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The Week in Review: 10.12.2018

October 12, 2018


Between the Covers

Finished last week:

When I picked up THE SHORT AND TRAGIC LIFE OF ROBERT PEACE: A BRILLIANT YOUNG MAN WHO LEFT NEWARK FOR THE IVY LEAGUE by Jeff Hobbs I knew it wouldn’t have a happy ending but I wasn’t prepared for the way it would gut me.  Rob grew up in drug and gang infested Newark, New Jersey area.  His mother realized his intelligence early on and had big dreams for her son.  She worked hard and made sacrifices to help him get ahead.  Even though his parents weren’t married, Rob’s father was very involved in his life until he was incarcerated when Rob was seven years old.  Rob remained close to both parents and felt a responsibility toward both – he took any job he could find to help his mother with bills and visited his father often and helped with his legal proceedings.  He was generous, charismatic, curious, and loving and straddled different worlds with what appeared to be ease.

Jeff Hobbs was one of Rob’s roommates at Yale.  It’s evident he did a lot of research before writing this book.  It’s also obvious he had a great affection for his friend.  I thought the book was very well written and compelling.  I fell in love with Rob quickly and rooted for him even when he made mistakes, even though I knew things would not turn out well.  I talked about this book a lot as I read it and cried at the end.  It’s moving, disturbing, and thought provoking.  I think it would make a great book club pick.  (Review copy provided by Scribner.)


HEY, KIDDO: HOW I LOST MY MOTHER, FOUND MY FATHER, AND DEALT WITH FAMILY ADDICTION by Jarrett J. Krosoczka is a wonderful graphic memoir for the YA set.  Jarrett was born to Leslie, a single mother who lived with her parents at the time of his birth.  His grandfather bought a house for them and things went okay for a while.  Drugs took over Leslie’s life, though, so Jarrett went to live with his grandparents.  They loved Jarrett but they were crude and sassy and didn’t really “get” kids anymore.  Art was Jarrett’s escape for his unpleasant reality.  I thought the illustrations in this book were terrific.  The story was well told even though it was heartbreaking at times.  It really is a terrific book that will resonate with so many kids these days and show them there is hope.  I recommend it for early teens on up.  (Review copy provided by Scholastic.)


I was anxious to pick up HEARTLAND: A DAUGHTER OF THE WORKING CLASS RECONCILES AN AMERICAN DIVIDE by Sarah Smarsh when I heard it compared to HILLYBILLY ELEGY by J. D. Vance and, I’m sorry to say, for me, it didn’t live up to the comparison.  Smarsh grew up poor in Kansas – she moved around a lot as a child and teen pregnancies were common in her family.  Smarsh was determined to break the cycle – she worked hard in school and made sure she didn’t become a teen mother.  I admire her and what she achieved but felt her book needed more focus.  It’s written to the child she didn’t have as a teen (an imagined girl she named August) and is more about her grandparents and parents and the politics of the time than about her.  The book made me think on several occasions with passages like this,

If you live in a house that needs shingles, you will attend a school that needs books, and while sitting in that school’s desk you’ll struggle to focus because your tooth needs a dentist or your stomach needs food.  Teachers, for such children, become mothers; schools become houses; and cafeterias become hearths.

I’m glad I read HEARTLAND, even though I only truly became invested in the story at the end, but it won’t make my list of favorites for the year.  (Review copy provided by Scribner.)


I was in the mood for some lighter fare so I picked up CHRISTMAS CAKE MURDER by Joanne Fluke.  It’s the 23rd book in the Hannah Swensen Mystery series and is a prequel but it stands on its own just fine.  Hannah has returned from college and has decided to open a bakery.  She and her family and a few other residents have decided to recreate the Christmas Ball that aging resident Essie Granger remembers from her past.  They discover a story Essie wrote years ago and become captivated by it.  On the night of the ball, they realize that story holds the answer to a mystery.

I thought this was a sweet story but the mystery came late in the book and, when it did, it was rather flimsy.  It can be read any time of the year because, even though, it was set around the ball, it didn’t have a holiday feel to it.  There are 14 detailed recipes throughout the book – I did read them and some sound good – but I haven’t tried any of them.  CHRISTMAS CAKE MURDER didn’t knock my socks off but it was a pleasant way to spend a few hours.  (Review copy provided by Kensington.)

Currently reading:

On the Screen

Not much of anything.

Off the blog

  • Carl went to visit his dad so I spent some extra time at the store this week.
  • We got a little bit of weather from Hurricane Michael but, thankfully, it didn’t do much damage in our area.  It did drop 4 inches of rain on us.
  • I walked at least three miles every morning, except yesterday (because of Michael), and averaged just over 17,775 Fitbit steps a day.

What’s going on in your corner of the world?

24 Comments leave one →
  1. October 12, 2018 4:15 am

    The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace sounds incredible, but I can see it would be devastating. I might have to read that one. Great write up of it.

    I liked heartland too but didn’t love it…I didn’t at all like that it was written from the perspective of a letter to her unborn daughter. It had some strong and well told messages and stories though, I hope it’ll reach those that need to see this part of the population from a different perspective.

  2. October 12, 2018 7:38 am

    I really love the sound of The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace, thanks for sharing it!

  3. October 12, 2018 7:45 am

    Robert Peace is the first book I recommend to anyone and so many people I know feel the same way about it that we do. It is truly unforgettable. I just finished Spark of Light and it is thought-provoking, one of Jodi’s best.

  4. Beth F permalink
    October 12, 2018 8:09 am

    I have a copy of the Robert Peace book, which I picked up at BEA a few years ago. I haven’t read it because I know it will gut me! Fluke’s cozy mysteries are usually fairly well plotted, bu they are definitely light — pure escape reading.

  5. October 12, 2018 8:41 am

    The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace got so much buzz a couple of years ago and I meant to read it then… thanks for the reminder. Glad to hear it’s good for book clubs, too.

  6. October 12, 2018 9:49 am

    Wow the Jeff Hobbs book sounds so sad! But good!

  7. October 12, 2018 10:38 am

    The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace does sound like an emotional and gripping read.I am also curious about Heartland, and love that excerpt.

    I can’t wait to read A Spark of Light…and I enjoyed The Almost Sisters.I love the Hallmark series based on Fluke’s Hannah Swensen books.

    So glad you escaped the devastation of Michael.

  8. Diane permalink
    October 12, 2018 1:45 pm

    Im trying to read more social justice themes, so Heartland sounds like a good one for my list. Have a nice weekend Kathy.

  9. October 12, 2018 2:22 pm

    Wow that is a lot of steps!

  10. October 12, 2018 3:21 pm

    The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace sounds like a must read!

  11. October 12, 2018 3:52 pm

    The Robert Peace book sounds like an important book to read.

  12. October 12, 2018 6:35 pm

    Kathy, all of your books sound good, but I am especially interested in the first two. I’m glad Hurricane Michael didn’t devastate your area. Keep up the high step count! 🙂

  13. Literary Feline permalink
    October 12, 2018 7:02 pm

    I hope you are enjoying The Almost Sisters. I love Jackson’s writing style. I am glad you weren’t hit hard by Michael. I know many other places weren’t so lucky. I hope you have a wonderful weekend, Kathy!

  14. October 12, 2018 8:20 pm

    I’m glad you didn’t have any damage from the hurricane, but 4 inches is still a lot of rain! Glad you continue to get as many steps in as you do. I need to find a way to work in more walks while we’re on the road!

  15. October 12, 2018 8:24 pm

    I thought the book on Robert Peace was really interesting and devastating all at once. I am a judge for the CYBILS this year in the graphic novel category and hope that Hey Kiddo is one of the books we get to read.

  16. October 13, 2018 2:25 am

    It sounds like you had an interesting reading week. I’d like to read the Robert Peace book. I too loved Hillbilly Elegy, but I can see that Heartland is not the same thing. I’ll pass on that one. Have a great weekend, Kathy.

  17. October 13, 2018 9:51 am

    Good that you escaped the worst of Michael the Hurricane! You must be a very fast reader to get through so many in a week!

    best… mae at

  18. October 14, 2018 12:57 pm

    I’m planning on seeing Picoult live in another week or 2. I do read all of her adult books.

  19. October 14, 2018 3:22 pm

    Glad you made it through Michael with just the rain, too! How sad with book one that his life too that route in the end.

  20. bookingmama permalink
    October 15, 2018 6:58 am


  21. October 15, 2018 11:43 am

    I added the audiobook of the Robert Pearce story to my library holds. I have been curious about Heartland. I read Hillbilly Elegy right after Educated which I think was why I wasn’t very moved by Hillbilly Elegy, so I’m guessing I won’t be impressed with Heartland either.

  22. October 15, 2018 2:03 pm

    Nothing significant going on in my neck of the world. Work is slow this morning but it’s freezing in the office today. Probably about 65 degrees. We all have coats on and blankets and I can barely type.

  23. October 17, 2018 7:00 pm

    The Robert Peace book sounds very gut-wrenching. How awful & tragic. Hobbs sounds like quite a thoughtful author. I always want to change the ending of these books.

  24. October 24, 2018 2:39 pm

    The book about Peace must have been very emotional. I like the ideas behind Heartland, but I have a tough time with memoirs and such that don’t have a clear focus.

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