Getting Ready For Bed by Mary Lindeen

Currently with the Common Core Standards there is a push towards introducing nonfiction to young readers. Getting Ready For Bed by Mary Lindeen, is an emerging reader book designed to assist the early elementary student in developing their reading skills. With a defined set of frequently used sight vocabulary plus several common content words, the young child, after repeated readings with their parents, should be able to read the text independently.

What I like about this book is the way it models the bedtime procedure. It actually starts with the family dinner after which the children assist in cleaning up and doing age appropriate chores. There is a set aside play time with clean up, bath time, changing into pajamas, a bedtime healthy snack, brushing of teeth, and a nighttime story. The illustrations are photographs of all sorts of children representing different races. In this way, the reader can not only identify themselves in the book, but also realize that bedtime procedures are common to all cultures. At the end of the book are some suggested extension activities for parents to do with their children in order to enhance the reading process. Please note, the simplicity of the text will only appeal to young elementary age children who are just beginning to read independently, although it could also be used as a read-a-loud for preschoolers in order to reinforce bedtime procedures.

My only complaint is that the book idealizes family life with two parents and happy, smiling children who willingly follow directions. As I said, this book models appropriate behaviors, it doesn’t represent the reality of normal family dynamics. Three and a half stars.

I was given a free copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Terrible Typhoid Mary: A True Story of the Deadliest Cook in America by Susan Campbell Bartoletti

I picked up this book to read for two reasons – first is the author and second is the subject. Susan Campbell Bartoletti is well known in library circles for her previous award winning literature including nonfiction works such as the 2006 Newbery Honor book – Hitler Youth and the 2009 ALA Best Books for Young Adults novel The Boy Who Dared. At a time when many states are embracing the Federally sponsored common core standards with its emphasis on the reading of nonfiction, it is important for teachers and librarians to seek out high quality subject matter to engage their students’ interests. Bartoletti is an author who easily meets all criteria. Terrible Typhoid Mary: A True Story of the Deadliest Cook in America deals with an immediately recognizable topic. Since this name has become a part of our cultural vernacular representing the unwitting spread of a deadly disease, I was curious about the details surrounding her life. After reading Bartoletti’s fascinating account, I can now fill in the blanks of my knowledge.

Mary Mallone was an Irish immigrant who made a decent living as a cook for privileged families in the New York City area at the turn of the century. While her skills in the kitchen were laudatory, she was a carrier of the deadly typhoid virus, infecting each household where she was employed. Using Sherlock Holmes type detective work, George Soper (a sanitation engineer who was hired to track down the cause of an outbreak of the disease in a well to do household) tracked down the culprit. Soper had a theory that certain individuals could be immune to a virus but still pass on the germs to others through contamination by unwashed hands. As a person who handled food, Mary’s prepared dishes put others at risk, especially those who ate her homemade peach ice cream dessert. Dr. Josephine Baker, a famous suffragette and doctor, assisted in arresting Mary when she refused to cooperate with authorities. The New York City Health Department in those days had the legal right to detain and quarantine individuals who were a threat to society without going through proper legal channels. Mary insisted she was healthy especially since she had never been sick with Typhoid Fever. Effectively imprisoned in a small cottage by Riverside Hospital on North Brother Island, she resented her loss of freedom and the way she was used as a human guinea pig, especially when doctors filled her with drugs in order to “cure” her of this curious infliction. To add insult to injury, when other typhoid carriers were located, they weren’t sent to a quarantine hospital on a remote island. There was a definite discrimination against Mary Malone especially evident when male carriers were allowed their continued freedom while hers was involuntarily curtailed. While the courts disallowed her release on civil liberties issues, Mary was still allowed her freedom for a brief period before being returned to her Island home for the remainder of her days after violating the terms of her release. Only she had the infamous honor of the title Typhoid Mary, a term noted not just in the US but throughout the world. Her story is a captivating look into life in America in the early 1900s when medical science was on the cusp of some incredible milestones. Eventually an inoculation against Typhoid Fever was created and the discovery of antibiotics helped curb the fatality of this disease, yet Mary was still ostracized. Her life was a tragic, albeit enthralling, saga which should mesmerize any reader.

Despite being a biography, Terrible Typhoid Mary uses a narrative style which reads like a fiction book. The documentation and bibliography represent the incredible amount of research gathered from newspaper articles, letters, and other primary sources, which enabled Bartoletti to accurately recreate the situations surrounding Mary Mallone’s life, also represented in a detailed time line. Mary’s only available written words were those of an unpublished letter to the editor of The New York American, but they provided a rich source of material reflecting her state of mind during the initial trauma. A note from the author about her research techniques, numerous relevant Illustrations and photographs, and a detailed index round out the 240 pages (176 of text). The manner of writing was straightforward, easy to read, and included explanations of various events, often comparing them to current life situations in order to enhance a child’s understanding of these historical times. A welcome addition to any school library shelf. Four stars.

A thank you to Netgalley and HMH Books for Young Readers for providing this ARC in exchange for a honest review. This review also appears on Goodreads.

Let’s Learn About the Lord’s Prayer by Catherine DeVries, illustrated by Ryan Jackson

Let’s Learn About the Lord’s Prayer by Catherine DeVries begins with four year old Emma, a cute little girl with an appealing face, greeting the reader and inviting them upstairs to her room for a play date. Immediately the reader will feel like a welcome guest as Emma shows us one of her favorite things, a Teddy bear named Blueberry. Emma’s mom calls us down to the kitchen for a snack, but before we eat, Emma says a prayer. She then tells us about a new prayer she is learning, the prayer that Jesus taught us, the Lord’s Prayer. As Emma repeats the Lord’s Prayer she explains what the words mean with illustrations by Ryan Jackson to reinforce the concepts. Afterwards she explains that this prayer is a way to express our thanks to God. Back up in her room, she begins playing with Blueberry, teaching him the Lord’s Prayer as well.

The appealing illustrations and engaging tone create an enticing atmosphere for children to learn about the Lord’s Prayer. By having Emma introduce the topic, a child can learn about the love of a God and Jesus in a non threatening atmosphere. Most of the text consists of simple sentences and the prayer itself is broken down into small chunks which is perfect for Sunday School teachers or parents to introduce preschool or young elementary students to one of the basics of Christianity. Although simplified, the text might still be too difficult for some of the younger tots, although they will enjoy the coziness of the illustrations. This is the first book in the Introducing HeartSmart series exploring various key scriptures. There is also a website containing a custom song of an adapted version of the Lord’s Prayer. Three and a half stars.

This ARC was provided by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This review also appears on Goodreads and Amazon.

Vengeance Road by Emma Bowman

The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine is an American Legend which vies with the Tale Tales of Paul Bunyan and Pecos Bill, yet contains a flicker of truth mixed in with the myth. Emma Bowman has taken aspects of this story and woven it into her own fictionalized version of events using some of the known historical facts to give her western tale a touch of reality.

Vengeance Row begins with heroine Kate Tompkins down at the creek hauling water where she sees smoke and rushes home to discover her house burning and her father hanging from a tree with the mark of a rose carved into his forehead. After burying her dad next to the grave of her mother, she rides off on her horse Silver, disguised as a boy, to avenge this seemingly senseless death. First, however, she must stop at Abe Colton’s house (according to her father’s instructions) where she finds a letter explaining the reason for his death. Kate would never have guessed that the murderers were after her dad’s diary with directions to a hidden gold mine her parents had found up in The Superstition Mountains, east of Phoenix, Arizona. Although Abe is dead, his sons insist they accompany “Nate” (Kate’s disguised name) on her journey. Along the way they discover the identity of the murderers, the dreaded Red Rose Riders, led by vile Waylon Rose. Kate, Will and Jesse Colton, and Apache Liluye travel together, each pursuing their own goals while on the tail of the vicious gang. The resulting mayhem leads to an unanticipated climax which is guaranteed to surprise the reader.

Meant for young adults, this violent story is full of death via bee stings, hangings, shoot outs, Apache massacres, fires, and illness. Even the main characters aren’t safe from harm. There is a touch of romance once Kate’s true identity is discovered, but the journey through the haunted mountains in pursuit of revenge is the main focus. Taking place in 1877 Arizona, there is a map of the area at the beginning of the book so the reader can follow their trail. The tale is told in first person present tense using the supposed vernacular of the times which gets a little getting used to, but flows along at a brisk, richly detailed pace. At times the dialogue seems a little hokey or cliched with phrases such as: “Ain’t nothing more to it than that.” or “She’s the only thing left between me and the dark quiet of my own thoughts.” However, it is a western with the main character a tough eighteen year old female who is as capable as any man. The young age of the heroes who are able to outwit their elders is always appealing to YA readers. Four stars for the successful weaving of Kate’s story with the Lost Dutchman legend.

A thank you to Netgalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review. This review also appears on Goodreads.

Lord Byron’s Secret Obsession by H. C. Brown

I was curious. How does an historical romance involving two men compare to one about a man and a woman? I picked up Lord Byron’s Secret Obsession by H. C. Brown to explore the differences.

This novel is more matter of fact then I expected. There are no flowers, no romance, but an excess of sexual escapades. Yes there are expressions of love, but lust seems to be the overwhelming emotion. The plot is simple. Wealthy Lord Byron Wilton, heir to a Marquis, is desperately in love with Lord David Litchfield, the second son of a Duke. He enjoys binding and caning the young Adonis, sexually dominating his lover who seems to enjoy the submissive role. When Lord David publicly exhibits jealousy over Byron’s friend Lord John Henley, Byron buys a commission in the colonies to escape any resulting gossip. In 1792, sodomy was a situation punishable by death. Since British society was totally intolerant of such behaviors, men with these predilections had to hide their same sex escapades. Upon Lord Byron’s return to London, he discovers that Lord David has become a sex slave to the evil Joseph Hale and his two despicable friends. The trio are unwilling to let Lord Byron pay off the lads debts, although they do allow him to rent the boy, thereby removing David temporarily from their cruel sexual appetites. Together with Lord John, who had also experienced the depravity of Hale, Byron devises a plan to rid the earth of these scumbags.

Although short in length, this novella contained too much repetition, with the dialogue often replicating the characters’ thoughts. While Lord Byron was supposed to be noble, I found him calculating and self centered, even while attempting to be considerate of others feelings. Lord Byron decides to marry David’s sister Sarah who was raped and inpregnated. In this way, except for the wedding night, he didn’t need to visit Sarah’s room. She admits she is not interested in his sexual advances and he inadvertently discovers she prefers the attentions of her lady’s maid. Sarah believes that Byron has a mistress, and doesn’t suspect that he is in love with her brother who has an adjoining room with her husband. Many of the other characters also maintain a jaded view of their lives. Due to their attitudes, it is hard to feel any sympathy for their plight.

Ultimately, this topic just wasn’t my “cup of tea”. I am more interested in the romance aspect of a novel, not raw sexual experiences which border on porn. Even if the subject matter was enticing, the writing is too stilted for my taste. In addition, while doing some research on other works by this author, I discovered this plot is almost identical to Brown’s book Lord and Master published in 2013. The love interest is even named David. One star for writing the “same book” twice.

I received this ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Game of Persuasion (The Naughty Girls, #3) and How To Ruin A Rake (The Naughty Girls, #4) by Emma Locke

Lucy Lancaster has a dilemma and it’s not one with an easy solution. She is in love, even obsessed, with her older brother Lord Trestin’s best friend Roman Alexander, the Marquis of Montborne. She needs to find a way to get close to the charming rake while keeping her distance since the love of her life is simply not marriage material, but before she goes off into a life of spinsterhood, Lucy wants to experience just one night of passion.

The prequel, The Game of Persuasion (The Naughty Girls, Book #3) by Emma Locke, explores Lucy’s quest to get Roman to notice her. Lucy is able to persuade Celeste Gray, her brother’s former girlfriend (who was discarded when it was revealed she was a courtesan in The Trouble With Being Wicked, The Naughty Girls #1), to assist her in developing the necessary wiles to attract the subject of her fascination. At first Lord Montborne’s attention is focused on finding potential husbands for this young woman (now 24) who had trailed around after him like a puppy dog in her youth. Due to the Marquis’ reputation in the ton, the more time he spends with Lucy, the more other men start to take notice, despite the fact that Lucy isn’t beautiful like her sister. On the night of her Coming Out Ball Roman is especially attentive, but although they spend time in witty, titilating conversation, they do not dance and there is no kiss, yet there is a certain something between the two. Lucy decides to up the ante, stealing an entry card to an unsavory masquerade ball which Roman plans to attend. Her scheme works and Roman whisks her away from the surrounding suitors so they can make passionate love throughout the night. Roman finds this mysterious woman alluring only because she so closely resembles his Lucy-love. In the morning, long after she has lost her virginity, Lucy reveals her true identity. Roman’s first reaction is to propose marriage, since this is a Lady he has compromised. She hotly rejects his suit, especially since he has just “cheated” on her, despite the fact that she was the one to seduce him. When her brother discovers the truth, he demands a wedding, but Lucy convinces Trestin to allow her to go to Bath and start a school for young girls – a plan that Celeste is bankrolling.

In Bath, at the School for Accomplished Young Ladies, is where How To Ruin A Rake (The Naughty Girls, Book #4) begins. Here we get to experience not only Lucy’s thoughts and dreams, but also Roman’s yearnings. He is a lost soul, not quite sure what to do, but inexplicably drawn to Lucy. She is unlike any other woman, and he realizes that he has fallen in love with her, despite her continued rejection. After their seven month separation, the two lovers are once again drawn towards each other. When Roman confronts Lucy in her office, their passion is so strong that they have a hard time keeping their hands to themselves. When Lucy reaches out to touch Roman, pulling him towards her for a kiss, he responds and takes it much further, all without her murmuring a dissent. A locked door would have been a good idea, because the two are caught in the act and Lucy is immediately dismissed, her reputation in ruins. Even though she will not be accepted back into the ton unless she marries the cad who compromised her, she still refuses all Roman’s marriage proposals.

As the book continues, the two protagonists interact. Now in London with her brother, Lucy allows Roman to introduce her to the artistic crowd where a tattered reputation is not an issue. She quickly becomes popular with the men who frequent such locales, although she allows no one to touch her except the captivating Roman. He begins to properly court her, taking her to the more risqué events which were previously taboo. While Lucy is unable to resist matters of the heart and even initiates passionate embraces, Roman does his best to control his urges until she admits her love. However, sometimes nature can’t be halted and even a few days apart is agony for the two.

This book is Roman’s story and it is one of pure romance. We are alternatively caught in the heads of both lovers, sympathizing with their feelings, horrified by past deeds, anticipating romantic interludes, and yearning for a happy ending. The flawed Roman tries so hard to be redeemed, yet his past is so sordid only one who truly loves can forgive. Although Lucy’s love is strong, her jealousy and fears keeps them apart. With so much baggage there seems to be no hope for the two love birds, although eventually the past is revealed and the future is resolved.

While all the introspection strongly borders on too much repetition, the angst felt by both lovers keeps us reading to see how the story will eventually play out. Roman, even with his flaws, is the most enticing of heroes (or should I say antihero) eliciting an urge to reform him into someone worthy. Like Lucy, we simply can’t get the handsome, stylish Marquis out of our heads. Luckily, the anticipated climax is fulfilling, and there are enough obstacles to keep our interest. Even though this book can be read as a stand alone, many of these characters are found in other books in this tightly connected series. The prequel, a prolonged prologue (or novella) is a must read to get the full effect.

Well done Emma Locke, you’ve succeeded in the primary reason to write a Regency Romance – to make the reader’s heart ache. I, too, am in love with the magnetic, sexy Roman. Four Stars.

A thank you to Netgalley for providing an ARC of How to Ruin A Rake in exchange for an honest review.

She’s Not There: A Life in Two Genders by Jennifer Finney Boylan

In recent days with the media blitz involving Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner, our culture has been super saturated with the “T” issue. It’s gotten to the point where we respond – “So you’re transgendered, and what else is new?” Of course, She’s Not There: A Life in Two Genders by Jennifer Finney Boylan was written over ten years ago when transsexuality was still a relatively unknown phenomena. The only sex change operation that was common knowledge was former GI, Christine Jorgensen, who went to Sweden for the surgery in the 1950s, an act which was considered an anomaly. In those days, when the public was exposed to some “guy” dressed up “pretending” to be a woman, it was a situation to be mocked (at least by some).

Jennifer tries to express her “journey” in a humorous manner which is especially difficult since this is such a serious issue, even though it is not a totally unique occurrence. According to the best estimates of science, between 1 and 5 per cent of the population has transgendered tendencies. That means that in a room full of 20 to 100 people, there will be at least one person who considers themselves the wrong gender. In a world of about eight billion, that’s about 800 million individuals who identify with the opposite sex. Research in the Netherlands indicates an estimated one out of 1200 natal born males undergoes sex reassignment surgery. If considered a medical condition, there are about 40,000 in the US who have already had surgery and many more who still struggle with the issue, making it more common than cleft palate and MS. With the current acceptance of LGBT issues, affirmed by the recent Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage, it is important to remember that it is illegal to discriminate against a male/female or female/male. However, this does not keep bullies at bay illustrated by the increased violence experienced by the transgendered population – from assault and battery to murder to police brutality to self incrimination leading to a high suicide rate. With more celebrities openly acting upon their inclinations to switch genders, hopefully the future will find more tolerance on a subject which is currently not widely accepted.

In a way, this is a sad story of a little boy looking out at the ocean “praying” that he can find a love which will cure his inner urges. Eventually he finds that love, throws away his female clothing (and with it his female yearnings) and pursues his new life. For a while it even works, but his inner woman’s voice is still there and eventually her roar cannot be ignored. Perhaps James/Jennifer’s worst moments are sharing the news with his/her mother, wife Grace, and best friend Rick. The actually surgery was a relief – a natural ending to a journey preordained at birth. The fact that Jennifer Boylan had so much support from her peers is amazing, although there were those who were openly disgusted by her actions (such as Boylan’s sister who considers her dead). A bigger picture is revealed in the Afterward by Richard Russo who struggled with his best friend’s change from James to Jennifer even as he provided the necessary support. The reader gets the feeling from Russo’s words that some of the more unpleasant consequences of Jennifer’s actions are glossed over by the author, but perhaps the omission of these negative confrontations is a matter of self preservation.

Although a well told, compelling narrative, at times Boylan jumps back and forth between past and present which tends to be jarring for the reader. Despite some confusion at times, there are several important reoccurring highlights from the past, such as when James is involved in a car accident in his Junior Year of High School and the police officer shines a light in his eyes and asks “Are You Okay?” – a question repeated numerous times throughout the book. There are also several important messages mixed into the narrative. One key element is the idea that being transgendered is an identity crisis and has nothing to do with sexual preference. In other words, being a transsexual does not make one gay. So when Boylan and Grace decided to remain married, it was not a decision based on sex, but a way to keep the family unit together. Jennifer’s two young children seemed to easily accept this new relationship with their father, referring to her as Maddy as a way to identify a parent who was half mommy and half daddy. They intuitively knew that Maddy was the same person as before. Grace, who felt gypped over losing a husband, did not want to also lose her best friend. While the relationship between the couple changed, the love remained.

At this point in Jennifer’s life, post op, her political activism involving the transgender phenomenon has lead to additional books, various articles, and numerous speaking engagements. Other autobiographical accounts include Stuck in the Middle With You: A Memoir of Parenting in Three Genders (2013). Boylan is currently teaching at Barnard College at Columbia University and appears as a friend and consultant for Caitlyn Jenner on the reality television series I Am Cait. She has also published young adult literature under a pseudonym.

While I feel a better title for this memoir might have been “He’s Not There”, this book is a good choice for anyone curious about transsexuality and a must read for those who are affected by this issue. In a way it’s a coming of age story, even if the self actualization doesn’t begin until Boylan reaches the age of 43. Four stars.

This review also appears on Goodreads.

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