Wednesday, December 23, 2015

438 Days: An Extraordinary True Story of Survival at Sea by Jonathan Franklin

438 Days: An Extraordinary True Story of Survival at Sea438 Days: An Extraordinary True Story of Survival at Sea by Jonathan Franklin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I can't help but compare this book with Unbroken. Unbroken is an undoubtedly 5 star book. This one is maybe a hair short. Possibly because this story is still being written. The protagonist is still under construction. Undaunted is an incredible story of survival and faith. It is a story of forgiveness and of a changed heart and soul in spite of incredible suffering. This book is about never giving up, no matter how bleak it looks. Never, ever give up.

I haven't been able to stop talking about this book. The story is corroborated by scientists, specialists, and academics to explain weather and wind patterns, physical exhaustion, starvation, and dehydration, cravings, migratory patterns, and psychological distress of solitude, etc. it is fascinating what a determined person will do to survive. How he will intuit what parts of an animal's body he needs for nutrients, how he will pass the time.

It is an incredible and true account of a man who gets caught in a storm while fishing with a companion. With a wet and useless GPS, he throws out a last call for help before his engine dies. He has no oars, nearly all provisions are washed away. There are lessons to be learned in his attitude and that of his partner. The difference between living and dying is often holding on to that hope. I would love this book in a book club and discuss what previous experiences may have inspired resilience, how he survived alone, and so many other questions that I can't articulate because they contain spoilers.

Very worth reading.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Winter by Marissa Meyer

Winter (The Lunar Chronicles, #4)Winter by Marissa Meyer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

My birthday present from my daughter. A satisfying ending to a series that began strong with Cinder, introduced new characters who stayed true and steady throughout. I take that back. I didn't care much for Cress. She grew into her character this book. Captain Thorne stayed true to himself with some slight altruistic growth. He is still my favorite. And Iko.

If you've been reading the series, you will be satisfied with the ending, I think. It's not necessarily fairy tale quality but very satisfying. True to the original fairy tales, however, there is blood and gore. No surprise that the power struggles lead to a war-ish.

I definitely enjoyed Winter. She was a pleasant addition to the crew. Best love story still goes to Scarlet and Wolf.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

The Sister Pact by Stacie Ramey

The Sister PactThe Sister Pact by Stacie Ramey
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Big time warning lights for parents and librarians screening books to put on shelves. Every character lacks a solid moral compass. Allie is a blank slate when it comes to morality. If someone passes her a joint, she'll smoke it. Hands her a pill, she'll take it. Ask her for sex, she'll give it. Some play the game of having one - they only smoke weed and drink alcohol. Uh, still illegal in most states and for minors. Want smoke weed but will drink and have sex on the first date. Even Allie's parents are messed up,

On the up side, the book illustrates the struggles of the sister that survives a suicide pact. Friends come out of the woodwork and admit their own feelings of guilt for possibly causing Leah to take her life, her parents reveal things, Allie remembers things. But in the end I didn't feel like anything was really resolved except that Allie had a better picture of what Leah was struggling with. She started making better choices for a few days but then it ends. The book paints the picture of a pathologically mentally ill teenager who has a brief intervention then ... Nothing. I thought it was incomplete.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Lake House by Kate Morton

The Lake HouseThe Lake House by Kate Morton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I love Kate Morton's writing! She is masterful in pacing, story telling, and word choice. Although written in plain English, this book is wonderful to read on a Kindle with the dictionary option. Words not normally used pop up frequently. Contextual clues are enough to understand the meaning yet the dictionary feature makes it more delicious. Reading is not hampered by the use of words. Morton has a crisp, clear writing style and paints beautiful pictures with her words.

There are, essentially, two distinct conflicts and mysteries to be solved. The present day protagonist, Sadie, has had trouble at work and retreats to her grandfather's country home to regroup. On a hard run with his dogs, she stumbles upon the Lake House, abandoned decades before and shrouded with the mysterious disappearance of a baby boy named Theo. what happened to Theo?

I partially guessed the correct answer to what happened to Theo early in the book. I admit that with reticence because there was much, much more going on beneath the surface. As details emerged regarding the family, dynamics, and secrets, I admittedly wavered on my resolution. In order to understand what happened to Theo, it was necessary for Morton to slowly unspool the history in the many perspectives and possible culpabilities. Many carried guilt and believed to be at least partially responsible.

The heart of the stories have to do with family connections and the separation of child from mother as well as carrying the secrets and weights of decisions made long ago. If I am being cryptic, it is because I mean to be. The stories are intriguing and enjoyable journeys that eventually tie together to give the reader a bigger picture, answers, and even a moral to the story.

Book club worthy.

Monday, August 31, 2015

A World Elsewhere: An American Woman in Wartime Germany by Sigrid MacRae

A World Elsewhere: An American Woman in Wartime GermanyA World Elsewhere: An American Woman in Wartime Germany by Sigrid MacRae
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The book is a narrative of the author's parents that she pieced together through letters her mother gave her. Sigrid discovered a very different snapshot of the parents she knew and put their choices and circumstances into a different perspective. It was also a different perspective for this reader. Sigrid paints a picture of her mother's lonely, motherless childhood, feeling exiled and apart. Although affluent, she lacked connection with family beyond an uncle that gave her much love and laughter. It is not difficult to understand how Aimée makes her decision to join the big, wonderful family of Heinrich, a displaced Russian living in Germany, and add to their family and love.

Heinrich's family history is much more difficult to grasp as my Russian history comprehension is spotty, at best. Yet understanding this history is key to understanding Heinrich's decisions. The short version is that the family were tsarists at the time of the Bolshevik Revolution. To survive they had to leave their beloved family home and settle in a new country, leaving nearly everything behind. They were displaced and hungry yet grateful to be together. Papa, highly educated and experienced, took a menial job in a toothpaste factory. Heinrich was sent to Sorbonne as a hope for the future where he met and married Aimée, eventually earning a Ph.D. Fluent in four languages, greatly educated and highly driven, he was unable to find work. Unfortunately, the Great Depression was in full force. Politically, the Versailles Treaty had left Germany impotent and the people helpless and hopeless, the perfect breeding ground for a man like Hitler.

Heinrich was driven to reclaim his ancestral home in Russia which led him the Russian front. The man was a cock-eyed optimist and go getter with the solid belief that it would work out. What he discovered in Russia was also eye opening. Conscripted Russians were little more than men and boys with no idea why they were fighting. Russia was far from unified and they only soldiered up to not be shot as traitors. On the German side, it became clear that Nazi was a political party but that the Germans on the Eastern front were not Hitler advocates. Their objective was not to take over the world or Aryanize Russia. They believed in Germany and her future but already knew Hitler was a crackpot. Yet reclaiming ancestral land was a noble objective. Driving closer to Moscow was taking it too far but they were already in too deep. The rest is history, as they say.

The second half of the book had me completely hooked. I much preferred the narrative of Aimée and her plight to save her six children and herself. Finding herself on the potentially Russian side of Germany, she had many obstacles to overcome. Her American citizenship gave her no reprieve. Worse, to many she was a traitor. This was interesting since Aimée's life consisted of little more than caring for her family, her farm, and wearing herself out at home. Politics were peripheral to survival. Yet this woman, who began as a somewhat spoiled girl , who found solace in extended family, joy in creating her own family, showed grit that in the worst of circumstances with an eye single to protecting her children.

A very good book. Second half much more engaging but first half is necessary for author to understand her father and her parents' early relationship. Beautifully written.

Friday, August 28, 2015

The Girl from the TrainThe Girl from the Train by Irma Joubert
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

3.75 stars

The story is a different perspective on WWII. The girl is Gretel, age 6, and is only on the train for a small moment at the beginning of the book. Her grandmother pushes her out while en route. Gretel is a quarter Jewish but also German. She ends up in Poland and is taken in by a young man named Jacob. This is her story of being orphaned by the war and by her country. Is she Jewish, German, or Polish? Placed in an orphanage for her own safety, she becomes eligible for an adoption program where Aryan children are sent to South Africa and placed in homes within settlements. This is new information for me. Of course there would be oodles of German orphans after WWII. What happened to them? This is a story of one girl who went through many transformations and integrations. It was an interesting perspective and one I enjoyed.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Hummingbird

The HummingbirdThe Hummingbird by Stephen P. Kiernan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read The Curiosity and, in retrospect, remembered the story very well yet couldn't remember why I enjoyed it so much. Upon completion of The Hummingbird, I can guess it was the pace, characters, timing, and symbolism.

The Hummingbird tells three stories. All three are vastly different yet they tie in beautifully with one another and smooth over the biggest questions of life, love, death, and forgiveness.

Professor Barclay Reed is an intelligent and bitter old man, dying alone with only the help of hospice. He has a history and he has a story to tell. Deb is the hospice worker he chooses to trust. He shares his story based on a personal struggle Deb is having. Deb is struggling to help her husband really come home from the Middle East where he was a sniper. Through Professor Reed's story, a symbolism is borne. Through the symbolism, Deborah interprets the real life counterparts.

I enjoyed the story because, through Deb, the reader understands the beauty of living and dying. Also that suffering brings clarity and circumstances may change but we will be okay. We won't be the same but we will experience happiness again someday.

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Monday, August 17, 2015

We Never Asked for Wings: A Novel by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

We Never Asked for Wings: A NovelWe Never Asked for Wings: A Novel by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was a rather uncomfortable book to read but not for reasons you might think. Letty, the protagonist, had a lot of hope before she found herself pregnant when she was about to leave for college. She made the difficult decision to keep the baby, not tell her boyfriend (he was med school bound), and began the downward spiral of her life. Now at 32, she is still a single mother with two children, living with her mother, and irresponsible. She allowed her mother to take over her parental roles. The problem arises when her father returns to Mexico. Shortly after that, her mother follows and makes Letty return to her home and children.

The story follows Letty as she is on the verge of staying in poverty, allowing her children to grow up without the opportunities she wants for them or stepping up. Yet how does one step up when she has little skills, no education past high school, and has no more safety net? Rather than write a character that magically changes, the reader joins Letty on her journey to make changes, small as they are, to give her children something more. And it's really hard.

The story addresses the difference in geography and school districts, how poverty begets poverty, how difficult it is to break out of it, and legal and illegal immigration. Letty has a hard life but she doesn't have to try to live below the radar of ICE like other characters in the book. This is very well written and I liked the ending.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Review: Orphan #8

Orphan #8 Orphan #8 by Kim van Alkemade
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Great historical snapshot of orphanages and the medical experimentation occurring on the orphans at the time. Told in two timelines; when Rachel is 4 and enters the orphanage and experimentation begins, and then Rachel is forty something and working as a geriatric nurse when a new patient comes under her care - the very doctor that caused so much suffering for Rachel in the orphanage.

Both stories unfold and the reader quickly realizes the horrible conditions of said orphanages, although they may have been preferable to living in the street. Rachel is flooded with memories of her time in the orphanage and how she suffered, particularly subjected to radiation exposure over and over again. She is then faced with a dilemma of showing payback to this doctor or forgiveness and professionalism.

Great historical information, well written in the perspective of a child hungry for attention. The downside was the lack of character development and contrived situations like the way Rachel becomes an orphan. Can a father figure be more flat and predictably selfish? Just not believable. Then there is a surprise storyline that Rachel is a lesbian. Surprise sloppy groping with a stranger yet longing for her lover to return to her. Soooooo, was this a story that informed the reader about the medical experiments on children in orphanages or was the author contriving and inserting her political statement? The latter? I'm just not a fan. More than that, it just didn't fit with the story. It was a meandering that distracted from the core of the story.

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Sunday, July 26, 2015

Review: The Thing About Jellyfish

The Thing About Jellyfish The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Lots of interesting information about jellyfish and an interesting parallel to Suzy's life and grief. It's an okay book about dealing with loss of a friend but I think it is probably too abstract for a pre-teen. I liked it. Didn't love it.

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Thursday, July 23, 2015

The One Thing

The One ThingThe One Thing by Marci Lyn Curtis
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If I made a movie out of this book (because that's totally in my skill set as a suburban mother and public educator), I'd do a montage of Maggie's easy, happy-go-lucky life, lots of soccer, trophies, friends, high school, all to the background music of "Loose Cannons." Quick intro of devoted parents, Gramps talking about his prostate, then a slower montage of the day she woke up sick, the exchange between her and her mom, maybe have Gramps find her passed out in the kitchen, tense hospital scenes, doctors talking in low voices, end song, begin movie as Maggie wakes up blind. Insert uncomfortable scenes of Maggie failing at being blind, and finally introduce Kevin, just a voice. Maybe probation officer, maybe creative liberties taken here and he's her new counselor at her school for the blind. She leaves his office, slips in the hall, hits her head, and opens her eyes to see Ben, age 10. Start script as written.

I loved Ben. I loved the developing friendship between Ben and Thera (What Ben called Maggie). I loved Mrs. Milton, and I eventually loved Mason.

Rather than give any hints to the story or possible twist (because the real story is adjusting to new normals, making adjustments and figuring out how we connect to others - told via an unconventional friendship between blind Maggie and optimistic Ben and Clarissa), I will only say that it was very enjoyable. And my paraphrased quote that might be exact. I'm too lazy to check. "Our circumstances do not change us. They reveal us."

Satisfied sigh.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Review: The Uninvited

The Uninvited The Uninvited by Cat Winters
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Kind of a dark, atmospheric tale of historical fiction. Ivy's brother has just been killed in WWI. Spanish Flu is sweeping through her town (and many, many others) taking lives nearly as quickly as the war. Ivy's reprieve is a German shopkeeper named Daniel and the Jazz playing nearby. The story itself gave another perspective of the time period. America was in a war and even Germans in America were driven from their homes and businesses. If not frightened away, beaten, shipped off to a camp or murdered. There was a level of Mcarthy-ism before McArthy. People were required to wear masks in public. Hospitals were woefully overcrowded and understaffed. All that was realistic enough. The story of Ivy and Daniel seemed more forced and illogical. I wish that May's character was better developed. A lot of the story just seemed a little disjointed to me. That said, I did like the twist at the end. I loved the creepiness of a certain movie a few years ago that contained the same twist only during WWII.

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Saturday, July 18, 2015

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

Everything I Never Told YouEverything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is so well written with details that could have very well been overlooked yet not overdone. Lydia is dead, the beginning of the unravelling of a family. The how's and the why's slowly unravel, too, and it is not as the reader expects. Yet it makes perfect sense. It also becomes clear that Lydia's death is a peripheral part of the story in some ways. It was a catalyst for the change in dynamics but could have happened at another point in time with big shift.

The time frame of the tragedy is 1977 (I think). Nath, the oldest child, is ready to graduate and leave for Harvard. Lydia is two years younger, and then Hannah, my personal favorite, is a very clear, unplanned caboose. James, the father, is a tenured professor of American History in a small, college town. He is Japanese American married to Marilyn, an intelligent blonde homemaker with unfulfilled dreams.

The story beautifully illustrates a truism my best friends and I have come to realize in theory, although not necessarily in practice; a) that no matter our intentions, our children interpret life and events, big and small, very differently than we expect and no matter how we might guess, we will be wrong (this extends to spouses and others), and b) even with our best intentions, we saddle our children with our own expectations and unrealized dreams, our own insecurities and our deepest fears. c) Three children can grow up in the same home with the same parents and have completely different childhoods. That one I knew. Yet the author carefully constructs each family member and interaction with intent and different perception.

Everything I Never Told You is the blank space between the lines, the assumptions, and the motivations never discussed.

It is a book club book. It would be an interesting book to discuss. There are parallels, symbolism, metaphors, etc. More than I caught but it is a beautifully, resonant book. Highly recommend.

The Truth According to Us by Annie Barrows

The Truth According to UsThe Truth According to Us by Annie Barrows
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a book is a dark horse. It's a snapshot of a small, sleepy town in West Virginia at the end of the Depression. What was happening in 1939 in West Virginia? People were jobless, there was a chasm between the classes, prohibition, and unions were in embryonic stage. That sounds rather boring and a lot like a high school history class, doesn't it? In the home of Willa Romeyn, age 12, there was a lot going on. The main story is about a family, their skeletons, lies, truths, loyalty and forgiveness, told in a beautiful and quirky manner infused with humor. The core of the story parallels Layla Beck, boarder at the Romeyn home and banished from her rich father's home to learn a lesson. She is commissioned to write the history of Macedonia, Virginia. Boring, indeed. Except. She discovers that history is an extension of the one telling it. Founding fathers were not always quite so upstanding. Accepted history is partial truths.

The only parallel that encompasses the definition of truth to me is my absolute refusal to do genealogy and family history work. Snore. Yet somehow the stories of my great-great grandfather snagged me. Sure, he was a Pony Express rider, spoke fluent Shonshone (which is why he wasn't killed), and worked as an interpreter. But I wondered upon the morbid. Why did he only have one arm and one leg? He arrived in the valley intact. I started searching and, by the power of the mighty Internet, found a very distant cousin willing to share the truth as she understood it. He lost his arm in a combine at the age of 14. At the age of 52, he was racing down a canyon and got pinned between a tree and the wagon. He had to have his leg amputated. That's the tame version. History defines us, particularly when it is an ancestor.

The extended truth is that the amputation developed gangrene and he became very ill and delirious. Chief Washakie stayed with him in the makeshift hospital which was a jail. A second amputation ensued but my g-g-grandfather continued in his delirium crying, "My foot is wet and my toes are curled!" After many days, a kind woman dug up the amputated limb. It was wet and his toes were curled. She straightened them, dried it, and gave it a proper internment. He immediately stopped complaining and his fever subsided. He healed soon after.

Which version of history do you prefer?

So did Miss Layla Beck.

The truth is an autobiography of the teller. So, yeah. I'm rather morbid.

The Night Sister by Jennifer McMahon

The Night SisterThe Night Sister by Jennifer McMahon
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The story is very well paced. I truly had no idea how it would end and how the mysteries would be explained. It begins with Amy, picking up a rifle and climbing the house stairs. In the next scene, Amy is discovered in her own gore, along with her husband and son. All signs point to Amy going crazy and killing her family. There are, however, a few clues to what really happened. The most glaring is that Amy is holding a photo of her mother and aunt as children with the words "29th Room" written on the back. Oh, yeah. There is also one survivor. Amy's 10 year old daughter.

The book covers a few generations. There is Charlotte who immigrated from England to the small U.S. town of London after treating her soon to be husband who then built a motel for them to make their living. It had 28 rooms. There are peripheral facts that never really go anywhere but the main point is that they have two daughters, Sylvie and Rose. Rose is Amy's mother. So then we cover Rose and Sylvie's childhood and the mysteries of their generation which includes a visit from Charlotte's mother from England who tells scary stories to the girls. This is not peripheral.

Then we travel to 1989 when Amy, Piper, and Margot find mysteries for their generation which include the previous mysteries as all things are beginning to come to a head. At last we reach 2013 where we where, without the help of Scooby Doo, we discover it is not Old Man Withers.

Yes, I jest.

The story is well paced and the ending is unexpected. I guess my real reason for only giving it 3 stars is that I just never really liked any of the characters enough to care enough what happened to them. It was a good story but when I was finished, I thought it was a decent escape from reality and a good beach book.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Maybe in Another Life

By Taylor Jenkins Reid

At the age of twenty-nine, Hannah Martin still has no idea what she wants to do with her life. She has lived in six different cities and held countless meaningless jobs since graduating college, but on the heels of a disastrous breakup, she has finally returned to her hometown of Los Angeles. To celebrate her first night back, her best friend, Gabby, takes Hannah out to a bar—where she meets up with her high school boyfriend, Ethan.

It’s just past midnight when Gabby asks Hannah if she’s ready to go. Ethan quickly offers to give her a ride later if she wants to stay.
Hannah hesitates.
What happens if she leaves with Gabby?
What happens if she leaves with Ethan?

In concurrent storylines, Hannah lives out the effects of each decision. Quickly, these parallel universes develop into surprisingly different stories with far-reaching consequences for Hannah and the people around her, raising questions like: Is anything meant to be? How much in our life is determined by chance? And perhaps most compellingly: Is there such a thing as a soul mate?
Hannah believes there is. And, in both worlds, she believes she’s found him.

Taylor Jenkins Reid is an author and essayist from Acton, Massachusetts. She is the author of Forever, Interrupted and After I Do. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, Alex, and her dog, Rabbit. You can follow her on Twitter @TJenkinsReid.

MAYBE IN ANOTHER LIFE by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Atria Books/Washington Square Press Paperback | 352 pages | ISBN:  9781476776880 | July 7, 2015 | $16.00

eBook: Atria Books/Washington Square Press | 352 pages | ISBN: 9781476776897 | July 7, 2015 | $11.99

My thoughts: Who can read a book like this one and not think of Gwyneth Paltrow in Sliding Doors? Naturally, we're going to draw parallels. There are some definite parallels, of course. The story lines were somewhat predictable but the ending was not. I really liked the conclusion, actually. 

I found a few quotes that struck me in different ways. One of them I did not highlight but was very educational to me. Hannah, the protagonist, has gift for remembering faces and facts about people. She has found that it is better to allow another introduction and the other person to remember being introduced first instead of spouting off what you remember about that person because it creeps people out. Ahh. That is good advice. It really must heed that. It doesn't impress them. It creeps them out. Noted.

"You can only muster up this type of courage a few times in your life. I'm just stupid enough to have it now."

"I much prefer problems with solutions, conflicts where one person is right and the other is wrong, all you have to do is figure out which is which."

"I'm not going to try to tell her he didn't mean to hurt her. That's absurd and meaningless."

"We are made up of the thousands of decisions and actions we make]. We have to face those consequences head on, for better or worse. We don't get to erase them just by saying we didn't mean to."

"It never occurred to me that you have to hold those things sacred."

Read it.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Everything I Never Told You

This book is so well written with details that could have very well been overlooked yet not overdone. Lydia is dead, the beginning of the unravelling of a family. The how's and the why's slowly unravel, too, and it is not as the reader expects. Yet it makes perfect sense. It also becomes clear that Lydia's death is a peripheral part of the story in some ways. It was a catalyst for the change in dynamics but could have happened at another point in time with big shift. The time frame of the tragedy is 1977 (I think). Nath, the oldest child, is ready to graduate and leave for Harvard. Lydia is two years younger, and then Hannah, my personal favorite, is a very clear, unplanned caboose. James, the father, is a tenured professor of American History in a small, college town. He is Japanese American married to Marilyn, an intelligent blonde homemaker with unfulfilled dreams. The story beautifully illustrates a truism my best friends and I have come to realize in theory, although not necessarily in practice; a) that no matter our intentions, our children interpret life and events, big and small, very differently than we expect and no matter how we might guess, we will be wrong (this extends to spouses and others), and b) even with our best intentions, we saddle our children with our own expectations and unrealized dreams, our own insecurities and our deepest fears. c) Three children can grow up in the same home with the same parents and have completely different childhoods. That one I knew. Yet the author carefully constructs each family member and interaction with intent and different perception. Everything I Never Told You is the blank space between the lines, the assumptions, and the motivations never discussed. It is a book club book. It would be an interesting book to discuss. There are parallels, symbolism, metaphors, etc. More than I caught but it is a beautifully, resonan

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan

Little Beach Street BakeryLittle Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Lovable protagonist, hilarious occasional sidekick, witty dialogue, and surprising story. I envision St. Michael's Mount, a little place off the coast that sometimes has a causeway to walk across. Maybe to drive. I took a very small, rickety boat. At least it seemed rickety to me. It has a ruined and decrepit castle/monestary.

The story is unique because it is clever and unpredictable. It is chick lit but not as light reading as a usual chick lit. Included are new characters, Star Wars references, and a surprising pet. I really enjoyed this one.

The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

The Rest of Us Just Live HereThe Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

3.5 stars. Just very entertaining. Irreverent. It's the story of the people in the margins where all the slasher movies happen. Weird stuff happens all the time. A year or two ago it was the vampires. It's been going on for at least a couple of generations. This time the immortals are trying to take over. Of course, they are usually looking for the people in a certain group in high school. These kids aren't it. So it's just what happens while all the stuff is going on to the people it isn't happening to. Quite funny, actually.

Golden State by Stephanie Kegan

Golden StateGolden State by Stephanie Kegan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

3.75 stars. If you read the description, you know what the book is about. What Kegan captures perfectly is the protagonist's, Natalie's, relationships and the way they are impacted. Natalie's roots are from the Golden State. Her ancestors were pioneers that settled even after the Gold Rush ended. Her father was a powerful poitition that fought for liberal notions. They were not hippies, simply politically active with a picture perfect facade. Bobby, the oldest, was always a genius, attending Princeton at the age of 15. He took care of Natalie, 6 years younger. Sara was the middle child, cheerleader, openly rebellious. They all went different directions in adulthood.

Plagued by a politically minded bomber, Natalie sees similarities in tirades from her brother, living in the wilderness. Natalie shares her suspicions and the world has she knows it falls apart. Some side stories of interest is that the FBI and the world of law has no oversight. Also, law is motivated by politics. This is true. Arrested means the same as guilty even though our laws state innocent until proven guilty. I liked that part of the book, too. I think it is an important facet to publicize. The story starts with Natalie as a suburban mother and wife, private school educator with little contact with her siblings to her suspicions to the end of the legal proceedings. All very well done. But the main story is about how all of this impacts her relationships.

How does Natalie reconcile her suspicions that the gentle brother she loved might be the Cal Bomber? How does she face her widowed mother knowing that she made the original allegations? How will her older sister react? How does she live her private life when the allegations become public? How does it impact her marriage, her children and their decisions? How does she redefine her normal?

Like any woman or man for that matter, when something big happens in our lives (although few will have an infamous sibling), we must re prioritize, redefine, and refine who we are. That is really what this book is about.

Alive by Scott Sigler

Alive (The Generations Trilogy, #1)Alive by Scott Sigler
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

After I started reading the book I regretted it. Not because it didn't grab me because it did. It was foreign yet descriptive but I thought I was reading a reincarnation of another book, an oldie but goody, Lord of the Flies. You know, chaos, attempts at order and all that stuff. Turns out, I was wrong, although there is a some of that. Then I saw the ending coming too soon and thought I was going to finish the book without a proper ending. You know those books you read and provide absolutely no closure for the simple reason that authors refuse to write one book but a long, drawn out trilogy? I hate those. Fortunately, I was wrong again. There are a great many twists and turns and this is book 1 of a series. The author leaves the story open for a continuation but wraps the book up enough that I feel satisfied. Enough explanation is provided that I'm glad I spent the time consuming the story because it ended right where it needed to.

I liked it.

Damage Done by Amanda Panitch

Damage DoneDamage Done by Amanda Panitch
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Well. Not a lot I can say about the book except that the author did a wonderful job of revealing just enough without giving away the twist. Very early in the book you know there is something weird about it all. The book description provides enough of a grabber; Lucy had a twin brother who caused mayhem in a school shooting where only Lucy walked out alive and unharmed. Her parents moved and changed heir names and she begins a new life in a different city. Things are going relatively well for her in school and her social scene when she begins to see glimpses of the psychologist that treated her brother in his early stages of mental illness. Has he found her? Will he reveal her identity? Pretty unethical, if you ask me. But then you start wondering if the psychologist might be mentally unstable as you see his own diary from the time of early treatment of Ryan and catch Dr. Spence's motives.

There's a lot going on and I did see a possibility of the twist but I saw a lot of possibilities throughout the book. By the time the book ends, enough hints are provided that it is not altogether a shocker but, like I mentioned, the author leads the reader along for a few different conclusions. Well done. Disturbing but well done.

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry by Fredrik Backman

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's SorryMy Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry by Fredrik Backman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It's not just the story. It's the way it is written which is very odd since the author is Swedish. I think. However the translation took place, it is perfect. Just to be very clear, I read A Man Called Ove. Once again, the story was one part of the enjoyment but it was the writing, the character development, the timing that grabbed me. This one is just like that one only a different story, different characters, yet a similar struggle.

This one opens with Elsa and her grandmother at the police station. It has been many months since I read this book so I won't be able to quote verbatim, but it went a lot like this (with better wording and delivery). Elsa is lonely at school and at home but her grandmother is her best friend. Her grandmother is definitely not the maternal type. Elsa is feeling a little down and somehow contacts her grandmother who breaks out of the hospital where she is (reasons are later revealed) and they are arrested by the police for breaking into a zoo and throwing animal poop. At people, as I recall. Elsa's grandmother is now looking for a way to open the barred windows and smoke a cigarette. She taps one out and turns to Elsa, "Do you have a lighter?"

"I'm seven," Elsa replies.

"When are you going to stop using that as an excuse?" Elsa's grandmother replies in a surly fashion.

And that is the way the story continues to be told. In unexpected character development. Elsa's grandmother is actually very ill yet retains her surliness, much to my delight. As revealed in the description, Elsa's grandmother dies but leaves Elsa a mission to accomplish. Elsa must deliver a number of letters to people and monsters that would otherwise frighten Elsa. As she encounters the new characters, she also recalls the fairy tales her grandmother told her and an entirely different person emerges that was her grandmother.

I loved it so very much. I want to read it again.

The Ice Twins by S.K. Tremayne

The Ice TwinsThe Ice Twins by S.K. Tremayne
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book was unpredictable. Sure, I saw some of the story lines emerge that I would expect but I truly did not know which twin was the one that lived and died and I definitely didn't predict the final twist at the end. It was creepy. The identical twins were creepy. Yet when it was all said and done, it was quite sad. Why only 3 stars? Surprisingly, it just didn't grab me like I wanted it to. Not that it won't grab others, I just wasn't in the mood for a creepy, ghost-y story. I did skim the parts where the protagonist waxes philosophical and thoughtful while she describes the Scotland landscape. Someone who loves Scotland would probably enjoy that part. I like Scotland. I find the lighthouse island intriguing but rather creepy. So creepy it is.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Accidents of Marriage by Randy Susan Meyers

Accidents of MarriageAccidents of Marriage by Randy Susan Meyers
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Exploring emotional abuse and traumatic brain injury with unblinking honesty, ACCIDENTS OF MARRIAGE (Atria Books; Trade Paperback June 9, 2015) is a blindingly clear and immediately engaging account of life inside of a marriage and the choices that can make the difference between living in hell and salvation.

The latest page turner from Randy Susan Meyers, ACCIDENTS OF MARRIAGE never lets go of the reader from the first page to the last. For Madeline Illica, the love of her husband Ben was her greatest blessing and biggest curse. Brilliant and charming Ben could turn into a raging bull when crossed—and despite her training as a social worker Maddy never knew what would cross him. When Ben was in a conciliatory mood, they worked on techniques for communication and anger management but on the day of the accident, nothing seemed to help. He was furious at having to drive Maddy to work, the road was wet, and that SUV was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Ben never meant for them to go off the road or for Maddy to go flying through the windshield.

Now she’s on a ventilator in intensive care and no one knows if she’ll reawaken from her coma and, if she does, whether she’ll ever be her old self. Maddy’s family blames Ben. Maddy’s friends blame Ben. The children blame Ben. Ben blames Ben—and he is sick to the pit of his soul over the fear of losing his one true love.

Fourteen-year-old Emma sees things a little differently. She desperately misses her mother but misses being a teenager more as she’s forced to pick up the slack from Ben and parent her younger siblings Gracie and Caleb. On the cusp of coming of age, she needs Maddy so she can discuss the hard decisions she’s being forced to make. And her confrontations with her volatile father are growing more heated by the day.

RANDY SUSAN MEYERS is the author of The Comfort of Lies and The Murderer’s Daughters and a finalist for the Massachusetts Book Award. Her writing is informed by her work with batterers and victims of domestic violence, as well her experience with youth impacted by street violence. She lives with her husband in Boston, where she teaches writing seminars at the Grub Street Writers’ Center. She is also a frequent contributor to The Huffington Post.

By Randy Susan Meyers
Atria Books; Trade Paperback June 9, 2015
$16 US/$21 CAN; 368 pages
ISBN: 978-1-4516-7305-0

My thoughts: This book resonated for me for an entirely different reason than the description predicted. I watched a piece of my life being told through this book but not the one the message portrays. Maddy is a social worker who suffers a debilitating traumatic brain injury. Without revealing too much about her injury, she struggles initially with speech and emotional regulation. This is not necessarily the worst of her symptoms but those skills are paramount to a social worker. In layman's terms, the story explains the different symptoms and the way the patient may react to these symptoms that fascinated me and gave me a better comprehension of what my husband, the social worker, went through when he underwent a removal of a hemangioma located in the speech center of his brain. His healing was different but terrifying for those first few weeks when he struggled to speak, knowing his career depended on regaining this skill. I'd love to continue on this vein, but it would give spoilers of the book and reveal secrets that are not mine to share. So I'll return solely to the book.

The three perspectives are very necessary to fully explore the affects of a man with strong narcissistic tendencies and lack of anger management. Yet I thought the author did an exceptional job with providing a multi dimensional character. He's not a bad man. He feels guilt, rationalization, love, lust for power, and anger. His emotional outbursts are not clear cut. The relationships he has are complex. He has insecurities and truly believes he is changing. He's trying to put himself right.

Prior to the accident, Maddy is not a cowering victim. She is a strong woman who balances the demands of a family and a career with both gratitude and frustration. She is also human and not above reproach. That said, post accident, Ben doting on her, she has the faculties to know she is not functioning at previous levels and she blames herself. She turns her anger and frustration inward yet acknowledges that people don't just want to help a victim, they also want to kick a victim.

Emma is the oldest child of this couple. Her perspective is that of an adolescent that is caught between childhood and adulthood yet thrust into adult responsibilities as her mother is disabled and all attention shifts to Maddy and her recovery while Emma is left caring for two siblings and the house. In the meantime, it becomes her role to keep the home peaceful in case Ben snaps. She becomes the protector but with deep resentment as her own brain is not fully formed and she still needs a childhood.

There is much, much more that I believe would make for an interesting discussion. I enjoyed the book almost as much as Lisa Genova's, LEFT NEGLECTED.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The Improbable Theory of Ana and Zak by Brian Katcher

The Improbable Theory of Ana and ZakThe Improbable Theory of Ana and Zak by Brian Katcher
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book did not change my life. It did not change my perspective. I am not a more literate person because I read it. But it made me laugh more than just a little bit. Some of the jokes are far too funny and will probably be lost on a teenage brain that does not know who Khan is and how he makes grown men yell his name in the most dramatic way. Or the non moon on the wedding cake and the reaction by the guests when Ana asks, "Is that a moon?"

Given, my experience and knowledge is limited to simply being a child of an era where space was the final frontier and Darth Vader reigned as the perfect evil, where a stranger enters a room and and invites you to follow him/her if you want to live, but I laughed at the jokes I understood and I understood more than I am willing to admit.

Zac and Anna's adventure is improbable for certain but it was a lot of fun to follow them for the night.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Life Intended by Kristin Harmel

The Life IntendedThe Life Intended by Kristin Harmel
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I loved a previous book by this author but I held little expectation for this one. I think the book description doesn't do the novel justice. The premise is that the protagonist loses her her brand new husband in a car crash. 12 years later she is moving on but not moving forward. Suddenly, she begins to have vivid dreams of how life would have looked had he lived - they are older and have a 14 year old daughter named Hannah. She awakes and looks around for this life that she believes she was intended to live. But Patrick is still gone yet it seems she needs to take steps to understand aspects of her dreams. This leads her to an ASL class and thus is where it gets interesting.

It is a little predictable but the journey is beautiful. The author knows where she is going from beginning to end and the ending left me with hope and a strengthened belief of the Divine and a bigger picture than we can see. I really enjoyed this book.

The Same Sky by Amanda Eyre Ward

The Same SkyThe Same Sky by Amanda Eyre Ward
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Still thinking about this one. I will say it would be a great discussion book for a book club. There are many parallels that run throughout the stories; the importance of motherhood for the child in Honduras who wants to be with her mother wherever she is, the 41 year old infertile woman yearning for a child, the 15 year histrionic high school girl who manipulates but desperately needs her mother. It would be interesting to discuss the two POV; Alice and Carla. Why Carla chose to trust Ernesto, a tattooed stranger or Alice chose to trust Evian. It would be interesting to also discuss the role of God in each life, deity, fate, luck, fath and fear. I highlighted a number of passages that moved me regarding Carla's faith. With so little, her hope and faith sustains through such sorrow.

Many parallels, many discussion points. Very well written,

Inside the O'Briens by Lisa Genova

Inside the O'BriensInside the O'Briens by Lisa Genova
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I know. Three stars. Before I get into the meat of the book, let me explain because Lisa Genova is one of my very favorite authors. I've always enjoyed her eloquent, intelligent writing. The woman is brilliant and gifted in both the medical field and creative writing. So my real issue with the book was the language. I was distracted by the sheer number of F bombs. It cheapened the eloquent writing style I've come to expect. I buy into the idea that the use of profanity demonstrates a lack of vocabulary. Lisa Genova does not lack vocabulary. But the book is not written from her own POV. The protagonists are blue collar Bostonians - Irish American. So I get it. I get that the characters were rough around the edges. Joe is a veteran cop. That's how he talks and that's how he thinks. I'm just saying that it was distracting, particularly from an author I've loved. That said, had I known ahead of time, I still would have read the book.

The story is a raw, real look at Huntington's Disease, a genetic anomaly in the DNA that is not a respecter of persons. The book begins with Joe, a Boston cop, in his mid thirties, he demonstrate an inkling of the disease. The reader moves from Joe as he progresses in the disease, becoming more clumsy, exhibiting chorea, getting stuck in thinking errors to Katie, his daughter as she becomes paralyzed with fear of the disease. Who has it? There are 4 grown children in various stages of life. Each child has a 50% shot at carrying the gene. If you carry the gene, you develop the disease eventually. Do you get the genetic testing and find out?

Everything about Genova's story is grittingly raw and real. I have a friend who was dating a man when the genetic sequence was identified and subsequently offered to relatives of identified sufferers of Huntington Disease. I didn't know at the time why he put their relationship into a screeching halt for weeks. I didn't know the drama that was playing out in their families until later. His mother was at the point that she could no longer care for her husband and put him into assisted care. His sister, a woman I met a year earlier, was a mother of five children ranging from 11 to 2 years old. She was showing signs of the disease. She chose to be tested. She was HD positive. At the time, the children could also be tested. Yet if they tested positive, would the diagnosis preclude them from quality health insurance? Pre-existing conditions were always the loophole insurance companies used at the time. The mother of the young children deteriorated quickly and her care was pushing the young father to the brink of bankruptcy.

So basically, I read the book but I caught a preview 20 years in advance. I can't tell you what happened to the real people I described in the previous paragraph because, minus the F bombs and the geography, this book tells their story. Those who carry the gene develop the disease and it is horrible. Those who don't carry the gene never get it and don't pass it on to the next generation but they care for their loved ones and suffer with them.

So it all sounds pretty hopeless and a real downer yet I must remind you that this is an author who somehow instills hope and love of life into her characters. The book is an excellent educational vehicle for Huntington's Disease but it also provides they greatest gift an author can give. Hope.

The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan

The GracekeepersThe Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The writing of this book is sublime. Use of words that sound like what they mean. The descriptions of the circus are similar to The Night Circus. The story is well paced and the characters are perfectly developed. The story is intriguing and borders on too strange and weird. Yet it doesn't quite cross the line into bad weird. I kept reading for the prose. I kept reading because I wondered how it would end. I'm still uncertain if I liked the book or not.

Under the Same Blue Sky by Pamela Schoenewaldt

Under the Same Blue SkyUnder the Same Blue Sky by Pamela Schoenewaldt
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is the second book I've read by this author and I am, once again, impressed with her writing style and vast knowledge of immigrants' struggles and challenges.

This book focuses on the German immigrants during the Great War and how they are torn between both of their countries. The German ties run deep while their American loyalty is strong. Their German country is their mother while America is their bride. Hazel is our protagonist and the story is told through her eyes. Although well written, I felt some of the story lines weren't carried to the end. I didn't understand the purpose of the blue paint, why John, and how or why she could heal. Then not. That whole sequence seemed extraneous. I would have preferred to explore Tom and his experience.

The writing style is strong but the story not as tight.

Eight Hundred Grapes: A Novel by Laura Dave

Eight Hundred Grapes: A NovelEight Hundred Grapes: A Novel by Laura Dave
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It would be easy to choose a character, give her a conflict, provide a setting, and fill in the holes with peripheral characters while telling a story. If this were true of this book, I would have been bored senseless. Particularly if the book was truly about making wine. I'll be totally honest here. I know next to nothing about wine. Give me a glass of wine and I will spray it on the first sip. Why do people purposely drink mold? Yeah, seriously a non drinker here. So you can see where I might not appreciate a story about a vineyard that makes wine.

It's not about the wine.

Dan is a scientist turned vineyard owner who knows the proper formula for a good wine, including the number of grapes to make a bottle. Jen is a symphony cellist. They fall in love and begin in 1979 with the winery, house, kids, life. Georgia is the third child with older twin brothers. Every year they turn up for the harvest where they count on traditions and the stability of the family and the business relying heavily on synchronization of events to operate in union. Synchronization is not fate but agency. Yet for a good harvest, all things must be in synchronization; the soil, weather, their health, help, and relationships.

Georgia is in a crisis as her choice of most important relationship implodes. She craves the predictable harvest and relationships. Unfortunately, every relationship is being redefined when she needs the stability. While the story is unfolding, there are snippets of what a good harvest requires. It is a delicate balance of give and take, replenishing the soil with nutrients, caring for the fruit, giving it time and space to ferment. It's not really about the wine but an analogy, so very beautiful, about caring for relationships.

Here are a few gems: "Thing is, either way we cut it, we shouldn't test the people we love... Regardless of what they did or didn't do, we're the ones who feel like we failed."

"If what I thought was connecting us - honesty, friendship, a deep understanding, - was gone suddenly, then what was between us?"

"Wasn't the ultimate fidelity who you told your stories to?"

"[ someone] is tired of doing too much work in her marriage at the exact moment someone returns to her life promising to do all the work instead."

"People screw up, you know. You shouldn't hold it against them. You shouldn't expect everyone to know everything you're thinking about and not getting from them. It doesn't mean they don't love you. They screw up."

"He confused how she saw him with how she needs him to see her."

"You don't give up on family. Not without trying to put it back together."

The Predictions by Bianca Zander

The PredictionsThe Predictions by Bianca Zander
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The book definitely told a new story, disturbing as it was. In some ways, I found it intriguing to be on the inside of a commune that held the ideals of what a commune was supposed to be. In other ways, it was far too weird. Not weird like Charles Manson or child sex abuse. Weird as in completely unconventional and untethered love. I didn't hate it but I found the commune far too tolerant of the character, Shatki. Messing with all of the members with no consequence or limitations. Weird.

Made You Up by Francesca Zappia

Made You UpMade You Up by Francesca Zappia
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Is it just another angsty high school drama? In some ways it is. The angsty high school drama is more peripheral and dragged down the story but it was necessary for Alex to get to where she needed to go by the end of the book. Alex is a new kind of protagonist. Neuroses has finally gotten attention and some acceptance in modern society as we have acknowledged eating disorders, OCD, and other anxiety disorders that meet the DSM criteria. Alex is in the psychotic column. She has schizophrenia.

As frightening as the diagnosis is, the author easily writes Alex into a regular teenage life. The book begins at the age of diagnosis and an incident in a grocery store with lobsters and a new friend. Two colors stand out in this chapter and throughout. The friend had dark blue eyes. Alex has red (not orange or auburn) hair. This is significant because ten years pass and Alex is starting a new high school for her senior year. She's been in treatment for her schizophrenia and paranoia, she has coping skills and mechanisms and has high hopes for this new experience. On the first day of school, she meets the very frightening boy that happens to have the same dark blue eyes of her hallucination from childhood. Was he a hallucination or was he real?

So Alex has a somewhat debilitating mental illness that has been managed via meds and therapy. She wants friends. She wants a normal life. She wants to keep her mental illness a secret. I enjoyed the interactions she had with Miles - the love/hate relationship, the quick comebacks, discovering his secrets, and the normalcy they have. As the story progresses, there are some interesting patterns that emerge. There are shades of "A Beautiful Mind" and, don't freak out but, "Sixth Sense" that were very well played. What is real and what is a hallucination? In a high school setting, you can see how this question would be problematic. It's weird, anyway.

The book builds up and I quite enjoyed the revelations of what was real and what was not. To a point. Weird as high school is, it went a little over the top and that part wasn't a hallucination. The ending was a good wrapping up of loose ends and satisfying.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Wilf the Mighty Worrier Saves the World by Georgia Pritchett

From the writer behind the award-winning HBO show “Veep,” a 
 new children’s chapter book about an unlikely hero.

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Wilf the Mighty Worrier
Saves the World

by Georgia Pritchett

November 3rd, 2015

Wilf, who worries about everything, must face his fears to save the world!

Wilf is a little boy who worries quite a lot, about quite a lot of things. About almost everything, if we're being completely honest. He's frightened of stuffed animals. Peanut butter makes him nervous. And as for the awful crawly insects that have waggly feeler-thingies instead of eyes? Well, that is just something that doesn't bear thinking about. 

When the Most Evil Man in the World moves in right next door, Wilf is understandably quite alarmed. Panicked, in fact--totally and utterly freaked out. The neighbor, Alan, is a self-styled Evil Lunatic, with a grumpy robot sidekick and a dog named Kevin Phillips to prove it. Seriously, what kind of maniac gives his dog a surname? And why do the three of them always look like they're up to no good?

The only ally Wilf has in his desperate struggle to put a stop to Alan's ridiculous--but also quite upsetting, really, when you come to think of it--plans to destroy the world is his little sister, Dot, and her trusty "blanky," of course.

Could this be the end of the mighty worrier Wilf--or is it the beginning of a legend?

"A total delight of, what I call, a book!"
—Miranda Hart

"A lively, funny story."
—Jacqueline Wilson, Author of Candyfloss

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: GEORGIA PRITCHETT is a comedy writer who has written for a number of TV comedies and comedians including The Thick Of It, Veep, Miranda, Have I Got News For You, Smack the Pony, Graham Norton, Jo Brand, Paul Merton, Lenny Henry, Ronnie Corbett, Wallace and Gromit and several other real, fictional and occasionally plasticine people. Wilf the Mighty Worrier is Georgia's first work for children. She lives in London with her husband and two children.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Madilyn Paige CD

Madilyn Paige CD (as seen on TV)

This stunning self-titled debut EP features a set of tunes notable for their raw emotion and beautiful soundscapes. Madilyn wrote or co-wrote every song on the album, drawin from her own struggles as a teenager and her heartfelt expressions of the joy she finds in life. The first track, "Irreplaceable," begins with aching introspection and soars to an assurance of self-worth; the folloring track, "Foolish Game," was written right after Madilyn left the TV show The Voice and gives insight into the inevitability of discouragement in life and the realization that you can rise above the games that people play. An epic movie score string section combines with powerful rhythms on "Undercover," a breathtaking song about overcoming sadness and seeking the light all around you. The final track, "Little Things," playfully reminds us that the little things in life are the source of true joy. 

Just in case you are not keeping up with NBC's The Voice, she chose Usher to be her coach (there's a spoiler!). Oh, she is a flawless performer that hits those high notes like they are as easy as middle C. Her songs are uplifting, beautiful, and relevant to youth today. Her melodious voice has an amazing range and her overall performances are humble with a huge stage presence due to raw talent.

Monday, February 16, 2015

The Distance Between Lost and Found by Kathryn Holmes

The Distance Between Lost and FoundThe Distance Between Lost and Found by Kathryn Holmes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This may be my favorite YA book this year. In fact, in a long time. It's a simple read about a Christian youth camp that Hallelujah didn't want to go to because the preacher's boy told some lies and ruined her reputation. But she goes and meets Rachel, the new girl, and ends up on a trail with Rachel and a former friend, Jonah. They get lost. It's a bad lost. For days. The author details the lostness and the hunger, the lack of shelter and warmth. It's quite well written.

Within this story of being lost, getting injured, trying to be found, another story is taking shape. The lost and found is both physical and metaphorical. Hallie was a victim of bullying which led to mobbing. During the time she is lost and experiencing the things she experiences, she finds a different perspective. Having gone through an experience of this sort, I found a lot of deep meaning and truths in this process. Hallie's story is one of any of us who has felt helpless in a situation and eventually identified with the role of helpless victim. She examines her part of the problem and how she has contributed. Even though it is mostly a Christian fiction, the author examines the process and the solution much more deeply than simply turn the other cheek and forgive. She examines the damaged relationships from gossip, rumor, and how those relationships may be changed forever, particularly if the victim plays the victim role.

The book was empowering to me as I reviewed my own situation and found the silver linings, examined my silence where I needed to fight, yell, and make a scene but feared the mindset was already set. Maybe it was but what if it wasn't?

There were metaphors in the scenes with Jonah and the fish, the injured bird, and so many others. What could have been a simplistic "love your neighbor" story, took it deeper by examining the wounds, looking at the irritants that kept it infected, resolving to do differently, and loving yourself.

Clean read. I'll pass it onto my children.