Picture Book Saturday: Hey, Charleston!

The Deets:

Genre: picture book, nonfiction
Pages: 32
Publisher: November 1st 2013 by Carolrhoda Books
ISBN: 9780761355656
Source: eARC from the publisher via Netgalley




Hey, Charleston!: The True Story of the Jenkins Orphanage BandWhat happened when a former slave took beat-up old instruments and gave them to a bunch of orphans? Thousands of futures got a little brighter and a great American art form was born. In 1891, Reverend Daniel Joseph Jenkins opened his orphanage in Charleston, South Carolina. He soon had hundreds of children and needed a way to support them. Jenkins asked townspeople to donate old band instruments, some of which had last played in the hands of Confederate soldiers in the Civil War. He found teachers to show the kids how to play. Soon the orphanage had a band. And what a band it was.

The Jenkins Orphanage Band caused a sensation on the streets of Charleston. People called the band's style of music ""rag," a rhythm inspired by the African-American people who lived on the South Carolina and Georgia coast. The children performed as far away as Paris and London, and they earned enough money to support the orphanage that still exists today.




This was such a fun book! There is something to be said about a nonfiction book that can read like a narrative. What kid wouldn't like hearing a fascinating story, only to find out that it's true!

In Hey, Charleston! I learned about the Rev. Jenkins that taught the orphans under his care how to play instruments and create Jazz/Ragtime music. I also learned where the dance-- the Charleston-- originated. (It's not just about a place!) I am so tickled about all the information that was packed into this short little book. Better yet, though, there was a great lesson hidden among the pages. The Rev. Jenkins was a great man that taught his orphans an important lesson about life. That lesson was shown in this book, which makes it a powerful story about life as well as a great nonfiction book.


Review: The Cutting Room Floor (Dawn Klehr)

The Deets:
Audience: YA
Pages: 305
Publisher: October 8th 2013 by Flux            
ISBN: 9780738738048
Genre: mystery
Source: eARC from publisher via Netgalley

 
 
The Cutting Room FloorBehind-the-scenes secrets could turn deadly for Desmond and Riley

Life in the Heights has never been easy for seventeen-year-old Riley Frost, but when she's publicly dumped and outed at the same time, she becomes an immediate social outcast at her high school. So Riley swears off romance and throws herself into solving the shocking murder of her favorite teacher, Ms. Dunn.

Riley turns to her best friend, budding filmmaker Desmond Brandt, for help. What she doesn't know is that Dez has been secretly directing her life, blackmailing her friends, and hoping his manipulations will make her love him. When his schemes go too far, Dez's web of lies threatens to destroy both of their lives.

 

 

 I am not a huge fan of contemporary books so I was not expecting much from The Cutting Room Floor. I was expecting a weird murder mystery, but that wasn’t entirely what I got. There was some aspect of a murder mystery, but it was mostly about a deranged teenage boy’s obsession with the ultimate unattainable girl.

 Dez has been in love with Riley for as long as he can remember. Unfortunately for him, Riley doesn’t prefer boys romantically. Of course, this isn’t a problem for Dez because he is so amazing that he is going to change Riley’s heart. You can guess where this is going, and it isn’t pretty.

Dez was a super creepy character. His obsession with Riley was well into the freak zone. He is supposed to be her best friend, but everything he does is undermined by some selfish and twisted motive. He had a potentially redeeming moment towards the end of the book, but it still fell flat. That left Dez being stuck in the psycho section.

Riley didn’t make much of an impression on me either. She was okay, but she seemed to float around in the book more than anything. Towards the end she became more grounded, but that was more of a result from other characters than anything else.

I think what has bugged me the most was the ending. It didn’t seem very fulfilling. I understand that life doesn’t always end up in a box with a neat little bow, so it was fitting for this ending to be a mess. Had everyone walked off into a sunset holding hands and singing songs, I probably would have thrown the book across the room. I’m just not sure how I wanted the ending to go, but I was hoping for a little redemption and forgiveness. Instead, I got something that just hangs and lingers.

The Cutting Room Floor will appeal to some readers, I’m sure. For me, it wasn’t all that. I read through it very quickly, so it was certainly a page turner. It just lacked that certain something that makes it unforgettable.


Review: Never Fade (Alexandra Bracken)

The Deets:
Audience: YA
Pages: 512
Publisher: October 15th 2013 by Disney-Hyperion
ISBN: 9781423157519
Genre: paranormal, dystopian
Source: eARC from publisher via NetGalley


Never Fade (The Darkest Minds, #2)Ruby never asked for the abilities that almost cost her her life. Now she must call upon them on a daily basis, leading dangerous missions to bring down a corrupt government and breaking into the minds of her enemies. Other kids in the Children’s League call Ruby “Leader”, but she knows what she really is: a monster.

When Ruby is entrusted with an explosive secret, she must embark on her most dangerous mission yet: leaving the Children’s League behind. Crucial information about the disease that killed most of America’s children—and turned Ruby and the others who lived into feared and hated outcasts—has survived every attempt to destroy it. But the truth is only saved in one place: a flashdrive in the hands of Liam Stewart, the boy Ruby once believed was her future—and who now wouldn’t recognize her.

As Ruby sets out across a desperate, lawless country to find Liam—and answers about the catastrophe that has ripped both her life and America apart—she is torn between old friends and the promise she made to serve the League. Ruby will do anything to protect the people she loves. But what if winning the war means losing herself?

 

The ending of The Darkest Minds left my heart in my stomach. But the ending of Never Fade left me with sweaty palms, a racing heart, and sitting on the edge of my seat. It was phenomenal! I’ve been saying this since I read The Darkest Minds, and I still stand by my claim—this is my new favorite dystopian. Move over Tris and Four, because Ruby and Liam are stealing the show.

It is so hard to find a second book in a series that is better than the first, but found it I have. Never Fade was every bit as good as the first book, if not better. There were surprises and heart aches all along the way. I was sucked into this story almost from the beginning.

For all those that said Ruby was the weak link in The Darkest Minds, you won’t be saying that now. She has grown so much. Ruby is now in control of her powers and takes them to a whole new level. Of course, that level comes with horrible consequences. She is strong, determined, and a serious force to be reckoned with. She’s also not alone. Vida is another strong female lead in the book, although my least favorite character. I never really cared for her. She is rough around the edges and foul, which makes me hesitant to recommend this to my school aged students. I’m very disappointed by that, too, since I rave about The Darkest Minds all the time.

I could analyze the plot, but it would take away so much. This is a book (series) that you need to experience for yourself. It’s fresh and exciting, and packs a serious punch.


Review: Westward to Strange (Ray Litt)

The Deets:
Audience: YA
Pages: 212
Publisher: Castleberry, Inc
ISBN: 9780615879246
Genre: mystery, mermaid
Source: copy provided by author in exchange for a review




Westward to Strange
When Lula meets Morgan, the peculiar boy swimming in the cove, her dream life quickly spirals into dangerous waters. Her family’s nebulous history comes to clear, and with it a cornucopia of mysteries. Moon-worshipping cannibal tribes? Killer mermaids? Primal need to explore the forbidden jetties? Sudden nightmares lead Lula to believe that her father’s death might not have been an accident. And to fear that she might very well be the next family member in line.






How do you like your mermaid stories? Do you prefer them to be Disney-esque? Or do you prefer them to teeter on the edge of creepy? If you prefer the latter, Westward to Strange is for you!

The mermaids in Westward to Strange are not friendly. In fact, they are downright terrifying. I have to give the author props for coming up with an original take on a siren. There is an element of mythology in the book that is new and unique, at least to me. I also thought the concept behind these killer mermaids helped heighten the mystery of the subplots.

Don’t read Westward to Strange thinking it’s just about mermaids. There is so much more going on in this book! For fans of mysteries, there will be much to keep you reading. For me, though, it was the descriptions that kept me turning the pages. I enjoyed reading about this beach community. Being a Florida resident myself, I felt like I could visualize the setting in my own town. I also enjoyed some of the characters. I was instantly drawn to Jake. I didn’t connect with Cass at first, but he grew on me.

I’m always on the lookout for books with mermaids. With so many books in the genre already on the market, it’s hard to find something fresh. Westward of Strange certainly delivered in the fresh and unique market!

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