Book Review #78: “Glory Be”

img_0420

I love 2nd and Charles. It’s a great place to buy used books, among other types of media – They have almost everything you can think of. You can also sell your used items to them. While I was waiting for my most recent buyback to be completed on August 23rd, I found this gem of a book in the $1.00 clearance pile.

It’s designed for readers ages 9-12, but something like that usually doesn’t stop me from reading it.

I loved the different angle the author, Augusta Scattergood, took with the volatile summer of 1964. The main character, Gloriana “Glory” Hemphill, is going through many changes. She dreams of her twelfth birthday at the community pool, but then discovered it’s locked up tight, “closed for repairs.”

Angry, she turns her juvenile anger into action. She truly begins to come of age among her family and friends. She learns about how tumultuous the nation is that hot, sticky summer, especially the state of Mississippi. She works to fight prejudice from her 11-year-old eye. She also begins to discover who her true friends are, and the meaning of family.

This was a surprise book for me. I bought it on a pure whim, and felt pulled in from the very beginning. I flew through more than half in the first two hours.

I think the author did a good job creating the atmosphere, and capturing how dangerous the summer of 1964 was for many people. She took her own experiences from that summer in Mississippi and wove them into a compelling book that many can learn from and enjoy.

I think this would be a good book for a class to read in school, or simply kids and family to read together.

4 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Book Review #77: “Mosquitoland”

img_0419

I’m going to go out on a limb here, and declare that Mosquitoland is my favorite book of 2019.

I had a feeling this book was special when I found it at Barnes & Noble last year, while I was looking for books to purchase with the gift card I received for my birthday.

I fell in love with Mim, the main character, right at the start. I loved how Arnold addressed mental illness, psychiatric care, and dysfunctional families. I was rooting for Mim the entire time on her journey, which became quite a map of routes, detours, and exits.

I admire Arnold and his creation of his characters. I love how he used music throughout the story. The resounding theme of being on a journey stuck with me the whole time. It was quite a ride.

Arnold is so good with his words and storytelling, that I felt like this story was a mix tape of coming of age, mystery, suspense, a bit of horror, and all of it was delicious. I could hardly tear my eyes away from the book. I wanted to know what happened next.

I found myself a bit surprised with the end of the book. No spoilers — But it was an interesting turn, something I hadn’t considered. It made me like Arnold even more as an author.

I look forward to reading more from Arnold – He has three more books I’m eager to devour.

5 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Book Review #76: “Bravo, Mia!”

Bravo Mia - American Girl

Image Credit: Amazon

Here’s the link to the first Mia book:


The first book illustrated several themes. Mia is trying to find her own way among her hockey-loving brothers. She’s dealing with a tough new coach, and snotty Vanessa. Now, she has to triumph over tragedy. Will she make it to Regionals?

Along the way, she discovers several things about her family, friends, and, most importantly, herself. She’s growing up, and trying to do what she loves. However, she also clearly understands the meaning of sacrifice, much better than many of her peers. And even Vanessa changes her tune a bit.

I appreciated the story flowing pretty seamlessly from the first book to the second. And the punches keep coming. For a child audience, these two books are a hard look at a big family who is trying to get by, but they still work together and have fun, and I think that’s a good thing.

Through the local rink and the chance to perform at Regionals, Mia gets a taste of what figure skating could look like for her in middle school, high school, and beyond.

I think both books are still relevant to today, in 2019. It teaches about following your dreams, and working hard to achieve them.

4 1/2 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Book Review #75: “Mia”

Mia - American Girl

Image Credit: Amazon

I have a whole shelf of my bookcase dedicated to American Girl books. It will always be this way, period, end of story.

I remember reading Mia several years ago. I was fascinated with the doll when she was the Girl of the Year in 2008. But, at that time, I was in college, and I wasn’t about to breathe a word of liking American Girl dolls and books at school.

Now, 11 years later, I’m loud and proud. And I own Mia the doll as well.

I wrote stories about ice skaters and figure skaters when I was a kid. I did a report on Michelle Kwan in fourth grade. I wasn’t a good ice skater myself, but I was always taken by the figure skaters on TV, and especially during the Olympics.

Reading Mia’s story brought back that nostalgia, but it also reflected the mid- to late-2000s appropriately. I really appreciated the partial story line about the U.S. economy and what became the Great Recession, where Mia’s parents are working multiple jobs and barely making ends meet for their four kids. It made it relevant to readers when it was published, no matter how sad.

I’ve always liked how American Girl pays attention to details. In addition, these books are good for many ages to read! Although clearly written for younger girls, I enjoyed reading it as an adult. And the illustrations are beautiful, too.

Come back tomorrow for the review of the “sequel,” Bravo, Mia!

4 1/2 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Book Review #74: “Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption”

Unbroken A World War II Story of Survival Resilience and Redemption

Image Credit: Amazon

I received this book as part of a fun “book and chocolate” swap through an awesome Facebook group called The Book Drunkard. Thanks, Raquel!

I’ve been wanting to read this book even since its publication was announced. I’ve admired Laura Hillenbrand since reading Seabiscuit: An American Legend.


One thing I figured out quickly: This is a really long book! It’s nearly 500 pages. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, because Hillenbrand is incredibly detailed and well-researched. However, that’s one of the big reasons why it took me so long to finish it!

I’d heard about Louis “Louie” Zamperini through news reports, and press about the book (2010) and movie adaptation (2014). A sequel was released in 2018.

It’s jam-packed with details, beginning with Louie’s early life and Italian family in Torrance, California. I enjoyed learning about his life, his running career, and then him being thrust into the Pacific theater of World War II. He was a prisoner of war (POW) for several years, and reading about his life in Japanese camps was utterly horrifying.

Everyone should know Louie’s story, along with the other brave men he served with. I know I wouldn’t have the guts to fly the unreliable planes and dangerous missions.

This was a tough read for me. I’ve always enjoyed reading and learning about World War II, but I’ve always “done better” with fictional accounts. It’s been good for me to read more non-fiction and biographies over the years, but reading about Louie and the other men was more painful and difficult than I originally expected.

I don’t want to criticize Hillenbrand. I think this book is really good, and the research she did shines through. The list of acknowledgments at the end is profound!

But, I was not expected the length it would take for me to finish this book. I felt frustrated at times, only able to get through one chapter, and then finding 2-3 days passing before picking it up again. I was able to read more than 150 pages when we visited the farm in the middle of July, which was great, but that’s where I noticed this book takes significant concentration and emotional investment.

4 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Book Review #73: “Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone” *Re-Read*

Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone

Image Credit: Amazon

Thank you, J.K. Rowling, for pulling me out of what looked like a long reading slump.

I finished the series for the first time roughly a decade or so ago, after waiting what felt like FOREVER for Deathly Hallows to be available at the library.

Late last year, I decided I wanted to re-read it all. And it did not disappoint!

I was surprisingly nervous when I started reading the first few lines. Having read all the books, and seen every movie adaptation multiple times, I wasn’t sure how this re-read would go. Thankfully, I was worried for nothing.

I was instantly transported to Rowling’s London. I fell in love all over again. Her writing is truly spellbinding. I couldn’t put it down, promising myself one more chapter.

I felt almost the same way as I did when I was first taken by these books. I was a “late bloomer” with the books. While my friends had read and re-read the books years before I started, I was a bit of a fantasy snob. I declared I wasn’t interested in a book about wizards and witches. J.K. Rowling, darling, you proved me wrong.

Nearly 20 years after first falling in love and wanting more of Harry, Ron, Hermione, Hagrid, Professor McGonagall, and Dumbledore (and having to actually wait for the next book to be released!), I’m so happy I decided to re-read this book. The minute I closed the book, I wanted to go downstairs and crack open The Chamber of Secrets.

5 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Book Review #72: “Columbine” *Re-Read*

I try my hardest to post Book Reviews within 24-48 hours after finishing the book. However, life has been pretty hectic recently. I finished Columbine in mid-April, just after the acknowledgment of it being 20 years since the tragedy. I’m just now posting my review.

I have a special connection with this book. The author, Dave Cullen, came to Longwood in the spring of 2010 as a guest lecturer. I was able to interview him for an article I wrote for the student newspaper, The Rotunda. He graciously signed my copy when I bought it at his lecture. It was strange, reading his message from March 17, 2010. That feels like a lifetime ago!

I’m glad I re-read this book. I remember how I felt after I read it the first time. Part of me wishes I’d re-read it before now, before nine years had passed. However, I still felt similar emotions as I did the first time.

I have to give major props to Cullen on his research and dedication to this book. This is one of the best accounts I’ve read of the events that occurred on April 20, 1999. And Cullen goes deeper than that. He covers the massacre, but also delves into the lives of the shooters, their families, and survivors.

It’s not perfect, but as someone who originally read memoir-style books such as The Journals of Rachel Scott: A Journey of Faith at Columbine High and She Said Yes: The Unlikely Martyrdom of Cassie Bernall years ago, when the tragedy was still relatively fresh (I was almost 10 when it occurred), I appreciate the time and effort Cullen devoted to this book.

If you haven’t read this book, I highly recommend it. Cullen makes it clear that he is a journalist first, and it’s evident throughout. His amount of sources is simply incredible. It’s very dense, and tough to read, but it’s an important work. I’m glad Cullen devoted many years to writing this book.

4 1/2 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂