this one right up there with him. I do think the writing was a little bit easier to get into in this one though….

Anyway, this is another classic tale on good vs evil. Now, I know what you are thinking. This has been done time and time again. You would be correct, but it never gets old. Plus, you do have to admit that each version is a little bit different. While this does seem to follow the classic good vs evil in the beginning, the more you read, the more you will see the different layers and just how complex everything really is. Like in real life, nothing is ever black and white. The more you dig into this book, the more you will see this. All it takes is a little twist on a classic take and you end up with something great. Plus, the more layers you add, the better.

We have a huge cast of characters, which means the story is told in multiple point of views. Like with all fantasy books I have read, there were some view points who I found more interesting than others. There wasn’t any that I was completely disinterested in though, which I have to give John props for. These names do come at you pretty quick and it does take awhile to figure out who is who and how they all fit together. Once you do though, you are actually able to see just how much thought and planning has gone into these characters. What really stood out to me was the fact that I found myself caring about all of them-some more than others. The depth and complex nature of these characters is just great. I found that even the side characters were well thought out and planned. They weren’t there just to be in the background, but actually move the story along.

The plot, I will admit, does start out very slow in the beginning. However, I could tell from the first page that the build up was going to be worth it. If you are a reader of fantasy, then you know it does take awhile for things to actually get moving. You have to get used the world and the characters. It’s not like realistic fiction where you can just dive right in. Fantasy takes time. Like I just said, I could tell right from the start of the book that the slow build in the beginning was going to be worth it. Once all of the world and character building was taken care of, the plot really took off and it took off fast. We got to see so many moving parts and I can’t wait to see how these moving parts play out in the second book. Just a heads up though, this book is very heavily focused on the characters.

The writing is really easy to get into. While the books did give me A Song of Ice and Fire vibes, I did find the writing to be a little bit more easier to get into. We have that dark tone throughout the whole book, which allows me to picture the world nicely. We don’t get a ton of details on certain things, such as how the characters look, but I didn’t have any issues. I will say that there were times that John used telling instead of showing. This came across more so in the battle and action scenes than anything; this is actually what made me take a star away. I would have just liked to see those things fleshed out a little bit more.

Anyway, I thought this was a solid series opener and will be picking up the second book very soon. I have a couple of tomes to read first, so it may be a month or so, but I will be reading more the series.

New Youtube Video: Read Aloud: When Will It Be Spring?

New Youtube Video:
Today I am doing a read aloud of When Will It Be Spring by Catherine Walters.

Kindergarten-Grade 2?Alfie's mother is trying to settle him down for his winter's sleep. She tells her little bear that when he wakes up, it will be spring. He asks, "And how will I know when it's here?" Mother Bear's answer is, "When the butterflies float by looking for new flowers." The cub wakes up early, mistakes snowflakes for butterflies, and wakes up his mother to show her. She explains that it is still winter, and then tells him of another sign of spring. Alfie continues to misread the wintry scenes until the anticipated season finally arrives. The story is charmingly told and Alfie exhibits all of the enthusiasm of an overly eager young child. Walters's soft, appealing illustrations range from large landscapes to small vignettes of a restless Alfie trying to settle down to sleep. The cleanly designed double-page spreads in season-appropriate colors will catch the eyes of young listeners during storyhour. The pictures effectively show how the cub can make these mistakes, which adds to the fun.?Judith Gloyer, Milwaukee Public Library
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Subject: Reading, Read Aloud
Topic: Read Aloud, Spring
Grades: PreK-3

Teaching Channel:

The Wind in the Willows Book Review

Book: The Wind in the Willows
Author: Kenneth Grahame

This is just one of those books that is bound to put a smile on your face and put you in a good mood.

It’s been awhile since I first read this book. As a child, I really enjoyed the whimsical feelings that I got while reading and I still do. Every now and then, you just need a book to get away from the real world and escape into the world of fun and adventure. It’s like getting a chance to revisit your childhood and live in that world of innocence.

I really enjoyed the bounds of friendship between the characters. As I have gotten older, I have kind of drifted away from books with talking animals and have found that they really aren’t my thing anymore. To read a book with talking animals and still enjoy it, is the mark of a good book. If talking animals aren’t your thing, you can kind of get past it here. These animals aren’t just animals. They are complex, caring, and deep characters-just like they would be if they were human. We see them do anything for each other, as well as get each other out of their comfort zone. We see their friendship tested in a number of ways, but they always manage to come together when one of them needs them.

The writing has this very innocent feel to it. Like I said, this book will take you back to a time of your childhood. It feels like you are looking at the world through the eyes of a child. You see this whole adventure and fun element, but if you start to look deeper, you see a little bit of darkness. This little look doesn’t last long, but it’s there long enough to make you start to ask questions about what is actually going on. I really like these little touches. It’s not dark, but it’s still there and it is there enough to allow you to start to really look at the world at a different level. Does that make sense?

Anyway, I really enjoyed this short little book. Maybe I should start picking up more books that I read in elementary school again just to see if they have stood the test of time.

What Comes After Book Review

Book: What Comes After
Author: Joanne Tompkins
Rating: 4 Out of 5 Stars

Another Book of the Month pick! This month I couldn’t decide between two of the titles, so I just grabbed them both up.

This is a debut author and I must say I am very impressed. The way that Joanna writes and presents everything is very thought out. Right away, I was hooked. While the tone of the book is very depressing and grief centred, we still get that sense of hope and see that life can go on after a tragedy. We see that it is okay to hit rock bottom and see that it is okay to give yourself time to heal. This came across very clearly in the writing. The writing was just simply flawless. Once I started reading the book, I was hooked.

I really enjoyed the characters. We have a cast of characters who would have never came together had it not been for the death of the two boys. We follow Isaac, whose son Daniel was murdered by Lorrie’s son, Jonah. Jonah in turn committed suicide. We have Evangeline, a pregnant sixteen year old girl who has a connection with the boys. We see all of these characters try to deal and cope with what has happened. We see them handle grief in different ways and seek out support or not even at all. We see Isaac turn to his Quaker faith, Lorrie who just wants some company, and Evangeline, who seems to be the glue holding them together. We get to see just how fragile human relationships can be. Joanne shows us how bonds can not just be broken, but rebuilt. I really think that this book is mainly about the characters trying to hold onto each other, but failing.

The plot isn’t really on the fastest side. I really thought the book was more focused on the characters and their development. This does not mean that we didn’t have a plot. Instead, we as the reader are given the chance to absorb and immerse ourselves into the world and develop a deep bond and sense of caring for what is going on. To me, this is a really good move on Joanne’s part. By allowing us to bond, it makes the plot hit harder when everything does come around full circle. When the plot does get moving, we are so fully invested in what is going on that we feel everything the characters are going through. The downside of doing it this why is that I felt the ending was really rushed, which made me take a star away.

Anyway, I had a great time with this one. When you pick this up, be prepared to have your heart ripped out. It’s an emotional read.