Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Dead in their Vaulted Arches - Alan Bradley

Summary:  On a spring morning in 1951, eleven-year-old chemist and aspiring detective Flavia de Luce gathers with her family at the railway station, awaiting the return of her long-lost mother, Harriet. Yet upon the train's arrival in the English village of Bishop's Lacey, Flavia is approached by a tall stranger who whispers a cryptic message into her ear.

Moments later, he is dead, mysteriously pushed under the train by someone in the crowd...

Who was this man, what did his words mean, and why were they intended for Flavia? Back home at Buckshaw, the de Luces' crumbling estate, Flavia puts her sleuthing skills to the test. 

Following a trail of clues sparked by the discovery of a reel of film stashed away in the attic, she unravels the deepest secrets of the de Luce clan, involving none other than Winston Churchill himself.

Surrounded by family, friends, and a famous pathologist from the Home Office - and making spectacular use of Harriet's beloved Gypsy Moth plane, Blithe Spirit - Flavia will do anything, even take to the skies, to land a killer. (Image and summary from

My Review:   Just over two years ago, a friend of mine suggested a book with a funny title, telling me I'd fall in love.  I did. I loved Flavia's tenacity, her intelligence, and her loneliness only served to endear her to me.  I wanted to have tea with the little stinker and be the nice big sister she deserved.  Since then, I've eagerly awaited Bradley's next installment, and (unlike other series as of late) they have stayed as fresh and as exciting as the first.  Honestly, why I haven't bought the whole series is beyond me.

The mood for this book was completely different - and it was set at the end of Flavia's last exploits.  Her mother, lost in Asia toward the end of the Second World War, has been found and is coming home.  Her father, always such an enigma, is beside himself at the prospect of finally needing to bury and say goodbye to the love of his life.  The threat of losing her home-worse, her lab-is no longer a threat - it's reality.  Top that off with relatives, acquaintances, and villagers descending en masse, and poor Flavia, who knows that there should be rules for how to behave, but no one bothered to teach her, finds herself adrift.  Geniuses should never be set adrift, as it gives our heroine the chance to concoct a plan to resurrect her mother.

Bradley's writing so perfectly fitted the tone of the book.  I very much felt Flavia's fear, loss, and yet her confusion as well as to the circumstances that present themselves.  There is mystery - as always - but Bradley has completely redirected the series by giving it new subtleties, new intrigues, and new challenges, all before the current formula even threatened to become stale.  My head frankly spun with the information I was handed.  Not only were loose ends sufficiently tied up, but so much new information to digest was served up!  I'm excited to see where the series will head next, but it had better not take too long!

My Rating: Five stars

For the Sensitive Reader:  Two murders, the second more gruesome and shocking than the first.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Falling In Love With Close Reading - Christopher Lehman and Kate Roberts

Summary:  "Love brings us in close, leads us to study the details of a thing, and asks us to return again and again. These are the motivations and ideas that built this book."
-Chris Lehman and Kate Roberts
You and your students will fall for close reading. In Falling in Love with Close Reading, Christopher Lehman and Kate Roberts show us that it can be rigorous, meaningful, and joyous. You'll empower students to not only analyze texts but to admire the craft of a beloved book, study favorite songs and videogames, and challenge peers in evidence-based discussions.
Chris and Kate start with a powerful three-step close-reading ritual that students can apply to any text. Then they lay out practical, engaging lessons that not only guide students to independence in reading texts closely but also help them transfer this critical, analytical skill to media and even the lives they lead.

Responsive to students' needs and field-tested in classrooms, these lessons include:
  • strategies for close reading narratives, informational texts, and arguments
  • suggestions for differentiation
  • sample charts and student work from real classrooms
  • connections to the Common Core State Standards
  • a focus on viewing media and life in this same careful way.
"We see the ritual of close reading not just as a method of doing the academic work of looking closely at text-evidence, word choice, and structure," write Chris and Kate, "but as an opportunity to bring those practices together to empower our students to see the subtle messages in texts and in their lives." Read Falling in Love with Close Reading and discover that the benefits and joy of close reading don't have to stop at the edge of the page.  (Summary from and image from
My Review:  I highly recommend this book to any educator, and most specifically to English Language Arts teachers.  I believe any teacher could get something out of this book if they are forward thinkers who understand how literacy is relevant to all content areas.

This book breaks down how to start the process of close reading and then takes it quite a bit further into more complex ways to close read a text.  Close reading is something adults do naturally, especially those who have pursued higher education.  What adults often forget is that this process is one that isn't innate.  Many students need help with the concept that you learn something from a text each time you read it, and more specifically when you read it with a specific lens in mind.

There are a few key features I'd like to point out: 1) Each chapter goes in depth with a type of lens a teacher could focus on for a period of time. 2) Within this chapter Lehman and Roberts talk specifically about how this lens would work for fiction and nonfiction. 3) At the end of each chapter there are suggestions for extensions (for your gifted or accelerated students) as well as scaffolds for your lower level students or English Language Learners. 4) Lastly, the book gives validation for how close reading is a life-long skill, something that is a benefit to everyone if developed and nurtured at a young age.

If you're looking for something to bring clarity around this new buzz word 'Close Reading', please pick up this book!  I think you'll walk away with deeper understanding and the reassurance that this is something you can do with your students, no matter the age.

Rating: 5 stars

Sum it up: A teacher's go-to for trying to understand close reading.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Growing Pains

We love reading.  If it were our choice, we'd probably spend all day with our noses in our books, while automated beings took care of the cleaning and the cooking and the filing and the working and the other book-inhibiting activities we have that we also call life.

However, despite our wishes on eyelashes and stars and birthday candles, scientists STILL haven't created a Jetsons-type world for us yet, and it is this world in which we must live.  We really do like this world, too ... our families are here, and they're pretty important!

Over the next few months, you may not see us as much.  We'll still be here, and we're still reading, but we want to make sure that we retain the quality of our reviews.  We love being able to share our opinions with you, and we are so grateful you come visit us!  Look for our reviews twice-weekly for the next little while, and you'll still find us posting over on Facebook.

Happy Reading!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Series Spotlight - The Bloody Jack Series by L.A. Meyer

Have I mentioned how much I love  I have such a long list of what I want to read, and what I've actually read, and I love hearing about books my friends have loved and recommend.  Sometimes, they click with me.  Sometimes, I wonder about my friends' taste in literature.  (Not frequently, but sometimes.  Ha!)

Anyway, I'm a ridiculously voracious reader.  It doesn't help that I read quickly, and I always have to have a book on hand or I feel incomplete.  So, when I hear about a series that is worth looking into (especially if it already has a few books out), it's a good, good thing!  And my favorite place to hear about series?  Goodreads.

That's how I heard about Jacky Faber, our protagonist of the Bloody Jack series.  A friend of a friend, whose taste in books echoes mine, was raving about how much fun this series is, and I decided to check it out.

Jacky Faber is a ten-year-old street urchin from the slums of London.  She's lucky, however, in that she remembers her parents fondly (they died of a cholera outbreak), and in her ability to read.  When the leader of her street gang is killed, she decides to pretend she's a boy, enlist in His Majesty's Royal Navy, and forever set London behind her.  The first few chapters of the novel are almost impossible to read, as Meyer writes as Jacky thinks and speaks.  The fun, however, is in seeing her transformation from street rat to sailor (and receiving a minimal education to boot).  

The series currently consists of eleven book, and they have completely enthralled me.  Jacky Faber is a delight.  Her secret is discovered at the end of the book, but being shipped to a finishing school in Boston certainly doesn't dampen her spirits.  Or keep her out of trouble.  

I should warn you.  As Jacky ages, she gets herself into more scrapes than one would think humanly possible.  I have to read the series, I have no choice in the matter, but Jacky has started to get on my nerves a bit.  She's witty, intelligent, quick thinking, and through the course of the series she has created quite an empire, but man, she can be ridiculously stupid about some things.  Meyer has just announced the final book in the series (in 2015), and you can be certain I'll be diving in the moment I get my hands on it!  All that aside, this really is a fun series to dive into!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Every Cowgirl Goes to School - Rebecca Janni

Summary:  Nellie Sue is a true cowgirl with an imagination the size of Texas, and she is looking forward to a great school year. But when new girl Maya sits next to her best friend, Anna, and she finds her new desk is sandwiched between the rough and wild J-Twins, and a mysterious cow picture lands on her desk, Nellie Sue realizes that this day is NOT going her way.  Can this trusty cowgirl dust herself off and use her high-flying spirit to turn the day around and make a brand-new friend?

Readers of Fancy Nancy will love the laugh-out-loud classroom antics and story of friendship.  (Summary and image from

My Review:  Nellie Sue is back, and she's off to school!  However, school isn't all she was hoping for.  Her best friend is sitting by a new girl, who doesn't seem to like Nellie Sue very much, cowgirl boots aren't acceptable at PE, and she's sandwiched between the J-twins, the little devils.  When someone leaves a picture of Nellie Sue as a "COW"girl on her desk, she has to wonder if school is all it was cracked up to be.

This book made my heart hurt.  I love Nellie Sue and her resilience, and I so wanted her first day of school to be perfect.  But how real is that?  Although Nellie Sue's first day was far from perfect, Janni has crafted a great tool for kids on making the best of a bad situation.  She gently reminds readers the true keys to friendship-kindness, communication, and being willing to see outside yourself-and makes sure that her heroine Nellie Sue comes out on top ... even using the "mean" picture of a "Cow"girl to explain why she's wonderful at the end of the book.

I love Nellie Sue's realism.  She's a wonderful little girl - not always perfect, but she tries her hardest and makes sure she's a good friend to everyone around her.  As a mom of a little girl, I love that role model!

My Rating: As always, five stars.  

Monday, February 17, 2014

Find Momo - Andrew Knapp

Summary:  Momo is a border collie.  He is hiding in each of these photographs.  Can you find him?
(Image from  I was provided a copy of Find Momo at no charge in exchange for my opinion.)

My Review:  Andrew Knapp was hiking one day with his collie when he took a funny snapshot of his dog hiding behind a tree.  He posted it on instagram, and it got so many likes that the Find Momo project took on a life of its own.

Just a few short years later, Knapp found himself able to publish a few of his favorite photographs into a Where's Waldo? type book, interspersed with facts and funny stories about Momo and their adventures.

My daughter and I have really, really enjoyed this book over and over.  She loves the hide-and-seek opportunities to find Momo, who really is an amazing dog and a pretty good hider, and I appreciate Knapp's obvious talent and amazing eye for photography.  His photographs are stunning.  The adventures that he and his dog go on are amazing, and inspire me to get out and explore nature with my dog - although, my dog is lazy and I'm not a master photographer.

The facts and stories about Momo have endeared him to my daughter, and they're not too numerous. I appreciated that the focus was on the photography.  We both appreciated that there is a handy answer guide for those pictures that were too hard for us - there aren't too many, but Momo is a really good hider!  If you're interested in photography, or if you have children who like dogs, this is definitely a book to check out soon!

My Rating: Five stars

Friday, February 14, 2014

Happy Valentine's Day!

Ah, love.  It's a wonderful thing, isn't it?  There can be no arguing that it has inspired some of the best written words in English or any other language, and something about today just makes me want to lose myself in a timeless, epic romance for all ages.  Here are some of our favorites:

Gone with the Wind

Romeo and Juliet

Water for Elephants

Under the Never Sky

Time Traveler's Wife

Girl with a Pearl Earring

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

My Story - Elizabeth Smart with Chris Stewart

Summary:  For the first time, ten years after her abduction from her Salt Lake City bedroom, Elizabeth Smart reveals how she survived and the secret to forging a new life in the wake of brutal crime.

On June 5, 2002, fourteen-year-old Elizabeth Smart, the daughter of a close-knit Mormon family, was taken from her home in the middle of the night by religious fanatic Brian David Mitchell and his wife, Wanda Barzee.  She was kept chained, dressed in disguise, repeatedly raped, and told she and her family would be killed if she tried to escape.  After her rescue on March 12, 2003, she rejoined her family and worked to pick up the pieces of her life.

Now for the first time, in her memoir, My Story, she tells of the constant fear she endured every hour, her courageous determination to maintain hope, and how she devised a plan to manipulate her captors and convinced them to return to Utah, where she was rescued minutes after arriving.  Smart explains how her faith helped her stay sane in the midst of a nightmare and how she found the strength to confront her captors at their trial and see that justice was served.

In the ten years after her rescue, Smart transformed herself from victim to advocate, traveling the country and working to educate, inspire, and foster change.  She has created a foundation to help prevent crimes against children and is a frequent public speaker.  In 2012 she married Matthew Gilmour, whom she met doing mission work in Paris for her church, in a fairy-tale wedding that made the cover of People magazine.  (Summary from book jacket cover and image from  )

My Review:  It seems this book has strong opinions following it.  I'd been intrigued by this story, but hadn't sought out the book.  It quite literally was placed in my hands after my mother had read it.  I remember at the time of her rescue thinking that this poor girl needed time and solitude to heal.  I also remember thinking that I hoped she could overcome this enormous obstacle of abuse.  This book shares how she has gracefully done just that.

Elizabeth Smart endured a horrific experience, being taken from the one place most children think is the safest place in the world: their home.  She was taken from everything she knew and loved, treated like an animal, abused, manipulated, and dragged to California and, thankfully, back to Utah.  Her resilience through the ordeal is to be applauded, respected, and admired.  I remember being fourteen years old.  I knew so little about the world around me, what was within my power, and how to deal with such vicious, self-obsessed evil.  I think it's hard for many to remember that at fourteen Elizabeth was just beginning to realize what the world around her contained.

While the details of her ordeal are, I believe tastefully, left out, even the  more palatable abuse is sickening.  Starving, dying of thirst, and the mental toll of listening to the deranged ranting of a demonic man is bad enough.  In addition to this abuse, Smart was raped, forced to partake in acts she won't describe in this book.

As a fellow member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, I understand the modesty, the embarrassment, the confusion she must have felt after having been abused in ways our religion believes are the most sacred acts.  I understand how this must have brought her self-worth down to a level most couldn't understand.  I also understand how she must have hated herself, even when she knew it wasn't her fault.  All of this compounds her experience.  This is why I feel I understand why she left those horrid details out.  While I realize that for the world to understand just how horribly she was abused, I also understand her need to maintain some dignity, keeping some things to herself.

I think my biggest complaint about the book was that the writing fell short.  I don't believe this responsibility is Smart's.  Many lines seemed repeated versions of other lines, descriptions were simplistic, and overall it wasn't a gripping book.  There have been memoirs I haven't been able to put down (Night by Elie Wiesel is one).  This wasn't one of those.  I finished it quickly for two reason: 1) I wanted to return the book to my mother and 2) I wanted to get to the next book in my stack.

This was nice closure for me as a bystander of this case, but I don't know how many people will truly find the read that informative.

For the sensitive reader:  There is multiple mentions of verbal and sexual abuse, although very little detail is ever given.

Rating: 3.5 stars

Sum it up:  A smoothed over version of 9 month ordeal Elizabeth Smart went through.

Monday, February 10, 2014

The Invisible Tower - Nils Johnson-Shelton

Summary: Part of the spell has already been broken.
The first stones have begun to crumble.
In Artie Kingfisher’'s world, wizards named Merlin, fire-breathing dragons, and swords called Excalibur exist only in legends and lore—until the day his video game Otherworld springs to life.
You are special, Arthur,
Says the mysterious message in his game.
In one week’s time you will come to me at the IT.
Cryptic clues lead Artie to a strange place called the Invisible Tower, where he discovers that nothing in his life is as it seems. Artie is none other than King Arthur, brought to life in the twenty-first century. Artie has won the battle in the virtual Otherworld—now the key to saving the realOtherworld lies in his hands as well.
Green dragons, hungry wolves, powerful sorcerers—, suddenly Artie must battle them all as he wields Excalibur and embarks on a quest worthy of the Knights of the Round Table. With his sister, Kay, by his side, Artie steps into the Otherworld— straight toward his destiny. (Summary and cover photo from  A copy of the book was provided at no cost in exchange for my honest opinion.)
My Review:  Artie's a pretty lucky guy.  His dad fully supports his kids' video game playing, he has an awesome older sister who is his best friend, and, according to the weird old dude (who says he's the one and only Merlin) at the video game shop, he just happens to be the new King Arthur.  Yes, that one.  Before he knows it, he's retrieved a sword from a stone with Tom Thumb at his side, and his sister is his newest knight.  But what are they fighting for?  And why is his favorite video game all so real?
I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this retelling of the Arthurian legend.  To be clear, Artie isn't a resurrected or a reincarnated King Arthur, rather, he's his brother.  And Merlin is asking a lot of a young kid, he's only 11.  However, the growth that Artie experiences as he learns to trust himself, rely on his sister, and accepts his destiny makes him more than just a kid.
Nils Johnson-Shelton has done a fantastic job creating this new legend.  There are two worlds, our world and the Otherworld, where magic and dragons, shades and shadows, fairies and all sorts of unbelievable items exist.  The two worlds used to be connected, but their separation has possibly irreparably damaged both worlds, and only their reunification can fix that.  Artie knows the Otherworld from his video game, but is surprised to learn that it is a very real place, and that only by freeing Merlin (instead of trapped in a tree, this time he's trapped in an invisible tower) can they rejoin the worlds and save them both.
I really enjoyed seeing two siblings so eager to work together without the sibling rivalry and bickering, as well as seeing Artie's personal growth.  I don't know what it is, (perhaps I've watched too much Merlin) but I've always had this underlying suspicion that Arthur may have been an incredible warrior and extremely noble, but that he wasn't the brightest penny in the fountain.  This new Artie is a thinker.  He's smart, and he uses his instinct and his intelligence to guide him.  I appreciate that.
My Rating:  Four stars
For the Sensitive Reader:  One of the knights loses an arm in battle, and the hero and his sister take advantage of their dad's generosity while he's under a spell.  They express remorse afterward.  Also, Artie deals with a bully at school.

Friday, February 7, 2014

So You Want to be President? - Judith St. George & David Small

Summary:  This new version of the Caldecott-winning classic by illustrator David Small and author Judith St. George is updated with current facts and new illustrations to include our forty-second president, George W. Bush. There are now three Georges in the catalog of presidential names, a Bush alongside the presidential family tree, and a new face on the endpaper portraiture.

Hilariously illustrated by Small, this celebration by St. George shows us the foibles, quirks and humanity of forty-two men who have risen to one of the most powerful positions in the world. (Image and summary from

My Review:  My son loves history.  He had a wonderful kindergarten teacher who fueled this love, and helped develop his love of presidential history in particular.  Although he's no longer in kindergarten, it's remained one of his interests, and this book was an amazing book both for him and me!

Judith St. George has done an amazing job weaving together a wonderful compilation of facts and tidbits from each president, all while  crafting a good road map for ambitious children.  Goals like being honest, working hard, and that it may help if you're left handed are all presented.  The author also talk about what professions presidents have occupied - did you know we've elected a butcher?  A men's shop owner?  Fascinating!

I was a little skeptical when I first checked this book out with my son.  So many presidential "biographical" books are politically charged, and I am of the mind that children should be unswayed about such matters.  I was so pleasantly surprised!  Facts were presented as amazing information, and without a slant.  I loved the historical tilt, but I really appreciated how St. George humanized these leaders.

My Rating:  Five Stars

For the sensitive reader:  Squeaky clean!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The Alchemyst - Michael Scott

Summary:  Nicholas Flamel was born in Paris on 28 September 1330. Nearly seven hundred years later, he is acknowledged as the greatest Alchemyst of his day. It is said that he discovered the secret of eternal life. The records show that he died in 1418. But his tomb is empty and Nicholas Flamel lives. The secret of eternal life is hidden within the book he protects - the Book of Abraham the Mage. It's the most powerful book that has ever existed. In the wrong hands, it will destroy the world. And that's exactly what Dr. John Dee plans to do when he steals it. Humankind won't know what's happening until it's too late. And if the prophecy is right, Sophie and Josh Newman are the only ones with the power to save the world as we know it. Sometimes legends are true. And Sophie and Josh Newman are about to find themselves in the middle of the greatest legend of all time.  (Image and summary from 

My Review:  Sophie and Josh have had an unconventional childhood.  Their parents, busy archaeologists, relate best to items long buried, so the twins grew up on a steady diet of mythology and a need to be independent.  It's a good thing, too, since the cool couple that owns the bookshop across from Sophie's work happen to be Nicholas and Perenelle Flamel.  And they were just attacked by weird, mud-like creatures.  The street smells like rotten eggs and peppermint,  Perry is missing, and they both have a sneaking suspicion that things will never be the same.

Michael Scott has created such an interesting world, blending (just in the first book) Greek, Celtic, and Egyptian mythologies with sorcery and alchemy (not to mention names that are certainly familiar) into a seamless world existing parallel to our own.  This action-packed book is a very quick read, and it does pack a punch, although I found it a little difficult to keep track of so many different mythologies mixing.  I don't know much about Flamel (as a matter of fact, all I know of him is what's on the back of a Chocolate Frog card), but Scott has done a good job of painting a fascinating history of him.  I'm one of those readers that if something piques my interest, Google become my new friend, and Scott has done his homework.  Curious events in Flamel's life (his purchase of a rare and unreadable book, his empty grave) are integral to the story, and it makes me curious to see how they'll come into play.  It's also fascinating to read why Scott chose Flamel as a protagonist.

Further, I love the characters he's created in Sophie and Josh.  Although they are thrown into a situation more terrifying and stranger than anything they've ever encountered, their personalities are clear.  As fifteen year olds, their excitement at driving (and terror they'll have to do it again after quite the chase scene), Sophie's take-charge attitude, and Josh's utter despondency at losing his computer and cell phone all ring so true.  The last made me laugh.  The group has just survived a heart-wrenching battle, have barely escaped with their lives, and are facing such a mighty, life-altering challenge, and Josh is incapable of doing anything other than mourning the loss of his computer.  Sounds like every other fifteen year old boy I know!  I appreciated the honesty in that writing.

Every once in a while, it's nice to treat myself to an indulgence series ... one that's just fun to get lost in, and as a result, I'm almost always on the lookout for new series I can pick up once in a while, enjoy, and move on.  I'll definitely be checking out book two of this series!

My Rating:  Three and a half stars

For the Sensitive Reader:  The opening scene is a magical battle, and it doesn't slow down from there.  While Scott has written a clean book, the battles certainly make you feel like you're there.

Monday, February 3, 2014

GUEST POST: Contact - Carl Sagan

We're thrilled to have a guest post today from Joe Marshall.  Welcome!
Summary: Ellie Arroway, renown scientist and astrophysicist, has one dream: to find evidence of extra-terrestrial life. As fate (or perhaps science) would have it, while combing the sky via radio telescope, she stumbles upon more than she bargained for. After the discovery of a remarkable signal sent from the star Vega, containing a complex message resulting in an “invitation” for five humans to trek across space and rendezvous with the beings, not only is she confronted by the inescapable desire to be one of the lucky five, but also by the barrage of varying opinions, religious and scientific, on the ethics of responding to such an invitation.  (Image and summary from

My Review: Almost from day one, my life has been rooted and cultivated by two fundamentals which often appear to butt heads like water and oil -- the seeds of religion and science. I am deeply religious, chiefly Christian, but also tend to envelope myself in religious philosophies spanning the globe. I am likewise devotedly scientific, drawn towards any chance I get to step back and see a bigger picture which may expand my understanding of life, the universe, and everything. An unflinchingly stringent following of both these ideals has led me to more than a few elephants in the room. Friends both atheist or Christian have sometimes had quite a time wrapping their heads around it: yes, I accept macroevolution, based on evidence and fact; but, yes, I also accept Adam and Eve, based on intuition and faith. Therein lies the great crisis: fact vs. faith -- when thrown in the ring together -- appear to become an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object.

These are among the chief discussions interwoven in Contact, and they are not made lightly. Like the protagonist Ellie Arroway, Carl Sagan was not officially atheist, yet had no interest in his lifetime to make futile attempts to define who or what God may or may not be, as the evidence for him was always far too inconclusive. He was a bona fide scientist. He in turn proves all the more impressive in the narrative, making multiple metacognitive arguments validating religious faith and scientific data, constantly challenging each one’s claim on ultimate truth against the other, and slowly developing a certain romance between them.

This is majestic writing, unpretentious and complex, perceptive in its philosophy, sometimes even daunting in scientific theory and technicality. Its epicenter becomes the journey of a woman ranking in the 99% percentile of brain capacity, whose painful childhood and brilliance leave her doggedly determined to discover solid proof of alien intelligence. (The book also provides a great landscape for an adjacent dialogue on feminism vs. misogyny.) Ellie finds it, and the race begins -- the real space race, this time towards the star Vega. The end of this race must be read to be believed it is so well-thought and creative. (This novel is another example where words don’t quite translate to screen, which may be why Sagan and Zemeckis made no attempt, but rather redeveloped the story to fit its cinematic surroundings in 1997 and achieved near perfection in their adaptation.)

How on earth would this tired, technologically-adolescent, war-ravaged planet of humans react to the reception of a super-intelligent and benign alien message, one that challenges our sciences, our religions, perhaps our very natures? How might you react to such a revelation? Contact allows us to walk around in that world and freely examine just what we believe and why.

My rating: 5 Stars

Sum It Up: A must-read -- all the more so if you appreciated the film. If you’re human, you’ll get something out of it.

For the Sensitive Reader: This book contains occasional mild, indeliberate profanity, and a non-sexual conversation between two adults in bed.


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