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Review: Caminar

January 30, 2015


Soldiers come to warn Carlos’s village about Communist rebels.  They mingled with the villagers so they weren’t scared but, before they left, they labeled a man a COMMUNIST, and hanged him.  They said the Communist were bad and everyone must defend their village.  Carlos wants to do just that but, when the rebels come, his mother insists he run and hide.

Alone and afraid, Carlos teams up with a band of guerillas as he heads to his grandmother’s village to warn them, but will he be in time?

Caminar by Skila Brown is a YA novel in verse about the Guatemalan civil war.  Many of the poems are written in shape poetry adding to the appeal for teen readers.   I’m in awe of Brown’s ability to write a novel in verse and convey a story as well as she did – she made a difficult subject matter very accessible.  I’ll admit that I knew little of Guatemala’s civil war before reading the book so I learned a lot and went on to read even more about it.

The suggested age for Caminar is 10 and up but I think it’s better suited for readers who are a little older than that because of the subject matter.   There is a glossary and Q and A with the author in the back of the book. This would be a wonderful book to incorporate into a study of Guatemala or Central America.

kid konnection newI will link this up to Booking Mama’s Saturday feature, Kid Konnection. If you’d like to participate in Kid Konnection and share a post about anything related to children’s books (picture, middle grade, or young adult) from the past week, leave a comment as well as a link on her site.

I won this book from Beth Fish Reads.  I am an Indiebound Affliate.

Review: The Girl on the Train

January 29, 2015

The Girl on the Train

As she commutes to London on the train each day, Rachel watches one particular house and the couple who live there.  She is fascinated with them and imagines names and lives for them.  One day she sees the woman kissing someone other than her husband and the next day she learns the woman has been reported missing.  Frantic with worry, Rachel inserts herself into the investigation and things gets rather complicated.

I’m sure most people have heard about The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins by now.  It’s received a lot of buzz and rightly so.  It’s best not to know too much about this book that’s filled with unreliable narrators and fraught with tension.  I picked it up at a very busy time and could not put it down – I had to know what happened and read it in just a few days even though I had lots going on.

I found Hawkins writing to be sharp and thought she did a wonderful job building suspense.  I didn’t figure out the mystery but found its conclusion to be very satisfying.  The Girl on the Train was my first book of the year and will probably make my list of favorites.  You don’t want to miss this book!

Review copy provided by Penguin Books.  I am an Indiebound Affiliate.

Wondrous Words Wednesday

January 28, 2015

Wondrous Words Wednesday is a weekly meme where you can share new words that you’ve encountered or spotlight words you love.  Feel free to get creative!   If you want to play along, grab the button, write a post and come back and add your link to Mr. Linky!

I’ve been reading but I guess the books I’m reading aren’t difficult enough because I haven’t found any new words.  Thank heavens for my Word-a-Day calendar!

1. jactitiation – “I shifted and moved like I suffered from severe jactitation continuously tossing and twitching.” — Eric Jerome Dickey, Pleasure

Jactitation is a noun that means a tossing to and fro or jerking and twitching of the body.


2. gasconade – “Honesty and frankness do more for the public’s confidence . . . than extravagant boasting or supercilious gasconade.” — F. Gonzalez-Crussi, The New York Times, April 7, 2002

Gasconade is a noun as well.  It means a bravado or exaggerated boasting.


3. tontine – “At the heart of the novel is a fortune derived from a tontine, a kind of raffle, pegged to longevity.” — Michael Dirda, The Washington Post

A tontine is a joint financial arrangement whereby the participants usually contribute equally to a prize that is awarded entirely to the final survivor.


What words do you want to celebrate today?

Review: Shopaholic to the Stars

January 27, 2015

Shopaholic to the Stars

When Becky Brandon and her family move to Los Angeles, she decides she wants to become a personal stylist for celebrities – after all, what could be more perfect than shopping for stars?  She wants her husband Luke to help her get to know his client, Sage Seymour, but he’ll have nothing to do with it, so she has to come up with a scheme of her own.  In typical Becky fashion, things don’t go the way she planned.

Shopaholic to the Stars is the seventh book in Sophie Kinsella‘s popular Shopaholic series.  The early books in the series charmed me.  Becky had a twisted sort of logic that somehow made sense.  I’m sad to say that I found this latest edition in the series to be flat and tired.  I didn’t enjoy Becky’s antics and overall found the book to be too silly for my tastes.

I listened to the audio version of Shopaholic to the Stars and I thought Clare Corbett did a marvelous job with the narration – her accents and voices are terrific and kept me invested in a book that I might have abandoned in print.  The audio is on 10 CDs and lasts approximately 12 and a half hours.

Listen to a sample:

Review copy provided by Penguin Books.  I am an Indiebound Affiliate.

Mailbox Monday

January 26, 2015

Mailbox Monday January 26

Welcome to Mailbox Monday, a meme started by Marcia of To Be Continued, and now hosted on its own blog.    My mom turns 88 on Wednesday so I’m celebrating with her this week and won’t be around.  I found these books in my mailbox last week:






What did you find in your mailbox last week?

Review: Half a World Away

January 23, 2015

Half a World Away

Jaden isn’t too thrilled by the fact that he and his family are flying to Kazakhstan to adopt a baby.  Jaden was eight when he was adopted from Romania four years ago and he hasn’t completely adapted to his new home.

He figured he knew why they were adopting again: They weren’t satisfied with him.  Whenever he thought that, he felt tears welling up.  He didn’t know if he was upset for himself, because they weren’t satisfied with him, or for the baby, because if the baby was up for adoption it meant the mother had abandoned him, and Jaden knew what that was like.

Of course Jaden’s parents are satisfied with him and are working hard to make him feel secure while they complete their family.  Jaden’s not so sure, though, until they get to the orphanage and he meets Dimash.  Unfortunately, Dimash is not the child they’ve come to adopt but Jaden feels like he must do something – after all, Dimash needs him.

Half a World Away by Cynthia Kadohata is a middle grade reader about families and adoption.  It’s told from the point of view of a tween who was adopted himself.  He has conflicted feelings about being adopted and acts out because of it.  His parents are patient and loving and do what they can to help him.

When Jaden hears his parents plan to adopt another child he assumes they’re disappointed in him.  He reluctantly accompanies his parents and makes an important discovery when they visit the orphanage.

I wanted to love Half a World Away and I did enjoy it a great deal but I’m not sure I loved it.  Still, I think it’s an important book for young readers, particularly those who’ve experienced adoption themselves.  I really appreciated the fact that Jaden is open and honest with his feelings and his parents treat him with the respect he deserves.  Many young readers will relate to Jaden and parents could use this book to spark discussions about adoption.

kid konnection newI will link this up to Booking Mama’s Saturday feature, Kid Konnection. If you’d like to participate in Kid Konnection and share a post about anything related to children’s books (picture, middle grade, or young adult) from the past week, leave a comment as well as a link on her site.

Review copy provided by Simon & Schuster.   I am an Indiebound Affiliate.

Review: The Story Hour

January 22, 2015

The Story Hour

When Lakshmi, a young Indian immigrant is hospitalized after she tries to commit suicide, she refuses to communicate with anyone in the hospital, so Dr. Margaret (Maggie) Bose is called in to work with her.  For some reason, Maggie can relate to Lakshmi – a woman living in a foreign country who feels trapped in a loveless marriage – and agrees to treat her for free after she’s released from the hospital.

Along with her husband, Maggie is determined to help Lakshmi and their relationship quickly evolves to friendship.  When the two women learn each other’s deepest, darkest secrets, their friendship is challenged and may not survive.

The Story Hour by Thrity Umrigar is the story of an unlikely friendship that totally captivated me.  Maggie is a well educated woman who is moved by the plight of a woman she feels is trapped in a loveless marriage and she is determined to help her.  Lakshmi may be uneducated but that doesn’t mean she’s not smart and talented.  They both have their flaws so they felt very real to me.  I thought they were both terrific and could relate to each of them a little even though they’re both very different from me.

The point of view alternates between Lakshmi and Maggie with Lakshmi’s story told in broken English.  At first, that bothered me but I quickly realized it’s an excellent way for readers to empathize with her situation and I came to love it.   The ending is somewhat open ended but I thought it was perfect.

In case you can’t tell, I loved The Story Hour – it was one of my favorite books of 2014.  It’s only the second Umrigar book I’ve read but she’s quickly become a favorite of mine.

Review copy provided by Harper Collins.  I am an Indiebound Affiliate.

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