Review: Castles and Ruins by Rue Matthiessen

Castles & Ruins cover image
Version 1.0.0

When Rue Matthiessen was eight, her family spent a summer in Ireland in an idyllic setting near the ruin of a castle. Her parents were going through a difficult period, but Rue remembers that time as a reprieve from the stresses causing a rift. Her parents, author Deborah Love and famed naturalist and writer Peter Matthiessen, continued to struggle with their relationship until Deborah died of cancer while Rue was in high school.

Decades later, with a husband and child of her own, Rue sets out to find the last place she remembers her family being happy together. She tells about her trip and faces truths about her parents and their flaws in her memoir, Castles & Ruins: Unraveling Family Mysteries & Literary Legacy in the Irish Countryside.

As her guide, Rue carries a copy of the book Deborah Love wrote about that summer, Annaghkeen.  She intentionally seeks out some places her mother mentions and stumbles upon others. Through the lens of being a mother herself, she sees the actions of her parents in a new light.

Castles & Ruins is an interesting journey in two ways. There’s the physical meaning of Rue traveling around Ireland and discovering the landscape and people in a way she couldn’t as a child. There’s also a journey into her emotional past as she gains insights into the forces that compelled her parents to live the way they did. She’s open about their flaws as well as her own. Readers of memoir will appreciate her honesty while traveling with her through the book.

The publisher provided a copy of this title in exchange for my honest review.

Review: Sorry For The Inconvenience by Farah Naz Rishi

sorry for the inconvenience cover image

When Farah Naz Rishi met Stephen while working on a class project in college, the last thing she thought is that they would become best friends and ultimately marry. For one thing, her first impression was that he was sloppy and inconsiderate. For another, she knew as a non-Muslim he would never be acceptable to her Pakistani American parents. But as she got to know him, a deep connection that turned into steady friendship grew. And over the years that connection became much more.

Rishi’s Memoir, Sorry For The Inconvenience, recounts how the relationship grew as well as gives insight into growing up in a family that is part of a close-knit community with high expectations for their children and how that affected those children. Rishi’s mother, in particular, was difficult to please and played an outsized role in how Rishi made decisions.

The memoir is at times painful to read, but Rishi’s voice is clear and honest as she recounts the struggles she goes through to find what she really wants from life and finds a way to be true to herself.

The publisher provided a copy of this title in exchange for my honest review.

Review: Alterations by Ray Xu

alterations cover image
Version 1.0.0

Life is complicated for Kevin Lee. His single-mother mom always needs help at her alterations shop. His older sister is interested in life without her younger brother in tow. And his grandmother, recently arrived from China to live with his family, embarrasses him with her lack of English and strange ways.

Kevin also struggles to fit in at school, where others expect him to fit the stereotype of a typical Asian student. He wants to be seen and accepted for who he is, which is a kid who likes to draw comics, who misses his dad, and who wants time to just be a kid. A class trip to a local amusement park offers him the chance to be the hero of his own story. But will he be able to ditch the principal first?

Alterations by Ray Xu is a graphic novel set in the 1990s, when the author was growing up in Toronto. Kevin’s story draws on Xu’s own memories from childhood to capture the realities of middle school, particularly for children of immigrants. At turns funny, thoughtful and heartfelt, Alterations is great for readers aged 9 to 12.

The publisher provided a copy of this title in exchange for my honest review.

Review: Else B. In The Sea by Jeanne Walker Harvey

else b in the sea cover image

Else Bostelman was an artist who helped people understand what deep-sea creatures looked like by painting them underwater. The time was the 1930s, and world-renowned scientist William Beebe explored the waters off Bermuda, in the Atlantic Ocean. He hired Else to capture the images of things he discovered. Her adventures are told in a picture book by Jeanne Walker Harvey, Else B. In The Sea: The Woman Who Painted The Wonders Of The Deep.

Else descended underwater wearing a helmet that let her breathe as she worked. She developed a technique that actually let her paint what she saw with oils while below the surface, which helped her capture the way color changed as light from above grew dimmer.

Else also painted in her studio, recreating creatures that had been brought ashore. Her paintings, along with notes from Beebe, appeared in National Geographic magazine during the Great Depression.

Else B. In The Sea lets young readers discover more of Else’s exploits with an author’s note that talks about her life. Illustrations by Melodie Stacey have a dreamy quality that evokes the soft look of life underwater.

The author provided a copy of this title in exchange for my honest review.

Review: Spy Ring by Sarah Beth Durst

spy ring cover image

Rachel and Joon are best friends out to solve a mystery: Did Anna Smith Strong, a purported spy during the Revolutionary War, leave clues to a treasure? If so, how can two kids figure out clues from more than two centuries ago? Spy Ring, by Sarah Beth Durst follows the two on an adventure of discovery where they find out about their own strengths as well as the history of their town.

Their hunt starts with the inscription on a ring passed down through Anna Smith Strong’s family. That leads them to her gravestone, which contains another clue. Working together, they follow a trail, deciphering clues along the way. The two sleuths have to work fast because Joon may have to move away from their hometown of Setauket on Long Island, New York.

Readers will love following along as the two bike around their town looking for answers. When they decide to trust a local historian and Rachel’s soon-to-be stepdad with the details of their quest, they find what they were looking for, even if it’s not what they expected.

Spy Ring is fun as a modern adventure as well as a historical look at how spies operated in the Revolutionary War. I recommend it for ages 9 to 12.

The author provided a copy of this title in exchange for my honest review.

Review: The Good Lord Willing and the Creek Don’t Rise by Robert Norris

While Robert Norris was growing up, his mother, Kay, set an example for him as an independent thinker. At a time when divorce was uncommon and looked down on, she got divorced. She stood up to the priest who refused her communion after she remarried.  She worked hard throughout her life and wasn’t prone to complaining about whatever came her way.

Robert grew up to join the Air Force during the Vietnam War, then found he couldn’t support the military. As a conscientious objector, he was tried and spent time in a military prison. Afterward, he wandered through different cultures and countries trying to find a place he felt he belonged. That journey ended in Japan, where he found fulfilling work and met the woman who became his wife.

Robert tells his own tale as well as his mother’s story in the memoir, The Good Lord Willing and the Creek Don’t Rise: Pentimento Memories of Mom and Me. The tale shines a light on cultural norms during times of the not so distant past and the consequences paid by those who bucked them. Kay and Robert both show tenacity as they work their way through the challenges life serves up.

I would have preferred fewer small details of Robert’s home and work life and more of the emotional meaning behind his experiences, but all in all the tale is an interesting look at a mother and son who supported each other through good times and bad. To learn more about the author, you may want to check out his guest post on how his mother inspired in him a love of stories.

The author provided a copy of this title in exchange for my honest review.

Review: The Wildcat Behind Glass by Alki Zei

The Wildcat Behind Glass cover image

Fascism was gaining ground in Greece in the 1930s, but young Melia and her sister Myrto are more concerned about visiting their summer home by the seaside, where they run free with friends and don’t have to worry about school lessons.

The politics of the day intrude anyway, and they soon learn that their beloved older cousin Nico is wanted by the government for his role in resisting the change from democracy. Melia misses the stories Nico tells of the taxidermied wildcat at their home, and the adventures he goes on. Soon the wildcat becomes a conduit for notes between Melia and her cousin, notes that can help keep him safe.

The Wildcat Behind Glass by Alki Zei was published to acclaim in 1963. This fresh English translation tells about a volatile time in recent history as seen through the eyes of a young girl. Melia doesn’t understand the intrigue that swirls around her. She does know that her grandfather is in trouble for loving books, and her cousin must be protected.

There’s tension in the family when Myrto is chosen to join the dictator’s youth organization, and everyone wonders if she can be trusted to keep secrets. It’s an interesting look at how a society can quickly change from a democracy into a dictatorship, where everyone is afraid they will be singled out for saying the wrong thing. And where resistance came at a high price.

I recommend The Wildcat Behind Glass for readers aged 11 and up.

The publisher provided a copy of this title in exchange for my honest review.

Review: The Wonderful Wisdom of Ants by Philip Bunting

the wonderful wisdom of ants cover image

Did you know that if all the ants in the world were put on a scale they roughly would equal the weight of all the humans? Or that weaver ants can hang on to one another to build living bridges? Those are just two of the cleverly presented facts in The Wonderful Wisdom of Ants by Philip Bunting.

Bunting knows how to present facts in a way that kids will love, with references to the little critters taking micronaps, recycling, and helping their family members. These ants collect and store food, build tunnels, and poop.

The book presents the jobs of female and males, and it reveals how ants know how to find their way to food and back to the nest. Illustrations are cute and whimsical. Children are certain to beg to read it over and over again.

The author provided a copy of this title in exchange for my honest review.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...