Em and the Big Hoom by Jerry Pinto

  Narrated by Em's son, Em and the Big Hoom offers far more than his perspective alone. As the son informally interviews members of his family about their lives, he gives the reader a panoramic view of a family affected by mental illness. The emotions involved are so complex, so complicated. I felt sorry for these characters. Not pity, but more of an eye-opening, empathetic learning experience. Handled sensitively and without judgment, a voice is given to secret, uncomfortable things the children hope for as they age and recognize their parents' mortality. There is bitterness, fear, and anger; but also plenty of love and humor. When Em is speaking, the narrative feels scattered, because that's what her mind is like. And you know, sometimes that can…

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Get Up Tim by Sally Weigel

  It's no secret that so far, I've adored every one of the CCLaP titles I've read. The stories in Sally Weigel's Get Up Tim are an interesting mix of edgy and sweet, real and magical. They are fantastic character studies, as the synopsis suggests, but for some reason the collection as a whole wasn't quite as memorable for me. My favorite stories were "Growth Spurts" and "The Land of What If," thanks to how brilliantly Weigel handled the child perspectives. During Bout of Books 10 I mentioned that the magical realism in "Growth Spurts" reminded me of Aimee Bender's The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake... the trees, the wood, the furniture. Without giving anything away, I thought there is an…

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Literary Giveaway Blog Hop: Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee

You can read my full review for all the details, but I guarantee you will love Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy. Yes, it's middle-grade fiction, but Karen Foxlee's writing is so stunning, sparkling, and magical, I promise it will appeal to all ages. This one is timeless.I'm offering one lucky reader a brand-new copy of the paperback version. Contest is open internationally to anyone in a country The Book Depository ships to.a Rafflecopter giveawayBe sure to visit some of the other wonderful bloggers who are participating in this Literary Giveaway Blog Hop!LeeswammesThe Misfortune of KnowingBibliosueToo FondUnder a Gray SkyRead Her Like an Open Book (US)My Devotional ThoughtsWildmooBooksGuiltless ReadingFourth Street ReviewNishita's Rants and RavesWord by WordWords And Peace (US)Ciska's Book ChestFalling LettersRoof Beam ReaderReaderbuzzThe Relentless…

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The Romanov Sisters by Helen Rappaport

  The Romanov Sisters really did surprise me. What struck me most is how vividly Helen Rappaport portrays the Romanovs: not only the four sisters, but their parents as well. In many ways this family was surprisingly normal, which also made them unconventional for their class. Alexandra completely broke protocol and followed her instincts, breastfeeding her own children, taking a hands-on approach in raising them, decorating her own household, cherishing as much family time (and privacy) as possible. The family was so loving and close, their days often so typical, at times I almost forgot I was reading about royalty. Rappaport already wrote about The Last Days of the Romanovs, so The Romanov Sisters doesn't focus on that. I think that the weakness…

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How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare by Ken Ludwig

Thank you, Ken Ludwig, for writing How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare. Confession: I am a very reluctant Shakespeare reader. I don't remember being exposed to his works before high school, and I don't remember my teachers showing much spirit when Romeo and Juliet and Julius Caesar came along on the syllabus. We're a homeschooling family, and I know there will be time I'll have to teach things I'm not terribly interested in. But I want my daughter to appreciate Shakespeare's works in the same way I want her to appreciate great pieces of art or music: because these works are "part of our cultural DNA and cannot be missed," as Ken Ludwig says. Although I have concerns that it is…

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The Year She Left Us by Kathryn Ma

  The Year She Left Us follows the four women of the Kong family, spanning three generations, each with her own distinct personality and perspective. Kathryn Ma's debut novel is both an immigrant story and a coming of age story, one that tackles the intricacies of international adoption, family obligation, and abandonment issues from a variety of angles. These are four very strong, realistic female characters. They are independent and self-reliant, carrying themselves with confidence despite whatever turmoil they are facing within. Sometimes that confident facade invokes admiration; other times, frustration. Shannon at River City Reading felt the alternating viewpoints of this novel "caused the reading experience to lose fluidity." I wholeheartedly agree with that. I felt pretty lukewarm about the…

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The Late Starters Orchestra by Ari L. Goldman

  Ari Goldman decides to return to the cello after a twenty-five year hiatus. He starts out in his son's youth orchestra, and eventually learns of and joins the New York Late-Starters String Orchestra, an amateur adult orchestra which accepts beginners on up. Goldman shares his musical journey in his book The Late Starters Orchestra. Mostly a memoir, it also includes the science of learning music (especially as an adult vs. as a child), music history, music appreciation, and vignettes of some of the other people he meets in the world of recreational music making. His story is a familiar one to me. Most of my adult music students have returned to their instruments after a long hiatus. A few of them are…

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Problems with People by David Guterson

  The stories in Problems with People are ten snapshots of relationships, connections, human experiences, life. This collection explores how we relate to each other and how we perceive ourselves and those around us. By far, I found "Shadow" to be the most memorable of all ten stories. A newly diagnosed dementia patient attempts to visit his youngest son. This experience causes him to shift from defiance in the face of his diagnosis to acceptance (and maybe resignation). It's difficult to watch, but Guterson's sense of style and atmosphere gently places a thought in the back of your mind: This happens in real life. That reminder holds true in each of the stories in Problems with People. Whether it's the husband going…

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Cutting Teeth by Julia Fierro

  Cutting Teeth takes place over a single weekend, when a mommy group has gathered for a brief summer retreat at a beach house on Long Island, spouses and children in tow. What a motley crew! There's a germaphobic doomsday prepper, a stay-at-home dad who struggles with male factor infertility, a lesbian couple, a wealthy family, a family with a developmentally delayed son, strict parents, hands-off parents, and plenty of secrets to go around. These characters are interesting and outrageous. There are ones you'll love and ones you'll hate; but as in real life, it's more complicated than that. There is also a beloved Tibetan nanny who is a breath of fresh air, often balancing out the crazy going on around…

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solo/down by Lauryn Allison Lewis

  I was nervous about reading solo/down because the back of the book describes it as a "dark and surreal body-horror tale." Totally outside my comfort zone! Not to mention, the book's description ends with: "CAUTION: Not for the weak of either stomach or spirit." Yikes. But it's CCLaP, and I have yet to be disappointed in one of their titles. I trusted and gave it a try... and I was blown away. I loved the alternating perspectives, which changed seamlessly without any notation as to who the narrator was at any given time. It wasn't necessary. Somehow, the author was able to convey that with little to no effort on the part of the reader. Also, the parent/child and sibling…

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