Charles Dickens and the Street Children of London Book Review

Charles Dickens and the Street Children of London by Andrea Warren

In this engaging and eloquent biography, Andrea Warren takes her young readers on a journey through the streets of London through the lens of Charles Dickens. A world in which children could literally be dropped on the streets and left to die, where poor mothers delivered newborns to workhouses and orphanages in desperate attempts to survive, and where the upper class lacked any kind of charity or compassion.

Full of details that are meant to draw in the young readers, to help them empathize and sympathize with children of Dickens' day, Warren paints a vivid and often horrifying picture that is sure to stay with her readers. Although Charles Dickens is the main throughline for the book, there is also mini-biographies concerning Fredrick Handel, William Hogarth, and Thomas Coram all of which were advocates for the poor and needy. I was pleasantly surprised to learn of Handel's history with the Foundling Hospital in London and Coram's seventeen year journey to open a children's shelter.

Warren is never afraid to speak of issues such as alcoholism, death, starvation, and pregnancy, but any fan of Dicken's will quickly realize that she was not so concerned with the negative aspects of Dicken's character, always quick to gloss over his flaws like abandoning his heartbroken wife although never divorcing her and treating the characters of his books with more affinity than his own progeny.

Most important, Warren finishes the book with an explanation of where our world is today in regards to children and poverty, pulling the reader back into this century and encouraging all to take a hard look at themselves and what they can do to help those less fortunate.

A Million Suns Book Review

A Million Suns by Beth Revis A Million Suns - Beth Revis

It has been months since Amy, the only person aboard Godspeed who remembers Earth, was unplugged from cryosleep. Everything she ever knew is gone and everywhere she looks are the suffocating metal walls that make up this ship. Elder has assumed an uneasy leadership, made more difficult by the lies that have been running the ship for centuries. Together they must unravel this puzzle for the lives of all those on board may depend on it.

I love me some good old fashioned science fiction. Bring on the adventure, the spaceships, cryosleep, space adventures. Forget that dystopian sci-fi that has permeated the genre. Having met Beth Revis last spring, the very reason I read the first in the Across the Universe series. I loved her, my favorite quote of hers being, "I love explosions." And she is a woman after my own heart for she too doesn't love writing romance, which means that the love story in A Million Suns never felt forced.

Very early on in the book the secret is revealed that the ship is no longer moving, the engines no longer working. This of course goes against all theory of relativity, for if the ship is stopped then that means someone stopped it, and then the next question is why? As the citizens of Godspeed begin to think for themselves, no longer on the drug Phydus, Elder is stuck between discovering the secret of Godspeed and becoming the leader he doesn't want to be.

Oh and those secrets...big. HUGE. AWESOME! With every new twist and turn I found myself pleasantly surprised, glad that Revis gave just enough to her readers that I knew a lot but not everything. For those who aren't huge fans of hard science fiction, I challenge you to give this series a chance. Apart from the setting there is a great mystery, serious adventure, coming of age, romance, and deep intrigue.

Mississippi Jack Book Review

Mississippi Jack: Being an Account of the Further Waterborne Adventures of Jacky Faber, Midshipman, Fine Lady, and Lily of the West by L.A. Meyer Mississippi Jack - Louis A. Meyer

In the fifth installment of the Bloody Jack series, Jacky Faber is wanted by the crown for piracy--among other things. Along for the ride is her faithful servant Higgins, her boatswain Jim Tanner, and friend Katy Deer. Jacky and company set out from Boston heading toward the Ohio River in hopes of taking a boat down to New Orleans. But as is always the case with Jacky, nothing ever goes as planned and she soon finds herself with a host of problems from tall-tale telling captains, to slave catchers, to bandits. Little does she know that her love and betrothed, Jaimy Fletcher is on her trail with misfortunes that are as disastrous as Jacky's.

Up until now I have been singing the praises of the Bloody Jack Adventures, but I am afraid that this one just fell flat for me. Jacky was her usual charming self, of course. There was no end to the adventures and therein lies the problem. There was just too much adventure, a statement that I never thought I would say.

For my benefit and yours the various scenes/adventures are as follows:
1. Escapes from a British warship with the help of Higgins and an acting troupe.
2. Travels west to Katy Deer's home in order to confront the other girl's molesting Uncle.
3. Hires a boat whose captain is the most annoying tall-tale teller this side of the Mississippi.
4. Steals said riverboat from the captain.
5. Picks up passengers including a card man and his black servant girl, a conniving evangelist, a Native American cook, and two drunken fools fresh out of prison.
6. Pick up Clementine, a country girl who knows a secret or two about Jacky's fiancee.
7. Deck out the riverboat with guns for safety and paint in order to make her a showboat.
8. Get in a fight with bandits along the way, clearing out their den with the handful of people on board.
9. Pick up a runaway slave named Solomon.
10. Visit with some Native Americans where she runs into some Brits who are stirring up trouble.
11. Is captured and tortured by said Brits, eventually being rescued.
12. Get attacked by renegade Indians who are scalp hunting.
13. Is caught by Jaimy kissing another man. Jaimy paddles away and Jacky can't catch him.
14. Gets captured along with Solomon and Chloe (the serving girl who turns out to be the card sharks daughter).
15. Is tarred and feathered and almost hung by slave catchers.
16. Is thrown overboard during a storm and washed up near New Orleans.
17. Goes to a friend who works at a whorehouse where she raises some money and a few eyebrows.
18. Gets into a fight with three men who all want to kill her.
19. Buys a boat using money that she won by cheating at cards.
20. Travels to Jamaica to meet up with Jaimy who forgives everything in a single instant.

I think I got it all in there, but I think you get the point, simply too much going on here. There were also some things I was curious about. When Jaimy catches Jacky in the arms of another man, something to which she has admitted to doing, he flips out and refuses to return. Not only is this hypocritical of him, for he was very recently in the arms of a Miss Clementine Jukes. To that point, Jacky also gets upset, very upset, when she finds out about the Clementine and Jaimy, yet she has no problem in showing her parts or giving out kisses to handsome and sometimes not so handsome men. Although Jacky is impulsive, in this regard I felt that the story went against character.

There were also a number of plot points that felt unnecessary. Like Jacky falling into the water. Perhaps Meyer was trying to find a way of getting Jacky into the whorehouse down in New Orleans, but I think this could have easily been done since she would have needed a place to hide out and it was the perfect place for her entertaining skills, not to mention her new found card shark abilities. Throughout the book there were a number of parts that just felt so contrived. British soldiers at a Native American encampment that she just happens to be visiting at the same time? Pulling over the boat to get some firewood at the exact moment that slave catchers were nearby?

Lastly, I think it is time that Jacky and Jaimy be together. I understand that in most good love stories, the characters shouldn't get together, really together, until the end, but after five whole novels, I am just tired of them chasing each other around, always missing each other by second. Their bad fortune makes me think that perhaps they should never be together, for clearly the fates are not with them.

The book isn't without some merits, but I do wonder if there was any character development that really mattered in this book and if it wouldn't be possible to just skip book five altogether with the simple understanding that she went on an adventure down the Mississippi, picked up some more crew, and is still waiting for Jaimy. Jacky is wonderful, but Huckleberry Finn she is not.

The Pregnancy Project Book Review

The Pregnancy Project by Gabby Rodriguez and Jenna Glatzer

The Pregnancy Project - Gaby Rodriguez & Jenna Glatzer

Typically a senior project is something simple, volunteer work for Habitat for Humanity or following around a business professional, but Gabby Rodriguez took the call of her sociology project seriously. How could she do something that would make a real difference, that would challenge her peers. So Gabby set out on a journey in which she would pretend to be pregnant for six months, complete with a fake belly bump and symptoms". Only a handful of people would know.

There are a number of judgements that people made about Gabby before knowing her story. Some thought she was searching for her fifteen minutes of fame, while others thought she was purposefully being cruel, tricking the people she called her friends. My greatest fear at the beginning of the book was simply that she was a little too naive about what she was getting herself into.

I was correct. I don't think Gabby realized what the consequences would be. She is smart and defintiely brave and thought about a lot of the way people would treat her, but the reality was harder than she imagined, but the results were incredible.

The thing I took away from this book and what Gabby came away with too was that everyone makes mistakes. Pregnancy is a hard one, made even harder by the people who are supposed to love and care about you. Your family, your friends, your teachers. The mistake has been made, but once the girl decides to go through with the pregnancy, it doesn't end there. The constant stream of negatives fills their life. "Doesn't she know she ruined her life?" "I always knew she would get pregnant." "What a waste." Gabby found solace in the fact that she was not pregnant, but was all too aware that the same comfort was not available to girls who really were pregnant.

The writing is rough, even with the help of a ghost writer, but I think the importance of what is said is enough to make the book a worthy read. Besides, she is seventeen, life only gets better, with or without a child.