Book Review: The Best Man by Richard Peck



Richard Peck has captivated me with this book. I enjoyed the humor, the characters and the plot. I especially liked the family relationships, dads and moms and sons and daughters and brothers all figuring out how to b happy. Mix in the deadpan humor and social ineptness of the main character and you have a winner for sure.

Source:  Public Library

Audience:  Grade 5 and up


Yard War by Taylor Kitchings


I enjoyed this book so much that I was telling people about it even before I finished it. I think one of the strengths of the book is that it really seems to get the adolescent narrator’s voice. I think it will be very popular because it combines two things a lot of kids are interested in: sports and the Civil Rights Movement. My only complaint is that I thought the football play descriptions were a little bit much. Of course, that’s what a lot of readers will like best!

Here is a quote that I really liked: “It clanked and rolled, thunder boomed, and the rain came in buckets, like a bat in the street was the signal it had been waiting for.”


Source:  Public Library

Audience:  Ages 10 and up

A Blind Guide To Stinkville by Beth Vrabel


There’s a lot going on in this excellent middle grade choice. Alice is struggling with many things in her life: albinism, blindness, a new home, a here-but-not-really mother, plus all the really lousy parts of being a teen.

The author’s use of the library as a town center and a writing contest as a plot device both work well. As Alice begin researching people, places and event for her contest entry the reader gets to know all the quirky characters in the community.

Source:  ARC from publisher

Audience:  Middle school

The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness


So much fun in such a thoughtful package.
I’ve read so many books starring the hero of the crisis. Patrick Ness gives us an excellent view from the other side of the scene. While the heroes are running around saving the world, the rest of us just live here. But if all the regular people aren’t there to witness the crisis, how would we know about the heroic actions?

Patrick Ness has a great website, and a some excellent you tube work too.


Click here to visit the author’s site.

Click here to listen to Patrick Ness reading from this book.


Source:  ebook from the public library

Audience:  middle school and high school

More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera



This is a gritty book.  The contrast between kids playing with bottle caps on the side walk one minute and violently beating a peer the next was both hard to read and hard to justify.  The teens act like little kids one minute and then they explode in violence.
I was intrigued by the idea of memory as a changeable thing.  What would you forget if you had the chance?  What would you risk?
And also, would you remember your true self?
Source:  Public Library Book
Audience:  High school

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven


Just. Wow.
Once I got going I simply could not put this book down. Things I liked:
It’s funny and sad all at once.
While these teens are awfully articulate they still feel real.
Finally, a book where the parents are not horrible idiots (well, Violet’s parents aren’t)

The author’s note at the end of the book is an important message for all readers.

A movie is in the works, due  I’m not sure I like that.  Once it comes out no one will read the book.  And what if it isn’t as good as the book?

Source:  Public Library ebook that I read on my phone because my Kindle wasn’t charged and I had to keep reading.

Audience:  High School




Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley


I read this book for the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge 2016.  Read more about the challenge here

If this book was cuisine,  we’d have to call it fusion.  It’s a memoir.  It’s a graphic novel.  It’s a cookbook.  It’s a coming-of-age story centered around food, family, and art.   See what I mean? There’s a lot going on here!

I found the loosely sequenced stories enganging and thought provoking. As I read Chapter 1, “The Kid in the Kitchen” I thought about how my own kids were present in the kitchen  and how I encouraged them to try new tastes.  I assumed that they would like things, not that they would be too spicy, too intense, too whatever.   I see parents at the market saying to their kids I don’t think you will like that.  How sad, to assume that new is not good.  That familiar is safe.  I also felt a bit jealous, as food in my own house growing up was not really a big deal.

Chapter 3, “Getting Ours” was a great story of growing uo, but also a bit of a concern.   The publisher labels the book for grades 6 and up, but some mature interests are sketched out here and I am not sure it is for every young person.  That’s a decision best left to familes, not to me.  It’s a genuine chapter, nothing over the top or even inappropriate.   Just a bit grown up.

I’m looking forward to trying some of the recipes in the book, particularly the chai tea, leg of lamb and Huevos Rancheros.  If Knisley writes a graphic cookbook, I’ll be buying it. Her Website lists a number of books that I will be adding to my TBR list.

I’m listing this in the book challenge as food memoir, graphic, and middle grade.

Source:  public library

Audience:  grades 6 and up, but definitely engaging for adult readers


Notes from the Dog by Gary Paulsen

For his 14th summer, Finn is determined to give his brain a rest from people. He plans to sit on his front

steps and read a pile of books. Life has a way of changing your plans. When his dog arrives with a note,

“You’re not as ugly as you think,” the change begins. As Finn opens himself to risk and change, he builds

a family for himself. The last note from the dog, “Family is who you find.” sums up this sweet book


Lexile 760

Grades:  5-8

Date finished:   3-22-15

Source:  personal copy

Read harder:  book by a male author, YA

Extraordinary by Miriam Spitzer Franklin

Middle grade readers will surely identify with 5th grader Pansy Smith as she tries to be the most Extraordinary friend ever.

Pansy is trying to win the class reading contest, learn to ice skate, be a girl scout, and still be a good citizen for her teacher.  Why is she trying to do so much?  Because she let down her best friend, Anna.  Pansy is certain that Anna will recover from a terrible illness and when she does Pansy will be the friend she always wanted to be.  “If I turn into an Extraordinary person, then Anna would have to forgive me for all the promises I’d broken.”

Grades:  5-8

Date finished:   3-23-15

Publication date:   5-5-15

Source:  ARC from publisher

Read harder:  2015 book, indie publisher, YA

I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

Twins Noah and Jude begin life together and remain that way until things fall apart in middle school. As they enter their high school years their relationship is fractured, neither feels complete without the other and neither can bridge the gap. As they use art to define who they are and how they feel we get a glimpse inside the minds of two gifted artists.

At times I felt that there was too much going on in this book.  So many issues:  addiction, infidelity, bullying, gender identity, divorce.  That said, the language was beautiful. I wanted to be with these incredibly creative people, I wanted to see the art as they created it. I know this book will be on my mind the next time I go to an art gallery.

I will definitely look for other books by Jandy Nelson.

Date finished: 1.3.2015

Lexile : 740

Interest:  grades 9 and up (adults too)

Source:  the public library

Publication date: 9.2.2014

Read Harder Challenge Tasks:  5 (LGBTQ), 11 (YA)