My Nana’s Garden by Dawn Casey

5 stars Childrens

With tears in my eyes, I write.  Reluctant to stay with her Nana, she soon realizes how special her Nana really is.  As the little girl spends time with her Nana in her garden, she begins to understand that the overgrown garden is actually an exceptional place.  A place where Nana lets things happen. Where the wildflowers grow for the insects and the critters can run freely, where the apple tree brings forth fruit for harvesting, and that old tree is called home to some animal friends.  The garden is also a special place where Nana and the little girl can spend some quality time together, enjoying each other’s company while appreciating the world around them.  It isn’t long before she starts to enjoy visiting her Nana and tending to the garden space alongside her.   

The book progresses quickly and Nana has moved into a wheelchair.  It is my assumption that this little girl is her granddaughter and she has also grown up quickly.  The daughter now accompanies her granddaughter on the visits to Nana’s.  The three of them now visit the garden together, relaxing and enjoying each other’s company.

“In my nana’s garden,

I curl up and cry.

The sun doesn’t shine

in the winter sky.” 

The tone of the book changes after this quote and my mood does also for, I feel that life has changed for this family.  The garden is cold and bare all winter long as the granddaughter looks out the window remembering her Nana.  Come spring, the daughter and granddaughter get to work in Nana’s garden tending to it, just like Nana did. The garden springs to life and there is energy within the book again.  The daughter is changing too and as I flip the page, there are now 3 individuals surrounding the tree in Nana’s garden, “We think of Nana by the trees.”

What a sweet book.  I loved looking at the illustrations and seeing how they changed without any mention of it in the text. I felt the author did an excellent job addressing the relationship of the little girl and her Nana, Nana’s passing, and how they honored Nana by caring for her garden.  With a rhyming text, the words did not feel forced but were smooth and flowing.  This Nana truly enjoyed this book.  5 stars

I am the Storm by Jane Yolen

5 stars Children’s

Mother Nature throws at us some fierce storms, whether that be hurricanes, wildfires, tornadoes, or blizzards but as humans we are fierce too. Jane Yolan does an excellent job showing that although we have no control over Mother Nature, we can control how we react to what happens in our area.  Each of these situations are unpredictable, yet in this children’s book we find comfort and strength to weather any storm that should come our way.

The illustrations inside this book are just wonderful. From the purple-orange swirl of the tornado to the burning marshmallow, for each of these little details brings this book to life.  I enjoyed the diversity as each of the families as they dealt with their disaster.  Although their situations weren’t as devasting as we witness on the news, there was still work to be done and emotions that need to be addressed, after their event had passed.  Yolan text is soothing and instills with her readers that the disaster will eventually end and they too, will survive.  Things might look different outside for them but “It’s okay to be scared” for they are “strong and powerful” and each of them have characteristics of the storms within them.  In the back of the book, Yolan gives a brief description about each type of storm. 5 stars

“And when the storm passes,

as it always does,

I am the calm, too.”

Leaving Lymon by Lesa Cline-Ransome

4 stars Middle School

He’s a person, can’t anyone see this!  This book states that it takes places in the 1940’s but the story is all too familiar.  Living with his grandparents, Lymon has the stability, connections and the ability to express himself but that quickly vanishes.  When they’re no longer able to care for him, other family members step in and accept Lymon into their home but not everyone in the household is thrilled about having him there.

The only person who Lymon was wanting and needing was, the one individual who would just pop into his life, whenever they felt the need to.  You can feel the desperation in his voice and in his actions as they made their appearance and when they walked out, Lymon was again looking, looking for them everywhere.  Lymon has lots of questions but no one was honest with him. They liked to dance around the questions that he asked of them.   

When Lymon lived with his grandparents, his grandfather taught him how to play the guitar and this love united them.  This was a connection that he also had with his father, for his father did gigs and he always had another show.  I enjoyed this music connection and how the author used this throughout the story. 

This was a fantastic story and it was an emotional one for me.  Lymon needed some stability and he needed someone to be there for him but would he ever find it and who would that person be?  I think the ending was too perfect for me considering how the story was progressing and the characters. 4 stars   This is a sequel to Finding Langston.

“Daddy, when am I gonna see you again? Feel like I have been asking this question my whole life and never getting the answer I want. But I keep asking hoping for the answer I want to hear.”

Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner

4 stars Memoir

This memoir covered a lot of ground but there seemed to be one common thread: Michelle wanted to connect with her heritage. As her mother prepared her traditional Korean dishes, Michelle stood by, trying to comprehend everything that was playing-out before her.  Michelle wanted to please her mother, she wanted her mother to be proud of her and food was going to be her stage.  If only she could please her mother, the pieces would fit together and so she persisted. 

Michelle is Korean-White and we do meet her father in the book.  We hear more about him in the second half of the book whereas the first part of the book, he worked his job and he liked his drink.     

I didn’t know much about this book when I went into it, except that it was a fairly popular book.  I think the driving force about the book for me was how much Michelle, a bi-racial woman, was trying to connect with her mother. Michelle felt a void in her life, her mother would be the one to fill it.   

It was going well and then, they hit a road block.  Mom was diagnosed with a form of cancer and everything, I mean everything changes.  Time, energy, emotions, space, and values have to reevaluated.  What has the highest priority?  It’s not as if anyone’s desires have changed but now: new necessities have become the top priority.   

This was an interesting and honest story and I appreciate Michelle sharing her story.

What! Cried Granny an Almost Bedtime Story by Kate Lum

5 + stars Children’s

This book is hilarious!  Granny is amazing and Patrick innocence is charming.   I didn’t like the illustrations when I first read the book but after looking at them, they fit the book.  The illustrations are quirky and different.  It most definitely should be read at bedtime and then, read it anytime!

Patrick is spending the night at his Granny’s house for the very first time.  It’s getting dark so Patrick is asked to get ready for bed.   But there is a problem.  Remember, this is Patrick’s first time staying over with his Granny, so he doesn’t have a bed.  Big problem?  Nope!  Granny runs out the door, chops down one of the tall trees growing in the yard, takes it to her workroom and creates Patrick a bed with her tools.  Wowza!  She did all that while carrying her purse on her arm.  Granny now has blue paint splattered on her apron from painting the bed but with the red mattress on it, Patrick is ready! 

But wait, Granny mentions a pillow and Patrick doesn’t have one.  WHAT?   Yep, Granny to the rescue!  Granny does have some chickens, some cloth, thread and a needle.  A little later, Patrick has a pillow!    Do you see how this book is set up?  It’s so comical.  Granny is running around getting things ready so Patrick can go to sleep and Patrick, well he’s playing with a variety of toys and watching TV., waiting for Granny. Now, that Patrick has a pillow, Granny tells Patrick to climb into his bed (has that now), lay his head on his pillow (got that now), pull the blanket up (WHAT, no blanket yet), AND ……. (off we go again)

This is a hoot!  Granny is amazing, she can do almost anything!  Patrick is so lucky to have her.  I’m going to have to find a copy of this book.  It’s a keeper. 

To listen to the story:

Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid

4.5 stars Fiction

I got lost inside this book, in a good way.  I found myself caught up with all the drama that happened within this family.  I could see why everyone wanted to be around the famous Rivas, as their lives were full.  Each of the family members were a little bit different and they each brought something to the family when they all got together.  The annual Riva Party was the event, the social event that you didn’t want to miss but this year was going to be epic.

I listened to this book on audio and I highly recommend that you go this route.  I feel that the narration brings an additional element to this book.  Although I enjoy adding my own emotions and attitudes to characters in books that I read, I enjoyed these characters immensely.  I didn’t care for all the characters in this book, oh no!  But I thought that their voices and attitudes were spot on.  I like to listen to books while I do other busy work and I found myself paying more attention to this book than anything else.  The anticipation of a few of the scenes made me stop what I was doing until I could breathe again.  Although this book consisted of only one day, flashing back into their lives, the story covered a lot of ground.  I thought about not reading this book but I’m so glad that I did as I really enjoyed it.  4.5 stars

Between Heaven and Texas by Marie Bostwick

4 stars Fiction

This is my first book by Marie Bostwick and I enjoyed it much more than I originally anticipated. I don’t think I would have selected this book to read on my own, which is why book clubs are so beneficial. With this book completed, I would love to continue on with the series, to see what the future held for a few of the characters.

Settling down into Too Much, Texas with the Templeton family, I followed a few younger sisters as they matured and became adults. Since the family unit is a huge and important part of being a Templeton, I ended up getting to know quite a few of the girl’s friends and family members. Leading an eventful life, I found that the story moved quickly with an engaging storyline that pulled me in quickly.

As the girl’s become adults, they began to get serious about the men in their lives and unfortunately, they started to drift apart. This begins a “muddy” period for them and their family. They can’t see what the future holds for them so right now, things look great and they’re excited to get their adult lives started. Oh, does it get exciting. Perhaps not the excitement that they were expecting, but it’s exciting! For it’s one thing-on-top-of-another and it-just-will-not-stop.

This book has almost a little bit of everything. I liked that the family ranch is passed down to the women in the family and how they take this responsibility seriously. There are parts in this book that are funny while it also has its serious moments. The family does have its differences and I like that they show this in the book without a lot of negative drama. There is a little bit of religion in the book but nothing preachy and there’s also romance in the book. I’m not one that’s into a lot of romanace but this was just enough for me. I enjoyed this book and Iwould like to read more of this series in the future.

“You wait and see if I’m not right. This boy is going to be something. One of a kind. Aren’t you, Howard?”

Tell Me a Tattoo Story by Alison McGhee

3 stars Children’s

While this book has fantastic illustrations and the stories that the father tells his young son are sweet and emotional, I felt disconnected from the characters in the story.  I loved the idea behind this story but it felt as if the characters were telling the story, not actually living out the story on the pages. 

While mother writes in the living room, father does the dishes in the kitchen and their young son plays with his toys on the kitchen floor.  Suddenly, the young boy is tugging on his dad’s shirt and dad immediately knows that his son wants to see his tattoos because “you always want to see my tattoos.”   I didn’t understand the next illustration as now, the young boy is hanging off the back of his father as he looks at the tattoo on his father’s shoulder.   Did he climb up the back of his father?   If his father picked him up, why didn’t he just hold him to let him see it?  It looks as if the young boy is holding onto his father’s bare shoulder as he explains the tattoo.  Doesn’t that hurt and is the son that strong to hold on that long?  The text on the next page annoyed me also as it feels like I’m only hearing part of the conversation: “Did she read it to me over and over and over?     She sure did.”  So, we don’t hear the young boy speak.   

As father explains each tattoo to his young son, I enjoyed the stories that accompanied the tattoos but I didn’t like just hearing the father talk.  I wanted to actually hear what the son had to say, I wanted to feel his reactions.  Throughout the whole text, the young son doesn’t say anything in the text, yet somehow the father hears him and answers his questions in the text.  This annoyed me.

With wonderful illustrations and great stories that explain the father’s tattoos, this book did frustrate me when not all the main characters were given a voice in the text.     3 stars.

Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi

5 stars Fiction

I highly recommend you listen to this audio as its wonderful.  Words can’t express how I felt as I listened to Gifty walk through her days.  The burden that she carried on her shoulder was heavy and at times, I wondered how she was going to make it through her day.  I felt as if she was just waiting for something miraculous to happen, for something to rip the baggage from her shoulders and set her free!   

Every day, Gifty works with her mice, trying to understand their behavior.  This is her constant, the thing that keeps her moving.  Nana, her talented, gifted brother, is partly responsible for Gifty’s desire to become a neuroscientist. Their mother is the other reason Gifty is going to school.  It all started when her star-athlete brother got injured while at practice.  The pain killers that he took, eventually led to his death.  Now, with her favorite child gone, their mother slips into depression and Gifty is left trying to pick up the pieces. 

It was a difficult move and the family struggles as they tried to adjust to life in Alabama.  Mother wanted the Chin Chin Man to come and when he finally did, I don’t think he really wanted to live in Alabama. I think he struggled to fit in and when he returned to Ghana to visit, I knew he wasn’t planning on returning to the States. Mother’s grief had consumed her after Nana’s death and it was now consuming Gifty as well. Gifty didn’t know what to do, so she went to work, watching her mice.  I liked the honesty that Gifty showed, her frustration felt real.  A great emotional read. 5 stars

Playing Nice by J.P. Delaney

5 stars Fiction

Does biology trump love?  As I listened to this book, I kept wondering what I would do if I were placed in such a predicament.  After caring for a young child for 2 years, do you think you could relinquish control because someone made a mistake?  Was it a mistake or was it done on purpose?  It’s not like you got the wrong car, or the wrong dog (although this would be hard too), this is a small child who has depended on you, someone that you have cared for, protected, loved and bonded with for over 700 days. How could you walk away from that?  My mind couldn’t fantom how anyone was going to win in this situation. 

So many questions had to be answered after they proved that an error had occurred, and it began with who?  Who would commit such an act?  What did they have to gain from it?  I should have slowed the speed of the audio down as I felt that the book was speeding out of control or was it just the intensity of the situation.  I had my suspects but I didn’t feel that their motives were solid enough.  I felt an emotional connection to the children, how would they feel now and again, later in the future, knowing what happened to them?  Would this mess them up, could they bounce back, or would they need counseling to figure out why they now had another mommy and daddy?  Trying to correct the situation, I found myself arguing out loud, as each set of parents had their own idea on what they felt was the best plan.  Miles wanted to run the show, he thinks that he has everything under control and it frustrated me how he tries to take charge.  As I learned more about the children, the motive of why become clearer and the suspect list dropped to just a few individuals.  It was such a great book to listen to and one that completely took over my morning.  I highly recommend it.