Posted in Book Reviews

Highlight: A Ceiling Made of Eggshells by Gail Carson Levine

I’m so excited to announce that today is Pub Day for A Ceiling Made of Eggshells, Gail Carson Levine’s latest historical fiction novel for middle grade readers! I had the privilege of receiving an ARC of this book six months before its release date. Read my 4 star review below and support your local bookstores by buying your copy today! I learned so much about a unique time in history because of this book and I know you don’t want to miss out!

Anyone who knows me knows I love Gail Carson Levine. She is easily my favorite middle grade author. So when I saw she was sending out ARCs for her latest book, A Ceiling Made of Eggshells, I jumped at the chance to request it. I was surprised when my request was accepted and the book arrived in the mail a week later. I now had access to Levine’s newest book six months before anyone else! I was so excited to start reading it over Christmas break.

I’ve never read a story that takes place during the Spanish Inquisition (and I’m honestly not even sure I learned about it in school—or if I did, I don’t remember it), so the subject matter really intrigued me. Levine’s father was Jewish, so she wrote this as well as one of her first novels, Dave At Night, to explore her Jewish heritage. As a Protestant Christian myself, I have a fondness for the Jews as God’s chosen people, so I enjoy learning more about their history when I can.

The story starts with six or seven year old Loma catching the plague. Her grandmother, Bela, gave Loma her amulet, as she believed it would protect her granddaughter from evil spirits. While Loma survives the plague, Bela, tragically, does not. Belo, not nearly as kind and sympathetic as Bela, watches Loma recover, trying to understand why Bela loved her so much. Loma is consumed with guilt—she believes that, having “taken” the amulet from Bela, it is her fault Bela died. I was pulled into the story almost right away, wondering how this guilt, based on a superstition, would consume her as she grew up and how it would affect her relationship with Belo, whether or not he, too, blamed her for Bela’s death. Unfortunately, this inner conflict is resolved within a few chapters. The story continues to show Belo’s developed interest in Loma and the daily lives of the Spanish Jews, but besides that, there isn’t any real conflict for almost 150 pages.

Check out the rest of my review here!

Contributor Reviewer

Posted in Book Reviews

Highlight: The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Another book review is up on Literature Approved! This is one of my favorite books I read over the summer. I finished it during our relaxing beach vacation. Those of you who haven’t read it yet…go read it! It’s life changing–if you let it be.

Two years ago I wrote a short story that took place during the Civil War for a contest. In it I wanted to challenge the perspectives and worldviews of both the Confederacy and the Union, the blacks and the whites. I didn’t feel like there were enough conversations happening where we brought to light the right and wrong of both sides. Well, I might have felt differently if I’d read The Help sooner.

I went into The Help expecting to learn about what it was like being a black maid in the 1960s. And I was genuinely curious to find out. It’s one thing to learn about the Civil Rights movement in a textbook, but another to read a book written in the perspective of these women, learning what it was like first-hand. Let’s just say it delivered.

I felt like I was really there—feeling the heat of the Mississippi sun and the burn of the horrible comments they received from their employers. It was strange to observe the white women these black maids (Aibileen and Minny) worked for. On the one hand, they spoke to them politely, but on the other hand, they treated them like some other species carrying a disease. And yet, these interactions were still within the realm of my expectations.

Click here to read the rest of my review!

Contributor Reviewer

Posted in Book Reviews

Mini Book Reviews of 2018 – Part One

“It’s not for us to choose our times, Jacob. But we must be ready when they come.”
-The Auschwitz Escape

Hello fellow readers!

It’s been a hot minute since I last blogged, so I thought I’d start it up again with a revamped version of something I’ve been doing for a while now. Since 2015, I’ve been writing a compilation of mini reviews of all the books I read per year, usually in sets of 5. I’m always about 1 year behind on these, but I love writing them and giving you guys a glimpse into what I’ve been reading and what I think of them. But I didn’t really like the name I had for them (First Five Books of 2017, Second Five Books of 2017, etc.). So as I start writing about the books I read last year, I thought this was a good opportunity to change the name!

So, as you’ve seen from the title of this blog post already, the new name is: Mini Books Reviews of 20__ Part __! I think this title is more concise, easier to say and easier to work with! So without further ado…here are my first five mini reviews of 2018!

*SPOILER!* I may include some of the book’s plot/content in my reviews for them, so if you haven’t read one or more of these yet and want to read it without spoilers, then you can just skip down. *

  1. Waterfall by Lisa T. Bergren – This book was an interesting take on the time-travel romance from the YA perspective. When Gabi and Lia were transported to 16th century Italy, I felt transported, too. I loved Bergren’s descriptions of Italy’s countryside and the Italian architecture. The plot moved swiftly, though there was little conflict until the climax of the novel. I enjoyed Gabi’s character, but didn’t love the romance she had with Marcello. Overall, I enjoyed their conversations, but felt like the actual interactions they had and the corresponding feelings they felt were a little forced. To be in love as much as they were would take a little more than just the outward attraction they had for each other. So I enjoyed the unique setting and Bergren did a great job with the vocabulary of the 16th century Italian characters, but it wasn’t very deep.
  2. * Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling – I enjoyed this book much more than the first one. I think this one made me laugh the most out of all the books in the series (except for Order of the Phoenix) because Ron had so many good one-liners. I loved the climax and twists at the end and was much more intrigued to read the third than I had been to read the second. Click here to read my full review on the entire series!
  3. * The Auschwitz Escape by Joel C. Rosenberg – A coworker lent this to me and I really enjoyed it! It was hard to read at times, but I learned so much through it. I think it’s super important to read about hard times in history so we fully realize the atrocities committed back then and can be able to raise awareness to others. There are so many people who turn a blind eye to horrible things that happened in history and that’s just not acceptable. I loved Jacob and Luc and the partnership they established in order to escape. And the detail upon detail of their plan to escape was also so fascinating. I will say that my one complaint was that there wasn’t a lot of emotion in the actual main character’s thoughts, but I think Rosenberg made up for that in the accuracy of the setting and events of Auschwitz. Throughout the novel, Jacob wrestles with his faith. Though he was put in Auschwitz as a Jew, he hadn’t really practiced Judaism growing up and his faith was shaky. By the end, his relationship with and trust in God is strengthened, but I’ll admit, I felt sad. Without Jesus, his life and even his “relationship” with God held very little hope and meaning. I wished so much that he could find that. After finishing it, I was surprised to learn that The Auschwitz Escape was based on a true story. It made the novel that much more impactful for me.
  4. Moral Philosophy: Theories and Issues by Emmett Barcalow – I read this for my Ethics of America class for school. It was very straightforward, with some helpful examples, but besides that, super boring to read.
  5. CLEP American Literature by Jacob Stratman – I read this to study for the American Literature CLEP exam. Most CLEP textbooks are snore-worthy, but this was one of the few where I felt like it was written by a person and not a robot. Stratman seemed really passionate about American Literature and really brought the authors to life with his descriptions.

* Books that I highly recommend have a * next to them

Posted in Book Reviews

Highlight: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

I’m so excited to get back into blogging and reviewing again! Here’s a review on the classic of all classics–I hope to review some more familiar and unfamiliar books soon!

Around this time last year I wrote a review for Jane Austen’s gothic satire novel, Northanger Abbey. This year, I’m writing a review for Jane Austen’s most popular and beloved novel, Pride and Prejudice. The theme for the 2019 JASP (Jane Austen Summer Program) that I just attended last week was Pride and Prejudice & Its Afterlives. Throughout the conference, we deeply discussed how Pride and Prejudice has affected our culture and why it remains as popular today as it was back in the early 1800s.

In preparation for this JASP, I read Pride and Prejudice for the second time. I read it for the first time back in high school when I first started reading Austen’s works. To be honest, although I loved the 1995 BBC miniseries with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle, the book itself wasn’t one of my favorites. Nothing really stood out to me the first time I read it and I hadn’t thought about it deeply since.

I was excited to reread Pride and Prejudice (or P&P), but I wasn’t necessarily expecting to get anything new out of it. I’m not really sure what I was thinking because this is JANE AUSTEN we’re talking about. Of COURSE I’m going to see something I’d never seen before. That’s how brilliant her works are.

I say all this in order to establish that the purpose of this review isn’t to let you know how great P&P is or how amazing Austen is. Thousands of people have done that before me. In this review, I just wanted to share what I got from a second reading of P&P and how there’s always more layers to peel back in an Austen novel.

Click here to read the rest of my review!

Contributor Reviewer

Posted in Book Reviews

Highlight: Sleeping with the Blackbirds by Alex Pearl

I was scrolling through my most recent blog posts today and was embarrassed to see I haven’t posted anything since March! I have so many book review and just general blog post ideas constantly going round in my head that I feel like I’m consistent with actually writing and posting blog posts…but apparently not!

Today I’m breaking this hiatus to share another unique book with you! A middle-grade novella told partly through blackbirds’ perspectives, Sleeping with the Blackbirds by Alex Pearl is funny, witty and touching. Read below to see how I felt about it:

I was first intrigued by Sleeping with the Blackbirds by Alex Pearl when I read the description. I love books that delve into the psychology of children’s emotions, especially since they oftentimes struggle to understand what they’re feeling at all. And then add the element of birds’ perspectives? Talk about interesting!

I was not disappointed. I was pulled in by the writing style (most likely because the author is British—that alone gives you enough reason to pick this book up) and I was fascinated with the characters. On the one hand, there’s something caricature-like about them, but on the other hand they feel so real. Every character from Roy’s parents, the school bully or the school’s superintendent had a quirk. No character was two-dimensional. I would say ultimately, each character had simple, single goal they were working towards. The problems arose when something (or someone…often Roy) stood in their way. All poor, sweet Roy wanted was to be left alone with the birds. But it would take a lot of change to make that happen.

Click this link to read my full review!

Contributor Reviewer