~Alice Bliss by Laura Harrington~ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ A beautiful coming of age story. Alice’s father has been deployed to Iraq and she misses him terribly. This story unveils all the emotions, following the lives and struggles of one family as they wait for their loved one to return. This novel had some odd point of view shifts, but is so heart tugging I still recommend it. You are going to cry. I feel like crying just thinking about this book!
~Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate~ Lisa Wingate delivers. This book wrecked my productivity. Once I started I had to finish it. The Tennessee Children’s Home Society was a real organization that removed and sometimes even kidnapped children from poor families and sold the children to wealthy families wanting to adopt.
Twelve year old Rill is the eldest of five, and the siblings are taken away against their will to a boarding house of horrors while waiting to be placed. Rill knows her parents would never give them away. The story alternates between 1939, Rill’s story, and present day when Avery narrates as she unravels the past mystery of deep family secrets.
I had heard about the Tennessee Children’s Home before, but I didn’t realize the extent of the abuse. I was holding my breath hoping for Rill to get away. This one may end up being my favorite Lisa Wingate novel. It is definitely on my list.
This book will make you hate Georgia Tann, the woman who ran the Tennessee Children’s Home Society. I don’t think I can read another story about her for a while.
I didn’t expect to be captured by this story, but I was. A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman and translated by Henning Koch opens with Ove in a computer store, trying unsuccessfully to communicate with one of the employees. Having often been stymied by things tech, I could so relate to the quandary Ove had in the store.
A recent retiree, Ove is the typical outspoken, inflexible grump, but we suspect from the get go he just might have reason to be. His life is severely structured by routine and he lives his days out following his own strict ideas of what is right. Patrolling the neighborhood, he keeps watch, always ready to enforce The Rules. A young family moves in next door and immediately upset Ove by running into his mailbox.
This character driven tale spins out beautifully, feeding us bits that make up Ove’s story as we need them. It is a poignant story about the human condition, of learning to love and be loved, of looking past the oft not-so-lovely exterior and seeing a fellow human. I was moved. Ove isn’t a man you would care to deal with, but we can’t help but love him, warts and all.
The novel jumps around in time, but is easy to follow. The story is sweet, funny, and sad all at the same time. I think this one may end up on my favorites list. It’s not often a book can make me laugh, cry, and think.
I listened to the audio book narrated by George Newbern and was well done. On a side note, a good narrator can ruin an otherwise good book, but this is a good narrator. The audiobooks I select books are greatly influenced by who is reading, and whether or not past books by an author were narrated well.
I will be checking out other books by Fredrik Backman.
I did not realize this novel had been made into a movie, and I plan to watch it sometime. I am big on reading the book first, and this is a good one. I can’t imagine a movie being as good as the novel. If you watched the movie or read the book, let me know what you thought.
Recommended. Some language and the content is serious at times.
Click here for a reading guide from Simon and Schuster for A Man Called Ove.
Here’s another reading guide from LitLovers.
I’d love to hear from you! Leave a comment below. This book is full of wonderful quotes. Here’s a few.
“And time is a curious thing. Most of us only live for the time that lies right ahead of us. A few days, weeks, years. One of the most painful moments in a person’s life probably comes with the insight that an age has been reached when there is more to look back on than ahead. And when time no longer lies ahead of one, other things have to be lived for. memories, perhaps.”
~The Feathered Bone by Julie Cantrell~⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ I finally got around to reading The Feathered Bone. I love the descriptions of New Orleans and its unique culture. Once I started, I didn’t take long to read this book. It was an emotional read. A few twists in the story surprised me and kept me reading. I will definitely be reading more books by Julie Cantrelle. If you like Christian fiction or fiction with a strong theme of redemption this might be a book for you.
“Everything’s a risk. Not doing anything is a risk. It’s up to you”
“Just because you can’t experience everything doesn’t mean you shouldn’t experience anything.”
“One thing I’m certain of: wanting just leads to more wanting. There’s no end to desire.”
Maddy is allergic to the world and has spent her entire life isolated. Vigilantly protected by her physician mother and her private nurse, Maddy has no interaction with the outside world. Enter the cute, funny, new next-door neighbor boy.
Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon is a young adult novel written in first person present tense and moves along at a fast pace. I liked Yoon’s writing style and the story hook.
I was surprised at how short this book felt. It was a quick, easy read, except for moments of unbelievability that broke the flow of the story. I kept tripping over inconsistencies and had to re-read passages. Olly, Maddy’s love interest, is a character I enjoyed reading about. He is cute, funny, and has his own baggage. The interplay between the two characters unfolds beautifully and the romance hits just the right note.
I liked the message of the need to take risks and to live your own life. While I could not connect with the main character, I think many young teen girls relate to Maddy and the idea of being confined or isolated, kept apart from the things they desire. What teenager doesn’t feel as if they are somehow outside of the norm?
I had to wonder what happened to all of Maddy’s friends. There was a mention of her online friends, and then we never hear from them. In Maddy’s situation, I would assume she would be in online support groups. It seemed a stretch that Maddy bought into her mother’s delusion without question. With a minimum of research, Maddy would have been able to figure out the inconsistencies and become suspicious that she was not really sick. I felt the nurse should have caught on as well, so this part of the story didn’t work for me.
The idea that someone who is ill lives a life completely separated as bubble people from the world and will never find love is annoying. In the story, Maddy is doomed until we find out that she is not really disabled. All along the illness has been a figment of her mother’s imagination. Maddy is “normal” and therefore now she can have a “normal” relationship with the boy she loves. I didn’t care for the message here. I would make sure to point this out to my teen if they read this book, and affirm that people who have medical conditions or disabilities often find love. I would have rather seen them find a way to overcome, instead of the solution being that illness did not exist.
The teen romance is well written, and the conflict between parent and child echoes typical relationship issues. I read the book in one evening. The storyline was interesting and my attention never flagged. You might like this book if you enjoy short, contemporary teen romances.
Issues of concern
Profanity, sex, deception, illness, alcohol abuse, domestic violence, Munchhausen syndrome, mental illness.
Book Review| Talking as Fast as I Can
By Lauren Graham
I became a Gilmore girls fan late. During the years we were homeschooling, I rarely watched television of any sort. Who had time? I started watching the show when it was on Netflix one day when I wasn’t feeling well. I felt an immediate connection with the characters and was delighted by the quick banter. I shared the show with my daughter, who, at the time, was a very reluctant teenager. You know that there is a certain age when anything mom likes is certain to elicit a negative response.
A few moments into the show, she turned to me and said, “It’s us!”
Obviously, we are not the only duo to feel this connection to Gilmore Girls.
I loved Lauren Graham’s memoir, Talking As Fast As I Can. If you are a Gilmore girls fan I think you would enjoy this book. The Lorelai Gilmore fast-paced dialogue we are all familiar with is infused throughout this small volume. Lauren is so personable. Reading this book was like reading letters from a dear friend, one who is generous with advice and laughter. I don’t usually read celebrity memoirs, but I enjoyed every minute of this book, even when I was crying. Yes, I did cry.
I was encouraged by her advice on everything from writing, making choices, dieting, and technology. She did this all with a splash of humor.
“Eventually I learned that, in the beginning at least, it was better for me to be finished then to try to be perfect. I had to get out of my own way.”
“Often, waiting reveals the truth about something, and not responding to your every impulse can save you the heart ache of waking up in the morning with a sense of regret.”
“Talking about getting a tattoo was, I realized, a perfect case of life thing about the journey not the destination.”
To me, this memoir feels like a gift. Thank you, Lauren Graham! I will definitely be checking out Lauren Graham’s novel, Maybe, Maybe, Someday.
The Netflix film To The Bone is a drama that brings attention to the problem of eating disorders.
Nearly every book or movie about an eating disorder can be triggering for those who struggle with these issues. Use common sense and caution if this is a problem for you or your family member.
In To The Bone, the main character, Ellen, is given one last chance to get herself together. Her stepmother has enrolled her in an unconventional away from home treatment program.
Ellen has a love interest, a quirky male ballet dancer, Luke, who is also at the treatment center for anorexia. To fill out the group at the center, there are a few other anorexic girls and one binge eater. Ellen’s family life is complicated. She lives with her father, stepmother, Susan, and half-sister, Liana. The only good relationship that Ellen seems to have among her family members is with her half-sister. The father is never seen onscreen, leaving his wife to handle Ellen and her problems. Ellen’s mother, Judy, lives in another city with her partner, Olive.
I felt the setup for the movie was a bit stereotypical. The main character is a white female with obvious family issues and plenty of money to spend on treatment centers. Eating disorders affect people from all walks of life and this film did not represent those people. Even so, this movie is useful to educate in an entertaining way. The characters caught my attention and kept it to the end. I was left wanting to know more of their stories.
I liked the dark humor and the drama keep me watching. In the scene where her half sister asked Ellen to play a game, guessing the total calorie count on the plate without looking it up I had a bit of a flashback. During my junior high days and beyond, counting calories was a given for most girls as it is today. If think about it, I can still easily tally calories. I felt a certain affinity with her when she kept feeling her arm to see if her fingers would reach around for forearm. Did you do that in junior high?
Today, recognizing an eating disorder as an addiction may be a common reaction, but that was not the case when I was a teen and young adult. To The Bone draws attention to this problem and attempts to broaden our understanding.
To The Bone takes us through a small part of one person’s journey. In the end, Ellen gathers her courage, surrenders, and takes charge of her own healing, and recognizes that she is never really alone. We are left rooting for Ellen to be successful in her quest for healing and health. There is a romantic element left unresolved as well, although the film ends on a note of hope. If To The Bone was made into a series I would want to check it out.
As a young girl and teen I had my own struggles with image and weight, alternately denying myself food and binging. I couldn’t starve out the pain, or cover it with fat. By the grace of God I found people who helped me find acceptance and emotional healing before it could develop into something worse. According to The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders approximately eight million people suffer with eating disorders. I’m not sure what the answer is, but pretending it doesn’t exist will certainly not help anyone.
Maybe, for your family, Netflix’s To The Bone can be a starting point to begin an important conversation.
This film is rated MA for mature audiences. If your teen is watching this film, I recommend you watch it with them and talk about the topic.
Contains profanity, irreverent humor, smoking, eating disorders, alcohol, family issues.
It was disturbing to think that Lily Collins, who plays Ellen and has an eating disorder herself, had lost weight for this role. She talks about the weight loss for her role in this interview.
If you or someone you love has an eating disorder you can get help at or help at the National Eating Disorders website here or call the National Eating Disorders Helpline at (800) 931-2237.
Watch the trailer for Netflix’s To The Bone.
Did you watch? What did you think? Do you have any other films or books on eating disorders you recommend?
Book Review | Imaginary Girls
by Nova Ren Suma
Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma is a bit of a departure for me.
Ruby is the town darling and everyone wants to be her friend. Chloe is her younger sister. One night the teenagers of the town are partying and at Ruby’s urging, Chloe attempts to swim across the reservoir. In the darkness Chloe comes across a boat and discovers the body of her classmate, London. Chloe leaves town to go stay with her father. After two years, Ruby wants her sister to come home. Chloe returns to find London alive and well. Somehow, Ruby, who always gets her way, is involved.
I chose this book based on a recommendation by my library without really knowing what it was. Imaginary Girls is a novel about two sisters caught up in a paranormal mystery. The story is a haunting one. At first, I was a bit leery of it because suspense is not usually my thing, but two pages in I was hooked.
In this novel, it’s difficult to tell what is real and what is not. The prose is magnificent. This twisted tale of tragedy unfolds in a series of surreal events. Imaginary Girls leaves you slightly unbalanced, guessing right up to the end.
I recently re-read I Am The Cheese and perhaps it primed me for this type of story. Perhaps it’s been a while since I heard a good ghost story. This novel reminded me of how much I loved to spin, and hear, a good campfire tale. In any case, this story caught my interest and held it to the last page.
The story is told from the younger sister’s point of view. The characterization of the sisters and their relationship is a fascinating exploration of obsession. This novel combines a complicated sisterly bond with the strange other-worldliness of a dark, fantastical world and lyrical prose.
Imaginary Girls is rich in its characters and prose. It is not a fast-paced book, but is absorbing and intense. I do believe at one point in the book I actually shivered picturing the water of the reservoir. There is an eerie twilight zone vibe to this story.
Be forewarned, the characters in this novel do not behave well. There is much language. Imaginary Girls is for mature teens. If your teen is reading this book, I suggest you read it as well and discuss the issues and themes in the book.
Sex, drugs, alcohol abuse, death, language.
You Know When the Men Are Gone by Siobhan Fallon is a short collection of short stories following different characters. The thread weaving the stories together is that they are either servicemen or the wives of servicemen of Fort Hood, Texas.
The book immediately grabbed my attention from the first page and never let go.
Gritty and realistic, each chapter gives the reader a glimpse into the experiences of military life for those serving in Iraq and for the families left behind waiting for their loved ones to come home.
I completed the book in one sitting. I found the stories fascinating and so well written that I wished it had been longer, even though some of the scenes were disturbing at times. The depictions of characters and their actions felt true to life.
Fallon is a writer to watch.
This was a book chosen by a local library book club.
War, violence, graphic descriptions, profanity, incident of verbal sexual harassment, infidelity, abandonment, spousal abuse, alcohol, death.
Find out more about the author at Siobhan Fallon’s website here.
Set in 2030, Free to Fall by Lauren Miller is a young adult dystopian novel in which “The Doubt”, a small inner voice, is labeled as mental illness and medicated away in those who cannot ignore it. In this world, nearly everyone has an app on their phone called Lux. Lux keeps track of all data and helps the user with every decision, major to minor. This setting is ripe for the unfolding tale of high tech social engineering.
Sixteen year old Aurora “Rory” Vaughn is accepted to Theden Academy, an exclusive college prep boarding school. Rory and her friends are addicted to social media, selfies, and coffee.
The characters struggle with the typical teen issues ranging from dieting to dating, as well as the school work load you would expect at a private prep school. Secret societies, teen angst, conspiracies, mysteries, betrayal, and romance keep the action flowing while the characters grapple with moral questions brought up in Free to Fall. I liked the allusions and themes from The Bible and Paradise Lost woven throughout.
The first time I read Free to Fall, I was stuck by the eerie parallel of current social behaviors and the technological advances we have made that make this imagined world a little too plausible for comfort.
Highly recommended for teens and up. This is an excellent book for discussion.
Some language, kissing, intimacy and heavy petting (not graphic), secret society, simulated death and violence, mind control, drinking, death of parents
Click here for a discussion guide for Free to Fall with Bible verse references from Embracing the Detour.
Visit Lauren Miller’s author website here.
Watch the trailer for Free to Fall.
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