“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.


“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.

“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.

“How it ends” Catherine Lo

Rated 4 stars **** Ebook. ARC. 2016. HMH Books for Young Readers.


Now 15, Jessie has been bullied since 7th grade by her former best friends. They have helped convince her that she’s a loser and will forever remain friendless. Her mother constantly gets on her case about her anxiety attacks, while she keeps all her feelings bottled up inside herself. When Annie befriends her Jessie can’t understand why a popular girl, who has her act all together, would want to be friends.

Annie was popular in her former school, and is not looking forward to being in a much smaller school. Her mother died when she was young, and her father married an evil stepmother. With her home life in turmoil she is thrilled to hang out with Jessie and her wonderful mom. She is sure Jessie is confident and the kind of girl she wants to be. Together the girls conquer the world, until they allow the influence of others to ruin their friendship.

In alternating voices, Jessie and Annie tell their stories. On their tumultuous ride from besties to enemies and back again, both ultimately learn the value of honesty and true friendship.

Recommended for ages 14 and older.


“Refugee” Alan Gratz

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. Published July 25, 2017. Scholastic. 337 p. (Includes Maps and Author’s note.)

RefugeeJosef was almost thirteen-years-old in 1938 when Kristallnacht sent the strong message that Jews were not welcome in Germany. Soon afterwards, he, his father, mother and little sister, along with hundreds of other Jews, boarded the MS St. Louis bound for Cuba where they hoped to escape bigotry and start a new life.

In 1994 Isabel lived with her mother, father and grandfather in Cuba but, with the fall of the Soviet Union, food, gasoline and medicine had become scarce and people began to starve. After riots began, Castro allowed them to leave without fear of arrest. Knowing their only chance of survival was to flee to Miami, Isabel and her family joined their neighbors on a rickety homemade boat. Their 90-mile trip would be dangerous, but they were willing to risk everything to be free.

Twelve-year-old Mahmoud lived with his father, mother, little brother and baby sister in Aleppo Syria in 2015. Four years ago people revolted against their dictator president, which led to war and constant bombings. Their apartment building was blown apart and they had nowhere to go, so Mahmoud and his family joined thousands of other Syrians on a long march to Germany, hoping to start a new life without fear of war.

Real-life occurrences from World War II, the early 90’s, and current events are combined in alternating voices to tell the story of three children who all hope to grow older. This well-researched book will get conversation flowing about immigrants, xenophobia, acceptance and intolerance. It is excellent for book clubs, especially in middle schools.

Highly recommended for ages 11-15.


“Trail of broken wings” Sejal Badani

Rated 5 stars ***** Ebook. Lake Union Pub. 2015.

TrailOfBrokenWingsShortly after they moved to America from India, Brent began beating his pregnant wife Ranee and young daughter Marin. He insisted on perfection in everything, beating Marin for any perceived infraction of his rules. When his wife gave birth to Sonya, who was not the son he wanted, she also learned the feel of his abuse. Shortly thereafter baby Trisha was born, who became his favorite. She witnessed the abuse but didn’t experience it.

Marin escaped the household through an arranged marriage, spending her life as an overachiever, demanding the same of her daughter. Sonya left after her college graduation, her career spanning the globe as she shied away from any type of commitment. Six years later Sonya reluctantly returned to her childhood home after Brent falls into an unexpected coma. There she and Marin are finally forced to face what they’d hidden from themselves and others. As Trisha begins to experience strange dreams, previously hidden family secrets begin to be revealed. Soon, the foundation upon which all of them had built their lives is forever shattered.

Though suffering broken bodies, hearts and dreams, each member of this family found a way to repair their broken wings and fly again. Their individual voices, traumatic experiences and sense of hope reach out to readers who may be experiencing similar circumstances, making this an important read.

Highly recommended for Adults.