Book Review:The War For Kindness

The War For Kindness is out in the world today, and it is a war. The subtitle: Building Empathy in a Fractured World is what got me. We all know we should be kinder, we know that as a society, we are often impatient at best and cruel at our worst- primarily online.

Zaki has provided a primer of how all of us can grow in kindness, and he doesn’t just say what he thinks. The Appendix contains a proof of validity to every claim that he makes in the book. The footnotes are extensive, and inside each chapter, you’ll find the narrative highly exciting and easily readable.

This isn’t a boring thesis on the subject it shows example after example of how we as humans rarely hate what we know. It isn’t just a book that says don’t hate- study after study shows that building empathy is a key to kindness
I especially enjoyed reading about the Changing Lives program where convicted felons are introduced to classic literature like The Old Man and the Sea in a discussion setting with the judge who sentenced them and the DA. The discussions include an English professor, and upon successful completion, their sentences were shortened. No one shared personal stories, but through the study of the circumstances and actions of the characters, the convicted men soon began to draw parallels to their own lives and times. They gained empathy into fictional characters, and even that helped them as they struggled through their challenges. At the end of the first year, 45% had not re-offended. There are dozens of other examples in the book ranging from ancient times to the present. It is just excellent.

I think this book would be great for a book club, or assigned high school, college reading. It is my current go-to recommendation for a nonfiction Summer read.

Ronan Boyle and the Bridge of Riddles (Ronan Boyle #1)

This book is my brand, my spirit animal, my current fave among 2019 releases. It pushes all the buttons on what I look for in a read aloud. Plus, it is a perfect read aloud for this St. Patrick’s Day week! Ronan Boyle, a smallish kid, lives in Ireland. His parents are in prison for a crime that they didn’t commit, and he is basically on his own. At fourteen he is the youngest recruit in the secret Garda, an Irish police force that handles the misdeeds of numerous magical creatures. Let that sink in. Magical creatures are so real that humans have a secret army to control them. Squee! In the telling of this original tale, we get introduced to Leprechauns, Trolls, Unicorns, The Land of Tir Na Nog and all the rules governing these creatures (and more). Some of it seems glaringly obvious, like the fact that of course, leprechauns would have long fancy names.
Other tidbits made sense but didn’t occur to me. (Trolls can eat bad children if they have caused- seems legit)Ronan himself is a delight and takes all of this news in and manages to thrive at work. You’ve never seen me happier to see a (#1 designation in a title) I can’t wait to see what Ronan, his parents, and coworkers are up to next. 

Ronan Boyle and the Bridge of Riddles by Thomas Lennon

March 5, 2019

Sal and Gabi Break the Universe (A Sal and Gabi Novel, Book 1)

I was super psyched to get an early read of yet another book from the new Rick Riordan Presents Imprint Series. This story is a little different than most of the mythology-based storylines that I’ve come to expect from this publisher. It’s Snark, Science, and Spanglish- that’s how I sold it to my own 13 yo kid. I loved it so much that I talked him into reading my Kindle copy. I mean I was reading funny parts aloud at the table, in the car waiting for his brother, really everywhere cause once I started reading it, I didn’t want it to end while still powering through getting closer to the end. It’s that way with all great books though. My favorite quote: “Sometimes, when it’s too hard when it hurts too much, only silliness can save us.”So, true. In this novel, Sal and Gabi deal with some substantial, real-life issues and handle it like the most polite well-mannered thirteen years I’ve ever read about. Sal lost his Mom and has diabetes and Gabi’s little brother is very ill. Not to mention the fact that Sal accidentally broke the universe. This is one of those rare books that straddle the MG category. I think eight through thirteen-year-old kids will all get something out of this storyline. Even older since I’m buying it for a possible re-read and because we’re going to want to own the series. We also need to eat more Cuban food- just saying. Also, homeschoolers: you need to explain that this is a fictional school cause it sounds fantastic. Please note that I received a free advance E ARC of this book from NetGalley without a review requirement or any influence regarding review content should I choose to post a review. Apart from that, I have no connection at all to either the author or the publisher of this book. Sal and Gabi Break the Universe by Carlos HernandezMarch 5, 2019


Is this fiction? Or a peek at the future of California? The most riveting YA book I’ve read all year. Scary in the way that plausible situations are. Frightening in the way that magic and monsters are not because humans are the most terrifying and most unpredictable creatures on Earth.

The “Tap Out” begins quietly, one day there isn’t water. We get to see how this plays out through the different characters’ point of view. It’s the kind of slow horror building that Stephen King excels at creating. On day one the family hops into the car assuming they’ll buy bottled water at Costco- I was already thinking- “Well, that’s not gonna work out.” The thing about a crisis is that by the time you wrap your mind around the next step everyone else is there with you.

There are, of course, good people in this story, but as in real life, it is hard to tell anyone’s true intentions. Just when I thought the plot was somewhat predictable, it wasn’t.

“The worst part about doing something inexcusable is that you can never take it back. It’s like breaking a glass. It can’t unbreak. The best you can do it sweep it up, and hope you don’t step on the slivers you left behind.” 
Neal Shusterman, Dry

After you read this book and become sufficiently freaked out, head over to Ready.Gov and check your supplies against their list. That’s what I did, after I swigged a giant glass of water. (Also, this is not a beach read)

Dry by Neal Shusterman and Jarred Shusterman

The Book of Boy

The story begins in France around 1350; the plague has swept through the area and Boy is on his own. He lives and works for a knight of the local manor. He does an excellent job of tending the goats in spite of his hunchback. He seems to understand the goats’ behavior better than most people and is generally content with his life.

Boy then meets a pilgrim named Secondus who is on a quest to locate seven relics that are hidden somewhere in France and Rome. After a little while, we realize that he is ill and then find out that he hopes to gain entry to Paradise based on the quest and not on his behavior throughout his life. He hopes to be reunited with his wife and son and so is pretty manic about completing his self-proclaimed quest.

The boy hopes that St Peter will cure his hump and that he will be a “real boy,” and although Secondus is pretty sketchy, Buying your way into Heaven after a life spent sinning is a tricky business. Boy stays the course and sticks with him.

I’m not confident that the theology of this book is accurate, but it does give readers a glimpse into feudal life of the Middle Ages. Maybe one of my kind readers could let me know about the theology as I am wondering if these were the prevailing beliefs at the time?

After I finished this book all I could think of was how I was going to squeeze it into our school reading. Technically we are well past the Middle Ages so I’ll probably just shelf it for now, but it is perfect for any Logic Stage (roughly 5th through 8th grade) or high school students that are studying that period. It’s just the right length at under 300 pages, and the hardcover even has deckle-edged pages which in combination with the high quality paper makes it seem like you are reading an epic ancient quest. (I’m a sucker for the deckle edge)

Please note that I received a free copy of this book from the publisher without a review requirement or any influence regarding review content should I choose to post a review. Apart from that, I have no connection at all to either the author or the publisher of this book.

The Book of Boy by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

Marilla of Green Gables

Going back to Green Gables was lovely. That is the only word that comes to mind. The descriptions of a place I’ve never been to shouldn’t seem as familiar as they do- but here we are.

Marilla Cuthbert, as a grown-up was on the surface, stern with no time for nonsense. Underneath all that, Marilla was a great Mom to Anne, and I loved getting to know her as a teen girl. Marilla goes from child to young adult almost overnight when her Mother dies in childbirth. Both Marilla and Matthew are written true to character and never once did I feel any bumpiness or disjointedness that could have easily been present with two authors. After all, we have no idea what the entire backstory would have been if Lucy Maud Montgomery had written this prequel.

I’ll admit to wondering what on Earth had happened between Marilla and John Blythe in the original Anne book and this story more than answered that question. Watching Matthew and Anne stumble their way through their respectful relationships made me wince and want to hug both of them and then sit down and talk it out over tea. They did the best they could (in this imagined version), and as we know, it did all turn out okay.

I must mention the abolitionist/Underground Railway subplot. I read some other reviews that didn’t like it. I felt it was plausible. Marilla being a person of high moral standards would, of course, want to help if she could. The entire concept for this novel is one of fan fiction, and to be a complete story unto itself I felt like it needed this subplot, else it would be just a fling back to Avonlea and not being a novel unto itself. KWIM?

Marilla of Green Gables by Sarah McCoy

All the Walls of Belfast

This book won’t be published until March 2019, but I wanted to give you all a chance to use some of your holiday pre-order funds for some worth waiting for delayed gratification.

The easiest, laziest way to describe this story would be to say it’s an Irish West Side Story.

This story is much more history than teen drama and would be an excellent introduction for teens who may not know the history of Northern Ireland.

 Fiona and Danny were born at the same hospital, but Fiona’s Mom takes her to Michigan when she is two years old to save her living in what was then war-torn Belfast. When Fiona returns to stay with her Dad, she is sixteen years old. She slowly uncovers why her Mom took her so far away and had to come to terms with her family’s past.

Danny, on the other hand, has grown up in Belfast with a less than desirable home life. His struggles to forgive and live his life differently resonated with me. He knows why he and Fiona’s family are on different sides and I thought that the characters reactions to things were spot on considering the reality of their lives.

All the Walls of Belfast by Sarah Carlson