Between Shades of Gray
Book Review / November 16, 2017

Title: Between Shades of Gray Author: Ruta Sepetys Genre: Historical Fiction Publisher: Penguin Audio Release Date: March 22nd, 2011 Format: Audiobook Pages: 344 Source: Owned Lina is just like any other fifteen-year-old Lithuanian girl in 1941. She paints, she draws, she gets crushes on boys. Until one night when Soviet officers barge into her home, tearing her family from the comfortable life they’ve known. Separated from her father, forced onto a crowded and dirty train car, Lina, her mother, and her young brother slowly make their way north, crossing the Arctic Circle, to a work camp in the coldest reaches of Siberia. Here they are forced, under Stalin’s orders, to dig for beets and fight for their lives under the cruelest of conditions. Lina finds solace in her art, meticulously–and at great risk–documenting events by drawing, hoping these messages will make their way to her father’s prison camp to let him know they are still alive. It is a long and harrowing journey, spanning years and covering 6,500 miles, but it is through incredible strength, love, and hope that Lina ultimately survives. Between Shades of Gray is a novel that will steal your breath and capture your heart. (via Goodreads) Goodreads Amazon…

Call It Courage
Book Review / October 6, 2017

Title: Call it Courage Author: Armstrong Sperry Genre: Survival Publisher: Listening Library Release Date: January 22nd, 2008 Format: Audiobook Pages: 128 Source: Library First Published: 1940 A boy tries to overcome his fear of the sea in this treasured classic and winner of the Newbery Medal. Maftu was afraid of the sea. It had taken his mother when he was a baby, and it seemed to him that the sea gods sought vengeance at having been cheated of Mafatu. So, though he was the son of the Great Chief of Hikueru, a race of Polynesians who worshipped courage, and he was named Stout Heart, he feared and avoided tha sea, till everyone branded him a coward. When he could no longer bear their taunts and jibes, he determined to conquer that fear or be conquered– so he went off in his canoe, alone except for his little dog and pet albatross. A storm gave him his first challenge. Then days on a desert island found him resourceful beyond his own expectation. This is the story of how his courage grew and how he finally returned home. This is a legend. It happened many years ago, but even today the people…

The Underground Railroad
Book Review / August 9, 2017

Title: The Underground Railroad Author: Colson Whitehead Genre: Historical Fiction Publisher: Doubleday Release Date: August 2nd, 2016 Format: Audiobook Pages: 306 Source: Library Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Life is hellish for all the slaves but especially bad for Cora; an outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is coming into womanhood – where even greater pain awaits. When Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they decide to take a terrifying risk and escape. Matters do not go as planned and, though they manage to find a station and head north, they are being hunted. In Whitehead’s ingenious conception, the Underground Railroad is no mere metaphor – engineers and conductors operate a secret network of tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil. Cora and Caesar’s first stop is South Carolina, in a city that initially seems like a haven – but the city’s placid surface masks an insidious scheme designed for its black denizens. Even worse: Ridgeway, the relentless slave catcher, is close on their heels. Forced to flee again, Cora embarks on a harrowing flight, state by state, seeking true freedom. As Whitehead brilliantly re-creates the unique terrors…

Dead End in Norvelt
Book Review / July 22, 2017

Title: Dead End in Norvelt Series: Norvelt, #1 Author: Jack Gantos Genre: Historical Fiction Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux Release Date: September 13th, 2011 Format: Audiobook Pages: 341 Source: Library Dead End in Norvelt is the winner of the 2012 Newbery Medal for the year’s best contribution to children’s literature and the Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction! Melding the entirely true and the wildly fictional, Dead End in Norvelt is a novel about an incredible two months for a kid named Jack Gantos, whose plans for vacation excitement are shot down when he is “grounded for life” by his feuding parents, and whose nose spews bad blood at every little shock he gets.  But plenty of excitement (and shocks) are coming Jack’s way once his mom loans him out to help a feisty old neighbor with a most unusual chore—typewriting obituaries filled with stories about the people who founded his Utopian town. As one obituary leads to another, Jack is launched on a strange adventure involving molten wax, Eleanor Roosevelt, twisted promises, a homemade airplane, Girl Scout cookies, a man on a trike, a dancing plague, voices from the past, Hells Angels . . . and possibly murder. Endlessly surprising, this sly, sharp-edged narrative is the author at his…

Poetry on Record: 98 Poets Read Their Work
Book Review / May 31, 2017

Title: Poetry on Record: 98 Poets Read Their Work (1888-2006) Genre: Poetry Publisher: Shout! Factory Release Date: April 18th, 2006 Format: Audiobook Pages: 68 Source: Library Editor: Rebekah Presson Mosby Poetry On Record: 98 Poets Read Their Work (1888-2006) is an engrossing collection of poems read by the people who wrote them, from the dawn of sound recording to the current day. Over the course of four CDs and an info-packed book, it tells the story of the past 120 years of poetry in English, from Romanticism (Dylan Thomas) to Modernism (T.S. Eliot), from the Harlem Renaissance (Langston Hughes) to Black Arts (Amiri Baraka), from rhyme and meter (Alfred, Lord Tennyson) to free verse (Adrienne Rich), and beyond. Equally important, it allows listeners to understand exactly how the poets intended their poems to be read aloud. Poetry On Record is the most comprehensive collection of its kind and is a must-have for any fan of poetry, or for anyone who wants an expertly chosen overview as a starting point. (via Goodreads) Amazon Growing up, I did not have a particularly positive experience with poetry. It was challenging. I was frustrated with the way it was taught and how I was…

Their Eyes Were Watching God
Book Review / May 8, 2017

Title: Their Eyes Were Watching God Author: Zora Neale Hurston Genre: Classic Publisher: Harper Perennial Modern Classics Release Date: November 23rd, 2004 Format: Audiobook Pages: 237 Source: Library; Blogger Recommendation First Published: 1937 One of the most important works of twentieth-century American literature, Zora Neale Hurston’s beloved 1937 classic, Their Eyes Were Watching God, is an enduring Southern love story sparkling with wit, beauty, and heartfelt wisdom. Told in the captivating voice of a woman who refuses to live in sorrow, bitterness, fear, or foolish romantic dreams, it is the story of fair-skinned, fiercely independent Janie Crawford, and her evolving selfhood through three marriages and a life marked by poverty, trials, and purpose.  A true literary wonder, Hurston’s masterwork remains as relevant and affecting today as when it was first published – perhaps the most widely read and highly regarded novel in the entire canon of African American literature. (via Goodreads) Amazon   Wow! A HUGE thank you to Melanie @ Grab the Lapels for recommending not only this book but specifically the audiobook to me!  Winner of the Audie Award for Solo Narration – Female in 2001, listening to Ruby Dee recite Their Eyes Were Watching God was incredibly powerful. I love this book…

Mom & Me & Mom
Book Review / February 23, 2017

Title: Mom & Me & Mom Series: Maya Angelou's Autobiographies, #7 Author: Maya Angelou Genre: Memoir Publisher: Random House Release Date: April 2nd, 2013 Format: Audiobook Pages: 201 Source: Library First Published: January 1st, 2013 The story of Maya Angelou’s extraordinary life has been chronicled in her multiple bestselling autobiographies. But now, at last, the legendary author shares the deepest personal story of her life: her relationship with her mother. For the first time, Angelou reveals the triumphs and struggles of being the daughter of Vivian Baxter, an indomitable spirit whose petite size belied her larger-than-life presence—a presence absent during much of Angelou’s early life. When her marriage began to crumble, Vivian famously sent three-year-old Maya and her older brother away from their California home to live with their grandmother in Stamps, Arkansas. The subsequent feelings of abandonment stayed with Angelou for years, but their reunion, a decade later, began a story that has never before been told. In Mom & Me & Mom, Angelou dramatizes her years reconciling with the mother she preferred to simply call “Lady,” revealing the profound moments that shifted the balance of love and respect between them. Delving into one of her life’s most rich, rewarding,…

The Sleeper and the Spindle
Book Review / February 11, 2017

Title: The Sleeper and the Spindle Author: Neil Gaiman Genre: Dark Fantasy Publisher: HarperCollins Release Date: September 22nd, 2015 Format: Audiobook Pages: 72 Source: Library Illustrator: Chris Riddell First Published: May 3rd, 2014 A thrillingly reimagined fairy tale from the truly magical combination of author Neil Gaiman and illustrator Chris Riddell – weaving together a sort-of Snow White and an almost Sleeping Beauty with a thread of dark magic, which will hold readers spellbound from start to finish. On the eve of her wedding, a young queen sets out to rescue a princess from an enchantment. She casts aside her fine wedding clothes, takes her chain mail and her sword and follows her brave dwarf retainers into the tunnels under the mountain towards the sleeping kingdom. This queen will decide her own future – and the princess who needs rescuing is not quite what she seems. Twisting together the familiar and the new, this perfectly delicious, captivating and darkly funny tale shows its creators at the peak of their talents. Lavishly produced, packed with glorious Chris Riddell illustrations enhanced with metallic ink, this is a spectacular and magical gift. (via Graphic Novel Back Cover) Amazon   Recently, I needed some…

The Bad Beginning
Book Review / January 23, 2017

Title: The Bad Beginning Series: The Series of Unfortunate Events, #1 Author: Lemony Snicket (aka David Handler) Genre: Fiction Publisher: Listening Library Release Date: September 9th, 2003 Format: Audiobook Source: Library Illustrator: Brett Helquist First Published: September 30th, 1999 Dear Reader, I’m sorry to say that the book you are holding in your hands is extremely unpleasant. It tells an unhappy tale about three very unlucky children. Even though they are charming and clever, the Baudelaire siblings lead lives filled with misery and woe. From the very first page of this book when the children are at the beach and receive terrible news, continuing on through the entire story, disaster lurks at their heels. One might say they are magnets for misfortune. In this short book alone, the three youngsters encounter a greedy and repulsive villain, itchy clothing, a disastrous fire, a plot to steal their fortune, and cold porridge for breakfast. It is my sad duty to write down these unpleasant tales, but there is nothing stopping you from putting this book down at once and reading something happy, if you prefer that sort of thing. With all due respect, Lemony Snicket  (via Back Cover) Amazon   A Series…

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail
Book Review / November 21, 2016

Title: Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail Author: Cheryl Strayed Genre: Travelogue Publisher: Knopf Release Date: March 20th, 2012 Format: Audiobook Pages: 315 Source: Library At twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother’s death, her family scattered and her own marriage was soon destroyed. Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life. With no experience or training, driven only by blind will, she would hike more than a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State — and she would do it alone. Told with suspense and style, sparkling with warmth and humor, Wild powerfully captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her. (via Goodreads) Amazon   One of my best friends is a HUGE traveler. She is also quite a reader and reads a lot of travelogues. That is how I discovered Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed. My own feelings for travelogues is mixed. But, when…

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