Thursday, January 17, 2019

Review: A Spark of Light

Summary: The warm fall day starts like any other at the Center—a women’s reproductive health services clinic—its staff offering care to anyone who passes through its doors. Then, in late morning, a desperate and distraught gunman bursts in and opens fire, taking all inside hostage.

After rushing to the scene, Hugh McElroy, a police hostage negotiator, sets up a perimeter and begins making a plan to communicate with the gunman. As his phone vibrates with incoming text messages he glances at it and, to his horror, finds out that his fifteen-year-old daughter, Wren, is inside the clinic.

But Wren is not alone. She will share the next and tensest few hours of her young life with a cast of unforgettable characters: A nurse who calms her own panic in order to save the life of a wounded woman. A doctor who does his work not in spite of his faith but because of it, and who will find that faith tested as never before. A pro-life protester, disguised as a patient, who now stands in the crosshairs of the same rage she herself has felt. A young woman who has come to terminate her pregnancy. And the disturbed individual himself, vowing to be heard.

Told in a daring and enthralling narrative structure that counts backward through the hours of the standoff, this is a story that traces its way back to what brought each of these very different individuals to the same place on this fateful day.

One of the most fearless writers of our time, Jodi Picoult tackles a complicated issue in this gripping and nuanced novel. How do we balance the rights of pregnant women with the rights of the unborn they carry? What does it mean to be a good parent? A Spark of Light will inspire debate, conversation . . . and, hopefully, understanding. -- Ballantine

I'm afraid it's the second week in a row that I am reviewing a book that didn't really resonate with me. This time it's A SPARK OF LIGHT by Jodi Picoult. I will admit that I was a bit reluctant to pick up this book after learning my good friend Kathy's (aka Bermudaonion) opinion; however, I was intrigued by the idea of tackling the controversial subjects of women's rights and abortion.

A SPARK OF LIGHT tells the story of what happens one tragic day when an armed man enters a reproductive health services clinic and opens fire. The novel follows the stories of some of the people in the building that day as well as the policeman negotiating with the gunman.

Hugh McElroy is a hostage negotiator who is trying to calm down the gunman. Ironically, Hugh's teenage daughter and his older sister are actually in the center although Hugh doesn't share this with the other cops. There are also nurses, doctors, patients and even a pro-life protester in disguise whose lives are at risk!

Through the lives of the gunman, the police negotiator, and realistic people on both sides of the abortion argument, this novel explores abortion like no other novel I've read. Set in the very conservative deep south, the book also tries to balance the women's rights issues versus the religious right's beliefs about the sanctity of life. Of course, there are no easy answers to this issue of abortion; and I do believe that A SPARK OF LIGHT did a good job of featuring all sides of the argument.

However, I can't really say that I enjoyed the book. It just didn't work for me and I'm the first to admit that I might be in a reading funk because this is two books in a row that I had issues with. Having said that, I didn't really appreciate how the story was told. The chapters worked backwards in time during that tragic day, and I found it a little unsettling and sometimes confusing. Of course, it was probably the author's intent to make the book a little uncomfortable for the reader!

In addition, there were just too many characters for me to follow. I think it was around ten or so. I understand that Ms. Picoult wanted to show many sides of the story, but for purposes of this novel, it was a few to many. There were some characters that I was definitely intrigued by, and I kind of wanted more about them and less about others.

All in all, though, A SPARK OF LIGHT would make for an interesting book club pick... for certain book clubs. I'm not saying that the book doesn't address some important issues but I'm not sure I want to go there with a book club if you know what I mean! There is an excellent reading guide with nine thought-provoking questions. Some of the themes you might want to think about include women's health, privacy, strength, difficult choices, and of course abortion!

I'm not sure that A SPARK OF LIGHT is for every reader, but there's no doubt that it delves into a much-needed discussion topic.

I received an ARC of this novel at the 2018 Book Expo.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Mailbox Monday

Welcome back to another Mailbox Monday post! I had a terrific book week with lots of children's books... and two fun adult ones!
99 PERCENT MINE by Sally Thorne came from William Morrow

SOCIABLE by Rebecca Harrington came from Vintage

POLLY DIAMOND AND THE SUPER STUNNING SPECTACULAR SCHOOL FAIR by Alice Kuipers and Diana Toledano came from Chronicle Books

FREYA & ZOOSE by Emily Butler came from Crown Books for Young Readers

MAX EXPLAINS EVERYTHING SOCCER EXPERT by Stacy McAnulty came from Putnam

MOST MARSHMALLOWS by Rowboat Watkins came from Chronicle Books

ONE IS A PINATA: A BOOK OF NUMBERS by Roseanne Greenfield Thong came from Chronicle Books

RUBY'S SWORD by Jacqueline Veissid came from Chronicle Books

What was in your mailbox?

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Kid Konnection: Waiting for Pumpsie

Every weekend, I host a feature called Kid Konnection -- a regular weekly feature about anything related to children's books. This week I'm going to share with you a picture book biography that's tells a very important story.

Summary: "Change is coming real soon." In 1959 the Boston Red Sox was the last team in the Major Leagues to integrate. But when they call Elijah "Pumpsie" Green up from the minors, Bernard is overjoyed to see a black player on his beloved home team. And, when Pumpsie's first home game is scheduled, Bernard and his family head to Fenway Park. Bernard is proud of Pumpsie and hopeful that this historic event is the start of great change in America.

This fictionalized account captures the true story of baseball player Pumpsie Green's rise to the major leagues. The story is a snapshot of the Civil Rights Movement and a great discussion starter about the state of race relations in the United States today. -- Charlesbridge

WAITING FOR PUMPSIE by Barry Wittenstein and illustrated by  London Ladd received a starred review from Publishers Weekly and it's no wonder why. This picture book aimed at ages five to eight tells the story of Pumpsie Green, the first black baseball player for the Boston Red Sox, through the eyes of a young black fan.

Like many kids growing up in Boston, Bernard is a super big Red Sox fan; however, he wonders why they do not have an African American player for them like other Major Leagues teams do. He has grown up rooting for the black players on other teams, even when it's not always easy, but he really wants his home town favorite to have a black player. His parents tell him that change is coming, but he's still doubtful that it will ever happen. When the 1959 Boston Red Sox finally call up Pumpsie Green from the minor league, Bernard is thrilled... and it's even better when his father surprises him with tickets to the game!

I loved WAITING FOR PUMPSIE! It's a beautifully illustrated picture book that teaches young children about the important topic of integration. Not only is this book extremely educational from a historical perspective, but I love that it personalizes just how much this meant to African Americans at this time. In addition, it teaches readers that this transition wasn't easy for our country and many people (unfortunately) weren't accepting of these players.

By telling the story through the eyes of Bernard, I think it personalizes the story for children. It's probably hard for some children to believe that baseball used to be this way, and I think WAITING FOR PUMPSIE shows just how far our country has come... and how far it still has to go.

Another special thing about WAITING FOR PUMPSIE is that the publisher has an excellent curriculum guide available. This guide provides discussion questions with common core standards as well as activity suggestions, a cause and effect analysis worksheet, a making connections worksheet, and a timeline of events worksheet.

WAITING FOR PUMPSIE is an outstanding book that should be in every school and public library. Highly recommended!

Thanks to Blue Slip Media for providing a review copy of this book.

If you'd like to participate in Kid Konnection and share a post about anything related to children's books (picture, middle grade, or young adult) from the past week, please leave a comment as well as a link below with your name/blog name and the title of the book! Feel free to grab the little button too!

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Review: Nine Perfect Strangers

Summary: Nine people gather at a remote health resort. Some are here to lose weight, some are here to get a reboot on life, some are here for reasons they can’t even admit to themselves. Amidst all of the luxury and pampering, the mindfulness and meditation, they know these ten days might involve some real work. But none of them could imagine just how challenging the next ten days are going to be.

Frances Welty, the formerly best-selling romantic novelist, arrives at Tranquillum House nursing a bad back, a broken heart, and an exquisitely painful paper cut. She’s immediately intrigued by her fellow guests. Most of them don’t look to be in need of a health resort at all. But the person that intrigues her most is the strange and charismatic owner/director of Tranquillum House. Could this person really have the answers Frances didn’t even know she was seeking? Should Frances put aside her doubts and immerse herself in everything Tranquillum House has to offer – or should she run while she still can?

It’s not long before every guest at Tranquillum House is asking exactly the same question.

Combining all of the hallmarks that have made her writing a go-to for anyone looking for wickedly smart, page-turning fiction that will make you laugh and gasp, Liane Moriarty’s Nine Perfect Strangers once again shows why she is a master of her craft. -- Flatiron Books

I was so excited that Liane Moriarty had a new book out -- so excited that I reserved it at the library. It's called NINE PERFECT STRANGERS, and it tells the story of nine people who visit a health resort for ten days. Each of these individuals have their own reason for being there whether it be weight loss, marriage counseling, self-help, etc. However, they have no idea how difficult these ten days might be.

In theory, I figured I'd really enjoy NINE PERFECT STRANGERS. I usually love Ms. Moriarty's novels and especially her intriguing characters. However, for whatever reason (and I'm not entirely sure I know that reason), this novel didn't work for me. I didn't particularly like any of the characters and it wasn't a page turner. There were times I thought the story might be picking up, but unfortunately I just didn't "get" this book.

I think I see what Ms. Moriarty set out to do with this novel; and for many people, it probably was a great read. NINE PERFECT STRANGERS was a bestseller and chosen as an Amazon.com and Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year. So rather than delving into what I didn't like about this book, I'm just going to cut this review short. If you are interested in getting a more positive view, I suggest checking out other reviews!

While there were times when I appreciated the author's wit and satire as well as her smart social commentary, overall the book just didn't resonate with me.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Mailbox Monday

Welcome back to another Mailbox Monday post! I had a few good books arrive while I was in Florida. Even better, I managed to get quite a few books read while traveling!

MY MAGICAL UNICORN came from Abrams Kids

THE WITCHES OF ST. PETERSBURG by Imogen Edwards-Jones came from Harper Books

BLOODLEAF by Crystal Smith came from HMH Teen

IT'S NOT HANSEL AND GRETEL by Josh Funk and illustrated by Edwardian Taylor came from
Two Lions

What was in your mailbox?

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Kid Konnection: Duck & Goose A Gift for Goose

Every weekend, I host a feature called Kid Konnection -- a regular weekly feature about anything related to children's books. This week I'm going to share with you a book starring two of my favorite picture book characters.

Summary: Kids will giggle along when they learn to read with beloved picture book book characters, Duck & Goose! Tad Hills the #1 New York Times bestselling author is back with another easy-to-read story.

Duck and Goose, the stars of the New York Times bestselling picture book series including Duck & Goose, Duck, Duck, Goose and Honk! Quack! Boo! and the bestselling board books including Duck & Goose Find a Pumpkin, and What’s up Duck? return in an all-new, easy-to-read book. Duck has a very nice gift for Goose, and the perfect box to put it in… maybe it’s too perfect! With predictable patterns, simple words, lots of repetition, and bright, colorful illustrations, young readers will love this new Duck & Goose book, which they can read all by themselves! -- Schwartz & Wade

Duck and Goose are back, starring in another great book in this series by bestselling author and illustrator Tad Hills. The one is titled DUCK & GOOSE: A GIFT FOR GOOSE, and it's going to appeal to even more fans. That's because A GIFT FOR GOOSE is perfect for early readers ages four to six.

A GIFT FOR GOOSE is adorable! Duck decides to give a beautifully wrapped gift to Goose. Goose loves it so much, but he mistakenly thinks that the box is the actual gift. Duck tries to explain, but Goose is busy collecting all of his special items to keep in the box. When Goose finally understands that his gift is inside the box, he opens it to discover another fantastic surprise!

It's hard to not fall in love with these two special characters. They are too cute thanks to Tad Hills precious illustrations, and they are both so sweet and funny. I thought A GIFT FOR GOOSE had a cute ending; and it is perfect for very early readers. The text is simple, with lots of repetition; and even the youngest of readers will find satisfaction in being able to read this book independently.

DUCK & GOOSE: A GIFT FOR GOOSE is the perfect addition to an already wonderful series. Highly recommended!

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this book.

If you'd like to participate in Kid Konnection and share a post about anything related to children's books (picture, middle grade, or young adult) from the past week, please leave a comment as well as a link below with your name/blog name and the title of the book! Feel free to grab the little button too!

Monday, December 31, 2018

Mailbox Monday

Welcome back to another Mailbox Monday post! I managed to get another nice week of books, but I'm not really doing much reading right now. I am in Orlando enjoying Christmas at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and the Citrus Bowl. Hope you have a great time celebrating New Year's Eve!

WE ARE....! PENN STATE!!!!

LADY DERRING TAKES A LOVER by Julie Anne Long came from Avon Books

I (HEART) ART by The Metropolitan Museum of Art came from Abrams Books

TRUST EXERCISE by Susan Choi came from Henry Holt

DUCK AND HIPPO: THE SECRET VALENTINE by Jonathan London and illustrated by Andrew Joyner came from Two Lions

WAITING FOR PUMPSIE by Barry Wittenstein and illustrated by London Ladd came from Charlesbridge

What was in your mailbox?