What the Other Three Don’t Know by Spencer Hyde

What the Other Three Don't Know by Spencer Hyde

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Book Review of What the Other Three Don't Know by Spencer Hyde

I have only been white-water rafting one time, and it wasn’t even on a scary river. I went as a leader for a church youth group, and we got to do zip lines, mountain climbing, and white-water rafting. We had so much fun! One of the girls that was in our boat lost her shoe on the river, but what was more nerve-wracking was that she almost fell out at a really bad time. We were really glad that we just lost her shoe and not her! Overall, I had a great time, but I don’t know that I’d want to do a five day trip on a river! In Spencer Hyde’s new book What the Other Three Don’t Know, four youth spend five days on the Snake River. Along the way, they find out a lot more about each other, their guide, and the secrets they all keep.

Blurb:

Will I still be loved if I show people who I really am?  
Four high school seniors. Four secrets about to be told.

If Indie had it her way, she would never choose to river raft with three other high school seniors, mostly strangers to each other, from her journalism class.

A loner, a jock, an outsider, an Instagram influencer. At first they can’t see anything that they have in common. As the trip unfolds, the unpredictable river forces them to rely on each other. Social masks start to fall as, one-by-one, each teen reveals a deep secret the other three don’t know.

One is harboring immense grief and unwilling to forgive after the death of a loved one. One is dealing with a new disability and an uncertain future. One is fearful of the repercussions of coming out. One is hiding behind a carefully curated “perfect” image on Instagram.

Before they get to the end of Hells Canyon, they’ll know the truth about each other and, more importantly, learn something new about themselves.

What the Other Three Don’t Know is a poignant and gripping YA novel about the unlikely friends who accept you for who you really are and the power of self-acceptance.”

My Book Review:

One lesson I’ve learned in my life is that if you want to get to know someone better, you need to spend time with them. Hanging out is good, but a vacation together is even better! It’s especially better if you don’t have cell phone service or tv or any other distraction devices. When you get to know someone better, you begin to feel more comfortable sharing who you really are. You start to let down your guard and bring your walls down. It’s a good thing! That is exactly what happened when Indie, Skye, Wyatt, and Shelby spent five days together, with their guide, in Hell’s Canyon on the Snake River.

I liked this book a lot! It is well written, and the characters make the story! Each character has his or her own unique story. Have you heard the saying that has gone around lately that you need to be kind to everyone because everyone is fighting a personal battle? That sentiment is the basis for this book. Each one of the high school seniors has a secret, and each one is afraid to let down the walls surrounding him or her. As these teenagers spend time getting to know each other, and their strengths and weaknesses, they begin to see that they aren’t all that different. They begin to see commonalities, and they start to see each other in a different light.

The characters in this book are very well written and thought out. The events that occur are not overdone or too dramatically written. There are some tense moments, but the writing allows it all to feel real and raw. As you read you can feel the emotions of the characters, and you also begin to relate to each of them. The writing style draws you into this world, and you really feel as if you are in that raft feeling the spray of the water and the danger of the situation.

There are some difficult things discussed in this book. Death, disability, and LGBT feelings are only a few. I like how the trip (for the characters) and the book (for the readers) provide a safe place to talk about hard issues. I think it is important for everyone to find a safe place to talk about the hard things in our lives. If you have a friend, family member, therapist, church leader, or school official that you can confide in—a connection—then you have a better chance at resolving your issues and feeling more loved.

I think this is a great YA book. Many YA will be able to see that it is ok to let your guard down, to not be perfect, and to get help if you need it. I love the themes of hard work, working together, helping each other, listening without judgment, accepting and loving without judgment, and being brave enough to talk about your feelings with others. Another thing I love is that this book allows YA (and all readers) to see that even the “popular people” struggle with things. Even the “popular people” aren’t perfect and feel insecure. This is a good thing for high school students to learn, because it makes people much more approachable and relatable.

Content Rating PG-13Rating: PG-13 (There are a couple of minor swear words–the canyon is called Hell’s Canyon, and there are some very tense and scary moments, but there isn’t any violence or “intimacy.” There are also some difficult themes discussed which may be too much for younger readers.)

Recommendation: YA (13-18)+

My Rating: 3.5/5

Disclosure: I received a free book in exchange for my honest review.

If you’d like to purchase this book, click here: https://amzn.to/2XABmJZ

 

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Book Review of Elmer’s Feelings by Kari Milito

Elmer's Feelings1 by Kari Milito

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Book Review of Elmer's Feelings by Kari Milito

I have two sons. They’re amazing boys; they’re smart, handsome, and kind. My boys are kind of big now (16 and 18), but they still have feelings (a lot of them!). Sometimes I think raising older kids is harder than raising younger kids. It’s different because they don’t need all the physical help anymore, but now it’s emotional help and support that they need. I wish this book had been around when they were little so that I could have helped them better understand and deal with their feelings when they were younger. Elmer’s Feelings by Kari Milito talks about feelings, especially boys’ feelings.

Blurb:

“Elmer’s excited and ready for his first day of school. But things don’t go at all like he imagined, and it’s causing lots of different feelings. Will he be able to sort through them all and find a way to have a better second day?”

My Book Review:

This is such a cute book! Before I get to that, however, I want to let you know that Kari is a friend of mine. Our boys played soccer together for a couple of years when they were younger. They’re both 18 and kind of grown-up now, but we had some fun times sitting in the freezing rain and snow and hot sun cheering our boys on! I promise to be honest in my review, though.

Boys and feelings. Haha! That’s a tough one. Even though I think things are starting to turn a little, there is still a predominant feeling out there that boys and men can’t have feelings. They always need to be tough and not let those feelings show. This feeling is erroneous, but it is still out there. So how do we change it?

Enter Elmer the Elephant. Elmer goes to school on his first day and things definitely do not go as planned. It turns out to be a pretty bad day. He runs home after school, slams the door, and runs up to his room. Haha! Sounds like my teenagers some days. It seems like Elmer’s feelings are getting the best of him. Elmer’s mom goes to check on him and reminds him that

“it’s okay to feel your feelings, but don’t get stuck on them too long. See what each feeling has to tell you and then send it on its way.”

This is such good advice. Everyone should be reminded of this every now and then. I think it’s especially good for children to hear. Yes, you will have feelings, and yes, it’s ok to feel them, but feel them, learn from them, and then move on. I really like this lesson.

The rest of the story goes on to talk about Elmer’s second day, and how he chooses to make things better. I think this is one of the most valuable lessons children can learn—you get to choose to make things better. Don’t be a victim, don’t wallow in self pity or get angry; choose to make your situation better. If you’re waiting for someone else to save you then you may be waiting for a long time. This is what Elmer does, and he has a much better experience the second day.

This is a really cute book. Feelings can be hard to discuss, but reading the story and then talking about them makes it much easier. What makes it even more fun is the little matching game at the end. You match how he’s feeling at different times in the story with the feeling word. There’s also a reflective page where you can discuss what he did the second day to make his day go better. The illustrations and cover art in Elmer’s Feelings are adorable too. I think this would make a great addition to any home, classroom, or school library.

Content Rating GContent Rating: G (Clean!)

Recommendation: Everyone

My Rating: 4/5

4 Star Review

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. Also, Kari Milito is my friend. 🙂

 

If you’d like to purchase this book, click here: https://amzn.to/2HDVu6w

 

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The Wish and the Peacock by Wendy S. Swore

The Wish and the Peacock by Wendy S. Swore

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Book Review of The Wish and the Peacock by Wendy S. Swore

Change is always hard, especially when you’re a kid. When you think life will always go as planned, think again. I feel for Paige. Her life is changing rapidly, and she’s not handling it well. I can relate. When we moved into the home we’re currently in, my oldest son had a very difficult time with the change. He wouldn’t get out of the car to look at houses, and he was furious when we moved. Thankfully, he’s come around. It took him awhile, but now he’s 18 and is glad we’re here. Paige finds herself in a similar situation, and she promises to do whatever it takes to stop the changes. She tries her best, but does it work? I really liked this book; I hope you enjoy my book review of The Wish and the Peacock by Wendy S. Swore.

Blurb:

“Paige’s favorite family tradition on the farm is the annual bonfire where everyone tosses in a stone and makes a wish. This time, Paige’s specific wish is one she’s not sure can come true: Don’t let Mom and Grandpa sell the farm.

When Paige’s younger brother finds a wounded peacock in the barn, Paige is sure it’s a sign that if she can keep the bird safe, she’ll keep the farm safe too. Peacocks, after all, are known to be fierce protectors of territory and family.

With determination and hard work, Paige tries to prove she can save the farm on her own, but when a real estate agent stakes a “For Sale” sign at the end of the driveway and threatens everything Paige loves, she calls on her younger brother and her best friends, Mateo and Kimana, to help battle this new menace. They may not have street smarts, but they have plenty of farm smarts, and some city lady who’s scared of spiders should be easy enough to drive away.

But even as the peacock gets healthier, the strain of holding all the pieces of Paige’s world together gets harder. Faced with a choice between home and family, she risks everything to make her wish come true, including the one thing that scares her the most: letting the farm go.”

My Book Review:

I really enjoyed this book. Paige is quite the character! She’s strong, strong-willed, stubborn, set in her ways, and thinks she’s a grown-up. She knows what she wants and will do pretty much anything to get it. I like these characteristics, but she may sometimes take things a little too far. Unfortunately, Paige doesn’t see that some of her actions cause more harm than good. She may think she’s helping, but she’s actually making things worse. I do love her effort, though. Paige’s brother Scotty isn’t quite like her. He’s easier to persuade, he is much quieter, and not quite as independent as Paige is. Of course, he is younger. I love the dynamics between the two of them. For the most part, they have a good relationship and work well together. They do have some sibling issues, which is normal.  

I love the way Ms. Swore developed these characters! Along with Paige and Scotty there is also their mom and grandpa, and their friends Mateo and Kimana. Kimana is Native American, and I loved learning more about her culture. Each character brings an important aspect to the story. I found all the characters to be developed well, realistic, flawed, and unique. Each has a unique voice and presence, and each shows growth and learning throughout the book.

The writing style that Ms. Swore uses grabbed me from the beginning. Although some difficult topics are weaved throughout the book, the writing doesn’t make it feel somber or heavy. I found it engaging, full of personality, and upbeat. It’s easy to read and understand, flows well, and has an interesting plot. There are some heavy moments, for sure, but those moments are counteracted by a few humorous times. Paige’s voice makes the story!

I love the lessons that this book teaches (You know me; I’m a sucker for lessons taught in books!). A few of the important lessons that this book focuses on are the importance of family, friendship, embracing change, dealing with the death of a loved one, knowing when you need to ask for help—and asking for it, and humility. These are just a few of them!

I really enjoyed this book. It’s such a cute story, it’s packed with important lessons, and it’s well written. I know my middle-grader will enjoy it for sure, and I think my 14 year-old daughter will also enjoy it. The cover art is beautiful!

Content Rating PGContent Rating: PG (It’s clean. There are a few heavier topics discussed, but no language, violence, or “intimacy.”)

Recommendation: Middle-Grader (4th-6th) and up

My Rating: 4/5

4 Star Review

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

 

If you’d like to purchase this book, click here: https://amzn.to/2SSIMWY

 

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Paul, Big, and Small by David Glen Robb

Paul Big and Small by David Glen Robb

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Book Review of Paul, Big, and Small by David Glen Robb

I haven’t ever tried rock climbing. I’ve climbed over rocks while hiking, does that count? I’ve ridden over rocks while mountain biking. Does that count? I haven’t ever tried actual rock climbing. It scares me! I have rappelled, though. I went rappelling in high school with a leadership team I was on. We went to this army base near our home and they had a really tall wall that you could rappel down. We didn’t climb it; we climbed up a ladder, but that was scary enough. Then I got to rappel down an actual rock face a few years ago when I went with the youth in my church. It was fun, but scary. I admire people that rock climb because I think it takes a lot of courage and strength. I’ve never read a book about it either, so it was fun to read about Paul and how he uses rock climbing as a stress reliever. I really liked PAUL, BIG, and SMALL by David Glen Robb. I hope you enjoy my review!

Blurb:

“Paul Adams has always been short, but he’s an excellent rock climber. And his small size means he can hide from the bullies that prowl the halls of his high school.

Top on his list of “People to Avoid” are Conor, from his Language Arts class, Hunter, who hangs around the climbing gym, and Lily Small, who happens to be the tallest girl in school. But he might be able to be friends with a new kid from Hawaii who insists that everyone call him “Big.” He’s got a way of bringing everyone into his circle and finding the beauty in even the worst of situations.

When the three of them—Paul, Big, and Small—are assigned to the same group project, they form an unlikely friendship. And Paul realizes that maybe Lily isn’t so bad after all. He might even actually like her. And maybe even more than like her.

Paul and Lily team up for a rock-climbing competition, but when Lily is diagnosed with leukemia, Paul ends up with Conor on his team. And when Paul learns that Conor is dealing with bullies of his own—as well as some deep emotional pain—he realizes that the bullying in his school has got to stop.

Paul, Big, and Small is about the turbulent, emotional lives of young adults who are struggling with life’s challenges openly and sometimes in secret.”

My Book Review:

Wow. What a great story! Life in high school can be difficult, especially for anyone who is different in any way.  If you’re too tall, too short, weigh too much, too smart, not very smart, or have any other distinguishing differences, you could be the victim of bullying or harassment. Paul is a great kid. His distinguishing difference is his height. He’s on the too short side of things. I can definitely empathize with Paul on that one. Big is an amazing kid. He’s from Hawaii, and his distinguishing characteristic is that he’s very big. Lily Small seems big and scary at first, but she has a soft center. Her distinguishing characteristic is that she’s very tall and she’s black. Her parents adopted her from Africa.

These three high school students come together to work on a school project, and it turns into genuine friendship. I love all three of these characters. Seriously. Paul has no self confidence at school. He’s constantly picked on and bullied for his height. Big is the best. Wow! I love how he takes the time to stop and feel and hear the rain in a run-down, cement outside area at the school. I love the happiness he spreads. Lily comes across as big and scary—that is until you get to know her. It turns out that she, like Paul and Big, gets picked on. Her positive attitude and genuine love for people make her a fabulous friend and character.

All of the characters in this book are well written, well developed, realistic, and just jump off the page. Paul, Big, and Lily (her last name is Small) have to be some of my all-time favorite characters. That’s saying something. Big, especially. I love, love, love how he takes an impending conflict and turns it around by spreading love and happiness. The way he enjoys the little things like a dandelion growing out of a crack in the cement or an ant carrying a chip along the floor amazes me. I have a lot to learn from Big. He’s my favorite character in the book, and I want him to be my friend.

I love the way this book tackles tough issues. High school comes with a lot of issues, and this book deals with a lot of them in such an amazing way. You’ve got many different characters, and you get to see their different sides. You get to see little pieces of what makes them them. Why does this kid bully other kids? What makes this kid who he is? What experiences does she have that have made her who she is today? I always tell my kids to be nice to everyone because you never know what someone is going through or dealing with, and this book emphasizes this in an amazing way.

Mental illness, bullying, suicide, physical illness, and the death of a loved one are just a few of the tough issues tackled in this book. Although it does focus on these hard things, it also focuses on friendship, love, kindness, empathy, and seeing the good in people. I love how you get to see the other side of these rough characters—the “at home” side that you rarely get the chance to see. What causes this person to act the way he does? The book focuses on learning about people and their circumstances, and not just judging them for their actions. It focuses on loving them and being kind to them despite their negative actions or poor behavior.

I loved this book! It is needed today. So needed. It teaches kids that there are outs. If you don’t like rock climbing then you can run, bike, hike, walk, dance, sew, color, or whatever you enjoy. Find something that calms you down, helps you breathe, and puts you out in nature. Use this as an outlet for your stress, pain, anger, and heartache. Don’t take it out on others because that strategy doesn’t help anyone. Hurting others doesn’t heal you. Learn to be the good! Learn to be the ray of sunshine in someone else’s life. Serve others. Help others. Put your own trials aside and help a friend (or an enemy). This is what brings happiness and helps heal your own pain.

I could go on and on. I love this book so much! I love the characters and the lessons the story teaches. I’m turning it over to my kids and making them read it! I may even read it to my sixth graders (I teach math and science so I don’t usually read to them). Every home and classroom should have this book available to read. This story is poignant, relevant, important, and so needed today!

Content Rating PG-13Content Rating: PG-13 (There isn’t any profanity or “intimacy.” There is some minor violence involving bullying, and it deals with some tough topics like mental illness. A character does die by suicide. )

Recommendation: YA+

My Rating: 4.5/5

4.5 Star Rating

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

If you’d like to purchase this book, click here: https://amzn.to/334UmC0

 

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How Not To Die Alone by Richard Roper

How Not to Die Alone by Richard Roper

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Book Review of How Not to Die Alone by Richard Roper

No one wants to die alone, right? That seems to be something everyone can agree on. Just thinking about it brings panic and sadness, and you never want to hear of anyone else going through it either. So how do you prevent that from happening? It’s all about connections. Connections with other people bring us joy, love, sorrow, happiness, safety, pain, frustration, peace, and so many more. The difficult thing is that in order to make a connection you need to put yourself out there and be vulnerable, and that’s scary. Once you’re out there, there’s a chance you will get hurt, and that’s scary too. In How Not to Die Alone by Richard Roper, Andrew sees this dilemma and is paralyzed by it. What about you? How far would you go to not die alone?

Blurb:

“No one wants to die without having really lived.

Andrew’s been feeling stuck.

For years he’s worked a thankless public health job, searching for the next of kin of those who die alone. Luckily, he goes home to a loving family every night. At least, that’s what his co-workers believe.

Then he meets Peggy.

A misunderstanding has left Andrew trapped in his own white lie and his lonely apartment. When new employee Peggy breezes into the office like a breath of fresh air, she makes Andrew feel truly alive for the first time in decades.

Could there be more to life than this?

But telling Peggy the truth could mean losing everything. For twenty years, Andrew has worked to keep his heart safe, forgetting one important thing: how to live. Maybe it’s time for him to start.”

My Book Review:

Have you ever told a little lie? Has that lie ever exploded into something out of control? Well, that is what Andrew deals with in this book. He told a lie his first few minutes at a new job, and several years later he still has to perpetuate that falsehood. It takes on a life of its own, and immobilizes him. So he’s alone. But he’s not. Strange how that works.

The writing style of this book hooked me from the beginning. It’s witty yet somber, crass yet sensitive, all-out yet half-hidden, truthful yet full of lies, alone yet together, bursting with love yet loveless, alive yet dead, and the end yet the beginning. As you can tell, contradictions abound in this book. It’s quite the feat to put all of that into one cohesive story, yet Roper skillfully pieces it together.

Truthfully, Andrew’s job sounds terrible. There’s no way I could ever do what he does. I’m glad he’s there to do it, but I’ll take a classroom full of sixth graders over his job any day. When people die, if they don’t have friends or loved ones to find them, they could be dead for months without anyone noticing. Sad, right? After the authorities are called, Andrew goes into the home to search for clues about lost loved ones, or anyone that might have known the person. He’s looking for help paying for the funeral, and for someone to come mourn at the funeral.

Not fun, right? Yeah. Honestly, it’s something I’d never thought or heard of until I read this book. The story takes place in London, and I did a little research to see what they do in the United States. I found this article. It pertains to New York; I couldn’t find anything about where I live. It sounds like it’s about the same.

I love the uniqueness of this book. I’ve never read anything like it. The characters are very well developed, realistic, and they all have their own personalities. Andrew makes such an interesting main character. Even after a whole book it’s difficult to read him or guess what he’ll do next. There’s a bit of a mystery surrounding an event in his past, and it definitely has an impact on his current day. There are a few times that he does cringy things. Seriously cringy things. And it makes you want to scream.

I like Peggy a lot; especially how she handles everything that goes on. Andrew’s boss and colleagues are quite the bunch. I vacillated between annoyance and disgust with them. His sister Sally is something of a mystery. That’s one thing I would have liked more info on, but instead Roper leaves it to the reader to decide what really happens there. Sally’s husband is a jerk. I’ll leave it at that.

Overall, I enjoyed this book. It’s quirky, unique, and packs a big punch. I love the dynamics and relationships between the characters. I also love watching Andrew grow and develop along the way. How Not to Die Alone is very well written. The story flows well, the plot is interesting, and there are some great vocabulary words. I love the connection between the title, Andrew’s job, and Andrew’s personal circumstance–it’s very clever. The cover art definitely grabs your attention.

The big take home from this story is to be honest. Be honest with others and with yourself. All.the.time. Another take-away is the importance of connections.

“Connection is the antidote to depression”

               –David Kozlowski

It’s hard to make connections because you need to put yourself out there and be vulnerable. That’s never a comfortable thing to do, and it takes a lot of practice, but it’s so worth it. True connections with good people make life so much more enjoyable. And who knows? It could save your life one day.  

Content Rating RContent Rating: R (Profanity, including multiple “f” words. “Intimacy,” including scenes and innuendos. Domestic violence, and the death of a couple of characters.)

Age Recommendation: Adult

My Rating: 3.5/5   (I lowered my rating from a 4 because of language.)

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

If you’d like to purchase this book, click here: https://amzn.to/2X7lJMM

 

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A Tangled Mercy by Joy Jordan-Lake The Other Side of the Bridge by Camron Wright The Evolution of Thomas Hall by Kieth Merrill
 
Featured Image Credit: Goodreads.com 
 

When the Storm Ends by Rebecca L. Marsh

When the Storm Ends by Rebecca L. Marsh

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Book Review of When the Storm Ends by Rebecca L. Marsh

Thankfully, I grew up in a loving home. I married a kind and loving man. I’ve never been in an abusive relationship. I know people who have been, and my heart breaks for them. This book speaks to those people. There are some very difficult things discussed in this book. It’s good for people like me to see how difficult those situations are. This allows me to be more aware and to be more compassionate. It’s also good for those who are in the situation to read, so they know that there is hope and a way out. When the Storm Ends by Rebecca L. Marsh delves into the topic of domestic violence, child abuse, and the foster care system. Those topics can be a bit heavy, so thankfully, Ms. Marsh evens it out with a touch of healing and hope.

Blurb:

“Beth thought her violent childhood was something she left in the past—until she met Erin. Now the abuse of her step-father has returned in terrifying nightmares.

Beth became a child psychologist so she could help children who are broken and hurting, but Erin, the fifteen-year-old who killed her father, is different. If Beth can’t reach her and find out why she did it, Erin will spend the rest of her childhood behind bars. To most people, it looks simple—Erin is either crazy or evil, but when Beth looks into Erin’s haunted eyes, she’s sure that something terrible was done to this girl. Erin, however, isn’t talking.

Beth believes Erin might open up to someone with whom she feels a kinship. Of course, Beth knows she shouldn’t share her own past with a patient, but the clock is ticking toward Erin’s trial, and Beth is out of options.

Little does Beth know that taking this terrifying leap will not only reveal the truth about Erin, but will rip Beth’s past wide open as well—and a connection between them that will shake Beth to the core.”

My Book Review:

I’m not good with violence. Any kind of violence.  You know all those movies and tv shows that everyone loves because of the action and things blowing up? The good guys usually win, but lots of people die in the process? Yeah, well, my husband laughs at me (now you can too) because I close my eyes through most of the movie. I don’t like watching violence. I don’t like watching people get hurt, and I really don’t like watching people die. So, I close my eyes.

Unfortunately, when you’re reading a book, you can’t close your eyes. It doesn’t really work that way, does it? There’s not a good way to escape from what happens on the page. Therefore, I just have to read, and maybe skim, the best I can. When the Storm Ends by Rebecca L. Marsh has a few scenes that I wish I could have closed my eyes through. I found them very difficult to read. Reading scenes that describe children (and women) being physically abused is tough to do.

I understand the purpose of those events in the story. They are there to give history and to show where the character is coming from. I realize they also show the evilness of a character. For me, personally, I don’t like to read them. It took me awhile to read because it’s a quite depressing in some parts. Therefore, I did lower my rating a bit because of this content. Not everyone will feel the same way.

Looking past the difficult content, this book is well written. The characters are well developed, realistic, and unique. Each one has his or her own personality and traits. You definitely feel Beth’s emotions, as an adult and as a child. I liked Beth’s character. She was strong, yet still vulnerable. I also liked her brother Jack’s character. He was tender and loving even after having been through some rough things.

Although most of the other characters are secondary, I came to love some of them, or hate some of them, just as much as Beth and Jack did. I didn’t always understand them or where they were coming from, but that’s why I love reading—it always helps you look at situations from different vantage points.

Ms. Marsh’s writing style flows well, grabs your attention, and is easy to read and understand. She brings up many hard issues in this book. Even though it’s tough to read, it’s always good to see things differently, and maybe to understand things a little more. Some of the topics brought up are physical and emotional abuse, murder, death, loyalty, foster care, domestic violence, love, family, hope, healing, therapy, and overcoming hardship. It’s a lot to take in, but it does speak to hope and healing, even after going through hard times.

Overall, I’m glad I read this book. If I hadn’t been reviewing it I may not have finished, but the story is compelling and I did want to know what happened. I cared for Beth and Jack, and wanted to see their story through.  

Content Rating RRating: R (Profanity, including at least one “f” word. Physical and emotional abuse, domestic violence, murder, attempted rape, and the death of at least one character.)

Recommendation: Adult

My Rating: 3.5/5

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

 

If you’d like to purchase this book, click here: https://amzn.to/2ZFtOoZ

 

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Once Upon A River by Diane Setterfield

Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield

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Book Review of Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield

Every once in awhile, a story comes along that once read, becomes a part of you. This is one of those stories. It is now a part of my history. A part of me. The characters are my dear friends, and the scenery something I long for. I read this book awhile ago and haven’t had time to review it until now. I miss it. If I had time, I’d read it again. Right now. It’s been a long time since a book has called out to me like that, and I love the feeling. It’s comforting. So what is the story about? Why did it draw me in like it did? Find out in my book review of Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield.

Blurb:

“Three girls missing.

One is returned.

A story begins.

On a dark midwinter’s night in an ancient inn on the river Thames, an extraordinary event takes place. The regulars are telling stories to while away the dark hours, when the door bursts open on a grievously wounded stranger. In his arms is the body of a small child. Hours later, the girl stirs, takes a breath, and returns to life. Is it a miracle? Is it magic? Or can science provide an explanation? These questions have many answers, some of them quite dark indeed.

Those who dwell on the riverbank apply all their ingenuity to solving the puzzle of the girl who died and lived again, yet as the days pass the mystery only deepens. The child herself is mute and unable to answer the essential questions: Who is she? Where did she come from? And to whom does she belong?

Once Upon a River is a glorious tapestry of a book that combines folklore and science, magic and myth. Suspenseful, romantic, and richly atmospheric, this novel will sweep readers away on a powerful current of storytelling, transporting them through worlds both real and imagined.”

My Book Review:

I do not read the blurbs on the covers of books before I read them. I want to be carried away and surprised by the story. Both occurred when I read this book. The setting is perfect. The descriptions of the river and the surrounding land made me feel as if I were there, standing on the bank looking into the cool water. The descriptions of the inn called The Swan took me there and placed me at a table listening to the stories told.

The characters, oh the characters. There are many of them. Each character is so well crafted that he or she becomes someone you’ve always known. Each has a unique personality, strengths, weaknesses, and beliefs. At times, one character comes into the spotlight and you get to see a deeper glimpse into his or her life. In that moment, you understand a little more of the picture being painted. You are able to solve a small piece of the mystery—until you’ve finally seen enough to see the whole. This book comes to life because of the characters. Diane Setterfield is a master character crafter. Seriously.

The story is told from many viewpoints, yet they all come together as one. It’s seamless. You get so caught up in what is happening that you don’t even realize the point of view has changed or that there’s a new chapter. The writing style is captivating, engaging, and intriguing. You.can’t.put.it.down. No matter where you go or how long you’re gone, you think about this book. You think about it cooking dinner, at work, and in the shower. It haunts you (in a good way) until you have to finish it to see what happens.

If you can’t tell, I loved this book. It’s such a unique story, filled with miracles, love, loss, stories, science, the river, and people. It’s a little gossip and a lot of love and mystery surrounding a small child. It’s a town where nothing unusual happens—until it’s the town where the unusual does happen. The book has such a unique feel, tone, and atmosphere, and I loved it.

Content Rating PG-13+Content Rating: PG-13+ (There isn’t any profanity in this book, although there is an “intimacy” scene. It’s not too graphic or descriptive. There is also some domestic violence and abuse.)

Recommendation: Adult

My Rating: 4.5/5

4.5 Star Rating

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

 

If you’d like to purchase this book, click here: https://amzn.to/2UyuYnb

 

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Featured Image Credit: Goodreads.com
 

Waiting For Fitz by Spencer Hyde

Waiting For Fitz by Spencer Hyde

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Book Review of Waiting For Fitz by Spencer Hyde

Mental health is a difficult topic to discuss. It’s rough sometimes. It is also a topic that is very close to my heart. I have a child who suffers from debilitating anxiety, panic attacks, and depression. This child missed months of school and was so sick that he had to be hospitalized. Twice. We thought he may need to be put in a mental ward, but, thankfully, he never had to. That was almost two years ago, and although it’s gotten a lot better, anxiety is something he deals with daily. We’re still living minute to minute with him. The more people I tell his story to, the more people tell me that their child deals with something similar. We need to talk about this. We need to bring this issue to the forefront because it is way more common than we think it is. Let’s end the stigma. Fiction is a great way to start this process, and I applaud Spencer for tackling this tough issue. Learn more about his book in my book review of Waiting For Fitz by Spencer Hyde.

Blurb:

“Addie loves nothing more than curling up on the couch with her dog, Duck, and watching The Great British Baking Show with her mom. It’s one of the few things that can help her relax when her OCD kicks into overdrive. She counts everything. All the time. She can’t stop. Rituals and rhythms. It’s exhausting.

When Fitz was diagnosed with schizophrenia, he named the voices in his head after famous country singers. The adolescent psychiatric ward at Seattle Regional Hospital isn’t exactly the ideal place to meet your soul mate, but when Addie meets Fitz, they immediately connect over their shared love of words, appreciate each other’s quick wit, and wish they could both make more sense of their lives.

Fitz is haunted by the voices in his head and often doesn’t know what is real. But he feels if he can convince Addie to help him escape the psych ward and get to San Jan Island, everything will be okay. If not, he risks falling into a downward spiral that may keep him in the hospital indefinitely.

Waiting For Fitz is a story about life and love, forgiveness and courage, and learning what is truly worth waiting for.”

My Book Review:

I loved this book! The wit, humor, and word play Spencer Hyde uses make the book, for sure. Let’s talk about the wittiness of this book. It’s clever, well-timed and well-placed, and it makes for some great banter between Addie and Fitz. Fitz’ shirts are great, and I love that Addie and Fitz are about equal in their wittiness so they have some fun conversations. The humor goes along with the wit. I am a word lover, so I love the words and language in this book. Both Fitz and Addie are very intelligent, and I love how they use words in their conversations. Oftentimes we think of wit and word play as strategies to convey humor or happiness. It’s light and airy, right? Well, somehow Spencer Hyde is able to use both wit and humor during difficult and hard conversations as well. He is quite a gifted writer.

I’ve talked a bit about Addie and Fitz. They are definitely the main characters in the book, and they are great characters. Each of them is well thought-out, well developed, and unique. Even though they both like to be witty, they do it in a way that matches their own personality. I loved learning about each character’s history, strengths, weaknesses, and struggles. OCD and schizophrenia are very different diagnoses, and even though I don’t have either one of them, I thought they were portrayed well.

The other patients in the ward are also developed well. Leah, Wolf, Didi, and Junior each have their own reasons for being in the mental ward, and you really feel for each of them. Yes, there is humor around them and some of their conditions, but at the same time, you know how much they struggle. You know they don’t want to be there. You want them to get help and hopefully be able to graduate out of the ward. The use of humor around some of their difficulties makes you laugh, but it also serves as a way to highlight that condition and how hard it must be to live with that mental illness.

This story pulls at your heartstrings. As the reader you want to be able to jump in and help those kids. You want them to feel loved and to be able to find a way to cope with their conditions so they can return to the outside world. I’m so thankful to the people that work in mental health. There are not enough of them. When my son was struggling the most, I called pretty much every psychologist within a 50 mile radius of my house. The shortest wait I could find was three months. Yep, all of them were either booked out three months, didn’t see children, or didn’t take our insurance. We need more good, smart, and kind people to work in mental health.

I loved this quote by the author:

Addie’s OCD is a reflection of my experience translated through a fictional character…In Waiting For Fitz, I have taken my personal experiences and fictionalized them. I have created this made-up world and tried to fill it with real-world significance, and meaning, with truth. I believe that is the aim of all fiction: we strive to put words into a rhythm and order that will reveal something redemptive about what it means to be human. It is a lesson in empathy; it is practice in how to live.

I agree completely. What a great way to discuss complex topics. Fiction allows you to see a more complete picture of the characters’ lives, of their personalities, wants, dreams, strengths, weaknesses, and trials. Fiction allows you to see a different side of the story, and to feel many of the characters’ emotions. Just as Wonder highlights physical attributes, Waiting For Fitz highlights mental illness and the need for more compassion, empathy, knowledge, and acceptance.

fitz blog tour 1

Content Rating PG-13Content Rating: PG-13 (There isn’t any profanity or “intimacy” in this book; there is one scene that is a bit violent. However, this book is full of themes that are inappropriate for MG or younger readers. )

Age Recommendation: YA (13-18) and Adult

My Rating: 4/5

4 Star Review

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

If you’d like to purchase this book, click here: https://amzn.to/2Fbif1j

 

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mustaches for maddie Squint by Chad Morris and Shelly Brown A Monster Like Me by Wendy S. Swore
 
 
Featured Image Credit: Goodreads.com
 

A Monster Like Me by Wendy S. Swore

A Monster Like Me by Wendy S. Swore

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Book Review of A Monster Like Me by Wendy S. Swore

Have you ever thought of yourself as something unlovable or scary? It starts as a small idea and then festers into something uncontrollable and real. I think everyone has short moments where they may think that of themselves. Sophie thinks this of herself constantly. She’s convinced she’s a monster, which breaks my heart. No one should think that, especially a child. She got the idea from her favorite book—The Big Book of Monsters that she always keeps with her. Yes, it’s big and heavy, but that doesn’t stop her from carrying it everywhere. It’s how she determines which monsters or creatures are living around her—so she can protect herself. Find out more in my book review of A Monster Like Me by Wendy S. Swore.

Blurb:

“Being the new kid at school is hard, but Sophie has a secret weapon: her vivid imagination and her oversized, trusted Big Book of Monsters—an encyclopedia of myths and legends from all over the world. The pictures and descriptions of the creatures in her book help her know which kids to watch out for—clearly the bullies are trolls and goblins—as well as how to avoid them. Though not everyone is hiding a monster inside; the nice next-door neighbor is probably a good witch, and Sophie’s new best friend is obviously a good fairy.

Sophie is convinced she is a monster because of the ‘monster mark’ on her face. At least that’s what she calls it. The doctors call it a blood tumor, and it covers almost half of her face. Sophie can feel it pulsing with every beat of her heart. And if she’s a monster on the outside, then she must be a monster on the inside, too. She knows that it’s only a matter of time before the other kids, the doctors, and even her mom figure it out.

The Big Book of Monsters gives Sophie the idea that there might be a cure for her monster mark, but in order to make the magic work, she’ll need to create a special necklace made from ordinary items—a feather, a shell, and a crystal—that Sophie believes are talismans. Once she’s collected all the needed ingredients, she’ll only have one chance to make a very special wish. If Sophie can’t break the curse and become human again, her mom is probably going to leave—just like her Dad did. Because who would want to live with a real monster?”

My Book Review:

As a mom and a teacher, it breaks my heart to think of this darling girl thinking something so terrible of herself. She has a blood tumor on her face, and it’s big. You can see why she’d think of herself as an ugly monster. The problem is, she can’t figure out which kind. She’s read her book dozens of times, and she can figure out what everyone else is, but she can’t find a description that matches her monster-type. She must be one, though, because she’s ugly, and it would explain why her dad left her. Once again, it makes me so sad that she thinks of herself in this way.

This book is so well written. Sophie’s voice in the story is sweet, real, and protective of her secret. Her thought process is realistic and child-like, and it draws you into the story. The descriptions of the monsters are witty and clever. I love how quick Sophie’s mind worked to match a person to a monster. It works because we all tend to judge people by their appearance and actions (whether or not those judgments are accurate is a different story), Sophie just goes a step further and puts a monster description with it.

The character development in this book is fantastic. You feel like you know each of the characters personally, and they come to life on the page. Sophie is well developed, likable, imaginative, and spunky. Sometimes I cringe with her because she has a bit of temper sometimes. Autumn is so sweet and fun. Just like a fairy. Mrs. Barrett reminds me of my grandma and Sophie’s mom is realistic, has her flaws, and has her strengths. I think she’s really good for Sophie. I do feel bad that Sophie feels like she can’t tell her mom everything she’s feeling.

This is such a clever story. The way Sophie’s imagination puts everything together is so imaginative and unique. It’s like living in a whole imaginary world. Having four kids myself, I can see that she’s using it as a coping mechanism to help her deal with her reality. And, she’s using it as a way to hide. It’s a good lesson to learn, though. There are quite a few great lessons and values in this book: friendship, the importance of relationships, learning that everyone has trials to overcome, not being judgmental, and the importance of talking about your problems.

A Monster Like Me reminds me of Wonder. It’s important for children and adults to read stories like these because it tends to put things in perspective. Learning lessons from a book Is a lot easier and less painful than learning them in real life. I loved this book and think the middle-graders and YA will also love it! If you liked Wonder or Mustaches for Maddie then you will enjoy this book. I highly recommend A Monster Like Me by Wendy S. Swore. This book would also make a great read-aloud.

Author’s Note

Sophie’s story is dear to my heart because I know how it feels to be bullied because I looked different from everyone else. When I was a child, I had a hemangioma on my forehead that stuck out so far my bangs couldn’t cover it, no matter how hard my mother tried. Because the tumor was made up of blood vessels, I could feel my heart beating inside it when I was playing hard or really upset.

The incident at the grocery store where the hydra lady says, “Hey, look kids! That girl doesn’t need a Halloween costume. She’s already got one!” is an exact quote of what a woman once said to my mother and me. Another woman told a classroom full of kids that I had the mark of the devil. Kids asked if it was a goose bump, or hamburger, or if my brains had leaked out. My dad had to chase away some bullies who had followed me home, called me names, and pushed me into the street. Sometimes, after a bad day of bullying, I wished I could just rip the mark off my face and be like everyone else—but it was a part of me, and wishing didn’t change that.

My parents decided to take an active role in educating the people around me so they would know what a hemangioma was and understand that it wasn’t icky, or gross, or contagious. Whenever we moved to a new place, my dad would go with me to the elementary school and talk to the kids about my mark and let them ask questions. After those talks, kids befriended me and noticed when bullies came around. Like Autumn, my school friends would speak up when they saw someone being mean to me, and sometimes they would stand between me and the bullies until they left me alone. I didn’t let the bullies stop me from doing what I wanted to do. I climbed trees, went swimming, wrote poetry, brought my tarantula and snakes to show-and-tell, and played in the tide pools.

This is my message to anyone who experiences bullying: Don’t let the bullies define you! I’ve been there, I know it hurts to be teased, but don’t let it stop you from doing what you want. Find something you enjoy—a hobby, talent, or challenge—and practice that skill. Know that someone out there, maybe even someone in your same school, needs a friend as much as you do. Be that friend. Stand up for each other. And know that you are not alone.

You can always find me at WendySwore.com, and I would love to hear your stories and what you thought of the book.

MLM blog tour Image

Content Rating PGContent Rating: PG (It’s clean! There’s no profanity or “intimacy.” There is some bullying and there are a few blown tempers with unkind words.)

Age Recommendation: Middle-graders (4th-6th) and YA (13-18)

My Rating: 4.5/5

4.5 Star Rating

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

If you’d like to purchase this book, click here: https://amzn.to/2EO91Ik

 

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mustaches for maddie Squint by Chad Morris and Shelly Brown Wonder by R.J. Palacio
 
 
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Book Review of Christmas by Accident by Camron Wright

Christmas by Accident by Camron Wright

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Book Review of Christmas by Accident by Camron Wright

I’m not going to hear the end of this one for awhile! I am a very strict, “No Christmas until after Thanksgiving!” kind of gal. My kids want to listen to Christmas music right now, in October, and I say no. So, when they find out that I just read and am now reviewing a Christmas book, well, yeah, they’re never going to let it go. I know they’re going to think it’s okay to put up the Christmas decorations and start going Christmas-crazy. Ummmm…..yeah no. This is a fun little book, though. It’s not all about Christmas—there’s a love story in there too! Want to know more? Read all about it in my book review of Christmas by Accident by Camron Wright.

Blurb:

“There are no accidents where love—and Christmas—are concerned. Carter is an insurance adjuster whose longing for creative expression spills over sometimes into his accident reports. Abby works for her adoptive father, Uncle Mannie, in the family bookstore, the ReadMore Café. Carter barely tolerates Christmas; Abby loves it. She can’t wait past October to build her favorite display, the annual Christmas book tree stack, which Carter despises.

When an automobile accident throws Carter and Abby together, Uncle Mannie, who is harboring secrets of his own, sees a chance for lasting happiness for his little girl. But there are so many hurdles, and not much time left. Will this Christmas deliver the miracles everyone is hoping for?

Camron Wright holds a master’s degree in writing and public relations. He says he began writing to get out of attending MBA school, and it proved the better decision. He is the author of the award-winning novels Letters for Emily (a Doubleday Book Club selection), The Rent Collector, and The Orphan Keeper.”

My Book Review:

Besides the fact that this is a Christmas book, and it’s October, it’s a cute story. I like the writing style because it’s easy to read. It’s hard to describe, but I would say that it’s laid-back and easy-going. Although there are a few intense moments, you never feel rushed through the story. I like it. He describes things well, and even while you’re reading about a car accident as it’s happening, you kind of feel like it’s happening in slow motion. It’s as if he takes the time to notice details that one would never recognize in such an intense moment, and it slows everything down for the reader.  

I like the characters in the story. They’re all likable and easy to relate to. I think they’re well developed and realistic. Abby is my favorite. If I weren’t a teacher, I think I’d be a librarian or work in a book store. Abby gets to work in a book store (I wish it were real because I’d love to try out their treats!) and loves to read, which makes her my new best friend. She doesn’t seem to engage in girl-drama, which is good. She has her priorities straight. I love the relationship she has with Mannie.

Carter kind of floats through his life. He doesn’t seem to have any motivation or ambition. He’s not happy, but not upset enough to change either. I do think it’s hilarious that Carter embellishes his accident reports and makes them sound like intense novel story lines. It’s fun to watch him grow throughout the story.

This is a fun book. It’s not too Christmassy; it could be read any time of the year, but it would be fun to read at Christmas. It’s a little cheesy in some parts, but not too bad. It’s an easy, fun, entertaining read. I liked the little lesson nuggets thrown in throughout the book: honesty, family, love, forgiveness, being brave and going for it, prayer, and miracles. It does have a touch of faith and prayer in it, but it’s not the main focus.    

Content Rating PG+Content Rating: PG+ (There isn’t any profanity or violence, except a couple of car accidents, and the descriptions aren’t overly graphic. There isn’t any “intimacy” except a couple of brief kisses.)

Recommendation: Young Adult and up

My Rating: 3.5/5

3.5 Star Rating

Christmas By Accident Blog Tour

 

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

 

If you’d like to purchase this book, click here: https://amzn.to/2CHyHFx

 

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The Rent Collector by Camron Wright The Other Side of the Bridge by Camron Wright  The Evolution of Thomas Hall by Kieth Merrill