Sunday, July 27, 2014

Review: The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis

Title: The Twelve Tribes of Hattie
Author: Ayana Mathis
Year Published: 2012

Genre: Adult Fiction
Pages: 243
Rating: 4 out of 5

Location (my 2014 Google Reading map): USA (Pennsylvania and Georgia)

FTC Disclosure: I borrowed this book from my school's library

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): In 1923, fifteen-year-old Hattie Shepherd flees Georgia and settles in Philadelphia. hoping for a chance at a better life. Instead, she marries a man who will bring her nothing but disappointment and watches helplessly as her firstborn twins succumb to an illness a few pennies could have prevented. Hattie gives birth to nine more children whom she raises with grit and mettle and not an ounce of the tenderness they crave. She vows to prepare them for the calamitous difficulty they are sure to face in their later lives, to meet a world that will not love them, a world that will not be kind. Captured here in twelve luminous narrative threads, their lives tell the story of a mother's monumental courage and the journey of a nation.

Review: The Librarian at my school gave me this book just before I left on vacation and I never even read the description before I read it! I liked it, but didn't love it. The set up--twelve chapters, each about one of Hattie's children and or another main character--reminded me a bit of Olive Kitteredge by Elizabeth Strout. Hattie is in each chapter, her character growing and revealing itself to the reader as time went on (the chapters also come forward from 1923 to 1980) and as we read of her children's experiences.

While Hattie escaped from 1920s Georgia, which we see through her eyes in flashbacks and through her son Floyd, a musician, she still lives an extremely difficult life up in Philadelphia. However, this is mostly of her own making. Eleven children, no skills and therefore no real job, and a husband who is a womanizer all contribute to Hattie's negative attitude toward life. This attitude finds itself pervasive in her children and colors their experiences and interactions with their mother.

The book is not all sad and negative; there are also moments of tenderness, love, and friendship. But, honestly, they are much less frequent. I think the author did a really good job of showing the impact of family on our lives, how much we need them even when a parent isn't a great parent, and what life was like for poor people, especially Blacks, throughout the twentieth century in America.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Review: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

Title: We Were Liars
Author: E. Lockhart
Year Published: 2014

Genre: YA fiction/mystery
Pages: 225
Rating: 4.5 to 5 out of 5

Location (my 2014 Google Reading map): USA (Massachusetts)

FTC Disclosure: I borrowed this book from my school's library

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): A beautiful and distinguished family. A private island. A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, poilitical boy. A group of four friends--the Liars--whose friendship turns destructive. A revolution. An accident. A secret. Lies upon lies. True love. The truth.

Review: Holy crap. That's really all I have to say about this book. Oh, and read it. If I say much more I'll ruin it for you.

But you need more than that for a review, so I'll give it a try. Cadence, Mirren, Johnny, and Gat are such good friends and cousins who meet every summer on the family's private island. They have fantastic summers together and we get to know them and their families. This part of the book is a 4.5 out of 5. They are teenagers, they have romance, family feuds, and the usual pains of growing up.

The summer they are 15 something happens and the narrator, Cadence, now suffers. She spends the second half of the book trying to sort out her partial memories while fighting off the physical pain. In the last quarter of the book, as Cadence's memories return, the book becomes a 5.

I can't say anything else without ruining it for you. Sorry.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Review: Reality Boy by A.S. King

Title: Reality Boy
Author: A.S. King
Year Published: 2013

Genre: YA fiction
Pages: 353
Rating: 4 out of 5

Location (my 2014 Google Reading map): USA (Pennsylvania)

FTC Disclosure: I borrowed this book from my school's library

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): Gerald Faust knows exactly when he started feeling angry: the day his mother invited a reality TV crew into his five-year-old life. Twelve years later he's still haunted by his rage-filled youth--which the entire world got to watch from every imaginable angle--and his anger issues have resulted in violent outbursts, zero friends, and clueless adults dumping him in the special education room at school.

Nothing is ever going to change. No one cares that he's tried to learn to control himself, and the girl he likes has no idea who he really is. Everyone's just waiting for him to snap...and he's starting to feel dangerously close to doing just that.

Review: I wasn't really sure what to expect with this book, but reality shows are so prevalent today that I thought it would be a good one to read. I liked it. Didn't love it, but liked it.

  • Characters--I could feel for Gerald, who is now 17 and is known as Crapper based on his childhood activities on TV. His life sucks: his sister hates him and attacks him physically while his mother allows it to take place. I liked Hannah for her honesty and desire to change and better her life
  • Plot--I also liked the plot: a kid who needs to take charge of his life and break away from his family. This is tough to do since he is only 17, has no skills to get a job, and can't quite pull himself away from his home.
So, what didn't quite work for me? Why isn't this a 4.5 or a 5? It seemed like too much sometimes. I can't quite explain it that well because I did like the book, it just had moments for me that I thought, "again?" or "still?" I guess it felt repetitive at times.

Friday, July 11, 2014

My daughter's on a TV show!

So over the past few months my daughter (and I) have been filmed for a TV documentary called Young Marvels, which will begin airing on OvationTV (a channel we don't get) next week. It follows eight young people in the arts; they are each featured in multiple episodes of the series.

I am definitely nervous about how we'll be portrayed, will my double chins look hideous, etc. But, I am also excited for Sophia and the opportunity for her to be on this show! Here's her Bio/Trailer....

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Review: He Said She Said by Kwame Alexander

Title: He Said She Said
Author: Kwame Alexander
Year Published: 2014

Genre: YA fiction
Pages: 330
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Location (my 2014 Google Reading map): USA (South Carolina)

FTC Disclosure: I borrowed this book from my school's library

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): You've heard that men are from Mars and women are from Venus, right? Well, forget that planetary ish--Omar and Claudia are from different solar systems. Meet Brooklyn transplant Omar "T-Diddy" Smalls: West Charleston high's football god and full-blown playa. He's got a ton of Twitter followers followers, is U Miami bound, and cannot wait to hit South Beach...and hit on every shorty in a bikini

Then there's Claudia Clarke: Harvard bound, straight-A student, school newspaper editor, and all-around goody-two-shoes. She cares more about the staggering teen pregnancy rate than about hooking up with so-called fly homies and posting her biz on Facebook. Omar and Claudia are thrown together when they unexpectedly lead (with a little help from Facebook and Twitter) the biggest social protest this side of the Mississippi. When a little flirting turns to real love, the revolt is on, and the scene at West Charleston gets real. Fast!

Review: I enjoyed this book; it was fun. I like books that alternate chapters so that the reader gets the story from different characters' perspectives. Omar and Claudia were good narrators for this purpose.

I'll confess that Omar's dialect took a few pages to get used to it, but once I did I liked that the author wrote it this way so that I felt like I could really "hear" how Omar and his friends talked. And, it definitely pointed out the contrast between Omar's chapters and Claudia's chapters.

I also liked that the author incorporated social media, which makes the book feel very now. It is funny that he used Facebook with high school students though because I think Facebook is becoming more of a thing for twenty-somethings and older. But, as a Facebook user and techie, I liked it.

I do have one issue: why is it always the good girl who falls for the bad boy? Yes, the bad boy changes a bit, but it always seems to be the good girl who dates the guy she knows she shouldn't. I did like that Omar cooks well, that was a nice twist.