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

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! 

Gold Digger: The Remarkable Baby Doe Tabor by Rebecca Rosenberg

4 stars Historical Fiction

I read this book for book club otherwise I don’t think I would have picked it up.  From reading the title, I expected a more somber novel about the gold-rush era, not the adventurous, dashy story that I read.  Baby Doe gave this era, something to talk about. 

I knew nothing about Baby Doe before picking up this novel.  Now, after reading this novel, I want to read more about her to hear the whole story.

The novel begins with Baby Doe traveling with her new husband Harvey to Colorado, in the late 1800’s, as Harvey is going to manage a mine that his father owns.  Baby Doe has plans of her own, to send money back to her parents to help them get by.  Her husband ends up not being as business smart as they thought and Baby Doe ends up helping him out with the business which I feel is an important part to who she ends up becoming.

The mine becomes the central part of the story with the individuals who work in it and their families also.  Baby Doe becomes a working woman, yet some men are drawn to her beauty and don’t take her seriously.  She’s a smart, determined individual who knows more than you think.    

This was a fast-paced story what once I started, I couldn’t quit.  There were numerous times while reading this story, I found myself talking out loud, reacting to the other characters as they conversed with Baby Doe.  I laughed a few times and there were even some harsh words spoken, for I thought they were being very deceitful, given the circumstances.  Baby Doe’s story is definitely a story that you need to read.   

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

4 stars Historical Fiction

I liked this novel more than I liked To Kill a Mockingbird which is supposed to be the first book in this series. I think that’s because I understood the characters more and their actions and attitudes seemed to fit them. I read this book for book club, and listening to the discussions surrounding this book, it was interesting to hear the different viewpoints on the topics that we covered.

Jean Louise has returned to her hometown again from New York and I feel that she has changed and her views are more open. When Henry (a.k.a. Hank) picks her up, she is surprised that her father is not there but she enjoys Henry’s kiss. I think she enjoys how Henry tends to her. Henry wants to marry her and playfully and seriously, he asks for her hand in marriage, for which Jean Louise turns him down, again and again. Jean Louise likes her independence and N.Y living. Why would she leave that to come back here to live the simple life in Maycomb, AL? She likes Henry but love is a different story.

While back in Maycomb, Jean Louise gets lost between the present and past many times. She enjoys revisiting her memories of growing up in Maycomb and then facing, the current Maycomb, which has changed some over the years. Whether that change is for the better, is a matter of opinion. I enjoyed Jean Louise’s flashbacks and a few of them brought back memories of my own. Her revival preacher story and Jean Louise’s first dance were great stories and I was glad that she shared them.

There are racial remarks throughout the novel. They are subtle and quick, and if you didn’t stop and think about them, you might just miss them. The world around this small town is changing and whether Maycomb is changing too or wants to change, is something to consider as you read the novel.

I started to feel sorry for Jean Louise as I read. She had matured over the years and returned home to be confused. The title and the ending of the book, sealed the book for me. Jean Louise had it all along, she just needed to be told.