All The Forgivenesses by Elizabeth Hardinger

5 stars Historical Fiction

I didn’t want this book to end because I had fallen hard for these characters.  Times were hard in the Appalachian Hills of Kentucky, at the turn of the century, but as I turned the pages of this book, I wanted/needed Bertie to get a break. 

Bertie and Timmy liked to play hide-and-go-seek together until the day, little Timmy wedged himself into a tight spot and couldn’t get out.  Every day, Bertie is haunted by that day when her brother Timmy died.  As if that wasn’t enough, her mother now has basically, given-up-on-life and her father is a drunk who comes and goes as he please.  Add to that, four siblings and you have a lot of responsibility and no adult in charge.

In walks, tired Bertie.  She’s 15 now, and if helping running the homestead wasn’t enough to tire her out, add a new neighbor to her busy life, who doesn’t know what Bertie is actually experiencing.  I wanted to give Bertie a break but the situations for Bertie were on a downward spiral. When would they stop?

When her older brothers start to come up with a plan, I started to have hope, I really did. Life is hard as the family moves about and tries to make the best of the situation.  The highs and the lows kept me going and I loved this family. Oh, Bertie!  You knew you had to be strong, you hid your feelings but I knew how you felt.  What a fantastic book! 

Theme Music by T. Marie Vandelly

4.5 stars Thriller

Creepy, weird, and the details……this book was right up my alley!  I’d read that this book shouldn’t be read in the dark but I’ve read that statement many other times for other books which I felt didn’t actually apply but this book, it’s twisted so dark would be perfect.  I can’t tell you how many times I chatted, shouted and questioned this book while reading it, I really needed to step away from this book but I just couldn’t.

So, what made this so grand? First, let me tell you that the story moves quickly, which I enjoyed.  The book starts off swiftly and it doesn’t let up until the very end.  As I was speeding along, flipping the pages, there were times that I was shaking my head, and yelling at the main character Dixie, as I couldn’t believe what she was doing, she had to be crazy! 

What happened? When Dixie was 18-months-old, her father killed their entire family and then, committed suicide.  Dixie lost her parents and her four siblings that day and was then, raised by her Aunt Celia who has never really told Dixie about that day.  Guess what?  Dixie is an adult now and her childhood home is for sale, so she visits it. 

Yeah, it should be okay, she was 18-months-old when her life was turned upside down inside that house, she was too little to remember. Except, Dixie doesn’t see the houses best features on her showing but something more personal and startling.  She still falls in love with the house and she buys it! Of course, she does! Talk about strange. The creepy doesn’t stop there though, as it’s Dixie’s LUCKY day and she’s blessed with the actual furniture that her parents kept in that house.  Her relatives are so thoughtful and saved it.  If you are thinking what I thought, you are correct, what is wrong with her? 

The fun or bizarre activity continued and I just couldn’t stop gripping the sides of this book. The book is very descriptive (which I loved) but it’s not done in a disgusting and/or exaggerated way.  I enjoyed the way the author kept the book moving forward, how there were reveals along the way so I could check things off that were going on inside my head as I tried to figure out exactly what was happening.  There were not a lot of characters in this book either.  I liked the author’s execution and her style and I will definitely be reading more of her work in the future. 

I liked the journey that I took while reading this book, it’s not always about if someone can solve the book early or not.  It’s about the journey.

Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf

5 stars Fiction

If it hadn’t been for bookclub, I wouldn’t have picked up this book. After reading it, I will now have to find the movie as it stars Robert Redford and Jane Fonda and I heard it’s pretty good. I really enjoyed this book and, in the end, I felt sorry for both Addie and Louis yet, I think they were content with how things worked out.

The story takes place in a small town and like most small towns, everyone seems to know what everyone else is doing. Addie is 70, and she calls upon her neighbor Louis, one day at his home. She asks Louis if he would like to spend the night with her. Now, this is not grade school, these are adults whose spouses are deceased. Addie is straight-up and tells Louis that they’ll be no sex, but that she just wants someone to talk to and be close to at night. Well?

That night, Louis cleans himself up, puts his toothbrush and pajamas in a bag and walks down the alley to her house and knocks on the backdoor. They do live in a small town, remember? Addie had been waiting at the front door for Louis and tells him to ring at the front door in the future, she’s too old to worry about what people think. I love her already! Well, I won’t tell you what happened that first night but it was perfect. It made me smile.

It isn’t long before the town knows what’s happening and you can imagine what happens. It’s what Addie and Louie do about it, that matters to me. I thought they were getting comfortable in their arrangement when Addie’s young grandson came for a visit. Addie has conflicting thoughts now.

I enjoyed how the author wrote, the reading was effortless and realistic. A great book about family, aging and life in general. It made me think about getting older in life and if I would have done anything different had I been Addie or Louie.

The Whisper Man by Alex North

5 stars Fiction

I have to thank Macmillan Audio for making this novel so captivating. This was the first audio that my husband has ever listened to and it was an experience. We went to visit relatives for a long weekend which required a long car drive. Normally, I read part of the way but I had some audio books I wanted to listen to and this was one of them. I have to say, I think my husband enjoyed it more than I did. I never expected such a great response from him.

First off, I have to say that my husband reads about 3 books a year. I won’t talk about the book but just give you his response to the book as I think that pretty much tells you how we felt about it.
When he told me to put the book in the CD player, I was shocked, as we normally listen to country music stations on our car drives. We were about 3 CD’s into the book, when he pushes the stop button and starts to give me his commentary about what is happening in the book and his thoughts about what is about to happen. Again, I am shocked, he is actually absorbed, really absorbed as this is some deep thinking here! We have a short discussion and he resumes the CD. Again, during the next CD, he stops the player a few times to tell me his thoughts. Who is this man? I’m seriously loving that he’s into this book and analyzing it to death!

We arrive at our destination and we still have some CD’s left to listen to but he pulls the CD out of the player, saying that he doesn’t want to listen to the story on the short little trips that we’ll take around town. We’ll listen to the rest on the way home.

On our way home, we finally get done talking and I put the CD in, it starts from the beginning. He remarks that he has heard this part before and “let’s get to the part where …….” I had to laugh, he knows exactly what track to begin on and he doesn’t want to waste any time. There were many times on the way home that he stops the player to talk about the book which by now, I am used to but it appears that I am getting slow in my response time. When the CD in the player begins to start over again on track #1, he gets my attention and tells me that I really need to start paying attention and put a new CD in. I mean, really?!? Give me a second. Then, when I was relaxing with my eyes close, he thought that I was not listening and he proceeded to tell me what I had missed on the CD. This was so much fun!

So, thank you Macmillan Audio for this audio. Now, my husband understands when I sit in the garage after returning home and I continue listening to my audio books in my car.

Deep in the Ocean by Lucie Brunelliere

5 stars Children’s

https://deepintheoceansoundtrack.abrams.link/

Above is the soundtrack for the book. Listen to the soundtrack as you read the book – that is pretty sweet.

The illustrations are stunning in this oversized board book. You can’t help but stop reading the text and marvel at the bright colorful world in the ocean. I don’t really care who is in the submarine or what it’s doing deep in the ocean, it’s the colorful fish and ocean life that’s portrayed in this book that has captured my attention.

After looking and reading this book over and over again, I have to wonder who would read this book. I am hoping many people don’t overlook it because it’s a board book and associate that with being a baby book because they would be missing out. The text in this book is far from being a baby book as the language is deep and not your typical baby language. Words such as cuttlefish, trench, vampire squid, abyss, paradise, and anemone are not typical language found in these types of books. The book will definitely catch the eye of a baby as it is bright and has lots of contrasting colors. The text is geared more towards a reader and/or the parent.

It’s a beautiful book that takes you under the ocean as you travel along side a submarine as it makes its way through the water. You will see an abundance of fishes, coral and other water plants as you turn the pages. The text explains exactly what you see from beluga whales, to sea butterflies, to lantern fish, to a huge blue whale, to dolphins, just to give you a few examples. As you read, try to find the items. I think you will find more items than the text describes. The illustrations are not cartoonish nor are they realistic photos but they provide enough detail to look realistic.

I think this would make a great book for families with children of different ages, as it would provide the text for older readers and the illustrations for everyone to enjoy. It would be a great read aloud as the illustrations are fantastic and the text is educational and enough to get children involved. Also, this would be a great book for a child to grow into. A wonderful book for the whole family.

F**k, Now There Are Two of You by Adam Mansbach

4 stars Adult Humor

I didn’t think this book was as good as the first book. I really struggled with the rhyming aspect in this book as I had to really slow down and say each word before I was able to get the rhyming to work for me. What I did like in this book was the illustrations and the message that the text was getting across (aside from the curse words).

Just when you thought you had things under control and you could go out in public w/o taking half your house with you or knowing that you could actually go eat at restaurant for about an hour, w/ an individual who brings you food, you decide that your life is too quiet and you have another baby. I’m sure that was your first thought, right? You think about the individuals who have their children close together and wonder, how can they handle all those kids in diapers and then you, wait until things have calmed down at home and the add another baby to your house and now, things are crazy again and calm is a word in the dictionary.

In this book, the parents have just found out that they’re pregnant again. Their son will not be getting all their attention anymore and they knew there might be some behavior issues yet as you read, their son becomes quite a handful. The whole family must now make adjustments for the baby as he arrives and makes his presence known. Meanwhile, their son is also making his presence known. There are some sweet moments and the parents love their children but with two children on two different schedules, the parents are running out of energy.

The illustrations show the love and chaos that families face. Many of the illustrations made me laugh as I remember trying to juggle my own kids. I think the text and illustrations worked for me and if I didn’t try to rhythm, I liked the book.

The book brought back a lot of memories. Trying to juggle my own kids and not lose it. I think it helped when I tried to walk in my kid’s shoes. So, would it be okay to play in the mud? Be messy with my food? Draw on the walls? How about give them a place where they can draw (a big section of space)? Sometimes, there is a time and a place for these activities (boundaries).

The Ant and the Elephant by Bill Peet

5 stars Children’s

These books are very popular at our library but I have never read one before. Bill Peet writes a whole series of these books and I found this one and purchased it as a gift. Of course, I had to read it before I wrapped it and now, I can see why he’s a popular author.

This is a longer children’s story but it wasn’t drawn out and boring but it kept my attention as there was a pattern to the story. I liked that as I read, I was predicting what would happen next, and as I got closer to the end, I was predicting what would happen and then, what happened was not what I expected at all! The ending was great and left a smile on my face but it was NOT what I expected, at all. The story also had a moral which, if you read with/to your child, is something else you can talk to your child about.

I also liked the illustrations in this book. I feel that they go with the feel of the text, as they’re not bright and bold illustrations but rather a nice, soft hue of colors. This book was copyrighted in 1972, but that doesn’t date the story or make the story less important.

The story begins with a tiny ant who had climbed up a blade of jungle grass so he could view the river. When the wind blew, that tiny ant was sent flying off into the rushing water. Luckily, before he was dragged further downstream, he spied a tree limb that was sticking straight out of the middle of the river. Ant grabbed a branch of that limb and climbed onto it. Safe for now, Ant was still stuck in the middle of the river. A mud turtle was walking along the shore and when Ant called out to him, he stopped. Ant asked Mr. Hardshell kindly, if he would swim out to give him a lift back to dry land. Mr. Hardshell explained to Ant that he had just been in the water. He then continued, if he helped everyone who needed him, he wouldn’t have any time to relax and with that, he trotted along.

Oh, Mr. Hardshell, if only you would have taken the time. The motion is now set for the book, as this mud turtle trots off to sun himself on a warm rock. Unfortunately, his day doesn’t go so well either. Now, Ant and Mr. Hardshell are experiencing difficult predicaments, I wonder who is next?

I’m going to have to read some of the other ones in this series. I picked up a good one.

Dog’s Colorful Day by Emma Dodd

5 stars Children’s

This is a cute color and counting story for young readers. I liked how you followed along in dog’s day as bright spots of colors appear on his white coat of fur. I also like the language this children’s book uses. Combining colors and counting, children are learning while also reading a cute story.

Dog is white with one black spot on his left ear. During his day, he travels around and spots appear on his fur as accidents occur around him. A bee buzzes by and swish a drop of yellow pollen falls on him, a splat of red jam from his owner’s breakfast table lands on him, and dog even steps on an orange juice container and it splurts a patch of orange on him. These are just a few examples from the book but don’t you just love everything that is happening here? The use of color, the counting, and the word language. The author uses great visual language and doesn’t use the word dropped or fell but uses splurts, splat, and swish.

I really like this book, it looks like a simple book but it’s very educational.

The Halloweeners (MonsterStreet #3) by J. H. Reynolds

5 stars Middle School

This series is fantastic! All the books are stand alones but you’ll want to read them all, once you get started. This is book #2 and it was loads of fun.

Fisher is getting tired of moving. He’s finally making friends at school and now, his mom notifies him that they’ll be moving soon. Fisher can’t hold back his frustration and he voices his opinion. Now grounded, he doesn’t want to miss trick-or-treating tonight, with the guys from school, so he sneaks away after his mother left to attend a school function.

Meeting up with Champ, Fisher meets the rest of the boys in a tree house and this section of the book, reminded me of the movie, Stand By Me. The boys gather for a meeting and now a serious tone takes over, as they discuss the night before them. They must win at Halloween Games and they talk about their secret weapon. The information that they discuss is important and it sets the mood for the rest of the night. The boys tell Fisher about the Halloweeners and Fisher decides that he would also like to be a member of this group.

Throwing on their costumes, the boys get ready to head out to collect their candy. It’s almost as if I’m out on the street with them as they tell their stories, encounter other individuals carrying their bags, and try to fill their bags. As they view the end house, the Halloweeners know that this house is off-limits yet Fisher is drawn to the mansion and what’s sitting on its front porch. As they approach the house, being a winner of the Halloween Games takes over their thinking and the boys see an opportunity. What an opportunity! An opportunity that changes the course of their lives.

What a fun, adventurous story. I liked what happened when the boys came up to the cauldron and they didn’t abide by the rules. What a ride! What a great imagination! Another great read in the MonsterStreet series.

Carnevil (MonsterStreet #3) by J.H. Reynolds

5 stars Middle School/ Children’s Chapter

The two brothers hadn’t spent much time with their aunt and now, their parents expected them to spend an entire week with her while they went on a trip. When she arrived at the depo to pick them up, they didn’t expect to see her in a hearse. Little did the boys know, but their adventure was just beginning. Aunt Winnie was, what I would call a Fun Aunt. She was this radiant individual who was full of life and positive energy. The boys had arrived close to Halloween and Aunt Winnie was excited about the approaching holiday. Now that the boys were here, she wanted them too, get involved in the celebration.

Aunt Winnie was transforming her workplace into a haunted manor for the residents but the boys didn’t quite see things the way that she did. Twelve-year old Ren and nine-year old Kip see the nursing home residents as old and close to Halloween creatures already. It isn’t until Ren is bribed into checking on a resident, do the stories that Aunt Winnie claims these residents have, start to become a reality. As Mrs. Wellshire rambles about the carnies and the harvest, the mention of the man’s name begins to make “his blood turn cold.”

Armed with a twenty, the boys attend the carnival which had popped up overnight. A carnival unlike any other carnival that they had attended. It was dreamlike, and from the looks of the other kids attending, they felt the same way. It was fantastic!
The rides were amazing and the food delicious. Out of money, the boys visited Zora and her magic crystal ball, to have her look into their futures. If only, they had gone in to see Zora a minute or two earlier or they had left the carnival after their money was gone, the stories the boys told of that night might have been different but as it stands, Kip loved the carnival and he was staying. As the boys stay at the carnival, the night becomes interesting and dark. I can’t stop reading now, the prices at the carnival are worth talking about.

I really enjoyed this book. The action never lets up and there aren’t a lot of characters to keep track of. There was no way that I could stop reading as I needed to know what happened to the brothers at the carnival and I wanted to know how things worked out with the aunt. Even though it’s labeled a middle school book/upper elementary chapter book, I devoured this book. I feel that kids of this age will really enjoy reading this and scream for more.