Bethany's Readers' Advisory

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

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender June 29, 2011

On her ninth birthday, Rose takes a bite of her lemon birthday cake only to discover she can taste her mother’s emotions in it.  It tastes like citrus and chocolate and everything a cake should taste like, but with an underlying sadness, an emptiness that Rose can’t escape.  After that cake, Rose discovers she has a special gift; she can taste the anger in a cookie, the guilt in potatoes.  Suddenly she knows so much about everyone that makes her food that she can barely eat.

As Rose gets older, she learns secrets about her mother through her cooking.  Her melancholy brother begins disappearing.  Rose realizes that she is the only one who can hold the family together as their secrets threaten to drive them apart.  But will Rose find her way in life when she is so busy dealing with the problems of everyone else?

This was a bittersweet novel of family drama mixed with a little science fiction.  I was a little disappointed in the ending, only because it leaves things open to interpretation.  Overall, I enjoyed the story and would recommend it.


Hold Me Closer, Necromancer by Lish McBride June 28, 2011

Sam, officially Samhain Corvus LaCroix, is a college-dropout turned fry cook at Plumpy’s.  After a break-time game of potato hockey ending in a broken taillight, he gets his first look at Douglas Montgomery.  After being attacked in the Plumpy’s parking lot, he gets his second look.  You see, like Douglas, Sam is a necromancer.  Douglas is powerful and evil; Sam is clueless about his paranormal powers.  Suddenly, Sam has to deal with Douglas’s basement, a hot werewolf girl, and Ashley the Harbinger.  Sam is about to get a lesson in necromancy.

Have you been looking for the next Twilight?  Perhaps a tale of teenagers with paranormal powers… that’s well written and clever?  Look no more.  Sam has a smart mouth, good friends, and a powerful enemy.  Will he figure out what powers he has and how to use them to save the day before it’s too late?  Includes an ending that could nicely segue into a sequel.

William C. Morris Debut Award finalist


Leadership Simple by Steve and Jill Morris

Filed under: nonfiction — Bethany @ 9:40 pm
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“Great leaders inspire others to follow through their words and actions.”  According to the authors, great leaders use self-evaluation to improve themselves and others; this process is called Lead Management.  The self-evaluation process involves looking at what you want, what you are doing to get what you want, whether your methods are working, alternative actions, and choosing a behavior or action.  Everything that happens is a result of a choice we have made.  When we operate from an internal locus of control, we are able to take responsibility for our choices and become accountable for our actions.  By practicing Lead Management, it can become a way of life.

This was the first of three books I’m reading in preparation for a leadership institute I will be attending next month.  The ideas of Lead Management seemed simple enough and like something the average person could do.  I found the conversational format to be a little annoying, though it was helpful to see what Lead Management would look like in practice.  An appendix contained a review of the concepts contained in the book.


You Can’t Fire Everyone by Hank Gilman June 10, 2011

Filed under: nonfiction — Bethany @ 10:36 pm

Hank Gilman, currently the deputy managing editor of Fortune magazine, writes about lessons learned through years as a manager.  Beginning in college, Gilman learned the best and worst strategies for being a boss.  Lessons such as “Don’t blame others, and don’t take too much credit,”  “Fire fast,” and “Focus on your employees’ strengths” are explained and illustrated through real-life examples.

Gilman has some helpful tips for those wanting to become or improve as managers.  His examples from his own work help readers visualize the techniques, but there were a lot of sports metaphors included.  Entertaining read on the subject, but not especially inspiring.


The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

Oscar is an awkward, overweight nerd with an afro.  He carries on the fuku, the ancient curse that has haunted his family for generations.  Oscar desperately wants to find love, to even find his first kiss, but reality could not be further from his desires.

This book tells the stories of despondent Oscar, his protective sister, Lola, and his beautiful but mean mother, Beli.  Footnotes provide bits of history of the family’s native Dominican Republic.  Narration in Spanglish make it difficult to understand at times, unless you are familiar with Spanish slang.

A fast-paced, wild story of a family’s history, packed with tragedies, lies, and violence.  This month’s book club choice held my interest but was quite disturbing in parts.  I would only recommend this to my most well-read, open-minded friends.


As Easy As Falling Off the Face of the Earth by Lynne Rae Perkins

Filed under: realistic fiction — Bethany @ 10:16 pm
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The story begins with Ry chasing a train, falling down a hill.  Ignoring the conductor’s warning, he had left the train for just a minute to make a phone call.  He was supposed to go to summer camp, but instead he’s stranded in Montana with one boot and a nearly dead cell phone.  When a stranger offers to help him, Ry can’t think of another option.  It is here the real adventure begins.

Much like the show Lost, this book kept my interest but created many questions it never answered.  All in all, I enjoyed Ry’s journey on rails, roads, air, and sea .  But I was left wondering what was up with the cryptic letter canceling camp?  Why was Grandpa in a hotel room at one point?  Why was Del talking to himself?  Also, I’ll be happier imagining that Beth reenters Ry’s life at some point.

Although the main character is a teenager, the content is appropriate even for a middle schooler.  This a fun read, as long as you don’t overthink the plot.


The Agency: A Spy in the House by Y.S. Lee June 1, 2011

Filed under: historical fiction,mystery — Bethany @ 10:36 pm
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Mary Quinn is a twelve-year-old orphan sentenced to death for being a thief when she is rescued by a woman posing as a prison guard.  Five years later Mary is an educated young woman about to be afforded another opportunity by Miss Scrimshaw’s Academy for Girls.  She learns that the school is a cover for the Agency- a group of female undercover investigators.  Mary accepts the offer to join the Agency and is whisked off to the Thorald household in London.  She poses as a companion for the Thorald’s daughter, Angelica, and is tasked with watching and listening for information about the family’s business.  Mary quickly learns that solving a mystery isn’t as easy as it seems.

I liked that Mary is a strong female character in Victorian London, a time when women were meant to be seen and not heard.  She is stubborn and opinionated but also knows when to keep her mouth shut.  I enjoyed the banter between Mary and James and look forward to reading the next book in the series.


Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty by G. Neri

Boy Slays Girl in Gangland Shooting was the headline in the Chicago Sun Times in 1994 when eleven-year-old Robert “Yummy” Sandifer shot and killed a fourteen-year-old girl.  Yummy’s classmate, Roger, is trying to figure out what happened to make his classmate do such a horrible thing.  Was it Yummy’s hard childhood, without parents to show him right from wrong?  Was it the gang he wanted to impress- the same gang Roger’s brother belongs to- that gave him the gun?  Was Yummy just a cold-blooded killer?

Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty is a dramatization based on a true story.  The graphic novel format and art style effectively portray the gritty content.  The story is told in a way that lets readers form their own opinions about whether Yummy was a bully or a victim.  Highly recommended for older teens and adults.


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