Categories
Children

The Doughnut Fix by Jessie Janowitz, A #Cybils finalist

The Doughnut Fix by Jessie Janowitz

 

This Cybils Middle Grade finalist was a fun book! A boy and his family leave New York City (but why tho) and head toward rural upstate New York so their parents can live out their dream. Meanwhile, Tristan and his siblings adapt to life away from the big city. Tristan becomes obsessed with the local (mean) lady’s donuts and he learns how to make them in hopes to open a donut stand. There’s baking, friendship, sibling fun and kooky new neighbors.  Great easy read for middle grade. There’s no diversity that I can find but its a fun read.

Categories
Books Reviews Young Adult

Book Review: Freshman Year and Other Unnatural Disasters by Meredith Zeitlin

Freshman Year and Other Unnatural Disasters by Meredith Zeitlin

Amazon.com Synopsis:

“Laugh-out-loud funny high school drama – perfect for fans of Lauren Myracle and Meg Cabot

Let’s say you’re fourteen and live in New York City. You’d think your life would be like a glamorous TV show, right? And yet . . . You don’t have a checking account, much less a personal Black American Express card. You’ve never been to a club, and the only couture in your closet is a Halloween costume your mom made from an old laundry bag.

In other words? You’re Kelsey Finkelstein – fourteen and frustrated. Every time she tries to live up to her awesome potential, her plans are foiled. Kelsey wants to rebrand herself for high school to make the kind of mark she knows is her destiny. But just because Kelsey has a plan for greatness . . . it doesn’t mean the rest of the world is in on it.

Kelsey’s hilarious commentary and sardonic narration of her freshman year will have readers laughing out loud – while being thankful that they’re not in her shoes, of course.”

If I were a teenager today I would probably be a lot like Kelsey Finkelstein.  Or at least want to be her friend.  The fourteen year old heroine in Freshman Year and Other Unnatural Disasters, by Meredith Zeitlin is an endearing young lady with an acerbic wit and a knack for laughing off embarrassing moments.  To be sure, Kelsey has a healthy sense of her abilities and what she wants out of life; but not in a bad way.

Unlike many teen heroines, Kelsey does not seek the company of a vampire.  Nor does she use her acerbic wit to verbally attack anyone, unless they deserve it.   Kelsey has never killed anyone, nor has she covered up a murder.  She is not ruthless in her social climbing and doesn’t secret off to an unknown parallel universe.

What Kelsey does do, is get herself into embarrassing situations, much like any normal fourteen year old would.  Kelsey also dreams about boys, dates boys, talks about dating boys, talks with her besties about boys and disobey her parents (to see boys).

I like Kelsey. You can’t help but like her.  Zeitlin infuses the character with just enough positive self esteem to allow the character to laugh at her own flaws but not become so self absorbed that she has no room to consider other’s feelings.  I also like Kelsey because she’s Jewish.  While not so blatantly New York Jewish, like Fran in The Nanny, she’s enough to make her a positive multicultural character.

I would like to have seen a little more of Kelsey’s Jewish customs in the story, other than the quick mention of helping the family write Chanukah cards and a brief mention of cousin Lainie’s upcoming Bat Mitzvah. I feel as if exploring these details a little further would give Kelsey a little more depth, but that is merely my personal preference.

Cheers to Zeitlin for providing a protagonist that appeals to young women of other faiths and ethnicities.  Zeitlin’s Kelsey made me chuckle out loud.  She also reminded me not to insist on too many “mother-daughter” moments because that would be Typical Lame Parent Behavior.

Need an additional laugh? Check out the trailer!

I give this book 4 paws!

 

 

 

*DISCLAIMER: I received this book from the publisher to assist in my review. All opinions are my own.*

Stay tuned for my SPECIAL interview with Meredith Zeitlin! woo hoo!

Categories
Diversity Reading Challenge Young Adult

CYBILS Finalist: Shadow Shaper by Daniel Jose Older

CYBILS Finalist: Shadow Shaper by Daniel Jose Older

Shadow Shaper by Daniel Jose Older

 

This lovely title was my personal favorite but sadly didn’t win the Cybils award. Don’t despair Daniel Jose Older, cuz it made it to the final round and that’s VERY impressive!

There is so much to love about Shadowshaper, and prolly DJO (Daniel, call me, you can be my new boo) so I’ll dive in.  Excellent diversity: black and latino characters, in and around Bed Stuy NYC. Smart characters, witty, personable, LGBT representation, hipsters, etc. fairly a-typical depiction of Hispanic teens. The kids in this story are smart and funny and their very quick one liners kept me in stitches.  They SLAY!

The Shadowshaper bit was an interesting twist. Some people can see these supernatural ghost type creatures and make them bend to their will, in a good way. So there’s some kind of revolution going on in this ghost world and it manifests in the artwork around the neighborhood. Our heroine is an artist and I think most of her friends are artsy in some sort of way? And so when the art starts crying and disappearing (I know right?) the kids need to figure out what’s going on.

There are dark family secrets and dying grandfathers with coded messages and danger. Lots of weird supernatural danger.

It’s all good.

Even though this title didn’t win the Cybils Award it’s still a great read for kids who want to see more people of color.  Given that the protagonists are African American and Latino American this title will also count toward the Diversity Reading Challenge for its diversity!

Categories
2015 Diversity Reading Challenge Books

The Only Ones by Carola Dibbell a ListenUp Audio review

Every once in a while a book comes along and BAM! You lose your mind over it.  That’s what happened to me with The only Ones by Carola Dibbell. The gracious folks at ListenUp audiobooks shared this little gem with me and I’m smitten. SMITTEN!

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Please don’t let the cover throw you off.  If you like spec fic like I do, this is the book for you! Young Inez lives in a post apocalyptic New York City where people are dying from diseases. Check it out:

Inez wanders a post-pandemic world, strangely immune to disease, making her living by volunteering as a test subject. She is hired to provide genetic material to a grief-stricken, affluent mother, who lost all four of her daughters within four short weeks. This experimental genetic work is policed by a hazy network of governmental ethics committees, and threatened by the Knights of Life, religious zealots who raze the rural farms where much of this experimentation is done.

When the mother backs out at the last minute, Inez is left responsible for the product, which in this case is a baby girl, Ani. Inez must protect Ani, who is a scientific breakthrough, keeping her alive, dodging authorities and religious fanatics, and trying to provide Ani with the childhood that Inez never had, which means a stable home and an education.

So…Inez makes a living as a test subject.  She’s kind of like a hooker for genetic material.  Unreal! There’s talk of genetic testing the likes you can only dream of: cloning, test tube babies, etc, it’s VERY CLEVER! Inez becomes a good mother. No wait, scratch that and EXCELLENT mother and is tender, funny, and oh so relatable. I mean, who knows what the heck they’re doing when they first become a parent?

Inez appears to be of Hispanic descent, although she doesn’t know her true identity. Inez is named after the bus stop where she was found and the last name of the woman who cared for her: Inez Casina Fardo. Excuse the spelling but I love the idea of where the name comes from. After all, what’s in a name? An atypical Hispanic woman? Definitely a Diversity Challenge book!

The best bit about the audiobook is the narrator. She has this New York accent that at times grates my nerves so bad (as many NY accents do) but is so believable I can’t imagine the book being read in any other voice. Period.

This book ranks right up there with Ready Player One for me. Plus, it’s not that difficult to imagine a post pandemic NYC.

Categories
Adult Fiction Books

Towne Book Center Book Club pick: Still Life with Breadcrumbs

Still Life with Breadcrumbs by Anna Quindlen is this month’s book club pick for Towne Book Center and Cafe book club. it’s my first time reading anything by Quindlen. I know she’s a prolific author and her autobiography is popular. As I’m not a fan of non-fiction, especially biographies,  I was glad to hear that this was fiction.

Still Life with Bread Crumbs by Anna Quindlen

 

Still Life with Bread Crumbs begins with an imagined gunshot and ends with a new tin roof. Between the two is a wry and knowing portrait of Rebecca Winter, a photographer whose work made her an unlikely heroine for many women. Her career is now descendent, her bank balance shaky, and she has fled the city for the middle of nowhere. There she discovers, in a tree stand with a roofer named Jim Bates, that what she sees through a camera lens is not all there is to life.

Brilliantly written, powerfully observed, Still Life with Bread Crumbs is a deeply moving and often very funny story of unexpected love, and a stunningly crafted journey into the life of a woman, her heart, her mind, her days, as she discovers that life is a story with many levels, a story that is longer and more exciting than she ever imagined.

Now I don’t know about you, but this blurb doesn’t work for me. It doesn’t tell me much about the book and what the point of it is. Sadly, after reading it (it’s a light quick read if that’s what you need) the book doesn’t tell you much about what the point of the story is either.

So Rebecca is a rich divorced socialite in NYC. She takes a cottage in the woods to do some soul searching I guess, and perhaps to take more of the photos that have made her famous. Along the way she ingratiates herself into the small town near the cottage. She’s a big deal and the folks kinda grow on her.

Meanwhile, Rebecca is sandwiched between her adult son and her elderly parents. There’s little emotion in any of the story and the stuff that’s really good, like everyone’s back story, gets the short shrift and your left with tidbits of information about why everyone is who they are. I’m not even sure about Rebecca and why she is the way she is. I guess I’m supposed to feel sorry for her because she’s single and has to support herself but I find myself not caring; mostly because she’s subletting her fabulous apartment in New York and doesn’t want to sell it. If you’re that hard up for money, honey, sell it!!

The narrative is disjointed at times and I can’t tell who is speaking or what she’s speaking about. Anyway, the end wraps up nicely. Too nicely, actually and she ends up being ok. Drink a bottle of wine with this book and it’s a great filler or even a light summer read: not too heavy.

Have you read any of Quindlen’s other books? What did you think?

Categories
Books Conferences

Is BEA all Fun and Games? YES! and No. It’s Hard Work

BEA is HARD WORK! You on on stage and live practically 24 hours a day; either chatting with your roommate, standing inline and meeting people while waiting for authors, or doing the 4 million other activities that happen during this busy week. To be sure, it’s fun but it’s hard work having that much fun.

I should know.

beagoodtimes.jpg

 

But you know what? I wouldn’t have it any other way. What’s your favorite conference to attend?

 

 

 

 

 

Categories
Conferences

Looking back on BEA 2013

If you haven’t heard, this week is BEA: Book Expo America, the biggest bookish event in the US.  I’m away this week attending the event, making new friends and learning lots of new skills. I will share updates on my FB page, Twitter, and Instagram, but meanwhile, please enjoy some highlights from last year’s trip.

BEA2013Collage.jpg

As you can see, I met with EVERYONE!! It was great fun and exhausting. Let’s see there was: Rick Yancy, Veronica Roth, Jacqueline Woodson, Jan Brett (I know!!), Sarah Dessen, Andrea Cremer, and oh, I don’t know, John Lewis. Most importantly? I got to hang with my old friends!

 

Categories
Blogging from A to Z Challenge Books Children

It Starts with U #AtoZ Challenge

U

 

Lots of books start with U don’t they?  Here’s one that’s new and peculiar.  Did you ever go digging around in your grandparent’s stuff and wonder if any of it is valuable?

UNDERTHEEGG

Have you ever watched Antiques Roadshow and thought: I’ve got junk like at in my attic!  If you have, then you might like Under the Egg:

When Theodora Tenpenny spills a bottle of rubbing alcohol on her late grandfather’s painting, she discovers what seems to be an old Renaissance masterpiece underneath. That’s great news for Theo, who’s struggling to hang onto her family’s two-hundred-year-old townhouse and support her unstable mother on her grandfather’s legacy of $463. There’s just one problem: Theo’s grandfather was a security guard at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and she worries the painting may be stolen.

With the help of some unusual new friends, Theo’s search for answers takes her all around Manhattan, and introduces her to a side of the city—and her grandfather—that she never knew. To solve the mystery, she’ll have to abandon her hard-won self-reliance and build a community, one serendipitous friendship at a time.

 

I know, sounds awesome right? What if the painting WAS stolen from MOMA?  A great adventure set in one of the best museums on the planet!

So tell me, what’s your fave museum? Mine happens to be the Louvre in Paris.  Yours?

Categories
Young Adult

King of Angels by Perry Brass an LGBT Story

As most things happen around here, I stumbled upon my acquaintance with Perry Brass by serendipity. As you know, I have a soft spot for the underdog and the LGBT population is no different. I find that these kids want very much to be included in the conversation when it comes to Young Adult novels. I’ve been fortunate enough to review some of the more mainstream titles but we still have a long way to go in reaching those kids.

That’s where Perry comes in! I’m featuring his book but I must warn you it is NOT for children.  The book is called King of Angels: A Novel about the Genesis of Identity and Belief. It’s a coming of age tale that describes cruelty against children and Jews and is strongly homoerotic.  The main character is gay, attends Catholic school and lives in Savannah in the early 1960s.  Imagine what a struggle this kid had? I want to feature this book in the hopes that you will find that there are indeed books that include you.  And if not, you can write your own!

King of Angels

 

We all struggle to discover who we are and where we fit in. LGBT teens are no different.

I hope this gets into the hands of a kid who needs it.

Live in the NYC area? This weekend Perry and other members of the LGBT community will hold the Rainbow Book Fair!

Rainbow Book Fair

 

 

It sounds like a lot of fun, I really really really hope to be able to pop up Saturday afternoon after work to check it out and see if I can make some new friends. Unless, I can figure out how to be in two places at the same time…

 

Categories
Books

Seven for a Secret by Lyndsay Faye and Giveaway!

Seven for a Secret
Well what can I say about Seven for a Secret except that I love it long time! To be sure, I liked  Gods of Gotham but I love Seven for a Secret even more! Seven is the follow-up to Gods  of Gotham. In Seven for a Secret our beloved Timothy Wilde is back. Copper starred Tim is discovering new and nefarious  crimes in New York. Tim learns that his nemesis, Madam Silkie  Marsh, a mab, is inextricably involved in even more heinous crimes. Silkie  has become  the Voldemort of 1847 New York City; everywhere you go, she has minions doing her evil work.
Our lovable Tim  is a lovable and unreliable narrator which is at times difficult to stomach. Through his unreliable recollections we learn that his beloved Mercy is in London and that his brother, Valentine, may or may not be a bad guy. Within the story we learn of slave trading, sodomy,child abuse, politics, art theft, and even the underground railroad. There is just so much crime going on in New York it’s difficult to imagine that the same city that we love today had such humble (and nefarious) beginnings.
I can’t wait to see what happens to Tim in the next installment. How much more depravity can one city handle? Be leery for the next book!
Now for something fun: a GIVEAWAY! The chaffey moll Lyndsay, in an effort to avoid a scrapp with me has offered a signed copy of Seven for a Secret for me to giveaway! Don’t look at me cutty-eyed, it’s not a hummer; it’s totally true. You don’t even hafta be on the muscle or get into a mitten-mill.  Enter to win below…

Click this link to enter: https://promosimple.com/ps/244f