Book Reviews

Visit our Recommended Reading page in the Kids section for reviews of children's books >

Three Cups of Tea may just be one of the most well-known works of non-fiction around today. It’s a tricky one to avoid hearing about. If you haven’t read it, someone you know has, or you’ve seen one of the thousands of interviews given by co-author Greg Mortenson.

And even if you’d managed to avoid all of that, the potential scandal unearthed by CBS’s 60 Minutes last month, alleging not just that portions of the book are fabricated, but that Mortenson mismanages the charity that allows him to build all these schools, has put the book and Mortenson directly into the public spotlight and headlines.

It was this hoopla, actually, that prompted me to pick up Three Cups of Tea. After hearing about it for so long, I wanted to decide for myself what to believe.

The current popularity of knitting as a craft comes from its versatility and creativity. As a teenager in 1960s Japan, Kyoko did not view knitting in such positive ways. For her, it was a symbol of repression.

Yarn: Remembering the Way Home is New York Times noted author Kyoko Mori’s memoir of her life in Japan, her decision to leave Japan the first chance she had, and how she developed a successful life in the United States.  

In her seventh grade home economics class, Kyoko was required to knit a perfect pair of mittens. With mismatched stitches and uneven knitting, Kyoko’s mittens earned only a D-. She had little use for knitting and for many other skills taught to teenage girls; skills she saw as symbols of repression thrust upon Japanese women. She had witnessed how the strong patriarchal society had destroyed her mother, leaving her with suicide as her only means of escaping an overbearing husband.

Being a runaway is hard enough as it is – leaving behind friends, family, and the life you’ve always known just to get away. Survival is always a concern, and it gets even trickier as a runaway in Unwind. In Neal Shusterman’s dystopian young-adult novel, they’re not just after you. They’re after your body parts.

In the future, in order to satisfy both sides of the pro-choice and pro-life war, the American Government has approved the Bill of Life.  The Bill of Life states that parents may choose to retroactively abort a pregnancy when their child is between the ages of 13 and 18.  In doing so, the child is technically kept alive by the dismemberment and “recycled,” with 100% of the child’s body material getting repurposed. The child’s life is never taken, just...“redistributed.” This process is known as “unwinding,” and the unfortunate children and teens fated for this are known as “Unwinds.”

Our three main characters are all on the run for different reasons. Connor is a troubled boy whose parents decided to unwind him after multiple fights in school. Risa is a ward of the state who feels she was never really given a chance to shine. And Lev is along for the ride with Connor and Risa after being kidnapped on his way to his own tithing – he is his family’s religious contribution to the unwinding system.

Sometimes in our lives, we set our own limitations. We are too afraid to follow our dreams. We tell ourselves that we don’t have enough skills, talents, or physical abilities to do a certain task. These fears prevent us from utilizing the full potential that we have.

Is your makeup trying to kill you? Some days it may seem like it. The blusher quits working, the foundation is flat, the lipstick has turned into Clown Red but the label says “Blushing Bride Pink.”

Perry Romanowski and the collective of cosmetic scientists behind The Beauty Brains understand the science and tech behind the beauty biz and know how to explain it in simple terms. Think of them as the Dear Abby of the cosmetic counter. They’ll answer any question, no matter how absurd.

And they have some silly ones in their book Can You Get Hooked on Lip Balm?* While the questions may seem silly, the answers are serious. The Beauty Brains speak openly about name-brand hair care products and such products’ claims to body-enhancing magic. Newsflash: The cosmetics industry is in it to make a buck, but they can’t lie about what their products do. Read between the lines of the fine print. But there’s some solid advice and science in this book, too.

For starters, the BBs talk about the biological components of hair and how to keep it healthy and shiny. The upshot? Don’t put stuff on it: chemicals, heat, pressure. This means go easy on the coloring, flat irons, and hair extensions. But if you can’t, they offer practical guidance for keeping hair as healthy as possible under these adverse conditions.

Pages