Book Review – GOOD PEOPLE: Stories From the Best of Humanity

This book, which comes out 9/3/24, is nothing less than an amazing account of the best sides of humanity. Whether a random chance meeting that changed peoples’ lives, or accounts of friends and family members, all of these stories will open your heart to the better side of ourselves. In an age of extreme negativity, this book is a perfect companion.

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Book Review – The Age of Magical Overthinking

The Age of Magical Overthinking, by Amanda Montell, is a wonderful book even if you don’t normally read psychology books. She writes about cognitive distortions and fallacies that help explain how the world around us, and our own reactions, works. Montell has a great sense of humor throughout this book, and I found it to be a very enjoyable read. (Coming out April 9, 2024)

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Book Review – The Other Side of Perfect

The Other Side of Perfect, by Melanie Florence and Richard Scrimger, is a suspenseful middle grade book about a rich girl in the popular crowd, Autumn, who finds a boy from her class, Cody, under a bush after he ran away from his abusive father. Despite his wish that parents don’t get involved, she and (eventually) her parents make sure he is taken care of. Meanwhile, Autumn is having second thoughts about the”in crowd”, while Cody learns how to make art. The book is full of suspense, especially at the end. I would recommend this for any middle grade reader.

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Book Reviews: Law and Disorder

Correction: Parole, Prison, and the Possibility of Change by Ben Austen

Correction is a sorely needed look at the current criminal justice system and how the idea of reform has gone by the wayside, in favor of mere retribution. Millions of Americans are currently in prison or under parole requirements. But who gets to make parole in the first place? This book details the lives of men trying to get parole, and the many obstacles in their way from the parole board. How much punishment is enough? This book goes into great detail about why parole isn’t what it seems to be. (Out Now)

Grace Under Pressure: My 27-Year Journey of Injustice, Resilience, and Purpose by Jimmie C. Gardner

I read this book in two sittings, which is very unusual for me. Jimmie was falsely convicted for sexual assaults and given a life sentence. His trust in the justice system was misplaced; he ended up being in prison for 27 years for a crime he didn’t commit, due to racism and false evidence. The whole time, he maintained that he was innocent, but found it hard to find a lawyer that actually listened to him. This book is thrilling and sad all at once. (Out May 7, 2004)

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Middle Grade Kids Stand Up for Themselves

These two upcoming novels for Middle Grade readers are amazing examples of how kids can fight for justice!

The first book I would like to talk about is called Free Period by Ali Terese. Two goofy prankster friends broke the final straw with the principal, who assigns them to a group whose goal is to make the school better – run by their enemy! Right away, they latch onto the fact that there are no period products supplied in the school bathrooms, and undergo a campaign, with various results (and more pranks). Can they team up with the rest of the group members to change the school board’s mind? Read and find out! (Out 3/5/24)

Another good book, especially for those who like a sci-fi flavor. Paige is autistic and finds out by snooping in her dad’s e-mail that she has a brain implant that is supposed to help with her symptoms. She is horrified at the lack of privacy, and goes out to find the other kids with an implant. The company involved wants to put out implants for everybody, and the kids are determined to stop them at all cost. Can they beat the adults at their own game? (Out 4/16/24)

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In the Night Garden by Carin Berger

I simply love In the Night Garden by Carin Berger. I am someone who has wandered outside in the starlight, or listened to the night sounds through an open window, and the story and images bring those moments back to me so perfectly! The collage-illustrations are gorgeous, and the words are charming, perfect and delightful! I can’t wait to read this book to my grandchild. It is a picture book both for the child and the adult reading it.

Publishes July 4th, 2023!

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Book Review: Where You See Yourself by Claire Forrest

Where You See Yourself is an upcoming YA book that is so amazing that I read the whole thing in a day (very rare for me). It has a lot in common with other teen books: girl crushes on boy, wonders if she should just go for it, and deals with difficult administration at school. There’s the prom, college admissions madness, and stepping into adulthood. The catch is, she is disabled and that creates a whole new element of difficulty to all of these experiences. Her challenges are well-described, without sounding preachy. If you want an uplifting story of love and following your dreams despite obstacles, this book is it. (Out May 2, 2023)

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Book Review: The Myth of Normal by Gabor Mate

This book is, quite simply, encompassing and amazing. I can’t think of any topic remotely related to health that did not make it into this book. I have loved all of Mate’s books so far, and this one I am finishing in record time, even though it’s a long one at 500 pages. I can’t wait to see where his thinking will go next. He goes through the most current research on stress and trauma to show that there are many sources of illness besides the most obvious looking ones. He also recounts near-miraculous remission of certain illnesses once these stressors are addressed. It really makes one think about how not only upbringing, but our culture itself, contributes to stress and eventually illness in the body. Best book this year so far! (Out now)

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Book Review: Pomegranate by Helen Elaine Lee

Pomegranate is the story of a woman’s journey once she is released from prison, which is affected by her Blackness and her Queerness. Ranita, a former addict, tries to work recovery principles in her life while moving on from her prison sentence. But in one way, she cannot move on – she has a lover who is still behind bars whom she writes to. Will she ever contact her lover again?

This book is a very moving read, and I learned a lot in the process. The author takes many difficult topics and creates a message of real hope in the end. I was inspired by Pomegranate to think more about what stories that people who struggle might be hiding. A worthy read for anyone wanting to see someone overcome obstacles that seem insurmountable. (Out April 11, 2023)

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Botticelli’s Secret

Less artistic analysis, more the colorful history of a provenance, “Botticelli’s Secret” offers short, vivid biographies of Dante and Botticelli before embarking on a tour of the turbulent fate of the latter’s Divine Comedy sketches, a tour which also functions as an examination of the fluctuating artistic tastes of recent centuries. Most interesting for its demonstration of the link between Botticelli’s modern vogue and his appeal to both sides of the Victorian “Medieval vs. Renaissance” debate. — Elijah Blumov

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