Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Snakes, Alligators, and Broken Hearts: Journeys of a Biologist's Son by Sneed B. Collard III

Sneed B. Collard III was born to biologist, Sneed B. Jr. and Patricia Collard. Naturally, Sneed was raised to love animals and be curious about his world. Unfortunately, his parents divorced when Sneed was in third grade. Sneed had a difficult time coping, especially when both parents married new spouses and moved to opposite coasts. For most of his childhood and into adolescence, Sneed’s life was split between living with his mother during the school year and visiting his father during the summer.

Collard’s autobiography is touching, witty, and honest. Even though biology is a unique part of his life, Collard’s main tale is blatantly familiar to readers who have endured or are enduring a divorce. Collard realistically narrates a child’s mind in feeling lost as his divorced parents move on to create new families. Collard struggles to find his place because he is a product of that dissolved marriage. Yet Collard credits a minimally rebellious life to sensitive teachers, adults, and friends who helped him handle his unpleasant situation. Aside from dealing with divorce, Collard also details his childhood reactions to political events, national tragedies, and societal changes. On the humorous side, Collard describes his awkward interactions with girls, accidents with animals, and fantastic adventures in Boy Scouts. Snakes, Alligators, and Broken Hearts is a thoughtful memoir written with love and keen reflection. Appropriate for ages 12 and up.        

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

A Pocket Full of Murder (Uncommon Magic #1) by R. J. Anderson

Isaveth’s world is turned upside down when her father is wrongfully arrested for murder. Isaveth and her new friend, Quiz, hunt for the real killer to prove her father’s innocence. As they find and follow clues, their evidence points to several untouchable political leaders. These heads-of-state and Quiz’s hidden identity, almost derails Isaveth’s investigation.

Anderson expertly mixes suspense, sleuthing, and sorcery for a successful start to her Uncommon Magic series. Readers are introduced to a complex world where a magical hierarchy reigns: the rich have access to all magic to make their lives prosperous and comfortable while the poor must fabricate second-rate magic through common materials. This division during an economic depression makes life incredibly difficult for lower-class families, like Isaveth’s. But when Isaveth’s father is arrested, people think he committed murder as a statement against their social structure. Anderson’s story can be enjoyed from many different levels: her world building, relationships between characters, and insightful narration. A great read for ages 12 and up. The next book in the Uncommon Magic series is A Little Taste of Poison.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The Passion and Perils of the Insatiably Hungry by Kirsten Joy

Adrian leaves behind her confining family to discover her life’s path in college. Yet homesickness creeps in on Adrian. Her cure? Healthy doses of fresh baked-goods crafted by her own gifted hands. As school progresses, she meets Charlie, a charmingly spontaneous guy who is attracted to both Adrian and her amazing culinary skills. A relationship blossoms, but Adrian can’t avoid some worrying signs with Charlie: his forgetfulness, his inconsiderateness, and his erratic temper. After holding on as long as she can, the two break up. But her old friend, Dale, re-enters her life to bring Adrian love, stability, and inspiration. With his urgings, Dale encourages her to pursue her baking passion by taking a job at a Vermont bakery. The distance proves a strain on their relationship and the two slowly drift apart.

In this young adult/new adult novel, Joy has beautifully captured the mental and emotional progression of a young girl entering her road to adulthood. Adrian’s character is endearing and relatable to anyone who has experienced loss, heartbreak, love, and hope. Readers will find themselves cheering, crying, blushing, and salivating as they follow Adrian to her dreams. The Passion and Perils of the Insatiably Hungry is in two parts: the first segment chronicles Adrian’s flight from her family and the second narrates her move to Vermont. At the end of the book, Joy also includes recipes and book group discussions. But Joy adds an extra treat with her “Backstory” section, giving readers a window into her creation process. A clean romance read for ages 16 and up.