Monday, January 25, 2016

537 (2016 #3). One Big Family

written by Marc Harshman,
illustrated by Sara Palacios

A family reunion of various shades of redheads!  The text in this book has a repetitive format that will be easy for beginning readers to follow, and each line ends with a different verb, to increase vocabulary.  The illustrations are rendered digitally and with pen and ink, and are very realistic.

© Amanda Pape - 2016

[I received this book through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program.  It will be added to my university library's collection.]

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

536 (2016 #2). The Abbess of Whitby

by Jill Dalladay

This historical fiction work is based on the real Saint Hilda (or Hild) of Whitby, who lived c. 614–680 in what is now present-day England.  Much of her life is covered in The Ecclesiastical History of the English written by the Venerable Bede in 731 AD.

According to author Jill Dalladay, who is a classicist, historian, and Latin teacher who lives in Whitby, Bede does not speak of Hild's life between the ages of 13 and 33.  Dalladay invents a husband and child for her, surmising that a woman of royal blood would have been married off to seal an alliance, but by 33 Dalladay has her widowed.

This section of the book, as well as Hild's early years, was the most interesting to me.  Dalladay does a good job of painting a picture of what life was like in early Medieval England.

Not being very knowledgeable about this period of England's history, I had a harder time following all the names and locations in the book, even with a family tree, maps, and list of characters in the front of the book.  The last third of the novel, after Hild becomes a nun at age 33 and later an abbess, was least interesting to me.  It was far too long and could have been trimmed considerably, in my opinion. This section dragged for me and took forever to finish reading.

Nevertheless, if this is your favorite era in history, you should enjoy this novel and learning more about this saint.  The author provides additional sources for research in her note at the end of the book.

© Amanda Pape - 2016

[I received this book through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program.  It will be added to my university library's collection.]

Monday, January 18, 2016

535 (2016 #1). Dream Things True

by Marie Marquardt,
narrated by Almarie Guerra

If only one COULD dream things true....

This is beautifully-written young adult contemporary realistic fiction.  The title comes from a line in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet (Act 1, Scene 4).  Alma is an undocumented Mexican immigrant about to start her junior year at a smaller city high school in Georgia.  Evan is the nephew of the state's U.S. Senator, a country-club boy about to start his senior year and a star on the school's soccer team.  They meet and fall in love.  (And while sexual assault is another theme in the book, Alma's and Evan's relationship remains chaste.)  Complications ensue as Alma and her extended family are threatened by increasing enforcement of immigration laws.

I can't even begin to describe how much I liked this book.  The characters felt so real, especially Evan's troubled cousin Whit, the senator's son.  I cared about what was happening to all of them.  The romance felt honest, and the issues this book tackles are thought-provoking.  Definitely a book to recommend, to both young and older adults.

This is the debut for author Marie Marquardt.  She is a college professor who earned a doctorate in the sociology of religion while visiting the churches of Georgia’s Mexican immigrants (and such observations come to play in this book).  She is co-author of the nonfiction Living Illegal: the Human Face of Unauthorized Immigration, and co-founder of El Refugio, a hospitality house for families of immigrants held at the Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Georgia - both of which appear in this book.

Audiobook narrator Almarie Guerra adds a lot to this book.  Her voice for Alma sounds just as I would imagine the "real" Alma would sound, and she is perfect with accents for other Latino and Southern characters as well.

No matter what side of the immigration issue you are on (and for what it's worth, living where I do, I am not particularly on the side of undocumented immigrants), this is a book worth reading and discussing.  I will be purchasing a print copy for my library's collection.

© Amanda Pape - 2016

[I received this audiobook through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program.  It will be added to my university library's collection.]

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

534 (2015 #91). When Santa Was a Baby

by Linda Bailey and Genevieve Godbout

This is a wonderful picture book about Santa as a baby and child.  It works in all the Santa mythology as well as a subtle message that it's okay for kids to be different.

The retro-style illustrations are done with pastels and colored pencils.  This is a great addition to any family's Christmas book collection.

© Amanda Pape - 2015

[I received this book through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program.  It will be added to my university library's collection.]

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

533 (2015 #90). Eldercare in Texas

by Jenny Wilcoxson Davis

There is good advice in this book, aimed at Texas residents.  Chapters cover community resources (governmental, private, and religious), practical concerns (legal, financial, and governmental aid programs), and the continuum of care options, from family caregiving and in-home services, senior centers and adult day care, and long-term care in assisted living or skilled nursing/special care units.  There's a section on "quality of life" (residents' rights, elder advocacy, and making the most of your visits), as well as end-of-life issues (hospice services and funeral planning).

Chapters are interspersed with "points to ponder" checklists or summaries, and each chapter ends with service directories or resource lists.  Besides the table of contents, there is a helpful glossary, five appendices with further resource or contact lists, and an index.

The only problem with this book is that it was published in 2003, so resources and contacts listed may no longer be available.  The website for the book, listed on the back cover, now redirects to a home health care agency in the state.

© Amanda Pape - 2015

[This book was borrowed from and returned to my local public library.]

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

532 (2015 #89). Back in the Game

by Lori Wilde,
read by C. J. Critt

This is the first book in Lori Wilde's Stardust, Texas series, which features daughters from the Carlyle family of the mythical East Texas town of Stardust, and baseball players from the mythical Dallas Gunslingers team.  I read the second book in the series, Rules of the Game, about six months ago.

Wilde has woven fewer romance tropes (which I've italicized) into this story than some of her others I've read.  Billionaire athlete playboy Rowdy Blanton is a tortured hero, essentially having an office romance with Breeanne (who he hires to ghostwrite his autobiography), a virgin with physical scars from numerous operations for a heart condition.

Perhaps for that reason, I liked this story a little better.  Oh sure, I knew everything would work out in the end, but it was a little less predictable.  Some of the events in the story were a bit unrealistic, but it was a fun, light read.

This time I stuck with the audio version performed by actress C. J. Critt.  Her reading was fine although a bit slow, and I enjoyed her giving characters appropriate Texas accents.

© Amanda Pape - 2015

[This audiobook was borrowed from and returned to my local public library.]

Monday, November 30, 2015

531 (2015 #88). The Good Lord Bird

by James McBride,
read by Michael Boatman

This 2013 winner of the National Book Award for Fiction is sorta about abolitionist John Brown.  The main character, though, is Henry "Onion" Shackleford, who is a ten-year-old black slave in Kansas when the book opens in 1856.  His father is accidentally killed and Brown "frees" Henry, mistakenly thinking he is a girl, and nicknames Henry as "Onion" (because Henry eats Brown's lucky one).

Onion continues to pretend to be a girl over the next three years, in Kansas and in Virginia with Brown (including at the Harper's Ferry raid), and on his/her own living in a brothel in Missouri in between.

James McBride works in real historical events and people (such as Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass, both of whom actually met or worked with Brown) into his novel.  Enough so that I was compelled, as I am with any historical fiction, to find out what was true and what was not.  Onion is totally fabricated.  There isn't a lot of action in Brown's life in 1857, so Onion's sojourn that year in Missouri (a slave state at the time) provides an opportunity for insights into slavery.

McBride freely admits the book is primarily satire, and the picture he paints of Douglass in particular is not pretty (although there is speculation that Douglass had a German mistress).  The book is too long and drags a bit in places (with the scenes of the Harper's Ferry raid being especially flat).  However, I listened to the audiobook, which was extremely enjoyable thanks to the vocal talents of reader Michael Boatman, who was especially good at making "The Old Man" Brown, as Onion calls him, sound right on the cusp between religious fanaticism and abolitionist zeal.

© Amanda Pape - 2015

[This audiobook was borrowed from and returned to my university library.  An e-book for reference was borrowed from and returned to a public library.]