Bethany's Readers' Advisory

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

Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt August 18, 2016

book cover2Ally knows she is different from the other kids. Reading is hard for her, almost impossible. She’s gotten good at hiding it from teachers, her mother, everyone. She’s become the master at creating a diversion, saying something funny, even getting sent to principal’s office if she has to, just to keep her secret. But her secret is draining to keep. It feels like she’s carrying a heavy weight that makes it hard to keep afloat. When she starts sixth grade, her teacher Mr. Daniels sees what’s really going on. It is a relief for Ally, like the weight has been taken from her shoulders. But can Mr. Daniels really help her? As far as she knows, there’s no cure for dumb.

This is a heartwarming story about a girl with dyslexia. It is both believable and unbelievable that her parents and previous teachers did not catch on to her struggles. I want to believe that someone would have noticed, but I’ve heard many stories about kids slipping through the cracks. I would recommend this story to upper elementary or younger middle schoolers who will be able to relate to Ally’s desperation to have her problems disappear and wanting to blend in with her classmates.

3 out of 5 stars

 

West of the Moon by Margi Preus March 11, 2016

Filed under: ages 10-14,drama,fantasy,Uncategorized — Bethany @ 5:24 pm
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West of the MoonAstri’s father left Norway for America, promising to send for her and her sister as soon as he could. Unfortunately, her aunt and uncle sell her to a nasty goat farmer before she receives even one letter. After months of punishing physical labor and mistreatment, Astri escapes her captor, pausing only long enough to retrieve the mysterious girl also being held captive by the goatman and her younger sister. The strange trio must stay ahead of the goatman and make their way toward America, armed only with a stolen troll treasure, a magical hairbrush, and the hopes of fairy tales and their own imaginations.

This was an interesting story and a refreshing departure from the typical young adult novel. The descriptions of the Norwegian countryside and the ambiguity of the time period added to its fairy tale-like quality. An added bonus came in the author’s note at the end, explaining the story was inspired by a line from her great great grandmother’s diary. Norwegian words and folklore make for an intriguing tale. I would recommend this to teens and adults who like fairy tales and stories with a bit of magic.

4 out of 5 stars

 

The Steep & Thorny Way by Cat Winters

Steep and Thorny WayThe story begins as Hanalee Denney, the daughter of a white woman and a black man, sets out with a small handgun hidden under her skirt to kill her father’s murderer. It’s almost too easy- Joe Adder is naked, bathing in the small pond behind the shed where he’s been hiding out since getting out of prison. But before she can pull the trigger, Joe tells her he’s innocent… and the true killer is closer to her than she might think. Hanalee needs answers and finds surprising friends and foes along the way. The Steep and Thorny Way is an atmospheric tale of racism, fear, intolerance, and friendship set in rural Oregon in the early 1920s.

This is my third Cat Winters book, and it’s been my favorite so far. Her books have all featured a strong female character who defies social norms and are historical fiction with a spooky supernatural twist. This book tackles some big issues (bigotry, the KKK, eugenics, homosexuality) in an interesting and engaging way. I appreciate historical background and author’s note at the end; they added context and acted as a springboard for further research on the subject. I also appreciated that story was romance-free. Yay, no stupid love triangles! I could see this as a good book club choice- lots of good discussion points. I would recommend this to teens and adults.

5 out of 5 stars

 

We Were Liars By E. Lockhart August 11, 2015

We Were LiarsFor years, Cadence and her cousins, the Liars, have spent their summers on the private family island. During summer fifteen, however, there is a mysterious accident. When Cadence wakes up afterward, she doesn’t remember what happened. No one will talk to her, no one will explain. The next two years are a haze of amnesia and debilitating headaches. She tries to piece together what happened that summer and thinks going back to the island will bring back memories. And it does…

The ending was so stunning that I literally gasped out loud. This book will haunt me for a long time to come. I would recommend this to older teens and adults.

5 out of 5 stars

 

Gabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero July 19, 2015

Gabi a Girl in PiecesHave you ever wanted to read someone’s diary? Here’s your chance. Gabi is a senior in high school. Her life isn’t perfect. Her best friend got pregnant without even telling Gabi she was having sex. Her other best friend just came out to his parents and got kicked out of the house. Her father is addicted to meth and might or might not come home at night. And Gabi’s mom is always on her case about not being easy… even though Gabi’s never been past first base. Some things about life are good, though. She has her friends, she’s figuring out how to use poetry to express her feelings, and she has food… so much good food. Things just might turn out okay.

This was one of the best books I’ve read all year. It dealt with a number of controversial topics in a realistic way. Gabi’s voice seemed authentic and her reactions to difficult situations were unflinchingly honest. I have already recommended this book to a number of teen girls and mothers.

5 out of 5 stars

 

The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider April 23, 2014

Filed under: drama,realistic fiction — Bethany @ 9:11 pm
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Beginning of EverythingEzra believes everyone has one great tragedy in life that will set the course for that person’s life. For his childhood friend, it was witnessing a deadly accident at an amusement park. (A severed head lands in his lap on a roller coaster.) For Ezra, it was the night a car accident shattered his knee and his life as he knew it.

Now that his tennis career is over, Ezra doesn’t know what to do. He no longer fits in with the jocks and reunites with his childhood friend. It is in this new group of friends that he meets Cassidy Thorpe. She is unlike anyone he has every met and leads him down a path in life he never expected.

Ezra has had his great tragedy. Where will his life lead him now?

Golden boy loses it all? Check. Quirky but cute girl makes life interesting? Check. Surprise ending? Check. I’m the type of person who likes having a plan, but sometimes life doesn’t stick to the plan. And sometimes that’s a good thing. I would recommend this to older teens.

4 out of 5 stars

 

The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes April 22, 2014

Filed under: drama,mystery — Bethany @ 8:57 pm
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NaturalsSeventeen-year-old Cassie works at a cafe and amuses herself by guessing what each customer will order. She’s always right; she is a natural at reading people. One day at the cafe, an unusual customer gives her a message. The FBI wants to use Cassie’s talent for a greater purpose. She is brought into a special program for talented teenagers to solve cold cases, crimes by serial killers that were never solved.

Cassie moves into a house with the other Naturals. Soon she is training to review and solve old cases. But her entry into the program has attracted attention. Soon she is in danger and her only hope is that the Naturals’ talents are enough to save her.

This was a unique premise for a book. I liked the characters, their witty banter, and the bits of teenage drama and romance mixed into the story. The ending was surprising and was a bit of a stretch. This book is the first in what will be a series about the Naturals. Recommended for teens who like crime drama.

4 out of 5 stars

 

 

Instructions for a Heatwave by Maggie O’Farrell August 16, 2013

Instructions for a HeatwaveThere’s a heatwave going on in London in July 1976. Gretta’s husband gets up bright and early to go for the paper like he does every morning. When he doesn’t come back, she gets worried. Eventually the children, now adults with lives of their own, are called in to help. The brother is on the brink of divorce, the two sisters haven’t spoken to each other for years. In the midst of a family crisis, secrets are revealed that may hold clues to their father’s whereabouts and bring the family back together or tear them apart.

This was a quick read and a solid realistic fiction about families and their secrets. I would recommend this to adults who like family dramas.

4 out of 5 stars

 

Just One Day by Gayle Forman June 13, 2013

Just One DayStraight-A student, Allyson Headley’s parents send her on a European tour as a graduation present. Teen Tours is a whirlwind of museums, cathedrals, picturesque sites, and photo opportunities. Most of the other kids go to bars to take advantage of the lower drinking age, but not Allyson. She watches movies in her hotel room and goes to sleep early. On the last day of the trip, her friend Melanie convinces her to skip out on the evening’s activity to go to an impromptu outdoor Shakespeare performance. That’s when Allyson sees him. After the performance, she does something completely unlike her. She talks to the tall, cute boy from the play. The next day, she runs into him again and is talked into spending just one day with him in Paris. This magical day changes her life forever.

The plot of this book was fairly predictable. Straight-laced female does something daring that changes her life and opens up things she would have never dreamed about before. Allyson really grows as a character and sets her life on a course that makes her happy instead of pleasing her overbearing mother. I would recommend this to older teens and adults who like realistic fiction and travel fiction.

4 out of 5 stars

 

 

After Ever After by Jordan Sonnenblick May 1, 2013

0-439-83706-5Jeffrey survived leukemia when he was a kid, but that doesn’t mean he’s stopped worrying about it. Now that he’s in 8th grade, he has other things to worry about, too. The limp and the foggy memory are a result of the cancer treatments, alongside the normal teenage boy worries like girls, tests, school. On top of all that, Jeffrey’s older brother Steven, the one who got him through all the hard times, is on a long trip to Africa to “find himself” and not there to talk to like he used to be. Jeffrey still has his parents, as embarrassing as they may be, his best friend Tad, and the cute new girl at school who has been paying him a lot of attention lately. With everything going on, Jeffrey’s trying to enjoy each day and live life to its fullest… just in case.

I read Drums, Girls & Dangerous Pie a few years ago and really liked it. This is the sequel and takes place several years later; Steven is college-age and Jeffrey is in 8th grade. It’s a heartwarming story but not sappy. The boys are typical middle schoolers, making “your mom” jokes and teasing each other about girls. Be prepared for a bittersweet ending.

5 out of 5 stars

 

 
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