Wednesday, March 7, 2018

The Book Review Club (March 2018)

Welcome to the March edition of The Book Review Club. Some of us are dealing with weather. Some of us aren't. But it's always good to learn of books others have enjoyed. Your To-Be-Read Pile can never be high enough! After my post, please scroll for links to everyone's reviews. Remember to wear green on the 17!

by Susan Hughes (author)
and Carey Sookocheff (illustrator)

A bully has popped up in my current manuscript. I decided I needed get to know her and her motivations a little better, this character that has unexpectedly taken over pages and somewhat changed the storyline (as bullies are no doubt wont to do!).

So, I read a few books about bullies, fiction and non-fiction. And today I'm reviewing a superb picture book about bullying.

What Happens Next really touched my heart. It's the story of a young boy* who dreads going to school because of Bully B who blocks his way, shoves his books, calls him names. We see how the victim sometimes feels: "Bad. Very bad." We see how the bully's friends respond: "Laugh." We see what others do: "Nothing." Eventually, the child confides in his mother who helps him plan a conversation with the bully about what the two of them, what humans, in general, have in common. And can I just say I love the unconditional love of Sparky, the dog.

*The protagonist could as easily be a girl. We don't learn the child's name. I suspect this ambiguity is intentional. After all, any gender can be bullied. At the end of the book, we do learn the bully's name.

Here's the mother explaining the bully's behavior (and this really spoke to me):
What Mom Says Next:
That everyone has their own way of looking at things and people. That each person's way of looking is made up of where they're standing and how they got there. It's made up of what's in their mind, what's in their heart, and what's in their imagination.

What Happens Next is about empathy and courage and giving power to children and finding commonalities. The ending is not pat, but, instead, encourages healthy conversation for all ages about dealing with bullies. The format is interesting. The illustrations compliment the message.

Heartily recommended. And did I find help for dealing with the bully who wandered into my work-in-progress? I did.

Here's a link to the book trailer: right here

(Dear FCC: Don't fall over in a dead faint, but I actually requested this ARC. Good thing I did because I LOVED the book. Hence, the review.) 

And now....onto the rest of our reviews. Please click through. You won't want to miss a single one!


Phyllis Wheeler: THE HOSTAGE PRINCE by Jane Yolen and Adam Stemple (fantasy)


Patti Abbott:  WOMAN IN THE WINDOW by A.J. Finn (thriller)

Stacy of the Cat's Meow: HER BODY AND OTHER PARTIES by Carmen Maria Machado 
                                         (short stories)


Ellen Booraem: BORN A CRIME by Trevor Noah (memoir)

Jenn Jilks of Cottage Country: -THE PLOT TO HACK AMERICA by Malcolm Nance (political)
                                                  -FIRE AND FURY by Michael Wolff (political)

                                THUCYDIDES'S TRAP? by Graham Allison (political)

Lucy Sartain of Ranting and Raving: THE RHINO WITH GLUE-ON SHOES
                                                            edited by Lucy H. Spelman and Ted Y Mashima (zoology)

Margy Lutz: THRU-HIKING WILL BREAK YOUR HEART by Carrot Quinn (memoir)

Ray Potthoff: LOST IN THE WILD by Cary J. Griffith  (adventure/survival)                        

Note to Reviewers: Any errors (broken link, missed review, etc), just shoot me an email or leave a comment. Thank you so much for your reviews!

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

The Book Review Club (February 2018)

Welcome to the Feb 2018 edition of The Book Review Club. THIS MONTH MARKS OUR NINE-YEAR ANNIVERSARY! Sorry. I couldn't help but yell. That's a lot of reading and reviewing! Click below my post for links to good reviews of good books! And Happy Belated Groundhog Day!

by Hyeonseo Lee (memoir, North Korea)

I gravitate toward books about North Korea. I visited the DMZ and looked across into North Korea. One of my sisters has traveled twice to North Korea to help with food aid. I always wonder if our daughter, adopted as a baby from South Korea, might have relatives in the North.

The Girl with Seven Names is Hyeonsea Lee's memoir of her escape from North Korea to China. She eventually made her way to a life in South Korea. Lee left N. Korea as a seventeen year old!

This book is divided into three sections: Lee's childhood in North Korea, Lee's escape to China and South Korea, Lee's efforts to get her brother and mother to defect to South Korea. Each section is equally riveting.

Lee talks of witnessing her first public execution at age seven. She describes the weekly "life purification sessions" where "everyone took turns to stand up, accuse someone and confess something." She talks about the racism and isolation she faced as an illegal North Korean in China. She bribed officials with the little money she had. She worried constantly about being turned in and then repatriated. She feared for the family she left behind.

Lee had to come to grips with the North Korean propaganda she grew up with. Think of all the unlearning. She fell in love with an American despite the well-known North Korean saying: "Just as a jackal cannot become a lamb, so American imperialists cannot change their rapacious nature."

You may have seen Lee's Ted Talk. Millions have watched it. The link is ... here.

I like the Ted talk. It's 12 or 13 minutes. But the book has so much detail. And it's all those big and little details I love. Such as: "I wanted to be an accordionist. It's a popular instrument in North Korea and a woman who could play it well had no difficulty making a living." A woman can earn a living playing the accordion in North Korea. Who knew?!

I'lll end with this: "People are probably asking themselves why a country such as mine still exists in the world. Perhaps it would be even harder for them to understand that I still love my country and miss it very much. I miss its snowy mountains in winter, the smell of kerosene and burning coal. I miss my childhood there...I should be comfortable with my new life, but I'm still the girl from Hyesan who longs to eat noodles with her family at their favorite restaurant."

(Dear FCC: Keeping it short and sweet: Bought for Kindle)

And now....onto the rest of our reviews. Please click through. You won't want to miss a single one!


                         by Mark Twain and Philip Stead with Illustrations by Erin Stead


Margy Lutz: ARTEMIS by Andy Weird (sci fi)

Ray Potthoff: FRONT by John Sanford (mystery/thriller)

Sarah Laurence: PACHINKO by Min Jin Lee (historical)


                                                  by Kurt Andersen (social commentary)

Lucy Sartain of Ranting and Raving: THE ELEPHANT WHISPERER by Lawrence Anthony
                                                             with Graham Spence (memoir)

Stacy of the Cat's Meow: JUST MERCY by Bryan Stevenson (memoir)

Note to Reviewers: Any errors (broken link, missed review, etc), just shoot me an email or leave a comment. Thank you so much for your reviews!

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

The Book Review Club (January 2018)

Happy New Year! Bonne AnnĂ©e! Frohes Neues Jahr! Blwyddyn Newydd Dda! You get the gist. It's a brand new shiny year. Full of possibilities. And adventures. And books. And, of course, our reviews. Enjoy!

by M.J. McGrath (adult, crime)

WHITE HEAT is the first of three books in the Edie Kiglatuk mysteries. It received starred reviews and was longlisted for the CWA Gold Dagger Award.

Here's the Amazon plot synopsis: Half Inuit and half outsider, Edie Kiglatuk is the best guide in her corner of the Arctic. But as a woman, she gets only grudging respect from her community's Council of Elders. While Edie is leading two tourists on a hunting expedition, one of them is shot and killed. The Council wants to call it an accident, but Edie and police sergeant Derek Palliser suspect otherwise. When the other tourist disappears, Edie sets off into the far reaches of the tundra for answers.

Who doesn't love a mystery with a no-nonsense, tradition-bucking, bilingual (Inuktitut/English), Arctic hunting guide protagonist who boils iceberg chips for tea and chews wedges of igunaq (fermented walrus gut)? Not saying Edie doesn't have her demons. She does. She battles alcoholism ("The years of drinking had taken away what pride she might once have had.") and harbors mixed feelings about her ex-husband. But our Edie has ethics and courage in spades. When the elders, who "huddled together like a group of harried musk ox" wanted to ignore a qalunaat's (white man's) death, Edie takes matters into her own hands.

As Melanie McGrath, the author researched and wrote THE LONG EXILE, a non-fiction book about Inuit families. So, she definitely knows her stuff! In WHITE HEAT, the Canadian Arctic itself is a character. You practically need to wear a winter coat to read it!

I love everything Arctic. Visiting that area is on my bucket list. But I do believe anyone who enjoys a well-crafted, well-written mystery set in an exotic locale with a spunky, but flawed, heroine will enjoy WHITE HEAT.

(Dear FCC: Bought for my Kindle. Happy New Year!) 

And now....onto the rest of our reviews. Please click through. You won't want to miss a single one!

Jody Feldman: JASMINE TOGUCHI: MOCHI QUEEN by Debbi Michiko Florence (chapter bk)

Sarah Laurence: FAR FROM THE TREE by Robin Benway (YA, contemporary)

Ellen Booraem: GLASS HOUSES by Louise Penny (mystery)

Linda McLaughlin: LADY DARBY MYSTERY SERIES by Anna Lee Huber (historical mystery)

Margy Lutz: A TANGLED WEB by Mike Martin (mystery)

Patti Abbott:  SILENCE OF THE GRAVE by Arnaldur Indriadson (crime)

Stacy of the Cat's Meow: SHARP OBJECTS by Gillian Flynn (psychological thriller)

Jenn Jilks of Cottage Country: THE GREAT GOULD by Peter Goddard (biography)

Lucy Sartain of Ranting and Raving: WE'RE GOING TO NEED MORE WINE by Gabrielle Union

Ray Potthoff: THE CRUSADES by Thomas Asbridge (history)

Note to Reviewers: Any errors (broken link, missed review, etc), just shoot me an email or leave a comment. Thank you so much for your reviews!