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review 2017-01-24 16:29
Orleans - Sherri L. Smith
Orleans - Sherri L. Smith

So far I've only read Flygirl and Orleans by Smith, but she is a fabulous writer, regardless of the style, time period, plot, etc. Yes, I'm going to read the rest of her books, she should be getting more recognition than she does. Enjoy, and then be sure to tell everyone you know that you did.

Library copy 

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review 2016-08-22 11:41
Review: Pasadena
Pasadena - Sherri L. Smith Pasadena - Sherri L. Smith


I received a copy through Penguin First to Read.


I loved this one. This is a gritty novel set in Los Angeles with one of the most unlikeable characters I have come across in a long time. It’s one of the rare cases where in spite of the fact that the main character Jude is an unapologetic bitch, her characterization is so good it works brilliantly and as a reader it didn’t even bother me how rude, bitchy and obnoxious this girl is. Usually I hate characters like this. But I still kind of liked this girl.


I can’t really say how well the noir homage was done as it’s not a genre I’m familiar with (I don’t think saying I saw LA Confidential once counts).


The novel tells the story of the sudden and unexpected death of Jude’s best friend Maggie. Set during summer in LA you really get a sense of the uncomfortable sticky heat of LA in high summer, with the tense atmosphere of the novel it was really visual and I could picture everything going on so clearly, like watching a TV show or a movie. Jude races back from her vacation at her dad’s house (her parents are divorced and she spends the school year in LA with her mom and mom’s string of less than reputable boyfriends). Her good friend Joey picks her up from the airport and the novel progresses from there.


Jude meets with some of Maggie’s other friends – just because they all knew Maggie and were friends with her doesn’t mean any of them like each other much. Jude is still in shock from this news – it’s pegged as suicide – Maggie is found floating face down in a pool with a glamorous swimsuit on. Jude’s convinced it’s murder. She’s flat out cruel to almost every other one of Maggie’s group of friends – Dane, Tally, Hank, Eppie, Edina, Luke. Dane and Tally are a couple as are Hank and Eppie.


Luke turns out to have a huge crush which boarders on flatout stalking. (Luke’s stalking/crush thing turns out to be a huge plot point that becomes very helpful in Jude’s investigation into Maggie’s death later on in the novel)/


Edina and Jude seem to be competing for the BFF spot, though Jude clearly thinks she’s the only one that counts and Edina is a hanger on wannabe and a poor excuse of a person. Most of these people are pretty awful with the exception of Joey (who was awesome) and Hank and Eppie, who were actually nice. Maggie managed to bring all these people together and make them feel special.


Maggie herself was rich and extremely popular and desired. Yet of course, had a cruel drama queen streak of her own. As Jude starts digging to the days before and up to Maggie’s death she stars digging into these people who knew Maggie in ways she didn’t. She begins learning some uncomfortable home truths. She speaks without thinking and doesn’t give a crap about what she’s saying or if it will hurt anyone’s feelings. Throughout it all Joey seems to be the only one who can tolerate Jude’s attitude problems enough to stand by. But even he has his limits. His strength to stick with Jude is pretty damn admirable.


Of course Jude has her own drama to deal with, digging into Maggie’s friends and her death brings up some uncomfortable home truths of her own she had long thought was buried and stuff she never really dealt with herself.


A really diverse cast of very well put together characters who were well fleshed out and believable even if most of them weren’t particularly likeable. Brilliant sense of place and setting, visually striking. It’s a brilliant mystery and completely unpredictable.

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review 2016-03-28 03:36
Review | Flygirl by Sherri L. Smith
Flygirl - Sherri L. Smith

All Ida Mae Jones wants to do is fly. Her daddy was a pilot, and years after his death she feels closest to him when she's in the air. But as a young black woman in 1940s Louisiana, she knows the sky is off limits to her, until America enters World War II, and the Army forms the WASP-Women Airforce Service Pilots. Ida has a chance to fulfill her dream if she's willing to use her light skin to pass as a white girl. She wants to fly more than anything, but Ida soon learns that denying one's self and family is a heavy burden, and ultimately it's not what you do but who you are that's most important.






Ida Mae Jones grew up on a farm in Louisiana, where her father made ends meet through cultivating his own strawberry farm and doing crop dusting runs for other farmers. It was while tagging along on some of those crop dusting flights that Ida first got the desire to become a pilot herself. By the 1940s, Ida's father has passed away and World War 2 is just on the horizon. Following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Ida's brother, a medical student, decides to enlist as a field medic. He knows Ida's got the itch to fly but begs her to stay home and help care for farm and family. She tries to obey her brother's wish for a time but just feels like she's sitting on her hands while the world seems to be going up in flames. Ida sneaks out to town one day to apply for a position in the WASP (Women's Airforce Service Pilots) program. Once she finds she's accepted she's got to break it to her mom. Ida's mother reluctantly gives her approval for Ida to travel to Texas to start training.


The big secret she's hiding from her new fellow cadets is the fact that she's black, though she believes (or at least fervently hopes) she's light enough to pass as white. Every day she fears her secret being discovered, particularly when a white male instructor takes a special interest in her. Ida also battles against prejudices that stem simply from her being a woman in a man's military. One instructor makes it his personal mission to carry out all kinds of crazy, dangerous schemes to try to get the female pilots to quit. Still, she continues to pursue her dream, inspired by her hero Bessie Coleman, the first African-American woman to earn a pilot's license. 


One of Ida's biggest concerns she struggles to find an answer to throughout the whole course of the novel is which way is the best way to live her life, in regards to her race. She feels that if she stays in her hometown, the best work she can hope for as a black woman in a small Southern town is being a housekeeper. Though she successfully "passed" as white and got into the WASP program, she fears that now she's locked herself into that role, never being able to come forward about her true heritage. Does she walk away from her family in order to pursue her dreams? It's terrible to think that people were, and maybe still are, forced to ask these kind of questions because of unfair, illogical, racist thinking running the world. I think one of the hardest scenes to read in this story is when Ida's mother comes to visit her at the flight school but has to pose as Ida's family maid, so as not to blow Ida's cover as a well-bred white woman. The way Ida has to address her own mother just to keep her secret safe is heartbreaking, but there's also something touching in how Ida's mother would do that for her daughter, if it meant her girl could have the best life possible. But it just hurt to read that passage, the cruelty social expectations put there.

It was also painful to read Ida's mother's speech about how she tries to do everything she can for the war effort -- use ration books, plant a victory garden, save bacon grease for the Army's munitions department -- yet the Army won't put too much effort into trying to locating her son when he goes MIA, because he's black. 

(spoiler show)


The first part of this novel, though good, was a little bit slow for me. It did pick up in the later chapters though, the closer the women got to completing training. I think Ida's visit with her mother at the flight school was the turning point where I felt much more invested in the characters. There's another major event later on in the story where I suspected (at the start of the novel) that something like it might be written in at some point, but actually reading it was still somehow a bit of a shock to me! It is a pivotal moment in the life of Ida and greatly influences her career decisions after that point. 


I liked the distinct differences in all the female pilots Ida meets and works with, and after reading Sherri Smith's Author's Note, I'm keen to pick up more books on the subject. Just some of the interesting factoids that Smith notes:


> WASP crews were used as test pilots on new aircraft technology during World War 2. One scene in Smith's Flygirl, describing one such test flight, was actually inspired by real life WASP Dora Dougherty Strother and Dorothea Johnson who were chosen to test the prototype of the B-26 Maurader, aka "The Widowmaker". Also tested, the behemoth B-29 whose size scared the beheebus outta many a male pilot! It was incredible (and infuriating!) to learn that the brave women of the WASP program, though definitely considered members of the military, were NOT granted full military benefits while they were enlisted. In fact, it wasn't until 1977 when the Carter administration passed the WASP Act that these women and their family members were provided with honorable discharges and / or full veteran benefits. 1977! Also, it wasn't until the 1990s that female pilots were allowed to fly combat missions. Prior to that, female pilots were stuck being glorified test pilots and supply runners, pretty much. Still important work, don't get me wrong, but I can imagine how aggravating it must have been for those pilots, given how many flight hours they put into trying to be accepted as equally skilled as any of the male pilots. 


>The WASP program was disbanded after World War 2. Many of the female pilots simply went back to their old lifestyles, embracing motherhood or taking up jobs as secretaries, teachers, shop clerks. Others who still had the desire to be in the air became flight instructors while yet others took up careers as Alaskan bush pilots. As far as the storyline of Smith's Flygirl, she says that she couldn't find any factual evidence of any African-American women on the rosters of the WASP program, no stories of anyone trying to pass for white ... that was solely Smith's "what if". However, she did find record of one Janet Harmon Bragg, who trained at Coffey School of Aeronautics in Chicago, who did apply for the WASP program but seemed to be turned away solely due to reasons of race. 


>There were two Asian women accepted into the WASP program: Hazel Ah Ying (who was later killed in action when her plane collided with another) and Maggie Gee.






* Here you can read a letter from a real life WASP who wrote to Sherri Smith after reading Flygirl


* If you want to learn more about the WASP program, you can visit websites Wings Across America or the website for the WASP museum.

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text 2016-03-21 01:43
Text Annotation
Flygirl - Sherri L. Smith

Citation: Smith, S. L. (2008). Flygirl. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons.


Annotation: Ida Mae, an eighteen-year-old light-skinned African American, passes herself off as a white woman in order to be allowed to fly as a member of the Women Airforce Service Pilots during World War II.


Author's Information: Sherri L. Smith has written several novels for teenagers, including LUCY THE GIANT, SPARROW and HOT, SOUR, SALTY, SWEET. In FLYGIRL, she tells a not-so-well-known side of World War II through the story of the WASP program. Ida Mae is a brave, strong character who has more at stake than other women in the WASPs, which makes this book even more powerful. Smith does an excellent job of weaving in an interesting plot along with the background history of the program. Readers will want to learn more about this subject after turning the last page of this enlightening novel.




Levels: Grades 6-8

Genre: Young Adult Novel- Fiction

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text 2015-10-13 03:53
Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Author Duos I Would Love to See Do a Book Together
Another Day - David Levithan
The Knife of Never Letting Go - Patrick Ness
Love Is the Drug - Alaya Dawn Johnson
Orleans - Sherri L. Smith
Red Rising - Pierce Brown
By Jennifer Brown: Hate List - Brown Books for Young Readers- -Little
Reality Boy - A.S. King
Real Live Boyfriends: Yes. Boyfriends, Plural. If My Life Weren't Complicated, I Wouldn't Be Ruby Oliver - E. Lockhart
It - Stephen King
Dare Me - Megan Abbott

As per usual, this challenge is brought to you by the lovely The Broke and the Bookish. So far, I'm having fun penning these answers to these challenges, and I'm only my third entry in.


Okay, this is a topic I haven't seen before: ten author duos that I would like to see collaborate on a book together.  Oooooh.  I could think of a few, probably spanning a few genres and age groups really.  Okay, fine, let's have at this one.


Another Day - David Levithan  The Knife of Never Letting Go - Patrick Ness  


1. David Levithan and Patrick Ness:  You know what, I love these two authors so much for their writing style and the fact that they delve so well into their often whimsical, yet realistic stories, that this should just happen.  Just make this happen, I don't care what the book is about.  (Though preferentially, I'm kind of wanting a YA gender bending dystopian epic from them. Pretty pleaaaaaase.)


Love Is the Drug - Alaya Dawn Johnson  Orleans - Sherri L. Smith  


2. Alaya Dawn Johnson and Sherri L. Smith:  I could definitely see these two authors coming together for an awesome project.  They both write diverse characters (whether characters of color or GLBT or both) quite well and both of them have written futuristic dystopian projects before (Johnson with "The Summer Prince" and "Love is the Drug" and Smith with "Orleans.")  Maybe we could have an epic time-traveling adventure with strong POC characters (Smith also wrote "Flygirl" - that was very nicely done in the vein of historical fiction, imo).  I would love to see what they could do together, though, regardless of the theme.


Red Rising - Pierce Brown  Unwind - Neal Shusterman  


3. Pierce Brown and Neal Shusterman:  OMG, this is another mashup of authors I would like to see happen, because Shusterman does creepy very well, and Pierce Brown does epic sci-fi/fantasy well.  I could see them getting together to do something that's sinister, thrilling, and mind-blowing.


Bet Me - Jennifer Crusie  Can't Let Go - Jessica Lemmon  


4. Jennifer Crusie and Jessica Lemmon: Because I could see the combination of fun, quirky humor and romance that these two ladies have had from previously reading their works, and I'd honestly be totally for that happening.  (Maybe if you want a third author tagging along, add Lucy March - that would be fun.)


Winterblaze - Kristen Callihan  Deeper - Megan Hart  


5. Kristen Callihan and Megan Hart:  Kristen Callihan is the author of the "Darkest London" series, while Megan Hart is known for a number of different projects across genres, but she writes adult fiction.  Something tells me that I think both of them could do magical realism very well with dark undertones and intense character study.  And they both write romantic/erotic scenes very well.  So it's a mash-up that makes sense to me (and I really enjoy both of their works).


Just Listen - Sarah Dessen  The Start of Me and You - Emery Lord  


6. Sarah Dessen and Emery Lord: This match makes sense to me because both of them do slice of life teen fiction very well and I'd like to see what project they could do together.


By Jennifer Brown: Hate List - Brown Books for Young Readers- -Little  Reality Boy - A.S. King  


7. Jennifer Brown and A.S. King:  I imagine the book they would pen together would be huge along the lines of examining teens being put in a very, very sticky or tough situation.  They do tough subject matters for young adults very well, and I wouldn't be surprised to hear them doing something together.  (Well, maybe pleasantly surprised.)


Real Live Boyfriends: Yes. Boyfriends, Plural. If My Life Weren't Complicated, I Wouldn't Be Ruby Oliver - E. Lockhart  The Summer Prince - Alaya Dawn Johnson  


8.  E. Lockhart and Alaya Dawn Johnson:  This is the second time I mention Alaya Dawn Johnson, and the first time I'm mentioning E. Lockhart.  Why do I put these two authors together (because for all intents and purposes, their genres are pretty far apart - one writing more quirky or dramatic teen fiction, the other leaning more towards sci-fi fantasy teen fiction)?  Because I could totally see them doing something funny, intense, and dynamic together in a young adult work.  Maybe a couple of quirky leads undertaking an epic adventure together with some gender bending dynamics?  It could happen.


Every Day - David Levithan  Percy Jackson and the Olympians Boxed Set - Rick Riordan  


9. Rick Riordan and David Levithan: Because honestly, this is another mash-up that should happen, because I could definitely see a mythological based story mashing up with some of the speculative fiction that Levithan creates.  It would be a fun story to see/tell.


Dark Places - Gillian Flynn  It - Stephen King  Dare Me - Megan Abbott  


10. Stephen King and Gillian Flynn (or Megan Abbott): Because there's not enough words to describe how messed up that story line would be if you put these two (three) in a room together.  I would be terrified and intrigued at the same darned time.


Okay, I've had my fun, but you know what, I'd really like to see some of these actually happen.  Can't say whether they will or won't but it could make for some excellent reading.


Until next entry,


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