Category Archives: Book Reviews

Review of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

Wow!! I don’t know what to say for a proper review, so here are my random thoughts.

My friend, Allison recommended this book to me several times so I figured I’d better read it. Allison is a school librarian, so I assumed this would be a nice children’s book. Lol!

I love when an author reveals a character’s backstory so carefully without giving away too much, but just enough that you can begin to guess what happened. I felt I knew what Eleanor’s tragedy was, and I was right…to a degree. But Honeyman had a gut-punch surprise for me at the end.

This book was amazing. The narration by Cathleen McCarron was spot-on, and I enjoyed the accents (I will actively search for more audiobooks with her as narrator). Everything about this book makes me want to move to Glasgow.

If nothing else, this is a story about perseverance and the power of true friendship to pull us through our darkest hours. In fact, I want Eleanor and Raymond to be my best friends. I HIGHLY recommend Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. I laughed and cried and felt all the feels. It is not neatly wrapped up, but it does leave you with hope for a brighter future.

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Review of Hazel’s Theory of Evolution

Full disclosure: I won a copy of an Advance Reader’s Edition from the author on Twitter.

Hazel's Theory of EvolutionMy heart ached for Hazel as she stressed about making friends in a new school, tried to maintain her relationship with her best friend from her old school, and struggled to not worry about her mom being pregnant following two miscarriages. With the first page, Hazel is an immediately likable character. Bigelow adeptly conveys Hazel’s “differentness” without being heavy-handed, leaving the reader to reach their own conclusions. The secondary characters are equally interesting and provide a nice supporting cast for Hazel. The ending is hopeful and satisfying, perfect for the middle-grade reader. Recommended.

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Review of Hook’s Revenge by Heidi Schulz

I really enjoyed this spin-off of the familiar Peter Pan story. Jocelyn Hook is a feisty, funny, and strong character. She doesn’t fully realize just how strong she is, or what is holding her back from achieving her goal, until the climax. A great book for middle grade kids, as a read-aloud or a read-alone. I’m looking forward to the sequel. Hook's Revenge Cover

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Review of The Girl Next Door by Selene Castrovilla

GirlNextDoorCover

This is not a book about death. Even though Jesse, one of the main characters has been given a death sentence, the book is not about him dying. It’s about how his best friend/girlfriend, Sam, helps him to live. It’s about how Sam suffers through pain, guilt, jealousy, and loss, but still manages to love with her whole heart. However, it’s also a book about learning to depend on others to guide us through our darkest times. In this way, The Girl Next Door by Selene Castrovilla serves as a message, to teens especially, that it’s ok to seek professional help when tormented by negative experiences and thoughts. This book ripped my heart out. It will probably do the same to you. But I also think it will leave you with a strong sense of hope, and an appreciation for the love you give away.

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Review of The Categorical Universe of Candice Phee by Barry Jonsberg

Candice Phee CoverCandice Phee is autistic. She lacks certain social skills that enable her to make and maintain “normal” friendships. However, when she tells her friend’s mother that she isn’t autistic, the mother asks, “Then what are you?” She replies, “I’m me.”

And she is. She is also brutally honest, painfully literal, and fastidiously observant. These characteristics serve her well when completing her English assignment to write something about her that happened in the past, one paragraph for every letter of the alphabet. Twenty-six paragraphs turn into a book, in which she makes it her mission to ensure that those around her are happy. So, she attempts to help her friend Douglas Benson from Another Dimension get back to his own dimension, and she concocts a scheme to bring her father and his estranged brother back to together. Add to that the need to have her mother stop drowning in sorrow from having lost a child several years ago, and you’ve got one busy girl.

This award-winning Australian novel is a gem in the world of children’s literature. You will root for Candice, grieve for her parents, and appreciate Douglas’ seriousness. I adored this book, and so will you. This would make a great read-aloud with middle grade students.

Note: This review was written from an advance uncorrected proof, supplied by Chronicle Books, via The LibraryThing Early Reviewers program. A Common Core-Aligned Teachers’ Guide is available on the publisher’s website.

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