There’s Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins

A teen psychopath; a football-mad midwestern farm town and Halloween coming up on the calendar suggests one thing: a classic slasher novel.

Adding to the reader’s entertainment, this novel by Stephanie Perkins is that, and so much more.

Makani Young has been exiled from paradise, that is to say, Hawaii, where she was involved in a high school hazing episode in which her role was cruelly distorted by social media. Added to that is a changing home situation: her parents are getting a divorce. Preoccupied with their own life issues, Makani’s parents decide that, for the best, Makani should relocate to her Grandmother Young’s home in Osborne, Nebraska, a quiet midwestern farm town.  Osborne couldn’t be farther away from Makani’s life in Hawaii, in which she is a star diver on the swim team.  Owing to the notoriety of events in Hawaii, Makani begins her life in Nebraska with a new last name , new activities and new friends. Into this promising environment, evil intrudes. The victims are all classmates of Makani and some are her friends.

An early suspect is Ollie, a classmate whom Makani is drawn to. She hopes he will become her boyfriend.  Her new friendships are strained as her friends try to warn her against Ollie. Both Makani and Ollie feel insecure and isolated. In their excitement over discovering each other, both Makani and Ollie engage in self-serving lies and behavior. Makani’s Grandmother Young and Ollie’s cop brother, Chris, are not having any of this, and remind the two highschoolers that trust and honesty are all-important in relationships.

As the body count adds up, the chase is on to stop the murderer. The climax of the book takes place in a corn maze where Makani and Ollie confront the killer and rough justice is served.

Notes from a Young Black Chef

At 26 years old, some might think opening a high-end restaurant might be overly ambitious – some might even call it a rooky move, destined to fail. Some might also say 26 is young to be writing a memoir, but at his age, Kwame Onwuachi has seen some highs and lows of life that many could never even imagine. From a rocky start in the Bronx, to Michelin star restaurants and Top Chef competition, Kwame defies the odds of the restaurant world – and quite honestly, the odds for a young Black man in America as well. In his memoir, Kwame chronicles the way cooking and his family’s food remain touchstones throughout his life, helping him come home to himself again and again, despite the experiences of parental abuse, racism, and gang violence. Kwame continues to rally around his food, his heritage, and his own true spirit, never losing sight of his dreams and never giving up.

Sarah Bernhardt The Divine and Dazzling Life of the World’s First Superstar by Catherine Reef

Throughout the years, and in fact through the centuries, the stars of stage and screen have captured the public’s imagination. One such star was France’s own Sarah Bernhardt, who transcended the boundaries of the French language to become an international star.  Sarah also transcended what was not a very promising beginning in life. Her mother was active at the higher levels of the sex trade. Her clients  included members of the aristocracy and upper classes. Although Sarah’s birth father was never publicly identified, he contributed financially to her support until his death, after which his mother, Sarah’s grandmother, contributed to give her financial support. Sarah’s future destiny as an actor was determined by a conference called by her mother, which included her mother’s most trusted clientele. Sarah’s mother was most in favor of finding a husband for Sarah, and she had three interested candidates lined up for her 15 year old daughter. Sarah was horrified by this prospect. It was suggested that she pursue acting. One of her mother’s friends wrote a recommendation for acting school for Sarah and her destiny was set.

Sarah was educated in the traditional acting style, which featured broad gestures and physical movement, and a somewhat stilted rendition of lines. French writer Edmond Rostand called Sarah, “the queen of attitude and the princess of gestures.”  The story lines of most of the plays in which she acted were heroic:  she portrayed queens and noble ladies, most of whom died on stage , for love or country.  Sarah made eleven films, starting in 1900, and this classical form of acting can be seen in these films. As an actor, Sarah declared: “What I am trying to show you is human nature as it has shown itself to me.”  The time came when Sarah realized that an artist can only learn so much from teachers: “To master any kind of creative work, a person must make a solitary journey.”  Sarah tried to absorb every element of the character, as she saw it, so that her characterizations would strike the audience as a real person. Sarah portrayed many male characters in plays, including Hamlet, and France’s Napoleon II, because she felt that once she had completely internalized the character, she could represent a male character as well as a female.

Sarah was an actor, but she was also a patriotic French woman. She toured the United States more than half a dozen times. The first time, she toured the United States, it was with a political objective. She, like many other Europeans, wanted the Americans to join the Europeans in fighting World War I.  Sarah contributed to urging Americans to join the war effort and her attempts helped to persuade the Americans to engage in that conflict.  For the rest of her life, Sarah sought to avoid the sidelines.  She remained a dynamic character in her own life, although her style of acting and the plays she had acted in were being superseded by more psychological dramas by authors such as Chekhov and Ibsen, and more subtle acting techniques. But despite that even today, many years after her passing,  Sarah Bernhardt is remembered as a great actress and an icon of her times.


Undocumented. Unprotected. Unafraid.

At least that last part is what Manuela – Manu, for short – keeps telling herself, but the truth is, she’s terrified. Her entire life, Manu has been a secret – a secret from the US government and a secret from her father’s powerful Argentinian family. Coming to Miami at a young age meant escaping a family that would kill one of their own for betraying them. The US means a chance for a new life with her mom, but Manu has a glowing gaze, with eyes like stars and the sun itself. Her mother has always said they’re from her father, but regardless of where they come from, Manu’s eyes mean she can’t live a normal life until they can be fixed. Who knows when that will happen?

Just as Manu begins to lose patience with her mom over the long immigration process, she realizes there are powers in the world much greater than ICE – and more deadly.

Thrust back into her father’s world, Manu finally must fight for herself – she must embrace the howl of the lobizona.

The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz

Joan Skraggs is a heroine who siezes her destiny with both hands. At the beginning of the story, set in 1911,  Joan’s mother has been dead for three years. Joan believes that her mother, a delicate woman, died of overwork on the farm. Joan has a sense that if she, too, remains on the farm, a life of thankless drudgery awaits her. Her embittered father treats Joan and her brothers like laborers, not family members. Joan remembers that her mother, who always tended the chickens, was also allowed to keep the egg money, the profit from selling the chickens’s eggs. Now that Joan is tending the chickens, she asks her father if she, too, may have the egg money. This request produces an eruption of anger from her father, who denies the request. Even worse, Joan’s father commits a cruel act against his daughter which causes her to lose faith in life in her father’s household. Joan’s legacy from her late mother is a sense of faith in herself and her destiny. Joan’s teachers at school confided in her mother that Joan was a quick learner and an excellent student. Her mother cherished a dream that Joan would become a schoolteacher, a respected profession. Her mother had foreseen that day when her daughter would need help, and she might not be there to offer it, so she hid the money she had put aside for Joan in the skirt of a handmade doll, Joan’s beloved Belinda.

Joan abandons the farm in secret and sets out for the big city, in this case Baltimore, Maryland. After an exciting train ride during which she is treated like a young lady, Joan lands on the streets of Baltimore, only to realize she does not know where she can go for shelter and safety. Worn out from her adventures, she falls asleep on a bench in a public park, only to be awakened there after dark by a concerned young man. At first Joan is reluctant to accompany him, but he assures her that his mother can help her. Joan senses that he is a sincere friend and follows him to his home, where his mother, who is used to her son bringing cats and dogs home, welcomes the lost young woman.

Joan decides to create a new identity to match this new life. She takes the name Janet Lovelace, and tells her rescuers, the Rosenbach family that she is eighteen years old, when in fact she is only fourteen. Mrs. Rosenbach hires the intrepid girl as a servant in the household.  As a Catholic in a Jewish household, Joan/Janet dwells on the differences in their cultures and religion and comes to respect Judaism, and particularly the patriarch of the family, Mr. Rosenbach, who has such great faith in America. It is Mr. Rosenbach who encourages “Janet” to continue her education by allowing her free rein in his library and the time to read.

Events in the Rosenbach household are complicated by their son, David, who wants to live in Paris and beccome an artist. His family wishes that he were willing to take over his father’s department store. David takes Joan/Janet to the opera and gives her the gift of a red umbrella. Janet falls in love with him, and learning that he is leaving town, visits his bedroom at night to say good bye. They are discovered by the family’s housekeeper, who assumes the worst of the young people, though David defends himself and Janet from these accusations, which his parents eventually believe.

In the meantime, Janet’s father back on the farm has discovered her whereabouts and written to her.  It is not a kind letter and Janet remains convinced that her future is ahead of her, not behind her. Mr. Rosenbach, who has founded a school, sponsors Janet as a student. Her mother’s legacy is fulfilled, and Janet looks forward to completing her education and anticipating life’s further adventures.

Bingo Love

When “happily ever after” is more like unhappily ever after, how  long does “ever after” really need to last? Is it ever too late to find your way back to that one true love?

Bingo Love, the first in a series, is the epic love story of Hazel Johnson and Mari McCray told in flashback from the year 2038. They first meet and fall in love as school girls in 1960’s Paterson NJ, but when their Christian families find out that these BFFs are more than just friends, they are forbidden from ever seeing each other again. Forced to live by the social norms of their African American community during that time, they go their separate ways, get married, raise children… and grow old. But they never forget each other nor do they ever stop loving one another. One day at the local bingo parlor these two (now grey-haired) grandmas are reunited. Their lives and their families will never be the same again.

This page-turner is a deeply moving story about rich and complex characters. Although a large section of the story is about teenagers, we also get to see how these two girls evolve over time into adults. We even get to see them grow through different stages of being seniors and all of the dramatic turns that phase of life presents. Real-to-life yet beautifully imaginative in its depiction of the future, this is a must-read for anyone interested in the timelessness of true love.

Quincredible Vol. 1

Awkward teen and tech nerd by day, indestructible wannabe superhero by night? Not what Quinton West had in mind!

But that’s what Quin got back when a meteor shower dubbed “The Event” left New Orleans irreversibly changed – yet again after hurricane Katrina – and left certain people more changed than others. Superheroes began popping up everywhere after The Event, some with awesome powers like flight and blinding light, but Quin’s power is more subtle: He can’t be hurt, at least on the outside, but that’s it. No super strength, no flying, none of the “cool stuff.”

While at first perceived as a let-down, Quin realizes he can use his new power and his tech-geek skills to make a difference in the community. But other forces are at play, and perspective is a powerful thing too.

The Avant-Guards Volume 1

Charlie has just transferred to an arts school. She doesn’t know anyone and she’s not even sure she made the right choice switching schools.  During an activity fair she starts getting hounded by a girl at one of the booths who is trying to start a basketball team at the school for the first time.  At first Charlie’s not interested, but Liv, the girl from the fair is persistent.  Once Liv finds Charlie used to play on the team at her school, she’s determined to get Charlie to join the Avant-Guards. The fact that Liv has a little crush on Charlie might add to her persistence too.  The Avant-Guards is a graphic novel series that’s funny, realistic and even has a touch of romance if you’re a fan of The Lumberjanes or Giant Days definitely pick up volume 1 right away.

Super Fake Love Song by David Yoon

What would you do to impress your crush? What lengths would you go to? Sunny Dae never thought he would be the type of guy to change anything, but when he met Cirrus Soh for the first time it ends with Sunny telling her that he is the frontman for a metal band instead of the D&D/LARPing nerd that he is in real life. His lie only keeps snowballing from there and results in his two best friends learning how to play rock music for the upcoming school talent show. Sunny starts to like his new persona and the newfound attention he starts to get from Cirrus and the rest of the school, but as you can imagine, it is only a matter of time before his ever increasing lies catch up to him.

Super Fake Love Song is another fun, contemporary novel from David Yoon. If you enjoyed Frankly in Love or are just in the mood for a funny, rom-com book, Super Fake Love Song is definitely a recommend.


Facing Frederick: The Life of Frederick Douglass, A Monumental American Man by Tonya Bolden

If ever the times cried out for a hero, it was the era of the Civil War. The American nation, not even 100 years old as an independent country, was threatened by dissolution owing to the seemingly insurmountable disagreements between free states of the North and the slave holding states of the South. Fortunately, there was a hero who rose to the need. His name was Frederick Douglass. Called by the author of this book, Tonya Bolden, “the defacto president of black America”, Frederick was a man of moral and physical courage, fully equal to the task, and one to which he gave a lifetime commitment.

Being born into slavery, Frederick began his life fully exposed to its indignities. As a slave child, it wasn’t thought necessary to record his birthday. He chose February 14, 1818, as his birthday, based on his mother, of whom he had only brief and sporadic contact,calling him her “little valentine”. As a young man of independent spirit, it was thought necessary to send Frederick to a slave-breaker, in order to tame him, and reduce his strong will so that he would be more tractable for service. This relationship was reduced to a beating of the slave-breaker, Edward Covey, by Frederick, and the slave-breaker never touched him again. Frederick knew he needed to break the bonds of slavery, and with the assistance of his future wife, friends and allies, he disguised himself as a sailor, with borrowed documents attesting to an identity as a freedman, and headed for the North from his native Maryland.

He landed on free soil in New Bedford, Massachusetts, the famous seaport and whaling town. There, he became involved with the abolitionist movement and one of its prominent leaders, William Lloyd Garrison. It did not take long for Garrison and Frederick Douglass to have a falling out. It was suggested to Frederick that he act less educated, and should use a “plantation voice” (presumably a rustic accent) when speaking. Rejecting this demeaning type of control by white abolitionists, Frederick struck out on his own, and not only continued to speak in his own voice and from his own mind, but he founded his great paper, the North Star, a beacon in the fight against what he called the “twin monsters of darkness”: slavery and racism. ( It should be added that Frederick and William Lloyd Garrison later reconciled, uniting once again against their common enemy).

Frederick’s life and career was parallel with the development of photography. One of the special attributes of this biography is that it showcases his life visually, enabling the reader to witness Frederick at every stage of that life and career. Historically, Frederick’s biography also provides excellent background on the anti-slavery movement, the Civil War and Reconstruction. After Emancipation, Frederick’s work was far from over: then he directed his energies to the national vote for freed Americans.

Facing Frederick: The Life of Frederick Douglass, A Monumental American Man, is a wonderful way to meet this great American hero. You will enjoy the introduction.

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