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Book Review: “Between Shades of Gray,” by Ruta Sepetys

“Between Shades of Gray,” by Ruta Sepetys has absolutely NOTHING to do with the 50 Shades of Grey series. As a matter of fact, the book is being turned into a movie and they changed the name to “Ashes in the Snow,” so there's no confusion!

This riveting book tells the story of Lina, a 15 year old girl living in Lithuania during World War II. Her life is uneventful until there's a knock on the door and three Soviet officers (NKVD) storm into the apartment. We follow Lina and her family through their trek in Siberia, moving constantly on the whim of the Soviet officers from one camp to another.

Lina learns some powerful lessons all the while trying to stay sane and survive with her mother and brother. She uses her intellect on a number of occasions to help save her family.

Ruta Sepetys spoke at the recent SCBWI (Society of Children Book Writers and Illustrators) conference. This story is one that Ms. Sepetys heard growing up as it happened to a family member. She does a masterful job writing emotions and turmoil in a story that's very close to her heart. I congratulate her in her efforts and on the movie deal. I'll be sure to see it in the theater!

 

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Book Review: “The Truth about Twinkie Pie,” by Kat Yeh

I saw “The Truth about Twinkie Pie” on the table in the bookstore at the SCBWI conference, but I wasn’t going to buy it. I read the back cover and it really didn’t “speak to me.” But, then I heard the author, Kat Yeh speak. The book was already sold out at the conference so I bought it on Amazon. And, boy I am so glad I did.

“The Truth about Twinkie Pie,” by Kat Yeh is a wonderfully written book about 2 sisters, Gigi and DiDi who try to make it on their own. Their mother died shortly after Gigi was born and they lived with a neighbor friend until they won a million dollars in a cooking contest Then they move to a new town where Didi becomes a hair stylist. She is 9 years older than Gigi and does everything she can to give her smart sister a good education.

Because Gigi was starting a new school, she figured she’d create her own “recipe for success” and the first thing she did was change her name. She also wanted to make friends (she didn’t have any in her old school) and she took some risks in order to do that. The story is told in 1st person from Gigi’s precocious perspective which makes the book all that more intimate. We know what Gigi is feeling and thinking in every step, which I loved.

I also loved Yeh’s recipe theme throughout the book. At the end of almost every chapter, she includs a recipe for the very thing that was described in that chapter. For example, chapter 2 describes Didi and Gigi making Twinkie Pie. The actual recipe for Twinkie Pie is at the end of that chapter. Some of the other recipes included in the book are “The Perfect Kiss,” “The Ol'Switcheroo,” and my favorite, “Recipe to lose 10 pounds.” I didn’t make any of the recipes, but they sure looked good.

Because Gigi is growing up without a mother, she questions who she is and fantasizes about finding her mother and what she would say to her if she did. She comes upon a mystery and starts uncovering the truth about herself.

This is a delightful middle grade novel and leaves you with a good feeling.

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Book Review: “Wonder,” by R.J. Palacio

"Wonder," by R.J. PalacioWOW! I absolutely love “Wonder,” by R.J. Palacio!! I read it in 3 days, thinking about the main character and wondering what will happen to him. R.J. Palacio (R.J.) writes beautifully and ties up everything in the end.

“Wonder” is about a 10 year old boy, August or Auggie who suffers from a genetic disorder that causes facial deformities. He's been homeschooled his entire life and his parents decide he needs to start school. He's afraid to start school, with new people who will stare at him. He only wants to be viewed as an “ordinary kid.”

R.J. writes the book in 1st person which gives the reader an intimate view of what Auggie is thinking and how he's feeling. I loved watching his personality develop, how he handles people's reactions to his face and growing as a person. The chapters are short and there are eight parts to the book, each part is written in the 1st person by another character. I loved how R.J. provides insight into the characters by structuring her book in this manner.

R.J. weaves a powerful story about courage, strength and kindness. She writes about one of Auggie's teacher's homework assignment, “precepts,” which are monthly quotes to live by. As homework, each student is expected to write what the month's precept means to them. This carries her theme beautifully and adds a lot depth into the story.

As a writer, I learned a lot from R.J. She had an idea for the story, did a lot of research into the abnormality and mutation, connected herself with various nonprofits and offers a solid lessons for all to live by.

I recommend this book to EVERYONE! I know most adults don't read middle grade novels, but this book is a MUST. Congrats to R.J. for setting the bar high for fellow writers.

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Book Review: “All Four Stars,” by Tara Dairman

I love writing book reviews. I also love cooking and raised a son who loves cooking, so much in fact that he became a chef! So when a friend of mine recommended a children's fiction chapter book about a girl and cooking, I ordered it from Amazon right there amidst my appetizer at dinner!

“All Four Stars,” by Tara Dairman is the first in a series about Gladys Gatsby, an 11-year old who loves cooking and writing and wants to become a food critic. The problem is her parents don't understand food, cooking or healthy eating and have banned her from cooking in the kitchen. Gladys is distraught but soon finds herself on a culinary adventure that brings her new friendships, tastes and fun in her fictional home town on Long Island, NY.

Ms. Dairman uses Gladys' voice to tell the story and boy, did she get an 11-year olds voice right down to the “fudge.” Her descriptive writing makes your mouth water while reading about the sites, smells and tastes in Gladys' life. I cared about Gladys and her dilemma, and wanted to keep reading to find out what happens.

If you have an aspiring chef in the house, boy or girl, between the ages 8 and 11, this book is one not to be missed!

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I’ve been waiting for reviews and now Buzzy has received 5 stars!

Buzzy and Thomas Move into the President's House with rating seal, book reviewsI've been very busy sending out print copies and download links to various reviewers. I'm getting new reviews every day, but last night (maybe it was a New Year's Eve present), I received an email from ReadersFavorite.com that my review was ready.

Today, I logged into my author account and there was a 5 star review! Here is a quote from the review:

“The story is delightful…The illustrations are lively and colorful and they breathe life into the characters and give the story a good pace and movement. The book is informative and educational as it tells readers a bit about the history of the United States and teaches them new words. The book is a good bedtime storybook for parents and grandparents and can be used for read aloud sessions in classrooms and school libraries. Buzzy’s fear of moving to a new place and missing her friends is palpable and readers can connect well with those emotions.”

How fabulous is this review! But, best of all, I'm now able to download a special 5 star seal from ReadersFavorite.com! So here it is, placed on the cover of my book.

I have some other reviews on Amazon as well. If you like the book, please write a review on Amazon, ReadersFavorite.com and Goodreads. Thanks!

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