Bethany's Readers' Advisory

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

Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool February 26, 2011

After a childhood spent moving from place to place and nowhere to call her own, Abilene Tucker rolls off the train into the tiny town of Manifest.  Her father sent her to his childhood home with nothing but a flour sack of her few possessions and a letter stating she was to be in the care of Pastor Howard for the summer.  The sign at the edge of town says Manifest is “a town with a past.”  The more Abilene learns about her new home, the more she realizes this is true.  From Hattie Mae, the reporter around town, to Shady, the pastor/bartender, to Miss Sadie, the local diviner, Abilene learns about the Manifest of 1918 and how it shaped the town and the people of the Manifest she comes to know during the summer of 1936.

Abilene is a strong little girl who learns about friendship, trust, and  learns how and the choices people make that can affect an entire town.  Abilene really grows as a character and the story is well done.

Newbery Medal winner


Finger Lickin’ Fifteen by Janet Evanovich

Filed under: adult fiction,humor — Bethany @ 11:19 pm
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Finger Lickin’ Fifteen is yet another successful installment in the Stephanie Plum series.  Lula accidentally witnesses the murder of celebrity chef Stanley Chipotle and finds herself the killers’ next target.  In order to protect herself and solve the mystery, Lula, with the help of Grandma Mazur, enters a barbecue contest in Chipotle’s place.  Meanwhile, Stephanie takes on extra hours with Rangeman and is once again tempted by the steamy Ranger.  Car explosions, fire bombs, and fried chicken make appearances in the story as well.

As expected, this book contains plenty of laugh-out-loud moments and inspires junk food cravings.  Fans of Evanovich will not be disappointed.


Men and Dogs by Katie Crouch

When Hannah Legare was 11 years old, her father went out for a fishing trip and never returned.  Although the dog and the boat were eventually recovered, her father’s body was never found.  Hannah, now 35, still suspects that her father is alive somewhere.  She never quite recovered from his disappearance and it continues to be detrimental to her life.

After an accident trying to reconcile with her husband, Hannah returns to her hometown of Charleston, South Carolina to recover.  After hiding for years in San Francisco, she must deal with her overbearing mother, loud stepfather, successful brother, and former boyfriend turned minister.  Hannah wonders if she will ever be able to move past her father’s disappearance as the rest of her family did long ago.

It was hard to finish this book.  The characters developed very little throughout the storyline and I had a difficult time relating to or even sympathizing with any of them.  The mystery of the father’s disappearance was not developed enough to keep me intrigued.  A dull, uninspiring read.


Just Kids by Patti Smith

Filed under: adult memoir,nonfiction — Bethany @ 11:00 pm
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When she was 20 years old, Patti Smith boarded a bus to New York to try life as an artist.  Her plan was to stay with friends in Brooklyn, find a job to support herself, and learn how to be an artist.  When Patti arrived in Brooklyn, her friends were no longer there and she was homeless, jobless, and hungry.  Eventually Patti finds friendship with a young man named Robert Mapplethorpe, a fellow aspiring artist.  The two lean on one another as they struggle to stay afloat in Brooklyn and find their way in the art world.  Their relationship and their talents evolve with friendships and encounters with a variety of fellow artists including Janis Joplin and Allen Ginsberg and years spent at the Hotel Chelsea.  Both eventually come into their talents, Patti in music, Robert in photography.

Just Kids comes from a promise from Patti Smith to Robert Mapplethorpe that she would write their story.  The book primarily discusses their beginnings and their relationship; it does not go into much detail about them after they become famous.

This book was an interesting collection of memories from the lives of Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe.  It contains names of many different well-know musicians, artists, and writers that the two encountered.  I think I would have appreciated the book more if I had grown up during that era or had more knowledge of art and music from that time.

National Book Award winner


A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg

Part memoir, part cookbook, A Homemade Life demonstrates Molly Wizenberg’s passion for food.  Growing up, her father regularly remarked, “You know, we eat better at home than most people do in restaurants.”  She later realized he was talking about the joy and family togetherness that came from cooking and eating together.  Read about Molly’s memories of growing up with her mother and father, their fateful trip to Paris, her father’s death from cancer, her realization that she needed to follow her passion, and the beginning of her relationship with a fan of her blog.  Each chapter is followed by a recipe that fits the story.

This book combined my interest in memoirs with my love for cookbooks.  Wizenberg is a good storyteller and was able to incorporate recipes into the text without interrupting the flow.


Wait Till Next Year by Doris Kearns Goodwin February 12, 2011

Filed under: adult memoir,nonfiction — Bethany @ 9:16 pm
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Wait Till Next Year is a memoir of Doris Kearns Goodwin’s childhood in suburban New York in the 1950s.  She writes about her family, her neighborhood, and her passion for baseball that tied it all together.  Kearns inherited her homebound mother’s love of reading and her father’s love of baseball.  Her interests along with fears of polio, the Korean War, the Red Scare, the introduction of television, and New Yorkers’ fierce loyalty to their baseball teams all shaped Kearns’ childhood.  Years later, the Dodgers’ departure from Brooklyn, her mother’s death, and a disbanding of the neighborhood of her childhood changed things forever.

This was an enjoyable read and a glimpse into the era of my parents’ childhoods.  I appreciated that the author was able to  incorporate baseball history with her own memories in a way that grabs even the non-sports fan’s attention.


Joy in the Morning by Betty Smith February 8, 2011

Fans of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, rejoice!  Joy in the Morning is another novel by talented author Betty Smith.  The story of Brooklyn natives Carl and Annie begins in 1927.  Carl is a law student at a midwestern university, and Annie is an 18-year-old without a high school diploma.  Ignoring the advice of their parents and teachers, Annie travels halfway across the country to marry Carl where they begin their life together.  Despite being young, the two work to maintain their love through poverty, hardship, triumphs, and joys.

Much like A Tree Grows in Brooklyn’s Francie, Annie is a strong, determined young lady determined to overcome her mother’s disapproval, her lack of education, and her low socioeconomic status to make something of herself.  She finds delight in the smallest things and has the ability to make something out of nothing.  This was a quick, enjoyable read that was uplifting despite the many hardships the characters endured.


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