Harper Higgins (what a great name!) is a reserved art history professor looking for tenure, until she literally bumps into soldier/dog-walker/artist Tom Stone and realizes she’s really looking for something more.
Oooooh I just loved that Tom Stone. Talk about the perfect alpha … he’s an ex-soldier, doesn’t take crap from anyone, lives on a boat, doesn’t talk about his feelings but he HAS feelings, and shows his sensitive side when he’s supposed to.
Harper is a pain in the neck who won’t get out of her head or out of her own way. But between her friends, her part time job teaching social art classes, and that handsome Tom Stone… well, Harper figures out a couple things that might do her some good.
I liked the art discussions — I learned some fun facts! — as well as Frank’s flowers, the art classes (it’s a big thing where I live – go as a group to paint a picture while having a glass of wine), and the chemistry between Harper and Tom. The writing was fun and funny, even when addressing some serious issues.
I even liked the villain, in that he tried to be tricky but really wasn’t smart enough to pull it off. As my teenager might say, “Oooh Lars, you just got burned.”
The Art of Us is totally entertaining on many levels…
This is a story about those left behind by war. It just so happens to be that instead of the family left behind it is about the man who was at war who one day finds himself left behind. How he attempts to pick up the pieces after his combat days are over. A story where the young man finds out that although he might have left the war, he now finds himself in a different type of combat…now with enemy soldiers, but with his own personal demons and his feelings about himself. Novels like this do much to show how the image some see of people are never the images that they see of themselves. It also makes it clear that although War Heroes do exist, it is rarely the hero himself that views it as heroism.
Was this the best book I’ve read this year? No, sorry to say it’s not even close. However, it is an important book and I’m glad I invested the time to read it. Does it change my views on war and the destruction it causes? Not on the enemy, lands, or even countries. or on the men and women themselves. But it does reinforce my belief that not everyone can be judged by the outside image they display. Nor can they be defined by the labels that have been placed upon them. We should all give just a moments more time to really try to see and to help the people before us. Lest the masks they wear for us truly hide them until they are suddenly gone as is the person that wore them…
Sigh. I wanted to love this book. I liked some of it, like the romance, the realistic struggles of Libby and Sam, and the changes happening at the ranch.
But Libby’s relationship with her mom and sisters needed more development. I would have preferred more of that subplot than about Libby’s ex-boyfriend and her stalker-ish behavior. Reading about Libby’s obsession and Ryan’s pathological lies was just depressing. I wanted to skip the downhearted ramblings. I know depression is real, as is alcoholism and PTSD… I just didn’t expect them all to be subplots in a romance novel!
If you loved Pine River #1, and you’re okay with real life struggles making up a big part of a romance novel, you really will enjoy Return to Homecoming Ranch. As for me, I like my happily ever afters preceded by predictable solutions to the small problems in life. 🙂
Laurie Halse Anderson is a master at speaking the language of teenage angst and turmoil. She gave us Speak, a story about a teenage girl traumatized to the point of becoming mute. In Wintergirls, she addresses the self-destructive behaviors of eating disorders and cutting. And then there’s her latest endeavor…
Seventeen-year-old Hayley and her dad, Andy, have relied on just each other for years. A veteran of wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan, Andy suffers from debilitating PTSD while Hayley does her best to hold their fragile lives together. As is the case in many of these situations, she becomes the parent while her dad struggles to simply survive each day. She can’t separate the happy memories from the bad ones, so she represses them all. They’ve traveled across the country as he attempted to escape his demons. When that doesn’t work, they settle back in their hometown where Hayley enrolls in school for the first time after being homeschooled for so many years. Enter Finn, a quirky, lovable soul who takes her as she is, secrets and all. There’s also Gracie, Hayley’s one remaining friend from her childhood. Hayley’s reluctant to allow anyone access to her private world even as it crumbles around her. Andy sinks deeper and deeper into his own private hell as each day passes. He drowns himself in alcohol and drugs in an attempt to silence the battle going on in his head. The rare moments of lucidity and normalcy are just enough to keep Hayley from reaching out for help. She, meanwhile, is facing her own struggles outside of home. A bright student who loves to get lost in her books, she’s also extremely unmotivated and spends much of her school days in either the counselor’s office or detention. The story follows Hayley as she tries to save her dad and, as a result, herself as well. Along the way, she realizes that her friends’ picture perfect lives aren’t as happy as they seem; every family has its secrets. Hers are just a little more dangerous.
Laurie Halse Anderson has once again written a story that plunges you deep into the hearts and souls of her characters. Hayley is a flawed teenager who could be any of us. She has a dry, witty sense of humor and a strong sense of survival for both she and her dad. She is wise beyond her years and is loyal to a fault. Hayley isn’t one of the pretty, popular girls but she’s the one I’d most like to be friends with. I enjoyed this book tremendously and finished it in a day. It’s another great young adult book from an amazing author.
In an ideal world, parents would send their little ones off to school each day worrying about nothing more serious than if they’ll have someone to play with at recess. Teachers would be free of the worry that they might have to step in front of an armed gunman to protect their students. And those precious little ones wouldn’t have to suffer through lockdown drills where they practice what to do if a “bad guy” gets into their school. Unfortunately that world does not exist.
Emery and Jake are high school seniors who spend time volunteering at their local elementary school. Their hours at the school are spent tutoring the children in French and just helping out wherever they can. It’s understandable that they’ve formed attachments to the first graders they spend so much time with. Brian Stutts is an Iraqi war veteran who is going through a custody dispute over his son, Patrick. Because he is suffering from violent outbursts as a result of PTSD, he is not allowed to spend unsupervised time with his son. A confrontation occurs between him and the teacher, resulting in an armed Stutts holding the first grade students, the teacher, and Jake & Emery hostage. The high schoolers must not only worry about their own safety but also the safety of the little ones who look up to them.
This is a fast-paced book that’s full of tension and suspense. The author tells the story from two viewpoints, switching seamlessly between Emery and Jake. It’s hard to take at times, coming so soon on the heels of Newtown and all the other school shootings that seem to be in the news on a regular basis. But, will there ever really be a perfect time to grapple with this issue? I also found myself feeling some sympathy for Stutts and what he experienced in Iraq. There’s never an excuse for this type of violence, but there are very real issues that must be addressed before we can even begin to end the violence. Regardless of your politics or where you stand on the issue of gun control, this is an excellent book for young adults and older readers as well.