Bethany's Readers' Advisory

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

The Night Sister by Jennifer McMahon December 27, 2015

Filed under: adult fiction,adult mystery,Uncategorized — Bethany @ 11:50 pm
Tags: , , , ,

Night SisterIt’s 2013. Piper gets a phone call in the middle of the night. At first she’s worried it’s bad news about her very pregnant sister, Margot. But the news is about her childhood friend, Amy, whom she’s barely talked to since the summer of 1989. Amy has allegedly killed her family and then herself in her childhood home at the Tower Motel in London, Vermont. Margot called Piper to tell her about the one clue left behind, a photo scrawled with the words 29 ROOMS, a message only Margot and Piper understand.

What follows is an eerie tale that passes along the dark secrets of the Tower Motel from sisters Rose and Sylvie in 1955 to Amy, Piper, and Margot’s grisly discovery in 1989 to the horror in 2013.

This was a page-turner! The story was creepy but not terribly scary. The transitions between the different timelines were smooth and easy to follow. I was impressed with the writing and plan to check out other stories by this author. I would recommend this to adults who like mysteries. Just don’t read it alone at night.

5 out of 5 stars


Favorite books of 2015 and beyond December 18, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — Bethany @ 1:55 pm

When I tell people I’m a librarian, they often ask about my favorite book. Answer: I don’t have one. How could I possibly pick just one favorite? I do, obviously, have some books I like more than others. I keep track of all the books I read on Goodreads; each year I make a Top Ten of 20xx shelf. Some years, I’ve had more than 10 favorites. Other years, there are less than 10. My criteria isn’t well defined. It might be a book that I just really liked, that I was thinking about when I wasn’t reading it, that I talked about at great length afterward, and/or that I missed the characters like they were real people when it was over.

Here are the titles that made the Top Ten of 2015 list (in no particular order):

  • The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
  • The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  • Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King
  • The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson
  • Gabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quinteros
  • And We Stay by Jenny Hubbard
  • The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
  • The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

On my list for Top Ten of 2014 were:

  • 100 Sideways Miles by Andrew Smith
  • Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith
  • Winger by Andrew Smith
  • Reality Boy by A.S. King
  • What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty
  • Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
  • Night Film by Marisha Pessl

And for good measure, my Top Ten of 2013:

  • Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
  • The Future of Us by Jay Asher
  • Joyland by Stephen King
  • The Silver Star by Jeannette Walls
  • The Yonahlassee Riding Camp for Girls by Anton DiSclafani
  • The Round House by Louise Erdrich
  • Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight
  • Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
  • Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
  • The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton

I’d highly recommend all of these books. Happy reading!


Landline by Rainbow Rowell December 17, 2015

LandlineJust a few days before Christmas, Georgie tells her husband Neal the bad news. Even though they’ve already booked a trip back to his hometown of Omaha, Nebraska for Christmas, something came up at work and she can’t go. She knows it’s bad timing; she knows their marriage is in trouble. What she doesn’t know is how bad things are about to get. Neal goes to Omaha without her and takes their two daughters. He won’t answer his phone. Something is wrong and Georgie doesn’t know how to fix it. In a bizarre turn of events, Georgie discovers the cure for their relationship may be as simple as talking to Neal on the landline phone in her childhood bedroom. But is a little magic all they need… or even what they want?

I like Rainbow Rowell as an author. I LOVED her book Eleanor & Park. I like that she’s from Nebraska and got a little thrill every time I saw the word Omaha. (Close to my childhood home.) However, this book fell flat for me. I liked the flashbacks to the beginning of their relationship and the time travel-ish element, but the plot, the characters, and the ending were all a bit dry. This won’t be the last Rainbow Rowell book I read, but I probably won’t go out of my way to recommend it.

3 out of 5 stars


We Should Hang Out Sometime by Josh Sundquist

We Should Hang OutJosh Sundquist’s story begins when he is 25 years old and realizes he has never had a girlfriend. Sure, he came close. In 8th grade, he went out with a girl from his youth group for 23 whole hours. In high school, he spent the whole summer hanging out with a girl that he never worked up the nerve to kiss. There was a disastrous prom date and a failed attempt to declare his intentions on a canoe. As he looks back through his love life, he doesn’t understand where things went wrong. In attempt to figure out the fatal flaw in his date-ablility, Josh tracks down the girls who got away and asked them what happened. Their answers lead to a surprising revelation.

Highlights of the book:

  • Josh’s discussion with his extremely conservative Christian parents about him transitioning from home school to public school. My favorite line in the book: “It was a well-known fact among Christian homeschoolers that public schools were bastions of gangs, drugs, teen pregnancy, rap music, pop culture, secular humanism, witchcraft, and body piercings.”
  • A golf date that resulted in him trying to correct his prosthetic foot that had gotten turned in the wrong direction.
  • The aforementioned failed attempt to declare his intentions on a canoe in the middle of a lake.

I really enjoyed this book. It was a quick read. I finished it within a few hours. I laughed out loud many times. Even though he struck out a lot, his confidence and his continuous efforts to get out and try again were admirable. I can see why he became a motivational speaker; he has the ability to turn a perceived failure into a story his audience can relate to or at least sympathize with and turn it into a learning experience.

I would recommend this book paired with Laughing at My Nightmare by Shane Burcaw. Both touch on overcoming adversity using humorous and relatable life stories.

5 out of 5 stars


The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd December 11, 2015

Filed under: adult fiction,adult historical fiction,Uncategorized — Bethany @ 5:18 pm

Invention of WingsSarah Grimke is a smart, opinionated girl living in early nineteenth century Charleston, South Carolina. Her wealthy family owns a number of slaves, including Handful, daughter of the family’s seamstress. On Sarah’s eleventh birthday, Handful, whom the family calls Hetty, is given to Sarah as her maid. Sarah tries to release ownership of Handful and is denied. This begins a lifetime of fighting against the institution of slavery in her home and later the country. The stories of Sarah and Handful are told in alternating chapters throughout much of their lives as they both strengthen their bond and move into their separate roles in society; Sarah, born into privilege but a slave to her gender role, and Handful, born as a slave and free only to dream of what is outside the walls that surround her.

Wow, this was a powerful and thought-provoking book! Even more so when I read the author’s note at the end and found out Sarah and her sister Angelina were based on real people, early advocates for abolition and women’s rights. Sarah, Angelina, Handful, and Handful’s mother Charlotte were well-developed characters who changed the world in big and small ways with their daring and spunk. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who likes historical fiction and strong female characters.

5 out of 5 stars


On a Dollar a Day by Christopher Greenslate and Kerri Leonard December 10, 2015

Filed under: adult non-fiction,Uncategorized — Bethany @ 5:38 pm

On a Dollar a DayThis nonfiction book stemmed from a project taken on by two high school teachers in California. The high prices of groceries made them wonder what it would be like to live on just $1 a day. After a carefully planned trip to the grocery store, the two lived on $1 worth of food apiece for one month. The results were two tired, hungry, and cranky teachers. Later, they decided to try living on a little over $4 each day, a number they reached based on the allotments for families using SNAP assistance (formerly known as food stamps). The final section of the book consisted of their reflections on the project and their conclusions about the state of the American diet when restricted by income.

I will preface my review by saying that I lead a pretty frugal lifestyle and fancy myself a decent cook. This book did its job to spur a discussion in my household. It also taught me about the history of food stamps and made me realize how others think much differently about money and food than I do. My criticisms of this book revolved around the fact that they seemed snobby and uncreative when it came to food. They complained incessantly about eating oatmeal for breakfast every morning but didn’t try to make it taste better. In the second part of the book, they followed some suggested recipes that are available to SNAP recipients and complained about how awful the food was and the lack of nutritional value. They were vegans and bought meat substitutes to make the casseroles even though this surely hurt their budget. Why not just leave out the meat or substitute it with beans or lentils? I’m sure they could have made meals that were less expensive and more to their liking while still illustrating their points. The scene in the book that really blew my mind was when she forgot her water bottle at home and was so thirsty that she had to spend money to buy a can of pop from the vending machine. Even the most poverty-stricken schools (which was definitely not the situation here) have water fountains. When they finished their project, they claimed to be more conscious of their spending and had whittled down their monthly grocery budget to a little over $400. This amount seems absurdly high.

While this book was interesting and thought-provoking, it could have been better. A listing of their menus for the two months and a breakdown of their costs by item and by meal would have added value. Tighter editing would have been beneficial as well.

I guess I should do my own project and write my own book.

2 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


Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek By Maya Van Wagenen

Filed under: nonfiction — Bethany @ 10:31 pm
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Popular_comp9.indd“School is the armpit of life.” This was how Maya’s friend Kenzie described it. Maya agreed. Her description of her school was something most of us can understand. There are jocks and popular people and not-so-popular people and cliques and gossip and drama. Maya thought there was no way to change your standing in the social structure of school. But one day she came across an old book from the thrift store. It was written in 1951 and called Betty Cornell’s Teen-Age Popularity Guide. She decided to spend her 8th grade year following all of the advice in the book, no matter how embarrassing or complicated. She wrote this book about her experiences. Some things were pretty easy such as stand up straight to look taller and thinner. Some things were hard such as sitting at every table in the cafeteria and talking to everyone in school at least once. She learned a lot, not all of it good, but sometimes with surprising results. This a true story about Maya’s real life and how it changed from one old-fashioned self-help book and a lot of courage.

This was an absolutely charming book about a girl making the best of her situation. I felt like I could relate to Maya’s struggles and wished I would have been as brave and confident as she became by the end. As I read this, I thought of several teens who would enjoy it as much as I did.

5 out of 5 stars


Everything That Makes You by Moriah McStay July 30, 2015

Everything That Makes YouFiona Doyle knows what it’s like to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. When she was 6, an accident during a family outing left her face terribly scarred. Fi Doyle never had that accident. Fiona is a music buff; she has a guitar and notebook after notebook full of songs she’s written but will not sing or play for anyone. Fi is a star lacrosse player destined to play for Northwestern. But when Fi has an accident, her life is changed forever.

Fiona and Fi are two different stories for the same person, each with different joys and sorrows, talents and shortcomings. For anyone who has ever wondered, “What if…”

I liked the Choose Your Own Adventure series when I was a kid. I would read through it making one set of choices, then read it again and make the opposite choices. It is interesting to think how one event can change the course of your entire life. This book had some thought-provoking moments and some cheesy moments. I would recommend it to teens who like realistic fiction with a lighter touch.

3 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


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