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Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
Modern suburbia, planned communities, all families adhering to standards of behavior….or do they?
In this book, you meet the Richardsons. There are four teenagers- two boys and two girls. Everything seems perfect. Then a young woman and her teenage daughter move into a rental owned by the Richardsons. Mia and the daughter, Pearl, furnish their apartment with castoffs and thrift store goods and seems as happy as can be. They move often and are just settling into this community when Pearl meets the Richardson kids. Her life is turned upside down as she begins to live at their home as much as her own.
I would give this one 5 stars. I love this author and this book did not disappoint. (To be honest, as I started this book I was thinking, “Great, finally I found a book written by a real author.” If you read a lot you will understand what I mean by this.)
Grab this one!
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
This is the story of Celestial and Roy. Living in Atlanta, living their dream. They appear to have the perfect marriage. Then they travel to Louisiana for a holiday visit with his parents.
Not wanting to impose on Roy’s parents the two book a room at a local motel. During the evening Roy leaves the room to get something and meets an elderly woman that needs help. He takes care of a couple of small problems for her and returns to his room.
And then the motel room door is thrown open and the police are arresting Roy. Someone has broken into the elderly woman’s room and she has identified Roy as the attacker. Celestial knows he is innocent because he was with her, but he is jailed and convicted anyway.
Sentenced to twelve years. Can this marriage survive? What about Andre? What can happen to all these people and how will their relationships change?
Read this one. It is beautifully written and definitely the story of a marriage- actually many marriages. Five stars!
Long Way Gone by Charles Martin
As one does as a teenager, Cooper wanted to do more and lied to his dad about where he was one evening. Dad caught him, of course, and this led to Cooper leaving home in anger. Somehow, though, his dad knew this might happen and when Cooper was on the road he found a map, some money, and a note dad had written,
“No matter where you go, no matter whether you succeed or fail, stand or fall, no gone is too far gone. You can always come home.”
Read this one! It is beautifully written. The descriptions of the effect music has on the characters is amazing. If you have a song that touches you in any way this book will resonate. It’s a love story for sure. But it’s more than romance. It’s the love of a father and son and a family friend, it’s about making music and the instruments the Lord has provided. Just a heads-up- this author uses Bible verses and references to scripture in his writing. Eventually, the book has after-life references as well. It is well done and quite believable. Five stars!
Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate
It is 1939 on a riverboat in South Carolina. “River gypsies” is the name one of the children calls her family. Briny and Queenie and five children. Tragically, Queenie is struggling to give birth on the boat and the midwife discovers there are twins. Briny has to take her away to a doctor leaving the other five alone.
The second day the children are alone a group arrives and takes the kids.
They are taken to The Tennessee State Children’s Home, an orphanage run by a couple of truly evil women. It turns out that children that arrive there are frequently adopted and sent away to new homes – even though their real parents are still alive. The treatment of the children in the home is unspeakable.
I would give this one 5 stars. Definitely, read this one!
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
This is a frightening look into a dystopian future in which women are controlled and kept captive to do their duty, whatever that might be.
The story unfolds slowly as you meet Offred and hear how she lives. Wearing only red clothing and a bonnet that prevents her from seeing things around her Offred is one of the handmaids. There are other women, too, with similar descriptive names that play roles in the new world. There are servants, elderly women, and wives. There are also women that are sent away because they cannot bear children. Everything is strictly controlled.
The book is mesmerizing and well written. The details will keep you reading, but I expect you will be angry one minute and perplexed the next. Five stars for this one. But it is still scary. And worth re-reading…and saving.
The Mountain Between Us by Charles Martin
Dr. Ben is traveling by plane and so is Ashley. (They do not know each other but meet briefly.) The airport is closing quickly due to an oncoming storm and they are stranded. As they head out to spend a night in the airport Ben sees a chartered plane service and talks to the pilot, Grover. Grover is an older man and quite a character.
Grover agrees to fly Ben out ahead of the storm and Ben heads back to see if Ashley wants to ride along. She does because her wedding is in two days.
And off they go headed into a mountain wilderness trying to get to Denver. The plane goes down atop a mountain peak and they are stranded. Ashley is badly injured, Grover is dead, and Ben is left to get them out alive.
I read this book in one day. I could not put it down. It is well written in the descriptions of all the things the two go through and you will laugh out loud at some of their jokes. I am not revealing any more of the story. Just go read it. And, by the way, it did not end the way I expected!
The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
Cora and her husband, Erndt, are the parents of a young teenage girl, Leni. They move to Alaska one day when Erndt declares he wants a new beginning. He suffers from PTSD and is prone to violent outbursts, including hitting Cora. Cora and Leni have learned to tiptoe around and always play to his good side to keep the peace.
Once they arrive in Alaska they survive only because of the kindness and generosity of the neighbors and townspeople that bring them supplies and teach them to prepare for the winter. In the middle of this, Leni meets Matthew at school and this turns her life upside down – as only a teenage romance can!
Leni and Momma are quite a pair as they battle the harsh Alaskan country and Erndt’s demanding and violent nature. This turns out to be a massive love story of a book, but it’s about the relationship and love between Leni and Cora. I give it 5 stars as an audiobook because of the narrator. It’s quite a believable book, but keep reminding yourself of the time period. In the 70’s women did not report domestic abuse and PTSD was not a mental illness that was recognized like it is today. Overall, a great book!
The Sun Does Shine by Anthony Ray Hinton
Ray is found guilty and sentenced to die in the electric chair in Alabama.
Thirty years later he walks free. Thirty years on death row.
This is a must-read book. Ray Hinton was innocent of the crime. He had incontrovertible proof of his whereabouts at the time of the murder. This innocent man spent 30 years on death row. 5 Stars!
Everything Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave
An amazing and beautifully written book! This one has been on my next-read list for a long time and I finally found a copy at my favorite bookstore (2nd & Charles)
The book opens in London in 1939 when a wealthy young lady, Mary, leaves her school and volunteers for the war effort. She is assigned to teach, even though she is very young and knows nothing about teaching. It turns out she is a natural that fiercely loves the students. It is through her teaching job that she meets Tom and Alistair.
Mary becomes involved with Tom as Alistair volunteers for the duty in the Royal Army. He is deployed. And if these relationships are not complex enough there is also Mary’s best friend, Hilda.
Throughout the war, these four are written about in details that are rich in description and quite haunting in their sadness. It is war, after all. Mary’s teaching job is gravely affected by the evacuation of the children to protect them from air raids. She befriends a young orphan named Zachary over her mother’s objections that she not take care of him due to his race. Eventually, Mary and Hilda take on a new job of driving an ambulance in response to air raids and bombings. This leads to a poignant event between the two of them – that I will not divulge.
The story of these four people caught in the unbelievable cruelty of this war and the atrocities they live through is well done. 5 stars for this one! I promise you will love this one and learn so much.
And my favorite of the Year is…
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
Beautifully written with a mesmerizing, sad lilt to it, but definitely a page-turner.
Then, Kya, at age 7, watches one morning as her mother dresses nicely (as nicely as she can as they are living in extreme poverty) and walks down the roadway to leave the family forever. She never looks back.
Kya is left with her brother, Jodie, and her drunken and abusive father. She must quickly learn to take care of herself and Jodie because the dad is often absent. It doesn’t take long for Jodie to also leave and Kya must fend for herself. This includes walking to the town to shop for food with the tiny bit of money dad allows her. She endures one day of school but the taunting and mistreatment from her classmates keep her from ever going back.
Kya’s next few years go by with her virtually alone in the marshland shack they live in. Her dad is frequently absent and eventually, he leaves and doesn’t return. She earns money from selling mussels and fish to a local riverman and somehow survives.
As a young girl, Kya met Tate and he continues to be her only friend- until he leaves for college. Then she encounters a town hero named Chase.
This is all I will share about the book because I want you to read it! I loved this book- even though the sadness is unsettling at times. I highly recommend this one! 5 Stars!