Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Saving Crazy by Karen Hood-Caddy

This book is set to be released by June 16, 2015 from Dundurn Publishing. It is a young adult environmental fiction story with themes including animal rehabilitation, global warming, whale conservation, and environmental advocacy. In the interests of full disclosure, it is important for me to note that despite this being the third book in a series about The Wild Place, I have not read books 1 and 2 in the series, titled Howl and The Truth About Brave. While I might do that in the future, this is the first book I have read in the series. Below is a product description provided on Netgalley. Below that is my review of the book, also available on Goodreads.

Can a high-seas, whale-saving adventure repair the hurt between two friends? How do you decide where your heart lies when it’s being tugged at from so many sides? When Robin and Zo-Zo discover that their beloved lake has become a toxic sludge — the result of an algae bloom — they know they have to do something to fix it. But trouble begins when the two friends develop a crush on the same boy during a community meeting to save the lake. To help repair things between the girls, Robin’s grandmother, Griff, suggests a high-seas adventure with a whale-saving old friend of hers. Out on the open water Robin must decide what’s more important: a relationship with a boy or saving the animals she loves.

Saving CrazySaving Crazy by Karen Hood-Caddy

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I read this book as an advance copy provided by Netgalley. While I wouldn't say it's the kind of book I normally read, I read this all the way through and enjoyed it overall. The story is profoundly environmental in nature, but also a story of a teenage girl dealing with all the insecurity of her first real infatuation. A couple elements of the story came off a little bit heavy handed, one in particular being the constant harping upon global warming being to blame every time there was any environmental situation in the book. I'm no doubter of the science of global warming, but even I reached a point where I was saying, "Okay, I get it! Let's get on with the story now!"

The book did a good job of exploring the many different ways that an obsession with a boy could affect a girl's life, from her friendships, to her interests, to her goals all being compromised. Readers are sure to become attached to Griff as she helps Robin to see just what her feelings for McCoy are doing to her, and what she stands to loose from the experience.

The whale watching trip served as a nice opportunity to bring in another environmental cause, and it was a great climatic location. All in all, this would appeal to the same readers that enjoy Carl Hiassen or Jean Craighead George books, but it is also a good read for the fan of stories about teenage angst because there's plenty of that in there too. Certainly not a book for my elementary school library, but right at home in the YA crowd.

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Friday, May 22, 2015

Jars of Hope by Jennifer Roy

This book is set to be released on August 1, 2015 from Capstone Young Readers. It is a picture book biography of Irena Sendler, a Polish woman who, as a member of the secret organization known as Zegota, helped over two thousand Jewish children escape the Warsaw Ghetto during the years of Nazi occupation. Below is a one-paragraph product description provided on Netgalley. Below that is my review of the book.

Amid the horrors of World War II, Irena Sendler was an unlikely and unsung hero. While many people lived in fear of the Nazis, Irena defied them, even though it could have meant her life. She kept records of the children she helped smuggle away from the Nazis’ grasp, and when she feared her work might be discovered, she buried her lists in jars, hoping to someday recover them and reunite children with their parents. This gripping true story of a woman who took it upon herself to help save 2,500 children from the Warsaw Ghetto during the Holocaust is not only inspirational; it's unforgettable.
For ages 9-12
* Dramatic and sophisticated picture book for older audiences
* Inspirational and true story of a strong female hero
* Award-winning author of Yellow Star
* A gentler introduction to the Holocaust

Jars of HopeJars of Hope by Jennifer Roy

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The story of Irena Sendler, while not entirely untold, is certainly not one that springs to the average American mind when discussing Holocaust and pre-Holocaust occupation of Central Europe, yet it seems like it should. The comparison that springs to mind for me at least is to that of the Underground Railroad and Harriet Tubman in the years that led to the American Civil War. While the Holocaust and American slavery are not the same thing, the idea of a secretly organized group of people helping an oppressed people to escape from the oppressive situation seems almost identical. The reason that I draw that comparison is that the Underground Railroad is so well documented in children's literature and even in our school curriculum, yet this group, the Zegota, and many other resistance movements that formed to counteract Nazi occupation in WWII basically remain unknown to most Americans despite interest in WWII and the Holocaust being comparable to the Civil War and slavery.

Though brief, this book does a good job of describing the ingenious methods that Sendler and the Zegota developed for extracting children from the Warsaw Ghetto and the great lengths that she went to in order to preserve a sense of history for the children that were extracted. Jars of Hope refers to the fact that Sendler used buried jars to store secret information about the children she helped to escape; information that she later used to reunite some of those children with their families.

This was an inspiring read, one that revealed a part of WWII history that is otherwise little known. This would be a good book to pair with Irena Sendler And The Children Of The Warsaw Ghetto. Both books are engaging and present Sendler's story in a slightly different way. Readers of one book would certainly appreciate the other. This book was a pleasure to read.

-Early copy of this book provided by Netgalley

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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Reading ARCs and Reviewing Books

Recently, I've been on a bit of a reading binge, the kind of binge that makes my wife look at me like I've lost touch with reality. These binges happen from time to time, when I look at my to-read list on Goodreads and realize that it's been outgrowing my read list at an unsustainable pace. I work to bring things back into balance in my reading life, which of course throws all other aspects of my life into disarray. I feel like its good for me every so often.

The thing is, as I quested after that elusive moment when I feel as though I am caught up again, I've happened upon a fascinating feature of Goodreads that I have been neglecting for most of the time I've been a member of the site. 'What feature it that?' you ask? Why, it's the giveaway feature of the site. Apparently, since Goodreads has come to be such a powerful source of inspiration to so many readers, publishers have been jumping on board and giving away ARCs or Advance Reader Copies of titles that they hope to generate some buzz for.

Anyone can enter to win one, so long as they agree to read and review what they receive. I've entered to win a number of these giveaways, and I haven't had any luck yet. That hasn't deterred me, though I'm beginning to suspect that my wife passed on the word to all these giveaways that we don't need any more books lying around the house. I'm a bit messy, though I strive not to be. Anyway, this lack of success recently combined with a little good fortune, and I've discovered another place to get ARCs. This other source has proved much more fruitful, and I intend to show that sending me an ARC is not a bad decision, so I am reading some books that are so new, they haven't even reached the shelves yet, and I plan to issue reviews of those books just as soon as I finish.

This binge is turning out to be great news for me, and even better news for my wife because all the ARCs I'm reading are electronic. No mess to clean up after, no clutter to organize. Both my wife and I get what we want. Sometimes, things work out for everybody. Hopefully, that means that coming soon will be reviews of some of the books that I've had my nose electronically buried in. Keep an eye out. They're on their way.