Friday, April 13, 2018


Book 16 of my 2018 Reading Challenge

Booked by Kwame Alexander

Summary (via the book jacket)
Like Lightning
  You Strike
     Fast and Free
Legs Zoom
  Down Field
    Eyes Fixed 
On The Checkered Ball
  On The Goal
     Ten Yards To Go
Can't Nobody Stop You
   Can't Nobody Cop You...

Nobody can stop Nick Hall - he's a star on the soccer team, cruising in school and getting ready to ask out the girl of his dreams. But then a bombshell announcement shatters his world.
Follow Nick's next moves in this electric and heartfelt novel-in-verse by Kwame Alexander that bends and breaks as it captures all the thrills and setbacks, action and emotion, of a World Cup match!

My Opinion
I read this at the recommendation of my 12-year-old son after he read it.  Brian picked it up at the library based on the cover of a soccer player but what a coincidence - it came along at the perfect time for him as he is recovering from surgery after a soccer injury.  He connected really strongly to it and my rating reflects his opinion, the conversations we were able to have about the character's feelings and how they were similar/different to Brian's as he heals and prepares for activity again, and the way that the author introduces poetry to a new audience by sneaking it in under a sports theme.  

Brian has made a list of the author's other books and will continue to read him, including his Newbery-award winning book The Crossover.  He also said poetry isn't as bad as he thought (his thoughts on poetry were previously "old and sappy") so win-win.

A Few Quotes from the Book
"We will just need to keep you for a few extra days, but by then the wound should be all healed and we'll send you on your way. Sound good?
  As long as it's only a few days, you say. I'm playing in a big soccer tournament next week,

 The doctor, Mom, Dad, even the nurse who's changing your bandage, get all silent and stare at each other. Then at you.


"He'll be out of school
 for a week,
 or two,
 depending on how he feels, the doctor says to Mom,
 who rests her hand
 on your heart,
 which breaks into a thousand little pieces
 when the doctor adds,
 You'll be back
 playing soccer
 In no time, Nicholas."

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

A Certain Age

Book 15 of my 2018 Reading Challenge

**I received a copy of this book via a Goodreads giveaway and would like to thank the author and/or publisher for the opportunity to read and honestly review it**

A Certain Age by Beatriz Williams

Summary (via the book jacket)
As the hedonism of the Jazz Age transforms New York City, the iridescent Mrs. Theresa Marshall of Fifth Avenue and Southhampton, Long Island, has done the unthinkable: she's fallen in love with her young paramour, Captain Octavian Rofrano, an aviator and a hero of the Great War.
Though the battle-scarred Octavian is devoted to his dazzling socialite of a certain age and wants to marry her, Theresa resists. The old world is crumbling, but divorce for a woman of Theresa's wealth and social standing remains a high-stakes affair. And there is no need: she shares a gentle understanding with Sylvo, the well-bred philanderer to whom she's already married.
That is, until Theresa's impecunious bachelor brother, Ox, decides to tie the knot with Miss Sophie Fortescue, the native young daughter of a wealthy inventor. Theresa enlists Octavian to check into the background of the reclusive Fortescue family. When Octavian meets Sophie, he falls under the spell of the charming ingenue, even as he uncovers a devastating family secret.
As a fateful triangle forms, loyalties divide and old crimes are dragged into daylights, drawing Octavian into transgression...and Theresa into the jaws of a bittersweet choice.

My Opinion
I enjoyed the writing and will read the author again but felt the big reveal of this particular story was too big a reach.  I had wondered about it early on so I saw it coming but it was also a surprise because I dismissed it as completely implausible.

I love this saying from Helen Rowland: "Ever since Eve started it all by offering Adam the apple, woman's punishment has been to supply a man with food, and then suffer the consequences when it disagrees with him."

Sunday, April 8, 2018

"No One Helped"

Book 14 of my 2018 Reading Challenge

**I received an electronic copy of this book via NetGalley and would like to thank the author and/or publisher for the opportunity to read and honestly review it**

"No One Helped": Kitty Genovese, New York City, and the Myth of Urban Apathy
by Marcia Gallo

Summary (via Goodreads)
In "No One Helped" Marcia M. Gallo examines one of America's most infamous true-crime stories: the 1964 rape and murder of Catherine “Kitty” Genovese in a middle-class neighborhood of Queens, New York. Front-page reports in the New York Times incorrectly identified thirty-eight indifferent witnesses to the crime, fueling fears of apathy and urban decay. Genovese’s life, including her lesbian relationship, also was obscured in media accounts of the crime. Fifty years later, the story of Kitty Genovese continues to circulate in popular culture. Although it is now widely known that there were far fewer actual witnesses to the crime than was reported in 1964, the moral of the story continues to be urban apathy. “No One Helped” traces the Genovese story’s development and resilience while challenging the myth it created.
“No One Helped” places the conscious creation and promotion of the Genovese story within a changing urban environment. Gallo reviews New York’s shifting racial and economic demographics and explores post–World War II examinations of conscience regarding the horrors of Nazism. These were important factors in the uncritical acceptance of the story by most media, political leaders, and the public despite repeated protests from Genovese’s Kew Gardens neighbors at their inaccurate portrayal. The crime led to advances in criminal justice and psychology, such as the development of the 911 emergency system and numerous studies of bystander behaviors. Gallo emphasizes that the response to the crime also led to increased community organizing as well as feminist campaigns against sexual violence. Even though the particulars of the sad story of her death were distorted, Kitty Genovese left an enduring legacy of positive changes to the urban environment.

My Opinion
As a psychology major, this case is one often discussed and cited when discussing "bystander syndrome" but as the author intended, I learned much more than the surface details (not all of which were even correct) I knew before.  

" 'For more than half a hour 38 respectable, law-abiding citizens in Queens watched a killer stalk and stab a woman in three separate attacks in Kew Gardens.' With this sentence, on March 27, 1964, the New York Times introduced its account of one of the city's most notorious murders."  Sounds shocking but the number of bystanders has always been exaggerated.  Also, two neighbors actually did call the police plus a neighbor came out to physically help her but it wasn't as easy to reach the police as it is now (the development of the "911" emergency system got a big boost in response to the publicity and pressure on leaders to take action and may be the only good thing to come from this tragedy).

I've heard about Kitty's death many times but knew nothing about her life before reading this.  To quote the author, "I realized that [Kitty] had been flattened out, whitewashed, re-created as an ideal victim in service to the construction of a powerful parable of apathy. It seemed to me that Kitty Genovese's personhood had been taken from her, first by her murderer and then by the media, in order to serve a greater good."

I wish that this quote about apathy wasn't still relevant: "I think the German people might have shown rather more reaction than they did (to put it politely) to the evil portended by Hitler when he first began to climb to power. It seems that most of them welcomed him to power and then excused their inaction on the basis of the power they had given to him."  I'm not saying our current president rises to Hitler-level evilness but I do think there are things his supporters are excusing so they don't have to examine their choices.

A Few Quotes from the Book
"They asked themselves and one another: Who had we become if we could stand by silently and ignore someone's cries for help?"

"Coming at the start of a rapid rise in violent crimes in New York City, the killing of Kitty Genovese served as both a symptom of the disintegration of communities as well as a catalyst for change and activism."

Tuesday, April 3, 2018


Book 13 of my 2018 Reading Challenge

Speak: the Graphic Novel by Laurie Halse Anderson

Summary (via the book jacket)
The modern classic Speak is now a graphic novel.

"Speak up for yourself - we want to know what you have to say."
From the first moment of her freshman year at Merryweather High, Melinda knows this is a big fat lie, part of the nonsense of high school. She is friendless -- an outcast -- because of something that happened over the summer. Now nobody will talk to her, let alone listen. So what's the point of talking? Through her work on an art project, Melinda is finally able to face what really happened that night. But before she can make peace with the ghosts of the past, she has to confront the reality of the present - and stop someone who still wishes to do her harm. Only words can save her. She can't stay silent. Not anymore. 

My Opinion
I have a dilemma.  I really want to give a trigger warning for the subject matter of this book because it is so powerfully written that it was difficult for me to breathe at times and I don't need a trigger warning so I can't imagine what it would do to someone that would.  But the nature of why she is ostracized and silent is revealed late in the book so I hate to mention it here.  So here's the deal -- if you're a reader that avoids certain subjects or looks for trigger warnings, shoot me a message and I'll let you know.  Or, now that I look closer, just read the description on Goodreads because the entire plot is laid out right there even though the book jacket summary stays vague for a reason (or avoid the description if you don't want to know). *eye roll*

I haven't read the original book but now I want to, although this graphic novel was an excellent format to absorb the reader in her experiences.  It hurt my heart that no friends or family dug deeper to help her.

A Few Quotes from the Book
"I'll be lucky to get an invitation to my own funeral, with my reputation."

"The whole point of not talking about it, of silencing the memory, is to make it go away.
  It won't."

"Cold and silence.
  There is nothing quieter than snow.
  The sky screams to deliver it, a hundred banshees flying on the edge of the blizzard.
  But once snow covers the ground, it hushes as still as my heart."

Thursday, March 15, 2018

The Year of Fog

Book 12 of my 2018 Reading Challenge

The Year of Fog by Michelle Richmond

Summary (via Goodreads)
Six-year-old Emma vanished into the thick San Francisco fog. Or into the heaving Pacific. Or somewhere just beyond: to a parking lot, a stranger's van, or a road with traffic flashing by. Devastated by guilt, haunted by her fears about becoming a stepmother, Abby refuses to believe Emma is dead. And so she searches for clues about what happened that morning - and cannot stop the flood of memories reaching from her own childhood to illuminate that irreversible moment on the beach. 
Now, as the days drag into weeks, as the police lose interest and fliers fade on telephone poles, Emma's father finds solace in religion and scientific probability - but Abby can only wander the beaches and city streets, attempting to recover the past and the little girl she lost. With her life at a crossroads, she will leave San Francisco for a country thousands of miles away. And there, by the side of another sea, on a journey that has led her to another man and into a strange subculture of wanderers and surfers, Abby will make the most astounding discovery of all - as the truth of Emma's disappearance unravels with stunning force. 

My Opinion
This is not an "I'll just read a little bit before bed" kind of book because the story and the chapters only being 2-3 pages long worked together so I read much more at a time than I intended.

It was very realistic as the relationship between Abby and her fiancé (Emma's father) became strained because of the guilt/blame they felt since it happened under her watch.   It was suspenseful but not like a typical mystery because even as I went along with Abby on her journey of "whodunnit", I still had to keep it in the back of my mind that Emma could've drowned and nothing nefarious happened.  Death would be tragic and horrible but I think not knowing is the worst outcome of a disappearance because you would never be able to find closure.  Whether or not closure is found in this book is part of the ride so I won't give that away.

A Few Quotes from the Book
"There is a girl, her name is Emma, she is walking on the beach. I look away. Seconds pass. I look back, and she is gone. I keep thinking about the seconds, the ever-expanding circle. How I set this chain of events in motion. How I must find some way to make amends."

"Memory is the price we pay for our individual personalities, for the privilege or knowing our own intimate selves; it is the price we pay for both our victories and defeats."


Book 11 of my 2018 Reading Challenge

Smile by Raina Telgemeier

Summary (via Goodreads)
Raina just wants to be a normal sixth grader. But one night after Girl Scouts she trips and falls, severely injuring her two front teeth. What follows is a long and frustrating journey with on-again, off-again braces, surgery, embarrassing headgear, and even a retainer with fake teeth attached. And on top of all that, there's still more to deal with: a major earthquake, boy confusion, and friends who turn out to be not so friendly. 

My Opinion
This graphic novel is a true story and she went through a lot at that tough age where nobody wants to stand out, especially for something medical.  It sucks that one trip and fall impacted her for years.  The graphic novel format added a lot to the story and my girls enjoyed reading it too.

Although my story isn't as dramatic as hers, it reminded me of my own experience with false teeth.  My baby teeth didn't have enamel on them so when they came in without that protection I experienced a lot of pain and they had to be pulled out.  I had false teeth and it was fine until first grade when everybody else was losing teeth and obviously I was keeping my full set.  My dentist actually removed of my front false teeth so I had a gap-toothed smile just like my classmates and I still remember that act of kindness.  And my adult teeth had enamel so I've had no lasting effects.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

The Flying Circus

Book 10 of my 2018 Reading Challenge

The Flying Circus by Susan Crandall

Summary (via the book jacket)
They were barnstormers...the daring fliers whose airborne acrobatics were a thrilling spectacle, swooping and crisscrossing the Heartland skies. Rising above each of their circumstances in their own "flying circus" are Core Rose Haviland, a privileged young woman left penniless when her father's fortune is lost; Charles "Gil" Gilchrist, a World War I pilot whose traumatic past fuels his death-defying stunts; and eighteen-year-old Henry Schuler, the son of a German immigrant farmer, on the run from shocking accusations. Each holds secrets that could destroy their makeshift family. And, on their adrenaline-charged journey of self-discovery, one of them must pay the price.

My Opinion
The pages turned so quickly and this was a very satisfying read.  I will definitely read more from this author.

Even though the book went through a perfect story arc, I wasn't ready to say good-bye to the characters when it was over. 

A Few Quotes from the Book
"To meet the family, Henry put on a face that made people like him, that of a nice, fun-loving boy. He knew what that face felt like because he'd worn it before the war."

"There was confidence and there was foolishness. Cora had yet to discover the difference."

"The war had left a lot of men with a lot of stories. Some closed the book and refused to let those stories see the light of day. Others seemed to need to recite and relive them time and again. Henry didn't know which was more poisonous to the soul."

"Sometimes we're born were we belong and sometimes we have to search to find our place."