Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance by Barack Obama

Book Summary
In this lyrical, unsentimental, and compelling memoir, the son of a black African father and a white American mother searches for a workable meaning to his life as a black American. It begins in New York, where Barack Obama learns that his father—a figure he knows more as a myth than as a man—has been killed in a car accident. This sudden death inspires an emotional odyssey—first to a small town in Kansas, from which he retraces the migration of his mother’s family to Hawaii, and then to Kenya, where he meets the African side of his family, confronts the bitter truth of his father’s life, and at last reconciles his divided inheritance.

Flo's Review
It's always crazy to me how the timing on some things comes together because of happenstance. I have been wanting to read this for awhile. I bought it for my Dad for Christmas many years ago, but I don't think he ever read it. Last year, I almost took it back so I could read it, but I restrained myself. Then earlier this year, I made a trade at the local used bookstore for this audiobook. I love audiobooks, and was excited to snatch this up when I saw it. 

The audiobook sat on my shelf for months.

Then, about two weeks ago, I finished listening to an audiobook I unfortunately didn't like. So the question of what I should listen to next was even more loaded -- I did not want to strike out twice. I saw this on my shelf and decided to go for it.

There is so much to love about this story. What absolutely made this for me was that Obama read it. I always love listening to him speak. I've heard him tell a lot of stories about people he has met, so it was so nice to hear him tell his own story. This audiobook won a Grammy for "Best Spoken Word" and it was well deserved. He did a great job of imitating the voices of all the men and women in his life. 

Dreams From My Father had the same beautiful writing and lyrical quality of his speeches. Some sentences gave me the chills because they were so lovely. He is very good at setting a scene -- describing the people and the setting. I didn't actually know his story; all I knew was that he was born in Hawaii. But I really enjoyed seeing the lives of his parents and grandparents. He was able to get into his family's heads and emotions so well.

I am not going to get political on here, but I did want to tell you why I started this post talking about timing: because the day after I started listening to this book was November 9, 2016. 

A fun bonus of this CD was Obama's 2004 DNC keynote, which I also hadn't heard before. It was an add-on to the audiobook, but the speech started with summarizing everything I'd just listened to. As such, it made for a great transition out of the story of his past and into the now. 

This is just a good story; no matter what your race, political affiliation, or thoughts on the Obama Presidency, I think there is something to take away from Dreams from My Father.

The Twelve Days of Dash and Lily by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

Book Summary
Dash and Lily have had a tough year since readers first watched the couple fall in love. Lily’s beloved grandfather suffered a heart attack, and his difficult road to recovery has taken a major toll on her typically sunny disposition. 

With only twelve days left until Christmas—Lily’s favorite time of the year—Dash, Lily’s brother Langston, and their closest friends take Manhattan by storm to help Lily recapture the holiday magic of New York City in December. 

Told in alternating chapters, The Twelve Days of Dash & Lily reunites two beloved characters and is bound to be a Christmas favorite, season after season.

Flo's Review
Totes adorbs. While Dash and Lily's Book of Dares was a light, fun read, this sequel took it a little bit deeper. Not that it wasn't light and fun, but Dash and Lily's relationship has evolved. They have been together for almost a year now. This is the story of going from mutual like and infatuation to falling deeply and fully in love. That can be a vulnerable, messy, and emotional journey for any couple, and Dash and Lily are no exception. I loved that Dash never gave up on Lily. I loved seeing more of Lily's family, and looking into Dash's family and how he saw himself based on them. And, like the first book, this one also had its good portion of random people and events that brought a smile to my face.

Speaking of bringing a smile to my face, there were two scenes that tied for my favorite. One involved a water gun duel and was just super fun, especially since I'm so obsessed with Hamilton. The second involved my main obsession -- New Kids on the Block! Yes! And not only New Kids, but my favorite New Kid in particular -- Joey McIntyre! I was SO excited! I was lucky enough to meet Rachel and David at YALLFEST (I read the book on my plane ride to and from Charleston), so I got to thank them both for the Joey McIntrye reference in person.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Happy Book Birthday to The Goblin Crown by Robert Hewitt Wolfe!

Happy birthday to you!
Happy birthday to you!
Happy birthday dear The Goblin Crown: Billy Smith and the Goblins, Book 1!
Happy birthday to you!

Here's the summary:

Billy Smith is having a rough first day of high school. The new kid at exclusive Francis Drake Prep, Billy embarrasses himself in front of fiery, beautiful Lexi Aquino. He makes an instant enemy in Kurt Novac, the school s surly star quarterback. Then suddenly Billy, Lexi, and Kurt are mysteriously transported to an underworld teeming with goblins, strange animal hybrids, and powerful magic the fact that they re stuck there is probably Billy s fault, too. With help from an unlikely goblin leader named Hop, the teens soon discover that goblins can be both fierce and friendly, with their own rich language, culture, and history a history that foretells of a human arriving to claim the Goblin Crown and lead them to victory against the deadly, invading Hanorians. Could Billy anxious, awkward Billy be the mythical Goblin King? Could saving the goblin race be his destiny and the key to getting him, Lexi, and Kurt back home?

If you're interested in getting a copy, here's the Amazon link

Monday, November 7, 2016

All In by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

All In (The Naturals, #3)

Jacque's Review:

All In is the third book in the Naturals series.  For those of you who are not familiar with the series, it is a murder mystery series involving 5 teenagers recruited by the FBI for their abilities to profile, read emotions, detect lies, and analyze statistics.  Due to their individual upbringings and unusual childhoods they naturally honed these skills to exceptional levels.  

This time around there is a serial killer on the loose in Las Vegas.  So far he has killed 1 person at a different casino each day starting on January 1st.  The FBI is called in because the casino owners want to put an end to this as quickly and quietly as possible before business plummets.  To top things off, there is a huge professional poker tournament just around the corner that must go on as planned.

The naturals struggle with the case because there doesn't seem to be a common denominator.  Different locations, different methods and no common element between the victims,  The only connection between the cases is a mysterious set of numbers found on the wrists of each victim.  

In addition, there is a breakthrough in Cassie's Mother's murder case.  Some remains were found that are believed to be hers.  Jennifer takes this portion of the story in a direction I don't think anyone would have anticipated.  What was deemed to be solid evidence in the case isn't as solid as it appeared and everything Cassie believed to be true is far from it.  

Sloan, the statistician, eventually discovers a pattern that links each of the cases.  The locations and dates of the murders are tied to a mathematical code or sequence that has been around for hundreds of years.  They just need to discover when and where the next murders will take place in order to catch their UNSUB. (Unknown Subject)

If you enjoy YA and thrillers/mysteries this is definitely the series for you.  I have thoroughly enjoyed every book in this series and have been glued to each detail from start to finish.  I love all of the characters and their unique abilities as well as their individual personalities.  They are all so different, but they complement each other beautifully and have really developed into a family.  

The final book in the series, Bad Blood, was just released last week.  I should receive it from the library within the next few days and can't wait to see how the series will conclude.  If you haven't started the series yet, now would be the perfect time. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Disney After Dark by Ridley Pearson

Book Summary
In this fantastical thriller, five young teens tapped as models for theme park "guides" find themselves pitted against Disney villains and witches that threaten both the future of Walt Disney World and the stability of the world outside its walls.

Using a cutting-edge technology called DHI—which stands for both Disney Host Interactive and Daylight Hologram Imaging—Finn Whitman, an Orlando teen, and four other kids are transformed into hologram projections that guide guests through the park.

The new technology turns out, however, to have unexpected effects that are both thrilling and scary. Soon Finn finds himself transported in his DHI form into the Magic Kingdom at night. Is it real? Is he dreaming?

Finn's confusion only increases when he encounters Wayne, an elderly Imagineer who tells him that the park is in grave danger. Led by the scheming witch Maleficent, a mysterious group of characters called the Overtakers is plotting to destroy Disney's beloved realm, and maybe more.

This gripping high-tech tale will thrill every kid who has ever dreamed of sneaking into Walt Disney World after hours, and wondered what happens at night, when the park is closed.

Flo's Review
I thought I was going to fall in love with this. Maybe that was part of the problem.

It has all the elements of stories I love: it's a middle grade adventure series, like the Magisterium and Percy Jackson. It's about Disney World, and I love Disney World. In fact, I bought the entire Kingdom Keepers series at the Miami Book Fair a few years ago. (To put a little perspective on this: each book was $2, so I felt it was a worthwhile splurge.) 

Unfortunately, this came up lacking for me.

And I tried. I tried so hard. I knew early on that I wasn't feeling it, but I pushed myself past my usual 100 page stay-or-go mark and read all the way through the end. But there were a few things that made this crash and burn for me, and looking at other reviews, I know that I'm not alone:

1. The characters -- The 5 DHIs seemed underdeveloped. This is a good thing for me to note as I head into NaNoWriMo. After 300+ pages, I don't feel like I really know any of these kids. Finn is the closest. But the others just got a paragraph introduction to them in the beginning of the book, and that's all the distinguishing characteristics we got. Except for Charlene. I think I was rubbed the wrong way with her because Wayne explained that all the DHIs were specifically picked for different reasons. Charlene's character card said she was picked for her good looks and athleticism. Good looks first. I mean, I guess that's understandable, being that it's show business, but something rubbed me the wrong way about a kid's book (middle grade book, I mean) being like, "This girl got to be special because she's pretty." Maybe if her character had been really cool, I could have let that go. But all she did in this book was whine and protest. I read a spoiler for what becomes of her in the spin-off series, and all I can say is that I hope she grows as a character in the other books, and doesn't just get this new thing because of her "good looks." Okay, enough about that.

2. The villains -- Very loosely explained. I kind of didn't understand who they are and how they work. And what they're trying to do. Maybe this is explained more in subsequent books. But in this book all I really saw was a fight with some pirates and then Maleficent turning things cold. Why was she scary? What was her end game? Maybe an Overtaker back story could have been helpful.

3. Loose threads -- There were a few story lines/instances that were presented and then never touched again. All of a sudden, it would be the next chapter and that was that. I'd think, "How was this resolved?" or "What was the point of this?" Perhaps some things got cut in the editing process?

4. Audio narrator -- I love audiobooks, and have been lucky to listen to some great narrators. Unfortunately, this was not one of them. I think part of the reason I disliked Charlene was because she was read with a snobbish voice. Willa was read with a voice like a man. Finn was read in a whiny tone. It was hard to enjoy these characters without enjoying their voices.

5. Lack of magic -- Disney World is one of my most favorite places, "the most magical place on Earth." Somehow, I never felt the specialness, the magic of the setting. And there was such great potential to do so.

I'm not upset that I took a chance on this story. I really do love the concept, and it looks like the subsequent books in the series visit the other parks, besides just the Magic Kingdom, where this one took place. It is a MG story and perhaps I am going too deep with it. At the end of the day, I can see how it's a fun, light, entertaining story.