Four for the Road by K.J. Reily

5+ stars Fiction YA

  “We’re all just trying really hard to cling to something we’re not entirely sure can hold us up.”

I read this book over 2 months ago yet as I think about these characters and their story, I am reliving every moment of this fantastic book! It’s only been 12 months, 3 weeks, 1 day, 6 hours, and 14 minutes since Asher’s mother died. As the thick smoke fills the house and makes seeing the television screen impossible, Asher continues watching the television as the fire consumes his home. In the hospital, the support groups that Asher initially walks into provides more than just support for him.

Asher meets a variety of individuals and I loved every single one of them.  With unique personalities and stories, these individuals have so much to offer while still dealing with their own issues.  

  “We’re all just trying really hard to cling to something we’re not entirely sure can hold us up.”

As the groups gathers, Asher hears his own struggles and pain coming from the mouths of those around him.  These individuals know the battles and scars that he has, he’s not walking alone.

       “I’m not completely alone in my head with this monster.”

Asher needs closure so he can move on and these individuals are there for him. With a list of questions, Asher decides to find the answers.  It’s a road trip and Asher is not going alone. The new friends that he includes in this ride are perfect.  I was smiling, laughing, and enjoying this car trip so much.  What a ride!  The group does more than just get answers to Asher’s questions, they have an adventure.   Everyone benefits from this excursion.    

With short chapters, fun and entertaining characters, this was one book that I couldn’t put down.  I enjoyed the author’s use of language as there were many great passages inside this book.  I thought the author did a great job handling the topics covered inside this book.  One of the best books I read this year.  I highly recommend it!!! 5+ stars

   “Then I start thinking about how many grieving groups they would need to have just for the 10,262 people killed last year by drunk drivers and how there just aren’t enough days in the week to take care of that many people with dead family members so I just sit down on the garage steps and think about hammers and baseball bats and then my dad sits down next to me.”

The School for Good Mothers by Jessamine Chan

5 stars Fiction

What if your “very bad day” suddenly became your worst nightmare? Frida’s drive to get a coffee and a few papers at the office ended up being a 2-hour excursion, which wouldn’t have been such a big deal, but she left her toddler at home, alone.  Luckily, her daughter was okay but Frida was turned into authorities.   For her irresponsible behavior, she must now face the consequences.  

Welcome to The School for Good Mothers, a new rehabilitation program for mothers, who need help to become better mothers.  There are many reasons why the mothers that attend this school have been listed on the roster.  When Frida joins the ranks, she finds herself amongst a variety of different women which makes this story very interesting and intense at times.  During their time at the facilities, the mothers are given rules which they must abide by or they will pay the consequences.  The mothers are also given a variety of different tests which will be graded.   They need to pass them or they will have to pay the consequences.  These mothers will be pushed physically and mentally and the tension will run high as these mothers strive to succeed and prove to themselves and others just who they are.  Frida’s 2-hour excursion cost her a year in this facility but the physical and mental cost will go beyond that time period.

I loved this book, I seriously did.  I can’t stop thinking about it and I talk to everyone about it.  I loved how all the genes of the book came together and I enjoyed how this book made me think.  As I read, I kept thinking about how wrong the idea of this school was, yet I thought perhaps we should have schools like this for other criminal offenses.   I also thought who were the people who ran these schools and put these individuals there? Do they make the rules based on personal decisions or is there a standard that everyone must abide by? There is so much going on in this book, from the father’s program, the phone privileges, the relationships, the evaluations, every part of this story and its characters, I enjoyed so much.  Getting close to the end, the tears were falling down my face; I didn’t want this story to end but I wanted to know how it was going to end.  This book was exactly what I needed and I really enjoyed it.

“You can’t just have the cow jump over the moon, Frida.  You need to have the cow consider his place in society.  If you’re telling the Red Riding Hood story, you need to talk about the kinds of woods, the kind of food in her basket.” ………” How was Little Red feeling as she made her journey in the woods? Ask those open-ended questions. Get the children thinking. You’re teaching her about being a girl.”

“Everyday, she’ll learn about girlhood from you.”  

Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas

5 stars YA

“Tough situations don’t last. Tough people do.”

I get this feeling of anticipation just before I read one of Angie’s books.  I know they’ll be no turning back once I read that first page, for she begins setting the stage with her authentic scenes, the intense drama, and those characters that I swear have to have an address somewhere because her fiction is incredible, it’s so natural.

With his father in jail and his mother working, 17-year-old Maverick is learning about life the hard way.  It seems that he just keeps getting knocked down again and again.  Following in his father’s footsteps, Maverick has joined a gang and is selling drugs. This promise is an obligation that Maverick has now committed himself to.  He’s enjoying his relationship with Lisa when his one-night stand, informs him that he’s now a daddy. 

The temperature is starting to get warm as Maverick tries to handle the emotions and responsibilities that come with this new accusation.  Maverick doesn’t understand how this can this happen, as it was only one night. I had to smile when I read this, as that’s normally what you hear from pregnant women. What’s going to happen with his relationship with Lisa?  How will he be able to juggle everything that seems to be coming at him at full speed now? 

I felt that Maverick did the best that he could, given the circumstances that he was under.  Oh, he was frustrated and outraged at times yet, at the back of his mind, he was focused.  He saw the end of the tunnel; he was just having a hard time getting there.

Another remarkable book by this fantastic author. I highly recommend this book and all the other books in this series.  I look forward to the next book that Angie Thomas writes.   

A Woman is No Man by Etaf Rum

I know whatever I write about this book will not contain everything that I felt about this book.  I should just write capital letters with exclamation marks adding in a mixture of facial expressions as that sums up how I felt reading this book.  I had no expectations going into this book and as the two stories in the book converged into each other, I was swept away.  The ending had me staring out the window, little tiny bumps spread across my arms and tears were falling down my face.  The book was over but was it really over.  There was nothing left for me to read but I couldn’t let these ladies go.  And so, I stared out the window, waiting until something else came along to fill my mind.

The year was 1990, Isra in the kitchen with her mother cooking dinner, this has become her daily routine.  Recently married, she’ll be moving from Palestine to America, where her new husband owns a deli.  Isra is nervous about life in America.  What will her marriage be like? What will her husband be like?  Isra wants a romantic marriage with her husband yet she hardly even knows the man that she married.  She’s hoping that her American marriage will be different than the one that her mother and father have.  As she discusses her concerns, it was sad listening to her mother’s words. “Love each other? What does love have to do marriage? You think your father and I love each other?” After listening to her mother’s remarks, she’s hopeful that by leaving the country, her marriage will be different than her mothers and the abuse that her mother endures as a wife, will not follow her.

The year is 2008, Deya is one of four sisters living with their grandparents.  Deya is the oldest and grandmother is on the hunt, trying to find a suitor for her.  Although times have changed the girls still need to preserve their culture.  Deya is not ready for marriage and would rather continue on with her education but according to Islamic traditions, Deya must get ready to become a wife and mother.  It’s a battle of values, family, freedom and principles that Deya struggles with as she enters adulthood.

I found it fascinating to read about the idea of arranged marriages currently in our society and the implications of how the status of a wife remained the same for many of these women.  Isra and Deya were both dealing with the notion of being in an arranged marriage. If that wasn’t enough, they also had to deal with the idea of what being a wife really meant and how that differed from what they really wanted.  

As the chapters fluctuated between these two women, Isla story tore at me.  She pictured America to be a wonderful place, an opportunity for her yet when she arrives, she realizes that they’ll be sharing a house with her in-laws and his siblings. The romantic marriage that she hoped to find, will have to be on the quiet-side, as everyone is sharing the same house.  This was just the beginning of Isla’s spiral tale of what America had to offer her. Deya story was different because she was a fighter.  She used what she had to fight back, even if it meant further consequences for her.  Cheering for her, I pushed her. I wanted her to push the envelope until she couldn’t push it anymore.  She was ready to accept whatever happened at the end. I loved how the author made the stories come together also.

I felt exhausted as I closed this book.  As they stood there, I fell in line with them, just waiting.  I felt tired yet there was this energy and excitement that I felt within me.  What was next?  I highly recommend this book.  I can’t wait to see what else this author writes.

The Electric Kingdom by David Arnold

5 stars Science Fiction YA

Dang! I picked this book originally based on cover love and I’m so glad that it caught my eye.  I absolutely loved it!  I’m not normally a sci-fi reader and seeing the size of this book, I almost walked away but this book was amazing!  This was one of those books that I couldn’t stop thinking about as I tried to close the book and walk away.  I loved how the author weaved the story together and the second half of the book, was incredible,

I felt connected to Nico in this book and I enjoyed being a part of her journey.  I can’t describe Nico and her father’s bond, as I feel that the word love doesn’t define it properly. It felt greater than love. As she sat with her father reminiscing and discussing their future, they didn’t have to see eye-to-eye but they did have to respect one another.  You could tell that they appreciated each other and felt fortunate to have each other.  From Nico watching The Deliverer, to walking with Harry, to her meeting the other survivors, and following the plan, I traveled with her as she made her way. 

I did take a few side trips away from Nico where I met the other characters in the book on a more personal level.  From when Nico first described him, I pictured The Deliverer as something from The Twilight Zone. This character was brilliant. Where do you come up with this stuff?  This character was primo! I can’t go into too much detail The Deliverer but this character generated more, “What?!”  “No way!”  out of me then, anyone else.

Nico meets other survivors on her journey which amount to about a handful of individuals to remember.  Remembering how Nico lived, I had to wonder what was going through her head when she first saw them.  These individuals don’t realize how important they are to Nico and vice versa.  Everyone knows what they need to do to keep the swarm away as they’re out in the open traveling.  Letting their guard down, they would be able to hear the hum before they’re under attack, they just won’t have much time to do so. Each of them has seen what the swarm can do and they don’t want it to happen to them.  There is a bit of romance in this book with the characters but nothing dramatic or heavy. 

I was surprised how fast I read this book.  There was this momentum throughout the book, yet as I got to the second half of this book, the momentum increased as little details began to appear and everything started to come together. It was entertaining as the author began slipping these subtle details into the story, it was like I had discovered a clue.  I really hoped that I had caught all of these little details as I read the story.  It would have been nice to reread the book now that I have the whole picture in front of me but I needed to return the book to the library as someone else had a hold on the book.  I’m going to put this book on my birthday list and I hope to get my own copy because I definitely need to read this one again.  I highly recommend it, even if you don’t read sci-fi, if you like apocalyptic, fantasy, or dystopia books, this is one you should read.  5 stars  

Mascot by Antony John

5 stars Middle School/ Children’s Chapter

I loved this book! There is so many reasons why I loved it and those reasons kept mounting as I read it.  I’m only sorry that it took me a while to find this book and now, I’m wondering what else this author wrote that I should be reading. 

In the beginning pages of Mascot, you will meet Noah who is adjusting to life in a wheelchair.  Noah was with his father in a car accident, were his father was pronounced dead and now, Noah is a paraplegic.

From his tone, Noah isn’t happy with the way his life is headed. During his weekly physical therapy sessions, Noah’s passive/negative remarks have him moving nowhere, whereas another patient in the room, who Noah has been watching, is slowly making progress.  His former teammates taunt and bully him, every chance that they get.  The pitcher, once his close friend is the leader in this cruel act.  Once a star catcher on the school’s baseball team, Noah can’t use his legs anymore.  With his father gone, he must rely on his mother for everything and the way things are going, Noah feels this might be a long time. 

When Ruben enters the picture, this book just blew up. Ruben cracked me up!  Ruben, a.k.a Double Wide or Dee-Dub, arrives in his true form.  When he was first introduced to the class, I had many thoughts going through my head as Dee Dub basically says the honest truth without any filters.  Like Noah thought, Dee-Dub was crazy or a total genius that knows that being a new kid he can get away with anything.  I think he was a little bit of both.

Ruben ends up sitting next to Noah and they form a friendship.  Ruben is now associated with Noah which gets the attention of everyone especially the baseball team.  I wondered how Ruben would handle the harassment now that he was a part of it.  Noah and Ruben were now a pair but could they do anything against a team?  We meet Alyssa, who is a friend of Noah’s.  I thought she was one tough girl.  Noah needed to start hanging around her more as she would teach him something, for she was not taking any gruff from anyone.

Ruben was not afraid of speaking his mind and now, Noah finally has someone to talk to.  Ruben helps us, as readers, get to know the characters as he’s not afraid of talking to them and inquiring into the lives of each of them.   

What a remarkable, outstanding book!  I loved the characters as they felt realistic and I liked how they felt a variety of emotions.  There were fears and bleak situations but they worked through them.  Now to see what else I need to read by this author.

Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

5 stars Fiction

I loved this novel! Give me an author that can write and some individuals living off the grid and I am happier than a fox in a henhouse. I’m glad that I didn’t read many detailed reviews on this novel and although I hesitated to buy the novel, I’m glad that I forked over the money because I am definitely going to reread it in the future.  As soon as I finished reading this novel, I was dancing all over the house, as this novel was one of those novels that got down deep inside me.  I had to give my hubby a quick play-by-play of what happened, the words just came tumbling out.

The more that I read, the more I admired Kya.  I loved how she managed to live in the marsh all those years, basically by herself. I wondered as she commented about the amount of time that she spent in school, if those comments were her own crafty way to address the individual that she had become.  Over the years, Kya had indeed inquired quite the skills and strength living in the marsh, and I think to a point, she was hardened. 

I enjoyed how the two stories slowly came together in the novel. There were moments that I became worried about Kya’s maturity level as relationships developed and times that Kya surprised me when her actions went beyond what I had expected. 

This was a fantastic novel that I highly recommend if you haven’t read it yet.