Wednesday, April 26, 2017

How Tia Lola Came to (Visit) Stay

How Tia Lola Came to Visit Stay
by Julia Alvarez


Genre: Juvenile Fiction

Synopsis:  Moving to Vermont after his parents split, Miguel has plenty to worry about! Tía Lola, his quirky, carismática, and maybe magical aunt makes his life even more unpredictable when she arrives from the Dominican Republic to help out his Mami. Like her stories for adults, Julia Alvarez’s first middle-grade book sparkles with magic as it illuminates a child’s experiences living in two cultures.
from GoodReads

Review:  This was a book about Miguel, his sister, mom and eccentric aunt from the Dominican Republic.  Miguel and his sister are dealing with not living with their father and moving somewhere where there are no other Latinos and sticking out a bit at first.  Miguel also has to deal with being embarrassed by his aunt who as I said before is quite eccentric.  This book is not very deep and problems seem to be resolved fairly simply which makes it a good book for middle elementary children.

Rating: 3 stars

A Piece of the World

A Piece of the World
by Christina Baker Kline

Genre: Historical fiction

Synopsis: To Christina Olson, the entire world was her family's remote farm in the small coastal town of Cushing, Maine.  Born in the home her family had lived in for generations, and increasingly incapacitated by illness, Christina seemed destined for a small life.  Instead, for more than twenty years, she was host and inspiration for the artist Andrew Wyeth, and become the subject of one of the best-known paintings for the twentieth century, Christina's World.

As she did in her beloved bestseller Orphan Train, Christina Baker Kline interweaves fact and fiction in a powerful novel that illuminates a little-known part of America's history. Bringing into focus the flesh-and-blood woman behind the portrait, Kline vividly imagines her life-with her complicated relationship to her family and her past, and her special bond with one of our greatest modern artists.
from the book jacket

Review:  Perhaps this was not the right kind of book for me but I loved Orphan Train and the writer's style but this book was just so dull.  I should have abandoned it but for some reason I stuck with it probably because I thought it would get more interesting.  The story just dragged on and on with it not going anywhere.  The timeline jumps back and forth between when Christina is an adult, child, teen and young adult.  I found this to be distracting. So many characters were introduced and I did not know who they were but yet it seemed like I was already supposed to know who they were.  It was an interesting premise however just not well executed.

Rating: 2 stars

Thursday, April 20, 2017

The Tequila Worm

The Tequila Worm
by Viola Canales

Genre: Juvenile Fiction

Synopsis: Sofia comes from a family of storytellers.  Here are the tales of growing up in the barrio, full of the magic and mystery of family traditions: making Easter cascarones, celebrating el Dia de los Muertos, preparing for a quincenera, rejoicing in the Christmas nacimiento, and curing homesickness by eating a tequila worm.  When Sofia is signaled out to receive a scholarship  to an elite boarding school, she longs to explore life beyond the barrio, even though it means leaving her family to navigate a strange world of rich, privileged kids.  It's a different mundo, but one where Sofia's traditions take on new meaning and illuminate her path.
from the back of the book

Review:  This was definitely a cultural look into Sofia's life growing up in a tight knit group of Latinos in Texas.  The book shares so many traditions from storytelling, cascarones at Easter, quincenera to cooking frijoles (beans).   There was humor in this book as well as sadness.  The characters are down to earth  and one that readers will connect to. There were mature topics in this book including underage drinking of alcohol, so that should factor into how young of a student reads this book plus Sofia herself is 14-16 years old when most of the book takes place so while the reading level may be a little lower, the intended audience may be higher.

Rating: 3.5 stars

Monday, April 17, 2017

The Girl Who Came Home

The Girl Who Came Home
by Hazel Gaynor

Genre: Historical fiction

Synopsis:  A voyage across the ocean becomes the odyssey of a lifetime for a young Irish woman. . . .

Ireland, 1912 . . .

Fourteen members of a small village set sail on RMS Titanic, hoping to find a better life in America. For seventeen-year-old Maggie Murphy, the journey is bittersweet. Though her future lies in an unknown new place, her heart remains in Ireland with Séamus, the sweetheart she left behind. When disaster strikes, Maggie is one of the few passengers in steerage to survive. Waking up alone in a New York hospital, she vows never to speak of the terror and panic of that fateful night again.

Chicago, 1982 . . .

Adrift after the death of her father, Grace Butler struggles to decide what comes next. When her great-grandmother Maggie shares the painful secret about the Titanic that she's harbored for almost a lifetime, the revelation gives Grace new direction—and leads both her and Maggie to unexpected reunions with those they thought lost long ago.

Inspired by true events, The Girl Who Came Home poignantly blends fact and fiction to explore the Titanic tragedy's impact and its lasting repercussions on survivors and their descendants.
from GoodReads

Review:  I listened to the audiobook version of this story and it was not the right choice to listen to as I drove to and from work as it made me cry on many occasions!  Nothing like showing up to work with a tear streaked face!  The heartbreak in this story was palpable.  The story is told in alternating perspectives and the story bounces around in time a bit.  Most of the time we hear either Maggie's or Grace's perspectives.  Grace is often looking back at Maggie's story in the form of her diary.  The modern story of Grace and what happens in her life was not deep and did not add much to the story except to discover Maggie's story and bring it out into the open.  The story of what happened on the Titanic was not extremely original.  At times I was reminded of the movie Titanic as I listened to what was happening in the story.  That being said, I still truly enjoyed the book and would recommend it to people who like historical fiction.

Rating: 4 stars

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Maximilian and the Mystery of the Guardian Angel

Maximilian & the Mystery of the Guardian Angel
by Xavier Garza

Genre: Juvenile Fiction

Synopsis: Margarito acts like any other eleven-year-old aficionado of lucha libre. He worships all the players. But in the summer just before sixth grade, he tumbles over the railing at a match in San Antonio and makes a connection to the world of Mexican wrestling that will ultimately connect him—maybe by blood!—to the greatest hero of all time: the Guardian Angel.
from GoodReads

Review:  I know absolutely nothing about lucha libre which I think was a disadvantage when reading this book as I had no background knowledge to which I could relate the events of the story.  However, there was enough other content in the story that I was able to follow along without too much of a problem and I even learned a little about lucha libre!  Max is a huge fan of lucha libre and his hero is the Guardian Angel.  This story is face paced and contains some humor.  I think this book would greatly appeal to middle grade readers, especially to those who may have seen a lucha libre match.  This book is presented in both English and Spanish with English being on the left page and Spanish on the right.  I think once kids discover this book, they will want to read the other ones in the series.

Rating: 3.5 stars

Taking Sides

Taking Sides
by Gary Soto

Genre: Juvenile Fiction

Synopsis: Lincoln Mendoza is brown, not white.  Moving from the barrio to the tree-lined streets of the suburbs won't change that.  Tony Contreras is still his main man, and he's still loyal to his team at Franklin Junior High, even though he's playing basketball for Columbus now.  But when Franklin and Columbus are scheduled to face each other in a league game, Lincoln is worried-how can he play his best with his white friends at his new school, decked out in Air Jordans, against his old buddies in their worn-out sneakers?

When the day of the game arrives, Lincoln's own internal conflict is as intense as the battle between the two teams.  But when the game is over, Lincoln has learned something about winning-and about loyalty, about change, and about friendship.
from the book jacket

Review:  This book was published in 1991 and the language, mainly slang, in this book shows its age.  I think that kids could relate to the story about a boy who is able to move out of barrio but Lincoln seems to have moved straight into a very wealthy suburb which is less realistic.  The conflict of not knowing who to be loyal to is also relate-able but the terminology used is just too 90s (i.e. talking about Montgomery Wards!)  There is somewhat mature topics such as Lincoln having an ex-girlfriend and liking a new girl at school, theft, and fighting which makes this book a solid junior high book in my mind.

Rating: 3 stars

Thursday, April 6, 2017

The Most Beautiful Place in the World

The Most Beautiful Place in the World
by Ann Cameron
Illustrated by Thomas B. Allen

Genre: Juvenile Fiction

Synopsis:  Seven-year-old Juan lives in Guatemala, a place of stunning beauty and grim economic reality. Abandoned by his mother, Juan lives with his grandmother and shines shoes. He passionately wants to attend school, but fears Grandmother will say no. Finally gathering his courage, he is surprised when she not only agrees to send him to school but also chides him about the importance of standing up for himself. Juan tells this bittersweet story, which reads smoothly and powerfully on several levels, with warmth and dignity.
from GoodReads

Review:  This is an early chapter book that is written at a more mature level.  The writing style is simple but the topic is far from it.  Juan has a lot stacked against him in his life.  His father left, he was abandoned by his mother, he needs to work to make money for him and his grandma to live off of but that doesn't make him give up on his dreams.  This is a heartwarming story a little boy with such a positive outlook on life.  This is a book that could be read by younger children and older students who may be reading at a lower level.

Rating: 4 stars

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

The Reluctant Midwife

The Reluctant Midwife
by Patricia Harman

Genre: Historical Fiction

Synopsis: The Great Depression has hit West Virginia hard. Men are out of work; women struggle to feed hungry children. Luckily, Nurse Becky Myers has returned to care for them. While she can handle most situations, Becky is still uneasy helping women deliver their babies. For these mothers-to-be, she relies on an experienced midwife, her dear friend Patience Murphy. 

Though she is happy to be back in Hope River, time and experience have tempered Becky’s cheerfulness-as tragedy has destroyed the vibrant spirit of her former employer Dr Isaac Blum, who has accompanied her. Patience too has changed. Married and expecting a baby herself, she is relying on Becky to keep the mothers of Hope River safe. 

But becoming a midwife and ushering precious new life into the world is not Becky’s only challenge. Her skills and courage will be tested when a calamitous forest fire blazes through a Civilian Conservation Corps camp. And she must find a way to bring Isaac back to life and rediscover the hope they both need to go on.
from GoodReads

Review: I enjoyed the characters I met in The Midwife of Hope River so when I saw that there was a sequel and that characters were returning, I eagerly picked this book up.  I didn't enjoy this book as much.  Becky wasn't as compelling of a character as Patience was and the story of her being a midwife was too similar to Patience's story.  Once she stopped delivering babies and starting working at the CCC camp, the story became more interesting to me.  The men she met were interesting and engaging.  The story of Dr. Blum was captivating as I wanted to know how and when he was going snap out of his catatonic state.  I found the excerpts into Dr. Blum's mind to be distracting and it was hard to tell (when listening to the audiobook) when he was talking.  I wish the story had stayed in just Becky's perspective.  I did like the ending until the last chapter when I feel that Harman thought she needed to add in some social issues that weren't present in the rest of the book.  I still enjoyed the story and would read another book about these characters if there happens to be one but this one wasn't as good as the first.

Rating: 3 stars

To see my review of The Midwife of Hope River, click here.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Traveling Light

Traveling Light
by Lynne Branard


Genre: Women's Fiction

Synopsis:  It all starts when Alissa impulsively puts a bid on an abandoned storage unit, only to become the proud new owner of Roger Hart's remains.  Two weeks later, she jumps in her car and heads west, thinking that returning the ashes of a dead man might be the first step on her way to a new life.

She isn't wrong.

Especially when Blossom, who just graduated from high school, hitches a ride with her to Texas, and Alissa has to get used to letting someone else take the wheel.  Posting about their road trip on Facebook, complete with photos of Roger at every stop, Blossom opens Alissa's eyes to the road in front of her-and to how sometimes the best things in life are the ones you never see coming...
from the back of the book.

Review:  This book was a light, easy to read but yet somewhat quirky book about Al, a thirty-something year old woman who takes a backseat in life.  She lived in the same town, still lives in her childhood home, and works for her father's newspaper in a small town.  She spontaneously decides to take a road trip to New Mexico after finding a box of ashes in a storage unit she bought.  Along the way, she meets 17 year old Blossom who asks Al for a ride.  Blossom is a free spirit but not without some baggage.  Blossom and Al have adventures along the way with the remains of Roger and Al's 3 legged dog Casserole.  Al learns to tighten the reigns on her life and just live through her trip.  This was enjoyable read with out of the box characters.

Thank you to Berkley (Penguin Random House) for a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Rating: 3.5 stars

Return to Sender

Return to Sender
by Julia Alvarez


Genre: Juvenile Fiction

Synopsis:  After Tyler's father is injured in a tractor accident, his family is forced to hire migrant Mexican workers to help save their Vermont farm.  Tyler isn't sure what to make of these workers.  Are they undocumented?  And what about the tree daughters, particularly Mari, the oldest, who is proud of her Mexican heritage but also increasingly connected to her American life?  Mari's family lives in constant fear of being discovered by the authorities and sent back to the poverty they left behind in Mexico.  Can Tyler and Mari find a way to be friends despite their differences?
from the book jacket

Review:  This book is written in two forms: one, a narrative about Tyler and two, letters written by Mari to various people.  Tyler is forced to confront his feelings about having Mexican workers on his family's farm and how he should act around Mari.  Mari and her family live in fear that la migra (ICE) is going to find them and take them back to Mexico.  Mari's mother has been missing for almost a year but Mari still believes that she is alive and will find her and her family.  This book gives a look into what undocumented workers have to face and how they must feel.  Mari and Tyler develop a friendship that bonds the two of them together as they face a struggle.  There are terrible events that happen in this story so I would recommend it for older readers, not middle grades.  It also has one line that I thought was completely inappropriate (about a character being laid) for students and unnecessary.

Rating: 4 stars

Love, Amalia

Love.Amalia
by Alma Flor Ada & Gabriel M. Zubizarreta

Genre: Juvenile Fiction

Synopsis:  Amalia's best friend, Martha, is moving away, and Amalia is feeling sad and angry.  And yet, even when life seems unfair, the loving, wise words of Amalia's abuelita have a way of making everything a little bit brighter.  Amalia finds great comfort in times shared with her grandmother: cooking, listening to stories and music, learning, and looking through her treasured box of family cards.

But when another loss racks Amalia's life, nothing makes sense anymore.  In her sorrow, will Amalia realize just how special she is, even when the ones she loves are no longer near?
from the book jacket

Review:  In this book, Amalia struggles with her feelings about her best friend, Martha, moving.  Her grandmother tries to help her but before Amalia can feel better a tragic event happens in Amalia's life.  Amalia's grandmother has always been a huge part of her life and someone who helped her with many things.  Amalia loved learning about her heritage through her grandmother's stories and baking.  This book was just too simple for me and was very flat.  Amalia was one dimensional as were the other characters.

Rating: 2.5 stars

Saturday, April 1, 2017

All the Ugly and Wonderful Things

All the Ugly and Wonderful Things
by Bryn Greenwood

Genre:  Fiction

Synopsis: As the daughter of a drug dealer, Wavy knows not to trust people, not even her own parents.  It's safer to keep her mouth shut and stay out of sight.  Struggling to raise her little brother, Donal, eight-year-old Wavy is the only responsible adult around.  Obsessed with the constellations, she finds peace in the starry night sky above the fields behind her house, until one night when her stargazing causes an accident.  After witnessing his motorcycle wreck, she forms an unusual friendship with one of her father's thugs, Kellen, a tattooed ex-con with a heart of gold.

By the time Wavy is a teenager, her relationship with Kellen is the only tender thing in a brutal world of addicts and debauchery.  When tragedy rips Wavy's family apart, a well-meaning aunt steps in, and what is beautiful to Wavy looks ugly under the scrutiny of the outside world.
from the book jacket

Review:  Reading about the life that Wavy and Donal had was hard as they grew up with drug addict parents who didn't care about them at all.  Wavy clearly had so many emotional issues that could only be healed by a lot of therapy.  At first the relationship between Wavy and Kellen started off as very innocent and I love how much Kellen watched out for Wavy and how Wavy changed when she was with him.  But then the relationship got stranger and much less appropriate.  Clearly Wavy needed love and any type of love was OK with her.  She needed boundaries but Kellen got not give them to her.   As the book progressed it was harder and harder to read about their relationship.  I was disturbed by the end.  This book is somewhat graphic and vulgar.  Go into this book knowing that you will be torn by what you know is wrong but what may have been the best for a character.

Rating: 3 stars

Sunday, March 19, 2017

The Dreamer

The Dreamer
by Pam Muñoz Ryan
Illustrated by Peter Sis

Genre: Juvenile Fiction

Synopsis:  From the time he is a young boy, Neftalí hears the call of a mysterious voice.  Even when the neighborhood children taunt him, and when his harsh, authoritarian father ridicules him, and when he doubts himself, Neftalí knows he cannot ignore the call.  Under the canopy of the lush rain forest, into the vast and fearsome sea, and through the persistent Chilean rain, he listens and he follows...
from the book jacket

Review:  At first I didn't particularly like this book as it was far too fantastical and magical for me and that is not the genre that I prefer.  When I finished the book and read the author's note about how this is a fictional biography of Pablo Neruda's childhood, I liked this book much more and wish that I had gone into the book knowing this so that I could appreciate the poetry, questions and fantasy aspects throughout the book.  I would have understood the book better.  Neftalí grows up in a home where he and his siblings are not allowed to follow their dreams but must do what their father but yet Neftalí can't help but do what he was born to do.  He is an observer, a daydreamer, a thinker, a dreamer and he uses what his father considers to be negative qualities about him to make a difference.  This book isn't for everyone and I feel that some kids would not respond to it as it would be outside their genre but it is a well written, well illustrated book.

Rating: 4 stars

My Name is Maria Isabel

My Name is Maria Isabel
by Alma Flor Ada

Genre: Juvenile Fiction

Synopsis:  For Maria Isabel Salazar Lopez, the hardest thing about being the new girl in school is that the teacher doesn't call her by her real name.  "We already have two Marias in this class," says her teacher.  "Why don't we call you Mary instead?"

But Maria Isabel has been named for her Papa's mother and for Chabela, her beloved Puerto Rican grandmother.  Can she find a way to make her teacher see that if she loses her name, she's lost the most important part of herself?
from the book jacket

Review:  This is a very basic chapter book that is very short and simple.  Maria Isabel wants to be called Maria Isabel but her teacher names her Mary and gets very angry when Maria Isabel doesn't answer to the name Mary.  Maria Isabel misses out on opportunities because the teacher doesn't use her real name.  This book just made me angry because the teacher was portrayed in such negative light but rightly so because the teacher had no patience for Maria Isabel.  I was angry reading this because as a teacher I would never disrespect a student by calling the student a different name or mispronouncing their name and I know every teacher in my school would do the same thing.  I wanted so much more from this book-more depth, more feelings, more explanations but this book is intended for a much younger audience.  I feel that this book would be appropriate for 2nd and 3rd graders but no higher.

Rating: 3 stars

The Color of My Words

The Color of My Words
by Lynn Joseph

Genre: Juvenile Fiction

Synopsis: Twelve-year-old Ana Rosa is a blossoming writer growing up in the Dominican Republic, a country where words are feared.  Yet there is so much inspiration all around her-watching her brother search for a future, learning to dance and to love, and finding out what it means to be part of a community-that Ana Rosa must write it all down.  As she struggles to find her own voice and a way to make it heard, Ana Rosa realizes the power of her words to transform the world around her-and to transcend the most unthinkable of tragedies.
from the back of the book

Review: This story is a young girl who lives in the Dominican Republic who is a writer.  At the beginning of each chapter there is a poem about something from the chapter and they are beautifully written.  This story made me tear up more than once as I felt the hurt radiating from Ana Rosa.  This story is heartbreaking at times but is also full of life and culture.  There are several aspects of this story that make me hesitant to recommend it to elementary students one of which was drunkenness.  I felt like I could overlook the rum but with the other aspects, I decided I cannot use this book with my fifth and sixth grade students.  The reading level of this book is right for that age group but unless you have a mature group, I would recommend this to slightly older children.

Rating:  4 stars

The Midwife of Hope River

The Midwife of Hope River
by Patricia Harman

Genre: Historical Fiction

Synopsis:  A debut novel featuring Patience Murphy, an Appalachian midwife in the 1930s struggling against disease, poverty, and prejudices-and her own haunting past-to bring new light, and life, into an otherwise cruel world

As a midwife working in the hardscrabble conditions of Appalachia during the Depression, Patience Murphy's only solace is her gift: the chance to escort mothers through the challenges of childbirth. Just beginning, she takes on the jobs no one else wants: those most in need-and least likely to pay. Patience is willing to do what it takes to fulfill her mentor's wishes, but starting a midwife practice means gaining trust, and Patience's secrets are too fragile to let anyone in.

A stirring piece of Americana, The Midwife of Hope River beats with authenticity as Patience faces seemingly insurmountable conditions: disease, poverty, and prejudices threaten at every turn. From the dangerous mines of West Virginia to the terrifying attentions of the Klu Klux Klan, Patience must strive to bring new light, and life, into an otherwise cruel world.
from GoodReads

Review:  This story takes place in the 1930s during the Great Depression and takes place in West Virginia where the Depression has greatly affected residents.  The story does flash back to earlier times as well.  Patience Murphy is a midwife who struggles to make ends meet.  She has a dark past of which we are only given snippets of what happened at a time.  We finally get the whole story closer to the end.  Patience is an independent and strong woman who is not afraid to stand up injustice and she sometimes seems ahead of her time.  I did feel that she seemed too modern at the beginning but as the story went on, I became more intrigued by the life in West Virginia in the early 1900s and I forgot about how modern she seemed.  For some reason I gravitate towards and really enjoy stories about midwives.  The births in this story are somewhat graphic at times so this probably isn't the book for someone who is squeamish about childbirth. 

Rating: 4 stars

Dancing Home

Dancing Home
by Alma Flor Ada and Gabriel Zubizarreta

Genre: Juvenile Fiction

Synopsis:  Mexico may be her parent's home, but it's certainly not Margie's.  She as finally convinced the other kids at school she is one hundred percent American-just like them.  But when her Mexican cousin Lupe visits, the image she's created for herself crumbles.

Things aren't easy for Lupe, either.  Mexico hadn't felt like home since her father went North to find work.  Lupe's hope of seeing him in the United States comforts her some, but learning a new language in a new school is tough.  Lupe, as much as Margie, is in need of a friend.

Little by little, the girls' individual steps find the rhythm of one shared dance, and they learn what "home" really means.
from the book jacket

Review:  This is the story of two fifth grade girls who are cousins.  Margie was born in the US to Latino parents but wants to be thought of as American.  Lupe grew up in Mexico until she comes to live with her aunt, uncle and cousin.  Margie does not want Lupe around her but by having Lupe at her house Margie learns a lot of about her heritage and herself.  I love the message that this book presents and while it may appear to be preachy at times, I think it resonates and is an important message for kids to hear.  I think this is a book that intermediate grade readers should read to discuss about the book, perhaps in literature circles.  It is a book that I am highly considering for a group of Latino students to read as many of them are in Margie's situation.   There are a lot of Spanish phrases in the book but they are all explained in the following text, not just translated right afterwards.

Rating:  4 stars

Saturday, February 25, 2017

The Wedding Chapel

The Wedding Chapel
by Rachel Hauck

Genre: Christian Fiction, Romance

Synopsis:  For sixty years, the wedding chapel has stood silent and empty.  Retired football hall-of-famer Jimmy "Coach" Westbrook built the chapel by hand, stone by stone, for his beautiful and beloved Collette Greer, whom he lost so many years ago.  The chapel is a sanctuary for his memories, a monument to true love, and a testament to his survival of the deepest pain and loss.

Photographer Taylor Branson left her hometown of Heart's Bend, Tennessee, to make a new life for herself in New York.  She had lots to run away from, not least of all a family history of broken promises and broken dreams.  Love catches Taylor off guard when she falls for Jack Forester, a successful advertising executive, and their whirlwind romance leads to an elopement-then to second guesses.  Jack, in spite of his very real love for Taylor, is battling his own demons and struggles to show her his true self and the depths of his love for her.

Taking a photography assignment in Heart's Bend, Taylor is thrown back into a past of family secrets buried deep beneath the sands of time.  When Taylor and Coach's journeys collide, they each rediscover the heartbeat of their own dreams as they learn that the love they long to hold is well worth the wait.
from the back of the book

Review:  From the get-go, this book did not draw me in like the other two books in this series.  I just wasn't as interested in Jimmy's life at all nor did I like the story of Taylor, Jack and Colette and they are all the main characters!  The book was so slow until two thirds of the way through.  Once you get past that, the book speeds up and becomes much more captivating.  All of a sudden I cared about the characters and what happened to them.  That aside, if I hadn't read the other books first, I would not have continued reading this series.  I felt like the Christian fiction aspect of this book didn't come into play until the end and it was on the lighter side.  The chapel is referred to in future books but I don't believe you meet any of the characters again.  This book could have been a stand alone.

Rating: 3 stars

To see my review of The Wedding Dress, click here.
To see my review of The Wedding Shop, click here.

Monday, February 20, 2017

A Memory of Violets: A Novel of London's Flower Sellers

A Memory of Violets: A Novel of London's Flower Sellers
by Hazel Gaynor

Genre: Historical Fiction

Synopsis:  In 1912, twenty-year-old Tilly Harper leaves the peace and beauty of her native Lake District for London, to become assistant housemother at Mr. Shaw’s Home for Watercress and Flower Girls. For years, the home has cared for London’s flower girls—orphaned and crippled children living on the grimy streets and selling posies of violets and watercress to survive.

Soon after she arrives, Tilly discovers a diary written by an orphan named Florrie—a young Irish flower girl who died of a broken heart after she and her sister, Rosie, were separated. Moved by Florrie’s pain and all she endured in her brief life, Tilly sets out to discover what happened to Rosie. But the search will not be easy. Full of twists and surprises, it leads the caring and determined young woman into unexpected places, including the depths of her own heart.
 
from GoodReads

Review:  The haunting and desperate chapters and letters written by Florrie grabbed me into this book and kept me listening.  My heart broke for these two little girls, Flora and Rosie, who had to survive on the street all on their own by selling flowers.  At first I wanted to know more about them and less about Tilly but then Tilly's interactions with the orphans and the flower girls captivated me as well.  Tilly eventually found a journal written by Florrie and then both of their stories were intertwined.  Since I was listening to the book on my way to and from work, there were times where I felt things were repeating but I couldn't go back and check.  I discovered later that Tilly's dreams often repeated themselves.  The narrator in the audio version had a wonderful voice and presence but I did not like her voice for Mrs. Ingram.  She didn't sound French to me.  Other than those 2 small details, I very much enjoyed the story and would read another book by this author.

Rating: 4 stars

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Find Me Unafraid: Love, Loss, and Hope in an African Slum

Find Me Unafraid: Love, Loss, and Hope in an African Slum
by Kennedy Odede and Jessica Posner

Genre: Non-fiction

Synopsis:  Kennedy Odede found his first grey hair at six.  Named after John F. Kennedy, he grew up as the eldest of eight children in Kibera, a teeming Kenyan slum without sewage systems, roads, running water, or access to basic needs, like health care and education.  At ten, he was along on the streets.  Homeless and in despair at sixteen, Kennedy was given a book of Martin Luther King's speeches.  Inspired, he bought a twenty-cent soccer ball and started a youth group, determined to bring the hope he'd found into the lives of his fellow citizens.  He called it Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO).

Several years later, Jessica Posner, an irrepressible Wesleyan student, went abroad to work with SHOFCO and, despite Kennedy's incredulous objections, moved into his tiny house.  They fell in love.  When Kennedy was threatened by political violence, Jessica helped him win a full scholarship to Wesleyan and brought him to America.  Torn between his community, Kennedy, with Jessica at his side, decided to start a school for Kibera's most vulnerable population: girls.

The alchemy of their remarkable union and the small, joyful world their brilliant collaboration has made in Kibera have drawn the support of community members and celebrities alike.  With this support, Jessica and Kennedy have been able to provide water, heath care, and entrepreneurial programs, which now serve more than seventy-six thousand people, and have replicated this model in Mathare, another Kenyan slum.  Because of their efforts, hundreds of young girls have the potential to become Kenya's future leaders, and tens of thousands of people living in poverty have access to clean water, health care, and economic empowerment programs.  Their girls attend school every day in crisp blue uniforms and red sweaters.  Filled with hope and ambition for the future, they adhere to a rigorous curriculum and out-performing students from the most expensive schools in Kenya.  By elevating these girls, Jessica and Kennedy have started a subtle yet powerful revolution in each community, and have dedicated themselves to bringing the same resolve and enthusiasm to urban slums beyond Kibera and Mathare.

Jessica and Kennedy's story is many things: a tender love story, a tale of how true leaders are made, and an account of the successful melding of the best in two cultures.  Few have fought as tenaciously and ingeniously against poverty and hopelessness as these two young people.  Their story vividly illustrates the power of young, hopeful people to have an impact on the world, and stands as a testament to the transformations made possible by true loves.
to the book jacket

Review:  The authors of this book are truly amazing people who persevered and never lost hope that they could better their community.  Kennedy overcame so much in his life from abuse, poverty, homelessness, crime, drugs, lack of education, and more to become a leader in his community who works tirelessly to make everyone's situations better.  Jessica is an innocent student from the United States who has no idea to poverty-stricken area that she is walking into but she dedicates herself to helping others and eventually is accepted as part of the community.  I'm amazed by how quickly the two of them were able to build infrastructure once they were able to procure funds.    This book does not sugarcoat events that happened at Kibera and the atrocities that occur to women and girls.  There are parts that are not easy to read and broke my heart to learn about how other people are living.  This book is truly eye opening.  This book makes me think about my life and what I can do to try to help others.

Rating: 5 stars

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Fish in a Tree

Fish in a Tree
by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

Genre: Juvenile Fiction

Synopsis:  "Everybody is smart in different ways.  But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its life believing it is stupid."

Ally has been smart enough to fool a lot of smart people.  Every time she lands in a new school, she is able to hide her inability to read by creating clever yet disruptive distractions.  She's tired of being called "slow" and "loser," but she's afraid to ask for help; after all, she thinks, how can you cure dumb?

However, Ally's newest teacher sees the bright, creative kid beneath the troublemaker and helps to shine a light on her gifts.  Meanwhile, Ally gets to know tell-it-like-it-is Keisha and science-and facts-obsessed Albert, who also break the mold.  The three stand together against others who are not so kind.

As the outsiders begin to fit in, surprising things begin to happen in Ally's classroom that show her there's a lot more to her-and everyone-than a label, and that great minds don't always think alike.
from the book jacket

Review:  This book provides a look into a sixth grader who has made it thus far without teachers realizing that she can't read and without realizing that she has a disability.  Ally provides a front of an "I don't care" attitude and causes trouble so that she can distract from her academic struggles.  But the truth is Ally really does want to read and she is very hurt by comments that kids make about her.  Ally feels dumb because she can't read and the author helps us feel her pain.  Ally finally gets help when a maternity leave sub, Mr. Daniels arrives.  This is definitely a good book for the juvenile fiction reading crowd.

I had a couple problems with the book as a teacher however.  It blows my mind that no one in Ally's first 5 years of schooling caught that she couldn't read.  She has moved around a lot but I still think teachers would have noticed and tried to get her help earlier.  That seemed a bit unrealistic to me considering all the testing we do to assess student's levels.  Another problem I had with the book was that the kids seemed wise beyond their years.  Ally, Keisha, Albert, and Suki (another girl in the class) all seemed to always have an adage to help them through a situation.  Mr. Daniels was also an unrealistic maternity leave substitute.  I'm not sure I've ever met a substitute that is that enthusiastic and that willing to put it that much extra work.  Even once they figure out what is wrong with Ally, she does not seem to get support within the school day which is unrealistic as well.  All the problems aside, I rated this book more on what the intended audience would think of the book and not what an adult who is a teacher thinks of the book.

Rating: 4 stars

Thursday, February 9, 2017

America's First Daughter

America's First Daughter
by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie

Genre: Historical Fiction

Synopsis:  From her earliest days, Patsy Jefferson knows that though her father loves his family dearly, his devotion to his country runs deeper still.  As Thomas Jefferson's oldest daughter, she becomes his helpmate, protector, and constant companion in the wake of her mother's death, traveling with him when he comes America's minister to France.

It is in Paris, at the glittering court and among the first tumultuous days of the French Revolution, the fifteen-year-old Patsy learns about her father's troubling liaison with Sally Hemmings, a slave girl her own age.  Meanwhile, Patsy has fallen in love-with her father's protege, William Short, a staunch abolitionist and ambitious diplomat.  Torn between love, principles, and the bonds of family, Patsy questions if she can choose a life as William's wife and still be a devoted daughter.

Her choice will follow her in the years to come-to Virginia farmland, to Monticello, and even to the White House.  And as scandal, tragedy, and poverty threaten her family, Patsy must decide how much she will sacrifice to protect her father's reputation, in the process defining not just Jefferson's political legacy but that of the nation he founded.
from the back of the book

Review: This book started so strongly.  I was caught up in the early life of Patsy at Monticello and then in France when Jefferson was the minister to France and even at first when she returned to Virginia.  But once Patsy married and had children and her father was involved in political drama and her sisters-in-law where caught up in scandal, the book slowed down.  There was so much history and that dragged the story down (and I like historical fiction!)  This book is lengthy-580 pages!  You feel that length in the middle when you just want the story to move along.  I feel like more could have been cut out of this book to make it a faster paced book.  I did enjoy the look into Thomas Jefferson's life from a different perspective and the look into a woman's life at that time.  You get more a behind the scenes look in the start of our government and how a woman was able to influence a man out of the public's eye.  Reading the author's note was definitely insightful to know what was fiction and what was not.

Rating: 3.5 stars

Thursday, February 2, 2017

One Mountain Away

One Mountain Away
by Emilie Richards

Genre: Women's Fiction

Synopsis: With nothing but brains, ambition and sheer nerve, Charlotte Hale built a career as a tough, do-anything-to-succeed real-estate developer. She's at the top of that mountain…but her life is empty. Her friends are as grasping and insincere as she has become. Far worse, she's alienated her family so completely that she's totally lost touch with her only daughter.

One terrifying day, facing her own mortality, she realizes that her ambition has almost destroyed her chance at happiness.

So Charlotte vows to make amends, not simply with her considerable wealth, but by offering a hand instead of a handout. Putting in hours and energy instead of putting in an appearance. Opening her home and heart instead of her wallet.

With each wrenching, exhilarating decision, Charlotte finds that climbing a new mountain—one built on friendship, love and forgiveness—will teach her what it truly means to build a legacy.
 
from GoodReads

Review:  As the book started, it was slow going.  Since I was listening to the book, I kept on going and got caught up in the story and in Charlotte's path to redemption.  Charlotte learns that she is sick and faces all the mistakes she made in the past.  Her goal is to try to set things right and make up for what she had done.  Throughout the story we meet an eclectic cast of characters who all worm their way into your heart from Harmony, the vegetarian free spirited woman who Charlotte takes under her wing to Analiese, the minister who counsels Charlotte.  As the book moves along I found myself invested in Charlotte's life and hoping that she would make everything right.  I cried as I listened to the end.  One thing that kept this book from being a 5 star book was the length of it.  Emilie Richards has a way with descriptive words but there were times that I felt the descriptions were intrusive and unnecessary.  I also didn't get the idea of the anonymous goddesses that was brought up at the every end.  I felt like the author added that in at the last minute because she wanted to make this book into a series (which it is-there are 3 more books about 3 of the characters we meet in this story). I think the women in the story deserve their own stories and I would be interested in reading about them but the goddess part could have been left out. 

Rating: 4 stars

Saturday, January 28, 2017

The Wedding Dress

The Wedding Dress
by Rachel Hauck

Genre: Christian Fiction, Romance, Historical Fiction

Synopsis:  Charlotte owns a chic Birmingham bridal boutique.  Dressing brides for their big day is her gift-and her passion.  But with her own wedding day approaching, why can't she find the perfect dress-or feel certain she should marry Tim?

Then Charlotte purchases a vintage dress in a battered trunk at an estate sale.  It looks brand-new, shimmering with pearls and Bit  satin, hand-stitched and timeless in its design.  But where did it come from?  Who wore it?  Who welded the lock shut and tucked the dog tags in that little sachet?  Who left it in the basement for a ten-year-old girl?  And what about the mysterious man in the purple vest who insists the dress had been "redeemed"?

Charlotte's search for the gown's history-and its new bride-begins as a distraction from her sputtering love life. But it takes on a life of its own as she comes to know the women who have worn the dress.  Emily from 1912.  March Grace from 1939.  Hillary from 1968.  Each with her own story of promise, pain, and destiny.  And each with something unique to share.  For woven within the threads of the beautiful hundred-year-old gown is the truth about Charlotte's heritage, the power of courage and faith, and the beauty of finding true love.
from the back of the book

Review:  After reading Rachel Hauck's The Wedding Shop, I knew I wanted to read other books in this series as I enjoyed Hauck's easy writing style that keeps the reader's attention.  This book did not disappoint!  In fact, I liked it more than I liked The Wedding Shop. I really liked Charlotte (whom I met in The Wedding Shop) and Emily, who was from a wealthy family during the early 1900s.  I like how the historical stories of Emily, Mary Grace, and Hillary were intertwined with the modern day story.  The Christian fiction aspects of the book were not heavy handed (I thought it was actually less than what was in The Wedding Shop) and really fit in with the story line.  This book warmed my heart as I read about the love stories between Charlotte and Tim and Emily and her beaus.  Definitely a lighter book but a feel good one!

Rating: 4 stars

To see my review of The Wedding Shop, click here.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

The Other Einstein

The Other Einstein
by Marie Benedict

Genre: Historical Fiction

Synopsis:  What secrets may have lurked in the shadows of Albert Einstein's fame?  In 1986, the extraordinary gifted Mileva "Mitza" Maric is the only woman studying physics at an elite school in Zurich.  For her, math seems like an easier path than marriage, until she falls in love with fellow student Albert Einstein.  Charismatic and brilliant, Albert promises to treat her as an equal in both love and science.  But as Albert's fame grows, is there room for more than one genius in a marriage?

This is the untold story of Albert's first wife, a brilliant scientist in her own right, whose contributions to the special theory of relativity have been hotly debated.
from the book jacket

Review:  This book was a very interesting look into Mileva Maric's, Albert Einstein's first wife, life.  I enjoy reading historical fiction books about women who are little known behind the scenes of a famous man and about how women were strong and forward thinking at a time when women did not have equality.  Although even though the women are ahead of their time, they often are treated as non-equals and do nothing or unable to do anything about it which is a disappointment.  It was hard for me in this book to decipher truth from fiction.  The author says that she did a lot of research into Mileva Maric's life but there is still so much that is so much that is unknown about Maric's assistance with Einstein's theory and her skills as a physicist and mathematician.  I think the author takes many liberties with this story but it is still an interesting hypothesis.  I wouldn't go into this book thinking that you are going to read the absolute truth about Maric.  Make sure to read the author's note at the end of the book and perhaps read it before you read the rest of the story.  Other than that this is a fast paced, easy to read story.

Rating: 4 stars

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Left To Tell

Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust
by Immaculee Ilibagiza with Steve Erwin

Genre: Non-fiction

Synopsis:  Immaculee Ilibagiza grew up in a country she loved, surrounded by a family she cherished.  But in 1994 her idyllic world was ripped apart as Rwanda descended into a bloody genocide.  Her family was brutally murdered during a killing spree that lasted three months and claimed the lives of nearly a million Rwandans.

Miraculously, Immaculee survived the slaughter.  For 91 days, she and seven other women huddled silently together in the cramped bathroom of a local pastor's home while hundreds of machete-wielding killers hunted for them.

It was during those endless hours of unspeakable terror that Immaculee discovered the power of prayer, eventually shedding her fear of death and forging a profound and lasting relationship with God.  She emerged from her bathroom hideout having truly discovered the meaning of unconditional love-a love so strong that she was able to seek out and forgive her family's killers.

The triumphant story of this remarkable woman's journey through the darkness of genocide will inspire anyone whose life has been touched by fear, suffering, and loss.
from the book jacket

Review:  I was amazed by Immaculee in this book.  Her faith in God and her faith in hope was truly remarkable while going through such a horrific event.  My heart broke for her and all of the victims of the genocide in Rwanda.  Immaculee was hidden in a bathroom with seven women, fed minimally (for fear of discovery), had nothing to do because they needed to maintain silence so Immaculee decided to continue and further her spirituality and relationship with God.  She never lost hope that the country would make it out of this horror.  She believed with all of her being that God would protect her.  After she was rescued and discovered the fate of her family, she looked to God for comfort and managed to forgive the man who led the gang that killed her family.  How extraordinary. 

Rating: 4 stars

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Every Last Word

Every Last Word
by Tamara Ireland Stone

Genre: Young Adult Fiction

Synopsis:  If you could read my mind, you wouldn't be smiling.

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.

Second-guessing every move, thought, and word makes daily life a struggle, and it doesn't help that her lifelong friends will turn toxic at the first sign of a wrong outfit, wrong lunch, or wrong crush.  Yet Sam knows she'd be truly crazy to leave the protection of the most popular girls in school.  So when Sam meets Caroline, she has to keep her new friend with a refreshing sense of humor and no style a secret, right up there with Sam's weekly visits to her psychiatrist.

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 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.
from the book jacket

Review:  Oh, my.  I found myself crying along with Sam at the end without even realizing that I was crying.  My heart ached for her as she questioned everything that had happened to her throughout the book.  I could have given this book 5 stars just for the ending but I had to remember the beginning too and rate the book overall.  The book starts with Sam and her popular friends hanging out and being teenagers.  The girls were mean girls and very shallow who I just did not like.  I always felt such empathy for Sam but I could not feel anything but disgust for her so-called friends.  Teenage drama about popular girls being mean is not something I need to read or hear anything about.  I have no tolerance for it.  As Sam meets Caroline and the other members of Poet's Corner, the book turned a corner for me.  There was much less drama and more soul searching.  The poems that the author includes that were written by the high school members of Poet's Corner were so poignant and really touched my heart.  I could really feel for what each of the characters were struggling with.  Sam herself was struggling with OCD.  The synopsis talks about her having dark thoughts but those really only appear in the fist chapter.  Sam's disorder is more obsessing about the number 3 (which the author cleverly inserts into the story in various ways) and other things.  Throughout the story we watch Sam grow and blossom as she moves away from her popular friends to people who accept her for who she is.  What a beautifully written book!

Rating: 4.5 stars

The Edge of Lost

The Edge of Lost
by Kristina McMorris

Genre: Historical Fiction

Synopsis:  On a cold night in October 1937, searchlights cut through the darkness around Alcatraz.  A prison guard's only daughter-one of the youngest civilians who lives on the island-has gone missing.  Tending the warden's greenhouse, convicted bank robber Tommy Capello waits anxiously.  Only he knows the truth about the little girl's whereabouts, and that both of their lives depend on the search's outcome.

Almost two decades earlier and thousands of miles away, a young boy named Shanley Keagan ekes out a living as an aspiring vaudevillian in Dublin pubs.  Talented and shrew, Shan dreams of shedding his dingy existence and finding his real father in America.  The chance finally comes to cross the Atlantic, but when tragedy strikes, Shan must summon all his ingenuity to forge a new life in a volatile and foreign world.

Skillfully weaving these two stories, Kristina McMorries delivers a compelling novel that moves from Ireland to New York to San Francisco Bay.  As her finely crafted characters discover the true nature of loyalty, sacrifice, and betrayal, they are forced to confront the lies we tell-and believe-in order to survive.
from the book jacket

Review:  This book was not quite what I expected.  I thought there was going to be more a mystery in this book and there really wasn't any at all.  That did not detract from my enjoyment of the book, however, as I am a fan of historical fiction.  The book takes place between the 1920s and 1930s which is not a time frame I have read much about.  The book starts off with a short prologue about Tommy Capello on Alcatraz and a little girl who has gone missing.  Then the book jumps back in time and tells us about Shanley's life in Ireland.  I had no idea the connection between the two people and the first few chapters about Shanley's life were slow so I was a bit frustrated by the book.  As Shanley travels to America and his subsequent life there develops, I became much more involved in the book and Shan worked his way into my heart.  He was such a sympathetic character because of the tough life that he had led.  Without giving too much away, Shan is taken under the wing of an Italian family and his life improves greatly.  The story continues through Shan's childhood, teenage years and early adulthood.  We see love, compassion, jealousy, loyalty, friendship, trust, betrayal, and sacrifice all in one book.  This was a good read and one that I enjoyed but it is not one that stuck with me after I finished it.

Rating: 4 stars

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Cherries in Winter

Cherries in Winter
Suzan Colon

Cherries in Winter: My Family's Recipe for Hope in Hard Times

Genre: Memoir

Summary (from Goodreads): What is the secret to finding hope in hard times?

When Suzan Colón was laid off from her dream job at a magazine during the economic downturn of 2008, she needed to cut her budget way, way back, and that meant home cooking. Her mother suggested, “Why don’t you look in Nana’s recipe folder?” In the basement, Suzan found the tattered treasure, full of handwritten and meticulously typed recipes, peppered with her grandmother Matilda’s commentary in the margins. Reading it, Suzan realized she had found something more than a collection of recipes—she had found the key to her family’s survival through hard times.

Suzan began re-creating Matilda’s “sturdy food” recipes for baked pork chops and beef stew, and Aunt Nettie’s clam chowder made with clams dug up by Suzan’s grandfather Charlie in Long Island Sound. And she began uncovering the stories of her resilient family’s past. Taking inspiration from stylish, indomitable Matilda, who was the sole support of her family as a teenager during the Great Depression (and who always answered “How are you?” with “Fabulous, never better!”), and from dashing, twice-widowed Charlie, Suzan starts to approach her own crisis with a sense of wonder and gratitude. It turns out that the gift to survive and thrive through hard times had been bred in her bones all along.

Cherries in Winter is an irresistible gem of a book. It makes you want to cook, it makes you want to know your own family’s stories, and, above all, it makes you feel rich no matter what.


Review: This was a quick and interesting read about a magazine writer who lost her job during the recession of 2008.  She used her newfound free time to delve into her family's history, discovering that the women in her family were used to dealing with hard economic times.  Colón linked the past and the present using recipes, but food didn't feel like the primary focus of the book.  Instead, the author took her readers on a journey through the past, learning about her grandparents and great-grandparents, and how they made do with what they had.  Few people that I know were affected by the economic downturn in 2008, so it was educational to read about well-off New Yorkers who suddenly found themselves living on one salary instead of two.  I was a little frustrated that the author made a big deal of saying that she could no longer shop at Whole Foods and that she had to turn her heat down (to a temperature that's still higher than I keep my heat at!).  I have to believe the average person is already living their life the way that Colón did after she was laid off, and for her to make a big deal of it was a little patronizing.

Rating: 3 stars

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Everything I Never Told You

Everything I Never Told You
Celeste Ng

Everything I Never Told You

Genre: Fiction

Summary (from Goodreads): Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet.

So begins this exquisite novel about a Chinese American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio. Lydia is the favorite child of Marilyn and James Lee, and her parents are determined that she will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue. But when Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, the delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together is destroyed, tumbling them into chaos.

A profoundly moving story of family, secrets, and longing, Everything I Never Told You is both a gripping page-turner and a sensitive family portrait, uncovering the ways in which mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, and husbands and wives struggle, all their lives, to understand one another.


Review: I picked up this book solely because it had shown up in the top 10 on a booklist that I follow on Goodreads.  I figured that if so many women my age were reading it, I should try it, too.  And it was the kind of book that I would normally enjoy - a quiet and contemplative look at the difficulties of family dynamics, exacerbated by the unrealistic expectations that the parents have for their oldest daughter.  James, the son of a Chinese gardener, was sent to a private school on a full scholarship, but always longed to fit in among his snobbish peers.  Marilyn, an intelligent woman who chose to get married and have a child rather than pursue a medical degree, always wanted her daughter to have the opportunities that she missed out on.  Unfortunately, Lydia isn't interested in going along with her parents' expectations, and tries to find out how to stand up for herself.  There is very little communication going on within the family, but the author gets inside each character's head so that the reader can empathize with them.  Tragic and poignant.

Rating: 3.5 stars

A Robot in the Garden

A Robot in the Garden
Deborah Install

A Robot in the Garden

Genre: Fiction

Summary (from Goodreads): Warm-hearted fable of a stay-at-home husband who learns an important lesson in life when an unusual creature enters his life.

With all the charm and humour of THE ROSIE PROJECT and ABOUT A BOY mingled with the heart-swelling warmth of PADDINGTON BEAR MOVIE.

A story of the greatest friendship ever assembled.

Ben Chambers wakes up to find something rusty and lost underneath the willow tree in his garden. Refusing to throw it on the skip as his wife Amy advises, he takes it home.


Review: It's been a while since I read this book, and truthfully I don't remember very much about it.  The story was quirky and charming with a feel good ending.  I mean, who wouldn't love a story about a lonely man and his stubborn little robot sidekick?

Rating: 3.5 stars