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American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins

Source: Publisher
Hardcover, 400 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins is a roller coaster of emotions, but provides a fictionalized look at the journey migrants endure to escape the horrors of their homes and the people that seek to murder, rape, conscript, or abuse them. Many migration stories speak to the economic conditions of the homeland or the volatile political world, but few take us into the emotional world of the migrants’ journey to the United States.

Lydia and Luca emerge from the most tragic day of their lives running for safety. Safety is not their home or another relative’s home in Mexico, but across the border into the United States where the cartel Los Jardineros cannot reach. These are the faces of migrants. Not drug dealers, not rapists, and not criminals, but honest people forced to flee their home because suddenly the cartel is at their door thirsting for blood.

Lydia and Sebastian would have been considered to be well off compared to others in Acapulco. She owned a bookstore, and her husband was a journalist. Although many of his articles were published anonymously, anonymity only works so far when your writing about the cartel Los Jardineros. Their son, Luca, is a typical 8-year-old who loves to play, but he’s also very smart about geography. But their relatively quiet life is obliterated in one moment.

In heart-stopping detail, Cummins endears Lydia and Luca to her audience. They are real people, fleeing real dangers. They just want to live beyond today. As citizens of the United States, it is hard for us to imagine leaving all we know behind and living elsewhere because we have no choice. This is precisely why these fictional migrants are so important. They provide us a window into the many individual stories and experiences of migrants who cross the U.S. border, and what we see will not only shock us awake, but force us to revisit our prejudices and malformed notions about immigrants and why they are in the United States instead of changing things in their own countries.

“In the road ahead, two young men, two teenage boys really, tote AR-15s. Perhaps it’s precisely because that make of gun isn’t quite as prolific or as sexy as the ubiquitous AK-47 here that Lydia finds it all the more terrifying. Ridiculous, she knows. One gun will make you as dead as another. But there’s something so utilitarian about the sleek, black AR-15, like it can’t be bothered to put on a show.” (pg. 82 ARC)

There is a deep sense of powerlessness but also a determination to retrieve some power over their own lives. As Lydia and Luca cross paths with other migrants, the picture becomes more detailed, more graphic, more upending. Even Lydia must come to terms with her own perceptions and pities she had for migrants…those views she had before she was forced to become a migrant herself. Her life as a bookstore owner, reader, middle-income mother blinded her in many ways to what was right in front of her until it is already too late. Much of her blindness is due to her inability to resist the charm of an educated reader, someone who clearly sees in her prey to be captured. The decisions she makes from the moment of tragedy until the end of the novel are governed by a her new perspective. Never take a mother’s love for granted; it is a powerful force.

Migrants from Mexico and Central America struggle to make it to the United States, many atop La Bestia. They face starvation, dehydration, robbery, rape, murder, human trafficking and so much more, as the cartels continue to carve up these countries and sell their people to the highest bidder. IS America the sanctuary that many migrants believe it to be? No. But Cummins highlights those moments too in the stories Lydia is told from migrants returning home and those returning to the United States even though they were kicked out. With American dirt in the title, readers must reconsider what “American” means. Not all of the dirt/borders are considered American in the United States, yet residents of North and South America are all American.

American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins is the “IT” book for 2020 and without question all of the hype and praise is well deserved. This book has so many layers and would be a fantastic pick for book clubs everywhere. It is life changing; it is a book to open the eyes of the “America” we want to be to the eyes of the America we are. We are all American, regardless of the country in which we live or which country we came from.

RATING: Cinquain

***If you are in the Gaithersburg, Md., area, please join us for our first book club. American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins was selected as the first book for Gaithersburg Reads, a community book club read.

***Our big, giant book discussion event with Jeanine Cummins will be on March 31st, 7pm, at Gaithersburg High School Performing Arts Center.

 

Other Reviews:

About the Author:

Jeanine Cummins is the author of four books: the bestselling memoir A Rip in Heaven, and the novels The Outside BoyThe Crooked Branch, and American Dirt. She lives in New York with her husband and two children.

Diary of a Pug: Pug’s Snow Day by Kyla May

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 80 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Diary of a Pug: Pug’s Snow Day by Kyla May is the second installment in this delightful series for early readers. My daughter loves books with mysteries and animals. This pug is adorably drawn, is curious, and loves his owner Bella so much that he’ll even risk getting wet, which he hates.

Baron von Bubbles or Bubby has no idea what snow is, but the Duchess the Cat knows a secret. Snow is wet. When Bella has a snow day from school and wants to go outside, Bubby has a decision to make. His first experience with snow does not go well, but after some careful preparation, he’s ready for his next adventure. Carefully clothed and gorgeous, Bubby ventures into the snow and finds he loves building a snow fort with Bella, loves making Pug angels, and more.

My daughter loves reading about fashion-conscious Bubby and his adventures with his bear and Bella, and we both know that Nutz the squirrel is up to no good when he offers to help. When a strange beast moves in next door, Bubby and Bella grow anxious about meeting the new neighbor on a play date later that week. My daughter and I had fun trying to guess what the beast in the next yard was, and we were both way off. But at least we know our imaginations are in tact.

Diary of a Pug: Pug’s Snow Day by Kyla May is a fantastic book that teaches kids about how to step outside their comfort zones and how to deal with anxious moments. Bubby is quite a character, like most dogs, and Bella is a sweet girl who loves her pooch. We highly recommend this series and await the next book, which doesn’t come out until July!

RATING: Cinquain

Other Reviews:

About the Author:

Kyla May is an Australian illustrator, writer, and designer. She is the creator and illustrator of Lotus Lane and Diary of a Pug, two early chapter book series. In addition to books, Kyla creates animation. She lives by the beach in Victoria, Australia, with her three daughters.

Mailbox Monday #562

Mailbox Monday has become a tradition in the blogging world, and many of us thank Marcia of The Printed Page for creating it.

It now has it’s own blog where book bloggers can link up their own mailbox posts and share which books they bought or which they received for review from publishers, authors, and more.

Leslie, Martha, and I also will share our picks from everyone’s links in the new feature Books that Caught Our Eye. We hope you’ll join us.

Here’s what I received?

My Charming Rival by Lauren Blakely, a freebie.

To do list: Graduate with honors, get into medical school, and snag the most-sought-after celebrity photo of all time to cover my tuition. One more thing — resist the hot British guy who’s my biggest rival.

But from the first day I run into William on his motorcycle, he makes that difficult, since he’s flirty, charming, clever and keeps trying to convince me to spend the night with him.

Trust me — stripping him down to nothing is on my wish list, but I can’t let him get under my skin as I chase cheating directors and stake out clandestine trysts. Yet everywhere I go, my most charming rival is there — is he following me, trying to woo me, or aiming to sabotage my plans?

When I’m offered a brand new ticket to my dreams, I have to decide if I want to team up with the sexiest enemy ever…
Except there’s a third option too–and that one’s looking mighty appealing–if I’m willing to take a crazy chance.

The Subsequent Proposal by Joana Starnes, a freebie.

A number of broken-hearted characters from Jane Austen’s best novels are thrown together by the vagaries of fate, and all manner of unwise decisions are taken at this vulnerable time. But then their past creeps up upon them – and what is there to do but face it, and hope that their convoluted paths will finally lead them to their proper place?

“Elizabeth… ” he murmured against her lips, her skin, her hair, and then her lips again. “I cannot forsake you. I cannot! I cannot bear to think of a life without you. ‘Tis not worth living, ‘tis but a slow death. I cannot lose you! I beg you, do not send me away again. I love you. Elizabeth, I love you!”

Friends, rivals, foes, wrong choices and a duel – Fitzwilliam Darcy’s life is never dull. ‘The Subsequent Proposal’ – a story that is primarily about him – follows Mr Darcy in his struggles to decipher the troubling enigma of Elizabeth Bennet’s feelings – and to correct the worst misjudgement of his life…

Mr. Darcy’s Letter by Abigail Reynolds, a freebie.

A lady’s reputation is a fragile thing. If anyone ever discovered that Miss Elizabeth Bennet had received a letter from a single gentleman, she could be ruined… or forced to marry a man she detests. In this Pride & Prejudice variation, Elizabeth takes the safer course and refuses to read Mr. Darcy’s letter of explanation. Returning home unaware of Wickham’s true nature, Elizabeth confesses everything to him, putting both Mr. Darcy and herself in grave danger from Wickham’s schemes. Note: This book contains an intimate scene between an engaged couple.

Inspiration by Maria Grace, a freebie.

Gentleman artist Fitzwilliam Darcy had never been able to express himself in words, but with his brushes and paints, he expressed what few men ever could. When his flighty muse abandons him, though, he finds himself staring at blank canvases in a world that has turned bland and cold and grey.

Worried for his friend, Charles Bingley invites Darcy to join him in Hertfordshire, in hopes the picturesque countryside might tempt Darcy’s muse to return. The scheme works only too well. His muse returns, with a vengeance, fixated upon the one young woman in the county who utterly detests him.

Will his selfish disdain for the feelings of others drive her and his muse away or can he find a way to please this woman with the power to bring color and feeling back into his world?

Christmas at Pemberley by Ola Wegner, a freebie.

We have opportunity to observe Christmas at Pemberley over the course of twenty years. From the time Fitzwilliam Darcy was just a boy, enjoying the love and attention of both of his parents and the antics of his baby sister. Through the years of darkness and struggles when he dealt with the death of his mother and father, raising Georgiana and carrying the responsibility of Master of Pemberley. To the moment when he is a mature man with a family of his own, reveling in happy existence with the love of his life and the mother of his child by his side.

A Lively Companion by Corrie Garrett, a freebie.

Book 1 of An Austen Ensemble
When Lizzy Bennet reluctantly agrees to become Anne de Bourgh’s companion on a short trip to Tunbridge Wells, she stumbles feet first into a summer of misunderstandings, revelations, and unexpected proposals.
Mr. Darcy, feeling foolish that he came to the brink of a proposal due to an arbitrary deadline, decides to accept his aunt’s request to accompany them–hoping that his decision regarding Elizabeth will make itself plain.
While Anne spends her morning dutifully drinking the famed waters of Tunbridge Wells, Lizzy is pulled further into the Darcy and de Bourgh family circle. From Darcy’s cousin, Lady Honoria, to his sister, Georgiana, Lizzy can’t help feeling that this is a family she would like, except for Mr. Darcy!
Which only makes it all the more painful when she must resolutely reject the proud head of the family…

Drift by Alan King on Audible.

“Alan King reminds us of the beauty of efficiency. His poems do not waste moments or words. These are wonderful journeys into the lives of everyone (something of you is here, I guarantee it), effortless, peaceful but powerful walks that focus upon the compassionate things: Friendship, love, family, justice, tradition. Alan King has started his own tradition in Drift, one born of his own generation but timeless and strong; a voice we should all hope will be showcased for years.” (Brian Gilmore, poet, public interest lawyer, and columnist for The Progressive Media Project)

What did you receive?

Owl Diaries: Eva’s Campfire Adventure by Rebecca Elliott

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 80 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Owl Diaries: Eva’s Campfire Adventure by Rebecca Elliott is a nice installment in the series of books that have kept my daughter excited about reading. She loves Eva and all her friends. In this book, Eva and her classmates do an overnight camping trip in the woods. Their teacher instructs them to complete a project with materials from the forest to make a useful tool by the end of the week. Eva’s classmates are quick to pair up and seek out material for their projects, but Eva and her best friend Lucy are too excited about the prospect of Nellie Wingdale’s legendary treasure.

My daughter could not wait to start this book after she received it for Christmas. I’m thankful she has more than one series of books that she loves now because there is a long wait for next owl book. She begged me to read just one more chapter on a few nights, which is why we finished this one so fast.

Owl Diaries: Eva’s Campfire Adventure by Rebecca Elliott is definitely one of our favorites in the series because the owl’s work together to find Nellie’s treasure, while striving to finish their class projects using materials from the forest. There are good lessons about cooperation and team work, as well as not taking on too many projects at once because, as Eva found out, you may fail to meet the deadline of one or more projects if you spread yourself too thin. It’s a good lesson for kids and adults.

RATING: Cinquain

Guest Post & Giveaway: Thaw by Anniina Sjöblom

I have relatives in Finland, and I often find Finish perspectives in fiction fascinating. This is probably the main reason I wanted to host Ms. Sjöblom and her book for this blog tour. It’s rare that I find a variation that’s written by someone outside the United States and Britain. I cannot wait to read this book myself, but today, I have a Character Interview to share from the author.

Stay tuned to enter the giveaway as well.

About the book:

It is a truth universally acknowledged that one false step can involve a lady in endless ruin. On a rainy November day in 1811, Miss Elizabeth Bennet finds herself wondering why no one ever bothered to tell her about this.

A few blithe steps on a morning walk, taken after a succession of rain, lead to unexpected events that irrevocably change the course of Elizabeth’s life, placing her fate in the hands of the haughty and conceited Mr. Darcy – the last  man in the world she had ever thought to marry.

As long winter days slowly pass, she writes letters to her loved ones, trying to come to terms with her new role as a wife and the Mistress of Pemberley. But can she ever learn to love her husband? Will he overcome his arrogant notions of rank and circumstance?

And most importantly – will the shades of Pemberley ever recover from being thus polluted?

Without further ado, please welcome Anniina Sjöblom:

Hello everyone—I’m glad you’ve found your way to Savvy Verse & Wit today! And thank you to Serena for inviting me to stop by here as a part of the blog tour for my new novella, Thaw!

Thaw is very much Elizabeth’s story, so to balance things out, today’s post is an interview with Mr. Darcy. When I first posted Thaw online, I wrote some spoofy diary markings by Mr. Darcy in the comment thread of the story to accompany each post. As the online versions of Thaw have since been removed, the diary markings are also a thing of the past. For today’s post, I’ve resurrected a few of them from my archives.

They’re (very) silly, rather modern and quite full of expletives—and in no way reflect the tone of the actual story. Consider yourselves warned!

****

Dear readers, with us today is Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy, of Pemberley, Derbyshire. In the wake of the recent release of a collection of private letters by his wife, Mrs. Elizabeth Darcy, Mr. Darcy has agreed to give us an exclusive interview and share a few markings from his personal diary to shed light on his perspective to the events that have unfolded.

Welcome, Mr. Darcy, and thank you for taking the time from your busy schedule to talk to us today. You are known to be a very private man. Do we have your wife to thank for the privilege of taking a peek at your private diary markings?

Well, yes. She thought it might lighten my public image. It seems she has had a bit of a difficult time convincing her friends and family that I am, in fact, someone worth her good opinion. I have not the least idea why.

Well, we thank you heartily. It seems you and your wife had some trouble communicating in the early days of your marriage? In her letters, she describes numerous occasions when you were alone in a room together but barely said a word to each other. Could you tell us of your thoughts at the time?

It is true that our marriage did not have the most auspicious of starts. At first, it seemed like even the most mundane of topics could lead to an argument. Less than two months into our marriage, I admit we were barely talking—though by that time, I found myself very much hoping that we would. But after weeks of silence, how is one to start? Here is one of my diary markings from that time:

January 25th, 1812. Made a bloody fool of myself. Again. Just stop stalking about like a useless dimwit and say it, you big idiot! How hard can it be? It is not as if things could get any worse, is it? Dear wife, have had the hots for you since I first saw you at that godforsaken assembly, and would very much like to throw you over my shoulder and carry you to bed. Plus, am reformed and love you. Most ardently. There, that wasn’t so hard, was it?

At the time, your sister Georgiana and your cousin, Colonel Fitzwilliam, were with you in Pemberley. Is it really true that you accused your wife of flirting with the colonel?

It is. Not my finest hour, to be sure. I have since come to know the error of my ways. An utterly absurd notion on my part, really. But at the time, I must admit I was quite tired and rather blinded by jealousy. I am not proud of the diary markings I made at the time:

January 27th, 1812. Burned my fingers because my damnable flirt of a cousin dared me into playing bloody snap-dragon. Wanted to throw the damn raisins at his face, but tried to act cool because the wife was present—she already smiles too much at him and not enough at me. Note to self: next time Richard comes to visit, hide the brandy. And the raisins. And the wife.

Your false assumptions led to a rather substantial disagreement between you and Mrs. Darcy, did they not?

To put it mildly. In retrospect, I have come to understand that I should have stayed at Pemberley after our fight, but I confess it was all rather too much for me. I wrote my wife a letter and fled to Chesterfield, on what I let her understand was a trip of business—but perhaps it is now time to confess that, in truth, I sat alone in an inn for a week and moped like a world champion.

January 30th 1812. Urgent business in Chesterfield, must leave immediately. Wrote the wife a letter to explain myself. Perhaps I should wait by the front door until she reads it? Maybe she will come running after me, begging me not to go? ‘Where will I go, what will I do?’ she will say. And I will coolly reply: ‘Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a crap.’ Not likely.

Well, I must say we are glad that you did not stay in Chesterfield for long. As I am sure is your wife. After your return, it seems things started to look up?

Indeed, they did. As my diary markings of the time will testify, it was not long after my return that I started to appreciate the power of a simple, honest conversation:

February 11th, 1812. Finally talked with the wife. Thank goodness. Nearly dropped off my chair when she smiled at me. At me! In your face, Richard! How could I ever think that having the wife as the mistress of Pemberley would be a bloody degradation? Badly done, Darcy. Badly done. Without her, this place would be just a pretentious, lonely pile of bricks.

Your solicitor has advised that you do not wish to talk about the ordeal between Mr. Wickham and his wife. Your wife, too, is rather vague on the subject. But could you perhaps tell us, even just briefly, what it took to solve the unfortunate situation?

I am afraid not. My wife has addressed the topic in her letters and we have agreed that it is all we wish to say on the topic. Suffice it to say that I can be quite persuasive when I want to:

March 17th 1812. Bending it like Beckham on Gracechurch Street—kicked That Bastard so hard in the butt that he flew all the way to Grosvenor Square and back. Hurt my foot in the process, but maybe that’s a good thing? If the wife sees me coming home, limping like a war hero returning from battle, maybe she’ll forget all about how much my damned pride has cost her and come running to me?

Very well, we understand. One last question, Mr. Darcy: do you still keep a diary?

Ahem. I do not. I was quite an avid writer during the early days of our marriage—and perhaps sometimes rather too outspoken and a tad too colourful—but I have since given it up. There was a bit of an incident, you see, after a particularly spirited entry on a rather private topic, that made me reconsider the wisdom of keeping a diary. I do not quite know how to explain it, but perhaps the very last marking in my diary will offer some indication of the nature of the incident:

April 1st, 1813. Dear Husband. Found your diary. I think we must talk.

Sincerely,
The Wife

P.S. If your gig really is so much better hung than the colonel's, why is it that we always use the barouche?

Thank you, everyone, for stopping by today to take part of the blog tour! If you have any wise words to Darcy, do leave them in the comments—the poor guy’s diary leaves me suspecting he might be in need of a few. Also feel free to ask me any questions—and if you want, you can look me up on Facebook.

Thank you so much, Anniina Sjöblom, for joining us today on the blog. Doesn’t this sound delightful?! Don’t forget to enter the giveaway.

About the Author:

Anniina Sjöblom lives in the beautiful but cold Finland and works in university administration. She has an MA in History and enjoys a long-standing love affair with the works of Jane Austen.

Her previous works include titles such as Thirteen Days, Fix You and When He Comes Back, published in various online Austenesque forums under the pen name boogima. The new novella Thaw, expanded from the original version of the story first published online in 2011, is her first commercially published work.

When not writing, Anniina spends her time hanging out with friends, binge-watching TV dramas and re-reading her favourite books while the stack of new ones still waiting to be read piles higher on her nightstand. She can ride a unicycle, and once, after losing an unfortunate bet, ate a bowl of ice cream with green dish soap as dressing. She does not recommend attempting it to anyone.

GIVEAWAY:

Quills & Quartos Publishing is giving away one ebook of THAW per blog tour stop.

All you need to do to enter the giveaway is comment on this blog post, and Quills & Quartos will randomly choose winners for the entire blog tour on January 22. So, make sure you join in the conversation!

Yuletide edited by Christina Boyd

Source: Purchased by my Secret Santa
Paperback, 190 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Yuletide edited by Christina Boyd includes short stories around Christmas time in Pride & Prejudice‘s Darcy and Bennet households in Regency and modern times from Amy D’Orazio, Caitlin Williams, Anngela Schroeder, J. Marie Croft, Elizabeth Adams, Joana Starnes, and Lona Manning. Each story holds true to the characters, but places them in different situations at Christmas time.

Caitlin Williams’ “The Forfeit” has Elizabeth Bennet acting as frivolous and giddy as her younger sisters as she gets ready for the local ball. Her little wager with Mr. Darcy is one that could leave her vulnerable at the hands of a wealthy man, but readers know that the wager is friendly and Mr. Darcy is a stand-up guy of character. “It was only when she was sunk deep into the iron tub that she realised she had spent the last two hours in much the same fashion as Lydia and Kitty, minus, thankfully, some very silly giggling.” (pg. 20).

Other stories in the collection find the married Darcy’s enjoying some old and new traditions, together. But one of my favorites is “The Wishing Ball” by Amy D’Orazio engages readers in a mystery where Darcy has made a wish without actually making a wish, causing some confusion to a lonely single man of great fortune. But it also provides some comedy when his sister learns about the wish inside. “‘So some other man…another man, with the initials FDG and a tendency to make the letter I like he went to prep school in England, bought this ball, wrote a wish, placed it inside, then sealed it up, and returned it. Then I, your sister, just happened to come along and buy it? That’s your hypothesis?'” (pg. 52)

All of the stories in the collection will provide readers with a glimpse of Christmas time festivities in the Darcy and Bennet houses, but they also offer a unique look at how the Christmas spirit can enable Darcy and Lizzy to rethink their behavior towards one another and learn to be more charitable and forgiving.

Yuletide edited by Christina Boyd is a delightful collection of short stories with some of our favorite Pride & Prejudice characters learning to be more patient, kind, and forgiving. It was the perfect read for the holiday season.

RATING: Cinquain

Mailbox Monday #561

Mailbox Monday has become a tradition in the blogging world, and many of us thank Marcia of The Printed Page for creating it.

It now has it’s own blog where book bloggers can link up their own mailbox posts and share which books they bought or which they received for review from publishers, authors, and more.

Leslie, Martha, and I also will share our picks from everyone’s links in the new feature Books that Caught Our Eye. We hope you’ll join us.

Here’s what I received:

The Minuteman by Greg Donahue from Audible.

Greg Donahue’s The Minuteman tells the story of one of Newark’s native sons—ex-prizefighter and longtime Zwillman enforcer Sidney Abramowitz, a.k.a. Nat Arno—who took over leadership of the Minutemen in 1934 and made it his personal business to put an end to what he saw as the homegrown Nazi movement’s “anti-American” activities. For six years, Arno and his crew of vigilantes battled Newark’s Nazis at every turn. The Minuteman is a story of the ethics of violence in the face of fascism—a forgotten legacy that is as relevant now as it was nearly a hundred years ago.

The Power of Self-Compassion by Laurie J. Cameron from Audible.

Join expert Laurie Cameron to discover tools—including meditations, exercises, journaling, and in-the-moment practices—that will help you evoke mindfulness and empathy in your everyday life in a way that it becomes your natural response—your new set of habits. As you adopt these practices, you’ll start to see a shift in how you work with stressful life events, as well as how you connect with the shared human experience of loss, challenge, and disappointment.

What did you receive?

Best Books of 2019

My list will include books not published in 2019, but ones I read in 2019. I prefer not to read only new books. I like to mix it up.

Each book will link back to my review, but I’ll also let you know why these books stuck in my mind even after I read them.

Click on the book covers, if you’d like to purchase the book via Amazon affiliate links and keep this blog running.

Top Five Fiction:

These Dreams by Nicole Clarkston is one of the most epic and tension-filled P&P variations I’ve ever read. I fell in love with Clarkston’s Colonel Fitzwilliam, and I wanted to hear more about his romance in Portugal. But beyond that, the story of Lizzy and Darcy takes on new levels as they dream about one another and their connection is even stronger than expected.

The Last Year of the War by Susan Meissner is an amazing tale about U.S. internment camps, hope in the eyes of adversity, questions about identity and how we define ourselves, and so much more. There are very few WWII books that are about the internment camps here in the United States, and this is the first one I read about that did not focus on the internment of the Japanese but on German Americans.

Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo is told in verse and is stunning in its ability to capture so much about adolescence and growing up with restrictive parents, especially when Poet X is beginning to realize how creative and talented she is. This one really spoke to the younger poet in me.

Mrs. Rossi’s Dream by Khanh Ha highlights the tragedy of war and how those that can cut the lives of loved ones short can also be the ones that provide closure to those dragged down by grief and still searching for answers.

Lucky Suit by Lauren Blakely is just one of two books in the series that had me laughing and shaking my head simultaneously. It is filled with humor and romance and listening on audio will have any romantic swoon. This one is a fun look at the role of the internet in romance, too.

President Darcy by Victoria Kincaid is a modern day P&P variation that places Darcy in the most prestigious position in America, which can be absolutely horrifying for someone who hates being in the public eye. I love that the presidential protocols are front and center and that Darcy will even flout them to gain Elizabeth’s favor, but what happens when they are thrust into the headlines will rock their worlds.

 

Top Four Poetry:

Skin Memory by John Sibley Williams is a more intimate look at identity and tragedy than the next collection on the list, which is why this one is so jarring and familiar to us all. Big themes are brought down to earth in this collection and grounded in the daily struggles we all face or have faced. I consider this part of series of poems begun in the collection below.

As One Fire Consumes Another by John Sibley Williams is a wide look at society and identity and how we sometimes fail to realize that we tear ourselves apart in the search for what is “right.” Through recent historical events, the poet requires us to scrutinize our society through a new, intimate lens and to see the path forward — one full of hope that something new and better will rise from the ashes of the old.

Nanopedia by Charles Jensen picks apart the facade of American life, taking a scalpel to our bravery and claims of diversity to find classism, bigotry, and more beneath the surface. It is another collection that examines identity — the identity of every American and of America itself.

An Everyday Thing by Nancy Richardson looks at the intersection of politics and society, with some focus on the Kent State shootings. She juxtaposes these tragic events with the idea that these are an every day thing.

 

Top Two Short Story Collections:

Were We Awake by L.M. Brown explores our own hidden lives and the lies we tell ourselves just to keep up appearances or bury the pain we feel. Funny thing about lies, they have a way of surfacing when we least expect it. I couldn’t put it down and read it in one day.

Treading the Uneven Road by L.M. Brown is a collection of short stories set in Ireland with a cast of characters who are like little puzzles to solve. Even as we follow these characters, readers come to realize that where they come from — a tiny village bypassed by progress — is slowly dying. This dying town weighs heavily on these stories and is a character who motivates Brown’s protagonists or forces them to take action.

 

Top Three Kids:

Bunjitsu Bunny series by John Himmelmann is a series of books with a zen focus for kids that allows them to rethink how they react to certain situations — whether it is bullying or just something that doesn’t come easily to them — and it helped my daughter get into a reading groove when she was really struggling. Isabel is a strong character with a lot to learn and a lot to teach herself and her classmates.

The Princess in Black and the Science Fair Scare by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale is a new series that we started reading that has colorful illustrations, action, and adventure, as well as a cast of princess who are willing to save their own school.

Pug Pals: Yay for Vacay! by Flora Ahn is the second book in a series of pug books. My daughter loved these sister dogs and their antics. This was the best of the two we read because the sisters were over their initial hangups with each other and started working together. Plus the disguises they had were funny.

 

Top Two Memoir:

Beautiful Justice by Brooke Axtell is a journey from the darkness of sexual abuse and human trafficking, but it is so much more than that. It’s a creative journey for an artist who survived a great deal more than any child should be asked to endure. She offers a lot of examples of wrong turns she took in her recovery as well as many of the right ones. Through a mix of poetry and prose, we can catch a glimpse of the pain but her story is a tale that will speak to those who have suffered. She only asks that they find the courage to heal, to tell their stories when they are ready, and to do what they feel is right. She Is Rising is an organization the helps other women and girls that were abused or victims of human trafficking.

I Can’t Make This Up by Kevin Hart is a memoir of his rise as a comedian, and although some may find his comments crass at times and his language is foul, he tells his story with humor — laughing at himself but also presenting a case for restrictive parenting and how it ultimately helped him in his career choices.

 

Top Three Nonfiction:

The Lost Books of Jane Austen by Janine Barchas was a surprisingly informative, well researched, and engaging read. I initially thought that this book would be dry, but Barchas surprised me with her ability to connect with the reader effortlessly about her search for those cheap paperbacks that helped Jane Austen’s words reach the level of fame they have today. I was particularly fascinated with how companies used Austen’s cheap books to sell soap and other things.

Green Card and Other Essays by Áine Greaney is a collection of essays about the author’s immigration experience after leaving Ireland. She speaks to the sacrifices the family made when they came to the United States for a better life, but she also speaks to the secondary motivators of leaving one’s home land — not just the economic reasons many people ascribe to immigrants.

Weird But True! USA from National Geographic Kids offers a ton of information in digestible bits for kids. This is a book that adults and kids can share and quiz each other for years to come. It was fun to read this aloud as a family and revisit some of our favorites. We all learned something new.

 

Please leave your recommendations of books you loved in 2019. I’m quite sure I missed some great reads!

The Princess in Black and the Science Fair Scare by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale, Illustrated by LeUyen Pham

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 96 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

The Princess in Black and the Science Fair Scare by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale, illustrated by LeUyen Pham, is the sixth book in the series and was a joy to read. My daughter loved the colorful pictures and the adventure story. Plus princesses that become superheroes, how could you go wrong with this one.

Princess Magnolia has a poster for the science fair, but some of her classmates have created elaborate projects including a Bucket Boosting Teeter-Totter and a volcano. A volcano that talks? That can’t be right. The princess and some of her fellow students soon realize the volcano is carrying a goo monster, who is threatening to take over the entire science fair. Princess Magnolia soon transforms into The Princess in Black and spring into action to save the school’s science fair. Lucky for her she has a few helping heroes and princesses.

These princesses are savvy and work well together under pressure. My daughter loved reading how they solved the problem and determined how best to deal with the goo monster. Don’t worry, no goo monsters were harmed (too much) in the making of this adventure.

The illustrations are vibrant and action-packed just like the story. They enhance the tale. The Princess in Black and the Science Fair Scare by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale, illustrated by LeUyen Pham, is a delightful book about the power of teamwork and how every day people can be heroes. And princesses don’t have to be rescued, but they can take action and solve problems on their own.

RATING: Cinquain

Happy New Year!

 

Here’s to a splendid 2020! Happy New Year, everyone.

First Book of The Year 2020

It’s that time of year when everyone shares their first book of 2020.

I’m cheating a bit, as I did start this book when I received the ARC this past month, but I want to get back to it. It’s not the book that stopped me from reading, it was life — the swim mom life.

So, I will be getting back to this as my first book of 2020. (drum roll, please)

What’s you’re first book of 2020?

Code This!: Puzzles, Games, Challenges, and Computer Coding Concepts for the Problem Solver in You by Jennifer Szymanski

Source: Media Masters Publicity
Paperback, 160 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Code This!: Puzzles, Games, Challenges, and Computer Coding Concepts for the Problem Solver in You by Jennifer Szymanski provides introductory information about computer science and coding, equating it to “the arts,” which can help kids see how they can use science to create. I liked this perspective in the introduction. I started out by reading the introduction myself and explaining it to my daughter in brief so she could follow along with the activities.

The text is a bit dense for my 8-year-old, but the activities are engaging enough for her education level. Some of these entry-level activities may be too elementary for older kids. To introduce kids to coding, the book explains logical thinking and why coding is necessary. It can help robots find things and decipher codes, and so much more. It was a good idea to share this with our daughter, but some of this may be more advanced than we expected.  It’s definitely a keeper.

Code This!: Puzzles, Games, Challenges, and Computer Coding Concepts for the Problem Solver in You by Jennifer Szymanski offers a lot of computer science inside concepts and activities for kids to try with their parents. On her own, our daughter would probably not have gotten very far because she’s not the right age for it. I think this would be better for older children. We still enjoyed our time with the book.

RATING: Quatrain