Bethany's Readers' Advisory

The place to go for readers' advisory on books for children, teens, and adults

Bagel Soup: Stirring the Pot by David Koesters January 26, 2011

Filed under: humor — Bethany @ 8:10 pm
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Bagel Soup is a collection of comics on everything from animals to relationships to food.  One and two panel comics feature the best of artist David Koesters’ work; some comics are available for viewing on his website at

Bagel Soup is a book you can read more than once and still find yourself gasping and laughing out loud at the shenanigans of Pink Shirt Pro-Antagonist, Green Shirt Roommate, Sinful Girlfriend, Shampoo the Cat, and more. Many of the comics are family friendly, although some are best suited for adults.  Definitely recommended for a good laugh.


Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse January 24, 2011

Filed under: historical fiction — Bethany @ 7:36 pm
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Out of the Dust is set in Oklahoma during the Dust Bowl.  Fourteen-year-old Billie Jo has long been an only child until her mother announces she is pregnant.  Her father, however, does not get to see his long-awaited son, as Billie Jo’s ma is severely injured in an accident and she and the baby die shortly thereafter.  Billie Jo and her father struggle to continue on in a world filled with crushed hopes, grief, and dust.

Readers will ache for Billie Jo in this story of despair and hardship, as everything she knows is choked with dust and blown away with the wind.  This verse novel is a quick read and its realistic characters teach a bit Depression-era history.


The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

Fourteen-year-old Lily’s life changes the day the bees come.  She can hear them in the walls; she can see them flying around her bed.  Lily is spending the summer of 1964 trying to stay out of her father T. Ray’s way and reliving the vague memory of the day her mother died ten years ago.  When Lily’s black housemaid and closest companion, Rosaleen, gets into race-related trouble, Lily decides it’s time for them both to move to greener pastures.  Lily and Rosaleen end up in a pink house with three black, beekeeping sisters where Lily learns the true meaning of family, trust, and her past.

This was a heart-warming story about a girl finding a place she belongs in life.  Readers will like feisty Rosaleen and gentle August and have a new-found appreciation for the art and science of beekeeping.


Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See January 22, 2011

Lily is a country girl living in 19th century China.  When she is 6 years old, the diviner examining her feet in preparation for binding notices she is special.  As a result, Lily is matched with a laotong or “old same”.  Her laotong, Snow Flower, introduces herself by writing a message on a silk fan in the secret women’s language of the time, nu shu.  Lily and Snow Flower continue sending each other messages on the fan throughout their lives, through foot binding, marriage, childbirth, and family life.  As they age, life’s circumstances put distance between the friends and eventually a misunderstanding changes their relationship forever.

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is a heart wrenching story about what it was like to be a female in 19th century China.  The author describes traditions such as foot binding, women’s duties and family roles, female friendships, and mourning in a way that will transport the reader through time and into the lives of Lily and Snow Flower.


My Horizontal Life by Chelsea Handler January 14, 2011

Filed under: adult biography,humor,nonfiction — Bethany @ 8:53 pm
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The title of this book says it all; My Horizontal Life is a collection of stories about sex and one-night stands.  Chelsea Handler recollects her mistakes and triumphs in a world of drinking, dating, and sleeping around.  Amidst all of the funny and cringe-worthy stories are Handler’s insights on friendship and growing up.

This was a light, fun read.  Readers will walk away feeling satisfied and a little dirty.  Be prepared to laugh out loud.


Sh*t My Dad Says by Justin Halpern

Filed under: adult biography,humor,nonfiction — Bethany @ 8:30 pm
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Sh*t My Dad Says is a collection of stories about author Justin Halpern’s time with his dad.  Interjected between each story are snippets of his dad’s wisdom and advice.   Sam Halpern reminds me of my own father-  always knowing how to handle the situation and quick to advise when asked a question- only with a lot more swearing.

This was a quick, fun read.  It was easy to see why it’s a New York Times bestseller.  Not for the easily offended.



Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout January 6, 2011

This book contains a series of 13 short stories centered around Olive Kitteridge, a woman living in the small town of Crosby, Maine.  Olive, a retired math teacher, has a presence in town; she touches the lives of many, including that of her husband Henry, her son Christopher, recent widower Jack Kennison, newly grieving Marlene Bonney, and despondent former student Kevin.  Olive’s tall, full figure and bold personality has at times frightened her students, intimidated her neighbors, and angered her son, but her strength has provided comfort to many in their time of need.

Olive Kitteridge contains stories of love, tragedy, and healing.  While many of the characters are endearing, readers are only able to see Olive and Henry’s characters in any real depth.  The short stories have no resolutions; the book relies on Olive’s presence to provide continuity and flow.  Moving but depressing.

2009 Pulitzer Prize winner


The Help by Kathryn Stockett January 3, 2011

Aibileen has raised seventeen children in her lifetime, not counting her own.  Minny has mouthed off to yet another employer, leaving her without a job.  Skeeter has just graduated from college and is living with her parents, her mother constantly criticizing her un-feminine clothing, her hair, and her height.  The year is not 1870; it is 1962.  These three women live in Jackson, Mississippi during the civil rights movement.

Abileen and Minnny are both black maids working for white women; Skeeter is a white woman who has just started to pay attention to the deep divide between blacks and whites, an observation that will bring the three women together with a project that will change them all for better or worse.

The Help is a thought-provoking look at segregation and societal norms just 50 years ago.  The archaic attitudes and beliefs of some of the characters are shocking. One prominent woman in town begins the Home Help Sanitation Initiative stating,  “Ladies, did you know that: 99 percent of all colored diseases are carried in the urine.  Whites can become permanently disabled by nearly all of these diseases because we lack immunities coloreds carry in their darker pigmentation.”  This story of bitterness, frustration, love, and acceptance will both erode your faith in humanity and restore it.


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