My Path to the Stars ARC Review (Plus My Girl Scouts Experience!)

Path to the Stars: My Journey from Girl Scout to Rocket ScientistA meningitis outbreak in their underprivileged neighborhood left Sylvia Acevedo’s family forever altered. As she struggled in the aftermath of loss, young Sylvia’s life transformed when she joined the Brownies. The Girl Scouts taught her how to take control of her world and nourished her love of numbers and science.
With new confidence, Sylvia navigated shifting cultural expectations at school and at home, forging her own trail to become one of the first Latinx to graduate with a master’s in engineering from Stanford University and going on to become a rocket scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

As a former Girl Scout, I knew that I had to read this book! Mrs. Acevedo is such an inspiration to young girls. She overcame her circumstances and a family tragedy to be successful. She always felt like an outsider, but Girl Scouts gave her a place where she felt like she belonged. She kept her uniform clean and felt a sense of pride every time she earned a badge.

Let me take a moment to actually talk about Girl Scouts! Her girl scouts career occurred in the mid 1960s to early 1970s. At the time, she says that there weren’t many math and science badges for the girls to receive. This was sad for her, as she loved math, but she had fun learning the other badges. For me, I actually had the opposite experience to some extent. When I was in Girl Scouts from around 2005-2013, there were PLENTY of badges for girls to earn. Some were based around math, science, and astronomy, and others taught girls to do things such as cook, sew, knit, run a business, and other things. I earned so many badges on my old Junior sash, and I literally earned them from just participating in different activities throughout my old city. Then, when I turned 11, things started to change.

When Girl Scouts switched to the Journey Books, everything became ten times harder. Rather than the hundreds of badges that seemed to be available before, there were only 30-40 badges available. Every badge had so many steps that one really had to go out of her way just to earn anything. Also, the badges seemed dumbed down to some extent. Gone were the community activity badges and the very specific badges such as how to change a tire or how to change oil, and instead the only ones you could get without going through specific steps were the sports badges. It also hurt smaller troops, because now you had to buy a brand new book because all the old badges from the 1990s were defunct, and there were EXPANSION PACKS for the handbook on top of that, and you had to buy Journey books for every girl that wanted to do their own award.   Also, it made it extremely difficult to get a Bronze, Silver, or Gold award because you had to fill out this stupid Journey book rather than just creating your own project. I only have 5 actual Cadette badges and then a ton of activity specific badges based on community activities that my mother just found on sale at the Girl Scouts store and gave to our troop leader. (I will also post pictures of my old Juniors sash and Cadette vest on my Instagram account @brisbooknook to prove this point!)

That being said, this book really brought me back to the old ways of Girl Scouts, when it was truly based on teaching girls skills, getting them involved in the community, and teaching them how to be leaders. Now, it seems to mostly focus on how to get the most cookie sales and how to do some extremely basic arts and crafts, at least in my old troop. I really miss the old times, and I wish that Girl Scouts of the USA would go back to this. Hopefully Mrs. Acevedo being the CEO of the organization will change things for the better.

Mini rant being over, I loved this book. Mrs. Acevedo was so strong in the face of such criticism, and it didn’t even seem to phase her. People thought she was not going to learn because she came from a “bad” elementary school, then they thought girls would never be successful in math. She beat the odds so many times, and she became successful. Nevertheless, this story speaks about the bumps in the road that she encountered on her way. Everything from her father favoring her older brother, to the meningitis incident almost tearing her family apart. I loved every minute of reading this story, and I would definitely recommend this.

I would recommend this novel to anyone looking for an amazing success story that will have you rooting for Mrs. Acevedo the entire time.

I received an advance copy of this book through a giveaway and this is my voluntary review.

Overall Rating: 6 out of 5 stars

Daddy’s Soul Tie Review

Daddy's Soul Tie (Healing in the Horizon Book 2)Shannon has struggled with a drinking problem for years, and she traces back the cause of this issue to her father, who was also a heavy drinker. This story discusses the generational issue of alcoholism, and how two people years apart were determined to overcome their inner demons.

This book discusses the issue of how alcoholism can infiltrate generations of people. Shannon’s father was taught to be an alcoholic by his mother, and he, in turn, taught his daughter to do the same exact thing. It is hard to break the habit after he had been drinking for so long, but he was determined to do it, and so was she. This story was definitely inspirational, as they were both able to work on breaking their generational curse. It was also interesting to see that because her grandmother and her father were both alcoholics, Shannon already had the ability to drink a lot of alcohol without becoming intoxicated. This didn’t mean that she wasn’t damaging her liver, but it did mean that in order to get drunk she had to purchase a lot more alcohol than her friends did. It’s interesting to see how the genes played a part in this “curse.”

I had the same awkwardness in this book as there was in Giving Birth to HIV, but it just seemed more prominent since this story is so short. In fact, the story is only about 40 pages and then the other 30 or so pages are the article. Again, the article was interesting, but I would have liked to see a little more story for this novel, especially since the subject matter was so interesting!

The thing that I liked the most of the book was the fact that there were interviews throughout with Shannon and her father. It gave it a very personable feel as if I was seeing one of their private conversations.

This novel would be good for anyone who wants to learn more about how alcoholism can affect generations, and who also wants encouragement on their own journey.

I received a copy of this novel and this is my voluntary review.

Overall Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

A Random Act of Kindness Review

A Random Act of KindnessThis book only took me about 20-30 minutes to complete, and there really wasn’t much there anyway. There was little to no editing, the formatting was awful, and the beginning of the book barely flowed at all with the “main story.” It was like the beginning was supposed to be an inspirational lesson with an example story, but then it got confused somewhere in the execution. I would recommend this book if it is recreated in some way to make everything more clear.

My Full Review:

https://forums.onlinebookclub.org/viewtopic.php?f=53&t=71664#p921953

Getaway Blog Tour Plus Review

GETAWAY by Maureen Brady,Women’s Fiction, 230 pp., $14.99 (paperback) $8.99 (kindle)

 

Title: GETAWAY

Author: Maureen Brady

Publisher: Bacon Press Books

Pages: 230

Genre: Women’s Fiction

After stabbing her abusive husband and leaving him dying on the
kitchen floor, Cookie Wagner flees to remote Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.
For a moment, she seems to have gotten away with murder. But, consigned
to a secretive life with a new name and the need to be on constant
alert, she faces all she has not gotten away with. She is helped by the
recently widowed Mrs. Biddle, who offers her a place to stay, and the
lobster fisherman Butch, who gives her a job and later falls in love
with her. Walking the cliffs and beaches, taking in the scruffy
windblown plants that survive the buffeting wind by growing at an angle,
she begins to heal.Yet, there is no leaving behind the notion that Warren is dead as the result of her action.

Or is he? And if not, will he one day come to find her?

Sexual harassment and abuse are all over the news these days, often
involving celebrites and other well-known figures, but Cookie, the
protagonist of Getaway, is no celebrity. She’s an ordinary
woman married to a working class guy who drinks too much and resorts to
violence. Their story reveals how endemic the phenomenon of abuse is,
and the quandary Cookie lands in when she fights back.

Praise for Getaway:

“Sensitive, sensual, and stirring. “Getaway” is a true page-turner,
but one with heart and with context. I couldn’t put it down until I got
to the end, not just to find out what happened, but also to
discover who these intriguing and complex characters would develop into.
An extremely satisfying read!”

Danielle Ofri, author of What Patients Say, What Doctors Hear, Editor-in-Chief, Bellevue Literary Review.

My Review: 
This book was truly inspirational. Cookie had suffered for years at the hands of her husband, and she finally decided to take matters into her own hands. Afterwards, she escapes to Canada and hopes that the police don’t find her there. She can’t even access her money because nearly everything was in her husbands name due to him trying to control her entire life.
This novel takes place throughout the course of a few years and tells the story from the POV of a few people that Cookie has encountered with throughout her life. It truly delves deep into how far abusers can go to try and manipulate people, and tells the story of a woman being able to find herself again after years of being stuck. Later in the story, you even get some of the POV of the abuser to see what goes through his mind as he comes home to Cookie. It is definitely an emotional journey and will teach the readers a lot along the way.
The plot is addictive and has many twists and turns, but it doesn’t move too fast. Even though it is multiple POV it is not confusing, and every character is unique with their own story. There were no editing errors in the advanced copy, everything just seemed to run very smoothly.
Cookie was strong, and she used her strength to help the people around her in her new community. This leads to others there telling their stories. I won’t spoil too much, but Cookie isn’t the only one in this book with an inspirational story to tell.
I really have no complaints about this book. Even though it is categorized as women’s fiction, it is also a mystery of sorts and has elements of a thriller. I would not categorize myself as a frequent reader of women’s fiction, but I loved this one from beginning to end. Even if you aren’t a fan of women’s fiction, I would still suggest that you give this book a try.
I would recommend this book to any lovers of Women’s Fiction or inspirational stories.
I received an advanced copy of this book and this is my voluntary review.
Overall Rating: 6/5

Cookie dove between the tall grasses, jarred with adrenalin.
In the gloom, she could barely make out the blue cottage on the other side of the
lake, but her eyes clung to it desperately. It was up for sale and she thought,
unoccupied. Maybe if she bushwhacked around the lake and found her way there
without being seen, she’d be able to hide behind it.
The air sparkled. Everything around her seemed to vibrate
with too much life. When a bullfrog glugged in the reeds, she jumped, stood
still, then made herself get moving again. This was no time to try to
understand what she had done.
She inched along the shoreline, her feet sinking into the
mud.
Her foot slipped off a root and twisted painfully. Damn weak
ankle, she muttered, working it before she pushed on.
A three-quarter moon came up to light the way a bit, but it
was getting cold. She stopped to put on her windbreaker, the one thing she’d managed
to grab from the hook by the door. A good thing she had, even though it was a
bright aqua, too colorful for someone
who wanted not to be seen.
Squatting, she buried her face in her hands. Her stomach roiled
and she thought she might throw up. My God, Warren,
why did you have to come after me like that?
She was struck by the sound of twigs breaking underfoot. A bear
or a coyote? Someone coming after her? That got her moving again, making low,
humming noises to keep whatever it was at bay.
When she finally came out to the clearing, she scooted
through tall tufts of grass in front of the blue cottage and crept around back.
The building blocked the moonlight as she huddled against
the cinderblock cellar wall, her arms wrapped around her legs, her feet wet and
freezing. She stared into the night as the fireflies spit tiny patches of light
before flickering out.
As she adjusted to the dark, she noticed a hump a few feet away,
a rounded Bilco cellar door. She stood and lifted the handle.
Detecting a little give, she lifted again, hard, and one
side came up. Three steps down, there was a wooden door. It, too, had been left
unlocked, so the knob turned and she was in.
She sunk to the cellar floor and wrapped her windbreaker around
her wet pant legs but couldn’t stop her teeth from chattering. Trying to still
her jaw only made her whole arm shake. She remembered once as a child when her
teeth had rattled on this way. It had been fear, not cold that time her father
had raised his large square hand but stopped just short of slapping her across
the face.
When she finally found the remains of a matchbook in her pocket,
the first match she struck crumbled. She stood up and struck another. The light
flared up shockingly fast and extinguished itself before she’d seen a thing.
She caught a glimpse of a stairway, which she shuffled toward, hands out ahead
of her, searching for a light switch.
In the flare of the last match, she spotted a worktable
under the stairs. Patting along its surface, she touched something soft and
squishy, almost like human skin. She jumped back, horrified.
Gathering her courage, she reached out again but she must
have turned when she jumped back because, where the squishy thing had been,
there was nothing, not even the bench. She made a quarter turn and reached out
again. Still nothing! At least it wasn’t the squishy thing, but where the hell
was she and what was that anyway?

 

 

 

Though Maureen Brady wrote the humor column of her junior high school
newspaper, she didn’t actually comprehend that she was a writer until
after she had moved to New York City in her twenties, where she began
taking writing workshops at The New School and then fell headlong into
the consciousness raising groups of the early 1970’s.She published her first novel, Give Me Your Good Ear, in 1979, and it was published by The Women’s Press in England in 1981. Her novel, Folly,
was excerpted in Southern Exposure, received wide critical acclaim, was
nominated by Adrienne Rich for an ALA Gay Book Award and was reprinted
as a classic by The Feminist Press. She published a collection of short
stories, The Question She Put to Herself, in 1987, then turned to writing nonfiction in the ’90’s, publishing Daybreak: Meditations for Women Survivors of Sexual Abuse and Midlife: Meditations for Women. She returned to fiction with the novel, Ginger’s Fire, and her most recent novel, Getaway.

Her recent work has appeared in Sinister Wisdom, Bellevue Literary
Review; Just Like A Girl; Cabbage and Bones: Irish American Women’s
Fiction, Mom, In the Family, and Intersections: An Anthology of Banff
Writers. Brady’s essays and stories have been nominated for the Pushcart
Prize and were finalists for the Katherine Anne Porter Fiction Prize
and the Nelsen Algren Short Story contest.

An Adjunct Assistant Professor, she teaches creative writing at New
York University and New York Writers Workshop @ the Jewish Community
Center, and works as a free-lance editor and tutor, helping writers
across the spectrum take their writing to the next stage.

A co-founder of Spinsters Ink, Brady edited such books as The Cancer
Journals by Audre Lorde and The Woman Who Breathes Fire by Kitty Tsui.
She also served as a panelist for The New York State Council on the Arts
Literature Program and as a fiction judge for Oregon Literary Arts. She
is a founding member of The New York Writers Workshop and has long
served as Board President of Money for Women Barbara Deming Memorial
Fund.

She has received grants from the Ludwig Vogelstein Foundation; New
York State Council on the Arts Writer-in-Residence; New York State
Council on the Arts CAPS grant; Holding Our Own; Briarcombe Foundation;
and The Virginia Center for the Creative Arts Fellowship to The Tyrone
Guthrie Centre, Ireland. She was the winner of the Saints and Sinners
short story contest for 2015 and is also a Saints and Sinners Hall of
Fame winner.

She lives in New York City and Woodstock with her long term partner, Martha, and their joy dog, Bessie.

Visit Maureen’s website at www.maureenbradyny.com

 

 

 

No Sad Songs Review

No Sad Songs

18-year-old Gabe LoScuda was a normal high school student with two happy parents and an ailing grandfather. When his parents die in a car crash, he is put in charge of taking care of his ailing grandfather. However, his grandfather isn’t suffering from something like bad arthritis. His grandfather suffers from Alzheimer’s and is losing more memories by the day. Sometimes he seems to be acting normally, but then he starts shouting random things from his memories of the war. Gabe wants to have a normal high school senior year, but he doesn’t want his grandfather to lose whatever shreds of dignity he has left by putting him into a nursing home. Together with his unreliable Uncle Nick, his best friend John, and his new friend Sofia, he is determined to take care of his grandfather and make the best of the situation. 

Very few books are written that discuss Alzheimer’s with teens and children, but it is a topic that needs to be discussed. More and more people are being diagnosed with the disease by the day, and it is now the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. Some teens even have to take care of their parents that suffer from the disease in their 40s to early 50s. Books need to be written so that the disease is understood by these teens, and so these teens don’t feel isolated, as if they have some dirty secret.

Gabe was a very relatable main character. He doesn’t have all the keys to navigating high school, and when his life is turned upside down, he doesn’t know what to do at all. Throughout the book we see him grow from a scared teen who just lost his parents to a man determined to help the last immediate member of his family who has been there for him throughout his childhood. In fact, the character development of both Sophia and John was also very well-written. I think that Morelli really understands the personal growth of teens in their senior year of high school, as they transition from kids to (at least partially) adults.

The pacing of the story is good. It is split up into chapters and 9 essays that he writes for his English class that reflect what is going on in his life by talking about his past. The story ended up feeling short, but it was a fairly long read at around 200 long physical pages. There were no story inconsistencies or any ends that didn’t feel tied up by the end of the story.

There’s really nothing bad to say about this book. It was an inspirational, relatable, unique, and addicting read. I would definitely read it again, and I hope that more people take the time to do so.

I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a new contemporary YA novel that discusses modern issues such as Alzheimer’s.

I received an advanced copy of this book and this is my voluntary review.

Overall Rating: 5/5

Wonder Review

WonderAuggie was born with a facial deformity, and the constant hospital visits have kept him from going to school. He likes learning at home with his mom, and no one stares at him there. However, he is about to enter 5th grade and finally start public school at the local Beecher Prep. Auggie wants to be treated normally because nothing is wrong with his brain. However, some people at his school can’t seem to get past his face. Auggie knows that he will simply have to find a way to show everyone that his face has nothing to do with his personality.

I love this story, yet I don’t focus that much on Auggie throughout it. My favorite character of this entire story is Via, Auggie’s sister. I feel that the siblings of those with either a mental or physical disability are the true heroes. In this case, Auggie simply had a facial deformity and no disability at all, but Via always defended him when other people stared as they were outside. Even though she was stressed about going to high school, she still had to put on a brave face when her brother was having a bad day. Being a big sister is stressful, being a big sister to a brother who has constantly been in and out of hospitals and who is in danger of being bullied daily is extremely stressful. Yet, she doesn’t hold any permanent grudges against him, and usually just tries her best to take care of her problems by herself.

Overall, this is a story that I feel that everyone should read. It speaks about acceptance and looking past the outward looks to the personality beneath. I read this sometime between 7th and 9th grade, and I do not regret reading it in the slightest. This book and Out of My Mind truly made me see the world and the people in it differently. These should definitely be required reading in schools!

Overall Rating: 5/5