ARC Review: The Kindness Club

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Release Date: November 1, 2016

They always say if you have nothing nice to say, then don’t say it all… luckily, I have many positive things to say about The Kindness Club by Courtney Shienmel.

The Kindness Club follows Chloe Silver, who despite her parents’ recent divorce and moving to a new school, stays determined to remain positive and find great new friends. Upon arriving at her new schools, Chloe catches the attention of the popular girls, also known as the “It Girls.” Before Chloe can call herself an It Girl, she must do whatever they want until they ask her to officially join the group. Their biggest request is for Chloe to be mean to her science project group.

I’ve read one other book by Courtney Shienmel (Sincerely) and one thing I really appreciate about her books is how realistically she portrays characters and relationships. Chloe struggles with many real life issues–she wants to be accepted, her dad is dating someone besides her mom–and reacts to the situations as you would an expect an 11-year-old to react. As a reader, you can feel Chloe’s pain and easily identify with many of her experiences.

I also love the dimensions that Shienmel adds to her characters. Monroe, the It Girls’ ringleader, isn’t just a stereotypical mean girl with blonde hair, pink wardrobe, and rich parents. With the glimpses you see into different characters’ lives, you can clearly see how their experiences impact their attitudes. That being said, I do think Lucy and Theo, the other Kindness Club members, could be fleshed out more because they came across as a little cartoonish. Since this is the first book in a series, I suspect readers will learn more about those two characters.

While I loved many aspects of this book, there were some aspects that could be improved. Some readers may find the book’s message as a little too overstated and juvenile. Having a popular girls club and Kindness Club seems a little too young for fifth grade, but since the target audience of this book is a little younger, it is not that big of an issue. I also think that their are many other books out right now dealing with the same subject. While Shienmel’s writing is definitely stand-out, the plot may not be exciting or new to readers.

I really appreciated the writing quality and realistic characters in The Kindness Club, but was slightly disappointed by the predictable and overused plot. I give The Kindness Club three out of five stars.

I recieved The Kindness Club from NetGalley for free in exchange for an honest review. 

ARC Review: A Patron Saint for Junior Bridesmaids Review

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If you like fun, contemporary middle grade novels, then A Patron Saint for Junior Bridesmaids may be the answer to your prayers.

In A Patron Saint for Junior Bridesmaids, Mary Margaret Miller becomes the junior bridesmaid for her cousin Eden’s wedding. After her family’s business shuts down and her parents are forced to look for work in another state, Mary is sent to live with her cousin’s family and her grandmother who is determined to give Eden the most spectacular wedding ever in only ten weeks. To help her deal with a mean bully, an anxious bride, and a grandmother who never takes no for answer, Mary needs a little help from her friends up above.

In its description, A Patron Saint for Junior Bridesmaids is described as a hilarious and heartfelt middle grade novel. Even though I didn’t laugh out loud as much as expected, I do agree that this book has enough humor mixed with heartfelt moments to make the book and enjoyable read.

First, I ‘ll begin with the positives. Mary Margaret Miller is a unique middle school character that I think would be relatable to many readers, even if they do not come from a devout Catholic family like Mary. Like many middle grade readers, Mary struggles with bullies, routinely arguing with her mother, and never expresses her true feelings. Mary also struggles with more complex issues, such as her religion. I really enjoyed this aspect of Mary because I feel like few characters in books not classified specifically as the religious genre even mention religion, let alone center an entire book around it.

The side characters in this book were also well done. Each had their own motivations and struggles which were apparent and carried the story along. Even though typical wedding events took place in the story, the characters really drove the story along. I loved seeing Eden grow as a person and Mary’s mother deal with very realistic struggles. Furthermore, the family dynamics in this book were so accurately depicted that the family felt very real and authentic.

Another positive that I found in this book was the religious aspect. First, when the book began, I was worried about the direction the book was headed. With going to Confession as punishment and the whole news story, It seemed like religion was only being depicted as having strict rules and regulations, people who practiced religion only experienced shame and guilt, and that religion itself was pointless. I was really happy to see that the author did not go in this direction. Instead, the author used the experiences of the various side characters to help Mary grow in her faith. It was also refreshing to see Mary defend her beliefs, even to her crush.

Another aspect that I enjoyed was the whole bully story with Brent Helzinski. At first, I was disappointed with what actually happened between the characters. With all the buildup, I expected a little bit more. Even though I was initially disappointed, I appreciated it more as I continued because the whole event helped both Mary and Eden grow as characters.

While I had many positives for this book, I also have a few aspects that I think could be improved. First is Mary’s crush on Nick. Even though I appreciated how many of their interactions were awkward like true young crushes, I didn’t really like much else and thought their relationship wasn’t necessary in the book. To me, Nick came across as too pretentious and sometimes even very disrespectful to Mary and her beliefs. While his purpose is to challenge Mary’s beliefs, sometimes I think his character went too far. To me, they didn’t seem compatible at all and his apology at the end never came across as sincere.

Another aspect of the book that I though could have been better was the humor. Maybe because “hilarious” was included in the book’s description, I expected to laugh out loud a little bit more. There were definitely some humorous scenes, but it didn’t really live up to my expectations.

Since I really enjoyed the characters and family dynamics in A Patron Saint for Junior Bridesmaids, but felt both Mary’s crush and humor were lacking, I rate this book four out of five stars.

I received A Patron Saint for Junior Bridesmaids as a free eARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

Throwback Thursday: Judy Moody Declares Independence

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Life, liberty, and the pursuit of moodiness.

In honor of Labor Day in the United States coming up on Monday, I decided to review a patriotic-themed read. The sixth installment of Megan McDonald’s infamous Judy Moody series follows the Moody family travels to Boston for a family vacation. In Boston, Judy is inspired to declare her own rights to her own phone and an increased allowance. Judy quickly learns that independence doesn’t come without a price–more chores!

I’ve read quite a few Judy Moody books recently and they have been hit or miss. Judy Moody Declares Independence is definitely a hit and my favorite Judy Moody book so far. This book was a quick read that had many enjoyable aspects.

I think the best part of this book was the growth of the main character. Sometimes Judy Moody’s moods come across as very annoying and immature. While her moodiness is a major aspect of her personality, it sometimes difficult to sympathize with her actions when they are extremely mean and cruel. I really liked how in this book, Judy Moody took on a lot of responsibility and looked out for her brother Stink. In Judy Moody’s words, this was a double rare moment within this series.

I think this book also carried other great messages. In this book, Judy Moody’s teacher introduces her to Sybil Ludington who is known as the female Paul Revere. I loved how the book emphasized that Sybil’s actions were just as important and heroic as Paul Revere’s. I liked how it also addressed that more women should be included in history textbooks and celebrated throughout the country.

Like with Sybil Ludington, a lot of United States history is embedded throughout the book. This really brought out the teacher in me! I loved how the facts were incorporated in fun and creative ways like the characters portraits in the front of the book. I think children can learn some fun history from this book without feeling like they are reading from a textbook.

I actually read this book while I waited for the Fourth of July parade in my town. Reading this book really helped the time fly before the parade. If you’re taking children to a parade this Labor Day, I suggest bringing this book along to occupy them before the parade starts!

Since I loved the character growth, message, and history within this book, I rate Judy Moody Declares Independence as five out of five stars.