Archive for March, 2014|Monthly archive page

For Darkness Shows the Stars

In YA Book Reviews on March 28, 2014 at 10:42 pm


by Diana Peterfreund

YA Dystopian/©2012/402 Pages/Recommended for 7th Grade and above

Publisher’s Summary (Goodreads):

It’s been several generations since a genetic experiment gone wrong caused the Reduction, decimating humanity and giving rise to a Luddite nobility who outlawed most technology.

Elliot North has always known her place in this world. Four years ago Elliot refused to run away with her childhood sweetheart, the servant Kai, choosing duty to her family’s estate over love. Since then the world has changed: a new class of Post-Reductionists is jumpstarting the wheel of progress, and Elliot’s estate is foundering, forcing her to rent land to the mysterious Cloud Fleet, a group of shipbuilders that includes renowned explorer Captain Malakai Wentforth–an almost unrecognizable Kai. And while Elliot wonders if this could be their second chance, Kai seems determined to show Elliot exactly what she gave up when she let him go.

But Elliot soon discovers her old friend carries a secret–one that could change their society . . . or bring it to its knees. And again, she’s faced with a choice: cling to what she’s been raised to believe, or cast her lot with the only boy she’s ever loved, even if she’s lost him forever.

Inspired by Jane Austen’s Persuasion, For Darkness Shows the Stars is a breathtaking romance about opening your mind to the future and your heart to the one person you know can break it.

My Thoughts:

In case there was any doubt from the above Publisher’s Summary, this book is definitely straight up romantic science fiction that takes place in a dystopian society. The first sentence certainly grabs your attention: “Elliot North raced across the pasture, leaving a scar of green in the silver, dew-encrusted grass.”, and gives you a hint of the good writing to come. The author does take her time developing her dystopian society, but it is worth the effort.  The setting is an interesting and well developed backdrop to the main story, which was the relationship between Elliot and Kai. Hands down, Elliot is my favorite character. She is a strong woman with intelligence, compassion, integrity and backbone.  All in all, it is a well written, engaging story.  If you enjoy a story set in a dystopian society, you will appreciate this book.

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

More Detailed Reviews by Other Bloggers:



The Invention of Wings

In My Favorites on March 21, 2014 at 8:53 pm


by Sue Monk Kidd

Historical Fiction/©2014/359 pages

Publisher’s Notes:

Hetty “Handful” Grimke, an urban slave in early nineteenth century Charleston, yearns for life beyond the suffocating walls that enclose her within the wealthy Grimke household. The Grimke’s daughter, Sarah, has known from an early age she is meant to do something large in the world, but she is hemmed in by the limits imposed on women. Kidd’s sweeping novel is set in motion on Sarah’s eleventh birthday, when she is given ownership of ten year old Handful, who is to be her handmaid. We follow their remarkable journeys over the next thirty five years, as both strive for a life of their own, dramatically shaping each other’s destinies and forming a complex relationship marked by guilt, defiance, estrangement and the uneasy ways of love.

As the stories build to a riveting climax, Handful will endure loss and sorrow, finding courage and a sense of self in the process. Sarah will experience crushed hopes, betrayal, unrequited love, and ostracism before leaving Charleston to find her place alongside her fearless younger sister, Angelina, as one of the early pioneers in the abolition and women’s rights movements.Inspired by the historical figure of Sarah Grimke, Kidd goes beyond the record to flesh out the rich interior lives of all of her characters, both real and invented, including Handful’s cunning mother, Charlotte, who courts danger in her search for something better.

This exquisitely written novel is a triumph of storytelling that looks with unswerving eyes at a devastating wound in American history, through women whose struggles for liberation, empowerment, and expression will leave no reader unmoved.

My Thoughts:

She is such an outstanding writer, so it is easy to understand why I always truly enjoy reading a Sue Monk Kidd book. The Invention of Wings did not disappoint.  This book is Southern historical fictional at its best. It is actually based on extensive biographical material of the Grimke sisters, who were at the forefront of the abolitionist and women’s rights movements in the early 1800’s and inspirational to Harriet Beecher Stowe subsequent novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin– yet, I had never heard of them.  That in itself is worth the price of the book.

I appreciate how the story is told in alternating chapters from the perspectives of the two main characters: Sarah, the daughter of the house, and Handful, a slave. The first has to deal with the social rigidity her time, and the second has to deal with living in slavery.  Handful, with amazing insight, noted that “My body might be a slave, but not my mind. For you, it’s the other way round.”

Their bond is firmly established at the beginning of the book when Handful is presented to Sarah as a birthday gift, and it is masterfully entwined throughout. There are several horrific scenes that all too clearly depict the cruelty of the slavery system, but Handful somehow still manages to keep above it all and push the confines of her role. She never loses hope or her independent spirit. The same can be said of Sarah as she walked the path to stretch the boundaries of acceptable behavior for women of her time as she spoke out against slavery and the rights of women. 

Overall, this book tells a compelling story with amazing primary and secondary characters (Charlotte and Sky come immediately to my mind), with the added bonus that it has its basis in historical fact. A very satisfying read.

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights

In Non-Fiction Reads, YA Book Reviews on March 18, 2014 at 6:00 pm


by Steve Sheinkin

Non-Fiction/©2014/170 pages/Recommended for 7th Grade and Above

Publisher’s Intro (Goodreads):

An astonishing civil rights story from Newbery Honor winner and National Book Award finalist Steve Sheinkin. 
On July 17, 1944, a massive explosion rocked the segregated Navy base at Port Chicago, California, killing more than 300 sailors who were at the docks, critically injuring off-duty men in their bunks, and shattering windows up to a mile away. On August 9th, 244 men refused to go back to work until unsafe and unfair conditions at the docks were addressed. When the dust settled, fifty were charged with mutiny, facing decades in jail and even execution. This is a fascinating story of the prejudice that faced black men and women in America’s armed forces during World War II, and a nuanced look at those who gave their lives in service of a country where they lacked the most basic rights.

My Thoughts:

I think Steve Sheinkin is my new favorite author. I read his last award winning book, BOMB: THE RACE TO BUILD – AND STEAL – THE WORLD’S MOST DANGEROUS WEAPON, and I was so impressed with how he made it read like a political thriller. I could not put it down. Despite the fact that his target audience is basically 7th -9th grade, his writing is equally appreciated by readers of any age. That book was well researched and well written, and I was amazed about how much I did not know about that issue.

When his latest book came out, I couldn’t wait to read it. I knew about the Port Chicago disaster, as I should, since I it is practically in my backyard. However, I had absolutely no idea about what had happened immediately after and the critical part it played in the fight for civil rights. This book rocked my world. Steve Sheinkin did an amazing job in terms of researching and writing about this little known event. What those 50 men did and what they stood up for deserves every bit as much credit as what Rosa Parks and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., did just a few years later.  I hope this book gets the widespread attention and recognition it so richly deserves. Perhaps it will even spur the action necessary to get justice and exoneration for the Port Chicago 50.

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

Other Reviews:


In My Favorites on March 18, 2014 at 2:44 am


Publisher’s Overview (Barnes & Noble):

A powerful, blazingly honest memoir: the story of an eleven-hundred-mile solo hike that broke down a young woman reeling from catastrophe—and built her back up again.

At twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother’s death, her family scattered and her own marriage was soon destroyed. Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life: to hike the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State—and to do it alone. She had no experience as a long-distance hiker, and the trail was little more than “an idea, vague and outlandish and full of promise.” But it was a promise of piecing back together a life that had come undone.

Strayed faces down rattlesnakes and black bears, intense heat and record snowfalls, and both the beauty and loneliness of the trail. Told with great suspense and style, sparkling with warmth and humor, Wild vividly captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her. (Winner of the 2012 Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Award for Nonfiction)

My Thoughts:

I had read and enjoyed Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods, his experience hiking the Appalachian Trail, and thought that Wild, Cheryl’s recount of her experience hiking the Pacific Crest Trail on the other side of the United States, would be equally interesting. Well, it was definitely that, but you couldn’t find two more different books. Cheryl’s book was more about her journey within the journey, rather than the journey. She was such a mess through most of the book. Her mother had died, her family –what was left of it – was growing apart and moving on, her marriage had fallen apart because of her infidelities, and she dabbled with some serious drugs. Oh, and her father, while out of her life by that time, had been abusive and had left residual, long-term effects. Her solution was to hike the PCT in an effort to put her life back together. 

For the most part, I just couldn’t understand what she hoped to accomplish going on that trip alone and so unprepared. Most of the time she just annoyed me, but I still had a burning desire to see how it all turned out for her. This is one of those you-either-love-it-or-hate-it-books, and you are likely to have many questions when you are done – in other words, a perfect book club book. This, however, wasn’t one of my book club selections, so I turned to readers who blog for in-depth reviews of the book and garnered some helpful insights. 

This was not a relaxing, feel-good book for me, but it was a thoughtful read that helps me, I think, be a little more compassionate and do a little less judging and labeling of the people around me.

My Rating:  4/5 Stars

Other Reviews: