The Only (Endling #3) by Katherine Applegate

5 stars Middle School

Is this really the end? This is the third book in this series, supposedly the last book, yet I feel that the journey is far from over for some of the species in this book.  It has been quite an adventure and as I read this book, the struggle became more intense and determined than it had ever been.  Assigned to a mission, they knew that success was the only answer, and drawing from all sources, they gave it all they had.

I feel Byx and Tobble have come a long way from when I first met them in The Last and now, they’re responsible for gathering recruitments for the Army of Peace. The Army hopes that a peaceful agreement can be obtained amongst all the world’s species before the two most powerful groups come head-to-head and engage in war.  I thought this was a lot of responsibility for these two friends to take on, considering their lack of experience and all the risk that was assigned to this task.  They each had a skill but would that keep them alive?

I enjoyed this series and I would like to reread it now, that all the books have been written. I did cry reading this last book (it wasn’t when I closed the last page), it was when the two friends were with one another and their friends were close by, and that is all I am saying about that moment.  This was a wonderful journey, created with great imagination and unique characters.  I enjoyed the friendships that were created and how they developed.  The characters encouraged one another and they believed in teamwork.  I was surprised though, in this final book, at the difficult vocabulary used and the way that the author described the last scene.  I thought the author used some challenging words in this book which, if you’re able to decipher words, is fine. Sometimes though, it was hard to decipher a few of those words and I had to use the dictionary.  This is not a bad thing, it’s just something that caught me off guard.  The final scene though, I thought it might contain too many details for some students.  The confrontation that occurs gives some descripted details which to some students might be okay while to others, they would be fine with, “his xxxxx would never be the same.”  A great series that I highly recommend.

“I think being brave means being afraid and still doing what you must do.”

Links to trailers for Book 1 and Book 2

BOOK 1
BOOK 2

No Vacancy by Tziporah Cohen

4.5 stars Middle School

This book had a lot of themes going through it but it worked. Miriam, an 11-year-old girl is the protagonist in the story as her family moves into a rundown motel, in the hopes of creating a new future for themselves and the business. They had only planned this to be a short-term plan, hoping to save some money and then move on. Moving into a small community was different than New York City and the longer I read, the more I realized what this family was hiding internally.

As the family moves into The Jewel Motor Inn, the two children live in one of the rooms and the parents’ take-up residence in an adjoining room. As an 11-year-old, I thought that would be fun but I could understand the novelty wearing off. Maria, continues to work at the Inn, taking care of the housekeeping issues and helping the family become familiar with the motel. I loved how she helped Miriam learn Spanish and I felt that Maria was a very kind and tolerant individual. As her parents start the clean-up process, Miriam pitches in. On an errand to the diner next door, she meets Kate. Kate’s grandmother owns the diner and eventually, Miriam ends up helping out at the diner making pies.

Now that Miriam has met a friend, the two girls start hanging out together. While talking about their small town, they come up with a plan that they think will benefit everyone in it. Now, if only they don’t get caught creating their plan! An innocent plan which when you think about it, was harmless. I thought the girls were rather clever. As guests arrived to the hotel, Miriam meets Anton. This child was a gem! Anton arrived with his mother and his wheelchair. Miriam saw the wheelchair. I really think she saw the wheelchair before she saw Anton until Anton met her in the swimming pool. After that, Miriam changed how she looked at him. Anton was not the only person who tried to help Miriam with her fear of water, Uncle Mordy tried his hand at that, too. Uncle Mordy arrived to help out the family so he decided to help Miriam. Slowly, he introduced her the water, letting the water touch her upper thighs, it was a start.

The girls felt guilty for what they did for the town but they didn’t want to admit to anyone what they did. Just as the family is enjoying their new home, they discover something painful and disturbing at the motel. This event has a snowball effect on the community which all began because of emotions and the lack of accountability. I cringed to see this happened to them and I had to hope that somehow, they found find strength to fight it.

And what do you see? Just one of many that are out there.

A middle school read that packs religion, faith, friendship, disabilities, and family all in one book. I found it to be a fast read and I really enjoyed it. 4.5 stars

” They stand with their arms around each other. The man points and traces somthing in the air. The woman nods and smiles and I see tears rolls down her cheeks. “
“Is what we did good or bad? Yes, we fooled people, but if it makes them happy and gives them hope and saves the motel and the diner, is that so bad?”

Playaways

I’ve been listening to Playaways lately. I like them as they’re small and I can use my own headphones. My library has been getting more titles lately so that helps too.

Many individuals don’t know what a Playaway is, so I’m going to explain them. Our library carries them like they carry books on CD. Most of the time, a battery comes in the box, if not you’ll need a battery to put inside the unit. I usually just leave the battery rolling around in the case or in the clip for the next person.

Opening the box, you get a little rectangle box which is the book. You’ll need to put the battery in it. Plug in your headphones and you’re ready. You can also plug this into your cars audio system with a $10 cord, I found at Target.

This little system has volume control, speed control for the voice, fast forward, reverse, pause, a lock button and other timers to show you were you are in the book. I like how small they are. You can slip them into a coat pocket while taking a walk, into a shorts pocket, into jeans pockets, etc. they’re very versatile.

Front

Back

Inside – with battery
Inside the box with Playaway at the bottom
Backside of the Playaway. Control buttons
Where you plug in headphones and box info about your car
What the device screens tell you
All the Playaways I have checked out, my headphones and a Playaway

Living With Twelve Men….. a mother in training by Betty Auchard

4.5 stars Memoir

Reading Betty’s stories are like sitting beside her and having a conversation.  Betty doesn’t leave out anything as she writes about events in her life and I enjoyed the assortment of stories and her honesty.  I found myself laughing many times as I read and I even thought, “no, she really didn’t do that, did she?” 

Her story about the prayer chain hit home with me.  When it came time for Betty’s turn to pray, I cracked up as she spoke to the group.  I would have loved to be in that room and see everyone’s response as I think I would’ve started laughing. Her story about the guinea hens reminded me of the time I had turkeys.  I don’t know how she kept her composure during that whole ordeal but I feel she’s a strong woman as I know I wouldn’t have been able to.    

This is my second book of Betty’s that I’ve read and they’ve both been very enjoyable.  Betty writes about her personal experiences which are honest and open.  I read this book for book club and we had the honor this month (April 2021) of having Betty at our book club meeting via Zoom.  Seeing her in person was wonderful, as she’s just like the individual, I pictured her to be.  A very sweet, entertaining woman spoke with us.  She answered all of our questions, talking about the stories in the book, asking us questions, and telling us about her life.  We all enjoyed having her join us. 

Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas

5 stars YA

“Tough situations don’t last. Tough people do.”

I get this feeling of anticipation just before I read one of Angie’s books.  I know they’ll be no turning back once I read that first page, for she begins setting the stage with her authentic scenes, the intense drama, and those characters that I swear have to have an address somewhere because her fiction is incredible, it’s so natural.

With his father in jail and his mother working, 17-year-old Maverick is learning about life the hard way.  It seems that he just keeps getting knocked down again and again.  Following in his father’s footsteps, Maverick has joined a gang and is selling drugs. This promise is an obligation that Maverick has now committed himself to.  He’s enjoying his relationship with Lisa when his one-night stand, informs him that he’s now a daddy. 

The temperature is starting to get warm as Maverick tries to handle the emotions and responsibilities that come with this new accusation.  Maverick doesn’t understand how this can this happen, as it was only one night. I had to smile when I read this, as that’s normally what you hear from pregnant women. What’s going to happen with his relationship with Lisa?  How will he be able to juggle everything that seems to be coming at him at full speed now? 

I felt that Maverick did the best that he could, given the circumstances that he was under.  Oh, he was frustrated and outraged at times yet, at the back of his mind, he was focused.  He saw the end of the tunnel; he was just having a hard time getting there.

Another remarkable book by this fantastic author. I highly recommend this book and all the other books in this series.  I look forward to the next book that Angie Thomas writes.   

All He Knew by Helen Frost

4.5 stars Historical Fiction

I started to get all frustrated and concerned as I began reading this book.  I felt so helpless as I read about Henry.  He had begun his life alone and misunderstood.  The label they slapped on him, became a wall.  I felt some relief that Molly had never forgotten her brother, although he wasn’t living with her.  She loved him whether he was physically present or not.  The author’s creative way of expressing this factual event makes this a very powerful story. 

Henry was four when he becomes deaf after falling ill. They had hoped that Henry could get his education at the State School for the Deaf.  Needing to pass a test, Henry arrives for the test but he is unable to understand the tests’ directions.  Failing the test, he can’t attend the state school and they label Henry, “unteachable.”  With WWII on the horizon, they soon decide to place him in Riverview, a school for mentally disabled individuals.  Talk about sad! Little time and effort are spent on the patients and Henry sinks further down.  If I could just reach into this book and grab him out, I and I think plenty other readers would have.

As I read Henry’s thoughts, his hopes and his sadness, it’s beyond sad.  I’m wondering how the other patients feel about life in Riverview.  Molly is the only bright spot until I hear Victor’s footsteps mark the halls of Riverview.  Is Victor a real person or is he an angel? Where did he come from?  It’s sad to think that, finally one professional, seems to care.   

With short chapters, this true event story is a story that will definitely make your think.  Told through verse, it’s a fast read about this time period in history.  

The Kitchen Front by Jennifer Ryan

5 stars Historical Fiction

What a fun novel to listen to.  It took a few chapters for things to get situated but then, I really enjoyed the history, the relationships and the idea behind this book.  I liked that the female relationships inside the book took more precedence than the male/female relationships, which was what I was hoping would happen. I didn’t want a romance to spoil this drama.  This was a great package:  a historical fiction story, centered around a cooking competition consisting of diverse characters with an uplifting ending.

It’s the popular BBC broadcasting of the British Show, The Kitchen Front with Ambrose as the show’s host.  The show has decided that they need a female co-host and has launched a cooking competition to find her.  Located in Finley Village, England, are four women who are supposedly using their war rations to make the winning entries and to prove to Ambrose that they should be his co-host.  Here are four women who desperately need this position. These four women come from such different situations and circumstances in their lives.  These four women give this competition everything that they have. And who do I think should win it?   Nell? The kitchen maid at Finley Hall who started the competition so timid that she can hardly talk but she can cook.  Lady Gwendoline?  She married into money but does money buy happiness?  Audrey?  Lady Gwendoline sister, a war widow with 3 children who is trying to keep her head above water.  Zelda? A previous London chef who is now pregnant (and unmarried).

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I enjoyed listening to these ladies’ stories.  How their lives were before the war and how their lives have changed since the war began.  It was fascinating how they created their recipes using their war rations and how some of them used nature to help them spread their rations even further.  Their resourcefulness really shined.  What started out as a competition for these ladies, as they lifted up their dome lids and everyone marveled at their creation hidden underneath, ends in another type of celebration as the winner is selected.   I highly recommend this novel.  

A Woman is No Man by Etaf Rum

I know whatever I write about this book will not contain everything that I felt about this book.  I should just write capital letters with exclamation marks adding in a mixture of facial expressions as that sums up how I felt reading this book.  I had no expectations going into this book and as the two stories in the book converged into each other, I was swept away.  The ending had me staring out the window, little tiny bumps spread across my arms and tears were falling down my face.  The book was over but was it really over.  There was nothing left for me to read but I couldn’t let these ladies go.  And so, I stared out the window, waiting until something else came along to fill my mind.

The year was 1990, Isra in the kitchen with her mother cooking dinner, this has become her daily routine.  Recently married, she’ll be moving from Palestine to America, where her new husband owns a deli.  Isra is nervous about life in America.  What will her marriage be like? What will her husband be like?  Isra wants a romantic marriage with her husband yet she hardly even knows the man that she married.  She’s hoping that her American marriage will be different than the one that her mother and father have.  As she discusses her concerns, it was sad listening to her mother’s words. “Love each other? What does love have to do marriage? You think your father and I love each other?” After listening to her mother’s remarks, she’s hopeful that by leaving the country, her marriage will be different than her mothers and the abuse that her mother endures as a wife, will not follow her.

The year is 2008, Deya is one of four sisters living with their grandparents.  Deya is the oldest and grandmother is on the hunt, trying to find a suitor for her.  Although times have changed the girls still need to preserve their culture.  Deya is not ready for marriage and would rather continue on with her education but according to Islamic traditions, Deya must get ready to become a wife and mother.  It’s a battle of values, family, freedom and principles that Deya struggles with as she enters adulthood.

I found it fascinating to read about the idea of arranged marriages currently in our society and the implications of how the status of a wife remained the same for many of these women.  Isra and Deya were both dealing with the notion of being in an arranged marriage. If that wasn’t enough, they also had to deal with the idea of what being a wife really meant and how that differed from what they really wanted.  

As the chapters fluctuated between these two women, Isla story tore at me.  She pictured America to be a wonderful place, an opportunity for her yet when she arrives, she realizes that they’ll be sharing a house with her in-laws and his siblings. The romantic marriage that she hoped to find, will have to be on the quiet-side, as everyone is sharing the same house.  This was just the beginning of Isla’s spiral tale of what America had to offer her. Deya story was different because she was a fighter.  She used what she had to fight back, even if it meant further consequences for her.  Cheering for her, I pushed her. I wanted her to push the envelope until she couldn’t push it anymore.  She was ready to accept whatever happened at the end. I loved how the author made the stories come together also.

I felt exhausted as I closed this book.  As they stood there, I fell in line with them, just waiting.  I felt tired yet there was this energy and excitement that I felt within me.  What was next?  I highly recommend this book.  I can’t wait to see what else this author writes.

Choose Your Own Adventure Spies: Harry Houdini by Katherine Factor

4.5 stars Choose Your Own Adventure Series

This book took me back to when my children were little.  I used to love reading these books when my children would check them out from the library and this one, was no exception.  I choose my first path through the book, based on what I’d want to do and then, I went back and reread the book a few times, choosing paths that were totally different.  I was Harry Houdini, a magician with big dreams!

All paths in the book begin in America, in the year 1899.  Working as a traveling sideshow, you like to call yourself the “The King of the Cuffs,” as you’re able to outwit any handcuff that anyone tries to attach to you.  This of course, angers the police but you’re starting to make a name for yourself, as people are beginning to notice you. Now in Chicago, as a crowd gathers around, you’re getting the attention that you don’t want.  The police have arrested you, placed you in chains, and put you in a cell.  Can their charges be legitimate?  You’ve never attempted a cell break before, yet it could be possible.  You receive a sign just before the lieutenant rushes into your cell to offer you a deal. 

It’s time now for the first decision in this book: does Harry take the deal that was offered to him or does Harry decide to use the omen that he received and not take the lieutenant’s deal?  What the reader chooses will direct their path to the next section to read and set their course for this book.

This book is based on a true story and there’s an article about Harry at the back of the book.  I enjoyed my adventures as I traveled through the book; some were short-lived and I did have one very long journey.  I did learn a few things about this man as I read and having the opportunity to choose the storyline is a very fun way to read a story. 

Grown by Tiffany D. Jackson

5 stars YA

“Content warning: mentions of sexual abuse, rape, assault, child abuse, kidnapping, and addiction to opioids.” Yes, to all of this but yet, there is no warning about not being able to eat, drink, or think of anything else besides this book once you step inside its pages.  Then, there’s that book hangover, once you’re finished and you’re left staring at the back of the book breathing, reliving those incredible scenes that were more than just words on a page, where was this warning, as my mind tries to unwind. 

Korey, was everything she ever wanted.  He was perfect, at least that side of him was.   When Enchanted finally sees all sides of Korey, it’s too late.  This was a fantastic page-turner of a book, a book in which I felt a deep connection to the characters and the story couldn’t have been more honest and real unless I knew these individuals personally.

The book opens with a brutal murder and then, the book flashes back to when the characters first met each other and their story unfolds.  Enchanted was trying to fulfill her dream, a dream filled with music when she is spotted by Korey. Korey, the famous R&B artist has taken an interest in Enchanted and tells her everything that she wanted to hear.  As he works his charm, she is swept away.  Korey knows exactly what he’s doing, as he wins Enchanted over but Enchanted is an innocent, 17-year-old, victim who just wanted a music career.  And Korey, he’s a manipulator, a controller, an abuser(mentally), and a serial pedophile, who just got his next victim. 

This was a hard book to read as Enchanted voice got harder to hear. Korey began placing restrictions on her which confused her yet Korey made them seem like a positive part of their relationship.  More constraints and limitations began to weigh Enchanted down.  She was losing control as she began acting like a puppet, doing what she was told, losing her self-confidence as she feels she has no other option.  Such a powerful book, a book that had important messages and I appreciate the author addressing these issues openly and directly.  I highly recommend this book if you enjoy stories addressing these issues.  Amazing story!