July 2, 2013

Review: The Boys in the Boat

I remember going to the service station that my father owned every day after school.  My mother, the unofficial, unpaid book keeper for the family business, would have to pick up receipts and handle some business.  My father's gas station was like the old barber shops where colorful locals would hang out and talk.  There was this one guy who's name was Shorty Hunt.  Later I learned Shorty was a nickname, but I'd never heard anyone call him anything different.  At 6' 1", he seemed like a giant to me.  One day, he called me over to him and asked if I wanted to see his gold medal.  I remember scoffing (earning me a look from my father) and saying to him "You don't have an Olympic gold medal." The others assured me he did, and he promised to bring it to show me the next time he was in. It was about a week later that he was sitting back in a chair in the station office.  He was leaned back, so he sat up and held out a box to me.  It contained the shiniest object I'd ever seen.  An Olympic Gold Medal.

And for that reason, I am currently reading, much to the shock and surprise of everyone who knows me, an adult non-fiction history book.  The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown tells the story of the 1938 Washington Husky crew team that won the gold and, much like Jesse Owens, shamed Hitler. 

If I had known there was historical non-fiction written like this, I might have had a greater interest in the subject in school. It's vivid, living writing that I'm actually finding better than some fiction titles I've read recently.  I highly recommend this book to fans of sports, especially rowing, as well as WWII history buffs, and really anyone looking for an inspiring true tale.

Until next time, bon voyage and happy reading!

March 27, 2013

Review: The Lions of Little Rock

The Lions of Little Rock by Kristin Levine

The Lions of Little Rock tells the story of what happened the year after the events of the Little Rock 9, when 9 brave African American students broke down the barriers of segregation at a time when the races did not mix. In 1958, the governor of Arkansas ordered the schools closed to block the federal forced integration of the schools. Marley is a middle school student who finds it very difficult to speak. She meets a new girl in her school, and the two of them become friends. Marley discovers that her friend is actually black, passing as white. Marley strives to maintain her friendship and deal with the cultural problems that put pressures on her family. This is a wonderful story of friendship against all odds. At times, it can stretch your ability to believe it as Marley and Liz are able to maintain their friendship given the time and place they live in, but the friendship overshadows that one complaint.

An excellent read that I highly recommend.

This review is based on a library copy.

Until next time, bon voyage and happy reading!

March 26, 2013

Review: A Diamond in the Desert

A Diamond in the Desert by Kathryn Fitzmaurice

 During World War II, Japanese Americans were interned or kept in camps. Tetsu is interned with his sister and mother, but not his father, who was detained for interrogation.Tetsu must deal with being the head of the family while his father is away, even though he is a young. His love for baseball leads him to help build a baseball field near the camp.  I enjoyed this book because Tetsu is a great character who isn't perfect. Like any under dog, you can't help but root for him.  This book isn't as heavy as some of the other realistic fiction titles describing the internment, but doesn't water down what happened.  I recommend this book for baseball fans as well as history fans. It was quick to read and drew me right in.

This review is based on a library copy.

Until next time, bon voyage and happy reading!

March 25, 2013

Review: Nook HD

2 years ago for my birthday I received a Nook Color.  I used it for A LOT of reading, getting electronic galleys and ebooks from the library.  I loved that little device.  However, as time went on, I began to see it's limitations more and more.  I had hoped it would be a good ebook reader and a passable tablet.  Instead, it was a great ebook reader, and not much else.

As the owner of a Nook, I kept getting Barnes and Noble gift cards for various occasions.  I saved these, as most of my reading is galleys or library books, and just after my most recent birthday translated them into an upgrade: a Nook HD.

I have to say, it's been a great upgrade.  Where the Color failed as a tablet, the HD has succeeded.  Integration with Outlook was essential and, even though it's not perfect, this really adds a lot of functionality to the HD.

The screen is quite beautiful.  Bright, clear, and very sharp.  It's my favorite part of the HD.

I also purchased a JavoEdge case for my HD.  When I read the description of the case, I was pleasantly surprised to discover the HD has a smart cover feature that turns it off when the cover is closed and on when the cover is opened.

The Color was quite solid, but I noticed the HD had slight buckling of the edges when I held it there.

All in all, I'm extremely happy with the HD and glad I made the upgrade.

Until next time, bon voyage and happy reading!

February 22, 2013

Review: Hideout

Hideout by Gordon Korman

Griffin Bing, The Man with the Plan, is back for a 5th book, but this time he's up against his old nemesis, S. Wendell Palomino.  Yes, Swindle is back, looking to take Luthor the guard dog back to make money and crush the kids who ruined his life.

This novel brings back some of the fun in this series that has been missing. The gang is split among three different summer camps, and struggle to complete a plan with limited access to each other. Most of the characters grow and adapt as they deal with an impossible mission.

Fans of the series will love this title.  If you are new to this series, start with Swindle.  It's like Ocean's Eleven, only with 5th graders!

Until next time, bon voyage and happy reading.

February 21, 2013

Missed Cybils

It was a very difficult job selecting the final list of Cybil nominees.  I must say, there were some very good books that were left off the list.  Here's a few that I really enjoyed, but might have been better suited to a Young Adult list.

Dear Blue Sky by Mary Sullivan is the story of Cassie, who's older brother Sef is off fighting in Iraq.  Since Sef was the glue that held her family together, Cassie watches as her family starts to come apart.  A class project leads her to an unusual source of comfort, a young Iraqi girl who blogs under the name Blue Sky.

Fire in the Streets by Kekla Magoon is about Maxie, who wants to help the Black Panthers even though she is young. She discovers there is a traitor in their midst and figures that, if she could discover who it was, it would be her ticket into the Panthers. As she discovers the truth, it's much more than she bargained for.

My Sister Lives on the Mantlepiece by Annabel Pitcher tells about ten year old Jamie who's family fell apart when they lost his sister Rose in a terrorist attack. When he moves to a new school, he forms a strained friendship with a classmate named Sunya, who is Muslim. Realistic and tragic, funny yet poignant. A great book to read.

See You at Harry's by Jo Knowles is about twelve year old Fern who's strained family must deal with a horrific tragedy. I can't say too much without giving away major plot details, but this is a wonderfully captivating story of dealing with loss.

Until next time, bon voyage and happy reading! 

February 20, 2013

Cybils Awards Announced

Yes, the Cybils Awards are out.  I must say, I was not too surprised by the middle grade fiction selection.  It was a tough field of contenders, but I think the choice was pretty obvious. And if you've read this blog, you know how I feel about Wonder by RJ Palacio!

Be sure to check out the full list of winners here.