Friday, July 13, 2018

Review: Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson

Title: Allegedly
Author: Tiffany D. Jackson
Year Published: 2016

Genre: YA fiction
Pages: 387
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Location (my 2018 Google Reading map)USA (NY)

FTC Disclosure: I bought this book with my own money

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): Mary B. Addison killed a baby. Allegedly. She didn't say much in that first interview with detectives, and the media filled in the only blanks that mattered: a white baby had died while under the care of a churchgoing black woman and her nine-year-old daughter. The public convicted Marty and the jury made it official. But did she do it? She wouldn't say.

Mary survived six years in baby jail before being dumped in a group home. There wasn't a point to setting the record straight before, but now she's got Todd-and their unborn child--to think about. When the state threatens to take her baby, Mary's fate now lies in the hands of the one person she trusts the most: her Momma. No one knows the real Momma. But does anyone know the real Mary?

Review: The reviews I have seen of this book have all been good so I was looking forward to reading it. It took me a little while to get into it, but I think that was me and not the book because yesterday I read most of it without stopping, reading way past my bedtime so I could finish it.

This book is intense and take a look at our juvenile justice system as well as social welfare, child abuse, and relationships. Even though the topics are dark and Mary's life is really, really terrible, I didn't feel depressed when I finished. Mary was put in jail (mostly solitary confinement for her "safety.") from age 9 to 15 and when the book takes place is living in a group home. The social workers, women who run the group home, and her probation officer are all awful and overwhelmed with the amount of work they have. The other girls in the home are not nice either. But, through it all, Mary has faith that she is meant for more.

I think what keeps the reader going is that Mary is bright and unfailingly determined to get out of her situation. She has a volunteer job, is studying to take the SATs, and see a future for herself. Maybe it's because she knows she didn't commit the crime for which she is doing time. Or did she? As she says, all the accounts say "allegedly."

I liked the way this story unfolded, bits at a time, with Mary slowly coming into her own.

Challenges for which this counts: none

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Review: Love and Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch

Title: Love and Gelato
Author: Jenna Evans Welch
Year Published: 2016

Genre: YA fiction
Pages: 386
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Location (my 2018 Google Reading map)Italy

FTC Disclosure: I bought this book with my own money

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): Lina is spending the summer in Tuscany, but she isn't in the mood for Italy's famous sunshine and fairy-tale landscape. She's only there because it was her mother's dying with that she get to know her father. But what kind of father isn't around for sixteen years? All Lina wants to do is go back home.

But then she is given a journal that her mom had kept when she lived in Italy. Suddenly Lina's uncovering a magical world of secret romances, art, and hidden bakeries. A world that inspires her, along with the ever-so-charming Ren, to follow in her mother's footsteps and unearth a secret that has been kept for far too long. It's a secret that will change everything Lina knew about her mother, her father--and even herself.

People come to Italy for love and gelato, someone tells her, but sometimes they discover much more.

Review: This book seemed like the perfect summer book to read so I took it with me when my daughter and I went to San Francisco for a few days. What a perfect choice!

This book is set in Florence, Italy and it made me have flashbacks (good ones) to my last trip to Florence about 5 years ago. It also made me want to pack my bags immediately and get on a plane to Florence. The descriptions of the sites, smells, and tastes of Italy really made this book come alive.

I also liked Lina. She is spunky, smart, overwhelmed, and falling in like with Italy, her new dad, and a couple cute boys. What more could a reader ask for in a summer YA romance fun book?! I enjoyed reading Lina's mother's journal along with her as the mystery of her parents' relationship unfolded and Lina explored Florence, I liked seeing how she got to know her new Italian friends, and I liked that the characters were (mostly) straight forward with one another.

All in a all a fun read that will do well with teens!

Challenges for which this counts: none

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Review: Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann

Title: Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI
Author: David Grann
Year Published: 2017

Genre: Adult non-fiction
Pages: 316
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Location (my 2018 Google Reading map)USA (OK)

FTC Disclosure: I bought this book with my own money

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): In the 1920s, the richest people per capita in the world were members of the Osage Nation in Oklahoma. After oil was discovered beneath their land, they rode in chauffeured cars and lived in mansions.

Then, one by one, the Osage began to be killed. Mollie Burkhart watched as her family became a prime target. Her relatives were shot and poisoned. Other Osage were also dying under mysterious circumstances, and many of those who investigated the crimes were themselves murdered.

As the death toll rose, the case was taken up by the newly created FBI and its young secretive director, J. Edgar Hoover. Struggling to crack the mystery, Hoover turned to a former Texas Ranger named Tom White, who put together an undercover team, including a Native American agent. They infiltrated this last remnant of the Wild West, and together with the Osage began to expose one of the most chilling conspiracies in American history.

Review: I have seen quite a few really good reviews, but it isn't the type of book I would normally choose to read. Then I saw a review of it in my college alumni magazine because it turns out the author went to Connecticut College just like me! Well, that sealed it. Everyone says the book is good and the author is a fellow camel? So here we go....

There are a ton of people in the story and it darts back and forth in time, so it took me a little bit to get into the rhythm of it at first. Once I relaxed into it I found the story really compelling. The events too place only a hundred years ago and it's the wild west in Oklahoma! The characters are gun-slingers, cattle rustlers, and highway robbers. It's all very exciting.

Grann has done an extensive and exhaustive research job and weaves together photographs, courtroom and witness testimony, and story telling to keep the reader hooked to the very end.

This book is the type of book my dad will really enjoy so I am going to give it to him now that I have read it.

Challenges for which this counts: 

Monday, July 2, 2018

One more challenge...

I am going to sign up for the 2018 Big Book Summer challenge! This challenge is hosted by Sue at Book by Book.

The rule are simple: read a book over 400 pages and you're in. No need to say how many books you'll read, just do it. That's my kind of challenge.

I am not sure how many 400+ page books I'll read, but I already have one done: The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Review: Code of Honor by Alan Gratz

Title: Code of Honor
Author: Alan Gratz
Year Published: 2015

Genre: YA fiction
Pages: 278
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Location (my 2018 Google Reading map)USA (AZ, TN, DC, WV)

FTC Disclosure: I borrowed this book from my school library

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): Kamran Smith has it all. He's the star of the football team, dates the most popular girl, and can't wait to enlist in the army like his big brother, Darius. Although Kamran's mother is from Iran, Kamran has always felt 100% American. Accepted.

And then everything implodes.

Darius is accused of being a terrorist. Kamran refuses to believe it. But Darius has been filmed making threats against his country, hinting at an upcoming deadly attack. Suddenly, everyone in Kamran's life turns against him and his family.

Kamran knows it's up to him to clear his brother's name. In a race against time, Kamran must piece together a series of clues and codes that will lead him to Darius--and the truth. But is it a truth Kamran is ready to face? And is he putting his own life at risk?

Review: I have been looking forward to this book for a while because it's Alan Gratz. This book is similar to his other books that I've read in that it is intense, realistic, and deals with war / trauma. However, it is different in that it seems more fantastical and adventure-filled, a little bit less possible (think spy novel) than the others.

Of course, I like Kamran, the main character. He is honest, wholesome, and real. He is angry, afraid, and seventeen. There are tons of other characters that play less major and even minor roles and they are all great, too. Through the characters we get an interesting look at terrorism, the CIA / Department of Homeland Security, and Joe-Public America. 

Gratz also deals with really important issues in this book, which is no surprise. He seems to be the master at that. This novel deals with Islamophobia, the role of the US in the world, jihad, and trust. All in all, it's a quick read that kept my attention from the first page.

Challenges for which this counts: