I’ll Give You Something to Cry About by Jennifer Finney Boylan

My first impression of I'll Give You Something to Cry About was shaky. So many important details about the characters were delivered right off the bat, without much discovery on the part of the reader. It felt a little awkward, and I wondered if the book's short length was part of the problem. This is a novella after all; an ambitious one, tackling multiple themes. The reader needed a good deal of information, quickly. Fortunately, my initial feeling didn't last long. A few pages in, the story smoothed out, found a groove, and I lost myself in Boylan's thoroughly engaging writing style. To say the Rileys are a family in crisis is an understatement. Their lives are messy and riddled with uncertainty.…

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Violins of Hope by James A. Grymes

For the past twenty years, Israeli luthier Amnon Weinstein has devoted his time to the restoration of violins played by Jewish musicians during the Holocaust. Each violin has its own remarkable story as a liberator, comforter, savior, or an avenger, or perhaps as the only remaining memento of a dear relative. In Violins of Hope, musicologist James A. Grymes uses the violins in Weinstein's collection to tell the stories of the musicians who played and heard them. Grymes is careful not to overly romanticize the powerful role of music in the lives of Jewish prisoners. He offers an honest and balanced view, being sure to point out that there were some who resented the musicians or were troubled by their music.…

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Blind by Rachel DeWoskin

Just before starting high school, Emma Sasha Silver loses her eyesight in a fireworks accident at a 4th of July party. She must relearn everything, come to terms with what has happened, and find a way to move forward. Blind got off to a great start, with a solid storyline and content. Emma's character is nicely developed. I was taken along on her journey to figure out, suddenly and dramatically, how to live without her sight. Emma helped me understand all of the emotions that come along with such a shock, especially with feeling completely dependent again right at the time in a teenager's life when one typically begins to gain more independence. However, the novel is just over 400 pages, and…

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Top Ten Characters I’d Want With Me On A Deserted Island

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Photograph by Ronald Saunders, modified under CC BY-SA 2.0. 1. Mark Watney from The Martian by Andy Weir Watney survived solitude on MARS, MacGyver-style. I'd feel much better having someone like him along on a deserted island, ready to handle anything that came our way, even with limited supplies. 2. Allan Karlsson from The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson I love vodka. Allan loves vodka even more, and no matter where in the world he is, he always seems to find some. Plus, he's full of great stories. 3. The alien who took the form of Professor Andrew Martin from The Humans by…

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The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

An Englishman returns to his childhood home for a funeral, and is reminded of the farm at the end of the street. He was seven years old when he first visited that farm and met a girl named Lettie Hempstock, who protected him from the terrifying, mystical events he recounts now, forty years later. Wait...did I just read a fantasy novel? And love it?! Fantasy is the one genre I've always wanted to enjoy, but 99.9% of the time, I find I just can't stomach it. I would say this felt more like literary fiction and magical realism, but the elements of fantasy are absolutely there. No denying it. This novella is my first Neil Gaiman read. I now understand why so…

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God and the Gay Christian by Matthew Vines

When I hear the words "gay Christian," I think "theologically liberal." I'm not sure I personally know any conservative evangelicals who are supportive of same-sex relationships. So I was completely surprised when I started reading God and the Gay Christian and discovered it is written from a theologically conservative point of view! Matthew Vines takes a much more literal view of the Bible than, say, a progressive Christian would. This becomes the book's greatest strength, because Vines had to be especially meticulous in his research, which is demonstrated throughout the book, complete with plenty of notes. He believes "our understanding of Scripture can be wrong," that "our fallibility as human interpreters is precisely why" we need "to study the issue more closely"…

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High as the Horses’ Bridles by Scott Cheshire

High as the Horses' Bridles follows the Laudermilks, a family obsessed with the end of days. At the age of twelve and already known as a talented boy preacher, their only son, Josiah, stands before his church and shares an apocalyptic vision in which he declares that the end of days will occur in the year 2000. Not long after, Josie begins to doubt the validity of his own prophecy. This novel is an interesting look into the high hopes and enormous pressure that come along with being raised in a fundamentalist household. Cheshire uses all three family members to bring the reader right into the crushing, overwhelming feelings that accompany these expectations: Josie's coming of age and struggles with…

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Top Ten Blogging Confessions

Top Ten Blogging Confessions 1. I don't use a star rating system on my blog, because I'm afraid it would overshadow what I have to say about the book. But I admit, I find star ratings handy on sites such as Goodreads or Amazon, and I use them as a starting place when deciding whether or not to look further into a book. 2. I tend to get stuck in an adjective rut, overusing the same few again and again, so I regularly use a thesaurus. I've been known to spend an embarrassing amount of time searching for the adjective, the one which perfectly reflects how I feel. 3. Reading chunksters causes me to fall behind on blog posts. I don't…

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2 A.M. at The Cat’s Pajamas by Marie-Helene Bertino

2 A.M. at The Cat's Pajamas is a day in the life of three characters in Philadelphia: Madeleine, a 9-year-old aspiring singer who is mourning her mother's death; her fifth-grade teacher Sarina, recently divorced and back in town, hoping to reconnect with people from her past; and Lorca, owner of The Cat's Pajamas, a legendary jazz club in danger of closing. Madeleine's story is what kept me reading. She's got a lot of spunk, a lot of grit. Her father is so crippled with grief that he is barely able to function. She endures rejection at school from both her classmates and her principal. Yet she pushes ahead, determined to find The Cat's Pajamas and make her debut. You can't help…

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