New Fiction Friday: Tell Me Something Real

51eywojnzdl-_sx329_bo1204203200_Cancer does not discriminate. It takes the young and old, the rich and the poor, anyone from any background or part of the world. It always seems tragic when cancer strikes the young, and the parents of young children. Cancer is at the center of Calla Devlin’s story, Tell Me Something Real.  Vanessa and her two sisters are incredibly close, and their family was rocked when their mother was diagnosed with cancer. They are brought even closer together, working to take care of each other, and their father who was already grieving.  They are also being pulled in many different directions, physically and emotionally, as they are frequently helping their mother to and from her constant doctors visits and cancer treatments.

The middle of the book drops a big bombshell, one that came completely out of the blue. Mentioning anything about it will certainly ruin the story – and it’s such a good one!!  It changes the trajectory of the book, and it changes the trajectory of this family’s life. As Vanessa and her older sister grow, they are close to leaving the house for good.  Yet, at the same time, they seem to have never been closer.  Adrienne, the oldest girl, might be going away to college soon, and Vanessa really wants to go to a conservatory and play the piano. In chasing this dream, she begins to move on. Physically and emotionally.  Their younger sister Marie remains, and seems unable to cope with even the thought of her two older sisters leaving.

I lost my father to cancer almost 6 years ago, so parts of the story seem so familiar. Watching him struggle, and continue to decline before his death was one of the hardest things I’ve ever experienced. These three sisters have each other, and their dad, and this helps them to cope.  There is no real healing in the story – either for their mom, or for the girls.  Yet they carry on.  I admire their bravery, and I am jealous of their closeness – this sisterly bond they have is unbreakable.  This is such a great story – and I was surprised by a  YA book that wasn’t driven by romance!

Enjoy and happy reading!

 

 

#TBRCHALLENGE017

51qngjneijlHappy day after Valentine’s Day everyone – the best day of the year to buy candy!!  This is the second month of the #TBRChallenge, being hosted by The Misadventures Of Super Librarian.  Each month, there are posted themes and “due dates”, like assignments, challenging participants to read and get outside their comfort zone.

This month’s assignment was an author new to me.  In the past month I’ve read two of JoJo Moyes’s books – Paris For One and After You.  I loved both of them and am looking forward to reading more of her books.  Up next is her one of her newest books Sheltering Rain. Again, I feel like I’m the last one to read 514wbfezdml-_sx281_bo1204203200_her books.  I guess better late than never!!

After You is the sequel to Me Before You, and picks up exactly where the first book left off.  I haven’t read the first book yet – but I want to now, and I’ve heard the movie is really good.  Without reading the first book, it was still immediately clear what had happened.  No spoilers, but Me Before You has a very sad ending.  In After You, Louisa is trying to carry on with her life, has done some crazy and exciting things.  Her family is puzzled, but they never really understood her relationship with Will Trainer (which is kind of what Me Before You is all about).  Having not read the first book, I wasn’t sure how they were connected – but they were deeply in love.

This was such a great story – and I also really loved Paris For One.  I’m looking forward to reading more of her other books.  Next up in the #TBRChallenge for March is a comfort read – which sounds perfect for right now!  The past few weeks have been super busy and I’d love nothing more than to relax with a great book and some Valentine’s Day candy!!

A Handful of Stars

51kylxczcql-1-_sx342_bo1204203200_I love a good dog story.  I also love a good cat story.  In a Handful of Stars, which I just finished a few days ago, Lily’s dog is blind and she is his only guide.  Cynthia Lord, the author of Rules, which earned her a Newbury Honor, released Stars last year, and it is such a great read.  Lily lives in Maine with her grandparents.  She doesn’t know her father, and her mother passed away when she was really young.  All she has left of her mother is this dog which she had before she died.  During the summer, in preparation for the blueberry festival, she befriends another you girl named Salma.  Salma is the daughter of migrant workers, in the area to pick blueberries for the season.

They are introduced when Salma saves Lily’s dog from being hit by a car.  They have little in common, as Lily has lived in Maine her whole life, and Salma has lived all over the place.  Though she calls Florida home, Salma and her family move up and down the east coast, following spring and summer harvests.  Lily’s grandparents own a story that locals and tourists frequent.  In order to raise money for a surgery that could restore Lucky’s eyesight, she paints bird houses to be sold at the store.  When Salma hears of Lily’s work, she spends the summer helping paint more, and as a talented artist, her work becomes quite popular.

Salma was strong and brave, and helped Lily to raise money for Lucky’s surgery.  This story about these two young girls really got to me.  Maybe I was having a rough day, but when I got to the end of the book I just cried.  Her grandfather and Salma have a very close relationship, and though he supports her mission to save Lucky, he has some advice for her.  He tells her this:

“Giving up and letting go are too very different things, Lily.  Giving up is admitting you’re beat and walking away.  Letting go means you’re setting something free.  You’re releasing something that’s been keeping you stuck.  That takes faith and more than a little courage.”

The summer is life changing for this 12 year old.  She learns about love, friendship, and letting go – in ways that she couldn’t have expected.  I loved this story, and the way that these two girls, from very different backgrounds, were able to connect.

New Fiction Friday: Fantastic Beasts

61ks08br-el-_sx311_bo1204203200_I cannot get enough Harry Potter – and I know I’m not alone.  As soon as I got my hands on Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, I devoured it.  That came out last year, and around the same time another piece to the Potter world was released – Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.  It’s an original screenplay, written by Ms. Rowling.  So not an official Harry book, it does tie into the series.  The title actually comes from the name of a textbook used by students at Hogwarts.

Newt Scamander is the main character of the story, the character played by Eddie Redmayne in the movie.  He is a magi-zoologist (someone who takes care of magical creatures – kind of like Hagrid).  The story takes place in 1920s New York, and it seems as if these beasts are taking over the city.  The imagery in the book is amazing, and the movie takes it to another level.  No one has quite the imagination as Ms. Rowling, which is why she is unnamedhands-down my favorite author.

What’s also interesting is that in the story (screenplay??), there is a peek into the wizarding world of New York City.  There is a large and thriving magic community in the states, with a wizarding school that rivals Hogwarts.  Newt is British, and is definitely an outsider.  He’s trying to blend in, not just with American wizards, but in a bustling NYC.  He seems to be on the run, and he claims to be looking for a certain species, yet is accused of coming to New York and setting some of these beasts free.  This again is an amazing visual – even without seeing the movie.

There is dark magic, and in one part of the story Newt faces an execution committee.  It was a fun and quick read, and I can only hope that Ms Rowling keeps writing, and keeps taking us back to the wizarding world!  Side note – when is the next Cormoran Strike book coming out??

#TBRChallenge017

51i88vwotol-_sx330_bo1204203200_2017 is already in full swing.  Though I am enjoying the new boots and comfy sweaters I got for Christmas – I am already over the winter weather!!  We got 6 inches of snow here last week, and that is about 5 1/2 inches too many for me.  Luckily, before being snowed in I was able to make a quick trip to the library.  In front of the fireplace, with a good cup of coffee and a new book to read is the perfect place to be!  One thing I’m excited about this year is participating in the #TBRChallenge, being hosted by The Misadventures Of Super Librarian.  Each month, there are posted themes and “due dates”.

First up is for the month of January is romance (or a novella, or short stories).  I don’t normally read a lot of romance, but finding a good romance wasn’t too hard.  I am a fan of Meg Cabot, and have been looking forward to reading her latest book!  The Boy Is Back, which is kind of romance, is all about a small-town scandal and a reignited romance.  I picked the book for this particular part of the challenge, and after reading it, decided that although it was a good read, it really wasn’t that romantic.

Reed and Becky once dated in high school, and had one hell of a prom night.  The night had ended in a crashed golf cart and a dislocated shoulder for Becky.  Reed’s father is a prominent judge in the area, and to him this was an embarrassment.  Fast forward 10 years, neither have seen each other.  Reed has been traveling the world on the PGA circuit, Becky and her sister have started their own business locally.  He’s back in town to help his parents, and along with his siblings needs the help of Becky’s business.

The flame between them is almost immediately reignited.  The story wasn’t as romantic as I expected, but it was a fun read.  One thing unique about the story is Cabot’s writing.  The story is told strictly through a series of texts, e-mails, transcripts of interviews, and a few newspaper articles.

Next up in the #TBRChallenge is a new-to-you author.  I’m super excited about that – there are two series that I’ve been dying to read!!

New Fiction Friday: The Mothers

51n7sl28jyl-_sx329_bo1204203200_What does it take to be called a mother? I became a mother when my daughter was born, but I have called others mother – other than the one who raised me.  Brit Bennett’s debut novel is The Mothers, all about a group of women at a church called the Upper Room. Nadia Turner, a teenage girl who loses her mother to a tragic unexpected suicide, is at the center of this story. She too could be a mother, her life becomes shaped by the loss of her mother, and this story – which spans the months following her mother’s death, until her graduation from law school. Throughout that time, she is searching. Searching for meaning in her life, something to fill the void that her mother left behind, and for approval – for the mother she no longer has, and for the mothers of the Upper Room.

Nadia becomes wreckless after her mother’s death. She is only 17, and without guidance in her life. Her father has mentally and emotionally checked out- and there is no one else in her life.  She finds a connection with Jake – a local football hero whose mother is involved in the Upper Room. It’s not the right kind of love or attention she needed, but it’s all she can get. She’s a great student – and has earned admission into the University of Michingan, which is thousands of miles away from the home she shares with her distraught father. Still, she’s counting down the days until she’s able to escape.

Her story seems so sad, and she is so badly damaged emotionally.  Even when she goes away to school – and stays away, even going to law school, she won’t allow herself to heal.   She is drawn back home when he father gets sick, and reconnects with some old friends. She’s still hurting – and returning to the home that she shared with her parents is a stark reminder of her mother’s absence.

This book was a selection of the Book of the Month Club and I read it immediately when it came to my house. I had heard Brit Bennett interviewed on NPR and knew the premise of the story, and was so excited to read it.  It’s a reminder that no matter how old we get, we still need our mothers.  Even if we don’t have our real mothers, like Nadia, we need someone.

New Fiction Friday: Horrorstor

51hggt7lll-_sx419_bo1204203200_I love a good scary story. I also love Ikea. When I first saw Horrorstor, I didn’t pay close attention to the cover. It looks just like an Ikea catalog, and along with the story inside the book are pictures and diagrams of Ikea-type furniture. The store is not an official Ikea, though Ikea is mentioned several times in the book. Orsk, as described by some of its employees, is a second-rate Ikea. It’s a gigantic, maze-like building, meant to keep customers in the store as long as possible in order to get them to spend more money.

The store is the setting for the store, and most of the characters are store employees.  Amy had been working at the store for a while, working for a guy named Basil. They really didn’t get along – so much so that she had recently asked for a transfer to a different store. He has to sign off on that in order for it to get approved. He really doesn’t want her to leave though, she is one of the store’s best employees.  They end up striking a bargain. He will sign off on the transfer if she will agree to work a little overtime, stay overnight and prepare the store for the arrival of some of the store’s executives the following morning.

This is when things start to get interesting. A few of the store’s employees have been getting random, seemingly anonymous texts saying “help”. Amy is one of them – and it’s puzzling.  This is just one of the odd things happening around the store. Recently the store has been in disarray when employees first show up in the morning to open the store. Amy reluctantly agrees to stay overnight, along with Ruth Ann, a coworker to maybe witness just what happens in the store after hours.

I love the premise of the book, and the end of the story suggested a possible sequel – which I would love to read. The book wasn’t as scary as I hoped it would be, and wasn’t as fast-paced as I think it should be. But it was unique in delivery – the faux-Ikea catalog format I totally loved.