Leaving Lymon by Lesa Cline-Ransome

4 stars Middle School

He’s a person, can’t anyone see this!  This book states that it takes places in the 1940’s but the story is all too familiar.  Living with his grandparents, Lymon has the stability, connections and the ability to express himself but that quickly vanishes.  When they’re no longer able to care for him, other family members step in and accept Lymon into their home but not everyone in the household is thrilled about having him there.

The only person who Lymon was wanting and needing was, the one individual who would just pop into his life, whenever they felt the need to.  You can feel the desperation in his voice and in his actions as they made their appearance and when they walked out, Lymon was again looking, looking for them everywhere.  Lymon has lots of questions but no one was honest with him. They liked to dance around the questions that he asked of them.   

When Lymon lived with his grandparents, his grandfather taught him how to play the guitar and this love united them.  This was a connection that he also had with his father, for his father did gigs and he always had another show.  I enjoyed this music connection and how the author used this throughout the story. 

This was a fantastic story and it was an emotional one for me.  Lymon needed some stability and he needed someone to be there for him but would he ever find it and who would that person be?  I think the ending was too perfect for me considering how the story was progressing and the characters. 4 stars   This is a sequel to Finding Langston.

“Daddy, when am I gonna see you again? Feel like I have been asking this question my whole life and never getting the answer I want. But I keep asking hoping for the answer I want to hear.”

Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid

4.5 stars Fiction

I got lost inside this book, in a good way.  I found myself caught up with all the drama that happened within this family.  I could see why everyone wanted to be around the famous Rivas, as their lives were full.  Each of the family members were a little bit different and they each brought something to the family when they all got together.  The annual Riva Party was the event, the social event that you didn’t want to miss but this year was going to be epic.

I listened to this book on audio and I highly recommend that you go this route.  I feel that the narration brings an additional element to this book.  Although I enjoy adding my own emotions and attitudes to characters in books that I read, I enjoyed these characters immensely.  I didn’t care for all the characters in this book, oh no!  But I thought that their voices and attitudes were spot on.  I like to listen to books while I do other busy work and I found myself paying more attention to this book than anything else.  The anticipation of a few of the scenes made me stop what I was doing until I could breathe again.  Although this book consisted of only one day, flashing back into their lives, the story covered a lot of ground.  I thought about not reading this book but I’m so glad that I did as I really enjoyed it.  4.5 stars

Just Like That by Gary D. Schmidt – He does it again!

5 stars Middle School FIction

And just like that, Gary Schmidt does it again!  A fantastic book containing two incredible main characters whose lives were meant to cross. As I was reading both of the storylines in this book, my mind was trying to figure out how the two stories were going to collide.  I had a feeling their initial meeting would be memorable.

Meryl Lee was attending an all-girl’s prep school, a school where she felt she didn’t belong.  Matt, he was living in an old lobster shack trying to keep to himself, helping out on a lobster boat.  Both of their personalities were similar and the road that life that led them both on, had given them similar tests, so it felt as if they were destined to meet sometime in their lifetime. 

Hollings car accident had left Meryl Lee devasted. Her parents thought that St. Elene’s Prep Academy for Girls was the answer that Meryl Lee needed to give her a fresh start but Meryl Lee isn’t so sure.  The school was geared more towards the wealthier girls and the social aspects of the school don’t match those of Meryl Lee.  It’s a difficult move for Meryl Lee yet she holds firm to who she is, as she’s called out for not following the prep school’s rules and her peers also see her as being different.  Meryl Lee is a great character and it’s interesting to see the school through her eyes.  Matt is a loner and the more that I read about him, the more I understood why.  The pieces of Matt’s history are slowly revealed in the book and at times, I was losing my patience as I wanted more.  He’s not had a typical childhood but as we start the story, Matt’s has a pretty stable life.  Currently, Matt has a job, a place to stay, and most nights, he has a playful competition of skipping stones down by the water with a Mrs. Nora.  Mrs. Nora took a walk one night down by the water and found Matt skipping stones and they started meeting up every night since.  Matt’s street smart but not book smart, yet.  Mrs. Nora decided that she wanted to educate Matt.  Mrs. Nora is the headmistress of St. Elene’s Prep Academy for Girls and yep, that’s how Meryl Lee and Matt came together. 

This book was quite the journey!  Following Matt’s history and the roads that he has traveled was quite an adventure in itself.  The book really took off when Meryl Lee met Matt.  I had to laugh when Matt was waving a hatchet in his boxers and then, my body was covered in chills and the words seems to be running all together as Meryl Lee hides Matt on the bus.  Dang, this book had my emotions all over the place.  There were a lot of fantastic moments in the book, parts where the words on the page touched something deep within me.  It may be set in the 1960’s but some things never change.  Pick this one up, you’ll be glad you did.  

Finding Langston by Lesa Cline-Ransome

5 stars Middle School

Sigh. As Langston made his way into the library, I felt that I could breathe again as he had finally found a place where he was safe.  The father-son duo left behind their slow-paced life in Alabama for the hustle and bustle of Chicago, searching for a better life. As father works, Langston attends school where his peers constantly bully him.  From his clothes, his shoes, and even his accent, the students wouldn’t leave Langston alone as he tried to adjust to his new surroundings.  I got emotional as I read this section as the students physically and vocally abused him.  His own classroom teacher even got in on the action, when they drew attention to his accent.    

I felt for the two of them as living in Chicago was so different from their previous life in Alabama.  When Langston discovers the public library, I was hoping this would provide some relief.  Would he find a room that he could study in, could he make friends with a librarian so he’d have an adult he could talk with, or might he meet someone new there?  In reality, Langston found much more there.  Langston’s first discovery was that this public library was different than the one back in Alabama. Langston was actually allowed to walk through the front door. This library allowed everyone, regardless of color to use its facilities.  It’s what’s inside the library that really changes him.  As he walks inside, up on the walls, so that everyone can see them, are famous black individuals.  Langston can’t believe he’s seeing them, on the walls. 

The librarian Mrs. Cook is a nice woman who helps Lanston discover what the library holds and what Langston has within him.  I felt this relief, a restoration working within Langston as he visited/thought about the library, for now with Mrs. Cook’s assistance, he had something bigger, a desire.  I really enjoyed this book.     

The Thing I’m Most Afraid Of by Kristin Levine

4.5 stars MIddle School

The cover doesn’t do this book any justice but since I’ve really loved a few of the authors other books (The Lions of Little Rock and The Paper Cowboy), I wanted to read a few of her other books.  Twelve-year old Becca is brilliant.  In my world, she’s gifted and Becca’s Doomsday Journals are a testament to this.  If you could ask her, she could pinpoint for you, exactly where she wrote down each anxiety that she has faced, in the numerous Doomsday Journals that she keeps.  And now, Becca is flying to Austria to spend the summer with her father.  Do you realize what this entails? I’m not sure Becca has enough new journals for this trip.

The characters inside this book were fantastic.  We have Becca, who needs to pack-up her anxiety, hop on a plane, and visit her father for the summer.  Wait, it gets even better because her father has a girlfriend with a son, Felix that’s about Becca’s age.  With the adults working during the day, they hired Sara to entertain the kids and take them on trips throughout the city.  I’m getting anxiety just thinking about this, so I can’t imagine what must be running through Becca’s head.  Becca’s mom is flying with her to Austria (thank you, mom) and then, mom’s taking a backpacking trip (I guess she won’t be easily available should Becca need her).  Wow, that’s a lot for Becca to process!

Becca doesn’t want anyone to know about her anxiety and she tries to hide it but obviously, she can’t.  As Sara tries to show them a good time, Becca’s hesitation and reluctancy shows.  When Becca comes clean, she realizes that she’s not alone but what’s next? Now that the three of them have come together, how can they move forward? 

I loved how they worked together and encouraged one another.  I enjoyed the inspiration, the motivation, and the friendship that they built.  Although they each felt alone with own challenges, they really had similar feelings that when they finally expressed them, they could worked together/help each other to find solutions.  Another great book. 4.5 stars

In a Flash by Donna Jo Napoli

4.5 stars Middle School

Once I got onboard with the story, I enjoyed the journey that these two sisters took. I was having a hard time understanding some of the choices that their father made but I wasn’t walking in his shoes so perhaps I didn’t know the complete story.  I knew that he was trying to provide the best life for his daughters and money was key to this success but still, money can’t always be your driving force.  His daughters were wonderful and considering everything that they endured, their relationship emerged stronger than before. 

Papa accepts a new position in Tokyo, Japan, leaving his mother-in-law and the grandma to his two small children behind in Italy.  With a bump in salary, a 1–2-year commitment in Italy (that Papa feels will be sufficient), and other benefits for his children, Papa feels this is a great opportunity.  Enrolling 8-year-old Simona in public school, was a great financial decision until he realizes how important the private schools are, for helping foreign children learn the Japanese language.  Little Carolina is brought to work with him each day as she will have someone there, about the same age as her, that she can play with. 

It’s not all perfect in the beginning but over time, things change and the girls begin to love Japan.  It’s hard to believe but time passes so quickly and although Papa’s “sufficient time period” is over, Papa and the girls aren’t ready to go back home to Italy. I’m wondering now, should Papa stick with his 1–2-year time period?  Just because his children are not ready to return home, does that matter? Papa wasn’t doing anything fantastic besides what he was doing from Day #1 so basically life was just going on smoothly and the girls were settling in. Do you stay based on their opinion or go back?  Time to do more reading.

There had been talk of war but now, the realities of it were hitting home.  Papa is worried about Italy; will it be taken over? What will happen to their family and friends back home?  Pearl Harbor has been attacked by the Japanese and tension is mounting, elsewhere.  Hostility against foreigners is intensifying as the officials begin to gather them for relocation.  As Papa and his girls are rounded up, the girls get separated from their father. Now what?  They’re too young to be by themselves and I visualize Papa digging ditches or I don’t want to think where else Papa could end up at.  The girls never give up hope of being reunited with their Papa as they take on different roles to survive as the world, enters WWII.

Wow, I really enjoyed this book but I thought it was sad.  I liked how the sisters kept trying to find their father and how they accepted life.  I liked how they took on a variety of identities to survive and they didn’t let their emotions control their lives.  Their curiosity, bravery and support from each other helped them get through another day.  A very eventful book that gave me a different view of this time period.

How I Became a Ghost by Tim Tingle

4 stars Historical Fiction

So, how does one really become a ghost? I can’t imagine that everyone that leaves this earth, is sent in this direction.  Does Isaac come back as a helpful ghost or a ghost that has unfinished business to attend to?  A casualty of the Trail of Tears, Isaac narrates for us, how he became a ghost in 1830, while living in the Choctaw Nation in Mississippi, which I found entertaining and interesting.

Isaac begins his story as a 10-year-old child living with his family. His best friend is his dog which he does everything with.  Treaty Talk. When Isaac overhears his parents talking about the subject, he remembers that Treaty Talk and Nahullos go hand-in-hand, a serious situation for the Choctaw Nation.  Mother leads Isaac on a series of walks that day as he witnesses important events that are being held by his community.  Gracious!   What Isaac witnesses with his very own eyes is totally different from what his own mother sees, who is standing right beside him. Good heavens, Isaac is a young child and he sees this!?!  I’m with Isaac when he questions his mother about what he’s seeing, yet her response is not what I’d expect from his very own mother.  This Treaty Talk has a shattering effect on their town and the individuals inside it. 

I had a few questions as I read this book, perhaps it was because I analyzed what was happening too much instead of just going with the flow.  Why were some individuals shape shifters, some ghosts, some……?  Did that have to do with lineage?  Didn’t Isaac think it was strange as a child to hear a dog talk? Didn’t he once read in a book that dog’s go, bark, bark? Did he realize when he was little, that he was unique?  I liked learning about the Choctaw traditions and practices.  I enjoyed the relationships that Isaac built in the book and how he accepted his fate and assisted others.  There’s an engaging story inside this short book. 

“Choctaws never say “good-bye.” There is no word for it. We say “chi pisa la chike, which means, “I will see you again, in the future.””

Luck of the Titanic by Stacey Lee

4 stars Historical Fiction YA

What I enjoyed the most about this book was how the stories of the book came together.  Although the story is mainly about Val and her twin brother Jamie, there are little stories that thread throughout the book that give the story its strength.  Val had an agenda and she was determined that what she wanted was best for everyone involved.  I had to laugh a few times while I read, when Jamie’s insight was better than hers.  Was Val only seeing what she wanted to see?  Was it possible for Val to admit that Jamie might know something about their own family? 

Val was a great character but she also needed the individuals around her, to shape and mold her.  From Mrs. Sloane, to the passengers, to the circus manager, all these individuals pushed and encouraged her which allowed her maturity, within the pages of this book to grow.  She was a determined, passionate individual but her mannerism wasn’t the greatest when she approached the gangway to board the Titanic.  With her attitude, was it possible for her, to persuade her brother to return to their previous occupation? America was supposed to be the land of opportunity and that is where she wanted to go but now, the Titanic was her playing field.

While I thought this book might be centered on the sinking and the life-saving that accompanied this vessel, I was surprised these events occurred at the end.  I learned about the Chinese Exclusion Act and how that effected many individuals, which was new to me.  I really enjoyed this book as it provided something different about this time in history.

“Life is a balancing act. You could be killed walking down the street, but you don’t let that fear stop you. You just practice until the fear is no longer part of the equation.”

“An afterlife without one’s loved ones doesn’t seem like a place I’d want to go. Maybe that’s why Jamie likes to study the stars. Whatever the answer is, surely it’s written up there.”

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.