The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

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Kristin Hannah has done it again! Her newest novel, The Great Alone, which releases in February 2018, is absolutely stunning.

The story begins in 1974 when Lenora Allbright (Leni) is 13 years old and once again the new kid at school, having changed schools multiple times mainly because of her father’s wrath and inability to keep a job. Leni’s father, Ernt, was captured and tortured during the Vietnam War, and since he has been back, his own family household has become the front line of battle with his white hot anger and temper. Leni’s mother, Cora, tries to tiptoe around Ernt in order to keep their glass house from shattering, but she rarely escapes the wrath of Ernt, which Leni witnesses it all the time. Just when Leni hopes they might finally settle down in one place so her father can be happy, Ernt loses yet another job, and the family is uprooted again. This time, however, her parents pack up the VW van and the family of three heads to a remote island in the Alaskan wilderness. One of Ernt’s war comrades who passed away in Vietnam, Bo Harlan, left Ernt his ramshackle homestead in Kaneq, on the Kenai Peninsula. Ernt feels this is a sign, and a big break for the family that they must not pass up. What they don’t realize then is that Alaska will change the course of Leni’s future forever. All of their futures, actually.

Other than a few neighbors down the road a ways, the Allbright’s rustic cabin is in an untamed area of Alaska, where the winters are unforgiving and severe and the wildlife extremely dangerous. Leni and her mother get to know some strong Alaskan women, learning all they can from them regarding planting, fishing, and preparing food and adequate shelter for winter. Large Marge, a former lawyer who runs the small general store in town, takes them under her wing and provides Leni a security she has never felt before. Ernt gets close to Bo’s father, Mad Earl Harlan and his clan, and together Ernt and Earl, both paranoid quick to rage, arrange all-out crazy plans for surviving when “TSHTF” with the government.

Meanwhile, Leni starts school with the very few other school-age inhabitants of Kaneq, including the only other student her age, Matthew Walker. Matthew’s family has been very successful in Alaska for many generations, starting with his grandparents who started the town of Kaneq. Matthew’s father, Tom, plans to use some of his wealth to modernize and improve Kaneq, opening up the island for tourism. This, and the fact that Tom seems to have a keen eye for his wife, Cora, only enrages Ernt Allbright more. Ernt directs his hatred and anger toward the Walkers and anything to do with their family, including Matthew, of course. Though her father forbids Leni from seeing Matthew, Leni grows closer and closer with him, finding in him a first best friend and first love all at the same time.

For Leni, the dangers outside of the cabin and in the wilderness are much less than those she faces in her own home. As the years pass and Leni grows up, she and her mother are both terrified to stay, and terrified to leave, knowing that Ernt will track them down no matter what. Now, at the age of 18 and graduating from high school, Leni dreams of going to college with Matthew and studying photography. However, her father forbids her from leaving Kaneq, in his mad fury to control each and every move she and her mother make. He even goes as far as to build a wall, locking the family on their property and locking everyone else out. A horrific tragedy strikes as Leni is finally able to make an escape, and what happens after will keep readers on the edge of their seats through a roller-coaster of fear, guilt, regret, love, and longing.

Hannah’s description of the land and stark beauty of Alaska are breathtaking. The author’s notes explain that Hannah’s own father ended up in Alaska in search of great adventure, and they have all “fallen in love with the Last Frontier.” Her experience with Alaska is evident in the atmospheric scenes throughout the novel. The writing is raw and real. Readers will feel the naked fear and loneliness of Leni and Cora as they struggle to survive in the great alone of Alaska, trapped in a family crisis with no easy way out. I couldn’t put this book down, much like my experience with all of Hannah’s novels. The fact that the setting for this novel was very personal for Hannah made it even more enjoyable for me as the reader. I would highly recommend The Great Alone to anyone who enjoys adventure, suspense, romance, and coming-of-age novels, because this one has it all.

Thank you to St. Martin’s Press for the review copy of this title.

 

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Us In Progress by Lulu Delacre

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I’m very fortunate to have received a complimentary copy (from the author) of Us In Progress by Lulu Delacre in exchange for a book review for Multicultural Children’s Book Day. You can read all about MCBD below.

Us in Progress is a middle grade fictional collection of short stories about young Latinos living in the United States. Not only are the stories beautifully written, but Delacre’s illustrations of each Latino teen shown in black and white are breathtaking. The illustrations really help the stories to come to life. Delacre seamlessly blends Spanish words and phrases into each short story text, creating a rich multicultural reading experience. The back of the book includes a glossary with translation for all the Spanish words and phrases.

To add to the unique nature of Delacre’s story collection, each story has an accompanying refran, which are “Spanish sayings widely used throughout Latin America and often sprinkled in conversation. It takes less time to use a refran to make a point than to find the right words to explain a complex situation (ix-x, Delacre).” A listing of each refran and their meanings is included at the end of the book. Delacre encourages readers to think about each story and how the corresponding refran fits the relationships depicted in the story. There is a fine mix of male and female characters in this book, which appeal to both male and female readers. My personal favorite story is “Selfie,” in which a young Latino girl, Marla, gathers the courage to obtain a bicycle and start biking in order to better her lifestyle and appearance. Along the way, she develops a higher self-esteem, new friends, and respect from her family and friends. It is a beautiful story of perseverance and determination.

Though intended for readers ages 8-12, Us In Progress is an inspiring, moving short story collection that will spark discussion for young adults and adults of all ages. I would highly recommend it for all public and school libraries to add to their collection.

 

Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2017 (1/27/18) is in its 5th year and was founded by Valarie Budayr from Jump Into A Book and Mia Wenjen from PragmaticMom. Our mission is to raise awareness of the ongoing need to include kids’ books that celebrate diversity in home and school bookshelves while also working diligently to get more of these types of books into the hands of young readers, parents and educators.

MCBD 2018 is honored to have some amazing Sponsors on board. View our 2018 MCBD Medallion Sponsors here: http://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com/2106-sponsors/mcbd2018-medallion-level-sponsors/
View our 2018 MCBD Author Sponsors here: http://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com/2106-sponsors/2018-author-sponsors/

We’d like to also give a shout-out to MCBD’s impressive CoHost Team who not only hosts the book review link-up on celebration day, but who also works tirelessly to spread the word of this event. View our CoHosts: http://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com/about/co-hosts/

TWITTER PARTY Sponsored by Scholastic Book Clubs: MCBD’s super-popular (and crazy-fun) annual Twitter Party will be held 1/27/18 at 9:00pm.

Join the conversation and win one of 12-5 book bundles and one Grand Prize Book Bundle (12 books) that will be given away at the party! http://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com/twitter-party-great-conversations-fun-prizes-chance-readyourworld-1-27-18/

Free Multicultural Books for Teachers: http://bit.ly/1kGZrta

Free Empathy Classroom Kit for Homeschoolers, Organizations, Librarians and Educators: http://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com/teacher-classroom-empathy-kit/

Hashtag: Don’t forget to connect with us on social media and be sure and look for/use our official hashtag #ReadYourWorld.

When Mother Read Aloud by Katie Andrews Potter

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When Mother Read Aloud: The Life Story of Almyra King Holsclaw by Katie Andrews Potter is a true labor of love and family heirloom for generations to come. Almyra King Holsclaw is the great-great-great grandmother of author and family historian, Katie Andrews Potter. Almyra was born in Jennings County, Indiana in 1842, living her entire life as a Hoosier. The text is based from a manuscript dictated by Almyra King Holsclaw around the year 1930 to her daughter, Bertha. Potter has edited the historical information into more of a picture book story format, as well as added a detailed biography section.

The story section of the book has beautiful art illustrations completed by five high school students. The quilted border around the pages in the front section are a reproduction of an actual quilt that Almyra made, which is shown in pictures later on in the book. Potter’s writing style transports readers into pioneer Indiana life, with vivid descriptions of nature, wild game, forests, a pioneer home, cooking, weaving, sewing, social gatherings, church, stories and recollections, and the importance of family.

The biography section contains many historical family photos and even postcards written in 1924 and 1925. Almyra’s biography is well written and easy to follow. Included is a poem from her daughter, Bertha, entitled “When Mother Read Aloud,” which explains the reasoning for the title of Potter’s book. The unique format for the book with one part dictated story and the other fact-filled biography is pleasing and interesting to readers of all ages. Potter’s sources of information and photos are well-documented in a Works Consulted section at the end of the book. In her Author’s Note, Potter explains that her love for stories of our ancestors came from her grandmother and that her lifelong dream was to create a children’s picture book. She has done a fabulous job of just that, and I’m certain that Almyra would be very proud.

Thank you to Katie Andrews Potter for allowing me to review her wonderful tribute to her family’s rich history. Katie blogs about family history at katieandrewspotter.comI would encourage you to visit her there for more stories.

Blood and Ink by Stephen Davies

9781580897907_34ab1First appeared in School Library Journal, July 2017.

Though both raised in the Fulani tribe, teens Ali and Kadi are like oil and water when their paths cross in the midst of political turmoil in their home of Timbuktu, Mali. Religiously strict Ali belongs to the Defenders of Faith, a branch of Al Queda. His current assignment is to take control of Timbuktu, destroying any opposition in the way. Equally strict, brave, and feisty is Kadi, a lover of music and literature and the daughter of a librarian. As a Guardian, Kadi must keep ancient manuscripts safe at all costs. While trying to flee Timbuktu with the manuscripts, Kadi ends up in mortal danger. Ali must choose where his true loyalty lies. The ending is abrupt, but hopeful, and it begs for a sequel. Modern-day Timbuktu is brought to life in this timely, fast-paced story of teens falling in love despite being at war with each other. Historically rich background and Islamic culture combine, providing two perspectives on the war in Mali. The drama unfolds in alternating points of view between well-developed characters with multicultural subject matter that is unique, but relevant to current events.  Davies’ writing is authentic, because he spent over a decade with the Fulani tribe. Both a glossary and a fact & fiction section are included to enhance reader’s understanding and provide factual background of Islamic practices. VERDICT: Readers will enjoy the well-drawn characters and fast-paced action of this diverse YA thriller with a hint of romance.

Books Read in 2017

Happy New Year! 2017 was a year filled with some awesome books! Many include links to my reviews (without spoilers). I read a total of 102 books, so my 2018 goal will be 103. Thanks for reading and following my blog. Blessings to all of you for 2018!

Laura

 

January

  1. Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough
  2. Four Weeks, Five People by Jennifer Yu
  3. The Captain’s Kid by Liz Coley
  4. The Orphan’s Tale by Pam Jenoff
  5. Stitches by David Small
  6. The Auschwitz Escape by Joel C. Rosenberg

February

  1. One Perfect Lie by Lisa Scottoline
  2. The River at Night by Erica Ferencik
  3. Welcome to the Slipstream by Natalka Burian

March

  1. Map of the Heart by Susan Wiggs
  2. The Zookeeper’s Wife by Diane Ackerman
  3. The Way I Used to Be by Amber Smith
  4. Starr Fallby Kim Briggs
  5. What to Say Next by Julie Buxbaum
  6. The Breakdown by B.A. Paris
  7. Saving Red by Sonia Sones
  8. The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel
  9. Mischling by Affinity Konar
  10. Unraveling Oliver by Liz Nugent

April

  1. Saving Sophie by Sam Carrington
  2. A List of Cages by Robin Roe
  3. I Found You by Lisa Jewell
  4. The Sunshine Sisters by Jane Green
  5. Part of the Silence by Debbie Howells
  6. Blood and Ink by Stephen Davies

May

  1. The Girl Before by JP Delaney
  2. Wires and Nerve by Marissa Meyer
  3. To Stay Alive by Skila Brown
  4. Up From the Sea by Leza Lowitz
  5. The Identicals by Elin Hilderbrand
  6. Beneath Wandering Stars by Ashlee Cowles
  7. As She Fades by Abbi Glines
  8. The Lost & Found by Katrina Leno
  9. The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Mathieu
  10. The Map That Leads to You by JP Monninger
  11. Come Sundown by Nora Roberts
  12. Into the Water by Paula Hawkins
  13. All We Have Left by Wendy Mills
  14. Sweet by Emmy Laybourne

June

  1. Burn Baby Burn by Meg Medina
  2. People Who Knew Me by Kim Hooper
  3. Nantucket Nights by Elin Hilderbrand
  4. The Choices We Make by Karma Brown
  5. All the Summer Girls by Meg Donahue
  6. The Blue Bistro by Elin Hilderbrand
  7. Summer People by Elin Hilderbrand
  8. The Love Season by Elin Hilderbrand
  9. Beautiful Day by Elin Hilderbrand
  10. The Late Show by Michael Connelly
  11. The Long Road Home by Tawni Waters
  12. Camino Island by John Grisham
  13. Here and Gone by Haylen Beck
  14. The Captain’s Daughter by Meg Mitchell Moore
  15. Summer Secrets by Jane Green
  16. Home Again by Kristin Hannah
  17. Saving Grace by Jane Green
  18. The Bright Hour by Nina Riggs

July

  1. What She Knew by Gilly McMillan
  2. The Girl in Times Square by Paullina Simons
  3. Watch Me Disappear by Janelle Brown
  4. Once and For All by Sarah Dessen
  5. Love and Other Alien Experiences by Kerry Winfrey
  6. Best Friends Forever by Jennifer Weiner
  7. It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover
  8. The Alice Network by Kate Quinn
  9. Fly Away Home by Jennifer Weiner
  10. Hello, Sunshine by Laura Dave
  11. Then Came You by Jennifer Weiner
  12. The Summer House by Hannah McKinnon
  13. The Snowman by Jo Nesbo
  14. Unsub by Meg Gardiner
  15. Make Your Bed by Admiral William H. McRaven
  16. Not a Sound by Heather Gudenkauf
  17. Every Last Lie by Mary Kubica

August

  1. Phantom Instinct by Meg Gardiner
  2. Don’t Let Go by Harlan Coben
  3. Give Me The Child by Mel McGrath
  4. A Drop of Night by Stefan Bachmann
  5. Dan vs. Nature by Don Calame
  6. Crisis Shot by Janice Cantore

September

  1. Where I Live by Brenda Rufener
  2. I Will Always Write Back by Caitlin Alifirenka and Martin Ganda
  3. Without Merit by Colleen Hoover
  4. Ghosts in the Fog by Samantha Seiple
  5. The Demon Crown by James Rollins
  6. Winter Solstice by Elin Hilderbrand
  7. Confess by Colleen Hoover

October

  1. Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart
  2. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
  3. Turtles All the Way Down by John Green
  4. The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
  5. The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks
  6. November 9 by Colleen Hoover

November

  1. The Magnificent Life of Esme Wells by Adrienne Sharp
  2. The Rooster Bar by John Grisham
  3. There’s Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins
  4. Always, Forever, Maybe by Anna Mrose Rissi
  5. Fifteen Words by Monika Jephcott Thomas
  6. Ugly Love by Colleen Hoover

December

  1. My Name is Venus Black by Heather Lloyd
  2. Anatomy of a Scandal by Sarah Vaughan
  3. Love Songs & Other Lies by Jessica Pennington