The Enduring American Dream | Book Review of “The Best We Could Do” by Thi Bui

There is a moment during my family’s Thanksgiving dinner where we go around the table and identify something we are grateful for in our lives. However hokey, however contrived this little tradition might seem, I appreciate that it helps us remember the root of this most American holiday: gratitude for sanctuary. Hundreds of years ago, people sailed across the ocean and risked their lives to come here. It’s not a cliche. They tossed their dead children who didn’t survive the journey overboard in makeshift coffins. They drank dirty water for weeks. They exposed themselves to the elements, to disease, with no guarantee but the land they walked on when they dropped anchor. And they walked on the some of the same ground I walk on, here in Pennsylvania. Some of the trees I see in my town’s arboretum of a college campus might be those that earlier Americans saw, too. I walk through the streets of Philadelphia, my city, and I can almost imagine the pages of my AP US prep book flipping back and back further still to the beginning. The black-and-white footage falls away as past and present blur into one. I see the Liberty Bell, walk past...

Book Review of Kenneth Oppel’s “The Nest”

Last weekend I did the Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon, a twice-yearly, one-day reading marathon. It was my first time participating, and I really didn’t know what to expect. But I needed some momentum with my reading, and I also wanted to show solidarity with fellow book bloggers, librarians, writers, and readers. I learned that the key was to have a huge pile of books pre-selected for the occasion so that once you finished a book, it required virtually no decision-making to find another one to read. It was simply a matter of looking at the pile and selecting a book you felt like reading at the time. In the end, I read four books. Four books in 24-hours. They included “Lumberjanes, Vol. 2”, “Wytches”,” “Audacity, and the novel I’m going to talk to you about today, “The Nest”. When I finished “The Nest” sometime before noon, I felt shaken, shattered with how much it teased out some of my secret fears and anxieties. As a person with a disability/chronic illness, its themes were immediate to issues I have with my identity as a “sick kid.” It was a nearly upsetting read, but ultimately, it made me feel hopeful and helped me...

“Beastly Bones: A Jackaby Novel” by William Ritter | Book Review

(First thank you to the publisher, Algonquin, for providing me with an advanced review copy. This did not in any way affect my review.) In Short: Beastly Bones, Ritter’s follow-up to 2014’s Jackaby is a lively, action-packed, and entertaining mystery-paranormal novel that will find many fans of all ages  who love Sherlock, Doctor Who, Supernatural, and Harry Potter. Plot Summary: The year is 1892, and the place is the New England city of New Fiddleham. Abigail Rook, a young British woman, has been living with her employer, the eccentric R. F. Jackaby, a detective of the paranormal. Abigail acts as Jackaby’s assistant, helping with paperwork and, increasingly, the investigative and deductive process. When the novel opens, Rook and Jackaby are called to the scene of a lady who has purchased shapeshifting cats. Later, the duo learn from assistant police commissioner Marlowe that this woman has been found dead with an unusual puncture mark on her neck similar to one found on a woman who has just died in the nearby village of Gad’s Valley in the countryside. Jackaby and Rook go there to join up with a former member of the police force, Charlie Cane (a werewolf love interest of Abigail’s), who has recently been exiled to...

Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy: Not Worth the Hype | Book Review

(Thank you to HarperTeen for giving me a galley of this novel in exchange for an honest review. This did not in any way affect my review.) In Short: Dumplin’ (September 15), Julie Murphy’s follow-up to her debut novel, Side Effects May Vary (2014), offers a painful-yet-vividly visceral look at teenage obesity through the eyes of sixteen-year-old Willowdean “Will” Dickson, who lives in the shadow of her mom, a minor celebrity in the contemporary beauty-pageant arena of Clover City, Texas. Although Will tells her story in reflective narration, often providing glimpses of poignant bravery and astute observations on challenges overweight women face, she cannot overcome quite a few flaws in Murphy’s character development, reliance on stereotypes, and a turgid plot structure. A flat tone and predictable plot that relies on YA tropes are not helped by an unsympathetic, unremarkable, and ultimately unlikable heroine in what should have been a novel that celebrates individuality and originality. Plot Summary: Dumplin’ is narrated by Will, nicknamed “Dumplin’” by her mother, over the course of a few months that present challenges and changes in her life. Will works at a fast food restaurant, her after school and summer job, and is grieving for her...

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Welcome to Broke By Books, a blog by Sarah S. Davis, where the guiding mission is to spread a contagious love for reading through helpful, thought provoking, and enjoyable writing about books. Please join me in growing an inspired, engaged, and fearless reading life.

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