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mini reviews: the good, the great, and the REALLY bad.

Some Kind of Happiness by Claire Legrand | May 17, 2016
When she is sent to stay with her grandparents for the summer while her parents attempt to work out the problems in their marriage, Finley meets the family she’s only heard stories about. Years ago, something happened that caused a huge rift between her father and his family and now she’s not entirely sure they even want her there. What’s worse, she’s been carrying the heavy weight of sadness, her ‘blue days’ that she tries her best to hide, afraid to tell anyone what’s going on inside her mind.

Some Kind of Happiness is a heartbreaking, powerful, and important book that doesn’t sugarcoat mental health. This little girl is burdened by the thought that she needs to keep her feelings a secret, that she should feel happy although she doesn’t, and she’s perfected the art of smiling when she doesn’t want to. Over and over my heart broke for Finley – though it’s not all somber and subdued moments! Fin has created a magical world that she allows her cousins into and they all befriend the neighbor boys who were always seen as being from the wrong side of the tracks.

There’s so much to discuss with this book that it’s a little overwhelming! Seriously, Middle Grade and Adult readers alike will be captivated by this book. I’ve adored Claire’s work for years now, but this one is truly something special.

A HUGE thank you to Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers for a review copy!

Stella by Starlight by Sharon M. Draper | January 6, 2015
It’s the 1930s, North Carolina. One night 11-year-old Stella and her little brother see a large bonfire out by the town pond. When the bonfire turns out to be a Klan rally, the small community of Bumblebee turns upside down. Despite the mounting tensions in town, life carries on as Stella still has to write essays in school and go to church every Sunday.

I’ve been wanting to read this one since I first head of it and even grabbed a copy from my library last fall, but never managed to get around to it. Recently I saw the audiobook was available and wasted no time claiming a copy! Stella by Starlight is one of those books that made me kick myself a little for putting it off for so long. While this was certainly a thought-provoking tale there were plenty of light-hearted and oh so wonderful moments, like when Stella wonders why she’s suddenly self-conscious around a boy she’s known all her life or during the school play when nothing goes according to plan.

Even better than the story, however, was the AMAZING and INCREDIBLE narration performed by Heather Alicia Simms. Her soothing voice totally made this one for me – the subtle differences between each character’s voice breathed life into this story and her singing was beautiful. I hear the book has illustrations (and I’m all about that!) but since the audio was so phenomenal I’d have to recommend a joint read/listen!

Dodger by Terry Pratchett | September 13, 2012
Oh, Sir Terry. This was actually my first book of his (that wasn’t co-authored by Neil Gaiman) and it was a blast. A superb setting (Victorian London, mostly the sewers and gritty, dirty underbelly,) a fantastic cast of characters (including some run-ins with Charles Dickens and Sweeney Todd,) and, again, wonderful narration (this time done by Stephen Briggs) all blended together to make for one great read.

I’m glad I picked up the audio, rather than print – from what I’ve read in other reviews, the style is a bit harsh and disorienting since Pratchett went for a street urchin-esque approach. Briggs, however, gave a flawless performance and I’d love to pick up a copy of the companion piece, Dodger’s Guide to London, a non-fic full of fun facts and trivia. In the afterword to Dodger, Pratchett mentioned his research and how there were tidbits he had hoped to squeeze in to the story, but couldn’t find the space. I’m thinking this is the result.

The Girl Without a Name by Sandra Block | September 8, 2015
This was a total impulse buy, plus it was published on my birthday! It turns out it’s actually the second in a series, but it read as a standalone and I had no issues whatsoever with following along (particularly since this was a ‘new case.’)

Zoe is nearly finished with her residency at the local hospital when she gets a case that changes her completely. A young girl, no more than 12 or 13, is found wandering the streets in a catatonic state. Once the doctors get her talking they discover she doesn’t remember anything about what had happened – she doesn’t even know her name. From there, things spiral nearly out of control and Zoe begins to wonder if someone is deliberately interfering with the girl’s recovery.

It’s interesting to note that Zoe has ADHD and Sandra Block did a great job in bringing that to Zoe’s narration – though I don’t feel that particular writing style will work for every reader. For this one, however, it was an absolute homerun and when I wasn’t reading this book I was counting down the minutes until I could get back to it!

The only thing I wasn’t too fond of was the Big Reveal. Early on in the story a throwaway line from a character got under my skin and I had a feeling it was capital I Important. That said, Zoe never thought anything of it until the very, very end. Despite calling it, I still had an absolute blast with this one and look forward to reading Little Black Lies!

Left in the Wind by Ed Gray | May 3, 2016
Told in diary form, Left in the Wind is a fictionalized account of what really happened to the lost colony of Roanoke. Sounds awesome, right? It ended up reading more as 1580s New World erotica than anything resembling historical fiction and was CLEARLY this man’s fantasy put to paper.

The MC sleeps with four men throughout the novel, is nearly raped by two more, and references her past as a prostitute (?? it’s never directly stated, but she talks about entertaining members of a Mason guild.)

Naturally Emme is gorgeous and has ridiculously big boobs (“Our Lord was most generous when he endowed you, Mrs. Merrimoth. Most generous indeed.”) that make all the men (White and Native American) want her. Especially once she begins mingling with the Croatoan tribe and starts dressing as they do: only a flimsy piece of animal skin for a skirt. Oh and let’s not forget how Emme all but wills herself to begin lactating so she can assume duties as a wet nurse, only to have the child taken away and when the pain of her engorged (and impossibly gigantic, remember) breasts becomes too much, a gentleman kindly takes it upon himself to step up and being suckling away.

I don’t think I’ve been this disappointed by a historical fiction novel since Neverhome.

A HUGE thank you to Pegasus for a review copy!

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