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

 

Similar Titles You May Be Interested In:

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
 
 

 

Book Review of The Storyteller’s Secret by Sejal Badani

The Storyteller's Secret by Sejal Badani

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Book Review of The Storyteller's Secret by Sejal Badani

I do not know much about India or Indian culture, even though I have a sister-in-law that is Indian. I should know more, but I don’t, unfortunately. When I was asked to read this book I got excited because I thought it would be fun to read more about it. There is a modern-day story set against a story from the past, and how they come together may determine the future. I hope you enjoy my book review of The Storyteller’s Secret by Sejal Badani.

Blurb:

“Nothing prepares Jaya, a New York journalist, for the heartbreak of her third miscarriage and the slow unraveling of her marriage in its wake. Desperate to assuage her deep anguish, she decides to go to India to uncover answers to her family’s past.

Intoxicated by the sights, smells, and sounds she experiences, Jaya becomes an eager student of the culture. But it is Ravi—her grandmother’s former servant and trusted confidant—who reveals the resilience, struggles, secret love, and tragic fall of Jaya’s pioneering grandmother during the British occupation. Through her courageous grandmother’s arrestingly romantic and heart-wrenching story, Jaya discovers the legacy bequeathed to her and a strength that, until now, she never knew was possible.”

My Book Review:

Learning of Jaya’s heartbreaking miscarriage and subsequent demise of her marriage grasps at the heartstrings. I have four children now, but have experienced miscarriage, and it’s so hard. And I could see how not knowing your family’s past would probably make you feel like a part of you was missing. I thought her abrupt decision to travel to India was a knee-jerk reaction, but if you can, why not?

Jaya is a good character. She’s well written and usually realistic. She is quick to react and slow to recover, but I do know a few people like that. Ravi is an interesting character. As the reader you really feel for him in the beginning because life isn’t fair in his circumstances. Amisha’s character is interesting. Sometimes I got her and sometimes I didn’t. Some of her choices made me cringe.

While I was reading this book, I was enthralled. I loved the writing style and got sucked right into the story. Both Jaya and Amisha were mostly relatable and sympathetic. I also enjoyed learning about India now and India during the British occupation. Learning about the caste system intrigued me and made me want to know more about it. I read the book very quickly and loved it.

Then I started thinking about it. In the moment I didn’t really think through some things because I was so enthralled. After, though, as I thought about a few of the situations and events, they didn’t make a lot of sense. There were some big inconsistencies throughout the book. Technology seemed to come and go, the caste system also seemed to come and go, and certain improprieties were completely disregarded.

Then there was the ending. I did not like the ending. There were several ways the author could have gone, and this one was my least favorite. I thought it was presumptuous and unrealistic. I, honestly, couldn’t picture it happening that way. I was so sad because I had enjoyed the rest of the book. Overall, I loved this book in the moment. The writing just sucks you right in. After I thought about it for a few days I realized that there were some inconsistencies, but I still liked it. I didn’t love the ending, but life doesn’t always take the turn you want it to, so it was ok.

Content Rating RRating: R (There’s not really any profanity, but there are a few “intimacy” scenes. Some of them are more descriptive than others. There is a little bit of violence with beatings and domestic violence.)

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/2CtcCKT

 

Similar Titles You May Be Interested In:

The Lost Family by Jenna Blum Lilli de Jong by Janet Benton  Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
 

Spotlight on Coding Club by Michelle Schusterman

Spotlight on Coding Club by Michelle Schusterman

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Book Review of Girls Who Code: Spotlight on Coding Club by Michelle Schusterman

I have a 13 year-old daughter that loves coding. She’s taking a creative coding class at school and loves it! So I have been thrilled to be able to review the books in the Girls Who Code series. I’m so glad they’re putting an emphasis on girls and coding. The books, if nothing else, are great at spotlighting some amazing things that coding can do. They make it seem so fun and “cool” (Does anyone even use that word anymore, or am I dating myself here?). These girls are normal, cute girls who play softball, dance karaoke, have real problems, and love to code. They do such fun things with coding! I hope you enjoy my book review of Girls Who Code: Spotlight on Coding Club by Michelle Schusterman.

Blurb:

“Erin knows that she is a star, and this could be her big break. With the talent show coming up at school, she will have the chance to take center stage with a stellar performance and help behind the scenes, too, with the coding that will make it all happen.

But Erin has a secret: She has anxiety. And when things start piling up at home and school, she has a harder time pretending that everything is okay. Her friends from coding club have always been there for her in the past, but she has never told them what is really going on. With the spotlight on coding club and more pressure on the team than ever before, will this be their final blow?”

My Book Review:

This is a really cute book. I seriously love how fun and awesome they make coding sound! And they also make it sound fairly easy. I mean, if they can do such fun stuff in junior high, then it must not be too hard, right? I don’t know coding at all. At all. I know as a blogger I shouldn’t admit that, but it’s true! So I like that it makes coding a little more accessible in my mind. I think it will have the same effect on the YA girls reading this book.

The book is well written. I like the writing style and the character development. Erin, especially, is well developed and realistic. She thinks things I know I thought way back in junior high. I like how realistic she is. She definitely has her struggles, and I think that’s great for the girls who will be reading this to see. I especially like the focus on anxiety.

Over the past year and a half I have come to know a lot about anxiety in teenagers, and I know it’s a lot more common than most people think it is.  It’s high past time that we talk about it and get it out in the open. Maybe a YA girl reading this book, who has anxiety, will seek help when she sees Erin getting help. Or maybe she’ll at least gain the confidence to talk to her parents about it. I really liked that side story of the book because it is so pertinent to these kids.

The story is realistic with a school-wide talent show. I think it’s a fun back drop to talk about amazing things that coding can do. I loved how all the technology came together, and I could totally see a high school coding class putting something like this together. What a great learning experience for the girls in the coding club! I love how they all put their personal touch on everything.

This is such a fun series, and I am glad there is a focus on girls and technology. I think a lot of girls will benefit from this book and series. Hopefully it will spark an interest in coding in some more girls!  

Content Rating PG-13Content Rating: PG-13 (There are a couple of places the girls say, “Ohmygod,” which is a swear word in some homes. There is a homosexual character, and it is briefly discussed.)

Recommendation: YA and up

My Rating: 3.5/5

3.5 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/2RMSecX

 

Similar Titles You May Be Interested In:

Girls Who Code: Lights, Music, Code! (Book #3) by Jo Whittenmore Girls Who Code: Crack the Code by Sarah Hutt  
 

Book Review of Squint by Chad Morris and Shelly Brown

Squint by Chad Morris and Shelly Brown

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Book Review of Squint by Chad Morris and Shelly Brown

I have worn glasses since second grade, and contacts since seventh grade. Pretty much, I don’t remember a time when I didn’t need glasses to see. I’ve never been made fun of or teased because of my glasses, thankfully, but the cover of this book totally had me curious! I loved Mustaches For Maddie, so when I saw that Squint was written by Chad Morris and Shelly Brown I knew I needed to read it. And I’m so glad I did. They have become quite the duo!

Blurb:

“Flint loves to draw. In fact, he’s furiously trying to finish his comic book so he can be the youngest winner of the ‘Find a Comic Star’ contest. He’s also rushing to finish because he has keratoconus—an eye disease that could eventually make him blind.

McKell is the new girl at school and immediately hangs with the popular kids. Except McKell’s not a fan of the way her friends treat this boy they call ‘Squint.’ He seems nice and really talented. He draws awesome pictures of superheroes. McKell wants to get to know him, but is it worth the risk? What if her friends catch her hanging with the kid who squints all the time?

McKell has a hidden talent of her own but doesn’t share it for fear of being judged. Her terminally ill brother, Danny, challenges McKell to share her love of poetry and songwriting. Flint seems like someone she could trust. Someone who would never laugh at her. Someone who is as good and brave as the superhero in Flint’s comic book.

Squint is the inspiring story of two new friends dealing with their own challenges, who learn to trust each other, believe in themselves, and begin to truly see what matters most.”

My Book Review:

What a great book! As I stated above, I love the way that Chad Morris and Shelly Brown write together. The voice in their stories just draws you in. It’s so real. It is full of emotion, expectations, and energy. It’s easy to read and understand, and yet it has an underlying depth to it. Although it’s not all rainbows and unicorns, it has such a positive feeling to it. The voice fits the characters and situations in the book perfectly.

This book feels similar to Wonder by R.J. Palacio. There are some similarities there as well. Flint, the main character, has a disability and the kids at school make fun of him, tease him, and stay away from him. Then someone is brave enough to look past the thick glasses and quirky habits. McKell wants to fit in with the popular crowd, but she doesn’t like how they treat Flint, also known as Squint. Her brother gives her these challenges to do, and since she’s afraid that the popular crowd will make fun of her for doing them, she asks Squint to accompany and help her.

Squint is not used to people actually paying attention to him and being nice to him. At first he doesn’t trust McKell because he expects it all to be a prank. But then it’s not. She genuinely wants to be with him. Now, she may still want to also be a part of the popular gang, but she makes it clear to Squint that she doesn’t like how they treat him. She’s nice, caring, talented, friendly, and kind. She has the ability to look past the glasses and quirks to find the real Flint.

Flint is also a great character. He used to be normal like everyone else. He played football, had friends, and could see perfectly. Then one day he began losing his eyesight. The diagnosis was keratoconus. It’s an eye disease. This is how Flint explains it in the book:

“It’s called keratoconus,” I said. “It’s not like super rare or anything. There may even be someone else in the school with it, but mine is pretty bad. Well, really bad. My corneas are getting thinner and thinner, and that makes my eyes bulge. It’s like the windshield of my eye to too weak to hold its shape ball…It makes everything look a bit like a funhouse mirror.”

I won’t complain about my poor eyesight after reading about Flint’s disease!

I think it’s great how Chad Morris and Shelly Brown use their books to bring attention to different situations in people’s lives. The more we talk, the more we realize how similar we are. The more books kids can read about how being different is ok, the better. If kids can read more books on how to treat people, the better off we’ll all be. We like to think we’re different. We’re unique, for sure. But we’re the same. We all want to fit in, have friends, be loved, and not be made fun of or teased. I think everyone wants to feel safe and acknowledged. It’s the relationships and the connections that matter.

I love books that teach such valuable lessons in such a great way. It’s a great reminder for readers of all ages that how we treat people is important. Everyone has a story. Everyone is fighting a battle. Some battles are front and center while others are more hidden. Learning to look past differences and see the real person behind the façade is a skill we can all improve in. Learning to accept and love despite differences is also something needed today. Also, there are always two sides to every story. Many times we get caught up in our own thoughts and feelings, and forget that others are involved, and they have feelings too. Thank you Chad and Shelly for writing stories that inspire, teach, and uplift!  

Content Rating PGRating: PG (It’s clean, but there is some minor violence with fights, mean words, and bullies.)

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

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/2y9OCsu

 

Similar Titles You May Be Interested In:

mustaches for maddie Wonder by R.J. Palacio  the hundred dresses
 

Book Review of The Heat Is On by Helen Bridgett

The Heat is On by Helen Bridgett

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Book Review of The Heat Is On by Helen Bridgett

Have you ever had one of those years where everything seems to be going great and then it suddenly falls apart? That was my last year. Everything was going well until my son got sick. Super sick. After a year, he’s finally recovering. It’s a very slow process, but he’s doing so much better. Then to top it off, we’ve had to fix cars, replace several appliances, and get a new furnace and water heater. Yep, it’s been a year! We’ve learned so much though! We’ve grown closer together as a family and we’ve all grown a lot individually. In this book, things are going well for Angie. She co-owns a business that she loves and is doing great. She has a handsome boyfriend, an amazing daughter, and great friends. And then the business across the street opens and everything starts falling apart. I hope you enjoy my book review of The Heat Is On by Helen Bridgett.

Blurb:

“Angie Shepherd is back and this time she means business!

Life is perfect for Angie Shepherd. Her dreams of becoming an entrepreneur have come true, business is booming, and her best friend Patty is back in town. So when the opportunity of investing in a luxury hotel comes up, it seems like a no-brainer. It’s all going swimmingly until a rival travel agency opens up across the street. Before long, The Mercury Travel Club is undercut, double-crossed and in deep trouble. It’s time for Angie to up the stakes. But with costs mounting up, sales going down, and her personal life suddenly in freefall, can Angie and her friends weather the storm?

Witty and charming in equal measure, this feel-good novel shows that when the going gets tough, the tough definitely get going.”

My Book Review:

Sometimes when everything is going really well it makes me nervous. Ok, this can’t last forever, right? What’s going to happen? It’s easy to get anxious and fearful, but then when something does happen, you realize you’re stronger than you thought. You realize you lived through your nightmare and it’s ok. That’s what Angie has to do in this book. She needs to make it through and come out stronger.

I enjoyed this book. It’s a fun, entertaining summer read. I think it’d be perfect for sitting next to the pool or ocean, kicking up your feet, and drinking something cold. This book is well written, has the perfect touch of humor, and has a fun cast of characters. The characters are very well developed. They each have their own identities, personalities, and voices. I thought the author did a good job of bringing them all together. They have their strengths and weaknesses, their talents and flaws, and their good and bad times. As a reader, it makes you feel like you’re one of the gang. They’re realistic and easy to relate to. Most of them are likable too.

I don’t know anything about the travel industry, and I kind of didn’t realize that travel agencies still exist. Yes, I hate to admit that I thought people planned their own vacations via Expedia and Hotwire. Or, maybe that’s just me. When my husband and I went on our honeymoon to Cancun twenty years ago (yes, we just celebrated twenty years!) we used an agency, but it’s not there anymore. After reading this book I may need to look and see if there’s one by me. I’d love to relax and let someone else take care of the details. After this year, I need a vacation!

The plot, although not action-packed, was interesting enough to keep me reading. There were a few twists and turns, and a few tense moments. The one thing I didn’t like was the title. I still don’t get it? This book also has a lot of spelling and grammatical errors. If you see the publisher, please tell her to call me and I’ll help her out! (Blue Pen Proofreading) It doesn’t really fit the book or its style. I thought it came together well in the end, but I could have used a few extra pages to see how one of the excursions turned out. I want to go to the library in the woods! So much so, in fact, that I did a few quick google searches and found a pic of it. Isn’t it enchanting? It’s a real place! Right now I really wish I could go there!

eas-mor-library

Photo Credit: That’s How the Light Gets In

This is a quick, fun read. It’s not based on complex submarine terrorist plots in Russia (like my last read), so it’s kind of a breath of fresh air. It’s easy to read and understand, and is pretty clean. I feel like I have a bunch of new friends, and I definitely have a few places I want to visit now!

Content Rating PG-13Content Rating: PG-13 (Thankfully, there is no profanity in this book! There isn’t any violence either. There are a few discussions about “intimacy,” a couple of scenes where it almost happens but not quite, and several innuendos.)

Recommendation: 18+

My Rating: 3.5/5

3.5 Star Rating

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

If you’d like to purchase this book, click here: https://amzn.to/2MUGxO3

 

Similar Titles You May Be Interested In:

Check Me Out by Becca Wilhite The Evolution of Thomas Hall by Kieth Merrill  The Light in Summer by Mary McNear
 

Book Review of The Lost Family by Jenna Blum

The Lost Family by Jenna Blum

Book Review of The Lost Family by Jenna Blum

I don’t think I’ve ever read a book about a Holocaust survivor living life after the war. I’ve read several books about people’s stories during the war, but it usually focuses on the war, not after. Consequently, I have not taken the time to think about how living through an ordeal like that would affect their daily lives. Now that I think about it, it would be difficult. To have been treated so poorly and to have seen so many die around you would definitely haunt your dreams. It affected Peter enough that it made living difficult for him. His story in the book was my favorite. Find out more of what I thought in my book review of The Lost Family by Jenna Blum.

Blurb:

“In 1965 Manhattan, patrons flock to Masha’s to savor its brisket bourguignon and impeccable service, and to admire its dashing owner and head chef, Peter Rashkin. With his movie-star good looks and tragic past, Peter, a survivor of Auschwitz, is the most eligible bachelor in town. But Peter does not care for the parade of eligible women who come to the restaurant hoping to catch his eye. He has resigned himself to a solitary life. Running Masha’s consumes him, as does his terrible guilt over surviving the horrors of the Nazi death camp while his wife, Masha—the restaurant’s namesake—and two young daughters perished.

Then exquisitely beautiful June Bouquet, an up-and-coming young model, appears at the restaurant, piercing Peter’s guard. Tough she is twenty years his junior, the two begin a passionate, whirlwind courtship. When June unexpectedly becomes pregnant, Peter proposes, believing that beginning a new family with the woman he loves will allow him to let go of the horror of the past. But over the next twenty years, the indelible sadness of those memories will overshadow Peter, June, and their daughter, Elsbeth, transforming them in shocking, heartbreaking, and unexpected ways.

Jenna Blum artfully brings to the page a husband devastated by a grief he cannot name, a frustrated wife struggling to compete with a ghost she cannot banish, and a daughter sensitive to the pain of both her own family and another lost before she was born. Spanning three cinematic decades, The Lost Family is a charming, funny, and elegantly bittersweet study of the repercussions of loss and love.”

My Book Review:

This book hooked me at the beginning. I loved the writing style, the descriptions, the story of Peter, and the focus on the food. Peter’s story grips you to the core. I can’t imagine losing my family in the way he did; it would devastate me. Peter seems like such a good guy. He struggles, but who wouldn’t in that situation? And his struggles stem from something terrible, so you empathize with him. June seemed like the perfect person for Peter. It was fun reading about their courtship and how June was able to help Peter start afresh. I really loved this part of the book.   

And then it all went downhill. Part two skips to 1975 and is told from June’s point of view. Wow. She’s… (I’m speechless when I try to explain her.) She’s not a nice person, I’ll just say that. I can understand how by this point she probably thought that Peter should have been able to overcome some of his grief. I get how hard it probably was for her with a husband who was pretty closed-off. That would be very difficult on a marriage. However, that does not excuse her actions.

At this point the book took a very uncomfortable turn. I didn’t like it at all. In fact, it made me very uncomfortable. June’s character became extremely unlikable, whiny, selfish, and…awful. I couldn’t relate to her or her actions at all. I understood that what she had wasn’t maybe what she had envisioned for herself, but come on! Life is unpredictable. Grow up and take responsibility.

I also understand that life for women in the 70s may still have been a little more controlled by men. I get that Peter didn’t seem to listen to her concerns. However, she could have handled things much differently. She could have made life better for her family.

And just when you think the book can only get better, it gets even worse. You skip to 1985 and get to hear Elsbeth’s story. This part is VERY disturbing—even more than June’s story. What is going on? With a closed-off father and an awful mother, Elsbeth is doomed. Seriously. She is messed up. Don’t let your children anywhere near this part of the book. Yes, it is that bad. The things she does are some of my worst nightmares for my daughters. She has no self esteem, she looks for love and affection from all the wrong places, and she doesn’t have great friends.

Elsbeth hears opposite messages from her parents, and you can tell she’s confused. It is EXTREMELY uncomfortable reading this part of the book. If I hadn’t been reviewing it, I would not have finished. If Ms. Blum was going for shocking, she got it.

I was so disappointed and appalled. The first part of the book was so good! I had high expectations for the rest of the book and didn’t expect it to go the way it did. At all. Sometimes that’s a good thing. This time, no. I wish the book had ended after part one. I would have given it 4 stars for sure. Between the unlikable and hard-to-relate-to characters, the content of the story, and the characters’ actions, the last two-thirds of the book were a huge disappointment.

Not only that, but it was uncomfortable to read. Sometimes uncomfortable is good because you can learn from the moment. For example, it makes me uncomfortable to read about how slaves were treated in the U.S. In that case it’s okay because at least I can learn from the past. The uncomfortable in this book is not like that. In my opinion, it’s jarring just to be jarring. I didn’t like it. This book had so much potential. Unfortunately, it did not live up to that potential.  

Content Rating RContent Rating: R (There is quite a bit of profanity in this book, including many “f” words. There’s a lot of “intimacy,” including descriptive scenes, innuendos, oral, and discussions about it–including pornography with a child. Also included are eating disorders and other adult themes.)

Recommendation: Adult

My Rating: 2/5

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

Similar Titles You May Be Interested In:

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand  A Bridge Across the Ocean by Susan Meissner
 
 

Book Review of Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

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Book Review of Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

For some reason, this book took me a long time to read! I would start then have to stop so I could read another book because I had a review I needed to post. Then I’d pick it up again, and not finish in time so I’d have to put it down to finish another book for review. At this point it’s about a week late at the library (oops!) because I just wanted to finish it. My point is, this review is a long time in coming! So I hope you enjoy my book review of Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng.
 

Blurb:

“In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is planned—from the layout of the winding roads to the colors of the houses to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules.

Enter Mia Warren—an enigmatic artist and single mother—who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenage daughter, Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the status quo that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.

When old family friends of the Richardsons attempt to adopt a Chinese American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town—and puts Mia and Elena on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Elena is determined to uncover the secrets in Mia’s past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs.

Little Fires Everywhere explores the weight of secrets, the nature of art and identity, and the ferocious pull of motherhood—and the danger of believing that following the rules can avert disaster.”

My Book Review:

I should have just stopped reading this book and taken it back to the library when I knew I couldn’t finish it in time. The problem was that I couldn’t take it back because I was so intrigued! I had to find out what happened! I loved the writing in this book because it just pulls you in. It flows well, transitions well, has realistic dialogues, and it draws you into the story.

The characters are very well developed. I loved their complexity, their depth, their strengths and weaknesses, and how they all fit together. Each of the characters brought a difference in opinion and way of living. I liked how each character had his or her own viewpoints, and how those views determined the decisions they would make. It’s just like in real life. I have four children and they are all very different. They all see the world a little differently, and that’s one of the things I love about them.

There are some very heavy topics discussed in this book. Parental rights, teenage “intimacy,” abortion, honesty, making mistakes, and how we treat each other are just a few. Does playing by the rules 99% of the time make it ok to be unethical for 1% of the time? Does a more affluent person have more rights than a non-affluent person? What makes a fit mother? Does a nomadic lifestyle make a person less important?

See what I mean? Wow. This book definitely packs a punch!

Content Rating RRating: R (There’s some profanity, including several “f” words. There is teenage “intimacy,” including scenes and innuendos, and one of the characters has an abortion.)

Recommendation: Adult

My Rating: 4/5

4 Star Review

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

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the book thief by markus zusak Lilli de Jong by Janet Benton  A Tangled Mercy by Joy Jordan-Lake