Review: The Reckless Club by Beth Vrabel

First, apologies for not writing this the first week of October when The Reckless Club was first released. You or your kiddos have waited too long already to read this book. Perfect for middle schoolers, The Reckless Club is a tweenage-appropriate glance at The Breakfast Club, with the extra twists and turns you’d expect from kids this age.

Beth Vrabel did a great job writing varied characters who have personal quirks that showed me a little bit of their souls. And better yet, the kids got a glimpse of each other’s souls, what made them tick, what made them hurt, and what made them better people.

In this world of divisiveness, where people say things on social media that they would never say to someone’s face, we need commentary on the benefits of seeing each other as human beings. The Reckless Club takes that stand, shining a light on the real people underneath what other people see as a drama queen, a nerd, an athlete…

This book reminded me not to judge until I’ve walked a mile in the other person’s shoes. It would make a great Christmas gift for any middle schooler you know, or their teacher.

-Calliope

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Review: The Last Wish of Sasha Cade by Cheyanne Young

We should all be so lucky to have a Sasha in our lives. Best friends since elementary school, she and Raquel are inseparable. Even when Sasha is dealing with a cancer diagnosis, Raquel is by her side through it all. She thinks she’s prepared for anything, but really she’s not. When Sasha eventually dies, Raquel is lost. Until the letter arrives.

It seems that, while Sasha was preparing herself for her eventual death, she was also preparing Raquel for life without her. And not just Raquel, but also her brother who she hasn’t seen since they were adopted by different families as very young children. Through a series of letters, Sasha helps them come to terms with her death.

This was such a heartbreaking story while at the same time being so full of hope and optimism. Raquel’s sadness at losing Sasha, her happiness at discovering Sasha’s letters and clues…my emotions were all over the place with this one!

~Thalia

Buy It Now: The Last Wish of Sasha Cade

Review: Hole in the Middle by Kendra Fortmeyer

I gotta admit, this one made me skeptical at first. The whole (no pun intended) concept seemed so far fetched that I wasn’t quite sure how it was going to play out. But there’s something about this author, something about the way she blends words together to tell one heck of a story.

Morgan has always been different. Born with a hole in her torso, she’s struggled to fit in. Very few people know her secret, but she stills struggles with accepting herself. An absent father and a perfectionist, demanding mother don’t help matters any. Finally, she decides she’s tired of hiding her body under bulky sweaters and sweatshirts. So she bares her secret, slowly at first. As secrets go, though, it snowballs out of control. Wishing she could take it all back but unable to…

And then there’s Howie. He’s her exact opposite. Literally. Where Morgan has a hole in her abdomen, Howie has a protruding lump of flesh. Could their shared abnormalities be the key to curing them both?

This is such a good story. Beyond the medical concerns and insecurities and body image issues, it’s a story of accepting yourself. Not only for Morgan but for those around her. It’s a message we could all use more of in today’s world of staged perfection.

~Thalia

Buy It Now: Hole in the Middle

Review: Cottage by the Sea by Debbie Macomber

When Annie moves to the Pacific Northwest, she’s just looking for a safe place to grieve, a comforting and uplifting place. What she finds is a cottage that needs some love, a garden that needs all that love and a bowl of cereal, and a couple people from her past who she can’t quite put her finger on.

Macomber does a great job tying together Annie’s new friendships with the experiences from their pasts. Though the characters don’t dwell on their youth, we see how it colored their behaviors as adults – and how grief and trauma in childhood or adolescence can be debilitating for the long-term.

I found compassion for Annie’s friend Mellie, who seemed so unstable and isolated until she was surrounded by love. I was in awe of Keaton, who shed no tears over how badly he was treated by family and community for decades, but came to the rescue in a heartbeat for those who needed his help or protection.

Macomber created a story of hope and belonging out of a medley of troubled folks. This book could have been depressing – but it wasn’t. It opened my eyes to the hurt people may be walking around with, and showed that people put their mark on the world in varied and unexpected ways.

-calliope

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Review: When We Found Home by Susan Mallery

Three lovely people grow up -separately- without loving parents, and though they don’t share the same mothers, they do share the same paternal grandfather. This guy might be in the background of the story character-development-wise, but he’s the hub that brings his three grandchildren together. Well, with a little help from a friend.

Susan Mallery wrote a terrific story about a non-traditional family. Malcolm was raised from boyhood by his grandfather. Keira was brought into the family home much later – and at the transitional age of 12 has a hard time feeling like she belongs. Delaney, a woman who works in the same building as Malcolm, helps bridge the brother-sister gap. Meanwhile, a third sibling is found and brought “home.” Callie isn’t sure this new world is for her, but feels a sense of responsibility for Keira.

I’ve read a lot of half-siblings-brought-together stories, but none quite like this. Mallery wrote fresh characters with realistic flaws and shortcomings, characters you can be annoyed with and cry with and laugh with… and sympathize with. And Mallery keeps up the realism all the way to the end, when everyone really has found home, even if it’s not what you’d expect. Terrific story about family, loyalty, and love.

-calliope

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Review: How to Keep a Secret by Sarah Morgan

Sisters Lauren and Jenna have been thick as thieves since their childhood when their mother was always painting and traveling — and their dad was more pal than caregiver.

Decades later, Jenna and Lauren still have each other’s backs as they (and next generation Mack) spend a summer together on Martha’s Vineyard — while mom Nancy tries to sell the childhood home.

I loved the secrets in this book! They weren’t too angsty or twisty… they were barely predictable… just enough to make the book easy and believable. And when they unraveled, I saw exactly why they were such long-held secrets. And I could understand why Mack wanted the truth from everyone from there on out!

Though I enjoyed all the characters – and Morgan developed them all well – I think Mack was a brilliant addition to the cast. As a teenager in a cast largely of adults, she often was by herself or feeling on the periphery of the action. But that was actually a stroke of genius – Mack was the observer of all that was happening, and clued me (the reader) in to the truth.

Besides Mack, I adored Lauren’s boat-builder ex boyfriend. He handled teenager drama like a champ, was the perfect gentleman helping Nancy in her time of need, and was honest as they come.

Way to go, Sarah Morgan. How to Keep a Secret is one of my 2018 favorites!

-calliope

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Review: The Rules of Half by Jenna Patrick

Regret. I have so much regret that this book has been out for over a year now and I’ve just recently read it.

When Regan shows up in Half Moon Hollow, all she’s looking for is family. Still reeling from the recent suicide of her mom, she’s come to town in search of the dad she’s never met. Maybe he can be the one to give her the stability she’s never had. But Will is the last person anyone would think of in the same breath as the word stability. Grief over the death of his infant daughter combined with his bipolar disorder has made him the talk of the town. He’s known as the local crazy man, a role that he relishes. The appearance of Regan, however, makes him question his reputation. Can her love and support be enough to help him overcome his many obstacles?

From the very first page this book had me. It’s everything you’d want in a story. Family issues, romance, drama, a bit of mystery…it’s all there. The characters are likable when they’re supposed to be and vice versa. An outstanding debut novel!

~Thalia

Buy It Now: The Rules of Half