Who Do You Love by Jennifer Weiner

Who do You Love is a touching love story, and a well-written book about second chances and how the past can truly shape the present. It is the story of Rachel and Andy, who happen to meet in a hospital waiting room when they are 8 years old. Rachel is no stranger to hospitals, because she was born with a congenital heart defect and spends a lot of time in the hospital for multiple surgeries and tests. Her Jewish family is by-the-book, and affluent and she hasn’t ever had to do without much in her life. On the flip side, Andy is a sullen, mixed race boy who lives with his single mom in a poor neighborhood and acquires all of his clothing second-hand. After spending a few hours together sharing stories and laughing, both Rachel and Andy made lasting impressions on each other. Eight years later, Rachel and Andy happen to be on the same mission trip building a house together. Now they are no longer innocent 8 year olds, but hormone-raging teenagers who remember each other like they just met the day before. And Rachel thought the mission trip was going to be boring! Think again. The story continues to switch back and forth between the lives of Rachel, once snippy, sorority girl turned adult social worker and mother, and Andy, an avid runner who becomes an Olympic medalist and then a hardware store manager after an unfortunate, irreversible decision he makes. Each time Rachel and Andy meet up through the years, it’s clear that they are meant to be together but something always seems to get in their way. As the reader on the outside looking in at their relationship, I was even upset because I loved their characters and I wanted them to be together. Obviously, if a boy made me a heart out of a red paperclip, I would swoon and follow him to the ends of the earth!  Seriously though, I couldn’t put this book down. I really enjoyed the story line and the ending.

The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende

The Japanese Lover will be published November 3, 2015.

This was such a beautiful story that I was fortunate to come across and read. It reminded me quite a bit of another historical fiction book which I absolutely loved called Letters to the Lost by Iona Grey. Like in Grey’s book, The Japanese Lover alternates between present day and and back to the 1940’s. Alma is an elderly woman who has checked herself into Lark House, a beautiful assisted living facility for the elderly. As the story progresses, we find out more and more about Alma’s life, including many secret meetings and correspondence with Ichimei Fukuda. Alma met Ichimei when they were 8 years old and Ichimei’s father was the gardener for Sea Cliff, the mansion owned by the Belasco’s, Alma’s aunt and uncle. Ichimei and his family were interned in a camp at Topaz for 3 years, along with thousands of other Japanese Americans living in California. Alma’s family, because they were Jewish, sent her away from Poland at the start of the war to live with the Belasco’s in America. Her family was sent to concentration camps during the Holocaust, and she never saw her parents again. Allende’s story portrays this heart breaking time for so many families with honesty and dignity. Running alongside of Alma’s story is that of her caregiver at Lark House, Irina. Irina, born in Moldovia, came to America and endured a horrifying adolescence, which she is still trying to keep secret and escape from when she meets Alma and her grandson, Seth, at Lark House. Alma takes Irina under her wing almost like a niece, as Irina helps her with daily tasks and takes care of her personal affairs. Irina and Seth realize that Alma is receiving letters from Ichimei, some 70 years after they first met. Seth finds himself falling for Irina, but she is reluctant to let anyone get close to her because of her embarrassment about the past. As the story comes to an end, many long buried secrets regarding Alma, her cousin (who would later become her husband) Nathaniel, Ichimei, Irina, and a newcomer to Lark House named Lenny who seems to know Alma very well. This book will definitely keep you reading until the last page. I absolutely loved the story.

The Accident Season by Moira Fowley-Doyle

I saw a lot of early buzz about this book, so I decided to give it a try. It’s not normally the type of YA fiction that I would read or enjoy, but I did enjoy this story quite a bit. It reminded me a little bit of We Were Liars by E. Lockhart as well as a little bit of All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven. The story follows siblings Cara and Alice, as well as their ex-stepbrother Sam (who is Cara’s age), and Cara’s best friend Bea the summer that Cara, Sam, and Bea are 17. Every October, which is refereed to as “accident season” in their family, unexplained accidents happen, some more serious than others. Cara’s father and her Uncle Seth both died during an accident season, and Cara, Sam, and Alice seem to develop more cuts, scrapes, and bruises than normal during the season. This October, Cara and Sam are determined to find out the truth behind the so-called accidents, and they are about to uncover some long hidden family secrets. With secrets, there is always pain for someone involved, and in this story it will be no different. The story includes a bit of romance that is considered taboo and forbidden. Forbidden romance always makes for a good story line, in my book! I really got sucked into the story, due to the way the characters are portrayed. The author did a great job with character development and demonstrating the strong bonds of family and close friends. I wouldn’t consider this a cliche or too immature YA book, and therefore I do think other adults like me would enjoy it. Give it a try.

The Day the Crayons Came Home by Drew Daywalt

crayons

I haven’t yet reviewed any children’s picture books on this particular blog, but this book was so fantastic that I couldn’t resist! As a children’s Librarian, I see a ton of children’s books pass through my office, and the Crayon series by Drew Dewalt, illustrated by Oliver Jeffers are some of the best. The first book in the series is called The Day the Crayons Quit. It is delightfully funny and witty, with scenes that children and adults alike absolutely love. I especially loved it for read-aloud story time for grades 1 through 6.

However, the new installment The Day the Crayons Came Home is even better than the first book! Dewalt and Jeffers have outdone themselves with a new masterpiece, detailing the woes of quick-witted crayons who have been left behind and forgotten by Duncan over the years. For example, poor Maroon Crayon is left in the couch and broken in two when Duncan’s father sits on him. Pea Green Crayon decides that he no longer likes his name and changes it to “Esteban…the Magnificent” as he sets out for new adventures. The stories become more hilarious as the book goes on.

I can hardly wait to share this book with all of my elementary classes for story time. I know they will just adore it as much as I do. I can hear their high pitched giggles now. If you like to read and know a kid (or adult) who appreciates a story – I would highly suggest getting a copy of this book (or checking it out at your local library, of course.) I think this will be one of those instant, “Please read it again, Mrs. Jones!!” books. Just a hunch… #every crayon counts esteban

In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware

First of all; one of the reasons I wanted to read this book was the clever title. We’ve all heard the old rhyme “In a dark, dark wood, there was a dark, dark house, and in that dark, dark house, etc.” The title alone sets up a creepy atmosphere. At the beginning of the book, we meet the main character, Leonora, a mostly reclusive crime fiction writer who normally only leaves her flat to go for a daily run. Out of the blue, Nora, receives an email from a girl she has never met named Flo inviting her to a hen do (bachelorette party for those not familiar with British terms) for Clare Cavendish. Nora hasn’t seen or heard from Clare for 10 years (since high school), and is hesitant to attend the hen. Nora and Clare’s mutual friend Nina makes a pact with Nora that they will both go together and leave early if they do not want to stay. There are clues that something major happened which caused Nora (who was actually known as Lee 10 years prior) and Clare to stop speaking and not speak to each other for the past 10 years. When Nora and Nina arrive at the hen to spend the weekend with Clare and three other complete strangers (Clare’s friends), strange things begin to happen. Mix in alcohol and secrets from Clare and Nora’s past, and the plot thickens and twists even more. This book is written so that the pace is quick, switching back and forth between present date with Nora in the hospital suffering from amnesia after a car accident, and the past weekend of the hen do. The setting of the hen adds to the suspenseful nature of the book. The party takes place in what is known as the Glass House. It’s a newly built, modernly furnished home which has glass walls all the way around so that it seems like its occupants are on display for those on the outside. But, the Glass House is in the middle of a heavily wooded, secluded area and there really shouldn’t be any people on the outside in, as it is bitter cold and snowing. So why are there footprints to the garage? I would put this book in a category with other titles such as Gone Girl, The Girl on the Train, and Luckiest Girl Alive. Readers are in for a few surprises as Nora starts to remember the details of the final day at the Glass House which caused her to be in the hospital under watch by the police. Also, the ending stopped abruptly, and not the way I thought it would. I would recommend this book for any fans of suspense and thrillers; it’s a great read.

Circling the Sun by Paula McClain

Circling the Sun is a historical fiction account of the life of Beryl Markham, with much of the story line based on true events. The setting is early 1920’s Africa, namely the various colonies of Kenya.

I loved this book so much! I really enjoyed reading about Beryl’s story and would loved to have known her during her lifetime. The author’s notes at the end of the book provided much insight into the life of the real Beryl Markham. Beryl Markham is a strong female character who survived being attacked by a lion as a child, being abandoned by her mother at the age of four, and living a childhood running free with the native people of Kenya. That is when she became best friends with Ruta, who would be by her side for her whole life no matter what wild scheme she would decide to pursue, such as when she decided to stop being a race horse trainer to become the first female bush pilot in Africa. She was widely known for her success as a young female trainer during a time when only men would train horses. But Beryl was determined to follow her dreams and she worked hard for the success. Her personal life and relationships with men over her life were quite fascinating. Some relationships were forged out of necessity, others out of indebtedness, and only one of true love with Denys Finch Hatton, a well known hunting guide and pilot. I would love to learn more about Beryl, and I appreciated the author’s resource list for further information, including a book written by Beryl herself. If you like adventure, romance, historical fiction, or just a good read, this is the book for you!

Fall of Poppies Cover Reveal & Giveaway

Fall of Poppies: Stories of Love and the Great War

by Heather Webb, Hazel Gaynor, Beatriz Williams, Jennifer Robson, Jessica Brockmole, Kate Kerrigan, Evangeline Holland, Lauren Willig, Marci Jefferson

William Morrow Trade Paperback; March 1, 2016; $14.99;

Barnes & Noble / Amazon / IndieBound / Books-a-Million

Top voices in historical fiction deliver an intensely moving collection of short stories about loss, longing, and hope in the aftermath of World War I—featuring bestselling authors such as Hazel Gaynor, Jennifer Robson, Beatriz Williams, and Lauren Willig and edited by Heather Webb.

A squadron commander searches for meaning in the tattered photo of a girl he’s never met…

A Belgian rebel hides from the world, only to find herself nursing the enemy…

A young airman marries a stranger to save her honor—and prays to survive long enough to love her…The peace treaty signed on November 11, 1918, may herald the end of the Great War but for its survivors, the smoke is only beginning to clear. Picking up the pieces of shattered lives will take courage, resilience, and trust.

Within crumbled city walls and scarred souls, war’s echoes linger. But when the fighting ceases, renewal begins…and hope takes root in a fall of poppies.      (Click below for an exclusive excerpt from the book)

Fall of Poppies Excerpt

For anyone who loves historical fiction, this is going to be right up your alley. I can’t wait to read it; and I hope you’ll enter the giveaway below for a chance to win print copies of After The War is Over, A Memory of Violets, and Land of Dreams to celebrate the upcoming release of Fall of Poppies.

Click here to enter the Giveaway