“Vagabond wind” Amanda Hughes

Rated 3 stars *****  Ebook. 2015. Amazon Digital Services.

VagabondWindZya spent almost her whole life with Romani gypsies, traveling with them all over the new state of West Virginia before the Civil War. Married at a young age, life seemed grand until her husband and father were killed. Falling in with a group of Confederate Rangers, she helped guide them through the wilderness as they worked to thwart the Yankees at every turn through sneak attacks.

She found herself blossoming as she worked with Davis Wyndham, their leader, to wreck trains, rob provisions for Confederate troops, and pass on secret information from the Yankees. As the years passed she and Davis became romantically involved while the group worked to hold the head of the Confederacy above the waters. However, with the war drawing to a close and the threat of capture looming ever closer, Zya and Davis will have to face their greatest threat yet – that of never seeing each other ever again.

Told from the Confederate point of view, “Vagabond Wind” seems to draw from the real life activities of John Singleton Mosby, who spent the War running sneak attacks against the Union. I find it interesting Hughes chose to call these guerrillas Wyndham’s Rangers, the name of a real Union Colonel. I’m thinking it was for irony’s sake that she did so.

I felt Hughes took too much time describing specific events/scenery, dragged out the storyline on many occasions, and had a tremendous overuse of commas. I also didn’t like Zya’s flakiness, fancying herself in love one moment, torturing herself with self-doubts the next, deciding one lifestyle that she was living was wonderful, then deciding that was no good too. She was a human seesaw that made my head spin.

I did enjoy getting sneak peeks into bits of Civil War history (like why West Virginia was formed.) I think it would have been nice if Hughes had added end notes giving a bit of history about the research she did on the era as well as background information on important characters like Wyndham as well as the Swamp Fox, who inspired Mosby.

Thus, due to the pros and cons mentioned above, I’ll recommend the book for Adults but will do so with reservations.


“Deliver her” Patricia Perry Donovan

Rated 2 stars ** Ebook. 2016. Lake Union Publishing.

DeliverHerMeg is worried because Alex, her 16-year-old daughter, has been acting strangely since her best friend died in a car accident. Alex lost interest in the things she used to do, has a new set of friends, is extremely moody, sullen and uncommunicative, and seems to be taking a ride on the wild side.

After an unsupervised party that wrecks their home, Meg finds drugs in the house. Believing Alex desperately needs help she decides to hire a stranger (who specializes in transporting troubled teens) to take Alex (against her will) hundreds of miles away to a school that will help her get a fresh start. This decision forever changes the dynamics of the Carmody family because, after a car accident, Alex disappears en route to the school.

Through multiple viewpoints, taking place over the course of several days both in the past and present, Donovan takes readers on a rollercoaster ride of emotions and events guaranteed to leave readers heads spinning. There were too many back and forth discussions and storylines, as well as many unanswered questions at the end. I will have to include a spoiler alert below so you can see what I mean.

I wasn’t a fan of this book so, in light of all of my questions, I will have to leave it up to you to Decide if You want to Read it or Not.

***********SPOILER ALERT ***************

Why didn’t Jacob get his act together? Why is Meg still allowing their strange living arrangement? Why does Carl seem to ogle Iris, a married woman, a little too much on their brief NY visit? When Iris goes on and on about how much she likes NY is she hinting that she and her husband will soon be on the outs?

There were WAY too many unanswered questions for my taste. I hope the author isn’t planning book #2, because I definitely won’t be reading it.


“Agua, aquita”: “Water, little water” Jorge Tetl Argueta

Rated 5 stars ***** 2017. Piñata Books.

AguaAguitaA little droplet of water narrates its birthplace travels from deep within Mother Earth, describing how it becomes “a river, a lake, an ocean. Drop by drop.” Young readers can use scientific guesses and observations to figure out why water is “one color in the morning and another in the afternoon. And then at night another color.” The interesting riddle of how water can be many colors, yet be colorless; have all flavors, yet have no flavor, and be all shapes yet have no shape will leave them intrigued.

Through full-page colorful illustrations and simple text, the enormous impact water has on the world is unveiled to its readers. The full poem about this water droplet, written in the author’s native language of Nahuat, (spoken by the Pipil-Nahua Indians, a San Salvadorian tribe) closes out this informative book.

Highly recommended for ages 5-9.

“Mayanito’s new friends”: “Los nuevos amigos de Mayanito” Tato Laviera

Rated 3 stars *** 2017. Arte Público Press.

MayanitosNewFriendsPrince Mayanito, who lives on a mountain high above the clouds, was looking down on the western hemisphere. Children from other countries, formed out of raindrops, became his friends until they turned into flowers when the sun came out. Determined to search for them, Mayanito began an adventure with all sorts of rainforest creatures, leading to a joyful reunion with his friends. Through rich watercolors in full-page illustrations, Mayanito’s journey comes to life.

Though this bilingual picture book can be used to help teach about the rainforest and other countries, I feel it would have been beneficial to include information about the Mayan culture – especially since Mayanito is Mayan. It also seemed as if the story was incomplete, as it started and ended abruptly.

Despite my misgivings about its incompleteness, I will still recommend it because of its ability to lead to teachable moments.

Recommended for ages 5-9.



Memories of AASL in Reno

It’s been such a long time since I last wrote on this blog. I have lots to say, but not much time to say it. Work has been incredibly busy, and the librarian world has its own challenges. Plus I’ve been ramping up my running, getting up and out the door by 3:45 on alternate mornings to get in a run and get to work on time. The hour drive there makes for some very fine tuning on those running mornings.

I’m heading off to the AASL (American Association of School Librarians) conference in Phoenix next week where I hope to learn new ideas I can use in my own library, and to bring back lots of freebies for my students.

The last time I attended an AASL conference that I remember very clearly was 2007 in Reno. The conference is held every 2 years, and I vaguely remember going to Charlotte in 2009 because of a giant NASCAR sign outside my hotel. When one of my fellow REFORMA (The National Association to Promote Library & Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish Speaking) members reminded me that James Patterson spoke at the Keynote, that made me remember speaking to him about how much his books mean to my husband – which brought back the fact that I HAD gone to AASL’s conference in 2009.

In 2011 and 2013, I didn’t dare take time off from work to attend. In 2015 it was held at the same time as the YALSA (Young Adult Library Services Association) conference. I had already signed up to go to that 2015 YALSA Albuquerque conference, which brings us back to 2017.

Back in 2007 I was an ALA Spectrum Scholar and had won a scholarship to attend the conference in Reno. There I met some very interesting people, who I still see at ALA conferences – “shout out” to Sara Kelly Johns and Mary Ghikas! I still remember the fun we had when a group of us took a 2 hour trip into the Black Rock Desert to visit schools in the teeny town of Gerlach as well as on a Native American reservation. Above is a pic of my crazy adventure, but I can’t provide more details of that day since what happens in Reno stays in Reno…

I have some reviews I haven’t had time to post, so will get moving on those shortly. Luckily I typed them up on a Word doc. otherwise, with my memory being very sieve-like lately, not much would have been remembered to be posted.

I’m looking forward to attending AASL, but am also looking forward to attending the upcoming ALA (American Library Association) Midwinter conference in Denver. I’m on a new committee, which starts work at that conference, so am triply excited because I’ll be helping out on committee work again. It’s been many years since I’ve had the time to do so.

Is anyone here attending AASL or ALA? I’d love to know who’s “out there” reading my blog.

See you at the next update…


“Step up to the plate” Maria Singh

Rated 5 stars ***** 2017. Tu Books. (Lee & Low). 276 p.

StepUpToThePlateIt was 1945 and, with World War II going on, all nine-year-old Maria wanted to do was play baseball. Her aunt built planes and women were starting to play professional ball so, when her teacher started an all-girls team at her school, Maria was thrilled. Unfortunately her Mexican mother and Indian father had old-fashioned ideas about what girls could do, so she knew it would be hard to convince them to let her play.

As she learns about teamwork and baseball, Maria also starts to learn about prejudice and racism when her little brother is beat up for being different and a German classmate lashes out at her. When she finds out her father can’t become a U.S. citizen or own the land he’d worked for years, through the confidence earned from playing the game she loved, Maria learns to speak up and make a difference in her world.

This book is an important introduction to the inequalities and discrimination faced by specific immigrant groups, many of which still go on today. Readers are also given insight into the world of adha-adha “half and half,” (Mexican-Hindu families) which also serves to educate. It should be in every elementary and middle school library, and would make for excellent discussions as part of a book club.

Highly recommended for ages 10-14.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

“Holding smoke” Elle Cosimano

Rated 5 stars ***** 2016. Hyperion. 322 p. (Includes Author’s Note.)

HoldingSmokeWhile going to school, John “Smoke” Conlan worked hard to pay bills his meth addicted father left unpaid. When his father attacked him with a wrench in a drug influenced rage, he floated above his dead, battered body before returning to life after 6 minutes. While recuperating in the hospital he realized his spirit could leave his body at will. Soon after, John is accused of brutally killing his favorite teacher as well as a student who witnessed the crime. He knows a hooded man killed her, and that he killed in self-defense, but is unable to tell the court that he had been floating outside of his body when the murder occurred.

Convicted and sentenced to a juvenile prison filled with dangerous young offenders, Smoke leaves his body behind to ghostly wander the city and fulfill requests from fellow inmates. With each trip the threads that hold him to his body get thinner, but he doesn’t care as he’s ready to leave his scarred life behind. On one trip he meets Pink a tough young waitress who, unlike others, can actually see him. He soon realizes someone wants them both dead and, with time running out, will have to find the strength to hang on to make sure they both survive.

Smoke and Pink remind me of Patrick Swayze and Whoopi Goldberg in the 1990 movie “Ghost.” Cosimano’s very believable characters, which stem from life as the daughter of a Warden and research, combine to open eyes to what goes on in many juvenile detention facilities across the country.

Highly recommended for ages 14 and older.