Monday, August 29, 2016

Review: Carry On by Lisa Fenn

Title: Carry On
Author: Lisa Fenn
Year Published: 2016

Genre: YA and Adult non-fiction
Pages: 269
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Location (my 2016 Google Reading map)USA (OH and many other states)

FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book for review


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Purchase Links: HarperCollins | Amazon Barnes & Noble

Author Links: Facebook

Summary (from the back of the book): In the spirit of The Blind Side comes a deeply moving memoir about the unexpected bonds that wouldtransform three lives. Lisa Fenn produced human-interest features for ESPN for over a decade, but one particular story came into her life and never left. After seeing a newspaper image of two young wrestlers from one of Cleveland’s tougher public high schools, Lisa followed a hunch and flew back to her hometown to meet the boys that very day. What she found caused her spirit both to sink and to soar.

Leroy Sutton, who lost his legs in a childhood train accident, could often be found riding on the back of Dartanyon Crockett, who was legally blind and had no permanent place to call home. Initially drawn together by their handicaps, the boys soon developed a brother-like bond. When one wrestled, the other sat on the edge of the mat, and their cheerful friendship was a source of inspiration throughout the halls of their high school.

As Lisa filmed her feature about this remarkable friendship for ESPN, she grew to understand the suffering Leroy and Dartanyon had endured, and she fought for their trust and their confidence. The three formed a surprising and meaningful connection—and once the television story ended, Lisa realized she couldn’t just walk away.

Though Leroy’s and Dartanyon’s futures were limited by abject poverty, Lisa resolved to give them the chance she knew they deserved. She worked tirelessly to see them through school and athletic pursuits, broken hearts, phantom limbs, and the bewildering obstacles that, at every turn, tested their individual strengths even while strengthening the bonds between them.
More than a story of two underdogs overcoming innumerable hardships, Carry On is a touching tale of an unlikely family forged through barriers of race, class, and disability. It is a powerful memoir about grit, love, hope, and faith—and the courage to carry on, even in the most extraordinary circumstances.

Review: I am a sucker for an underdog sports story so I was excited to get to read this book for TLC Tours. As a high school teacher I know the power high school sports and friendship can have on a student's success in school and in life. But I had no idea the impact of poverty. I mean, I've seen poverty and I've seen it affect students, but I had no concept of how poverty permeates every poor of a person's body and soul. This book brought that to light in its second half.

It's difficult not to like Leroy and Dartanyon. Despite their hardships, both physical and financial, these two young men strive to be the best they can in both wrestling and in life. In wrestling they are successful, not achieving every goal, but doing very well (I won't do any spoilers here). In life they certainly fight the huge fight, sometimes winning and sometimes not. But Lisa Fenn is there to help guide them through the mistakes and pitfalls. She picks up where their parents and teachers left off, she is their friends, their mentor, and their mom. Pretty amazing.

The writing isn't as good as it could be, but the story pulled me and has made me think. And I like that.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Review: Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson

Title: Another Brooklyn
Author: Jacqueline Woodson
Year Published: 2016

Genre: YA fiction
Pages: 170
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Location (my 2016 Google Reading map)USA (NY)

FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book for review

Summary (from the back of the book): Running into a long-ago friend sets memory from the 1970s in motion for August, transporting her to a time an da place where friendship was everything--until is wasn't anymore. For August and her girls, sharing confidences as they ambled through neighborhood streets, Brooklyn was a place where they believed that they were beautiful, talented, brilliant--a part of a future that belonged to them.

But beneath the hopeful veneer, there was another Brooklyn, a dangerous place where grown men reached for innocent girls in dark hallways, where ghosts haunted the night, where mothers disappeared. A world where madness was just a sunset away and fathers found hope in religion.


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Review: I have read a three Jacqueline Woodson books before and I liked them all: Brown Girl Dreaming; Beneath a Meth Moon; and Locomotion so I was looking forward to this new book, Another Brooklyn. It took me a few pages to get into the rhythm of the writing, but once I got it, I got it. This book is beautifully written.

August is only ten when she moves to Brooklyn from Tennesee with her father and brother and her story is told in bits and pieces (memories) as she grows up, waits for her mother to join them, finds friends, discovers the pains and anguish of 1970s Brooklyn, and glides into adulthood and a world beyond Brooklyn.

In some ways, August's story is everyone's story. She watches the world from afar, hoping to be let in and when she is, her friendships are everything. Until they aren't. There are issues children don't understand, there is music and dancing that fills her heart, and there is confusion and denial that eventually has to come to a head.

As I read this book in one sitting, I was transported to my own childhood, hanging out with friends, figuring out how to navigate junior high, high school and leaving home. I am lucky enough to still be friends with those people with whom I grew up.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Review: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by Rowling, Tiffany, and Thorne

Title: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
Author: JK Rowling, John Tiffany and Jack Thorne
Year Published: 2016

Genre: YA/Adult fiction (fantasy)--screenplay
Pages: 319
Rating: 5 out of 5

Location (my 2016 Google Reading map)UK

FTC Disclosure: I bought this book with my own money

Summary (from the back of the book): It was always difficult being Harry Potter, and it isn't much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband, and a father of three school-age children. While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.

Based on an original new story by JK Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is a new play by Jack Thorne. It is the eighth Harry Potter story and the first to be officially presented on stage.

Review: Another installment in the Harry Potter series! I was giddy with excitement when I heard about it, knowing I would rush out to buy it and read it right away. Then I stopped and thought, "what if it isn't as good? What if I don't like it? What if it goes places I don't want it to go?" Whenever we love a series, an author, or certain characters, we run the risk of being let down. Did the sequel disappoint, feeling like it was made just to capitalize on the money train? Not in this case.

I do think JK Rowling had more "Harry" in her. She had so thoroughly thought out every detail of the original series and been so steeped in the characters for so long between the books and movies, that it must have difficult to let them go. So it isn't a surprise that she had one more story in her about all things Harry, Hermione, Ron and Hogwarts. And I am totally in.

To read new lines in the same voices was really fun and it made me realize how different each character's voice really is. I am sure the fact that I've seen the movies many times contributed to this as I had images and sounds in my head that played along while I read this play. And it is a play, not a novel, but that was easy to adjust to.

I liked the storyline that gives us alternate endings and toys with the idea of what happens if you go back in time and change one event. What is the impact of that change? I also liked that we see the adult side of the characters, especially Draco. We see them dealing with their own choices, demons, and family histories. The authors made them into adults.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Review: Flesh and Blood by Patricia Cornwell

Title: Flesh and Blood
Author: Patricia Cornwell
Year Published: 2014

Genre: Adult fiction (mystery) 
Pages: 369
Rating: 4 out of 5

Location (my 2016 Google Reading map)USA (MA and FL)

FTC Disclosure: I bought this book with my own money

Summary (from the back of the book): It's a sunny morning in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and also Dr. Kay Scapetta's birthday. She's about to head to Miami for a vacation with Benton Wesley, her FBI-profiler husband, when she notices seven pennies on a wall behind their home. Is this a kids' game? And if so, why are all of the coins dated 1981 and so shiny they could be newly minted? Her cell phone rings, and Detective Pete Marino tells her there's been a homicide five minutes away. A high school music teacher was shot with uncanny precision as he unloaded groceries from his car. Yet no one heard or saw a thing.

In this twenty-second Scarpetta novel, she is in the unsettling pursuit of a serial sniper who leaves no incriminating evidence except fragments of copper. The shots seem impossible to achieve, yet they are so perfect that they cause death in an instant. The victims appear to have had nothing in common, and there is no pattern to indicate where the killer will strike next. First it was New Jersey, then Massachusetts, and now it looks like the killer has moved elsewhere, to the murkey depths off the coast. It's here that Scarpetta dives a shipwreck, looking for answers that only she can discover and analyze. And where she comes face-to-face with shocking news that implicates her techno-genius niece, Lucy, Scarpetta's very own flesh and blood.

Review: No surprise that I am reading a Patricia Cornwell novel; I do love a good forensic story. However, this is not one of my favorites of hers.

As usual, I like the characters and in this one we really deal with Cornwell's usual line up: Kay Scarpetta, the medical examiner; Benton Wesley, her FBI-profiler husband; Lucy, her amazing at everything niece; and Peter Morino, a detective who used to work for her. The secondary characters are good, but not super relevant in this novel. They are used mostly to get information about the serial killer out to the reader. I usually feel like the secondary characters play a larger role, which I like as it gives the novel more depth. And, to be honest, I am not sure how all the characters fit together this time. The victims make no sense, even when I learned who the killer is. I feel a bit like some characters were brought in as major players then disappeared with no explanation of how or why they really fit into the whole story.

The plot is the usual fair, which I definitely like. I mean, I have read at least ten of these novels! I find the forensic stuff fascinating--how the DNA and blood are tested, what do the findings mean, what evidence can they get at a crime scene, etc. But, this book has a lot of bullet and gun information that just made me gloss over.

All in all I did enjoy reading this novel, but I didn't love it the way I have most of her other forensic mysteries.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Hapiness Tag

I was tagged to complete the Happiness Tag by Anne of My Head is Full of Books

1. List 5 things that make you happy.
2. List 5 songs that make you happy.
3. List 5 bloggers that make you happy and let them know that they have been nominated.

5 things that make me happy

  1. Family--except for my parents and daughter, everyone is on another continent so I don't see them often enough. But, I think of them daily. Am I allowed to include my dog, Charlie, here?!
  2. Friends--I am not great at going out and doing stuff with friends anymore. I think that often happens when you are a single parent. But, my daughter is going away to boarding school this month so perhaps I'll get myself out and about more.
  3. Reading (I guess that's an obvious one, isn't it)
  4. Perfect weather (75 degrees and low humidity) so I can go for walks. This summer I've taken a daily walk to the beach with my daughter, which has been wonderful!
  5. Work--I know, I shouldn't mention work, but I really do like what I do, working with my colleagues, and being in education.

5 songs that make me happy

Another One Bites the Dust by Queen

Imagine by John Lennon

Any Madonna song from the Like a Virgin album (it's the soundtrack of my college years)

Hotel California by the Eagles

Karma Chameleon by Culture Club
(this could change any day now, but lately we've been singing and dancing to it so it's on my mind this week)

5 bloggers that make me happy
I broke the rules and I've listed 6 bloggers that make me happy. I think I've been following these blogs since I started book blogging in 2009!

  1. Anne at My Head is Full of Books
  2. Annette at Annette's Book Spot
  3. Aths at Reading on a Rainy Day
  4. Bonnie at Bonnie's Books
  5.  Ti at Book Chatter
  6. Florinda at The 3 R's Blog