Top Ten Tuesday: The Best Books I’ve Read So Far in 2017

toptentuesday

I’m a fairly eclectic reader, though I’ve no officially given up even trying to like fantasy or sci fi. Life is too short. Here then are the Top Ten Books so far in my 2017 reading. Well, 10 plus a few bonus titles. Math isn’t my strong suit.

 

Fiction

 

 

 

Nonfiction

 

 

You can read my reviews of any of these books by searching the title or by clicking on Book Reviews in the word cloud in the right sidebar.

All books show are available from Amazon. Remember, I do not make any money when you click on a link.

Want to play along with the next Top Ten Tuesday? Here are the rules.

Click here to read all of this week’s great lists at The Broke and the Bookish.

Review: Beartown by Fredrik Backman

512aJxv1kQL._SY346_

 

I did not have sexual relations with that woman…”

President Bill Clinton

That’s the voice I heard throughout this book. The nice guy, the type guy who buys the cool fourth of July fireworks and shoots them off for the kids so they don’t get burned. But ….but…..but… She said…. She claimed….She alleges….. He walks away. He didn’t. He hasn’t. He wouldn’t. He’d never. Or would he?

 

hockey-2274219_640

The Story

A hockey town in a forest in Sweden is never the same after the night of  a teenage party just before a big hockey tournament. The star player is taken away by the police just as the team leaves, a week later, for the tournament. Did he or didn’t he?

Beartown, a sort of rust-belt town pinning all its hopes for revival on a youth hockey team’s rise to the finals. A leading player, regarded as NHL-worthy, is the shining star. He is the son of well-off parents, lives in the right part of town. Failure is not an option in his family. The town adores him.

The hockey club manager’s daughter fakes being sick. She wears bulky clothes, secretly rids herself of the clothes she wore that night. She hides. “This way he can only hurt me,” she tells herself.

The team bands together. It’s for the star player. We must stay tight. You are nobody alone. The child of a refugee, finally a member of the team, must decide how far loyalty goes. A mom at a breaking point. A bar owner who won’t take crap. They all have a choice to make. The player in the center of it all–what will he do?

The hockey team sponsors and parents gather together.  They want the Hockey Club manager fired. His daughter–HIS DAUGHTER–has ruined everything. She is the one who went to the police–a week later!

“But why didn’t she go immediately–she must be lying.”

“Have you seen the jeans these girls wear today?”

“It’s so confusing for guys …”

“Did she go up the stairs first?”

“Did she make her feelings–her supposed NO–clear?”

“They can’t scream rape every time their affections are rejected.”

“We all know X–he’d NEVER do that. She’s lying. Trying to get attention.”

“She doesn’t want her parents to know what she was up to so she lied.”

“The boy.” “The young WOMAN.”

 

 

What I Liked–what was truly accurate

I grew up in a rust-bet town in Indiana. We once had an NBA-worthy basketball star [who behaved himself]. He played Division I college basketball and missed the ’76 Olympics due to a wrist injury. I guarantee you there are still more people in that town who can tell you his name and some of his stats than can tell you who the Vice President is. Even though, the Vice President, too, is from Indiana.

I say this all because Backman nails the culture of small town sports, the hero worship of an outstanding young athlete. The kids and adults who want to ride his coattails to a better place. The adults who make cars or nebulous “jobs” available to let the kid live his dream in style. Or who move a family from low rent to high rent so the kid can play on a better team. “No problem–you’ll be in the NBA, just send me tickets.”

All of this is why I did not want my daughter to be a cheerleader. After all, who takes first dibs on cheerleaders? Athletes. Never mind that most would not do anything out of line. There are always some guys who fail to get the decency memo, who wouldn’t recognize or accept the word “No” if it was shined in their eyes in neon letters. They’ve “earned it.” Just like the fraternity boys on campus, or the college athletes or NBA or NFL or NHL or MLB stars. They’ve “earned” the women. Whether the woman were told or not.

Anyone who has watched a moment of college or overtly pro sports in the USA knows there is corruption. We understand that there are matters swept under the rug. Oh yes, the NCAA levels recruiting violations and other ethics charges. Pro teams cringe and do damage control and occasionally even cut lose an athlete caught beating his wife senseless or having “non-consensual sex” [never the “r” word] with a fan or groupie.

enhanced-buzz-6537-1412781055-8

But how many of those incidents ever make it to the press? College athletes and fraternity boys (often one and the same) have created a culture of rape, date-rape and sexual assault on many campuses. Yet the girl still gets blamed. 60 women come forth with the same story, but the famous actor gets a hung jury and a mistrial. Because we “know” him. He’s nice. He wouldn’t do that. Just like those frat boys from the “best families” wouldn’t do that. Just like that rags-to-riches athlete from the “bad” neighborhood would never let his own celebrity status go to his head and make him “know” he’d “earned” “it” whenever he wanted it. Whether the girl said yes or not.

The culture of rap music, of locker room banter, of generation upon generation of dirty talk and disrespect of women wink, wink, nudge, nudge, hubba-hubba. Hockey, the locker room teaches, is for guys. “If a girl likes hockey she’s a lesbian. If she likes hockey players she’s a slut.” The girls all want “it” is the other lesson it teaches. “No” can mean–hell, it often means, “yes, please.” Ha-ha.

What happens when MEN, yes MEN, stand up and say “No More?” Who knows. It rarely happens. The men who think like that aren’t always interested in sports. I loved the boy in the story who asks his Dad if it is crazy to wait till marriage to have sex. Is it crazy to want it to mean something? To not want to just f-*k? The Dad is unnerved by this. Still he manages, very weakly, to affirm his son’s views.  The lesson though is clear: No man wants his son to be the last male virgin–too much a reflection on Dad.

skates-263496_640

 

And the alleged perpetrator’s Dad–the boy’s Dad (it’s always a boy who gets accused by a woman–note the difference), throwing his weight and money around trying to buy loyalty. But when you’ve been a refugee you know there are worse things in life than not playing hockey or working in a crummy job that makes your back hurt. How much loyalty can be bought? Is money for great skates enough? Can you gain loyalty thru Intimidation? Well?

 

Apparently in Sweden it’s same stuff, different country because this book shows the lengths people will go to to justify unacceptable behavior by some guy who can slap a puck or sink a shot or score a touchdown that would never be allowed by anyone just grunting away earning a degree in biology and filling a work-study job.

Oh, and that’s just the first part of the book. The ending…..No spoilers. None.

Summary and Rating

4 out of 5 stars

This should be mandatory reading for every sports nut, every youth sports league, every booster club in the country. Beyond this country. Every. Single. One.

Beartown by Fredrik Backman

Top 5 Wednesday: Protagonists You Hate to Like

Top5Wed

Richard Grenville

King's General

Richard is unapologetically masculine, while also being weak. But Honor Harris fell in love with him and so did I. I cried a few times reading this book. It remains my favorite by Daphne Du Maurier–even more so than the older man -younger woman Rebecca.

 

Dexter Mayhew

41I2IbUn+JL._SY346_

I know, I know! I shouldn’t like him. He trampled all over Emma! It’s disloyalty to a sister to say that maybe Emma asked for some of it. Not like she tried very hard to get a life, is it?  So, yeah. I kind of liked Dexter. Kind of. Not in a “let’s spend a lifetime together” way. Just kinda. Sure he’s a jerk, but let’s face it, he was an appealing jerk!

 

Sir Richard Carlisle (aka Jorah)

2b7edcf6f1568bcf6841edf4b0484564.jpg

Let’s be honest here. As dwerpy/sweet as Matthew was, he’d never have kept Mary happy. Mary would have raged with boredom after 22 more years at Downton Abbey. Being stuck riding to the hounds and in Point-to-Points would have have made her crazy. And don’t even mention umpteen nights of bridge with Edith and Aunt Rosamund!

Sir Richard was the very bad side of Mary–the ruthless, cut-throat side. He offered her a canvas large enough for her ego and large enough to ruin every man who didn’t have the brains (well, er… um…, balls) to ask her to dance over the years. There is a heat to Iain Glen that was in Sir Richard, too. Mary needed that. Sweet only goes so far. Heat keeps you warm at those house parties at Cliveden and shoots at Sandringham.

Plus, Mary was smart. She needed way more to occupy her time. Building a political career and grabbing a cabinet post for Richard would have kept her buys. And maybe, just maybe, she could get the explanation for how a working-class boy from Edinburgh got a Knighthood or a Baronetcy? But, it couldn’t happen….he had to do Game of Thrones one of the few t.v. shows more popular than Downton Abbey.

 

Lucius Malfoy of Harry Potter

1220356_1369087523550_full

Guilty secret time: I’ve always found Lucius Malfoy HOT. Very hot. And I don’t really like long hair. He is an arrogant, unrepentant aristocrat who believe he deserves all his rank and privileges. So be it. I can’t explain how nearly obnoxious can translate into hot, but it does.

 

Lord Sebastian Flyte of Brideshead Revisited

 

Never mind that he isn’t into women, or that for a few years he still drags around his teddy bear. He has the good taste to select Jeremy Irons as his best friend…well, Charles Ryder–played by Jeremy Irons in the original (and BEST) t.v. version. Sebastian is what happens when parents go to war with each other. Unlike the heir to the Marquess of Marchmain title, Lord Bridehead (his older brother), Lord Sebastian has been educated at Eton, not Catholic Ampleforth–his father’s ‘take that” to his estranged wife, the oh-so-Catholic-Marchioness.

Sebastian is a younger version of his father. But while his father chases unsuitable skirts, Sebastian has a penchant for obnoxious men like Anthony Blanche and his down-and-out German boyfriend. He is master aristocrat–effortlessly elegant, charming as all get out when he wants to be, perfect manners unless the family is involved, and very handsome. He’s a spoiled little boy in a man’s body. So, I shouldn’t like him. But I do.

I feel sorry for him. Bridey (his brother) gets Castle Howard (well, actually it just  played  Brdeshead in the t.v. version) and Marchmain House and a homes in Italy and probably others as well. And Mummy is so very …well…Mummy-ish. Thank heaven Nanny is there to dote on him, but let’s be honest–Nanny’s no fool. She knows who butters her bread and always has a good word for old Bridey. Sebastian–dear Sebastian. And poor Lady Marchmain. No heirs from her boys. Some 3rd cousin Matthew Crawley-type will inherit the whole lot in due course.

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Series I Want to Start Reading–Well, not quite!

toptentuesday

 

The One New Series I’m Anxious to Try:

 

51Xpj3JwclL._SY346_

With only one series I wanted to start, I had to tweak this week’s topic just a bit. Here are 10 (plus a bonus since I can’t count) series I look forward to or am trying to catch up on.

I have a lot of series that pepper my year as new volumes come out. Most I listen to on audio and they give me an experience like commuting with a carpool of good friends. Other are NOT like that at all, but make me grateful I don’t work in anything related to law enforcement or private investigation!

Here are the ones I’m looking forward to soon:

 

 

For more on Charlotte Holmes (Last of August) see my earlier posts here and here.

Here are ones I’m a little behind on:

 

 

Here are the titles that are next for me in these series. I got a little put out with the Stephanie Plum books–in real time she’s my age and would be expecting grandchildren by now, but she’s still getting hot you-know-what from Ranger! Babe….

 

Here are the ones I need to give a second chance:

 

The World War I era is a favorite of mine, and, obviously, I love another of Anne Perry’s series, but this one just didn’t really grab me. And the first book in Lindsay Davis’ series was the same–it didn’t grab me. But first books are often burdened with having to thoroughly introduce the characters, the setting and the time or time period, so I’m pretty sure I will give both a second chance.

 

Why not take part in Top Ten Tuesday? Here are the rules.

Here is the link to all of this week’s great lists at the Broke and the Bookish.

Top Ten Tuesday: Father’s Day Freebie

toptentuesday

 

This week is a freebie! Something relating to fathers or Father’s Day.

 

Sorry but it is only top FIVE Tuesday this week.

Classics

fathersons

 

 

Kids today with their crazy ideas…. that’s the shortest summary of this great novel that stands the test of time. I read it in ’81 and still love it. Fathers and Sons by Ivan Turgenev

Fiction

512UqktZAaL

You’ve heard of “home schooling?” Well, Libertad was “truck schooled” by her college-professor-turned-truck-driver-Dad. Along with learning to drive a big rig, Libertad learned to love literature, to hide in it, to find her nonexistent home in it. Then a change occurred in her life and she landed in a Mexican women’s prison where money equals privilege. She starts a “library club” to spin her life story and we are invited along for the ride. And what a road trip it is! No matter the book she chooses from the prison’s scant book collection her story pours forth like the nightly soap operas. Even the warden wants to listen. A great story of family, self discovery, rebirth and so much more. Gonzales and Daughter Trucking Company: A Road Novel With Literary License by Maria Amparo Escandon.

 

51dloyDUuVL._SY346_

Patsy Jefferson had the unenviable role of being her father, Thomas Jefferson’s, daughter and hostess throughout nearly all of his career. But there was another woman in his life–a woman we didn’t hear of until recently. She was his slave–he owned her, Sally Hemmings. Hemmings was also a blood relative of Patsy’s late  mother. Imagine having to share your father’s house with your half-aunt who was also your father’s slave and mistress. Then imagine the mistress was giving birth to your father’s younger family at that time. Somehow they made it work. America’s First Daughter.

 

 

 

 

Nonfiction

 

 

Deathbenotproud

In postwar upper-class America, Johnny Gunther was diagnosed with a brain tumor. His father, John Gunther, was a famous journalist and so, naturally, was observant and took notes. He was not the greatest of fathers–he was separated from Johnny’s mother and constantly traveling for his work as a writer and journalist made famous for his “Inside” books offering an in-depth look at various countries or regions. Johnny, Gunther’s only child, was brilliant and enjoyed a privileged upbringing in Europe and in the best parts of New York and Connecticut. He attended the exclusive prep school, Deerfield.

By telling the story of his son’s death, Gunther helped to slowly remove the stigma attached to the word “cancer.”  Used to tirelessly following any lead for a story, accustomed to long hours of difficult research and unintimidated by the famous, John Gunther helped to prolong his son’s life by idetifiying the best doctors and the most promising (and not-so-promising) treatments of the late 1940s.  Death Be Not Proud: A Memoir by John Gunther

 

 

41r0qvIpPkL._SX384_BO1,204,203,200_

Theodore Roosevelt had 6 children. “Princess Alice” as she was known was born to his first wife who tragically died soon after giving birth. Theodore was not much of a father to Alice. After leaving her in the excellent care of his sister, upon remarrying, the little girl was abruptly taken from her aunt and her aunt’s staff and put in the care of her new stepmother (well, her new stepmother’s staff). He once famously said he could run the country or he could run Alice, but not both. His heartbreak on his first wife’s death was such that he never once spoke to his their daughter about her. Sad. His other five children, born to his very happy marriage to his second wife (and childhood love) , Edith, were greatly beloved. These letters are to all six, but mostly to the later five. Theodore Roosevelt: Letters to His Children.

 

 

Why not take part in Top Ten Tuesday with us next week? Here’s the link to the rules. And, here’s the link to all of this week’s posts at the Broke and the Bookish.

Review: Caught in the Revolution

51sC9-6FYyL._SY346_

 

I spent the lasts month’s of the Carter administration and the first three years of the Regan administration studying the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe and Tzarist Russia. All turned out to be a fascinating preparation for our world today. I was a continent away, in Malawi, when the Berlin Wall came down. I was devastated to be totally away from television that week. Back then, only rich expatriates and high ranking members of the government had satellite dishes for t.v. in Malawi. I heard it all on the shortwave BBC World Service.

 

lenin

This fall marks the 100th Anniversary of the October [or November for those on the Western calendar] Revolution in St. Petersburg (aka Petrograd, aka Leningrad).  Yes, you read that right. St. Petersburg–not Moscow.  Moscow rose to prominence after the revolution, The last few years have given us a wealth of re-tellings of the first World War. Now it is on to the newly retold downfall of Nicholas II and the Romanov dynasty, the Bolshevik Revolution, the Russian Civil War and, finally, (though not all in one year) the birth of the Soviet Union as we knew it until the Regan years.              Lenin image credit.

 

 

19718-004-EE11AB29

Map credit

Helen Rapport’s Caught in the Revolution is a grand tale. The speed and violence of change is caught so vividly that  I found myself breathless–as though I had been chased by the very mobs who took over. Unlike most Americas, I had a very good understanding of all that went into this revolution. It’s memorable moments are as well known to me as our own Boston Tea Party or the convening of the first Continental Congress. But hearing Rapport’s words made it all new and exciting again.

The Good

For me the good was hearing it told thru the eyes of the outsiders of the “old order”–the diplomats accredited to the court of the Tzar, the American bankers and businessmen brought in to try to hasten the pace of modernization and keep the Russian army fighting the war. Taken from letters and diaries the accounts of the country’s growing discontent with the war, of the new round of bread riots, of the killing of the despised Rasputin, the mutinies of the soldiers and sailors and the return of Trotsky and Lenin were made so real.

This is not an academic historian’s account of the times. This is a layman’s history, written to be read and savored.

The Bad

There isn’t really anything “bad” here. There is “bad” in the culture being remembered. Everyone trying to keep the alcohol out of the  hands of the mobs so that looting, pillaging and raping would be kept to a minimum was a very sad harbinger of what occurred in, especially, Berlin at the end of World War II when Soviet soldiers were set loose on the conquered country.

I did not shed tears over the losses the diplomats suffered in terms of priceless antiques lost. All could have sent their household goods home at the start. I also really couldn’t lament that the revolutionaries took the Tzar’s priceless wine cellar apart. Or that others poured out wine everywhere to keep the mobs less drunk.  The senseless destruction of property of, priceless records and libraries that were wantonly burned or destroyed was awful. What moved me most was the senseless violence–the rage–of a people held down for far too long.

Nicky

Their brutality–taught them in part by the Tzar’s Cossacks and his secret police it must be said, was almost too much for me at times. I did not condone, but understood the symbolism of Nicholas being sent into exile. Killing HIM was very logical to the people in charge. He had killed so many–or rather so many had been killed by a stroke of his pen or in his name. His beloved wife wrote her own death warrant by keeping the monk Rasputin around. But killing his children? No. Senseless.

That said, there isn’t much here to help Americans really understand what went wrong with Tzarist Russia. As Americans we used to be fine-tuned to avoid totalitarian or absolute dictatorship regimes. Today, obviously, we cannot take for granted that all Americans have come of age knowing anything what-so-ever about them.

275px-Feb_1917

 

I wish she had given a bit more on the various causes of discontent and how it got so out-of-hand. I also wish even more had been said about how the peasants and workers were used by the Intellectuals of the movement and the differences between Lenin and Trotsky, as well as how violence became the watchword of what should have been a peaceful life after the revolution. The secrecy of the new regime, which intensified after Lenin’s death–that was not what they signed up for, those workers, peasants, soldiers and sailors, for once again they were virtual prisoners. The Church and all morality were cast out–yet Russian was a very Christian nation. In World War II, Stalin would allow the church back somewhat to keep the people fighting the war.          Photo: Wikipedia

But, this is a layman’s history–a book club history in the best sense of that genre.

 

 Internationale from REDS

Book Clubs

When your book club selects this–and many will and should–don’t be afraid to dig deeper. Let someone read classics such as Nicholas and Alexandra by Robert Massie for the problems in Nicholas’ life. Let someone read Richard Pipes or Alexander Rabinovich–deeper historical accounts. And let someone read the nearest competitor to this–John Reed’s Ten Days That Shook the World which gives an American Socialist’s perspective. That one is a book club book for all times. I couldn’t put it down, stayed away over 30 hours to read and “live” it in 1983. It is the book the movie Reds came from.

And, if you book club is a women’s club especially (but men are welcome to hear it all, too) be sure to assign someone to read on Nadezhda Krupskaya–Lenin’s wife and other Soviet women who tried to re-write the world women lived in for the better.

Big Complaint on the Audio Version

The reader was mind-numbingly DULL. It is a tribute to the prose of this book that even read in a near monotone I finished the book. The reader did such a disservice to this work.

 

Caught in the Revolution by Helen Rappaport

 

Rating

4 Stars

 

A Thursday Book for Thursday!

themanwhowasthursday

Chesterton’s The Man Who Was Thursday, A Nightmare is a book unlike most others. According to that ever-handy reference work, Wikpedia, it is often called a metaphysical thriller. Chesterton includes Scripture and Christian thought in each of books–an idea that will appall some today, but which works in fact works extremely well in his books.

For me, with an academic background in political theory in which anarchy, nihilism, espionage and the like were daily subjects, this book held tremendous appeal. A detective infiltrating a committee of anarchists each of whom uses a day of the week as an alias? Yes! But all is not as it seems! This is Chesterton. Things are more complicated–twisted, than a mere story of infiltration of a group of subversives. This is not a cop story. It’s a story of the world. And a story of the meaning of the world. It’s a story that would appeal to political junkies of today as well.

Must rulers have suffered to rule?  Can their power be legitimate if they have not suffered? Isn’t this some of the discontent today?

“There is another class of people dedicated to a more deceitful destruction of society. They, too, think they can live outside the rules. They are the very rich.The poor object to being governed badly. The rich object to being governed at all.”” (Source)

Now, if that isn’t today, I don’t know what is. And of what has made many a revolution!

There are bits of humor in here as well that make that story enjoyable as well as thought-provoking and scary.

“I confess that I should feel a bit afraid of asking Sunday who he really is.”

“Why,” asked the Secretary, “for fear of bombs?”

“No,” said the Professor, “for fear he might tell me.”

This is a deceptively short book. Years after I read it I’m still gaining insight from it. Much of which, like in 1984 or C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters  or Huxley’s Brave New World, has a new resonance in today when our whole world seems to be coming apart some days.

A Thursday Book for Thursday: Chesterton’s The Man Who Was Thursday, a Nightmare.

 

184419

Review: Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy

41PK9daMQ0L._SY346_

 

Julie Murphy is one of the brightest stars of her generation of YA authors. No, scratch that. Of her generation of AUTHORS period. I love her books. The characters are vividly drawn, the dialogue is pitch-perfect. The emotions are spot-on to the age group. Everything is …. well… excellent.

There were so many amazing quotes, but, sadly, my week didn’t allow much time to pull over and write them down. I listened to the audio book, and in this case I wish I’d read it. I’d have covered a notebook in quotes.

Maybe the gist of life is learning how to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.

Ramona Blue

 

The Story

Coming of age is difficult enough when you live in a former FEMA trailer with a decent, hard-working single Dad and your knocked up, but wonderful sister. Add in sister’s obnoxious boy friend, a drunk Mom who left long ago and it gets worse. But then there’s sex.  Or rather sexuality. Now, don’t go rolling your eyes. Ramona, called Ramona Blue by some due to dying her hair blue, has a dilemma that it is sometimes shocking to those of us who grew up when Stonewall meant only a Confederate general. Is she a lesbian? Does she like boys? Too? Only? Both? Neither? Things get wonderfully complicated when Freddy returns to her life.

 

tumblr_opht3nbXVs1sorkp9o1_1280

 

The Good

I loved every minute of this book because it was all so true. The truth rings from each page of this story. I’ve heard sections of this in conversation with my kids and their friends. I’ve heard more of it from the young man I like who worked at the gas station but now works at the dollar store. It’s American teenage-hood circa today.

I loved that the sister and her boyfriend had to face real-life consequences. The boyfriend’s response was totally true-to-life. The girl friend didn’t get the Kate Middleton or Hollywood Starlet pregnancy. I loved that the someone in this story [no spoilers] stopped to retrieve a condom and put it on–and that he knew how to do it without having slept with half the school. That was amazing. And that they commented on how this was never part of a movie. I loved that drugs were not only not an entertainment option–they weren’t even mentioned except maybe for marijuana. While there was sex, it was not gratuitous nor was the writing graphic. And, no where was religion mocked.

It seems to me that childhood ends and adult life begins the moment you stop believing your parents can rescue you.

Ramon Blue

Ramona’s sense of having to be a grown-up, of having to protect her family is an angst that runs from Princes William and Harry down to the kid living in a beat-up, cast-off trailer in a no-where town. All classes of kids today seem to feel responsible in ways they shouldn’t [and yes, irresponsible in ways they usually should]. The determination she pours into helping her family is something I see kids do in our poor, rural area. They let it rob them of options–steal their own future. That part of the story is so achingly real that I often had tears in my eyes.

The sweetness of Freddy, the presence and authority of parents, the truthful thoughts on Ramona’s weaker parent, the feeling that even that lousy trailer was a home lifted me from my own worries and made me see that parents do their job more than we think. Her Dad did the job well. We hear about the worst stuff–the “where were the parents” stuff–not the good stuff. Parents were mostly obeyed, too. That was heartening to see in a YA novel.

I loved coach Pru. I have been that “coach” to many kids I encounter–pushing them to reach for more than a C.M.A. course–by all means do it to get the job, but don’t stop there–that sort of thing. I loved her. I loved that Ramona had a mentor find HER. That’s how it happens. Her struggle with this was also so painfully real. That pride of a very poor, disenfranchised kid is often their own worst enemy. Once again, Julie Murphy nailed that emotion.

And finally, I am still screaming YES! YES! YES! at Ramona’s excellent mockery of rom-com movies. “Why CAN’T the fat friend ever get the guy?” Plus who wouldn’t love a character who shares your own early adulthood breakfast of two Pop-Tarts and a diet Dr. Pepper?

The Bad The very, very, minor momentary disappointment explained

There really was absolutely nothing “bad.” Not at all. My one teensy, weensy disappointment was that sports were involved in getting to college. Too often poor kids, first generation college students to-be, see sports as the only possible way to get to college, when in fact they are among the worst.  I should have trusted that Julie Murphy would handle it perfectly and she did. The whole thing  was made truthful and real by the need for grants and loans to pursue it. But while I was had just the tiny-est disappointment in this, I know that an individual sport like swimming can be one of the greatest catalysts to personal strength and self-discipline ever. For that I rejoiced! I hope this story line inspires readers to get in the pool or out on the track or just on the sidewalk walking. It’s a great way to work off tension and sort out all the confusion in any mind.

Rating

4.75 out of 5 Stars

So good! Both Ramona Blue and Julie Murphy’s Dumplin’ [my review is here] are destined to be Young Adult classics for years and years to come. I can’t wait for her next book,

Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy

 

5a5e603e-4b9d-407e-a986-b44c7e43df31

Let’s Have Some Grown-Up Fun This Summer! Pool Party for the Adults!

pexels-photo-195280.jpeg

 

Whether you are pre-,  post-,  or no kids, whether you have a backyard pool,  a lake cottage, a beach house or a place down on the lazy river, now is the time for a grown-ups summer water party!

What to serve

eca4c9d654f3a4ec4c88ba90ef21696a

Keep Food Cool With an Inflatable Cooler. But will it float?

Swimming, floating or just hanging out takes FUEL. Finger foods, snacks, drinks and a barbecue keep guests happy! Remember to have some girly stuff and some guy stuff so everyone is happy. Also respect those who choose not to drink alcohol.

The Finger Food

Sure everyone loves salsa and chips and guac, but mix it up a little!

 

Shrimp and Chorizo Bites

Classic Wedge Salad Sticks

Cucumber Bites

Munchies

Break old habits! Put out different dippers–try wild new crackers, gourmet pita chips or a new variety of corn chips for these!  For veggies add yucca or vibrantly colored carrots, golden beets. Live a little! For the cheese ball, we get it–it is for the guys. But they won’t die from having a few multi-grain or seeded crackers in with the Triskets or Ritz!

 

Bacon Ranch Beer Cheeseball

Mexican Street Corn Dip

Roasted Jalapeno Hummus

The Drinks

In addition to everyone’s favorites, have a  Margarita sampling bar.  Use these suggestions or concoct your own!

Blackberry Lemonade Margaritas

Watermelon Margaritas

Creamsickle Margaritas

But Wait! There’s More!! 22 Best Margarita Recipes!!!!

 

 

The Frozen Drinks

Hey, grown-ups love popsicles, too!

Cold Brew Mocha Popsicles

Champaigne and Fruit Popsicles (Includes 16 similar recipes)

Sweet Tea Popsicles

 

The Non-Alcoholic Drinks

Because people who don’t like alcohol still like to have fun drinks!

Strawberry Margarita Mocktail  (Post includes a bunch of great non-alcoholic drinks!)

Two-Ingredient Watermelon Limeaide (my son and I LOVE this stuff)

Vanilla Almond Iced Tea

There are zillions of flavored iced tea and flavored water drinks. Here is a collection of iced tea recipes and here are flavored or infused water recipes.

The Real Meal

c6d0bae282df63f576fdfe4d3aa957cc

Keep it Simple by BBQ-ing meats and setting out fixings for a Fajita Bar

Use the suggestions in the link or use your own favorites. Fajitas just go with fun! But switch it up a little–try some new salsas, add a few different veggies, grill some fish or shrimp, too!

The Deserts

 

 

Margarita Ice Cream!!!!

Grilled No-Bake Pineapple Cheesecakes

Grilled Chocolate Chip Cookie and Bacon S’mores

Now, doesn’t that make you want to Party??