Dangerous Minds (Knight and Moon #2)
by Janet Evanovich
(Bantam, 2017, 319 pages)
Dangerous Minds: A Knight and Moon Novel by Janet Evanovich is the second book in the series featuring Emerson Knight and Riley Moon. In this novel, Emerson’s Buddhist monk friend, Wayan Bagus, asks Emerson to help him find his missing island located near Samoa. The island has vanished into thin air. The only clue that Wayan has is that the men who removed him from his island had distinctive tattoos and uniforms. Emerson traces the uniforms back to the National Park Service and follows the clues from there.
The plots in this series are very improbable, but the quirky characters make the story fun to read. Besides Emerson and Riley, there is Emerson’s cousin, Vernon, who believes in Bigfoot and pretty women. There is the Buddhist monk who loves watching old movies even in the midst of life-threatening events. Then, there is the villain who uses a hatchet as one of his primary weapons. There is no mention of a third book in this series, but it is probably only a matter of time.
Spinning by Tillie Walden
(Roaring Book Press, 2017, 402 pages)
This autobiographical graphic novel follows Tillie Walden through her teen years starting when her family moves to another state, and she is forced to join a new skating rink and get used to a new group of girls. With an emotionally absent mother and parents who never attend her skating events, Tillie becomes the target of other girls’ mothers who continually stare her down and accuse her of not paying for lessons. Tillie also experiences bullying by other girls, sexual harassment by her SAT tutor, and loss of a first love. She finds solace in a few close friends and her cello teacher. Not too many good things happen to this poor girl except that she’s a good skater, but she doesn’t always succeed at that. There isn’t really anything intriguing about this story, but it was interesting enough that I continued to read it; maybe I was hoping it would get better for her. Recommended if you like graphic novels, but not if you’re looking for something really exciting to happen.
Jackie’s Girl: My Life with the Kennedy Family by Kathy McKeon
(Simon & Schuster, 2017, 321 pages)
As a teenager, author Kathy McKeon left Ireland for the U.S., and in 1964, landed a job as the personal assistant to Jacqueline Kennedy. Referred to as “Jackie’s Girl” by JFK’s mother Rose Kennedy—who couldn’t keep all of her children’s employee’s names straight—McKeon also often served as the caretaker of Mrs. Kennedy’s children, Caroline and John. This is an insightful and touching story of what it was like to be close to the most famous family in the world at the time. Mrs. Kennedy (called “Madam” by McKeon) expected loyalty of her employees—sometimes demanding overtime even if they had other plans, or requiring them to drop everything at the last minute to leave the country for 2 or 3 weeks—but she returned the loyalty “tenfold” with her generosity and otherwise caring nature. The stories of Caroline and John as children are also very endearing. McKeon takes the reader through all of the Kennedy main events—the untimely assassination of Robert Kennedy, the tragic death of a young woman in a car driven by Ted Kennedy, Jackie’s marriage to Aristotle Onassis, and, ultimately, the deaths of Jackie and John, Jr., to whom she had remained close over the years. The audio version of the book is read by Irish American actress Aedin Moloney, whose accent gives authenticity to McKeon’s words. She also does a great job with the sweet, high, sometimes breathy voice of Jacqueline Kennedy. The book made me chuckle and cry, and I would listen to it again. Highly recommended.
Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson
(Amistad, 2016, 175 pages)
Woodson is a poet and that comes across in this book. Her way with language is amazing. This is a slim book and Woodson has a way of conveying so much so concisely that you just sit back and appreciate her way with words. This book transports you to Brooklyn in the 70s. We’re introduced to a friendship made up of four girls: August, Gigi, Sylvia, and Angela. We see the power of friendship but we also see that childhood is fleeting and the real world has a way of coming in and changing your life whether you’re ready for it or not.
This is a poignant and powerful novel.
Wild Things: The Joy of Reading Children’s Literature as an Adult
by Bruce Handy
(Simon & Schuster, 2017, 307 pages)
Wild Things is a book that’s right up my alley. You want to talk about children’s literature I’m all ears! Handy looks back at some classic children’s books and puts them in context. The breadth of children’s literature makes it impossible for Handy to touch on everything and he acknowledges that early on but he highlights the classics that will hit home for most people.
In addition to deconstructing each story Handy also offers up biographical information about the authors. You come away not only wanting to revisit classics and explore more children’s books, but also wanting to learn more about these authors who have had such an impact on our lives and the lives of our children. I’ve been looking forward to reading some of my favorites out loud to my daughter when she gets a little older but this book only got me more excited.
Wild Things encourages you to appreciate and really explore the children’s books that are in our lives. I’d definitely recommend it to anyone.
Curious Minds: A Knight and Moon Novel
by Janet Evanovich and Phoef Sutton
(Bantam Dell, 2016, 322 pages)
Curious Minds: A Knight and Moon Novel, by Janet Evanovich and Phoef Sutton is the first book in a new series featuring Emerson Knight and Riley Moon. Emerson Knight is rich, eccentric, and well educated. Riley Moon is a new junior analyst for the Washington DC mega-bank, Blane-Grunwald. Riley is assigned to help Emerson keep track of his money. When Emerson insists that he wants to see his gold, Riley accompanies him to the gold vault under Wall Street. There Emerson and Riley discover that the gold is being stolen and being replaced with look-alikes. The adventure begins!
Emerson Knight and Riley Moon are very likable characters. Emerson lives in a mansion, but sleeps in a tent in his library. Riley was raised in rural Texas and was a bit of a tomboy. While the story is far-fetched, it was enjoyable. The second Knight and Moon Novel is Dangerous Minds. It has been added to my reading list.
Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
(Harcourt, 1994, 311 pages)
This classic text stands up each time I read it and I feel like I get something new out of it every time. I had to re-read Flowers for Algernon for a class that is discussing the text and while I wasn’t necessarily eager to read it again I quickly found myself sucked back in to the story.
Originally published as a short story this book follows Charlie, a man in his early 30s who is mentally disabled. He has always been motivated to try and learn so he can “be like other people” and it was because of this motivation that his teacher suggested him as a good candidate for an experiment at a local college aimed at increasing intelligence. After the surgery we see the changes in Charlie through the text of progress reports he submits to the professors in charge of the experiment.
There are more changes in Charlie than just what we see on the intellectual front. He is also tapping into his past and how his family affected him and led him to where he came to be in the present day. The book tackles a lot issues with an emphasis on humanity and respect. It’s a heart-breaking book and while there are dated aspects to it (and a few things that led me to raise my eyebrows) I think it’s a valuable text that prompts good reflection and discussion.