Small Great Things

Finished Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult. I received a copy for review. This review will be republished closer to its release date. 

According to the author note in the back of the book, Jodi Picoult has been working on this book for 20 years. I’m sure that was frustrating but the end result was that this was released at the perfect time. This book is essential reading for this point in history. 

Small Great Things is the story of three people. Ruth is a nurse, and a great one. She works with newborn babies and loves her job. One day, though, a baby is born to white supremacist parents and they make it clear they don’t want a black nurse to care for or even touch their son. That’s gross but sure–until the baby has a medical emergency and Ruth is the only one there. She hesitates before helping and then gets charged with a crime for it. Her lawyer is a white woman named Kennedy. She is determined that race not be used in the defense. 
So obviously this is a novel about racism. We all recognize racism from someone like Turk (the white supremacist). But what we don’t always see is racism that’s more insidious. The racism that I’ve seen in Baltimore, where people express regret that Freddie Gray died in police custody and then, in literally the next breath, say, “But of course he was no saint…” 
The racism that leads people to eye groups of young black men suspiciously. The racism that leads to black children being labeled aggresssive even if they are doing the exact same thing that white children are doing. 
The racism we don’t recognize because it’s the racism we are all at least a little guilty of. 
Highly recommended. 

Finn’s Choice

Finished Finn’s Choice by Darby Karchut. I received a copy for review. 

It breaks my heart that this is the last Finn Finnegan book. This series has been such an absolute delight and, while this book was everything I could’ve possibly wanted, I am not ready to say goodbye to Finn or Gideon. 

It helps that there’s a little crossover between both of Darby’s other series…but it doesn’t help that much because I will probably never read a new Finn story again and frankly, that’s unacceptable. 
If you are looking for a fantastic MG series that features one of the best father/son relationships ever plus Irish folklore plus strong characters, read these four books. You’ll thank me later.
Highly recommended. 

The Memory of Things

Finished The Memory of Things by Gae Polisner. I received a copy for review. 

This book begins during the attack on 9/11. Kyle’s dad is a first responder and Kyle knows his dad is at ground zero, trying to help. His mom and little sister are in California, where Kerri is trying to be an actress. His uncle is almost entirely paralyzed after an accident. There’s a lot on his plate even before you factor in the girl he met on his way home. (The girl had angel wings on and a case of amnesia. So who is she, where did she cone from and does anyone know where she is?)

I read an early version of this and was so excited to snag a copy at ALA. As you know, I am a huge fan of Gae Polisner and this book didn’t let me down. The early version was incredible but this is a masterpiece. 

Yes, it’s about arguably the worst day in our country’s history but it’s also about a family, and resiliency and hope. To put it simply, it’s absolutely perfect. 

Highly recommended. 

Red Right Hand

Finished Red Right Hand by Chris Holm. I received a copy for review. 

This is the second book in the Michael Hendricks series (after The Killing Kind). Hendricks is a hitman who takes out other hitmen. Now he’s trying to keep a federal witness alive–the catch is that a lot of people believe he’s already dead. He’s also trying to bring down the Council, a shadowy group that’s tried to kill him. 

This book is insane in the best way. I couldn’t stop reading it and I was very nervous, hoping Hendricks and his associates would stay alive. (The Council is scary, guys!)
I hope there are more books and either way, I hope Chris Holm has a new book out soon. He’s one of my favorites. 
Highly recommended. 

Hex

Finished Hex by Thomas Olde Heuvelt. I received a copy for review. 

Okay, first this book is horrifying. I feel infected by it and I’m pretty sure it will take a long time before I can wake up in the middle of the night and not think about Katherine, the Black Rock Witch. 

Black Spring is a haunted town. Its inhabitants are all aware of the Black Rock Witch, a woman so scary that her eyes and lips are sewn shut. Residents know better than to touch her (you’ll die if you do) and if you hear her whispers, you’ll kill yourself. And I don’t mean an easy or pretty death, either. There will be blood and pain. You can’t just leave town. If you’re gone for too long, you’ll commit suicide. 
It’s also a big secret and if you tell outsiders about the witch, you’ll suffer. Except now Black Spring’s teenagers want to tell people. And it’s not a spoiler to say things don’t go well for them. 
Oh, guys. This book scared the crap out of me. I went from intrigued to creeped out to honestly terrified. And now I am in my hometown, watching the shadows lengthen and I am hallucinating whispers. (I hope I am.)
Read this if you dare but do it with the lights on. 
Note: this is translated. Apparently the original ending is different. If you read the Dutch version, please let me know how that ended. 
Highly recommended. 

Stalking Jack the Ripper

Finished Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco. I received a copy for review. 

This is an incredibly creepy novel. It centers around Audrey Rose Wadsworth, a young girl fascinated with forensics. Unfortunately for her, it’s the 1880s and ladies are not supposed to have interests like that. (Especially ladies of her station.)

This is also the time of Jack the Ripper and Audrey Rose is doubly fascinated by him. Soon, she’s determined to figure out who he is…but of course he may be closer than she thinks. 
My knowledge of Jack the Ripper is not particularly good (murdered prostitutes; never caught) so this book was really fun to read. (Also creepy and unsettling.) According to a postscript, there were some liberties taken but much is accurate. 
If you like historical fiction, especially centered around fierce heroines, and serial killers this is for you. 

Into White

Finished Into White by Randi Pink. I received a copy for review. 

Toya’s life is certainly not what she thought it would be. She’s a black teen at a southern school and she doesn’t fit in anywhere. (Except for with her older brother and best friend, Alex.) Finally, in desperation, she prays to be white. 

And then she IS. 
This is going to be an incredibly polarizing novel. There are a lot of problematic aspects (obviously first the praying to be white; second, there’s the fact that basically every white person in this novel is a jerk at best and a racist jerk at worst. There is one exception.)
But there’s a lot of good here, too. This is a novel about the journey to self-acceptance and who among us–especially teenage girls of any color–start there?
And I love Toya. (Well, when she’s Toya. Katarina is not a good person.) You will probably hear a lot of opinions about this. Read and judge for yourself. 

The Best Man

Finished The Best Man by Richard Peck. I received a copy for review. 

I’m a relatively recent convert to middlegrade and books like this are the reason why. 

Archer has a lot of great guys in his life but the three best are his dad, grandpa and uncle Paul. When he learns that his uncle’s gay, he’s a little surprised but it doesn’t really matter to him. It’s way more interesting who Paul’s dating: Mr. McLeod, Archer’s favorite teacher. 
And when it seems like Paul’s a little nervous about the relationship (love can be scary), Archer is there with the best advice ever. 
This is such a sweet novel, completely delightful on every page. Recommended. 

Little Bee

Finished Little Bee by Chris Cleave. 

This is a story of two people and there were originally four people. It’s a story of refugees and immigration and people who need help. It is a story that you need to read and one that will break you. That’s really all you need to know. 
Little Bee (character and book) is actually haunting and I’m not sure I can explain it any better. 
This book is at least five years old and yet it feels so timely right now. You should read it. 
Highly recommended.

Spontaneous

Finished Spontaneous by Aaron Starmer. I received a copy for review. 

I absolutely love the premise of this novel (seniors at one high school start spontaneously combusting). No one knows what’s going on or how to stop it (think Conversion or The Fever). 

Our narrator is Mara, the world’s surliest girl. This actually helps because I’m not sure I could handle someone with actual feelings telling me about teenagers literally exploding. 
That’s probably why this book didn’t entirely work for me–I should feel something about this, right? But no. I didn’t know most of the teens who died and so it was basically just, “Well, that’s unfortunate.”
I did finish to see if we ever learn what caused this or if they stopped it. (No spoilers, though.)