Angeline by Anna Quinn

4.5 stars Fiction

When she took a life of prayer, I felt that this was an easy way out for Angeline.  Entering the convent, she would have very few choices in her life.  Living a life as a nun, her life would be structured, safe, and she’d be closely watched.  Angeline saw this as a safe option and as she prayed for those who were sick, troubled, or suffering, Angeline’s own horrible loss of her own family was still sitting in the back of her mind. 

Her comfort zone came to end when the convent she had grown to love had to close.   Angeline was moved to another facility which was more tolerant and liberal of the world around them.  The strict convent rules of the past, in which Angeline had become comfortable with are now cast aside and she now must learn how to adapt.  Dressed in jeans, the other nuns spent less time in prayer and more time in fellowship and other activities.   Were greater things in store for her here or was this a new challenge that God placed before her, to strengthen her?  Moving into a yurt, I had to smile thinking about Angeline adjusting to this more relaxed atmosphere. 

An item inside her yurt brings back childhood memories and I saw a side of Angeline that she had been hiding.  What brought this on?  I had to know.  The book picks up speed as someone begins threatening the Sisters in this convent but who would do that and why now?  As we dig deeper into Angeline’s past, we find that she’s been hiding something special from everyone.  Are these items related?

I enjoyed the character of Angeline, she felt childlike and innocent until her world took a turn.  The storyline was not what I expected when I started reading this book, I enjoyed all the twists that the author added. Thank you to Blackstone Publishing, Anna Quinn, and NetGalley for my copy of this book.  This review is my own opinion of this book.  4.5 stars

Things You Can’t Say by Jenn Bishop

5 stars Middle School

Things That You Can’t Say is actually things that you should say but the words are hard to find. Since his father’s suicide, Drew has been struggling with many issues. It’s a balancing act for Drew as he tries to balance his own life with the new responsibilities that he has taken on. As his mother recovers from the loss, Drew tries to support her while also caring for his younger brother. Drew has his own unanswered questions and ardently, this event has triggered some deep feelings and emotions which are swirling around in his head. Wanting to uphold his promise of being the new head-of-the-household, Drew feels the weight of this responsibility but like everything else, he keeps his head up and continues marching through his day. He’s now helping out at the library which he really enjoys. It’s the same library that his mother works at and with her being close, he feels safe.

When Audrey shows up at the library, I thought that Drew and her would become friends. She’s going to be working at the library and since Drew would be there, she could be the friend that he needs yet they didn’t hit it off quite like I pictured it would be. There’s some resistance but soon, they started to relax around each other and they ended up being good for each other. Just when I thought Drew was beginning to relax a bit, a guy stops by the house to see his mother. Drew puts on another hat and becomes part detective and part parent. Drew wants to know who this guy is and why he’s stopping by to see his mother?

I liked the complications that arose in this book and how things worked themselves out eventually. I thought the story felt realistic with genuine characters whose voices spoke from the heart. A great book dealing with a difficult issue. 5 stars.

Revival Season by Monica West

4.5 Fiction

Oh, the memories. As I read, I was there under those summer tented services. These revival services brough in quite a variety of individuals. The metal chairs were set in perfect formation, the preacher pausing as he gathers his thoughts and his flock waited, for he had their attention now. Their amens and hallelujahs could be heard throughout the night as he walked the stage holding onto his Bible, for they hung onto every word he spoke, this disciple of God. For Miriam, her father is the preacher. She travels with her family to these revival sites and witnesses the other side of her father, the father that is not on stage. Why does her father act so differently? Why does it feel that everyone has their eyes shut?

As a popular preacher, Miriam’s father had stood before many during these summer revivals. Oh, he was good when he got up on stage, he had genuine acting talent when he had a mic in his hand. At the conclusion of his revival services, Reverend Horton conducted a healing service where he would lay his hands of those who wanted to be healed. Here’s where the problems start: Miriam has a brother who her father takes under his wing and Caleb accompanies Papa to all his church functions. Miriam thinks she has the power to heal like her father BUT Papa doesn’t feel that God would give women that kind of power. The way that he humiliates Miriam about this, it’s so childish. I would have lashed back at him in front of his congestion (Miriam sure had some strength to sit and take his abuse). Papa feels that the door is closed and no one can see what is happening in their family but does that really matter and is the door really closed?

I liked the character of Miriam as she grows intellectually throughout the book. She discovers that she possesses the strength and power to address some of the discrepancies that come to light. She also knows that she’ll need to build up those skills to address some other issues. She learns to address what is happening and not turn a blind eye to it. The abuse was real and although Mama was not willing to address it, Miriam was.

All through the book, Miriam did her part. She played the part of daughter and sister to those who needed her. She tried to be a sister to Caleb when he was around but she also had a sister named Hannah. She cared for Hannah when they were out on the road. Hannah had cerebral palsy and Miriam tried to make her life as normal as possible. If you’re like me, I thought a lot about Hannah. Her father is Reverend Horton, who conducts healing services while holding revival services, why isn’t she cured?? I found the answer later in the book when the Reverend told me, which lead me to dislike him even more (if that was possible)

I enjoyed this book more than I anticipated. It did deal with the issue of abuse and there was some religion in it as Miriam’s father is a pastor conducting summer revival services. Growing up attending a Southern Baptist Church in Iowa, I could relate to many of the revival services Miriam described and it brough back many memories. This was one summer that fifteen-year-old Miriam will never forget. 4.5 stars

“Brothers and sisters, are you ready to be healed? Before he finished the sentence, lines of men and women gathered in the aisle. Papa moved through the line, his confidence building with each healing. I patted my pocket with the holy water in it before closing my eyes and whispering a prayer. “Lord, let me be an instrument of Your will. Amen.””

You’d Be Home Now by Kathleen Glasgow

4.5 stars YA

I felt there were a lot of issues in this book, issues that Emma had to sort through as they couldn’t be ignored.  Her family had money but putting money on these issues wouldn’t be the answer.  With a respectable and prominent family name, I felt that money had been the families answer before the accident.   Money can’t fix the challenges the family is facing now but first, the challenges must be identified and acknowledged. 

Emma thought her brother Joey just liked weed but he also tested positive for heroin the night that Candy was killed.  Checking into Blue Spruce, Joey sought treatment. Emma would miss Joey but she wouldn’t miss the constant fighting that he had with their parents.  Emma’s prescription for pain medication for her injuries in that accident wouldn’t be filled, as their mother feared that Emma would also become a drug addict just like Joey.  It didn’t matter how much pain her fractured kneecap was giving her, there would be no prescription.  Mother was so bossy.  

Mother seemed to be more concerned about how her appearance in the community than with the own children.  Having an established business in the community, mother’s top concern seemed to be how she looked in the community now that something had tainted their family’s name.  She was scared of losing her high status in the community.  Little else did she know, what else was happening that would affect her and the family’s name.

My heart ached for Emma as I read.  What more could she do?  The expectations that were placed on her were high and the only activity that Emma discovers that provides her any kind of happiness had me shaking my head.  Oh Emma!!  I thought the author did a fantastic job with the details of this story.  There were times that I thought this book was slow but I had to know what happened to Emma and her brother so I continued reading and I’m so glad I did.  4.5 stars.    

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

5 stars YA

Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass but learning to dance in the rain.  This has been my precept lately and when I read about August’s language teacher giving his students precepts to reflect upon monthly, I was moved. In fact, there were many characters in this book reflecting back on their actions and/or their comments because sometimes, individuals act spontaneous. I enjoyed all the characters in this book, each one of them was important to this story.  August may have been the common thread that linked them all together but they were all needed, to make August into the best person that he could be. 

I can’t tell you how many times I have read parts of this book over the years.  As a substitute teacher, I would read this book in various classrooms when I would do a read-aloud with the students.  I never heard a student tell me they didn’t enjoy the book, in fact, most kids got excited when I read it to them.  They would try to tell me different parts of the story and I could definitely feel their enthusiasm.  I had no desire to read this book after reading the disjointed version over and over throughout the years.  Book Club came to my rescue and dang, what a book!  I laughed, cried, and gave my copy of the book a good talking to, a few times as August ventures inside a school building.   Don’t go to school, go to school, don’t go, go, heck…..I don’t know.  I wobbled back and forth, as August tried to decide what he should do about attending school in a building vs. being home schooled again by his mother.

August knows the reaction that he’ll receive when he goes to school, he’s been getting it his entire life.  He wants to think that he’s used to it but in reality, he knows he’s not.  His mom feels that since it’s 5th grade, all the students will be new to the building and it’s a perfect transition time but August knows that he still has the disadvantage.  After the school tour, August feels that it’s not as bad as he thought yet, when he actually attends the school, it’s harder than he thought. 

I wasn’t ready for parts of the story as I read them.  In the back of my head, I’m thinking positive thoughts but I know that negative things can happen, when “it” happened.  They made me feel as if I’ve been run over by a bus.  I know kids can be cruel, I know they can be truthful and honest but wow, seriously? I loved August’s sister, Via.  She’s the real deal.  She tries to toughen him up as she throws punches at him and he has the choice to either fight back or walk away.  I believe that Via hoped that he’d confront her, she wanted him to push back, as that made him stronger. 

Being a kid is hard, you want to fit in, but where?  There’re many examples of this in the book, and the reality of it hits home.  Kids want to be accepted, they want to a part of something, I think everyone has this feeling sometime in their life as I read, I understood the position they took.  Sometimes I didn’t like it but I understood it.  I think both his peers and August matured in this book.   I liked how the teacher was trying to get his students to think on their own when he assigned the precepts.  He wanted them to apply the various concepts and form an opinion, then they were to express themselves on the various subjects. I think this is a great exercise will help the students grow internally. 

I’m so glad that I was forced to read this book for book club as I don’t think I would have read this book otherwise. I now want to see the movie as I heard it was good and was close to the book. 

There were many great quotes in this book but these stand out as my favorite:

“Now, unless you want to be treated like a baby the rest of your life, or like a kid with special needs, you just have to suck it up and go.”    (guess who said that?)

““Do people go out of their way to avoid touching you, Vic?” he answered, which left me momentarily without an answer. “Yeah, right. That’s what I thought. So, don’t compare your bad days at school to mine, okay?””

Chlorine Sky by Mahogany L. Browne

4 stars YA

Sky’s playing field is the basketball court but she can’t stay there forever.  On the court, she’s confident and free yet off the court, Sky insecurities control her. When she talked about Lay Li, this story sounded all too familiar. 

Lay Li and Sky were best friend, the emphasis is on the word, were.  Sky discovers that Lay Li is not girlfriend material as she doesn’t have Sky’s best interest in mind afterall. Its hard to come to this realization and then, to have to walk away from this close relationship but she had to.  

Written in verse, this was a great book about relationships and about taking care of yourself.

The Brave by James Bird

5 stars MIddle School

Thank you, James, for writing this beautiful book.  Using a touch of magical realism, 13-year-old Collin tries to find himself and his place in the world all while navigating around his OCD, bullying, family, and the other relationships that he encounters.    

Collin lives with his father but when he runs into trouble at school, his father informs Collin that he is going to move to Minnesota to live with his mother.  A woman that he has never met.  I was instantly shocked at this news. His father had already planned this move for Collin: he was just waiting for the opportunity to tell Collin. I know parenting is hard but you shouldn’t surprise your child like that and then, bail.  I was also shocked at the principal’s comment when he suggested homeschooling for Collin. He thought that Collin’s condition (OCD) was too hard for the other students to “adapt to.” Seriously?  I couldn’t believe this!

When Collin meets his mother for the first time, I was glad that he made the move. I knew it would be difficult for Collin but her attitude and the affection that she showed him from that first day, I knew she would be good for him.   Collin learns that she’s a Native American and her mannerism was something to be desired.  Collin also discovers that he has a brother and a grandmother, their stories really made this book special.

Schools in this area are no different than his previous school and after being teased for his OCD, he runs out of his new classroom.   So, what is Collin’s OCD?   Collin counts the letters in the words that are spoken to him and then, he says that number out loud.  Some kids in the past, have taken to saying long passages to Collin, to see if he can keep count of all the letters while others like to talk fast to him, to see if he can keep up with them, it’s all mean no matter how you look at it. 

Collin meets Orenda.  She lives next door and she spends a lot time in her tree house.  Orenda says that she’s changing just like her mother did but Collin doesn’t understand what she’s referring to. 

As Collin continues to get bullied at school, Orenda and Collin meet and she helps him discover who he really is.  Collin was finally enjoying parts of his life and I could see a smile on his face, it seemed that he had finally found joy.  He needed somewhere to land and he had found it, he was accepted and he felt a connection.  A truly beautiful book that I definitely will need to reread in the future.

She was “pretty” – pretty amazing, pretty smart, and pretty funny 😊