Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Miami Book Fair 2018 Preview: The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson and Rafael Lopez

It's pretty much November, which means we are almost up to one of my absolute favorite events of the year -- Miami Book Fair! The Fair goes from November 11th to the 18th this year, but you can bet I'm already getting ready for it. As a lead up, I'll be doing a few preview posts where I share a review of a book by an author that will be presenting at the Fair. 

Flo's Review
What a beautiful, uplifting, and relatable story! Woodson's words are brief, but powerful. Young readers will see themselves in her words. And then, they will see what they can be. The accompanying illustrations by Lopez bring everything to life. The diversity of colors and patterns exactly depict what Woodson is saying. This well blended marriage of words and images make this book one little ones will consume, quickly and with delight. 

Jacqueline Woodson at the Fair
For Kids and Teens: Kwame Alexander and Jacqueline Woodson
Saturday, November 17 at 3:30 p.m.
Room 2106 (Building 2, 1st floor)
300 NE Second Avenue, Miami, FL 33132

As things are just starting to look up for two teenage boys, a chain of events alters their understanding of love, friendship, and fate in Kwame Alexander’s latest YA book, SwingJacqueline Woodson‘s children’s book The Day You Begin reminds us that we all feel like outsiders sometimes—and how brave it is that we go forth anyway.


Monday, November 12, 2018

Book Review: Never Never - Part 1 by Colleen Coover

Never Never (Never Never, #1)

Goodreads Overviw:

Best friends since they could walk. In love since the age of fourteen.

Complete strangers since this morning.

He'll do anything to remember. She'll do anything to forget.

Jacque's Review:

We are first introduced to Charlie, who is a high school senior.  During the middle of class she loses all of memories.  She has no idea who she is or where she is, but she can remember things like how to drive a car, songs, what things are, etc.  She is fumbling her way through the rest of the school day when she discovers another student experiencing the same thing.  Silas Nash was apparently her childhood best friend and has been her boyfriend for the past four years, but neither of them can even remember each other.  

They spend the next two days trying to reconstruct their past in an attempt to regain their memories.  Apparently they were not the most likable individuals in their previous lives, but I loved the Silas in this story.  He was very friendly, kind, funny, and a bit overly confident.  Charlie on the other hand, was very stand offish.  The more she started to reconnect with Silas, the further she pushed him away. 

I knew this was a series when I started reading this book, but I didn't quite realize each book is only part of a single story.  Book one is about 150 pages and provides the background and a jaw dropping twist just before it completely cuts off.  Fortunately, all three parts of the story have already been released.  I can't imagine what readers did back in 2015 and early 2016 when they had to wait 6 months between the release of each book.   I'm currently in the middle of a couple of other books, but I definitely plan on continuing this series very soon.  

If you like young adult and a bit of a mystery, this is a highly entertaining read.  I can't wait to find out how this situation arose and whether or not Silas and Charlie can find a cure.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Book Review: The Body Farm by Patricia Cornwell

The Body Farm (Kay Scarpetta, #5)

Goodreads Overview:

The Body Farm - a research institute that tests the decomposition of corpses. Black Mountain, North Carolina: a sleepy little town where the local police deal with one homicide a year, if they're unlucky, and where people are still getting used to the idea of locking their doors at night. But violent death is no respecter of venue, and the discovery of the corpse of an 11-year-old girl sends shock waves through the community. Dr Kay Scarpetta, Chief medical Examiner on a similar case in Virginia, is called in to apply her forensic skills to this latest atrocity, but the apparent simplicity of the case proves something of a poisoned chalice - until Scarpetta finds enlightenment through the curious pathologists' playground known as the Body Farm.

Jacque's Review:

The Body Farm is the fifth book in the Kay Scarpetta murder mystery series.  The murder has a striking resemblance to a case solved in one of the prior books, so Kay and her colleagues from the FBI are called in to investigate.  When an additional body is found in a rather peculiar situation, they aren't so sure their original assumptions are correct.  The more evidence that turns up the more confusing the case becomes.  

In addition, Kay's niece, Lucy, is caught up in an FBI investigation that could ruin her chances of joining the FBI full time upon graduation.  She is exceptionally gifted with computers and is working on a top secret software that could greatly improve information sharing among law enforcement around the world, but someone else must want access to the information for sinister reasons.

This is an older series that I started reading at least 20 years ago.  I would definitely recommend reading the books in order since the personal relationships between the characters develop throughout the series and some of the knowledge gained from the cases are referenced in later books.  There are currently 25 books in the series, but you do not need to read all of them back to back in order to remember what is going on.  I read one every now and then when I am looking for a good mystery and haven't had any trouble remembering the basics needed to fully appreciate each story.  Each case is independent, so the majority of the information acts as a stand alone novel.  

I thought I had this mystery all figured out about 75% of the way through, but as always there was a twist I didn't see coming until closer to 85 %.  By that point, I had it figured out and just needed to see how all of the loose ends would get tied up.  

The series is a bit graphic, so it isn't for everyone.  I am definitely enjoying it and look forward to seeing what is in story for Kay, Lucy, and the rest of the team in the next installment.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Miami Book Fair 2018 Preview: Rebecca Serle, The Dinner List

It's pretty much November, which means we are almost up to one of my absolute favorite events of the year -- Miami Book Fair! The Fair goes from November 11th to the 18th this year, but you can bet I'm already getting ready for it. As a lead up, I'll be doing a few preview posts where I share a review of a book by an author that will be presenting at the Fair.

Flo's Review
As soon as I learned of this book, I wanted to read it. The whole question about "What 5 five people, alive or dead, would you want to have dinner with?" is one that has floated around for years. It was definitely a great idea to take this question and run with it. Rebecca Serle did it in an interesting way. In her interpretation of the question, the 5 people you'd have at your dinner table are there because they reflect some aspect of your life -- unresolved issues, people you can't live without, etc. It's not just, "Chris Hemsworth, because he's hot and I want to listen to his accent." (HEY. No judging anyone on my list! 😂) 

It was interesting how Serle chose to bring this theory to life. She didn't dwell on the questions of "how." The main character, Sabrina, only quickly wonders where the people at her table currently are, how they got there, what happens after the dinner ends, and little thing such as what happens if one person leaves the table. I did like that these issues were minimized, because that's not really what the book was about. The book was about Sabrina's unresolved issues with her father, Tobias, and her best friend Jessica. 

At the same time, I would have liked a little more detail. The list starts off as Audrey Hepburn, Sabrina's grandmother, Sabrina's father, Plato, and Tobias. Serle explains that because Sabrina's relationship with Jessica changed, Sabrina went back and amended the list to include Jessica instead of her grandmother. At one point there is a sentence or so about how Plato got changed to Sabrina's old teacher, Conrad. This one, to me, wasn't explained well. Sabrina had a class with him and liked him? Okay? She had something with every other person at the table -- even Audrey Hepburn makes sense in the scheme of Sabrina's life -- but Conrad didn't. As far as the storyline, he was good at facilitating and moving the plot forward, so I understand why he was helpful in that regard. But his presence made zero sense as far as being one of Sabrina's five.

I read a lot of YA fiction. It's a good escape from adult reality, because at the end of a YA contemporary novel, the couples get together and kiss, and that's the end of it. But reality is that it's not. Reality is that the "Happily Ever After" is hard. That's what this book is about. As we grow, love grows and evolves for us, based on our lives. In other words, the idea of love at 25 years old is going to look different than the idea of love at 35 years old. And it should, because you, as a person, at 25 years old are different than at 35 years old. And 45 years old. Lasting love grows and evolves with both parties involved.

But for Sabrina and Tobias, it didn't. Their love flourished and worked best as first love, as young 20s love. But as they grew up, their love didn't. It stayed the same. And that led to problems for them and their relationship. A song from the 80s laments in the chorus, "Sometimes love just ain't enough." I feel like that song could be the theme for this book. Sabrina and Tobias loved each other. Fiercely. But that wasn't enough for them. Their love needed to be the foundation, the start, in order for them both to succeed in all areas of their lives. Not the be-all, end-all. That's what this book was about.

The Dinner List did a great job of exploring this topic is a fun, unique way. It was delightful to read about a dinner with Audrey Hepburn sitting there, telling everyone about the things she loved when she was alive. At times I was frustrated with Sabrina, but that makes sense -- I think she was frustrated with herself and her situation, and that translated into her actions. She was also deeply sad to her core and there was a lot that she didn't understand. I could feel her just wanting to understand. This dinner was her way of trying to do that. To understand, to accept, and to move on. 

Rebecca Serle at the Fair
Reading from New Novels
Sunday, November 18 @ 12 p.m.
Room 8201 (Building 8, Second Floor)
300 NE Second Avenue, Miami, FL 33132

In Rebecca Serle’s captivating The Dinner List: A Novel, Sabrina arrives at her thirtieth birthday dinner to find not just her best friend, but also three significant people from her past, and well, Audrey Hepburn. Joanna Cantor’s Alternative Remedies for Loss is a slyly funny coming-of-age novel about a young woman fumbling her way into the mysteries of loss and the travails of adulthood as she tries to make sense of a vanished mother’s legacy. Marci Vogel’s funny, tender, and wholly original, Death & Other Holidays is a year in the life of a young woman coming to terms with the death of her beloved stepfather, while attempting to find love in LA. Roxanna Elden’s Adequate Yearly Progress is a workplace novel that captures teaching with humor, insight, and heart. This perspective-hopping debut follows a diverse group of educators as their professional lives impact their personal lives and vice versa.

Author interview: The Color of Lies by C.J. Lyons

Book Summary
From New York Times and USA Today bestselling author CJ Lyons comes The Color of Lies, a world drenched in color and mystery.

High school senior Ella Cleary has always been good at reading people. Her family has a rare medical condition called synesthesia that scrambles the senses—her Gram Helen sees every sound, and her uncle Joe can literally taste words. Ella’s own synesthesia manifests itself as the ability to see colors that reveal people’s true emotions…until she meets a guy she just can’t read.

Alec is a mystery to Ella, a handsome, enigmatic young journalist who makes her feel normal for the first time in her life. That is, until he reveals the real reason why he sought her out—he wants to learn the truth behind her parents’ deaths, the parents that Ella had always been told died in a fire. Alec turns Ella’s world upside down when he tells her their deaths were definitely not an accident.

After learning her entire life has been a lie, Ella doesn’t know who she can trust or even who she really is. With her adoptive family keeping secrets and the evidence mixing fact and fiction, the only way for Ella to learn the truth about her past is to find a killer.

Perfect for fans of Caroline B. Cooney, Ally Carter, and Jennifer Brown, The Color of Lies blurs the lines between black-and-white facts and the kaleidoscope of reality.

Flo's Note
Happy book birthday to The Color of Lies! To celebrate its release, we're sharing an exclusive interview with author C.J. Lyons! 

Author Interview
What was your inspiration for The Color of Lies?
 CJ: For The Color of Lies,my inspiration was the idea of a girl who saw everyone else’s truth … but was blind to her own.
I loved that conflict; the paradox of what we see and believe versus what is real and true. And how we deny reality, sacrifice it to our dreams by what we chooseto believe … It happens every day in the real world. Just look at the epidemic of fake news posing as reality.
What if someone’s entire life was colored by what they wanted to believe instead of what was real? Answering that question led to The Color of Lies.

How do you build your characters?
CJ: After writing so many dark thrillers, for The Color of LiesI wanted to work with a character who saw life in all its beauty and who truly felt as if she knew and understood her world. Someone with a loving family and friends, although her main problem in life stems from that loving family as she feels obligated to stay in her hometown to take care of them. 

Of course, my next job as a writer is to figure out how to totally destroy this character’s perfect life!

I needed a character strong enough to survive the chaos and turmoil I’d engulf her in, and so Ella was born. I always knew she was an artist but wanted her view of the world to be even more unique. A friend of mine plays the violin and one night was describing how she saw musical notes as colors and that gift helped her to quickly master complex pieces because she wasn’t memorizing them, she was visualizing them. Painting with music.

This kind of sensory crisscrossing is a well-recognized medical condition called synesthesia. Studies suggest it’s actually twice as common as the gene that causes red hair.

While synesthesia might sound like fun, there are forms that are very uncomfortable and actually end up isolating people from the outside world. For example, tasting words. You can’t unhear a word and can’t control a taste—so if the word “football” tastes like baby poop, your life might be a bit unbearable. Or if you feel sounds, then simply venturing into the outside world can feel like being swept up in a tsunami of noise pounding you from every direction.

For Ella, I wanted her synesthesia to be essential to her worldview—a sixth sense that she couldn’t live without. So I gave her the ability to “see” people’s emotions via colorful auras. Ella believes her synesthesia reveals the truth that people hide routinely from each other and trusts it to navigate her way through the world.

Until she meets a boy whose aura she can’t see. And he tells her that everything in her life is a lie.

Read more with CJ Lyons after the break.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Book review: The Dinner List by Rebecca Serle

Book Summary
We’ve been waiting for an hour. That’s what Audrey says. She states it with a little bit of an edge, her words just bordering on cursive. That’s the thing I think first. Not: Audrey Hepburn is at my birthday dinner, but Audrey Hepburn is annoyed.

At one point or another, we’ve all been asked to name five people, living or dead, with whom we’d like to have dinner. Why do we choose the people we do? And what if that dinner was to actually happen? These are the questions Rebecca Serle contends within her utterly captivating novel, The Dinner List, a story imbued with the same delightful magical realism as One Day, and the life-changing romance of Me Before You.

When Sabrina arrives at her thirtieth birthday dinner she finds at the table not just her best friend, but also three significant people from her past, and well, Audrey Hepburn. As the appetizers are served, wine poured, and dinner table conversation begins, it becomes clear that there’s a reason these six people have been gathered together.

Delicious but never indulgent, sweet with just the right amount of bitter, The Dinner List is a romance for our times. Bon appetit.

Flo's Review
As soon as I learned of this book, I wanted to read it. The whole question about "What 5 five people, alive or dead, would you want to have dinner with?" is one that has floated around for years. It was definitely a great idea to take this question and run with it. Rebecca Serle did it in an interesting way. In her interpretation of the question, the 5 people you'd have at your dinner table are there because they reflect some aspect of your life -- unresolved issues, people you can't live without, etc. It's not just, "Chris Hemsworth, because he's hot and I want to listen to his accent." (HEY. No judging anyone on my list! 😂) 

It was interesting how Serle chose to bring this theory to life. She didn't dwell on the questions of "how." The main character, Sabrina, only quickly wonders where the people at her table currently are, how they got there, what happens after the dinner ends, and little thing such as what happens if one person leaves the table. I did like that these issues were minimized, because that's not really what the book was about. The book was about Sabrina's unresolved issues with her father, Tobias, and her best friend Jessica. 

At the same time, I would have liked a little more detail. The list starts off as Audrey Hepburn, Sabrina's grandmother, Sabrina's father, Plato, and Tobias. Serle explains that because Sabrina's relationship with Jessica changed, Sabrina went back and amended the list to include Jessica instead of her grandmother. At one point there is a sentence or so about how Plato got changed to Sabrina's old teacher, Conrad. This one, to me, wasn't explained well. Sabrina had a class with him and liked him? Okay? She had something with every other person at the table -- even Audrey Hepburn makes sense in the scheme of Sabrina's life -- but Conrad didn't. As far as the storyline, he was good at facilitating and moving the plot forward, so I understand why he was helpful in that regard. But his presence made zero sense as far as being one of Sabrina's five.

I read a lot of YA fiction. It's a good escape from adult reality, because at the end of a YA contemporary novel, the couples get together and kiss, and that's the end of it. But reality is that it's not. Reality is that the "Happily Ever After" is hard. That's what this book is about. As we grow, love grows and evolves for us, based on our lives. In other words, the idea of love at 25 years old is going to look different than the idea of love at 35 years old. And it should, because you, as a person, at 25 years old are different than at 35 years old. And 45 years old. Lasting love grows and evolves with both parties involved.

But for Sabrina and Tobias, it didn't. Their love flourished and worked best as first love, as young 20s love. But as they grew up, their love didn't. It stayed the same. And that led to problems for them and their relationship. A song from the 80s laments in the chorus, "Sometimes love just ain't enough." I feel like that song could be the theme for this book. Sabrina and Tobias loved each other. Fiercely. But that wasn't enough for them. Their love needed to be the foundation, the start, in order for them both to succeed in all areas of their lives. Not the be-all, end-all. That's what this book was about.

The Dinner List did a great job of exploring this topic is a fun, unique way. It was delightful to read about a dinner with Audrey Hepburn sitting there, telling everyone about the things she loved when she was alive. At times I was frustrated with Sabrina, but that makes sense -- I think she was frustrated with herself and her situation, and that translated into her actions. She was also deeply sad to her core and there was a lot that she didn't understand. I could feel her just wanting to understand. This dinner was her way of trying to do that. To understand, to accept, and to move on.