Monday, October 28, 2019

This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger

The setting is southern Minnesota during the depression in the early '30s. Two brothers, Odie and Albert, are orphans who find themselves in a Native American boarding school run by an evil director. If you think Jane Eyre's awful school or Oliver Twist's orphan experiences you get the idea of the terrible situation these boys are in.  Well, they do run away and bring along a few more kids who are desperate for freedom.  They plan to canoe down the Minnesota River to the Mississippi and down to St. Louis, Missouri.  Now you can think suggestions of Huckleberry Finn.  Along the way, they meet criminals, supportive characters, a traveling healing ministry, a shantytown, and people struggling just like them. 

This book is such a wonderful read. It is a 5 out of 4!  The plot moves along and you get to meet lots of interesting characters. There are exciting scenes...some knuckle-biting and some filled with sweetness and hope.  A little bit of mysticism and faith as well as characters of good and evil. I told my friends in my book club that they can't read this book because I'm picking it for my reader's choice next year.  I highly recommend this book!  This would also be a good choice for male readers too. 

Monday, September 30, 2019

Sweet Home Alaska by Carole Estby Dagg

I love a good pioneer story and this one fits the bill. It is based on President Roosevelt's project in the 1930s where he offered to send families who were on assistance during the depression to start a New Deal colony in Alaska.
Terpsichore and her family leave their Wisconsin home to become pioneers in Palmer, Alaska.  When they arrive all the promises are slow to deliver but Terpsichore and her family have a pioneering spirit and make the best of their situation while they wait for their dreams to be fulfilled. Their mother is not really sure this is her dream and gets to decide after a predetermined time if their family will pack up and go back to Alaska. Terpsichore has to figure out how to make sure her mother wants to stay. 

Terpsichore is the type of character I really love. She is self-sufficient, determined, funny, and spirited.  She loves to read and spearheads a library committee, figures out how to grow a prize-winning pumpkin, cooks for her family, and helps her mother find a way to get Washington to send medical health to the new Alaskan community.  

Her name is weird and you eventually learn why she has the name...she drops hints along the way as to how to pronounce her name but at first you are a little confused. Her name is pronounced....Terp seh core ee. 

If you loved Little House books, Hattie Big Sky, or When Calls the Heart on Hallmark, this book is perfect for you! I give this a 4 out of 4 rating. 

  • Age Range: 10 and up
  • Grade Level: 5 - 6
  • Reading Level: 5.7
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books (February 2, 2016)

Sunday, September 8, 2019

The Day The World Came to Town by Jim Defede

I recommend this book if you would like to read something that commemorates the 9/11 tragedy but is also heartwarming and inspirational and tells about light shining through a dark time. It also satisfies my curiosity as to some of the details of what people had to deal with when the United States air space was closed immediately after the attacks. 

Planes that were not able to turn around and go back were sent to various Canadian airports. 38 planes were forced to land in Gander, Newfoundland. The population is only 10,000 and over 6,000 people were stranded in their town. The town people immediately worked together to find places for all of the stranded passengers in their town and surrounding places. They brought food, clothes, bedding and did whatever they could to show hospitality and kindness during a stressful situation. The travelers were with the Canadians for four days and formed bonds and friendship that would last long after. 

This book is written like a magazine or newspaper article and Sometimes it is hard to keep track of all the people that the author writes about. However, I was very moved by this story and read it quickly. It is only about 260 pages with a few black and white photos at the beginning of each chapter. (These pictures make 2001 look like ancient history!)

Others have been equally moved by this event and a musical called Come From Aways was created in 2012. It is currently playing on Broadway and other theaters around the world. 

I have been talking about this book ever since I read it. So, I am going to have to rate it pretty high - 4 out of 4. 

The following videos about the event from the news and song from the musical Come From Away. 

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

The Library of Ever by Zeno Alexander

The Library of Ever is a celebration of libraries in a Lemony Snicket kind of way! It stars Lenora who stops at the local library with her nanny and manages to find a fantastic library which gives her a job as an assistant. She goes on some amazing and fast-paced adventures during her visit and uses knowledge to overcome darker forces.  

The author, Zeno Alexander is following in the Lemony Snicket path and not revealing his true photo or any life information. I did see a photo of him at a school visit and so I know he is a male author. I am always curious as to the reason for the secrecy!

I enjoyed this book and am expecting a sequel since the end alluded to more adventures. I rate this book a 4 out of 4. 

  • Age Range: 8 - 11 years
  • Grade Level: 4 - 7
  • Series: The Library of Ever (Book 1)
  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Imprint (April 30, 2019)

Saturday, August 24, 2019

The Truth About Martians by Melissa Savage

Wondering about the existence of Martians is always a really popular topic and this story really gives the reader even more fuel for believing. The setting is New Mexico in 1947 when a flying saucer crash lands nearby in Roswell. Mylo and his two best friends Dibs and Gracie set out to investigate. It gets more interesting when they begin to hear voices calling for help. 

The book reminded me of the movie E.T. and The LIttle Rascals Gang.  Savage has some historical notes about the Roswell incident in the back of the book that nudges the reader to believe that a Martian sighting might have actually happened.  Hopefully, adults can encourage kids to keep reading and seeking more information on this conspiracy theory.  

This is another fun book for kids to read. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it and I give it a 4 out of 4 rating. 

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7
  • Reading Level: 650Lexile
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers (October 2, 2018)

Friday, August 23, 2019

Float by Laura Martin

I love books set during summer camp and this story was a charmer! The plot includes the hijinks, fun, friendship, and events of a wonderful summer adventure. However, this is also a special camp for kids who are at RISK. It stands for reoccurring incidents of the strange kind. It seems more and more kids are born with strange and uncontrollable abilities; like floating, turning into a dog at random times, time-traveling, or spontaneous combustion.  The government mandates that these children are always watched and Camp Outlier is one of their summer choices. Camp turns out to be an experience of great freedom as kids can forget for a time about how strange their life is from other kids back home. 

Despite the humor and fun, there is a serious message which is subtle but impactful. RISK kids being set apart is expensive and difficult for schools and families. The ethics of how much can be afforded is hinted at with a time travel plotline. Kids might not pick up on the serious message but teachers and parents can guide kids into seeing how this fantastic story applies in today's world. 

I enjoyed reading this story so much. I could just feel, hear and smell camp! This book would make a great read-aloud. I give it a 4 out of 4 rating.

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7
  • Reading Level: 5,5 (11 points)
  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins (May 29, 2018)

I enjoy 1 Minute Books YouTube Channel where youth services librarian gives quick 1-minute book talks. Here is her book talk about Float.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

My Favorite Summer Reads - Adult Fiction

Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Ballantine Books (June 25, 2019)

Evvie is a widow and Dean Tenney is a baseball pitcher who has unexpectedly lost his arm for pitching. He rents out an apartment from Evvie to escape media attention. They become friends and begin to climb out of their disappointments into a new and loving relationship.

I picked this book because it was Jenna Bush Hager's July Book Club choice.  Sometimes it is fun to read along with another book club. I also caught her interview on Instagram with the author which gave me some author insights. This is a romance with a baseball theme! It is an easy read and just perfect for a summer day read. From what I remember, it was mostly closed-door romance details and little blush factor. I give it a 4 out of 4 rating. 

The Lost Girls of Paris by Pam Jenoff
Hardcover: 384 pages
Publisher: Park Row; Original edition (January 29, 2019)

This is a historical fiction story about women spies during WW II.  The main character has lost her husband during WW II and is struggling. She finds a suitcase in New York's Grand Central Station with some photographs and begins to investigate. Meanwhile, the story goes back to the owner of the suitcase who is a British woman who helped to train women spies to go into France for resistance missions. The story also features one of the spies, named Marie who was recruited to be a part of this spy operation.  There is a lot of mystery, adventure, and danger in the story that unfolds. 

I picked this book up on the cruise ship library from the cruise I took in Europe this summer when my Kindle refused to turn on... (it begin working later on). In so many of the tours I was on, I was reminded of the problems of WW II. This book also reminded me of sacrifices that many men and women have given for justice and peace.  There is some blush factor in some of the romantic scenes but easy to skip over.  It is easy to read and hard to put down.  I give this book a 4 out of 4

The Lager Queen of Minnesota by J. Ryan Stradal
Hardcover: 368 pages
Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books (July 23, 2019)

An older woman is baking pies at a nursing home in the middle of Minnesota and a Minneapolis food critic declares her pies one of the best in Minnesota. The nursing home is overrun with visitors on the days Edith is baking to the point that people are pretending to have loved ones in the home!  I was hooked at this opening but was still wondering how beer was going to be a part of this story. Eventually, you read how Edith's younger, smarter, and more talented sister basically inherited the entire family farm in order to fulfill her dreams of making a beer empire. The sisters are estranged and the story goes back in forth to each of them as they struggle to make a mark in the world. 

I don't drink beer and looked up a lot of things as I was reading this book. I looked up lager, stout, ale, hops and other details and I am still not sure about the differences. It really doesn't matter but I was curious. Anne B Jones from the podcast From the Front Porch recommended this book. She said..."I am a teetotaler from the south but his book made me want to go to Minnesota and drink beer."  I would also add...I really want to taste the Strawberry Pie Beer!  Does it even exist? I really found this book to be similar to a Fannie Flagg or Lorna Landvik book. It is charming and funny and just a great story. I highly recommend this book and loved reading it.  I plan on going back and reading his book Kitchens of the Great Midwest.  I rate it a 5 out of 4!

As Bright As Heaven by Susan Meissner
  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley (February 6, 2018)

This is a historical fiction book about the Spanish Flu epidemic in Philadelphia in 1918. The Bright family moves to Philadelphia so that the father can be a partner and heir with his uncle in the funeral home business. The story is told chapter by chapter by the mother Pauline, and her three daughters as they share the happenings in their home and neighborhood from this historical event that killed more people than WW I did.  

I couldn't put this book down and despite the fact it was set in a funeral home and was about an epidemic, I didn't find it too gruesome or depressing. Meissner is such a good storyteller and created characters that you can connect and root for.  I had the feeling of what am I going to read?....this was so good.   I rate it a 5 out of 4!

The Bookshop on the Shore by Jenny Colgan
Hardcover: 416 pages
Publisher: William Morrow (June 25, 2019)

A young single mother is struggling to make ends meet and  her boyfriend's sister connects her with her friend in Scotland who runs a bookshop on a bus and needs help due to her pregnancy. She also lines up  a nanny job for evenings and weekends which provides her with a place to stay. A lot of comedy results as Zoe learns how to drive a bus, deal with small towns, quirky characters, and the horrible children she is to nanny. She finds romance  with her employer as she ends up being a Mary Poppins or Maria to the family who desperately needs her. 

I really loved the previous book written about the beginning of the bookshop bus called The Bookshop on the Corner. This book tells the story of how Nina loses her library job and ends up buying a bus in Scotland to sell books out of. She ends up falling in love with a local sheep farmer. I think it would be OK to read The Bookshop on the Shore without reading the first Bookshop book....but I would recommend both read the Corner one too!

Jenny Colgan's books have been like eating potato chips to me. I can't stop! She writes romantic comedies set in Scotland, England, or France. They are filled with quirky characters, funny situations, and the charm of living across the pond.  They are not as squeaky clean as a Hallmark movie....some swear words and quick hook-ups but they are closed door for the reader.  I have enjoyed the comedy, quirkiness, and settings. Jenny Colgan always describes her settings so well.  I rate them all a 4 out of 4 so far!

Nina Redmond is a librarian with a gift for finding the perfect book for her readers. But can she write her own happy-ever-after? 

Polly is a heartbroken young woman who turns a new page in her life . . . by becoming a baker in the town of Cornwall.

Anna Trent may be a supervisor in a chocolate factory...but that doesn't necessarily mean she knows how to make chocolate. So when a fateful accident gives her the opportunity to work at Paris's elite chocolatier Le Chapeau Chocolat, Anna expects to be outed as a fraud.