The Story: Shelby Holmes is not your average sixth grader. She’s nine years old, barely four feet tall, and the best detective her Harlem neighborhood has ever seen—always using logic and a bit of pluck (which yes, some might call “bossiness”) to solve the toughest crimes.
When eleven-year-old John Watson moves downstairs, Shelby finds something that’s eluded her up till now: a friend. Easy-going John isn’t sure of what to make of Shelby, but he soon finds himself her most-trusted (read: only) partner in a dog-napping case that'll take both their talents to crack. (Synopsis from Goodreads)
Thoughts from David: The Great Shelby Holmes is a very good mystery novel. Shelby is plain incredible with the fact she can deduct almost anything. She deducted that the main character, John Watson's (Yeah, both Shelby and John's last names are spin-offs on Sherlock Holmes and John Watson) mom had served in Afghanistan just from boxes, a medical license, and that John's mom had a limp. John may not be a genius detective like Shelby, but sometimes John sees things that Shelby might not, like things about stuff that Shelby doesn't notice, like basketball.
All in all, The Great Shelby Holmes is an amazing book. I definitely recommend this book to anyone who likes mystery books. You'll be laughing and trying to solve the mystery with Shelby and John the whole way through!
Wednesday, August 1, 2018
Tuesday, July 31, 2018
An Ocean of Minutes has been pitched as similar to Station Eleven, but I think the two books are very different. While Station Eleven skips some time, we still see people navigating the aftermath of an epidemic. Polly sees little of the aftermath, since she travels 17 years into the future and her days are restricted to the workplaces and shoddy accommodations of TimeRaiser. An Ocean of Minutes is instead a story about class and poverty and how impossible it is to "work your way" into a better life. It's about trying to find the people and places that make up your home when everything has changed.
Thea Lim has smartly given us Polly and Frank's love story in the midst of Polly's current desperation. When she doesn't know how to find him, it is that much more painful because we have seen their relationship grow and we know how much they adore each other. An Ocean of Minutes is one of those stories where you hope that your protagonist will find what she is looking for and sigh in frustration at every barrier that she encounters. But those barriers caused by individuals and bureaucracy are exactly what makes this story seem so plausible, even as they break our hearts and threaten Polly's hope for a happy ending.
An Ocean of Minutes
By Thea Lim
Touchstone July 2018
Read via Netgalley
Thursday, July 19, 2018
I've been intrigued by Rebecca Makkai's writing for a long time. Not every story of hers works for me, but she weaves some kind of literary magic that makes me willing to try again. With this book, she has written herself into a tough situation because every book about a group of gay friends finds itself compared to the devastating A Little Life. The wonderful news is that this book holds its own--there is a perfect balance here between a specific moment in time and the intimate details of any person's life.
Both Yale and Fiona are incredibly invested in what is happening around them, as friends, relatives, and lovers are dying from AIDS. They show how life continues in spite of loss and tragedy, because there are fights with family and you still have to make that appointment and get to work on time. But there is a specter hanging over everyday life as characters wonder if a cough is just a cough or feeling tired means that something insidious is inside your body. The costs are more than physical--there is immense pressure on the ones left behind, the ones who say goodbye over and over again and must keep the memories of their friends alive.
In my reading lately, I'm finding many good books where I am excited to keep reading, anxious to find out what happens to the characters, and invited into another time and place by careful writing. But the books that stand out for me are the ones that are just enough--the author takes us into someone's life and knows when to close the curtain and force us to go back out into the world. The Great Believers is one of those stories. I spent the perfect amount of time with Yale and Fiona and I grew to care for them. Now I am ready to leave them behind and return to my own life, prepared to be a bit kinder and pay attention a bit more because our time with the people we love is a finite gift.
The Great Believers
By Rebecca Makkai
Viking June 2018
Read via Netgalley
Also by Rebecca Makkai: The Hundred-Year House and The Borrower
Wednesday, July 11, 2018
In a perfect world, I would have finished reading this collection of devotions during Lent and written my review right around Easter. Unfortunately, I finished it in May and am just reviewing it now. This is definitely not the kind of book you can race through. Many of the selections require some time to think about deeper commitment during Lent, the temptation and crucifixion of Christ, and the new life we experience because of Easter. As with any collection, different selections will resonate with different readers but the diversity in this book ensures that there is something for everyone.
This would be an excellent resource for any church. Pastors and teachers could certainly draw from this volume during Lent and any Christian will find new ways to think about Lent and Easter and new writers to inspire and teach them.
Bread and Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter
Plough Publishing House November 2014
Read via Netgalley
Friday, July 6, 2018
I have to confess I initially thought that Smoke and Iron would be the final book in this series and groaned a little when I saw that there would be a fifth book. But as I read the story, another one seemed like a great idea. Rachel Caine's world is so fascinating and it's easy to see how she could create another series or two about the origins of the Library and the people who swear to protect it.
Happily, this isn't a book where the epic creation of countries and societies makes up for lackluster characters. Caine has put together a large cast of characters, but it's never difficult to remember who is who and each one grows and changes as the story progresses. The characters have specific strengths, but they also have some big flaws that could ruin everything.
Rachel Caine has written a great series with a world that comes to life before your eyes and characters you have to cheer along their journey. I will certainly be reading the final book to find out what happens to this unlikely bunch of people who will fight to the end for the fate of the Library and for each other.
Smoke and Iron
The Great Library #4
By Rachel Caine
Berkley July 2018
Read via Netgalley
Thursday, June 21, 2018
This story asks some compelling questions. Would speeding up pregnancy actually help us? Do we need those nine months to bond with our child and prepare for a new part of our lives? If this kind of technology did exist, how would we decide who received it and who had to wait out a full pregnancy? Would having this distinction become just another round of the vaginal birth vs. cesarean, breastfeeding vs. bottle, working mother vs. stay-at-home mother wars?
Tessa seems to really want to help other women, but the reader can see where her own blind spots might hurt them even if she can't. There is a lot going on in this book, but Caeli Wolfson Widger writes compassionately and compellingly. While some of the characters in this story read like thinly veiled versions of people you might read about in the news, the questions about parenthood and the ethics of technology set in the midst of edge-of-your-seat thriller make a powerful and fascinating story.
Mother of Invention
By Caeli Wolfson Widger
Little A May 2018
Read via Netgalley
Friday, June 15, 2018
In Exit, Pursued by a Bear, protagonist Hermione Winters is drugged and raped at cheerleading camp. She doesn't remember anything, so she doesn't know who the rapist is. It's even possible he is one of the boys on her squad, someone who she sees every day and considers a friend. Throughout the story, readers witness Hermione cautiously move back into her life--she goes back to school, starts seeing a therapist, and returns to the cheerleading team.
I thought this book was great. E.K. Johnston is a really excellent writer and it is clear that she cares about her characters. Hermione gets the help that she needs as she recovers from trauma, her family and friends are supportive and caring, and by the end of the book, she can see how to keep moving forward despite the terrible thing that has happened to her.
Then I did something silly and I read some reviews of this book. I found several people who thought this book was unrealistic. They wanted to know where the public shame was and why her friends took care of her instead of abandoning her. The only person who is awful after the assault is Hermione's boyfriend, but even he eventually supports her after their cheerleading teammates confront him. To some readers, it seemed unimaginable that a girl who has been raped would have a fun night with her friends or laugh with her therapist.
I guess it all comes down to the reason that we read stories. Do we read to be reminded of how terrible the world is or do we read to imagine that we can do better? When teens read this book, I think they should believe that people will be there for them if they ever find themselves in a situation like Hermione's. I know YA is not always realistic, but I don't think there is a problem with it reflecting the best of us--the parents who support us, the friends who won't abandon us, and the community that supports us even (and maybe especially) when everything is falling apart.