Until Tomorrow, Mr. Marsworth by Sheila O’Connor

5 stars Middle School

Covers can be deceiving and this one truly was.  I thought the cover of this book looked dull yet the inside of the book was just the opposite.  Written in letter correspondence, I found myself on an incredible journey with Reen, as she tries to save her family.  What started out as a business correspondence between Reen and Mr. Marsworth turned into something more impressive than they both expected. 

Reen and her older two brothers have been living with their grandma, since their mother’s death. Since Reen has no other friends, she hangs out with her youngest brother Dare.

Mr. Marsworth was a customer on Reen’s paper route and she needed important information to do her job.  Known as a loner/recluse, Reen (11), takes to paper and pencil to get the answers she needs.  In his responsive letter, he’s right to the point but that’s not the end of this. Reen keeps the letters flying a few times back and forth. Reen is a talker but in this case, a writer, and so she does, to Mr. Marsworth.  Soon, it’s just Reen writing and waiting, waiting for a reply from her new friend.  I really got impatient and angry too, why wasn’t he responding to her and when she pleaded to him to respond, what was he doing?

Reen begins to pour out her heart to Mr. Marsworth in her letters. It’s not just the newspaper information she needs now but she needs a friend, someone she can talk to. I could feel the love, the anxiety and the desperation in her words as she wrote.  She wrote him about her day, her issues and she’d ask him some questions.  She found that there are some questions that Mr. Marsworth just couldn’t answer.  Those questions were too difficult and/or he just wasn’t ready to answer them for her.   How Reen handled this really said a lot about Reen, I thought.  What she had with Mr. Marsworth meant more to her than the answers.  Now, that is good stuff!

The story occurs in 1968 when the Vietnam War was on everyone’s mind including Reen’s. Her old brother, Billy’s future is on the line: college, sign up for the military, or be drafted?  For Reen, there is only one answer and she’s determined to make that happen.

Reen also has been corresponding with a soldier in the war.  She received his name from her teacher as part of a project. Reen now knows first-hand what war is all about.  I loved how she takes this project seriously and how much time she devotes to it.  

That ending was fabulous!  I had suspected something an ending like that but nothing as involved as that.  I had to get out the tissues as the tears were flowing and I couldn’t stop them.  What an awesome book!!  Good heavens!! Can someone erase my brain so I can read it over again??  I loved it!

We Dream of Space by Erin Kelly

5 stars Middle School

They lived under the same roof but they’re all living separate lives. Three siblings and their parents, coexisting at the same address.  Cash walked with a dark cloud over his head, as he was failing 7th grade for the second time.  He also worrying about his bench seat on the basketball team.  His brother, Fitch is an arcade wizard, who begins to get a temper when he’s harassed by his peers. Oh, why did you have to get involved with the girls, Fitch?

Then, there is Bird.  She writes instructional manuals, a job that she takes very seriously.  She’s a wonderful student, has great self-esteem: Bird’s life is good. One visit to a friend’s house changes all of this for Bird. 

The parents should be the connecting element with these siblings but they don’t connect.  The parents sit in their own corners; one reading and one watching the television.  We’re told there is a lot of verbal fighting between the two of them, with some of it escalating to items being thrown.  It’s sad that their children don’t get much support from them but I had to smile while reading, as the sibling created ways to work around this.

What I enjoyed about this book was the moments that were eye-opening experiences or experiences that made the siblings grow.  At the beginning of the book, the siblings were acting alone, they were their own island. As the book progressed, they began to see each other.  There were actual other individuals in their own home.  Worthy individuals!   

Linking the dramatics in the family and the excitement of the Challenger launch that occurred on January 28, 1986, you’ve got an excellent book.  Hopes, dreams, struggles, successes, and trying to find your way, it’s all inside here.  

The Yellow Bird Sings by Jennifer Rosner

5 stars Historical Fiction

As they secretly nestled together in the barn loft, I was worried about creating a disturbance, for any noise or movement from me, could reveal their location.  How I, the reader, could influence my book characters was beyond me, but I was totally wrapped up inside this book.

Shira wanted to be with her mother yet she also wanted to be outside, to be in the fresh air and have fun but mother said that wasn’t possible now.  Mother, wanted to keep what she had left safe and that meant hiding in the barn.  As the days passed, the intensity of the situation changes quite often.  Mother is grateful to be in the barn yet there are the nightly visits by Henryk (the farm’s owner).  There is mother’s constant strive to be positive for her daughter, mother’s own conflict over their situation, and then, Krystyna (Henryk wife’s) begins taking Shira outside on short trips.

I thought this was a quick-paced book that held my attention throughout the whole book. I truly felt the anticipation and the energy intensify as the story developed and progressed. I enjoyed watching Shira mature through the years and how her talent sparked.  I found myself cheering on the characters many times and the ending was fantastic.     

Volunteering

I really loved Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo. So, when I was invited to be one of the volunteers on my libraries Facebook edition of What Should I Read? I knew that I would talk about this book.

It was a book that I couldn’t put down till I finished it. Thought-provoking, emotional, and interesting, this book was exactly what I needed. I know that some of you will shy away from this genre but  if the synopsis or the conversation spikes your interest, check the book out, what have you got to lose. You might just find yourself another genre to love.  

One of the other books brought to the table, I have on my TBR pile and the other two really sound interesting.  I would love to read the BIG book but wow, that would take me forever!

I had a great time with this opportunity and I would love to do it again. 

The Light After the War by Anita Abriel

4.5 Stars Historical Fiction

This wasn’t the path they had planned to be on, yet here they were.  Edith and Vera had been best friends forever, living across from one another their whole lives but now, the war changed that. Creating a plan, scrunched together in the dark cattle car, these women’s lives would never be the same. 

Waiting in the grass, watching for movement, watching for any signs of life, they left disappointed.  They knew what they needed to do now and they moved quickly. Soon the world would be theirs, the war would be officially over and they could make their mark upon it. It was an impressive journey as the girls begin experiencing life on their own.

I enjoyed how the girls looked out for one another.  Vera was the hard-working one, who immediately was concerned about money and tries to find employment so they can survive. Vera’s concerned about paying for rent, buying food, and taking care of her friend, Edith.  She tries not to let her emotions get in the way.  Believing that her boyfriend Stefan has died, Edith can’t get herself together.  Her grief has led her to become very promiscuous, causing Vera to keep her eyes on her when men are around.

I liked how the characters of Vera and Edith were alike and how they were different.  Vera is dependable, serious and her emotions are in-check. Edith is fun, to a point.  Don’t go too far, or she will lose it. If you looked inside her, she’s all-over-the-place.  They’re perfect for each other.  Vera is Edith’s landing spot whereas Edith gets Vera out of her comfort zone.  After the girls escaped out of the cattle car, they both realized that their parents weren’t so lucky and had died in Auschwitz.  This is a heavy burden for the girls to carry, as this event replays throughout their lives.

Romance plays a big role in this book as Edith and Vera find themselves falling in and out of love. Over time, they both seem to want it and find it, so differently.  I’m not one who enjoys a lot of romance but I did enjoy the twists and turns these two girls take when they start turning heads.  

It’s a great book about friendship. I enjoyed Vera’s and Edith’s relationship and how it changed over the years. As the world recovers from the war, the girls begin a life together out on their own.  Finding jobs, their life begins to take off and soon they’re meeting individuals and dating.  I found the book intriguing as they began navigating their new lives. 4.5 stars

Thank you to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster for providing me an advanced copy in exchange for my honest opinion. 

The Last Book Party by Karen Dukess

3 stars Fiction

I liked how the author’s writes but I didn’t like how this book developed. The author had some great points in this book but her main character, I thought, was a mess.  The longer I read this book, the more irritated I became with her and I wanted to slap her.

Eve considered herself a writer, yet all her accomplishments amounted to, were a few small pieces that she’d written many years ago.  For years, Eve struggled to finish anything that she’d started to write. I’m thinking that she really needs to do is to talk to a few people about writing or move on, what is really going on here? Eve also worked as an editorial assistant for The New Yorker Magazine.  Growing up, Eve had wanted to become a writer and it’s as if, she can’t let go of this dream. 

Eve doesn’t get the promotion at The New Yorker but she hears about the possibility of a job back in her hometown.  If she heads back home, Eve realizes this position will not a step-up but it just might be what she’s looking for. 

Eve starts to fall in-and-out of love with just about everyone after she went back home. Perhaps she had relationships before then, I don’t know, but she flies through them now.  Her last love affair though pushed me over the edge.  Perhaps, she’s insecure or it’s some other issue but I just didn’t understand why her last guy?  Come on!

There were a few interesting reveals in the story and I did enjoy them. When Eve moves back home to start her new job, we learned about her family and her relationship with them. They had a great impact on her. 

Overall, it was an okay read, I just think that Eve’s social life needed to take a different direction. 

I want to thank MacMillan for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes

5 stars Historical Fiction

This was an excellent audio to listen to. I couldn’t understand why I was able to get the audio right off the shelf at the library while the list to obtain the physical book was miles long. Although there were a lot of discs, the novel went quickly. Before reading this novel, I wondered if this book was going to be like The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek that I had previously read and loved, since they sounded similar in nature. What I found after I read this book was, although they were similar, it was the women in each story that made the two books different.  

I really enjoyed Margery in this story.  This woman had some spit fire in her. I loved her spunk from the minute I heard her speak. I wondered if somewhere, down the road in my listening of these discs, if something would backfire and she would pay for her outspoken personality.  Afterall, considering where she was, this time in history, and her being a woman, she really was an outstanding individual. Margery was her own person; she wasn’t concerned about what others thought or said.  Margery did what she thought needed to done.  I loved how Margery encouraged the women who supported the library and how she brought all the women together.

As the women brought the books to their patrons who lived out on the mountains, they were bringing more than just books to them.  I could feel the love, compassion, and companionship that their visits provided as I listened to the author’s words.  

As the women gathered for their “library meetings,” a big grin came across my face as I wondered exactly what they would be discussing today. No topic was dismissed as their meetings became more personal and entertaining each time they met.  Was it actually an official meeting or a girl’s night out, back at the meeting house as they met and chatted?  

I was delighted as to how much these women had grown during these 11 discs.  When they first came together, they thought of this as only a job but as I put in each disc, what this position became, was much more.  This became one of those books where I didn’t want it to end.

This book wasn’t all about women either.  Relationships both sweet and sour entered the picture from the sounds coming from the next room, to crushes, to the way individuals began to soften around the edges when certain others were around.  Some men also voiced their opinion about the library and about the women working in it.  You can imagine how that went down.

It was an entertaining and fast novel to listen to and I highly recommend it.

Dollbaby: a Novel by Laura Lane McNeal

5 stars Historical Fiction

Ibby discovered she had a grandmother just a few months ago and now, her mother is dropping her at Fannie’s while she figures things out.  Clutching her father remains, Ibby arrives in New Orleans, unaware how her arrival will affect the household.

There were many layers to this novel which added to its enjoyment.  Just when I thought things were smoothing out, something else would pop up and add to the drama.  The novel takes place in New Orleans in the 1960’s where Fannie has settled and she has a few individuals helping her out.  

Fannie is an outspoken tough, gambling woman who begins to change slowly when Ibby comes into her life.  Queenie came with the house when it was bought many years ago and she arrives every morning with her daughter, Dollbaby to tend to the house.  Dollbaby, has her own daily responsibilities in the house, as she works alongside her mother.  I noticed right away that there seemed to be a mutual understanding and respect between Queenie, Dollbaby and Fannie as they had a great relationship, considering the region and the time period. 

Ibby arrival added to the peaceful flow of this household.  It was entertaining to see what this twelve-year-old girl could do as she gets accustomed to the South.  A quiet girl when she arrived, Ibby begins to have a voice and she uses it.  I feel that Ibby’s experience in the South has given her insight and judgement and that by living with her grandmother, she has been given her some options which some other individuals don’t have.  There are family secrets that have been hidden and buried for many years.  These secrets of the past have a powerful message for the present. 

I don’t want to give too much away for this fantastic book. I really enjoyed this book and I highly recommend it!

Note: I read some reviews that said that this book is a “rip-off of The Help. ” Well, I liked the book a lot and I enjoyed reading it. I read The Help many years ago and I enjoyed that also. I didn’t immediately think of The Help when reading this book. Yes, there are similarities but I think you will have that with many books pertaining to this topic. I really enjoyed the book.

The Forgotten Room by Karen White, Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig

Mystery 3.5 stars

There are three actual stories in this book but they all have one common thread. That common subject lies in a building, which has had many purposes over the years, if only the walls of that building could talk. 

I liked the idea of how this huge building served many purposes over the years.  The history that this building contained and how it served others was fascinating.  To think, how many people walked and in-and-out of its doors intrigued me.  Then, to read how the three women in this novel were also connected to this building, just added more significance to the structure.  I had to wonder if there were any standing building today that have these same traits.  Hum?

Anyways, back to the book. Following a trio of women, we crisscross over three different time periods (1892, 1920, and 1944) which I found confusing at times as I couldn’t keep everyone straight.  These women are all from the same family, just years apart, which made it more confusing to me.  I finally wrote everyone’s name down on a piece of paper and drew arrows to keep individuals separated as the romance in this novel adds even more complications.

Somehow over the years, these three women find their way back to New York, to this same building yet they’re there for different reasons.  As the novel comes together, you’ll find out what ties them all together. 

It’s a mystery that covers many generations.  With strong-minded women and a terrific setting this book provided for me an interesting read. 3.5 stars

Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner

3.5 stars Fiction

There were times that I found myself absorbed into the lives of these two sisters, that I took a break from my own life, sat down and became a part of theirs.  This book covered a lot time and the issues were staggering.  They led an exciting and eventful trail as they made their way through life.

I listened to this book on audio and as I tried to go about my day, I found myself stopping to listen to it.  It was no longer, just something to listen to, but something I had to hear. 

The novel began when these sisters were young, their future had endless possibilities.  Unfortunately, their mother thought differently, and boy, did she irritate me.  Each sister tells us their story and about how each day brought new challenges and adventures into their lives. 

I liked how each sister’s life was different.  Between the two of them, they addressed almost every important issue that women face. I thought that this made their lives interesting.  I enjoyed how the girls cared for one another even though they were so different from one another.  This book is rather long and I feel that it could’ve been shorter and still effectively deliver the same message. 3.5 stars