A family decides to leave the big city for life in rural Maine. Reena and Luke are quickly indoctrinated on the ways of country life when their parents volunteer them to assist an elderly resident, Mrs. Falala. She promptly assigns them to take care of her cow, Zora, and charges them to prepare to show Zora at the fair. With reluctance, Reena assumes cow duty and with the help of locals learns the language of cows. This short novel is written in prose with a smattering of concrete poetry that makes the reading effortless. Sharp tongued, Mrs. Falala, is a character rich in depth despite only hints to her past. Reena and Luke are well-written, initially reluctant but rise to the occasion. A heartwarming story for all that just might make the reader want to spend time with cows. Another winning book from Sharon Creech.
eGalley review Publication date 8.30.16
Princess Margaret is so full of her importance. She is so much more grown up than her 5-year-old sister, Mary. She is so unwilling to befriend the bride of her beloved brother, Arthur, as only a girl can be who is “all but twelve.” She refers to her sister-in-law as “Katherine of Arrogant” and tries to ignore Katherine’s gentle kindness. Anyway, she knows that she will soon be married to James IV of Scotland and will be a queen while Katherine is still only a princess and will have to walk behind her. Two sisters and a sister-in-law. The three are destined to be queens, Mary of France, Margaret of Scotland and Katherine of England, and the three remain friends and rivals throughout their lives. The story is told through the voice of Margaret Tudor, Queen of Scotland, and as she matures and endures countless trials, and makes bad decisions, the voice changes. Slowly, gradually, she matures, comes to be a bit less self-absorbed, comes to understand the sorrows of others. Philippa Gregory does a masterful job. I thoroughly enjoyed every page of this book and highly recommend it.
eGalley review Publication date 8.9.16
One year in the life of a small farming family in the Oklahoma Panhandle during the beginning of the Dust Bowl is the focus of this short novel. Amidst the descriptions of dust storms, grit and desolation, the reader is teased with visions of the rich farming community before the Depression and the Dust Bowl. Annie Bell is in her 30s and has experienced both joy and sorrow. She does not complain about her life. She chose this life and she loves her husband, but it is not enough. Annie has an affair with the mayor. Birdie is her oldest daughter who has her sights set on Cy, a boy from a neighboring farm. Sure enough, Birdie gets pregnant and Cy’s family moves away before she can tell him. Annie’s son, Frank, is mute (and we have no glimpse as to why) and he is also asthmatic. The frequent dust storms are doom to an asthmatic child so the reader can see how this will end.
The descriptions are very good of the drought and dust storms and the conditions that spurred family after family to abandon their homesteads. The story is told from multiple points of view and the writing is fluid. The characters are likeable but only a glimpse of their life is given. However, just enough background is given about Annie to see the loneliness. It is easy to understand Birdie and her infatuation with Cy but Annie’s affair with the mayor just didn’t make sense to me. There wasn’t just one bad thing or even a string of bad things to lead her down that path. It almost seemed that she was just bored, not emotionally desperate. I’m not sure of the target audience. While there is no description of the sexual situations, it seems this is the emphasis of the story as that bare mattress in the abandoned farmhouse was a main setting of the story. The historical fiction aspects do not yield enough detail about the Dust Bowl for the reader to come away with oodles of understanding about the Dust Bowl. For example, the rabbit drives are not presented with much detail. The target audience appears to be high school and adult, but would adults be drawn to a short novel set during the Dust Bowl?
eGalley review Publication date 8.9.16
This is a long book, it has to be. It spans 4,000 years. It’s not just names and dates, but filled with real people, like the royal manicurists Niankhnum and Khnumhotep, whose house was decorated with vignettes of their lives, scenes of stick-fighting, and of women baking bread and tending children. Descriptions of scenes that decorated royal and non-royal tombs provide an interesting insight to everyday life.
In the key Egyptian creation myth the deity was the sun, the mother and father of everything. All creation was dual and unable to exist without each other. Male and female were both essential. The author strives to correct the usual picture of a male dominated society and shows the many roles women played, including several Pharaohs and a couple of physicians. The book puts life in Egypt into a context that is easy for the layperson to understand.
eGalley review Publication date 8.2.16
Fizzy is a young girl going through a lot of changes in her life. Her parents have divorced, her father remarried, and now her mother has a new beau in her life. Fizzy isn’t particularly enamored with either of these step-parents, and they aren’t necessarily supportive of her being around either. Throughout the changes and chaos in her life, Fizzy has one passion to default to for relief and creativity: cooking. She and her aunt cook constantly in preparation for a cooking competition that Fizzy desperately wants to win. School also becomes a relief for Fizzy. Through some chance encounters, she makes a quirky and supportive new best friend, and a dashing yet complicated fellow starts tagging as long as well. Over the course of a year, Fizzy realizes that life isn’t necessarily as horrible as it might seem, and that friends and family will always be there to love and support you.
I picked up this book somewhat randomly, intrigued by the quirky title, and read it voraciously until I was finished. The writing style immediately engaged me, and the story was relatable and touching in many ways. This story made me laugh, cry, and think. The writing was captivating and I felt like I was a part of Fizzy’s world and going through her struggles right there with her. I can’t wait to read more from this author!
eGalley review Publication date 7.19.16
Russian boy genius Yuri Strelnikov is a 17-year-old with a PhD in Physics. The Americans recruit him when it is discovered that an asteroid is blazing toward Earth on a collision course with California, exactly where NASA has assembled the best and brightest to figure a way out of this deadly impact. Yuri has only a few days to work the math, find a solution, and then convince those much older to accept his anti-matter plan. Oh, he meets a quirky girl along the way. Yuri struggles with culture shock and delights over his first girlfriend all while saving mankind.
What a fun book! Yuri’s voice is deadpan, witty, and humorous, wrangling out a wry smile from me with each chapter. The story moves at a brisk pace and best of all, celebrates intelligence, math, and science! There is a tiny bit of foul language. After all, Yuri learns to swear in America. Highly recommend.
eGalley review Publication date 7.5.16
This is the story of the end of an era. The last year before America lost its innocence, the year before everything changed. It is told, month by month, with an event that occurred in that month as the theme. And so the year begins with a discussion of politics in January, reflecting Roosevelt’s third inauguration. February it’s the Oscars and popular entertainment. March begins with the opening of the National Gallery of Art, and we learn about art, education and literature. Jump to July and it is sports. August is leisure time and travel. You get the idea. This is a great way to get a feel for what the country was like, what the people were talking about, what their interests were. I enjoyed the book and recommend it for anyone who loves history.
eGalley review Publication date 7.5.16