Book Review│The Bright Unknown by Elizabeth Byler Younts

bright unknownAs a Christian woman, I was super excited when I received the galley for Elizabeth Byler Younts’ The Bright Unknown. I was further geeking out upon my receipt of it because it takes place in the 1940’s and I just love that era all together. Sometimes I really feel as though I was born too late, but then you read a story like this one and you’re reminded of how dark and unfair society could be back then, especially towards women…and even more so when those women were poor.

The Bright Unknown begins with Brighton explaining, “I’m not sure whom I should thank – or blame – for the chance to become an old woman. Though as a young girl, sixty-seven seemed much older than it actually is.” We open at the end of the story, but are quickly thrown back into Brighton’s life before her freedom, in a place that we come to know as a horrific, malevolent institution where the darkest sides of humanity pervaded for many years.

Born in the Riverside Home for the Insane  in 1923, Brighton Friedrich’s life revolves around her unstable mother and her overall care. With little exposure to the real world, Brighton is ill-equipped for anything outside of the asylum’s walls and at times, the true nature of what really is within. Eventually, Brighton meets Grace Douglass, a young woman who is sent to the asylum by her parents for behavioral issues.

Just as naive as Brighton, Grace struggles to adjust to her life inside of the walls of the institution. Grace draws Brighton out into the world through her love of photography and the two soon grow close.

Staying true to the time, the therapies that destroyed people inside asylums in the 1940’s are at their peak use. Hydrotherapy, insulin shock, lobotomies…and so much more, are at the forefront of the treatment of patients. Brighton becomes driven to find a way to save herself and her friends from life in the asylum, eager to get the out and into a place where they can find piece. The Riverside Home for the Insane is not where these women belong and Brighton is determined to find her own life along side the people that she loves.

However, her unrest leads to a sudden change in how Brighton is treated by the staff and she goes from being a person to a patient. Undergoing the treatments that other have had, including insulin shock, sparks a fire in Brighton that sets her and Grace on a journey towards their own freedom. They grow up fast and hard, but their journey towards a new life is riveting and the overall prose of the novel keeps you engaged as you journey through the insanity that is an insane asylum in the 1940’s and the life that comes after.

“My driveway reminds me of the freedom I have to come and go as I please. Things were not always this way.”
-Brighton Friedrich

Book Information

The Bright Unknown by Elizabeth Byler Younts is scheduled to be released on October 22, 2019 from Thomas Nelson with ISBN 9780718075682. This review corresponds to an advanced electronic galley that was supplied by the publisher in exchange for this review.

Book Review│Cursed by Thomas Wheeler

cursedAs a middle school teacher I am constantly looking for new books that will entice teenagers to read. I also like to find books that take on old material that I still believe my students should be exposed to, but will probably not be into if I used the original source material. I was very excited to receive a galley of Cursed for these reasons and also, because it has been optioned by Netflix to become a series.

King Arthur’s Court

Cursed brings us into the Arthurian Tales, but with a new spin to it. We learn that there is a sword in the stone and that whomever pulls it, will become the new king of the realm. What everyone was not prepared for is that the chosen one may very well not be a man at all. What if that new ruler was, in fact, a queen?

A Dark Druid Rising

Nimsue is an outcast in her Druid village. She is frequently drawn to the dark arts and it leaves her feeling alone and also feared by her fellow villagers. When her village is attacked and ultimately slaughtered by the Red Palladins, Nimsue, becomes charged to bring back the ancient sword to a powerful sorcerer as her mother lays dying.

Teaming up with a mercenary named Arthur and refugee Fey Folk from across England, Nimsue is on a mission to save her people and avenge her mother’s death. The visuals are amazing throughout and the style of the story will keep students reading.

However, the book reads more like a screenplay in that it jumps quickly from scene to scene and is clearly written for its eventual Netflix debut. This can either be confusing for students or it could keep their attention with the choppiness of the writing. I think it would heavily depend on the audience in your classroom.

When this series eventually does come to Netflix, it could be really helpful in creating interactive lessons around the story versus the Netflix episodes. Students will love the visuals which really brought this book to life for me.

Book Information

Cursed by Thomas Wheeler will be available for purchase on October 1, 2019 from Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers with ISBN 9781534425330. To be linked to special pre-ordering pricing click the link at the top of this section. This review corresponds to an advanced electronic galley that was supplied by the publisher in exchange for this review.

Book Review│A Death in Paris Mystery: The Books of the Dead by Emilia Bernhard

cover163108-mediumThe Books of the Dead by Emilia Bernhard had it all for me: Paris, death and of course, librarians. My inner nerd girl was squealing when I received the galley for this novel. I think I was so drawn to it because it had an air of Jonny Depp’s The Ninth Gate which I have watched probably too many times to count.

 A Double Murder

American sleuth Rachel Levis stumbles upon the body of an employee of the French national library strangled in the bathroom of a cafe. Having solved a murder, with her best friend Magda, only 18 months before, Rachel reaches out to Capitaine Boussicault for help.

She immediately goes undercover as a librarian to try to figure out which one of the man’s colleagues could have offed him. Almost just as quickly as she is undercover, the drama really begins to come into play: first, a priceless antique book is found mutilated and then, her favorite suspect for the first murder is found dead in the stacks. Boussicault pulls Rachel from the investigation. However, she and Magda are dedicated to solving this mystery and take the investigation into their own hands.

A Cozy Mystery

This is definitely a cozy mystery where the amateur sleuths win over the professionals and become part of an unbelievable investigation. You will have to suspend your sense of realistic cream investigations to thoroughly enjoy the novel, it has all the pieces to it: the international setting, the pair of best friends solving crimes and a slightly absurd reason to murder someone. I am excited to see where this series goes and what other kinds of trouble our two girls will get into next!

Book Information

The Books of the Dead: A Death in Paris Mystery by Emilia Bernhard is scheduled to be released on October 8, 2019, from Crooked Lane Books with ISBN 9781643851570. This review corresponds to an electronic galley supplied by the publisher in exchange for this review. To be linked to special pre-order pricing, click the link at the top of this section.

The Hart Home│For My Little Boy

A year ago, I was heavily pregnant with you and struggling to get through each day. I was so exhausted and you were already on your way to being 10 pounds. I was running out of room in my body and you just wanted to stay inside me. I made it too comfortable for you.

I found it hard to breathe or eat or really function outside of the recliner we have. I also was so excited to meet you. In a week from now, I would have labor that would start and stop. We had one full false alarm and then finally when we were well past our due date, they finally induced me, but you still wanted to stay inside.

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An emergency c-section and several complications later and my beautiful baby boy that I had dreamed and prayed for was at last in my arms with his haunting almost black eyes and my face staring back at me.

We had a crazy first year together with me writing my doctoral dissertation and my going back to work way too soon. I have enjoyed every day that I am home with you this summer getting to see you turn from that little baby I brought home to the charismatic, brave and funny little boy you are so quickly becoming.

Getting to know you now as a little boy are the best ways I spend my days. You think so many things are funny and you love cuddling with me. You also love to tell me stories and yell at the TV. You’re walking everywhere and if you can figure out how to climb something, you will.

I find myself falling more in love with you every day, but also, I find myself getting a little sad at the end of each because I know by morning you’re going to be even more of a little boy and less of the baby that I have held and cradled, soothed and rocked, wore and breastfed for the last year. You’re finding your independence and as a mother that makes me very proud because it means I have loved you well, but at the same time, it makes me sad because you won’t need me like you did when I first brought you home.

I catch myself watching you sleep more and cuddling close to you, wanting to get in every last minute of who you are now, smelling your little head and holding your little hands. It amazes me how in another year, you will be so much more like a little boy and again I will feel this bittersweet sadness over your growing up.

No matter how old you are though, you will always be my little prince.

The Hart Home│What They Don’t Tell You is That There Will Be No Time and So Much Poop

I took a little step back from blogging as much as I was to enjoy the first few weeks of summer vacation with my son. I have had such anxiety every day this year since I came back from maternity leave when I would leave him to go to work and it turns out, Logan was feeling the same way. We have been inseparable since I have been home. He just wants his mom and I just want my baby. I am sure I will write more about this in a future post.

Today, I wanted to share the story where I felt like I really became a mother. Outside of my anxiety of leaving my son every day, I also struggled with my identity as well. I have been working sometimes up to 7 days a week and doing a doctoral degree full time up until I had Logan. My interests and hobbies and friendships all took a back seat because I was working on paying for a wedding and then, finishing school. As I approached the end of that journey, I realized how far from myself I had come.

poop

While I know that my weekends at concerts and trips to music festivals and art shows are not going to dominate my life like they used to, I do know that I can have some of that back as I navigate my life as Logan’s mom. Time is just stretched so thin and it’s really of the essence more so than we get a lazy day of not doing much of anything. Time has sped up 1000% since Logan came home. I have to consciously make time for friendships or time doing other things outside of being a mom and a teacher. It took me several days to find the time to text one of my good friends that I haven’t spoken to in over a year. Just as we were catching up and updating each other about everything that we have going on, Logan went into the kitchen for a brief moment.

Now, I have been letting him toddle into the very baby proofed room and giving him a minute before I go after him. Well, in that minute my son pooped on the floor, peed on top of it and came back into the living room with a hand full of poop outstretched with the biggest smile on his face as if he were so proud to finally have figured out where his stinky diapers come from.

I immediately grabbed him and picked him up, holding his hand out away from me as the stink permeated the living room. I run to the kitchen and find the carnage. He smashed most of it and then the true horror came into view…we fed him corn last night with dinner. I wanted to puke.

I quickly get him up into a bath and changed into a fresh diaper and clothes. I run downstairs and throw the baby gate up to keep him out while I scrub the kitchen floor and made sure to find all of his corn kernels, gagging the entire time. He happily sat watching his cartoons like all was right with the world.

Kids man, why didn’t anyone warn me about the poop???

By the time I got back to my phone, my friend was off doing her thing and the conversation died. And there I sat in my living room with my de-pooped kid watching Simple Songs on YouTube until my husband came home laughing because I had texted him the entire poop saga.

I don’ think I can ever look at corn or my kid the same way again.

Book Review│I’m Not Dying with You Tonight by Gilly Segal and Kimberly Jones

dyingThe overall premise of Segal and Jones’s I’m Not Dying with You Tonight is that two girls from very different worlds collide when chaos breaks out at a football game that they both decided to attend. Before this night, neither of them knew of the other but they find that they must rely on each other in order to survive.

The Conflict

Campbell is the new girl in school. She has just moved to Atlanta and is treated much like new kids usually are– as an outcast with no friends and that feeling of not belonging. Campbell is also white and is perceived by Lena to be just another “rich white girl.”While Lena, on the other hand, is black, and she is popular with a killer boyfriend and knows that she is going to make it big. She sees her entire life before her and is excited for where she is headed.

The two girls do not know each other before the Friday night game. They choose to attend it and are thrown together out of circumstance. A fight breaks out at the game and a police officer is shot. Chaos quickly takes over and a riot ensues. The girls are thrown together in the hysteria and quickly realize that they must rely on each other for survival.

Surviving Atlanta

Atlanta is a tough city as is. My first residency for my doctoral degree took me there in 2015. We were in such a rough area of the city that we were told not to leave the hotel. Which was crazy to me because the hotel we stayed at was the hotel that was used for The Capital in The Hunger Games. We were told repeatedly that if you did not know Atlanta not to venture out.

It seems like that advice was solid advice because Segal and Jones paint a similar picture of Atlanta. In I’m Not Dying with You Tonight, Campbell and Lena are tossed onto the streets of Atlanta as they try to avoid the chaos and the violence that has erupted following the fight and the subsequent shooting that occurred. They realize that their only escape towards Lena’s boyfriend and eventually home is to get through Tilman Park, the “worst hood in Atlanta.”

Surviving Each Other

Along with surviving the violence that has overtaken much of the city, the girls also have to address and survive their biases towards one another. Lena is the popular girl while Campbell is just trying to get through school. Lena thinks Campbell is just another rich white girl even though that can’t be farther from the truth and Campbell reveals her own biases towards Lena in their dialogue and decisions she makes towards their survival.

This is a rather short YA read at 150 pages so the novel does not go deeply into the race relations, ideas on privilege and teenage female friendship– but the nuances are there and this could serve as a springboard for much more in-depth conversations with the younger side of Young Adult readers. I will be adding a few copies to my classroom library this fall.

Overall, while in places the book feels very character driven at the start, it quickly turns to plot driven as the girls spend the remainder of the novel jumping from place to place trying to get to Lena’s boyfriend so that he can get them home. The drive to reach Lena’s boyfriend was a little odd to me because he was not answering any of her calls. Why would you put your life on the line to get to him if he wasn’t answering his phone? Why not try to get home without the help of your boyfriend? Ultimately, the girls do each get home and we are left to wonder if a friendship will now develop between the two and if in attempting a friendship if the girls’ biases towards one another would ever be fully addressed and resolved.

Book Information

I’m Not Dying with You Tonight by Gilly Segal and Kimberly Jones is scheduled to be released on October 1, 2019 from Sourcebooks Fire with ISBN  1492678899. This review corresponds to an advanced electronic galley that was received from the publisher in exchange for this review. To be linked to special pre-order pricing, click the link above!

Sponsored│Vino 2 Go Wine Tumblers

My husband and I have worked really hard over the last two summers. Last year I was in the final stages of pregnancy and working on organizing our house for our baby while my husband worked any shift that he could get. The summer before, we were saving for our wedding and I was interning at the high school within my district, working full-time at a beach hotel and taking my final doctoral class. This summer?  We are relaxing on our deck and grilling and drinking wine. We have earned this summer!

And my favorite find for summer? These Vino 2 Go Wine Tumblers. I love them because they are plastic so if they fall, they won’t break and they come with a lid so spills are minimal. And also, let’s face it if you’re outside and it’s summer there are also bugs so the lids really are a great benefit.

They’re also only $8.99!! Snag this deal by clicking the image or click here —-> WINE TUMBLERS