ICE CHEST by J.D. Rhoades

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Lingerie shows aren’t generally of interest to career thieves like Rafe and L.B.  But then lingerie shows rarely feature jewel encrusted bras worth $5 million.  Better yet, Rafe’s nephew Branson works at the hotel where the show will take place and the kid needs money badly enough that he’ll be glad to join the team.  Unfortunately, the plan isn’t quite as foolproof as they thought and Branson finds himself being chased down by a team of security guards and the mobster ex-boyfriend of a lingerie model while Rafe and L.B. try to turn their mishaps into millions.  

Don’t expect anything too deep from this plot – driven thriller.  A cast of fairly flat characters tumble together in a fast-paced, humorous adventure story that is an entertaining, light read.

NETTIE AND NELLIE CROOK: ORPHAN TRAIN SISTERS by E.F. Abbott

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Twins Nettie and Nellie spent a lot of time together, just the two of them.  Their father was often away for long periods of time to find work, their older brother worked all day, and sometimes their mother would disappear for weeks–especially after their baby sister died.  But one day a man arrives to take the children away, saying that they are not being cared for properly.  At six years old, Nettie and Nellie find themselves in an orphanage, even though their parents are still alive.  Not long afterward they are put on a train and sent West with a group of other children in search of “forever homes.”  But some homes are not as wonderful as they are cracked up to be.

Based on the true story of the Crook sisters, Abbott’s book gives readers a glimpse into what it might be like to be placed in foster care or adopted in the early twentieth century.  Neither the characterization nor the settings are particularly vivid; the book is plot driven.  But the subject matter is interesting, and may especially appeal to readers now that Simone Biles’ Olympic wins are raising awareness of what foster care and adoption are like today.  I would recommend this book to third and fourth grade readers who are interested in history.

WE ARE ALL MADE OF MOLECULES by Susin Nielsen

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Stewart is so glad that his dad is happy with Caroline.  He had been sad for so long after Stewart’s mom died.  And Caroline has a daughter–only a year older than Stewart.  It’s worth moving to a new house and a new school if he gets the sister he’s always dreamed of.  Unfortunately, Ashley is less than excited.  She hasn’t told her friends that her dad is gay–just that her parents split up.  And as if that weren’t bad enough, her mom had to invite Leonard and his nerdy freak son to live with them. Who knows what that will do to her social status.  But when Stewart’s attempts to survive in the locker room bring him in contact with Ashley’s crush, their sibling relationship becomes mutually beneficial–for better or for worse.

Told from alternating points of view, Ashley and Stewart’s story is both funny and poignant as it tackles accessible issues such as divorce, peer pressure, and bullying.  I highly recommend it to teens who love realistic fiction.  

MORE FOOL ME: A MEMOIR by Stephen Fry

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In the third installment of his memoirs, Stephen Fry briefly reviews the most formative events of his childhood and university years before meandering through the cocaine-laced journey of his career.  The memoir is littered with anecdotes about his own personal life and his star-studded friendships–although he makes a point not to tell any scathing or overly embarrassing stories about famous people other than himself.  The story of his initial introduction to cocaine and early, high-functioning usage is much more detailed and direct than the story of its negative impact on his life (told through the publication of a litany of his actual diary entries which focus primarily on people and events).  But he makes a point of telling the reader that cocaine dependency negatively impacted his professional and personal life, and he would recommend it to no one.

Fry’s non-chronological reminiscences follow thin thematic threads, which makes the book difficult to follow at times.  There is no real arc to the overall points he makes (they are somewhat scattered throughout), so the memoir reads more as a collection of anecdotes than a cohesive narrative of its own.  That said, many of the anecdotes are quite entertaining.  One of the highlights of the book is an anecdote about Prince Charles and Princess Diana paying a visit to Stephen Fry’s home over the Christmas holiday while he had house guests (including Hugh Laurie and Rowan Atkinson).  The majority of his anecdotes, however, will be of most (perhaps exclusive) interest to fans of Stephen Fry and his closest colleagues (Hugh Laurie, Rowan Atkinson, Emma Thompson, Kenneth Branagh, etc.).  I would recommend this memoir specifically to such fans.

 

 

Cece’s Picks: Favorite Books of a 0-6 Month Old

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I have been surprised by some of the books my baby is obsessed with.  In addition to the typical baby picks (high contrast, bold illustrations, simple and repetitive text), she loves books with long, rhythmic text.  She can take or leave the illustrations.  When she was fussy in the grocery store yesterday, I recited “The Raven” for her and she was captivated.

So here are some of her favorites to try with your little one.  She has gone through a few phases where she is not interested in paying attention to books, so if they don’t work for you right now, try again in a week.  I have also found that with my squirmy daughter, she pays more attention right now if she is lying in her pack and play with toys to cuddle while I read to her storytime-style.  So if your baby won’t sit still for a book in your lap, try her/him in other locations.

Share what works (worked) best for your little one in the comments!

Cece’s Favs

WOW SAID THE OWL by Tim Hopwood

LITTLE CLOUD by Eric Carle

DINOSAURS, DINOSAURS by Byron Barton 

HAND, HAND, FINGERS, THUMB by AL Perkins

I KISSED THE BABY by Mary Murphy

MOO, BAA, LA LA LA by Sandra Boynton

SECRET SEAHORSE by Stella Blackstone

GIRAFFES CAN’T DANCE by Giles Andreae 

HURRY! HURRY! by Eve Bunting

LLAMA LLAMA RED PAJAMA by Anna Dewdney

TRUE (…SORT OF) by Katherine Hannigan

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Delly has always been told how bad she is.  She has accepted it as part of her identity and let herself get worse and worse.  But when the principal suggests she might have to go to a different school if she can’t stop fighting, Delly does her best to stay out of trouble.  To distract herself, Delly begins following the weird new girl, Ferris–the girl who doesn’t talk.  They begin an unconventional friendship that forces Delly to make some difficult decisions about what is right and what is wrong.

It took me a long time to get into this book, in part due to the voice, which I wasn’t crazy about.  There was also a lot going on in this book, and the message of the early section was pretty heavy handed.  But it picked up by the end and finished with a valuable message of what it means to be a good friend and how to recognize signs of parental abuse.  It’s not at the top of my recommendation list, but middle grade readers who like realistic fiction may enjoy it.

HOUSE ARREST by K. A. Holt

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Timothy wouldn’t be writing in a journal if the court hadn’t ordered it.  He’s supposed to show that he’s sorry.  Only he’s not sorry he stole the wallet to buy his baby brother’s medicine–just sorry he got caught.  And that they took the medicine away.  Now he’s on house arrest, which is better than juvie.  In fact, it’s not that different from his life before–staying home, helping change the bandages on Levi’s trach, wishing his mother didn’t have to work overtime, that they could afford a nurse more than two days a week, that his father hadn’t left.  But he had better get things right this year, or else he’ll end up in juvie after all.  

Through poetry, Holt reveals Timothy’s evolving relationships with family, friends, and authority figures, and his own transformation.  His love and care for his brother is beautiful, and his resentments toward his father and probation officer believable and complex.  The ending left me waffling back and forth between depression and hope.  I highly recommend this nuanced novel to teen and adult readers who enjoy realistic fiction!