The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue is an adult fiction novel.
It is 1918 in Dublin and Ireland is struggling to survive the end of the war and a devastating flu pandemic. Within this turmoil is Julia, a nurse and primary provider for her brother who hasn’t spoken since returning from the front.
Julia works in the small fever maternity ward, where expecting mothers with the flu are quarantined and cared for. The hospital is understaffed and under supplied. Being all but alone to care for these women, Julia must rely on suspected Irish rebel, Dr. Kathleen Lynn, and an uninformed young volunteer, Bridie Sweeney, to make it through.
Written over the course of three days, Julia’s life will change forever by the end.
I started this one right before I went on maternity leave because my library hold came in and this was probably not the best book for a pregnant/new mom to read, which is probably why it took me so long to get through it.
Overall, this was an interesting read about a time in Ireland I wasn’t overly informed about. At first, I wasn’t sure how an entire book was going to revolve around a three bed fever maternity ward, but Donoghue succeeds in spinning a tale I wasn’t expecting with actual twists that I didn’t see coming. So sometimes it pays off to pick up a book you never even read the blurb for.
This one gets 4 stars from me. Probably higher if I had read it at literally any other time.
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Masterminds by Gordon Korman
Eli Frieden has never even stepped outside of his hometown Serenity, New Mexico… but when you live in a town that is perfect in every way, why would you want to. At least that is what he’s been raised to believe, until one day he bikes to the edge of town and everything changes.
Now Eli is questioning everything that make Serenity what it is, even his own father might be in on it… but in on what? Together he and his friends work together to uncover what secrets a town without secrets is really hiding. And what they found out, will shift the way they think about their world forever.
Once the truth is out, will anything ever be the same?
- What is this book about? What are the main themes?
- Eli and his friends live in the “perfect” town. What makes Serenity perfect?
- In the beginning of the novel, Hector says that he knows his parents care for him, even if they don’t show it, because he heard them say that he was “valuable.” Think about the difference between value and love. Is to be valued enough?
- As Eli and his friends start to realize something is wrong in Serenity, the first thing they discover is that their internet, books and basic information is being censored. What is censorship and how would you feel if your internet was censored?
- Once the kids realize that they are test subjects and that the town was build for them, the realize that they are being put under “tests of character.” What is this and how would this make you feel?
- The big reveal is that the kids find out they are actually clones of criminal masterminds. How would you feel about being a clone and a clone of a criminal at that?
- Each of the kids show strengths in an area that might be connected to their criminal genes? What are some examples of this?
- One theme in this book is nature vs nurture—is it our genes that tell us who we will be or is it the way we are raised. Let’s discuss this. What do you think?
- Each of the kids feel differently when they find out that their parents are in on Serenity’s secret. Can you understand each of their reactions? How would you feel?
- Where do you think the story is heading? Will the kids run or will they seek revenge or to out the whole experiment?
STEM Activity: Erupting Lemon
Supplies: Lemons (grab a few!); Baking Soda; Food Coloring; Dawn Dish Soap; Plate, Tray, or Bowl;
- Cut one of your lemons in half and place it in a bowl or on a plate with a lip to catch any juices.
- Juice the other half of the lemon and put the juice to the side.
- Take your craft stick and poke holes in the various sections of the lemon half. This will help spur the reaction along.
- If you want to have fun visualizing the reaction, put a few drops of different color food coloring on the sections.
- Pour a small amount of dawn dish soap over the lemon to add a fun bubble effect. Have a spare lemon? Try the experiment without the soap and see what the difference is.
- Now sprinkle a generous amount of baking soda onto the top of the lemon. To help get the reaction going, you can use your craft stick to push the baking soda down into the sections of the lemon. You can also add some of your lemon juice if you want.
- Watch what happens. Be patient, the reaction is a slow one.
- What other citrus fruit can you use? Do you think the reactions would be the same? Bigger or smaller?
Why did the lemon erupt? Because of a chemical reaction between the critic acid from the lemon juice is reacting to the base of the baking soda creating a gas called carbon dioxide. The dawn dish soap is reacting to the fizz of the carbon dioxide to create bubbles and make the reaction a bit more visible.
How’d it go:
I’m actually on maternity leave now, so one of my colleagues is running the book club for me for the next few months. So I am just going to leave this here. I am sure it went great!
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Bloom by Kevin Oppel is a science fiction thriller/action novel for mature 5th to 7th graders.
It all started with the rain. It rained everywhere on Earth at the same time and the rain carried seeds–seeds that sprouted overnight. From these seeds grew razor sharp grass, toxic Venus flytrap like pit plants with vines that seem to move and strange water lilies with bullet shaped seeds. These new plants have taken over, choking out animals and plants alike, but they aren’t stopping there…
On a small island in Canada, three kids, Seth, Petra and Anaya, seem to be immune to the plants and their insidious toxins. But more than that, the severe allergies they’ve lived with all their lives are suddenly gone and they feel stronger than ever. Could something inside them be the key to beating back these plants before the damage becomes irreversible? Or will these strange invaders take over everything?
I picked up this book hoping it might make a good book club read and it totally would but probably not for the younger of my 4-6th grade crew. Bloom doesn’t hold back when it comes to acid spitting pit plants devouring gym teachers or when sentient vines strangle people in their sleep. So I’d probably recommend this one for a mature 5th grade plus.
That being said, I found this book super interesting and I was sucked right in. You’re not sure from the beginning if we are dealing with aliens or terrorists or just evolution and you get a lot of plant facts, which is always nice to get a little STEM thrown in to juvenile fiction.
This book is suspenseful and has a touch of horror and a ton of action. I think it’ll appeal to that tween/pre-teen audience, especially for those kids looking for a little bit of a darker read. I, for one, can’t wait to pick up the second one in the series. This one gets a high 4 stars from me.
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His & Hers by Alice Feeney is a psychological thriller that follows an ex husband and wife as they investigate a series of murders in a small town.
Anna Andrews is hyper focused on her job, even over family and friends. She’s finally a mainstream presenter for BBC and she finally has a measure of peace. When her lunchtime slot is taken from her, Anna’s life begins to crumple and the past she left behind comes back to haunt her, dragging her back to the one place she never wanted to return to, home.
Back on the beat, Anna is asked to report on a murder in Blackdown, the sleepy little town where she grew up. When the victum turns out to be someone she knew as a girl, Anna becomes tangled in the investigation.
Lead investigator, Jack Harper and Anna’s ex-husband, also knew the victum but decides to keep this a secret. As the evidence accumulates, Jack looks more and more guilty and the only person he can turn to is Anna.
There are two sides to every story and it’s not always clear where the lies end and the truth begins.
This is probably my least favorite of Feeney’s books. I will admit, I did not see the twist coming and kudos to Feeney because she pulls that off every time I read one of her novels. I usually love her narration and the way she tells her thrillers but this one was just really hard to get into and I didn’t really care about the characters all that much.
The biggest problem I had with this book, and it probably didn’t bother anyone else, was with the character Priya. She is obviously meant to be a suspect and as a character she definitely has some red flags but other than being a red herring, she doesn’t serve much purpose for the story. She felt like a loose end and that bothered me.
Overall, this was a mediocre read for me. It gets 3 stars.
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The Dawn Chorus by Samantha Shannon is a Bone Season novella that takes place between book 3 & 4.
After finally escaping from captivity and torture at the hands of Scion, Paige Mahoney and her ally and confidant, Arcturus Mesarthim, have hold up in a safe house in Scion Paris. But Paige has been damaged both mentally and physically and time may not be enough to bring her back from the edge.
Within the confines of the safe-house, Paige and Arcturus begin to reconnect but after weeks of following separate paths the reunion is fraught with tension and insecurity. The two must work through their differences while waiting for their contact to tell them where they must go next to continue their fight.
I don’t normally read novellas, I just don’t tend to pick them up. But the Bone Season novels are not regularly published and there has been so much time between the third and the to be released fourth book, I decided to give it a try. And I was pleased that I did.
It was nice to get back into the Bone Season world and to remember why I liked the series in the first place. It did also make me wish that the novels would come out faster than every 2-4 years. It seems like forever since I read the last one and the series may need a re-read before the next is published.
This one gets 4.5 stars from me.
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