Book Review

Deer Falls by Samantha Lady

The Author is from the Willamette Valley (Linn/Benton/Lincoln Counties) and uses a lot of local natural attractions in her settings. However, the most impactful part of this series-in-a-novel book was the topics that hit so close to home. She focuses on the challenges of being an older teen/young adult raised in poverty & abuse. Parents with alcohol & drug issues, physical abuse & rage, homelessness, rape, and so much more... Her writing style is a bit more realistic than those of similar context that Ive come across. Very uplifting read for those fighting to break the cycles or in the position to look back on their journey. Back to Book Reviews

Yellow House by Sarah M. Broom

The Yellow House tells the story of a family home in New Orleans East, specifically the lower Ninth Ward, a part of New Orleans which once promised a booming economic expansion eastward but instead, through neglect, became the poorest part of the city. The story follows the yellow house from its construction up through hurricane Katrina and its eventual destruction in the aftermath. More than the house though, this explores the family that lived in the house for most of that time, and it raises questions about home, family, race, and poverty among others. Unique to this memoir, it tells the story of hurricane Katrina as part of a larger story of neglect of this almost exclusively black part of New Orleans. It doesn’t just focus on the devastation, but also looks at the disruption to life, family, and home for people who stayed put, those who fled and returned, and those who left permanently. Back to Book Reviews

We Were Eight Years in Power by Ta-Nehisi Coates

This non-fiction book walked through each of the eight years of Barack Obama’s presidency with a focus on the experience of being Black in America. I read many passages out loud to my family and we had productive discussions about race and privilege in America. I appreciated the historical perspectives this book brought and learned about the role incarceration has played in our country along with housing practices and Jim Crow laws. I highly recommend this book to anyone wanting to gain understanding of the historical events that led to today’s Black Lives Matter movement. Back to Book Reviews

Ways to Make Sunshine by Renee Watson

Ryan Hart is a girl who knows how to make sunshine even when things do not go smoothly in her life – her dad has lost his job, her family has to move to a smaller home, and her older brother bosses her around. She loves concocting new recipes with her mom and spending time with her friends, all the while trying to navigate the ups and downs of fourth grade. Ryan’s parents remind her that her name means “king” and she is determined to live up to her name and be a leader. Written by the Newbery Honor and Coretta Scott King Award-winning author Renée Watson, Ways to Make Sunshine is the first book in a new series set in Portland, Oregon. Growing up in Portland, Renée Watson loved reading the Ramona Quimby books as a young girl and was inspired to create her own version of Ramona. In Ryan Hart, we have a positive new voice in children’s literature with more adventures to come. Back to Book Reviews

Switch by Chip Heath

Due to COVID-19, most of us have experienced a great deal of unanticipated and, sometimes unwelcome, change. This book explored why change is hard and, even more importantly, how to help lead a group through the change process by understanding what people need to be successful at changing. I appreciated the research cited in the book as well as the actionable ideas shared by the author. Back to Book Reviews

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

This novel was, at times, heartbreaking to read. It examines the roles of race and privilege in America. Told in alternating voices between a labor and delivery nurse who is Black and a white supremacist couple who lose their newborn baby in the hospital, it made me think about how I am perceived and what privileges and biases I hold. The novel had strong character development and a plot-driven focus. I’ve found myself thinking about the characters, the plot, and the themes of this novel long after I finished reading it. Back to Book Reviews

Saint X by Alexis Schaitkin

Not just a murder mystery, this book tells the story of how a tragic murder affects the victim's family and the accused for years after the event. A family's tropical holiday is torn apart when their college age daughter is murdered. The murder goes unsolved, but everyone has their suspicions as to where to put the blame. The story is told by the younger daughter, seven years old at the time of the murder, who tries to find closure for those early events that shattered her life and figure out what actually happened. As the story unfolds, it becomes clear how much race, class, and all sorts of other prejudices shape everyone's understanding of the events. Back to Book Reviews

A Murderous Relation by Deanna Raybourn

Veronica Speedwell and Stoker star in the delightful mystery series set in Victorian England, where the eccentric pair of late-Victorian detectives delve into a case involving potential scandal for the royal family. At the same time, London is being terrorized by a notorious and elusive serial killer -- Jack the Ripper. As secrets start swirling, Victoria and Stoker need to find the truth before it is too late for all of them.  I love books with strong character development and Deanna Raybourn’s characters are inventive yet true to their era.  Richly detailed and sassy! Back to Book Reviews

Dictionary for a Better World by Irene Latham and Charles Waters

This inspiring resource for middle-grade readers is organized as a dictionary; each entry presents a word related to creating a better world, such as ally, empathy, or respect. For each word, there is a poem, a quote from an inspiring person, a personal anecdote from the authors, and a "try it" prompt for an activity. This is a book I love because it’s so accessible, and allows the reader to explore all aspects of each concept.  Beautiful illustrations are the key to what makes this book a successful introduction to concepts children need to know about today. Back to Book Reviews

As You Wish by Cary Elwes

From Cary Elwes, who played the iconic role of Westley in The Princess Bride, comes a first-person behind-the-scenes look at the making of the film. William Goldman’s incredibly inventive yet grounded-in-fable novel, The Princess Bride, is truly a top fave book for me! The movie is now a cult classic and is enjoyed by all ages. This fun behind-the-scenes look at the making of the movie is easy to read, and a must for fans of the story, as well as those who enjoy reading about the positive experiences of others. Back to Book Reviews