nonfiction

NonFiction Friday: The Poison Squad by Deborah Blum

My favorite nonfiction writer is back with another book on poisons! The Poison Squad was slow to grab my attention but once it did I could not put it down.


SYNOPSIS

From Pulitzer Prize winner and New York Times-bestselling author Deborah Blum, the dramatic true story of how food was made safe in the United States and the heroes, led by the inimitable Dr. Harvey Washington Wiley, who fought for change

By the end of nineteenth century, food was dangerous. Lethal, even. “Milk” might contain formaldehyde, most often used to embalm corpses. Decaying meat was preserved with both salicylic acid, a pharmaceutical chemical, and borax, a compound first identified as a cleaning product. This was not by accident; food manufacturers had rushed to embrace the rise of industrial chemistry, and were knowingly selling harmful products. Unchecked by government regulation, basic safety, or even labelling requirements, they put profit before the health of their customers. By some estimates, in New York City alone, thousands of children were killed by “embalmed milk” every year. Citizens–activists, journalists, scientists, and women’s groups–began agitating for change. But even as protective measures were enacted in Europe, American corporations blocked even modest regulations. Then, in 1883, Dr. Harvey Washington Wiley, a chemistry professor from Purdue University, was named chief chemist of the agriculture department, and the agency began methodically investigating food and drink fraud, even conducting shocking human tests on groups of young men who came to be known as, “The Poison Squad.”

Over the next thirty years, a titanic struggle took place, with the courageous and fascinating Dr. Wiley campaigning indefatigably for food safety and consumer protection. Together with a gallant cast, including the muckraking reporter Upton Sinclair, whose fiction revealed the horrific truth about the Chicago stockyards; Fannie Farmer, then the most famous cookbook author in the country; and Henry J. Heinz, one of the few food producers who actively advocated for pure food, Dr. Wiley changed history. When the landmark 1906 Food and Drug Act was finally passed, it was known across the land, as “Dr. Wiley’s Law.”

Blum brings to life this timeless and hugely satisfying “David and Goliath” tale with righteous verve and style, driving home the moral imperative of confronting corporate greed and government corruption with a bracing clarity, which speaks resoundingly to the enormous social and political challenges we face today. from Goodreads.

thepoisonsquad
A yellow cover that looks like an old newspaper features the title “The Poison Squad, One Chemist’s Single-Minded Crusad for Food Safety and the Turn of the Twentieth Century.”

REVIEW

Deborah Blum’s book The Poisoner’s Handbook is my favorite nonfiction book. It is the book I credit with bringing nonfiction into my regular reading life. In Handbook, the depth of her research does not drown out the story-telling and the book reads like a procedural crime drama. Would The Poison Squad rise to my high expectations?

The Poison Squad is largely based on the life’s work of Dr. Harvey Washington Wiley and his tireless efforts for truth in labelling, food safety, and consumer protection. Dr. Wiley was named the chief chemist of the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 1883 at a time when preservatives and additives in food were used widely without any notification to the consumer. Bacteria growth in food was common due to a lack of refrigeration in the food chain and outbreaks of ptomaine and cholera were common. Preservatives were also sickening people as businesses tried to save their products with formaldehyde. Other businesses were simply trying to make their product more cheaply by using saccharine, sulfurous acid, copper and other additives. There were no labels for food and no control over claims made by companies.

Meanwhile, in 1904 more than 20,000 children under age two died from drinking milk that was either filthy with bacteria or poisoned with formaldehyde. Narcotics were indiscriminately used in products and medicines. Upton Sinclair attempted to showcase the horrors of Chicago’s slaughterhouses in The Jungle. And all of this death, sickness, and addiction were directly attributed to a lack of regulation and a complete lack of truth in labelling.

I was struck time and again by the political machinations, and the rampant misuse of information and the arguments made to protect the businesses. In response to the regulation of “medicines” which were, in fact, 20-42.6% alcohol the Proprietary Association even made the claim that, “If the Federal Government should regulate the Interstate traffic in drugs on the basis of their therapeutic value, why not regulate traffic in theology by excluding from transportation all theological books which Dr. Wiley and his assistants, upon examination, should find to be ‘misleading in any particular.'” So….demanding truth in labelling is exactly the same as regulating religion?

“Now let the food adulterer quail, for we have the women on our side.”

I was surprised how prominent the role of women was to winning the fight for pure food at a time before most women had the right to vote. At the time, only four states allowed women to vote. Certainly, those women used their vote for pure food. Like the club women in Idaho who met with every one of the state’s political candidates to say that they would vote in a bloc against any who failed to support pure-food legislation. While suffragettes, including Wiley’s own wife, marched for the national right to vote, housewives and women’s magazines became key to turning the tide. Companies may have wanted to save money at the expense of the health of their consumers but they needed people to buy their product. And women weren’t buying.

Even when President Theodore Roosevelt signed the Pure Food legislation into law in 1906, the fight wasn’t over. Corporations, lobbyists, and long court battles all wore down the application of the law. Loopholes existed, others were made, and one by one the battles for pure food continued to be lost. Only through Dr. Wiley’s tireless efforts was any ground gained.

Admittedly, this book is not as easy to read as The Poisoners Handbook. The magic of that book is the manner in which Blum delivers the poisons and the forensic detection. The nature of Wiley’ work, two-steps forward, one-step back, makes for a more frustrating journey. But Blum found a true hero in Dr. Wiley. Named a chevalier by France and adored by every woman that worked in his building, Dr. Wiley is an feminist working for the common good who refused to give up.

How many times have we complained that our food is “unhealthy” and that, if we only ate like our grandparents / great-grandparents, all of the common ailments and illnesses of modern times would melt away? I hear this line trotted out time and again. Blum’s book makes it clear that from 1883 until 1937 “unhealthy” is vastly preferable to deadly. All it will take for us to return to this time, when buying products in a store didn’t guarantee their safety, would be to remove the rules and regulations that place the burden to keep consumers safe on the manufacturers.


Tell me, please!

Who is your favorite nonfiction writer?


 

WWW Wednesday

WWW Wednesday: August 5, 2020

WWW Wednesday was last hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and has found a new home with Sam @ Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below about how your reading is going this week and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. Don’t forget to check all the other participants. It is the #1 way I keep my TBR overflowing!


The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?


WHAT AM I CURRENTLY READING?

I’m going for total honesty here and exposing the ridiculousness that is my Goodreads “currently reading” list. I hope that by exposing my truth here maybe I will actually finish up some of these books!

The Silent PatientWayside School, The Pen Commandments, and 100 Objects are all books I’m in the middle of already, why won’t I finish them??

I just started City of Beasts for book club, The Dutch House as an audiobook and I picked The Whispering Skull up from the library this week.


WHAT DID I RECENTLY FINISH READING?

I did manage to finish the delightful, fun, and totally consuming Engagement and Espionage this weekend. My full review is here but, let me just say, I loved this newest romance from Penny Reid.

I also finished The Poison Squad by Deborah Blum and, even though it started a bit slowly, I found myself riveted by this nonfiction book. The full review will be up Friday for my NonFiction Friday.


WHAT WILL I READ NEXT?

No! I cannot add anything new until I get my currently reading list under control!


Tell me, please!

What’s on your WWW?


 

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday: Books With Colors in the Title

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together. This week is….

BOOKS WITH COLORS IN THE TITLE


These ten books are all from my Goodreads Want to Read list. This is the magic of Top Ten Tuesday, it makes me contemplate books together that I wouldn’t normally shelve side by side.

From the more serious subjects matters with The Black Klansman and White Fragility all the way to the Middle Grade awesomeness of The Princess in Black colors are woven throughout my TBR titles. And, this prompt really helped to remind me of a number of books I wanted to read that had gotten lost in my pile – thanks TTT!


Tell me, please!

Do you have a book recommendation with a color in the title?


 

Over 18 · Romantic · SeriousSeriesLove

Engagement and Espionage by Penny Reid

Cletus and Jenn are my favorite pairing of all of the Winston Brothers Series and this new book had me falling in love with this adorable couple all over again. Clear your calendar because I had things to do yesterday but once I started I couldn’t put it down!


SYNOPSIS

Jennifer Sylvester made her deal with the devil . . . and now they’re engaged!

But all is not well in Green Valley. A chicken choker is on the loose, 61 dead birds most “fowl” need plucking, and no time remains for Jennifer and her devilish fiancé. Desperate to find a spare moment together, Jenn and Cletus’s attempts to reconnect are thwarted by one seemingly coincidental disaster after another. It’s not long before Cletus and Jenn see a pattern emerge and the truth becomes clear.
Sabotage! Will an undercover mission unmask the culprit? Or are these love-birds totally plucked? from Goodreads.

espionageandengagement
The book cover has a yellow and purple string art showing a chicken with purple mountains behind it and featuring the title “Engagement and Espionage”

REVIEW

I have read all of Penny Reid’s books and I consider myself a massive fan. Not every single one of her books is one that I will read and re-read but Cletus and Jenn’s…well, Beard Science has some well worn pages at my house. I just love Cletus’ whole schtick – his smart, rich, debonaire, romantic self hidden under his unruly hair and his coveralls. I love watching him discover Jenn and grow to love her with abandon. Jenn is equally amazing. Her personal development from a baking prodigy / model for her Mother’s business to an independent woman who is capable and deserving of a great love is a story I probably re-read every six months. So, when Penny Reid said Cletus and Jenn would be back together for a mystery, honestly, I was worried. Could Cletus and Jenn continue to win me over after their pitch perfect falling in love?

YES

The answer is emphatically, “YES.” 

If you have ever shut a book and wondered how the new flame of romance would continue to burn, look no further. This book is now my standard for how authors should continue their romance stories. Cletus and Jenn’s relationship was covered in subsequent Winston Brothers books (which eventually give you the far off future for all of the couples) but this story takes place just a few months after their falling in love. Right away, I was right back to that moment of fresh, new love all over again.

What Reid does so well in this book is continue the narrative in a way that makes you fall in love with the characters independently and their relationship all over again. Cletus discovers new things about Jenn and vice versa that deepen how they feel about each other. And, like in all long term romances, Reid knows that the family of each partner will affect the relationship and she uses this aspect for the mystery and the sexual frustration perfectly.

If I had one complaint it would be that the mystery was easy to solve and caused Jenn and Cletus little mental straining to formulate a hypothesis and conclusion. And, they succumbed to an immoral subterfuge that I’m not sure felt completely right for the characters.

But, if I’m being honest, none of that mattered to me since I didn’t pick up this book to be frustrated by a Agatha Christie level intrigue. I wanted more of Jenn, more of Cletus, and more of the Winstons. I just adore the way the Winton Brothers (and Ashley) all band together for the good of each sibling and how they open their arms to each sibling’s new partner. I can imagine being loved deeply but to have a family as wonderful as the Winstons all but adopt you? Sign me up.

Clear your schedule before you sit down with this book because I just could not put it down. Thankfully, I’ll have time between now and March when the next book comes out to re-read it a few times.


Tell me, please!

Which fictional family (romance or otherwise) do you want to marry into?


 

 

Tags

Tag: Books I’ll (Probably) Never Read

I saw this tag on Sara’s site The Bibliophagist and since I spent the morning organizing my bookshelves trying to figure out if I should give away some or just buy bigger bookshelves this tag felt so perfect. So, here I go!

A REALLY HYPED BOOK YOU’RE NOT INTERESTED IN READING

educated
A red pencil on the cover of the book with the title “Educated” on the cover.

Everyone keeps talking about this book and I just have no interest at all. This is probably the book I will be forced to read eventually and adore but I have no interest in voluntarily picking it up.


A SERIES YOU WON’T START / WON’T BE FINISHING

The series A Place Called Perfect by Helena Duggan was fine but this was a rare middle grade read for me that is really only intended for middle grade readers. It didn’t have layers or meaning outside of the cute story. I know several kids that loved this series but it wasn’t for me so I don’t plan to continue it.


A CLASSIC YOU’RE NOT INTERESTED IN READING

thejungle
The silhouette of a man and a cow wrestling in a slaughterhouse is drawn in blue and black.

I am nearly finished reading The Poison Squad and it covers Upton Sinclair’s writing and defending The Jungle. I just know my heart (and my stomach) won’t be able to take it.


A GENRE YOU’VE NEVER READ

Westerns! I just find myself completely uninterested.


A BOOK ON YOUR SHELF YOU’LL (PROBABLY) NEVER READ

thetatooist
The back of a man and a woman in sepia colors in long coats with the light fading on a city skyline.

I bought this book years ago and I should just admit that I’m not going to read it. It is not that I am uninterested in the subject but rather because it has been decried as being both inaccurate and poorly written. Some people really love it but I just need to admit already that I’m never going to read it.


There is is! I’m not going to tag anyone either but anyone who wants to should go ahead and do it. Just make sure and tag me back so I can see all your answers!


Tell me, please!

What’s a book you’re (probably) never going to read?


 

nonfiction

Nonfiction Friday: Code Girls by Liza Mundy

We called on them and relied on their intelligence and perseverance for the most vital code breaking work during World War II and then told them it was their patriotic duty to return home. This book had me mesmerized for every minute and only served to spurn my curiosity about the women codebreakers of WWII.


SYNOSPSIS

Recruited by the U.S. Army and Navy from small towns and elite colleges, more than ten thousand women served as codebreakers during World War II. While their brothers and boyfriends took up arms, these women moved to Washington and learned the meticulous work of code-breaking. Their efforts shortened the war, saved countless lives, and gave them access to careers previously denied to them. A strict vow of secrecy nearly erased their efforts from history; now, through dazzling research and interviews with surviving code girls, bestselling author Liza Mundy brings to life this riveting and vital story of American courage, service, and scientific accomplishment. from Goodreads.

codegirlas
Five women in a black and white photograph in military uniform smile under the title: Code Girls, The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers of World War II

REVIEW

I’m a sucker for stories about WWII, especially those on the Western Front. And I love codes, possibly because I cannot break even the simplest cypher. So, I knew about Bletchley Park and the enigma machine but, honestly, I was completely unaware of the work of any cryptologist that didn’t work with Alan Turing. Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers of World War II introduced me to the formation, work, daily life, and intelligence of the more than 11,000 women who answered the call to serve in this unique role during WWII. This book brought to life the female code breaking geniuses of America and the important work they did on both fronts of this terrible war.

Perhaps the reason I haven’t thought much of the American female codebreakers is because they were sworn to secrecy, and their work remained so, until very recently. In fact, it was just a few years ago that documents were declassified at the National Archive and author, Liza Mundy, brought all of these women’s stories back to life in Code Girls. Mundy interviewed twenty still-living code girls and poured over journals and documents to reconstruct the vital, but secret, service these women provided.

That element, bringing focus to individual women, in order to tell a story that has unfathomable depth and breadth is what makes Code Girls a gripping and fascinating book. The author attaches a story to a woman and reminds you through this small anecdote of who they were before she continues their journey. This allowed the story to progress on both a personal level while still detailing the enormity of what these women undertook and accomplished. I became so attached to Dot, Crow, Agnes and innumerable more by the end of the book but I understood that there were thousands more just like them whose names I will never know.

Before WWII, professions for women were limited to what was considered “suitable to their gender” and what was available after the men filled positions. After Pearl Harbor, as men were called up to serve their country, women took their place. This movement, men leaving a space and women filling it, continued until women outranked even new male recruits in the military. But that was after arguing about whether they had a place in the military at all. And after the men finished debating what kind of underwear women should wear and which gun wouldn’t ruin the lines of their uniforms…you know, really important stuff.

Do you like crossword puzzles? Are you engaged to be married?

Beginning at the Seven Sisters schools, those prestigious East Coast institutions, women were approached privately and asked these two questions. If women answered them correctly they were invited to attend a secret class to become “cryptanalysts.” If the class was completed successfully, they would have jobs with the Navy after graduation. Eventually this personal selection expanded dramatically but any woman with a knowledge of language and math became a target for the code breaking teams.

Prior to reading this book my visualization of a code breaker was nearly as accurate as my erroneously picturing all archeologists as Indiana Jones. I saw one lone woman with glamorous red lips sitting in a dark room with a morse code key receiving, breaking, and resending a message which is immediately relayed to a dashing submarine commander. When I first started reading Code Girls I was shocked by the sheer number of women, 11,000. Why did they need so many women?

Well, because, like archeology, code breaking is methodical and frequently mind numbingly repetitive. Furthermore, the work was broken down into pieces with some women just re-writing the numbers, others looking for patterns, some reassembling, some who spoke the language and on and on. This work caused more than one cryptologist to suffer mental collapse, especially when confronted with the Japanese codes.

All of this work came to a grinding halt at the end of the WWII when the men returned. The same propaganda that encouraged women to do their part during the war now told them that their patriotic duty was to make way for the men, return to their homes, and raise children. Even the GI bill was frequently denied to these women with the message, “We are saving all of our available spots for men.” Many of these women struggled to transition back to the home.

The only complaint I have about this book is that it only increased by curiosity about women’s role in WWII. I found myself repeatedly stopping the audiobook, taking notes on things to further research, and marveling that I had lived so long and not know about the Code Girls. I simply cannot recommend this book highly enough!


Tell me, please!

Did you know about these brave women? Do you have any other books on the subject to recommend?


 

WWW Wednesday

WWW Wednesday: July 28, 2020

WWW Wednesday was last hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and has found a new home with Sam @ Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below about how your reading is going this week and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. Don’t forget to check all the other participants. It is the #1 way I keep my TBR overflowing!


The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?


WHAT AM I CURRENTLY READING?

Wow! ALL nonfiction! I am more than half way through The Poison Squad and nearly finished with The Pen Commandments and still loving them both. And, I am 75% finished with the audiobook version of Code Girls which is equally excellent.


WHAT DID I RECENTLY FINISH READING?

I finished reading The One and Only Bob by Katherine Applegate and Aurora Burning this week. Both were excellent books and I even got my reviews posted! I think it was the review I did for Notes on a Nervous Planet that set me back upright again and I took stock of what was working (and all the things that weren’t) and made some big changes this week. I even managed to write up a compilation of all my favorite Disability Awareness Books for July since this month is Disability Pride Month.


WHAT WILL I READ NEXT?

The Silent Patient is a book I read half of for book club and never finished. The library wanted my copy back but I managed to get a physical copy so I wanted to finish it. I also have my eye on A Woman of No Importance and, of course, I am still planning to get around to reading A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and To Kill a Mockingbird.


Tell me, please!

What’s on your WWW?


 

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday: July 28, 2020

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together. This week is freebie week where everyone can compile a top ten list that appeals to them.

Lately I have spent a lot of time thinking about the power of children’s books so my list is the Top Ten Picture Books that everyone should re-read. The links will take you to a YouTube video of the book being read aloud.


A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond because sometimes the people we pick can become our family.

The Lorax by Dr. Suess so we don’t forget to care for our environment and the animals (like us) that depend on it. The link will take you to Danny Devito reading the book aloud but I can’t help but include the original Lorax movie link as well because it has that delightful funky music.

A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Eniko A Nagy because we hope that the friends we take care of will take care of us when we are sick.

The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything by Linda Williamsince we must be brave but it is also okay to be afraid.

Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans to remember that positivity in a crisis helps tremendously.

Mike Mulligan and the Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton to remind us that hard work is easier when we believe in ourselves but even easier when we have support.

Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney because this world should be left more beautiful tomorrow than it is today and that is only possible with hard work.

The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton to help us remember that things change but appreciating what you have and where you are is amazing.

The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch to recognize our strengths and to not let people in our lives that seek to tear us down.

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats to remember that our own neighborhoods hold adventures.


Tell me, please!

Which picture book do you think everyone should re-read?


 

Uncategorized

Disability Awareness Book Recommendations

Yesterday marked the 30th Anniversary of the passage of the American’s with Disabilities Act. I always take time to think about how far we, as a country, have come since this Act mandated access and equality for People with Disabilities and I always think of how much further we need to go towards this goal.

Included are books that I have read and loved that feature or include people with disabilities. This list is heavier on middle grade books since I have been reading more of those recently. Sadly, my list doesn’t have a lot of own voices stories. This is something I plan to dive more into this year and I have found The National Leadership on Developmental Disabilities’ reading list a helpful place to start. I also found a list of 20 Must-Read YA books with Disabled Characters on Book Riot.

For this list I have used the legal / medical definition of “disability” for this list. That means I have included books with Deaf characters even though many of my Deaf friends do not consider Deafness to be a disability.

Finally, I want to address why I didn’t include Wonder in this list. Wonder may seek to encourage people to “be kind” but it is, in fact, the opposite to put people with disabilities on a pedestal as heroes simply because they are living. People with disabilities’ purpose in life is not to inspire others. Instead, I hope this list of books provides an opportunity to see individuals with disabilities as people first.


MIDDLE GRADE BOOKS

outofmymind
A blue cover with an orange goldfish leaping out of its bowl.

Melody is not like most people. She cannot walk or talk, but she has a photographic memory; she can remember every detail of everything she has ever experienced. She is smarter than most of the adults who try to diagnose her and smarter than her classmates in her integrated classroom – the very same classmates who dismiss her as mentally challenged because she cannot tell them otherwise. But Melody refuses to be defined by cerebral palsy. And she’s determined to let everyone know it – somehow.

In this breakthrough story, reminiscent of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, from multiple Coretta Scott King Award-winner Sharon Draper, readers will come to know a brilliant mind and a brave spirit who will change forever how they look at anyone with a disability. from Goodreads.


pinned
A black girl in a purple lettermen jacket and denim skirt

Autumn and Adonis have nothing in common and everything in common. Autumn is outgoing and has lots of friends. Adonis is shy and not so eager to connect with people. But even with their differences, the two have one thing in common–they’re each dealing with a handicap. For Autumn, who has a learning disability, reading is a painful struggle that makes it hard to focus in class. But as her school’s most aggressive team wrestler, Autumn can take down any problem. Adonis is confined to a wheelchair. He has no legs. He can’t walk or dance. But he’s a strong reader who loves books. Even so, Adonis has a secret he knows someone like Autumn can heal.

In time, Autumn and Adonis are forced to see that our greatest weaknesses can turn into the assets that forever change us and those we love.

Told in alternating voices, Pinned explores issues of self-discovery, friendship, and what it means to be different. from Goodreads.


guts
A bright purple cover with a yellow nauseated emoji.

Raina wakes up one night with a terrible upset stomach. Her mom has one, too, so it’s probably just a bug. Raina eventually returns to school, where she’s dealing with the usual highs and lows: friends, not-friends, and classmates who think the school year is just one long gross-out session. It soon becomes clear that Raina’s tummy trouble isn’t going away… and it coincides with her worries about food, school, and changing friendships. What’s going on?

Raina Telgemeier once again brings us a thoughtful, charming, and funny true story about growing up and gathering the courage to face — and conquer — her fears. from Goodreads. #OwnVoices


fishinatree
A blue-green cover with the title, “Fish In A Tree” written in colorful block letters

“Everybody is smart in different ways. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its life believing it is stupid.”

Ally has been smart enough to fool a lot of smart people. Every time she lands in a new school, she is able to hide her inability to read by creating clever yet disruptive distractions. She is afraid to ask for help; after all, how can you cure dumb? However, her newest teacher Mr. Daniels sees the bright, creative kid underneath the trouble maker. With his help, Ally learns not to be so hard on herself and that dyslexia is nothing to be ashamed of. As her confidence grows, Ally feels free to be herself and the world starts opening up with possibilities. She discovers that there’s a lot more to her—and to everyone—than a label, and that great minds don’t always think alike. from Goodreads.


thewarthatsaved
An illustrated cover with a girl looking out at a field with a horse and a military plane.

Ten-year-old Ada has never left her one-room apartment. Her mother is too humiliated by Ada’s twisted foot to let her outside. So when her little brother Jamie is shipped out of London to escape the war, Ada doesn’t waste a minute—she sneaks out to join him.

So begins a new adventure of Ada, and for Susan Smith, the woman who is forced to take the two kids in. As Ada teaches herself to ride a pony, learns to read, and watches for German spies, she begins to trust Susan—and Susan begins to love Ada and Jamie. But in the end, will their bond be enough to hold them together through wartime? Or will Ada and her brother fall back into the cruel hands of their mother? from Goodreads.


eldeafo
An illustrated bunny in a red cape is flying through a blue sky with white clouds.

Starting at a new school is scary, even more so with a giant hearing aid strapped to your chest! At her old school, everyone in Cece’s class was deaf. Here she is different. She is sure the kids are staring at the Phonic Ear, the powerful aid that will help her hear her teacher. Too bad it also seems certain to repel potential friends.

Then Cece makes a startling discovery. With the Phonic Ear she can hear her teacher not just in the classroom, but anywhere her teacher is in school — in the hallway… in the teacher’s lounge… in the bathroom! This is power. Maybe even superpower! Cece is on her way to becoming El Deafo, Listener for All. But the funny thing about being a superhero is that it’s just another way of feeling different… and lonely. Can Cece channel her powers into finding the thing she wants most, a true friend? from Goodreads. OwnVoices


wonderstruck
The title Wonder Struck is boldly placed across the front with lightning

Ben and Rose secretly wish for better lives. Ben longs for the father he has never known. Rose dreams of a mysterious actress whose life she chronicles in a scrapbook. When Ben discovers a puzzling clue in his mother’s room and Rose reads an enticing headline in the newspaper, both children set out alone on desperate quests to find what they are missing.

Set fifty years apart, these two independent stories – Ben’s told in words, Rose’s in pictures – weave back and forth in symmetry. from Goodreads.


alcapone
A iconic mobster hat and hands are shown behind bars on this red cover.

Today I moved to a twelve-acre rock covered with cement, topped with bird turd and surrounded by water. I’m not the only kid who lives here. There’s my sister, Natalie, except she doesn’t count. And there are twenty-three other kids who live on the island because their dads work as guards or cook’s or doctors or electricians for the prison, like my dad does. Plus, there are a ton of murderers, rapists, hit men, con men, stickup men, embezzlers, connivers, burglars, kidnappers and maybe even an innocent man or two, though I doubt it. The convicts we have are the kind other prisons don’t want. I never knew prisons could be picky, but I guess they can. You get to Alcatraz by being the worst of the worst. Unless you’re me. I came here because my mother said I had to. from Goodreads.


Magnus Chase has seen his share of trouble. Ever since that terrible night two years ago when his mother told him to run, he has lived alone on the streets of Boston, surviving by his wits, staying one step ahead of the police and the truant officers.

One day, Magnus learns that someone else is trying to track him down—his uncle Randolph, a man his mother had always warned him about. When Magnus tries to outmaneuver his uncle, he falls right into his clutches. Randolph starts rambling about Norse history and Magnus’s birthright: a weapon that has been lost for thousands of years.

The more Randolph talks, the more puzzle pieces fall into place. Stories about the gods of Asgard, wolves, and Doomsday bubble up from Magnus’s memory. But he doesn’t have time to consider it all before a fire giant attacks the city, forcing him to choose between his own safety and the lives of hundreds of innocents. . . .

Sometimes, the only way to start a new life is to die. from Goodreads.


YOUNG ADULT

acurse
“A Curse so Dark and Lonely” Words are woven through with thorns on a blue background.

Fall in love, break the curse.

Cursed by a powerful enchantress to repeat the autumn of his eighteenth year, Prince Rhen, the heir of Emberfall, thought he could be saved easily if a girl fell for him. But that was before he turned into a vicious beast hell-bent on destruction. Before he destroyed his castle, his family, and every last shred of hope.

Nothing has ever been easy for Harper. With her father long gone, her mother dying, and her brother constantly underestimating her because of her cerebral palsy, Harper learned to be tough enough to survive. When she tries to save a stranger on the streets of Washington, DC, she’s pulled into a magical world.

Break the curse, save the kingdom.

Harper doesn’t know where she is or what to believe. A prince? A curse? A monster? As she spends time with Rhen in this enchanted land, she begins to understand what’s at stake. And as Rhen realizes Harper is not just another girl to charm, his hope comes flooding back. But powerful forces are standing against Emberfall . . . and it will take more than a broken curse to save Harper, Rhen, and his people from utter ruin. from Goodreads.


ADULT FICTION

curiouscase
A red cover with the title features the silhouette of an upside down dog.

Christopher John Francis Boone knows all the countries of the world and their capitals and every prime number up to 7,057. He relates well to animals but has no understanding of human emotions. He cannot stand to be touched. And he detests the color yellow.

Although gifted with a superbly logical brain, for fifteen-year-old Christopher everyday interactions and admonishments have little meaning. He lives on patterns, rules, and a diagram kept in his pocket. Then one day, a neighbor’s dog, Wellington, is killed and his carefully constructive universe is threatened. Christopher sets out to solve the murder in the style of his favourite (logical) detective, Sherlock Holmes. What follows makes for a novel that is funny, poignant and fascinating in its portrayal of a person whose curse and blessing are a mind that perceives the world entirely literally. from Goodreads.

Note: I went back and forth on whether to include this book because it has some similarities with Wonder. Neither authors have experience with the community their characters are part of but one fact swayed me in the end. Unlike WonderThe Curious Incident.. does not encourage people to only pity people with disabilities or put them on pedestals.


NONFICTION

insicknessandinhealth
A woman sits on the lap of a man in a wheelchair. They are surrounded by flowers.

Ben Mattlin’s wife, ML, recalls falling in love with his confidence and sheer determination. On one of their earliest dates, he persuaded her to ride on his lap in his wheelchair on their way home from an Elvis Costello concert. Thirty years later, they still travel like this from time to time, undaunted by the curious stares following them down the street.

But In Sickness and in Health is more than an “inspiring” story of how a man born with spinal muscular atrophy–a congenital and incurable neuromuscular condition–survived childhood, graduated from Harvard, married an able-bodied woman, built a family with two daughters and a cat and a turtle, established a successful career in journalism, and lived happily ever after. As Mattlin considers the many times his relationship has been met with surprise or speculation by outsiders–those who consider his wife a “saint” or him just plain “lucky” for finding love–he issues a challenge to readers: why should the idea of an “interabled” couple be regarded as either tragic or noble?

Through conversations with more than a dozen other couples of varying abilities, ethnic backgrounds, and orientations, Mattlin sets out to understand whether these pairings are as unusual as onlookers seem to think. Reflecting on his own experience he wonders: How do people balance the stresses of personal-care help with the thrill of romance? Is it possible that the very things that appear to be insurmountable obstacles to a successful relationship–the financial burdens, the physical differences, the added element of an especially uncertain future–could be the building blocks of an enviable level of intimacy and communication that other couples could only dream of?

We meet Shane Burcaw, a twenty-three-year-old writer, who offers a glimpse of his first forays into dating with a disability. There’s Rachelle Friedman, the “paralyzed bride,” as the media refers to her, and her husband, discussing the joys and challenges of a new marriage and a growing family. And Christina Crosby and her partner, Janet Jakobsen, reflect on how Crosby’s disabling accident called for them to renegotiate their roles and expectations in their long-term relationship. What emerges is a candid glimpse into the challenges and joys of interabled love–from the first blush of sexual awakening to commitment and marriage and through to widowhood. from Goodreads. OwnVoice


ifatbirthyoudont
Cover of book shows a half cracked empty eggshell and the title.

Comedian Zach Anner opens his frank and devilishly funny book, If at Birth You Don’t Succeed, with an admission: he botched his own birth. Two months early, underweight and under-prepared for life, he entered the world with cerebral palsy and an uncertain future. So how did this hairless mole-rat of a boy blossom into a viral internet sensation who’s hosted two travel shows, impressed Oprah, driven the Mars Rover, and inspired a John Mayer song? (It wasn’t Your Body is a Wonderland.)

Zach lives by the mantra: when life gives you wheelchair, make lemonade. Whether recounting a valiant childhood attempt to woo Cindy Crawford, encounters with zealous faith healers, or the time he crapped his pants mere feet from Dr. Phil, Zach shares his fumbles with unflinching honesty and characteristic charm. By his thirtieth birthday, Zach had grown into an adult with a career in entertainment, millions of fans, a loving family, and friends who would literally carry him up mountains.

If at Birth You Don’t Succeed is a hilariously irreverent and heartfelt memoir about finding your passion and your path even when it’s paved with epic misadventure. This is the unlikely but not unlucky story of a man who couldn’t safely open a bag of Skittles, but still became a fitness guru with fans around the world. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll fall in love with the Olive Garden all over again, and learn why cerebral palsy is, definitively, “the sexiest of the palsies.” from Goodreads. OwnVoices


Tell me, please!

Do you have any book recommendations featuring People With Disabilities?


 

 

 

YA

Aurora Burning by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

This action-packed sequel to Aurora Rising kept my heart thumping (and breaking) for 495 pages. I cannot wait for the next book!


SYNOPSIS

First, the bad news: an ancient evil—you know, your standard consume-all-life-in-the-galaxy deal—is about to be unleashed. The good news? Squad 312 is standing by to save the day. They’ve just got to take care of a few small distractions first.

Like the clan of gremps who’d like to rearrange their favorite faces.

And the cadre of illegit GIA agents with creepy flowers where their eyes used to be, who’ll stop at nothing to get their hands on Auri.

Then there’s Kal’s long-lost sister, who’s not exactly happy to see her baby brother, and has a Syldrathi army at her back. With half the known galaxy on their tails, Squad 312 has never felt so wanted.

When they learn the Hadfield has been found, it’s time to come out of hiding. Two centuries ago, the colony ship vanished, leaving Auri as its sole survivor. Now, its black box might be what saves them. But time is short, and if Auri can’t learn to master her powers as a Trigger, the squad and all their admirers are going to be deader than the Great Ultrasaur of Abraaxis IV.

Shocking revelations, bank heists, mysterious gifts, inappropriately tight bodysuits, and an epic firefight will determine the fate of the Aurora Legion’s most unforgettable heroes—and maybe the rest of the galaxy as well. from Goodreads.

auroraburning
A young, human-like alien with purple eyes and long silver braids stares out.

REVIEW

Every time I mentioned that I was reading Aurora Burning people would respond, “ooooh, that ending.” Well, ending aside, they could have warned me about the effect the non-stop action would have on my heart rate!

I knew I wanted to read Burning, but I wasn’t looking forward to it quite like I was Rising. I enjoyed Rising (you can read my full review here) but I was struggling to pinpoint exactly why. Well, without spoiling anything, I can tell you that the action combined with the inter-personal character development had my flying through this book at warp speed.

It is difficult to find a series where the second book doesn’t slump but, like with The Illuminae Files, Kaufman and Kristoff have managed it again. This book has none of The who’s-who and world building drag required of the first book and so it just action packed awesomeness. Delightfully, we finally do get a little more of crew member Zila, a new character, and a whole mess of mysteries and surprises.

The thing that I am loving the most about this series is the wide variety of strong female characters. Scarlett’s gorgeousness combined with her interpersonal skills and language, Zila’s vast intelligence, and even Auri who has greatness foisted upon her must find the mental strength to use her gifts. All of these women are fantastic, flawed, and fabulous in completely different ways. I especially appreciated that the men around them all except their awesomeness as reality like they would for a male character. This is a world I could live in! Well, except for the space travel and the constant threat of death…

This book did a much better job providing me with the unique voices of each character. The differing points of view also helped me understand each character’s inner fears and demons which balanced out the superbness that are their individual skill sets. Because without this insight, I would probably hate them all. With it, they become relatable. And their patience with each other is remarkable. Let’s just hope that patience is matched with forgiveness because some characters have some major explaining to do in Book Three.

And now we are back to that ending right? The huge cliffhanger? It absolutely is but I loved it. I want to sit down and hash this book out and guess what will happen and how it will all be resolved. I cannot wait and I am so thankful that the authors have given me this elevated feeling because now I have one more thing to look forward to!


Tell me, please!

How do you feel about cliffhangers?