Crowdsourced Short Book Reviews – by my friends!

So here we are locked in (or at least we should be – come on people!), and my friends have books to recommend. The request was a brief book review of a book that floats your metaphorical (socially distanced) boat. Care to join in the fun? Message me and I’ll see about doing this again.

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Dodgers by Bill Beverly. A powerful coming of age story that follows East, a LA gang member, on his journey to complete a mission. – Stacey Robothom Baugh

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The Nix: a smart, funny and often touching novel about a professor. Struggling to write his next book, he finds inspiration when his estranged mother makes news headlines. – Jennifer Ress Bush

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The Dutch House by Ann Patchett. It’s a coming-of-age story in which the sibling relationship is the most significant. Vivid characters surrounded by strange beauty. – Jill Hecht Maxwell

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The Cemetery of Forgotten Books series. I’m working my way back through the first three before I finally read the final book. Spanning from 1910-1960 Barcelona, they’re crime, thriller, noir stories. Gorgeously descriptive in it’s portrayal of a beautiful, yet socially broken Spain following the civil war. Each book is self contained, but there are character/family lineage crossovers. The books are: The Shadow of the Wind, The Angel’s Game, The Prisoner of Heaven, and The Labyrinth of the Spirits. – Sean Hefferon

Adding on to Sean’s review — I just finished the last book. Not much need to read the rest of the series. They are not the main characters and not featured until the end. For everyone, it’s over 2000 pages of delicious reading. – Robert Gerson

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Tembi Locke, From Scratch. A haunting, beautifully written memoir about love, loss and how food can bring us together and heal our broken hearts. – Lauren Henry

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The Starless Sea. I have no idea what happened but I loved it anyway. – Jennifer Ray

Adding on to Jennifer’s review — That is the best description on the book. I was sad when it was over. – Michelle Smith

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Carl Hiaasen creates some really outrageous characters. – Robert Gerson

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How Will You Measure Your Life by Clayton Christensen. It puts into perspective and context what is important in life, how to understand where you are in that “process” while bringing different views and experiences that enrich everyone’s understating of their own sense of achievement and happiness. – Pablo Terpolilli

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I’ve been reading a lot of Hemingway. For Whom the Bell Tolls. It’s about the Spanish civil war, and it totally holds up. – David Larmore

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If you are interested in learning more about epidemiology and the political and social implications from years past, (particularly the Reagan administration), I recommend And the Band Played On by Randy Shiltz. – Leslie Salters

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I am very excited to read The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel. It’s the final book in a trilogy about Thomas Cromwell. Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, the first two, gave a new perspective on Henry VIII, the wives, and the history of that time. Absolutely riveting…and many pages, which is good when one is social distancing as we all are right now. – Phyllis Stone

Every Last Word – Review by Lillian Dow Paterson

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Lillian joined my class midyear, which is not  the easiest thing to do. Some kids are intimidated by the pace, the style, or the fact that a class can be like a family — quirky and individual — but Lillian came in confident and ready to go! She’s got great ideas and is all-in when it comes to reading, trying new things, and working with groups. I’m delighted that she’s jumped into the book review fray, as well, and has introduced me (and maybe you) to a new novel.

Samantha McAllister looks just like the rest of the popular girls in her junior class. But hidden beneath the straightened hair and expertly applied makeup is a secret that her friends would never understand: Sam has Purely-Obsessional OCD and is consumed by a stream of dark thoughts and worries that she can’t turn off. Caroline introduces Sam to Poet’s Corner, a hidden room and a tight-knit group of misfits who have been ignored by the school at large. Sam is drawn to them immediately, especially a guitar-playing guy with a talent for verse, and starts to discover a whole new side of herself. Slowly, she begins to feel more “normal” than she ever has as part of the popular crowd . . . until she finds a new reason to question her sanity and all she holds dear.  – Amazon

Every Last Word is a novel by Tamara Ireland Stone. Every Last Word is about a highevery-last-word school junior named Samantha McAllister. Samantha was diagnosed with OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) at age ten and has struggled with it constantly. She swims and goes to a shrink (therapist) named Sue.  On one fateful day she meets Caroline and her whole world changes, Caroline is the only one who truly understands her, Caroline introduces her to the Poets Corner and Samantha starts to feel normal and drenched out of the thoughts that tantalize and taunt her day on. She begins to stand up to the harshness of her so-called friends. She begins to see a new world, a better world forming around her. Among her new friends is AJ, Andrew Olsen who she previously chastised because of his past stutter. The two begin to start a romantic relationship, even though her “popular friends” don’t seem to approve of the two. Along with this, her poetry processes and becomes better and better. Every Last Word is a fabulous book that I would recommend for everyone to read.  Warning: Some content may not be appropriate for younger children.

Wonder – Review by Samantha Wu

-2What one notices first about Samantha is her smile. She always smiles! Having her in my final class of the day is truly energizing. Whether talking about books or serious moments in history, she is insightful and thrives on sharing her words on paper and aloud. A terrific kid recommending a terrific book – a book I resisted reading for no good reason but loved once I did.
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August Pullman was born with a facial difference that, up until now, has prevented him from going to a mainstream school. Starting 5th grade at Beecher Prep, he wants nothing more than to be treated as an ordinary kid–but his new classmates can’t get past Auggie’s extraordinary face. Wonder, a #1 New York Times bestseller, begins from Auggie’s point of view, but soon switches to include his classmates, his sister, her boyfriend, and others. These perspectives converge in a portrait of one community’s struggle with empathy, compassion, and acceptance.  – Amazon

 

Wonder, by R. J. Palacio is a deep, funny, and sometimes sad story that really makes you think.Wonder_Cover_Art It is a story about trying to fit in when people try to single you out, self acceptance, bullying, friendship, and forgiving. The protagonist, August, was born with what he calls “mandibulofacial dysostosis”- a facial deformity. He has been kept out of school for his entire life- until 5th grade when his parents decide it is time to put him out into the real world. He is bullied and followed everywhere by stares, and when he thinks that he is finally making friends, he overhears a conversation that he is not supposed to hear, and is crushed. School turns his life upside down, and flips it inside out. Over ups and downs, this is a story full of resilience and friendship- told by August, his friends, and his family, as they realize that “When given the choice between being right and being kind, choose kind”. It is wonderfully written, and deserves 5 stars.

“I think that there should be a rule that everybody in the world should get a standing ovation at least once in their lives… since we all overcometh the world”. – R.J. Palacio

Wonder definitely deserves a standing ovation.