Review: Caleb and Kit by Beth Vrabel

Adults can usually see the big picture, but all Caleb sees are the obstacles of Cystic Fibrosis and the shadow of his older brother. Kit’s big picture life is dysfunctional and challenging, and in order to survive it she creates a smaller, magical world … and invites Caleb in. 

Every Beth Vrabel book I review includes the caveat that I’m not really a YA/middle grades fiction fan. Well call me a convert. I just can’t say it anymore, because I truly love Vrabel’s tales of kids living with a disability, finding their place, figuring out who their true friends are, and growing into independence and self-advocacy. 

Vrabel uses humor to explain Caleb’s CF troubles, in a way that any middle-grader will find entertaining (i.e. there’s mention of poop). She also creates a family that loves Caleb so much it’s stifling — a feeling most tweenagers know well. Reading Caleb and Kit, I was totally schooled on how much effort it takes to get through a day when you have a medical condition – or, in Kit’s situation, a dysfunctional home life. And Vrabel writes it all very casually and brightly… no gloominess allowed when describing the facts of someone’s daily existence. 

When Caleb and Kit find each other, they create a special kind of friendship that isn’t based on dependence, but on believing in each other so they might believe in themselves and grow to be independent. As Vrabel explains scientifically, just look at the trees and you’ll see! 

You’ll have to read the book to find out where their friendship ends up, but know this: Over the course of the chapters, my heart grew tender for Caleb and Kit, and yours will too. 

-calliope

Buy CALEB AND KIT

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Review: The Promise of a Letter by Kathleen Fuller

Leanna is one of my favorite protagonists! She doesn’t apologize for being different (and that’s something, when you’re not a naturally domestic kind of gal, but you *are* Amish), and she doesn’t resent being different, either. Leanna uses her talents to work in a mechanical shop, and she loves it! But author Fuller doesn’t stop there; she fleshes out the full character of Leanna – a loving sibling, a fun caregiver, and a fiercely loyal friend. 

And then we meet Roman. He’s Amish too, sort of. And he is also a mechanic, sort of. He’s on a journey of self-discovery, self-acceptance, and reconciliation with his brother. 

Fuller does a great job illustrating modern Amish life, touching on family dynamics, spirituality, unconventional career choices, education, and romance. I appreciate that Fuller wrote a strong, feminine character that performed a “man’s” job,  without making Leanna into a stereotype or a mascot for feminist politics. And I am pleased that there was a happily ever after for more than one couple. 

-calliope 

Buy THE PROMISE OF A LETTER

Review and Giveaway: The Time In Between by Kristen Ashley

“She was the one then and nothing changed in the time in between.”

Oh, how I adore a Kristen Ashley book! The Time In Between was the perfect ending to a fabulous trilogy. Lots of emotion, heartache and love. This book made me swoon and smile, and made my heart race with anticipation. I wanted so many good things for Cady and Coert and I’m so happy that they finally found their happily ever after.

“I was so young, even with all these years, so much pain was covering it that I didn’t see underneath it to see that you kept your promise.

Coert felt something twisting in his gut. “What promise?”

“That I’d never be safer with anyone than I am with you.”

When we first saw Cady, we didn’t know it was her. She was fighting with Coert, in Soaring, and we only got a glimpse of her, but that glimpse was enough to intrigue us. Now we get their story. And what a story it is!

After 18 years of being apart, the heart still knows what it wants. When Cady moves to Magdalene, she confronts Coert and eventually gets him to see reason and realize that the past was both their faults and the only way to move on is to look forward, not back. They both had trials and beauty in the time in between, but the most important is what they do now with the future. Slowly all those years will disappear if they just hold on and never let go.

I was in love with Coert Yeager in a way that it just simply would never die. Never.

I gotta say, these kinds of stories, KILL ME. All those years apart just about do me in. I can’t even imagine being without my true love for so long and then finding out we could’ve been together if only someone stopped running and listened. GAH!

This is the final book in the Magdalene trilogy, so you will see all our favorite, and not so favorite, characters from the past two books, plus a few from another of her series. I was rather giddy to read about these characters. They’re interconnected standalones, so you don’t need to read the other two, but I highly encourage you to do so. These stories are epic romances that will have you gutted and crying and then smiling and swooning. And you’ll love every moment.

~Melpomene

Excerpt:
Present day…
I took in the mess of the large, circular room we were in and at first saw nothing but the mess—decaying furniture, a soot-covered stone fireplace, a kitchen that might have been put in in the forties but had not only not been touched the last nine years, it perhaps had not been touched the last nineteen (or more).
Then I saw more.
The extraordinarily carved railing to the sweeping wood staircase that ran the curved side of the house. The red brick walls. The plank wood floors.
“Once upon a time, long ago,” the realtor was suddenly talking wistfully, “someone loved this place. Put that love into building it. Put that love into keeping it. Nine years and more when no one really gave a whit, and still you can see it once had a lot of love.”
Oh yes.
You could see that.
“It’s got a basement, more like a big crawl space,” the agent declared, surprising me with his quick change in tone back to businesslike and informative. “The furnace is down there. You can get down there through a door in the floor. The furnace was put in a while back, and full disclosure, though an inspection will catch it, it probably needs to be replaced.”
Through his words I stared at the fireplace, which scoured would be magnificent, and I noticed it didn’t have a chimney as such, but the smoke probably went out a vent in the wall.
“This floor has a powder room under the stairs,” the realtor kept on. “You can look at it if you want, but if you wanna save yourself that, I’ll just tell you straight, it needs to be gutted.”
I decided to take his word for it and told him that.
He looked relieved when I did before he stated, “Place has a garage, two car. Not in good condition, but think you saw that. Still, it’s close to the house and there’s a covered walkway to that door over there.” He pointed at a door that was across from the door we’d walked in. “Means you might feel a chill but you won’t get wet, unless it’s raining sideways, which happens.”
With a breeze that plastered my jacket to me on a sunny, early spring day, I did not doubt that.
“Garage has a loft space above it, which could be renovated as a studio rental if you’ve a mind to do that sort of thing. As for the property itself, it also has a building where the generators are stowed,” the realtor carried on. “Hook up for a washer and dryer and good space in there. Lots of it for storage. Which is good because there’s not a lot of storage in here for tools and Christmas decorations and whatnot.”
I glanced around seeing he was right. There wasn’t even enough cabinetry to house the things a decent cook would need in her kitchen. Though there was room for them. In fact, if you fought back the gloom, there was quite a bit of room.
“And there’s a place outside, could call it a studio, could call it a mother-in-law house,” he shared. “Whatever, it’s got goodly space, two bedrooms, big kitchen. Could be renovated to be a guest house. Or like I said, a studio if you’re artsy. Or you could rent it out like a B and B. I’ll show you all of that after we have a look at the lighthouse.”
“Thanks,” I replied.
“Now, since I mentioned full disclosure, you have to know it all,” the realtor continued.
Slowly, my eyes went to him.
When they did, he launched in. “Like I said, it’s automated. And like I said, you won’t really have to concern yourself with the functionality of that unless the electricity goes out, but then the generators automatically kick in. There are two. But you’ll need to keep fuel on hand to keep them going in case a blackout lasts awhile. And just to say, this is coastal Maine. We get weather. Blackouts can last awhile.”
When I nodded to share I took that in, he kept going.
“And if you’re, say, away on vacation, you need to make sure someone is playing backup in such a case.”
“Okay,” I replied when he stopped talking, thinking this probably wasn’t a good thing since I knew no one in Maine (or not anyone who wanted to know me) and thus couldn’t call on anyone to do something like that.
I also didn’t hold high hopes I’d make friends and win people. I hadn’t had a lot of success in that in my life.
And last, although Patrick believed it completely, I held no hope that the reason I was out there was going to come to fruition.
That being me having a happy ending.
That being what Patrick thought would be my happy ending.
Which might mean I’d have someone, a certain someone, or actually two (at least), even though I knew I never would.

Enter rafflecopter giveaway HERE

Buy The Time In Between http://amzn.to/2uMe5J2

5% of the proceeds from the first week of sales of THE TIME IN BETWEEN release will be given to HALO Animal Rescue in Phoenix, a no-kill shelter. HALO stands for “helping animals live on” and is a shelter started by a mother/daughter team of committed animal advocates who have done a huge duty for animals in this area, and continue to do so with unwavering love, support and energy.For more information on HALO or to donate to the work they do, go to http://www.halorescue.org.

Fall in love with the town of Magdalene by reading the first two books.
The Will http://amzn.to/2uN89z9
Soaring http://amzn.to/2gUKyH2

Review: Ban This Book by Alan Gratz

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Ask any bibliophile what they think about banning books and you’re sure to get an earful.  At the very core of our being is the need to read anything and everything that we wish.  So when someone mentions banning a book based on a moral objection, that’s dangerous territory.

Amy Anne loves to read.  And she has one book that she loves to read above all others:  From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.  She checks it out from the school library as often as she can.  In fact, she’d check it out every single time if she could.  When she goes to check it out one day, however, it’s not there.  To her dismay, she finds out that it’s been removed.  Banned, even.  Somebody somewhere decided that this most favorite book of hers, along with several others, isn’t appropriate for kids to read.

Thus begins Amy Anne’s mission.  She takes it upon herself to make sure that all the kids can read all the books.  Along the way she learns to voice her opinion, to make friends, and to follow her heart even when it’s not the easy thing to do.

Do parents have the right to choose what books they want their children to read?  Absolutely.  However, they don’t have the right to choose what books everyone else’s children are allowed to read.  It’s a slippery slope when one book is banned because somebody has an objection, and that message is driven home through this narrative.

I loved this book so very much.  Amy Anne is me when I was a kid in so many ways.  Losing herself in books, not speaking up because she didn’t want to cause trouble for anyone, she resonated deeply with me.  I only wish that the younger version of me had as much courage as she did to stand up for something she believed in.

*Note:  I’d recommend this one for middle school and up.  Although the message is appropriate for all ages, there is some mention of more mature content.

*Another note:  All of the books in this fictional story are books that have actually been challenged or banned at one time or another.

*One more note:  When I started this book, I had no idea that Amy Anne’s most favorite book in the whole wide world was also my most favorite book in the whole wide world when I was a kid.

~Thalia

Buy It Now:  Ban This Book

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Preview: Everything Under The Sun by J.A.Redmerski

Ya’ll!! Let me tell you, I am super excited to post about this new release. I have loved everything I’ve ever read by Jessica and I know this will be fabulous!

EVERYTHING UNDER THE SUN: A Novel
Jessica Redmerski

Fiction & Literature | Post-Apocalyptic | Suspense | Romance
683 pages

Thais Fenwick was eleven-years-old when civilization fell, devastated by a virus that killed off the majority of the world’s population. For seven years, Thais and her family lived in a community of survivors deep in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains. But when her town is attacked by raiders, she and her blind sister are taken away to the East-Central Territory where she is destined to live the cruel and unjust kind of life her late mother warned her about.
Atticus Hunt is a troubled soldier in Lexington City who has spent the past seven years trying to conform to the vicious nature of men in a post-apocalyptic society. He knows that in order to survive, he must abandon his morals and his conscience and become like those he is surrounded by. But when he meets Thais, morals and conscience win out over conformity, and he risks his rank and his life to help her. They escape the city and set out together on a long and perilous journey to find safety in Shreveport, Louisiana.
Struggling to survive in a world without electricity, food, shelter, and clean water, Atticus and Thais shed their fear of growing too close, and they fall hopelessly in love. But can love survive in such dark times, or is it fated to die with them?

Check out this excerpt that has me feeling all kinds of emotions. Yeah. I know what I’m reading tomorrow, when it releases.

“One more night,” I said, not looking at her. “Give me one more night and I’ll get you out of this city.” All I could see in front of me was the scenario: I’d wait until very late, after most of the city was sleeping, and then I’d dress her in my military clothes, make her pin up her hair underneath a cap, strap a rifle to her shoulder, a backpack full of goods on her back, and set her atop the mare waiting at the stables.
“But there’s nothing for me anymore,” Thais said, wiping away the lingering tears on her cheeks. “There’s nowhere for me to go, and no one waiting for me there if by some miracle I make it alive. My mother and father are dead. My sister”—she looked up at me, and although I didn’t meet her gaze, I could feel her eyes on me—“my whole family is dead, and this world is dead and my soul is dead and everything that was once good and beautiful and right, is dead.”
I looked at her then, her words stirring me.
“That’s not true,” I said, and got up from the chair and crouched in front of her. “You may be the only good thing left in this world, and I’ll be goddamned if I let your light fade.”
Tears tumbled down Thais’ cheeks.
I took the gun that had fallen from her hand, tucked it into the back of my pants.
“Promise me you won’t try anything,” I said as I went toward the door. “Promise me on your sister’s soul, that you’ll stay in this room and wait for me.”
“Where are you going?”
“To get your supplies.” I placed my hand on the doorknob. “Don’t open this door for anyone.” I opened it to blackness; the candles that had been lit in the hallway had burned down.
“Wait,” Thais called out, and I stopped.
She stood up on wobbly legs.
“You said to get my supplies—are you sending me away alone?”
I thought on it for a moment. I’d never had any intention of going with her. I couldn’t. Not if I was going to keep others from following her.
“No,” I finally said. “You’re not going alone. I’ll go with you, at least until I can get you somewhere safe.”
“Is there anywhere safe, Atticus?” Her voice was soft, hopeless, and hearing her say my name like that did something to my heart. “Do you know where you’re taking me?”
I sighed. And I looked at the wall.
“Yes,” I lied, and then stepped out into the hallway.
Just before I closed the door I added, “Promise me.”
Thais nodded.
“I promise,” she said. “I’ll wait for you.”

SEE!!! One more day….

Preorder Everything Under the Sun http://amzn.to/2gena7L

~Melpomene

Review: The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan

Okay…this should have been enlightening…and it was…I should feel better about my new understanding of food in the USA…..I should take the knowledge and do good with it. There are so many “shoulds” with this book…instead I find my blood boiling…I find myself so pissed off yet again by how my government has decided to control yet another aspect of my life. I am pissed that I have little or no choice in the matter. I am pissed that our choices are hidden within layers of lies and false advertisement, that no sane person would be able to wade through with a true understanding. I am pissed enough that I could go on and on…

but what I am most pissed about is that I sound like just one more conspiracy theorist…

Until next time…

Urania xx

Buy it now The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan

Review: Into the Water by Paula Hawkins

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What a thrill it must be, as an author, to have your debut novel reach the top of the best seller list.  To have everyone talking about it, recommending it.  To have it made into a movie, even.  But as wonderful as this all must be, there’s a downside.  Everyone expects your next novel to be just as good if not better.  Unfair, probably.  Still, the bar has been set.

There’s a river that runs through town.  It’s a river filled with mystery and intrigue.  It’s where many a woman has met her fate over the years.  The latest death isn’t like the others, though.  Nel’s death seems different, both to her daughter Lena and to her sister Jules.  Did she really kill herself?  Or was she digging too deep, uncovering the town’s hidden secrets?  If that’s the case, then everyone connected to her is in danger as well.

Did I enjoy this one as much as The Girl on the Train?  Not really.  There’s a lot going on, and there are a lot of characters to keep up with.  It seems like the story is trying to be too much at once.  It’s a mystery/thriller, of course.  But there’s also a supernatural-paranormal element at work although that aspect is never fully developed.  That doesn’t stop me from recommending it, though.  It’s a good story, well worth your time.

~Thalia

Buy It Now:  Into the Water