Falling : A Daughter, A Father, and A Journey Back by Elisha Cooper

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A lovingly written book by a father about his 5-year-old daughter and her unexpected diagnosis of cancer.  The author of this book is himself an author and illustrator of children’s books (that I now have to look for in my own library).  In this book he deftly straddles all of his hopes and fears for his family and really paints quite a picture of the realities of living (and not dying) from cancer.  A book of survival and what it means to try and find a new normal.

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

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Orphan Train is a book set in both the present day and in the late 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s. The two main characters are Vivian and  Molly.

The present-day story focuses on Vivian and her relationship with Molly, a teenager who has been bounced around from foster home to foster home and is about to age out of the foster care system. The early years of the story concentrate on Vivian, as a young orphaned girl who traveled from NYC to Minnesota on one of the infamous “orphan trains” that were used to get orphans out of the cities into the country where they might have a better opportunity to find families and to be able to make a good life.

The story is bleak at times, and captures the incredibly hard lives orphans were subjected to in the past, as well as the hard times for some of those in our system today who are tossed from place to place and used for labor and money.

This was a very interesting story about a piece of American history that was previously unknown to me.  I really enjoyed the part of the book that dealt with the young Vivian and her life on the Orphan Train.  As a result of reading this fictional account of this piece of history, I have looked into reading some of the true accounts of some of these orphan’s lives on that Orphan Train.

 

 

 

 

Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend by Matthew Dicks

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I have never read a book like this before.  It was recommended to me by a friend, so I took it on vacation and finished it during the week I was away.  The narrator throughout is Budo, the imaginary friend of Max, an eight-year-old autistic boy who “imagined” Budo 5 years earlier.  Budo watches over Max, but being imaginary, cannot make his presence felt in the real world. This becomes a problem when Max is in real danger and Budo must find a way to help his friend.

The author has created a world of Imaginary Friends that is fascinating and well thought out, and his understanding of little boys like Max is also incredible.  Budo’s biggest fear is that he will fade away into nothingness as all imaginary friends eventually do when kids grow up and stop believing in them.  The bond between this special “imaginary” friend and the love he feels for the boy who created him makes this such a wonderful story.

The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

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Another book from the YA section of the library and it’s a really good one. The subject matter deals with the death of a teenager (not sure why I’ve gravitated toward these books lately), but I did not find it depressing at all. In fact, this is another book that I felt dealt with this subject in a very realistic way. All involved survivors are grief stricken, but there are moments of humor as well. Added to the mix are the feelings of the main characters as they navigate through high school and budding relationships . I enjoyed this book and will look for others by this author.

44 Scotland Street by Alexander McCall Smith

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44 Scotland Street is the first in a series by Alexander McCall Smith by the same name. The story takes place in Edinburgh in a neighborhood with very colorful residents.  You will meet Pat, a young woman taking her gap year in Edinburgh; Bruce, who shares the flat with Pat; Domenica, an interesting widow in another flat; Bernie and his mother on the floor below. Bernie is only five and already learning Italian and how to play the saxophone.  Pat finds a job working for Matthew in an art gallery but knows little about art.

You’ll find yourself turning pages and deep into the story before you know it. McCall Smith has a talent for giving many details but not getting bogged down in them.  He’s very insightful and develops deep characters.

March by Geraldine Brooks

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Geraldine Brooks masterfully weaves a tale of life away from home for Mr. March after he leaves his “Little Women” to fend for themselves.  As the local young men are gathered together before leaving to join the fight to save the Union, Mr. March is asked to say a few words. As he speaks, he repeatedly uses the word “we.”  Looking up, he catches Marmee’s eye, and they both realize that he will be joining the boys.

In the course of the book, Mr. March returns to an area that he used to tour while selling goods door to door.  He serves as chaplain and then, after an indiscretion, he is reassigned to Oak Landing, an area where liberated slaves are supposed to be protected and offered wages as they toil to bring in the cotton crop.

This is an intriguing story that brings the reader fact to face with war, slavery, incest, and adultery.  What does Mr. March carry with him to remind him of his Little Women, who wait at home?  When he returns home, battered and ill, will Marmee still feel the same about him?  Will his LIttle Women?

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

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Have you ever had a neighbor who always seemed so cranky that you avoided getting to know him/her?  It has probably happened to all of us at some time.  Well, Ove is that kind of neighbor: very rigid, grumpy and set in his ways.  It took an unexpected encounter between Ove and new neighbors to change his character, and in fact the entire neighborhood.  You will be pleasantly surprised at the difference this incident made for all those concerned.  It may even change the way you approach a similar situation in the future.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews

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This was my end of summer book to read.  It didn’t take long at all to get through.  You would find it in the YA section of the library but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t seek it out as an adult reader.  It deals with a serious subject matter with great humor.  I felt that the three main characters — Greg, Earl, and Rachel — were appropriately portrayed as teenaged.  They were not as unrealistic as the characters in The Fault In Our Stars.  I also felt that the author dealt with the relationship the kids had with their parents in a very mature and realistic manner.  I also appreciated that the demise of Rachel was not a long, drawn out affair.  For anyone who might not want to read the book, there is a movie that was made.

Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

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My summer pick for a classic I’ve never read was Wide Sargasso Sea.  I’m surprised I hadn’t read it, as it’s the story of the woman that marries Mr. Rochester, yes, that Rochester from Jane Eyre.  The book tells the story of Antoinette, born in Jamaica to ex-slave owners.  Eventually her father drinks himself to death and her mother exhibits signs of insanity.  Antoinette is cared for by the nuns at her convent school and occasionally by her Aunt Cora.  Mr. Rochester, while never directly named in the book, arrives on the island and marries Antoinette without really knowing much about her past.  This book was a richly detailed story full of secrets and superstitions as well as deep-seated resentments, especially of the ex-slaves toward the white aristocracy.  So glad I picked this to read this summer.

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

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This was a beautifully written and poignant book written by a brilliant and sensitive man.  He was also a man faced with a terrible diagnosis in the prime of his life yet the way he chose to live his days was a testament to his will to live his life on his terms. It brought me to tears, but also showed me that the power to live and love and be loved is so strong.  That is the legacy that Paul Kalanithi left behind.

Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty

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Liane Moriarty is one of my favorite authors.  I love the way she writes, with a mixture of a good story and strong characters.  I was very much looking forward to reading this book when I heard of its release, and I was not disappointed.

Much of the story revolves around an afternoon neighborhood barbecue and the events that occurred there. The timeline switches between the day of the barbecue and several weeks afterward.  In the process, we see the points of view of Vid and Tiffany and their daughter Dakota, who are the owners of the home where the barbecue was held; Erica and Oliver, their neighbors; and Clementine and Sam (and their two young daughters), who are friends with Erica and Oliver.

What I enjoyed beyond the mystery of what happened that afternoon is the development of the characters.  Moriarty writes in such a way that you really get to know all of them, which leads to a better overall understanding of not only the events that happened that day, but the motivations of the characters.  It took me a few chapters to really get into the book, but once I did, I was hooked.  I look forward to reading Moriarty’s next novel.

Hamilton : The Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter

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My love affair with all things Hamilton continues as I finally got this audiobook from the library.  If any of you out there love actors and performers and hearing about how they get their ideas, then you’ll love this audiobook.  An added plus is that Mariska Hargitay is the narrator.  The story of how Lin-Manuel Miranda brought the story of Alexander Hamilton to the Broadway stage is really riveting, and just reinforces the genius of Miranda.  Staying true to himself and all his musical influences while being so aware of how it would translate on the stage is just awesome.  A huge thumbs up for this.

The Girls by Emma Cline

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This debut novel for Emma Cline is very true to the 1960s, with young girls looking to find themselves and ending up finding security in cults. The main character,  Evie, is lost — her parents just got divorced, her dad is living with a younger woman, her mom is trying to find a new husband, and Evie and her best friend have a falling out.  What she ends up finding is this clan of girls in the park.  That leads her to their ranch, where she gets drawn into their wild lifestyle of drugs, sex, and eventually horrible crime.  The story starts in Evie’s present time and keeps flashing back to tell this story.  I enjoyed this weird book, which concentrated not on the horribleness of this time, but more on the relationship between the girls.