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review 2017-05-29 15:18
Great New Story by a Great Author
Tradition Be Damned (Last Hope Book 1) - Rebecca Royce

Anne has been part of a mystic Sisterhood since she was taken from her family as a baby. Unfortunately she’s always been a bit different from the other sisters. There are ways a sister is supposed to act that Anne just can’t do. When she finds out her five guards, Bryant, Mason, Garrett, Kieran and Milo, might not hold her in as much disdain as she thinks, she decides to go on a journey for them. She doesn’t know that his journey is going to change her destiny.

Another great book by one of my favorite authors, this is a new series and definitely a bit different from her other books. Yet it holds certain elements that are found in her other books that I just love. I really loved watching Anne slowly figure things out about herself, particularly when her true purpose finally comes to light. The author did a good job with making each guard a bit different from the other. My only problem was that, aside from the oldest guard and the youngest guard, I kept getting the middle three guards mixed up until the story was almost over. I can’t wait to read the next book in this series. I highly recommend.

**I voluntarily read and reviewed this book

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review 2017-04-13 10:28
Grief, survivor’s guilt, identity and family relations in a beautifully written book set in Guatemala.
Petals - Laurisa White Reyes

I’m writing this review as part of a blog tour for this novel that I voluntarily agreed to participate in.

From the author’s note, it is clear that this book is a labour of love that has been many years in the coming. This is the first novel by Larisa White Reyes I had read and it is unlikely to be the last one.

The story is told in the first person by Carly Perez, a young girl (almost eighteen) who lost her mother last Christmas Even in a car accident. She was also in the car when it happened and it has taken her a long time to recover, both physically and mentally. We soon realise how precarious this recovery is. Her father, who is originally from Guatemala, insists on going there to visit his family for Christmas and Carly is less than happy. She doesn’t know them, as her father hasn’t visited in the last twenty years, she hardly speaks any Spanish, and a year after her mother’s death, the last thing she wants is to spend time in an unfamiliar (and to her mind backwards and wild) place with a bunch of strangers. Her preconceived ideas of the country and her family will be put to the test and her precarious mental equilibrium will be stretched to the very limit.

Carly is a typical adolescent in some ways, but also an extremely sensitive soul. She is moody because she has to go to Guatemala, instead of staying in California, she argues with her father, she disobeys his rules and gives him the silent treatment at times. She can be grumpy and quick to judge, both the country and her relatives, and she does not know what to think about Miguel, her step-cousin, the only one close to her age and experiences but also reluctant to engage and talk about his problems. Carly is an artist, although she’s had difficulty painting since her mother’s death, and she keeps being tormented by strange dreams, and by the recurrent appearance of a weird man, wrinkled and scarred, who keeps nagging at her subconscious. She is terrified of him but can’t recall where she saw him before. She’s convinced he has come to confront her with something, but she does not know why or what. The combination of her disturbing experiences and the new environment manages to make her remember something that had been hiding inside of her mind, masked by the grief and the medication.

The author excels at showing Carly’s point of view, and how her opinion evolves from indifference and disdain towards her relatives and the country to curiosity and eventually affection and love. One of the reasons why I decided to read the book was because I was intrigued about how a girl brought up in California would adjust to a new family and a completely different environment. The description of Guatemala, the city of Reu, the Mayan temples, Xela … paint a vivid picture of the country, its traditions (including those related to Christmas, religious and otherwise), its food and its people. We get to meet the more traditional older generation (her grandfather, caring and congenial, and her grandmother, always cooking and comforting), her aunt Dora, who also left the country and lived in New York for many years, and Miguel, the youngest one, who was born in the USA and who, although initially reluctant, ends up becoming the closest to her. They share not only age but also similar identity problems, and he’s dark and handsome too, so it’s not surprising that things develop to Carly’s surprise.

There is clean romance, there are some interesting discussions about identity, family, and what makes us who we are (and how difficult it might be to fit in when perhaps you don’t belong anywhere), and also about life, death, guilt and forgiveness. There are very emotional moments, fun and magical ones, and sad ones. Although the discovery Carly makes towards the end wasn’t a big surprise for me, the beauty is in the detail, the visual symbols (the snow, the petals of the title, the man …), the way all the pieces come together, and the final message is one of hope, forgiveness and reconciliation.

In summary, this is an excellent YA book, well written, with beautiful description of places, people and emotions, exploring issues of identity, survivor’s guilt, grief and death, mixed marriages and families, the role of tradition and culture, with an engaging and sympathetic main character and a good cast of secondary ones. This is a clean book with some Christian religious content and questions although that is not the emphasis of the book. It will appeal not only to readers of YA books but to anybody who enjoys well-written first-person narratives, exploring mixed family relationships, identity and grief, set in a wonderful location.

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review 2017-02-25 22:55
The Polar Express - Chris Van Allsburg

The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg is a holiday book about a boy who goes on a journey on a train to the North Pole on Christmas Eve. The story is one that is shared in elementary schools all over every December! Being someone who loves Christmas I plan on always having a day to read this book and do fun Christmas activities. Some of the activities you could do with this include a sequencing game where they put the main events of the story in order or even have the students compare and contrast the characters. There are a lot of different things you could do with this sweet book and your students would love it!

 

Reading Level: K-5

Lexile Level: 520L

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review 2017-02-25 20:38
The Story of Ferdinand - Munro Leaf,Robert Lawson

The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf is a sweet story about a little bull who did not like to do what all the other bulls did but he liked to sit alone and smell the flowers. As the story progresses Ferdinand is picked to go to the Bull Fights in Madrid and when he gets in to the arena he just sits and smells the flowers. In the end it says that Ferdinand was happy because he was doing what he loved. I believe that this story teaches children that they do not have to like or do the same things as everyone around them, they just need to do what makes them happy. I think this is an important lesson to teach our students, that they need to find what they love and that is what they need to continue to do throughout their life! If I were to use this book in my classroom I would either use it as a book to teach about the tradition of the bull fights in Spain because I think this book does a great job of explaining the major components. If I did not do that I would ask the students to think about what makes them most happy in life and then get them to write a letter to their parents explaining what it is that makes them happy and why that makes them happy.

 

Reading Level: K-2

Lexile Level: 830L

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review 2017-01-07 23:12
The man and the movement
Clyde Warrior: Tradition, Community, and Red Power (New Directions in Native American Studies series) - Paul R. McKenzie-Jones

Too often the history of the post-World War II civil rights movement is taught as a predominantly African American one. While the iconic campaigns and events that defined events were those associated with the efforts by African Americans to gain equality, such events overshadow the contemporary efforts by others who weren't African Americans to press for rights, such a Native Americans. One of the early leaders of this movement was Clyde Warrior, a Ponca Indian whose coining of the phrase "Red Power" embodied the demands by him and his supporters for self-determination and an end to the longstanding influence of federal policy upon their lives.

 

Paul McKenzie-Jones's book goes far towards giving Warrior the recognition Warrior deserves for his efforts. He charts Warrior's life from his youthful practice of fancy dance through his student activism to his research in Native American educational practices. The image of Warrior that emerges is of a passionate person whose charismatic advocacy of Native American causes was cut short tragically by health issues caused by his alcoholism. Yet this image is an indistinct one, as McKenzie-Jones's focus on Warrior's thought and his advocacy comes is exaggerated by the passing coverage Warrior's personal life receives. Warrior's marriage is referenced in passing only, while his daughters rate only a couple of mentions in McKenzie Jones's book. Because of this, the book is best approached as a study of Warrior's ideas and his role in Native American activism rather than a traditional biography. This can be frustrating but it is perhaps fitting, as McKenzie-Jones's focus best allows him to make his case for why Warrior should be better remembered than he is today.

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