Review: Before Everything by Victoria Redel 

This book is a lot of work to read. It’s emotionally taxing (although I didn’t even cry until near the end) and, frankly, depressing. Anna is dying of cancer. And that’s no spoiler, pal. That’s the premise of the book. 

Before Everything is also about love and friendship and family and a few secrets. Victoria Redel designs Anna’s friendships so realistically that the secrets the women have make me remember secrets I have with my friends … not contrived or hyperbolic or beyond belief, but just stuff we know about each other because we’ve been friends for so long. 

I read this book in hopes that I’d come to a better understanding of what it’s like for the family of a person dying of cancer. But I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t let myself feel it 100%. So instead I read with my shoulders tensed, my mind rushing to get to the next scene, and only half my heart with Anna. 

It’s a good read if you can let your guard down. I held back because otherwise it would’ve been too painful. Thinking about that, well, maybe I did learn what it’s like to be close to someone who’s dying. 

-calliope

Buy BEFORE EVERYTHING

Review: All the Ways the World Can End by Abby Sher

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Funny.  Sad.  Relatable.  Unbelievable.  This book covers all this and more.  And then it goes back and repeats.

Lenny has a lot going on in her life.  A LOT.  Her dad is dying from cancer, mom is a busy attorney who uses her job to escape that harsh reality, and sister Emma is away at college. That leaves Lenny to deal with the day to day stuff.  Still, she’s in denial about how sick her dad actually is.  She copes by keeping a list of all the different ways there are for the world to end.  Oh and her crush on one of her dad’s doctors.

I went back and forth on how much I enjoyed this book, alternating between liking it very much and just liking it.  It’s good, heartbreakingly so at times.  But there are some underlying issues I didn’t feel good about.  Lenny’s behavior at times borders on mentally unstable.  Understandable with all she’s dealing with but still.  And her obsession with the doctor is over the top. Nevertheless it’s a good read, a realistic picture of life and dealing with death.

~Thalia

Buy It Now:  All the Ways the World Can End

Review: Under a Summer Sky by Melody Carlson

This is a cute summer read set in Savannah, where we find art teacher Nicole house-sitting for a family friend and working at an art gallery. Nicole thought she’d have a quiet summer with plenty of time to paint, but instead finds herself overwhelmed with a difficult co-worker, childhood friends-turned-handsome-men, and a teenager who just needs a little love and direction. 

I loved all the references to art and architecture, the Savannah sunsets, and the diplomatic way Nicole finessed her way through a few unexpected situations. As usual for her novels, Carlson includes a little bit of God to illustrate his presence, but doesn’t use the novel to preach or proselytize. And as usual for my favorite summer reads, this one ends in a happily ever after. 

-Calliope 

Buy UNDER A SUMMER SKY

Review: The Salt House by Lisa Duffy

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Full of beauty and sorrow at the same time.  Heartbreaking but also uplifting.  A tale of despair yet also one of hope.  All of these things together make this an unforgettable story.

Hope and Jack have a great life.  They have three beautiful daughters, a nice home, a successful business.  Happiness.  But then tragedy strikes. And they are left with just two daughters.  Each family member copes, or doesn’t, in their own way.

A year later, they are at a standstill.  Time has put distance between them and their grief, but they haven’t really moved on.  Jack loses himself in his lobster fishing.  Hope loses herself in the memories of her lost daughter.  And the younger girls just go on being kids.

Everything comes to a head when a forgotten part of Jack’s past shows up at their door.  High school rivalries are reignited, this time with adult consequences.  Through it all Hope and Jack struggle to move past their grief and save their family.

Tragedies happen, families have to find ways to deal with them.   Told from alternating perspectives, this book takes us deep inside one family’s grief and their attempts to overcome it.  Each family member is dealing with their own struggles along with the collective struggle of the family.  It’s beautifully written, almost poetically so.  A story I won’t soon forget!

~Thalia

Buy It Now:  The Salt House

 

Review: Pearl by Jo Knowles

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I love Jo Knowles.  Some of my favorite books ever were written by her.  See You at Harry’s is one I won’t forget, and if you haven’t read it you really should.  But this review is about one of her older ones, Pearl.

Pearl and Henry are best friends.  One of the things they have in common is the strangeness of their mothers, although they’re nothing alike.  Henry’s mother is hugely overweight and doesn’t leave the house.  Pearl’s mother is not very involved, to put it mildly.  Luckily Pearl has grandfather Gus, the stable force in her life. But then Gus dies.  And in addition to being without the only parent she’s really had, Pearl now has to deal with family secrets that she never would have dreamed of.

This won’t go down as one of my favorites from this author.  Parts of the story were farfetched.  But the brilliant writing style of  Knowles more than makes up for that.

~Thalia

Buy it Now:  Pearl

Review: The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett

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A couple of years ago, I discovered the magical world of ARCs.  Oh the joy in receiving a book before the “rest of the world”, being able to dive into it before anyone else can get their hands on it.  But the best part of reading advanced copies for me is finding new authors with outstanding debut novels.  Such is the case with this one.

Hawthorn has never been one to follow along with  everyone’s idea of normal. She doesn’t fit into any group at school, has one good friend, a hippie for a mom, and an active imagination.  So when Lizzie Lovett mysteriously disappears, Hawthorn takes it upon herself to find out just what happened to the town’s golden girl.

But she takes things a bit too far, as with most things she does.  Working in the diner where Lizzie was employed, visiting the woods where she was last seen, getting friendly with Lizzie’s boyfriend…all in the name of solving a missing person’s case.   And of course, she gets more than she bargained for.

This is an interesting book to review.  I’m not quite sure what it is.  A mystery, sure, but not in the truest sense.  A story of teen angst and drama, possibly.  But aren’t all teens full of angst and drama?  A romance…maybe a tad.  In any case, it’s good.  Hawthorn is funny, and she’s admirable as a leading teen character.  And the ending is satisfying with every question being answered.  A good story!

~Thalia

Buy It Now:  The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett

 

Review: Blame by Nicole Trope

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Being a parent is not an easy job.  On the very best of days, children fill us with warmth and joy and hope for the future.  On the very worst of days, they make us wonder what ever made us think we could do the whole parenting thing.  And fair or not, mothers seem to carry an unfair share of the burden.  But still, we keep doing it because of the love.  What happens, though, when your child is not easily loved?  What does a mother do when you are blessed, or challenged, with a child so difficult that on most days you just barely get by?

Anna seemed to find Caro just when she needed her the most.  As the mother of a young child with autism, she finds herself sinking deeper and deeper into herself.  Then Caro reaches out to her, and a friendship is born.  Although they have daughters around the same age, their lives couldn’t be more different.  But their close bond withstands that.

Until the night that Maya is killed in a tragic accident.  Who is to blame?  Is it Caro, who was driving the vehicle?  Or is it Anna, who maybe wasn’t as vigilant as she knew she needed to be?  Their friendship is tested in ways they never thought possible as the truth is slowly unraveled.

I loved the style of this story.  The author alternates between Anna and Caro, narrating from the perspective of each.  Most of the story takes place as each is being interrogated by detectives.  We think we know who is at fault, and then we change our minds.  The author drags it out until almost the very end.  An excellent read!

~Thalia

Buy It Now:  Blame