Small Great Things

28587957 Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

**This review is based on an ARC from Netgalley, release date 10/11/16.

Summary from Goodreads:

Ruth Jefferson is a labor and delivery nurse at a Connecticut hospital with more than twenty years’ experience. During her shift, Ruth begins a routine checkup on a newborn, only to be told a few minutes later that she’s been reassigned to another patient. The parents are white supremacists and don’t want Ruth, who is African American, to touch their child. The hospital complies with their request, but the next day, the baby goes into cardiac distress while Ruth is alone in the nursery. Does she obey orders or does she intervene?
Ruth hesitates before performing CPR and, as a result, is charged with a serious crime. Kennedy McQuarrie, a white public defender, takes her case but gives unexpected advice: Kennedy insists that mentioning race in the courtroom is not a winning strategy. Conflicted by Kennedy’s counsel, Ruth tries to keep life as normal as possible for her family—especially her teenage son—as the case becomes a media sensation. As the trial moves forward, Ruth and Kennedy must gain each other’s trust, and come to see that what they’ve been taught their whole lives about others—and themselves—might be wrong.
With incredible empathy, intelligence, and candor, Jodi Picoult tackles race, privilege, prejudice, justice, and compassion—and doesn’t offer easy answers. Small Great Things is a remarkable achievement from a writer at the top of her game.

My thoughts:

First, I just HAD to read this and was so excited that Jodi Picoult was at BEA and I was able to get a copy signed by her. I did base my review on the e-ARC from Netgalley though, as I did not want to read the actual signed copy and damage it in any way. 🙂 Anyway, I am rarely disappointed by Jodi Picoult, and the synopsis to this drew me in…it is so timely! After reading only the first few chapters, I sat and thought about how brave Jodi was to write a book that was based on so much controversy. I really enjoyed reading her Author’s Note at the end to get insight into her thoughts and the process of writing this story. I certainly wouldn’t have felt comfortable doing so. I, like Jodi mentions, would never consider myself racist, but it seems sometimes that just being born as a white person makes you blind to what really goes on.

I really liked Ruth as a character and found myself trying to empathize with her, I can’t imagine being told I couldn’t do my job based simply on the color of my skin. Turk was loathsome, of course, and I truly hated him throughout the book, which was the whole point I know. I also found myself relating to Kennedy, wanting to help but then unsure how to exactly do so. I was impressed with her final discovery, as I would have never thought of it.

I gave this 4 stars simply because I felt it did drag on a little too long, some of it felt a bit repetitive I guess. I also felt like the ending was rushed and this might not make sense since I just said the book was too long, but I could have easily read another book based on the last few chapters of this one telling what happened years after the court case. I do highly recommend this book and will be purchasing it for my school library. I commend Jodi for writing about such a tough topic, which she does often, and doing so in such a great way!

My rating: 4/5

Advertisements

A Shadow Bright and Burning

23203252.jpg A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess

**This review is based on an ARC I picked up at BEA in Chicago, release date is 9/20/16.

Summary from Goodreads:

Henrietta Howel can burst into flames. When she is brought to London to train with Her Majesty’s sorcerers, she meets her fellow sorcerer trainees, young men eager to test her powers and her heart. One will challenge her. One will fight for her. One will betray her. As Henrietta discovers the secrets hiding behind the glamour of sorcerer life, she begins to doubt that she’s the true prophesied one. With battle looming, how much will she risk to save the city–and the one she loves?

My thoughts:

I am pretty impressed with this book, I wasn’t sure what I was getting into and I feel like there has been some overkill on fantasy lately or too many with the same kind of story, not sure what it is. Anyway, the description of this one was short and sweet and did its job to pull me in. I liked the magic story with a female point of view, which is a little less common I think.  I really liked most of the characters in this book, Henrietta was smart and funny and Magnus was a jerk, but also wonderful if that makes sense. He made me laugh often. I even grew accustomed to Blackwood, even though he was a bit of a bump on a log. Betrayal is pretty abundant in this story and I didn’t see the events at the end coming, but surprises are a good thing in this kind of book. I would recommend to my students and will be purchasing for my school library.

My rating: 4/5

Stealing Snow

28260524.jpg Stealing Snow by Danielle Paige

**This review is based on ARC from BEA and also from Netgalley, release date 9/20/16.

Summary from Goodreads:

Seventeen-year-old Snow has spent the majority of her life within the walls of the Whittaker Institute, a high security mental hospital in upstate New York. Deep down, she knows she’s not crazy and doesn’t belong there. When she meets a mysterious, handsome new orderly and dreams about a strange twisted tree she realizes she must escape and figure out who she really is.
Using her trusting friend Bale as a distraction, Snow breaks free and races into the nearby woods. Suddenly, everything isn’t what it seems, the line between reality and fantasy begins to blur, and she finds herself in icy Algid–her true home–with witches, thieves, and a strangely alluring boy named Kai, none of whom she’s sure she can trust. As secret after secret is revealed, Snow discovers that she is on the run from a royal lineage she’s destined to inherit, a father more powerful and ruthless than she could have imagined, and choices of the heart that could change the fate of everything…including Snow’s return to the world she once knew.

My thoughts:

I really went back and forth on even writing this review, because it hurts my heart to say negative things about Danielle Paige’s writing. She is one of the sweetest authors I have interacted with, so please remember that I feel that way through this review. In fact, here is a picture of us to make it better (haha):

Now, I was super excited to pick this up at BEA, not only to meet Danielle, but to get to read it because I loved the Dorothy Must Die series. I read some negative reviews before starting, but chose to ignore them and give it my all as I usually do. I was pretty interested for the first several chapters, but then I kept finding my mind wandering. Still, I stuck with it and read, but just could not make myself be interested in what was going on or invested in the characters. I think I would have liked a little more background on Snow and a little more struggle with her trying to learn how to use her newly found magic abilities. I can’t help but think of the scenes from the Twilight series where Bella is learning to use her powers after becoming a vampire as an example of more of what I would have wanted. I’m not sure why it just didn’t sit well with me. I also didn’t care for any of the love interests (and yes there was more than one, even more than two actually) and didn’t find myself rooting for any of them to be the one for Snow. Overall, I just couldn’t stay focused and I feel like I missed a lot of details because I wasn’t paying attention. I don’t think I’ll investigate this series further, but that won’t stop me from purchasing it for my library and letting some students try it out. Maybe it just wasn’t my cup of tea, maybe I just liked Dorothy Must Die so much because I’ve always been a bit obsessed with Wizard of Oz…I’m just not sure. I wouldn’t discourage others from reading this one, I just wouldn’t pick it up again myself. Again, I love Danielle Paige, and I’m sorry that I didn’t love this particular book.

My rating: 2/5

Baby Doll

27415371 Baby Doll by Hollie Overton

**This review is based on an ARC I picked up at BEA in Chicago from the Hachette booth, release date is shown as 7/12/16.

Summary from Goodreads:

Held captive for eight years, Lily has grown from a teenager to an adult in a small basement prison. Her daughter Sky has been a captive her whole life. But one day their captor leaves the deadbolt unlocked.
This is what happens next…
…to her twin sister, to her mother, to her daughter…and to her captor.

My thoughts:

I just picked this book up as I walked by it at BEA because it just had a cover on it that said “Escape is just the beginning”, so I was intrigued. I am trying my best to read all the ARCs I picked up, and this was a short one, so it was easy to sit down and read it quickly. It was interesting enough that I read it in 2 sittings, but it did have its flaws. I’ll get to this in a second.

At the beginning of the book, Lily escapes from her captor of 8 years, makes sense with what the cover said, so that was fine.  However, I think her escape seemed a little too easy…but that’s just me wanting some suspense I guess. She makes it back to her family and the story goes from there, focusing on the aftermath for Lily, her daughter Sky, her twin Abby, and her mother mostly. There are some other characters that you hear from, as the story is told in the different viewpoints each chapter.

I do feel that some of the things that happened in this book were fairly far-fetched for how I would imagine things would really be like…but, also, how would I know what it would be like, right?  The middle part of the book could have been a little more interesting, but I’m not sure how, so I’m not going to critique it much. Things started to get pretty intense toward the end and I thought that it ended nicely. I like that the captor was someone that people would have never thought, which made things interesting. All that being said, this book was obviously good enough to keep me reading half of it at a time, so I would recommend it to those who like suspense, kidnapping stories, etc.

My rating: 4/5

 

First Comes Love

26192467 First Comes Love by Emily Giffin

**This review is based on an ARC from Netgalley and from BEA, release date 6/28/16.

Summary from Goodreads:

Growing up, Josie and Meredith Garland shared a loving, if sometimes contentious relationship. Josie was impulsive, spirited, and outgoing; Meredith hardworking, thoughtful, and reserved. When tragedy strikes their family, their different responses to the event splinter their delicate bond.
Fifteen years later, Josie and Meredith are in their late thirties, following very different paths. Josie, a first grade teacher, is single—and this close to swearing off dating for good. What she wants more than the right guy, however, is to become a mother—a feeling that is heightened when her ex-boyfriend’s daughter ends up in her class. Determined to have the future she’s always wanted, Josie decides to take matters into her own hands.
On the outside, Meredith is the model daughter with the perfect life. A successful attorney, she’s married to a wonderful man, and together they’re raising a beautiful four-year-old daughter. Yet lately, Meredith feels dissatisfied and restless, secretly wondering if she chose the life that was expected of her rather than the one she truly desired.
As the anniversary of their tragedy looms and painful secrets from the past begin to surface, Josie and Meredith must not only confront the issues that divide them, but also come to terms with their own choices. In their journey toward understanding and forgiveness, both sisters discover they need each other more than they knew . . . and that in the recipe for true happiness, love always comes first.

My thoughts:
I have read all of Emily Giffin’s books, except the one right before this (going back to it as soon as I get a chance though), and have always enjoyed her writing. I got the chance to meet Emily and get this book signed while at BEA in Chicago, so I was super excited to read and review it.

I really liked this book and found myself excited to get back to it each evening before bed. I found myself really relating to Josie, since I started out as an elementary teacher (before moving to the high school level) and am still single, though not actively searching/needing a man like she thought she did. I have a very similar personality as well, so I found her chapters especially enjoyable. Emily also did her research on teaching (or maybe she has a background I’m not aware of!) and was accurate about the life of a teacher. I also found the dynamic among the two sisters quite entertaining, though Meredith was highly unlikeable for me (because I am pretty much her opposite, like Josie). It is always interesting to read about two sisters so different, as this is certainly the case in real life with my sister and me. Not that my sister is like Meredith either, we are just extremely different from one another.

Meredith is the more uptight, boring sister in this particular story…she has the life that Josie thinks she wants, but she is not happy with it herself. Throughout the book, she is trying to figure out where she went wrong and how she can be happy in the future. It is certainly a struggle, as she knows she has it good in the eyes of most other people. Josie struggles throughout the story for Meredith’s approval, while they both are trying to figure out how to move on from a tragedy that happened 15 years ago.

If you don’t like books with alternating viewpoints, you may not like this format, but I tend to like this style; since a lot of Young Adult books that I read are that way, I have become accustomed to it. I would say that it’s safe to say this is my favorite Emily Giffin book thus far and I have already recommended it to my own sister and mom, and I will be telling friends about it also. If you are looking for a great summer read, and if you enjoy a family story, then pick this one up for sure! I am hoping maybe we will get to read more about these sisters in future books. 🙂

My rating: 5/5

 

You Know Me Well

27158835 You Know Me Well by Nina LaCour & David Levithan

**This review is based on an ARC from Netgalley, release date 6/7/16.

Summary from Goodreads:

Who knows you well? Your best friend? Your boyfriend or girlfriend? A stranger you meet on a crazy night? No one, really?
Mark and Kate have sat next to each other for an entire year, but have never spoken. For whatever reason, their paths outside of class have never crossed.
That is until Kate spots Mark miles away from home, out in the city for a wild, unexpected night. Kate is lost, having just run away from a chance to finally meet the girl she has been in love with from afar. Mark, meanwhile, is in love with his best friend Ryan, who may or may not feel the same way.
When Kate and Mark meet up, little do they know how important they will become to each other — and how, in a very short time, they will know each other better than any of the people who are supposed to know them more.

My thoughts:

I tried to grab this book at BEA a few weeks ago, but failed to do so…too much happening. I did get David Levithan’s other book, sequel about Dash & Lily, but not this one. So, I was pleased to be able to come back and still get to read it on Netgalley. First, let me say, that I would never have known (if I didn’t already know, haha) that this was two different people writing this book. He discussed it some in a panel I attended at BEA and said he wrote one point of view and Nina wrote the other and it was truly seamless. After seeing David speak, I could see his humor come through in this book as well, which was interesting. I have only read one other book by Nina LaCour, but I enjoyed it as well.

I really liked reading from both Mark and Katie’s perspectives in this story, and found it to be a quick and very interesting read. Both of the characters were very entertaining and very lovable. This book focused mostly on LGBT relationships and Pride; which, of course, is really no different than reading about any other romantic relationship. I think this kind of book is an awesome way to expose readers to different kinds of relationships, romantic and friendly, without being intimidating. Some teens, especially, don’t want to check out an obviously LGBT book for various reasons, so this is a great way for them to be able to read what they want. You even see a character in this book that is struggling with coming out to his family and classmates. I have some students who really like David Levithan and I can’t wait to put this book in their hands when school starts again. This was a great read!

My rating: 5/5

BookCon in Chicago

Hey again! This will (probably) be my last post for now about BEA/BookCon and this was my final day spent in Chicago. BookCon is kind of attached to BEA, but open to the public and run by a different company (I think). My coworkers/friends drove up Friday night after school and joined me for BookCon on Saturday. They were super excited and I was super exhausted, but happy to have friends to hang with for at least one of the days.

We had done our research about BookCon and knew we needed to get up early the next morning to get in line, but we grossly misjudged how early apparently. We got there a little over an hour before the autograph/wristband area opened, which was still 3 hours before BookCon actually started and we were overwhelmed by the massive line stretching to what seemed like an infinite point. We walked over from the hotel into the convention center, found the line, and had to follow it over a skywalk, down some escalators, and to a whole other building essentially…and there ended up being a LOT of people behind up before it was all said and done. Luckily, the wristband area was fairly well-organized and things moved quickly. We were actually able to get pretty much all of the wristbands we wanted, even though we were so far back in the line (or so it seemed). I was actually pretty impressed with the organization and manners of people, after some things I had read about past BookCons.

After getting our wristbands, we had to go wait in another line for the show floor to actually open and we had some fun there playing with Snapchat and maybe making fun of people around us (I would never!). Okay, really, I have to say it, there was just someone around us who smelled really bad and we had to laugh to make it through. Here we are in one of the lines and me with a sign at some point in the day:

IMG_3010 IMG_3018

I had seen that there was going to be a Harry Potter wall in the Scholastic booth so that was one of my stops (since I couldn’t get into the Penguin breakfast, I was so close!) while they waited for the Sylvia Day signing—so not my cup of tea. The wall asked for you to tell why you loved Harry Potter or why it had impacted you. I was trying to show off my HP tattoo in the second photo, but obviously that didn’t work, so I will add a pic of it as well. Obviously, I’m a bit obsessed!

IMG_3011IMG_301211035976_10153725110198571_6307876388978802256_n

We were walking around the floor picking up giveaways and ARCs before some of the signings and we ran into Richelle Mead. I have to admit that I was only just reading one of her books for the first time (while I was at BEA actually), but my friend Candice about lost her mind. She was like I was when I met Jennifer Niven. 🙂  Richelle was kind enough to take some pictures with us and chat a little bit. She even signed the copy of The Glittering Court that I had with me for our school library when Candice saw her again later. IMG_3019

I missed the James Dashner signing while waiting in line for the Property Brothers (I got caught up in hype and excitement!), so that was a little disappointing, but I met Drew and Jonathan! Drew is super cute by the way…okay, Jonathan is too, but I’m a Drew fan. Their line moved pretty slowly due to a holdup with the money table, so it took quite a while to make it through there, I want to say close to 2 1/2 hours in one line. But, at one point, they came out into the crowd because they knew we had been waiting so long, which I thought was super cool of them.

IMG_3026

My last signing of the day was Jennifer Niven (yes, again!). Is it getting creepy at this point? I just wanted to talk to her again and get a copy of All the Bright Places signed, since it is my absolute favorite. It was a pretty slow-moving line, but she was kind enough to chat with everyone, so I can’t fault her for that. I talked to her again and my friend Julie hyped me up, telling her how much I talked about her book. 🙂 Thanks, Julie! We have already put it into the hands of a student since we got back to read over the summer. I didn’t get a picture with her again, but I got a picture of her. Also, it was her birthday! I’m hoping that meeting fans and signing books is her idea of a fun birthday celebration.

IMG_3027

People were packing up booths and we were wandering out, when we came upon the massage both.  They were still working hard, so Julie decided to take advantage. I had never had a massage before and had a weird fear of it, but they talked me out of it and I got a back massage before we left the convention center. It was pretty nice, I’ll admit…but what I would’ve given for a foot massage (I was ready to cut them off and be done with it by that point!). They were offering one, but I was not about to subject anyone to my sweaty feet that had been in my stinky tennis shoes all day! I’m more considerate than that. 🙂

Would I do BookCon again? Probably not if I did BEA the days before, but I would if I had friends that really wanted to go again. It was fun nerding out with others who get it! I did get this awesome t-shirt out of the day:

IMG_3038

Here is my final stash from BEA and BookCon, stacked by month they come out—a little overwhelming and awesome!

IMG_3041.JPG

Check out the rest of my blog to read about my days at BEA.