Michelle’s Review: Disunion edited by Ted Widmer

I received this book for free from BEA 2013 in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Michelle’s Review: Disunion edited by Ted WidmerThe New York Times Disunion by ted widmer
Published by Black Dog & Leventhal on 2013
Genres: Civil War Period (1850-1877), History, United States
Pages: 450
Format: Hardcover
Source: BEA 2013
A major new collection of modern commentary-- from scholars, historians, and Civil War buffs--on the significant events of the Civil War, culled from The New York Times' popular Disunion on-line journal Since its debut on November 6, 2010, Disunion, The New York Times' acclaimed journal about the Civil War, has published hundreds of original articles and won multiple awards, including

I can be a bit of a history buff. By that I mean I enjoy history and will read a nonfiction book for fun. But here’s the key part of the ‘a bit’ statement: I am HORRIBLE at remembering facts. I used to be amazing at it, but I’d like to believe that I have simply reached a saturation point with what sticks in my brain…

That said, I cannot tell you all the facts that I read this large anthology of articles about the Civil War. They cover all different parts of the Civil War, some lesser known facets and those that have been covered widely. They are written by different people, all with a different voice and perhaps a different understanding of history. The anthology is broken up into different parts of the Civil War, leading up secession, the beginning of the war, expansion of the war, etc.

I found the secession parts most interesting because those are the parts that tend to get glossed over in high school history classes. I learned things about my own state that I didn’t know and I found that fascinating. But really, the whole thing was fascinating, and I’m sure my fiance can attest to the amount of times I would read out parts to him that I was engaged in what I was reading.

At some point, it began to feel repetitive, particularly towards the end. I’m not sure if it’s because the articles were indeed repeating things and covering very similar parts of the same narrative or if it was just reader fatigue.

It’s very long though–probably not meant for a cover to cover read like I did. I believe it’s only half of a collection with articles to appear in a later manual about the end of the war, and so on. I’d definitely be interested in finding that if/when it is published.

pj - michelle

Michelle’s Review: The Case of the Time-Capsule Bandit by Octavia Spencer

I received this book for free from BEA 2013 in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Michelle’s Review: The Case of the Time-Capsule Bandit by Octavia SpencerThe Case of the Time-Capsule Bandit by Octavia Spencer
Published by Simon and Schuster on 2013-10-15
Genres: Action & Adventure, Childrens, Friendship, Mysteries & Detective Stories, Social Issues
Pages: 214
Format: ARC
Source: BEA 2013
Meet Randi Rhodes, the world’s first ninja detective! Mystery abounds in this delightful new middle grade series from Academy Award–winning actress Octavia Spencer.Deer Creek is a small town whose only hope for survival is the success of their Founder’s Day Festival. But the festival’s main attraction, a time capsule that many people believe hold the town’s treasure, has gone missing. Randi Rhodes and her best friend, D.C., are Bruce Lee–inspired ninjas and local detectives determined to solve the case. Even if it means investigating in a haunted cabin and facing mean old Angus McCarthy, prime suspect. They have three days to find the treasure…the future of their whole town is at stake! Will these kids be able to save the day?

When Octavia Spencer spoke during the BookExpo America Children’s Author Breakfast, she introduced us to her new book as one where she strived for diverse characters. Given the latest push for diverse books, I would definitely place this book on a list of those that feature diverse characters. With a red-haired heroine with a single parent, (an Hispanic?) side-kick with hearing aids, an Asian housekeeper/nanny, a female sheriff, and an African American new friend, there is diversity everywhere.

Randi Rhodes is the Harriet the Spy of the latest generation. She is grappling with the loss of her mother and her family’s move to a sleepy mountain town. But there are mysteries everywhere and Randi embarks on one that allows her to make new friends and perhaps find her footing.

It’s an adorable book with a few pictures and creative activities for children to play along with. Depending on the age of the kid, I would venture to say that adult supervision should be required for all the tasks. I can only imagine the kinds of messes that could be made otherwise!

It’s a Scooby Doo type story. “If it weren’t for you meddlin’ kids…!” (Really, all Randi needs is a furry companion!) If that’s the type of story you (or really, your children) are looking for, this is definitely a good option.

pj - michelle