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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Purchase Links: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Author Links: WebsiteFacebookTwitter, and Tumblr
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

Review: The Monster's Daughter by Michelle Pretorius

Title: The Monster's Daughter
Author: Michelle Pretorius
Year Published: 2016

Genre: Adult fiction (mystery) 
Pages: 456
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Location (my 2016 Google Reading map)South Africa

FTC Disclosure: I was given a copy of this book for review

Summary (from the back of the book): Somewhere on the South African veldt, 1901: At the height of the Boer War, a doctor at a British concentration camp conducts a series of grim experiments on Boer prisoners. His work ends in chaos, but two children survive: a boy named Benjamin and a girl named Tessa....

One hundred years later, a disgraced young police constable is reassigned to the sleepy South African town of Unie, where she makes a terrifying discovery: the body of a young woman, burned beyond recognition. The crime soon leads her into her country's violent past--a past that includes her father, a high-ranking police official under the apartheid regime, and the children left behind in that long-ago concentration camp.

Review: It is so my MO to say yes to a review and then by the time I read the book I've forgotten what it's about! I kind of like that; going in blind with no idea what is coming.

The Monster's Daughter, whose title is revealed in the text of the last few pages in a very clever way, is really good on so many levels.
  • The main character, Alet, is likable, relatable, and I just wanted things to work out okay for her. She is up against so many awful things and people, and she is far from perfect herself, but I feel like she is "normal" and therefore I wanted her to figure out all the details of the crimes being committed. I wanted her to set it all straight.
  • The other characters, and there are many, are all interesting as well. From the blacks who are treated so horribly before, during and after South Africa's Apartheid movement to the Afrikaners who believed that God brought them to South Africa to rule to the English and their terrible concentration camps during the Boer Wars, all play an important role in moving the story along and revealing bits about history and the other characters.
  • The history of South Africa is turbulent, as most countries are and that history plays out in this novel and in fact drives the story. I thought I knew a lot about South African history, but this book really filled in details and helped me understand the country in a way that I hadn't before. 
  • If you are a regular reader of this blog you know I am sucker for a good mystery. This novel definitely has that. There are so many different mysterious storylines that converge near the end. Well done!