Monday, August 26, 2013

Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys

I loved this book.  I'm just going to say that right out front.  The writing is fantastic.  The characters are well developed and interesting.  The characters, the setting, the whole book just continues to stay with me two days after I finished it.

Sepetys writes another great historical fiction.  This time she moves from 1940's Europe (Between Shades of Gray)  to 1950's New Orleans.  She sets up the story nicely with a wonderfully described setting.  I honestly felt like I was walking the streets of New Orleans with the characters. Josie Moraine is the daughter of a prostitute and an unknown father.  Her mother moves them from Detroit it 1940 to return to her work in a brothel.  Josie's mother is not a nice woman.  There is no implication that all women who work as prostitutes are terrible people.  In fact, most of the women described that work in this brothel, are caring, unique individuals who just happen to be prostitutes by trade.  Josie's mother is not a sympathetic person in the least and you do get frustrated with Josie for still caring for her mother like she does, but she is her mother after all and she's somewhat of a minor character in the story of Josie.

Josie hasn't lived with her mother for about 6 years.  Instead, she lives upstairs of the bookstore where she works in exchange for rent.  She also works cleaning up the brothel where her mother works, saving all her money to get the heck out of this town.  She wants nothing more than to escape New Orleans and head to college out East.  A difficulty with little money and her unseemly background.

The story that unfolds is about Josie, the people in her life and the town of New Orleans.  It can't really be defined as a mystery, thriller, romance, or historical fiction.  It is all of those things.  It's about a girl discovering who she is, where she came from and what it all means.  The characters fill up the pages.  It is much like sitting down and watching a movie.  I enjoyed this book so much.  I highly recommend it.

You can find Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys in our new YA section.  For more information on this book, check out:


Monday, August 19, 2013

Thousand Words by Jennifer Brown

This is my second book read by Jennifer Brown and it was a very though provoking read, just like The Hate List.  In this story, Ashleigh is a junior who makes the very poor decision of texting a nude photo of herself to her soon to be ex-boyfriend.

Ashleigh has hardly seen her adored boyfriend Kaleb that summer.  He is about to head off to college and she is afraid she's losing him.  Under the influence of alcohol and peer pressure, she takes a nude photo of herself and sends it via text to Kaleb.  It gets her the attention she desires from him...until school starts.  Once he heads off to college, he becomes more distant and she becomes more paranoid of him cheating and/or sending the photo to someone else.  Eventually, they break up and her friends, seeking "justice", perform some juvenile pranks on Kaleb's house and truck.  Kaleb, seeking revenge, spreads the photo around.  It quickly makes its way around the whole school.  Parents and the law become involved.  Due to her distribution of child pornography she is sentenced to community service.  Kaleb, as an adult, is brought up on charges and could potentially be labeled a sexual predator for the rest of his life.  If all this wasn't enough, Ashleigh's father is the superintendent and may be forced to resign.

This story, as Brown's last book, is also told in alternating times.  One as she steps into her community service everyday, where she works on making informational pamphlets about the danger of "sexting."  The other timeline is back when she makes the unfortunate decision and deals with the fallout afterwards.  Through these two timelines, you see this girl maturing and coming to terms with her humiliation, anger and shame of what has happened.  

"Sexting" has become a real issue among teens and adults with how quickly images and information can find its way to many people.  It has led to problems with young people facing charges of distribution of child pornography, which would significantly impact the rest of their lives.  It has also led to serious problems of bullying and suicide.  Ashleigh feels the full weight of a hastily made decision.  She is harassed at school, through her phone and on websites where her photo is posted.  Her photo is never going away.  Ashleigh seems to be a strong enough person to handle this, but there have been cases of the bullying being so severe that young people have taken their own lives.  

This is an excellent novel to give to young adults that needs some discussion.  Two people made terrible decisions at the beginning and then more bad decisions were made as the photo was spread and people talked about it and harassed her for it. Not only should "sexting" be talked about, but bullying, spreading lies, gossip, friendship, trust and forgiveness.  All of these subjects are brought up in this book.  Worth the read. 

You will be able to find this book in our New YA section, soon.  For more information, check out


Monday, August 12, 2013

The Hate List by Jennifer Brown

The Hate List by Jennifer Brown is a powerful novel about school violence, love, forgiveness, understanding, loss and healing.

Valerie Leftman is returning to her high school on the first day of her senior high school.  It should be a time of celebration, leaving high school behind and preparing for hopefully bright futures.  Valerie returns with a pain in her leg, stares, whispers and public outbursts of rage as to why she is allowed in the school at all.  This is all because her boyfriend took a gun to school the previous May, shot several students, killing some, wounding others, including Valerie, who tried to stop it before turning the gun on himself.  This is also because Valerie helped create "The Hate List" of students, staff and people who Valerie and Nick wanted gone.  As a joke, Valerie thought... a reality in Nick's mind.

The story flips back and forth in time.  One timeline is focused on the now as she struggles to make it day by day through school and a family that doesn't trust or understand her.  Another goes back to the time she spent with her boyfriend that she adored leading up to the day where he brings the gun to school.  Valerie is quite understandably a troubled and confused teenager.  She doesn't understand who she is or who her boyfriend is that it led to that day.  She never meant any of the list to bring any real harm to anybody, but it's hard for anybody to believe this.  She also faces a very hard home life where her parents fight, her mother doesn't trust her to not hurt herself or anybody else and her father seems to hate her and unable to forgive her for her part in the violence.

This book is very intense and hard to read at times.  You feel such empathy for her and so many of the characters in this book.  The reasons for this violence aren't and can't be explained.  It's really attempting to heal and learning how to forgive and move on with life after such a horrific action.  While I would argue the book ties things up a little nicely at the end, the author doesn't provide solutions.  Hate, anger, cruelty, bullying and gossip are never leaving our schools, but this books offers up the ideas of empathy and understanding to teens.  A book a lot young people could relate to on different levels.

The Hate List is located in the YA section under the author Brown.  It was on the Iowa High School Book Award List for 2012-2013, where students in 9-12 nominate and vote for the favorite books. For more information on this title, check out: 


Thursday, August 1, 2013


Liz - your book reviews are awesome!

Speaking of awesome....

I just wanted to take a moment to recognize our Couch to 5K group.  We started meeting 4 weeks ago to get to know one another and start a walking group.  We officially started our training 2 weeks ago.  This training consists of alternating walking and running.  We will finish this training in time to run the 5K at Fall Fest on September 28th.

It isn't too late to take part.  There are people who are just meeting to continue walking, others are doing what running they can and the rest are motivating everyone!  We meet Monday, Wednesday and Friday nights at 7 pm at City Park (by the bike trail).