Posts by LibrarianLaura

MLS Librarian and Book Blogger. Wife, Mom of boys & dogs, lover of books, baking, running, and strong coffee. SLJ/LJ Reviewer. Cross Country Coach.

The Competition by Cecily Wolfe

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Originally appeared in School Library Journal, November 2018.

Grade 7 & Up: A diverse cast of characters take part in the Penultimate, an Ohio state writing competition, where 100 teens battle for a full college scholarship. Mary Sofia (a Latina) lives in a shelter. Her mother blames her for the unforgettable, tragic night her abusive stepfather was killed by her older brother Matias, as he protected Mary Sofia. She longs to visit Matias in prison, missing him dearly. Michael, Caucasian, is an introvert who excels at swimming and writing, who is instantly attracted to Mary Sofia. Camera who is shy and biracial carries a secret of being sexually assaulted during a party. Raiden is a Chinese American teen who dreams of becoming a nurse, though his father would rather he be a doctor. The four young people conveniently pair up into couples, forming a foreseeable cozy group for the remainder of the story. One of the contest themes is writing about “a defining moment,” which forces both Camera and Mary Sofia to finally come to terms with their painful pasts. The story line is realistic with hints of tame romance. After an unlikely turn of events for the new friends, the predictable yet hopeful ending offers each an unexpected chance at a brighter future. Compared to other realistic teen fiction, Wolfe’s second novel falls short in pacing and writing quality. Themes of friendship and typical teenage behaviors are represented well. VERDICT A strictly additional purchase.

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The Latecomers by Helen Klein Ross

9780316476867_f37acOriginally published in Library Journal, October 15, 2018.

In her third novel, Ross (What Was MineMaking It) weaves a tale of the wealthy Hollingworth family and a secret that spans five generations. Rich historical details bring time periods to life from early 1900 wartime to the Great Depression and all the way up to September 11, 2001. Bridey, age 16, leaves Ireland with her sweetheart, Thom, hoping to marry in America. Thom perishes of ship fever, leaving her alone and pregnant. She gives the infant up for adoption, working in a factory until she meets Sarah Hollingworth and becomes a maid at the family’s lavish estate in Wellington, CT. Sarah, who lost her mother at age 12 and then took care of her siblings, marries Edmund, but is unable to have children of her own. Readers will come to know the infant as Vincent and follow him until his adult years. Vincent’s granddaughter, Emma, loses her own father when the twin towers collapse, a repeating pattern of tragedy for the Hollingworth family. Family drama unfolds in alternating viewpoints; the characters are linked across time periods, as they navigate poverty, loss, loneliness, and heartbreak. VERDICT: Fans of historical sagas will enjoy this dramatic tale.

The Book of Joshua by Jennifer Anne Moses

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Originally published in School Library Journal, October 2018.

Gr. 9 & up: Josh, a typical Western High senior living in New Jersey, wakes up in a psych ward to a very atypical future, in which he is missing an eye as well as his girlfriend Sophie. Previously a cross-country star and popular kid, he must now retake his senior year as an overweight schizophrenic. Unable to get any truthful information from his hovering mother or therapist about the incident which resulted in his eye loss, he feels lost and trapped. To make matters worse, his younger brother Nate has become a star runner and everything that Josh used to be prior to the incident. He is forced to attend group meetings with other mental health patients when he would rather be looking for Sophie. Only when Josh starts to spend time with new girl and fellow outcast, Elizabeth Rinaldi, will he finally begin to make progress toward the truth. Readers will empathize with Josh and at the end, finally uncover the surprising truth regarding the missing eye and Sophie. VERDICT: While it provides an honest, unique view of mental health, this realistic fiction novel is light on depth and brief in plot compared to others in the genre, and therefore recommended for strictly additional purchase.

Best Rom-Com Books

Romantic Comedies

Let’s talk rom-coms. Literary rom-coms that is. I’m a huge sucker for a quick, lighthearted romance book. I’m not referring to what I would call cheesy, sappy romance (in the vein of Nora Roberts, Danielle Steel, etc.) or time period romance (i.e. the book covers with the scantily-clad women and long haired muscled man-beasts). Unless it’s Chris Helmsworth, no long hair for me please. I’m referring to the “meet-cute” type romance book that will have you laughing, crying, and swooning throughout the story. I’ve seen a trend in publishing lately where more and more books in this fun, enjoyable genre are being released, and it brings me great joy. I must read them ALL!

My Favorites – So, without further ado, here are some that I have read and thoroughly enjoyed lately:

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory

The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory

The Friend Zone by Abby Jimenez (June 11, 2019)

Fix Her Up by Tessa Bailey (June 11, 2019)

Josh & Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating by Christina Lauren

The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren (May 14, 2019)

One Day in December by Josie Silver

I Owe You One by Sophie Kinsella

One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire

Ten Tiny Breaths by K.A. Tucker

Dating You, Hating You by Christina Lauren

Love and Other Words by Christina Lauren

Roomies by Christina Lauren

Intercepted by Alexa Martin

My TBR – Here are some on my to-read list (along with their publication date if they are still forthcoming):

The Bride Test by Helen Hoang (May 7, 2019)

Fight or Flight by Samantha Young

The Wedding Party by Jasmine Guillory (July 16, 2019)

Field Notes on Love by Jennifer E. Smith

My Favorite Half-Night Stand by Christina Lauren

Meet Cute by Helena Hunting (April 9, 2019)

Fumbled by Alexa Martin (April 23, 2019)

The Hating Game by Sally Thorne

Waiting for Tom Hanks by Kerry Winfrey (June 11, 2019)

The Right Swipe by Alisha Rai (July 2, 2019)

Twice in a Blue Moon by Christina Lauren (Oct 22, 2019)

This is by no means a complete list, just some that I have read and enjoyed and some that I have flagged to read. Does anyone have any others to suggest for me, in case I finish all these in this lifetime? 🙂 Please drop them in the comments if you do!

Best wishes & happy reading,

Librarian Laura

 

 

Purple Hearts by Michael Grant

y648.jpgPurple Hearts is the final book in the Front Lines trilogy by Michael Grant. This young adult historical fiction story takes place in 1944. Though the Battle of D-Day at Omaha Beach, the Battle of the Bulge, and the depiction of German death camps is written with historical accuracy, the one twist in the story is that it takes a place in a world where women are drafted into military service right along with the men. For this reason, the series focuses on three main female characters from the first book when they start out as recruits, through the second book where they receive Silver Stars for bravery and to the final book where they have earned Sergeant status and Purple Hearts. Rio, Rainy, and Frangie (Doc) courageously fight through excruciating conditions and never-ending days of battle, in which the harsh realities of war are not sugar coated. 

Rio, a Sergeant and the first woman to receive a Silver Star recipient, has a boyfriend (an army pilot named Strand who cares more about himself than anyone else), but she begins to develop feelings for Jack, one of the soldiers under her command. This makes for a bit of romantic angst in the midst of so much war, which I rather enjoyed.

Fellow Sergeant and friend, Rainy, is undercover in Nazi-occupied France in order to get closer to the enemy and destroy some of their ammunition stockpiles. She joins forces with the maquis, forming an unlikely partnership in which the end goals are the same. Rainy is a Jewish American who is both bold and brave, not afraid of her mission at all.

Frangie Marr, known as “Doc,” is a black Army medic from Tulsa, Oklahoma. Her religious Southern upbringing bodes well for her “bedside manner” with wounded soldiers, making her a friend and favorite to many. Though she is dealing with “separate but equal” segregation back home, as a soldier she is equal, allowing her to really make a difference, saving and comforting wounded soldiers with a fierce, brave tenacity that is unparalleled.

The writing is well-researched as Grant seamlessly weaves together the narratives from Rio, Rainy, and Doc, along with some other lesser known characters that are important to the storyline. Being the final book in the trilogy, the way the author provides closure for each of the characters taking readers through to the end of the lives is well-written and most appreciated, allowing readers to see that the war wasn’t the end for these brave young women. They had so much life left to live and enjoy after serving selflessly for their country. Also included between the narratives are letters written to many of the soldiers from family members they left back home, which really brings the characters to life even more.

Even though it’s intended for a young adult adult audience, it would certainly appeal to adults who enjoy military fiction. The battles and violence are graphic and bloody and the dialogue includes quite a bit of rough language, so I would not recommend this book for younger teens or middle grades. Fans of Ruta Sepetys and Chris Lynch will enjoy this series.

A sincere thank you to the publisher for the review copy of this book.

Anna & Evan Meet Charles Darwin by Tanya Hutter and Lina Daniel

About the Book

Summary: Join Anna and Evan on a magical adventure to the Galapagos Islands where they meet Charles Darwin, discover unusual animals and learn some interesting scientific facts. This engaging and educational book is ideal for young children to encourage curiosity and interest in the natural world and science.

Title: Anna & Evan meet Charles Darwin
Author: Tanya Hutter and Lina Daniel
Illustrator: Karin Eklund
Release Date: 28th February 2019
Genre: Picture Book
Page Count: 30
Publisher: Clink Street Publishing
Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/44016125-anna-evan-meet-charles-darwin
Amazon Link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Anna-Evan-Meet-Charles-Darwin-ebook/dp/B07NJGGB5C

Tour Schedule

Anna & Evan Banner2

Librarian Laura’s Review

Hutter and Daniel’s educational picture book, Anna & Evan Meet Charles Darwin, is meant for children ages 6-9. The magical storyline is easy to comprehend, even though it is completely packed with many different animal species and facts about their habitats and characteristics. The whimsical illustrations by Karin Eklund really bring the narrative to life, as young Anna and Evan come in contact with all the animal species.

The 30 page story starts with a simple visit to the zoo for the siblings. When the children say the magical phrase and are transported from the zoo into the story, they are approached by a then stranger in the Galapagos Islands who introduces himself as Charles Darwin. This could spark some important conversation with little ones about not talking to strangers in real life, even though the characters talked to Mr. Darwin in the magical dream-like story. For children who enjoy learning about animals, this will be a big hit. It could also be used to introduce a learning unit about classification of animal species and adaptive characteristics/traits. Anna & Evan’s mother is visibly pregnant on the last page of the book, which adds an interesting layer to the story. This could spark an early and basic conversation about human reproduction or a new baby joining the family.

The book is well written and illustrated, encouraging curious kids to read and learn about the wide world around them. I would recommend it for children and adults to read together and enjoy.

Thank you to Clink Street Publishing for providing me with a review copy of this title.

News of Our Loved Ones by Abigail DeWitt

 

9780062834720_95aecOriginally published in Library Journal, August 31, 2018.

Set in the French village of Caen, Normandy during the Nazi occupation of 1944, the lives of one family and their Jewish neighbors are forever altered. Told in varying points of view and switching between past and present, it is at times difficult to determine the narrator or the time period. The war weaved together the lives of the many characters in oftentimes heartbreaking, unforgettable ways. Many lost their children and loved ones, their identities, and even the will to carry on. Central to the story are young sisters: Yvonne, Francoise, and Genevieve, children of Pauline. Genevieve is living in Paris with Pauline’s sister, Tante Chouchotte, studying violin when her family home is bombed, and only Francoise and her step-father, Oncle Henri survive. Decades later, Polly, the young daughter of Genevieve, half French, but living in America, struggles to balance two cultures and longs to know more about her French family history. Through storytelling and spending time in Brittany, she is able to better understand and appreciate her ancestry. Readers also uncover the secret, passionate love lives of both Pauline and Chouchotte. VERDICT: Recommended for additional purpose to increase a historical fiction collection, DeWitt’s third novel is far surpassed by others in the genre.