Sunday, June 24, 2012

A Woman of Substance

A Woman of SubstanceA Woman of Substance by Barbara Taylor Bradford

On the library stacks: Adult Fiction
Series: 1 of 7 (Emma Harte Saga)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Emma Harte is a young girl who lives in a Yorkshire village with her family. Her dad and brothers work at the local mill and Emma works at the Fairley Hall estate nearby. Emma hopes that one day through her own hard work and intuition, she will lift herself and her family out of poverty. When she is cruelly treated by the Fairley family, her resolution turns into a deep-seeded desire for revenge. Emma eventually makes it to Leeds where she begins to amass her fortune by a series of shrewd business deals and relationships.

This book is a chunkster. While some of the language was way too flowery and overly descriptive, I wouldn't have read 900 pages if I wasn't enjoying it. The book spans over 60 years of Emma's life and her character is very well developed. I really liked that this book was set in the same location and during the same time period as Downton Abbey.

Even though BTB wrote this book in the 1979, it didn't feel overly dated. While historical events certainly play a role in this novel, I could almost imagine a similar book being written in modern times. In fact, BTB penned the 7th book in this series just 3 years ago. I probably won't read anymore in the series, but I really enjoyed my time with this one and it works well as a stand-alone novel.

Source: BookMooch

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Kissing the Bee

Kissing the BeeKissing the Bee by Kathe Koja

On the library shelves: YA Fiction
AR Reading Level: 5.4
Award:  Parent's Choice Award/Honor Book
Recommended for: Grades 9+

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Dana and Avra are seniors in high school planning their senior prom. They're best friends, but they have very different plans for their lives. Dana is planning on going to college, but Avra plans on escaping the night of the prom with her boyfriend Emil. Dana has had a secret crush on Emil, but when she starts to see cracks in Avra's and Emil's relationship, she wonders if the feelings might be reciprocated and if Emil will really go along with Avra's plans.

The bee analogy is woven into this novel appropriately and meaningfully. I detest the cover, but don't let that turn you off from reading a real gem. While I certainly enjoyed the love triangle aspect of the book, what really stuck out to me was the exploration of the friendship between Dana and Avra. I could relate to Dana's feelings about Queen Bee "Avra" in her life, and reading this really brought some emotions to the surface and made me reflective. This short novel is beautifully written and well worth the time.

Also reviewed by: The Book Nest ~ Your link here?
Source: Library

Thursday, June 14, 2012


SeedfolksSeedfolks by Paul Fleischman

On the library stacks: YA Fiction
AR Reading Level: 4.3
Awards: NCTE Notable Children's Books in the Language Arts; Jane Addams Book Award/Honor Books; SLJ Best Book; Golden Kite Award/Honor Book
Appropriate for: Grades 6+

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Seedfolks is the story of a patch of land between buildings in a rundown section of Cleveland. One day a young girl decides to plant beans there. Eventually others notice, the lot is cleaned up, and a community garden blooms. So many people from all ages and races are drawn to the garden, each person creating something important and unique to them. Together they create beauty out of ugliness.

This book is told in 13 different voices, each with their own chapter. It's a slim novel easily read in an hour or so. It's a book that I think would work well in a classroom setting as there are some early teen-appropriate issues to discuss.

I thought this was a nice book, but I wasn't wowed like I was hoping. I know it wasn't the author's point, but I think I wanted more depth and perhaps resolution for the characters. However, I especially enjoyed reading the end of the book where Fleischman discusses his inspiration for the novel.

Also reviewed by: Capricious Reader ~ Becky's Book Reviews
Source: Library

Monday, June 4, 2012

Heaven Is Here

Heaven Is Here: An Incredible Story of Hope, Triumph, and Everyday JoyHeaven Is Here: An Incredible Story of Hope, Triumph, and Everyday Joy by Stephanie Nielson

On the library stacks: Adult Biography
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I should say up front that I know Stephanie and her sweet family. We lived in the same area in New Jersey for a couple of years and we went to church together. In August 2008, Stephanie (a popular blogger), her husband Christian, and their friend and flight instructor Doug were in an airplane crash. Doug passed away after a short time, Christian broke his back and has burns on 30% of his body, and Stephanie has burns on nearly 80% of her body.

This book starts out talking some about the crash. Then it goes back in time to Stephanie's upbringing, her love story with Christian, and then chronicles their life together until the time of the crash. After the crash, Stephanie discusses how hard it was to accept her new self, to connect with her children again after being in a coma for months, and to move forward in a different life to the one she had planned.

I think the highest recommendation I can give this book is that I can hear Stephanie's voice throughout the book. Not only is it well-written, but the sentiments are authentic and genuine. I read the book in one sitting, both laughing and crying as I read. I think this would make a great book club pick and a great gift. I've already purchased one for a friend.

Source: Library