Newbery Review: 1930

Hitty, Her First Hundred Years is a surprisingly interesting story of a doll and her adventures. | A book review by NewberyandBeyond.com
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Medal Winner: Hitty, Her First Hundred Years

Hitty is a doll of great charm and character. It is indeed a privilege to publish her memoirs, which, besides being full of the most thrilling adventures on land and sea, also reveal her delightful personality. One glance at her portrait will show that she is no ordinary doll. Hitty, or Mehitable as she was really named, was made in the early 1800s for Phoebe Preble, a little girl from Maine. Young Phoebe was very proud of her beautiful doll and took her everywhere, even on a long sailing trip in a whaler. This is the story of Hitty’s years with Phoebe, and the many that follow in the life of a well-loved doll. (Summary via Goodreads.com)

This story about a beloved doll and her adventures was surprisingly interesting. Hitty is taken on trips, passed from girl to girl, and even lost during her first hundred years. I do remember that, reading this as a young teenager, I was a bit overwhelmed by the length of the book and the old-fashioned writing style, so for a younger kid, it might work better as a story you read to them, bit by bit. But don’t pass this book by simply because the main character is a doll. Hitty and her many owners over the years are sweet, fun characters to spend time with.

Rating: Good but Forgettable

Mini Reviews: Adult Fiction and Nonfiction

A hodgepodge of mini reviews of the latest adult fiction and nonfiction books on my list. | Book reviews by NewberyandBeyond.com
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Along with my glut of NetGalley ARCs and Newbery books from the library, I’ve recently read a lot of adult fiction and nonfiction books that have somehow come across my path. I haven’t reviewed them before because most of them haven’t left much of an impression, so I decided to offer them as a sampling of mini reviews. Enjoy!

The Gifts of Imperfection

This is my first Brene Brown book (although I’m familiar with her TED talks). She has been recommended to me by friends with wonderful taste in books, but I’ve never gotten around to her work until just recently. This book is a fairly short but thorough look at the results of Brene’s research into shame and resilience, and it offers insight into how to live a life with grit and perseverance that will lead to joy. Unfortunately, this book didn’t leave much of a lasting impression on me, but I’m definitely interested in reading more of Brene Brown’s work in the future.

Rating: Good but Forgettable

Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?

This is a graphic memoir about the end of the author’s parents’ lives. If that sounds depressing, well, it is. I would definitely not read this book if you and your parents are in the same situation, unless you’re looking for something cathartic. The book offers an interesting look at the various emotions and struggles (from trying to convince your parents to get the help they need to filling out gobs of paperwork to trying to scrape up enough funds to pay for their care) that come with this period of life. I’m not sorry I read it, but I’m not sure I would recommend it, either.

Rating: Good but Forgettable

Gone Girl

Okay, so I know I’m the last book lover in the country to have read this book, but I finally got around to it. For a long time, I thought I would never pick it up. It just didn’t seem like my type of book–I usually stay away from psychological thrillers because they creep me out. But my roommate owns a copy, so I picked it up one day and finished it in only a couple of days.

To my surprise, I wasn’t too creeped out by the story or the characters. I found it fascinating in a train wreck sort of way. The book really shows you the extent to which two seemingly normal people can go in order to destroy each other. I wasn’t super shocked by the twist in the middle, but the story and characters were strong enough to hold my interest anyway. So if you’re avoiding Gone Girl because the twist has been spoiled for you and you don’t think the story will hold up without it, you might want to check it out anyway.

Rating: Good but Forgettable

Saga, Vol. 1 and 2

Super big warning: These comics have a fair amount of illustrated sex scenes. You can skip over them, but please be aware!

That said, I did enjoy the first two volumes of Saga. This was another thing I picked up from a roommate’s shelf because I had heard good things about it, even though I didn’t think it would really be my cup of tea. I’ve read one volume of comics before (Neil Gaiman’s Sandman), and although I enjoyed it well enough, I don’t think I’ll put much effort into finding the next volume. I feel the same way about Saga. It’s an interesting SFF story, and I did enjoy the art, but I don’t know if I feel invested enough to seek out volume 3.

Rating: Good but Forgettable

Mini Reviews: Summer Reading

My summer reading has been very hit and miss this year. | Book reviews from NewberyandBeyond.com
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Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of books that have been… mediocre. Either they’ve had forgettable plots or boring characters or just weren’t my cup of tea. So in case you’re interested in what I’ve been reading lately, here’s a stockpile of summer reading that just didn’t stack up.

Girl on the Train

The writing was good, I enjoyed the perspectives of the characters, and the story itself was interesting. But I found the plot a little predictable, to be honest… I don’t regret reading it, but I doubt I’ll ever read it again.

Rating: Good but Forgettable

Yes, Chef

As a former Food Network addict and a long-time viewer of Chopped, I’m a big fan of Marcus Samuelsson. He has a super interesting story–born in Ethiopia, he was adopted as a small child into a Swedish family. As a young chef, he traveled and worked his way through Europe before ending up in the U.S., where he now owns a restaurant in Harlem. I enjoyed Samuelsson’s voice in this memoir. It is quiet and honest, recounting past mistakes, failures, and triumphs with humility. Still, I felt there was something missing–probably humor, if you look at my past celebrity memoir list.

Rating: Good but Forgettable

A Little Something Different

I found this book to be cute but entirely forgettable. The romance was predictable, the characters were often stereotypical, and we didn’t get to know the main characters very well at all. The multiple viewpoints thing was a cute device, but it wasn’t enough to save this mediocre book.

Rating: Meh

Does My Head Look Big in This?

This book was one of my favorites of the bunch. The main character is a Muslim girl living in Australia, and she decides to wear the hijab full time, even at school. Her parents caution her and warn her of the difficulties she might face, but she takes the leap anyway. It was an interesting look at a group of people I know little about (Australian Muslims), but it never goes too deep into the religious implications. The book is mostly a YA story of friends, school, fitting in, and growing up.

Rating: Good but Forgettable

The Dragon of Handale

I picked up this medieval mystery on a whim, not realizing that it’s the latest installment in a series. The protagonist is a former nun who is attempting to decide whether or not to return to the convent. She lands in a harsh convent in the middle of nowhere, and she quickly begins to realize that things are not all they seem. The mystery itself is enjoyable, and I wouldn’t be opposed to reading another in the series if it landed in my lap, but it was pretty forgettable.

Rating: Good but Forgettable

Freakin’ Fabulous

Oh, Clinton Kelly. As I’ve mentioned before, I love What Not to Wear, so I knew I needed to pick up Clinton’s first book. It’s all about style in every part of your life, from clothing to behavior to throwing a successful party. Some of the tips were quite helpful (I showed my husband how to make the first successful poached egg we’ve ever made by using this book’s tips!), but some of them were totally inapplicable. I’m interested to read the follow up, Freakin’ Fabulous on a Budget, and see how that one stacks up.

Rating: Meh

Food: A Love Story

Okay, this one was actually pretty funny. I’m not a fan of comedians in general, but I do kind of like Jim Gaffigan. Reading this book is like watching an extended version of one of his comedy specials, so if you’re familiar with his work, you’ll probably recognize a fair amount of material. Still, it’s worth reading for the added jokes and exploration of all things food.

Rating: Pretty Darn Good

Girl Talk

I had thought this book would be in the same vein as Don’t Worry, It Gets Worse or Never Have I Ever–that is, a funny, sometimes poignant look at Millennial life as we make our way through our twenties. Although it had some of that feeling (and the fact that it was made up of illustrations was pretty great), I found it pretty boring and totally forgettable. Save yourself some time and pick up one of the books I mentioned instead of this one.

Rating: Meh

Have you had better luck than I have recently with your reading? Leave me a comment and let me know what I should read next!

Newbery Review: An American Plague

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Because I’ve been having trouble posting a third weekly post with my new work schedule, I’ve decided to introduce a new feature: the weekend Mini Review!  This short review will be posted on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday each week.

This Newbery book was fantastic!  I loved it way more than I ever enjoy nonfiction books.  I kept reading sentences and factoids aloud to my husband, and I devoured it in two hours.

The book talks about the yellow fever plague that swept through Philadelphia in 1793, killing thousands in a matter of weeks.  It is compulsively readable and full of interesting facts about treatments, politics, racial issues, and disease control at the time.  I absolutely loved it.  Any kid (or adult!) who’s interested in lesser-known areas of history will love it, too.

Rating: Re-read Worthy

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